Monday, July 14, 2008

Married to an Idea

There has been significant energy around the topic of marriage and family over at Faith and Theology and Inhabitatio Dei. Ben has asked pastors and the church broadly to excuse itself from the civil acts of weddings until something more theologically responsible can be engaged. Halden has been more brazen uncovering the idolatry of marriage and family as it typically exists in the evangelical church and particularly in his new favourite nemesis Mark Driscoll.

I fully confess that my life is marked increasingly by something that Halden would liken to idolatry. In the past ten years I have lived and worked in some of the most dangerous and impoverished communities in Canada (yes we have them . . . I could tell stories). A year and half ago I took my first pastoral position at a rural Mennonite church in Ontario. It was with some sense of insecurity that I left the only context I had known as an adult (though as a child I grew up on the farm) and moved to the small town of New Hamburg. Fortunately we first moved into an apartment on Hincks St which we were promptly told was in the ‘rough’ part of town. At least I could still carry some stree cred I thought.
However, this month we moved into a small house in the country that we are renting. It is so peaceful here and our neighbours are so supportive.

I feel some guilt . . . but it is only slight. I am offering increased attention to my wife and our household duties which now includes a garden (and hopefully a pig that we will butcher ourselves). We are also thinking of starting a family. This is all taking greater time and energy that I what used to devote in my urban context.

I am rambling like this because while I appreciate the critiques about family being offered there is always something humorous or perhaps sinister about academics critiquing family as though their commitments to study could somehow be cleansed in the process. To dare use an overused phrase by some the above mentioned bloggers, perhaps evangelicals (and the bloggers who critique them) have not elevated marriage and family enough. While yes there may be none ‘married and given in marriage’ in the Kingdom theologically marriage and family remains one of the most analogously fecund expressions we are given in life (I am of course expanding the notion beyond biological husband and wife). The ‘eviscerating call of the Crucifed and Resurrected One’ (Halden) is always towards marriage (to Christ, to justice, to neighbour . . . yes even to spouse) and not away from it. The form and expression of marriage is of course important but that is what should be at issue.

Our critiques should not be doing away with such possible expressions of faithfulness but adding to them. What I have added in the this move is the opportunity to get my hands dirty in a different way then I did in the urban contexts I lived in. Doing away with the theological expression of marriage is like doing away with the theological expression of land and its relationships. Through our social and economic system we have largely done away with expressions of land. We need to add and fortify this. I was reminded of an old post where I quoted Dostoyevsky having read Crime and Punishment for the first time. Faithful relationship to each other and land is weaved together as symptom and perhaps source of Raskolnikov’s apocalyptic social plague.

Raskolnikov was in hospital during the last weeks of Lent and Easter week. When convalescing, he remembered the dreams he had while running a high temperature and in delirium. He dreamt the whole world was ravaged by an unknown and terrible plague that had spread across Europe from the depths of Asia. All except a few chosen ones were doomed to perish. New kinds of germs – microscopic creatures which lodged in the bodies of men – made their appearance. But these creatures were spirits endowed with reason and will. People who became infected with them at once became mad and violent. But never had people considered themselves as wise and as strong in their pursuit of truth as these plague-ridden people. Never had thought their decisions, their scientific conclusions, and their moral convictions so unshakable or incontestably right. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples became infected and went mad. They were in a state of constant alarm. They did not understand each other. Each of them believed that the truth only resided in him, and was miserable looking at others, and smote his breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know whom to put on trial or how to pass judgment; they could not agree what was good or what was evil. They did not know whom to accuse or whom to acquit. Men killed each other in a kind of senseless fury. They raised whole armies against each other; but these armies, when already on the march, began suddenly to fight amongst themselves, their ranks broke, and the soldiers fell upon one another, bayoneted and stabbed each other, bit and devoured each other. In the cities the tocsin was sounded all day long: they called everyone together, but no one knew who had summoned them or why they had been summoned, and all were in a state of great alarm. The most ordinary trades were abandoned because everyone was propounding his own theories, offering his own solutions, and they could not agree; they gave up tilling the ground. Here and there people gathered in crowds, adopted some decision and vowed not to part, but they immediately started doing something else, something quite different from what they had decided. And they began to accuse each other, fought and killed each other. Fires broke out; famine spread. Wholesale destruction stalked the earth. The pestilence grew and spread farther afield. Only a few people could save themselves in the whole world: those were the pure chosen ones, destined to start a new race of men and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no had ever seen these people, no had heard their words or their voices.

1 comment:

Joey said...

Well said Dave.

"Doing away with the theological expression of marriage is like doing away with the theological expression of land and its relationships." Precisely!