The Merry Mystic: Introduction, Part Four

This is the fourth and final part of my introduction to The Merry Mystic, my weekly letter.  This one ties it all together by answering the big question: why?  Why am I doing The Merry Mystic, and why should you care?

Are you a fellow Merry Mystic?  Do you have a church that gives you what you need for your spiritual journey, or not?  Scroll down and share a message about it.

Please think about serving others with your comments. Anything offensive or too off-topic, I'll delete.

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17 thoughts on “The Merry Mystic: Introduction, Part Four

  1. Adam, I so agree with everything you said.

    It so irks me when people take the bible literally. I’ve found that most of them only believe in certain parts and reject other parts. And of course the parts they believe in are “the true word of God.” All the rest? Not so much. And they totally forget/ignore the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus tells us “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” (King James version)

    • Hi, Linda. I’m glad you’re here! Yes, some people will judge that you’re not really a Christian unless you submit in a certain way to biblical authority. At the same time, other people will judge that you’re not really a rational human being if you believe in God at all. It certainly can be maddening to be judged like that, and I’m always sort of conflicted about how to respond. Part of me wants to say, OK, let’s talk about that. Part of me wants say, We’re not going to agree about this, but bless you for being so concerned about me. And part of me just wants to say, Oh, bite me!

  2. Interesting observations by you. Not sure if I am a merry mystic.
    Aren’t mystics strange people?
    Church helps my spirituality in a faltering way, but what else is there except a personal, individual spirituality?
    Keep sharing.

    Thanks,

    BJM

    • Hi, Barry! Are mystics strange people? I don’t know — strangeness is so subjective. I think that experiences of God are often quite strange, in the sense of being highly surprising, and perhaps even disquieting and alarming. As C.S. Lewis said through one of his characters, “He’s not a tame lion.” But when I use the word “mystic,” I only mean a person who has experiences of God, and who reflects on them and tries to share them with other people. I think that includes a lot of regular folks, people who are not particularly strange in themselves.

      But yes, I know: very few people comfortably apply the word “mystic” to themselves. It has all those connotations that I mentioned in the second introductory video: a abstruse person, a person who sees himself or herself as occupying a higher plane. (Like my favorite comic book hero, Dr. Strange: “Master of the Mystic Arts!”) By pairing “mystic” with “merry,” I’m trying to spin that stuff in a different direction.

      I think your question about church is right on the money: “what else is there?” That’s something I’d very much like to hear everyone’s thoughts on.

  3. I thought about your question, are church serviceservice meeting the needs of the Merry-mistic? I would say for the most part no. However my church, Salem UCC in Farmington , MI, questioning is encouraged. We call our adult Bible study Adult Forum , the name invites people to share their ideas. Being fun in service , 2 weeks ago Pastor Deb had everyone taking selfies and posting them and inviting people to worship. I was sorry I had to miss it. As I stated in my first post , when I preach there is humor . The last time I preached it was on dancing in the Lord and as I recessed after the blessing I danced to the music. But most churches look down on us Merry-mistics. I plan on opening more minds to accept us.

  4. Hi Adam,
    Loved watching the ripples of the Tobacco River behind you in this video. What a peaceful scene. Thank you! I would have been hiking now beside a river in my area but the rain arrived and I decided to stay indoors for the afternoon.

    To answer your question, I’d say no church is currently “helping” me as I walk my own path of the “Merry Mystic.” What helps me more than anything, currently, is being in the presence of trees and rivers and mountains and birds and squirrels and deer and, oh yes, butterflies. When I’m out in the Natural World, I feel infused with life-giving energy.

    I confess, however, that there is one thing that I don’t receive from the Natural World and that is the gift of laughter. How I LOVE to laugh!!! If I knew there was a church out there that could truly tickle my funny bone (and by that I mean make me laugh so hard I either cry or almost pee in my pants), I’d probably have my butt in the pew of that church every Sunday. I don’t need sermons; I don’t need music; I don’t need communal spaghetti dinners; I also don’t need folks to hug me or to listen to my problems (I feel so completely embraced and loved by the Divine Energy of this world). What I personally would really love to have more of–being the non-Christian unchurched lass that I am–are more opportunities to laugh. Maybe ministers need to become more like stand-up comics? Or, better yet, maybe churches could sponsor Open Mic nights and folks could take a turn at being a comic or, at the very least, being an entertaining story-teller … refraining from R-rated language, of course, … as I have been dutifully doing at your web site–or at least I have tried. Okay, I used the word “butt” a few minutes ago, but I don’t think that counts as R-rated, right?

    Best of luck to you, Adam, as you look for ways of stretching your ministry into unchartered creative Christian territory! … Shelley B.

  5. Adam, your concerns about churches caused me to recall two past episodes in my church life. Several churches ago, the minister’s sermon concerned the Bible as literature. He said the Bible has history, biography, crime, sex, fiction, poetry, music, etc. As he rattled off the list, I found myself thinking: check, check, check. But then he said that the Bible does not include humor. l was utterly stunned – since there are several Biblical stories that I find humorous, maybe not quite hilarious. I later even compiled a little list of those passages that I find particularly humorous.

