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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

—————



Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

INSURRECTION November 20, 2011

INSURRECTION
– Peter Rollins

Wow. What a book.

In the introduction our author speaks of “reactionary movements that seek to return to the early Church,” but proclaims that one of the shortcomings of such philosophies is that “they fail to go back far enough.”
And so we begin the journey to bring to light the ways “Crucifixion and Resurrection open up a different reality” altogether.  A reality that has been predominantly absent from “church” as we know it.

The first 4 chapters make up “Part1: Crucifixion.”

Chapter One begins with a humorous story about a lying pastor, his golf  game, and God’s teaching technique.
This story is used to springboard into a discussion about desire.  We look at the desire behind desire.  Or maybe, the desire within desire.  We view different reasons for affirming God, as well as religious control and manipulation.  We examine faith, doubt, and the positive aspects of what the author calls a “journey into darkness.”

Chapter Two takes us deep, deep into the Crucifixion, and into participating in Christ’s death.  We see how it has often been rendered rather meaningless by a religion that glosses over it to get to the Resurrection.  We begin to understand that “The Crucifixion signals an experience in which all that grounds us and gives us meaning collapses.”
Those of you who, like me, are “youth challenged” may remember a 60’s TV show called “The Prisoner” staring Patrick McGoohan.  Our author gives us a synopsis of that show, and then draws some very interesting parallels to religion and it’s systems that imprison us.  This is the kind of chapter for which I would have paid full book price.

Chapter Three is called– “I’m Not Religious” and Other Religious Sayings. —
This had quite the ring of truth for me.  Some of the most religiously legalistic people I know are quite found of stating that “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.”  Their attitudes and actions prove their statements to be much less than an experienced reality.  We see how having only mental assent to a particular truth can itself insulate us from actually experiencing that truth.  This is a phenomena we see often among those who love to speak of grace while still trapped in and perpetuating the exact opposite.
“Cartoon physics” is also addressed: “that self-conscious beings will not fall until they look down.”  This has to do with facing the inconsistencies between our stated religious beliefs and reality.
We also observe how “communication involves both a stated message and a hidden one.”  “In fundamentalism, we witness a type of psychotic relation to language in that there is an attempt to banish the hidden message from discourse.”

Our next chapter is partially about the cost of no longer pretending to be ignorant.  It’s about letting go of the religious machinery that “protect us from facing up to the anxieties of our existence.”  We look at the marketability of certainty, and its use by the religion industry.
There’s a small section on Mother Teresa.  Although “she never stopped believing in God…she lived beneath the shadow of a profound sense of God’s absence.”
The whole of part one serves to show us the crucifixion in ways modern Christianity (as opposed to post-modern) usually avoids.
Without properly addressing the truth of Crucifixion, Resurrection is robbed of it’s truth as well.

Now we start “Part 2: Resurrection.”

In Chapter Five, Mr. Rollins maintains that “We hide every day behind a mask that is a Photoshopped version of ourselves.”   Some of the sections in this chapter are:  “I Wear a Mask That Looks like Me,” “On Avoiding the Truth of Who We Are,” and “Maintaining the Gap between Perception and Reality.”
We read some very interesting insights into people like Hitler and John “Junior” Gotti.  We uncover how we can hide the monster we may truly be, even from, or rather especially from, ourselves.  Ultimately we learn here that “Our practices do not fall short of our beliefs;  They Are Our Beliefs.”

We take a close look at grace and how “it is in experiencing the license of grace rather than the legalism of prohibition that real transformation becomes possible.”

Chapter 6 is titled “We Are Destiny.” We are given the proclamation that “Eternal life is thus fundamentally a transformation in the very way that we exist in the present.” We learn about what it means to participate in Resurrection. This is a recurring theme in the works of Rob Bell, and a number of other good authors. A theme which, if taken to heart, could bring about some rather radical, much needed change among those who name the name of Christ.
A brief analysis of “Chick tracts” is given. Most readers are probably familiar with these miniature graphic horror stories. If not, let me tell you they twist the gospel, and pervert the character of God beyond recognition. At the same time, they “merely reflect what we find in most churches today.”
We also explore the deeper meaning of loving God, religionless faith, how we participate in the creation of eternity, and “the proper Christian answer to the question of what God’s will is for my life.” Wile E. Coyote also supplies some theological insight.

The Seventh Chapter dives into the “Violence of Resurrection.” Not “the type of violence we witness in fundamentalism;” which is usually one directed at people, but “a violence against those systems that would oppress, destroy, and bring death.”
This chapter also mines real-world applications of truth from the movies “The Dark Knight,” “Collateral,” and “The Matrix.” Through these we recognize how we may be feeding the very systems we say we oppose, and how some of our “supposedly ethical acts come to resemble the exercise of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Chapter Seven also provided me with one of those wonderful “Wow” moments where you finally see something that has been in plain sight all along. It has to do with the ripping of the temple veil at the Crucifixion. It was one of those times where I saw how my religious training had blinded me to a very obvious truth.

Our final chapter unpacks Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
These divisions were considered the divinely mandated “natural order.” “Paul is here describing here how Christianity cuts across all political, cultural and biological divisions, rendering them null.
There’s also some interesting information about the difference between traditional Western fairy tales, and those from other cultures.

This is a very interesting, wonderful, and I thought, unique book.
In his comments on this book, Rob Bell says that Pete takes you to the edge of a cliff, and then pushes you off.
That’s a pretty accurate description of reading this book. It’s a fall I would highly encourage you to take.
—–

Buy the book (and read some other short reviews).  Click HERE.

SOME QUOTES:

– We must not be afraid to burn our sacred temples in order to discover what, if anything, remains.

– To truly unplug from the god of religion, with all the anxieties and distress this involves, takes courage.
Indeed, one could say that it takes God.

– The felt experience of God’s absence [is] the fundamental way of entering into the presence of God.

– There will always be an army of Job’s comforters who attempt to save our mythologies, and like Job, we must resist them.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– By allowing the Church to believe on our behalf… we remain firmly embedded in a religious worldview while denying it.

– [We need to bring] radical doubt, ambiguity, mystery, and complexity into the very heart of the liturgical structure itself.

– The foot of the cross is the graveyard where religion is buried.

– The “heart” in the biblical sense in not the inner life, but the whole man in relation to God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Religious experience cannot be properly approached as an experience at all. Rather, God is that which transforms how we experience everything.

– The claim “I believe in God” is nothing but a lie if it is not manifest in our lives, because one only believes in God insofar as one loves.

– [Concerning many fundamentalists] Their often sexist, homophobic, and racist rhetoric is aimed frimly at maintaining their position of power and thus is designed specifically to prevent change.

– “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist.”
Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Faith is about this life. Faith is lived out in love of the world.

– Resurrection is not something one argues for, but is is the name we give to a mode of living.

– It can be so hard to give up on easy answers and face up to our feeling of finitude, meaninglessness, and guilt.

– You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave not free, male nor female, black nor white, rich nor poor, Republican nor Democrat, liberal nor conservative, orthodox nor heretic, citizen nor alien, gay nor straight, Israel nor Palestine, American nor Iraqi, Christian nor non-Christian, for you all are one in Christ Jesus.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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