Monday, December 31, 2007
Well, we are to live by faith not by sight. But everything the Church seems to do from an educational perspective is all about walking by sight. We have an emphasis on knowledge which is simply a form of sight. We have an emphasis on knowledge development/sight develoment over faith development. We act as if sight and faith were the same thing. But Paul clearly distinguishes the two. How does one develop one's faith over just developing one's sight? Well I develop sight by increasing the ability to see things. I can help people to understand things by for example parsing out or unpacking scripture. But I wonder about the degree to which this unpacking leads to faith development. The assumption is that it does. We look for pastors who can explain the scriptures to us clearly. People with advanced degrees in theology.
The verse, however, seems to say that we don't live on just what we see, we don't live on just what we understand, we don't live on just what we can explain to others. As someone who is 52 years old and who has been in church and a Christian all my life, there are few things I can hear in a sermon that are really brand new. I delight when I learn something new, but new knowledge doesn't mean a sudden boost in my faith. I just think, "Oh, I hadn't thought about that before."
Faith development is harder it seems. It challenges me to do things that I perhaps would not choose to do, or to be consistent in doing things that I would rather not be consistent about. I do those things because I know they will develop my faith. They will take me to a place in my walk with God that I haven't been to before. Attending church can be one of those places of consistency, however, I think the church has missed all it could be in taking that consistency in attendance and truly making it into faith development in the lives of the attenders. It is almost like we treat people like they are going to school rather than attending church. Additionally our measures of faith seem misguided by notions of knowledge, of living by sight.
People speak of blind faith as kind of the ultimate put down of those who are religious. Clearly we are to have the knowledge to explain the "hope that is within us" but there is an aspect of faith that is experiential. If my experience with faith is like school, then I should expect that I am developing as a person who is living by sight. If my experience with faith is faith challenging or faith facilitating, or causes me to step out "blindly" I will develop as a person living by faith. When was the last time that your church challenged you to really step out in faith in anything other than your giving money to that church? Is that all faith relates to? Why am I not challenged to step out in other areas related to faith development, like loving people who are really hard to love, like bring people to church who will make others uncomfortable, or people who will make demands on me? Why are churches always begging for Sunday school teachers? These experiences at least in part point to the same thing. We are too often developing people who live by sight and not by faith. What is in it for me (sight)? How will this cause me to grow (faith)? The questions that people learn to ask are very different if they are living by faith.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
That is something that we know. So God's word in the form of a picture Bible is accomplishing something, I would hope. I trust in that promise, however, I also use what I know about pedagogy to facilitate spiritual development in people who have the characteristic of an intellectual disability. I use the knowledge that people have gained to provide the best Christian education I can without exclusively relying on miracles for someone to learn something. God can use our efforts whatever they may be. However, we should not ignore the knowledge we have about how people learn and rely exclusively on miracles as the way people learning anything about God. Our creedo should not be, "Come to our church...it will be a miracle if you learn anything!"
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me
empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter
for which I sent it.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
It also struck me recently, what the well known passage in 1 Corinthians 13:2 says,
Isn't it interesting that Paul would juxtapose knowledge with love? He puts two things together which I can only assume have the potential of being confused. That is, I can have all knowledge, but without love I am nothing. So people can become confused thinking that knowledge is more important than love, that the development of knowledge is more important than the development of love. Note also that the opposite is not true, "If I have all love, without knowledge I am nothing." In the church, particularly as it relates to religious education, I think we have gotten this one wrong.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all
knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I
I once had the honor to meet Jean Vanier. I asked him, "How is it that the church has missed people with disabilities in terms of ministry and inclusion?" He responded something to the effect, "The church has been focussed on the rectitude of doctrine when it should have been focussed on the rectitude of love." He too saw he church's confusion about the focus of their efforts. What are the greatest commandments? Jesus said to love God with all your heart mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Once again it is important to note that he didn't say, memorize 100 Bible verses, and read the complete works of the Niebuhr brothers. That is not to say that those things are not important things. It is just that they are far and away not the most important things.
So where might I go to learn love, to see it acted out? I would honestly say to go to a place where there will be people with down's syndrome. I should "sit at the feet of a person with down's syndrome" because it is there that I would learn about loving other people. I wish I had the love of most of the people with down's syndrome that I have known in my life. They may not entirely understand love but they sure do love well. We criticize their love saying that they are disabled, that is why they aren't as discriminating as we who are not intellectually disabled. So we put ourselves in the position of criticizing someone who loves his neighbor by saying he should discriminate more. That makes a lot of sense.
If I have all knowledge and not love, I am nothing...
If I could have the knowledge of a theologian or the love of a person with down's syndrome, what would I choose? Wrong answer again, Church and Christians and world. In our world today, we not only choose to not learn love, we choose to kill those who might teach love to us by their example. We go so far as to prevent them from even being born. We have such a rabid desire to not change that we will even prevent the birth of those who might change us. In our lives, knowledge trumps love and that is a mistake.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I saw Christ on a street corner in Washington, D.C., disguised as an alcoholic
felon. I don't often notice Christ. I can sit through entire church services and
not see Him. I'll notice which worship songs are individualistic pablum; I'll
remember if the sermon is more about what the Bible doesn't say, or if the
pastor is bent on setting people straight. But I'll miss Jesus, occupied as I am
with criticizing on His behalf. So it was unexpected, this Christ-sighting.
(visit http://www.worldmag.com/articles/13529 for more)
That is the case with many churches, many Christians I believe. We come to church hoping to see Christ, and pass him on the way. Over time, we get so used to not seeing Christ at church that we think that is the way it is supposed to be. But getting used to things the way they are not supposed to be, is much different from enjoying things the way they are supposed to be. Both can bring a level of comfort and relaxation. Its just that one is not the truth and the other is. Woodlief goes on to say,
For I was hungry and you gave Me food, Christ called out to me as I passed. It
was late; I just wanted a meal and my comfortable hotel bed. But I made the
mistake of eye contact. "They spit on me!" he shouted. It was so unusual that I
stopped. He was crying with frustration. Someone had given him spittle instead
We do that in the church although hopefully not with actual spittle. But people wait in need, families wait in need, and we pass them by on our way to church and in the process of "doing church." We have been doing church in a way that is different from the way it is supposed to be and even though we know there are hurting people in the world, relative to this blog people with various disabilities, we get used to our comfortable yet wrong way of doing things. The least of these, those who Christ says are his embodiement in the world right now are passed by. So we walk by the real Christ to worship a fictional Christ. A Christ of comfort and wealth and plenty and safety.
Woodlief ends his article like this:
I wondered who blessed whom on that street corner, and if Christ will everTough words which should give us pause. Jesus said that whatever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me (Matthew 25:45). No symbolism, no beating around the bush here. How much clearer, how much more direct could he have been?
tire of coming to me in these ways, given how unfaithful I am in coming to Him.
You better watch out...