Sunday, December 31, 2006

Kant and John .3: Perfection Are We

Subjectivity endure

Perfection are we

If one looks with significance on the scene of a woman in the presence of a man, Eve (Gen 3) and Mary Magdalene (John 20), to signify the relationship of the chosen people Israel to God, what is presented is the manifestation of an interested nature within the deity. By the appropriation of a system of legality in Genesis, which occurs the moment rules are introduced to the newly created humans, Christ as a deified human reveals how God becomes completely interested in human subjectivity. Israel portrayed as a woman who has somehow disjointed humanity from creation makes the mode of creation a necessary expression of the fragmented nature of the relationship between God and man because it splits the two. One can say that union or unity of man and God becomes disjointed when the fall of man happens, but what seems more underlying in the situation is the split between the subjectivity of the two. So, in some way the aesthetic representation of God, the perfect creation, through man's failure is no longer operating as a means of endowing humanity with divine subjectivity, but it in itself can only point toward that being so that while man is a part of creation he is in some way distinctly separate from it.

It is also important to note that in the Garden of Eden, one scene depicts a separated humanity and deity, a fallen man who is unable to fully be the divine manifestation to the woman Israel, and the woman Israel controlled by the subjectivity of the man. In John's garden, however, there is still a man and a woman present, but in this scene the man is the manifestation of God and so one sees that the woman Israel is redeemed through submission to the perfect unity of God and man; God, through Christ, reappropriated himself to the subjectivity of humanity. The love of God becomes much more apparently universally accepting of the flaws of men as He decides to reunite the two together so that just as after the objective creation in the Garden of Eden there is a moment on the seventh day when he and humanity are standing in the first day of a perfect creation, so too after the seventh miracle, the resurrection, Christ as God is standing in the first day of a perfectly united creation. There is a sense, in this scene, that God can no longer be disinterested in the perfection of his creation. Kant says that "[i]nterest is what we call the liking we connect with the presentation of an object's existence. Hence such a liking always refers at once to our power of desire, either as the basis that determines it, or at any rate as necessarily connected with that determining basis" (506). By combining the subjects, God has become wholly interested in the aesthetics of His creation so that He no longer stands apart from creation as a separate entity, and somehow he no longer stands aloof from that perfection but is endowed with and in it; His omnipotent desire has overpowered the entity of creation no longer allowing it to be a separate perfection.

Subjectivity endure

Perfection are we

Friday, December 29, 2006

Kant and John .2: There is a Mind of All Union

There is a mind of all union

By which this story is bound

Safeguarded by destiny from somber crime

Revealing in boldness both Christ and Time

Ferverent to hold the thread bare world of fine

And hug us by death, an undue vigil and sign

It is in the sense of disinterestedness that John's gospel brings forth the idea of the subjective overtaking the perfection of creation. John relates, in reflection of the Genesis story, " In the beginning the Word already was. The Word was in God's presence, and what God was, the Word was[,]" which illustrates a point in which the objective reality of creation is no longer the focus of what occurs in the beginning, but rather the emphasis becomes a direct appeal to the subjectivity of God (REB 1.1). His eternal attributes are established, and though presently separated from creation, through the lens of John, "[…] without him no created thing came into being" (REB John 1.3). So that when Christ is risen and is presented as the Logos or "The Word" there is a sense that the subjective element of God has in some way entreated into the objective world seeking a form of unity to it. The image of Christ in a garden standing with Mary Magdalene creates a metaphorical tie to the same image of Adam and Eve standing in the Garden of Eden at the beginning of the new creation of the objective. For, after six miracles, which one may take to correlate with the six days of creation, Christ and Mary are participating in a form of new creation that has been presented in light of the death and resurrection of Christ. So, the fragmented unity of God and man is restored to by the resurrection of Christ, but even more, the subjective portion of God's thinking existence has taken on objectivity and proves His power over it so that in some sense he overtakes and participates in the perfection of it. This is further related in the garden scene of John when the deified Christ says, "'[…] go to my brothers, and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (REB John 20.22). Here John is revealing the mind of God, Christ as the embodiment of Logos, is creating a distinct equality with a lesser humanity. By allowing humanity to retain the same position as He himself has with the divine, there is a way in which Christ is pointing out and letting it be known that there is a new unity between the subjectivity of both man and deity; not only is the relationship now restored, but there comes unity in all levels of existence including the mind.

There is a mind of all union

By which this story is bound

Safeguarded by destiny from somber crime

Revealing in boldness both Christ and Time

Ferverent to hold the thread bare world of fine

And hug us by death, an undue vigil and sign

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kant and John .1: There is an Art that Burns but Not of Flames

There is an art that burns, but not of flames

Creation unbound by marble and clay

Acrylic and canvas nor bronze and wood

A mind concealed, so sweetly, of inner humanity

Burning in order to touch you if ever so faintly

There is an art that burns of passion

To begin the search for the Kantian aesthetic through a discourse of John, it becomes imperative to see that the opening chapters of John set up a connection to the opening chapters of Genesis. In Genesis, though there is an express and intentional appeal to the spiritual intervention of God, it presents the creation of the physical world. One will observe that in the initial sequence of events, after the six days, there is a picture presented in which creation is new and perfect, and in this new creation stands a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, on the first day of a new and perfect reality. One can infer that this picture, especially in contrast with John's picture, shows an overt appeal to the objective world so that the subjective mind of God has begun His great work by separating himself through materiality from his perfect creation; there is a bridge between the existence of man and God which manifests as the objective world (the external world of things)

This picture of creation as a perfect objectivity masks within it an expression of the Kantian aesthetic through the idea of disinterestedness. Genesis relates, " In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (REB 1.1). God in this instance becomes the creator, just as a painter might create, but what is more implicit is the separation between God and His creation that is assumed. One might say that because creation is perfect at this point, it is somehow at one with the author, but creation, with similarity to an art piece, anticipates a nature, and may be a reflection of the innate nature, of a disjointed human mind; though one may argue that creation, in this scene, must be linked subjectively to its creator (that is to say that because the creator has a mind), it anticipates a time when humanity and divinity are strictly subjectively separated, but through this "we glimpse for an exhilarated moment the possibility of a non-alienated object, one quite the reverse of commodity, which like the 'auratic' phenomenon of a Walter Benjamin returns our tender gaze and whispers that it was created for us alone"(Eagleton 78).

