Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Tao Te Ching and God: THE MUSICAL!

Tao Te Ching, Ron Hogan Translations:

#4 How much Tao is there?
More than you'll ever need.
Use as much as you want,
there's plenty more where that came from.

You can't see Tao, but it's there.
Damned if I know where it came from.
It's just always been around.

#14: You can't see Tao, no matter how hard you look.
You can't hear Tao, no matter how hard you listen.
You can't hold on to Tao, no matter how hard you grab.

But it's there.

It's in you,
and it's all around you.

Remember that.

#25: Something perfect has existed forever,
even longer than the universe.
It's a vast, unchanging void.
There's nothing else like it.
It goes on forever and never stops.
Everything else came from it.

I don't know what else to call it
So I'll call it Tao.
What's it like?
I can tell you this much: it's great.

Something that great lasts.
Something that lasts goes a long way.
And something that goes a long way
always comes back to the beginning.

Tao's great.
Heaven's great.
Earth's great.
And someone who's in touch with Tao is great, too.
Those are the four greatest things in the universe
and a Master is one of them.

Someone who's in touch with Tao
is in touch with the earth.
The earth is in touch with heaven.
Heaven's in touch with Tao.
Tao's in touch with the way things are.

So why did I have all those up there? for me they describe God. it has given me the words i have been searching for awhile now to talk about how i view God. just replace the word Tao with the word God, and you get what i have spent this whole blog trying to do.

for me, the word "God" is an exploder when it comes to descriptions. ex: God is LIKE a father, only no body, outside of time and space, you can’t see him, he’s not married to your mom, he’s not really actually a he and in fact, not like a father at all. If you take a concept that we know and multiply it times infinity, it becomes meaningless; it's exploded. So if both God and the Tao are eternal and outside of space and time then neither cannot be described at all with our words as they are bound by references to time and space. Therefore God and Tao can only be experienced, yet never fully at one time. What our brains can handle, what we can experience, is but a fraction of the fullness of Tao/God.

it would be like saying "I expect something from you... but it has no due date and it can't be located in this dimension." Many would stop here and say "well, then it's worthless, serves us no earthly good, and i can't believe it." that's a fair option. prolly the more sane one. but that doesn't keep out this strange mystical state i find myself in oft times. have you ever had stuff line up so perfectly that it could go no other way? we laugh and call them co-incidences in our limited knowledge, but they aren't.

we want to search for these moments, to capture them with language or art... but we can't. not really, not fully. all theological language really conveys no information at all... none that can't be logically reasoned, only experienced. so all that stuff in the bible should NEVER be taken literally. God can't be contained in factual language. all those words should make you feel something, some experience should be triggered.

we really can't say what the reference is; we can only speak to experience. all we have is metaphor:

yup.. that's the musical part of it ;-D

so clever.

anywho, where is this in the Bible? everywhere! but the two places to point to would be: Exodus 31, Moses asks to see the face of God. God tells Moses to crawl into a cave and God will put ‘his’ hand over the opening and Moses will be able to “See my behind.” This is a literal translation of the Hebrew. A deeper translation would be, “you will see where I was.” Not even Moses could see God in the present. This is a God we get only glimpses of. These highly personal encounters are still filled with mystery and, although we may experience God’s love, justice, spirit, or forgiveness directly, we should never take it for the totality of God.

and in John 14:8: Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?10Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?"

