This was written in Montana, when I first started a nifty little book called A Sideways Look At Time by one Jay Griffths. Miss Griffiths writes like Brennan Manning, if Mr. Manning were a postmodern feminist and hated Christianity. 1.5 years later, I am still on page 253 (of about 400), but that says nothing of the quality of her work -- just of my inability to consistently finish books not written for children.
Into The Void
Time is a funny thing. This past year has been flying by (yes, I still measure years from September-August), and I just don't get it. In school, I had all these false measuring sticks in the form of deadlines for papers, exams, and holidays. When I had an impending project due, time just seemed to drag mericilessly. The five years I spent at college seemed equal in length to the previous 18, spent mostly creating fictional sports teams with only my baseball card collection and an over-active imagination.
But now, post-college, things are just breezing by; events flash by like street lamps from car windows. I can barely hold onto moments before they become memories. I hope this isn't how life after school is like, because I'll be wearing diapers again in no time.
Time is such a fluid measurement, and so subject to wherever we happen to be when we take notice of it. Before global Westernization, cultures had very different ways of telling time (and some still do). Most of these relied on nature based measurements for time: the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, the cycle of seasons and yearly changes in plant life and animal migration.
Like good modernists, we've "scienitificied" (a new word!) these measurements, so that sunset happens at a different "time" every night. Sunset is now an event, not an actual time of day. The second is a precise measurement that now has something to do with atomic oscillation (don't ask me). As little as two hundred years ago, we barely used for the second. Now it's what drives our work, our competitions, our entertainment, our everything.
That God Guy Is Always Showing Up Late To Meetings
I wonder what God thinks of all this. Sure, theologically speaking, God "invented" the 7-day week, but before that.... Were there heavenly weeks? Did it matter? Will it matter in eternity? Funny questions, sure. But as far as the present goes, how does God relate to our sense of time?
We often talk about God being outside of time and space, as if he were cut off from the limitations that they present. God is bigger than space, because all the matter and empty space in the universe could not contain him. God is bigger than time, because he existed before it existed; he exists eternally in spite of it; and he will continue to exist after it (if there is an "after it"). But I think we're missing something when we talk about God and time in this manner. Mainly, God probably doesn't experience time and space like we do, because he doesn't understand them like we do.
Think of how children understand time. Seconds, minutes, hours, even weeks and months don't mean much to a child. They experience everything in the eternal now; concepts of past and future are hard for them to grasp. Five minutes from now might as well be five days from now in their convoluted yet beautiful sense of logic.
Now, if you're okay with me doing this, let's suppose (just for a second) that Christ's love for the little ones extended to their understanding of time, as well as faith. Remember, for eternity past God the Son never worried about time. But as a human, people were constantly demanding for his presence at a certain time and a certain place. Adding to the urgency was his own sense of mortality and impending death that would come to fruition not three years into his public ministry. Jesus, come heal my son before he dies. Jesus, come sit with these publicans before tax season. Jesus, come talk to these prostitutes before the next night passes. Jesus, meet me here tonight so that my fellow Pharisees don't find out who I'm meeting with. Jesus, come die before Passover. Even the Trinity could not escape giving time-based commands to the Son. Excluding all the other difficulties that came with God becoming man, this alone would have been enough to drive any normal person insane.
Christ might have related to children quite a bit on this level. They ignored time because it didn't exist in a concrete sense to them. They cared little for it, and never expected to care for it either. Let's suppose, once again, that this is just a little glimpse into how God views time. Maybe God doesn't so much exist outside of time, than he just doesn't understand time like we do.
Can't Fight The Fever or Why Doesn't Anybody Really Understand Me?
Now hold on. I'm not saying we get something God can't, I'm just suggesting that we experience time in such a way, that God really has no use for it. Think about it, we wouldn't say that God knows what it's like to pinch a candy bar from the local grocier, because we hold to the belief that God has never done such a thing. We also wouldn't say that God knows what it's like to physically consummate a marriage, because God's never been married, let alone had a girlfriend. Couldn't we also say that God doesn't get our understanding of time because he doesn't understand time like we do? Maybe?
