Lucifer Jones

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Natural Power of Prayer

For much of my life I have looked people in the eye at the most crucial moments. Most of the time, I'm multitasking when you are talking to me and I'm going 'blah blah blah get to the point'. But when you make a promise or declare something to be true, that's when I look up and stop humming and look you dead in the eye. That means most of the times during public sermons and prayers I am looking you dead in the eye. This is discomforting, I think, to those who would rather I bowed my head in penitent silence. I've only recently, that is within the past 2 years, actually come around to obeying the custom. There was never any sense of disrespect, it's just that if somebody is suggesting we all do something in the presence of God, I'll be damned before I let that person off without my strictest scrutiny. Plus, I want to see who else might be cracking jokes while people have their heads down in respect.

These days when my head is down, it is in respect for the practice. And quite frankly, I'm doing a lot more internal 'blah blah blah get to the point'. Many ministers and public prayers are invoking ritualistic phrases, few of which have a determined logic. But I think there is a very logical way to pray and I'm going to develop that here.

But the implications of the looking or not looking, the bowing or not bowing, is that it matters to the people standing in the circle or down on their knees in the pews. But should it? If you believe as I do that prayer is a discipline - that it is an opening of a channel to the divine within, and a concious reminder of a sacred duty, then really all one needs to do is pray to God with your mind and that's it. So what are we to make of the idea that when two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there? I'd say the distinction is that you are praying for those who hear, and in that way a prayer is very much like a speech.

A public prayer must be a mutual dedication. It is a public reminder and invocation of the divine to our commitment before God. It is not the same as a sermon, which is one way, or a blessing which is a passthrough proxy kind of thing. It is best a hand-holding, a huddle, a briefing, a pinky swear. And so the power of prayer in this regard has nothing to do with the power of God but rather with the ability of the person leading the prayer to properly invoke the duty of the faithful. It is a mutual promise to act as God would have us act, and in that it has great power.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Talk about Religion, Not Faith

It's going to take me a while to get a straight look at all that I'm doing here. But as I peek around, I've noticed that a lot of people don't talk about Religion so much as they talk about their faith. It's not easy to have an honest theological conversation.

Most folks are actively apologizing or evangelizing or testifying or basically being pompous and pious in public. But a nuanced discussion about the meaning of this or the history of that is hard to come by. I think it's something we need. Just saying...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Long Tail of Christianity

Here's the subtext of Lucifer Jones. Coming as I do from the model society of secularity which is slightly overwhelmed by a cloying blonde meritocracy, I'm trying to open up that which is heresy to a more open debate. But it's not so much a debate as an expanded conversation. There is nothing quite so petty as fundamentalism and having been an active participant in a decent number of Christian sects, it's simply a pain in the butt for me to have to deal with various didactics. So why not have more? Simply more Christian lore.

So if Christianity could be reduced to the machinations of the Alter Call and the profession of faith then it is reductive indeed. The Golden Rule is comprehensive enough, the message of Christ's sacrifice is universal enough but what does this do to our ethics? It flattens it if everything in Christianity is reduced to songs about those two things. So while a number of folks have felt threatened by the Gnostics, I'm wide open to them. Is it so difficult to imagine that Christianity is much richer than most Christians experience? I think not.

It seems that our culprit is Athanasius. He's the dude responsible for taking Iranaeus seriously, and as Bishop ordered the throwdown.

Many of these secret writings, however, were still read and revered by Christians 200 years later when Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria, an admirer of Irenaeus, wrote an Easter letter to Christians in Egypt. He ordered them to reject what he called those "secret, illegitimate books" and keep only 27 approved ones. The 27 he named constitute the earliest known list of the New Testament canon, which Athanasius intended above all to be a guideline for books to be read publicly in church. The New Testament Gospels, which contain much that Jesus taught in public, were the most obvious books to put on that list. The secret books, which contained paradox and mystery akin to the mystical teachings of kabbalah, were not considered suitable for beginners.

Not suitable for beginners. OK makes sense in a world where maybe five percent of the population was literate. We've got a little more bandwidth than that. So I'm excited about secret knowledge as much as the next guy, not because it is hidden, but because it requires work and discipline. What else would you expect of a programmer and writer? Let's ratchet up the complexity and depth of the Christian message and practice beyond the realm of 'broadcast ministry'.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Introducing Lucifer Jones

I've been putting off this matter too long.

It's time for me to integrate my religious philosophy and theory of everything. I'm going to be wreckless and provocative and kick up dirt and dig holes in sacred ground. I really don't know much of any other way to get to the point besides something of a heartless inquisition.

I am not an enemy of faith or religion. Nor am I a crusader against hypocrisy. I am an investigator and anthropologist into what I hesitantly call 'regimes of truth'. I don't wish to give any special credence to post-modernism and I certainly have no truck for moral relativism. But I think that too many of us are floating above suspicion - literally we are too satisfied with a decent explanation rather than understanding the dynamics of knowledge production, inheritance and structure. I'm trying to discover the difference between "I'd like to believe.." and "I know that the reason for this is..". In other words, I'm trying to get rid of wishful thinking about religion.

I am therefore an amateur theologist on a goalless mission. I am digging up bones and planting seeds in fresh fields. I expect to bring light even as I will be accused of doing evil. I do not wish to uproot or banish what I see as a fundamental expression of human curiosity and intellect - that thing which is our recognition of and reconciliation with the what Sagan called 'the numinous'. I wish to expand my vocabulary and enter this rich and deep tradition of human history.

So watch out.