On Jeff Buckley, Rob Bell, and Qohelet
What do Jeff Buckley, Rob Bell, and Qohelet have in common? They’ve all helped formulate and crystalize some ideas in my mind regarding the nature of life and how we are to live it.
Qohelet, another word for Ecclesiastes, speaks of God’s hand at work in the daily lives of people:
Go, eat your bread with enjoyment, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has long ago approved what you do. Let your garments always be white; do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.
Jeff Buckley, the singer/songwriter best known for his enthralling cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, speaks of the spirituality of intimate relationships, and experiencing grace (the title of his best-known album) and eternal life (a song title). To listen to Buckley sing his passionate lyrics is to hear someone whose spirit and life is infused with a recognition of the otherness that invades and pervades life in a mysterious way, so infusing that all he can do is sing passionately.
Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church, and author of Velvet Elvis speaks frequently of the differences between Christianity as a thought process (Western) and a way of life (Eastern). Bell speaks of the presence of God in daily life; in breaking bread and sharing drink with neighbors, watching children play, doing service, sitting doing nothing, grocery shopping, etc.
One of the unfortunate legacies of the Enlightenment is the compartmentalizing of life. People talk about their personal life, work life, love life, and so on. While the validity of these divisions may be debated, one segment of life that it doesn’t apply to is one’s spiritual life. To say that a person has a spiritual life is to imply that there is a segment of a person’s psyche that is characterized by faith or spiritual things.
But faith doesn’t shouldn’t work like that.
As the biblical writers describe a person’s life, there is no word or concept of Spiritual as opposed to other components of life. There is just life. Life lived before God with an understanding of his role and presence in the world. Life that incorporates the mundane elements of existence with the realization of deeper overtones and meanings within all.
When the NT writers use spiritual, it refers to a mindset or gift from God rather than a component of life that is somehow separate from the physical. The OT writers do not use spiritual at all because their conception of God and his work is more integrated into the national consciousness than the NT writers who have to combat paganism and Greek dualism in their writings.
I’m not talking about pantheism or panentheism here, but rather a deep recognition of the work and hand of God in all we do, say, and experience. I feel this has been neglected in the expressions of Christian faith that I have been exposed to. To quote Bell:
This is not just the same old message with new methods. We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life. Legal metaphors for faith don’t deliver a way of life. We grew up in churches where people knew the nine verses why we don’t speak in tongues, but had never experienced the overwhelming presence of God.
Thanks Rob, Qohelet, and Jeff for helping me recognize the Spiritual in everyday life.