several years ago, someone made a statement that i have repeated many times since and has shaped my view of god and others: isolation is the enemy of god.
there’s a lot going on in that statement and today, in a live-streamed talk by don miller, i was once again reminded of that declaration.
miller—author of the best-selling blue like jazz and the newly released a million miles in a thousand years—talked about story—in literary terms—and its connection to the biblical narrative, particularly in reference to the creation story. more to the point, he talked about the need for conflict in any good story and how conflict engages characters and creates a need/opportunity to change.
while it seems more and more clear to me that the creation account in scripture is a poem steeped in metaphor, it makes it no less significant to the trajectory of the biblical narrative—the ongoing story of god and people and all creation in relationship. one of the most beautiful aspects of creation is the relationship between human beings.
miller made the point that people generally see life prior to the fall as perfect, without conflict. in fact, though, like any good story, conflict was a quintessential element in the genesis poems that pushed change. we find in genesis 2 that the man experienced an internal conflict that enacted a plot twist.
God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn’t find a suitable companion.
the man had everything—food, water and god—but in spite of these things, something was missing: other people. the man’s internal conflict was loneliness. it was the deep-seated need to engage the other. it was the inexplicably strong necessity of companionship.
his conflict created the need for change.
so god created another human. who created other humans. and other humans.
as miller made clear, people need people. we need community. we need to be in relationship with other humans.
for quite some time, christians have propagated the idea that being in relationship with jesus is the key to unlocking unlimited and unadulterated happiness. it’s the idea that jesus is the ultimate fullness. while there are certainly bits of truth to that, our experiences inform us that it’s only partially true. following jesus doesn’t eliminate conflict. we still experience sadness & loneliness & fear & uncertainty. while faith provides a “cushion”, we still process these things in tangible ways: other people.
the “other” is our way of experiencing something that doesn’t replace our relationship with christ, but makes our relationship with christ touchable.
we hope that eikon, above all things, is rooted in community. we hope it’s a place that resolves conflict by placing people in relationship with other people.
we invite you into this place of community and the other.
in said post, we mentioned we were waiting to hear back from the meeting place to confirm which time slot would be available. well…we heard back from the venue…and we received not-so-happy news… to make a long story short, we found out they double-booked us and we were the low man on the totem pole. :(
so, the search began for a new meeting place and we’re glad to say that gusano’s is that new meeting place. gusano’s is a great restaurant and bar, so we think it will be an equally good place to hang out and engage in a great conversation.
they have a tucked-away little room downstairs that should provide for a relaxed environment. they’ll provide some wait staff and eating and drinking is highly encouraged so that we can help to support a river market area business. to access the downstairs, you’ll need to go to the far back left corner of the building and enter a short hallway/walkway. (it will look like you’re going somewhere you shouldn’t…so don’t be freaked out…) :) take a left and the stairs will lead you down to the room.
here’s the details:
when: 6 – 8 p.m.
what: EIKON | WHO, discussing the “who?” of eikon church. more details here.
who: everyone’s invited, so come out and bring some friends. the conversation will only be better with more people.
we’ve set up a facebook event, so check that out for a few more details and let us know if you’re coming out.
ladies and gentlemen, we’re at it again. on sunday, september 27 we’ll be hanging out, engaging in a conversation that we’re calling EIKON | WHO: a conversation about the other.
last month, of course, we had a little soirée at the house where we talked a little about our pasts and how that shapes the way we see the church and christianity in general. so, EIKON | WHO is the next logical step in the conversation. we’ll pick up where we left off last month and discuss who we are as individuals, how that shapes our sensibilities concerning the church and what it would look like to build a community of people who represent a diverse set of beliefs, points-of-view and worldviews.
to imagine a church where everybody thinks like this guy is a frightening thing… my guess is the conversation would be hours of incessant loud-talking and mostly have to do with western shirts and how great 1997 was… :) so, the point is, we need you there!
in the event that you find yourself confused and/or intrigued, you should definitely plan on coming. if you’ve never come hung out with us before, this will be a great entry point. for those who have had the pleasure (we hope) of hanging out with us before, this is another great chance to continue the conversation.
