movement, movement

The Journey To Love

Posted in christianity, conversation, friends, life, philosophy, religion by amoslanka on September 9, 2008

I’m increasingly resolving to post more on the topic of concrete love. I wrote an introduction to the problem I see us facing in the abstractness of Christian language several months ago, and am feeling guilty for not keeping up with my intended posting on the subject.

Parker has in our recent conversations expresses disagreement with my hypotheses (for lack of a better word) on the state of Christian culture and the causes and explanations I attempt to offer. I think he is resolved to assume we disagree ever since I supposedly “moved to Portland to become a hippie liberal” and often disagrees on a basis of the abstractness of the solutions I offer. 

But I say “Nay! How could it be that Love is not the answer? “

On Saturday Parker and Jessie Moore and I sat on the library lawn in Hood River after getting french toast for breakfast downtown. I find it often difficult not to bring up debatable conversation, especially more recently when hanging out with Parker. On this particular occasion I mentioned a line from the book Jesus for President that I was glad to have found because it seemed at that point in the book that Claiborne was finally arriving at the conclusion I was hoping he might arrive at. The end of the ensuing conversation was an attempt (I believe) on my part to explain the philosophy of life as a journey toward a realistically unreachable destination. That destination is unreachable because it is the ideals we live by but cannot achieve, the absolute truths, if you will. Love in its purest form, is an absolute truth. It is an idea we have, but in practice, fall far from its achievement.

I hope Parker doesn’t begin to perceive himself as my nemesis, as he is known for his ninja-ness and may smite me with a sneak attack from the bushes. As Parker and I often arrive at the same conclusions by way of different abstract reasoning, we often don’t realize the similarities in our arguments. I am well known for starting sentences with “In Jesus for President, …” while Parker is increasingly finding it hard to resist the introduction of “C.S. Lewis says…”

We may also endorse differing approaches to the conclusions we share but this is exactly my point, and I cannot help but exclaim this in our friendly, yet heated, conversations. “Thats exactly the point!” I remember saying on at least one occasion. 

Love as Jesus described it and offered as an example for is an ideal. Its perfection is an achievement that humanity cannot and will not achieve in this world. Yet it is what drives us and what connects us both to each other and to God. If that ideal is not achievable, as the journey/destination theory suggests, the destination itself is not the purpose in this existence we currently find ourselves in. It is the journey that matters most. It is our investment of talents for something good and better and pleasing to the master. 

To get away from the abstract idea, we must explore it. We must find roadmaps in our lives that give substance to the journey to finding perfect Love. In roundabout ways, this is the what my mind is consumed by and the reason I blog is to share my findings in this journey with those who care to listen.

This is the journey of discovering Love.

So I continue to inwardly express dissatisfaction with my efforts to share more concrete findings of Love instead of offering little more than instances of dis-love. With this renewal of effort I hope to offer more often the positive definitions I’ve explored, or at least more directly refer to this conversation (with myself and whoever would like to listen in) about Love.

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16 Responses

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  1. Parker said, on September 9, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    My first inclination is to say two quick things:

    1- I love you, man. And I mean that. And it should come as more meaningful given the topic of our recent discussions

    2 – I think I must say that the way I rationalize my way to the conclusion is as thus:

    Truth: We, as fallen humans, will never be able to achieve the reality of love that God intends for us on our own power and in this world, being in the state that it currently is

    YET! God calls us to live as though we CAN reach this reality of love that Christ outlines (even though, as we know, it is physically impossible). This, then, becomes your journey. Because OBVIOUSLY Christ does not in vein command us to do anything, and therefore, regardless of rationale, we must strive with all our might – even to the point of fooling ourselves into believing the myth that we might someday reach that ever-sought reality of love, no matter how many times we fall short of the goal.

    Now this is where I think the confusion between us steps in, and if I am wrong, please correct me, because I would be highly surprised if you didn’t believe what I next state:

    HOWEVER! We hold, as Christians, the belief in a God of love AND justice, namely that we believe in a God who, in the end, will set things right. In other words, at the end of all things, Christ will create for us what we ourselves had no hope of accomplishing: that reality of love. So in essence, the destination IS the thing! What we strive for is INEVITABLE. It MUST happen! This reality of love that we see as unobtainable is all but already upon us. If this WEREN’T the case, then Christianity is false and we are all blind, hopeless fools.

