Tuesday, October 18, 2005

You Are Accepted or Facing Apathy

It has been some time since I've posted something coming from within me but the last few days have finally led me to it. Crazily enough, it was a sermon by 20th century theologian Paul Tillich read out loud by my professor and theologian George Hunsinger. Now if you had been in that lecture, you may marvel as to why I would have been led to post...the sermon was dry and its presentation of it equally dry, but by God's grace I was listening and this is what I heard.

Tillich's sermon was meant to be an evocative presentation on the importance of understanding the terms of sin and grace, both terms that are frequently misunderstood and misused in both Christian and extra-Christian circles.

Tillich's understanding of sin is that sin is not merely immoral actions or inactions,rather sin is estrangement; estrangement from others, from ourselves, and from the Ground of our Being (God). What struck me most in his sermon was his references to his context. He writes:

"The walls of distance,in time and space, have been removed by technical progress; but the walls of estrangement between heart and heart have been incredibly strengthened...But let us just consider ourselves and what we feel, when we read, this morning and tonight, that in some sections of Europe all children under the age of three are sick and dying [this is Africa in 2005],or that in some sections of Asia millions without homes are freezing and starving to death [this is the case right now in Pakistan!]The strangeness of life to life is evident in the strange fact that we can know all this, and yet can live today, this morning,tonight, as though we were completely ignorant."

These words cut me to the quick. I have to be honest with you, Tillich's words are true for me. I was driving in the car a few mornings ago, listening to NPR and WHYY was interviewing Penn students about the recent Word catastrophies, most specifically on the earthquake in Pakistan. One student boldly claimed that he was not desensitized to reports of tragedies just because they were overseas. He said, "How could I ever be apathetic to these people suffering just because they are far away?" How, he asks? Well, it's quite easy. Let's take a moment to consider what we who have access to world media have learned in the past few months...A Tsunami in December 04, a raging and neverending war in Iraq, religious cleansing in Sudan, drought in Niger, Hurricane Katrina, an earthquake killing what some reports indicate as much as 100,000 and even now in the last week, widespread flooding in my current state of New Jersey. And these are just the biggies folks. This doesn't touch the daily quiet insidious sin of estrangement in our own communities. Just yesterday, a man was arrested on my campus for traveling from Texas to come, stalk, and potentially harm a fellow student. How long, O Lord!

What is the natural, instinctual response of humans, of any creature, when faced whether directly or indirectly with these horrific events? You flee, you check out, you shut down, you become desensitized or worse, apathetic.

And I admit it, this is where I'm at. I can rage against it in conversations with friends or co-workers but at the end of the day, I'm still sipping my Starbucks Easy Almond Extra-Foamy Latte, typing away at my Mac, watching the world from a distance.

So what do I do, what do we do when we become apathetic, when we check out? Well first, I think we need to name it, call a spade a spade. Next, we must return to

grace. The grace that Tillich says "allows us to accept [ourselves] and to be reconciled to others." This is not the grace of easy answers. This is not the grace that gets us off the hook of our apathy. Rather, it's the grace that meets us in the depths of our apathy, our estrangement and strikes us into action, into giving a damn and reconnecting us to our community and our Ground of Being.

What is grace? Well I'm still trying to figure that out. But I do know that grace is what allows me to get up into the morning and even makes shaking off part of that cushy coffee induced haze possible.

More to come...


Blogger Scott said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:31 PM, October 18, 2005  
Blogger Scott said...

I like Tillich. He troubles, intrigues, and inspires me. When at Calvin, I did a big paper on him for Rick Plantinga's class on Xianity and the world's religions, and that class and Tillich's writings really threw my world for a loop. Now I'm going to have to go back and read some of his writings again...

Looking forward to the "more to come..."

10:32 PM, October 18, 2005  
Blogger thelonebarista said...

Yeah, I can't say that I'm on board with all that Tillich writes (and honestly for being a man "for the common person" I can't understand what he's saying half the time). I think that's why I liked the sermon we read.

I think I may blog about the atonement next because I'm kind of anti-atonement right now...that could be because I'm frustrated with my theology professor :-)

Thanks for reading :-)

8:18 AM, October 19, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello lone barista,

I empathize with your take on Tillich, acceptance, and apathy; however, my hope, faith, belief, findings, thoughts, and experiences strongly suggest that we are not a-lone, barista!

