Tag Archives: spirituality

thirst.

“Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, “Clear the way through the wilderness for the LORD! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God!”

– Isaiah 40:3, New Living Translation

Imagine that you were trained from youth to keep a busy schedule. You are socialized to inform others of how busy you are. Time is money. Time is precious. You’re wasting valuable time. Time is OF the essence. The time is nigh. There is no MARGIN for error. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

With this being pressed for time, you also have little space. No space available. No ROOM in the INN. Time for Spring cleaning. You need to look for a new place because you have so much stuff. Or a newborn child. Infants have to leave their cribs as they grow up to be toddlers. You’re on the EDGE of your seat. This couch is too small.

But hey, at least you get a pat on the back at school. You’ve never had your existence questioned. You always get to read books written by people who look like you. Now you get to college. Maybe grad school. You encounter students who disagree with you. Professors question your assumptions. You may begin to express yourself on facebook, or even start a blog and your audience gives you applause. There’s some pushback. Critics come and go. They may relent on their own. They may get blocked if they are considered too hostile (usually deserving it).

In each of these three instances, there’s no room for margin. In Sunday School class, we have been learning about practices for self-care. The primary text our teacher is referring is The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. One quote was shared that I liked, “When we lack margin, it is our own doing and is a sure sign we have stepped outside the kingdom.”

Have you made room for those living on the edge? Have you made time to listen to the marginated Others? Has the wilderness been cleared to hear the voice of God?

Beyond Belief: Postmodernity & Religion

As I have read more writing on postmodernism I have begun to question many of the assumptions that I have learned throughout my education career. Recently, I have begun to question my own belief about the study of religion. Specifically, through reading Anderson’s piece on postmodernism and religion I question my previous notions of what categorizes religion. I attended TCU as an undergraduate and religion was one of my majors. I chose religion as my major because I wanted to have an objective understanding of religion before deciding how committed I wanted to be in making ministry part of my career. My undergraduate career culminated with a senior seminar course in religion. Throughout this course we discussed various definitions of religion from Thomas Tweed, Fredrich Schleiermacher, Diane Eck, Anthony Pinn, and a variety of others who articulated various definitions of religion. I noticed at that time that many of those scholars were focused on objective views of religion. For me religion has always been something that a person feels. It is an internal conviction with various outward expressions that cannot be quantified. I chose to attend Brite and seminary in general as an attempt to formulate my own subjective ideology about religion. It is from this that I have come to understand religion as beyond traditional notions of belief. From understanding religion in a postmodern context I have come to several realizations.

I have wondered how the Judaeo-Christian context as well as the Western context of religion has influenced scholarship in the field of religious studies. Does Christianity continue to determine the central and privileged norms in global debates about culturally specific ritual practices, localized beliefs on suffering, life, death, and immortality? Certainly not all but there are definitely a great number of religious scholarships that dwells on religious aspects of life, death, and the afterlife. These tools for sifting through various religious beliefs are a decidedly modern Western Christian centric enterprise. Western Christianity’s fascination with the life death and resurrection narrative can taint the way other religion are viewed. For example, it is easy to study religions such as Buddhism and the concept of atman is often viewed as having the “no soul.” The term denotes detachment from a permanent sense of self. However, this is a Western Christian view of atman. The concept of Atman can also be used to describe universal impermanence as opposed to personal impermanence. Universal impermanence means that there are no absolutes. This view of atman allows for more religious plurality and does not confine religious constructs to monolithic interpretations.

