the right Way
Many have acknowledged that we will eventually resemble that which we worship. I believe the much of the problems of the current church culture, which has become frustratingly rigid, anemic and exclusive, comes from a subtle shift in the focus of our worship. In short, as I have said so many times before, we have exchanged the Creator for the created. We have exchanged the living Jesus who is the Truth for our human attempts at quantifying and defining truth through dogma, creating what we call orthodoxy. We have exchanged a Thou for an it.
I remember attempting a conversation about this a few years ago to which a man responded, “Are you saying we’re wrong?” His demeanor was almost intimidating, like I had committed the worst offense possible. Indeed, challenge, difference and disagreement seem to be the biggest sins in this church culture. It makes sense that if orthodoxy is our highest value, then to challenge even a bit of it will open the floodgates of wrath. And we are good westernized dualists so to challenge our idolatry of right belief is understood as leaving us with only wrong belief to employ. However, I don’t believe that it is our core beliefs that are the problem, nor do I desire to change a whole lot of what has been considered right belief for centuries (though there are plenty of points that should be open for more dialogue). The problem that we must face lies in how we think about these things.
Peter Rollins offers,
“Instead of following the Greek influenced idea of orthodoxy as right belief….rediscover the more Hebraic and mystical notion of the orthodox Christian as one who believes in the right way – that is, believing in a loving, sacrificial and Christ like manner. The reversal of right belief to believing in the right way is in no way a move to some binary opposite of the first (for the opposite of right belief is simply wrong belief); rather it is a way of transcending the binary altogether. Thus orthodoxy is no longer (mis)understood as the opposite of heresy but rather is understood a a term that signals a way of being in the world rather than a means of believing things about the world….it is an approach which emphasizes the priority of love.” *
The last line is important because often, at least in my tribe’s culture, the idea of a right way of living has been reduced to mere moralism (perhaps it’s included with orthopraxy). It’s as if they do not believe that Love can be transformative. They are right in that Love allows for a lot of messiness and imperfection and transparency, but let’s not go there! Our conceptual idolatry, that is, placing right belief as the highest value forces us to develop false personas that can seem to measure up to what right belief should look like. That can be an even tougher idol to topple. This may be anti-love. Perhaps we need to have some long conversations about the living nature of Love in order to imagine together the possibilities of what the right way can be.
Nevertheless, the bigger issue that I am pondering right now is the one of worship. Our dis-eased eyes naturally shift to what we can understand and apprehend and know. We love being right, being in control. Karl Barth once said that faith is not standing on certainties, but rather it is about being held, with feet dangling. (That is my paraphrase because I haven’t looked it up in a while!) This feels like a much more vulnerable and tenuous position than that of standing on a rock that we can own and define. It requires a deep trust in the Person who is doing the holding. It requires a deepened intimacy and a dance of hope and abandonment to Someone who will remain outside of our grasp. We are reoriented away from what we’ve got figured out, and turned back to the Source- to be held by Him, perhaps even to begin to resemble Him. That sounds like worship to me.
*quote from How (Not) To Speak of God by Peter Rollins