Saturday, February 05, 2005

Putting Away Childish Things

The Journey:
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1st Corinthians 13:11)

Paul gave us here another recipe for the journey of life, which we must all take; we're pitiful if we don't put away childish things, but behold! the majority of the population. At least in those religious and spiritual matters that determine who we actually are.

In religion it's much more common to depend upon the priest or the pope for our spiritual directions, to remain in the tribe all our lives instead of becoming women or men. William Blake said, "I must create my own system or be enslaved by another man's"--poetry of course and extravagant language, but it contains the same fundamental truth described by Paul in Corinthians.

Years ago a man named Harvey Cox wrote a book entitled The Secular City. Overnight he became almost an icon for the progressive religionists of my day. later in his career he decided that the best thing you can do is 'tell your story', even if only to yourself. When you tell your story, you discover things about yourself that you need to know. It's the modern equivalent of confession.

A Texan told his story for us, at length and in detail. He described eloquently the passage from childish religion to a reasoned and mature faith. His story is practically an archetype of what happens when we pass through the valley of institutional religion (or secularism) and "create our own system", receiving our dictation directly from God. Like Jesus did.

(This post was inspired by my dear friend, Amanda, after the extravagant praise she gave to an earlier post; bless you again Amanda, and bless you all.)

3 comments:

Jon said...

Important insights, Larry.

I remembered when it first hit me how much our society is conditioned to not grow up. It's always been a problem to some degree, particularly in spiritual development, but now, with youth culture and pop culture having been almost the same thing for two generations, we're what Robert Bly calls "The Sibling Society."

This weekend I hope to post my review of Peter Pan, which of course, largely deals with the problem of not putting away childish things.

Jon

kiznath said...

In my opinion, telling your story is huge - everyone has one (most people don't think they do!) and it's an opportunity to be honest with yourself and the people around you about who you are. But reading this particular post reminded me of a review of the book "New Kind of Christian" that was posted on Amazon.com. Here is an excerpt related specifically to the idea of "telling your story".

If you are not familiar with Postmodern parlance, stories are what postmodernists prefer to either history or truth. Since truth really can't be known, and since history is typically merely the version the winners tell, stories (it is argued) are meant to be retold and passed on and used to serve as markers - but they really shouldn't be taken too seriously. After all, stories are blends of interpretations and slants and revisions. No one gets bent out of shape if you retell a story a little differently - like they do when you try to re-write history. Ultimately, you can know something of other's stories, but mainly you have the best grasp on your own story. So if you want to tell it a little differently each time - have at it. Who's to say? Stories as a framework then lend a great deal of flexibility. One doesn't really have to be worried so much about accuracy or truth. One merely needs to be able to tell their story.

What makes this line of thinking so very attractive, is that in your story, God is who and what you want Him to be. Hell may or may not really be at all. You can be what you want to be. Men may or may not really need to be justified before a holy God, but it really doesn't matter because - its your story. You get to tell it the way you want to - and somehow, by some freakish particularity of our created or evolved universe (depending on your story) - everybody's story get to be true no matter how much it contradicts anybody else's. What's true, is what's true for YOU. Not really what's "true". Except for some.

Apologies for the long post - I just thought this an interesting perspective. It seems that it always comes back to the definition of truth.

Larry said...

Thank you, Jon and Kiznath, for your interesting and provocative comments.

Jon speaks of "what Robert Bly calls "The Sibling Society." I would suggest also Campbell's tribalistic society: in as much as tribalism is the intermediate stage between family and the human race, we could say that most of us have reached the superego stage, where we uncritically accept what the "parent" of the culture tells us. One of the primary steps in growing up seems to be the ability to look critically at what we're told; in that way we reach at least the sophomoric level.

Re stories: I don't believe, Kiznath, that stories have to be quite as subjective as your excerpt from "New Kind of Christian" suggests. It my objective is to put up a front of some kind, that story will have that flavor. But if I want to confess who I am, the flavor will be different. I will attempt at least to achieve a level of objective truth. We can only hope to do this in an environment where love is given and tangible.

I want to know you as you are, because only in that way can I be your effectual friend, or love you as Jesus says we should. And by the same token I want you to know me as I am for the same reason.

I realize of course that my confession may never be completely sincere, but I can try. When we, as a loving group hear one another's confession we are enabled to obey the Great Commandment, and make a tangible move toward "becoming one", as Jesus prayed that we might.

Thanks again for your creative input.