Faith

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

We live lives of faith—in the unforeseeable, in the coming of what we cannot see coming. (Caputo, The Folly of God, 35)

For me, faith is about trusting into the trust of Yeshua. He trusted into an abba-presence. As a follower of Yeshua (Carolyn Stephens was right!), I trust his sense of abba-presence. That’s enough for me. I’m not so sure that I have an active sense or experience of abba, but that’s OK. Yeshua clearly had it and I am willing to follow in his Way, whatever that continues to mean in my life, especially in the small, quotidian events of my life.

Faithingis an active, engaged, and dynamic process that faces life squarely without attempting to make sense of it. Faith means living without why—like the rose, blooming because it blooms, unaware of whether anyone notices. Living is its own reward—living for life itself, day by day by day.

Hope

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God,

. . . we live lives of hope—in the hint of the promise of what is to come, of what is being called for. . . (Caputo, The Folly of God,  35)

I never think of myself as a person who hopes. My life is more focused on the present than on the future. I am open to the future—come what may. I like thinking about the future as the venue of the impossible possibility. But, even if the future is simply the venue of more of the same, it will come as it comes—surprises compounded with the blasé.

Hope is not a category of my thinking. It is, however, an element of my being. I have previously made the distinction between hoped-for-nessand hope-full-ness (hopefulness). Hoped-for-ness is about dreams of a self-satisfying, predictable future. Hoped-for-ness is easily disappointed as pie-in-the-sky dreams are just that—written in the air, no substance. Hopefulness, however, is more about a way of life in the here and how, not life lived for the future.

Brunner suggested that hope is for the human spirit what oxygen is for human life. Hope is something I breathe into, not something I await.

I suppose my views on hope have been either compromised or elevated by my discarding the hoped-for-ness of a heavenly afterlife. I don’t even expect heaven-on-earth. As each new day dawns, I arise.

I arise today 
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of an abba-presence
Through trust in the Depth,
Through confession of the Oneness
of Life.

I arise today
Through the strength of Yeshua’s baptism,
validated by his wilderness experience,
Through the strength of his confronting life day by day,
     even unto his ignominious death on a cross
Through the strength of his resurrection,
     into the lives of his followers.

I arise today, through
The strength of creation,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, finding
Deep strength to pilot me,
Deep might to uphold me,
Deep wisdom to guide me,
Deep insight to move me,
Deep insistence to direct me,
From everyone afar and near.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today!

Spookiness

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

“The spooks are trying to deconstruct Ebenezer’s miserable life . . .” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 30)

The spooks have been deconstructing Bart’s life since Sue’s brain trauma. Probably from before that time but I wasn’t aware of the spookiness. Then I was at the shoreline with the pee-stained elders of Israel.

It took a reactive trauma (my emotional and spiritual response to Sue’s trauma) before the spooks were able to break through the external shell that I had erected to protect me. I am still amazed that Carolyn Stephens was able to see through that shell and propose that you and I should connect with each other.

As with Ebenezer, the spooks were trying to do me a favor, even though it was painful for me. That favor was an opening up of me so that I might find myself somewhere along the way; and so that others might find me as well. Making a way out of no way is the process of finding one’s self and, in that process, finding others. It is trusting into trust.

My struggle, as self-opened-up, was to learn the difference between wants and needs—especially with Sue. In many ways, I was not able to be what Sue wanted—the person she had known before her trauma, in the same relationship we had had before the trauma. Her needs were so different from her wants—or so it seemed to me. I had to focus on her needs which meant sacrificing some pf my wants. This became most evident with her geriatric evaluation. For her, I needed to open up internal thoughts and feelings about our relationship, make them public within a circle of family and friends. I began to discuss intimate matters of our relationship so as to sort through wants and needs—hers and mine. I wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. And it began the process of opening me. I began to find a depth that I had not previously recognized.

Like a court jester, I frolicked my way into the deep, unaware of the consequences, laughing at the King’s wrath (the trauma’s aftermath). I began to see that the emperor had no clothes. There clearly was no God to rescue us; no divine force to set things straight. There was simply the deep connection with Life—the verity of Life itself. And that was enough.

Have I figured it all out? No, No, a thousand times No! But I continue to Thinkfeeland Feelthink my way into the deep. And that is enough.

