One river, many streams; I love theology (and so can you!)

https://nathanaelvitkus.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/a7cf0-braided_drainage.jpgTheology is defined as, according to dictionary dot com, “the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.” I agree with this definition, and more to the point, I love theology.
The thing is, theology isn’t limited to terms solely in the here and now, but across the entire expanse of human history! With that being said I enjoy learning about theologians had to say across that expanse of time. From the early years of the church; the desert fathers and mothers in their self-imposed cloistering away from community brought so much to their community (not how I would handle things, but it worked for them) to more modern contemporaries such as Rob Bell, N.T. Wright, Brian Mclaren, Frank Schaeffer, Rachel Held Evans.

Yet I also look for truth of who God is from individuals outside of my faith tradition because I truly believe that all truth is God’s truth, and that grace and beauty reflect creation as well as Creator so the universe of theology is that much more bigger as a result. I also look for God’s truth in varied mediums apart from what people have said and what people have written, but also what people have created, what people have drawn. It is humbling for me to be in the presence of others and where they have found God and decided to share it with others, it also leaves me enamored and grateful for God making God’s self known in so much of creation. And with that in mind all someone has to do is be receptive to seeing / experiencing God to find God, although there are times where I “see” or “experience” God in a limited way, as Nadia Bolz-Weber put it- “I once was blind, and now can see’: it’s more like, ‘I once was blind and now I have really bad vision’.

You might be wondering, how can I love theology? Well, I would say since the streams are many, find one of interest to you! There’s queer theology, feminist theology, process theology, liberation theology, et al. Maybe you connect with one because where you’re at now, and if you happen to jump into another stream as it were, there is space and grace to do that…progressing and evolving is all part of the process, and I’m led to believe that God doesn’t want us to be a stagnant stream, to state out loud or not that “this is what I believe in, this is what I have faith in, this is what I doubt about…” Sure there might be some things we carry over to the new steam we’re in, but I encourage eating the meat, chewing the fat, but spitting out the bones.

~Nathanael~

P.S. Here are some resources:
Queer Theology
Feminist Theology
Process Theology
Liberation Theology

Stepping into history can be heavy; Martin Luther King Jr/Memphis

On Friday last week I went to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. As soon as I left the parking lot it felt heavy, as this was the site where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

0rdy.jpg

Before even getting here, I the lover of history knew about this site from what I learned in history in my younger years. But reading about such places has a different weight to them, going to such sites can be so heavy.

In case you’ve never been to the museum it goes like this. You park, you walk in the parking lot outside of Martin Luther King Jr.’s room, you go into an underpass of sorts, go into the museum, make your way to the a higher level and there you are in the area where James Earl Ray was staying and conditions of this place are such so it’s presented as it was back then! The bathroom and cracked window in the above photo is where he was when he fired his rifle across to the hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out…it is eerie for many reasons, it is very matter-of-fact as to what happened.

It was heavy for me because I think about a lot of things, and when I think about individuals who have moved in the direction of progress, a LOT of people die in their prime for what they believe and stand for; Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr…the list goes on.

There’s something to living for what you believe, and I truly try to live out what I believe as a follower of Christ on a daily basis. Yet there’s also something to living what you believe even if it costs you your life. I don’t think I have any threats against me, I’m a peaceable person and don’t get into a lot of arguments. I passionately dialogue and discuss things out, and so I don’t think I’m someone worth targeting despite perhaps coming from a different stance from different people.

Still those who are martyred for what they believe hold admiration on my part, now suicide bombers who martyr themselves do not hold any admiration, perhaps that’ll be another blog post for another day.

***

Martin Luther King Jr. studied the peaceful protesting methodology of Mahatma Gandhi, and he was also a follower of Christ. His words and speeches are prolific and well-known, and he exemplified St. Francis of Assisi’s words “make me an instrument of your peace”. Being where he was when he gave up his spirit and passed on was awe-educing, the silence of that place was deafening. I too want to live out a life of being an instrument of peace, as well as progress for humanity. How will that all look? I don’t know fully know yet, but I am getting to where I need to be in life and I have God to thank for that.

~Nathanael~

A Seder meal, Jungian Psychology and my imagination

    Tonight at one of the churches I attend there was a Seder meal followed up by a Maundy Thursday service. Now the Seder meal is part of the Jewish belief system, it’s tied to Passover and remembrance of what God did to save the Israelites while in captivity by the Egyptians. Foods at a Seder meal contains rich symbolism (click here if you want to know about the food and the meanings behind the food), not all were presented at the dinner but most of them were.

