Thursday, January 07, 2010


how do you write a paper when you have a fluid theology? it's like nailing jello to the wall. i find myself writing too systematically. but Sabio had a good idea and has helped me re-order the paper, more on that later.

when presented with the opportunity to talk about God, Jesus, Humanity and the state of the world, i could type a book that would rival war and peace. i love talking about theological implications, talking about probabilities and exceptions, exploring all aspects and outcomes of a given topic. but i can't do that here... i gotta boil it down and keep it simple as this will be lay people reading the paper. not saying that these people are stupid or anything, but i know i wouldn't wanna read something that wasn't engaging. i don't wanna bore 'em with my ranting and rambling.

so i looked online for tips, and i found this ordination paper by Lynne A. Burmeister McQuown that is absolutely inspired. i just wanna put my name on it and print it out and hand it in.. but that'd be bad... so i'll have to steal from it.. after all, "good artists borrow, great artists steal," Picasso I said that. also looking around for how to explain God, i found Faithful Progressives note on Paul Tillich and the God of the new atheists. fantastic!

What i wanna do is just put:

I dunno what exactly i believe but i can say that it starts with and is inspired by the life of Jesus Christ. I dunno if Jesus was God but I can say that I best meet God through the example of Christ. Grace-filled, compassionate at the core and joyful of existence while noting that there is suffering in the world. Loving thy neighbor as yourself sets up an inclusive ethos that doesn't set aside or supercede other religions but places Christians as servants to others regardless of race, creed, or nationality.
and then i would play them these two songs to explain how i view the UCC:

So what i've decided to do is re-structure under the rubric that Sabio suggested where in his suggestion of the "art paragraph" collapsed community and tradition together. so part one will be my view of transcendent truth (God, as presented by Jesus, in my case) part two will be Community, specifically the UCC and the third will be my personal journey experience. this will streamline the whole paper and won't make it so cumbersome to write. thank God that i have my atheist friend Sabio ;-) this is why i blog. dialogue and relationships are important, in fact vital to existence.

it takes all of us.

i'll post more this coming Tuesday. until then.... thanks for your comments and keep 'em coming!


Anglican Boy said...

You don't know whether Jesus is God or not? That puts you outside the Christian tradition! Reading what Tillich wrote, that sounds awful as well. Jesus called God his Father and therefore wasn't all transcendent but present as well. The God presented by Christ is intensely personal. You state that you are inclusive and then post two videos that are very left wing to me. I want my church to feel like home, you seem to want a task force or politically based arts group. Where is the Trinity in this? Nicene Creed?

Al said...

"how do you write a paper when you have a fluid theology?"
That is a very good point. Even your revered reformers traveled on the journey of tradition translated into personal experience (lived out in community) which caused their theology to need to be reexamined more than once. We all should be open to ongoing contemplation of ideas.

Of course, within the framework of an organization/denomination, the fear undoubtedly exists that this neophyte is going to think his way right into heresy! And, of course, we can't allow that! So, to prove his loyalty, we need to get him to nail down his beliefs.

"i find myself writing too systematically..."
My by no means in-depth reading about post-modernism points to a shift from the modern systematic way of seeing ideas to something less organized and more narrative. However, our religious (and other) institutions have taught us to be systematic and organized in our internal and external considerations of ideas. So, you come by that style honestly enough, even though it may not be the best way of collecting and presenting your thoughts.

There are likely several ways you could do your paper, and still satisfy both your heart and the expectations of your church and school. I encourage you to let your own personality shine through, and you will come across as a real person, not some programmed automaton.

Anonymous said...

The God of neat categories and be avoided for a true and authentic experience in this faith.

I like how you want to structure it and I also enjoy your statement - I feel the exact same way.

If we play to the hype of orthodox or creeds - I am not sure we are doing an absolute justice to the scriptures. Just as long as you make the stand you do - you must also be able to back it up...concerning questioning the divinity aspects.

The rest, like being an inspiration and our place in this world - I completely enjoy!

Anonymous said...

"I want my church to feel like home, you seem to want a task force or politically based arts group." (AB)

But church ain't a building - it's a unity of believers meeting together. Also, church (as in the building) is not anyone's home - we all have homes and neigborhoods we already live in a participate in.

I am not sure he Luke is that political (maybe?) - he does dabble in the arts...but it seems to me he wants an authentic experience based his knowledge of what God has revealed via His word and Luke's life. That's no different than any other church - in the sense of leadership.

