Monday, January 11, 2010

On Being and Becoming: The Kingdom of God as an Existential Posit Part I

The wind mumbles as it blows through a field of wild and vibrant flowers, which is set high on the back hills of a rolling, prairie country side. The animated colors exuberantly dance and swoon through the arms of their love, the wind. Spending the vast portion of their days lost in the frail rhythmic sway between them, leaves an incumbent mark on the very being of the breeze and the flora that is much more than the long strings of borrowed time in which they suffer to be daily trapped in – playing out for themselves merely the contingent realities of this moment to that. Indeed, in this primal movement on the hills, there is something arcane, something recondite. There is some great connection; there is some primal truth that connects them with the heartbeat of what it means to exist, thumping and pounding in a syncopated pattern from the infinite cavern chambers of the life of being. There is the unspeakable and yet familiar, as from the deep, which comes near to these flowers as created beings, as they are flailing in the wind, and beckons them to blossom and to grow.

What does it mean to be? What is it to exist? How do we allow ourselves to be enraptured in the fullness and frailty of the most deep-seated existence? How do we engage a reality in which we are at once already atoned by Christ and yet know the equal reality of His working and refining as an on-going process in our lives? What does it look like for a child of God to sit confidently at the Eucharist table, a whore and yet a child? How does one take up the question of being and becoming as the whole of the Christian community upholds its identity as the manifestation of Christ's Kingdom in the present and the becoming of Christ's Kingdom at the consummation of time?

To speak of the Kingdom of God, for the Christian, is to more rightly bring into focus the whole sweeping paradigm of what it means to be a Christian. The Kingdom of God is that much anticipated reign of God for his covenant people; it is the restoration of the harmony lost at the fall in Eden. However, at the same time, it is more than this. The Kingdom is also realized by means of the process in achieving harmony as well – God’s ultimate means of reconciling the world to this harmony. Tragically, and far too often, “[m]any of our traditions have taught us about a Jesus who wasn’t into shaping a world but into escaping the world.”[1] In truth the urgency with which this topic comes, is revealed by the very nature that the full scope of realization of Yahweh’s theocracy has its heart the tensions found in that minute space between being and becoming. It is an existential posit.

Here, one can lean on the ideas of the French philosopher Guilles Deleuze who, when speaking of language, talks about the pronounced anti-systematic intermingling of major and minor languages. This idea has to deal with the interaction of minor dialects in language to the overarching languages that house them and the extent to which the evolutionary nature of language is expressed when those dialects, as the minor language, over take the role of the primary creating a new language all together or, more accurately, a new phase of their common language. So, for example, one could look at the seemingly foreign tongue of Old English in classics like Beowulf and note that while the text was English, it was also becoming English; the phases of growth are actually contained within the identity of the whole so that “[t]here are not, therefore, two kinds of languages but two possible treatments of the same language.”[2] This is a fitting parallel for the orientation of the Christian to the Kingdom of God. It is that necessary position which speaks the truth of Christ’s message on the Kingdom as that reality which waits in expectant hope for Christ’s return and full reign while also affording one the privilege of an identity that is marked by full fruition in their orientation to that Kingdom. Of course, such an identity fruits concurrently as Christ does His work in her personal and spiritual life, that which the Christian calls sanctification. In essence, the Kingdom is and it is becoming.

[1] N.T. Wright, “Jesus and the Kingdom,” InterVarsity Press Conference (January 1999); available from ; Internet; accessed 11 October 2009.

[2] Guilles Deleuze, “Language: Major and Minor,” The Deleuze Reader (New York: Columbia UP, 1993), 148.

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