>Maintaining constant vigilance, which is the same thing as mindfulness, is a practice which is not common these days in Christianity, though it was a practice long established by the time of the Church Fathers. These men and women in the deserts of Syria and Egypt have much to say about the practice of vigilance. Yes, granted, much of what they say is difficult, and their extreme (to us) penitential practices are borderline psychotic. But…
I was reading some of the writings by Greg Boyd in his website and found some stuff about an interesting theological position which he supports called Warfare Worldview. Roughly it contrasts with what he labels Blueprint Worldview. On the Blueprint position, God pre-established the world, and all events, good or evil, were either ‘permitted’ or perhaps directly initiated by God. Think of some of the caricatures of Calvinism and you will get the point here – double predestination and all that. In the Warfare view there is room for freedom – both angelic and human. Ad this creates multiple actors who effect changes. This leads to a position which holds that there are malevolent agents in the cosmos, both human and inhuman. I do a disservice to a more nuanced position and it is worth reading his stuff directly.
The way my prayer life has evolved I have come to a point where the obviousness of Boyd’s position requires no complicated theological positioning (though it is much welcome). Of course there are malevolent entities in the cosmos, and some of them are people and some of them are angels. And of course these entities are acting contrary to God’s benevolence. Does this mean we are caught in the middle of some Manichean good-versus-evil dualistic universe? I am sure that is one of the theological arguments against Boyd’s view, but I take a completely different approach.
Creation is a multi-dimensional ecosystem where there exist multiple species not all of which are to be considered as benevolent to humanity’s aims and goals – just as humanity cannot be considered benevolent to other species’ goals. It is no different than a lush rainforest – gorgeous, complicated, multi-layered, and not all the ‘critters’ in there are going to be Bambi…i.e. enter at your own risk.
So I do not think it is much of an organized forces of the Dark Side against organized forces of the Light. Principally because all I experience tells me that such central planning is not available.
Now, and this is where it can get interesting. I am also aware that the cosmos as a whole is cooperative. That is the various agents within it, at some level, cooperate with each other, and most fundamentally cooperate with God. I cannot emphasize this enough: the cosmos cooperates with God. Think about it, and better, pray it into your life.
What these two insights lead me to is part of my practice: to cooperate with God and facilitate other being’s cooperation. I call this the practice of almsgiving. The word ‘alms’ comes from the Greek eleos which means ‘pity’. I think ‘having pity’ tends to be seen as a condescending attitude, but my goal is to look at it from God’s perspective, and pity is how someone in the Kingdom sees someone outside the gates. To deepen this a little, the Kingdom IS pure cooperation, and any place where cooperation does not reign need my pity, needs my heart to break and my eyes to fill with tears, and my hands to get impatient to touch and help and heal and bring them to the Kingdom.
Peter reminds me that almsgiving has a component of martyrdom in it – I resist the attacks by malevolent agents, human and inhuman, not because I am strong, or because I am Conan or some Greek hero. No I resist because people are suffering, I resist out of pity, I resist because in the end I want to bring my attackers into the Kingdom too. And this makes the ‘war’ a very different sort of war. It is not one of punishment and violence, it is one of pity and generosity.
I resist you who are evil because I want to cooperate with you who are good, because I want to eradicate evil – I want to hate with a perfect hatred the enemies of God (Ps. 139), a hatred devoid of prejudice and selfish ambition and greed, hatred without sin.
Hard stuff, but this is the practice. Scares me too.