|Lord of the Harvest|
In my spare time this past year-and-a-half I have been working through a newer, more relevant form of theology to help deepen the poems I wish to someday bring to life. Under the web blog title of Relevancy22 I have taken both an academic and contemporary approach to the issues of the day that have unnecessarily narrowed the Christianity I grew up with. One that would write of a wider breadth of faith that is less constricted by conservative boundaries and barriers, and more centered in Jesus, if possible. A kind of post-evangelic Christianity which in its own way is a more moderate, or progressive, form of evangelical Christianity that has become politically unbalanced by rightist, conservative issues which have marginalized the church's message and ministry. And in the process politicized the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to our postmodern, 21st Century, pluralistic, and multi-cultural societies. Societies we struggle to live within given the many incidents of civil warfare and terroristic atrocities witnessed globally between religious, ethnic, and ideological temperaments, rather than seeing the good, the beautiful, the helpful within our human differences.
For myself, I don't pretend to live in the failed eras of yesteryear. Nor to pursue the enlightened, late=modernism issues of the 50s and 60s by revisionistic historical practices (from either side of the political aisle). Mostly because I firmly believe that today's Christian faith can be as vital now as it was fifty years ago without having to artificially create invasive thought-barriers and protective screens to shield the church's faithful from the dialectic events bombarding us in contemporary society. That the life of Jesus was one of action combined with a broadening-out of Jewish theology, itself become constricted and divisive in His day of revelatory illumination. That our actions count as much as our words. That seeing the value of human life is more important than clinging to the traditions of a rich, and faithful church heritage, itself become insular to the criticisms and humanitarian needs of the 21st Century. That the human faith must allow for the majesty and mystery of God while doubting the foibles and wisdom of man. Especially as considering God's love as the prime motivator in our Creator-Redeemer's communion with man (and the cosmos) in everything He has done - and is now doing - within our expanding worlds of knowledge and industry and societal evolution.
Consequently, I have spent many recent days and nights digesting the current affairs of Christian theology and practice, and have re-positioned those issues alongside the thoughts and actions of fellow Christian contemporaries excited by the same possibilities as myself of a newer, more gracious form of faith than presently being discussed or practiced. Along the way I have contributed what articles I could to this emerging discussion through personal insight and experience to help lend vocal support to those fellow "miscreant" theologs that my conservative branch of Christianity has purposely flagellated - or worse, ignored - in its struggle to update itself while embracing the unknown, the feared, the obvious and the unavoidable. So that in my first six months of blogging I began unsure of myself as writer and commentator, but passionate to the burden placed upon my heart, by adopting the pseudonym skinhead (which in hindsight more probably indicated mine own personal de-construction at the time) until feeling surer of myself to hazard my name to that signatory list of evolving practitioners and writers, elocutioners and philosophers, poets and minstrels. I find that I write best in prose but have attempted during that same time to duplicate the more pedantic form of my officiously ranked brethren to help readers along who, with me, wish to investigate the root forms, and basal energies, of their faith. What poetry I have attempted (and in truth it has been very limited) is written hastily to match the temperament of the article of that day's contribution or edition. And usually, I save my best prose for the concluding portions of that day's posting trusting the diligent reader to better appreciate its words when having first read through the opening structures of the ensuing proposition and juxtaposed teaching.
Overall, I have not so much personally blogged as to try to create more of a timeless biblical index to what I consider an emerging, post-modern form of theology and practice in need of definition, sorting-out, and topical discussion. One that can appreciate the contributions of the church's past creeds and confessions, beliefs and practices of yesteryear, but is willing to move beyond any current misconceptions or misrepresentations of the bible. Or even the faith of the faithful seeking cultural acclamations rather than the biblical charter and precedence shown to us by the prophets of earlier times struggling with their own generation of well-meaning religious priests and temple'd guardians. An emerging faith which has come to understand that "the human language is both a problem and a gift" - a problem because we wish to make it so mathematic-like. So precise and formal when it is anything but that (credit the Enlightenment for this effort of definitive syllogism and logistical precision found in Evangelical Christianity's popularly acclaimed systematic theologies of today). And a gift, because through it we may use all the forms of human language and human presence to speak of God - whether poetically, or musically; in chants or in liturgical practice; or non-verbally by our actions, body-language, and symbolic usage (art, film, etc).
