Sunday, April 29, 2007

The beginning of an affirmation

I've been journaling some in the mornings about my own theology. There's been a lot that's invited me to rethink what I believe and why I believe it. Most of the time my theology feels like an amusement park ride on which the floor shifts and shakes, and occasionally drops altogether, leaving me pinned to the wall behind me as I spin around at high speed. It changes. I realize now that may be the only thing that ever remains constant about it.

As I've journaled over the past few weeks, I've had a hard time finding a good place to start to describe what I affirm in a more structured way. There's not really anything external that's compelling me to do this, no ordination committee wanting to examine me, no seminary class I have to pass. I guess it's just a way of marking where I am at this point in my life. Whatever the reason, it seemed important to me to know where to begin. What is it that I affirm that forms the basis for the rest of my belief?

An idea hit me in the middle of the sermon today. I suppose with some effort I could figure out how this has something to do with the topic of the sermon, "Birth Control is Wonderful!," but maybe I'll just say it was a moment of inspiration that came from being in a sacred space with others pursuing spiritual things. Truthfully, there is likely a very clear connection to what I'm thinking and the message of today's sermon, but that will be a post for another day.

Here's the idea...

I affirm that there is something deep inside me that stubbornly listens for a life force that woos me to truly live.

What I like about this as a beginning point is that it starts with what I know. I want to think about it some more, but I think I would say it's where faith began for me very early in my life, an awareness or truth that I can trace back to the earliest memories I have of my life. There are many other things that I can easily affirm that naturally grow out of this one statement. But, the hard part for me now is in trying to decide whether or not I want to move toward traditional theological categories and my reconstructions of them, or if I want to attempt to articulate something different. I feel some resistance to the idea of using the traditional concepts, but in the end, I may just have to surrender to the idea that I grew up with them. The stories and ideas in which they are rooted are in my bones. At some point, I suspect, I won't be able to get around using them. At any rate, it's good to have a starting point. Maybe my morning writing will be a bit more productive now.

Don't worry. I'm not throwing away all of the Christian theological education in which I've been engaged for the past 15 or so years (yikes!). I can't throw it away, but for me to develop a theology spoken with my voice, I have to start somewhere other than where most of Christian history starts. I am not writing a theology to protect an institution. I am writing a theology that supports my life. At this point in my life, that's the only thing that makes sense to me.

So forgive me if this sounds self-indulgent, but I do intend to privilege my own voice for a bit. It just seems like an important thing to do right now.

I just wanted to point out that I took down an earlier version of this post because it felt "undone" to me. The great composition teacher, JM, once told me that writing a good essay is like building a hill or mountain on which you ultimately fly your Flag of Conclusion. I didn't want my Flag of Conclusion flying in a stinky pile of poop. You may not feel that I have done anything to improve the foundation for my flag and it may ultimately sink into the muck. I just want you to know that I'm consciously trying to apply the amazing compositional theory of the great JM. I do, however, think you'll find that my sentences are not in the least constipated. I've done a good job varying the length of them to help improve the flow.


JM said...

So your new theology includes making fun of me? AWESOME.

Linda said...

Don't let her fool you, folks. She told me to add the part about flying my flag of conclusion in a stinky pile of poop. She really is an effective teacher, wouldn't you agree? I mean, I'll be thinking about the Flag of Conclusion and constipated sentences for a long time to come. We'll just have to wait and see if it actually improves my writing any. I'm hoping for my next lesson she'll tell me about the composition tool box.

susan said...

As the professorial parent of a four year old, I can totally get behind a theology or pedagogy that includes references to flying the flag of conclusion in a stinky pile of poop. It will get the whole family engaged and amused!

And I think that learning to listen to and value your own voice is also pretty darn awesome.

Linda said...

It's catchy, isn't it, Susan? Very effective.

I would like to point out, however, that my new theology doens't include making fun of JM. My new approach to writing does. But that's only to mask my deep admiration for her brilliance.

JM said...

four year olds, freshmen, same diff... :)

Gannet Girl said...

As a writer who always struggles to locate the conclusion, I love the flag metaphor. And as far as the attentiveness and care directed toward your own voice -- sounds very Ignatian to me, so I love that. I'm so looking forward to seeing where it takes you.

Yankee T said...

I totally heart you.

Marie said...

You're amazing! I love the affirmation and the flag-flying. I wish someone would teach me to write better. I feel the lack keenly sometimes, especially when I re-read the occasional post of mine that I think was really well-written.