Tuesday, 13 September 2016
texting romans seven
Rm7v1-2 Initially this reads as a confusing bunch of mixed metaphors. The death needed seems to shift from the subject to the spouse in this metaphor. I (wife) am subject to the law while I am alive, so surely it is I who must die? But it is the husband who must die in order to free me from it. Initially I assumed that the husband in this picture was the law, that the old self is locked in a covenant with the law, and this is true, but in fact it makes more sense to say that the spouse in this picture is the old self itself. So close is the oneness of marriage that this metaphor works as an understanding of the complex whole of self. And this makes sense, because it is not simply being a widow to the law that sets me free, but rather v3 re-marriage to Christ. Resurrection is re-marriage to Christ. Which is also the resurrection of the new self, such is the oneness, for Gal2v20 it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables
Paul's Shakespearean tragedy litters the stage with dead spouses. What a vast and precious universe is contained in monogamy's metaphors! It is precisely interesting that the objects of Paul's analogy drift, the argument being equally true first considering the death-of-husband-Law to us, and then considering the death-of-us to husband Law. In both, we are then the bride of Christ. So, to understand this love, I'm interested to compare and contrast the use of spousal-love language to speak of our relation to God, and the use of Fatherheart-love language to speak of our relation to God. Fatherheart language is a much needed remedy to a poverty of experience of and expression by, millenials. However, perhaps we should be wary that parental love is today's preeminent Ideal love, cloying with its marketable cooption, doubly crushing wherever it falls short of idealisation. Husbandheart language, (to coin a ministry) is the trickier, the culturally blurier, it is, by contrast to parental love, the more exclusive and reciprocal and elective. Widowed once we are rewooed and wedded to a jealous and romantic lover, we are spousally fettered, legally entwined, ontologically united, til death do us part. Dear widow makers, lock away the razors and save your lovely wrists: Someone like Him exists. We exist to make that sort of love known.
Rhythm not rule
Life not letter
Dance the other side of death
In God the freedom fetter
with no law there's no sin
with no air there's no wind
with no shore there's no land
to fight for.
the Mosaic law's an enticement
an incitement that invites men
which excites them to spite them
in Paul's book the law's vault's
a pandora's box of thou shalt nots,
prised by a fox, prized by the lot
So, I bleed to know I'm alive
And, I speed to show I've arrived
I explete so you know I despise
I can covet, so I will covet, cos
I'm a rebel without a cause
rebelling against the uncaused
So it has been shown that you live longer when you have less stress and a more peaceful life with no niggling frustrations. You could say living peacefully is less sinful, less requirements for rights and less need for them, a greater collective community, no need to prove to others, living peacefully has an immediate understanding that living practically is more effective than academically, and people are influenced more by role models than fictional characters. Jesus should live for ever? So does that technically mean he was more peaceful? Or is part of the sacrifice of taking on stress for human kind/others, become a collective responsibility for sin? That is my question today for you.
I've been thinking the last few days about your earlier questions. But, poeticism, I was just in that sort of mood, but as you say, sometimes it sprawls a little far to follow. So, to try to answer/unpick/challenge your theses: 1. The Stress Sin Syllogism. // 2. Inner Peace vs World Peace // 3. Practical Actual Faith vs Psychosomatic Self Help. // 4. Atonement for Stress
1. The Stress Sin Syllogism: Sin reduces/end life // Stress reduces/ends life // ∴ Sin = Stress
I believe it was you who first told me about roses which flourish more under a certain form of stress.. Clearly there is stress= *healthy resistance* but also and different stress= *pathological strain*. I'm not perfectly sure where the line is drawn between these two, a bit like the question, if you stub your toe in Heaven will it hurt? Leaving that aside, I think there is a stress which is sin, where *sin is a distortion of the real* ~ sin is lies, untruths, misconstructions, corruptions, put out into the world to damage people. eg1. The truth is that it is more blessed to give than receive, but the sin/stress perspective erroneously believes it is happier to store up wealth for yourself. The result is damage to self through a selfish society. eg2. The truth is that you are an exquisitely made human being of infinite value, but the sin/stress perspective erroneously claims that he is not good enough and that he must make up the difference. The result is damage to society through a striving self.