I don't know. Whatever you feel, I think it's interesting to try to understand that God doesn't really exist apart from time as much as he understands time in a radically different way than we do. If we met someone who existed from all eternity past (and guess what, we have), we'd probably think his way of going about things crazy and impractical (maybe even unjust or unfair?). God is outside of time, not because he physically resides outside of its sphere, but because he probably "gets" time in ways that we cannot even fathom.
God and time? To be frank, who cares? I'm pretty sure he doesn't. (God that is, not frank.)
Friday, September 30, 2005
Posted by jonny at 2:42 AM
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Preface #1 (Sept 05)
This post could get real confusing, real fast. Mostly because this preface is actually the first of two prefaces. The second preface was the original preface when this first found its way into print about 3 years ago. Hopefully the bold faced subtitles will keep things in order. If not, just ignore this whole event.
Preface #2 (Oct 02)
I am convinced of two things.
One, I will fail miserably. I will say what I don't want to say. I will do things that horrify me. I will act like the asshole that I am.
I will open my mouth when nothing needs to be said, and I will remain silent when words are absolutely necessary. I will try to follow the plans God has for me, but end up destroying his amazing designs with marvelous beauty and attention to the smallest of details.
I will ruin it all. And the harder I try not to, the harder I will fall.
Two, God will not fail me. No matter how ruinous and utterly non-sensical I make his plans, He will not give up.
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will pick me up every time, bandage my wounds, dust me off, and point me in the right direction. All the while with a smile on his lips as leans in and whispers in my ear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
And it's all I can do not to break down and quit the game every time I fall. Because I don't deserve the second chance. Or the third, or the fourth, or the fifth one either.
Last year, I thought about what success meant as far as the Great Commission was concerned. Are we as the Body of Jesus Christ winning or losing? How do you even quantify such a question? I also thought a lot about what it meant to be an evangelical Christian. What are the "boundaries" of evangelicalism? One day, during class with Luke Fetters, I started scribbling on my handout. Let me warn you first -- I was angry. Angry at Christians for not taking evangelism seriously. Angry at myself for not taking Christ's commission seriously. And this is what I came up with:
The Actual Body Proper (May 02)
We have failed.
We are forming and molding young minds to be a step above lukewarm lights to a nation that has heard the Gospel once, twice, thrice and again. A Gospel of Jerry Falwell bigotry, Binny Hinn 17-bedroom prosperity theology, Pat Robertson cozy up to Communist China, James Dobson right wing political fury.
While we preach a "Christ-less" Gospel to our own native tribe, letting out lights shine on dimmed battery, half-assed evangelical in-fighting, other tribes are dying. Dying to hear of a king who would die rather than rule. A king who serves. A king who weeps for his people.
We have failed.
We no longer understand what the Gospel of Christ is or the power of the grace which undergirds His story. Our Intro to Religion classes barely scratch the surface of the width and depth and breadth of the grace of Jehovah Jireh.
Our professors have known and experienced what the power of Christ can do -- what the call of Christ entails. But they can't be too honest about it because he might alienate the young saints of their class. They can't help us understand our faith because our churches have failed to teach us the reality of very God we claim as Sovereign Lord.
To be sovereign means to have control. But we live like we despise God's mighty hand over our lives, if we even recognize his right to our lives at all. His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. But we can't seem to give up the physical things that bring us comfort. Not that, Lord. No, not that.
Is he Lord? Do we recognize his right as our Creator to own us if he so wills? No. We chafe at the thought because we are independent to the very selfish my-welfare-is-the-only-fare part of our Western, junkfood, instantaneous gratification core.
We might as well tell Christ to fuck off, because we're already flipping Him the finger with the way we live our lives.
We have failed.
Go ye into all the world.
