Monday, January 07, 2008

Organic and Organized Hymns in a Practical Whorehouse

I miss the hymns in the whorehouse ...

(uh, the webmagazine by that clarify!)
The magazine was big and bold enough to do what more ministries might want to weigh as a live option and even God's best for them. It:
argued itself out of existence. This is a good thing. In the end, we are pessimistic romantics. We believe life is eucatastrophic: a joyous catastrophe. Instead of spending endless hours before the faceless void of the “new media,” we will be engaging the tragedies and necessities of raising families, rebuilding neighborhoods and small towns, and fighting to preserve and save that which we love. As we dive back into the particularities of our places and people and their needs, we hope you will do the same. And remember, Fr. Jape is watching you.

In essence, they realized the best "place" to voice and authenticate holy dissent is in the concrete context of a "real place."

(Ours is a )localist, decentralist, anarcho-Christian and authentically conservative approach to politics and culture. As we have written previously, we believe that to suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the only true basis for finding love, friendship, and an authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less than the key to the pursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian adventure: to live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, and community--all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly. The discipline of place teaches that it is more than enough to care skillfully and lovingly for one’s own little circle, and this is the model for the good life, not the limitless jurisdiction of the ego, granted by a doctrine of choice, that is ever seeking its own fulfillment, pleasure, and satiation. link

At least they left their archives online now that they are hanging out with family!
But what a model for a humble incarnating..of enKingdoming (Tom Fuller's helpful phrase) community/communitas.
I sometimes prefer theology (Cracks me up that some seminaries offer a few token courses in
"practical" theology).. I can prefer ivory tower to the streets below.
And I neglect to teach and preach that "God loves donkeys, sweat, entrails and menstruation."

I recently woke up with the thought in my head "Nothing is more practical than theory, and nothing is more theoretical than practice" I woke up, and wondered had anyone ever said that before? I googled it, and it turned out to be... Karl Marx!!

It was a word from God.
Suffice to say God is more Celtic than Gnostic, and imminently practical.

I know no theologian more practical and dedicated to living out theology in praxis in community, family and world... than Steve Seamands. His most recent book (a Christianity Today runner-up for Book of the Year), "Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service" is hugely helpful in applying the most "theological" and apparently "unpractical" doctrines of all to life and ministry.
How does the doctrine and reality of the Trinity impact everything we say/do/pray/decide?

One chapter is devoted to the inherently relational personhood of the members of the Trinity; and the final chapter deals with the intrinsically missional nature of the Persons of God.
If I could be authentically relaional (sans koinonitis and "comittees of buzzards") and actually missional (not manipulative), I could begin my ministry!

Seamands references Moltmann (who of course has penned a classic on the Trinity, in addition to living a gentle and practical trinitarian life): "It is not the church that has a mission of salvation to fulfill in the world, it is the mission of the Son and the Spirit through the Father that includes the church, creating a church a it goes on its way." (For more on the ecclessiology/missiology dovetail, see this, and thank Len for his invaluable work).

And as that church is created in passing, it will inevitably find itself organic and organized.

Wait, you say, that last sentence sounds so unlike Dave Wainscott (No one has accused the church i serve of being too organized!)

But it sounds so much like the Trinity...

Many Christian leaders fail to live in the radical middle of this bipolar paradigm, and operate either out of an "institutionalistic" or "spiritualistic" paradigm, says Schwarz.. "Whereas representatives of an institutional paradigm largely misunderstand these resources in a technocratic way--and in spite of a well-rehearsed litany of denying it--attempt to MAKE the church grow, spiritualists tend to pick out those elements that emphasize spiritually and redefine it in a spiritualistic internal spiritual growth."..The doctrine of the Trinity with its seeming logical contradicton that God is one being in three persons, invites those of us in ministry not to resolve the tension but to live with paradox....Approaching life and ministry as a mystery to be entered instead ofa problem to be solved opens us to hidden meanings...beyond our categories and calculations" -Seamands, p 110

Len Hjalmarson recently observed:

The problem is, if you have an unorganized church, you don’t have a church at all. There is no such thing as an unorganized organism. All life is organized, and when it dis-integrates it dies.
So, the contrast between IC and organic church is not really a debate about organization. For me that is a helpful awareness. I’ve been in many gatherings which were organized yet organic, and some which were highly spontaneous yet non-organic, because there was a non-organic framework of understanding governing the interaction of people. I’ve learned that “institution” can exist in our hearts because it has an imaginative architecture all its own: it is, in Paul’s words, a “power” that influences, and even forms, us. Len Hjalmarson

And Mike, the owner of the rude armchair, stretches us into the tension. He presents thes two quotes from the new edition of "Pagan Christianity" ( Viola and Barna):

"We are also making an outrageous proposal: that the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to exist.”

“In short, this book demonstrates beyond dispute that those who have left the fold of institutional Christianity to become part of an organic church have a historical right to exist.”

And responds as follows (and not just because he is an Episcopalian whose church meets at a coffee house):
I think there's a really, really big difference between statements of the first form and those of the second. In particular, on those occasions when I attempt to lay down my self-righteous smack on issues related to church leadership, polity, structure, etc., etc., I hope I always mean to make statements of the latter "Y is [also] valid" form - though without the whole "beyond dispute" hubris - as opposed to the former "X is invalid" form. I do feel that certain aspects of our contemporary institutional church that are almost universal - including many of the ones examined by Viola and Barna - probably ought to become (by contrast) almost nonexistent in the postmodern world, because I think in more and more contexts they will do more harm than good. But I think context is everything, and I think that things like (for example) church buildings, clergy, sermons, seminaries, hierarchies, etc. have been and still are appropriate in many contexts - but probably never should have been as universal as they became. And, I suspect the contexts in which they do more good than harm are becoming more and more scarce. link

I love (most days) that we live in such a liminal day of holy shift that this is the context and culture and contour.

I long to live it out in a real place.
Organized and organic.
Church and whorehouse.


  1. Thanks, Dave, and good stuff! I went to this "Emergent Theological/Philosophical Conversation" thingy last spring in Philly, and got my head filled full of some awesome - and faithful - postmodern philosophy from two of the world's foremost continental philosophers (Jack Caputo and Richard Kearney, both of whom happen to be Roman Catholics). My biggest takeaway? "Oh. I get it. 'Deconstruction' means 'humility'."

    (Actually, my biggest takeaway was that the best thing about "emerging church" convention-thingies is meeting and tipping a pint with lots of cool people. But the other thing was my biggest takeaway from Caputo and Kearney - though they themselves didn't hesitate to hang out and eat and drink with us scruffy young Protestant churchy rebels.)

    Back to the "humility" thing - I honestly think it's the single biggest gift of the so-called "postmodern" church, for all that we're also chock full of hubris in our flagrant disregard of many non-negotiables of the past (and present). I really pray that we *treat* it as out biggest gift, and don't forget that we only know what we think God and our hearts are calling us to, and what we've managed to learn from scripture, community, and tradition. Apart from that, we don't know jack - same as everybody else. We aren't a bunch of genius gnostics who've just uncovered the long-lost mystic secret of "church" that nobody in 2000 years knew 'cept Jesus and one or two of his closest friends. Thank God! :-)

  2. amazing story, Mike. Extremely well-said

    I am hoping not to become proud of my humility


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!