It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is only a week away. I never seem to know where the time actually goes, but the days have ticked away and now we stand on the precipice of the holiday season. Families will come together, meals will be shared, and the inevitable trips to the mall in an effort to find that perfect gift will commence. And without fail, advertisements will saturate the airwaves, television screens, and the internet, all in an effort to help us pick out this year’s hottest gift.
Now, it is not my intent to rail against the materialism that accompanies this time of year but to point out an aspect of human behavior. Frankly, I like having things. Chances are, you like things too. For the longest time I wanted an iPhone, and when the iPhone 4 came out, I knew I had to have it. Not because I needed it, but because it was/is the pinnacle of cell phone perfection. (Some may disagree, but I happen to be a huge Apple devotee.) For whatever reason, this season really brings out the need we have to obtain the highest ideal. Thats why we line up at 2:30am the day after Thanksgiving, we want that must have perfect item, but not just the item, we want the ideal price on that item too. Its about the pinnacle of perfection.
It would be deceptive of me to pretend that this was limited to buying gifts, this behavior plays out in various areas of life. Whether its sports, education, music, art, even drug use, all of these activities are manifestations of us attempting to obtain an ideal, whether that is a skill or a state of mind or an emotion. Life’s pursuits are often tied to an ideal.
My own pursuit for an ideal has caused me to become bitter and jaded. I am often so full of cynicism its hard to tell what I acutally believe. The ideal I pursue is the perfect “church,” or a perfect version of Christian thought and experience. I know I am not the only one wants to obtain this ideal. So many of us want to find the perfect church, want to have the perfect theology, want to be the perfect christians. This isn’t just personal though, entire denominations have formed because of people earnestly striving for this ideal.
Throughout this pursuit there are times when we encounter ideas we don’t agree with and we retreat to the safety of the past, taking comfort in the thoughts and beliefs of those who have gone before us. There are also times when we encounter ideas that we reject the past completely and offer up our own interpretation, or if we don’t reject the past, we attempt to go back further to somehow trump the argument.
Recently I discovered a well known author/philosopher/theologian named Peter Rollins. A few days ago I posted on my blog a quote from him which deals directly with the pursuit of this ideal. He says, “The task today does not lie in some naive attempt to return to the early church. The church before Constantine. The church before Platonic philosophy. The church before Paul. The church before… For these moves fail to bring us back far enough.
Rather we must call a new army of agitators into being. Dissidents courageous enough to return to the event that gave birth to the early church. A new breed of individuals brave enough to turn back so as to advance.”
Its not about a return to or the pursuit of an ideal, its about a return to an event.
Christ on a cross.
Death and Resurrection.
The more I think about my own pursuit, the more I think he is right. You cant experience an ideal. But in that event, you experience death and resurrection. You experience grace. Isn’t that the point?
What do you think?