Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mike: Response to Rami's 7/29 Post

Your take on "children of God" strikes me as classic mysticism. Christian mystics use similar language. I've always found such language moving for several reasons, not the least being its reliance on analogies, such as your wave to ocean metaphor.

My tradition tends to speak of the matter in one of two ways.

First, you do not have to look long to find Christians who believe the phrase has to do with heaven and judgment. They believe the status is conferred by God, and that it is received in a final judgment. Those who take this view rely on the passive construction of the phrase ("shall be called"), noting that it suggests the title is something given as the gift of God. Some who hold this view, then go on to interpret "blessed are the peacemakers" to mean "blessed are those who share the gospel and lead others to acknowledge Jesus as their savior, and so help others find peace with God." In short, the beatitude is interpreted as a call to practice evangelism. I find this approach reductionist at best, a distortion of Jesus' intent at worst.

A second, and to my mind better, approach draws on an analogy based on the family. I have a son and daughter. Both were conceived and born as my children. Nothing can change their essential status. On the other hand, each has spent well over two decades becoming himself and herself, while remaining my child.

Along the way, they picked up many of my values and some of my practices. We often tease one another gently. With reference to one of their own beliefs, ideas, approaches to challenge, or actions toward others, either of them is apt to say, "Well, I guess that proves I'm your child."

Oceans and waves, fathers (and mothers) and their children--both analogies help us remember who we already are and what we might best do with ourselves. Both preserve our unity with God and our uniqueness. Taken seriously, each conditions us for the work of peace making.


soldiermom said...

Again, your writings bring to mind other scripture. I once did an informal study on what Christians had a "right" to. The only passage I found was:

John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent,[c] nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

This passage could reduced as Mike has said and ultimately another distortion of Christ's intention...or there...lies a more all encompassing idea of what it means to be called a child of God. Anyone want to flesh it out for me?

Mike Smith and Rami Shapiro said...

This is Rami. I love the idea that we have a "right" to become "children of God." While I realize it is anachronistic to read the word "right" as a 21st century liberal, and pretend that this is what John had in mind, still I will indulge myself.

Rights are not earned, but some with the territory. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness simply because we are endowed with these rights by God. Now John is saying that there is a fourth right, the right to be a child of God. Just as no one can take away my right to the first three, no one—no church, no clergy, no creed, no religion— can take away my right to the fourth.

I may choose not to use my right, but it is no one's to give and no one's to take away. How wonderful.

soldiermom said...

Thanks Rami, I love the thought too.