    So you see, sir Amos, both the end AND the journey are the point of it. We shall never achieve perfect love… And yet it is all but our destiny as Christians to see that perfect love fulfilled.

    …I lied. That second bit was not short at all.

  2. Parker said, on September 9, 2008 at 6:40 pm

    *vain, not vein. Sometimes I am too smarty-pants for my own good.

  3. subversivechurch said, on September 9, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Amos and Parker,

    I think a death-match of ninja moves should settle this argument.

    The destination, in my view, has tainted the journey. The death of Jesus has been turned into free pass to catch a ride to the destination. I see Jesus saying a lot about picking up our cross daily. I don’t see him saying that its ok, he’ll take the heat on this one, and we can sit back and enjoy. However, a quick look around shows that a majority of people are sitting in church on Sunday are banking on that exact thing.

    The church has tried speed up the journey and herald in the destination, this great big Cnady Land in the sky. I think we can agree that these efforts have proved futile and disasterous. This idea of ‘getting around’ the journey, of getting around the suffering, and picking up our cross daily, is a result of what we have made the destination.

    God of justice? We had better hope for God of mercy. As we allow how many to starve to death each day, who is going to serve that sentence when he “set things right”? Or did Jesus get us off the hook for that as well?

    The destination better not be the thing, otherwise a majority of people are screwed.

    -mike

  4. Katie said, on September 9, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    philosophy of life as a journey toward a realistically unreachable destination. That destination is unreachable because it is the ideals we live by but cannot achieve, the absolute truths, if you will. Love in its purest form, is an absolute truth. It is an idea we have, but in practice, fall far from its achievement.

    I find this intriguing and thought provoking. “Life” as in the word and the journey associated is founded on the ideals we learn from our cultures as “absolute life” or completeness. Thus we find that we can never answer the questions “what do I want to do with my life?” or “what is the meaning of life?” because the use of the word life is based off of an impersonal connotation of perfectioness and not your life. So although we think we are asking ourselves that question based off of our own lives we are really basing it off ideals we feel we must achieve.

    Finding or achieving (as some might see it) love can be thought of in the same manner. Base Love off of what you feel , not see, it is. Thus you will find yourself not disappointed when you dont compare your love to that of the ideal written in poems or thought of by love seeking (never finding) peoples.

    Religion should be re-written to self religion. Find your own God and cherish it. Dont base it off what others say He is and what He should mean to you. Religion of the self. (If only people could associate that with politics….)

  5. amoslanka said, on September 9, 2008 at 11:56 pm

    @parker — first of all, stop YELLING at me every twenty words or so!
    second, your argument calling both the journey and destination the point is valid but in this entire context I speak of the here and now. What do we do with life right now. HaHA! Your ninja move of philosophy is thwarted! And this is the same thing as my post last week about Heaven or Love. If we stop pretending we’re already in heaven or un-forgo the conclusion that we will arrive there and find it just as we suspected, what is more important to Christianity? This formation of ideas is not for the sake of a theology that we can feel smart about thinking about, but rather an attempt at pragmatism by way of understanding what we are aiming for. (the destination)

    @mike — it is when we assume that there will be a free pass that we look for one and allow ourselves to justify it as well. You’re exactly right about the majority of people in church. We try to pretend there isn’t a journey to be made by focusing only on heaven and our own (selfish) personal salvation. We take the seat closest to the front on the bus on the way there because we weren’t paying attention when Jesus said the people in the back of the bus will get off first.