[here's the disclaimer i wrote last time that is once again relevant] NOTE TO THE INTROVERTS WHO ARE CRINGING AND DRY HEAVING RIGHT NOW (which actually includes myself, in terms of the introvert personality type): because I can certainly empathize, you don’t need to worry about being called on, called out or singled out. it’s your choice about how much or how little you contribute to the conversation. while we encourage active participation, we want to honor the fact that everyone engages in different ways. some do it by talking, while some do it by listening. so, please discontinue your dry heaving…no need to panic…you’re in good hands with eikon. :)
alright, that’s the story. we’re a friendly bunch, so we promise not to leave you with any permanent damage or scars… :)
last week, billy corgan—of smashing pumpkins fame—launched a new website, everything from here to there. in his first post, corgan expresses the purpose of the site, stating,
The purpose of this website is to discuss openly and without fear concepts of Mind-Body-Soul integration. If you are drawn to the Hidden Truths, drawn to God as something beyond limitation, and drawn to Love as the greatest force in the Universe, then you have come to the right place at the right time. This is a place of Love.
in essence, corgan has started a spiritual website that offers a safe and honest place to explore concepts of spirituality and the idea of something more. while it’s very clear that the site isn’t an overtly christian stream of thought (corgan states, “we promote no religion, and if we speak of any belief or faith system it won’t be at the expense of another”), certainly corgan is expressing themes that help to inform a broader conversation regarding religion, spirituality and ulitmately, jesus. he states,
There is God, and then there are gods, idols along the way that may convince us that the One God can be replaced by a lesser thought. To me, when I say One God, I mean One Truth, One Love, One Destination.
for billy corgan, though, these aren’t new themes. over the last 10 years or so, fans have increasingly become attune to corgan’s themes of faith and spirituality. what many are surprised by, though, is that corgan’s writing has shown his ups and downs with god ever since the beginning of the smashing pumpkins.
in 1991, the smashing pumpkins released their critically acclaimed debut album, gish. on the opening track, i am one (listen here), and in the opening line, it’s clear that corgan is someone thinking through his relationship to and with god, singing,
I am one as you are three
Trying to find a messiah in your trinity
corgan’s search for something more turned more and more into what sounded like angst and despair several years later at the release of their epic 2-disc set, mellon collie and the infinite sadness. one of the storylines that came from this album and still lingers today is that corgan’s anger and isolation was directed toward god, leading him to a place of hopelessness. while certainly there was plenty of cathartic raging aimed upward, corgan expresses that it wasn’t as dark as it might seem on the surface. in an interview with paste magazine, corgan adds some persepective to his state-of-mind during the writing of mellon collie:
It wasn’t a demonstrable need to say, ‘I’m so miserable, look at me.’ It was, ‘look at me, I’m miserable, but I’m trying to figure out a way to get out of the hole.’ That, even in and of itself, has a positivity to it because it’s hopeful, it’s not death, it isn’t nihilism. There’s actually a light at the end of the tunnel.
i don’t want to overstate corgan’s intentions, but his lyrics throughout the album sound like some of the great lamentations throughout scripture: the desperation of the songs of david or the distressed weeping of job when his world collapses or the angered cries of hosea when the bride he bought turns her back on him.
in zero, one of the breakout tracks from that album, corgan famously screams,
emptiness is loneliness
and loneliness is cleanliness
and cleanliness is godliness
and god is empty just like me
in an interview years after penning the track, corgan clarified his feelings about god as expressed in the song. he asserted that instead of the song suggesting he thinks god is not present, he means, rather, that god experiences deep loneliness much like he perceived himself to be experiencing.
continuing after mellon collie and the pumpkins’ declaration that “god is empty,” corgan only amplified his themes of faith, but making them even more overt. with the collapse of the pumpkins in the early 2000s, corgan formed the one-album wonder, zwan. on their lone 2003 album, corgan chose to include an interpretation of a gospel standard, jesus, i my cross have taken (you can hear the traditional version here and read the lyrics here). what strikes me most about this track selection is the directness of the lyrics and the fact that it takes a lot of guts to record a song like this. not only do you have to have some well of knowledge to even know this song, but you have to be willing to make an overt statement of spirituality. here’s corgan and zwan’s interpretation.
so, did billy corgan find jesus? in the aforementioned paste interview, he answers the question, saying,
No, I didn’t find Jesus. He’s been there the whole time.
no doubt, this statement is much a deeper and richer theology than a lot of christian music or christian musicians bring to the conversation.
now, to be clear, corgan has fairly definitively stated several times that he doesn’t call himself a christian, but it’s worth saying that it doesn’t diminish the truth of his words and music.
again, to be clear, it’s also worth stating that there are certainly things that corgan has presented thus far on his new website that aren’t intrinsically jesus-centered, but that’s almost the point.