Philip is asking for a Theophany, seeming to forget his Jewish heritage and the fact that no one can see the face of God and live... largely, because God doesn't have a face. if God does, it prolly looks a lot like your neighbor's... or your enemy's. your mom's (no, YOUR mom), and maybe, to someone else, yours, given the right moment.

just my random thoughts tonight... now it's time for this fool to go to bed. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Christological Categories

I was talking with the Pirate in an email conversation and was telling him about the various things I'm learning in Christology class. I love this class! So here's the chart he posted on his site, that i emailed him... so i'm taking it back. stupid stealing pirate! Here are super-condensed versions of three categories demarcated by color and font I think are really helpful:

This first category is marked Doctrines of the Incarnation

Ebionism-An offshoot of the Jewish form of Christianity that solves the Christological problem by denying the divinity of Christ altogether. This does not mean that Jesus is regarded as just another human being or a good rabbi. For the Ebionites, Jesus was the Messiah chosen by God, sent by God, and predestined by God to return in majesty to rule the Kingdom of God. Ebionism simply claims that in order to be Messiah and Risen Lord, Jesus did not need to be God.

Docetism-The Docetists did the opposite of the Ebionites and eliminated Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was really God and was only pretending to be a human being. His sufferings and death were appearances only.
Antiochenism- The Antiochenes affirmed both the full humanity and divinity of Jesus but tended to regard the two as capable of operating separately. Sometimes Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia (two major league Antiochenes) speak of “two sons” a Son of God and Son of Man. They attributed the miracles to Jesus the Son of God and the sufferings to the Son of Man. They wanted to insure that the divinity of Christ would in no way interfere with his humanity. The humanity has its own independent principle of growth and action. In its most radical form, Nestorianism, the Antiochenes even spoke of “two persons” in Jesus, leaving it unclear how the two are held together. Sometimes they spoke of the two being “married” to one another.
Alexandrianism- The Alexandrians also affirmed the humanity and divinity of Jesus but their stress fell on the unity of the two rather than the difference. Beginning with Clement and Origen (the two heavy weight Alexandrians), the tendency was to regard the divinity as dominating the humanity, even deifying it. The son of God is the governing principle of everything Jesus does.
The second category is related to the first, namely HOW the incarnation is understood. this could be called Models of the Incarnation and could be understood within any of the four categories up top.
Ontological Model- states that Jesus is made of different stuff that the rest of us. These are founded on the virgin births in Luke and Matthew and state that while Jesus does have our biology, if one were to do a biopsy one would find something different that is inherent in Jesus' make-up.
Psychological Model- based on the adoption of Jesus by God in Mark and John's gospels. This theory states that while Jesus is human just like the rest of us, he somehow had the mind of God and was concerned with what God was concerned with. This doesn't mean that he knew all things that God did as an infinite consciousness can't fit into a finite one, but that Jesus was prayerfully connected 100% of the time, where we are, at best, are connected 10% of the time and usually only when we're in prayer (and that'd be 10% of the time we're even in prayer too).
Agency Model- This model states that Jesus did the things that God would do and that his teaching or biology are of no importance, it is what he DID that was important. To have faith in Christ is to have loyalty to his methods and do what he did. This is largely taken from Paul's letters and understanding of Jesus.
The final four (so to speak) are the condensed versions of the atonement. these would be called Theories of Atonement:
Classical- (aka Greek, Patristic, Eastern): Jesus' resurrection enacts and manifests God's triumph over all the powers and principalities which hold humanity captive and oppressed. These powers could be cosmic (devil, death and demons) or psycho-social (addictions, compulsions, and all the -isms). Jesus is the conquering hero who vanquishes humanity's enemies and the crucifixion is the final (or at the very least decisive) showdown with these powers. It is "objective" even if no one believes it.
Latin- (aka Western, Anselmic): Jesus' death on the cross somehow atones for human sinfulness. Jesus satisfies the twin requirements of God's justice and mercy. Jesus is the sacrifice who takes away the sins of the world. This is also "objective" in that the relationship with God to humanity has been transformed by Jesus.
Subjective #1- (aka role model, example): Jesus provides an inspirational example of true human being. By internalizing the picture of Jesus, we can develop Jesus-like qualities. This is "subjective" in that Jesus' work has no impact if it does not inspire the transformation of individual's inner and outer lives.
Subjective #2- (aka empathic): Jesus is a powerfully moving manifestation of the extent and depth of God's love for humanity. This potent demonstration has the capacity to elicit a loving response in the human heart. This is "subjective" view where Jesus' work is only successful if people are moved by this demonstration of God's love.
for example, i find myself being a psychological modeled Alexandrian that is a Classic Subjectivist #1 & 2. meaning, Jesus had the mind of God, was very human and yet the divinity shown through both through natural Charisma and presence as well as in hindsight. Thus the incarnation is projected by his followers back onto Jesus. I explained my atonement idea in this post and i talked about how i intersect many. for me, it boils down to the idea that if you aren't affected and experience Jesus then no biggie, you're still good. when told "Jesus loves you" many don't care... but i think the best response is to love him back. thus is one reason why i'm a Christian. hope that example helps. 
any questions?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Articles of Note

