Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dizzy, woozy and a wee bit nauseous (Thursday post for 9/6/2012)

OK, I know "Vertigo" is an old movie but it’s still brilliant.  IMDB describes the movie like this:
“A retired San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's much-younger wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.”

You can imagine all the places it might go.  Add to this the fact that Alfred Hitchcock directed this film and, as you can imagine, he took on the challenge to make the feeling of vertigo come alive on the screen.  I get a little dizzy just thinking about it.

That’s really what makes the film so darn brilliant in the first place.  I was caught off guard the first time I saw the effect and, even now, knowing what next scene is coming doesn’t lessen it at all.  In fact, just anticipating the coming scene makes me a little dizzy, woozy and a wee bit nauseous.

Voting season does the same for me.  Things get kinda weird.  Up becomes down and down becomes up and I feel a dizzy, woozy and wee bit nauseous.  It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I see the same thing unfold because even the anticipation of it all makes me ill. 

Granted, there are some ways it seems as though it’s gotten worse.  In past years, it seemed as though there was at least the illusion of a cyclic work period and campaign season.  These days, it seems as though the campaign never really stops.  The majority of Democrats and Republicans are spending more and more time raising money for the next election and less and less time governing.  It seems as though their positions are rarely chosen with any sense of integrity and passion anymore, but almost solely based on what will get them elected to office once again.  It seems as though, more and more, the issues many politicians purport to run on get set aside when they are faced with the manipulative reality of our current “democracy” and the growing power of the plutocracy. 

And the lying...  It seems as though any lie, when enough money gets put behind it, can be made to sound like a truth.  Although there are some individual exceptions, our news sources have been bought and sold  and are complicit; if not directly then by increasingly market driven, selective, intentional incompetence.  As media becomes an increasingly consumer driven enterprise, their task is not to tell the truth but simply draw more consumers to their product.  False “debaters” on different topics are brought in like professional, entertaining wrestlers and the truth is determined not on the quality of the facts presented but the quality and flash of the debating method.

And so we’re dizzy, woozy and a wee bit nauseous...

In such a time as this, I am not always sure what the role of the church is or even should be.  I sympathize with those who want to place some sort of spiritual bulwark around the church and have it only be a place of sanctuary.  I want a place of quiet and comfort, too.   I, too, want a separate place away from the noise of commercialism, false nationalism, debate and rancor.  I, too, want a place where all I focus on are the spiritual practices and a deeper understanding of scripture.

Granted, there’s really nothing in the bible or Christian history that suggests this should be the role of a Christian community.  These are the kind of things we need to work on at home and in smaller communities of study and practice.  The Epistles, after all, aren’t as much a description of the ideal community as much as an attempt to help clean up the messiness of these communities.  There are all kinds of ways the church can drive you to prayer.

Christian community is, and should be, hard and, frankly, a little crazy making.  We need to have communities we can bring our full selves to.  These cannot be communities of perfection because, well, we are there.  We need communities where people can ask for prayers for a dying friend in one breath and express their opinion about an issue that concerns them in the next.  We need communities where people will pray for that dying friend and disagree with that sister or brother’s opinion, too.  We need communities with preaching that invokes God’s presence and provokes our spirits.  We need communities that both feed the poor and ask why the poor are hungry.  We need communities that don’t just call us to pray but communities that are sometimes so difficult to deal with that they make us need to pray.  I’d go as far as to say that if the only thing someone has received from their church over the last year is comfort and affirmation, something is wrong.

This might be that place where the church has something to offer.  Everything else in the world seems to be breaking us down in to easily marketable groups for this item or that; this idea or that; this vote or that.  We have been divided in to allies and enemies in a constant state of war where there is a clear winner or loser and those that lose are forced to wander. 

Yes, the church has been infected with this thinking, too.  In too many cases, we have traded faithful engagement, courage, persistence, justice and love for intentional disengagement, protectionism, calculated indifference, selfishness and self-righteous apathy. 


Regardless of what some may say (and, I confess, I have said and thought) we are not so far gone that we can’t find our way forward (not back) to a better way.  We can find our way forward to a community whose gifts are challenges.  We can find our way forward to a community that is not grounded in the shallow waters of conformity but that sails on deep, sometime churning, water deepened by struggle.  We can find our way forward to a community in which the pain and vulnerability of another is integrated as the community’s pain and vulnerability instead of something that the community treats like an infection.  We can find our way to a community where the justice demanding word sometimes disturbs the prayerful word and where prayerful words sometime become those that demand justice.  We can find our way forward to a community in which conflict is a vocational reality and an opportunity to practice love.  So, as I try and figure what our role is in these times that make us all dizzy, woozy and a wee bit nauseous our role is not to try and seek out a role but to be who we’re called to be. 

We get used.  We get used, a lot.  We get used by the political market and then say “Thanks” for the attention; confusing this attention with relevance. 

We are more than this.  We can be more than this.  We need to be more than this.