Though separated from perfection, humanity is able to gaze upon it in a some formal sense. Also, with the world being the canvas of an almighty creator, one sees that it is not through the interest of even God's own subjectivity (again his mind) that the world is presented as perfect, but that through some sort of innate characteristic endowed onto it by its creation it is able to know perfection, for "[…] the presentation of this object is also judged to be connected necessarily with this pleasure, and hence connected with it not merely for the subject apprehending this form but in general for everyone who judges [it]" (Kant 505).

True, God was the one to give essential characteristics to His perfect creation, but even here, beyond the point of actual creation, the world knows and embodies perfection only by its appeal to the very nature that is endowed to it by the universality of its beauty which was established by God so that, in some sense, once creation is presented as perfect, even the omnipotent deity is helpless in disinterest to its display. Terry Eagleton has an interesting take on this when he says, "However contingent their existence, these [aesthetic] objects display a form which is somehow mysteriously necessary, which hails and engages us with a grace quite unknown to the things in themselves, which merely turn their backs upon us" (78).

One may here object that an omnipotent God could in fact change creation in anyway that He saw fit so as to extract His own disinterested association to it, but this would suggest that perfection at some point would not have actually been perfect due to some defect of God's handiwork and would thus actually strike at his omnipotence.

There is an art that burns, but not of flames

Creation unbound by marble and clay

Acrylic and canvas nor bronze and wood

A mind concealed, so sweetly, of inner humanity

Burning in order to touch you if ever so faintly

There is an art that burns of passion


*Eagleton, Terry. The Ideology of the Aesthetic. Oxford: Blackwell, 1990.

*Kant, Immanuel. "Critique of Judgment." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch et. al. New York: Norton, 2001.

*Oxford Study Bible. 1976. Ed. M. Jack Suggs, Katherine Doob Sackenfield, and James R. Mueller. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1992.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crash; My Angel

I might have met an angel tonight.  His name was Crash, and he smelled of cheap liquor.  My only penance for the disquiet of his spirit was the solace of offering him a clove cigarette.  He told me he was a true American, and I could only see irony in the statement as I knew the bench he sat on would be his bed this night.  After I told him I studied English, he shared with me the good times he had in his earlier days at school. He reminisced on the times he would carve crosses in his arm during English class -- "it was my favorite subject!" he said.

His greatest advice? -- "Don't get too busy!  They will steal what you already have!  Don't let them steal what you already have!"

I left him to his darkness as he continued to mumble at me. David Crowder's "Obsession" filled my head. Smoke from my lungs intermingled with the steam from the crisp December air. Each street lamp burned its brightest but gave no light.

"Don't let them steal your shit," he continues to say to me. "Don't let them steal it!"

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Correspondence

My PhotoHere is the account of a correspondence which I became involved in toward the end of my summer of missions. I hesitate to post this for fear of offense toward the other party, but if any such issue arises I will humbly recant this posting. The woman, whose name is already so cryptic will further have her identity concealed by me through the pronouncement of her name as Ms. X and can choose to reveal herself if necessary. I post this, with also an accute fear of possible pride, in an attempt to receive thoughts. What do you think? How does this affect you? What do you think of the dialogue between us? where have each of us failed and succeeded in our arguments or also in our implementations of debate in a loving manner? This has popped up in my mind off and on since its occurrence and now I seek your thoughts. And it begins...

From: Ms. X
Sent: Wed 8/9/2006 5:40 PM
To: Deharte, Matthew
Subject: Re: [After the Tempest...A Murmur] 8/06/2006 09:35:44 PM

I have a hard time with someone professing to be a follower of Christ who has profanities throughout their writing. Have you thought about how that comes across to others?

Posted by Ms.X to After the Tempest...A Murmur <> at 8/06/2006 09:35:44 PM
Ms. X

"Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge." Proverbs 14:7

On 8/8/06, Deharte, Matthew <> wrote:

Ms. X,

As an experienced follower of Christ, i appreciate your concern with my moral well being, and to be honest I have reflected on the way that such profanity would be projected out into a hurt and dying world. The conclusion that i have made and the standard i continually try to reach is one of honesty and sincerity. I hold nothing back of my broken self when I confess and interact with God, and i have decided that the public deserves the same, not a cheap mask (metphorically speaking) that most American church goers hide behind in the modern era. As for myself and being a light...well I know that I have reached more who do not have a relationship with Christ in a broken world by being real with them than I have ever done by trying to please "the saved", and I say to you, with as much grace as i can muster because I mean it with all sincerity, that I don't expect you to understand and that is okay. Thanks for the commentary! i love hearing peoples thoughts whatever they are. Much love & God Bless.

Matt DeHarte


From: Ms. X
Sent: Wed 8/9/2006 5:40 PM
To: Deharte, Matthew
Subject: Re: [After the Tempest...A Murmur] 8/06/2006 09:35:44 PM

I'm impressed that you responded to my comment. I really didn't expect you to. I was just cruising through some blogs and found yours - and it was interesting, so I spent some time reading...and then the profanity started jumping out at me and to be honest, I was somewhat startled. My experience has been that new Christians and carnal Christians have trouble cleaning up their language, but most mature Christians I know have done as Romans12:1-2 has told us to do, and of course not under our own power, but by submission to the Holy Spirit. I know that in the flesh, I could very easily slip up and use words I shouldn't - and sometimes I think them even if I don't say them. But it bothers me because I'm convicted by the Holy Spirit. We are to strive to be like our holy Christ.

I really think that the profanity lessens your cause. You don't have to be like the world in order to reach the world. You obviously have a yearning to see the lost saved. May I suggest you try a new approach - after spending time in prayer about it of course - and see if God doesn't actually increase your effectiveness by your obedience to choose your words more carefully.

I hope you understand that the spirit in which I have written this has not been a condemning one, but rather a concerned one.

Thanks again for emailing.

Ms. X

[There is an email missing here in which I challenge Ms.X views on the "end times" and the European Union's association's with that event. I expressly use Apocryphal books to compare and relate to Revelations, and she responded. I think you can pick up the rest of the context]

On 8/10/06, Deharte, Matthew wrote:

Ms. X,

Fear not! it is not too easy to offend me. Anyway, I too am under the conviction that the apocrypha is not a part of the inspired word of God, but do find it interesting to compare and contrast such texts when looking at books as "Revelation" which are a part of the same genre of ancient Biblical texts. Anyway, I would love for you to make a longer reply over the weekend and am still interested in hearing those views on the European Union.

