Idio-stasis

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A pundit recently said something that seemed utterly idiotic to me. I was not alone. Yet, even as an avalanche of push back mounted, he stuck to his guns. He was either totally clueless about the idiocy of his statement or unswervingly committed to never admitting a mistake. I wondered to a friend whether the continued effort was cumulative or simply expressed some kind of static state, which I called “idio-stasis.” She insisted that I had coined a phrase. So, I’m claiming it.

Idio-stasis is not an insult. It is, ultimately, a word that describes human sin and brokenness. Idio-stasis is unrepentant and widespread. Let me explain. Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden fruit. They get busted – hand in the fruit jar, if you will. They blame each other. Then they blame the snake. They stick to their refusal to accept responsibility for the fall. Idio-stasis.

Closer to home, I lost 30 pounds this last year. Over the holidays, I gained back 6. Why? Cookies. I eat the cookies. I gain the weight. Then I step on the scale and am shocked and dismayed when the number goes up. Idio-stasis.

In our politics right now, we have lots of folks who are so full of pride and arrogance; who have drunk deeply from the Kool-aid of partisanship that they can’t back down, discuss or compromise. The result is chaos. Then they act surprised. Idio-stasis.

A much more eloquent statement about what I am getting at was made bu Martin Luther King Jr. (on this, his birthday), “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Ultimately, the spiritual struggle here is that we become disconnected from any self-awareness of our faults; we ignore the things that keep us from being who God calls us to be; we keep on doing idiotic things because to change would be to admit a mistake; to change would be to let go of our pride; to change would require confession – and that is something we – even as Christians – don’t want to undertake.  But, if we cannot confess our mistakes, faults, evil deeds and sin, we can never be forgiven and transformed by the work of the Spirit.

The most dangerous people are those who are least self-aware. They don’t know they are broken and need transformation (sincere ignorance). Just as dangerous to self and others are those too full of pride to say, “I was wrong. Forgive me.” (conscientious stupidity).  I would classify both things as “idio-stasis” – being stuck in our own idiocy and choosing to stay there.

In Ignatian spirituality, part of one’s daily practice is called “examen.” It is a practice that includes seeking the ways that your day was marked by brokenness, impatience, pride, arrogance or whatever got in the way of your relationship with God and neighbor. Once you name it, you can own it and seek transformation in Christ by the power of the Spirit. It is a way of dealing with the “idio-stasis” in all of us. Ultimately, “idio-stasis” is our rejection of humility for an arrogance that rejects change. To live in the reign of God, however, is a constant embrace of change and transformation at the hands of a gracious God.

Peace to you!

Copyright © 2019, Timothy V. Olson

All Are Welcome. Really?

I’m going to guess that “All Are Welcome” is the most frequently used slogan on church signs, banners, brochures and bulletins. Up until a couple of weeks ago, the worn out sign on the east side of the sanctuary here declared this worn out message. Now it doesn’t. It says (provisionally) “You Are Welcome, No Matter What”

I have grown suspicious of the church’s announcement that “all are welcome” because frankly, in so many ways it is untrue. One man once told me that “Of course, gay & lesbian people are welcome here. All are welcome. We just don’t want to publicize that because too many of them might show up.” Very welcoming, don’t you think? I asked a call committee once how “all are welcome” played itself out given they were a white congregation in a black community. They replied, “Well, they have their church, we have ours.”

Mostly I have spent lots of time up front watching us “welcome” all. The signs and bulletins declare welcome.  But the “back row folks” are not so sure.  They come to worship late. They leave early. They avoid eye contact. I watch as they look around simultaneously hoping that someone notices them and that no one does. These folks know that “all” are welcome, but are certain that it does not apply to them. They are divorced, addicted, suffering from depression, just lost a job, grieving. They are sure that we Christians never have bad things happen to us. Or they are part of a group always at the edges of culture, sure that once you see the tatoo, find out their sexuality, or meet the mixed race family, the welcome will fade.

Too often, “all are welcome” carries the unspoken condition, “as long as you are like us.” Too often it does not address the particularity of the human situation that comes in the door seeking hope. Broken folks out side and inside the church, assume they are not welcome. We don’t even believe “all are welcome” applies to us. Just notice how hard it is for church members to let others see their hurts and brokenness. We believe that if you really knew us, you wouldn’t welcome us.

Jesus never seemed to speak in generalities and slogans. Jesus said to a dead man, “Lazarus, Come out!” (John 11:43)  As he encountered Mary at the tomb, he said, “Mary!” and her eyes were opened. (John 20:16) In the Lord’s Supper, each person receives bread and wine with the singular pronouncement: “given for you.” It takes more than three words on a sign and a throw away slogan to truly welcome someone. The welcome is extended one interaction at a time. We can’t become the people God calls us to be with just words.  We will never emulate God’s reign of welcome as long as women are “welcomed” and treated as second class citizens; as long as our communities do not reflect the racial and ethic diversity of the community; as long as we keep excluding people from grace because of their sexuality.

Our congregation is right now working on how we can speak more clearly to the diverse people and real struggles of this world with gospel language that is real. We are working to develop a statement of inclusion that names the particularities of the human experience. The statement we develop will not be just a slogan, but a word that demands accountability to make it real.  It is too early to share any drafts of what we might say as a congregation, but I will offer a rather humorous – but effective example I came across:

WELCOME!

All are welcome here. But, we extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, lesbian, transgender, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

We endorse all people but we make it a point not to promote any particular politician. If you need a church that does or a minister who screams and yells from the Ambo about how everybody who doesn’t believe as he believes (or, she believes) is going to hell… well, you’re probably not going to like this church. Here, you can be Democrat, Republican, Independent… heck, even a Socialist. You’ll understand, we’re sort of struck with Jesus and, especially, his teachings. The way we figure it — if we follow his teachings, the world will be a happier and healthier place for everybody. Healthier and happier, too, for those not interested in religion, not even ours.

If you blew all your offering money last night at the dog track, tough luck for us. You’re still welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … In short, we welcome you!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/now-this-is-a-church-i-co_b_1868351.html

Let’s say what we mean, and do what we say. To genuinely welcome is God’s action in the world.

 

copyright © 2018, Timothy V. Olson