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Sound and Silence

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punishment

World Machine Dream

David Priilaid hates descriptors, but 5 things that best describe him are:

  • He is an academic working at the University of Cape Town
  • He teaches entrepreneurship with a view that people have lost their voices and with insight can rediscover their “abilities to sing”
  • He is a post-anglican evangelical charismatic christian
  • Has experienced 10 years of Jungian psychotherapy and is a great fan of James Hollis
  • Loves Steely Dan, Bill Evans and a good glass of Cape Red at his right elbow

I had this dream in the early hours of Sunday 29 November.  The vivid and technicolor character of it made me feel that this was some kind of vision.  You as reader can be the judge.

Continue reading “World Machine Dream”

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“Wild man wise man” session 6

Initiation

In almost all cultures the world over, young people undergo rites of initiation. It normally marks the passage into adulthood. However in the recent west this has become less and less a feature of our culture, such that we live in what Sergio refers to as a “partly initiated society”.

We need to rediscover and reconnect with these ancient practices. These rituals are in essence an emotional and spiritual phenomenon, meant to be felt and internalised. While women encounter this naturally through the overt changes of puberty, this has become highly problematic for the modern male. What remains of these rituals – confirmation, or boy scouts, lack the visceral power of traditional initiations. It is left to gang membership and the military, which hardly transform us in the right direction.

According to Rohr, “men must be tried, limited, challenged, punished, hazed, circumcised, isolated, starved, stripped and goaded into maturity”.  This separates him forcefully from the feminine energy, and this experience wounds him ritually and “prepares the young man to deal with life in ways other than logic, managing, controlling and problem solving.” [P 31] Without this wounding, paradoxically, we shall never heal.

In small groups, a story was shared by a participant in which at 13 years old, he was told by his wise mother to get on his bicycle, and not to return home until he had a job. He was faced with the terror of the fact that he did not know when he would sleep at home again. He went from restaurant to restaurant adding his name to long waiting lists. But eventually he was offered a kitchen job and a beginner’s wage. He went home a changed person, and for 8 months, proudly made enough money to comfortably cover his weekend dream activities.

Initiation needs to be rediscovered in our society, Rohr : “Initiation always taught the young man to die before he died … a constant truth taught by Jesus, baptism, the prophets, Mohammed, the mystics… as St Francis put it , ‘if you have once faced the great death, the second death can do you no harm.'” [P 36]

Note, I have explored in some depth the topic of “The Shamanic Shadow” which inlcudes the biblical basis for a more feral spirituality including the sort of initiation proposed by Richard Rohr.

This post is part 6 in the series Richard Rohr “From wild man to wise man” with Sergio Milandri of relating.com. The session was held on the 30th November 2009 at Sans Pareil, Hout Bay, South Africa.

Revisioning Atonement

A year ago, around Lent, a competition was announced on emergent village for people to rethink the meaning of the Cross of Jesus. Several new ideas emerged, together with some fresh reflection on the issue, and an interesting interview with Mark Baker and Tony Jones. I would like at this time of thinking about the Cross, to present a visualised framework, which might help us to come to terms with something much debated through the ages, the issue of Atonement.

Most accept the doctrines of their tradition without much deeper thought. Continue reading “Revisioning Atonement”

Four views on Hell (Zondervan, 1996)

John Walvoord (Literal), William Crockett (Metaphorical), Clark Pinnock (Annihilist/Conditional Immortality), Zachary Hayes (Purgatorial)

Reading this book was a fascinating, even refreshing exercise. It is an all out debate between various views on the afterlife, in such a way that each view gets critiqued by all others.