    The second episode occurred in a Bible study session. The passage involved a somewhat innocuous historical detail in the New Testament. Sort of matter-of-factly, I said that I didn’t believe it, which was a mistake, because it unnecessarily provoked another person in the group. She wanted to know why I didn’t believe it and asked why I didn’t have faith. I know how Paul defined “faith,” but is seems to me to be a very personal concept, a bit like love (which Paul defined also) – not really good topics for debate. I’m uncomfortable being presented with articles of faith in church that are meant to be accepted and prescribed.

    • I’m with you on both counts, Doug. The book of Jonah, for instance, is a comic masterpiece. A bit dated, perhaps; a bit outside our modern experience; but still plenty funny. I’m sure it used to really kill in Nineveh. Yet no one ever laughs today when it is read in church. (I had the whole Book of Jonah read at my ordination. No one laughed then, either.) Maybe that’s because we usually intone it so reverentially. It should always be read — or, better yet, acted out — by someone with good comic timing. But even then, I don’t think it would get a laugh in most churches.

      I think we should treat the Bible with more respect for its amazing flashes of wisdom and humor, and with less deference to its supposed authority. Imagine yourself as an elder of your tribe, having a store of wisdom and deserving of respect. How would you feel if people were so awed in your presence that they wouldn’t ever laugh when you told a joke — and wouldn’t ever argue with you, even when you made the inevitable mistake? I don’t think you’d feel respected; you’d feel marginalized. That’s how the Bible is treated is most churches I know.

      • How about the early part of Job – where the devil barges in on God’s staff meeting up in Heaven. God says, “Devil, I haven’t seen you around lately. Where have you been keeping yourself?”

        The devil responds that he has been busy, taking care of business down on earth (unlike God, who is ensconced in heaven, holding staff meetings). God either misses the devil’s obvious putdown or simply chooses to ignore it.

        And then in Acts, when Pentecost is going on – amid serious pandemonium and the huge crowd seemingly speaking in tongues. One observer says that all those people in the audience must be drunk. His companion replies, “No, it’s only 9 a.m. It’s too early for them to be drunk.” (From off stage, a rim-shot might have been heard.)

  6. Hi Adam,

    I’ve happily found the Merry Mystic site, I think. I like the three elements that make a Merry Mystic — humor, mysticism and skepticism. Like you, I am a pastor. I can be quite irreverent. But I won’t lie. I fight cynicism all the time. Why fight it? Well, because if I follow my natural bent, my irreverence can quickly drown out and push aside both mysticism that has led to some wonderful experiences & insights over the years & my skepticism (a pretty-good-natured curiosity when I am willing to treat others the way I want to be treated), making me mean and ugly. I’ve discovered that not too many people like that guy. Imagine that? But I’m on board with your weekly letters. You are creative, clear and thoughtful. This looks like fun.

    • Thanks, Don. I look forward to hearing more of your voice here.

      I think many of our fellow pastors wrestle with cynicism. I am a pastor in a small town where our worst problem is poverty. People come to my church for help — and when they come, about half of them are lying to me about what they need and why they need it. I try to help them anyway, as best I can. But over time, that sort of thing drags me toward cynicism.

      Sometimes I miss my former career as a professor of computer science. Computers, I can usually fix — people, not so much!

  7. Greetings Adam, As a new Merry Mystic subscriber, I really appreciate this video summarizing the three common characteristics of Merry Mystics. I would add one more. Those persons I know who lean toward a mystical spirituality appear to have some level of intuitive empathic ability that allows them respond to the Spirit’s movement in everyday life. They also seem to be aware of the many levels of connection we all share with each other, animals and the earth.

    In response to your question about whether or not organized churches generally meet the needs of Merry Mystics, I think it depends on the individual community of faith. Some are better at celebrating the transcendent quality of the Divine than others. If a person leans toward a mystical spirituality, they can often find kindred souls in small group settings within a church. Weekly book discussion groups and breakfast study groups seem to attract a fair proportion of Merry Mystic type seekers – though they might not consciously self-identify as such.

    Thanks for creating and sharing these videos. They are a wonderful ministry. It may just be my irreverent sense of humor, but I find I can’t help smiling when I watch them.

  8. One of my reoccurring problems with organized Christianity is that much of the dogma and theology is really based on Paul’s letters and interpretations of what Jesus was about. And the teachings I question – are they really reflective of Jesus’ teachings and beliefs? I question if I really know God or what Jesus was trying to teach. It doesn’t make me feel very comfortable or secure, unlike some Christians who seem to be very secure in their knowledge and beliefs.

    • You’re not alone, Susan! Sometimes Paul’s writing can be very beautiful and moving — like 1 Corinthians 13, or Romans 8:38-39 — but I don’t always agree with his theological speculations. And, on a deeper level, I think the future belongs to those who, as you put it, “are not very secure in their knowledge and beliefs.” If you were confident that you really knew God, and if you were confident that you perfectly understood what Jesus was trying to teach, I’d be worried about you! God doesn’t need us to understand everything — God just needs us to keep trying.

      Not that there’s anything wrong with indulging in theological conjectures. It’s fun to speculate about mysteries. But when people promote their conjectures to the status of dogma, I think they’ve left the path of wisdom. Moreover, they’ve lost most of their modern audience. Skeptics, as I’ve said before, are the growth demographic.

  9. Your personal sweetness comes through and I get to experience your presence while we are in Florida and excited to share the videos with other close friends and preacher as to your unique personality.