Archive for the ‘The Fidelity of Betrayal’ Category

Peter Rollins in Waco – Nov 14
November 1, 2008

For more information and for directions, go to Emergent Waco.

If you’re on Facebook, check out the Facebook event where you can RSVP.

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Minnekon – Reflections
August 20, 2008

How do I even begin to reflect on last week’s Minnekon experience? There was just so much. It was wonderful. I loved every minute – hearing Pete talk at least five different times in four days, learning so much from Sarah, Kellie and Jonny, participating in the workshops, eating meals and having great conversations with new friends, and having the opportunity to think about, reflect on, and even put into practice ideas I find very provocative and hopeful. This is certainly an experience I will be processing for many weeks. Here are a few provisional thoughts to give you an idea of the places my mind has been wandering because of the overall experience:

  • Pete Rollins is for real. Even after reading both of his books, there was still a part of me that wondered if perhaps Pete was just playing around with words and ideas. I didn’t think he was a crypto-evangelist, but you can never quite be sure… But now I’m completely confident that he’s for real. And more than that, he cares about helping others do the kind of thing he is doing. He thinks it is important. So do I.
  • Ikon is not a church. And it’s not necessarily Christian. It’s certainly influenced by, and perhaps even rooted in, the Christian tradition and the tradition of the Church, but ultimately it’s post-Christian, and this makes it different than much of the emerging church. Not in a better or worse way – it’s just different. I think Ikon, and the theology behind Ikon, is about creating open spaces – empty spaces – for God to give God (the transcendent, the wholly other, etc.). These spaces might be in church settings, they might not be. Whether or not it’s church is just irrelevant. I really appreciate this. I want to be a part of creating these kinds of spaces.
  • On a related note, I see the theology behind Ikon impacting various settings within the church. However, to really take the theology seriously, I don’t think it can fully work in the church. But that’s ok. I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think letting this theology loose in church is good. And letting it loose outside the church is good too. But there is still a difference. At Ikon all questions are open. In the church, it is always foundational that what is happening is Christian and church. At Ikon even these questions are open. Again, I see a place for both. It’s not an either/or.
  • Continuing this same idea, I think all of this is further evidence of the increasing diversity of Christian/religious/spiritual experiences that are available for people. Church, Christianity, spirituality, and religion are no longer relegated to a church building, or even to particular faith traditions. Religious and spiritual questions and experiences are everywhere. People are going to pick and choose from a variety of options and create their own church/religious life. There is a lot more that can be said about this. I know many people see this as a problem. I see it as a really good and hopeful shift in our culture. Again, I think the question is how we can create spaces (both inside and outside the church) for God to give God (and I say that in the broadest sense possible).
  • I am still considering how the ideas in Pete’s books translate into everyday life. Or as Tony Jones asked in his dialogue with Pete, “How does this work for a devotional life?” This is a valid question. Personally, I don’t know if Pete has a good answer to this question right now. But I think that is understandable. I think it is somewhat uncharted territory. I think some people are living this kind of life but we may not yet identify it as such (I think of Gordon Atkinson/Real Live Preacher). I am very interested in considering these ideas and perhaps doing some writing along these lines. A provisional title for the topic – “Living Life With/out God.” This is very interesting to me.

Well, thanks for following along with me through the Minnekon experience. I hope these posts have been beneficial. I have definitely had a lot more traffic on my blog over the past week, so this seems to be something people are interested in.

Do any of you have thoughts about all this?

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Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way Introduction
August 18, 2008

[If you haven’t read my “A.way” post about the Minnekon event that took place on Saturday, go read that post before this one.]

Here’s the introduction I wrote for the “A.way” event at Minnekon. Yes, this is my best Peter Rollins imitation.

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Finding a way.

Away from here.

Many of us are searching for a way. Do you know the way?

Is the way to be found in the church?

In Christianity?

In a particular doctrine or creed?

What about those who have pursued all these things only to find something like a dead end?

Is this the end of the road?

Or is it the beginning?

There are those who speak of a long forgotten saying of Jesus. Perhaps it might help us. The story reads as follows:

One day when Jesus was setting out on another journey, one of his disciples, one who had been following him for some time, came up behind him and asked, “Teacher, I have been following you for many months, but I must ask you, how do I find the way?” Jesus turned to him and said, “Have you not heard me say, ‘Follow me, for I am the way, the truth and the life?'” Having heard this a number of times, the disciple replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the way. I have followed you on many journeys. I have listened to your every word, but I still seek to find the way. Tell me what to do and I will do it – anything you ask. I would even sell all my possessions. Just tell me the way.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said, “You lack one thing, go away from here, and follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, the disciple was sorrowful, for he did not want to leave Jesus’ presence.

