life in the suture zone...

In the earthquake faults between tectonic plates, the suture zone is the in between place where they meet. I find in that a metaphor for the times in which we live... and invite your conversation in the suture zone.

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Location: Bakersfield, CA, United States

... a struggling, but mostly joyful, apprentice of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

we will never make it to the moon...

My grandfather didn’t believe that man would ever make it to the moon. For some of you, that accomplished fact is ancient history and you have never lived in a world where the imagination of traveling to other planets was not an accepted possibility all because of the moon landings, which happened before you were born.

The reason my grandfather held this particular belief had nothing to do with science or technology or any of the things that occupied the engineers and scientists at NASA’s Dryden, Kennedy and Johnson centers. No. My grandfather was convinced that we would never make it to the moon precisely because God would never let man make it to the moon. Obviously, he was proven wrong and mercifully the proof came after his death.

He never went into his reasoning on this and I couldn’t understand his hesitance to imagine such a thing. Perhaps it was harkening back to man’s pride at the disaster at Babel or a strong identification with Psalm 8:3f or something like that. I don’t know. But the reality is that it was a totally misplaced belief that was later proved wrong. And his imagination of the world and how God related to the world would not allow this thing to happen.

Why would I bring this up?

This kind of thinking infects everyone stuck in the modern paradigm. It is especially true that Christians of all stripes follow such reasoning. And it is precisely in such thinking that we are able to see just how imbedded our faith can be in modern constructs.

One example... miracles. True liberals denied the miracles of Jesus on the basis of modern mechanistic explanations of the universe. Miracles were an a priori impossibility to them, therefore they were “metaphorical stories” or mistaken apprehensions of primitive peoples or some other thing that explains away what happened. Conservatives on the other hand would defend the miracles of Jesus to the death. Funny thing is that most Evangelicals and Fundamentalists take the same mechanistic view of today’s world as their counterparts from the liberal persuasion. (Obviously, this example doesn’t apply to Pentecostals or charismatics. Other examples could.)

Someone has said that our major problem is a crisis of imagination. I’m beginning to believe that. We have reasons why or why not things are so or not so. All of these conveniently fit our pre-set ideas about the world. We have a picture of reality colored by someone else’s crayons and it is too hard, too exhausting, too emotionally threatening to dig through the morass of imaginings so that we might color outside the lines or with different media. In fact, it is often impossible to do in any kind of depth. We lack the imagination to envision our world and God’s Kingdom in any other way.

This is truly a crisis.

I just read a friend’s blog. He is trying to be on the cutting edge of the Kingdom. He is totally frustrated with people who are a part of what he is doing who want to hold back and drag the old paradigm along. While I’ve cautioned him and others about throwing out the baby with the bath water, I understand his frustration. While we can’t separate ourselves completely from what has come before (my posit, not his), we need some kind of drastic divorce from the imagining of it. The old imagining is infected and dying and decaying. Most of the rest of the world has left it behind. It is dragging the Kingdom in its old expression down with it. How hard it is, and yet how vital in our time, to peel the vestiges of the Kingdom which we have lumped in with “church” away from our former way of approaching life and ministry and what it means to “do church” and “be church”. How hard it is to step onto the suture zone and head for the further horizon, though we cannot yet imagine what it is.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

If you hadn’t noticed, man made it to the moon... several times. We’ve cloned animals. We’ve altered genetics. We’re even exploring suspended animation as a reality. We’ve created real-time news, instantaneous communication and can travel anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours. People have imagined these things. They have become part of today’s imagined world.

What are you up to, Lord? Where are the imaginers of your Kingdom?

God, give us dreamers, give us poets, give us storytellers and artists that can lead the way! Holy Spirit of God, only you can accomplish this! Please!!!

Grace and peace!



Blogger miller said...

thanks Owen.

its good to hear what you had to say. i just wish i knew how to hang on and let go at the same time. i wish i knew how to help others do the same.

remember the old Bellamy Brothers song, Old Hippy, "should he hang on to the old, should he grab on to the new?"

i have no doubts about the answer to that question. its hard to accept the advice to do both. in my experience, thats a good way to be torn assunder!

i can't understand the need to hold on to a paradigm that has led to the current state of the "Church"... nor can i deny that the need is apparently real for so many of the people i love...

some days its hard to keep standing let alone walk the walk.


7:02 AM  
Blogger Clarissa said...

