Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"It is impossible for me to say in my book one word about all that music has meant in my life. How then can I hope to be understood?--Ludwig Wittgenstein

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Monday, May 13, 2013

"The chance won't come again...."


Which comes first:  the idea, or the person?

How do I describe this without giving away personal information about people who haven't chosen to be part of this blog's comments?  I'll do my best:

An elderly person in their 80's finds out someone they knew as a child has died, and in learning of the death, learns the deceased had a lesbian lover of many years standing.  Rather than condemn homosexuality, as this person was raised to do, the elderly person decides that homosexuality is not a "choice," and why should people be condemned for whom they love?  Why, in other words, shouldn't he grieve this death, and mourn with the family, rather than stand apart muttering darkly about the wages of sin?

Ideas come from people.  Even the ideas of Christianity came from Jesus of Nazareth; or Moses; or Abraham; or Isaiah; or Jeremiah.  I'm not trying to be exclusive here; you get the idea.  People come first, ideas later.

The idea cannot yield at every whim of society, every fresh breeze that blows through culture.  But neither can the idea be a stone wall, an immovable object waiting implacably for the irresistible force to encounter it.

If this blog has a motto, this is it:

 Ideas don't matter. 
Things don't matter. 
People matter.

Thanks be to God, who is indeed, making all things new; scary though that sometimes is.


9 Comments:

Blogger Grandmère Mimi said...

Yes. Amen to your motto.

12:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And Amen.

Windhorse

2:31 PM  
Blogger The Thought Criminal said...

Yes.

3:19 PM  
Blogger rick allen said...

Okay, I'll go contrary.

Of course people matter.

But because people are not pure spirit, things matter.

And because people are also spirit, ideas matter.

And I don't think it a back-handed compliment that I consider this blog mostly about ideas, ideas that matter, ideas that matter to people.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Rmj said...

You read it as too either/or. ;-)

If ideas matter first, then you get ideologues, fanatics, the Tea Party, etc.

If things matter first, then it's all about money, gain, material goods. In either case, if one of those comes first, it's inevitably all about "me" first.

If people come first, you might still think you are the first person to come first. But you would be wrong again. People first, and everything else falls into its proper place.

But lest someone get slippery with it, and decide people matter but so do ideas, or things, on an equal basis, which soon becomes a superior basis.....

11:34 AM  
Blogger Rmj said...

And an example familiar to all M.Div. students who step into a pulpit, or any kind of ministry at all (let's not be exclusive):

You come out of seminary full of ideas you are sure will change the world, or at least improve people's lives, or at least do some good somewhere.

And then you run headlong into reality, and realize your ideas don't really matter as much as people do. That people aren't waiting to hear the good word from you, they are looking for some human response from you. The idea of that human response is deceptively simple: it ain't about you. But even that idea is not what they are looking for.

As more than one seasoned pastor told me in my seminary days: "They don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

And caring is not an idea evaluated in abstraction, only. One must be guided in one's caring; a 3 year old, after all, can "care." But if you put the idea before the person, you have failed.

Person first; the idea will take care of itself.

And how many churches founder on the things of their building? Things quickly matter more than the people in the church.

And why doesn't Jesus say "Your ideas are the most important thing you can have"? Rather, he says "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." Not what things you owned; not what thoughts you had. What you did.

For people.

Which, yes, is an idea; but if it remains an idea, it is worthless. And the people in the parable didn't act out of that idea; they were as surprised as those who went into the place of darkness. They, almost literally, had no idea.

Start there; the rest falls into it's proper place.

Here endeth the lesson. ;-)
11:41 AM

11:42 AM  
Anonymous DAS said...

If things matter first, then it's all about money, gain, material goods.

But isn't money an idea and not a thing? Sure, I can hold dollar bills in my hand and they are things, but as things they are worthless, aren't they? Only as an idea is money meaningful.

And from a moral point of view, as Deutero (or is it Tritero) Isaiah reminds us, as an idea money only has (moral) meaning if you use it to do things that matter: why spend money for that which is not bread? Sometimes even the "things" we spend money on are not actually things to meet our physical (or spiritual) needs but rather symbols of something -- status, what have you ... IOW, what we really are buying with money (which is an idea) are ideas themselves.

To put it another way: an idol is a thing, but what makes that thing an idol? The idea that the thing-idol stands for. It's the symbolism that makes it an idol and the idea-ness, not the thing-ness that is the danger.

12:14 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Short reply: the thing-ness is only a danger if the idea of the thing becomes more important than people.

And how does one begin to prevent that?

2:05 PM  
Blogger Rmj said...

Adding: don't skip over the part about which matters first. :-)

2:07 PM  

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