This isn't a specific calling to specific individuals. It is a command to the body of Christ. God is going to call you to an area on this earth of his where the Gospel must be preached. It might be to North America. It might be to China. It might be to Kenya. It might be to Katmandu. If you don't feel called to a certain geography, a certain culture, or a certain field of work, get down on your stiff-knecked knees and pray for soft eyes and a weeping heart.
I have failed.
My lackluster Christianity has impacted not as nearly many people as I have been given the opportunity to impact for the kingdom of Christ. And even if that is false modesty and pride disguised as humility, it is still a colossal failure.
I am called to be a raging light to a lost and dying world. I am called to shine like the stars. Failure cannot be an option with the kingdom of God on the line.
Christ is seen in the midst of the gathered community. How well do you think Christ can be seen today?
Postscript #1 (Oct 02)
And that's what I wrote. And I know that somewhere I actually believe it. But not enough. Not nearly enough.
Yet all the while, he wipes away my tears, bends down to scoop me up, and whispers into my ear, "Well done, though good and faithful servant."
And I just don't deserve it. But I have to respond. That's all my actions are -- a pathetic yet earnest response to the grace he's shown me and the faith he's instilled in my heart.
Postscript #2 (Sep 05)
That life seems so far away these days. Work and bills and politics and theology seem to envelop the passion I used to have for telling people about the radical philosophy of the man/God called Jesus. Will I get back there? Who knows. But I do know this. He still wipes my tears, and he still scoops me up, and he still whispers sweet somethings into my ear.
And I still don't deserve it.
Posted by jonny at 11:25 PM
Saturday, September 24, 2005
I followed up on this post a year-and-a-half later with a four-parter on Christians and poverty that I might repost a little later. It's my first basic thoughts while coming to grips with being conservative yet loving the social gospel. It's never going to be on easy needle to thread....but it's worth it.
Plus, I love b/w pics of old people.
Some Thoughts On Conservative Christians & Social Change
It's time to throw off the belief that politics play little influence on the whole of our worldview. While we might not be able to put it into poli-speech, our views on the nature of humanity (harmartiology specifically) involuntarily affect who we vote for when election time comes around.
Conservatives, Liberals, David Bowie
Let's say, for just a moment, that we can easily define liberalism and conservativism (humor me). We're going to ignore the Bush/Democratic-of-the-week definitions, and stick to the underlying assumptions behind the views.
It's safe to say that conservativism is built upon a belief in a moral order ordained by a Creator and a resistance to change and progress, especially for the sake of change itself, or if change goes against said moral order. Man is a noble, yet fallen creature, and will remain that way indefinintely (government provides law and order, keeping man in check). There are also some libertarian leanings to consider, such as keeping that evil empire we call The State as small as possible, which we should also note.
On the other side, liberalism has a God more akin to the deist view, or maybe the Enlightenment god of Reason, the obtuse Watchmaker in the sky. Man is seen as essentially good, able to bring about a utopian heaven on earth through proper education and constant restructuring of society. Change is not only good, but it is needed on a day-to-day basis.
In some ways, the Democratic/Republican split is still divided by these distinctions. Especially when it comes to Christians who are involved in the political process. Liberal Christians who don't believe in an actual "Fall" are usually Democrats seeking progress -- a sort of postmillennialism put to a political agenda. Christian Conservatives who do believe that humanity is basically bad news are usually Republicans who are resistant to great change, especially social change. Social programs are exercises in futility to them because sin and corruption cannot be overcome by a "benevolent" State. For example, Republicans generally don't have the same urgency as Democrats possess to save Social Security and Medicare. The Right would rather see it "wither on the tree," run out of funding, and let the market (rather than government) take over.
Righting Old Wrongs, Like Super-Hereos, Only Without Spandex
But can a Christian be theologically conservative and socially liberal? It does seem an odd combination (although Reinhold Niebuhr did his best to pull it off in the first half of the 20th century). If one appeals to the prophetic tradition of the OT in conjunction with the social revolution Jesus personified in the Gospels, it's not hard to make a case (not the time or place to do here, but maybe something to think about for later). The most glaring problem is that it makes for strange bedfellows. Conservatives with a cautious view of human nature in tandem with liberals and their exalted view of humanity -- united for social justice.