But to also understand that "last year's words belong to last year's language, and next year's words are awaiting another voice" as one youth had expressed it to me. And by that means help each generation through its own concerns and frames of reference that must be addressed if it is to evolve into its own habitats, expressions, cares and concerns. That if we don't learn to speak to one another between our generations - from old to young, and young to old - than we will instead speak past one another. To be aware that the Christian faith is meant to be expanded and stretched past any previous thought categories and semantic definitions into newer thought forms and meanings (Jesus showed us that in the Gospels, even as His disciples and the old guard of Judaism struggled with the same). This is because language itself can be both time-bound to the generation it lives within, as well as timeless to the generations to come. To recognize that human language bears a fluidity, or metamorphosing ability, which allows for its continual reconstitution and reconfiguration through the many eras and societies of mankind. So that we may use this uniqueness of human communication that it might breathe and find new lands of discovery and settlement amongst a wider variety of human habitat and mental conception. That how we might "think" in our people groups may be different from how other societies and generations "think" in their regional (and era-specific) people groups. That one is neither right nor wrong in their Christian thoughts and language. And that by this process we may better learn to communicate with one another from within our differing philosophical and cultural reference points without feeling threatened that our Christian faith is under attack every time we do. For me, Emergent Christianity is just this. No more and nor less. And because it is a different animal from the more popular Evangelical Christianity I grew up within, it gets undeservedly bad press because of its different look-and-feel when it is simply learning to speak to younger generations more attuned to their own issues and era-specific needs.
Or, in another sense, we might say "it is of no use to going back to yesterday's voice (or being) because I was a different person then." And by this learn to appreciate and recognize the epistemologic and existential (e/e) growth of a person as experience catches up with the age of our time-worn souls and personhood. I feel I have gone through a minimum of three personal revisions to myself. As example, I began life within a pre-modern enclave of farming families carrying on the deep traditions of their remembered past (from the mid- to late- 1800s) even as they were trying to absorb the industrial, World War 1 and 2 eras of the early- to mid- 1900s. They began as homesteading families to the wilderness areas of West Michigan when black bear and aboriginal natives were still common to the land. My brothers and I were the sixth generation of a farming lifestyle quickly going out of existence (as well as inheritors to a Scandinavian heritage newly come to America from the "Old Country"). And with it, all the ingrained traditions and agrarian practices of the past. We were left out-of-time and out-of-place with a modern day world of public schooling, gas and electricity, TV, music and an encroaching urban lifestyle far more diverse than our own. And when entering university during the upheaval of the Vietnam War era with its civil unrests, angry riots, peace sit-ins, Hippie and LSD drug experimentation, and societal turmoils, I struggled for many years to "adopt" this strange new land I found myself within. But which later caused me to seek a bible school environment which held the stability I found I needed, along with familiar values to my own remembered background. And yet, over the years I have learned to wean myself away from these (e/e) dependencies and to finally make the leap these past dozen years or so towards a more metropolitan way of thinking. So that in a way, its been my third revision of myself, though more probably, my older soul still lives deep within my fractured being as I have become more accepting of contemporary change. And by nature, am predisposed to understand the change I am confronted with, not being content to simply allow it to haunt my pysche without pursuing its causes, permutations, dissatisfactions, and general disorders.
And yet, this deconstructive process has given me hope that through personal adjustments, whether small or great (however personally painful or disorientating to friends and family), our God may arightly affect both ourselves and succeeding generations to become fuller participants in this precious life we have been given - and daily seem to fail - when coming to embrace it as fully, or completely, as we might. To receive each day with thanksgiving. And to learn to behave ourselves more wisely with one another through the service of our gifts and talents, strengths and weaknesses. And at the last, to allow for the mystery and majesty of life itself through Jesus our Lord and Saviour. That yes, language can be a problem, but it can also be a gift, as we accept the fact that we must grow in our communicational strengths with those unlike ourselves (and perhaps in as much turmoil as we have experienced). And by this communication allow it to bind us into a stronger, healthier society of men and women that might celebrate our differences while seeing those differences as the key to a brighter future not fraught with warfare, hate, fear, and distrust. May this then be our prayer. Our practice. Our desire. And in all things may we learn to share the grace of God with one another. To allow God's grace to become a vital part of our language with one another... and even within our very selves matriculating with age and experience to adopt God's love and forgiveness within our own lives and livelihood. Family structures and friends. Communities, churches, and workplace.
R. E. Slater
October 13, 2012