Day 8: What’s In A Name?

I’m blogging my way through Neighbors & Wisemen for Lent. Here are 3 quick reflections from chapter 8.Neighbors & Wisemen

This reoccurring theme of 2 teams provides some challenging implications.

“I was raised to believe in a two world team consisting of the spiritual haves and have-nots. Christians are the “haves.” Everyone else are the “have-nots.”

When there are 2 teams – all sort of problem from. Some are little, some are major. Some are ethical, some have to do with identity.

  • Giving to beggars. I who have much am concerned with what they might do with a little that I give them. That they might be irresponsible. I do not want to feed into or enable that dis-function.  I do not worry nearly as much (or if at all) about my own irresponsibility. I rarely question my excess and my surplus – they are so easy to justify since there is so much to work with.  (I am confessing here)
  • Other Religions. I don’t need to look into the differences between Islam or Hinduism to see where there might be some mutual-informing with Christianity. It doesn’t matter. Neither of them is true so it doesn’t matter. They are both on the other team.
  • Denominations. Last week I attempted to say that there were significant and good differences between Conservatives, Liberals, Evangelicals, Emergents, and Progressives. I was struck that in a 2 team system these differences are not as significant as what I was attempting to say, and also that folks have not generally thought much about the subject.

 

What’s My Name? 

I had a classmate from the Asian side of the Pacific Rim. He taught me a valuable lesson about names. In his culture you say your family name first, then your father’s name, then your own.  He told me that it didn’t make sense any other way. If it was not for your family, and then your father – there would be no you.

The way that we order our name is telling.  I have another friend who comes from a proud line of Europeans. He is a third generation American and he is only the second person in his family to have the same last name as his father. In his culture your last name is your dad’s first name + son.
So he would be Jake Mortenson. His father was Morten Hanson. His grandfather was Han Svenson or something.  But of course that gets complicated in U.S. America. So they ceased the practice.

This stuff is important because it is not just the way we speak.  It is the way that we conceptualize identity.

 God’s Identity 

“I was starting the process of reading my Bible through from beginning to end, when I came upon these words on my Bible’s first page: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image.’”

God’s self-declared identity is communal. Could it be that our identity is communal as well?

I love this question – but would take it a step further.

God’s identity is not just communal it is relational. We need to not just conceptualize god as communal (multiple) but a communing. It has to be inter-related. Our conceptions don’t just stand apart in perfect essences … we need to conceptualize God as interacting.

If this were a paper for school I would say: It is not just in multiplicity. It is in relationality. 

 

Let me know what you think about any of this:

  • the implication of a 2 team system
  • the name game 
  • God as mutual relatedness 
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16 comments
_JacquiB
_JacquiB like.author.displayName 1 Like

It was the "Image" section that grabbed me - discussing how Tony resented Ari for all living at home and being content with it when he could be out on his own. True confession time. This one has been eating at me since the day I read it. I had lived by myself for close to 10 years, pretty much since I left for college, until 6 months ago when a (then) 17 yr old I'd been mentoring needed a place to go. I was pretty used to having my space and when I put something down, I was reasonably confident it would still be there when I looked for it later. But then this kid showed up. I love her, and she's been mostly delightful. But I have learned parenting by jumping into the deep end. Last week, when I read this chapter, I was feeling smothered. Like this kid was well on her way to snuffing out my personhood, and she may never even know it. I was annoyed, because my house is never quiet in the morning, and there are never clean towels in the bathroom, and I have to leave my house and hide if I want a minute alone. And then I read about Ari. I don't know exactly what the healthy balance is between maintaining some sense of self and being what she needs, being part of a unit, but I do know that what is happening here and the makeshift family that is growing here is good.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @_JacquiB The complexity of community ... or ... the challenge of living with others - would be a book title that I would read by you :)

 

SO glad you inject 'confession' into this.  -Bo 

MarshallPease
MarshallPease like.author.displayName 1 Like

I don't think 'communal' breaks down into 'relational' so easily. 'Relational' is an attribute of individuals with respect to other individuals that only exists within the context of some larger society.  It's the community that exists on its own (if/while successful), drawing individuals into networks of relationships which the community defines and maintains. 

 

'Multiplicity' on the other hand sounds like it wants to treat society as a landscape of similar individuals, suppressing intermediate structures as only vaguely formed or epiphenomenal. Whereas actually the individual person exists as a 'node' in a structure of communal relationships. Of course the particular qualities of the person are important, but we play our parts as members of an orchestra, or rather as a member of many simultaneous orchestras.

 

So I think I (and others) have a live option as to what to identify as my 'self'.

_JacquiB
_JacquiB

@MarshallPease I hadn't really thought about it, but you're right. I agree that there is a fundamental difference between relational and communal. In my mind, it is very possible to be in relationship/relational with someone without being in community/communal. In a relationship, I can interact and share with all of you, but still generally maintainan independent sense of self. Our interaction might start to shape me, but I am all me, next to you. Community, (if/while successful) is not person-centric.A community is an entity and had a life and a rhythm and a heartbeat all its own. To enter into it requires a certain dying to self, a necessary element of sacrifice. Community is not about one next to another, but each bearing pieces of the other. A really interesting clarification, Marshall. Thanks for bringing it up.

