Plotting Mile Markers on the Way to the Eschaton

The little back and forth over “plotting” was interesting.

You plot a course, you plot mile markers, you plot a map.

This came over the Internet.

Relevance realization is the core of one of my conversation partners John Vervaeke of the University of Toronto. What is salient about this news tidbit?

The article will tell you. Does your heart get excited because “justice” is right around the corner? Are we nearing the end of that great arc? Is this train bound for glory?

I’ve been living in California since 1997 and I can’t remember a single appointment to the CA Supreme Court making news. I’m sure one did. Why is this news? What plottings does this news item accomplish?

Human beings live within narratives and those plottings are key to understanding what is relevant in the narrative.

Most of the data about the judge is irrelevant, including his own career, decisions, etc. All the judge and law stuff. What IS relevant? His race is second tier (He’s 3rd of 3) but that he is attracted to males is key. THAT is the plot point. Almost nothing else matters. THIS Is what is newsworthy.

What does that say?

It invokes a narrative, a powerful narrative of inequality, oppression, discrimination… The words flow through my fingers. It’s all written in well worn sentences.

Being a local pastor I can easily imagine that the council at Neland is scrambling to fill a deacon slot and this candidate did a great job before. Ah, but this candidate is sexually attracted to members of the same sex. Does that matter in terms of job performance? Before she may have been attracted, flirted, had notions, etc. But now she’s in a legal union with another woman. Does that matter? On what map is any of this plotted?

As a synodical deputy I sometimes am involved in disciplinary cases. Man X is married to woman Y. Man X does something with woman A. Man X loses his job, his marriage, his livelihood. It doesn’t matter how many great sermons man X preached. It doesn’t matter how skilled man X was. The incident with woman A has changed everything. It is a crucial plot point.

We human beings plot moments on maps of meaning. They may be subtle. They may seem incidental, but we all know when they are not because we are all working similar maps.

Because victimhood (Nietzsche blames Jesus and the Prophets…) is on the map we play rhetorical games around it. We humans are really clever that way, being coy about some points because we’re planning plot points on other levels.

Let’s imagine in the midst of COVID the old CRC is just too darn busy and distracted to really care about some woman deacon at Neland. We can all plot the next points can’t we?

It might not even be our map. We might not ever really care, but we have to care because it is someone else’s map with whom we share a matrix of covenantal relationships.

Women pastors are ordained all the time. Just today in Classis a woman who teaches Old Testament at William Jessup U was approved available for call in the CRC and will be called by Granite Springs. I’m excited because we can always use more pulpit supply around here. She had a great exam. She used words like “equity” and “privilege” which were supposed to plot her on a map. She’s a young white woman unanimously approved.

Another excellent examination by a minister coming into the CRC from the PCUSA who was a white man didn’t use “equity” or “privilege” once and was asked about what he thought of racism. He was against it. He didn’t use the words that would have plotted him. He was another impressive individual.

I listened to a husband and wife couple who were coming into the CRC also as ministers take their exams. They are Indian and minister to people in a small Indian community. Quite different, but impressive. VERY evangelical examination. Their skin is brown. No one asked them about racism. We’re always plotting.

The plotting in Neland is important up and down the denomination. If the CRC yawns then we’ll hear news of an elder in a same sex marriage being ordained someplace. Then it won’t be news anymore. Then your first CRC minister in a same sex marriage. At some point the first non-binary clergy who uses “they” for their pronouns.That might make some news. How about a pastor in an open marriage? Surely that would be a new frontier. Cause for celebration or consternation.

Process theology was beaten up pretty badly when I was in seminary. It’s still fashionable in some circles for some good reasons. One aspect of it is that we shouldn’t pay as much attention to the details as to the processes that keep creating the new realities. Details change, processes are more enduring. Life is a process. You can even define a human being as sort of a process more than the physical matter that is always changing in our bodies.

In this plotting we are looking at the process and asking “what is this process? Isn’t that what the map and the plottings are all about?”

Some processes are not celebrated. “First CRC minister to resurrect Biblical Polygamy takes on his second wife!” That would certainly make the news but that’s not the process we’re paying attention to. We all know this. But if we say “First poly CRC minister celebrates expansion of his covenant love by destroying patriarchal-monogamy” it might qualify.

What is the process? Where are the points we are plotting? Surely these point someplace. Isn’t the map and the process deeply connected to the end, the telos, that is orienting the landscape?

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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