It's this belief in man's essential goodness that puts off many conservative Christians from the Democratic Party. We're suspicious of it, and rightfully so. The past 100 years haven't justified liberalism in many ways; things seem to be getting worse around the world, though generally better at home. WWI and WWII put the utopian liberal ideal on life support. Since that time conservatism has flourished in both power and intellect. Republicans have held the White House 15 of the last 23 years. The eight years of a Democratic White House under Clinton were "marred" by a liberal move to the center (a restructuring closer to the Right). Clinton was a moderate Democratic who "stole" many Republican ideas in order to lock down moderate swing voters who could have gone either way. (Does anyone remember "the era of big government is over?")
Conservatives have held onto a majority in the nation because the world is such a screwed up place, and we are terribly, terribly afraid of it.
This makes it incredibly hard for a conservative Christian to break conservative ranks on social policy and jump over to the "7 political steps to a better you" bandwagon. We know that man is fallen, but we hold fast to the belief that Scripture advocates social justice. Not egalitarianism, mind you; that would have been anathema to the NT writers, but a society that looks after the poor, the widowed, and the orphaned, by sacrificing our own right to peace and comfort.
Bush doesn't seem to hold a very high view of the above sentiment. Or if he does, he doesn't think it's the State's responsibility, but the Church's. The problem is, the Church is failing the poor to a tune of 14 million children in need of proper health care, some 34.6 million Americans living in poverty (if you're wondering how the govt defines poverty), and a wholesale rejection of the single-mother culture (it should be noted that there are more ways to be widowed than by death these days). And that's just in the United States.
Are We Men Or Are We Marxists?
So who picks up the slack? If the Church refuses to do its job, can the State step in? It already has in numerous ways through Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Steps, Free and Reduced Lunch Programs, Head Start, etc. But how far should the State be allowed to go? Maybe that's the real question. Can a conservative Christian push the State to take care of the poor without resorting to shades of Marxism? Or maybe, to put it another way, what does liberty really mean to the conservative who also happens to be a Christian?
Posted by jonny at 12:17 PM
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Bo Diddley - His Best (The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) [1955-1966]
Listening to Bo Diddley is like experiencing the construction of a parking garage's very foundation. It’s huge, expansive, like miles of steel supports and concrete slabs. It’s electric, anchoring gigajoules of thunder and lightning, striking at will, completely aware of the destruction it leaves in its wake.
And Bo Diddley does thunder. Growling, he's no Rico Suave, rolling his “r’”s; instead he booms along with these incredible drum beats and rhythms, daring us to challenge him, prowling around the women folk, the alpha-male of rock and roll. You know the Bo Diddley beat: bomp, ba-bomp-bomp, bomp-bomp. Don Swoden calls it “booty rock,” meant to assist in the shaking up one’s hips, not something to listen to during moments of somberness or sobriety. It’s this beat that ushered in the era of rock music, owing to African percussion, by way of New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta. It has those touches of the Bayou and the mighty Mississippi, the bastard child of the Dark Continent, Latin America, and frontier Frenchmen, but anchored in the blues of the city, fuzzy and electric, found upriver in that great midwestern mecca called Chicago. Weirdly enough, Diddley, influenced by the mighty Muddy Waters, found his first B-side, “I’m a Man,” cheekily (and soulfully) ripped off by Waters’ just two months later on Mr. Muddy’s own “Mannish Boy.”
This perhaps, shows the fence Bo Diddley straddled as a musician. With one foot in the blues -- the real blues, not some weirdzo Jonny Lang homage -- and another foot in rock and roll, teetering between the old and new. Diddley exploded, positioning himself far above the chart successes of fellow Chess label mates Waters and John Lee Hooker, but not quite reaching the heights of quintessential teenage rocker Chuck Berry, who also got his start with Chess. But Diddley's riffs are second to none, understated, yet all over the place, drenched in pre-Purple Haze fuzziness and tremolo guitar machine-shop noise. This is the kind of music that could only be invented in the age of the automobile. Not just because of it’s aural connotations, but because of how good it feels playing in the car with the windows down (top back, preferably, if at all possible), making it nearly inconceivable for most of us to even consider long car trips without music as our most faithful companion.
