Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts From A Wanderer

My friend, Mary, has 2 fantastic posts over @ Not All Who Wonder Are Lost. The first one I want to link to because I want to give her credit. We are all part of the same Bible study community, and spicifically one of her comments that she made (repeated in the post A Square Peg Goes To Church) inspired the thought pattern that led to me last posts.

This comment from Mary spicifically led me to my last posts:
I realized last week, that my framing story for God, theology and the body of Christ is NOT the same as many of those in my church. I kinda figured that out a long time ago, but it really became explicit for me. That realization helped me at least articulate why I felt like the square peg.
It is a good glimpse at how some of our conversations go, and how we bring our own experiences into our group to share and discuss. We have come up with some amazing questions and thoughts!!! Check it out, it's worth the read.

Also her newest post: Pro-Life=Pro-Baby was a direct comment from her tonight.

I post these links, not only to link to some good thought-provoking material, but also because I am proud to be in a group that 1) thinks critically about their faith, 2) lives and learns within the questions, and 3) (most importantly) is a free place to share one's thoughts, struggles, and disagreements openly and freely with a group that practices love and encouragement.

It is proving to me a point that many confrontational Christians have disagreed with me, that UNITY IS NOT CONFORMITY... instead it is acting in love and respect towards one-another regardless of our differences. We all acknowledge that we are broken people doing our best to become fully human (in all that means), and/or to become the person into whom God is making each of us!

We (Christians in churches) spend a lot of time alienating people who feel like "square pegs" instead of listening and learning from each other. What we would realize is that there is a communication problem...different framing stories mean we are speaking different languages! More and more people are finding that their framing story is not matching up with that of the conventional framing story as presented by the modern Church. The next question that led to my post from this was, "how then do we move forward in love once the problem has been diagnosed?" And thus we get to where the framing story posts have led thus far.

We keep splitting, pushing, and running away, but I'm here to tell you that:
And I'm grateful to be a part of where it is happening!

Thank you Metavista Bible Study Group!!!!


  1. Hey Justin - hope all is well with you. Been reading your past few posts and have some reaction for you. Not confrontational, brother, just thoughts.

    "Unity is not Conformity". Yes and no, IMHO. In Ephesians 4:1-16 (which is all about unity), we are told that as Christians there are things about us which are the SAME that form our unity (one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, etc.) as well as a God-glorifying diversity (i.e., various gifts and roles to play in Christ's Church, v. 11-16).

    Showing love and respect to someone does not unite me to them. I can love someone and respect them and be utterly disunited from them. Living in tolerant relationships with people who have very different beliefs than me is a good thing, but it isn't the same thing as being the family of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, united in a common purpose and struggle. The most precious aspects of unity are those experienced when a like-minded brother or sister - someone who understands the race you are running and the nature of the obstacles you face - can therefore be an encouragement and comfort to you, taking on your burdens and helping you bear through.

    This can never be known in a community of people who are disconnected by differing "framing stories" that prevent them from coming alongside one another in a common fight with sin, a common hope, or a common love.

    One last thing: the emerging movement seems much more focused on the here and now rather than the eternal, and the global rather than the individual. Yet the world we live in today is fleeting and will soon pass away - indeed, Jesus commanded us to be heavenly minded, storing up our treasures in heaven.
    Heavenly minded people are the ones most able to do the most earthly good. And while I appreciate much of the global perspective that some emergents are after, we can't disconnect this from an individual's relationship with Christ or his/her salvation. The Scriptures do not do this, and neither should we. Its one thing to say God has a purpose on the earth, and that this purpose includes His Son and the cross and the resurrection and the Spirit, etc. But after all that's been said, we still must answer the question, "What's it all got to do with me?" And heaven and hell will be VERY personal on the last day.

    Those are some of my thoughts. Did I misunderstand what you've been saying? Sorry if I did.

  2. Hey Justin,
    Thanks for jumping on here. Your thoughts (and anyone's for that matter) are always welcome! I hope you and your family are well.

    I just want to respond to a couple of things...more thoughts in progress than definitive doctrines.

    My reaction to the Eph. passage would actually come from something that was mentioned in our group last night by another person. One of our biggest problems is in how we see and define the "Body of Christ". Everybody is a part of the body of Christ, not just "believers". I know that sounds universalist, but it's not, it is along this line of thinking: If everyone is made in the Image of God, and is loved by God, then we are already united by this one source. We are united because we are all God's children. We are all family whether we claim that family or not. The problem is 2 fold:
    1) we don't see all fellow human beings as truly God's children and ALL that this would mean.
    2) That the "many parts" are are either all running away or being pushed away from the "Body".

    I think that there is a different way to interpret that passage that is other than the conventional.

