Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, a professor of theology, once declared that Gospel-spirituals were ‘chants of collective exorcism’ (Modern Christianity, 2010 p.317).
Duggan was inadvertently pointing out that being passionate involves an audience/community – it invites participation.
I think that when we consider the difference between passion and being passionate we can identify more precisely what the word passion truly implies.
I consider having passion (noun – passive/static) and being passionate (adjective – active/dynamic) separate – the former is based on appearances the latter is based on tangible evidence/substance. To be sure this is a subtle distinction falling closely inside the realm of semantics. However it is fair to suggest that being passionate is different from simply just having passion.
For instance: a working thesis of mine is that a lot of people like the idea of something or someone’s existence, yet they do not like the reality that that something or someone exists.
This shows we can have passion which is expressed in our attraction to an idea or, we can be passionate which is expressed not just in our attraction to an idea, but also to its reality.
This observation is helpful in understanding the distinction between the words passion and passionate. For example: having passion is passive, it is always receiving and it essentially goes nowhere.
Alternatively being passionate takes joy in existence. It is the description of a dynamic-active acceptance of something or someone. In theological terms this is evidenced by the idea of worship which involves a willingness to be ‘vulnerable’ and contribute (Brene Brown’s Gifts of imperfection, 2010).
Worship in this sense is the grateful acceptance of an invitation, one handed mysteriously to us from the Holy Spirit. This is an invitation to join the living, breathing life of the Divine (Phil.2:1, 2 Pet.1:4).
Possibly the best way to explain my point is visually. Take for example Mahalia Jackson (linked). It is difficult to just sit by and witness her ”passion” like an indifferent spectator would. This is because we are moved and drawn in by her authentic passionate response.
The Holy Spirit inspires change and her gratitude is deep and authentic. I think we could probably say that what we are witnessing is her passionate, active and dynamic participation with Father, Son and Spirit. Hers is a Holy participation and we are invited to hear (Rom.10:17) and then be enabled to move beyond ourselves. In this way our worship becomes a ‘chant of collective exorcism’.
Instead of consuming the message we are consumed by it! Similarly when we witness the cry of a martyr, through that experience we become martyrs (Tertullian).
This fits with my premise that having passion is to be considered separate from being passionate. Subsequently we either accept the invitation to participate or we sit back and eventually switch off.
The Holy Spirit’s role in igniting human passion is a primary elementin the creative formation and delivery of any passionate message and response.
Whatever forms that message may be the Holy Spirit is the one who inspires movement. The Spirit does this by inspiring change towards an inclusion into the content of that often disturbing message.
There His life giving breath (Job 33:4 ESV) is whispered into our hearts summoning us to the ‘freedom of response and fellowship’ (Barth C.D II/2) with God.
Consequently we will almost ALWAYS walk away ‘disturbed’ (Barth C.D. IV/II 1958, p.524) by a decisive and deliberate encounter with the transcendent God. The ‘Free God’ (Barth) who has chosen to make himself known in that time and place.
©Rod Lampard, 2014.