Monday, May 19, 2014

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Christianity: Pt. 2-The Adventures of Piper and Cooper (The Relational View of Imago Dei and the Need for Community)

Last week, we had the pleasure of puppysitting another dog for one of my wife's work friend. His name was Cooper, a year old Cocker Spaniel.

When Cooper and Piper first met, Piper overwhelmed him so they didn't really get along that well. After a few hours, he got used to her obnoxious way of doing things and they became great friends.

By the end of the week, Cooper and Piper were inseperable. Literally, wherever one of them went, the other followed.

When Cooper's parents came to pick him up at the end of our time together, he was sad to leave and Piper sulked around the house for hours.

What this made me realize is that humans are meant to be in community. Existing in alienation can be dangerous. There are two ways in which God has intricately desiged us to experience relationships.

First is what is called Trinitarian theology. As the Nicene Creed states, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. In that framework, the Holy Spirit is produced by the "dance" between the Father and the Son. It is a beautiful relationship. If humanity was created  in the Image of God, it is reasonable to assume that the reflection of the Divine Trinity is imprinted on to each of us. We must exist in relationship with God and one another.

Second is what is called Incarnational theology. The Incarnation is commonly viewed as a singular event in Evangelical Protestantism-the life of Christ. That's not wrong, Christ's life was perhaps the clearest mode of Incarnation but God is still with us. Not in a vague, pantheistic way. In a very personal way. In fact, this happens in two ways that our Priest explained on Sunday. First, through the Eucharist, Jesus is present with us. This is an oft debated issue (Catholics see the elements as physically and scientifically becoming Christ's literal body and blood; Protestants see the whole meal as a "memorial" that has no effectual value whatsoever) but in Anglicanism, we recognize that the Eucharist is a mysterious relationship. I know that the day before God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, that bush was a normal, average bush. Somehow, when God appeared to Moses, that bush was holy and set apart. This is true during the Eucharist. Those elements are set apart and show that God is with us. The second area this happens is in the Church. We are all members of Christ's body which means all of us reflect Him with our actions all the time.

Friday, May 16, 2014

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Christianity: Pt. 1-Sometimes We Pee on the Couch (Total Depravtiy)

I've decided to try something a little bit different. My wife and I have owned a dog for around 6 months now and she is teaching us a lot about Christianity. I actually got this idea from my mother-in-law who has always insisted that dogs can teach us about faith.

This is Piper. She is an 8 month old Feist, a breed not recognized by the AKC. They're basically the product of American Colonialism because they're descended from English Terriers who bred with Indigenous hunting dogs. If you've ever seen a Jack Russell Terrier or a Rat Terrier, Feists are very closely related to them.

Unfortuantely, Feist also describes Piper's personality. She is extremely fiesty, belligerant, and rebellious. Not only does she do things she knows she's not supposed to do, but she does them while defiantly glaring at us in the eyes.

This brings us to an incident that just happened a few days ago. We allow Piper to sit on the couch with us (unfortunately). Generally, it makes for some good cuddle time that leads to lots of "awwwws" from my wife and I. The other night, Piper was in a bit of a rebellious mood. Her way of telling us that was by standing up on the couch, staring at us, and peeing on our couch.

Needless to say, we were furious. In fact, it took a while to make the smell go away and clean up. However, the whole incident did get me thinking about our relationship with God. How often do I knowingly violate God's commands in the same way? If we think about it like that, I've peed on a lot of couches. Still do. Always will. This kind of reaffirmed the doctrine of Total Depravity in my mind. Total Depravity states that we are so broken inside, it is impossible for us to fix ourselves (now, this can lead to a Calvinistic view, as it is technically a Reformed opinion, but I think it's okay to misapproriate the term to describe our general sinfulness).

Fortunately, God is a much kinder and more patient owner than I am. I love Piper, even though she occasionally pees on the couch. God loves me infinitely more than I love Piper and I pee on the couch every day. What an unrelenting love!

As Brennan Manning says, "...the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the pandhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust of employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception. Again, the love of God is folly!"