Pete Rollins, WW II and Orthokardia

The following is a repost from September 2012 - I thought I would try a few repos to see if it is helpful.

Some time ago I wrote about moving away from the dichotomy of orthodoxy (right belief) and orthopraxy (right action). Rather than placing emphasis on beliefs and actions, Christians are called to emphasis the heart. Thus to abandon orthodoxy and orthopraxy is to embrace orthokardia.

Peter Rollins shared a story about how the Prime Minister of England during WW II fearing defeat was told of two ways the war could end. The first is the "natural" end to the war which would entail 10,000 angles coming upon the earth and destroy the Nazi war machine with swords of fire. The second way the war could end was the "supernatural" end which would entail 50,000 Englishmen parachuting into the heat of battle and drive out the Germans.

The point that was made by Rollins in light of this story was that the angles are natural in that they would be measurable. Swords, fire and angels fall into the natural because you would be able to see them and measure them. We all know the war did not end this natural way. Rather it ended in the supernatural.

Thousands of Englishmen had a change of heart and courage swell up within them to provoke them to parachute into danger. This is supernatural because you cannot see a change of heart. You cannot measure courage. And yet this is what happened. It took the supernatural to end the war.

Likewise, orthodoxy and orthopraxy are natural. You can see "right beliefs" you can measure "right action". You cannot see a right heart. You cannot measure orthokardia. Orthokardia is supernatural.

Christianity and beliefs

Rather than replying to the previous comments on the previous post, I just took the time to write a follow up entry.

This part is a bit of a refresher.
For as many generations, Christianity functioned as a religion in which you first believed, then you learned to behave and then you became a Christian (belonged). This three-fold sequence of believing, behaving and belonging is still how much of Christianity functions today. You can find a number of church websites with a link to explain what they believe so you know right away what that "entire" community believes. If you are kosher with the beliefs then you learn to behave in the community. You learn when to worship and when to be in small group you learn what imaged to use for God and what ways to behave among one another. Finally, when you have all that in order you are counted as one who belonged to the community.

Recently the conversation has turned to invert this process. That is to create Christian community is to first create places where people belong, then as a member of the community they we learn to behave together then we get to the stuff about beliefs. This comes from Diana Butler Bass who said that if she were to join a knitting in order to learn to knit, the first thing she would do is walk into that group and belong. The group does not ask her about her thoughts on knitting philosophy, but they teach her how to knit. Finally, after time has passed, she will develop her own thoughts, which have been informed by the community, on what she holds has her beliefs on knitting.

Not only am I advocating that we need to invert the sequence of believe-behave-belong but it has been my experience that when that sequence is inverted that by the time we get to the third phase of "believing", the specifics beliefs/dogma/orthodoxy matter very little. I have friends that I would go through hell and back with because we are that close but when it comes to beliefs we could not be farther apart on a number of issues. I would be willing to be most people have someone in their lives who they belong to but have disagree about beliefs but continue to remain friends. Because the relationship is greater than anything.

If Christianity is a religion that is about relationships, then relationships are what we work at getting "right". Unlike almost every other outlet in our world, Christianity is a movement that says it is more important that we belong to one another as children of God than what we believe. It is vital to the God's vision for the world that we are in relationship with one another, because a person is more important that a set of beliefs.

Richard Rohr's book Falling Upward I think is helpful here. Rohr argues there are two stages in life and:

"when you are young, you define yourself by differentiating yourself; now you look for the things we all share in common. You find happiness in alikeness, which has become much more obvious to you now; and you do not need to dwell on the differences between people or exaggerate the problems."

Rohr goes on to say:

"In the second half of life, we do not have strong and final opinions about everything, every event, or most people, as much as we allow things and people to delight us, sadden us, and truly influence us. We no longer need to change or adjust other people to be happy ourselves. Ironically, we are more than ever before in a position to change people—but we do not need to—and that makes all the difference."

When we discover that Christianity is less about beliefs and more about relationship then we are moving into the second stage of life Rohr writes about. If pressed to express my "beliefs" it would be this: The Biblical witness and the message of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit is clear - God changes the world by establishing relationships built around shared trust rather than shared beliefs. This is the Way of Christ.

Beyond Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy - part 2

"Faith without works is dead."
"Works without purpose are empty."
"It is not what you say it is what you do."
"Beliefs drive actions."
"Anyone can take communion in worship."
"You cannot take communion unless you know what it means or it cheapens the sacrament." 
"Baptism of children are well and good because baptism is for all people."
"Baptism is only for those who know what it means, so babies are not considered." 

The argument of what is more important - what you believe or what you do - grows two camps. Each side appreciates the other side but in the end is ultimately convinced their camp is slightly more important than the other. Thus debates rage on and on in these dualistic conversations. 

Enter Jesus who brought a teaching that there is a third way. 

Jesus heals a lot of blind people, which is nothing to dismiss as though Jesus is just really good with eyes. Jesus heals blindness because it is this blindness that keeps us from seeing this third way - the way beyond orthodoxy and orthopraxy. 

Take the example of teaching people to give to the church. The orthodoxy side of us want to ensure people know that giving is important. The orthopraxy side of us wants to ensure people are giving to the right causes. When this right knowledge and right action are achieved then would count that as a good job. If someone knows they should give and then give to the causes that are the most fruitful, then "mission accomplished"! 

Teaching people to give and giving opportunities for them to give falls short in discipleship. These two steps are just the beginning and if we want to move beyond orthodoxy and orthopraxy we must see our need for orthokardia - right heart.

This process of discovering orthokardia is like learning a second language. When we first begin a new language, we are focused on the right words. Once the vocabulary is to a point, we then begin to work on the correct way to say the words (rolling the 'r' or pronouncing the umlaut). As we speak this second language we are at first really speaking our first language then translating in our heads what that word combination would be in our second language. With practice, we begin to shift from translating to just speaking. We being to think in terms of the second language and not our first. It is a wonderful transition and critical to anyone who wants to be fluent in languages.

Orthokardia is much like this. While we are focused on what people, think about giving or what they give to, we are not encouraging orthokardia. It is not enough to convince people to give or to give to specific causes, orthokardia is about making generous people. People who do not need to be told to give of their time or money or energy, but people who are aware of the numerous ways to be generous all around them.

It is an easy thing to get people to give compared to creating generous people. It is an easy thing to get people to understand the value of learning the story of Jesus compared to helping create "little Christs". It is very easy to pick out people who do not believe the right things or do the right things compared to those who have correct orthokardia.