Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Problem With "Holiness"

"Holiness" has been useful for the religious, because of their need for identification "apart from the rest of the world". Therefore, the sects continue to separate from what is "unholy" to define and refine "who they are".

The problem with "holiness" is that it distinguishes one thing from another based on some "standardization". These standards are what religion is about. Standards of behavior in how to approach God, do one's duty, dress, perform, experience, and even think, etc. Religion is a false or pretentious "form" of judgement. These judgments are "justified" by texts, traditions, and "community norms".

What is really at stake is the individual's freedom to become apart from such religious "forms". Religion imposes itself on the natural world without allowing the individual freedom to question, and come to terms with their own "way of being in the world". Democracies allow such freedom. Apart from a free society there is no individuality.

Today's world is wrought with religious zeal that finds its identity in such "faith" apart from reason. And many find themselves under domination because of false convictions that are not really theirs. This imposition is really about co-dependence and "belonging", not healthy human flourishing and development. And co-dependence is about an under-developed ego.

At least that is my "unprofessional" assessment.


Anonymous said...


I realize this has been your experience with "holiness" theology and people. But this has not been my experience or understanding of holiness at all.

I have seen the holiness message as a beutiful possibilty and promise in this life - that the holiest longing of my heart, the desire to love God and serve others in love, to fully belong to God, can be realized in life. The end of holiness is not a set of rules or standards, but to be liberated to realize the ultimate purposes of our humanity as created by God.

Through holiness, I can serve in love those who are difficult to love; I can be empowered in love to speak justice to people who abuse power and inflict injustice on others; in love, I can face the "things" in life I would rather not confront and would rather run away from. In love, I can be empowered to do the difficult things in life that are the right things in life to do.

In the end, holiness is not about being free from sin, but being set free to love God and others. In the end holiness as properly understood in our Wesleyan/holiness tradition is about the liberation of the human self, not the restriction of the self.

As one who respect you, your perspective and follows your blog faithfully, thank you for the opportunity to share my perspective.

Give Wim my regards and know that we miss both of you.

Chris Bounds

Angie Van De Merwe said...


I thought about you and your perspective after writing this. And I know you are committed to a particular way of viewing life and it's "challenges". But, the differences of viewpoint and the acceptance of them, irregardless of whether we, ourselves, believe them or not, is also what love is about. And it is also what our country stands for. This is why public engagement should be undertaken by all differences of opinion. And I know you also adhere to this belief.

Love, is an "ideal", that incorporates all of our Founder's ideals. But, unlike semtimental love, love is NOT blind and disregarding of experience. Some people will never respect another unless they agree with their opinion. And it is wise to not 'beat one's head against the wall" in trying to change an opinionated/dogmatic mind. Nor is it wise to submit to those who think they are God's appointed authority.

If God has appointed authority, it must not be authoritarian demands upon another's life. That is unloving, demeaning and leaves little room for dignity or respect.

One of the best things I learned when in counselling is knowing when to walk away, in boundary maintenance. If another is dis-respectful of you, then you are only asking for further disrespect if you continue to "take it under the chin". There comes a time that one can walk away with dignity and leave the other holding what demands they have, hopefully, to find that demands are one's own convictions about love, but may not be the other's. One must learn when to let the other be "different".

And when one has attempted to bridge the gap, by sharing their personal experiences and how they have interpreted them, and there is no response, then there is little one can do. And especially, if there is a defensive response of 'counter-attack".

I think this is what our nation experiences on several levels in "fighting terrorism" and in "fighting partisanship".