With the publishing of ‘When is the right time to give up?’ I received lots of personal messages asking me not to! That was very comforting! At least people were reading what goes on in the ‘Neosphere’, as Marshall McLuhan called it (I think). (The Neosphere is a new virtual repository of human knowledge).
What we know as the World-Wide Web is nothing less than a storehouse of human knowing. We may not agree with much of it, but hopefully the more knee-jerked, bigoted and ill-educated comments on YouTube which can be filtered out and need not attract our attention the better!
In this Neosphere you have to be careful how you talk, tweet or update your status, because you could end up in jail. Talks of rioting are strictly forbidden and so if you wish to overthrow your Government you have to be careful how you phrase it! It would seem that any form of resistance is undesirable and when we don’t give in to rather basic urges of rioting, looting and burning down other people’s businesses, our silence or inactivity is presumed to give tacit assent to what our Governments get up to in the ‘name of the people’.
Much of this limits our sense of resistance to political action and not spiritual, as if of course there was a great divide between the two. In terms of spiritual here think of we we do usually carve up reality with some very dualistic tools, but what if we started to talk in terms of a spirituality of resistance, what images does it conjure up in your imagination? What would be the jail sentence for that? (See our forthcoming book ‘Translating the Invisible Wind’ on Upptacka Press. http://upptacka.com/ )
The whole notion of Upptacka’s ‘unorthodox thoughts on christian spirituality’ suggests that all is not well with orthodoxy. Now this appears to mean something quite different on each side of the pond, for in Europe the age of Christendom is thankfully dead and we no longer have to fret about the Roman and Orthodox traditions of spirituality. In the US however, orthodoxy seems to be strangely limited to Evangelicalism (a mistake if ever there was one), as evinced by the rabid gnashing of Evangelical teeth on the legs of the fallen-from-grace, Rob Bell. (No, I don’t think he has and anyone who thinks so is decidedly limited in their view of orthodoxy, as noted above!)
But for Upptacka to posit this ‘unorthodoxy’ it reveals a little dissatisfaction with both Orthodoxy and orthodoxy. So, whether you are East or West of The Pond, you are covered by a sense of, let’s call it dissed-ness!
I have come across so many people involved in the arts and business, who are dissatisfied, disaffected with and disenfranchised by contemporary christian spirituality. They seek to follow the Way, to continue in an intimate relationship with God, but are impeded by the Church, or should I say the current model of church. The desire for community is great, but it is thwarted by the Institution of Spirituality we call the Church. When all talents are utilised for the upkeep of this Institution, then there is little if nothing left over for the world of our calling.
The more desperate this Church has become, the more it subsumes everything in its path to maintain its position in life. However, this is not the Great Commission, nor is it the Gospel. Jesus didn’t die so I could go to Church. Jesus died so that no intermediary is necessary for an intimate life with God and that the outpouring of love from this relationship will be seen via the gifts I have; whether it is education, engineering, science, technology, health-care, the Arts or Business. How does the Great Commission expound this kind of calling and vocation in your Church? If it doesn’t then you have problems. If it is only seen as a utility to preach the ‘Gospel’, then you’ve missed the point of the good news!
I have mentioned before some of the advice I’ve been given for my career in the Arts. You may recall one such word of wisdom, that ‘I’d have been successful by now, if God was in it’, but you may find hard to believe what I’m about to tell you. Here goes! A friend of mine had been told he’d been too successful as a business man! The problem seems to be how do we in all faithfulness become less successful and ergo, more Godly? How do you stop the blessing of God?
The Church as we know it is full of Job’s Comforters on the one hand and now, well just what is the opposite of this – Abraham’s Detractors perhaps? Imagine the great Patriarch being told off by local elders because he’d been too successful? The Church it seems is fearful of both failure and success. The ‘failures’ are comforted by mealy-mouthed words of God’s rejection and the ‘successful’ cautioned by devilish double-tongued words of suspicion. You can do nothing in the Church nowadays other than be mediocre, a gift worthy of celebration with the endless production of religious kitsch.
This spells a fundamental crisis that is people-centred, as the Body of Christ disarticulates its members in the service of the god of conformity or perhaps the god of mediocrity. One can be shaken, but alas one cannot stir.
The problem is what to do next. If in our industry groups we feel disenfranchised from the Church, where do we go? Do we assume that the current model of Church has been prescribed by God? When the Diss-ometer rises above 8 what do we do?
I remember reading Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’ during my University days and one of the great impressions it left me with, was that a ‘paradigm shift’ doesn’t occur until a credible alternative is found. It is at this point that scientists make the jump, the shift to a new paradigm.
Now it has been said that Upptacka can be too spiritually diagnostic, that we see the shortcomings of the current Church paradigm, with its hierarchical structures and linear (literal) truth, but that we offer no alternatives. Now please be aware that the Kuhnian paradigm shift doesn’t occur because of a lack of alternatives, but the lack of a credible alternative. Whilst one model or paradigm may have hegemony over others, there has yet to be realised a credible alternative, into whose arms the business and arts fraternity can safely jump!
We hear of different idiosyncratic views of truth and Church, which essentially generate the same hierarchies, but only form a different ideological administration with the same people and tithed income as before! Ostensibly it’s an administrative shift (which we call revival!) but which desires the same control and enslaves the talents of those dwelling in the Middlelands, between (too much) success and (too much) failure – in other words those to whom the maintenance of its monolithic presence in the spiritual marketplace could be entrusted. We have replaced a heart of flesh with a heart of stone, institution comes before people and the religious spirit of control ensures the Institution’s own longevity, by limiting sacraments to Church-occupied territories.
Way back in the days of proper church, well, when it was ‘people and community’ focused, when giving was to the personal needs of the Body of Christ, (not to be confused with a Golden Age or a Proto-Communist civilisation) it flourished and began to develop as a cultural power, which had the potential to change the world for good. However, it was strangled shortly after birth and an institution was carved out of stone to takes its place – hoping that the parents wouldn’t notice the radical change in the child’s weight, demeanour and dexterity. This stoney-child controlled both the medium and the message and didn’t allow for the free-design of new forms of communication. Language after all, is power, or rather the control of language is power!
So, forgive the harking back to days of yore, what about now?
Well, it seems we have a choice. We can ignore all those who are dissatisfied, disaffected or disenfranchised and frankly…totally dissed people and pretend it is just a diabolical attack, or we can do something about it. Can we embrace those who wish to be passionate and faithful Followers of the Way in a different context, living and working in the Arts and Business? Can we nurture those whom the Church has smothered and is incapable of responding to, with a heart of compassion?
How? What we see before us is a very big problem, which instills fear and a sense of impotency in us. However, if we consider it locally rather than globally, we will find the means of undertaking a radical change. I have talked of industry groups and it could be that business people meet together to understand the station of their calling, their mode of life? The same goes for the artist. It may also be that these two groups to come together to understand how life can be enhanced through reciprocal relationships, forming a community which celebrates success and encourages perseverance in the face of ‘failure’. (2Cor 4v8-10 resounds with me again.)
The common core of all this is – ‘the Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it’. We are not owners of it, nor of the ‘truth’ for that matter, but we are stewards of the whole of Creation, including the bits we don’t understand, or that we fear.
It is time for artist and business people to come together and share a vision which unleashes them from their umbilical tethering to the Institution, helping them fall into the warm embrace of adult community. I’m not promoting the old model of Renaissance patronage, but new and radical support akin to the Reformational growth of an arts industry outside of Ecclesiastical control – benefactors for new talent and business partners for the more mature artist, embellishing the life of all, in a communion of those ‘called out’ to make a difference.