Friday, May 7, 2010

Deconstructing an Everest of Faith

On the BBC news website, I recently read an article about Mt. Everest. Apparently China and Nepal had been disputing the height of the mountain for a sometime now. China argued the height should be recorded by its “rock height,” while Nepal wanted to measure it by its “snow height,” which was 4 meters higher than the rock height. In early April of this year, China conceded to Nepal and Nepal officially recognized the rock height in addition to the snow height.

For the BBC News, the issue is not exactly resolved, even if China and Nepal agree. Eleven years ago, the US National Geographic Society records yet another height (8,850m), even though it does not have the claim to Mt. Everest that China and Nepal have. Apparently shifting continental plates is pushing India under Nepal and China, pushing Everest evermore towards the skies.

Paul describes Christ as a rock from which water flows. Wise people build their houses upon rocks. “The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ.” Upon a rock Jesus built his church. If you have faith, you can move mountains.

Rocks are not as sure as the writers of the Bible might have thought. Mountains are moved today and, arguably, faith has little to do with their movement. In West Virginia, the tops of mountains are removed for more cost efficient mining and energy. Continental plates move mountains, making them taller. Even when measuring rocks and mountains, do we measure them by the rock or the snow that somehow becomes part of the identity we give them?

Even if wise people build their houses on rocks, they better not build them like the houses built in Haiti. Rocks and mountains are simply not as sure as we once thought. When it comes to building, the rocky foundation is not the most important issue, for the building must be sturdy and well-built. What if, like the hymn, my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness? The structure of my hope matters, too. Is my hope supported by faith? By education? By tradition? By experience?

Enter deconstruction. Perhaps hope is not something that should be built. In my life, the “built” metaphor, the mythic metaphor of structure has worn out its welcome. I offer no metaphor to take its place, no new myth awaiting immanent destruction or deconstruction.

Instead, I just hope, sometimes standing or reclining on slowly or swiftly moving rocks, sometimes on the sand, and other times completely at sea, be they calm, turbulent, or between Scylla and Charybdis. A hope against hope, or against some hopes (Romans 4:18, NASB). An impossible hope. A hope for the impossible. A hope that I can reach the unreachable star, love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, and in turn be forgiven, loved, and reached by the wholly, holy other who is my beloved, my God.


Cf. Jacques Derrida, On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (Trans. Mark Dooley and Michael Hughes; Thinking in Action; New York: Routledge, 2001), 32-33; John D. Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church (The Church and Postmodernism;. Ed. James K. A. Smith; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 45-46; Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion, “The Impossible Dream (The Quest),” (Man of La Mancha; 1965 Original Broadway Cast Recording; Universal Classics Group, 2001).

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