    @Katie — are you getting at the idea in your last paragraph of pure moral relativism and thus resulting in self worship? Or are you intending to suggest we stay also within the confines of scripture and attempt to individually hold true to a higher power while not trusting any other human on the matter? If your suggestion is for pure relativism than I ask next where love fits into that picture. In a purely existential world, we would find ourselves purely evolutionary. Love would be pointless and the only thing that matters is the all-important ME. What are the benefits of a society based purely on self worship? In reality I think our culture is closer to that than you might think, but I ask for the sake of hearing your reasoning. Thanks for commenting by the way. I’m not trying to be interrogative or anything of the sort, only curious as to your perspective. This blog would not be complete without people who might disagree with me. :)

  6. Parker said, on September 10, 2008 at 12:55 am

    @Amos – First, I do what I want! And that includes adding emphasis. It’s not my fault that this simple text form makes for a sub-par text editor! And secondly, I ninja-ly turn your supposed thwarting of my philosophical move upon yourself, because you’re making my point exactly (more or less). Pragmatism is what I’m all about! Focusing on the hear-and-now (or rather, the “journey”) is the second part of a two part problem. The journey makes no sense if you have no destination in mind to begin with. And in this case, if we really rely upon the authority of what Scripture says, the conclusion (destination, etc) is foregone. Therefore, I think the pragmatism or practicality of living out the journey must first begin with at least a modicum of understanding of the end of things. “What’s the flippin point?” is the first question you must try to work backwards from.

    In my mind, the whole of mankind comes into this world running headlong down the wrong road going the wrong way. It is only by first backtracking, working things from the end first, grasping something of what the situation really is (via the Bible, etc), that we can even hope to undergo the true ‘journey’ to which you are referring — or rather, to undergo a journey of any real worth, anyways.

    Either way, I am sorry for the caps ^_^ I got carried away.

    @Mike – What use is it going on about starving kids in Africa if you don’t believe in a God who is concerned with justice (for example)?

  7. […] Sign-Along Blog while the true servant leader quite subtle and genuine. Sounds a lot like the concrete ideas of Love I’ve been looking for illustrations of. Brant’s comparisons are quite profound, so […]

  8. Katie said, on September 10, 2008 at 10:26 am

    No not at all. What I meant to say was find what is right for you and dont base it off what other people have said or say it should be for you. If you can find a Love that fits for you and what you want, then keep it. As a natural human way we find ourselves comparing what we have to what others have. Thus such behavior can lead to jealousy and the material want for more. Love is such a general word that most dont know what exactly they are looking for when asking themselves what love is. Saying in its truest form it is unattainable I was meaning for you to ask yourself “on whose truest form are you basing love off of?” It cannot be your own or it would not be unattainable.
    And self worship not at all. I think we as humans take too much pride in ourselves as it is. I meant again dont base your religion off of the publicized ways that others say it should be. When you read religious scriptures take from it what you feel is right, not what others feel you should. I call it a religion of the self because it is yours, your view, not your own self worship. Take what you feel is right, apply it of what you know God to be, and keep that. dont base or judge it off what others have manipulized it to be.

  9. amoslanka said, on September 10, 2008 at 11:08 am

    @Katie — understandable, and sorry for the misunderstanding of your words.

    Your words are very true- that most people don’t know exactly what they are looking for when asking themselves what love is. This is precisely the problem in front of us with the abstraction of Christian ideas, including Love.

    Let me ask another question for the sake of playing devil’s advocate. You propose the basing of religious beliefs off of one’s own judgement, your last paragraph seems to imply religious formation of ideals completely independent of any other human. At what point, then, do we depend on each other for wisdom and community belief? Is there at least gray area in there in between looking only to yourself and looking only to others? Is leadership not a good thing if carried out righteously? Is it not narcissistic (and therefore selfish) to think that the mighty ME can figure it all out on my own, independent of any other?

  10. Katie said, on September 10, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    We depend upon others as a whole, as a link subconsciously placing a “you” to a “them.” It is not needed to try to connect your religious beliefs to mine for they already are connected. Why? Because they both center around God. (And even if it was a different God they still are connected.) But because of individual circumstances in your life or mine our views of God have changed, individually. So, I say, find God as he is right for you (not based of what others tell you he is) and connect that to what he is. To manipulate him for each individual circumstance to harbor a guilty conscience and call it YOUR God is not what I am saying, I am saying personalize him. To think of him as some far off “being” condeming you for right and wrong based of what others say is right and wrong cannot work for your individual life. I suppose inorder to find God what I am saying is that you must know yourself. And that is why most people can never find him. Because they dont know who they are and thus expect a god (any god) to answer that for them.