2. Inner Peace vs World Peace: Here you're blurring two Peaces. Sin is real in the world, in society, in our systems and relations. Your inner faith and personal practice could be as Zen and quiet and innerly peaceful as you like, but you would still be subject to the damaging effect of external turmoil, peril, poverty, coercion, and violence. The "need for rights", I think, concerns the definition of self in the context of social relations, and managing those boundaries justly, transparently, equitably, sustainably. The language of rights _can be_ coopted or abused, and turned into a system of claiming entitled rights without commensurate responsibilities ~ but it shouldn't. I also have a certain privileged Western white male middleclass sense that the world is fine, and that my primary concern is to keep my own inner peace, and that good faith is a private matter, and that suffering is all in the mind. Christianity, claims that Jesus transforms your inner world AND the world beyond. Jesus transforms the world through AND quite apart from you. This is the Grace system that I am reading about in Romans, that over and above the lies of sin, there is a total world change which we get to participate in, with Jesus.
3. Practical Actual Faith vs Psychosomatic Self Help: Is Jesus a thought experiment? A grand analogy for self-actualisation? Is Christianity only therapeutic? Are Jesus' parables about salvation merely self-fulfilling prophecies, which change the world only psychologically? I would like to pray for you today, tell me what I can ask God to change in your ready-to-hand experience of London, life, love and the warts-and-all world of being physical.
4. Atonement for Stress: Your question, I think, is: does Jesus take on our stress? The correct Christian answer is: Yes (kids in Sunday school chanting "cast all you cares on Jesus.. he offers a peace which passes understanding.. etc etc). Buts that my experience? Sometimes. I'm not a very good Christian, I'm a poorly tuned radio, a rusty bike chain, a comfortable rich young man. Conceptually Jesus is the answer to my questions, but in life I let him be so only occasionally.Perhaps the question could be: Is stress even transferrable? Can the lies we believe be erased? Can the damage-done be undone? So many glib Christian answers are available.
Rm7v9-10 I once was alive apart from the law? As an infant, unselfconscious, ungodconscious, others assimilated into my oceanic state, the world had no boundaries, I floated in a void. Then came the Reality Principle, a recognition that I am not alone in the world, the world is edges & shapes, & there are rules that govern the world of mother & molecules. Law pins me down. It is the painful awareness of self, others, creation, God. My blundering proximity thereto. There is no Ps119v45 wide place that hasn't been through the transformation of law's contours, this the difference between agoraphobia and spaciousness.
Rm7v11-12 The Good. Can sin distort all Good? All good weights as bludgeons, all good ropes as nooses, all good edges as cleavers, all topography as a chance to get one up on a neighbour. Legally enshrining the Good creates entitlement and a system of loophole exploits; a self-righteous class and a despondent outsider; shame and perverse incentives. So a world with no Good? The alternative is a sinless padded cell of stasis, a guiltless universe of relativism, the porridgey dissolution of one and other. We must define the Good, absolutely and extremely. Whether it is housing justice or sexual ethics, it is a prophetic act to speak a vision of the uncompromised Good, the black-and-white of ought and imperative. Knowing that the purpose of defining the Good in law is not to make us be Good, but to make us desperate for the God who enables the Good despite us and apart from the law. Housing policy isn't working, the dysfunction of social provision is exponentially more cynical. No carrots and no sticks are immune from the human will to subvert. What is needed is the Goodness of good housing which exceeds that of the Pharisees Mt5v20.
Rm7v13-14 The rhythm of God is the good, & the law manifests the rhythm, then the law shows us how we are out of rhythm. Henri LeFebvre on rhythms: 'The everyday reveals itself to be polyrhythmia from the first listening...Rhythms unite with one another in the state of health, in normal (which is to say normed!) everydayness; when they are discordant, there is suffering, a pathological state (of which arrhythmia is generally, at the same time, symptom, cause & effect). The discordance of rhythms brings previously eurthymic organisations towards fatal disorder.' I find this helpful picture of the relation of law & sin.
Rm7v15-16 I don't mean to be mean it's just me? It's just me and the latent neural pathways of a bitter bad workman blaming his tools of habituated evil. But why stay the same? Forgetfulness? Inertia? Strongholds? Ignorance? Paul says he 'doesn't understand his own actions..'. So know thyself? Know thyself as a vessel borne on the wind of warped moral appetites, a cargo bike carrying broken ideological equipment, a torn musculature of broken social habits. Christianity is change management. Romans 8 is coming.
