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A Thicket of Threads

May 9, 2006

Each day brings forth such an amazing amount of topics to think about and write upon. Some horrible and violent, some prurient and pointless, still others timeless and dense in ramifications for one’s life, the life of the church or the nation. I never know where to jump in and say something. The temptation for snark is always present. I don’t want to be wrong in a dumb way. I don’t want to be right in a cautious, lukewarm way. I am uncomfortable with the passion of my own convictions, the stain of my guilt, the assertion of my own will. These things have been drilled into me since before I can remember. Sometimes, I just want to hit Clear History.

Time and time again, I learn the lesson that I cannot change a single mind about the things most important in life. Not by words. Not my words at least.. Nor any borrowed words I can find in my bible or scattered about this world wide web. I am not winsome. I am strident and fanatical. I am tired and overwhelmed by the tedium of factoids that must be strung together to support my case, that must be organized by topic, that must form a convincing narrative, the story of my life, my changed heart.

Why do I want to change anyone? So that I can believe that I am not alone.

My longing for unity and fellowship is very great. After years of maintaining I was too good for that kind of thing – the contrarian independent mind etc. – I realized, slowly (as always) and with a subtle horror, that I need other people. I once wrote a song about being together at church, singing and worshiping:

This is the time
This is the place where we want to be
Brothers and Sisters in harmony
We capture glimpses of heaven

Closing my eyes
I see their faces in silhouette…

Even then, I knew it wouldn’t last. Those moments never do; but it’s still important to have them. This earth would be awfully dry without them.

Still, it is hard for me to escape the mode of Lamentation in my creative output. I hold onto relationships long past their expiration date hoping that something will change. In the end, that thing is almost always me. At least I think it is.

All that to say, I am a man looking for a conversation that it seems like no one in my circle seems to want to have. The ones that do tend to bring out the barbs if pressed. So the temptation is to lay down in the thicket and go to sleep. But I can’t. For whatever reason, this war is a burden on me I cannot yet put down. I know many have counseled that God might be challenging me to examine a more pacifistic outlook; my contention is that He might be challenging me and you to an even more difficult worldview: one where He is Lord of the Sword too, and it may be upon us to wield it with all the moral complexity and seriousness that implies. Response?

***

I’ve got just a few days of work left. Hopefully I can do a mini re-launch and actually start hitting the topics I want in they way I want. Do share your thoughts with me.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 9, 2006 2:00 pm

    Grec, those are very touching sentiments. I do have a thought I’d like to offer, though. You write, “Why do I want to change anyone? So that I can believe that I am not alone. My longing for unity and fellowship is very great.”

    Eric Hoffer once observed that one of the greatest forces that compels people to proselytize is the doubt that they carry about their own beliefs. By getting you to agree with me, I will feel more secure in my own belief; I will view my own convictions as less of a threat to my own existence. I will feel communion.

    But consider that you and I may have communion precisely with and within all our differences.

    It is an eastern or gnostic mystical view that wants all the colors to bleed into one. But that does not seem to the view that you yourself subscribe to: the worldview that you’ve held fast to is one that embraces what Richard Mouw once called something along the lines of “many-ness.”

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t all be trying to find consensus on important issues: I’d personally love for you to agree with me.

    But communion isn’t contingent on agreement. I have more powerful communion with friends like yourself, whom I disagree with on important issues, than with many people who agree with me on those issues.

  2. May 10, 2006 12:15 am

    Thanks Rob for the touching sentiment as well. There is some validity in your point of proslytizing as narcissistic insecurity. I do have this sense that I must be missing something in my analysis of the War… but so far, nothing from the Left or anti-war camp has helped me much at all.

    More importantly is the fact that I’m not particularly feeling the love from “folks like you” (not that anyone is really like you Rob). There’s an effort being made, but more and more it feels more like a tedious chore. Not that I’m giving up… but I guess I am giving up some hope that certain minds will ever change, no matter what happens in the future.

    I know our communion is real, but it would be more real if we were still able to worship together in the same church. Also key is the fact that I have not really come to feel as settled at my new church as I did with you at Hollywod Pres- and I’m coming to grips that I may not feel that way again for a long, long time.

    A base to operate out of, a spiritual home, makes the differences between us more easy to bear. Sadly, that opportunity has been denied to us for a time.

    In the interim, I often come to question what it really means to confess Christ together if we can’t even agree on such basic moral matters. So many basic premises beyond the Creeds are in conflict- sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. Sometimes I get mad but mostly I’m just saddened by the emotionalism and irrationality I see contstantly on display and that you give such lucid (if there is such a thing) voice to. I’m not trying to slam anyone, just describe the gulf I see opening up that concerns me greatly. I know it does you too.

  3. May 10, 2006 12:12 pm

    Hi Count,

    Perhaps a standard of “changing minds” is too unrealistic. I don’t know any thoughtful people who access a single source for information and opinion. Most people, and especially bloggers, have hundreds of sources of information. We also have a bias that filters what we read and hear. Perhaps it is enough that other people care what you think enough to listen to what you have to say. You may only add a tidbit to what they believe, but it would be a missing tidbit without you.

  4. May 11, 2006 1:37 am

    That’s good perspective, David. I should try to keep that in mind.

    I was surprised I wrote that. I’ve been trying to write more quickly, and it’s interesting what comes out when you don’t let yourself edit much.

    I think too I’m re-learning the lesson that facts don’t really change minds or form the basis of opinions. It’s how we interpret that is most important. I’ve often thought of myself as some kind of interpreter/translator/ communicator- and when the message is still misunderstood, I feel like I’ve failed- or been betrayed. My baggage…

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