Tuesday, March 13, 2007
[THO] Ceci n'est pas une pipe
Working hard on my papers I decided my light break reading would be Michel Foucault's little book "This is Not a Pipe". I barely broke the second chapter and I am struck by how well he describes the power of the aphorism. We go to such great lengths to reconcile discrepancies in our minds, we don't let them hang out in their paradoxical way and work their magic on us. We instantly say, of course this is not a pipe! It is a picture of a pipe, then we are done and can walk away undisturbed. Unfortunately we've completely missed the point and robbed the aphorism of its real meaning. I think this is why we can create such comfortable messages from the word of Jesus.
Jesus spoke often in aphorisms. Disconnected word pictures designed to shake us up and reveal the Kingdom. But when Jesus tells us the mustard seed grows into the biggest tree we don't cry out "bullshit!" we accept it and somehow construe that in Jesus day they must have desired these plants. But the reality is mustard is a weed. It spreads easy and grows into a shrub. But we don't like that kind of disconnect. It makes us uncomfortable (probably as uncomfortable as my use of the BS phrase made some of you).
I am often asked why people just don't get Jesus' message. We try to break it into simple moralisms or truisms. We want it to all match reality in a "reasonable" way. In doing so we rob the gospel of its power, a power to reorient us and break us out of the patterns of thinking that frankly no longer function for our good. The gospel is powerful if we are willing to let it linger untamed in our midst. Like any untame beast it will tear us apart, ripping away all that ultimately holds us back. We will stuff it into a cage, we always do, but the longer we can hold the tension, the longer we can allow the fangs of scripture to tear away our false ideas, the more transformative it will be. If someone told you God was safe, don't buy it. God is as dangerous as his Word, and the Kingdom of God advances with violence!