As for orthodoxy and the trinity ideas - well - neither of those Jesus ever taught why they are held onto like their God's fingers is beyond me.

Yael said...

Have been too busy with my own writing these days to do much more than skim over yours, but now I'm finished so I'm back, for better or for worse. LOL

Your comment about nailing jello to the wall reminds me of why when people ask me what I believe I tell them I don't believe anything right now, even though of course I do. I just don't want to be limited, well you said you believe this but now you say that. There is still much left to learn, to explore.

On Shabbat I'll be speaking about names, including the mysterious name of God, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh which seems to defy all attempts to pin God down as well. "I will be what I am becoming."

Love this stuff.

Luke said...

AB: ouch. i don't like when Christians label other Christians unChristian... it just seems... unChristian.

like i said, i'm considering these things. trying to make sense of it all and put it down on paper. you bring up good considerations that i will speak to. but as for a reference point, please check my prof's Theological Review of Yours Truly for a reminder.

Al: yeah.. i think that's a good point, maybe if i do the whole thing backwards, start with my experience and then paint the picture from there would be truer to who i am.

SVS and Yael: right on as always!

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke
Thanks for the mention.
Man, you get nailed in both hands. Atheists give you a hard time when you get really Christiany and now Christians (AB) scream heresy and question your orthodoxy when you are honest. One can already feel the pressure to homogenize, to sacrifice rationality for orthodoxy, to lie to oneself. But Anglican Boy is right, you are a heretic. Thank goodness.

I am glad you have support from folks like Al and Society within your tradition.

Good luck playing that field my friend

Tit for Tat said...


I think the irony here is the word Heretic stems from a greek word meaning "to be able to choose". Go figure. I like that Luke makes his own informed choices. :)

Sabio Lantz said...

@ T4T & Luke
Indeed, I meant "heretic" in the deepest and most affectionate ways. It is choice and it is freedom and when done in love ...
Peace boys,
-- Sabio

Anglican Gurl said...

As soon as I read what my husband posted, I wanted him to take it down. It is really mean-spirited and unfair. We read this blog precisely because it does not sound like other Christians. There maybe some disagrement between Luke's view and ours, I chaulk that up to being from different denominations. My oldest son loves the fact that Luke, a soon to be pastor, uses Rage Against the Machine as a reference point. Heretic, I do not think so. Honest, absolutely. Christian? More so than either of us here in St. Louis.

Sorry for any hurt feelings Luke.

Erudite Redneck said...

Sometimes, my personal christology boils down to the Bill Gaither refrain:

"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, there's just something about that name ..."

And in those times, that's enough.

RAWK on, Brother Luke.

Luke said...

here's a quick story from a friend that is a pastor like i hope to be:

when she first got to the church, membership doubled within the first year. everyone was really excited because, as she was told, "you aren't like other ministers we've had!"

in her third year, a crisis hit and the congregation was divided. while the crisis was caused by bickering church groups, the pastor was ultimately blamed because, as she was told, "you aren't like other ministers we've had."

thus is the quandry i find myself in. loved because i don't tow the line and repeat things ppl want to hear (it'll all be okay, just follow Jesus cause he's God. for example). i'm also despised for the same reason. AB proved that in his statement but the rest of y'all proved it on the flipside too. it is my humble assumption that there are more ppl who want change than there are ppl who want the same ol' tired lines.

Yael said...

Let me give my unasked for opinion...I'm really good at that!

I think there are more people who want change, too, the problem with the changers is they're not so great at commitment and sometimes they just like change because they like being against everyone else. So, yes, they may tell you they love that you're different, but how do you minister to that? If you're not different in the ways they want you to be different they will hit the road, and how can you be different in all the ways each of them will want you to be different? And what's going to keep them from turning you into someone else they can be against?

Plus, when things go wrong in people's lives I think many do want the same old tired lines because these lines are familiar and for many there is a fear that things went wrong because they went wrong. And things will always go wrong for someone eventually. Luke, why did you bring us out in this wilderness to die? Weren't there enough graves back at our old church? At least there we had all the onions and fish we could eat. Here all we have is this organic flat bread...

But...that said I think you're up to the challenge and here's why. You are very connected to tradition. So, if you can anchor your 'different' in tradition, tie in those tired old lines somehow so they're not so tired anymore, or engage these lines outright, honestly, why do we fall back on them? What is their appeal? Should we discard them, breathe life into them? What do we do? So that people don't feel like they're out on a fragile limb, I think you'll make it easier for people to stay the course; not easy, but easier. And the ones who just want to be contrary will likely head out before they can cause major damage. You can always hope anyway.