one of the values that we hold very near and dear at eikon is to say that truth is everywhere. to borrow a phrase from rob bell, truth is “under every nook and cranny.” billy corgan doesn’t blatantly utter the name of jesus on his new website. he doesn’t speak in ways that evoke a strict parallel with the language of scripture. he doesn’t express a linear depiction of the arc of judeo-christian narrative.
but what he does do, though, is broaden the conversation in which all people are welcome. he helps those who follow in the way of jesus see that there’s many ways of expressing faith and truth and god. it isn’t overtly christian, but it is overtly christ-like in nature.
when corgan describes god as “One Truth, One Love, One Destination,” i think that is deeply christ-like, but is certainly spoken in a much broader set of idioms than how we may instinctively speak as people pursuing life like jesus. if there is, indeed, only one god, then corgan, in his own manner of communicating, is speaking our this god.
beginning this week, corgan plans to open the site up to others as contributors and collaborators and he says he is working on a spiritual memoir that shares the site’s name. so, we’ll be hearing more from corgan. it’s hard to say exactly where’s he headed, but it’s something worth following and engaging as he continues to smash assumptions and talk god.
UPDATE: Due to a schedule conflict, the date of the START team meeting has been moved back one night to Thursday, September 17 at 7 p.m. It will still take place at The House. And remember, the last day to register is this coming Sunday (Sept. 13) at 8 p.m. See you next week.
over the last several months, we’ve begun the process of the actual physical formation of eikon. we’ve had an incredible response and a lot of people who have expressed their commitment to helping to grow our faith community. now—as announced a couple nights ago at our EIKON | WHY gathering—we want to invite people to marry their verbal intentions with a physical means of carrying them out.
on wednesday, september 16 at 6:30 p.m., we’ll have our first ever START team meeting at the house (in hillcrest).
WHAT’S THE START TEAM?
first, we should say that we hope it’s way less cheesy than the word team suggests. :) (if you have any better suggestions that team, we’re all ears.) anytime we see the word team, we feel like we should immediately do one of those hands-in-the-middle countdown chant things… “1, 2, 3 CHEESY!!”
second, it’s exactly what it says: a group of people whose objective is to help start eikon. this group isn’t the end-all of the eikon community. it isn’t the totality of the eikon experience. it’s simply the starting point. it should be a group of people who work together (as team suggests) to foster an environment that invites and engages “outsiders.” we’ll work together up until the point of launching our regular, weekly worship gathering, which will happen circa february 2010.
WHO CAN BE A PART OF THE START TEAM?
literally anyone. well, with a slight caveat. while it is a totally open invitation, it’s an invitation to those who are 100%, for-sure, no-doubt-about committed to eikon. even if you think you’re 90% on board, just wait. maybe by the next START team meeting, you’ll be 100% and then you can jump in. otherwise, this isn’t a closed invitation to people of my choosing. if you connect with eikon in a way that leads you to serve on this team, then we certainly want to partner with you.
WHAT WILL THE START TEAM DO?
first, the START team will spend the next several months learning about the specific nuts and bolts of what we’re doing at eikon. we’ll talk, in detail, about our calendar, our leadership dynamic, finances, ways to serve and connect and a lot more. these meetings will really get people invested in terms of sheer knowledge about the underpinnings of the church
also, the START team will be the people to actually physically carry out the tasks involved in the start of our weekly worship gatherings. in other words, there’s a lot that goes into the advent of regular, weekly gatherings and the START team will come together to execute the various necessary tasks.
finally, in addition to meeting the needs of our weekly worship gathering, the START team will be people committed to regularly engaging in and helping out with various modes of eikon connecting points: monthly gatherings, midrash events, art and/or music events, semi-regular worship gatherings and whatever other eikon connection opportunities may arise. we certainly don’t require anyone to be involved with anything, but with equal certainty, part of the point of the START team is an ongoing, sacrificial commitment.
so, we want you to come! if you’re 100% locked in with eikon, this is the best way to connect.
if you plan on attending, you MUST fill out the following form. while we prefer that each person fills out an individual form, if you desire to fill out the form for a spouse, significant other or friend, you can do so. please make sure to indicate the number of additional people attending (that doesn’t include yourself), name(s) of each additional attendee and their email address(es).
deadline to complete the form is sunday, september 13 at 8 p.m.
You’ve heard the story
You know how it goes
Once upon a garden
We were lovers with no clothes
Fresh from the soil
We were beautiful and true
In control of our emotions
‘Til we ate the poison fruit
so opens david bazan’s—formerly of pedro the lion fame—debut lp, curse your branches. bazan sets the stage with the opening lines from the opening track, hard to be—a song about original sin and the supposed spiraling implications. ultimately, bazan reveals that he’s someone who is walking away from faith, disbelievingly singing,
Wait just a minute
You expect me to believe
That all this misbehaving
Grew from one enchanted tree?
