EPISODE 266: Soul Searchin’ Time

The previous cast, “Surprise, Surprise”, raised the vexing question of exceptions in the practice of grace to sinners and sufferers. I spoke about the chronic inability of Christians who emphasize grace to embody it in relation to specific sinners and specific sins. One example I chose was from the Reformed world and one was from the Social Progressive world. The context of each was different, but the phenomenon is the same: “talking the talk” re grace and “radical welcome” but exempting certain individuals or groups of individuals from its “saving embrace”.

My question now is How Come? How is it possible for Gospel-emphasizing Christians to still flee a particular sinner? And how is it possible for Inclusion-emphasizing Christians to make “traditional” Christians feel so un-included?

Well, one thing I know is that when you and I are loved — really loved, concretely and personally — at our worst point, then we almost cannot fail to extend that mercy to other people at their worst point, no matter what it is. Mary and I have seen this time and again. You probably have, too.

The cast concludes with an illustration from the 1935 movie version of “The Last Days of Pompeii”, and a reference to the British TV mini-series “We The Accused” (1980). Each incident described mirrors the Real Thing. It is why we are Christians, after all. LUV U.

EPISODE 267: Blowing Away

Huge — Yuge — feedback from the previous two casts, entitled “Surprise Surprise” and “Soul Searchin’ Time”.

So here I am looking at two basics, two core issues I have with current religion — religion in the David Zahl/”Seculosity” sense, that is, every attempt to solve the problem of being human by conceiving a lever to fix it.

I see two core problems with most religion, let alone culture, today. This includes evangelical Christianity, which persistently shows, in the case of fallen pastors, disloyalty to its central warrant; and social-progressive Christianity, which also persistently shows, in the case of traditional believers in its own ranks, a failure to live up to its warrant of “inclusion”.

My first point is that if one’s anthropology is too high, if one’s understanding of human nature underestimates the problem of inward inherent conflictedness (i.e., sin), then one’s soteriology is routinely too low. In other words, if you believe human beings can produce a just society on their own, then the tools you give them to do it will not be up to the task. The Gospel presupposes a low anthropology, which requires a high soteriology. You need to get your diagnosis right in order to get your treatment right.

My second point is that if you think parity-of-power and/or economic security are the two necessary elements of social and individual satisfaction, then you are missing an element that’s even more important than they. What’s that, you ask? Romantic Love.

Oh, no, you say, Paul’s at it again! But no! Just listen to the songs you like on Spotify, review the records you buy (or download), and think about… what you’re usually thinking about. Let’s not even use the phrase “romantic love”. Let’s just say, relationships. Let’s just say, connection with another human being. Let’s just talk about moms and dads and children, boyfriends and girlfriends, ‘Friend and Lover’ (“Reach Out of the Darkness”, 1968). These are the things — the people — that make your world go ’round, or make it crash!

Two basics, then: the inviolable connection between low anthropology and high soteriology, and the irresistible claim on you of a relationship. Or the hope of same. (Sighted Sub. Sank Same.) LUV U!

EPISODE 268: Seasons in the Sun

It was touching beyond words to attend and witness the Institution of Stu Shelby as Rector of All Saints Episcopal Church, Winter Park, FL. Mary was a Presenter, and I had the chance to just take it all in. Sarah Condon preached the sermon, and it was an absolute home run.

The whole affair felt like “Mockingbird Embodied”; and the message of God’s Grace in Christ was utterly tangible and fully fleshed. For me and Mary, this was a high point of our life in Florida.

So I thought about “seasons” in one’s life. The word’s a little over used — sort of like “conversation” — but there is still something to it. Stu and Sarah, and Josh and Crissy, and Dave and Cate, and many, many others we know, are right in the middle of life, of engagement. They are on the front lines of ministry, service, and witness.

Yours truly, on the other hand, is more on the margins. One can’t help this for it is a part of aging. Nevertheless, one can give, and serve, in a different way.

Think about Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets. They are just about to release a new album, “Love Starvation”, and the early notices are raves. They are all now older versions of themselves, but still… themselves. Or Steve Perry. His recent album, “Traces”, got a few complaints concerning the timbre and range of his voice. But listen to it: the emotion of his Journey songs is right there! The heart of his Journey songs is right there! He is right there.

The same is true of you as you “grow in grace and you grow in years”. You’re the same but you’re in a new season. That season has different doors and different possibilities. But you’re not regressing! You’re deepening.

LOL, PZ

EPISODE 269: Soul Trajectory

As the human soul makes its trajectory through life, it “lights on” hoped-for objects of connection. From birth to death, the soul is looking for, urgently aspiring to locate, a substitute for the connection with God that it had before it was born.

Unfortunately, the soul is almost always disappointed. That is because no created entity and no living being can satisfy what only God can satisfy. No person that’s been made can satisfy the longing for direct connection with Immortal Love which fills every human soul.

Thus hurts are born and wounds are made. Sorrows are indited and pain is pressed in. And, as my first Episcopal bishop said, the man of God I had known as a little boy on the Washington Cathedral Close, on his death bed — shocking the Diocese of Washington in 1971 — “Life is tragic.”

How are the wounds of life healed?

Well, about 95% of them can be healed under the maxim, “Feel to heal”. If the wounded individual will just stop suppressing, displacing, and swallowing the pain of the wound, and, rather, feel it and express it, the pain almost always diminishes. It may not diminish to the point of non-existence. But it very often, when abreacted, when felt, diminishes to the point of being able to be borne.

And yet, and yet, there is about a 5% element within the pain of one’s life that is just too deeply buried, too poorly stitched up when it happened, too “immediate” to the child-self inside you, to be healed by being felt. Some sicknesses, to quote SK, are “unto death”.

I have observed this fact of life (or death, rather) through years of pastoral ministry. Some problems are, it appears, incurable.

And this is where the experience of spiritual warfare comes to the fore. (I often wish this second element of healing weren’t true, because it threatens to cross over into the Twilight Zone or One Step Beyond — the bizarre and potentially superstitious.) But it is still true! Some of the burdens you and I carry can be healed only through spiritual deliverance, the casting out of demons.

But hey, Jesus did it. He was much less finicky about it, too, than I, for one, constitutionally, am.

So “Come with Me, and Take a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”.
LUV U, PZ