A Fear of Whales

A Fear of Whales

Tradition

posted by rgaffney

People joke about entering ones 20s and the passage on from teen years as a transition into “no longer knowing everything” If that’s what teenagers are characterized by than I guess the arrogance of ones 20s comes from knowing that your knowledge is limited but believing that what ideas you do have are your own.

I’m headed out of my 20s now.

It’s striking to me how people got on so well for so long without the internet. When I got the flu last month I had to google my symptoms and find out what to do about it (Rest, plenty of fluids, and chicken soup btw) but hundreds of years ago none of that information would have been available, and I would have relied on the collected knowledge of the elders of our community for what to do. What would they have said (rest, plenty of fluids, chicken soup probably)

The Christian Church, for most of it’s existence (AD 0 to AD 1530) unanimously valued tradition as equal or greater in authority than the bible. And even that was often just considered another source of tradition. Most Christians in the world (the Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox + Anglicans for good measure) still do.

And as to the rest of us, do we really think we are so evolved? Perhaps we have head-knowledge that scripture is the final authority but do we really follow that in our analysis of ideas. Do we prefer to follow what scripture appears to say even when it goes against what we were taught in church? It seems to me that most of us protestants have gone right on following tradition and merely stopped citing our sources.

For instance. when I use the term “head-knowledge” I’m drawing upon a memetic tradition in the American Christian subculture. you are inclined to agree with me because you have heard that somewhere before from someone reliable. But where did it come from? I for one have no idea.

Consider also the phrase “right relationship” particularly the restoration thereof. Christians from every group I’ve been apart of agree that it’s important to restore right relationship to god, to one another, to whatever the thing we are trying to advocate for is. But the way it’s phrased it’s obviously borrowed from someplace. I goggled it, and still have no idea from where. could be the Quakers or the Jesuits, maybe I’ll ask an old Jewish lady.

How many of the ideas that I draw upon on a daily basis come from somewhere else without my being able to identify it as easily as these two examples? How many of my ideas are shaped by other ideas that come from these traditional sources. Is there any idea that I currently hold which does not rely on the work of someone who came before me?

I don’t expect there is. but I’m not inclined to fight it. If I were to arrive on this planet as a wholly logical observer, and could not receive any past information I would come to different conclusions, about the world and what’s important. But I believe most of those wholly logical contemporary conclusions I would draw would be wrong.

I’m probably just prejudiced though

Absolution

posted by rgaffney

Once in Mr. Kaufman’s 5th and 6th grade combo class I said something really stupid and awkward. I was trying to make sound effects for a movie. I bragged on myself quite a bit; I could not deliver what I promised. I still remember it once and a while and cringe at how dumb I was.

It was almost 20 years ago.

Do you ever do this? Feel guilt for something from high school? Stress about mistakes you made in college? Shrink back as you remember your parents yelling at you for something from ages past and forget that you are an adult now with a car and a job and your own apartment?

I think most of us do.

I’ve come to believe the problem is characteristic of a lack of absolution. We seek confession, but often forget absolution. When something goes wrong, out societal response is to investigate, see what and who messed up. Then we accuse that person. Then that person confesses.

20 years later they still feel like the person who messed up.

I don’t like shoes; I walk around barefoot a lot. Sometimes I walk into a restaurant, forgetting I don’t have shoes on. I don’t mind being told I need to go put on shoes. I do however mind the 3 minute lecture I often receive after I get the shoes.

”Sir, I noticed you aren’t wearing shoes.”

”Oh I’m sorry, I have a pair in my car, I’ll be right back.”

”Yeah, would you get some shoes? We need you to have shoes. It’s because of a state law actually, people have to have shoes on at all times where food is being served. It’s corporate policy that we obey laws in all Burger King locations, so shoes are definitely a must.”

”JUST LET ME GET THE SHOES!!”

…I don’t actually say that; I just want to.

When I come back there is often another lecture waiting. Someone wanting to justify themselves and convince me that I am the wholly guilty one, the one who committed the grave abomination of barefootedness. 