  11. ash said, on September 10, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    so i tried to publish my comment this morning…but it didn’t work out…it follows amos’ first response to people-

    “love is the ultimate form of worship…

    But a good friend of mine once said this…well basically…, that when we’re off the path that we’re meant to follow, it isn’t uncommon for us to step off….but here’s the really cool part- we have another foot- and we can pick up and place it in the right direction…..(he’d say this and demonstrate, so pretend to picture it)

    I believe that Justice and Mercy fall under the same graces….You see- we often will reap what we sow, not by the ultimate will of God, but under ours….and in the same breath God, in all his glory- extends tenderness and love and peace to our hearts to know that we’re forgiven….and that we too can turn and give it away.

    Sorry- a bit random…but just some of my thoughts this morning…”

  12. subversivechurch said, on September 10, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Parker,
    What I mean about a God of justice is fleshed out a bit by Ash’s comment..reaping what we sow.

    If we, as Americans and Christians, live in such a way that exploits others for cheap consumer goods, that dumps subsidized surplus food into markets furthering the food crisis, that causes us to go to war for resources, and the list can go on, are we responsible? If so, then your God of justice will be judging us. Hence, I hope also for a God of mercy.

    The issue isn’t that this stuff happens, it has happened throughout history. The issue is that as Christians we are called to be set apart, living by example, showing another way is possible. In short, the journey.

    So far we haven’t reaped what we have sown, but then again what is the punishment for being co-conspiritors in death? The evangelical church by and large supports the ‘war on terror’. How much do we drop a day in Iraq? A week? A month? So far? Millions, billions, and trillions of dollars. Could that money be used elsewhere? Possibly, but we aren’t clamoring for the end of hunger, we are clamoring for cheaper gas.

    This isn’t a political diatribe. If God is a God of justice, there has to be a punishment, right? Isn’t that what you mean when you say things will be set right? Will the justice happen at this so-called destination? If so, then we had better hope for a God of mercy as well.

    It is easy to say there is a God of justice, if we think justice will be served to others and not ourselves. It would be one thing if we didn’t know, if we supported the advancement of our country and didn’t know about the cost to others for our advancement. But now that we know, aren’t we responsible to change our ways?

    We think Jesus will be our get out of jail free card, therefore we treat the journey as merely a waiting room for our big party for sitting on our hands. Do you think a God of justice will be pleased with the freedoms and opportunities we have squandered to eat, drink, and be merry? To build bigger barns?

    Will justice at the destination be that those who have toiled and suffered for the ease of others will find rest, as we will as well? Or will we be the rich begging Lazarus for a drink of water?

    The journey is more important than the destination. The journey is the destination. The journey is love and the infiltration of the kingdom of God into the kingdom of man. We are to bring the destination here for those who we can touch, those we can lift out of the opressive kingdom of man who have been trampled.

    -mike

  13. amoslanka said, on September 10, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    @Katie — I understand what your saying but I’m a little more curious as to your thoughts on how it is we understand God in the first place. There are many perspectives I have gained by listening to others’ thoughts and experiences on God that have greatly aided my own perception. The goal in this is not to adapt someone else’s perception purely but to recognize that I’m not alone in this world, I can’t figure it all out by myself, and it greatly builds community to share our experiences of God with each other.

    Your final comment reminded me of a post I wrote about aimlessness a month or two ago. I think you’re right on in saying that because we don’t know ourselves, we have trouble knowing God. After all, we are made in his image. The article I wrote was concerning the multitude of choice and its effect on our aimlessness. You can read it here if you haven’t already:

    http://blog.amoslanka.com/2008/07/18/aimlessness-and-affluenza/

    @Mike and @Parker — according to the impression I got from standard Christian theology, God is a God of justice in that as fallen humanity, we deserve death, but being a merciful God, Christ made the sacrifice of the cross. The theology isn’t perfectly black and white, first because the idea of salvation and heaven aren’t biblically perfectly spelled out, and neither is what is called the Kingdom of God, hell, atonement, or the supposed judgement after death. So on one hand, it would seem that Grace would disregard any sins we commit on earth, while there are still biblical hints of judgement. If judgement is to be passed (according to my interpretation) this would nullify the idea of Grace. Anyway..