a local minister goes full-out in this article. she's a little bit of awesome, gotta love those alums! i think i may follow her example.

the blog post "Imagine if the Tea Party Was Black" by Tim Wise has been getting a lot of attention on my facebook threads, so i thought i'd post it here too. where the hell were these people 7 years ago? hell, how about 3? whatever. it sorta reminds me of this ol' cartoon about Huxley getting it right vs. Orwell.

okay.. that was hyper-link-tastic!

this weekend i hung out in Allentown and preached at my best bud's church, doing the whole Eeyore goes to Tehran. got a great shoo-fly pie too. excellent! came back here and went to TRUCC and listened to a group of awesome and strong women talk about their trip to Mercy Home in Kenya. too much awesomeness to put into words about how good we have it here. these girls are stronger at 5 then a WWE wrestler. walking 2 miles for water every morning at 4 a.m. with a 5 gallon bucket on your head is freak'n strong. it was great to hear their stories. it is also great to be in a church that supports such a great mission without asking anything in return.

still trying to think up another blog name for wordpress, "considerations" or something might work. or i may drop blogging altogether unless my future church thinks it would be a good idea. just getting frustrated with the level of discourse i fail to live up to. also sick of polemics and homophobia and generally the lamenting and anger at people being human and not living up to their standards... you know, the same standards they themselves can't live up to. bull-hockey i tell you. bullocks and durn it all to tarnation!

or maybe i should just stick to the fine peeps on my side list ( these ones here---> )and not worry about the rest of the world.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Resist and Create

I sat in a lecture by Monica A. Coleman, a post-modern womanist process author, here at LTS and it was great! She stated that while she's a constructionist (vs. a theological deconstructionist where many post-moderns go) she thought that Karl Barth had a good idea. Barth is known for his massive theological works, around 12 volumes, but when asked what was at the core, he replied "Jesus loves me, this I know." Monica stated that to get to this "core" ppl ask themselves what keeps them up at night and how do they go about solving this? this should help boil your thought process down to something. Monica's was "break the silence" as silence does not serve nor help ppl who are subject to oppression.

that made me try to figure my own core out.

i know i like inclusion, humanity, science, art, religions, and seeing how each one connects and feeds another. i get really angry with "slash and burn" style of thinking whether it be Christian or Atheist. "well it has nothing to do with XX*, so it's worthless" *this can be filled with Jesus, the facts, the Bible, science or whatever depending on who is speaking. that seems rather dualistic, taking only a "right and wrong" scenario and tossing out all the grey. so initially i thought my core was "Resist and Destroy" as i resist this type of thinking and see it everywhere i look in my context, both online and offline. i think this is what compelled me into ministry, seeing that things can be different, that the fundies don't have the last word on Christianity, that the atheists aren't right, that there is a middle ground and the two extremes must be destroyed. funny and ironic thing is, both fundies and atheists (of the slash-and-burn style) do have some good things going for them and destroying them would go against my inclusive nature and de-humanize them.

so instead, i think my core is "Resist and Create."