MarshallPease
MarshallPease

 @_JacquiB  @BoSanders  My serious point is that a community like an ekklesia has a real independent existence; individuals participate (through relationships) but don't control (eg, what relationships are available to a particular person) . Martyrs are one kind of person who identified with the community more than with their personal body. It's an interesting question whether or to what extent God is interested in humans as collectives ... churches, nations, tribes ... rather than individuals. I think God's use of the plural pronoun is a slender peg to hang anything on, but this would be a fun idea to explore. Does Tony take it somewhere? More Coffee!!! 

kenalto9
kenalto9

 @_JacquiB  @MarshallPease Is community not the awareness or recognition of relationship? In Mother/Son/Spirit did Julian of Norwich not become aware of the All in All? I have reduced coffee intake for Lent so may be processing this even more slowly than usual.

_JacquiB
_JacquiB

@kenalto9 @MarshallPease Not that I'm any kind of authority on the subject, but personally, yes, I think that's a part of it. I actually rolled around a similar thought before posting my comment. You may "accidentally" stumble upon community (that initial awareness) but you cannot accidentally maintain it. It requires an ongoing intentionality and repeated decision to choose love over self.

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @MarshallPease WHOA.  It sound like we may need a pot of french-press coffee to flesh this out over :)

 

I would love that.   -Bo 

kenalto9
kenalto9 like.author.displayName 1 Like

The story of giving alms is also where I end up. The young Tony's motivation," I want to give. Only, when I give, I want to know that I am being truly helpful,” probably illustrates where many of us are coming from with our giving. But when that is where I am coming from with my giving, it is still all about me. If it were first to cross my mind that there is nothing of mine, life and breath included, that has not come from Mother/Son/Spirit perhaps that tight grasp on things would loosen. Services often close with the hope we might go out into the world and see Jesus in everyone we meet, let Jesus be seen by everyone that meets us. A powerful prayer if we work on it.

 

When I began making soup for our soup kitchen, I heard part of a debate where someone questioned the advice that we see ourselves as being Jesus' hands stirring the pot, ladling the bowl. It won't make any difference they said, whether it is Jesus hands or my hands doing the work, the poor will still be fed. It might not make any difference to the people eating the soup was the reply, it will make a difference to you.

 

Your bullet on denominations got me thinking that we are so busy insisting on the differences among Christians that other religions become an incredibly foreign concept. Hope to hear good things from Claremont as it works to being a multi-faith school.

charis9
charis9

 @kenalto9

 I recently heard Doug Pagitt describe the Kingdom of God as a process, and soup kitchens are a great example of that continuing process, although I think that inviting the hungry and homeless home for dinner and perhaps a space to attempt to get it together offers such a blessing that once experienced will never be questioned, aside from those situations where danger might  be a factor... Our two-car garages housing our SUVs will one day be held into account. Charis.  

kenalto9
kenalto9

 @charis9 when you mentioned inviting the two homeless alcoholics home I smiled. Even if our efforts to help do not have our intended effect on those we wish to help, we are helped by the attempt. 

 

The other great metaphor for the Kin-dom is the potluck supper. An Anglican minister in Winnipeg, Cathy Campbell has written a great book on food security and justice called Stations of the Banquet. She likes the potluck where all bring some little thing that they can share and it turns into a feast!

charis9
charis9

Thanks for the reply... I was going to work with the poor of the Philippines in 2000, but when things did not work out and I returned back to the coast of SC and took a lok at my ample refrigerator, I knew then that I could no longer live the way that I had been. Consequently, whenever I see someone in need, I do my best not to judge and consider an opportunity to help as a blessing, which my experience over the past 13 years has surely proven... Thanks again.. Charis

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @kenalto9 your comment " Your bullet on denominations got me thinking that we are so busy insisting on the differences among Christians that other religions become an incredibly foreign concepts."  seemed shocking to me.  when you put it like that ....  jeez.   -Bo 

 

we have some work to do 

charis9
charis9 like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

Regarding the"haves"and the "have-nots," if we fail to see Jesus in the eyes of the beggar, we have missed a central point of Christianity. I have seen the poor and he is us. I would wonder if divisions of ANY kind are an aid in our journey of faith since they immediately erect a fence where none is called for. Miles Davis used to give Billie Holiday money when she asked for it knowing full well that it would be used for heroin... I doubt the wisdom of that having once taken in two homeless alcoholics... but still...

BoSanders
BoSanders moderator

 @charis9 part of me wants to ask A) who are you  B) what are you talking about and C) how do I find out more? 

 

;)  thank you for you story!   -Bo 

charis9
charis9

Who I am has been a question I have been asking myself for six decades - don't let the age mislead you since I am an adult child of an alcoholic parent, and we never grow up - in the good way at least.. Perhaps a former student and practitioner of jazz whose dream of becoming professional was interupted by a dream at 21 that placed me back in my childhood church,alone with the piano and organ, and the voice of God saying quite plainly, "Play your music here," at the same time I was reading Tom Merton for the first time. Or perhaps the guy who was fiddling around with the church's new synthesizer with variations on the theme from "Schindler's List" when a priest entered and asked me to  continue playing the theme as an introit - a piece of music both appropriate and ironc in that setting. Or perhaps the guy who lived as hermit-monk  (sans order) for a decade and discovered what he termed "A Palpable Grace." There is more, but perhaps enough for now.

What I was replying to was the concrete example in your blog re beggars since, as much as I love Kierkegaard and discussion of theology, I am drawn only to those facets of philosophy that hit me where I attempt to live out the life of a follower of Christ in a place where there is little room and less tolerance for that sort of thing and hence find community as such in places such as your blog and the many responses it generates...Peace, Charis

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