Sadly, Diddley is most known for his Nike commercials with Bo Jackson in the late 80s. But screw that, Bo Diddley played a freaking square guitar, he let his ineffable rhythms power his music to such incredible heights, places where the oxygen thins and the stars burn your eyes, inducing strange epileptic-like dances that could only find their source from black voices prior to Elvis Presley. Speaking of which, perhaps Elvis was the King of Rock and Roll, but Diddley was rock’s much cooler, older uncle, the kind that gives minors their first cans of Bud Light on summer fishing trips. Elvis might have had the voice of a black man and that ready made look for white-bread American television, but Diddley had that other-worldly beat, that fuzzy guitar, that turns average American joes and janes into putty; lifeless and ready to be formed into something new, something like hands in the air, shaking, fingers outstretched or pulled into fists, feet moving like fire, blue with heat and furry.
This is Bo Diddley: The man who launched a thousand rock revolutions, from Buddy Holly, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds, to the New York Dolls, the Clash and thousands of nameless garage rock gods and goddesses. This wasn’t the blues, wasn’t R&B, and most certainly wasn’t Gospel, though it felt like each one at times. No, this was something new. Something that made preachers rail and politicians quake. This was a voice heavy with contradictions, full of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and dripping with the sweet joys of liquor and fornication. This was rock and roll. And America was about to be turned inside out.
Songs to download: “Bo Diddley”; “Pretty Thing”; "Mona (a/k/a I Need You Baby)"
Posted by jonny at 7:12 PM
Friday, September 16, 2005
I wrote this sometime over the summer of 2000. It was the only summer during school that I didn't head back to Michindoh to work; so I read and wrote alot. It got printed in a newspaper once. But I didn't get famous.
Anyway, here it is.
What color is magic?
I'm going to admit something really embarrassing right off the bat: I really like the movie Sleepless in Seattle. I know, maybe I'm gay in every way except for the fact that I don't like boys. But I think everyone likes it, on some level, whether they’re willing to admit it not. Sure, there might be that odd duck that’s so punk rock they hate Tom Hanks and all he stands for. But come on, the movie has magic.
That’s right. Magic. Not a word I use lightly, mind you. For anything to be truly magical it's got to inspire an audience's sense of wonder. But wonder comes in all shapes and sizes. For the Romantics, wonder was found in the countryside. Woody Allen, however, finds it in the hustle and bustle of the city. Different strokes, you know?
For a musician it might be found in a simple melody or crashing dissonance. For a physicist, wonder might be best experienced theorizing about geodesics and space-time curvatures.
Good art oftentimes just exudes wonder. Movies are no exception. There are some that you walk out of just feeling clean and refreshed. Tolkien called it “recovery" -- when art acts as a sort a window washer for the soul -- “So that things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity." And let's not limit that to a strict definition of "Fantasy." Punch Drunk Love is fantasy. So are Amelie and The Life Aqautic and Sleepless in Seattle. And the myths we experience within the confines of these films help us to look at our world in a new way -- a refreshed way.
Because they employ magic. Because they are magical.
[By the way, there are some movies that only some people will enjoy, and then there are good movies that everyone should enjoy, but some people are too stubborn and obstinate to enjoy, which is really quite ridiculous because the really good movies don’t require certain levels of testosterone or estrogen or intelligence or dullness in order for one to enjoy them – they are just simply good.]
That being said, we all find magic and wonder in different places, above or below, to the side or the centre, within or without.
I might find those little pencil shavings left in the sharpener magical, while you might prefer the simplicity of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or that moment in your favorite song when you seem to forget how to breathe (but in the best possible way, mind you).
Magic comes in many different colors. The trick is, finding the color that answers the question for you.