It's great though isn't it? A whole new challenge! Find a church in MN so we can be neighbors. I'd make a great honorary grandma to your daughter. Just think of all the cool Torah stories she would learn from me! LOL OK, maybe don't think about that one...

Luke said...

thanks Yael!

when i speak truthfully, i hear a lot of "wow! you're not christian!" that to me is evidence of someone not knowing their church history. battles have raged time and time again on the very question of "Who exactly is Jesus?" and there are even 4 compete'n accounts in our holy texts!

i am well within my tradition and thank you for recognizing that because it means a lot to me. what most ppl who are outside a tradition miss is how connect you feel to your parents and grandparents as well as your community. they also miss the notion of how each generation must reinterpret the tradition for themselves. this doesn't mean change the texts (like the Conservative Bible Project are doing) or throw out everything that is distasteful (holy wars, intolerance, Augustine) but learn from the mistakes!

ppl saying i'm not Christian prove their ignorance of the tradition. plus, i wouldn't put labels on you stating "Jews believe" because aside from "the messiah hasn't come yet" there is a variety of conversation and dialogue within the tradition! same with Christianity, however, we seem to have a more rigid desire for unity and want to white-wash our disagreements... that too is in our scriptures if you compare Acts with Paul's writings... Acts is a white-wash job.

Luke said...

I guess if ppl need a refresher there is this post back from the summer that would help focus people on what and how i believe.

Anglican Boy said...

Well, I feel like crap! Thank you for reminding me of my church history but you still did not answer my questions. What are your thoughts on the Trinity and Nicene Creed?

Sorry for the other stuff. That was too personal and not directed at you.

Sabio Lantz said...

Anglican Boy,

You say, " Well, I feel like crap!" but then you crank down on the inquisition screws trying to again make the accused (Luke) submit to your favorite political council creed.

I don't see any repentance following your supposed remorse ! Instead, I only hear you screaming, "Confess !"

Yael said...

Your comment inspired a bit of a tongue-in-cheek blog post. We have our whitewash too, but I think because we're so much older some of that has peeled away a bit, at least on the liberal side. Works for me. Scrapers were always more of my thing than brushes.

Going back to basics and hashing it all out is something I enjoy doing quite frequently. What does this mean? Why this? What's the value to? Otherwise I forget too easily and start making assumptions. I think the perception too often is that if we do this everything will be lost or our worlds will fall apart. Nope. Hasn't happened yet. Although I probably drive Rabbi up the wall at times. Can't you just sit still? For a minute? LOL

Tradition is a wonderful thing. L'dor v'dor - generation to generation. Barukh attah Adonai, notayn haTorah - blessed are You, Adonai, who GIVES Torah. (not gave)

Trah-Dish-Shun!! (Fiddler on the Roof)

Luke said...

AB: Sabio called ya out! that's what i'm hearing too. in CPE we're told that when you appologize never use the word "but" because it negates everything that comes before it.

what's up with these questions? where is the concern? these two notions have long been the yardstick of orthodoxy, are you checking up on me?

Yael: LOVE FIDDLER! i LOVE the notion that God gives, not gave. Like my denomination states "God is still speaking." RAWK!

Anonymous said...

"when i speak truthfully, i hear a lot of "wow! you're not christian!"" (Luke)

Wecome to my world! Now to give a clue why this is in the next paragraph.

"What are your thoughts on the Trinity and Nicene Creed?" (Anglican Boy)

(a) The trinity doesn't exist as some form of trilateral godhead - the bible is pretty clear on there being 1 God.

(b) As for the Nicene Creed - it's a formulated creed of the early church - circa 325 AD (only some 300 years after Jesus' life). Its also pretty Gentile in nature - which doesn't mention what the messiah is and the meaning of such a term. It's a mixed bag of beliefs we are asked to believe even if the history behind the beliefs is questionable.

That's not say the Nicene creed isn't laying down some true propositions - I think it is - but I also understand that it is quite slanted.

Anglican Boy said...

The reason I asked was to compare your basis to mine. I meant no harm. I was posting from my blackberry and had to type fast. Please forgive my short posts. We have been out for the last couple days and based on the heat I felt on the comments, I decided to take a few days to get back here. I'll catch up here soon. Jason, thank you for your thoughts. It is my feelings that the Nicene creed has lost traction here in the modern age, even in our home church. It feels like our pastor and my family are the only ones who believe it without a problem.