Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ordination Papers - The Human Need for Grace

I have a specific question on this ordination response: do you think I should use the word "moron?" The word describes my feelings quite precisely, but will it come across too slangy? Any other suggestions would also be appreciated!

2. What effect has the practice of ministry had on your understanding of humanity and the need for divine grace?

People are morons.

Okay, that may be a little strong. Let me back off of that a little bit. The practice of ministry has illuminated for me an understanding that without divine grace, humanity would live disconnected, isolated, lives – which frequently causes us to act like morons! This isolation manifests as sin in many ways. The most insidious of these sins are pride, prejudice, and pretension. Without God’s grace, people tend toward a prideful notion of inflated self-importance that is marked by self-centeredness, arrogance, and greed. The flipside of pride is prejudice, which minimizes the worth of another person based on a quick judgment made based on and unfair association of the individual with a group rather than a real relationship of mutual respect and trust. If pride isolates by inflating the self, prejudice isolates by deflating the other.

The third manifestation of isolation is more subtle, and comes in the form of pretensions, by which I mean attitudes and actions that are intended to mask the truth by falsely claiming that circumstances are better or healthier than they really are. What is truly evil about these pretensions is the multi-layered deception involved, in which the human tendency is to pretend that we don’t notice the pretension, even when all people involved are fully aware of them. This phenomenon is what allows us to nod and mumble, “How are you?” to our sisters and brothers sitting around us at worship, even when we do not really want to hear how they are actually doing. Further, it allows the responder to mutter an equally incoherent, “Just fine” without really meaning that, and without any intention of telling the questioner how they really “are.” Pretensions separate people from one another by inhibiting true relationship based on openness and honesty.

The force that acts counter to this isolation is the grace of God, which is a uniting, relationship building power at work everywhere and at all times. And if people will accept God’s grace by connecting to one another and to God, we inevitably find that life is a whole lot easier to live. Practicing ministry has shown me that there will be times that we can help another, and times that we need help; there will be times that we can comfort someone who is grieving, and times when we grieve and need another’s shoulder on which to cry; there will be times when we can serve, and times we need to allow ourselves to be served, and so forth. This is grace. Grace is the ongoing creation of loving relationships centered around the mystery of God, and without it, we are nothing more than a bunch of morons.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Morons is too strong for your ordinations. But you are exactly right, as long as you use "we" are morons and not "They" are morons. Reinhold Niebuhr would call it the total depravity of humanity (man). People, WE, are weak, selfish. Yes, sinful. But people are also filled with grace from God's spirit, and hope, and kindness, and innocense, and joy, and possibility. And we are never without God's grace so the moron state of being really does not matter. Because of God's love, people - we - can dare to love one another. 30,001 and counting. JB

Brad said...

Totally use it. Part of the young adult problem in the church is that the church doesn't use young adult language. We are morons, idiots, inane selfish creatures and the more we say it, the more we become reliant on the grace of God.

Later, B

TN Rambler said...

I agree with Brad. We are morons and there is no need to dance around that.

David said...

I say run from the word, and hold fast to the idea. There are some longer, more theological ways to say such things, and it tends to grate against reading any further into the response. Grab rather than slap the reader if possible.

Vinny said...

"Morons" is an honest and principled choice; is it a wise choice when you consider your audience? Kind of like choosing to exercise your pedestrian right-of-way when crossing a busy street without watching for traffic.

In lieu of morons (even though I think it's fabulous and preaches well), how about:

- ignorant
- idiots (technically worse than morons)
- fools/foolish
- clueless
- stupid
- simian (my favorite Dilbert job performance rating)

Better yet, go the Ted Turner route and use "losers"!

Funny (or sad, depending on how you look at it) how much you have to walk on eggshells when "making your bones" in the ministry, yet once you have your orders you REALLY REALLY REALLY have to try hard to have them taken from you. The process sometimes seems more like pledging a fraternity or joining the mafia (including the hazing part) than it does reflecting on how to spread the Gospel.

Andy B. said...

That's really good, Vinny. I have a good friend/mentor/pastor who says that the whole "family" metaphor used in the church is more like the mafia than the household.

Kim said...

I don't know enough to comment on the wisdom of using the word moron, but I just received gift in your definitions of pride and prejudice. I love it.

John said...

The process sometimes seems more like pledging a fraternity

I've noticed this too. I mean, what with DCOM losing my address on three different occasions and my DCOM chair and DS and mentor repeatedly giving me horrendously wrong information about the candidacy process, it really seems like hazing. I can deal with it, though.

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