So what color is magic? Only you can decide that for yourself. Don’t get too concrete or analytical, though. Just go with what feels right. I tend to think of it in terms of green. Maybe for you, it’s a nice brick red, but don’t be afraid to recognize magic when it’s electric orange every second Tuesday of the week (or what have you). Trust me, it’s not something you want to miss.
But don’t think that magic can only be seen; use your others senses, too. Smell it. Touch it. Taste it. Listen for it.
P.S. If you’re having a hard time finding a place to start, 5:09 in the morning is a good place to start.
P.P.S. And when I say morning, I mean night.
P.P.P.S. And when I say night, I mean staying up so late that you go to bed when the birds start chirping.
Unfortunately, magic is a very misused and much maligned word. People today just don't know what magic is. Especially in the Christian community.
Why is it that some Christians flinch when they hear the word magic? Why do some of some of us get that dirty feeling like someone just swore in front of their mother? I’m not entirely sure, but I think it has less to do with the Holy Spirit than we would like to admit. We have been conditioned, rather, to equate magic with witchcraft. And the devil couldn’t be happier.
Magic has little to do with hocus-pocus jibber-jabber, pink potions, and the ability to grow tomatoes the size hubcaps. Magic is all around us. You know that feeling when you see a magician make something disappear or pull a quarter out of your ear? That’s magic – awe and wonder at what we cannot explain or comprehend.
Magic then, cannot simply be equated with the occult. That’s what we’re led to believe because of weird-ass magicians (or is it illusionists?) like David Blain and his cronies, when that feeling of awe is mixed with downright horror while he levitates street pedestrians on Times Square. That's no more magic than pornography is love. It's a corruption of wide-eyed wonder, plain and simple.
The best thing about wonder is the literally thousands of ways God has given us to awe in his creation and works of his created. The smell of a baseball mit, held close to your face. The sight of a full moon, on a cold, crisp night. The roar of the ocean, the feel of old paperback pages, the taste of just about anything after skipping lunch to get out of work early. Maybe none of these things do it for you; but as for me and my house, they make my toes tingle.
And wonder. Quite simply, it comes from enjoying God’s wonderful (and wonder-filled) creation. God wants us to enjoy him. Creation isn't simply for his pleasure, but for ours, too.
This is why wonder is so powerful. Why it can make your head spin and your fingers numb. Because it's a gift from God. I think, deep down, even the staunchest of atheists knows that there is something transcendent about this world. In that way, whether we realize or not, we are all participants in the Sacrament of the Earth, drinking deeply from the Cup of Creation, a community of God's children bound by our love for the land.
God wants us to enjoy His creation, and in turn, enjoy Him. "What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”
We do this in worship. Not simply catchy songs or even heart-felt words, but a continuous state of mind where God is simply enjoyed. A.W. Tozer defined that state of mind as the “fear of God.” Trembling not in terror, but in awe of the splendor of the world in which we live.
“When we come into this sweet relationship,” Tozer writes, “we are beginning to learn astonished reverence, breathless adoration, awesome fascination, lofty admiration of the attributes of God and something of the breathless silence that we know when God is near.”
Call it what you will. The fear of God, worship, wonder, adoration, reverence, awe – it is our dumfounded response to the infinite grace of our father.
And that very same grace is magical.
Posted by jonny at 4:20 PM
Monday, September 12, 2005
I guess I'm going to start trying to blog again. I forget I had things to say once, and also I forget just how I said them. In honor of my forgetfulness, I think my immediate goal will be to reprint things written for the internet and/or real people. Nothing new. Just old stuff pretending to be new news.
But because I'm lazy, let's not start until tomorrow.
Oh yeah, and I'm almost done with these flamin' stars.
Posted by jonny at 10:02 PM
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Since Jake is watching football all day long, I decided to fool around with my template. After like, 400 hours, this is all I've been able to come up with. Half of me thinks the stars are awesome; the other half can't believe how ridiculous it will look when I start blogging about Real Things of Great Importance again.
Regardless, I'm so rad.
Posted by jonny at 9:42 PM