Living the Questions: Who Told You [That You Were Naked]?

“Adam said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid,
because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ God said,
‘Who told you that you were naked?'”
– Genesis 3:10-11

One of the things that’s so key to understanding this question, is that for the majority of human history, nakedness had nothing to do with shame. It’s a pretty common reading of this to think that Adam felt shame, which is why he hid. But actually, it has everything to do with vulnerability, not shame.

A few years back, when I was spending my summers working at Bible camp, our most intense nights of worship were always on Thursday nights. We had spent the week together, had gotten to know each other, and felt an incredibly strong bond. It was an incredibly authentic time. We had become immensely vulnerable with one another.

When was the last time you opened yourself up to let someone else in?

A lot of times we throw up our defenses in the face of vulnerability. What’s the old saying? It’s better to be silent and thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt. Whenever we’re afraid of being found out, exposed for who we really are (whatever that means), we put up defenses and act differently from how we might otherwise naturally act. But here’s the thing…

IT’S A FAULTY SYSTEM

We were created unaware of our vulnerability — our nakedness. But there’s something in our brain chemistry — or perhaps the way we’re socialized — that gives us a sense of shame. Religious communities call it sin or brokenness, but it’s a feeling everyone experiences regardless of religious affiliation. The problem with our thinking is that we assume vulnerability is a weakness. When in fact vulnerability is one of the only ways that we can make real and authentic connections with people.

We can all tell when people are being inauthentic. We all have finely tuned B.S. meters, some more than others. As soon as we sense someone is not being genuine. It’s incredibly difficult, if not downright impossible, to feel a genuine connection with someone when you don’t actually know the person you’re talking to — the real person. That’s what makes my experiences in intentional communities (like summer camp) so memorable. There aren’t many people who can be that exhausted, and still put up a front. So community is formed.

The bottom line is the world is all about genuine connections. If there’s one thing that moving to a brand new community has taught me, it’s that life isn’t a worth a whole lot without connections. Without connections, we miss out on being in relationship — both individual and communal.

The point is to let yourself be seen (and heard)

Be yourself. Be human. Nobody’s perfect 100% of the time. And if someone was, they’d be hated by everyone else. Be vulnerable.

Share your challenges.

Share your struggles.

Share the things that scare the hell out of you.

And then watch what happens.

You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll be more confident. You’ll be more… you.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam chose to hide his vulnerability. I’m saying, choose different from Adam.

Choose to be open. To show your true colors. To be more you. It’s the only thing worth doing.

Cheers,
Eric

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Living the Questions: Introduction

A few weeks ago, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary said farewell to a highly esteemed group of graduates, including yours truly. It was the end of a journey and the beginning of another. A main event of the graduation weekend was the actual service itself. It was a combined baccalaureate/graduation service.

Our preacher was our former sem prof [and current Augsburg religion guru] Marty Stortz. As a part of her sermon, she included an invitation to live some of the deep questions of the faith. She outlined the first five questions that God asks in the Bible as questions that we should use for reflection and a kind of personal Bible study now that we’re out of seminary. So for the next week or so, I’ll be reflecting on the first 5 questions God asks in the Bible. Here they are.

Question #1 — Where Are You? (reflection on Friday, the 15th)

Question #2 — Who Told You? (reflection on Monday, the 18th)

Question #3 — What Have You Done? (reflection on Wednesday, the 20th)

Question #4 — Why Are You Angry? (reflection on Friday, the 22nd)

Question #5 — Where Is Your Brother? (reflection on Monday, the 25th)

I think there is a lot to be gained from exploring some of these questions, not only for us as Christians, but for us as people as well. They’re questions that reach to the foundation of who we are. So, at least for the next week, I’m going to live these questions and spend some time in reflection on here.

You’re welcome to join me in reflecting on these questions and sharing this journey with me. I look forward to our exploration.

Cheers,
Eric

When Bad Tornadoes Happen to Good Christians

A good way to start this might be to say that tornadoes have terrified me for a long time. I was at a sleepover in middle school when everyone else was getting ready to watch the movie “Twister”. My heart started to race. I knew that if I watched that movie, I would have terrible nightmares. I fought hard for a 50th time through “3 Ninjas”, but no such luck. I didn’t even want to watch a movie about tornadoes because I always feared being caught up in one.

Tornadoes don’t scare me in the same way they did when I was younger. But, as we’ve seen these last few days, they’re still happening and they’re still destroying. The recent storms in through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky have put huge numbers of people in the midst of the storm.

