What now, then?

Photo: Erik Olson on Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo: Erik Olson on Flickr via Creative Commons

Disclaimer: Posts in this series will be my attempts to process what I’m reading in the books of Peter Rollins. They are in no way meant to represent his actual writings, in this case The Divine Magician and Orthodox Heretic . Also spoilers, sweetie.

It’s one thing to say that what I think I know about God is ultimately a construct of my own making. It’s another to say that I am learning to approach God as icon rather than idol. We take this new understanding of faith to a whole new level when we begin to speak of the Crucifixion as a “meaningless, absurd, and offensive act (DM pg 104)” that reveals that God was never behind the curtain at all. There is no place of wholeness or ultimate meaning (DM 133), no second realm of existence at which we can arrive and be made complete. The “sacred and profane are fused (DM 157)” and we are left with whatever heaven we can make of this earth. Here. Now.

I spent years as a Christian believing that the thing that made me offensive to God was my humanity. My flesh. The part of myself that wasn’t Him. Christ had to die because my humanity was so utterly vile only coating it in blood could make me stomachable to a holy God. My love for fantasy stories opened the door to the devil and his spiritual influence. My deep connections to people were soul ties that were formed for perverse and destructive reasons. My future was the X on a treasure map of destiny, and the slightest wrong choice (whom I dated, where I went to school, the major I chose) could render the entire thing void. My intellectual curiosities were vain attempts to reduce the wisdom of God to “the foolishness of man” and I needed to be willing to be a fool for Jesus. And a fool I certainly became.

Eventually, though, I wearied of loathing my humanity. My quirks, my preferences, my thoughts and emotions, didn’t seem to actually be the seat of all evil in the world. Furthermore I wasn’t actually capable of removing all of those aspects of myself. I was losing a battle against my “flesh” and I wasn’t even sure I should be fighting that particular war. The ugliest parts of my life actually seemed to be stemming from the most religious, righteous, and holy attempts I made in life.

I slowly allowed myself to “backslide.” I stopped fighting certain battles – against my gender, my intellect, my sexuality. As I laid down arms and experienced relief from the conflict, other areas of contention came to the forefront and I laid down arms there as well. Certain “sins” became common in my life, and to my honest amazement I started becoming a better person. Kinder. More at peace. More loving.

“…what [I] thought [I] needed to destroy in order to get to the sacred was in fact sacred…the obstacle was in fact the way (DM 143)”

Suddenly, I had no idea what sin was. If it wasn’t embedded in my humanness, if all my failings and brokenness were miring the image of God actually infused into the core of my humanness, then why did Jesus die on the cross? If God isn’t requiring barbarism to join His club, if His love isn’t drenched in the blood of the innocent, what is the point of the pinnacle event of our faith?

According to Rollins’ pyrotheology, maybe the point was to…well…to burn the bitch down. To explode all of the religious and political systems that strive to create a fantasy that offers wholeness or peace or redemption somewhere out there. If only. If only we kill this Jew. If only we bathe in blood. If only we slaughter this goat. If only we abstain from sex. If only…if only…if only…

Jesus came to rip the veil that prettified the very system that kept humanity enslaved to sin, to expose the law in its impotence and thus allow for its ultimate fulfillment (OH 136). The brutality of the cross was exactly as brutal and senseless and horrific as it seems precisely so that we could see our anemic systems for what they are, lay them down, and move on.

Move on to what, then? If religious systems don’t actually hold the key to a new kingdom, a heaven of fulfillment and wholeness, then what of all Jesus’ talk of kingdoms and being set free? If the Church “…has no mystical power to grant us that will make us whole…(DM 166)” then what does? Or is it hopeless to long for something greater than this?

Maybe not. If we as “Christians are not called to believe in the Resurrection but rather are called to be the site where resurrection takes place (OH 74),” then we are still left with one another. Rather than fighting over systems of belief and lists of doctrine, maybe we are to “enter a life of love that transcends ethics (OH 46)” and move from a faith of belief to a faith of experience and active love. Maybe it all comes down once and for all to making the most loving choice in this moment, regardless of result, and regardless of outlying “moral” or “ethical” considerations. What does a life of faith look like devoid of necessary creeds and doctrines and tribal mentality? All that leaves is seeking encounter with God in the ways we experience this world, and within/among one another.

Actually, maybe that’s not so bad. Jesus might even agree.

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