Tonight we have left the home of our identities at the door. No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what baggage we have collected, we acknowledge the way we look for must be away from here. If we do not know where to go, if we do not know what to do, we must do it. We must leave – pursuing the destination that can only be found in the journey. And perhaps in the very act of leaving we will find a.way from here.

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way
August 18, 2008

On Saturday night I was part of the culmination of the Minnekon experience – an Ikon-like event. If you’ve never read How (Not) to Speak of God, then you might not have a feeling for what an Ikon event is like. First off, I recommend reading the book (the second half of the book describes ten different Ikon events, and is worth the price of the book all by itself), but basically Ikon events are experiential, experimental, creative, provocative, and theatrical attempts to knock people off their normal course – if even for just a moment. Peter Rollins describes these events as theodrama and transformance art. Ultimately, these events are an attempt to create a space where God can give God. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ikon events have seven elements: liturgy (theological words), ritual (interactive communal response), visuals, music, personal reflections, stories (parables, poetry, etc.), and a gift for everyone to take away from the experience. On Friday night (and into Saturday) we worked hard to prepare for the Minnekon event. I was part of the liturgy group and my primary task was to create an introduction for the event. I’ll share that later (here).

The theme of the event was “(finding) a.way (from here).” The entire experience was an attempt to play with the at times contradictory yet interactive ideas of finding a way and going away from here. The theme was actually very relevant for where I am in my life right now – but I’ll save that topic for my Minnekon reflections post…

The event started out with everyone receiving a name tag before entering. Each person was then told to write on the name tag some important elements of their own identity. The name tag was then taken away and replaced with a blank name tag that everyone put on as they went into the event. As people entered, someone was playing the song “Amazing Grace,” except the words were changed to “I once was found, but now I’m lost. Could see but now I’m blind.” After everyone had found their way into the room I went up to the mic and read my introduction. There was a story about being lost and looking for directions, there was an original song based on the theme, a few personal reflections/stories/poetry readings, a liturgy with a communal response, and Pete shared his parable about going away from here (the origin of the theme “a.way”). The ritual involved everyone coming to the center and using their blank name tag to write a burden they were carrying. Everyone put the tags into a basket and later everyone took someone else’s tag and put it on. Throughout this entire time there was background music/ambient beats and also video projected onto two screens in the room. There were also people shining flashlights around the room at different points during the event. A couple cool visuals involved doing live searches on Google Maps and Google Earth that were displayed on the screens. These searches involved words like “lost,” “hope,” “away,” etc. This was really very cool…but the whole thing is hard to describe. The intent is for the event to be very experiential so words certainly do not do it justice. But hopefully this gives you a little feel for it all. As everyone left they were given a few “gifts” – a small part of a map, a bus ticket stamped with “changes required,” and their original name tag which had been stained in tea.

So what does all this mean?

Some people did leave wondering this very question. But that is part of the whole idea behind theodrama/transformance art. The “meaning” is not what’s so important, or at least having one specific Meaning is not important. Hopefully the event as a whole encouraged an experience that shook people slightly off course and perhaps, just perhaps, God was able to give God in some way. Considering the short amount of time we spent planning the event, I thought it went really well and had some great content. Everyone seemed happy with it. One of the Ikon folks I talked to afterwards said it was remarkably similar in tone to a regular Ikon event (not that copying Ikon is the point). Overall it was a great experience. I am very intrigued by the creation of these kinds of spaces and I hope I can do something like this again in the future.

[My overall reflections on the week are still to come. I’ll also post the introduction I wrote some time later today (here).]

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon is over
August 17, 2008

Minnekon is all over. The service tonight, “a.way,” was great. I’ll definitely blog more about that in the next couple days. However, right now it’s late and I’m going to bed. Tomorrow we travel back to Waco (or is it today?).

At least a couple more Minnekon posts will be coming…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 3
August 16, 2008

Today Pete spoke on the church. Here are a few highlights:

  • Doubt is not what makes faith weak but what makes it strong.
  • Doubt and uncertainty make our decisions more courageous.
  • Embrace the world and all its joy and suffering – that is where God is (from Bonhoeffer).
  • Revelation as rupture
  • No distinction between hearing and heeding.
  • Being the miraculous is more important than believing in the miraculous.
  • How does this work in the context of the church?
  • 1 – Church should speak to our social self. Aligning our actions with our beliefs.
  • Doubt must be open rather than just allowing the people to let the pastor or institution believe on their behalf.
  • Church often speaks to how we should believe. Instead should talk to our social self that doesn’t believe these things. Pastors must show doubt and live fully in the world. They must break the spell.
  • 2 – Church needs to bring people to maturity. Leaders must be ones who refuse leadership.
  • The last teaching of a great leader is that you must betray me.
  • Love is always in excess. Loving disciple always goes beyond the teacher. Church must encourage this kind of betrayal.
  • 3 – Churche should be place of suspended space (epoche). Becoming nobody, nothing in that place. That’s the place God speaks. Enact the eschaton. God is always with those without identity. God is there when we divest ourselves. God speaks in the place of no place.
  • 4 – Belonging before belief.
  • Jesus didn’t talk much about theology.
  • 5 – Longing for the event of God.