i could get all bent out of shape on how ppl view God, or how they have stupid theologies like The Rapture and how they often miss Jesus in their midst because that incarnation of Jesus at the time happens to be a non-Christian, forgetting that Jesus was Jewish in the first place! or that my more empirical brothers and sisters rule out anything that can't be verified through the scientific method and thus become "science literalists" stating that sciences PROVES so much... forgetting that science doesn't PROVE anything. as Einstein stated (paraphrased by me) science sets up helpful models and theories that help us make sense of things that are going on out there, all it takes is for one experiment, and those theories are out the window. as this is a short blogpost, i'll move on from there, knowing that both of these aren't sufficient and are characterizations. i know that, but this is my blog and i'm the creator here ;-)

i want to create a new way of creating my faith. i want to resist things like de-humanizing, colonialization, literalism, and create something new. i claim being a Christian because it's important to me. i recently talked with Sabio as to why and i want further that discussion as i am often met with the phrase "Well you don't SOUND Christian." both by atheists and believers alike.

it is my view that everything that happens is a product of the past, we are to deal with what's possible, and  we are what we do with those things. i'm a product of a white, Roman Catholic, single mom in south-east Ohio. my context, i'm blue collar, under-exposed to diversity, Christian for as long as my geneology goes, and  some what of a naturalist,scientist, and mechanic thanks to my mom's interests in nature and career as car mechanic. what i have done with those things is create something new and rather bold... i'm no longer Catholic, i will soon have two degrees, i've committed myself to diversity, studied other faiths, and kept the interests in science and such.

i must create! whether it be blog posts like this one, or this one from my Art Series at the end of my first semester, or my poems, or even my crappy cartoons over at Unidactyl. Check out that site please, i have a cartoon every 4 days from now until June! i like hanging around ppl who create and i'm even more honored to be around those who can create new directions for the traditions they find themselves in.

so there it is. pretty slick right? maybe? ok, no... but here are two good buddies of mine that are creating some pretty awesome stuff. my best friend growing up has a band called LifeLine and he's the lead singer! i can proudly say that i attempted to play in a band with that guy! now he's on tour with TANTRIC. here's a slick song of his:

here's another dude in a band... he is also the lead singer here and went to seminary before he landed a dream job as a sound mixer for a local recording studio. since then he has formed The Hititz and has been playing locally here and i love how poppy this stuff is. it's audio crack! Eve loves it too.

which one do you like?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jesus Needs New PR

searching around on the internetz and i found this from a pastor reviewing Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis book:

Living the “Jesus life” is not the essence of Christianity and neither is obeying the commands of Jesus (as important as that is). The essence of Christianity centers upon the work of Christ on behalf of sinners (i.e. substitutionary atonement). This is the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) that was the prioritized message of Jesus’ apostles (e.g. 1 Corinthians 2:2)
followed by other 'yeah-that's-right-you-tell'ems" such as:

I’ve read some of Crossan’s books and they are very, very troubling. They are attempting to turn Christianity into a crossless religion. The Cross brings offense and always will. I say “let them alone. They are the blind leading the blind.” 
oy! adventures in missing the point! i love how people put Paul over Jesus. Paul DOES NOT talk about Jesus. Paul is largely not concerned with talking about who Jesus is. Instead Paul is a church conflict manager, he is concerned with POWER and AUTHORITY in church and that is why he spends so much time putting himself on par with the other apostles and giving out unsolicited advice to church communities.

here are two thoughts for readers of this blog and Christians in general: If living the life of Jesus isn't the point, you're wrong. if the eschatology isn't a participatory one, you're wrong. no if's, and's, or but's about it.

I like Crossan and Borg and they don't lead people away from the cross, they help people understand what got Jesus there, namely HIS LIFE! When Jesus said TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME, he's asking ppl to live a life like his that will ultimately lead to your death, literally or metaphorically (dying to yourself and such like). Christianity at its root (Jesus) is non-violent and anti-empire (due to the simple fact that all empires endorse violence). The early church was also non-violent and anti-empire...and that tradition has been carried on by some, though not all, Christians. while the cross does bring offense, Crossan doesn't do away with it, he does away of the literal resurrection: cross is still prominent.

