A transcendentalist poem vs the real thing with people


transcendentalist religionA Friend posted this on FB. These were my thoughts. 

You can find elements of this in many religions. If you look at Emerson, Muir, and others you can find very similar thoughts. The thoughts aren’t far from the Bible if you know how it works in terms of the garden of Eden story, why the tabernacle and the temple had the shape it had, etc. It’s not hard to sit and “Imagine” (John Lennon) lots of wonderful things.

At the same time:

As a character in Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit said, “Hell is other people.”57 But so is heaven.

Haidt, Jonathan (2006-12-26). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (p. 134). Basic Books. Kindle Edition.

I remind people in my church that Yhwh is portrayed as capable of creating the world with words, and destroying it, but dealing with people takes the whole 1300 page book. We’re that complicated, powerful, messy, valuable. It’s the story of every marriage, every relationship, every community.

What to do with people?! They are glorious and they are terrible.

Religion is the ongoing attempt by people to come to communal answers to life’s most important questions. Politics is too but since the enlightenment we’ve tried to make politics easier by trying to differentiate it from religion. In the ancient world they were much closer.

So nice thought, but OK, now you’ve had a nice thought, what are you going to actually DO about it? That means getting busy with people.

On any given day I’ll have someone approach me and say “Pastor demons are bothering me” and another say “pastor, person X is doing Y and Z and I can’t live with that anymore” and another say “I just need 3 bucks to get some food…” and then a hospital visit and a conversation about what a 2000+ year old text illuminates on the whole business.

The quote reminds me of the difference between walking through a museum and seeing the masterpieces, and taking brush and canvas yourself. It is the difference between watching a chick flick and saying “ahh, romance” and a real relationship. It’s the difference between being a would-be presidential candidate and being the president. One is easy but staying there really is just being a tourist. The other means making real commitments about life and trying to stick with them.




About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
This entry was posted in Culture commentary, Institutional Church. Bookmark the permalink.

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