My great-grandfather lived until 1980 or so ... he never believed we went to the moon. He thought it was all done in a studio.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Owen B. said...

Clarissa --

I imagine if my grandfather had survived, he might have said the same thing. Our understanding of what is "right" often clouds our ability to see what is.

Miller --

Paradigms are imaginings, ways of viewing the world and our place in it. The same goes for church as both practice and concept. Most of us don't even have eyes to see that what we envision as church is not church as church was when things first started. In fact, in our mutual heritage, we've told ourselves we are the same as back then so often that we've come to "see" the world from that perspective. It's a very dangerous deception, no doubt.

But remember, elements within a paradigm are not necessarily wedded to it. Nor are they necessarily worthless when separated from the old. Try seeing the element without the old imagining attached. Try to see how the element might be naturally wedded to a new imagining. Again, sometimes the problem is our own lack of imagination.

For example, table. I know you understand this one from our discussions elsewhere.

One of our traditions in our denomination is to celebrate weekly communion. Just because it is a tradition tied to an old imagining doesn't mean we ditch it for something else. Shared table (as I am going to explore in a few days) is incredibly important in the suture zone as we move toward new paradigms IMHO. The expression and focus of communion may be completely different since it is being defined outside the old and within the new paradigm. Thus the new paradigm is enriched by something old that is discovered and used and treasured in a new way. In a world where nuclear families hardly take time to sit and eat a meal together, shared table can answer an incredible hunger for something other than food.

This is one reason why so many are attracted to elements of patristic worship (at least what we know of it). There are elements that resonate within the new paradigm that are ancient at heart -- like the Kyrie. (Look at the incredible popularity of Taze worship all across Europe and North America as an example.)

New imaginings do not call for all new elements. Sometimes ancient jewels shine in a different way in the new light, further exposing their richness in a way not experienced before.

As Len Sweet says on his website, we must learn in today's age to both lean back and kick forward similtaneously. It's not so difficult really. You did it when you were a kid on a swing and it wasn't harmful at all. In fact, once you got the hang of it, it was a lot of fun.

Grace and peace,

9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Owen,

I am moved by your cry for poets, artists, and storytellers to "lead." I don't feel like a leader in this sense, but I definitely write poetry, attempt to maintain faith, and wander about in a postmodern haze... :)

Lots of love.


How much depends upon the chemicals
of which one is composed? It may be
consciousness is not derived from those,
but merely given shape, “a local habitation
and a name.” What does it mean to say
that I am I? Less and more as time
goes by. “I” am “half in love with easeful
death.” And easeful life. And easeful Les.
At lunch, “I” bought a Juxtapoz.
“I” am an angel and a crocodile.
Perhaps “I” shall take up Pratchett. “She” left “me.”
And, if I understand my Brian Greene,
she “left” me: Time is a block. But unless I’m nuts,
I pray for help, it comes. Coincidences
swarm like children to a birthday cake.
Not always. Sometimes. Seldom. Enough
to maintain doubt requires a degree
of incredulity I can’t sustain.
I may be merely biochemical.
Which may be nonetheless a miracle.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous Marshall said...

Sorry, Owen, that "Anonymous" above is me... :)

5:05 PM  
Blogger Owen B. said...


You greatly underestimate the power of poetry to communicate and move and describe and at the same time question reality.

That was a wonderful poem, by the way.

For those of you that don't know, Marshall is an accomplished poet... praised (as much as anyone is ever praised--actually, if you are not ruthlessly dismembered verbally by Levine, that's high praise in iteself!) by US Poet Laureate Phil Levine at Fresno State when Marshall was a student there, and most of all, someone that I consider one of my very dearest friends.

Marshall, I was thinking of you when I wrote that line in my original post. Poets frame the picture and describe realiity in a way that engineers -- and Bible scholars -- can't... ever. As do your fellow-artists and storytellers.

Thank you for sharing.


5:35 PM  
Blogger Tones said...


Great poem!! Even though I don't know who Pratchett is and I think I know who Brian Greene is, but I don't know how he applies. Don't feel you have to explain, clarity is often over-rated, and I imagine that poets are like comics in that they hate explaining their work. Anyway, I love the thought of the poem. Thanks for sharing.


10:51 PM  
Anonymous Marshall said...

Thank you, Owen and Tones. I won't explain - :) - but will admit that my stuff is often overly allusive. Anyway, I appreciate the feedback.

10:30 AM  

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