This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations or presbytery I serve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wild Goose 8. Rollins, McColman.

Peter Rollins.

            I arrived in the middle of Rollins’ talk, but it was not hard to get the gist.  Rollins applies a withering critique against conventional religion, the traditional church, and the standard views of God.  What does it mean to talk about sin as “separation from God,” if the god from whom we are separate is false?  Rollins contends that our religion hides our real brokenness from us; it tries to seduce this false god into blessing and accepting us.
            Jesus, on the other hand, said we should experience God, the true God, by loving. The moment you lose “god” and start saying yes to life, you begin to live in the mystery of God.  Religion needs to be overcome because it tells us we are all ok.  It represses our darkness and brokenness.  In religion we try to hid from ourselves. 
            What would a church look like that didn’t do this, but exposed it as idolatry?
            For there is a God, a transcendent reality.  We know that resurrection is certain because we are alive. 
            Religious experience is not on experience among others; it is how we experience anything.  It is about transformation.
            Rollins suggested an antidote to the Alpha Course, in which people learn Christianity in 12-weeks: the Omega Course, “exiting Christianity in 12-weeks.”
            What if the coyote ever actually caught the Road Runner?  Oscar Wilde said that they only thing worse than not getting what you want is getting what you want.  Many charismatics have learned that after you “get God” it becomes like an addiction.
            Rollins’ conclusion: “If God is love then you have God every time you love.”  In love you both get and don’t get what you want.
            Rollins’ engaging style, his Scottish accent, and his sense of humor help communicating what is actually a very revolutionary message.

            I had heard about Rollins but never actually read his stuff.  He seems to be riffing on a Tillichian “God beyond god” thing, combined with a Barthian anti-“religion,” with a touch of Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity,” all filtered through post-modernism.  I find him saying things similar to what the much maligned and misunderstood “Death of God” theologians were saying half a century ago.  Our religion invents a false god designed to separate us from the true God we can’t know but whom Jesus talks about and reveals.  This invented religion comforts us but it does not allow us to grapple with our true selves any more than it connects us to the true God.
            Like so many of the presenters at Wild Goose, Rollins gives us a Christianity that is exponentially more demanding and powerful than standard, watered-down, domesticated Christianity.  

Carl McColman.

            McColman is a spiritual journeyer.  In the past he wrote books as a neo-pagan.  Then he converted to Catholicism.  His most recent work has been on the Christian mystical tradition. 
            For McColman, as I suspect for most Wild Goose people, contemplation changes us, and because it changes us it changes the world.  Contemplation is not a distraction from but a support for social justice work.  Change agents often begin with a perios of retreat (as with both Jesus and Paul).  We breathe in, and in that place of stillness, transformation happens.  The pattern repeats itself.
            Contemplation means “I look at God and God looks at me.”  It allows the chaos of the mind to slow down.  We live in the silence between our thoughts.  You make yourself vulnerable to the possibility that God will radically change you, creating a space in which our lives can change gears.  There is a sense that God is both out there and in here.  There is an opening to possibility.  We enter a space where God can play with us. 
            “Taking delight in the Lord” means that God is passionately in love with us and wants to play-flirt with us.  We are entering into a playful presence.
            We know that Christ is present: we are the body of Christ.  We have the mind of Christ.  We are partakers of the divine nature.  We are baptized into God’s presence in our lives.  Solitude and community are both part of the Christian life.

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