After Pete’s final talk we did our serious work towards developing an Ikon-like service/theodrama/transformance art for Saturday night. The theme for the night is “a.way” or “(finding) a.way (from here).” The following are the elements of an Ikon event that we worked on developing for Saturday night:

  • Liturgy – theological words
  • Ritual – interactive communal response
  • Visuals
  • Music
  • Reflections – often personal
  • Stories – more theological content but through parables, poetry, etc.
  • Gift – something for each person to take away from the evening.

Well, that’s probably enough for now. I have to work on the introduction to the event (part of the liturgy). We’ll see how that goes…

[By the way, I plan on following up on all this with some general reflection on the events of the week]

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 2
August 14, 2008

We just got back to the hotel from session 2 of Minnekon. More good stuff. Good conversations. Good talks. Good workshops. Another great day. Here are some highlights:

  • Pete talked about revelation
  • An icon is not something we just look at but is also where God looks at us. Where we gaze upon the invisible and where the invisible gazes upon us.
  • Our theology is a response to God’s incoming. Our theology indirectly relates to God.
  • Revelation is not about God whispering in our ear, but is about incomprehension, bedazzlement, and transformation.
  • Revelation more like enlightenment – changes how we see the world.
  • If revelation is a whisper in our ear, then knowledge and action can be separated. We can know the truth and not do the truth. Rollins says revelation doesn’t allow this. You are what you do. You are your social self.
  • Jesus was radical because he seemed to forgive people without condition. Perhaps unconditional forgiveness helps bring forth repentance. You see this in the prodigal story.
  • Tony Jones and Peter Rollins had some dialogue after Pete’s talk. Tony asked about how all of this works in real life. What does it mean for a devotional life with God? Would these things have been harder to come to in American life? Lots of discussion followed around these questions.
  • After the talks, Sarah, Jonny, Kellie and Pete presented more “lessons in evandalism.” This part of the night was primarily centered on Jonny leading us through some artistic exercises (Im not exactly sure what to call it…but it was good stuff). Lots of interesting stuff. Good group discussion and work. I have really enjoyed the contributions from the non-Pete Ikon folks. These are very bright, creative, and thoughtful people. They have much to offer and I have much to learn. Good thing we have a couple more days…

More tomorrow…now comes sleep.

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
August 14, 2008

We just finished up a conversation with Peter Rollins and the Ikon folks with the Emergent cohort here in Minneapolis – the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort. Lots of good conversation. Here are a few highlights:

  • Rollins (when starting Ikon and after leaving his church): “I have no vision at all. I only know what I don’t want it to be.”
  • I’m a big advocate of not knowing what to do and doing it.
  • A big thing for me is not allowing ourselves to connect our ideas with God.
  • Instead of fulfilling your dreams, finding new ones.
  • Atheism for Lent – something Ikon puts together each year for Lent. They read the great atheist critiques of Christianity – not to critique them but to allow them to critique us.
  • Priestly role is to refuse the priesthood – helps usher in priesthood of all believers.
  • Pete’s role is to make sure no one colonizes these spaces.
  • Ikon is like a donut with a hole in the middle. Regular church is jam filled donut. No center, everyone on periphery.
  • At Ikon – only person who cares about you is the person next to you.
  • Create a void and allow God to give God.
  • Creating Ikon causes an orbit to occur. Interesting people are attracted to it. Pre-Ikon and Post-Ikon times are most important.
  • Leader is very important – to refuse leadership. Create and let it die.
  • Dreaming new dreams can’t have a plan – it’s uncharted, new wineskin. Can’t have a plan for starting a new community. The only thing you know is you must go somewhere that is not here. “Where are you going?” “I am going away from here.”
  • Create an atmosphere where people are ruptured – this is transformance art.
  • Repetition of difference – repeat things but differently.
  • Liberal and conservative – two different ways of trying to say the right answer. Alternative is to say views aren’t God’s views

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 1
August 13, 2008

Today was the first official day for the Minnekon conference/workshop in Minneapolis, featuring Peter Rollins and his friends from Ikon. The schedule is perfect. We start each day with a talk from Pete at 4:00 (which means we get to sleep in and spend some time around town during the morning and early afternoon. Today Brooke and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which was wonderful). Pete has three talks planned. Today was about God, tomorrow is about Revelation and Friday is about Church. After the session we all ate dinner together which gives a good amount of time to hang out and chat with Pete, the Ikon folks, and other people attending the conference/workshop. After dinner are the more practical workshops led by all the Ikon crew. An excellent schedule. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Perfect.