    God is arguably a God of both, of course, but honestly I would chalk mercy up into the “God of Love” side of things. In a way, he is just because he is a God of Love as well, but justice makes its separation from love before mercy does.

    @ash — I like what you said about reaping what we sew. God doesn’t have to be an active-and-daily-miracles/intervention God for us to reap what we sew. He created this world as a self-sustaining home for us and he created it intelligently enough that it will kick our ass if we’re not careful. So in a way you could say we meet justice in the world, maybe not always perfect due justice, but it often is justice, and this justice could be attributed to God indirectly since he did create the universe and all.

  14. Katie said, on September 11, 2008 at 12:32 am

    I can’t really define how we understand God. I become halted by the fact that in order to define one thing and make it understandable, or as what we are searching for when we say defined “reachable”, the thing must be tangible. And God, in essence, is not. I cannot touch him I can only feel him.
    I do not purely belief that we were created in the image of God, for that would be adding to the basic idea that we as humans take too much pride in ourselves (as we discussed earlier.) By saying that we believe ourselves to be created in the image of God or any Gods we are boosting up our ego to forget the aimlessness you described earlier. But that is not to say that I fully disagree. I guess I believe in a medium that neither gives us too much credit, considering our imperfections, but also does not fully disagree.
    I guess we understand God as a basic instinct. We need something to believe in. Even athiests, despite how hard they try, find that they have a belief system. Is it bad karma of evolution that has made us so aware of how isolated we have made ourselves to be? Who knows. But for as long as I can remember I always knew about God and it has only been as I have matured that I have asked the question “Does God exist and who is he in relation to me?” And what I mean by in relation to me is this: look within and imagine that God is already within you (obvious since we are born not doubting a belief in something ) and know that it is God. He is there for me, but it is also the same God that is inside me that is there for you. Same God, but different reasons, different lives. That is what I mean when I say self- religion.

  15. amoslanka said, on September 11, 2008 at 9:16 am

    @Katie — but does the bible not say we are created in his image? In Genesis it does. Of course its possible for this to have a different actual truth other than the way we interpret it, but it does say that. And wouldn’t having been created in the image of God do (at least) two things for us: Knowing God better because the more we know ourselves, the more we can see the character of God, and knowing ourselves better because what we know about God suggests things about ourselves as well, potentially leading to less aimlessness. I’ve heard it said before that we can only know ourselves in the context of community, because we’re sharing common ground and understanding with the people near us. In the article I wrote about originality a couple weeks ago (http://blog.amoslanka.com/2008/08/27/how-to-be-original-when-everybodys-doin-it/) I asked the question :: “Have we stopped knowing who we are because we stopped finding ourselves in each other?” I would suggest that we also have trouble knowing who we are because we stopped paying attention to who God is. We think we know, but we’re not being honest with our interpretation of God. We see him through the consumeristic daddy-day-care or impersonal-lightning-bolt-thrower type.

    I don’t consider it narcissistic or prideful to accept being created in God’s image, because anyone who understands the vastness and perfection of God, even to the smallest degree of understanding, knows there is still a universe of difference between him and us. Being created in his image is, as you suggest, an elevation above our otherwise godless-evolved state of mind and being, but it only creates the possibility of similarity, doesn’t make us God.

    Although that brings me back to another philosophical kick I’ve been on lately (parker can attest to this) and that is the God-complex. We do think we are God. Its too much stuff to get into in a comment but its true that our being created in God’s image results (via Fallenness) in a state of mind where we act like we are God even we don’t coonciously know we are.

    I think our ideas pretty much agree, we just go about different ways of saying so. You mention not “giving us to much credit”, which I think is the nature of calling us only the image of God and also Fallen, not God or gods ourselves. The “image” only implies the basic framework of character.

  16. […] Once again I say, the destination is not the focus, it is the journey that counts. […]


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