As the World Spins . . .

Posted: August 10, 2011 in Hermeneutics, Theology
Tags: , , , , , ,
Basil the Great, father of the church

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I could easily begin this entry with, “as the world spins, so do the facades of our lives.” But that would be cliché. I suppose the point is moot now that I have already said it. Nevertheless, I have been spending some time observing, listening, and pondering just a bit of our human behavior.  What I have noticed most recently is the human capacity to fabricate a reality that is more comfortable than the one in which the person lives. I suppose I could look back to the days of President Clinton and how the partisan spin machines began to roll. Or I could point to President Bush’s administration and how Postmodernity’s “truth of the individual” was applied in order to make an argument for war in Iraq. But I won’t. I am thinking more in lines of how people cope as creatures of community.

It seems that there are a number of triggers that start a person down the road of such fabrication. One of the most common is the response to communal shame. If a person behaves in a way that is contrary to the communal norms (or formal standards of acceptability), that person often experiences various forms of pressure to conform, e.g., ostracism, marginalization, public shaming, etc. As a consequence, the person may begin to experience the inability to meet the standards. When faced with this the subject may in turn begin to construct a facade that appears to conform to the standards of the larger community. Another common trigger is that of suffering. I have spoken with a number of people who have come out of abusive households who have constructed such facades that served the purpose of creating a perceptive utopic alter reality which contrasts the living hell in which they live.

I suppose spinning our own realities is nothing more than giving anesthesia to a wounded person. However, it also fails to allow us to process and interpret the realities through which we suffer. Now admittedly, these alter realities can be small graces that shield victims from the unbearable truth of the moment. And yet at the same time it is not until the truth is processed and interpreted that a path toward healing can be trodden.

While it is essential to recognize those instances, what I have been struggling to understand, not only in our culture, but in the church also, is how people spin facades in order to gain positions of influence and respectability (not necessarily within the organized structure of the church but within the community as a whole). I suspect that there are underlying insecurities that have affected these behaviors. What I find especially disturbing in the church is that the metanarrative by which we (the church) measure our perception of reality stands in complete contrast to such fabrications. I believe Jesus directed his attention to the sinners and tax collectors because they were transparent in the mess they called life. Yet even in the context of such a narrative, we continue to spin realities that seem more palatable than the ones in which we find ourselves.

An unfortunate consequence to such fabrication is that such behavior is easily and unintentionally taught and handed down from one generation to the next. Perhaps the lesson that is missing in the midst of this is the contribution of fear. I wonder to what degree the fear of withheld love plays in this (the most common source of insecurity)? One of the things we (Christians) do not do well with is creating sanctuaries where people can experience unconditional love. Too often love and acceptance are used as leverage for behavioral conformity. A significant pneumatological question here arises regarding life transformation. Once again I am led to wonder if it is the lack of faith in God’s Spirit at work in the person that keeps us from letting go of our desire to “change people’s lives and bring in the kingdom of God” on our own. Isn’t it God’s work to change lives and bring in his kingdom? And isn’t it the disciples’ work to love God and neighbor? Perhaps all this spin might find its end in a community where there is a fundamental belief in redemption and the current reality is perceived and accepted within that context, a place where unconditional love flourishes.

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