“The Holy Spirit…opens our eyes and our ears and our hearts to the full range of what being human means. So that, instead of being somebody who needs to be sheltered from the rough truth of the world, the Christian is someone who should be more open and more vulnerable to that great range of human experience. The Christian is not in a position to censor out any bits of the human voice, that troubling symphony which so often draws into itself pain, anger and violence. And to recognize that we’re open to that and we hear it is not about shrugging our shoulders and saying, ‘Well, that’s just human nature’ (one of the most unhelpful phrases in the moral vocabulary). On the contrary, we feel the edge, the ache in human anger and human suffering. And we recognize that it can be taken into Christ and into the heart of the Father. It can be healed. It can be transfigured…”
Please read those words again, several times—slowly. This is one of my favorite passages from one of my favorite little books, entitled Being Human, by Rowan Williams. If you don’t yet know, our parish is beginning a study of this book next week in small groups led by parishioners. We have two options for small groups—Tuesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. on ZOOM; and Wednesday afternoons at 4:00 p.m. in-person at the Parish House (with the option to join virtually as well).
The studies will go for three weeks. I hope you can join us.
Because of the widespread influence of Puritanism on early-American Christianity, many of us were raised in churches—and all of us, in a culture influenced by those churches—that held to a kind of “dualistic” thinking. In other words, we were raised to understand our selves (souls, bodies, etc.) as if there were bad parts and good parts. More extreme versions of this “dualism” over-read St. Paul’s distinction between “flesh” and “spirit” as if our body, as a whole—with its emotions and desires and senses—was the bad part—and what was needed was for our “spirit” to wrest control of our body (passions, etc.). As an aside, that’s a hard view to defend if one takes the whole Bible seriously—particularly, for example, the Psalms.
I don’t want to give too much way about the book ahead of time, but one of the ways this book tries to describe a different way of “being human” is by anchoring our identity as humans in the same place that Scripture does—namely, in our being made in the “image of God.” And that means two things.
First—there is no part of us—no part of our bodies, our minds, or our identities—no part of our emotions, our experience, or our longings—no matter how broken or harmed or lost—that was not created by God—and when created, called “good.” That means there are no good parts and bad parts of you. There is only your full humanity—fully made, fully known, and fully loved by your God.
All of it. Without exception.
Second—every part of us—our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies—all of us—is capable of something divine. Every part of your body, every thought in your head, every feeling you’ve ever had—all of it, without exception—is being called forth by God to its completion and perfection in God. And in God—who is perfect love and perfect freedom—we will become all we were meant to be.
If that sounds good to you, I hope you’ll join us over the next few weeks to find out more.