So anyways, here are some highlights from today:

  • Rollins: “I agree with much of what I say, but not everything.”
  • Most churches follow the time line of “believe, behave, belong.” This should be turned around. Belonging to the community should be the first step, which may lead to a change of behavior, and perhaps a change in beliefs.
  • We are an object before God. We don’t name God, God names us. God is the absolute subject.
  • Not everything that exists can be made into an object (example: life).
  • Is Rollins’ view a fancy kind of agnosticism? Not exactly. Rather, whereas agnosticism is a middle ground between atheism and theism, approaching God in the way Rollins proposes is more like holding both extremes at the same time – and maybe being ripped apart as we are stretched by holding both ends of the spectrum.
  • Rollins: “I’m not going to let the word ‘God’ get in the way.” But the word God does have value. But even this important word should not get in the way of transformation.
  • Rollins: “Sharing rituals we have created is very important to me.” Belonging is very important.
  • At Ikon they have started an “Omega Course” (as opposed to the Alpha Course), which is designed to help people “exit Christianity in 12 weeks.”
  • Rollins: “My job at Ikon is to refuse leadership.”
  • The members of Ikon are those who would be greatly missed if they left. The word member comes from the idea of a body part. In this way, a member is someone who would be greatly missed, in the same way that a finger would be greatly missed as part of the hand.
  • The workshop part of today’s session was led by the Ikon crew – Pete, Sarah, Jonny, and Kellie. This part of the week’s activities is going by the name “Lessons in Evandalism” and will be an attempt to convey some of the things Ikon has learned along the way. These workshops will culminate in an Ikon sort of event on Saturday night.
  • In planning Ikon events, the creators consider the following: playfulness + provocation = rupture
  • Ikon tries to find the common ground between “cool” and “disturbing.”

Today was great. Of course there is so much more than what I have written here. These are just the ideas/thoughts that jumped out at me.

More to come…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends
August 12, 2008

Brooke and I are in Minneapolis for Minnekon, a conference/workshop of sorts with Peter Rollins and a few of his friends (Kellie, Sarah, and Jonny) from Ikon, a religious collective in Belfast, Ireland. The workshop, put together by Chris Enstad, will run Wednesday-Saturday. I hope to post a little each day – we’ll see how that goes…

Tonight the Ikon crew were guests at Theology on Tap – a monthly theology discussion group here in Minneapolis. Brooke and I joined about 25 people at Glueck Restaurant and Bar for some good discussion to get the week started. Pete mostly gave an introduction to Ikon and some of the main ideas he has written about in his books. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

  • Pete gave a good intro about how Ikon got started. It basically started with just a name and an idea to do something of a religious sort in a local bar. He asked the owner if they could use the place and he said yes. Then he had to figure out what in the world he was going to do. If I remember correctly, that was about 5-6 years ago.
  • Pete said there are no members of Ikon – no one wants to claim to be a member. Instead there are only non-members. He said they are developing an official course on how to become a non-member, leading to receiving a non-membership card (ha!).
  • I appreciated Kellie’s words about how sometimes the faith we grew up with must die and how there is a grieving process that goes along with that. That may not be exactly what she said, but it was something along those lines. I was struck by the idea of there being many people going through this grieving process and needing hospitable spaces to grieve and move on in their faith, or loss of faith.
  • I’m really excited that Pete came with three other people from Ikon (and a fourth is here who used to be part of Ikon). I can already see that this will add a lot to the experience. They are all very different and approach the ideas in Pete’s books from different angles.

So those are just a few things I recall off the top of my head. I’m going to try and keep notes the rest of the week and post some about the talks, workshops, etc.

I’m off to bed…the day started way too early…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief
July 13, 2008

The third and final section of The Fidelity of Betrayal is focused on “The Event of God.” This portion of the book, as with the other sections, is very difficult to discuss in one blog entry. I could write many entries about Rollins’ notion that doubting God is not the same as doubting the miracle of faith – the intervention of God. I could also write many pages about Rollins’ call for communities where belonging comes before believing. And I think I could start a whole new blog to work through the ideas of the last chapter, where Rollins begins to discuss what it might look like to forge faith collectives where “transformance art” and “theodrama” provide space for God to give God. But I simply can’t address all of it. So instead I will leave you with a few of my final thoughts about fidelity, betrayal, and moving towards a church beyond belief.

