Tag Archives: religion

the OY! at the heart of all things….

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I love stumbling upon word treasures…

After eleven chapters of Paul’s most systematic presentation of his God-thinking (aka theology) in what we know as the book of Romans, Paul now is perched to make his appeal to action – for with Paul, all true, healthy God-thinking must lead to true, healthy God-doing.

And he begins with “please.”

He could order, he could hammer, he could harangue.
But he begins with “please.”
The “please” is actually obscured beneath the traditional rendering, “I beseech” – although I would actually love to see a rejuvenation of “I beseech,” as in, “I beseech thee, kind sir, to make me a caramel vanilla latte.” Yes, do try that with the barista next time around.
Paul says, “please” – and then he says, “my brothers.” Family, connection, embrace, kiss. If we perceived Paul in a pulpit glaring down at us, we must now re-envision him next to us, his arm embracing, his tone close and endearing.

To be living sacrifices is his appeal, but it’s the motive behind it that arrests me now.
It’s our word. οἰκτιρμός / oiktirmós / oyk-tir-mos’.

I could have been satisfied with the gloss of “mercies,” but dictionaries are dens of discovery for me rather than tedious depositories to be avoided. I love authors who make me look up words. It slows down the read, and we’re all in so much need of that. So I looked. I wanted to catch the flavor, see from whence it came, examine its verbal swaddling clothes.

οἰκτός. It goes back to οἰκτός. And οἰκτός goes back to οἰ.

Oy! The interjection of extreme pity and compassion that can’t help but move us to get up and do something about it. That’s the kind of compassion we see in οἰκτιρμός. And it’s plural. And it’s what’s at the heart of God that drives the appeal for us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices.

At heart of God, at the heart of all reality is “Oy!” More than that, a chorus of multiplied “Oys!” “Oy” is the engine that drives all things. Much more so than “woe!” The Greek interjection for “woe!” is οὐαί! (oo-WHY!) which is one of those onomatopoeic words imitating the cries of vultures circling their prey. οὐαί is filled with a grieving denunciation, it’s filled with death. There is a time and place for it, to be sure, in this broken world. But the exclamation at the heart of the Story, at the heart of Reality, at the heart of all true religion and healthy God-thinking isn’t οὐαί! but οἰ! It’s not shame, death and denunciation, but a relentless pity that shapes restoration and healing.

Pivotal, this.

For herein lies the practical difference between the offering of our bodies as sacrifices that build the world,
or the offering of them as sacrifices that burn it.


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Posted by on October 17, 2015 in haverings


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insider jesus

A little snippit from Aslan’s Zealot. His preface is actually what convinced me to give his book a whirl. This peek zealotinto his past is quite revealing, and, well, bothersome

“For a kid raised in a motley family of lukewarm Muslims and exuberant atheists, this was truly the greatest story ever told. Never before had I felt so intimately the pull of God. In Iran, the place of my birth, I was Muslim in much the way I was Persian. My religion and my ethnicity were mutual and linked. Like most people born into a religious tradition, my faith was as familiar to me as my skin, and just as disregardable. After the Iranian revolution forced my family to flee our home, religion in general, and Islam in particular, became taboo in our household. Islam was shorthand for everything we had lost to the mullahs who now ruled Iran. My mother still prayed when no one was looking, and you could still find a stray Quran or two hidden in a closet or a drawer somewhere. But, for the most part, our lives were scrubbed of all trace of God.



“That was just fine with me. After all, in the America of the 1980s, being Muslim was like being from Mars. My faith was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness; it needed to be concealed.

“Jesus, on the other hand, was America. He was the central figure in America’s national drama. Accepting him into my heart was as close as I could get to feeling truly American. I do not mean to say that mine was a conversion of convenience. On the contrary, I burned with absolute devotion to my newfound faith. I was presented with a Jesus who was less “Lord and Savior” than he was a best friend, someone with whom I could have a deep and personal relationship. As a teenager trying to make sense of an indeterminate world I had only just become aware of, this was an invitation I could not refuse.”

Two things.

No, really just one thing.

How striking that his Muslim faith “was a bruise, the most obvious symbol of my otherness.” What was the solution? How does a young teen like that fit in? Totally buying into Jesus, because “Jesus was America.”

Outsider eyes seeing an insider Jesus preached by people convinced that they’re the ones who are “sojourners and strangers,” they’re the ones with the “bruise,” the ones burdened with “otherness,” whose “citizenship is not of this world.”

still my favorite portrait of Jesus...

still my favorite portrait of Jesus…

That statement, “Jesus was America” floored me.

Don’t get me wrong.

I love Jesus and I love America.