However, you have now struck my interest in a new way! I am grossly interested in hearing your thoughts on the emergent church movement! Do I detect signs of a Southern Baptist? Ah, the good old boys! J/k

Anyway, I immanently await your reply!


PS - once again, I mean not to offend, but explication of scripture should not be restricted to one or two verses here and there. I believe you have used both passages that you have sent me out of context, though I will say that I respect your conviction on the use of profanity and will encourage you in anyway to stay steadfast and strong in that conviction for it is right and honorable.


From: Ms. X
Sent: Thu 8/10/2006 9:09 PM
To: Deharte, Matthew
Subject: Re: [After the Tempest...A Murmur] 8/06/2006 09:35:44 PM

You are turning out to be a challenge, Matthew.

First of all, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but I am not SBC. I don't have anything against SBC, other than I don't like using the new Bible versions and because I believe in the local church autonomy and authority.
I must immediately protest your accusation that I have taken the passages I referred to out of context. First of all, for Romans chapter 12:1-2: We are to present our body (our life) to Christ as a living sacrifice (the Greek for "present" here is the same word translated as "yield" in Romans 6:13) and we are to stop being "conformed" (molded) from without (by the world) and start being transformed from within and live according to the will of God - in other words, in total surrender. A Holy God will not have us speaking profane words.

On Proverbs 24:9 - it means just what it said. The thought of foolishness is sin. Foolishness = "'ivveleth " meaning foolishness or folly - the definition of folly includes 1 : lack of good sense or normal prudence and foresight
2 a : criminally or tragically foolish actions or conduct b obsolete : EVIL , WICKEDNESS <> ; especially : lewd behavior

Lastly, Matthew 12:36 is not just a random verse taken out of context either. It is a promise. We WILL give an account of every word.

Well, had to get that in. Talk to you more this weekend. Don't have time to go into the Emergent Church's panthiesm/new age/mystic/easternized/gnostic teachings at the moment.

Ms. X

On 8/11/06, Deharte, Matthew wrote:

Oh Ms. X,

My PhotoI must be honest that I proceed here in caution. I fear that we tread the line of no longer sharpening one another, and that our correspondance may devolve into a spiritually unhealthy bickering (I am not expressly accusing you of such, but I think we must keep this in mind as we proceed).

Anyway, I too think that we are to be transformed from within by the working of the Holy Spirit as we give our lives in sacrifice to Christ Our Lord, but I must here refer you to my blog on the diversity of the body in order that you may recieve a glimpse of what that sacrifice is in light of the diverse and eclectic body of believers. I also find it to be a vast jump that you take from us living in total surrender to God and us not speaking profane words. One may here assume, through conservative American culture and not by any true biblical standard, that abstainence from cursing is part and parcel of a holy life, but it is important to remember that Paul is not laying out a Pharisaic world view that would have us pick apart those two verses in order to defend what we assume to be holy, but he is rather trying to strengthen and encourage a fledgling church that faces persecution in every way as well as the temptation to return to a pagan life of idol worship and (most likely) worship via prostitution as were the traditional marks of Hellenistic forms of religion at the time. Also, it is especially significant to remember that Paul himself curses in scripture to heighten his point in the famous 1 Corinthians 4:13 passage.

Here I find it most helpful to dive into a cultural explication of the Post-Exilic text of Job in which we find a broken and lost people (the israelites) churning out a story of a man who does nothing but rebel and (at least to the orthodox redaction of his friends) blaspheme against a wholly just God. Yet, one finds that Job is exonorated by God for his honesty in his relationship with God, and it is his friends, chasing blindly after legality instead of a right and true relationship with God, that must seek repentance (REB Job 42:8). God seeks trueness of heart and faith in His soveriegnty from us and not legalistic quandries. That of course is not to mean we are to have no moral compass, but we are to seek His good perfect and pleasing will through the transformation of our minds as the passage you have pointed to expresses.

As for the passage from Matthew I find it most concerning that you do not see the use of this one passage to be out of context mainly in light of the the theme of the whole chapter which stresses Christ's opposition to the Pharisees who, as historians would tell us, were leading the people astray in First Century Palestine in order to gain prestige and wealth. Sure, this passage is a promise. It is a promise that Christ has broken the cycle of sin and death in His own death and resurrection, and it is a promise that the sharp and harsh legality that is presented by the pharisaical paradigm is in direct contrast to the ministry and gospel (euggalion) of Christ and therefore God; it is not, and never was, meant to present a world view that would force the children of God to hide their emotion and heart from God or the world.

Also, I feel that you have failed to present an accurate argument which would say that Prov 24:9 is in anyway contrasting the use of profanity. I do not mean to dodge this question that ends one of your previous emails, but I do think that the burden of proof is aggressively in your court to show that the "thought of foolishness" in anyway refers to one's use of profanity. Rather, I think it is improtant to look at the whole of Prov 24, and to see that the ancient writer is contrasting the search of Wisdom with the folly of living a life of ignorance, but mentions no where the use of profanity.

Well, Ms. X, if I have forgotten anything then press me at a future date, and as before I eagerly await your reply. 'Til next time

Your Brother,

Matt DeHarte

From: Ms. X
Sent: Thu 8/10/2006
To: Deharte, Matthew
Subject: Re: [After the Tempest...A Murmur] 8/06/2006 09:35:44 PM

At this point, Matthew, your exegesis of Scripture is so totally different that I too believe we tread that line. Suffice it to say that I choose not to participate in these discussions further. It saddens me to see someone professing Christ who is so anxious to defend, yea celebrate his right to use profanity. It is time to part ways. My journey is much different from yours, and our paths are not horizontal. As to what version of Scripture you are using, it matters not, because none of the words of I Corinthians 4:13 in the original Greek are what I would call curse words, though Paul was speaking of the despicable, he did not resort to profanity.

