Dark matter is a type of matter hypothesized in astronomy and cosmology to account for a large part of the mass that appears to be missing from the universe. Dark matter cannot be seen directly with telescopes; evidently it neither emits nor absorbs light or other electromagnetic radiation at any significant level. Instead, the existence and properties of dark matter are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the large-scale structure of the universe. According to the Planck mission team, and based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the known universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe and 26.8% of the total content of the universe.
I’m sure a physicist will come along and demystify “dark matter” but the name is evocative for me. When I first heard that something like 85% of the total matter in the universe cannot be seen but is felt only by its gravity my imagination hummed.
Unseen but Known
When we look at people from a distance we see how they look, what they wear, what they drive, what they do for work, how much money they have, how they got that money, what they consume, what they like, etc. While these things are important, they are the things in the visible world, what we don’t tend to see, and what tends to govern more is the “dark matter” of the soul.
How are people at home with their family? What motivates them? When are they kind and to whom? When are they cruel and to whom? What fears are driving what behaviors?
Dark Matter in the Christian community
The civil law mostly engages the visible world. It has to. When it tries to engage our “dark matter” we get into the area of having “thought police” and “thought crimes”.
The church is similarly constricted. We watch behaviors. The church also pays more attention to mental and doctrinal subscription. This gets into the “gray matter” perhaps, but where the church often stumbles is in fact in the areas of dark matter.
Jesus and Dark Matter
I remembering being frustrated sometimes reading the gospels because Jesus keeps talking about stuff that didn’t seem to fit my world. All of this conflict around food, first century politics and Sabbath observance amid parables about primitive agrarian farming.
The longer I live with the gospels the more I see how much dark matter Jesus engages. Part of the reason Jesus is difficult to track for us is because the dark matter is pulling his visible behavior in ways our dark matter assumptions have difficulty understanding.
Some will cast Jesus as a stern moralists, and they have their prooftexts. Some will cast Jesus as a tolerant zen master and they will point to their poster-passages. Jesus both rages at some and coddles others. I think all of this is an invitation to discern the gravitational pull of his dark matter.
The Relational Economy
“Dark matter”, “relational economy“, are both images I’m employing to try put words on this crucial aspect of our existence. I think if Jesus is to be believed on God’s perfection it is in this space that God dearly wishes to engage us.
We must navigate this world from what we find in on the visible spectrum. Dark matter is dark. We feel it’s pull but can’t grab hold of it, employ it, manipulate it. It is beyond our grasp. Dark matter is created by persons and given the rules of the one who gave persons the status of image bearer when we transgress upon their personhood we do violence against their author and original-image whose reflection they bear.
Dark matter is the reason Yhwh gives the law but the law is finally unable to yield his perfection. It is the reason the world can be created by his word in a week while the wrangling with our dark matter requires the enormity of the rest of the library we call “The Bible” starting with Genesis 2. Moving around the stuff of earth is trivial to Him, engaging our dark matter takes nothing less than the death of the divine.
Why No Seating Chart Ever Works
Jesus met with suspicion by all parties because he confused the seating chart. The law, and our relational economy creates seating charts that afford and deny access, offer life and riches and take them away. Born into the right family, the right group, having the correct friendships, saying the right things gives you “the world”. Jesus had to be killed because of the seating chart.
The church also has seating charts and they never work. We can’t live without them, because we can’t see the dark matter, yet we should always hold them with a dangerously looseness.