Intelligent Obedience

“No one can become a saint or a contemplative merely by abandoning himself unintelligently to an oversimplified concept of obedience. Both in the subject and in the one commanding him, obedience presupposes a large element of prudence and prudence means responsibility. Obedience is not the abdication of freedom but its prudent use under certain well-defined conditions. This does nothing to make obedience easier and it is by no means an escape from subjection to authority. On the contrary, obedience of this kind implies a mature mind able to make difficult decision and to correctly understand difficult commands, carrying them out fully with a fidelity that can be, at times, genuinely heroic. Such obedience is impossible without deep resources of mature spiritual love.”

– Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

Why So Many Christians Love David Bazan

In response this video I posted of David Bazan playing at one of his house shows, a commenter, Chris, wrote:

I love David Bazan. I think he is one of the greatest song writers of our time. I wonder though why it’s so magnetic to watch someone lose their faith in front of our eyes. I’ve listen to this album hundreds of times and I still can’t put my finger on it. Our society puts more value on struggle then commitment it seems, and the reality is there is truth in both.

From my perspective, it’s not Bazan’s loss of faith that makes him compelling, it’s the way he’s articulates his experience and his beautiful song writing that makes him compelling for so many (not to forget his incredible voice which is sneakily brilliant).

It would not surprise me if the majority of Bazan’s fans were folks who would consider themselves “of faith.” In a way that might seem strange given the fact that Bazan himself seems to have lost his faith. While it he maybe at peace with where he’s at, it seems as though he’s writing from a nearby vantage point. It’s as if he has departed through the church doors, writing from the outside, probably on the corner across the street. The reality is that so many in our generation are looking for new, fresh expressions of faith and coincidentally have, at one point or another, stood on that exact same corner across the street where Bazan gazes back, penning his anger, struggle, sadness to the tune of his acoustic. Bazan’s music, especially his latest “Curse Your Branches” becomes the soundtrack to the spiritual adolescence we walk into as we leave the church doors. We’re not really sure where we’re going, we just know we’re not going back and Bazan captures that experience better than anyone else.

Even though I’d like to think I’ve grown out of this kind of spiritual adolescence and as I continue to explore new ways of believing and new ways of worshiping a God I still know so little about, these songs will always be meaningful for me. As Pete Rollins might say, Bazan has been faithful in his betrayal of a bankrupt religiosity and his songs are playing on the boom box as we walk across the parted sea floor.

“Dealings with the generous are not difficult.”

Love of the dead does not last,
because the dead will not return.
But love of the living is in every moment fresher than a bud,
both to the inward and outward eye.
Choose the love of that Living One
who is everlasting, who offers you
the wine that increases life.
Do not say, “We have no entrance to that King.”
Dealings with the generous are not difficult.

— Rumi

This is a time of great Christian anxiety. We read book after book of the decline of Christianity, whether it be a story of some “fake Christianity” being brewed by the apathetic believers or a story about failure of our younger generations with their iPods, cell phones who lack real interest in the church. We hear stories of our supposed Muslim President or we wilt away more and more with each Barna study that tell us the story is getting worse, if that were even possible.

I can help but meditate on the last line of this beautiful poem, “Dealings with the generous are not difficult.” If we are an anxious Church, worried about our status in the world, then maybe we doubt the endlessness of God’s generosity. And if our story is one of a God who’s generosity has a limit, then maybe, for a growing number of folks, that’s not a story worth reading.

On a side note, if you enjoy the poem above, do yourself a favor and pick up some of Rumi’s writing. Read more about Rumi here.

Bearing Witness

I clung to miracles I have not seen
From ancient signatures I cannot read
Though I’ve repented I’m still tempted I admit
But it’s not what bearing witness is

To full of fear and prophecy to see
The revelation right in front of me
So sick and tired of trying to make the pieces fit
cause it’s not what bearing witness is

When the gap between
what I hoped would be
and what is makes me weep for my kids
I take a cleansing breath
and make a positive confession
But is that what bearing witness is?

Though it may alienate your family
and blur the lines of your identity
Let go of what you know
and honor what exists
Son, that’s what bearing witness is
Daughter, that’s what bearing witness is