Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Meaning of Life, Part 39

Some people today are lamenting that the "ecumenical movement is dead." What is dying and is boring is not the movement within ecumenism but the lack of it. And this comes from people's being satisfied with what is basically a dualistic approach to ecumenism.

In this model, which our psychologically oriented society calls "dialogue," representatives of different traditions talk to each other with a certain tolerance and desire to understand one another. This represents a first step to ecumenism, and it is clearly an improvement over centuries of battles waged between foes. But we must move today from dialogue to common creativity.

Ecumenism is not about talking together or putting out position papers together but about creating together. What can two parties, Protestant or Catholic, Christian or Buddhist, scientist or theologian, artist or mathematician, create together? That is the question that the universe and the human race and God the Creator put to all of us. It is a question of how deeply we care about birthing and how deeply we can create with those who differ from us by interacting in dialectical and not merely dualistic ways.

The universe was not created by tolerant dualisms but by mutual interpenetrations. Of course this implies letting go: Hydrogen must let go of its hydrogenness and oxygen of its oxygenness when the two come together and create water. Letting go is demanded as much of religious traditions as it is of individual religious believers.
--Matthew Fox, Original Blessing, pp. 215-6

17 comments:

  1. Profound thoughts by Shuck and Fox. I will link.

    + Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

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  2. John S, John W, Have you checked out Samir Selmanovic's excellent book (long title):

    http://www.amazon.com/Its-Really-All-About-God/dp/0470433264/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1

    The book is written in the same vein as the Matthew Fox quote.

    As is Thich Nhat Hanh's "Living Buddha, Living Christ".

    As a now regular non-Christian reader of this blog (and yours too John W), I very much appreciate this bold and more embracing sort of thought.

    Thanks so very much for your courage (both of you)


    O Marvel! a garden amidst the flames.
    My heart has become capable of every form:
    it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for Christian monks,
    and a temple for idols and the pilgrim's Kaa'ba,
    and the tables of the Torah and the book of the Quran.
    I follow the religion of Love: whatever way Love's camels take,
    that is my religion and my faith.

    ibn al-`Arabi

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  3. Thanks Kevin. In its authentic form as dynamic myth and ritual embracing universal archetypes and symbols and metaphors, Christianity works ... as does Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Taoism, Native American Spirituality ... and so many more wisdom traditions.

    + Love + John A Wilde + Whitesboro NY + The John A Wilde Blog + We are intimately, intricately and infinitely connected by a matrix of unconditional, unlimited and uniting love which is miraculous, mysterious and marvelous.

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  4. Thanks, John! : )

    Kevin, thanks for the good words and for the link to the Selmanovic book. I have it, but haven't read it yet. I look forward to it!

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  5. Being the anal retentive person that I am I would point out that ecumenism is traditionally used to refer to relations and conversations between those within the Christian tradition. Thus the image of the boat of the Church in rough seas, all of us in the same boat, pointing back to storms on the Sea of Galilee.

    Interreligious dialogue is traditionally used to refer to conversations between those of different faith traditions.

    I suggested on another blog a few minutes ago that people of faith, if we put our theologies aside, can find much to do together to make a better world.

    This btw I think is also the real future of ecumenism. I think the days of national and international ecumenical dialogue are passe. The real work in done among local churches working together and finding unity in local communities. My experience with joint worship and joint work I think has more to do with the future of ecumenism than expensive councils held every few years. Besides the idea that denominations can be represented at an international council (except for those in hierarchical traditions) is, let's say, less than helpful.

    P.S. It would be very nice if Christians in Israel/Palestine would stop fighting over who owns how many square or cubic meters in Holy sites.

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  6. It would be nice, Bob, if they just stopped fighting over whose turn it was to scrub the floors! http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/28/world/main3652603.shtml

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  7. 'The universe was not created by tolerant dualisms but by mutual interpenetrations. Of course this implies letting go: Hydrogen must let go of its hydrogenness and oxygen of its oxygenness when the two come together and create water . '

    LOL I don't think any of us with a scientific background have ever heard the origin of the universe and the primordial formation of water described in quite that way . Still , it's in you're own inimitable style and that is never bad thing. :)

    Regards .


    .

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  8. Because I'm reading the blog posts from most recent backwards, I missed the connection between this post and the invitation to Gita and Jive.

    My comment there still stands; however, Matt's "new" ecumemism is precisely where y'all have been going for quite some time.

    To quote Paul without context, (why not, everyone else does): "Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation [liberation from injustice] is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light . . ." Romans 13:11-12.