But if the Jesus that the New Testament bears witness to is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks,” should we be bothered that outsider eyes looking in would see an insider Jesus who not only fits right in, but who is America? Should we not be bothered? Should we not perhaps ask just who is this Jesus that we preach, and who was that Jesus from that dirty little Galilean village called Nazareth in the other hemisphere, with his dark skin and Aramaic tongue and culture?

And that’s why I kept reading the book…


Posted by on December 17, 2013 in Books, haverings


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if religion is a box it really should be more like the TARDIS

I’ve been bombarded with “box” imagery of

A friend sent me a poem about personally becoming “unboxed.”

I just listened to a commencement speech urging the graduates to think outside the box.poke-the-box

I recently stumbled across Seth Godin’s Poke the Box. Again.

And I keep seeing boxes of various sorts when I’m talking with people or just listening.

During that commencement speech, one of the examples of “out of the box” thinking and living was Noah in his willingness to buck the culture and endure the ridicule of his contemporaries. I couldn’t help but savor the irony of Noah thinking outside by box by building one very large seaworthy box. It was evidently a box that took him a century to build, a box he lived in for a year. noahs_arkBut then, significantly, after the box had served its purpose by conveying him to a new world, Noah stepped out, walked away, and evidently never looked back. And we’re still looking for that box. Interesting that he didn’t turn that box into his home or into a hotel, a museum, or a temple. He walked away and now we must simply imagine the box.

In another conversation, the image of the Old Testament tabernacle and temple was evoked – and what was tabernacle and temple but a box within a box within a box like the ultimate set of holy Russian nesting dolls? Holy Place, Holy of Holies, and Holy Box of the Covenant. Interestingly enough, God nor heaven was contained in that Holy Box. God said he dwelt above the box. And when God’s presence showed up there in the form of a disorienting, foggy cloud, everyone had to step out of the box. Hmmmm…

And now, it’s the TARDIS.Time And Relative Dimension in Space

It took a bit of time, but my daughter has succeeded in sucking me into the world (or worlds) of Doctor Who, though I don’t know if I have yet attained to full official Whovian status.

But if religion is a box, it should be like the TARDIS.


Bigger on the inside. And that’s an understatement.Tardis_inside

Not just a thing, a holy relic or museum display, but alive and sentient and mysterious.

And it takes you places – and the real question: is it where you want to go, or is it really where the TARDIS wants to go? Who really is driving the TARDIS?

When you get to where it takes you, you are supposed to step out of the box.

Though archaic in its outer dimensions and clearly out of this world, it blends in anywhere.

And it provides a universal translator.

Now there’s a box I can get into.

And out of.


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Religion: Cracking the Binding

An excerpt from what I found to be a stirring, provoking read – The Rise and Fall of the Bible by Timothy Beal (pp. 184-185). Another way to think of healthy, “pure and undefiled” religion…

Most say that the Latin origin of religion is in religare, from the verb ligare, “to bind” or “attach.” Religare therefore means “to re-bind” or “re-attach.” With this origin in mind, we have a sense of religion as a kind of binding. Religion is about being bound and re-bound to a set of beliefs, doctrines, institutions, and scriptures. It’s about identifying oneself with a particular tradition and with a larger body of likewise religiously bound people. That’s religion in terms of the binding.

But the ancient philosopher Cicero suggested that the meaning of religion goes back to a different Latin origin, relegare, from the verb legere, “to read” (from whence we get words like “lecture” and “lectionary”). Relegare is therefore “to re-read” or “read again.” Take this as the origin and we have a sense of religion that is less about the binding and more about the ongoing process of rereading. It’s about reinterpreting sacred scriptures and other religious traditions in order to make them speak meaningfully to new horizons of meaning.

Our aim here is not to decide which is the true origin, but to reflect creatively on what each might suggest about religion, and in what sense the Bible is a religious text. Instead of choosing one origin or the other, I suggest that we think of religion in terms of both religare and relegere, both rebinding and rereading. Thus: religion is about being bound together as a community and being bound to a library of scriptures that we are bound to reread and reinterpret in relation to new and unique horizons of meaning. In this light, religion is not simply a binding system of beliefs or set of doctrines but a process of rereading, reexamining, reinterpreting a scriptural tradition that we have inherited and that gives us a sense of indentity and context. The religious life is a communal practice of reading again, of opening the Bible in ways that crack its binding, so to speak, and open it to new understandings, new interpretations. Or, to put it in terms we used earlier, it calls for a reinvestment of sacred capital: out of the product and into the process, thereby privileging the vital, ongoing relationship between readers and texts, a relationship that is dynamic, transient, and creative.



Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Religion


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