I suspect that you will be tempted to respond to this, but I will let you know up front that regardless of whether you respond, or how you respond, my responses have ended. You are either being foolish, or you are not truly a born again Christian, or you have been totally misled by whatever religious body you have been associating with. I will not, nor can I, make that determination.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Red Lake VII: The Skull

Red Lake is clear and the crimson sunset bounces off the glassy surface. The light then pitters out leaving only its passing memory and the thick woolen blanket of night along with the awareness of its darkness. Our fire flickers off the faces of my staff as we sit in meditative silence reflecting on the ending of our journey; the conclusion of our hard days and nights of ministry. Mosquitoes buzz about wildly infiltrating our comfortable bubble and eerily heightening what none of us could express. Our summer had been poignantly marked with demonic attack, and we were all grossly aware that our mission was meaningful because we were being hindered.

Lights flash and roll across our (their) little section of sandy beach, and they stop; they are fixated on our gathering. Soon two ladies emerge from the car and walk, as best they can, toward our fire. "Hey! Hey! What you up ta?" Both ladies are extremely intoxicated to the point that I fear for their health. They plop down next to our fire and continue their binge with cans that they carried with them. "Who are yous? What are you doing? What's that you're drinking? COKE?!" we explain to them who we are (not really expecting them to understand), but as it turns out I am convinced that they knew who we were and what we were doing as workers in ministry.

"Gaaaah! Yous are too innocent for us! What are you doing? We should go! On our fucking beach no less! Yous should watch yourself, we're nice, but you're gonna get murdered! People will fucking KILL you! Gaaahhh!" says one, and here the tirade begins and we know that our meeting was no accident; that the God of the universe was humbling us, growing us, talking to us through his broken creation. "Hey! we know God too!” says the other. “ Giitchi Manito! He lives in the sky...wait...wait...Manito - He's right above you! He's right above you!" She motions to my Site Director, and for a brief second reveals a sincerity of awe that can only be described as Divine as she repeats that she sees God above him, but soon, through the wrestling expressions of her face, it becomes apparent that the darkness would take this round; The alcohol would win.

"I'm S----- Fucking Sumner! You tell them I was here! Get off my fucking beach! This is our beach! You're out of place! Get off our beach!" Engrossed in the moment, the Spirit leads me toward an aesthetic experience, I begin to mold in the sand the image of a human skull. Atop the skull is a cross, and around the whole is a large heart. Why I am lead to create in this volatile moment I can only attribute to God, but in it, as these ladies remind us with their continued verbal assault, I am faced with the reality of our inadequacy to bring lasting joy and love to Red Lake and these ladies iconic representation of the struggles that their community deals with. I watch the light flint and flicker off the image of the skull as it flinted off our own faces earlier, and I am starkly reminded, especially sitting in the skin crawling darkness that clouds this place every night, that the cross of Christ is not a glamorous object; it is not through crowns and the riches that create beauty that our Lord saved us, but it was through His ultimate suffering, death, and the grotesque subtleties of human nature that He gave himself; it is only He who can bring lasting joy, nothing that we can do, and it is only He who can strip this community of the demons it houses.

The next few minutes are spent coercing, conniving, and at times almost wrestling these two ladies as we try and put out the fire and worry about their trip home in the car that they had arrived in. We leave the beach with a grim reminder that for all the work we had done, God's sovereignty rules all. And ours? We have none. I envision the darkness crawling off our cars like purple flame as we wind our way back to our housing site. The mood can only be described as somber especially when my Kids Club staff recognizes one of the ladies as the mother of a child that we minister to, and it is like a spike of ice being driven in our hearts as we contrast the scene we had just been in with the faces of the children.

In all this I am given over to Paul's words in Second Corinthians when he says:

"Since God in His mercy has given us this ministry, we NEVER lose heart. We have renounced the deeds that people hide for very shame; we do not practise cunning or distort the word of God. It is by declaring the truth openly that we recommend ourselves to the conscience of our fellow-men in the sight of God. If our gospel is veiled at all, it is veiled for those on the way to destruction; their unbelieving minds are so blinded by the god of this passing age that the gospel of the glory of God, cannot dawn upon them and bring light to them [emphasis added]" (REB 4.1-4).

I cannot judge the condition of souls even when presented with such darkness, but I do know that, in the example of Paul, I will never lose heart. I know that at times like these that passion that would stir such an emotion in me is the only thing to cling to, as I fix my eyes ever on the cross and do my best to declare the truth openly that the veil which may blind the eyes of this beautiful people might be lifted, if ever it existed, and they may walk hand in hand with a God of glory. I also know that in not losing heart I might take this lesson of God's sovereignty, turn it in a positive light, and depend, with fervent intercession, on the great power of God to work for the people of Red Lake; I can know that the unfailing love He has for me can be applied for them as well.

Here ends the documentation of my brief and honoring travail into the culture and people of Red Lake. Pray for our brothers and sisters there as God moves mightily among them. Thank you for hearing.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Red Lake VI: Another Strange Moment

The Korean group – So often when I feel stressed or, I’ll be honest, bloated I will often take a run around the school that is our mission site, and more lately I had been actually running around the community (this I had previously avoided due to the abundance of stray and venomously volatile dogs running about but had since gained a confidence which was based on the mere fact that doing laps is more boring than scenery). On one occasion as I ran I became grossly aware of a strange gathering of folks on the road before me, for the path I usually take leads me down Highway 1 which runs through Red Lake. I found this to be odd, mostly because it is ridiculously hard to get any type of gathering in Red Lake let alone one that, from a distance, seemed so vibrant, joyous, and energetic. From afar I could see that this group of young people was armed with banners, matching T-shirts, and an unsurpassed enthusiasm. “No way this is Native Youth!” I thought to myself (no offense to any who read, but it just seems culturally true that native youth are generally more reserved). As I came closer I realized that my previous prediction had been correct. In fact, this youth were far from Native youth. They were Korean. I had seen signs around the reservation advertising the coming of this group, a Korean ministry, that held cultural exhibitions to attract crowds to hear the gospel. So, here I find myself running down a highway on a closed Indian reservation passing hordes of exuberant Korean youth. Strange enough? Not quite.