First of all, I want to make it very clear that Rollins is not simply playing games with this call to betrayal. “The Fidelity of Betrayal” is not just a clever title to help generate interest in the book. Rollins is calling for us to betray Christianity. To betray the Bible, God, and the Church. But we must remember, Rollins is calling us to a faithful betrayal. Rollins believes our ideas about God and the Bible, which take form in the Church and Christianity, point to a transforming event, a miracle that we cannot deny. And this miracle is what provokes our faith and our attempts to explain our faith. But these explanations and beliefs always fall short of expressing the miracle that has transformed us from the inside out. The miracle is unexplainable but undeniable. So we must always betray the solidification of the radical miracle of faith into mere beliefs. This does not mean we cannot hold beliefs, but we must hold them with great humility, always being willing to betray these beliefs – to rethink and reformulate these beliefs. And we must always acknowledge that these beliefs cannot hold the transforming event they attempt to describe.

I sincerely appreciate Rollins’ call for faithful betrayal, but more than anything I am intrigued by Rollins’ call for a church beyond belief. Again, this is not merely clever wording. Rollins is challenging us to move beyond churches centered on commonly held beliefs. Again, let me make it clear, beliefs are not bad. But we must move beyond beliefs as the central focus. Instead, we must acknowledge the centrality of the life transforming miracle these beliefs attempt to describe. A miracle that is truly beyond belief. A miracle that is beyond the system of Christianity. So what might a church beyond belief look like? This is what interests me more than anything else. With Rollins, I am interested in the development of this type of church. In the past I have called it “a church that’s not a church.” (also see this post, which describes a significant shift in my thinking about church). Rollins plays with the terms “religious collective,” “transformance art,” and “theodrama” as he tries to describe such a group.

In conclusion, I leave you with some of Rollins’ thoughts about the formation and nature of these experimental collectives:

“Here I am referring to the formation of passionate, provocative gatherings, operating on the fringes of religious life, that offer anarchic experiments in theodrama that re-imagine the distinction between Christian and non-Christian, priest and prophet, doubt and certainty, the sacred and secular – gatherings that employ a rich cocktail of music, poetry, prose, imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual, and reflection: gatherings that provide a place that is open to all, is colonized by none, and that celebrates diversity.

“Such an immersive, theodramatic space would aim to affirm the need for (1) collective reflection; (2) a space where individuals can lay aside political, religious, and social identities; and finally (3) offer creative, ritualistic acts that invite, affirm, recall, and relate the event housed within the religion without religion that is Christianity.”

And finally:

“These temporary spaces will likely appear as much in art galleries, on street corners, in bars and basements, as they will in churches and cathedrals…[E]verything, absolutely everything, will be designed to invite, encourage, solicit, seek out, recall, remember, reach out to, bow down before, and cry out to that unspeakable miracle that dwells, quite literally, beyond belief.”

I realize this is all pretty wild and crazy. Would something like this even be a church? Would it be Christian? Personally, I think those are the wrong questions. I don’t care if it’s really a church or truly Christian. I think it might be something “other.”

What do you think? I’d really love to hear your thoughts about a church beyond belief.

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
July 5, 2008

In Part 2, as Rollins is betraying God, he turns to both Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer to assist him in this betrayal. As you know, Bonhoeffer has been much on my mind over the past nine months or so, so it was interesting to read Rollins’ thoughts about how Bonhoeffer connects to some of the ideas of faithful betrayal. This was particularly interesting in the context of Rollins’ thoughts on Nietzsche, who certainly influenced Bonhoeffer’s prison theology.

With Nietzsche’s assistance, Rollins addresses the issue of finding meaning in the world. If the core of Christianity is related to finding purpose in our lives and knowing that God loves us, then is Christianity merely a way of finding meaning in life? Is this the primary purpose of Christianity – to give us meaning and purpose within the context of our understanding of God and his purposes for the world?

I think this is largely true of Christianity – faith in God primarily as a way to find meaning.

The problem with this scenario is that these intellectual beliefs can become a hindrance to us truly living in the world. And these beliefs do not necessarily lead to a transformed life in this world. In fact, in many cases, finding peace and meaning in life can lead towards a rejection of this world and/or the creation of a false dichotomy between believing and living.

Rollins contests that Nietzsche’s protest was against any system (including atheism) that provided an all-encompassing way of finding meaning in life. Instead, Nietzsche hoped for a time when we would live with a full embrace of this world – embracing both its beauty and its terror. Rollins concludes that Nietzsche’s argument was not necessarily for or against the existence of God. Rather, his argument “claimed that the question of God’s existence was redundant.” Instead of asking the big question “why,” Rollins sees Nietzsche undermining the question entirely. Rollins asserts, “In response to the question ‘Why?’ [Nietzsche] replied, ‘Why ask why?’”