Chaosmos

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God,

“James Joyce proposed a felicitous formulation . . . with the magnificent locution ‘chaosmos’ . . . adding the right amount of madness to get an optimized dis/order, in/stability, an/archy, which is deconstruction in a nutshell.” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 28)

On the surface, I like the orderly Newtonian cosmos—a structured thought for every entity. Deep down, however, I prefer the Quantum chaos—each entity capable of being in two different places at the same time and what you seeis what you get. Chaosmos is my world.

Each day is like every other day and yet not two days are the same. I tend to think the same thoughts and yet no two thoughts ever come out the same. I love the old poster: “Bloom where you are planted.” Except that when you bloom, the ground from which you sprout doesn’t even vaguely resemble the ground into which you are planted. You can’t step into the same river twice.

I Thinkfeelthat is why I want a theological pathway that walks outside the box. I need the box—the collected insights of past journeyers—to guide my path but I cannot walk wherethey have walked. I can only walk asthey walked, trusting into trust.

Like the Hebrews at the Red Sea, there are long robe warriors approaching from behind. And in front, the deep sea of the unconditional—and it goes all the way down. Will I be like the leaders of the tribes who stood on the shoreline and peed their pants in terror or like Nashon who waded into the deep afraid, but trusting into trust? When I simply analyze the situation—for a long time that was my ‘auto-pilot’—I end up with pee-stained trousers. I have learned to Thinkfeel(and sometimes even to Feelthink) when trapped by life’s vicissitudes. The deep has become both terrifying and welcoming. I have learned, in a small way, to trust into trust.

Only when I was willing to let go of God—willing also to have God let go of me—did I find my way into that mysterious presence we call divinity or creativity or the unconditional. The mystics are right. God is pure folly. And I am the jester.

The Unconditional

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God

“Deconstruction is . . . a way to think the unconditional.” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 22)

“But even here, Derrida says, we would do so in order to keep the future open which is what ultimately matters in deconstruction.” (26)

Contrary to Caputo, it feels more in line with experience to say that deconstruction is a way to unthink the unconditional. My playful use of words and concepts begins a process, but it does not deconstruct all the way down. It is only when my word-smithing is confronted with Wayne’s unthinking that our deconstruction begins to move deeper. Our process has been, from where I stand: Thinkingcountered with Feelingmoving toward Thinkingengaging Feelingtrusting into deconstructed Thinkfeeling and Feelthink Thinking didn’t get me there; feeling didn’t get Wayne there; Thinkfeeling got us there together. Theredoes not describe the exact same place—a singular spot. Thereis a spaciousness where my thinking opens my feelings (Thinkfeeling) and Wayne’s feelings open his thinking (Feelthinking).

All I know is that I am all the better for Thinkfeeling my way into deconstruction. Thanks, Wayne, for being my tutor, guide, and irritant—for helping me to unthink (Thinkfeel) the unconditional.

All of the pictures hanging on the walls of my apartment are examples of unthinking the unconditional. The Sinai Yeshua (Pantocrator) icon and the Yeshua-Abbot Menas icon (Yeshua’s arm around Means’ shoulder) are unthinking (Feelthinking) the unconditional.

Finding God by Losing God

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

“But getting rid of that God does not spell the simple end of God for Eckhart, but the beginning, the genuine entry or breakthrough into the depths of God—the God to whom he is praying, let us say the God beyond God, the God without God.” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 13)

Getting rid of God, for me, has been a matter of “justice, survival, and the quality of life.” (from Monica Coleman’s Making a Way Out of No Way)

Starting with Sue’s brain trauma, I was the man on the bridge (with a rope) in Friedman’s Fable. However, I not only was holding the rope on the bridge, I was also the man at the other end of the rope, hanging over oblivion. I know—you can’t have it both ways. God as Supreme Being is attempting to have it both ways—God out there and God in here. But holding on to God out there, prevents God from being in here. Cut the rope and God falls into oblivion.