Later that night as our group did our weekly cookout for participants and community members at the Catholic Mission, we get invited to go and see the cultural exhibition that this group is putting on. Intrigued, we take our participants to the back of the mission where the school gym is for the viewing. As I sit there I realize that this is a multi-cultural experience put on by only one culture group. So, again, I find myself in the most strange moment as I realize I am watching this Korean youth perform an African tribal dance with a group of mostly Lutheran (a.k.a. not the most culturally enthusiastic folk or just enthusiastic in general for that matter) participants while sitting in a Catholic Mission half filled with natives on a closed Indian Reservation. I just kept thinking of my close Asian friends and their probable thoughts on the situation had they been present for it, and I think comments may have included “F@#king Asians!”, “That’s SO Asian!”, or “We’re taking over the WORLD!” I still chuckle just thinking about it. It was just weird!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Red Lake V: Diversity in the Body

There is a worship song that sings, "Take me to that place, Lord, to that secret place where I can be with you; you can make me like you! Wrap me in your arms! Wrap me in your arms! Wrap me in your arms!" I think on these words and wonder: What does it mean for me to be like you Father? How can you wrap me in your arms when I am too soaked in my own putrid filth and mire? What does it mean for me to pursue a life devoid of earthly dealings and yet full of your life giving bounty? How can I journey with my brothers and sisters on a road that is too narrow for any of us? How do we unite and proclaim a gospel of love in which I remember John's words when he says, "[...] love must not be a matter of theory or talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action. This is how we shall know that we belong in the realm of truth, and reassure ourselves in his sight where conscience condemns us; for God is greater than our conscience and knows all (REB 1 john 3.18)?

This I think is a glimpse:

As the stage vibrates with the bouncing of the chosen children who have come to serve the Red Lake community this week, I sing and drum and dance in jubilance knowing that they could not possibly know or accept the truth which God has been growing in me as of late; they too would have to journey a similar path to the one that I have walked in order to be convinced of the beauty of Christ's bride. This particular group knows what it means to worship. They have tasted the meaning of giving ones heart in ardent and joyful praise to their God, they have served in a manner fitting of the kingdom of God, and they have begun to open their minds to the love that Christ speaks of and John reminds us of. I see them here in trueness as they pour out their thanksgiving to God, not for earthly spoils and treasures, but because he has been faithful to them in their search to be humble servants of Him. These people, these kids, they are vibrant and free; they are the body of Christ.

In contrast to these who are charismatic, I find myself dwelling on the thoughts of the week previous to this one. It was then too that Jesus began to open my eyes to the vast, eclectic, and diverse nature of His body. See, it is not that the charismatic are any more sincere or ardent in their love and expression of faith, but it was that they are allowed, through the culture of their faith, to be free, open, and expressive with an exclamation of praise; they could dance; they could spin; they could scream; they could bow. But what other groups lack in expression, many times, they redact by means of genuinity, for it was the week prior to this one that I saw a group of Catholic kids, on the opposite end of the spectrum, pour themselves into the work of the kingdom in a way that I had little seen surpassed by any groups in the two summers of work in that community. And in the midst of a chaotic and expressive session of worship, I knew that these two groups, had they been coincidentally joined together on a trip, would not have been compatible in their faith expression and may even have been hostile to one another. Even still, in the vibrancy of the worship scene, I could not help but dwell on the sincerity and beauty of a hymn sung A Capella the week before by a more structured crew. It is in the depravity of cultural walls and the hostility of organized denominations that I might find disenchantment, but ever so subtly does the Father remind me of His sovereignty and His undying devotion to all who would proclaim his truth. He reminds me that I have glimpsed the notion of the earth full of His glory; though separated by qualms and brokenness, that it is by His name His children are unified; that the earth, including the sovereign nation of Red Lake, will know and does know Him by our love, not our take on Calvinism/Eucharist/ baptism/insert-secondary-issue-here.

I look on the faces of the kids that we are touching in this place, and I think on the families that we are doing work for and it is here that love as a petty appearance of words begins to lose its meaning and endows itself in the trueness of action. I fear for the decrepit aura that surrounds the future of the children that have touched my life and I know what it means to love in truth. What if the kids fall at the hands of the darkness that has engulfed their community? What if Eugene finds himself in a life of violence because of the gang culture that seems to confront him in every aspect of life? What if Jeff loses his vivacity and joy as he is swallowed up by the biting cynicism, brutality, and anger that he is attacked with daily? What if Zack, one of the most intelligent eight year olds I know, never realizes the potential of his mind because of distraction and lack of opportunity? What if the beautiful Angela finds herself tied to a man who can barely take care of himself because she bought in to the lie that her only worth is in her sexuality? What if Andrea never realizes the beauty of her smile and laugh, because she is too worried about finding her next fix of alcohol or meth? What if Flower loses herself in an addiction of eating as she deals with the abandonment of her mother and family? What if some of these families have to live the winter out in houses that lack windows and doors? How will some of them live with the shame of a house that is in shambles? What joy would be lost if the love of Christ was never known here?

My Photo

--What if ...we lose? What if there is no hope? It is here, in this fear, that God reveals His faithfulness and sovereignty in His love of man as one remembers His promise to Israel, in Jeremiah, to never leave nor forsake them if they would only seek Him; as one remembers His promise to never leave or forsake us. Here, through the diversity of His body, He opens the door of realization to know what loving in truth really is. It is here that the body and bride of Christ can be unified in commonality as they raise a banner in their own lives and denominations that proclaims the end of apathy and shouts out conviction which would end the plague of darkness that sabotages the hearts of men. It is the bold and coercive doctrine of truth that would proclaim the love of Christ. It is the secret place where Catholic and charismatic, broken and healed, bold and meek, poet and priest can be with Him; can be made like Him; can be wrapped in His arms, wrapped in His arms, wrapped in His arms.

Red Lake IV: I Couldn't Make This SH#T Up!

1.) See comments

2.) One day a Kids Club kid who is half Mexican and half Indian says to my Area Director “ I’m not Indian; I’m Mexican!” To which my AD promptly chuckled, and I said, “Well, its kind of true,” and I thought, “YESSSSSSS! Mexicans”

3.) One of the older Kids Club kids was in trouble and I happened to walk by with my kids club staff when one of the Adult leaders was chewing him out saying to the child, “So you’re telling me you didn’t just punch this other kid and say –um- blanktey-blank-blank-blank!?” Curious and surprised at the laughable censorship of the situation, both my Kids Club staff and I turn to the kid and asked him what he said. He replied, “Um…I mean…all I said was… he was beating on my brother…so…I mean…I said ‘get off my f---ing brother you f---ing savage!” I literally almost cried trying to hold back my laughter. Don’t worry! He was reprimanded…maybe I should have been.