I found it entertaining: Besides its fetching sulphurous red design, it was like watching a round robin boxing match, with one fighter per corner. The patterns and dynamics, tactics and overlaps were fascinating, but Continue reading “Four views on Hell (Zondervan, 1996)”

Eternal Punishment in Augustine’s The City of God

In many ways, Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430) was the most influential post-Pauline theologian in Christendom. Even today he is widely quoted and revered, but more importantly, his theological approach has been deeply internalised so as to be seen as normal. Any disagreement with his writings is tantamount to heresy, and this applies equally to Catholic and Protestant traditions

Many major themes of Christian thought can be traced to Augustine. These include the Just War theory, the Trinity, and Original Sin. But what I want to focus on here is his profound influence on the Doctrine of Eternal Punishment.

Continue reading “Eternal Punishment in Augustine’s The City of God”

The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott

Published in 1999, Thomas Talbott’s thesis has just come swashbuckling over my horizon. In it he attempts to present a Universalist reading of the Bible, and especially Paul, an ambition that for most evangelicals at least, would appear doomed from the outset. Continue reading “The Inescapable Love of God by Thomas Talbott”

Punishment

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat”. [Perry Smith, “Capote”]

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  [Book of Hebrews]

“I want to feel that I have lived my life.” [Gabriella, “As it is in heaven”]

In the last week I have seen two contrasting and strangely related movies.

smith-capote.jpgFirstly, “Capote” starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman in which famous American author Truman Capote writes a brilliant novel, “In cold blood”, based on the senseless murder of a Midwestern family. In which he develops a close relationship to the condemned but is unable to transcend his spectacularly selfish motivations, and leads him into a web of deception where the salvation of a man becomes subject to the needs of an authors ego.

Secondly, “As it is in Heaven” depicts the return of a famous conductor to the village of his birth. He is ill and weary, and seeks involvement with music in such a way as to experience its magic in community, rather than on the grand stages of the world. He becomes involved in the Village Church’s choir and soon finds life erupting in the middle of a stale, brittle, protestant religious subculture. This life is accepted to varying degrees; blessing ensues for the majority, but some attempt to remain outside of the circle of grace. Those who come off worst are either deeply damaged victims or deeply pious, and form the distinct minority.

kills2.jpgAll around us, tabloids bay for “justice”. They create an appetite for the consumption of the punitive spectacle. This allows us to place a divide between ourselves and an evil which is “out there”.

There are 2 kinds of justice, retributive justice and distributive justice-compassion. (For extensive treatment of this theme see Sea Raven’s blog) True justice consists not of what man meets out to man either directly in anger, vengeance or vigilante activity, or institutionally via the justice system (law, law enforcement, courts and jails).

Rather this has to do with Love, whereby the blessing of G-d is distributed, rather than the wrath of God re-tributed. “Tribute“, the common aspect of the words, means something given or returned. In our tributes, do we give out blessing or meet out punishment?

Love is the ultimate punishment. Even if we do not find love, or we reject it in this life, Love will find us. It won’t “hunt us down” as though we will be able to hide, it will inexhorably reel us in. 

Our encounter with Love, once the deceptions of this world (vanity, fear, anger, myopia, materialism) are stripped away, and we “know as we are known”, will purge us. The torment described in the Lazarus tale in Luke’s gospel (which many mistake for God’s punitive condemnation to “hell”) is the torment of hard transformation.

The word for torment in this passage comes from the Greek βάσανοσ which talks of a standard, or touchstone. This is the standard of Love and Truth. The transformation which is forced on the rich man is by radical change of circumstances (such a physical death or traumatic loss), rather than a willing and ongoing co-operation with the transformative spirit. Punishment in the Kingdom of God is a by-product of transformation, not the wrath of some insecure, schitzophrenic deity who delights in “Eternal Love” on the one hand and “Endless Punishment” on the other.

In “Capote”, an opportunity to reveal selfless Love to a desperate and deeply damaged criminal, goes to waste because the one given the chance has chosen to “gain the world”, and thus “looses his soul”, as well as that of the one whom he might have helped.