It wasn’t until I got rid of God that I was able to find God. All the theologies in the history of the world couldn’t get me to God. But by getting rid of anything that remotely resembled God, something strange began to happen within me. Actually, I began to happen within me. But with a depth that I did not know was there. It was as if I were being directed, but without any directions. It was as if I were being called and commissioned, but without any battle plan. No goals or objectives. No rules or regulations. Just a growing sense that the future ahead was open and possible—someone to stand or march with, a value to affirm, an evil to confront, or a cause to support. And it was up to me to figure it out. Again, and again, and again, and again . . .!

God’s Folly or Our Folly?

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

“This is not our doing, but God’s; we are simply reporters embedded at the scene of theology.” ( Caputo, The Folly of God, 10)

But it is our doing. Paul started it (1 Corinthians 1:22-25); Tillich and Caputo continue it; and so, do I. The strong God of the sky— waiting to intervene and set things straight—is our creation. The Bible is full of these projections. Seminary catered to those views.

Start talking about the weakness of God and it isn’t God who objects; it is other people.

Theologians through the ages, talking about human beings as co-creators with God, did not realize that co-creation means creating and re-creating God. Or, maybe it is better said that being co-creators with God is the process of perpetually re-locating God into the midst of life.

This re-location process operates counter to our proclivity to pray Tevia’s prayer: May God bless and keep God . . . as far away as possible. God can only be God if God is near and open to change.

Freed for God

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God.

Eckhart “prays to God to rid him of God, and to make him free of God.” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 12)

“Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Freed from having to pretend that God is out there. Freed form expecting God to answer our prayers if we pray hard enough, and faithful enough. Freed from all the rules and regulations and liturgies that guarantee our salvation. Freed from the guilt and shame for not believing the right things. Freed from the delusional thinking that God will take care of all that we mess up.

And the cost of this freedom—RESPONSIBILITY! There will be no kingdom of God if I do not take responsibility for moving toward a real human commonwealth of peace and justice, right here, right now. There will be no salvation if I do take responsibility and stand with my hurting sisters and brothers supporting their humanity, justice, survival, and quality of life. There will be no resurrection unless I take responsibility to become its venue and its vehicle.

Being freed of God means being freed for God.

God is not a Supreme Being

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo, The Folly of God

“So the time has long since come to reexamine how to orient oneself in space . . .” (Caputo, The Folly of God, 7)

I am reminded of Brian Swimme’s depiction of “Up.” Go out into the countryside, beyond city lights. Lie in the grass. Imagine that you are at the bottom of the earth, looking down as you gaze into the heavens. Be aware that the earth is holding you to herself so that you don’t float off into space.

Upanddownare both relative terms—each depending on my point of view. Upanddownare about physical space. Insideand outsideare about psychological space. Inclusionand exclusionare about political space. And about spiritual space. Politics and spirituality are both about relationshipsand community.

To speak of God as Supreme is to name God as exclusionary. When we put God out there or up there, we declare God’s exclusion from the quotidian events of life. I can’t go there. It’s not that I don’t want to go there; I just can’t! I can’t overcome gravity without a spaceship. I can’t get outside my body. And, even if I could, where would I go. God up there or out there isn’t anywhere. That God is “half-blasphemous and mythological.” (Tillich)

Actually, I think Tillich and Caputo got it backwards. God the Supreme Being is blasphemous and half-mythological. Myths are stories told to promote deeper truths and values. God as Supreme Being is a story told as myth, but its purpose is to perpetuate a lie. It is designed to convince us that life has a direct path to goodness guaranteed by God’s assumed strength and power.

We created God in the image of ourselves that we wish we had—powerful, in control, totally with it, no ragged edges, heroic (waiting to jump to the rescue).

Scandal

Reflections and musings occasioned by Caputo’s, The Folly of God

“The skandalon and the moria is that we may not win at all.” (Caputo, The Folly of God6)

It is the simple honesty of a child and the complex folly of the jester that announces that the emperor has no clothes. It is the simple honesty and folly of a theological jester to announce that God has no being, no existence—nothing but a weak hint about a future that may not come. God without power, without substance, without being, and without existence is self-contradictory foolishness to the long robes of conventional theology. I want a burning bush, but I get a whisper in the night. I want an angelic chorus singing in glorious harmony while the sun stands still in the heavens, but a get an unfelt elbow to the ribs, a nudge. I want God to be broadcast on public television around the world, but I get a unheard call to stand beside my neighbor who is hurting. It is not about winning. It is about presence.