4.) It has become the joke around the Catholic Mission on the reservation (from the lips of Father himself) that you will wait five minutes for the indians, ten minutes for the elders, and fifteen minutes for the Youthworks! staff. On one particular occasion as I was leaving mass Father shook my hand and whispered, “We will need to get you a watch!” I shook my head and chuckled. Presently, the Indian lady behind me grabs my arm, pulls close to my ear, and whispers, “Don’t worry, his watches are slow!”

5.) It is 11:30 on Sunday morning, and my staff and I have been sitting in the back of the sanctuary mainly because we showed up about twenty minutes late for mass and we came armed with caffeinated beverages which aren’t allowed outside the fellowship hall. Anyway feeling sheepish and a little distracted by the noise and raucous of a few new children that had come to mass that day, we tried to avoid the eye contact of the Father who was presiding over the service because we knew that these combined things may have been slightly distracting and frustrating for him. Suddenly during the Eucharist celebration, a cell phone goes off continually ringing for a couple of minutes. Father seemed particularly angry at this point as he gazed out into the crowd. Finally, it stops ringing and mass continues. Afterward, we are leaving the sanctuary, and much to our great relief Father did not seem that angry with us as we shook his hand at the door, when a phone begins to ring once again with the same tone as the one in the service. With a reddened face, Father lifts up his robe revealing the lay clothes underneath, reaches into his pocket, produces a slick looking cell phone, and silences it. Shocked and stunned, my staff begins to chide him ferociously, and he replies, “But I played it off pretty good didn’t I!” – Hilarious!

Red Lake III: Strange Moments

There are a few moments in life when the ridiculous seems only too familiar. These are my strange moments in this great sovereign nation.

The Mennonite Woman – As it turns out there is actually a fairly large Mennonite population in Minnesota. Who knew? Anyway, I do not actually know very much about their culture or their beliefs other than they seem “Amish-esque” (if you will excuse the strange euphemism) in appearance and practice.

They do seem a little less conservative as I have noticed that many of them actually have vehicles, deal in real money, and do things of that nature, but one can always peg them in the stores because they make all their own clothes and what not.

The strange occurrence begins one day as my Site director and I are traveling from the local store in Red Lake to return to the site, and we pass a Mennonite couple selling various fruits and things out of their car. Intrigued, I decide I would like to get out and support them. So as I approach, the woman (large and gruff in appearance) is neatly arranging baskets of raspberries.

Not particularly interested in raspberries but still not wanting to walk away empty handed, I ask her how much for the baskets. I see her large, dirty, dry, and calloused hand begin to tremble a little. She began to mumble something, and it becomes very apparent that she does not speak English very well. Also, there is something else lying dormant in her reaction; she portrays a nervousness that somehow makes it all seem extremely awkward. As my mind quickly races through the different reasons for this intensity, her husband (also large and dressed humbly in a flannel shirt, overalls, and a straw hat) lumbered from around their mid-sized truck with a barrel of squash in hand. He pauses for a moment to spy the scene, and it dawns on me that this woman, beyond her lack of English skills, is also extremely nervous to talk to a man who is not her husband.

The Husband dropps the basket and hulks his way to the merchant table. He points his bloated and worked hands at the differing sized baskets of raspberries and loudly says, “These two and half! These three and half!” I gladly hand him a five and pointed at the smaller of the two.

As I return to the car I pause and reflect about the scene that had just occurred and think, “I just bought raspberries from a polish speaking Mennonite man whose wife, being probably three times my size in (mostly likely) sheer muscle, was completely intimidated by me and had immediate cultural biases toward me, on a closed Indian reservation in the middle of a summer of intense ministry – This is weird!”

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Red Lake II: The Sovereign Paradigm

“When you’re on our land, you need to obey our rules!” The stern face of the police officer only reinforced the guilt and pallid face of truth of my unworthiness to serve the God I love. My head hung low that day as I knew that my stent at being a good steward with the things that God had given me had been wrongfully neglected, and that I had truly been negligent with valuable property.

There is an old myth that no one ever gets pulled over on the rez. The police there are to busy handling bigger problems (or more actually living in a strange anticipation between the more hefty things that they have to deal with such as the rise in gang activity, alcoholism, and meth busts – its only a matter of time) than speeding and traffic, but when you cut a cop off so you can pass the person in front of you because they are going the speed limit, it is pretty blatantly obvious that you are going to be pulled over. It is the worst feeling in the world when that car flips around and those lights go on, but what is worst is that as the policeman took my information I became dreadfully aware of the strange paradigm that faced both of us. Red Lakers truly do believe themselves to be a foreign country when they are on their land, and it became painfully clear, as I sat on the two lane road, that this may in fact be a much greater ordeal than would normally be expected as I treaded less than lightly on this land that was sovereign and free; I found myself sickly stricken with the realization that I had been an unruly guest in an all too alien home. If only I had been more committed to the stewardship that had been preached to me before; if only I would have not let go of my tenacious hold on integrity; I had let my self get lethargic and apathetic in that arena; I made a mistake.

I told Jesus I was sorry, and in fact, I could think of nothing more sincere in my heart at the time. The Spirit, as always, comforted me in my time of distressed, and I knew that this meeting was no accident, and that my unworthiness only revealed His worthiness all the more. The officer grilled me sternly about the rental car that I drove, but there also seemed to be surprise and awe in his interaction with me. It dawned on me then that it may not have been normal for him, beyond the roadside questioning, to have someone be so compliant with him; to have someone ready and prepared with paperwork; to have someone openly admit that he was in the wrong and so willing to accept the punishment due to him.

“Mr. DeHarte, I’m not going to write you today. We appreciate what you are doing here, but when you are on our land you have to obey our rules! The speed limit through here is _5, so please watch your speed.”

“Yes Sir. Sorry Sir” I mustered meekly as I realized the ramifications of not only my actions but also the fact that he knew who we were and what we are doing here, and that Jesus had used this opportunity to share a little of his light through his unruly servant.

