Friday, January 19, 2007

I don't like New Year's Resolutions (but have one anyway)

I don't like New Year's resolutions. I'm not entirely sure why. It seems to me that if something is a good idea at New Year's, it is a good idea before New Year's, so why not start now?

I suppose if it was a birthday resolution, I would feel better about the concept. I mean, turning 25 or 30 or 40? THAT'S a milestone that might make a difference to someone. But the dawn of the year 2007? That's just another day. Good ideas are good any day.

The title of my post is a bit misleading, because I don't really have a New Year's resolution, it just happened to be something I resolved around the time of New Year's. To be honest, I think I made this resolution sometime before Christmas.

I don't want to go into too much historical detail about why I'm like this, but my internal spiritual life is much, much more radical than my external spiritual life.

So, for most of my life I've lived two lives. I live this life that people see - I show it at Church and at work. I show it when I go back and visit my family, or when I'm at a party. Everyone who has actually met me has seen this life. This is my outside life.

But inside, there lives another life. There lives a life that questions and struggles. There is a life that has slowly, over my meager 30 years, pieced together a way of thinking and living that seems to be foreign and radical to those who know my outside life. This is my inside life. It is a life that is hidden away.

I don't want to seem like a whiner, but because of several bad experiences I've had expressing the formulations of my internal life, it has been kept carefully locked away for fear of being rejected, misunderstood, reprimanded, or worse. To live in constant fear of rejection by the very Church who's task is to sharpen me, exhort me, and love me (and I, them) is no way to live.

So, this is my resolution. I resolve take the risk of being radical in front of my church and my Christian friends. I resolve to put myself out there - exposing my secret and fleshy parts in the hopes that I can teach others, if only by example, some of the powerful and life-changing lessons God has taught me. I resolve to not act like it is okay that supposed "Christians" are totally complacent in their spirituality, but instead work to provoke them into the kind of life Christ lived by either disturbing them, or energizing them. I resolve to be the change I wish to see.

I have no idea what will happen. My church might run me off. My provocative comments might get me into trouble. Or, I might find a group - a very small group - who, like me, want to go deeper than "church" can take us. It's time to take the risk.


lorri said...

this is more than a new years resolution (as you said), it may be the most important thing you will do...

Jessica said...

ben, i think that our struggles are quite similar. i'm proud of you for taking the risk. i really do believe it's the only way to truly exist; although, i don't know if i'm quite there yet. i would be lying if i didn't say i am slightly jealous of the liberation. ;)

Benjamin said...

Jess, we'll see what sort of "liberation" it is. I might be "liberated" of my church responsibilities. Which, I must admit, wouldn't be all bad...

Alethia, I'm just tired of trying to get water out of the proverbial "church" well, and only coming up with buckets of dust. It's time to see how deep the well actually goes.

I'll be doing a Sunday School class in Febuary called "Mindful of God" (Mel came up with that title), and it will deal with loving God with our minds and how we are ALL theologians, so how can we do "good" theology.

If you were in such a course, what would you like to talk about?

Jessica said...

decentralizing the favorite topic.

Benjamin said...

Jess - I like that topic, too, but most of the people I go to church with aren't there yet. They'd have to be eased into ideas like "church in the round" and "decentering the renewal". Hopefully people can be brought to that point, but it will be a process.

I'm thinking about more basic stuff. Would people like to hear about the theological task (criticism and construction), sources of theology (scripture, culture, tradtion, experience), or would they like even more basic things like, how does culture affect theology anyway?

I'm just not entirely sure where to start, so I'm arbitrarily picking a place.

Amy said...

Oooooooooooo, can I be in this small group? Please, please, please! I would love to know the "real" Ben, pick your brain and hear your whack off-the-wall thoughts. I promise not to judge, I might even "amen". It would be my first time.

Jessica said...

ben, i know...i accidentally left of the smiley face. i was referencing previous talks of ours (a la "late nights at the holiday inn").

question: i'm thinking people might need to know sources of theology before they know how to critique it (or maybe even how culture affects it)...well, but the cultural thing would have to be tied into it.

unless there's more here that i'm not thinking about. it's not even 8 a.m. yet, and i didn't get much sleep last night, so i'm not sure if i'm thinking this through or not.

Jada said...

Ben I so wish you could meet my husband. Too bad I didn't know him in college (he is from Seattle) when I knew you. I really think y'all would get along.

I, too, would very much enjoy this class that you teach.

