Friday, January 17, 2020

Anthropology...and a clown parade of jackwagons

I never heard the terms "lower anthropology" vs. "higher anthropology" in relation to your view of human nature, in the context of faith, and today I read about these terms in 2 different places within the space of an hour.

The first place I saw these anthropology terms used was in a book I just started this afternoon, Churchy, The Real Life Adventures of a Wife, Mom & Priest, by Sarah Condon. I "met" Sarah Condon on the podcast, The Mockingcast. I love her. I love her voice. I love her Mississippi accent (writing Mississippi is fun). I love her slightly sailor mouth. I love her sarcastic, self-deprecating humor. I love her rants. I love her brash outspokenness. I love the way she emotionally blurts things out. I love the way she tells her story honestly and apologetically.

OK, I guess you have the idea. Anyway, Chapter 2 of that book (which I highly recommend), is called "Low Anthropology is my Love Language." She writes "people accuse me of being negative and depressing. They tell me human beings are inherently good." Then, I can just hear her voice as I read:
To be clear, I do not want to be negative for negativity's sake. I just have what theologians call a "low anthropology." Which is to say, my theology tells me humanity is a clown parade of jackwagons. This is the crux of  why we need Jesus to save us. He didn't come because we are all good vibes and motives. He came because we have always been a sinking ship of fools. (p, 16)
So there you go! Why did Jesus need to save us? Because we are a clown parade of jackwagons.

Higher and lower anthropology are defined in my second reading:
Broadly, we can classify anthropological theories as being either higher or lower, more optimistic versus more pessimistic. A higher anthropology tends to be optimistic about human nature and capacities. At root, we're both good and capable. Just give us room to grow! A lower anthropology, by contrast, is pessimistic about human nature. Humans are fallible, sinful, and weak. ~~ Richard Beck, from his blog, "Experimental Theology," The Gospel According to the Lord of the Rings: Week 3, A Lower Anthropology
Jackwagons is a new word for me, too. How about you? When I read it I thought it must be a less vulgar way to say "jacka**es.* But, no, it's actually a word -- slang, but still. According to Urban Dictionary, it is:
n. Slang term derived from the Freight or Chow wagons used in the late 19th century. These were often the last wagons in a wagon train, making them the least favorable to drive due to the dust, waste, and debris from the front of the train. 
When used as in insult it refers to one's lack of intelligence, implying the insultee is capable of no more than operating a Chow wagon. 
example: You're doing it wrong, you Jack wagon!
Praise God he loves us jackwagons.

Early wagon train, from Spartacus Educational

Saturday, January 4, 2020

too good to be understood

It may be too good to be understood
but it's not too good to be true
He may be too good to be understood
but he's not too good to be alive.
~~ “Too Good” by Jess Ray

“It may be too good to be understood but it’s not too good to be true.” Today I ran across these words in a song by Jess Ray. And then the last line, “He may be too good to be understood but he’s not too good to be alive.”

What a perfect way to describe God’s love -- and God himself! I kind of hate to write any more. What can I say? If you want to stop reading now and just think about the words, I don’t blame you. I’d love to hear what thoughts come to you as you listen to the words.

Here’s a link to the song, and to Jess Ray’s website.

One thought that came to my mind was what I have read about midrash. I can’t remember who said it or where I read it, but they talked about admiring the Jewish practice of midrash because it allowed unanswered questions. Midrash has several meanings but one is the practice of interpreting Scripture that “asks questions of the text; sometimes it provides answers, sometimes it leaves the reader to answer the questions." (Wilda Gafney, from Wikipedia). 

We want answers, we want solutions, we want to figure things out and understand. Usually I can’t relax until I have the answer. Resolving things brings peace. But many things in life don’t have an answer, especially all the examples of evil in the world -- all the bad things happening to good people, well, to everyone. Why does God let those things happen? Is it really God letting them happen or is there a different way to look at it? Why was there a “miracle” for one person but not for so many others? 

If God is God, He is not good,
If God is good He is not God
~~from the play J.B. by Archibald MacLeish, a retelling of the book of Job

But he is both. God is God -- all-powerful -- and God is good. They can’t both be true but they are. I imagine standing in the middle of a teeter-totter, leaning one way, then the other, finally getting to the balance point where both sides are equally off the ground -- and then relaxing there. At peace.

Too good to be understood, but not too good to be true, not too good to be alive. He loves you.
What is this?? A while back, I had an idea. I was thinking of some friends I wanted to pray for, but I didn't have a specific thing to pray about on their behalf. I decided to pray that they would feel God's love. I decided to send them an email when I prayed, so they'd know and be encouraged. Then I thought about my many other family and friends who I would like to encourage with prayer, and decided to start this email.
Two things I try to do:
-- Encourage you with a reminder of God's love. My goal is to avoid anything where the response is "I should..." Just a short reflection of God's love.
-- Pray for you. I'll pray with each email, and please reply to me with anything you'd specifically like me to pray for you. I'll keep it confidential, don't worry.
If you would like to send me specific prayer requests. I will gladly pray with you, and if you would like to be added to the mailing list, email me at mavis at I'll keep all communication confidential.