Tuesday, April 27, 2010

why church?

I just finished reading a friend's manuscript called "Why God?". In his book, Bob McAdams leads his readers on a quest to sift through our common human experiences of reason, truth, good and evil, time, and beauty to "gather from this richness some new thoughts about the reasons for belief and non-belief in God."

It was while I reading his chapter titled, "the shoe that does not fit", that I recognized I was on yet another quest.
"Our cosmology, the etched and stained transparent dome through which we view the universe, like every other part of our lives is in motion. Within our cosmology, our roles require that we constantly ask and answer the question, “What shall I do next?” What happens to a cosmology that is itself in motion? Can a cosmology also be subject to this same ‘what next’ question? Do we outgrow a cosmology in the same way we outgrow shoes? Can a cosmology simply not fit, simply give us daily, constant pain that forces us to face the options of holding on and suffering or letting go of the cosmology itself?"
The cosmology that I am struggling with, against, and often simultaneously for, is no longer why God?, it's why church? What is next for the church as an idea and for church as the reality that I participate in weekly?  Coincidentally, I've stumbled across lots of interesting quotes about church this week.
"Church should only be about comfort for the sick, the dying, the grieving, and the oppressed. Everybody else--buck up and change the world." - Diana Butler Bass
"it’s about the people, people. not the programs. not the banner-waving on others’ behalf. not the countless other things that can seem important but take away from what was at the essence of Jesus’ message & incarnation–love people. love people. love people." - kathy escobar
"After all, the church is relatively irrelevant as it stands in most other parts of today’s social fabric, meaning, the church won’t receive any congratulation except from itself." - Deacon Hall
"Jesus as somehow a window on God; Jesus as somehow a norm that transcends ideas, ideals, and principles but also serves as a standard for them; Jesus as somehow a living reality who confronts as often as he comforts. Christians don't need – indeed perhaps would be better off without – the traditional ways of trying to express these matters and the traditional confidence that their doctrinal assertions can actually contain the full truth of these matters. The truly hard intellectual work for disciples of Jesus today is to re-express our relationship with Jesus and our glimpses of God by re-contextualizing them into a far less complete and confident frame of reference." - Tom Wilkens
"The clergyman and the layman - who together form God's mission people - definitely have a different function in it. Permit me to put it in this somewhat schematic way: the minister must take care of the continuity, he guards the tradition; he must preserve and may easily be a bit conservative. The layman, on the other hand, takes care of the progressive movement, thrusts himself into the actualities of life; he must develop and build.

Both these functions belong together. It is good not only when there is harmony between them but there remains some tension as well. We must not sound the alarm when the layman can hardly stand the church any longer. That does not have to imply that he looks down upon everything as it is being done. It can also mean that the layman understands his function well and for this reason goes into loyal opposition. We are mortally afraid of those tensions and write church papers full about them, but that does not strike me as a cause for concern. Concerned we must become when the laity meekly walk in step behind the preacher. Then they have lost their function. Because then it becomes apparent that they have moved from the world into the church, and it belongs to the grandeur and misery of the layman that he experiences his membership in the church in an extra-ecclesiastical way." - The Church Inside Out by J.C. Hoekendijk

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

in search of a revolution

This afternoon, I met with a few of the readers of "the book". It was a good experience. Getting there was another story - let's just say that because of many mistakes I made on the way, I was super late (guess I needed a good dose of humility as well).

One comment that really stuck out for me was from a woman who said I was born 35 years too early and she was born 40 years too late. She said that I was clearly in search of a revolution, but all the good ones, which she had been a part of, had already happened. She, on the other hand, had to go through those revolutions because she couldn't live out her dream to be a fighter pilot.

This morning, I was prepping for the 3D programming class I'm teaching (which is why I lost track of time and nearly missed the aforementioned meeting) and was struck by how fast technology is evolving. Not only in my lifetime, but even more so in the lifetime of my students. However, this level of change is second nature to them. So how can I put it into perspective for them? I needed to find a story and as often is the case with technological advancements, it was a science fiction writer who saw the vision of 3D programming in virtual worlds. In 1992, Neal Stephenson wrote about virtual reality in Snow Crash.
"So Hiro's not actually here at all. He's in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones. In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse. Hiro spends a lot of time in the Metaverse. It beats the shit out of the U-Stor-It." - pg. 24
The first world-wide browser wasn't on the scene until 1993. It was the very next decade that brought the virtual reality games of Runescape (2001), SecondLife (2003) and World of Warcraft (2004) to life. The massive change in technology in such a short period of time really reflects the definition of a revolution.
revolution - a sudden, complete or marked change in something (dictionary.com)
I'm beginning to suspect that much of my fascination and time spent on technology is in search of that next big revolution. That thing that is going to "beat the shit" out of the real world problems of poverty, discrimination and greed. You may think I'm crazy, but I'm not alone.
"Reality is broken and we need to make it more like a game." - Jane McGonigal