OF PASSION & PROPOSITIONS: growing a non-balanced faith

6874balance_scale     When I was in the final stages of producing my doctoral dissertation I ate out a lot. Escapism, most likely. During one such luncheon at Panda East, a Chinese restaurant in Amherst, MA, I opened a fortune cookie which read— Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without passion. I thought of some of the great names throughout history for whom this proverb has proven true— Hammurabi, Moses, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Christopher Columbus, Albert Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan— all were driven by passion and tenacity to accomplish something beyond themselves.

     Yet, the church in North America seems driven by balance— balance in life, in our families, in faith, in our behavior— moderation in all things, no rocking the boat. Straight-forward, rational explanations of life should suffice to renew the mind and focus our resolve. It is almost as if being out of balance, or slightly extreme in any way, is viewed as the real threat to the church and to the stability of our individual faith.

     But if Truth is primarily personal (though certainly not exclusively), found in the Person of Jesus Christ, there are some very critical implications for us that impact our Christian lives, balanced or otherwise, and how we exhibit our faith to others. This will probably flip me from the frying pan into the fire, but it is time we examined belief and emotion in light of Scripture. After a great deal of scrutiny, I must admit that I do not find a lot of only believe-ism in the Bible.

     In many churches across America, there are large banners running across the front or the back of the sanctuary— TO KNOW CHRIST AND TO MAKE HIM KNOWN. Now hear me out on this one. I find no fault with this banner. But I do find it curious that it seems to be all about the knowing. It is assumed that everything else will flow out of that, even the “making him known” part. There are many churches that excel in fulfilling the first part: teaching their members to know a great deal about their faith.  But I find very few exerting much effort in training their members to fulfill the second part: making Him known (to those outside the church). Most sorrowfully, our interface with those outside the church has become solely an effort to pass on the information about Christ, rather than any genuine immersion in the lives of normal people.

     Why is this? I fear it might be due to our fear of the outside, or, much worse, a simple desire to remain in control. If we learn anything in our walks of faith it must be that God is in control…, not us. I’ve often wondered if the failure of our evangelical culture in the West to be part of our culture is that we fear being out of control.

     We need to learn to grow a nonbalanced faith: one where God is in control, where we don’t have all the answers, in which our passion for people, and for our Lord, takes over our whole being. For reference, I point you to an account of the revival of religion in Northampton in 1740-1742 as was reported in “The State of Religion at Northampton in the County of Hampshire, About 100 Miles Westward of Boston.” The letter was published in The Christian History, January 14, 21, and 28, 1743, written by Rev. Jonathan Edwards, [ http://www.jonathanedwards.com/text/jeaccnt.htm ].

NEXT— Being a Christian in a New Era:  it’s a generational thing.

Balancing my faith on one foot…, now the other one; whoops,

  Gary

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Superbowl Insanity

Dr, Gary, Davis, Superbowl, Patriots, Passion, Seahawks, New England, Seattle                  Is it really that time of year?!? Amidst the swirl of inevitable controversies, we again face an evening of raucous TV, snacks which are hazardous to your health, and the consumption of way too much alcohol. And that’s before the game starts.

It’s the SUPERBOWL! XLIX, which is ancient Latin meaning xlix, pronounced ex-licks, which refers to your condition after you’re put too much Tabasco sauce on your hot dog.

The thing is, most (many, some, few) Americans find this football game the only thing to look forward to in the midst of a freezing-cold winter. But at a ticket cost between $7,000 and $18,120.00, it just might put a chill on some of your friendships. [These are pre-scalping, official prices.] So, you get to squander your money alone.

So what’s it all about? Sports, yes. Fans, yes. Big money, most definitely. But what else? It’s the best-of-the-best competing on a national scale to claim the title CHAMPION. Somewhat like the ancient Olympic Games; more like the Roman Coliseum, gladiators & all; except with a half-time show.

I admit to being one of those raucous fans who is a dedicated follower of the New England Patriots (Selah). I save the prohibitive entrance fee by sitting in our “Fire-Room” watching the game in front of a toasty warm (HOT!) wood-stove. Usually in shorts. It’s -5° outside: 89° in the fire room. Nonetheless, all the hoopla and hype leading up to the game, not to mention those incredible commercials, draw me in like I was sitting behind the wheel of a Bugatti Veyron at 200 mph.

But what has all this to do with real life; with the everyday rhythm we fall into as a necessity to survive and flourish? It raises a major question for us all— What draws us to our feet in excitement and passion? What, who, is worth rooting for in life? Who are the real heroes, the champions of our lives? And the all-time BIG question—

For what (or who) are we giving our lives?