I'm against people taking an anti-empire, anti-conventional wisdom and dumbing it down to "be a good citizen, believe what we teach you, and tithe." Doctrines and tradition are important, being a good citizen is responsible and a good fulfillment of the social contract, but don't think for a minute that these make one a Christian.

All this to say I'm sick of slash-and-burn Christianity, I'm sick of other Christians calling other Christians NOT Christian (unChristian yes, fair game, we can act unChristian many a times). I'm sick of anti-science, anti-intellectual, and anti-liberal/critical method Christianity. When i read crap like that, i feel as though i'm an outsider in my own faith; a thinker surrounded by over-emotional feelers.  i know i'm not alone and i'm on a mission to find such people that are dying to hear people like Borg, Crossan, and Bell, and give Jesus some new PR.

image found at SINFEST where the copyright is held: copyright 2008 by Tatsuya Ishida/Museworks used here for the intended purpose to get all you jerks to go to that site and check it out!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pure Religion

There is no such thing as a “categorically pure” religion. It is simply a myth and a potentially dangerous one.

Many streams of my own faith state that they are either the first and true church (Roman Catholics and all the various Orthodox claim this) or a return to the true faith of Christ (which is everyone else). Jesus’ faith was based on a Jewish worldview at a time of oppression. Jesus’ followers went global after his death and what resulted was their own interpretation of who Jesus was coming into conflict with Greco-Roman philosophies (hence the strong Aristotelian and Platonic emphasis) or North African faiths and philosophies (Origen, Augustine, Tertullian, and ecstatic prayer/worship practices). So Christianity wasn’t pure from the on-set! Paul’s letters really expose the diversity of Christian thought and practice as he wrote so much about how one can be Gentile and uncircumcised over against those who disagreed (aka the Super Apostles), and against the Gnostics. So it is my basic assumption that religions adapt, change, and cross-pollinate.

We see this in all major religions, divergent belief systems as the faiths grow and change and meet new contexts.

This changing and adaptation is nature and should be embraced. What doesn’t change in nature soon goes extinct. There are some notable exceptions like the horseshoe crab and alligators and crocodiles that haven’t really changed since they were hanging out with the dinosaurs, but for the most part everything is influx and adapting to new situations. Thus all religions reflect a lived reality. The best and most popular religions are ones that are both pragmatic and metaphoric. These religions seem to give people words for their experience of the world, and the ritual and theology that follow these stories work in the believer’s every day context.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eve is One!

happy kid! a real bodhisattva! she is a joyful soul. Happy First Birthday Eve!

Here's the video from her "early birthday" shot at the Flying ~E~

here was your first look this time last year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Thoughts on Atonement and Christus Victor

before we talk about atonement, we must first talk about who Jesus is and how i view him. to use Marcus Borg's idea, there is two Jesi, the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus.

The pre-Easter would be the historical dude that you could have videotaped. He was Jewish mystic, healer, wisdom teacher, and prophet of the kingdom of God; he proclaimed the immediacy of access to God and God's kingdom; he challenged the domination systems of his time, was executed by the authorities, and then vindicated by God (Borg, 303).

In the decades after Easter, his followers spoke of his significance with the most exalted language they knew: son of God, Messiah, Lord, Light of the world, ect. This is the community's language about him. I, like Borg, do not think that these two need to be separated, and in fact, you can't separate them as they are inherent in the gospel narratives. the gospels are both testimony and memory; history as well as parabolic language (language of parable, metaphoric language). Thus the real Jesus is one who lived 2,000 years ago and was a Galilean peasant-teacher and the one who has shaped the lives of millions of people, many of whom claim to have met him and have a personal relationship with.

Both matter, both are true.

