August 29, 2008 at 12:45 pm
"A Heretic's Guide to Eternity": Chapter 6...
A short time ago, I was listening to our local public radio station. The host of the show was interviewing a bricolage artist who owns a shop not far from my home. This particular bricolage artist was gaining notariety for a couple of reasons. First, he had gotten a book published about the art of bricolage that was garnering considerable sales worldwide. Second, he had recently started a city-improvment campaign called, Tulips on Troost. The idea was that, over the next few years, this man — along with the help of other small business owners in the area — was going to attempt to plant one hundred thousand tulips along Troost Street, the street that his business resided.
This story, devoid of any religious inuendo of any kind, made my day, My heart was filled with a sense that humanity isn’t so bad after all. In fact, humanity actually did possess enough love to try to change their world. My faith, for a few minutes that day, had been restored.
Coincidentally, Chapter 6 in “A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity,” by Spencer Burke and Barry Taylor, is called, “Faith Remixed: The Fine Art of Bricolage.” In this chapter, Burke talks about displays of faith that aren’t quite orthodox. He also speaks of some of the things that the institutional church might do well in changing — or, at least, reexamining.
Spencer Burke opens Chapter 6 with a story about how his family and friends choose to attend “church.”
“Every month or so, Lisa, the kids, and I meet up with friends at the park for a picnic — except we don’t call it a picnic. We call it church.
“When we get there, my eight-year-old son, Alden, crawls around under the bushes inviting people to join us. “Hey, we’ve got some buckets of chicken and salads over there. You want to come join us?”
Burke goes on to explain some of the many life-giving experiences that his family have had doing church in this way. This idea — where church doesn’t have to happen in a typical manner — is core to a lot of Burke’s writing. But, more importantly, it should be core to how churches think. Churches do a great job at what they do most of the time. But, when others choose to do it differently, churches should be supportive, not critical.
Spencer goes on to point out some of the nuances about Jesus’ ministry that mainstream Christianity sometimes forgets — or, possibly, tries to ignore.
“Jesus didn’t decalre Christianity to be the way; no such thing yet exsisted. Besides, he already had a religion — his own Jewish faith. Yet he critiqued from the inside what he considered a faulty system, incapable of containing the fullness of God’s grace. He could have said, ‘My version of a revised Judaism is the way,’ but he didn’t. He said, ‘I am the way.’...
“Jesus declared his life to be the way to choose — not the way of zealotry or paganism or compromise, but a life commited to God, commited to God’s ways, and commited to grace.”
But, how do we live in the way of Jesus? How do we find a balance amidst the lives we live and lives of grace? One way, Burke says, is by acknowledging that the message of Jesus is living and not constrained by one particular interpretation. Another way is to understand that Jesus’ vision of God is not for the exclusive use of one community, but for anyone and everyone. Lastly, by realizing the holistic connection between humanity’s good works and our capacity to love.
“To balance this view, we need to act out in faith, living the way Jesus lived and standing up for the things he stood for. What counts is not a belief system but a holistic approach of following what you feel, experience, discover, and believe; it is a willingness to join Jesus in his vision for a transformed humanity...
“For most of my Christian life, I have heard people say that it is not enough to do good works or care for the world. There has to be faith in Jesus — which usually means assent to a set of propositions. But actually, the Apostle Paul said it is good works without love — not good works without a belief system — that are empty and worthless.”
At this point in Chapter 6, Spencer Burke shifts from a critique of Christianity as a religion to the Church as a player in culture. While culture continues to evolve, the Church as a whole continues to posture itself as the authority of faith. According to Burke, one of the key issues in the current church is its adherence to rules and propositions. But was this what Jesus was all about?
“Jesus didn’t ask for universal agreement to a set of propositions about himself. He simply invites us to follow him.”
It is true. Jesus was much more interested in having people follow him than answering every question he was presented with. While Jesus chose good times to answer certain questions, most of his life — or at least the life that we can derive from the bible — was pretty mysterious.
Beyond the life that God desires for humanity Spencer Burke points out some of the things that the Church should take another look at: the concept of being “born again,” the “fluidity” of the bible, the current leadership model, and a reconnection with the concept of humanity. To Burke, these are all items that could use a drastic overhaul.
This brings Chapter 6 full-circle to the idea that it was titled after, “Spiritual Bricolage.”
“Faith can be many things — an opinion, a compromise, a rediscovery, a revalation. Right now, faith is an experiment...
“The philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss used the word [bricolage] to describe the creation of new understandings of life from the bits and pieces of ideological thought that already exist. This is the clue to a new spiritual future. Spiritual bricolage is the mining of ideas and concepts about God that already exist in the world and creating a whole new vocabulary, as well as new concepts and understandings of ehat it means to have a spiritual life.”
While this may sound extreme to some people, I’ll bet that if most of you thought back about your own spiritual life, you might see many places where you were your own spiritual bricolage artist. If we can redefine our own faiths when our lives change or grow, then why can’t the Church as a whole?
Burke ends the chapter on a postitive note. One of looking forward to the new fabrics and textures that will emerge through the bricolage of others’ faith. Take it from Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell, from the Dr. Seuss book, “On Beyond Zebra,” Burke relates:
“In the places I go there are things that I see
That I never could spell if I stopped with the Z.
I’m telling you this ‘cause you’re one of my friends.
My alphabet starts where your alphabet ends!”