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  9. Hugh!

    Those are Matt's words and I found them delightful. Kind of like the desire falling objects have for the ground!

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  10. @Pastor Bob -I think you are right about ecumenism usually being reserved for Christian potlucks, but if you think of the house metaphor (oikos), and the house being Earth, one could think of it in broader terms. It is nice to have a word like that rather than "inter-religious dialogue" which as Fox says we need to move beyond as it is too dualistic.

    I find it intriguing that making a better world might require us to put our theologies aside.

    On one hand I agree. Most theology in my view is divisive superstition. But if theology is another word for "Truth" or a conversation about what is urgent and important, beautiful, and good and what not, then I wouldn't want our theologies put aside as much as engaged, honored and creatively synthesized for a common quest.

    I think a common quest could be sustainability. I also agree with the local focus.

    @SeaRaven nice use of Paul!

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  11. "But if theology is another word for "Truth" or a conversation about what is urgent and important, beautiful, and good and what not, then I wouldn't want our theologies put aside as much as engaged, honored and creatively synthesized for a common quest."

    Right on, Amen, Hoh!

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  12. interreligious dialogue is too dualistic? That depends on how many people from how many traditions are at the table! It would be interesting to get the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Trinitarian Christians of various sorts, Muslims of various sorts, Jews from different traditions, Hindus, and everyone else at the same table!

    Or course that would mean a real mess in even establishing topics for discussion. Still it might be fun.

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  13. What Fox means by dualistic vs. dialectic as that in the dualistic model, dialogue partners (can be more than two) never can get past an either/or way of viewing their tradition. I am either this or that. They explain themselves, tolerate the other, but do not change. Fox is advocating something new being created from the encounter. All parties are changed as something new is created.

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  14. Back to Hegel? Or are we looking at the Alban Institute's model for level 1 controversy?

    What concerns me John is that sometimes there are indeed dualistic dialogues. Christians believe that Jesus was crucified. Muslims believe he was not. Traditional Christians believe that Jesus being crucified is part of his being the Messiah. Jews believe (those who believe there will be a Messiah) that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he died by whatever method. Now unless we abandon the various narratives and look for something behind or past the narrative we will have dualism.

    I think dialectics are terribly important. I find that there can be little truth within Christianity without them. But sometimes two faiths have either/ors. And if one abandons them one no longer has those particular faiths. Is it Christianity if Jesus wasn't crucified? Is it Islam if Mohammed is not the final prophet? Or Mormonism if Joseph Smith is not the final prophet?

    It seems to me that the narratives tell us who we are. If we say all narratives are accurate then we become someone entirely different. Maybe that is what Fox wants us all to be. But as I read people like Fox most want to choose the parts of the various narratives that they think are "good." But how does one decide what is good without a narrative?

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  15. You make a good point, Bob. And deep ecumenism will not be possible if the participants cannot let go of their superstitions (narratives).

    Now unless we abandon the various narratives and look for something behind or past the narrative we will have dualism.

    Yes. We can put our old-line religious narratives in service to a larger, more common one. The narrative that is now common in terms of origins is coming to us through observations of the universe and the evolution of life. In terms of our future (eschatology) our narrative points us to sustainable existence with each other and with Earth.

    None of our old-line narratives are meaningful in and of themselves. They are being replaced. They are superstitions at worst; poetry at best.

    The challenge to me is take our old-line narratives as poetry and put them in service to sustainability.

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  16. What I am working on is "reclaiming" the Christian narrative. Scholarship tells us that it is highly likely that Jesus was crucified in a mass crucifixion at some point during Passover in around 30 C.E. WHY and HOW he died is the crux of the faith.

    If Jesus died at the hands of violent Empire, because he was committed to non-violent covenant (distributive justice-compassion as God's Law and the nature of the kingdom), then Christianity becomes the counter to Empire's lie that violence (war) and the resulting "victory" lead to peace.

    This comment could become an essay if I'm not careful.

    My point is that the nature, mission, purpose, and meaning of who Jesus was needs to be reclaimed -- the "narrative" or the legend or the myth -- needs to be reclaimed for the 21st Century.

    As I see it, the myth is still powerful, and is still vital to our understanding of what human society and the kingdom of god should and can be.

    All we need to do is sign onto the Covenant, and anyone can do it. It's not necessary to "believe" the myth is factually true.

    For more indepth on this, follow my blog: Liberal Christian Commentary -- and review commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary at http://www.gaiarising.org

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