    Another thing that you say is about living in tolerant relationships and still being disunited. You are absolutely dead on. When we live in relationships of "tolerance", then they are not true relationships. We have to move past tolerance into acceptance. Tolerance communicates, "I am right and you are wrong but I'll put up with you". Acceptance says, "I fully embrace you while holding no air of superiority over you, and we will treat each other as equals". Tolerance takes self-control, while acceptance takes true humility. you may disagree, and that's fine, but this is what our group embraces. I think that you see acceptance, and thus vitality in our group, where in Mary's example of their Sunday School, you see tolerance, and thus tension and disunity.

    As for the gulf between framing stories and finding unity possible...well I have to resign to say I'm still working on that one. IDK if it is possible, but I have to believe it is! I started another group that thrived and I don't know how many framing stories were represented there! But it wasn't a "Christian" was a "Spiritual" discussion group. Being Christian wasn't a requirement, and we had some heated discussions, but we still practiced love and respect. Where we unified... Many of us were, some weren't. However, the difference is that no one was alienated, it was their choice to be a part of that community or not, and they were accepted as they are!

    As for your last paragraphs, our group would actually completely disagree, and they would disagree from experience. Almost all of the people in our Bible Study have been a part of the conventional church, have loved it, but have been alienated or estranged from it. We have seen first hand how those whose main focus in eternal sit around and do nothing. McLaren actually talks about that in the section we talked about this week. He brings in how Eschatology matters. It's way too long a discussion for this response, but I would suggest going to a book store, picking up "Everything Must Change" and reading Chapter 18: "Which Jesus".

    Please know that our group is not "Emergent" and is not affiliated with the Emergent Village (even though I do have their banner on my blog, it is because I have friends that are a part of EV. But this blog in now way represents our whole group). I'll be honest, there are things with EV that I don't agree with. But there are parts of Baptists (at least on the orginizational levels) that I don't agree with either... but our group isn't baptist either! We are who we are?!?

    I think that the "emerging movement" is too tough to define (too broad and open), so we stay away from that label and all labels in general. We are just humble servants seeking the best ways in which we can live out our faith, and it just so happens now that we want to tackle global issues. I know I used the term "Emerging Framing Story", and I debated because the word is soo loaded, but it is the label McLaren uses, and since I was quoting him...

    For me personally, I live as though Christ is reconciling the whole world unto himself and doing everything in my power to offer people a better way of life. That can mean anything from feeding them to talking with them about who Christ was and what he teaches. And I do think that MOST (not all) of the ministers and churches that focus sooo much on the eternal, completely miss and ignore the majority of what the Bible teaches us about how to live. Just my <$.02.

    thanks again for your thoughts, i will continue to reflect on them. Always feel free to express your thoughts here.

    take care and tell Crystal hey!

  3. Actually,
    I would like to make an addendum to my statement on unity despite different framing stories. Not only do I have to believe it can happen, I know it can happen.

    I would say, Justin, that you and I have always approached our faith from different framing stories, and yet I considered us good friends in college. There were many people (I'll only use their first name here) like Travis, Bill, Shawn, and others that I had a close relationship with whose framing stories are different than my own. Not only were we friends, but we did ministry together.

    You and I ran the services for the first Spring Fling and it never was an issue. Shaun was on my BSU outreach team, and we always were close had had great discussions despite our differences that stemmed from those FS. Travis and I taught a Bible Study together for a retreat and he and I always saw almost everything differently. But we made an awesome team and I still consider him and the others good friends.

    Here's the thing though, the ACCEPTANCE of each other has to come from BOTH people. Like any relationship, it takes an effort on both participants parts. I loved working with all of you, and I enjoyed our friendships, I knew we fell very differently theologically (mostly because of our different framing stories), but that didn't matter to me.

    So I would say that bridging that gap is hard...sometimes it seems impossible...but it can happen on an individual basis. My cynicism was more thinking along the lines of a church context. That's a tougher situation, but again, i have to believe that it is possible and even probable.

    I thought that was a better illustration and thought path than the previous, and it allowed me to reminisce on some fond memories.

    I think when our theology and framing stories become more important than relationships then there is little hope for unity...I'm afraid that this is a reality in the lives of way too many people:(

  4. Justin,

    Thanks for that thoughtful response. I look forward to reading more posts in the days ahead. I hope you'll consider doing a post or two on where framing stories come from. I think understanding their origins would be extremely helpful in helping us to understand those who have a FS very different than our own.

    If you are ever heading to Rocky Mount, be sure to let us know. We'd love to have you over to reminisce and catch up!


  5. That's a good request...I'll have to think about that post. It is something def. Alison and I have discussed, as well as our group.

    Thanks for the invite and your thoughts!

    It'd be nice to catch up!