And, i also have had concerns about the atonement doctrine and think you will embrace the following examination of it:


Although Jesus did not die this death on the cross to atone for the racial guilt of mortal man nor to provide some sort of effective approach to an otherwise offended and unforgiving God; even though the Son of Man did not offer himself as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and to open the way for sinful man to obtain salvation; notwithstanding that these ideas of atonement and propitiation are erroneous, nonetheless, there are significances attached to this death of Jesus on the cross which should not be overlooked. It is a fact that Urantia has become known among other neighboring inhabited planets as the "World of the Cross."

Jesus desired to live a full mortal life in the flesh on Urantia. Death is, ordinarily, a part of life. Death is the last act in the mortal drama. In your well-meant efforts to escape the superstitious errors of the false interpretation of the meaning of the death on the cross, you should be careful not to make the great mistake of failing to perceive the true significance and the genuine import of the Master's death.
Mortal man was never the property of the archdeceivers. Jesus did not die to ransom man from the clutch of the apostate rulers and fallen princes of the spheres. The Father in heaven never conceived of such crass injustice as damning a mortal soul because of the evil-doing of his ancestors. Neither was the Master's death on the cross a sacrifice which consisted in an effort to pay God a debt which the race of mankind had come to owe him.

Before Jesus lived on earth, you might possibly have been justified in believing in such a God, but not since the Master lived and died among your fellow mortals. Moses taught the dignity and justice of a Creator God; but Jesus portrayed the love and mercy of a heavenly Father.

The animal nature—the tendency toward evil-doing—may be hereditary, but sin is not transmitted from parent to child. Sin is the act of conscious and deliberate rebellion against the Father's will and the Sons' laws by an individual will creature.

Jesus lived and died for a whole universe, not just for the races of this one world. While the mortals of the realms had salvation even before Jesus lived and died on Urantia, it is nevertheless a fact that his bestowal on this world greatly illuminated the way of salvation; his death did much to make forever plain the certainty of mortal survival after death in the flesh.

Though it is hardly proper to speak of Jesus as a sacrificer, a ransomer, or a redeemer, it is wholly correct to refer to him as a savior. He forever made the way of salvation (survival) more clear and certain; he did better and more surely show the way of salvation for all the mortals of all the worlds of the universe of Nebadon.

When once you grasp the idea of God as a true and loving Father, the only concept which Jesus ever taught, you must forthwith, in all consistency, utterly abandon all those primitive notions about God as an offended monarch, a stern and all-powerful ruler whose chief delight is to detect his subjects in wrongdoing and to see that they are adequately punished, unless some being almost equal to himself should volunteer to suffer for them, to die as a substitute and in their stead. The whole idea of ransom and atonement is incompatible with the concept of God as it was taught and exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth. The infinite love of God is not secondary to anything in the divine nature.

All this concept of atonement and sacrificial salvation is rooted and grounded in selfishness. Jesus taught that service to one's fellows is the highest concept of the brotherhood of spirit believers. Salvation should be taken for granted by those who believe in the fatherhood of God. The believer's chief concern should not be the selfish desire for personal salvation but rather the unselfish urge to love and, therefore, serve one's fellows even as Jesus loved and served mortal men.

Neither do genuine believers trouble themselves so much about the future punishment of sin. The real believer is only concerned about present separation from God. True, wise fathers may chasten their sons, but they do all this in love and for corrective purposes. They do not punish in anger, neither do they chastise in retribution.

Even if God were the stern and legal monarch of a universe in which justice ruled supreme, he certainly would not be satisfied with the childish scheme of substituting an innocent sufferer for a guilty offender.

The great thing about the death of Jesus, as it is related to the enrichment of human experience and the enlargement of the way of salvation, is not the fact of his death but rather the superb manner and the matchless spirit in which he met death.

This entire idea of the ransom of the atonement places salvation upon a plane of unreality; such a concept is purely philosophic. Human salvation is real; it is based on two realities which may be grasped by the creature's faith and thereby become incorporated into individual human experience: the fact of the fatherhood of God and its correlated truth, the brotherhood of man. It is true, after all, that you are to be "forgiven your debts, even as you forgive your debtors."

hope you found that worthwhile, and, may God bless you and all your loved ones today, and forever... richard

3:11 PM, December 15, 2008  
Blogger richard said...

low tech guy here... will comment further if i can get this reply to you, lone barista... richard

3:15 PM, December 15, 2008  

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