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A couple evenings ago Jay Bakker, Peter Rollins, two friends from Michigan (one of whom happens to be Jay’s co-writer and Peter’s editor), my spouse and I were in Brooklyn enjoying a meal together. I have been fascinated with Peter’s work since I first met him at an event Rob Bell was hosting on preaching and Peter was one of the guest speakers. Have you heard of him? If not, you need to.
Peter is a perspicacious individual. He gained his higher education from Queens University, Belfast and has earned degrees (with distinction) in Scholastic Philosophy (BA Hons), Political Theory (MA) and Post-Structural thought (PhD). He is thoughtfully honest and speaks poetically. Much of his work is influenced by the Slovenian philospher and cultural critique Slavoj Žižek.
There is an air of depressing honesty around him and I mean that as a beautiful affirmation. When much of life is an attempt to numb pain or avoid heartache, Peter poetically speaks truth to the best of his ability, a truth that is sometimes uncomfortable to hear. Just as a psychoanalyst doesn’t make one depressed but instead points out the depression that is already there Peter doesn’t make one doubt but instead points out the doubt that is already present within a person and a religious system. Leaning into Christ being forsaken by God on the cross Peter says, “To believe is human but to doubt is divine.”
He recently posted a video that I have not been able to stop watching everyday since its release. I sit captivated as I wrestle with what Rollins is saying both in agreement and disagreement. I do think church in many ways has become a crack house where we go to get our “spiritual high” — even that language mirrors the drug culture. Unfortunately I think it’s widely true that church has become a place, for many, where they go to get numb instead of truly dealing with the mess of life. Maybe this is why I find so much energy around the lament Psalms because I believe they teach us how to express and grieve, not just mask the pain.
Rollins quotes Kierkegaard in this clip and says, “What is a poet? A poet is someone who screams and cries in agony but his lips are so formed that when they cry out beautiful music is formed. So when we say to the poet ‘sing to us again’ We are really saying may a new disaster befall you.” Recently I have said that I am learning what it means to become a Theopoet as a minister: speaking and preaching of God as an artist. But quite honestly, I wonder if I truly understand the depths of darkness that one must swim in to become a Theopoet. I ask myself, how does one preach hope in the midst of decay? I am constantly wondering how to hold on to the honesty of joy and depression.
Perhaps some of you will have some thoughtful reflections in response to this video and my own “free think” here. The video is called Crack House Church and I would be curious what reflections come up in you after watching it.