As I was reading this I couldn’t help but think about how related this is to Bonhoeffer’s prison theology. So I was quite excited when the very next page introduced Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity” into the discussion! Connecting Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer, Rollins writes:

“[Bonhoeffer] wondered how to express the relevance of God (the God of faith) to those who do not feel the need for God (the Cartesian God that provides a matrix of meaning), while encouraging those who embrace such ideological religion to grow beyond it – helping those who have forsaken God (the Cartesian God) to find God (the God of faith) and those who have found God to forsake God.

“By exploring these issues he was responding to the idea that Christianity for a long time has been aimed at responding to a need in people (such as the feeling of guilt). As such it has been expressed as good news that can only be heard once a person has been brought low by the bad news…Bonhoeffer wondered whether it is possible to embrace God out of love and lightness of heart, out of a seduction that is caught up in the call of God rather than the need of God.”

How about that! Yes! The very questions I think are the most important regarding how to be a Christian/person of faith/lover of God in today’s world.

Any thoughts? Does this make any sense?

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying God
June 29, 2008

In Part 2 of Peter RollinsThe Fidelity of Betrayal he takes up the topic of the being of God. Whereas in Part 1 Rollins’ argued that we must betray the Bible, in Part 2 he proposes we must also betray God. Rollins concludes this section with the following summary:

“…we must learn that in order to approach the God of faith and the truth affirmed by Christianity, we must betray the God we grasp – for the God who brings us into a new life is never the God we grasp but always in excess of that God. The God we affirm is then, at its best, inspired by the incoming of God and born there, but it is never to be confused with God.

“In the aftermath of God’s happening the true worshipper attempts to paint the most beautiful pictures imaginable to reflect that happening. It is this heartfelt endeavor to paint the most refined and beautiful conceptual images that speaks of God, not the actual descriptions we create.”

Rollins sees many problems with the common method for attempting to understand and speak of God. This method, which views God as an object of our contemplation, involves creating a distance between the believer and the source of the believer’s faith, so that we can dissect and explore the object (God), in much the same way as we might take apart and examine a computer. By attempting to examine God as a disinterested observer we have distanced ourselves from the most intimate and personal relationship in our lives. We have approached the question of God “as a problem to be pondered, dissected, and solved, rather than a mystery to inhabit and be transformed by.” Rollins believes this method hands over all authority to the experts and creates a false dichotomy between seeking truth and pursuing a life of devotion and service. Rollins is fearful of reducing Christianity to “a set of claims concerning ideas such as the world’s being created for a purpose, God’s loving us, and the existence of heaven.” By reducing Christianity to these claims we lose the transformational potential of the encounter with God. In addition, this view of Christianity can cause an unhealthy, and even dangerous, abandonment of this world, as we look solely to the next world.

Instead of viewing God as an object to be contemplated, “God is named as a verb,” and a happening being “made known only in action, only as blessing.” God is beyond understanding but is also intimately near to us. God is not an object but “a mystery to participate in,” giving new life. This new life “fundamentally changes how we interact with the things we see, touch, and experience.” God is not an object but is that which radically changes our own way of experiencing the world and everything in it. As with our rejection of the Bible, our rejection of God does not mean we can no longer speak of God, but it does mean we must always recognize that our words about God always come up short. God is always beyond our words and our conception of him. We must not attempt to distance ourselves from God in order to understand him. Instead we must welcome the incoming of God and embrace the mystery and transformative nature of this event we always fail to adequately describe.

(more to come on Part 2 – some thoughts about Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer)

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying the Bible
June 14, 2008

In concluding Part 1, “The Word of God,” Peter Rollins writes:

“It is all too common for Christians to attempt to do justice to the scriptural narrative by listening to it, learning from it, and attempting to extract a way of viewing the world from it. But the narrative itself is asking us to approach it in a much more radical way. It is inviting us to wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it, and contest it – not as an end in itself, but as a means of approaching its life-transforming truth, a truth that dwells within and yet beyond the words…And so, in our desire to remain absolutely, totally, and resolutely faithful to the Word of God, we come face to face with the idea that we must be prepared to wrestle with, question, and even betray the words.”

In Part 1, Rollins discusses the Bible. He begins by revealing the people of God in the Bible, Israel, as those who wrestle with God. In contrast to Islam, which means peace or submission, the people of Yahweh are called Israel, meaning those who wrestle with God. This notion of those who seek, follow, and love God being those who wrestle with God, is the central idea of the book. As he continues to discuss the Bible, Rollins proposes that in order to be faithful to the Bible, we must in fact “wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it…contest it…and even betray [it].” Rollins encourages us to refuse both of the common ways of dealing with the difficulties and ambiguities found in scripture – the two ways being 1) attempting to explain away the difficulties, and 2) accepting the difficulties but refusing to view the text as the divine Word. In place of these two options, Rollins proposes that we do not need to see the seeming contradictions in the Bible as a great dilemma. In fact, he believes the contradictions in the text are exactly what we would expect to find in a text inspired by God. Rollins sees the various stories of the Bible as attempts to put into words that which cannot be put into words, namely, the experience of God. So, in wrestling with the text we must realize that it is not merely an academic exercise in which we attempt to find the one true meaning of the text. Instead, to read the Bible in a truly transformative manner we must recognize that the text itself does not hold God. Rather, the text points to an encounter, an Event, that occurred in the lives of the authors. This encounter, this gaping hole in the text, is the Word of God, something behind and beyond the text itself. Rollins compares this to a crater, which is a sign of the occurrence of a volcanic eruption. The crater, or text, is not the Event itself, but rather points to the Event.