This would be the Alexandrian view of Jesus where he is both human and divine, but the divine overrides the humanity, just as it did in the gospels and in the historical community that called themselves Christian.

with that straight, i then head to atonement. As stated before, i used to throw people under the bus who subscribed to sacrificial atonement. i still think it's bad theology and bad history as it elevates one understanding and way of viewing Jesus over the rest. the substitutionary atonement i still have no room for as i think it's Vampire Christianity; interested in Jesus' blood and little else. I don't like sacrificial as it is often understood as God demanding death and thus having it be a part of God's plan for the salvation of everyone else. this misses the humanity of Jesus as well as the life he was willing to sacrifice for his beliefs, his passion which drove him to say the things he said and get him killed by the authorities of his time. they don't crucify people for no reason, they were enemies of the state, politically dangerous!

The substitutionary atonement model i understand now more than i did. i think becoming a parent has helped with this view. yet i don't see Jesus as a doormat or coward. He was akin to the archetype of the forceful, yet nonviolent, organizer. A grass-roots agitator calling for equity and fairness for all. The type that gets the gentry all riled up and the rich nervous. A force that needs removing or one we need to co-opt and normalize.

I also disagree with Christus Victor because i do not have angels or demons in my metaphysic. I have God with no devil. we do the job of temptation very well on our own with our own biological framework to have a dude in a red suit running around. Humans are inescapably subject to the temptation of evil. We get into trouble when we de-humanize or de-prioritize others and put ourselves first.

When we deny that we are captive, we conjure notions of social progress, romantic optimism, manifest destiny, all forms of human pride that overlook our fragility and limitation. yet on the other extreme, which Christians have been labeled more often than not, we capitulate to the tragic and doomed outlook on life. We lose hope.

The resurrection, whether understood metaphorically or literally, is resistance to the powers of death, a refusal to allow death to have the final word, which is where I connect to the Christus Victor model. The power of the cross subverts it's own nature as an instrument of death, harmful and oppressive, and instead becomes an intellectual, spiritual, and communal resource for radical change. God's presence is then with those who suffer, telling them that they aren't to be afraid anymore. No worries about death, that isn't the worst thing that could happen to you. The cross and resurrection are a two fold attack to the masochism of submissive suffering and the pride of unchecked triumphalism. it boldly reclaims common humanity, in this rubric there is no room for the other.

In this way, I'm Christus Victor. Death cannot defeat life, life will always carry on in some form. yet it always changes, it is impermanent. life adapts, grows, and leaves us behind, yet our children will go on and their children after them. that's why it is good to plan to the 7th generation in your actions. yet when we do act, we do so not fearing death yet understanding our limitations. In Jesus, the powerful tried to kill him and it didn't work. the worst evil could do was try to kill us and it never can kill us all. even when we die and we finally know what lies beyond, i believe we will all be welcomed in. this is where apokatastasis comes in. because i see God through Jesus, i see that even the forsaken, those outcasted and assured a place in hell are welcomed. the cross overturns all of our conventions. this is what it means when the gospels read "he died for the sins of the world" or "his life was ransom for many" (paraphrases from john and mark). as to what heaven looks like, that's as far as my metaphysic goes. heaven, yes, hell if we chose it and be it of our own making.

the problem then becomes when the church seeks cultural convention and prejudice over the radical message Jesus so passionately died for. this doesn't mean that i'm not patriotic, i'm just not nationalistic. i'm a Christian not because i'm after a ticket to heaven, or need to meet requirements for salvation. no, i'm after a community that seeks transformation of themselves into Jesus. I'm after a better world. a more just world, a more equitable world.

we are building up the new world. resistance is victory, defeat is impossible.


Bond, Susan. The Trouble with Jesus.

Borg, Marcus. Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary.

