Not content to bow and bend to the winds of culture that swoop like vultures, eating us away

21 Aug
Not content to bow and bend to the winds of culture that swoop like vultures, eating us away
This Indigo Girls line is so poignant, so powerful, and has gone with me many years through many phases of my life. Before becoming acquainted with the Indigo Girls in the late ’80s, I had my own much less poetic saying, “If you go with the flow, you’ll go down the drain.”
As a recommitted Christian in my third year of university I got involved with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, a student-run and staff-mentored campus ministry that started in England, spread to Canada and then to the United States. It was a great fit, because the theme was living under the lordship of Christ in all areas of life through “knowing Christ and making him known.” It was inter-denominational, international, multi-age (freshmen up through grad and doctoral students), and placed a high value on the intellect, learning, and scholarship in all fields. There was great music, cool people (I hadn’t experienced cool people in a religious setting before), rich friendships, a sense of belonging, good, relevant teaching, and lots of hanging out in coffee chops til all hours. The emphasis on loving God with all of my mind was and is important to me. Even though I’ve been attracted at times to the charismatic and emotionally expressive church denominations, I tend to be most excited about those that allow and encourage active and critical thinking, bring up heavy and difficult questions, and aren’t quick to swipe away complexity with doctrinal statements. I recognize that many people prefer simplicity in religion, are happy to sign and recite statements of faith other people have come up with, and truly appreciate confident and authoritative leaders to guide them. I read somewhere that that sort of thing has a genetic component, as does the way of the questioner, the skeptic, the pursuer of knowledge and one who is okay with uncertainty (most Republicans fall into the former category, most Democrats the second. Isn’t that a gas? Here’s a link that summarizes the study).
I loved being in a university setting. I loved studying (once I grew up a bit), loved the interchange of ideas across cultures and academic disciplines, and the freedom to flow in and out of situations and experiences that were interesting, enjoyable, challenging. But as I honed my personal ethics and built rules for my life, I also felt the pressure of being countercultural. The phrase, “in the world, but not of the world” (see John 17:15-16), “like sheep among wolves,” (Jesus, in Matt 10:16), and “do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Paul, Romans 12:2) were reminders that I was to be different, or I would not do any worldly good.
Perhaps I have since lived a rather mild-mannered life–I didn’t join Inter-Varsity as staff after all as I planned, never was much of a missionary, and in  the realms of my extra-religious convictions, never joined a march or campaign (except once, when I found it was not my style and left early), taught a folk workshop or chained myself to an old growth tree. All I do to try to forge an independent path that somehow affects the world in a positive way is to try to stay true to my conscience, have conversations, write a little, and raise children to be independent thinkers with a solid grounding in what I can’t help by this time but regard as wisdom. In college, and afterwards in various churches, there was a dichotomy made between people who believe that there is Truth and those who believe that all truth is relative. I tend to try to pass on the idea that there is indeed Truth, but that lots of truths are indeed relative, and application is complicated and requires godly wisdom. I think we ought to hold all knowledge and opinions as working versions in subservience to first principles. Namely the Commandments–the Ten, especially the two Jesus said summarize all the rest–love God, and love your neighbor. Not, let me point out, always be nice. There are still pressures, it’s still a battle, there are powerful forces that rage against right thinking and right living, forces within and without. So let’s listen to the Spirit of God, (who is not a tame lion) and not let ourselves become too content.
Below are the lyrics to Love’s Recovery, and a YouTube Link. There’s so much more there than the line I extracted, so enjoy.
Love’s Recovery
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers (Indigo Girls)
During the time of which I speak it was hard to turn the other cheek
To the blows of insecurity
Feeding the cancer of my intellect the blood of love soon neglected
Lay dying in the strength of its impurity
Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together
They’ve all gone and left each other in search of fairer weather
And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast
To the slim chance of love’s recovery.
There I am in younger days, star gazing,
Painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection
My compass, faith in love’s perfection
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen
Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together
Left each other one by one in search of fairer weather
And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast
To the slim chance of love’s recovery.
Rain soaked and voice choked like silent screaming in a dream
I search for our absolute distinction
Not content to bow and bend
To the whims of culture that swoop like vultures
Eating us away, eating us away
Eating us away to our extinction
Oh how I wish I were a trinity, so if I lost a part of me
I’d still have two of the same to live
But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal, as specks of dust we’re universal
To let this love survive would be the greatest gift we could give
Tell all the friends who think they’re so together
That these are ghosts and mirages, these thoughts of fairer weather
Though it’s storming out I feel safe within the arms of love’s discovery

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