I believe Rollins’ view of the Bible has the potential to radically transform our reading of scripture. In fact, I believe this view saves the Bible and reinstates it as a text that can transform the reader. So much of modern Bible study is viewed as an academic exercise aimed at dissecting the text in order to find the original meaning and intention of the author. When taken to its logical conclusion, this method of reading robs the average reader and establishes the Biblical scholar as the only person capable of truly understanding the text. At best, with this most common method, we are all dependent on an expert who has been able to study the most recent Biblical scholarship. Rollins’ argument does not dispute the importance of Biblical scholarship, he simply desires to restore the rightful place of the Bible as a transformative text – a text that can radically change us as we struggle to encounter the true source, God, who is found beyond the words of the Bible.

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: An Introduction
May 27, 2008

After immediately devouring Peter Rollins’ new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief (read my initial thoughts), I am now going back and rereading the book, slowly sifting through the material and thinking through the implications of Rollins’ provocative work. As part of this process I will be blogging through the book over the next few weeks. I hope you join me as I wrestle with the significant concepts presented in this book. And I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way.

In the introduction, Rollins presents the question, “What Would Judas Do?” Rollins uses this question as a tool to delve into his notion that we must betray Christianity in order to remain faithful to it. He writes:

“In other words, what would Jesus do when confronted with Christianity today? Would Jesus do what Judas did, and betray it? In saying this I am not hinting at the rather mundane insight that Jesus would betray the anemic, inauthentic, self-serving Churchianity that so often festers quietly under the banner of Christianity today. I am not asking whether Jesus would turn the tables on what passes as contemporary Christianity in favor of a more robust and radical version that may have once existed in an age long past. Rather, by asking whether Jesus would betray Christianity as Judas betrayed Christ, I am asking if Jesus would plot the downfall of Christianity in every form it takes.”

Continuing the introduction, Rollins sees the consequences of this faithful betrayal as twofold:

“First, we are led to embrace the idea of Christianity as a religion without religion, that is, as a tradition, that is always prepared to wrestle with itself, disagree with itself, and betray itself. Second, this requires a way of structuring religious collectives that operate at a deeper level than the mere affirmation of shared doctrines, creeds, and convictions. It involves the formation of dynamic, life-affirming collectives that operate, quite literally, beyond belief.”

At the Emergent Village blog, Rollins further explains the core concept of the book:

“In this work I make the claim that, in order to remain faithful to Christianity, we must be courageous enough to betray the bible (section 1), God (section 2) and the church (section 3). Why? Do I think that we must abandon them as redundant relics of a by-gone era? Do I think that they have served their purpose? Or do I feel that they prevent the world coming of age? By no means! Here I argue for a betrayal that remains faithful to these very words by helping us to re-discover the truly untamed, white-hot, life-transforming reality that they house.” (HT: EV blog)

I hope these quotes intrigue you enough to join in as I discuss this book, and perhaps you will even buy the book and read it with me – I hope you do.

You can read the entire prologue and introduction online.

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Blogosphering
May 16, 2008

Going beyond the Christian “table”

Cheryl Lawrie has some interesting thoughts about alternative communities and looking outside the Christian community. I think she’s talking about “church that’s not a church.” You should read the whole post, but here’s a sample:

“Most conversations about new forms of church or christian community are about rethinking the table at which the disciples sit. True confession… this project doesn’t emerge from any interest in that table, or even really in the disciples. i think the really interesting stuff of the gospels is the other stories – the tables Jesus went to where the disciples weren’t invited, or where they were so absent no-one thought to mention their presence – the afternoons at Mary and Martha’s, the nameless person’s house where Jesus met the syro-phonoecian woman, dinner at Levi’s house, dinner with Peter’s mother, the ‘water into wine’ wedding table… i think they’re the fun tables.”

Listen to Peter Rollins

Check out this lecture by Peter Rollins entitled “On the supreme difficulty of atheism and why only the religious can attain it.”

