83: Owning Everything

In this episode Gregg and John continue examining John’s mission statement. Johns clarifies his notion of owner as being someone who takes ownership for their life and situation and who is committed to “making things happen.” John explains that working with those who don’t want to / don’t seem ready to be helped is very frustrating, because this type of work is costly in terms of both time and emotional energy, and so he finds it much more satisfying to work with owners.

Gregg raises his own experience of being helped by John and highlights that, even if John may admit to being frustrated by some of these experiences, through John’s ongoing work with him over the past 3 or 4 years Gregg experiences John as being very patient.

In this regard John distinguishes between being kind to everyone and putting out the energy to help everyone / contribute to everyone’s life. As John summed it up, owners “keep on trying” whereas non-owners make excuses for why things won’t work.

Gregg asks about John’s focus on authenticity paired with the part of his mission statement about helping owners to express “their truth.” What does this notion of truth mean? John responds that this is “small t” truth, or the idea that each person has a valid and valuable perspective on the world that they could potentially benefit many people. In other words, John is focusing on helping others get their message out clearly and effectively.

Here Gregg notes that John has a strong sense of empathy when working with their podcast listeners and that even if Gregg suspects that John may disagree with the listener’s view, John always seems to focus on understanding what is important to the listener. John reflects that this parallels the notion fostered at Swiss L’Abri, where someone’s ideas are inherently important.

John also notes that in terms of his own need to be heard and to have greater understanding on the topic of Christianity. So he expresses, for example, that he particularly values Gregg’ ability to bring clarity to their discussion of not a fan . John notes that it was through the back-and-forth of this interaction that he was able to put words and bring explanation to what had been a strong but inarticulate sense of uneasiness with the book.

The final word of John’s mission statement is “thrive.” John explains that in his view the word “thrive” means being fully alive—being vibrant and successful as those who live fulfilling lives. So Gregg wonders about the necessity of overcoming confusion and chaos in order to thrive: why these two obstacles? John explains that in his experience it is these two things that are so often the sticking points that undermine those who want to be successful but can’t seem to be (owners).

John goes on to tie this orientation into his approach to the Untangling Christianity podcast. In that context, John and Gregg are trying to order the chaos concerning what Christianity is and clarify the confusion about the message of Christianity (and how to embody it) and about the Bible (what it is and how it is taught). Further, people are “owners” of their Christian faith a) when they are honest about what they believe / understand (and do not) and b) when they take action to deal with these issues of misunderstanding / doubt that arise, in order that c) they determine what is real and true for themselves / in their own view.

In this way,Christianity is no longer a collection of what others have told you it is supposed to be but really becomes one’s own: you own it in the best sense.

Gregg wonders how one’s personal truth interfaces with the Bible or with God’s truth? Here John would see that the two are necessarily related. In other words, one’s own “truth” must square with something larger and more objective, so that there can be some way of arbitrating various, individual truth claims.

John notes that this notion of truth must also reconcile with one’s own experience (as this is an important source of information), but that while the Bible is also an important informer its misuse has made him wary of placing too much stock in it / being very cautious about how it is employed.  Instead, John contrasts a narrow understanding of the Bible (that may well contribute to its misuse) with the broad, rich understanding that someone like N. T. Wright offers.

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