Peter Rollins’ thoughts on modern Christianity


Video commentary:

Peter Rollins offers some of this thoughts on modern Christianity and some of his theological explorations, followed by a Q&A time with Pete and Barry Taylor, Brehm Center professor of arts and culture. brehmcenter.org for more information.

“Here is a lecture that I gave recently at Fuller Theological Seminary. This talk expresses some of my most recent work and might provide a useful framework for understanding Insurrection in a deeper way.” – Peter Rollins

[24 June 2012]

I have listened to almost halfway of Peter Rollins’ message. It is a long message, and he has touched on a number of points. He also speaks very fast, and I was trying to catch up with his words – from what I understand so far, he wanted to find out more about how something was said to be created out of nothing, and how we all are like zombies in a sense, since we all have a void within us and we are looking for something to satisfy us. He noted that the world can be seen as a giant vending machine, offering all kinds of products or idols to satisfy the void, and if I heard him correctly, he said that the concept of “god” or “jesus” has been offered (by fundamentalist religion) as just another product to satisfy all our needs, and worship music is seen as a multi-billion industry to cater to this purpose.

[Update: 24 June 2012]

I have listened to the end of the video. The Q&A session is interesting. Given that the model presented by Peter Rollins in his message about being free from being attached to an idol is similar to other worldviews such as buddhism (which teaches people to be free from desires in order to be truly happy), I suppose some of the audience couldn’t help but notice the similarities between this christian worldview and the main buddhist worldview. I admire Peter Rollins for being open to other worldviews, and I kinda agree with his statement that christianity is not (so much) about a set of beliefs but is about a form of life, or an experiential worldview. Overall, it is good to listen to his intellectually stimulating message (though I must have missed most of the finer details since I couldn’t catch every word, but I could gradually form an overall idea of his message towards the end), and I like how it inspired his audience to engage him in a friendly, non-religious dialogue after his message.

[Update: 5 July 2012]

I was checking out a bit more of Peter Rollins’ message, and while I was still trying to catch up with his fast speech, I was following his train of thoughts through reading the comments on his website as well as the summary of his lecture on his facebook status update, which says:

“A problem with frenetically pursuing great wealth, fame, or power is not that we act in our own self-interest but that we act against it. For in pursuing these things we tend to knowingly end up putting our health, relationships and well-being on the line.”

I suppose his usual style of getting his message across is to point out the paradoxes of life, such as his earlier book title “How not to speak of God”, which I understand it to mean that the way to know God is not to know God (that is, shed every pre-conceived and borrowed ideas about God from religion). Similarly, in this lecture, I think he wants to bring across the message that the way to act in our self-interest is not to act in our self-interest (that is, cease pursuing and performing to get or become something we want, and start resting and appreciating what we already are and have).

This observation reminds me of a somewhat similar quote by Dalai Lama I came across some time ago:

The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

I suppose then that is partly why some of the audience in Peter Rollins’ lecture finds that his message is quite similar to the Buddhist worldview, because buddhists generally believe in not pursuing wealth and other things, but cease from such desires, and instead focusing on living in the present moment and enjoying a simple life. I think in this respect, Jesus’ sermon on the Mount about living a simple, carefree life and trusting Father/Love/Universe to supply all things according to the riches of his glory and meeting all our needs is similar to this buddhist worldview.

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