Amy said...

could you podcast it, or teach it online? We could all be your disciples!

Benjamin said...

Jess - Ah, yes, sarcasm. I've heard of it. Perhaps even used it once or twice. I think you're right, I'll have to start with the sources of theology, and engage culture from that standpoint.

Arrrrgggghhh, figuring out this class is so hard!

Jada - It does indeed seem like your husband and I would get along. I mean, he likes Lost, he's into theology, he married someone from Tech...what's not to like? On that note, have you noticed (I'm being totally serious here), that you and your husband seem like the only "normal" people who like what you like? (e.g., Lost, theology, etc) I feel that way all the time. It seems to me that most of the people who like what I like are a little *ahem* different.

Amy - You're making me blush. I do plan on trying to develop some publishable curriculum out of this class, though, so maybe you and Juan can critique it once I'm comfortable with it. On another note, I'm thinking more seriously about writing a lay-level book about spiritual formation. Maybe even stealing the "Late Nights at the Holiday Inn Express" title from Jessica. (I call dibs, Jess!)

Would such a book be interesting?

Jessica said...

you can have dibs on the title, if i can write your forward! or, at least a comment of reference on your behalf that must be included on the back cover. sarcasm...again.

Tracy said...

At the risk of interrupting an otherwise uninhibited conversation, I'm going to weigh in. I finally found you, of those church people (for those who don't know me), but I think you know I'm not really that scary. What a great conversation, and I appreciate that you are living up to your commitment via your message last week and the class ahead.

I'm so bummed I can't take the class, but I'll be playing with Greyson. If I WERE, however, I'd be sort of wide-open to your lead. The thing I've been exploring, kind of by accident actually, this week, is what would the Bible and Jesus say to us about the way we should deal with homosexuals? It's an example of the impact of "folk theology". I think there will be at least a few people in there engaged in the dialogue who want real answers instead of the party line. The others will go home and think about it later when only God is looking, and that will be of benefit too, though you may never be aware of it. As long as you know your Bible, don't be afraid to take some chances. I think people are a lot hungrier for this stuff than you think!

I don't really know what the decentralization of the church means, but I do think that our body's greatest need is to experience the passion associated with putting ourselves on the line to help meet the needs of the lost and poor and hurting on our front doorstep. I don't know what kind of theology gets you there, but the Bible would do it in a hurry. We are pretty much starving ourselves spiritually because we are somehow assuming that about 3/4 of the Bible doesn't apply to us. I think mission trips are awesome--one to Haiti in college changed my life forever--but the next step from my perspective is to channel that energy and vision in back here, before and after. There are so many ways...and honestly, starting with some of the less threatening isn't a bad idea. Homeless shelter, food shelf, soup kitchen, Bridging (home furnishing stuff for those in need)--we pretty much pass within 2 miles of all these between home and church.

You know, it really takes coming face to face with need to tell you you need to read your Bible a little differently in most cases.

Sorry about the book!

Benjamin said...

Tracy - I must admit to a little anxiety when I first saw your name attached to a comment. But, after I stopped breathing into a paper bag, I actually read the comment. It's a good one. I really hope people are actually hungry for "this stuff". Something inside of me, though, says otherwise.

In any case, I think you are only the second person from church to read my blog, especially since I have purposefully not been publicizing it. Hopefully, the blog makes me make more sense. And don't worry about the "book". If you've read my blogging rules you know I WANT comments. So type away!

Tracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tracy said...

Hmmm...that's interesting. I've only recently ventured out into the world of blogging. Now I've learned that you can run but you can't hide (if you delete your comment you make there is still a "ghost"). Anyway...I was thinking...what if you used a blog site as a forum for your S.S. class, and then those of us who can't go could get in on it too. Or as a follow-up or something. I sure won't be publicizing your blog (not that it isn't worthy, but obviously it's a place where you let your hair down among friends), but there is a lot of stuff here that, at least in part, would be excellent online discussion starters for your group. Sometimes people are a little bolder in this forum because they can edit before posting.

Benjamin said...


That's a possibility. I'm a little jaded by the whole thing because of the book study I tried to do a couple of months ago. (Do you remember that?) Many people from church expressed interest in doing a study as an online community, but the only comment I recieved was from Eric Olsen (or is it Olson, I can't remember), who doesn't even live here. You can still see the blog at

I asked around after I shut down the study, and people said stuff like "It seems to difficult" or "That's not my world". Clearly, they're not as tech savvy as you.

Do you have ideas on how we could make it work?