According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Friday, December 16, 2011

On Idols, Happiness and Personal Meaning

Who Stole My Happiness?

by Peter Rollins
posted 12/12/11

One of the first problems that we are confronted with concerning the “Thing” which we imagine will bring us fulfilment (money, fame, health, relationship etc.) is, of course, that we can’t seem to ever get our hands on it. If we do reach out and grasp we open our hands and find out that it isn’t actually the “Thing” after all (because it has not satisfied in the way we fantasised). This is not to say that a form of happiness and satisfaction is beyond us, just that the imagined fulfilment of desire is an impossible dream (that would turn out to be a nightmare were it ever possible). The belief in something that can fulfil us (in theological terms “the idol”) is then oppressive because it always seems out of reach, robbing our current situation of meaning.

This is, of course, a rather mundane and well-documented phenomenon. However what is reflected on less is the way that we imagine others having the “Thing” and how this affects the way we relate to them.

Take the example of a minister standing in front of his congregation preaching against the sexual sins of the world. Let us imagine him working himself into a sweat about the orgies, sex parties and deviant behaviour going on just beyond the walls of the church. One of the striking things about this is the way that all of his pent up emotion and moral indignation often seems like nothing more than a thin veil hiding the truth that he is jealous of all the fun they are having. They are having so much pleasure while he is not, they have the “Thing” that he doesn’t.

To approach this from a different angle I recently talked with a woman who broke up with someone and subsequently felt bad because she knew that he was very unhappy as a result of the split. She told me of how, a couple of months later, she found out from a friend that he was much better and in a new relationship. When she heard the news she expressed joy to her friend. However she admitted to me, and herself, that the initial “sorrow” she felt at him being unhappy actually contained a form of hidden pleasure while the “pleasure” she had at thinking he was happy veiled a sorrow.

Her feelings had nothing to do with her disliking the man or not wanting him to prosper; it was rather connected to her (implicit) belief in the "Thing."

This is also seen to play out when someone breaks up with us. It is not uncommon to imagine that the other person is out partying all the time, meeting new people and generally having a ball. All the while we are unhappy, unstable and unable to leave the house. They appear to have the pleasure that we lack and we resent them for it, even wishing them harm. More than this we are willing to hurt ourselves in order to rob them of their pleasure (the most extreme form being suicide – where we will end our own life to rob them of the "Thing").

The point of these brief comments is to draw out how our belief that there is something which can satisfy our desire and render us whole, [which] is not only oppressive because (i) we can never seem to grasp it, but also is oppressive because (ii) of the way that we think others have. When we are truly able to see the other as being just as riven with desire and lack as we are then reconciliation becomes more possible.*

This is a subject that I go into in much more depth in my next book (due out October 2012).

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*If I might attempt to complete Peter's thought, we might imagine ourselves no less fulfilled or happy than another person similarly plague by personal thoughts of unfulfillment and unhappiness. Each of us have our own personal "idols and meaning" issues. Each of us are just as torn as the other. But in different ways. This is a sin issue. Rather than being content with life's many little perfections of beauty around us we always want more from God. Our pride and ego would drive us to lust and discontent. These are different than dreams and passions which would drive us to God's re-purposing of our lives. One is an idol. The other is worship.

R.E. Slater
December 15, 2011

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