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Christian Art of Not Giving a #~*&

Jesus Greg Olsen

On Saturday, I appreciated the review of French Philosopher Fabrice Midal’s new book, The French art of not giving a f*ck. And when I saw it for sale in a bookshop, I bought it straight away. This professor of philosophy at the University of Paris has practised meditation for 25 years and taught it for 15 years. What I liked about the article (and, hence, I hope about the book) is the insistence that meditation (and mindfulness) are being taught and used as yet another thing to add to our to-do list of self-improvement and doing things perfectly. And making us feel guilty and inadequate.

Many people, he says to illustrate a point, use meditation to become calmer. But spiritual figures, says Midal, are not simply calm. We don’t want our lives to be sailing ships on a calm sea, unable to go anywhere. We need the energy to fight injustice…

I am forever trying to help people distinguish between means and the end (the Goal). The question I encourage people to keep using is, “why?”

I want to make time to go to the gym.
Why?
So that I can get fit.
Why?
So that I will be healthy.
Why?
So that I will be happy…

I want to study hard.
Why?
So that I get good results.
Why?
So that I can get a good job.
Why?
So that I earn good money
Why?

Ignatius of Loyola is one of the best teachers of means and end in his Principle and Foundation from the Spiritual Exercises. For Christians (and theists) the end is God. God is self-authenticating. Union with God is the end of all our whys. And everything can be used by God as a means to the end.

Atheists will have to work out their own end…

Happiness, then, for the Christian is not the end. So being depressed does not mean your life is meaningless – quite the opposite. Following Ignatius, both depression and happiness are means to union with God. In fact depression, and suffering, may be the more royal road…

Prayer is a means. Mindfulness is a means. Meditation is a means. Feelings are a means…

“The groundwork for my practice is that meditation is unproductive, that it doesn’t make you more efficient, it doesn’t make you wiser, and that, deep down, it has no ‘purpose’ in the common sense of the term,” Midal says in his internationally best-selling book. He urges us to the very basic but profound experience of just being alive. For the Christian, for the theist, I translate that to the acknowledgement to yourself that God loves you, as an individual, you particularly, into being. Each moment. And God does this, God the Mystery at the Heart of the Universe, of Reality, because God yearns to be in union with you. And God makes everything, everything, as the means for that union.

The French Art of Not Giving a Sh*t is the version I found for sale online. Someone can tell me if this is simply a politer title than the one I’ve bought and that I read the review of. Those who struggle with the language might like to remember that Saint Paul says shit.

I have already read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck and I have bought Get Your Sh*t Together. There are any number of books (etc) riding the wave of what Midal acknowledges is a “not giving a f..k” trend.

To conclude: I would emphasise that this is not an encouragement to do things sloppily – it is not an excuse, in my own context, for dishonest earthquake “repairs”, or poor planning that means the road is dug up yet again! It is simply another way of making and keeping the main thing the main thing. Repairing the roads and fixing the houses is the goal (OK not the ultimate goal I was speaking of above). The 65% of energy put into the paperwork is the means! The money “earned” from the “repair” is not the goal…

Jesus Fish

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image source: Awesome Wonder by Greg Olsen
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4 Responses to Christian Art of Not Giving a #~*&

  1. Sometimes the best thing to do is just give: a meal, a blanket, a bottle of cold water, an encouragement. Then go for a walk ( or a drive now I can’t walk! )

    Meditation is me me me, it has a place sometimes, self-awareness, but it quickly becomes self-absorbed.

    I think ‘God’ is both within me and without,
    ‘May it please the supreme and divine Goodness
    to give us all abundant grace
    ever to know his most holy will
    and perfectly to fulfill it.’ ( St Ignatius )

    ‘it is not an excuse, in my own context, for dishonest earthquake “repairs” ‘
    recently the disaster here opened up some interesting insights into what people mean by ‘christian’. Lot of price-gougers, zero response from any christian church near me when I needed help, our next door HOA was one of the worst petty things I ever saw- trying to tow cars parked in the wrong place during the floods. But a handyman came and helped me. An electrician too. And some people from the Unitarian Universalist Church.

    I have been praying specifically for the people who died during the floods. They died various ways- drowning of course, electric shock, necrotising fasciitis even, but the deaths were so much reduced because the police felt able to ask the public to undertake rescues, and they did. Thousands of people were saved just by ordinary giving people willing to risk their lives to help them.

    • Yes, Tracy, I like you, again this week, have been astonished at some Christian situations and responses… Blessings.

