Sunday, May 21, 2017
The Outhouse Theology by Samuel Orrin Sewell
The Outhouse Theology
by Samuel Orrin Sewell
Now let’s talk about this thing called religion. Here’s my theory, I want to warn you that I am an Iowa farm boy. My nickname on all of the forums that I visit on the internet is Aristotle the Hun. Aristotle the Hun was a name given to me by a friend of mine more than 30 years ago who realized that for all my intellect I was still an Iowa farm boy. He saw this dichotomy of my being; slightly crude, probably too straight forward, not at all concerned with diplomacy and yet backed up by this monster brain, so he called me Aristotle the Hun. The minute he gave me this title I knew it fit and I’ve accepted it and used it for a lot of purposes since then. I’m telling you this to brace you for what is coming next.
An outhouse may be a necessary structure, particularly where I came from in northern Iowa, we did not have indoor plumbing. We were one of the better families in town because we had a three-holer; also because we had a big family, the three-holer was a necessity. Here’s the basis of my Outhouse Theology. In summation there is a parallel between organized religion and an Iowa outhouse as they are both necessary and useful but not the best available.
The foundation of all religious truth could be called “The Jewel of Great Price”. The Jewel of Great Price is a direct connection to the Divine that happens to us human beings. I call it a jewel that because, not only is it so valuable that you can’t say how much it’s worth, but it’s also multi-faceted.
You know that old story about the blind men and the elephant. Basically four blind men come across an elephant and the first blind man touches the side of the elephant and says, “It’s a wall.” Another man gets hold of one of the legs and says, “No, it’s a tree.” The third gets hold of the tail and says, “What’s the matter with you guys, it’s a rope.” The last one grabs the trunk and says, “Watch out it’s a huge snake.”
They were also experiencing the same thing but their senses were telling them different things depending on what “facet” of the elephant they experienced.
Here’s another example. You know the mirrored orb in the ceiling of a ballroom that flashes light in every direction? I call it a “truth ball.” That could be a metaphor for my many-faceted jewel. There are so many facets, and the light is so brilliant, that when the flash strikes one facet of the Jewel of Great Price, the intensity of the reflection can blind you to the awareness that there are any other facets. We are blinded by the light!
We Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, we’re all looking at this truth ball, this Jewel of Great Price, and we think that the facet we see is the only possible way to interpret the meaning . Because that single facet is so magnificent we exclude anyone else’s perception of the same thing, much as the blind men thought everybody else was wrong about the nature of the elephant they were touching. But if that were not bad enough, we’re blinded by the magnificence of the one aspect of the jewel which we are observing. Sometimes the fanatical adherence that is the result of seeing only one facet of the truth ball causes human beings to kill each other who see a different interpretation of the light.
So, here is what happens when we see one of those facets: “I’m going to write a story about this,” which becomes Scripture. “I’m going to build a shrine,” which eventually becomes a temple or a church. And so we have the Scriptures and we have the building. Now the relative value of the building where the Jewel of Great Price is housed is like the value of an outhouse with a Jewel of Great Price buried underneath it.
However, if you think that the church serves no purpose, look what it does. It is a landmark. Underneath every one of those metaphorical outhouses there is buried a Jewel of Great Price.
I was once at a garage sale with my darling wife. (That’s how dedicated a husband I am.) The lady holding the garage sale had her dog there. She had put the loop on the dog’s leash underneath the leg of a card table. The dog, of course, kept being interested in the people and was constantly tugging on his leash and in essence tugging the table. As the table would move along the driveway things would fall off the table. The frustrated woman, without thinking, would point and she’d say, “Go back over there.” Now, did the dog once ever look where she was pointing? No. The dog looked at her pointed finger, confused, wondering, “What is my master wanting me to do?” There is this hand pointing, but the poor dog doesn’t know to look where the hand is pointing.
We human beings are very much that way with our churches. Why do you think there is a steeple? So the church can point away from itself. Yet, dog like, we look at the church building and not what it is pointing toward. Any church that is not pointing away from itself, any religious institution that is not pointing to the Jewel of Great Price, as opposed to their own clergy, their own dogma, or their own traditions, is doing a disservice to the cause they claim to serve. Just like that dog who can’t see where the hand is pointing. Essentially all good religion points away from itself to that Sacred Core Essence, which is the many-faceted Jewel of Great Price.
Now you may have to endure some very uncomfortable experiences, digging through the dogma to get to the Jewel of Great Price, but don’t put the church down. Granted it’s not worth anywhere near what it covers up and hides from humanity, but it does mark the location as to where this Jewel of Great Price is buried.
So don’t look to the church to sustain you. Don’t look to the church and expect to see one of those facets that blind you. Your goal in being a member of the church is to serve to your fellow parishioners and the community at large.\
The church is a human institution which obscures the Jewel of Great Price, but which also marks its location. So what we are faced with is that all of the world religions in essence obscure what it is they’re about. In other words, the very thing they want you to pay attention to is obscured by the traditions, dogma and even the building where the church exists. As C S Lewis said “Your God is too small.”
MUDDITES A FABLE
Once upon a time, long ago and far away, on the outskirts of a crowd gathered to hear a great teacher speak, two men fell into conversation with each other. “I can’t hear what he is saying, but I know that he is a miracle worker, and that the hand of God is upon him,” said the first man. The second man responded enthusiastically, “I know you speak the truth, for I once was blind, but now I see. He cured my blindness!” The first man exclaimed, “Really!” and launched into a detailed explanation of how he too had been cured of blindness by the same holy man. Both men were excited and animated in telling their versions of how they had been cured of blindness.
It soon became obvious that the men were in disagreement about the nature of the miracle worker’s technique. One man insisted that his blindness had been cured when the holy man gathered some soil from the ground which was mixed with saliva and formed into some sort of mud pack, and then placed upon the man’s eyes. The other man was equally adamant that no mud had been used at all, and that the miracle had occurred when the holy man placed his hands on him and simply declared him healed. Thus began the first theological split in Christianity, between the Muddites and the Non-muddites.
The two men gathered about them those who agreed with their particular version and the two groups began to say terrible things about each other. Both groups were convinced that God was on their side and that Satan inspired the other group. Soon there were suspicious plots, dirty tricks, political power plays, and on one occasion an actual fist fight. Many of the people who claim to follow Jesus have been living that way ever since.
The moral to the story:
Love cures blindness. Dogma can cause blindness.
Posted by Sam and Bunny Sewell at 6:38 PM