Weaver, J. Denny. The Nonviolent Atonement

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sacrifice and Christus Victor

I find that seminary has three parts to it. 1st you come in with your own ideas and are able to defend them, they are clear and boundaries are demarcated through experience in and of your local church. then you start considering other parts (this would be part two) and you start hearing the logic and views of your classmates. meanwhile you're in another setting with other ways of doing and view the Christian Tradition. This leads to confusion and boundaries start to bleed. the third stage is just before you graduate you realize what you used to believe and claim it again, only this time, more loosely as you're able to consider other points of view.

applying this to my understanding of atonement, it would look like this:

1. i came in thinking that these two models at hand (Jesus as sacrifice and victor) were awful and bad theology.In the words of James Allison, i thought that these atonement theories set up "God and his Son in some sort of consensual form of S&M- one needing the abasement of the other in order to be satisfied, and the other loving the cruel will of the Father." I would have claimed, as Allison does that these theories "have done more to contribute to atheism among ordinary people than any number of clerical scandals, and that if being a believer means believing this, then it is better to be among the non-believers."

2. I have examined these more closely and tried to consider their Christology and historical import as seen in the previous post on the matter.

3. Where I'm at now sees how others view and i even see a place where we intersect. an email conversation with DPS proved quite fruitful in coming to this conclusion. he suggested two books, Susan Bond's The Trouble with Jesus and J. Denny Weaver's The Nonviolent Atonement. DPS claimed that you can't be a universalist without being in the Christus Victor model, or believe apokatastasis without it in some form. it's just what form that is important. in the next few posts, i'll talk about my interactions with Bond and Weaver and where i stand. hope you'll stick around!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Taking it on Faith

thanks to Pastor Bocock for the find! i am a math atheist! ;-)

happy monday everyone, hope your week is off to a good start!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

My Westernized Mandala

For class the other day, we designed and then made sand mandalas. We are studying Tibetan Buddhism and did research papers on the tantric practice of the sand mandala and it's meaning. Based on this study we were to do our own mandala for a variety of reasons: 1. to learn the lesson of impermanence. 2. to see how hard it actually is. 3. to see how art has layers upon layers of meaning.

here is my mandala sketch and explanation followed by the final version:

The Meaning

Unlike the Tibetan concept of Mandala as palace and home of deity, I am choosing to represent a God that can’t be boxed. In fact, the symbols of the various religions are trying to act as walls for the divine yet the divine is in and through everything. This is to represent my panentheistic view of God.

In the center, I have chosen the traditional Christian symbol of Alpha and Omega to represent the divine. However, I modified it a little and placed two question marks and centered it in a labyrinth to show the ineffability of the divine. The boxes that hold the various symbols of the world religions demonstrate how each is a human-constructed view of the divine and the fire labyrinth that encircles the boxes show how each has a little bit of the fiery divine wisdom within each. The symbols read clockwise spell out “COEXIST” and end with a human skull to symbolize secular humanism, atheism, and those without a particular tradition yet still hold philosophical wisdom. These are placed on the 8 cardinal directions.

The labyrinth shows how humanity wonders and wanders around searching for the divine and yet wanders and wonders completely surrounded by it. I take this meaning from the wisdom literature that “all of this has happened before and shall happen again” which is a pseudo-Buddhist view of time. The pathway also shows how we are largely in the same state that we started in and will end up close to where we began on our journey. 

The symbol of the male and female figures is to show divine blessing on all of humanity and how we are charged with dominion over the world. It is good to note that dominion in my mind, from Genesis, suggests a stewardship and care for the planet, not the excess and exploitation that can be associated with this idea. It is also good to note that this view can be seen as hetero-centric but I do not intend it as such. This does not show how the man and woman are partnered with one another but shows both genders and represent how all of us got here, namely through that union. It is not intended to rule out homosexual partnerships.