  2. I’ve been studying Paul’s epistle to the Romans this year, and I think that in this, his magnum opus on the Christian faith, he teaches something akin to what you express in your post. Please bear with me while I give a longish explanation before getting to the main point – I want to avoid any charge of (the wrong kind of) antinomianism.

    In the first four chapters, Paul of course lays out that the ground of our relationship with God is the salvation wrought on our behalf by the Lord Jesus Christ, whose benefits are given to us as an unmerited gift, to be received by faith. That leads him to Romans 5:1-2, the two verses that form the pivot of chapters 1 to 8. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”

    Paul presents as a settled fact our standing with God. We are at peace with him, and we stand in a place of grace. We are not on a journey to get there; we are there already, and so chapters 5-8 are his exposition of how sanctification will be worked out in one who is standing in that place.

    Chapter 6 contains some sentences that can be misapplied as though Paul was yet interposing some tests between what he said in 5:1-2 was our blessed state, and our ultimate entry into glory. Careful, contextual exegesis shows that, far from being conditions that must be met, these verses are reiterations of the promise. Romans 6:14 and 6:23 are verses of promise that sum up the entire thrust of Paul’s argument in each preceding part of the chapter: “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace”; “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”.

    Chapter 7 describes the pitiable state of anyone who is trying to achieve sanctification by focusing on obedience to the law. Despite the many worthy divines who have thought that the latter part of the chapter describes a struggle that is part of the normal Christian life, it does not. It depicts the struggle of someone who is convinced of the goodness and rightness of God’s standards for us, but who has not yet discovered the enabling provision God has made through the Holy Spirit. It can describe the experience of a Christian, but only if the Christian has missed the point Paul has been labouring since 5:1, and is trying to achieve sanctification on a pre-Christian basis. Paul’s doctrine here is the right kind of antinomianism.

    Which all leads to Paul’s exuberant proclamation at the start of chapter 8: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (NASB)

    if someone thinks that the phrase “…do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” implies a quantitative test that must be applied daily or hourly (or whatever) to discern whether or not they are one of those for whom there is no condemnation, they haven’t been paying attention to Paul in the preceding three chapters. All who have placed their faith in Christ Jesus are “in Christ Jesus” (5:17, 6:3, 6:11, 6:23), and they have all received the gift of the Holy Spirit (5:5). “[Not] according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” describes a qualitative distinction that is not changed by the variations that may occur in daily behaviour.

    Misleadingly, many modern translations carry the word “walk” or “live” into verse 5 from verse 4 and so reinforce the chance that someone will understand the distinction as quantitative (a test that must be passed repeatedly), rather than qualitative. Paul’s Greek in verse 5, which is reflected by the KJV and NASB, among others, is purely qualitative: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (NASB).

    Paul’s doctrine of sanctification is that it is something that is going to happen for sure, driven forward by the Holy Spirit within us. Whenever in 8:9-17 a condition is stated that must be met for us to obtain blessing and glory, Paul has previously shown that every believer already meets the condition. He is not introducing new hurdles that must be leapt.

    God has our sanctification and glorification thoroughly in hand, and so Paul is able to finish the chapter exultantly: “…in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

    Certainly, in other places, such as in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, Paul shows us how serious his commitment is to not slipping in holiness or service. “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (NASB). He therefore sets us an example that we must also learn from, but what he teaches us in Romans is that, paradoxically, we can do that striving with an easy and joyful heart. We don’t coast, but we do relax.

    So then! Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, I want to serve and please God in my daily life, and I want to know him better and better. This I set out to do. Learning from what Paul adds later in chapter 14, I don’t lie awake at night fretting that I might have given God only 9% of my dill and cumin instead of a full tithe, or done something inappropriate on Sunday or Good Friday or during Lent. Instead, I pay attention to God’s Word and consciously seek to apply his instructions in order to give him my λογικός (logikos) service, and I pay attention to the means of grace, and I seek his presence in worship services in the fellowship of the Church, and I also seek to find him wherever he will meet me.

    But, inevitably I stumble, and when I do, I am able with God’s blessing (I am confident) to practice the Christian art of not giving a sh*t, so to speak. I confess, I learn, I resolve, but I don’t feel the need to skulk around in the outer courts of the temple until enough days have passed that I have forgotten about my transgression. I walk, with thanksgiving, straight back into the Holy of Holies. To use words from your post, “For the Christian, for the theist, I translate that to the acknowledgement to yourself that God loves you, as an individual, you particularly, into being. Each moment.”

    And that, I think, is Paul’s doctrine of the way of sanctification

    • Thanks, Trevor! I think a lot of people put their faith in faith – rather than putting their faith in God/Christ. Blessings.

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