Simply Organic: Who are We?

Words, names and stereotyped expressions can deafen us to the voices of the things themselves, so that for the deaf the things have died – a personal and original relationship with them has become impossible. One can’t tell a thing to a person who knows the words, he is no longer receptive. Gerrit Kouwenaar

I have been thinking about this word “organic” lately. Some of us are planning a “Simply Organic” conference here in Bloemfontein for early 2013, and so the term has been on my mind more than usual.

It’s a nice word, I must admit. It works well. And that is where the problem is.

One of the cars that are most popular with hijackers in South Africa (our hijacking statistics have gone through the roof ages ago) is the Nissan 1400 “bakkie”, as it is called here.

The reason? It works unbelievably well. It does what it is supposed to do. It is simple, strong, cheap and reliable. It is popular. And so hijackers love it.

The same has happened to the term “organic”. It’s being wordjacked. It’s such a lekker word that everyone wants it, even those who haven’t paid the price for it. And so it is being grabbed and claimed all over. The result is that a very good word has now become somewhat overused and murky.

The name has taken the place of the thing itself, as oftentimes happens with descriptive words. To make matters worse, its meaning has become associated with some of its new owners, rather than with its own and original definition.

For a true understanding of a clichéd descriptive word, such as “organic”, two things are needed: Firstly, we need to rid ourselves of those things that block our perceptions to the real. We need to weed out the unfortunate associations that have taken our thoughts captive and blinded us. Secondly, we need to revisit the original word to ensure that we understand its own meaning.

The next few posts will be mainly concerned with the first exercise. It is a weeding experiment, and it is mostly birthed from a number of recent observations that have stirred up that old feeling of being invaded (some would say molested) so reminiscent of the type of Christianity that wants to turn someone else’s private and subjective experience (and interpretations) into doctrines and norms for the rest of us.

I don’t mind you walking on my holy ground, but please leave your shoes outside. They fit you and they have walked your journey. Bring yourself in here. That’s ok. But don’t impose your walk on me.

With that sorted out, let’s talk about those things that many of us are not, and that we will never be, even though we proudly associate ourselves with being “organic”. I will deal with them one by one in the next few posts.

Please note that these are not astute scholarly observations, but knee jerk responses from those of us whose desire it is to preserve our freedom in Christ. If you don’t agree with the list, just imagine that the heading reads “Simply Organic: Who are Some of Us?”

1. We are Not a Resistance Movement

Need I say more? We are not “against” or “anti”. We are “for”. To use another overused and now clichéd term: We are not reactive, we are pro-active.

Don’t take this for granted. Are you a Protestant? The moment you say “yes”, you have distinguished yourself as being “against” instead of “for.” You are a protester. That’s what your name means and that’s how subtle this whole business is. Your reason for being is derived from the fact that you are protesting against… uhm, what was it again?

Truth is, most Protestants cannot complete this sentence. If you are one of them, dust off that church history book and turn to October 1517. Then you’ll find out what your problem is, or rather who you have it with. And then you may also wonder what you will become once the problem is no longer around. (Or what you have already become, seeing that you have forgotten about your problem.)

That is the tricky thing with all resistance movements. The accomplishment of their goals signifies their demise, and so they usually need a new enemy to sustain their levels of commitment.

This is why our fervor may never arise from our anger or disgust with the religious establishment, or “institution”, or “system”, or whatever we may wish to call it. Too many organic folk feel a sense of camaraderie because they relate with one another’s hurts and the ecclesiastical abuses of the past.

Beware. Judas was a zealot and the man of perdition’s title begins with “anti” (Is there a hint somewhere in there that offense has been taken?).

We are FOR, not AGAINST.

Of course we resist. Of course we fight. But that is circumstantial to our main calling, namely to inherit a promised land and to be made into a kingdom. We do not allow the fight to get into our bloodstream. We are not mercenaries. We do not feed on the presence of our enemies.

In fact, we are not even angry.

Some of us were, I have to admit. But no more. We are moving on.

And so, for those who are foaming at the mouth because of what the institutional church has done to you: Welcome. But you are going to have to leave your offense outside.

Right there, next to your shoes.

(The next post will deal with the fact that we are not a celebrity cult, which means that no single person or party speaks for the rest of us.)

No Cheating

You study the scriptures, thinking that by them you have life… yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40

There are two ways in which a person can arrive at the answer to a sum: You can get it from someone who already has it (with or without his/her consent) or you can work it out for yourself.

If schoolteachers are to be believed, the latter way is by far the preferable one.

But even here conditions apply. Years ago, way back in primary school, I was awarded one point out of ten for a perfect answer to a quite complicated sum. The teacher disregarded the innovative way in which I had figured the answer out in my head, explaining that I would not be able to do the same with larger numbers. I lost the other nine points because I had ignored the tried and tested formula. I had set myself up to become a maths heretic.

I learned the lesson well in my formative years, but had to unlearn it when I finally graduated into seminary. Here everything was about answers. The sums had already been figured out and we were expected to learn the answers without thinking too much in the process.

The only problem was that another theological school, a mere few blocks away, were teaching their students different answers.

I sometimes wish my mathematics teachers taught me theology. She would have insisted that I became a thinker instead of a parrot. But she would have forbidden me to use my own independent judgment in my thinking. I would have had to think according to very specific rules and within very defined boundaries.

That’s the whole idea. The knowledge of God has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ and is preserved in Scripture and the ongoing teaching of the Holy Spirit within. You cannot have the one without the other. True Christianity is not memorising doctrines or living by laws. It is not to blindly accept the conclusions of another, no matter the brilliance of his/her scholarship or any reputation whatsoever of great understanding or guru-like insight. It is to work it out for yourself: Personally, experientially, uniquely. Yet it is to do so within the clear objective boundaries of Scripture.

If you say “Lord, Lord”, but you don’t know how you got there, you are in for a surprise.

There is nothing as exhilarating as the discovery of truth. It is to find a fine balance in the midst of the mightiest bursts of revelation imaginable. It is big wave surfing in every sense of the term, an encounter with the might and beauty of God, but with a focused concentration and skill that makes the required balance possible. This skill cannot be taught in a classroom, yet the method of obtaining it can. It has to be discovered in a way that will make you feel you are the only one who has discovered it. It is an experience that is wholly unique and original, yet it is one that takes place within very narrow boundaries. It is totally original, yet the scope for innovation is extremely limited. It is your own discovery, yet it can only be discovered according to a method that is so precise that it can be described as a science.

Truth is to know Jesus Christ personally and intimately, but never apart from the clear guidelines presented by Scripture.

Where this happens, the answers will present themselves.

(This article has appeared in abbreviated form in Bloemnews.)