Posted by: edsohn | December 20, 2007

Connecting with the “Otherness”

Rhyme of Summary:

Starting with some questions
About the dimensions
Of church, even in virtual space.
Connecting to Otherkin,
the people discoverin’
that they are a whole other race.

From the water we’re swimming in
To the nature of our inner sin
Are we challengers, or bargaining peace?
Politics to theology,
Economics made idolatry,
The list of topics will never cease.

Bah, I ran out of rhyme. More next time. Prime climb spine dime shine.

_______________________________

 

Merging Lanes will be taking a break (selah!) from our formal Monday-Thursday schedule for a short hiatus, until January 2008 (other than perhaps Rest Stop posts or spontaneous blog thoughts). I’m pleased to try and close 2007, the year-end scheduled post of Merging Lanes.

One of the common threads in our posts so far is the theme of intersecting with people’s lives. Mostly unintentionally we have hovered around topics that are truly befitting the theme of “merging lanes”. Cool, right? I think so. But why did that happen? What’s our subconscious interest in community and relationships?

Mike Mason, in “The Mystery of Marriage” (a book of deep theology and philosophy, not Christian practical self-help dating literature) describes the invasive and troubling nature of love, demonstrated between alien lives somehow becoming one, and WHY that reveals the reality of God.

So, since this is a long post mixing some of Mason’s thoughts with my own observations from our blog… I’ll go with bullet points. SORRY FOR THE LENGTH!

1. Our Encounters With People Are Our Closest Approximation of Encountering God

Mason posits that human beings are the closest thing we have to a tangible encounter with our God, because we are made in His likeness. “[T]o be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity in the world is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset. . . . We cannot really ‘love’ a sunset; we can only love a person.”

And what’s true for love is equally true for hate. Mason discusses a hidden antagonism that we can’t take out on an invisible God, an antagonism we take out on other people. This passage made me put the book down with wet eyes:

Since other people are as close as we can get to God in the physical world, we settle for getting at Him through one another. And it works–it really does! How exciting to discover that the all-powerful God has a place of vulnerability, and that place is man! We cannot punch God in the nose, but we can punch another person. We cannot crucify God (at least, who would believe it if we did?), but we can crucify a man.

Wow. We do manifest our attitudes towards God on the closest semblance we can find of Him in the physical world, and that’s other people, including Christ Himself.

2. We Find People Are Different From Ourselves

The basic point of Mason’s first chapter, entitled “Otherness”: people are different from us! And when we get really close to them, when we go beyond the superficial, we realize just how different their reference points, emotional reactions and instincts are from the way we think and feel. It’s jarring, and difficult. It may lead immature couples to doubt whether they are really “right” for each other. It may cause us to, as Derek Webb repents for in his lyrics, domesticate God “until You look just like me”. Our narcissism causes us to be categorically averse to anything that does not resemble ourselves.

3. God Did This To Highlight The Invading, Alien Nature of His Love

But Mason submits that God intentionally made us different from each other, as God-imaged humans, to highlight how different He is from us.

To what end? Our recognition of “otherness” in another person reminds us that God is not a creation of human imagination, that our existence in life is beyond ourselves. Just as we are shocked to discover that other people are different and real and independent, we are reminded that He is also independent and real, and that He wants to invade our privacy with his otherness. Most of all, God’s love is invading, foreign and unfamiliar. Our narcissistic desire to shut out the unfamiliar is overcome by this alien love, enabling us to even fuse and submit to this invasive foreignness.

4. This Is Why We Crave Relationships, And It’s How Love Works

I note, once again, that the authors here at Merging Lanes, intentionally or subconsciously contemplate (and crave) affinity and relationships. We have cried out for others to rescue us from our self-destructive natures, we are determined to realize racial reconciliation, we dare to hope for a candidate that may bring people together, we even yearn for dialog in a quest for self-realization. God gave us these instincts that seek “otherness”, because He wants us to understand that aspect of our relationship with Him. In community, we’re hungry for diversity. In marriage, an affinity for the invasion of a spouse is an instinct on which He desires us to draw when encountering Him, as we are HIS spouse.

And love, then, is an invitation to open ourselves to people in a way that’s vulnerable and affirms the alien reality of another person invading our privacy.

5. The Challenge

As we spend time with family and friends this season, let’s open our hearts to the alienness of others, so that we might be reminded and affirmed about the reality of an invading, pursuing God. Let’s not look for self-centered ways to stay comfortable, but instead seek to courageously embrace the foreignness, the “otherness” of another person, and in that way, be reminded of God’s own foreign reality that desires so deeply to invade our lives.

God’s desire to invade our world with His alien self was so great that, as Kirkegaard stated, He went “infinitely farther than any shepherd or any woman, He went, in sooth, the infinitely long way from being God to becoming man, and that way He went in search for sinners.”

Merry Christmas!

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Responses

  1. oh man. bravo.

    i joked earlier that, “i guess that means i might as well marry something non-human” but obviously i’m being facetious…

    that was so well-done and affirming as to what we have meagerly attempted. and merely analyzing the themes of our posts does reveal something doesnt it.

    it’s funny how the “answer(s)” are revealed by a simple overview of all our individual subsidiary “answers” otherwise known as “blog posts” every 3-4 days.

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. The best writers, my favorite ones, the ones I can’t bear to put on my bookshelf, but keep right next to me on my nightstand, months after finishing the books–they reveal to me what I’ve known in my heart, but had yet to realize in my head. You’ve done that for me in this post and I can’t thank you enough.

    The rocks and trees cry out, and indeed so do our hearts.

    merry christmas to all!

  3. You make me want to read this book. Scot McKnight talks a lot about our being eikons (greek spelling) of God, as that was the imagery used in ancient Christian theology, and how the eikons are broken images of God.

    But never before had I considered that as we look at the differences, or alienness, we find in each other, we see the otherness of God as well. That’s what makes the incarnation so beautiful, so mindblowing. The wholly other, to quote Barth, has become wholly us. I guess that is the similarity we see in each other. The “things we have in common.”

    Now God has truly something in common with us. Our humanity. In Jesus.

    What a truly merry Christmas. God has something in common with me, and that is my existence here on earth, and all the struggles and joys I experience.

  4. […] my year-end post from last December, something that stuck with me this year is the idea that our emotions are a reflection of the image […]


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