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!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Via Creativa!

I am designing our worship services around the four vias or paths of Creation Spirituality. Each path corresponds to a season.

  • Fall—via negativa (the way of letting go and letting be)
  • Winter—via creativa (the way of creativity and imagination)
  • Spring—via transformativa (the way of justice-making and compassion)
  • Summer—via positiva (the way of awe and wonder)
On Monday, with our Tidings of Comfort service we will wrap up the via negativa and on Christmas Eve begin the via creativa. The Christian myth of the incarnation is one of the many symbols for the meanings of creativity. Creativity, as Matthew Fox titled one of his books, is where the divine and the human meet.

If you find our webpage under the heading "worship" you can find the pdf schedule of our Winter worship services. I am using the lectionary and reading these texts through the lens of Creation Spirituality. I open the service up to the creativity of our congregation. If folks have an original reading, poem, piece of music, artwork, or dance that goes with the theme, they contact me and they are on. If you are in our area and have heard about us, now is a good time to check us out. We are calling on the artists and musicians of the Tri-Cities to help us celebrate creativity!

Remember, one of the principles of Creation Spirituality is that
everyone is an artist.

What is creativity? According to theologian, Gordon Kaufman, God is Creativity.

His two books on this theme,
In the Beginning...Creativity, and Jesus and Creativity are his attempts toward a naturalist theology as opposed to a
supernaturalist theology.

Rather than think of God as a personal being or Creator, he suggests that God is Creativity (not unlike the Johannine tradition in the Bible that imagined God as Love).

God is not a person. God is an activity. God is mysterious, serendipitous, creativity. This creativity has been active in the universe for 14 billion years.

The God with which we are concerned here is the wondrous serendipitous creativity that has brought us humans into being within this magnificent universe--this universe that continues to be creatively transformed in new and surprising ways. It is a universe of great beauty and of overwhelming displays of power; a universe populated by many utterly diverse kinds of beings; a universe within which, on planet Earth (and possibly elsewhere) living beings in countless varieties have been created--including our own human mode of existence....

....this creativity that has also, through the mission and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth in life, in death, and after his death, brought into our world the practice of agape-love and shown us its profound meaningfulness and value. This deep mystery of creativity thus becomes light enabling us to see more clearly how we ought to live and act as we move forward into the unknown future. pp. 60-1, Jesus and Creativity
I really appreciate what Kaufman is doing. He is providing a constructive, naturalist theology that connects what we know from science and radically reinterprets our tradition with its outmoded supernaturalist claims. He takes on the Trinity: is difficult to see how anything like the traditional doctrine of the trinity can still be advocated. Most of the vast universe, as we think of it today, is in no way at all affected by Jesus' life, death and resurrection; it is only the human project and its evils, on planet Earth, to which the Jesus-story--because of the healing and new life that it has brought--is pertinent.

Some may object to this argument, holding that the idea of trinity is central and indispensable to the Christian understanding of God; and it is not, therefore, a matter of choice or consent for Christian theologians: trinity is simply what God in fact is for Christians. But that is a misleading claim. We need to recognize that from the very beginning of specifically Christian thinking about God, all the major issues that needed addressing involved human choices. Doubtless the divine creativity was playing its part in these developments, but from our vantage point today just what that part was remains (as always) a profound mystery. What was visible to the humans participating--and continues to remain visible to us today--were the decisions these humans themselves made....

....We in the twenty-first century are the heirs of many different ways of understanding and interpreting Jesus: Which (if any) should we commit ourselves to and seek to develop further? Which should we ignore or discard? These are difficult questions, and in the past they were often answered on the basis of what was regarded as authoritative divine revelation, an option no longer open to us...." p. 55-6
The point of all of this is help us find the resources, the vision, and the inspiration, to be co-creators of our future. Through articulating a thoroughly human Jesus we discover
a picture of profound appeal, a picture in terms of which we may be drawn to measure and judge our own humanness and humaneness....

....At this portentous moment, perhaps more than ever before, we need conceptions of the human and visions of history that will facilitate whatever centuries-long movement there has been toward a more responsible ordering of our lives and our world, an ordering in which the integrity and significance of each tradition and community are acknowledged and the welfare and rights of every individual are respected and nurtured. New cultural patterns of association and cooperation must be developed, new institutions must be invented, new ideologies that are at once universalistic and truly pluralistic must be created.

For these sorts of things to happen, a spirit of self-sacrifice for the well-being of all of humanity--indeed the welfare of the whole network of life on planet Earth--is now needed, a spirit that can subdue the instincts for self-preservation and self-defense that so dominate our communal and ethnic, our national and religious, practices and institutions, as well as our personal lives. Just such a spirit of self-giving, love, reconciliation, and the building of community is what the image/story of Jesus and the early Christian communities powerfully present. p. 35
I offer these longer quotes of Kaufman to show what I think many people have been thinking already. Perhaps you resonate as I do. I have been drawn, despite myself, to the Jesus story. Even as I have been repulsed by the supernaturalism, the exclusivism, and the violence of the popular, so-called "orthodox" Jesus trajectory, Jesus as human, as part of the matrix of creativity, is actually quite engaging and powerful--transforming even--toward a vision of what it might mean to be a human being in a time in which we need the vision, love, and creativity of human beings and not that of supernatural gods or their spokespersons.

Creativity is not all pretty pictures and daisies. The Mona Lisa and the atom bomb are expressions of human creativity. Solar panels and eight lane highways, agriculture, industrialization, iPods, and composting are all products of our creative imagination. Creativity is arguably the most powerful force in the Universe. It is to be treated with honor and reverence and critique. Directing our creativity toward compassion and justice is our most urgent task.

“Creativity, when all is said and done, may the best thing our species has going for it. It is also the most dangerous.” Fox, Creativity, p. 1.

Here is an interview with Matthew Fox on creativity from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

Check out his Stanford lectures on youtube.

He speaks here about his book: