Over the course of my quickly fading 20s I’ve discovered a few truths about existence:
1) My crutch like belief-as a poorly complected 17 year old-that my skin would finally even out in my late twenties was, disappointingly, misplaced. (Also, is there a more depressing diagnosis than “ADULT ACNE”? In terms of raw sexuality I’d argue it’s right up there with “PLANTAR WARTS”.)
2) The internet has made loving my neighbors and my mom’s salon friends on Facebook more difficult, not less.
3) The Dave Matthews Band was not, in the stark light of history, “a timeless” band. Nor should upwards of 3 stickers on the back window of my 2001 Pontiac Grand Am in the early 2000s have attested to this fact.
4) I read, like, a lot.
I realize saying this 4th point out loud is a bit embarrassing. Somewhat like complaining about having to spend a languishing lunch with one’s “tile guy” (a real thing I’ve read about in expired Forbes magazines at the dentist office) or about how tight your stomach felt after enjoying 3 Baked Alaska’s during last year’s family cruise on a boat probably called the “Carnival Cumber-bun”.
(BUT, ERIC YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! THERE WAS A ROCK WALL AND A DUTY FREE SHOP FILLED WITH COLOGNE AND SPOOLS OF GOLD CHAIN ON BOARD!)
Not to mention, seeing the words “I read a lot” written out like that reminds me of a date early in my relationship with my wife, when I confessed a similarly deep and mysterious truth:
“I like sounds.”
This is a true account of my actual words, but unlike the Riverside Tavern in which we shared that meal, we’re still standing 12 years later.
Bet they didn’t see that coming.
Now, I read for lots of reasons:
knowledge, edification, challenge, affirmation, boredom, but if I’m being honest, I read mostly as a way of understanding myself as smart, learned, vocabularically (not a “real” word) well-versed, and more successful than, say, someone who hasn’t trudged solemnly through Plato’s Republic.
Which is likely why I refuse to use a Kindle-seeing as I cannot put completed internet novels on bookshelves easily within view of visitors to my home.
It’s also probably why I always buy rather than borrow books.
And, I know it’s why I’ve had John Ruskin’s Unto this Last gathering dust on my bedside table for a month untouched.
“Remember that the most beautiful things in life are often the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance.”
If one were to scan my desperately pretentious shelves he or she would quickly notice a theme: mainly, that most of my books don’t seem very enjoyable, and they’re usually categorized at your local Amazon Bookseller as works of “theology”.
“Oh, so you haven’t read Dick Horsley’s Jesus and the Spiral of Violence?”
Don’t worry, every other person you’ve met over the course of your life hasn’t either.
Now, the word theology, for the 2.75 people who frequent this site and aren’t professionally religious (HEY MOM!), can carry with it a bracing degree of gravitas, alienating mere mortals from it’s hallowed place in dusty pastoral studies. But much like all other words (“gravitas” for instance), once you learn the definition it’s really not all that threatening.
Put simply, theology is really a combination of 2 Greek words.
1) theos meaning “god” or “gods”
2) logos meaning “word” or even “words”.
“word(s) about god(s)”
And, if my shelves are any indication, there’ve been more than a few of these words put forth over the years. However, most of our language ends up leaving many people quite interested in discussing the thing holding all of us together, God if you like, on the outside of specious and alienating discourse about the exact timing of something called the Parousia.
Or whether or not God goes so far as to orchestrate every event taking place currently (like the words I’m typing…fart…was that fatalistically predetermined?)
Or how the Bible was formed and what part it plays in revealing God’s voice to the world?
Or who’s responsible for 2 grown men kissing one another after one of them gets drafted (and later cut) by the Rams?
Or even what happens to us after we have a near death experience followed by a multi-million dollar book deal?
Although lately, amidst the endless blogs, books, arguments, denouncements, political posturing, publishing deals and Christian takedown pieces flooding the ether around our faith, I’m left wondering:
for a religion founded by a man with only a few debated scribbles in the sand to his name, we sure are a bookish bunch.
When the only thing we can cling to in the dark are the orthodoxy of our run-on sentences and sermonic proclamations about the divine, it’s safe to say we’ve abandoned the one unalienable truth of our faith.
Which, again, is just a word, but one describing a process of other words, hopes, fears, dreams, and longings taking on flesh and blood in order to enter our world with more than just a heavenly reminder to keep reading.
In one particularly potent phrase, the author of the Gospel of John describes Incarnation as the creative voice of God throughout the ages becoming a human being, uniquely, in the person of Jesus.
“The WORD took on flesh…”
Nowadays, we’ve simply returned the favor, turning flesh and blood and sweat and tears and mystery and death and resurrection into mere words to be haggled over and line the walls of our offices and egos.
In short: if your words don’t ever take on flesh, don’t ever sacrifice themselves, don’t ever liberate the oppressed, don’t ever feed the hungry, and don’t ever bring healing to the forgotten decrepit neighborhoods on the underside of capitalism, then they have, are, and will always be, heretical.
Not to mention, deeply uninteresting to the rest of us not slogging our way through something called a Wolfhart Pannenberg.
Because, theologically speaking, flesh is the new word.