Much of the impetus driving this site, the claim that we need to “betray to obey,” is the fact that we are living in the midst of massive cultural shifts. We are in a “world struggling between the challenges of the present and ideals of the past” (Joan Chittister). We are all currently standing upon the shoulders of the sacrifices, leadership, and teaching of great people. Their ideals shaped us, guided us, and in some way gave us our identity. These ideals from the past, however, seem ill fit, at times, to meet the growing complexity of an ever-evolving world whose advancements and problems are exponentially increasing day after day.
That is what the word “liminal” means. Anthropologists use the word to talk about the middle phase of a ritual or a right of passage. At this stage the participant is no longer their pre-ritual self nor do they yet possess their post-ritual status. They are in liminality. A cognate of this word in Latin simply means “threshold.” This word has also been applied to the broad cultural context within which North America (and the West) finds herself. We are no longer in that cultural context where the Christian-America narrative and values live at the center. We are not yet in a world where secularity reigns as our unchallenged ideology. We can still see this past place of comfort. Its vestiges are thin but still tangible today. Postmodern pluralism has not won the day but is gain more territory every day.
Some celebrate the passing of this old world and can’t get it buried fast enough. They have rolled out the red carpet believing in the grand promises of a new worldview.
Others are desperately hanging on to the past believing that our greatest days are behind us. They fear the world coming; the most important this we can do now is “reclaim” or “take back” the world in the name of these values.
Both are escaping reality.
One is trying to stop the ritual and run back to the safety of a world that made sense. The other is trying to rush through thinking hope only lies on the other side.
The fact is our culture, and our churches, are in liminality. No matter how hard we fight for the restoration of the past, no matter how quickly we try to rush ahead, we are in a threshold time.
What is needed now are leaders who can lead with a liminal spirituality. We need leaders that can embrace past ideals and present opportunities. We need leaders who can name past oppression and present dangers. Liminal spirituality is neither defeatist or idealistic. It is not optimism or escapism. It is not anxious or despairing.
Leaders who lead with a liminal spirituality have an equally honest - meaning both grateful and critical - view of the past, present, and future.
Liminal spirituality will give leaders the courage to betray to obey. Liminal leaders know that to move forward they must obey the deep and formative values of those that have brought us to where we are. Liminal leaders also know that they will have to betray many of the deeply cherished expressions of these values. Liminal leaders have the disruptive task of refusing to reify past applications of these values while reappropriating them to meet the challenges of a new day.
Our founding fathers and mothers declared “all men are created equal.” Eventually, we needed liminal leaders to betray the deeply cherished institution of slavery so that this ancient value could be obeyed.
I promote obedience to past values through betrayal to customs, traditions, and practices that hinder the movement of God’s Kingdom in our time and place.
Where are the courageous leaders for today? Who is willing to cultivate a liminal spirituality of deep hope, thorough critique, and generative imagination so that the best parts of our past can inspire, not inhibit, a redemptive future?
The following link is to a speech that brought disparate streams of thought, readings, prayers, reflections, and conversations about my own life and sense of purpose into an ocean of clarity. It inspired a shift in my approach to blogging, which is why I am now starting this tumblr. This may or may not stick. For now, at least, I need this space to speak, to question, to wrestle… to betray.
- - -Source: sojo.net