Our culture teaches us that everything out there is hostile. We have to compare, dominate, control, and insure. In brief, we have to be in charge. That need to be in charge moves us deeper and deeper into a world of anxiety. As with our attachment to the system of producing and consuming, this anxiety gets worse as we get older. - Richard Rohr (Everything Belongs)
I stopped posting to this blog back at the beginning of 2012. The reason for this hiatus was that I was deep into a long job search and my wife and I feared that certain church search committees would find my freely expressed views too controversial and toss my resume into the recycle bin. I still believe it was a good kind of caution. When you get right down to it, who would you want heading up ministries in your church (if indeed you belong to a church)? A wide-eyed contemplative with a seemingly never-ending list of questions about the very faith he professes, or a minister whose cyber footprint is more professional and whose articles adhere to a straightforward, amenable style? Let’s be honest – nine times out of ten, you’re opening door number two, and that one remaining time, you’re hoping nobody’s home behind door number one.
"Yeah, I found this guy's blog - what a nutjob! Next."
Now that I’m over a month into my new job and free to blog carte blanche again, I’m reflecting on this decision. And then, this morning, my wife gave me the standard once-over before I headed out the door and, as is sometimes necessary, commented on the outfit I had chosen to wear. It wasn’t her favorite. At the core of her displeasure was the polo shirt I was wearing, which was a recent Goodwill acquisition and one she had intended for more casual occasions. As I drove to the church, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the plan to hold off blogging during the job search stemmed from the same general issue as my lamentable cluelessness with clothing.
Comparison. Whether we mean to or not, we have all been swept up in a worldwide system of comparison. The quotation above adds more words to this system, such as domination and control. It might seem a bit drastic for me to state such a thing, but the more thought I give to the idea, the more I recognize that this is indeed the firmly fixed reality in which we operate. Especially Americans. So much of what we know about ourselves – what we would call our “identity” – comes from what/who we compare ourselves to. Physical appearance is a given, but this grand form of comparison goes much deeper than the merely cosmetic. Often even our religious convictions are born out of a desire to be right, to be in control, or at least to feel in control. Our identity rises and falls based on our sense of judgment.
This changes everything.
No wonder it is so hard to truly, authentically, unconditionally love other people. In such a cruel, status-obsessed system, I can hardly believe the notion of love still exists at all. It’s a dreadful realization, and figuring a way to escape it seems pointless. It seems to me that we will never find a way out of such a system on our own. There’s no hope for escape, really. Only rescue.
“They found the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body” (Luke 24:2).
The world, with its system of shrewd judgment, power-grabbing, comparing, grasping, dominating and securing will always call belief in the Resurrection foolish. It’s pathetic wishful thinking. A half-baked myth. An opiate for the masses. A waste of a mind. A pipe dream. Then again, if the Resurrection is true (and I believe whole-heartedly that it is, crazy as it sounds), it makes sense that such a system would spurn it. Because the Resurrection means that all the comparing and controlling and dominating has been squelched by a God who is about the business of redemption and reconciliation and mercy. And love. Real love. Before such radical grace, even the starkest comparison or ruthless reach for control crumbles to dust.
“Thy will be done on earth at it is in heaven.” Dare we choose such a radically new way of life?