Thursday, January 7, 2010

Organic - it's not just for farming

Many parts of our method of obtaining truth are handed to us, and we accept them without giving them a second thought. At one time everybody believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. At another, that the world was flat. These beliefs were the result of centuries of human history that were not static. Peoples and cultures lived, moved, thought, fought, lived and died. The product of these events was the belief system of the following generations.

We in the 21st century are no different. Unknown to most of us is the radical shift in culture that came with the industrial revolution. Late 1800's and early 1900's saw a completely agricultural world morf into a world of machines, assembly lines, technology and life altering inventions (like the lightbulb). Most of us cannot conceive of a world that stops when it is dark and continues again when the sun comes up. Artificial light has changed our lifestyles in ways that we don't even remember anymore.

This industrial revolution has also, over time, shifted our method of obtaining truth. What once was a world where things were cultivated, fed, watered, and left to grow for a season has become a world of time saving devices that need to be fixed and upgraded. We think in terms of fixing parts and upgrading performance. This is radically different than the world Jesus lived in.

Do you realize that every metaphor Jesus used to describe his kingdom was organic. Not once did he refer to a mechanism like a sun-dial or an aqueduct or any type of man made machine. He continually used organic metaphors like planting, reaping, seeds, yeast, trees, etc.

So what is my problem with the industrial revolution? Just this. I think we often think in terms of fixing our lives or our bodies or our marriages or our relationships. We are looking for a spiritual part to plug in and make things work better. Something like a Christianity 7.o or 8.o. I think God grows things. I don't think he fixes things.

Take for instance a husband who doesn't like what is going on in his marriage. He wants to fix it. Some principle or new relational strategy that will make things work like they should. What he fails to realize and probably wouldn't understand if someone told him is that the season of his marriage has changed. The flower has closed up and if he doesn't recognize the changing season and adapt his behavior accordingly there will be no harvest. The heat of summer is upon him; water, weed, tend your flower with love and attention. There is no guarantee because this is not a machine. But, if you will answer the call of the deep place in your wife's heart and tend to her without trying to fix her you will be a good husband. But what will happen? What will the result be? Who knows; this is an organism, not a mechanism.

How would we perceive our relationships differently if we thought organically and not mechanistically? What would we do differently with things like struggle, pain, and loneliness? Yes, I believe that God breaks in on our world and changes things in an instant. But even this is a harvest from someone else's season of planting and watering.

Just some stuff we should talk about.


  1. I love this post Dan. I'm going to have to ponder this for a while.

  2. How do you say something about what makes total sence... I have to agree that I often think "ok this isn't working i need to change something".... yep totaly mechanical.

  3. So I really enjoy this post. but are self help books that have formula mechanistic? (Because some of them really do help)

  4. I look at it this way. Cultivating, planting, irrigating and harvesting is organic and seasonal. But there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. If you have the same climate, the same soil, the same growing season, the same elevation, etc. you could share your secrets to growing good fruit. The problem is some people think you can grow the same fruit in different climates.

  5. So thank you for answering that question but I have another. In the industrial revolution the cotton gin was invented which pretty much helped start the civil war and pretty much abolishes slavery. My question is, does that mean that mean the cotton gin was a bad idea as well?

  6. I never said that the industrial revolution was a bad thing. Many wonderful and creative devices have been invented in the last 150 years. However, the accumulation of so many mechanisms has not just made farming easier (a good thing), it has also changed how we think about work, providing for our families, and recreational time (very possibly a bad thing).
    We have so fallen in love with the desire for quicker and easier that mechanistic thinking has crept into how we think about other things as well (like relationships, spirituality, education, etc.).
    So to answer your question, "No", the cotton gin was a good idea. It's just that you cannot treat something like a marriage or a relationship with God in the same way as you treat fixing a cotton gin.