It is the bread and wine that Jesus and his disciples partook during their Seder meal that has become the tradition of Communion/Eucharist/The Lord’s Supper, with this symbolism in mind as I dined pretty much like how they did, my imagination and mind started drifting.
On my mother’s side of the family going back 150 years some of her family members were Jewish. In fact, one of said relatives was deemed The Jew in his community. Was he a Rabbi or some other leader within his synagogue? I don’t know, but someday I hope to find out more. So, ancestrally, I am Jewish, and when my imagination started drifting I thought about how those relatives shared this very meal I was eating…but my mind also wandered back to Jesus and his disciples eating the same meal…and then I went back to the first Passover with Moses and the Israelites.

History hasn’t always been written down, for a while what was known was passed down from generation to generation by way of oral tradition. What Jesus and his disciples practiced out was centuries old when they partook of Passover, and perhaps some of it was written down, but certainly parts of it were passed down by way of, you guessed it, oral tradition.

My mind dwelt on these things, and then I started thinking about Jungian Psychology and the area of Psychology he came up with called “Collective Unconscious” which says that in some way traditions and symbols and ways of the past get instilled into future generations on an unconscious level, and this keeps on happening from generation to generation. I don’t necessarily believe in C.U. but I kinda like how it could explain why some things are just “known” and granted I believe environment has a lot to play into it; We know (or even don’t know) things because of the life we’re brought into, traditions that have history and lore to it, it helps makes us who we are and in some way it actually defines us.

But with my imagination and C.U. meshed together for a good 30 mins, I saw the past (Moses and the first Passover), 2000 years ago (Jesus and his disciples celebrating Passover), the 1860s (my mother’s family celebrating Passover) and me and those who were at this Seder meal doing the same thing
I don’t use drugs, but that was certainly a trip that didn’t require a passport 😉

I love traditions and I hope to instill some into the life of my future family when I get there. Something to keep various aspects of my past alive, something that I hope my wife and kids will appreciate and continue on when I’m gone.

Sometimes, sometimes it takes having a good history to make a great future but you have to keep moving and preparing the way to make it so.

~Nathanael~

Have we learned nothing from history; Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana

   It was only 56 years ago a 14 year old boy by the name of Emmett Till was brutally murdered, his “crime”? He flirted with a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. Because he whistled at a woman, men acted evilly took it upon themselves to go after Emmett and brutally murder him. When his body was recovered the extent of his injuries was horrific, I don’t even want to type them here. Emmett’s mom who raised him did something purposeful at this funeral, she had an open casket; she made her son’s tragic death visible to the world at large, a symbol of visible brutality and tragedy in a life cut short.

In today’s recent headlines there’s talk about Trayvon Martin; a 17 year old who was walking to where his father’s girlfriend lived, who wore a hoodie and had on him Skittles and iced tea. He was gunned down because his shooter said he was “suspicious” and yet no weapon was found on Trayvon. A man acted in an evil manner took it upon himself to respond in the most horrific of ways, by killing another human being.

There are correlations between Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, but what gets to me is that in both cases innocent blood spilled on the ground, and as I reread the account of the first murder recorded in the Bible I read Genesis 4:10 – “The LORD said [to Cain], “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

Blood cries out to God from the ground…Emmett’s blood as well as Trayvon’s. There are also the cries of those directly affected, there are cries from the nations who are rightly upset at such tragedy and pain. I too weep at such a horrific end of life ended barely after it started, life is a precious gift from God and to have that life taken away by another human being is heartbreaking.

***

Whatever the outcome is in this recent murder, God is in control and his justice will prevail, but I am let thinking and wondering and somewhat yelling at God HAVE WE NOT LEARNED FROM HISTORY? WHY DO WE KEEP MAKING SUCH HORRIBLE MISTAKES TIME AND TIME AGAIN? Because as the quote I mentioned above says we’re condemned to keep making such horrible choices and mistakes if we don’t progress and learn from what was done. I don’t want humanity to be caught in the past that’s destructive, and with Trayvon’s death it seems as we’re condemned to repeat what unfolded 50+ years ago in the case of Emmett.

May God’s justice prevail in these troubled times,
May God give peace and comfort to Trayvon’s family and friends in this time and in time to come.

~Nathanael~