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Something Other Than God

My final blog is one more nag for us to choose right relationships over being right as our philosophical ‘global positioning system.’  Menno gets it and you do too. I spent a few years putting my perspective on right relationships into a book that has just been released. You can read the book’s specs at the end of this blog.  But first…some reminders.

There is no need for right relationships, once a formalized religion has been created, accompanied by its tightened down theology, denominational distinctives being the hills to die on, and each denomination having an idea that they have the right way to interpret scripture. It would appear to be so if history teachers use anything at all. C.S. Lewis wrote that “human history…is the long, terrible story of a man trying to find something other than God which will make them happy.”[1] Why bother with a right relationship with the Creator or with anyone else, for that matter if a far easier way of rules and regulations, a list of have to(s) has been designed for me. Something other than God will make me happy and feel like I am doing okay. Rule- following will do that.

History is also a story of paradigms, of ideas and practices that characterized a period of time, sometimes a long period of time as we see with the Reformation and the prevailing idea within much of evangelical Christianity that the “just shall live by faith.” It is through grace that we are saved. Saved from what to what remains debatable and debated. Other paradigms have been shorter-lived, as was the case with the catechumenate, a complex induction system used to bring people systematically into the church and faith. Jesus’s big idea seems to have never fully caught on; lots of disguises to his core teaching seem to be the best we have had over time.

In my book, I identify some highlights of some time periods, paradigms that offered up a distinct idea of what right relationships meant and should look like. And in a few cases, I will propose considering one or two ideas from that time that just might have some regenerative potential, an old idea that might be reconceptualized into a new practice.

The intolerable compliment

A right relationship with this God, the Creator, characterized by friendship, is one essential message of this book; how to recognize it, take it up and live into it. The challenge has always been to have a right relationship with a God we cannot see and have been told all kinds of things about. We have settled for Jesus, as the picture of God and we do so with good reason. Jesus once said, “…anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father…” (John 14:9 NIV) We have also been given some clear marching orders for what this right relationship could look like. Trust seems big, not worrying too much about anything because this God sometimes seems moved by prayer, and not moved by prayer, and it does not matter. From Jesus, we are left with the intolerable compliment that the Creator is personable, a real being who appears to love us and wants what is best for us. What is best for us is to be in a right relationships with the Creator, each other, ourselves, and the created and natural order. These ends, these relationship ways of being, trump everything else, even including getting our prayers answered.

This handbook includes over one hundred strategies, tactics, logistics and relationship-builders, practical ones that have been tried sometime, somewhere, over my forty years of teaching. This handbook is a guide for teachers who want to lead young people on their journey into knowing their true selves, and into practices of friendship with the Creator of everything.  The handbook includes practical suggestions for guiding young people into ways of being in their world that includes kindness and empathy for others and for the created and social order, to learn to keep justice for all a lifetime goal.

If you are interested I would like to offer this handbook to the first 12 families that request it. Want to learn more? Post a comment on this blog to get a copy of the book!

[1] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1952). The big ideas and logic of his apologetic sealed the deal for me as I gave in and admitted that the Jesus story was true.

Bernie Potvin, MSCS Principal

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