Why in my darkest times does a glorious Father reveal Himself all the more fully in love? Why when I am the most obviously broken would He choose to shine all the more brightly through me? Why would He choose one no better than refuse to carry out such a grand responsibility? There are times when I am forced by the ship wreck known as my sin-nature to adore him all the more for being a flower in the middle of my garbage heap and for showing me how to do the same; that’s a convoluted way of saying I have no clear words to express His beauty.

The gospel of John tells us of a time when Jesus served His disciples by washing their feet. He tells them that to do the same, to humble themselves to the uttermost to serve, that this is the “path of blessing”. It turns out that when I try to do this that my spirit is willing but my flesh is weak—sorry.

“My God, my sacrifice is a broken spirit.”

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Red Lake I : The Grate

I sat as my arms moved rhythmically over the air grate. I scrubbed and scrubbed in order to cleanse it of that day’s latest conflict. This beating had been particularly bad as I remember seeing venomous hate emote from a boy who was too young to know what manhood truly was, and fearfully never would. My hand (protected by latex) worked ever so hard to cleanse the area in the gym of Red Lake Elementary school where the swarms of children would play day in and day out. Some of the blood sopped up easily, and some of it took work. I wondered on this for a moment, for though this was the last task that I was performing in this particular duty, the former being that of cleansing the boy and the whereabouts of where he had journeyed in his time of injury, I knew that the time spent was hardly enough for the blood to harden in such a way. It was then that I realized that it was not only this boy’s blood that I dutifully cleaned, but it was that of previous and equally violent confrontations. This boy’s blood mingled with that of others, and the spots were marks, prideful insignia, of the battles won (or lost) in this particular area; I realized this grate was one symbol of many of the life that was to be lead here, the life that encased these children when they weren’t dancing joyfully here at YouthWorks! Kids Club; they lived a life unknown of discipline, joy, hope, opportunity.

Later in the week I would get the chance to interact with the boy who had started the fight. He called me an asshole and promptly threw a large projectile (a rock) at the van that we had just courteously taken him home in. My heart sang the saddened song that echoes Paul’s word to Timothy proclaiming him the worst of sinners because my head battled intensely my heart’s desire to allow the flesh to rise against such ardent and blatant disrespect and violent temperament. Luckily, Christ knows the struggles of the human heart and gave me the courage to live a moment in love and peace, and again I saw his light in the wisdom he gave me through the kind words that exuded from me as I spoke friendly to a girl who had been dropped at the next stop. She had been chided by the boys for wetting herself, and in a moment of distress, Christ gave me the words of peace to speak to this child. Within minutes I realized that my spirit had entered into the extremes of battle the darkness within to releasing all inhibitions to his grace through me and seeing the fruit of love; If only at all times I could hold out my hands and scream with passion and intent the famous words of the Five Iron Frenzy Song “Here’s my heart Let it be forever yours!”.

It was in these moments I knew the true nature of the mission that God had sent me on. To see beauty in the eyes of a child of hopelessness, and to give love to a child suppressed by a desperate and violent culture. The blood on the grate revealed the struggle of a community to overcome the battles of gang life, drug addiction, lethargy, apathy, alcoholism, and decay of spirit in every way; it was that of an eight year old. Satan tempts me with the lighted cavern wall of despair and needlessness. He would have me give in to thoughts of failure and helplessness in the face of such an ardent and hard ministry, but in the light of day it is the window of the Spirit that ultimately freshens my spiritual eyesight anew and reveals the glories of His creation in a single child’s laugh; in the marked and astonishing intelligence of most four year olds; in even the small time of day that a child gets at least a little structure and love; from the experience of giving children a place of safety in a volatile community, and showing them the light of Christ if it even makes up a minute portion of their lives.

This is Red Lake. It is a darkened place, but even here the light of Christ anticipates the hearts of men and shines out in the beauty of His making.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Identity: The Gathering Nature of the Jar

This truth that follows from the father is a truth that is fulfilling; it is a truth so focused on the cleansing of a people of dirt; it is a truth of universals; it is a truth of who we are in Christ; it is a truth eternal:

Recently, a friend of mine, whose talent until this point I had only known in rumor, came to a talent show and displayed a couple of the paintings she had done. In one of these pictures, she had beautifully displayed a still life of jars which were set on a table covered in white linen. Each was on a different tier of the table, and each had its own characteristic in the makeup of the perspective of the painting. One in particular I found to be of an interesting stature as it was the one jar, in a seeming array of colored pots, which was found to be whiter, blander, less decadent than the rest. This struck me to be a crazy contrast with the rest of the painting, and more still when she described the theme of the painting, which escapes me at the present, I found that I related to it in a deeper and more spiritual manner in that it seemed that this jar seemed to encompass, in its aesthetic aura, an exegetical commentary on the condition of a multitude of aspects of the life of the jar and subsequently our own.

German Philosopher Martin Heidegger, in his essay “The Thing,” actually finds in his own way a similar commentary when thinking more generally of the mere thing “a jar.” It is here that Heidegger finds the thing, and to be sure all things, to encompass in their very existence the culmination, or gathering as he puts it, of the four main things, those being earth, sky, divinities, and mortals. It is here, in the thing (Das Ding), and namely in the example of the jar as he gives in “The Thing,” that one is to find the meeting place of the dream and the reality; it is the common ground of the divine and the mortal. This, of course, is a seemingly mystical spin on what seems to be merely the application of philosophy; here Heidegger finds truth in the aesthetic existence and applicability of the thing rather than the philosophical. In this one can see that the jar, used as a sacred tool and as a mere watering vessel, finds itself in the common ground of that which is divine and that which is mundane. So too, as I pondered on it, did I find similarities in Heidegger’s discussion of the jar as the gathering of the four fold and with my friend’s painting. I began to think of the jars as they stood in existence as jars on that white and sterile environment of linen. I began to think that they were merely standing to be filled; they wait, in their very essence, to be poured into. Anything will do, and they can never truly be anything without the continual anticipation of that one thing; that perfect paradigm; that perfect possession; that perfect person; that perfect situation; that perfect anything that will make it right. There seemed to me to be this innate and continual waiting for some sort of immanent and glorious fruition essential to the existence of the jars in the painting.