Dear God: Hear us, one prayer at a time

Send your prayers directly to God, via this blog. Lots of good reading and quite a holy voyeuristic pleasure of sorts. (HT: Walking Away)

The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival

Check out the press release for Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt’s upcoming tour. Here’s a snippet:

“Taking a page out of the Billy Sunday playbook, the authors will spread the emergent message of a generous, hope-filled Christian faith in the style and cadence of the tent revival preachers of a hundred years ago. They plan to have fun with it, wearing frock suits and selling “healing balm,” but the goal is, as in the revivals of yore, to preach the good news.”

Radiohead video for “All I Need”

Check out this powerful video from Radiohead juxtaposing two children from opposite sides of the world – one rich, one poor. (HT: Gathering in Light)

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Initial Thoughts
May 15, 2008

Ever since reading Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God I have been looking forward to his next book. In fact, I can’t remember a book I have anticipated more highly. So when The Fidelity of Betrayal arrived on Tuesday I was filled with excitement. That night I read about two thirds of the book and yesterday I finished the last third. I devoured it. I couldn’t read it fast enough. It was wonderful. Sometimes I find it helpful to start engaging a book by reading through it quickly, in order to gain the overall big picture, and then to go through it slowly, savoring every word. I am really looking forward to reading it again and blogging through it, just like I did when I read How (Not) to Speak of God for the second time. Hopefully I can start that in the next couple weeks.

Here are few initial comments related to the new book.

First, I think this book successfully builds upon the concepts in Rollins’ first book and takes them to the next level. So if you’re interested in Rollins’ work, I recommend buying both books and starting with How (Not) to Speak of God. Basically, The Fidelity of Betrayal builds on an idea Rollins started working with in the first book. In fact, he builds on the idea that most intrigued me in his first book – the notion of giving up Christianity in order to truly fulfill it. In his first book Rollins relates a powerful story from the movie Amen in which a priest in Nazi Germany gives up his Christian faith and becomes a Jew in order to identify with the persecuted, a move the priest believes is necessary in order to truly live his Christian beliefs. The Fidelity of Betrayal takes this concept and examines it through three lenses, the Word of God, the Being of God, and the Event of God, which forms the structure for the book.

Second, I’m convinced that Phyllis Tickle is right in her assessment of Rollins’ work. She writes, “Here in pregnant bud is the rose, the emerging new configuration, of a Christianity that is neither Roman nor Protestant, neither Eastern nor monastic; but rather is the re-formation of all of them. Here, in pregnant bud, is third-millennium Christianity.” I really believe it. What Rollins (and others) is writing about and doing may not be the future of Christianity but it is certainly a future of Christianity. And the possibility of this future gives me much hope. I believe the core concepts of this book are going to, and already are starting to re-form Christianity in our world. I’m not talking about a shift in the core beliefs of Christianity, but rather a revolution of how Christianity is experienced and expressed in the world.

Third, Rollins ends his new book with some discussion about starting communities that are forged in the midst of these ideas. He quite literally proposes “a church beyond belief” (the subtitle of the book). In short, Rollins is looking at the implications of moving from the church as a bastion of beliefs, towards communities of transformation. Just as Rollins argues for a “religion without religion” I think he is imagining a sort of church that’s not a church, which is exactly what I am most interested in.

So go buy this book. Read it. Think about it. Argue with it. Soak in it. And in the process, allow God to transform you.

[Check out my series on How (Not) to Speak of God]

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Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

The Fidelity of Betrayal
April 4, 2008

Only 26 days until the release of The Fidelity of Betrayal, Peter Rollins’ follow-up to the fabulous How (Not) to Speak of God.

This is my most anticipated book of 2008. No one is doing a better job of beginning to navigate and explore a postmodern Christianity. How (Not) to Speak of God really challenged and influenced my thinking about the Church and Christianity in today’s world – more than any other contemporary book (I blogged about it extensively).

Check out an excerpt from The Fidelity of Betrayal.

Here are a couple stand-out quotes from the excerpt:

I am asking if Jesus would plot the downfall of Christianity in every form that it takes. Or rather, to be more precise, I am asking whether Christianity, in its most sublime and revolutionary state, always demands an act of betrayal from the Faithful. In short, is Christianity, at its most radical, always marked by a kiss, forever forsaking itself, eternally at war with its own manifestation.

Such thinking leads to the seemingly paradoxical idea that the deepest way in which we can demonstrate our fidelity to Christianity is to engage in a betrayal of it.

And,

Christianity is not brain surgery or rocket science, it is not quantum mechanics or nuclear physics; it is both infinitely easier and more difficult than all of these. The fragile flame of faith is fanned into life so simply: all we need do is sit still for a few moments, embrace the silence that engulfs us, and invite that flame to burn bright within us. This act is simplicity itself, and, just perhaps, after a lifetime of hardship and struggle, a few of us will achieve it and be set alight by it.