On his blog Stoning the Devil, Adam Fieled posted a thought provoking article regarding language and consciousness. To summarize, he synthesizes Buddhist meditation with Deconstructionism. It appears his purpose is to suggest that when reading and analyzing poetry, we need to look at our language tools as imperfect and faulty, but worth using anyways. I agree with this overall conclusion, but Fieled (unintentionally?) doesn’t give the Christian Consciousness a fair shake. In his introduction, he states,
The Buddhist’s focus, indeed, is just as much on consciousness as on morality, and “right” consciousness creates right morality. Judeo/Christian cognitive systems often (but not always) privilege morality and its expression in strictly defined (ethical) behavioral patterns over consciousness; i.e., your consciousness can be shaped, refined or even reified in any way, as long as you tow the party line. In the context of most Judeo/Christian systems, a given subject is by no means compelled to investigate his or her own subjectivity; questions of language and consciousness can be discarded if deemed uncomfortable or irrelevant. For a Buddhist, the linguistic investigations of Deconstructionism have (I would think) a more urgent pull.
Fieled doesn’t set out to establish Christian versus Buddhist consciousness, but I think somebody aught to discuss how the Christian consciousness plays into the discussion. Fieled is obviously familiar with Buddhist teaching, as he refers to the Four Noble Truths and various teachers and thoughts regarding Buddhism. Sadly, he seems to have based his opinion of the Judeo/Christian on his perception rather than actual Biblical concepts/teachings. I think Fieled has pegged the “religious” person (someone who thinks they have to follow all sorts of rules), rather than the individual who seeks to understand and emulate both the true character of Jesus (as man and messiah) and what the Bible says.
The first inaccuracy in Fieled’s claims about Judeo/Christian “cognitive systems” is that you destine your own consciousness by “tow[ing] the party line.” If you do what you are supposed to do, you can manipulate your own consciousness into whatever you want it to be. However, the Christian “system” of growing in consciousness is called sanctification, where God changes the heart and mind of the believer through the Holy Sprit, and it takes the entirety of one’s life to complete (from salvation to death). The Christian is to pay attention to this process, and work at getting better, but it should be more meditative and genuine than simply dancing around a line of rules and regulations. This is somewhat similar to Fieled’s idea that our tools are imperfect–the growing Christian sees himself as imperfect and desires to be involved.
Secondly, the idea that Christian “systems” aren’t “compelled to investigate his or her own subjectivity” is ludicrous. Whether one investigates the ideas of spiritual gifts, the sentiment in the Psalms and Proverbs, or even the creation story, it becomes obvious that uniqueness is important in the Christian journey. I think if someone believes in Jesus as savior, he or she needs to figure out how he/she is unique, figure out what God has wired him or her to do. The difference here with the idea of consciousness is one of God consciousness rather than self consciousness. While Buddhists seem to try and rid one’s self of that self in search for emptiness, the Christian sets out to align his or her heart/mind/spirit/soul/will with God’s. This is part of the sanctification process mentioned earlier. In this search for subjectivity, man finds unity in the spirit of God, thus opposing the idea of deconstruction (and making this entire thought process relevant), which I will return to in a bit. This God consciousness is most clear when Jesus is in a garden the night he was arrested. He walks a short distance from his friends and confesses to God that he doesn’t want to go through with this whole crucifixion thing, but then he says that God’s will is more important than his own. Even Jesus showed an example of aligning the human mind with God’s.
Thirdly, I am saddened by the fact that Christians are perceived as discarding questions of language and consciousness if they are uncomfortable or (self-proclaimed to be) irrelevant. If this is a perception, then people must be thinking that way, but I don’t think it is in line with Biblical concepts. Jesus says to take the tree out of your own eye before judging the piece of sawdust in someone else’s eye. This relates to the previous point of self-reflection, but it also relates to the idea that if something is uncomfortable or challenging, it needs to be a higher priority than anything else.
Hopefully, this provides a few points that paint a different picture of the Christian journey, one of of self-reflection, meditation, and growth, rather than one of snippy religious rule-following. With this in mind, I’d like to add my own thoughts on language, Deconstructionism, and Christian consciousness. Fieled gives importance to language through meditation. Language must be equally important (if not more so) to the Christian, as language itself transcends mankind. The book John says that “in the beginning [of time] was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Many pastors may stop me right here and say that this passage is about Jesus being the physical representation of scripture, the actual word of God. I’m not arguing with that, but I’m struck that the word, or words, or language are synonymous with God. (I’m not saying only Christians have access to language, that’s silly. I am saying, from the Christian point of view, that words are a pretty big deal!!). Add to this thought the creation story in Gensis. (I’m not getting into evolution versus creation here either–I’ve already written extensively about that.) Genesis says that when spoke, major things happened. God said let there be light, and the light seperated from the darkness. God said let there be a seperation between land, water, and air and the skies and oceans came into being (again, I’m not commenting on how long this took, or making statements on old Earth young Earth big bang. RIght now, it’s about the language!!). Not only does God equate himself with language, but he uses His spoken word create. And all of this before the existence of humans. I would say that language should be a big deal within the Christian system.
Which leads me to Deconstruction. The idea behind Deconstructionism is that when evaluating a piece of literature, the reader assumes that that piece exists solely on its own, completely independent of anything else. The Deconstructionist cannot see the writing as a cohesive whole, but rather as a work that is contradictory, that doesn’t mean what the author intends it to mean, and therefore resulting in creative failure.
Deconstruction then is in direct opposition to the Christian system. The practice of automatically looking for contradictions has led many people to atheistic and agnostic beliefs (I’m not saying this is the only reason people abandon and/or reject the Christian faith, but one possibility.). Looking for contradictions have also led people into a deeper, more honest relationship with Christ. Jesus sought unity between mankind and God in every facet of life. In this sense, Deconstruction is in itself, contradictory. I don’t think this means being a religious robot because who loves something/someone who is holding their feet (or soul?) over the fire screaming, “Love me, or die! Love me!!” Deconstruction seeks disunity, and the Christian system seeks unity. And they are synthesized through Christ. [Edit: By synthesized, I mean brought together and changed–maybe synthesis isn’t the right word here, but I’m trying to get at the idea the Christ brings forth change towards unity.]
Like I said earlier, Fieled and I agree that our tools of language are imperfect and flawed. I add to that thought that we ourselves are imperfect and flawed, contradictory in nature. In our humility and realization of our fallen nature, we can openly turn to Christ for saving unity. This doesn’t mean that everything is peachy-keen as Christian radio, art, and music might suggest, as it is only the beginning of the sanctification process.
So I do think that the Christian system holds the responsibility to seek an understanding of language, contradictions, and unity through a desire to be aligned with God’s consciousness. This impacts not only one’s perception of literature, but perception of life as well.