The Miracle of Broken Sinew: An End to Missions (by George Elerick)
Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan once posited that language is born out of a desire to be whole. His theory emerges out of a much wider context. He goes further then to conclude that language is itself a form idealism. If this is true, then when we speak of being human [for example] it is not that we speak of being human but rather the most we could do is wish to be human.
This is the same for claiming to be a Christian, the best we could ever assume about ourselves is that we wish to be Christian. Lacan says we are fragmented in our very essence [this is our original selves] and the attempt to fill in the spaces is a form of idealism [i.e., looking for the whole]. Without getting too complicated, what this means is that we are always looking for something to make use ‘feel’/seem whole, which denies our very essence of fragmentation. What does this have with being a Christian?
Well, visualize your individual self as a series of parts [i.e., legs, arms, a head, feet, shoulders, eyes, ears and etc.] , the attempts at filling/hiding these gaps is what I call ‘sinew’, you know the tissue uniting the skin to the bone. The sinew is an attempt to deny our essence by projecting we are whole. God is here to remind us we are fragmented, that is what the cross is about, dying to the parts that hide our fragments. But the struggle lies not only in our theology but also in our society. Even down to our late night cartoons. Family Guy follows the life of one American family and their relationships however dysfunctional they might be.
The vulgarity of the cartoon is not explicitly in the content [although some might think so] it is something more sinister [yet hidden in the comic aftermath] – it is that the dog (named: Brian Griffin] is more human than animal. The irony is that the cartoon is written by humans who interpret a dog as a human. Just by following the simple pattern of anthropomorphism one can already see the problem, which is predominantly one of interpretation. Is this also not the same issue hidden within the altruistic notion of what most have historically called ‘Missions’?
Which is the attempt to over-interpret the ‘other’ to the point that anything that distinguishes ‘us’ from the ‘other’ is dissolved into nothingness. Which seems extremely counter-intuitive to another controversial theological element most know as ‘The Trinity’. The three-in-one. Three distinct [separate/distinguished] persons in ‘one’ God. The consumption of the other as the other leaves no space for difference. There is also this one point when the disciples come running to Jesus and complain about some ‘other’ people who are doing things in ‘his name’; Jesus’ response is basically to leave them alone and let them do what they do, if they are for him then they are not against him.
I wonder if we need Missions anymore? I wonder if what we now deem as Missions solely emerged out of a bloody history for dominance [for example: a la Constantine] and what we now have is an over-spiritualized simplified version of domination of that which is other? If the Trinity demonstrates anything to us it is that we can co-exist with people who are doing things in Christ’s name but might not ‘look’ like ‘us’.
If we consume the other, then there is no difference, there is no distinction. There is an ancient midrash [Jewish commentary] that tells the story of two guys who were walking across this mucky ground and they were complaining of how muddy the foundation was below them all the while being blind to the miracle of a parted Red Sea. Maybe we need to rekindle a love for the other, which is the miracle to ourselves rather than attempt to change them/it.
Rather than anthropomorphize them into our world which makes them more digestible. This all stems from our need to cover our fragmented selves and the attempt to consume that which other [i.e., war, missions, apologetic's and etc.] Missions is another form of the sinew I spoke of above that hides us from ourselves. At one point Jesus tells a woman [a Samaritan, or that which is other to the Jew] that we should worship in spirit and truth, the Message interprets that to mean that we should worship God as ourselves. This means we might have to give up both Missions along with seeing others as our sinew.
George Elerick is a cultural theorist, author, & human rights advocate. He lives in England with his beautiful wife and amazing 4-month old little boy. Catch up with him at his blog, follow him on Twitter, and purchase his new book, Jesus Bootlegged.