Rm7v17-18 Paul evidences psychoanalytic insight before it was cool. Compare Alice Miller: 'Hatred...poisons & blinds the soul, devours the memory & the mind, kills the capacity for compassion & insight. Its destructive power stems from a history of horror that has been repressed & stored in the body, with...no direct access to the conscious mind.'...'Mere words, however skilled the interpretation, will leave unchanged or even deepen the split between intellectual speculation & the knowledge of the body, the split fom which [I] already suffer.'...'Contemptuous attitudes show themselves in a patient's relationships & will continue to torment her as long as they function in the cells of the body.' Sin is literally stored in the body, hidden from the mind, not because the body is bad, but because it stores knowledge, pain & desire in a way that the conscious mind can't grasp if it other than by experiencing through the body. Paul's claim here is not a mandate to wage war on the body but to be reconciled to it, to the greater reconciliation of mind & body, so that the hatred & contempt stored in my cells, which the law shows up, can be brought into consciousness, brought into the light, towards true metanoia.
Rm7v19-20 'dwells..' οἰκοῦσα from oikos. What dwells in me? 7v20 sin dwells. My heart is not the blank slate of a free agent, my heart is a crowded house of good intentions and evil appetites: hopes, habits and house guests, my heart is a sin squat. While on Islay, days away from other humans, miles away from work, far out of twitter's earshot, the house of my heart was quiet, but not silent. There's a scratching in the attic, a rustling from the Anne Frank annex, as I walk the halls of my mnemonic architecture I meet the Grady twins in Shining corridors. Sin dwells in me, it brawls out of closets, it prowls about the garden, it rattles at the windows, sin seeks to derail by intimidation, to puff up by adulation, to augment the architecture of my heart and vandalise my capacity for good. Undistracted on Islay, I felt the full and fragile weight of my own fallibility, my rickety mental health, my spinning moral compass. Sin dwells in me, hissing lies like leaking pipes, a tinnitus of misinformation. But. And. More-than this. 8v9 the Spirit of God dwells, that is 8v11 the Spirit of him who raised Jesus dwells. Stirring a stew on the Aga, God dwells richly; tightening a suring prop on the formwork of my renovation project, God dwells, securely; pruning the orchard topiary, God dwells in my heart as the active agent, the ecstatic tenant, the rightful owner, the returning restorer. God dwells.
The ideals of living longer and having a clearer conscience have been disrupted by modernity. The problem with modernity is that we sell our future through mortgages and debts to be paid back. We strive for long term security by earning and owning more, hoping if will offset our unknown length of see-saw scale health/security (and our families), only predicting we have created so much sin to offset. But in reality we all die the same way... without much control, waiting on our health, we are all worth the same, there is no illusive balance. We must learn to live without regret, to learn to live and strive with our sin, only through others can we negate our regret and truly live longer.
Rm7v21-22 For I delight in the law of God in my inner being. I sense the possibility of a deeper delight in the law of God & I want it. My chief prayer for this coming season is that I might be able to pray Ps119v41-48 for myself in spirit & truth. The law of God is not a human law, or rather, not a merely human law. The law of God = the rhythm of God, which contains us. It is the heartbeat of God that is alive, producing beautiful diversity within itself, it is not a static deadening of fear-inducing bureaucracy & loopholes. I want to know & love the rhythm of God in a way I currently don't. For evil is close at hand, & evil is hard to discern when I'm not attuned to these divine laws. Show us yourself, oh Lord.
Rm7v23-24 My pesky parts, wandering eyes prone to wander, they are a law unto themselves. Twitchy, like the devil makes work for idle hands, restless de la Tourette's, I'm juggernaut of carnality, an unstoppable cacophony of wriggly mischief, a sickly tic tangled in habituated caution entitlement sloth bravado, all waging smutty war against my better self, holding my me to ransom. Wretched man that I am, damned in my body, but damned if I disembody. Danger is everywhere.
Rm7v25 Wrestling, always, to try to understand the Jesus of the Christian faith. God enfleshed, that the law of our own flesh might be transubstantiated? Union with Christ transforms the law of our flesh, & sanctification is the process of discovering this? Malcolm Guite on union with Christ a la Jn15 helpful for meditation on what a greater fullness of this recognition might be like:
"How might it feel to be part of the vine?
Not just to see the vineyard from afar
Or even pick the clusters, press the wine
But to be grafted in, to feel the stir
Of inward sap that rises from our root,
Himself deep-planted in the ground if Love."