But your self-justification deprived me of the opportunity to restore relationship. I never get to hear that it’s okay, I have shoes now, I’m not a 5th grader anymore, my lost Gameboy is obsolete and I can afford a new one. I don’t know I’m forgiven, and it haunts me years later.

This is one of the many reasons that the gospel is so good. Even if you don’t forgive me for saying something insensitive, my heavenly father forgives me. Even if it’s years later and the person from whom I need forgiveness is dead, the person I really need forgiveness from offers it freely.

Confession is a good discipline but absolution is a life giving necessity that all Christians should experience regularly.

Texas

posted by rgaffney

Alright so I missed a week! I’m really trying hard not to do that, but I knew the next post should really be about my adjustment to Texas, and I’ve had a hard time finding the internet time, and the depth of revelation I wanted.

In short: I’m loving it.

Austin is a great town, and while it has been just egregiously hot here, it’s been hot in a way that hasn’t kept me from doing active things like riding my bike and going swimming. The restaurants are ridiculously good here and the food and gas are not nearly as expensive as I thought they would be compared to Kansas.

My apartment is old, but it’s huge. Centrally located just north of downtown in the middle of campus surrounded by grass and trees. I live alone, but an connected enough to the buildings around me that I have access to things like tools if I need them. I am refurnishing on craigslist.

Classes haven’t started yet and I still need a church, and a job. but so far I’m not worried.

As classes start I’m expecting to be rocked a bit. First years in seminary tend to. I’m not sure I can depend on the ideas I will be having or how quickly I will be able to share them without annoying people, but I am hoping to use the next couple months to dump unused Kansan ideas while I write new Texas ones for later publication. There is a lot that I’ve learned which I’ve yet to share, so I hope to go back and remember where I’ve been for a while as I go somewhere new. I hope that makes sense, and I hope you’ll join me

3 Years Ago

posted by rgaffney

Three years ago at this time I started this blog. I backdated some posts from earlier blogs when I started it.

I was fundraising for InterVarsity and trying to increase my web presence. I had a lot of time on my hands, a lot of people who I wanted to be able to stay in contact with, and a need to feel heard.

Yesterday I left Kansas. and as of Today I live in Austin, Texas.

Three years ago I felt like I had been waiting forever for my life to start. That I has abundant training and experience, but precious little application. I felt pressed against the door to adventure and adulthood, but I felt it locked from the other side.

Today I feel tired. Poured out like a drink offering. I gave everything I had in mission at Kansas State University, and now I look forward to a break where I can think and fast and pray and rest while I get my MDiv

The process 3 years ago took longer than I wanted it to. More than a Full year from first contact to final departure. In that time I left churches and friends, often months in advance. I took I moved 3 times and regretted my storage unit and moving truck.

Today I packed everything into my van and left in a few weeks notice. 3 Different churches blessed me on my was this past Sunday. And I arrived ahead of schedule.

When I arrived in Kansas I was greeted as a spiritual leader, and given overwhelming hospitality in the prairie. I come today as a servant and learner, and don’t know yet how it will go in the big city.

3 years ago I watched a Church open it’s doors for the first time, this Sunday I saw one laid to rest

I will always treasure the experiences I had.

-I learned a new methodology of Bible Study
-I gained experience with the cultural differences inside the US
-I saw people come to know Christ
-I learned incarnation
-I got the big typical college experience I had always wanted
-I led a Black Bible Study, which I had never expected
-I spoke at many churches
-I made lifelong friends
-I played matchmaker and got some folks hitched
-I lived with A Christian Philosopher
-I started a Bike ministry, a paintball ministry, a computer ministry, a car ministry, and an RPG
-I was inspired by great teaching, and read great books
-I succeeded at many things, and failed at more
-I learned to make Chai from a Pakistani, and talked social media with a Jasmine Revolutionary
-I saw parts of America the coasters never bother to visit, and grew in love for the flyover states
-I ate the best BBQ in the world at no less than 3 distinct places
-I applied scripture in new and radical ways
-I did a thousand other things
-I lived, laughed, and Loved

Now I look forward to the next chapter

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