In “As it is in Heaven”, the village pastor is forced by circumstances away from his illusions of pious grandeur, coming close to killing both himself and the one who channeled life into his world, a great depiction of Hard, and yet incomplete Transformation. As for the majority, they were only too happy to be happy…

How do we view punishment? In determining the answer to this question, surely the chief focus needs to be on the models given us which pertain to mans ultimate destiny, not our more base and short term addictions to retribution? And can we apply all our thoughts about punishment to every case, especially that of ourselves?

Most of us will manage to stay on the right side of the law throughout our lives. But can we see that the punishment all of us will encounter will the the purging fire of Love? The quote from the book of Hebrews is not aimed at the criminal, the sinner or the miscreant, although one might think so based on popular preaching.

Don’t do the mistake of coming to this scripture through the filters of a retributive culture or theology. The uncovering is achieved via consummate love, and its painful or “punitive” elements are only the result of our need to be made whole. The entire process is by grace, not a work of our own righteousness.

The scandal of Bishop Carlton Pearson

Carlton PearsonCarlton PearsonCarlton PearsonCarlton PearsonI mentioned in my post about Universal Restoration  the story of Bishop Carlton Pearson. For those who have any interest in the debate concerning beliefs around eternal destiny, aka Heaven and Hell, this man’s journey is significant.

Pearson was branded a heretic by the Joint College of African-American Pentecostal Bishops in 2004, for his version of UR, called the “Gospel of Inclusion”. For the sake of his doctrine (read “faith”), in giving up hell, he found that his congregation fell by over 90%, he was forced to give up his church building, and he virtually lost his entire ministry.

Most painfully, he fell out with many friends and loved ones including the great (in pentecostal-charismatic terms) Oral Roberts who saw him as a son. He paid a heavy price to break away from the 1500 year old ideology of Ultimate Fear, and embrace a radical expression of Grace.

The scandal of Carlton Pearson is qualitatively different to what we have come to expect from the Church. Crucially it has not involved hypocrisy, as in extramarital liaisons, pedophilia, embezzlement, or substance abuse. No, the scandal of Pearson is not unlike the scandal of Christ, who took on the religious-political-cultural establishment for the sake of G-ds rule of Love and Justice.

Take a listen to Carlton’s Story on This American Life.

Watch the MSNBC coverage.

Browse to the website for his church, New Dimensions

Pearson links on Universal Restoration website Tentmaker.

His involvement with Wisdom university in his hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a seminar called Sacred Activism and the Power of Inclusion.

Being hit on the head with a pulpit.

Courtesy ShipOfFools.com

Paraphrasing an encounter over the weekend, between me in the back row and one behind a pulpit.

Pulpit – “Those who are seeking a place for their gifts need to submit to Eldership.”
Me – “Yes, I agree that discipleship is very important, but feel that the church easily  misunderstands creative people. Don’t you think that there are problems with the way the church does not reach those with creative gifting?”
“No, I think people need to learn the costly sacrifice of submitting.”
“I speak for all the marginalised, and say the church has a problem with unconditional  acceptance.”
“No, the people with the gifts have the problem.”
(Woman in front row jumps up, turns and practically spits this scripture at me:
Proverbs 18:16 says A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.”

Implication: standing up for the artist is siding with rebellion and selfishness.
Realising the “conversation” has run its course, I withdraw.

I now realise, too late, what the next verse says:
17 The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.

People are afraid,
afraid of silence,
afraid of asking questions,
afraid of their own demons,
afraid of trusting the unknown,
afraid of not being in submission to authority,
afraid of not justifying everything by bible verse,
afraid of the creative.

Afraid of being seen to be afraid, which makes for contradiction.
Afraid of being seen to be contradictory, which results in wrong reasoning.
Afraid of wrong reasoning, which leads to hypocrisy.
Afraid of being hypocritical, which makes for a closed set of truths the outside of which is banishment.

Banishing and not integrating, not circulating as is natural.
Buildup of toxins which are never flushed out by truth.
Toxins which kill, kill enthusiasm, “Godwithinness”, and ultimately, are killing G-d.

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