Thursday, August 18, 2005

This One Made Me Mentally Dance a Jig!

Reading one of my favorite authors the other night, I came across the following and couldn't decide whether to weep or dance a jig because frankly "control" issues have always been a sticking point to me. The language of the church in which I grew up often left me with the connotation that if I simply let go, the LORD God would take care of everything and that troubled me.

(Of course, the fact that it troubled me then made me guilty because obviously I was way too self-oriented or I wouldn't be troubled . . . which led to a cycle of troubling thoughts, guilt, more troubling thoughts, etc.)

I love the freedom offered here of giving up my particular denotation of "control" as being a bad, oppressive activity.

I wondered if any of you ever struggle with similar reactions to words like "Lord"?

From Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren

...when many modern Christians use the word sovereignty (another form of “kingship” or “lordship”), they make matters worse, much worse, because for them, sovereignty means absolute control, and control is a very tricky word. Again, if you’re living in danger and chaos, to say, “A good king will soon be in control” would be good news.

But it’s not good news at all if you live, as we do, at the end of modernity, a period that told us in a hundred different ways how we’re already controlled: by our genes (genetic determinism), by class struggle (Marxism), by primitive psychosexual aggressions (Freudianism), by operant conditioning (Skinnerism), by evolutionary competition (social Darwinism), by laws of physics and chemistry (naturalism, reductionism), by linguistic and social constructions (some forms of extreme postmodernism), by Euro-American military and economy (colonialism), by technique and machinery (industrialism), and by advertising (consumerism).

Against this backdrop, theistic determinism is just another determinism, and in that case, talking about God as the all-powerful, all-controlling Lord/King is just more bad news, reducing us to plastic chessmen on a board of colored squares, puppets on strings in a play we don’t write, characters in a video game that we aren’t even playing, cogs in a contraption whose levers and buttons God and God alone pulls and pushes.

. . . .

Good news under these circumstances would be a leader who liberated us from all determinisms, who deconstructed oppressive authority and the self-interest of leaders and nations, who destabilized the status quo and made way for a better day, who delivered us not only from corrupt power, but also from the whole approach to power that is so corruptible . . .

. . . which is exactly (I say) what is meant by the phrase “Jesus is Lord.” In Jesus’ day, “Caesar is Lord” was the political pledge of allegiance, required in a way not unlike “Heil Hitler” was required in the 1930s and early 1940s in Nazi Germany. To call Jesus “Lord” meant that there is a power in Jesus more important than the power of the king of the greatest state in history. To say “Jesus is Lord” was then (and should be now!) a profoundly political statement – affirming the authority of a “powerless” Jewish rabbi with scarred feet over the power of Caesar himself with all his swords, spears, chariots and crosses.

Similarly, today there are plenty of other authority figures around, Caesars in various realms: presidents national and corporate, experts scientific and social, celebrities and media moguls, priests and pastors and bishops and cult leaders, various people in various high places who exert whatever control they can. But Jesus comes as a liberating, revolutionary leader, freeing us from the dehumanization and oppression that come from all “the powers that be” in our world (including religious powers). His kingdom, then, is a kingdom not of oppressive control but of dreamed-of freedom, not of coercive dominance but of liberating love, not of top-down domination but of bottom-up service, not of a clenched iron fist but of open, wounded hands extended in a welcoming embrace of kindness, gentleness, forgiveness, and grace.
(pages 81-83)

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