I have also questioned to notion of belief as the decisive epistemological term with respect to defining religion. Religion can be easily defined based on the practices and beliefs that a pertinent to a particular group of people. For example, Ninian Smart uses a worldview analysis to describe various dimensions of religious beliefs. According to him there are seven different dimension: doctrinal, mythological, ritual, ethical, experiential, institutional, and the material. Ironically enough he uses these dimensions as a platform to get away from both Western and Christian quantifications on the study of comparative religions. His 1998 addition of the material dimension is proof of the arbitrary nature dimensional analysis. He limits the definition of religion to specific functions of a belief system with all seven aspects as important Western construction emphasis on how to compare religions. For me as I think of religion a major aspect of it that is that Smart misses is the ineffability of religion. What would Smart make of the various views on religion that are not expressed through a particular dimension? Not all aspect of a religion fit neatly into a particular category nor are they articulated as such from various worldviews.

Lastly, I have begun question the need for justification as a part of religious studies. Much of religious studies has focused on an obsession with the justification of a particular faith. Reason as the primary factor to appeal or analyze a particular religious concern seems to be another Western Christian tradition. A major part of early Christianity was the need for apologetics. During the first centuries of the Roman Empire, the early Christians were heavily persecuted for their beliefs. Many charges were brought against them for their seemingly absurd beliefs. Thus it became necessary for survival to depend on a proverbial defense of ones’ faith. This logic to justify faith has carried over into the present and many describe religion using apologetic even if they do so by using a different name. Reason becomes the principle point for analysis. I prefer to think of religion not based on how a faith is justified through reason but how it is experienced by both the individual and the community. Religion through experience for me is a pivotal turning point for the discourse of religion. The chief concern for me related to religion is not the question what do you believe rather it is how is it lived.

Demons & Spiritual Warfare: What constitutes ‘Horror Movies’?

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience

– Ephesians 2:2

Personally, I’ve never really been much into the Horror genre when it comes to films. But this time of year, October/Halloween season, if there’s ever a time I’d be privy to catching a spooky flick, it’d be now! … But in this post, I just want to explore, what exactly ought to constitute a “Horror” Movie?

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Of course , when it comes to the horror movies of the silver screen as they are commonly defined in pop-culture, then tend to feature such elements as ghosts and goblins, witches and vampires, forsaken castles and dungeons, and of course, even the theologically-inspired demons and the otherwise paranormal.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Halloween, Nightmare Before Christmas,Saw, The Texas Chainsaw,Jaws, the pulse-pounding litany of films depicting haunted places and killings…. all these we have identified, collectively as ‘horror’. It’s almost as if it’s been relegated to an aesthetic that’s emphasized Oct. 31st. But what about any other time of the year? What is the danger of emphasizing horror/ the demonic as an aesthetic as opposed to a very real reality that is more than mere fiction?

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Herein lies why I believe I don’t care too much for HOrror films- because they don’t depict the existential horrors (i.e. demonic strongholds) that plague people’s lives. I struggle to take them seriously, even if they may be sometimes fun to watch. In my last post I mentioned Satoshi Kon, a highly regarded Japanese animator who had a huge influence on many- one of which is the great Darren Aranofsky.

Aronofsky is known for some pretty trippy film experiences : The Black Swan and the recent controversial Noah ( yes, even that was trippy!), but none of his films has had quite the same impact on pop culture as ‘Requiem For a Dream’

Without revealing too much, Requiem For a Dream made me understand the demonic like no other movie I’ve even seen. The very title itself is telling-  essentially “[Catholic] Funeral for a Dream”, as we see it tell of the lives of 4 folks whose biggest hopes, dreams and aspirations are literally snatched and gnawed away by the vice grip that drugs ( of various kinds) have on their lives. The looming sense of terror and anguish I felt in my own body just watching this film, was unlike anything any  ‘horror’ films could have ever even begun to make me feel. And it made me cringe at the horror of a human life being worn away by the forces of the human condition that are so strong, they needn’t be reduced to an aesthetic. The grip and destruction is real. The destruction wrought on young black unarmed, innocent men and women at the hands of police brutality is real, the effects of war, terrorism, corrupt institutions- if Christ’s ministry teaches us anything, it’s that with Satan being “Prince of the Air” , we are all living in something of a ‘horror film’ that is gradually being redeemed- whose genre is gradually changing!