Sunday, May 20, 2007

Like auntie, like niece


Auntie and Niece, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

For those who are diehard Julie Unplugged voyeurs, my entire graduation set can be viewed here. Warning: there are 42 pictures and I'm in every one. Ack! :)

What an extraordinary day! My aunt and uncle flew in from California on Friday night. My aunt was in the car for five minutes and immediately we were deeply involved in conversation about the nature of the testimonial genre in theology, particularly as it relates to torture (Diana Ortiz was the focus of this conversation). June (my aunt) is a tireless thinker, a deeply affirming person and thoroughly enjoyable company. We never stopped talking the whole weekend.

One of the things I keep thinking about at the end of this journey is not what I believe but rather how I think theologically. On the way to the airport today, June and I discussed the fact that part of the postmodern condition is that once we've deconstructed faith, truth, reality, we are faced with a table of puzzle pieces that won't neatly fit back together. Somehow extra pieces get into the box and refuse to torque themselves into the right shape to complete the picture.

So must we account for every piece when we put our theology back together? In other words, when we are thinking theologically, just how many experiences, ideas, doctrines, traditions must we account for, include, reconcile?

There is no definitive answer to this question obviously, but I did find myself automatically seeking principles for that process. I do consider it vitally important not to ignore the misfits in our theological puzzles. We want to. We hate that some of those ideas and experiences mess up our neat, tight, well-structured theologies. We want to have an organized system of beliefs that is one size fits all.

Yet if we leave out (deliberately or naively) the schools of thought, experiences, and worldviews that clash with the one we want to protect, we will arrive at a theology that doesn't ring true. It will feel protective and rigid, rather than expansive and enveloping. It's not enough to toss the misfit pieces into the mystery box and ignore them. For instance, when someone claims that God abandoned her during torture and did not experience comfort, companionship, succor or hope, we can't simply throw blame back on the victim for not appropriating God's presence, nor can we ignore that important testimony about the direct subjective experience that negates the belief that "God is there for us when we suffer."

Both the ones who find God "there" for them in suffering and the ones who do not must be accounted for in some meaningful way or our theology is a fantasy - it's the gratification of our dearest hopes, not the expression of an attempt to make sense or meaning out of life and faith.

How do you account for the complexities of experience when describing or narrating the faith? I'd be interested.

8 comments:

Bilbo said...

Great pictures Julie. You look so happy and you are so fortunate to be able to enjoy this joyous occasion with your family and friends. I am so happy for you and thanks for sharing.....

NoVA Dad said...

Those are great pictures! Thanks so much for letting all of us be a part of your special day through this -- and for allowing us to take this journey with you over the past few years. Bravo, cheers, kudos, and anything else that applies here!!:-)

SusansPlace said...

CONGRATULATIONS! Sounds like your day couldn't have been any better. :-)

Susan

australisa said...

Oh my gosh, I was totally teary when I looked through your pictures. I felt like I was there. So glad that your aunt came! I loved to see how happy you were!!!

I loved this post also (no comma :-)). You have such a gift for conveying your thoughts and feelings in words. It has benefited me and comforted me immensely to read those words that express my own confusion and qualms.

Thank you for opening new vistas to me, exploring the things that I have questioned and sharing your journey in a way that I was able to travel it with you.

Congratulations!

Toast to the future!

Love, admiration and gratitude, Lisa

R. Michael said...

Hi Julie,

reading this entry makes me think of a saying of mine that I wrote some time ago in my deconstruction phase. It goes... "Too often, we make the square peg of our experience fit into the round hole of our theology to support a belief system that is not well-formed at all."

The puzzle analogy works for me as well. All of my "pieces" did not fit back together and that really bothered me for a while. I have come to realize that I cannot make them fit...well I can if I am intellectually dishonest...but that is not a door I can go back through...and I have to be OK with that...honestly it still bothers me but I don't know how else to live.

Rob A. said...

Congrats, Julie!!!

Dancingirl365 said...

"Both the ones who find God "there" for them in suffering and the ones who do not must be accounted for in some meaningful way or our theology is a fantasy - it's the gratification of our dearest hopes, not the expression of an attempt to make sense or meaning out of life and faith.

How do you account for the complexities of experience when describing or narrating the faith? I'd be interested."

I've experienced both: God "there" in suffering and God "not there" in my miniscule forms of suffering. That is "my" experience.

Why do we need to account for the complexities?

Btw, congratulations again! You did it!

suds said...

Didn't Jesus himself cry out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"? Scripture (and life) show us that faith is not a vaccine against suffering, nor is it a vaccine against feeling abandoned. From what I've read, Dianna Ortiz prayed for her torturers, which is the most Christ-like response imaginable. "Love thy neighbor"---it isn't easy, but it is simple. (How to apply it can be difficult to understand, at times, I'll grant you.) The Cross and the Resurrection are inextricably intertwined, for some reason. Why is it set up this way? We'll probably never know, at least not in this life. But does not understanding why, make it impossible to accept? Or, let's put it this way---would understanding why make it any easier to live by?