Then I began to think of the one jar which lay on its side. It was obviously different than the rest because it was in an altered state, but more it seemed to be in rebellion of the rest. It struck at the normalcy and complacency that seemed to be tied to the others as they blindly and fruitlessly grabbed and groped for approval and fulfillment in an invisible and non-existent pouring out of that which is empty; there was a quirk in this jar that divided it from the rest who seemed to merely be searching in darkness for something they could not see nor find. In this there seems to be a connection to what Paul speaks of in the first and second chapters of Ephesians. Here one sees that Paul tells us in chapter two of this book that the body of believers has been raised up with and in union to Christ in the heavenly realms and we have been enthroned with him there in the heavenly places. What is more, Paul, earlier in the book, speaks of the follower’s inheritance and share offered in Christ and the assurance of who we are as children in the kingdom of God. This began to bring into clarity the fusion, at least in my mind though I am sure Heidegger would be the first to strike at this gleaning of his work, of the jar as that gathering thing of the four fold, as the obstinate figure in the painting, and as the picture of a believer in the household of God.

What does it mean to be a follower of God? What is it be that person who is not groping, wailing and biting, to find anything to fulfill that which cannot truly find any sort of lasting physical fruition? What does it mean to be poured out of the earthly and dark nature, of physical desires, instinct, and evil imagination as Paul puts it? What does it mean to be that rebellious and obstinate figure in a world full of spiritual specters? How does one find meaning with their existence in the here and now, the immediate, the realized state of the grace inflicted child?

It is in this mindset that Paul addresses his flock; it is with these struggles that one sees Paul meeting the Ephesians. Paul tells the reader, in the perfect tense of the word “saved” in Greek, that it is not that we were once saved and have marked that as the point in which the culmination of that act is found, but rather one sees that Paul is telling the Ephesians that salvation came inherently in the former realization of the grace of God but, and I feel more prominently, also in the immediate; the here and now; the immanent. It is here that salvation is realized; it is not an acted that occurred and can be forgotten about, but it the glorious fruition, the process, of being saved that is where the believer finds themselves. It is not that we were once saved and are left now to our own devices and strength to struggle on in a cold and dark world, nor is it that we are working and working to hopefully one day find that the salvation of God will fill us as we once waited for the things of the world to fill us in the same fashion. Rather, it is that Paul is telling us that it is in the here and now, it is in this moment, this reality, this realization, this struggle, this battle, this joyful expression, this unknown element of life, this quandary on the mystery of grace, this life that we lead that God has seated us in union with Christ in the heavenly realm; we need not wait to be filled by anything, for it is not that we are waiting for this event to occur but that we realize it is not that thing that fills us, strictly in terms of this metaphor of course, but it is who we are in Christ as we are now that defines us. We aren’t waiting for God to change us because He already has. We already embody the new creation.

It is not that the jar’s purpose, in the painting, is to relinquished in its rebellion to the empty earthly desires that its peers seek to bring joy, but it is that the jar finds that none of what the world has to offer is in anyway equal or as precious as the knowledge that it is in Christ. It knows who it is in Christ and in its mere acceptance of such a truth. Here one can see the relation of the Heidegger text, even if it seems to present a flawed metaphor, in that it begins to make clear the knowledge of who one is in Christ. One can see that as the jar gathers the fourfold so too must we be that vessel that finds itself in the crossroads of a broken and sinful world, and we must come to a spiritual realization that we are those who are placed, like the jar, on our side that our earthly desires may be poured and the truth of who we are might be realized; we are that which is the gathering of earth, sky, divinity, and mortal in that we are the intercessors of change for the divine in a world that is earthly and full of flesh; we are the vessel that finds itself to be stuck in the mundane struggles of a dying world and yet wonderfully full of the spirit and truth of god as we are glorified in the heavenly realms; we are that vessel in which the dream of salvation can be realized even in the continual conjoining and honing of the sin nature. With all of this one can see when Paul speaks of us in Ephesians 2 that the truth of God is shines through in that–

This truth that follows from the father is a truth that is fulfilling; it is a truth so focused on the cleansing of a people of filth; it is a truth of universals; it is a truth of who we are in Christ; it is a truth eternal.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Garden Near Golgotha

I have taken a keen interest in the gospel of John lately which is mainly due to the fact that my church has been going through it. However one theme seems to run through it that I never picked up on before. It will be easiest for me to speak about the theme like this:

There sits on my desk a small pot. It is black with gold lettering. Inked in this gold lettering is the verse found in Romans 6, which says "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death in order that we too may live a new life". When I wrote this verse on pot (probably, some product of an school or church craft time), I thought it was comforting. A novel reminder of a life renewed in Christ, for just as He found himself emerging from the grave in the new garb of victory, so too are we promised to return with Him. Yeah totally... a pot...with dirt... a pot; a subtle reminder of a truth I didn't fully grasp.

Then I stumbled upon John 19, and I noticed something curious about the narration toward the end. At a lunch meeting with my pastor this week I made him chuckle with the description of John as the ancient minimalist, because he often only alludes to or leaves to subtext key information for deciphering the message of his gospel. With this in mind, when I got to the end of chapter 19 I knew something was up. John tells us that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, the secret friends of Christ, took charge of Jesus' corpse. They prepared it for burial, wrapped it, and then, interestingly, laid it in a garden near Golgotha. I knew John wouldn't have wasted the paper or ink to tell us that he was in a garden unless it were essential, and the words of Jesus, with the help of some friends who I later shared this with, came ringing back to me. He said that a seed could never grow unless it first was buried and died (slight paraphrase of John 12, obviously), and I began to see that John's emphasis on the location of Jesus' burial was no mere coincidence.

It was the only place, the garden that is, that was fitting for Him to be placed. It was the only venue conducive to His nature of new life. The same day that I began to wrestle with this passage, I came to my room and saw the pot. Wondering if it needed water, I peered into it and to my utter surprise there was a small sprout sticking up from the moistened soil; what once was buried and dead sprung into creation with new life and new vigor. It is only fitting that Christ was buried in the garden near Golgotha, for just as every new spring reaches forth and extracts from the ground the renewed life of creation, so too did the God of the universe embody His creation, defeat death, and burst from the ground with a herald of triumph, victory, and honor. Christ's three day germination signaled the beginning of new creation, bound His chosen to irrevocable life, and marked for eternity the end of despair.

Friday, April 07, 2006

bloggy mcblogblog

bloggy mcblogblog from blogsville, taking the blog train down to blog town so we can go to a blog club on blog street and get our freaky blog on!