And helpless to fight it
We should all be satisfied
With this magical explanation
For why the living die
throughout the entirety of curse your branches, bazan lays forth his dissertation of what led him—as a recent chicago reader headline proclaimed—to break up with god. in when we fell, bazan’s argument is most clear, asking a number of questions:
What am I afraid of?
Who did I betray?
In what medieval kingdom does justice work that way?
If you knew what would happen
And you made us just the same
Then you my Lord can take the blame
When you set the table
When you chose the scale
Did you write a riddle that you knew they would fail
Did you make them tremble
So they would tell the tale
Did you push us when we fell?
certainly, bazan asks some pointed questions that are, no doubt, shared by an ever-growing number of people.
we at eikon are asking the same questions.
undoubtedly, our questions may be framed in a very different way, but we’re certainly asking the questions, not in fear of destroying faith, but in hopes of making it more fully realized. often the pain of struggling with the difficult questions is the thing that refines and shapes our sense of connection to christ. bazan’s long-time friend, cultural critic and progressive christian author (of the highly recommended the sacredness of questioning everything) david dark sees the need for expanding the christian conversation. of bazan’s latest effort, dark states, “i think with curse your branches david expands the space of the talk-about-able.” we hope eikon—in an attempt to expand the space of the talk-about-able—offers an ongoing opportunity to critique the church and the story of god in a way that builds both the collective community of faith and individuals’ faith itself.
i believe bazan would agree. although, certainly, he isn’t out evangelizing about the positive aspects of the church, he isn’t necessarily on a mission to tear down the church or to ask people to blindly walk away from their faith. he asserts, like in when we fell, that, much like his parents taught him, they should follow their hearts. he sings,
If my mother cries when I tell her what I discovered
Then I hope she remembers she taught me to follow my heart
And if you bully her like you done me with fear of damnation
Then I hope she can see you
for what you are
bazan—after much thought and personal soul-searching—has come to the conclusion that the “million small holes”—as he sings in harmless sparks—in his faith have given way to almost-full disconnect. it isn’t a spontaneous divorce. while listening to curse your branches, it’s helpful and important to remember that bazan isn’t some church newbie who’s spewing venom towards a system he barely understands. bazan grew up in an assembly of god church where his father was the music minister. in fact, in a recent interview at emusic, bazan affirms his very positive experiences in the church, stating,
You know, I really liked it. That’s one of the things about it — people often think, “Oh, you just had a bad experience with church.” But that’s not really the case — my experience with church was pretty positive. I was very serious about my faith. And for me, that meant a lot of thinking outside of the box. Because I knew other people who were “serious about their faith,” and they were total dickheads. People who were really zealous just seemed to get it way wrong. They were really keen on, like, everybody going to Promise Keepers. And that seemed to me to not be what the deal was. So I led songs in Youth Group, I did that in college as well. Church was such a social thing, and I loved that. I read the Bible a lot, and took it at face value and tried to see what it could mean.
the root of what i see in bazan’s music isn’t that he rejects the concept of god, but it’s that he rejects a specific notion of god. quite frankly, it’s this pervasive notion of god in that we hope to be an alternative. bazan clarifies the acknowledgement of that notion in the aforementioned emusic interview, stating,
When I wrote “When We Fell” and when I wrote “In Stitches,” I’m singing to the Christian character of “God,” which was my only view of God for a long time. And then there came a certain point where I started to realize, “Oh, wait, I’m just dethroning a notion of God — it’s not necessarily the same thing.” And so maybe there’s this other God, a real God, that doesn’t have those characteristics. And I do make an attempt to cultivate a relationship with that being on the days I’m comfortable thinking that he might exist.
it seems to me that bazan hasn’t engaged in full disconnect from living in the way of jesus. it’s just that he’s much more interested in asking questions that uncover truth rather than uncritically believing what has been presented in conjunction with our american church culture sensibilities.
david bazan is a brother and a friend and he represents the community of people for which this thing called eikon exists. much like many others asking questions, it seems that bazan hasn’t given up and he hasn’t broken up with god, but that he’s searching for some semblance of a god who seems true and real. in his final closing statement, in stitches bazan sings,
I might as well admit it
Like I even have a choice
The crew have killed the captain
But they still can hear his voice
A shadow on the water
A whisper in the wind
On long walks with my daughter
Who is lately full of questions about you