I listened to one of your things today (“God loves those that see the clouds”). That was nice, Dan. And the virtual church idea — you know I have a difference conception of Church, but I don’t dislike what you’re doing. I think it’s cool, actually. It’s like the Quakers. A “religious society of friends.” If I were there, I could never call you Pastor Dan, but Brother Dan? That I could call you.
Earlier in the week, I was posed the question, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” Question posed to an online group, a forum of sorts. Here was the answer I gave:
I don’t believe in much of anything these days. I believe in Jesus, and that’s about it. Why do I believe in Jesus? Because with all the myriad deceptions on earth — the deception being not the earth itself, not physical matter like the gnostics would say, but humans and their pretensions, the “worlds” they create that are unreal — Jesus is the only person who speaks from the standpoint of Lord, who claims that kind of authority and isn’t trying to deceive me about myself or the general state of things. He even warns me about “signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” — things convincing enough to fool your reason or physical senses. There are many things I can see and in which I don’t believe. Jesus, I haven’t seen, yet in him I do believe. Ultimately, I’m attracted to a Kingdom not of this world. Not of this world is important to me, this world of death and deception. My deepest reasons for following Jesus (or wanting to follow Jesus, since I don’t always follow him that well) can be stated in the words of Fr. Seraphim Rose: “Christ is the only exit from this world; all other exits — sexual rapture, political utopia, economic independence — are but blind alleys in which rot the corpses of the many who have tried them.” My longing for freedom is a longing for Christ, and my longing for Christ is a longing for freedom. These aren’t my apologetic answers. These are my answers of the heart.
If you wanted to use that somehow, you could. But if I were to develop this further, along the lines of, “How should we then live?”, I would say do whatever you can to make your life a kind of art, for art is a form of love. Why should you love? Because your neighbor is an individual with an enduring soul that will endure beyond all nations, and so are you. Also as a kind of protest, as if to say, “Death and deception are not all there is,” quiet love screaming in the face of Leviathan (not just worldly systems but cosmic powers behind them, powers and principalities à la Ephesians 6). Anyway, the good things in this world, these echoes of Eden, that which is good and beautiful — I consider it all art. Fading, fleeting, and in need of transmission so that love might not fade from the earth. Though the earth, I also regard with ascesis. “Love not the world or the things that are in the world,” “love not [your] lives unto death,” because depending on your context, you might have to be more ascetical than artistic. A Soviet prisoner, for instance: he has not the goods of this world, but he has the resources of prayer and a monastic cell of sorts. Christ in the school of suffering. (But this too can be a kind of art, to suffer beautifully.)
These ideals, art and asceticism — for myself, I try to keep them together. I find myself in need of both.