None of us is an island; although self-sufficiency remains one of the primary American values. We want to believe we are the Masters of our ship, the captains of our fate. The reality is we all live in a global community that needs each person to contribute their unique talents, skills, and personality. And your role is…?

So, enjoy the Super Bowl. But remember to come back into the fray and make a difference when it’s all over. Go Pats!!!

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Get your passion on

Dr, Gary, Davis, Clueless, Christian, Sir Richard Branson, Virgin, PassionPassion. That driving force within that will not allow you to give up. It’s that tenacious voice that screams within, “No matter what, I will, I MUST, do this one thing!” It can be a call to arms, a commitment to excellence, an unshakable compulsion to complete a task:  it might also be a deep heart yearning for a man, a woman, a love between friends that is a life-time commitment.

To be sure, passion, of any kind, can be twisted. It can be twisted into revenge, seething inner rage, or a deep evil desire to cause harm to another; like ethnic cleansing, terrorism, erotic murders, etc. These are perversions of passion. Still passion, but of the darkest kind. Don’t go there. It will inevitably consume your strength, turn your mind into a shadow, and hollow out your soul.

A proper passion is not like that. As billionaire/philanthropist Sir Richard Branson once said, “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions in a way that serves the world and you… .” [Founder of The Virgin Group- Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Records, & 400 other companies.  He has always been one of my heroes.]

My passions, like my commitments, run deep and long. Many people see passion as a sign of weakness because it is an emotion. I’ve never understood that. Are people afraid of their passions (vs. feelings)? I don’t know many who have experienced a cerebral kiss. Sounds yucky. Personally, I would rather find someone who is truly passionate about what they believe than someone who is generally compliant, in the middle, indecisive, passive.

Every decade of my life has produced a mantra that guides me. My present one is—

Honor God, honor people—and make a difference.

            So if you are passionate about something, anything, you are well on your way to making a difference. [Or to becoming a great kisser.]

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Of Passion & Propositions

Clueless, Christianity, Christian, Book, Dr, Gary, DavisGrowing a non-balanced faith.

When I was in the final stages of producing my doctoral dissertation I ate out a lot. Escapism, most likely. During one such luncheon at Panda East, a fine Chinese restaurant in Amherst, MA, I opened a fortune cookie which read— Nothing worthwhile is ever accomplished without passion. I thought of some of the great names throughout history for whom this proverb has proven true— Hammurabi, Moses, Alexander the Great, Jesus, Christopher Columbus, John Harrison, Albert Einstein, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, Thomas Edison, Mother Teresa, Ronald Reagan, Osama bin Ladin, even Barrack Obama— all were driven by passion and tenacity to accomplish something beyond themselves. Yet, the church in North America seems driven by balance— balance in life, in our families, in faith, in our behavior— moderation in all things, no rocking the boat, no swimming against the current. Straight-forward, rational explanations of life should suffice to renew the mind and focus our resolve. It is almost as if being out of balance, off-center, or slightly extreme in any way is viewed as the real threat to the church and to the stability of our individual faith.

But if Truth is primarily personal (though certainly not exclusively), found in the Person of Jesus Christ, there are some very critical implications. It impacts our Christian lives, balanced or otherwise, and how we demonstrate our faith to others. If point and counter-point propositional arguments no longer dominate the apologetic of our faith, or even sustain the curiosity of the normal Western cultural person, then maybe it’s time to express our faith in ways not so idealistic or rational…, or not even so balanced.

As you continue reading you will detect a couple shifts. The first shift is one of approach.  We move from the historical analysis of the previous chapters to a thoughtful consideration of our present day dilemmas; from the BIG strokes throughout history, to a specific manifestation of one era, one geographic location, one time, one individual—Jesus Christ.  For in His life we can find the bridge between the preModern, Modern, and postModern perspectives on what it means to live in context within a specific culture. What I hope to do is to convince you of the importance of living your Christian life as Jesus lived His— in the context of whatever world you find yourself in. Right up front I want to admit that this chapter (okay, the whole book) is a polemic (that’s argument) for us to grow a non-balanced faith, a passionate faith, an exuberant faith that is in love with Jesus Christ and with the people around us. The personality of our faith must outshine itspropositions to give its Truth a proper context.