The Experience
man, you have no idea how much concentration it takes to get sand to go where you want it to! Your breathing, hand control, and body position all must be accounted for. we used straws, brushes, and toothpicks to apply the sand and one little move or absent minded breath would send your whole work scattering. the concentration though was extremely focusing, i have a very technical and small-scale mandala and i'm normally more of a "chaos" artist... meaning i will slop things on there and intuitively follow where my mistakes lead me. this however, required a plan with mathematical precision planning and extreme skill to pull off. i rarely have these qualities, so it was quite a change from the normal way of doing things. I found the initial start-up frustrating, but once i got the hang of how the sand fell and what techniques to use, it became easier and i found i grew more quite, focused, and prayerful.  

The Result
When planning the mandala, i was so focused on the measurements and alignment that I forgot about scale. so i came with a smaller mandala than everyone else and thus a more technical one. the application of the sand blurred on the COEXIST spelling and only about two came out legible. i am pretty proud of the labyrinth and the color scheme.  This is from my buddy's camera on his cell phone... but you can see it's a little blurry. I love the 3D aspect of it, how you could texture and raise things in the sand or flatten or do a brush pattern. i hope to do another mandala in the future that will be bigger and will account for such things.

So if you had to do a mandala, what symbols would you have on it? What would it represent? If you have the time, I'd love to see a design or something... to my fellow classmates, I will put up your mandala on this site if you're willing to email it to me. RAWK!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Flying ~E~ and a small announcement.

Just returned from a nice vacation with family out at the Flying E Ranch in Wickenburg, Arizona. If you're looking for good food, riding, and desert scenery, look no further!

I used this vacation to get centered, to do some reading, and largely not to think a whole heck of a lot. The latter part, I failed, but some good things came of it. I am reading Marcus Borg's Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary and it really has helped me come to an understanding. I came in very progressive and was labeled "fierce" by my advising committee. Some of that edge has come off, and the passion has subsided for a while, but I feel it coming back, and that is an excellent thing! Borg's book has helped with that, and I'll provide a review later on.

Another thing to note is that I will be ending this blog in June 2010. I will leave this blog up for posterity's sake, but this blog is about my journey to and through seminary. That journey ends on May 15, 2010. So i have about a month left and need to focus on all of that. I'll be wrapping this blog up and providing some insights and some favorite posts over the years. I will continue blogging, but in another guise. I am taking the good advice of Sabio and my wife. See, an atheist and a pastor's wife do have something in common! :-) i'll be anonymous but i think y'all know who i'll be. i'm not too subtle. So keep your eyes peeled in the near future.

I look forward to catching up on the bloggings that have happened since I left, and i will leave you with reflection and prayer I gave on Easter morning in the desert at the Flying ~E~ but updated for this audience and format:

What is this Sunday about?

Well, if you're a naturalist, you see that the desert is starting to bloom. The hedgehog cacti are just starting to sprout their purple flowers, the ocatillo their orange flowers, and all sorts of little ones like the Chia are sprouting up. For those of us who go back east soon, we'll find that the dogwoods are out, the tulips and crocuses are out and spring has sprung, once again reminding us that the life of spring has triumphed over the death of winter. New life has come.

If you're Jewish, you are celebrating your week long Passover. This is a reminder that your ancestors threw off the bondage of their old life and took on a new one of being free. This life involved a lot of uncertainties, and Moses didn't even live to see the Promised Land--he only glimpsed it, but it was worth it. The new life of freedom is remembered and celebrated.

If you're Christian, well, have we got a story to tell you. This is where new life has triumphed over sin and death. Christians do not have to be afraid of dying anymore but can live a life of service and radical love, free from the fear of death and dying. New life is ours to have if we are bold enough to take it.

With this in mind, let us pray:

God, we thank you for the gift of new life. We thank you for the many chances we get, the opportunities to grow and change, to learn and re-learn. We look forward to your insights as they come to us or as we figure them out after long hard hours of studying. Guide us in our conversations, help our words reflect our intent and our meaning, may they be met with grace and love. Above all, we thank you for new life, and we ask for the courage and strength to take it and live it to the fullest, to the benefit of all we meet. In your many names we pray, Amen.