Embracing Your Other

GREETINGS, THEOLOGICAL MISFITS OF THE INTERWEBS!

As a new addition to the already amazing list of bloggers at Misfits, I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself.  In this brief introduction, it is my hope to illuminate for you a dominate force driving my theological musings, while also informing the trajectory of forthcoming material.

For many, the joining of the words “theology” and “musing”, as I have done above, is tantamount to heresy. After all, doesn’t the very nature of faith require that we simply accept, thereby rendering our imaginative faculties useless?  Would it not be better to simply follow God’s clearly presented instruction manual (a.k.a. Scripture)? 

I get it. I used to believe that too, until I experienced the trauma that often come when fear commingles with one’s rigid and unwavering conviction.

Growing up in the church, I have collected a number of truly extraordinary experiences that have shaped me profoundly. For the most part, these experiences have been positive, but things changed drastically as I entered vocational ministry. 

Anyone who has spent time ministering in a congregational setting will tell you things can get nasty really quickly. The myriad stories I gained as a pastor transfigured me in such a way that ten years later I am still processing them. 

Despite the trauma endured as an associate pastor of a mid-sized congregation, firmly rooted in the Pentecostal tradition, I have not yet fully given up on the Church. While there are many reasons for my enduring ecclesial commitment, I will offer two, here.

First, as screwed up as churches are, I have yet to find a single community outside the church that doesn’t have its share of relational carnage. Don’t take this as an apologetic for the Church because I believe one day they will have to face the effects of their disfunction. But even so, it doesn’t change the fact that people, whether inside the church or not, have an uncanny knack for hurting people. 

Second, truly deep and lasting transformation can only happen when we are surround by our “other.”  By “other” I mean anyone who is different from you or your way of seeing the world. While I still adhere to orthodox Christianity, I often feel like the Church’s other.  Despite my alienation, I believe that this has benefited my faith. 

It is human nature to have an aversion to that which is different, but it takes a strong and courageous individual to coexist amidst difference.  This anxiety permeates every aspect of our global ethos, and the only way forward, as I see it, is to embrace our other, and to discover that our own well-being is inextricably bound to their well-being.  Until this fundamental problem is addressed, humanity will always be at war with itself.

The two aforementioned reasons bring me back to the force that drives my theological work – a work that I believe possesses the potential to reform our Christian tradition of violence. While this solution may be a simple one, it is difficult beyond measure. The theological work I am speaking of is to create liminal spaces where people have the courage to gather with unlike-minded individuals who realize that without our other,  we are left to our own bland and destructive tendencies. 

It is my hope that through the course of my blogging I will be able to create moments,  for both myself and you, o’ reader of my inadequate words, where we can be shaped in profoundly positive ways.

We must be committed to turning inward. If we don’t, I am certain that the world will remain a violent place for those with whom we are different. Let’s not  forget one very important fact, we are someone’s else other. This means when anyone’s self-reflection leads to personal transformation, we too reap the benefits.

It must be said, I do not think that convictions are the problem with humanity’s dysfunction. After all, everyone one has convictions whether we are religious or not. But I do think the way we hold our convictions plays a significant role in the forming of our maladjusted ways. 

A wise man once said, “When you hold your conviction in a closed first, you get your damn fingerprints all over them.” Taking this quote to its natural conclusion, we could also say, when you offer your convictions with an open-hand, as a gift to your other, vulnerability emerges, producing a radical disorientation, which in turn leads to a newfound hope for change.

The journey for a Christ-Follower is long and difficult. You will most likely endure wounds you never expected, but if we can make it through, I believe that this generation’s lasting legacy could be the creation of a global ethos that is warm, welcoming and benevolent. Now wouldn’t that be Good News? 

Until next time.

Grace and Peace,

Bryan 

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