The second shift you will experience is simply one of writing style. The first chapters were data-weighted, historical, linear/sequential, and logical (A=B, B=C, therefore A=C, remember?). They were analytical; they stated a problem, built a case, substantiated an argument. We feel safest in the world of rational thought and logical argument. Most Christians feel safer in a world where rational argument, logic and words prevail. Why? Because the Western articulation of our faith was formulated not in the preModern Era that had an understanding of the spirit, of mystery and the heart, but in the Modern era, where logical consistency, scientific verification, and systematic cohesiveness prevailed. But modernism’s presuppositional perceptions do not ring as true within this postmodern era; nor do modernism’s assumed stances of the Bible as primarily a systematic presentation of Truth (excluding, of course, the incredible logic/debate style of the Apostle Paul).  The language of the Bible is, predominantly, one of story, of history, of pictures and images; and they each tell a story, they bespeak of a passion for God and of a passion for life. They lay down laws for the functioning of a society. They raise real-life problems that required real-life solutions. They burst forth in song in praise of God Almighty. They give us a glimpse of the struggles of the early Christian movement through the Gospels, through circulated correspondence, and individual epistles. Far too long have we limited the expression of our faith to the logical/sequential analysis of the Euro-western hemisphere of theological constructs. We have raised the Truth of the Bible above its context-in-life.  A saying I come across constantly is— “right beliefs produce right actions.” Have you heard it, read it? Sounds right on, doesn’t it? But in real-life it doesn’t quite work out that way. You and I know many individuals who claim the name of Christ, who believe the right stuff (or at least say they do), and whose lives reflect little of Christian character, compassion, or concern for the Truth.

Contrarily, there is the opposite, popular belief— you can’t trust your emotions. As if emotions are less reliable than logical/sequential thinking. The assumption is that emotions are fickle, not as locked down as logical, rational thought process. The logical thought process can be locked down more than emotion. Emotions, by definition, shift more readily than belief systems. But what good is one without the other!? It would be comparable to releasing a chemical analysis of kissing. So now you understand the complexity of kissing better; and this is helpful…, why!?! Where do we come up with this stuff—for a need for cohesiveness, control over minutia, consistency, for a need to believe that people always act on their convictions? [Sociologists have tested it – they don’t.  Even in church attendance.] I don’t…, always, do you? Remember, we all sin; we are all, at best, consistently inconsistent. Did this idea come from some male-ego approach that emotions are exclusively feminine and can’t be trusted? Men supposedly are the “logical thinkers.” Somehow this makes us more stable, more consistent. O please, spare me the stereotypes. Let’s face it, men are afraid to be out of control; and it is easier to be in control of thought than it is our emotions.

Read on Here

exuberance

Sini Merikallio

William Blake (1757-1827), painter, printmaker & exceptional poet during Britain’s Romantic Era, once proclaimed that—

“Exuberance is beauty!”

And how right he was! In a baby’s eyes, a child’s excitement, a boy’s exhilaration at catching his first fish, in an ingénue’s coquettish joy at her first date, or in a bride’s elation on her wedding day, their outward demeanor accurately reveals their inner, entire body, mind, & soul captivation.

Exuberance leaves nothing to the imagination. Watch any football game; it is easy to tell which side just scored just by the roar of the crowd. Exuberance is an obvious expression of our overjoyed sense of excitement within. Unfortunately, exuberance subsides to a more socially acceptable expression as we age. Even though exuberance is expressed quite differently by different kinds of people, it is, in fact, a sad reality that our exuberance follows our body’s descent into decay and becomes boringly sedated. It becomes a civilized passion, which is hardly a passion at all.

How sad.

Not that we should become like little children, with joyous expressions of abandon, nor like exuberant fans at a ball game going wild. But, rather…, something more; something that lifts us, and those around us, to a brighter, lighter plane of perspective; to a new life, as it were, for a moment, or even a lifetime. Too many of us have died, emotionally, passionately, way before our time. We’ve lost that zest for life that is quintessential for anyone claiming to be human…, and still breathing. Could it be that though we are not dead yet…, it is hard for others to notice any life in us. To some degree our increasing concern with caution and personal preservation has supplanted our passion for living, our joie de vivre. Could it be that we have actually lost our life’s core, our undergirding principles? It is difficult to feign life when there is little, if any, clarity about who we are within.

Therefore, for any exuberance to gain expression, we must first regain a sense of who we truly are, of our core values and of a sense of what we are all about. Only then can we let out a good R-O-A-R every now & then.

So let us get to work; so that we once more may express our joy with great exuberance of heart— shouting wildly, singing loudly, flapping our appendages in the air so all the world. Let us dance, twirling in circles with glee; let us do back flips, collapsing on the ground in a puddle of laughter. Let us let our enthusiasm for life be known for all to see. Exuberance is beauty!

You are not dead yet; neither am I. So let’s get at it! Reestablishing our core within so we can claim life to the fullest inside and out! Exuberance is so much more catching. It brings life to all who come near it.

Have a nice week,

Gary