One way to respond to this, is to blame the people who have just been savaged by these storms and claim that it was some sort of divinely-guided weather judgment. John Piper takes this route. Yesterday, he wrote:

If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command…. God’s will for America under his mighty hand, is that every Christian, every Jew, every Muslim, every person of every religion or non-religion, turn from sin and come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus rules the wind. The tornadoes were his.

I have a number of problems with this. But I think this viewpoint is a symptom of a much larger problem. When we view God as a being who controls every tiny action that happens in the world, then this is where we end up. God sent these tornadoes down because these specific people were so sinful that they needed to be taught a lesson. So God killed 39 people and destroyed countless towns, homes, and lives.

This is one of the most damaging and destructive views I have ever heard.

Weather happens. Anyone who has taken 8th grade Earth science knows that. The weather doesn’t change because Jews or Muslims exist in the world. (Lest we forget that the title of God’s people was bestowed on Jews in the first place.)

This is the type of Christianity that actively detracts from our 21st century world. There is no need for me to tell you why we shouldn’t embrace a 4th century worldview. The world isn’t flat. The Earth is not the center of the universe. And God doesn’t make the weather.

To suggest this is not only embarrassing to religious people around the world, but it’s pointing a finger at the tens of thousands of people who have just had their lives destroyed and then saying that they deserved it. It’s tragic, hurtful, and actively detracts from the kingdom of God.

God pulls life out of death. But She doesn’t kill someone to do so.

Cheers,
Eric

(Yeah. I did the passive-aggressive refer-to-God-as-a-she thing. I’m still a little offended by Piper’s comments from 2 weeks ago. Lord, have mercy.)

A Response to John Piper’s “Masculine Christianity”

“We see the world not as it is, but as we are.” – Talmud

There has been a call to return — did we ever really leave? — to a masculine Christianity. This movement, spearheaded by the likes of John Piper and Mark Driscoll, has come to a head in some ways due to some recent comments by Piper. Recently, he wrote:

“God revealed Himself in the Bible pervasively as king not queen; father not mother. The second person of the Trinity is revealed as the eternal Son not daughter; the Father and the Son create man and woman in His image and give them the name man, the name of the male…God appoints all the priests in the Old Testament to be men; the Son of God came into the world to be a man; He chose 12 men to be His apostles; the apostles appointed that the overseers of the Church be men; and when it came to marriage they taught that the husband should be the head.”

It needs to be pointed out that this is an extremely selective reading of the Biblical narrative. It only listens to half of the narrative. Take, for instance, the creation narrative. Genesis 1:27 says

“So God created humankind in his image,
   in the image of God he created them;
   male and female he created them. 

In the initial act of creating a relationship between God and humanity, God creates both men and women in God’s image. God’s command to “have dominion” over everything goes to both men and women. It’s plural throughout the rest of the chapter.

While Piper repeatedly highlights the rest of the male-centered stories of the Bible, he leaves out the fact that God has been represented as:

  • A mother (Numbers 11:12, Job 38:8, 29, Isaiah 42:14, Isaiah 49:14, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 66:12, Hosea 11:4, Acts 17:28)
  • A seamstress (Nehemiah 9:21)
  • A midwife (Psalm 22:9, Psalm 71:6, Isaiah 66:9)
  • A woman working leaven into bread (Luke 13:18-21)
  • A woman seeking a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) — This is in a line of parables where God is depicted as both male and female. There’s that egalitarian thing again.

There are countless images for God in the Bible — both male and female. It’s a case of you get what you look for. We could revise the Talmud quote from the beginning of this post to say “We see the Bible not as it is, but as we are.” In John Piper’s case, he wants God to be a man and he wants a masculine Christianity so he finds those instances in the Bible and reads that Bible through a masculine lens.

If we’re proper students of history, we know that Christianity has been masculine and dominant for far too long. I suggest that it’s actually a time to re-imagine feminine images of God. I think when we do that, we gain a richer theological imagination that helps us move outward into a new realm of possibility.

And that’s something that excites me.

Cheers,
Eric

If you’re interested in a more feminine view of God, I would encourage you to check out the writings of Rosemary Radford RuetherSallie McFagueOctavia ButlerElizabeth Johnson, and Naomi Goldenberg. I think you would be better served reading any of these ladies than Piper or Driscoll.

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