You must have heard the one that goes something like this:- “According to the laws of aerodynamics, there’s no way that a bumblebee should be able to fly … but it flies”
It’s a nice pithy quote, in an odd sort of “isn’t nature weird and wonderful” or a “look, see, those smarty-pants scientists aren’t so clever after all” way.
Problem is … it’s nonsense! Bumblebees fly and science (aerodynamics, physics and even entomology) doesn’t say that bumblebees can’t fly – insect flight in general is fairly well understood by people interested in that sort of thing. Apparently, the origins of the aerodynamic unfeasibility of bumblebee flight involve the idea that some aerodynamicist in the 1930s didn’t take into account that the bumblebee’s wings operate more like helicopter blades than fixed wings, or even birds wings – but really, honestly, is it that important? Bumblebees fly, whether or not we agree about the nature of their “reverse-pitch semirotary helicopter blade” type wings or the mind bending mechanics of the vibration of their thorax muscles that allow those wings to beat frenetically fast.
But still, the “Impossible Flying Bumblebee” idea has a stubborn, urban myth type quality that sees it hanging in there.
Other things hang in there, too … despite being seemingly equally ridiculous, outmoded, or even supposedly surpassed by the latest insight and knowledge.
Things like faith, hope, love. Things like church. Things like believing that Jesus was, and is, far more than some wishy-washy, sandal wearing hippy who basically said, “Y’all be good now, y’hear?”
I know that there are those, of a particularly scientific behaviourist/deterministic mindset, who would like to categorise and characterise such feelings and ideas as faith, hope and love as nothing more than the consequences of combinations of neuro-chemical and neuro-physiological interactions within certain areas of the brain. (It makes me wonder if someone like this were to hold their newborn child for the first time, if they would think, “Ah, I’m experiencing nothing more than a chemically induced neurologically conditioned response” – or if prior to the birth when they met that someone special, they might have said, “It appears that I am experiencing a biological response influenced chiefly by subliminal pheromones, micro-facial gestures and the dominant physiological and sociological norms” – and they say romance is dead!). I think that such an essentially reductionist view of life, in all it’s Technicolor, turned up to eleven, scratch and sniff, swivel eyed madness, is rather bleak … it reduces us to biological robots, impressive in construction and capability, but ultimately just ‘push button A, pull lever B’ automatons.
I think we’re more than that … I think there’s something within us that is more than mere biological mechanism, more than programmed response, more than the sum of our parts …
I know there are people who see church as an outmoded social construct, relying on history and cultural inertia to attempt to shore up its waning influence. I know of those who believe church is a nest of vipers and hypocrites, and an organisation that is out to fleece the gullible and prey on the week and the marginalised. And, whilst I would never defend the excesses and abuses of various arms of the church – historical and contemporary – I think that church isn’t just that.
The church I know seems to be one that’s trying to get back towards the type of thing we read about in Acts 2-4, rather than the type of things you might read about the Borgia’s or the latest fallen televangelist! The church I know seems to be trying to get back to the idea that we’re here to try and bring the Kingdom of Heaven a little nearer to this earthly kingdom right now, rather than concentrate on sorting out who’ll be sitting on the front row when heaven opens its doors in some dim and distant future. I think the church is supposed to be more than edifices and edicts; it was born to show a different, inclusive, expansive view of life and to invite everyone into that experience.
I know people have lots of different pictures of, and ideas about, who Jesus was … ranging from a well-meaning do-gooder manipulated by radicals and religionists, to the idea He was some self aggrandising, Svengali –type who bit off more than He could chew. I know there are people who’d quite like to leave Jesus as a ‘good moral example and teacher’ but who just can’t get their heads round the idea that He might have been the actual, factual Son of God. I know so many people who have so many different views about Jesus – from orthodox Christian beliefs, through to Erich Von Daniken inspired weirdness – but, like faith, hope, love and the church, there’s more to Him than that …
Let me be straight here, I wholeheartedly, 100% believe that Jesus is who He said He is, that He is the only begotten Son of the Father, and all that other Nicene Creed type stuff too. I believe that Jesus is my personal Saviour, that my sin was dealt with by His death and Resurrection, and all those good Christian explanations of things to do with that … but still I think the language we use reflects our actual level of understanding … i.e. really limited! Unfortunately, language is all we’ve got to communicate with … or is it?
Like the notion that the “Bumblebees shouldn’t be able to fly” argument can be shown to be blatantly wrong by going out and actually watching Bumblebees flying, I think that maybe we should challenge some assumptions about faith, hope, love, church and above all Jesus by inviting people to take a look and actually see it all fly.
Maybe we might invite people into our churches, into our friendships, into our lives and let them see that it’s more than mechanisms and religious constructs. Maybe we should take it seriously when Jesus says that people will really know that we follow Him when they see the way that we live and love each other, and that – because of that love – we start to see everyone as one of the “each others” and slowly – ever so slowly – we “let Your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven …”