Posts Tagged ‘ christianity ’

Bible In Five Statements Meme

I was tagged by Laura

Summarize the Bible in five statements (fifteen words).  The first statement – one word long, the second two, the third three, the fourth four and the last five words long. Or possibly you could do this in descending order. Tag five people.

Well, to be honest I feel a bit pretentious doing this.  Oh well.  Here goes:

Paradox.
Look inward.
Pour yourself out.
Embrace suffering, remain open.
There’s no reason to fear.

I thought about putting something in there about how the Bible is not an historical document.  But then I figured if I stuck to the message, that would be implicit. 🙂

I don’t really know anyone here on WordPress, so I guess I just tag John, since his answer will probably be funny. 🙂

Thomas Merton from Raids on the Unspeakable

“And to have the will to be saved, must one limit oneself very carefully to a few select things that are taken seriously? And must everything else be ignored? In other words, to be saved is to exclude from consideration the possibility that one might be damned?

To take that possibility of damnation seriously is, then, to be lost?

But how do anything else? How not to take it seriously?

(Think of the unspeakable triviality of popular religion which consist in not taking the possibility of damnation seriously anymore!

To be saved, is then, to be rescued from all seriousness!

To fall into the ludicrous and satanic flippancy of false piety, kitsch, Saint Suplice!–or the euphoria of busy and optimistic groups!)

So, unless you can falsify and dominate reality with will, you are lost–and if you can impose your own obsession on reality (instead of having reality impose itself as an obsession on you) then are you perhaps doubly lost?

The question of this book, the deeper question, is the very nature of reality itself.

Inexorable consistency. Is reality the same as consistency?

The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

There is, above the consistent and the logical word of justice, and inconsistent illogical world where nothing “handing together,” where justice no longer damns each man to his own darkness. This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

The world can only be consistent without God.

A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of “things to be taken seriousely” because they “save,” because they are “his affairs.”
(Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency.)

The Cross is the sign of contradiction–destorying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purposes. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy! This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity! To say that Christ has locked all the doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved–while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.”

Letting Everything In

There is a certain comfort in letting certain things in and excluding others from our view.  The same goes with people.  There’s people who have God, and people who don’t.  People who know what’s up, and people who are idiots.  People who pay attention when they drive, and people who should never be let out on the road.  People who have truth, and people who have no grasp of it whatsoever.

This method of looking at others has it’s comforts, has it’s securities.  It is a means by which we can understand the world by translating it into what is approved and what is not.  It certainly makes life much more simple.  Here’s what’s on my list of approved things, ideas, and people, and I reject what’s not on this list.

We all do this, to a certain extent.  And it makes sense.  We *are* trying to constantly simplify our experience to make it easier to handle.

But it’s interesting what happens when you stop putting people and ideas in categories.  You start looking closer, you start seeing more.  Because you’ve stopped filtering things out.  The priest at the church Ben and I go to was leading us through a meditation, and she said for us to stop filtering, and to let everything in.  Do not exclude any sounds, feelings, thoughts…just let it all flow and observe it.  Then, you start to see deeper.

The same is true for people and ideas, I think.  When you stop trying to declare something as either bad or good and just witness it, you see deeper.  And seeing this way allows you to see the truth hidden in everything, because it frees you from your misconceptions and even your opinions.  It humbles you because you *have* to let go of the things that make you comfortable in order to let everything in, and in doing so, brings you closer to truth.

Compassion and love break down barriers.  They stop us from doing this categorization and from simplifying the world.  Love asks us to look at the whole, to see each person, each idea, each moment as valuable in some way.  There is no in group or out group.  There is only truth, and what it is buried underneath.

And when you see things this way, you approach conversations, people, ideas with an entirely different perspective.  You start to understand the subtle language of the heart, and how it is speaking even through people’s so called intellectual ideas.  You start to see how someone’s pure intuition or pure desires were led astray.  And instead of feeling contempt for their ignorance, you can feel nothing but compassion and love.  You see their soul buried under so much weight, and you long to free them.

You are no longer distracted by the wrongness of what people say.  It seems petty to argue about it, almost tragic.  And it gives you patience and strength.  When you talk with someone it’s more like a jazz improvisation…each of you contributing ideas and playing off one another to build something interesting that may open up both of your understandings.  You don’t feel attached to (or the need to reject) any one concept or dogma because you sense the truth in all of them.  This gives you a freedom, a spontaneity, a creativity that you never had before.

And it is all in ceasing to seek comfort, and treating people and even their ideas and their words with compassion and love.  It’s not always about simplification; often, it’s about inclusion and integration.

Why Christians Should Vote to Legalize Same Sex Marriage

Why Christians Should Vote to Legalize Same Sex Marriage

For the purpose of this article I am going to adopt a distinctly
conservative Christian perspective and write for a distinctly
conservative Christian
audience.  I want to put forth the idea that even if you believe
homosexuality is morally wrong, a sin even, you should still vote for
its legalization.


Freedom vs. License

"Freedom and fear are at war. Freedom is not, "being able to do whatever
you want to do." That is license. If you have license, rather than
authentic freedom, your house is built on sand and will collapse.
Authentic freedom is the power to do what we ought to do; the power to
choose the good, the true, and the beautiful. That will vanquish fear
every time. If your concept of freedom is really license, fear will
come out on top every time. Freedom has to be united with truth. There
is no freedom outside of the truth: No authentic human freedom outside
of the truth. "If you are truly my disciples, you will abide in my
word. You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." True
freedom is rooted in God."

– Fr. John Corapi

As Fr. Corapi says, Freedom is not
license, it is more along the lines of personal authenticity.  If God
is both Truth and within you, then when you are acting the most
authentically and genuinely, you are acting in God's will. 
Interestingly enough, this does not mean we should forsake license, for
license and Freedom are tightly intertwined.  If it weren't for
license, we could not genuinely choose to do what is right, for we
would do it automatically.  This is why God gave us free will.  He
allows us to sin so that we might learn, grow, and come to the truth in
a very personal and authentic way.  There can be no authenticity, and
no Freedom, without license.

The opposite of Freedom is fear, and the opposite of license is
restriction.  When a society implements restrictions on its citizens,
it does not only prevent its citizens from acting authentically, it
acts out of fear itself.  Even though our intentions are good,
restricting the public to do only what is morally right harms
everyone.  The people may choose the right thing, but for the wrong
reasons.  They follow truth, but they do so disingenuously.  We are
teaching them to act a certain way out of fear of the consequences. 
And we ourselves, who put the policy in place, we are acting out of
fear as well.  We are afraid that we can't trust people, and that if we
don't exert some pressure on them, they won't choose the right thing.

When God looks at us, does He have these fears?  Well, His heart is
probably breaking all the time, seeing us choose to bury our true
selves and choose against His will.  But He does not intervene and
force us to change our minds.  He honors His gift to us of free will,
and He lets us make mistakes.  He does not act out of fear that He will
lose us.  In fact, one of Jesus's most persistent messages was "Be not
afraid."  Fear blinds us, keeps us from the truth.  And out of fear we
impose God's will on the people in our society, when even God himself
will not do that.

The Purpose of Law

Contrary to a lot of current
thought, the purpose of Law is not to uphold or enforce morality.  Law
is about enforcing the minimum standard of action necessary to be a
functioning member of society.  It is about preservation of society,
putting restrictions on license where necessary in order to prevent its
citizens from harming each other.  Other than that, it should allow its
citizens as much license as possible.  If you look at many of our
current laws (against murder, theft, drinking and driving, etc), we make acts illegal when they harm someone or infringe
on their rights against their will.

Morality calls us to a much higher standard than the Law. Christian
morality is about rejecting sin in all its forms and transforming
yourself inside and out to become more and more like Jesus Christ. 
And, as I stated in the last section, we cannot force Christian
morality on members of our society without denying them the chance to
choose it freely.  That's what makes morality such a wonderful, lofty,
and praiseworthy ideal.  It is not something you are forced to do, it
is something you choose to do.

Given everything that has been said thus far, as Christians it is
our duty to emulate God and allow people to sin, as long as that sin
does not harm another person.  It may break our hearts to see people
shun the truth, but we have to let them.  From the standpoint of the
Law, we need to allow same sex marriage.  To vote against it is to act
out of fear, and to thereby distance ourselves from God.

Calming Leftover Fears – Definitions

In order to
get ourselves to a place where we are emotionally ready to permit same
sex marriage on a political level, we need to address two major fears
that plague our hearts.

The first is that by legalizing gay marriage, we would be
corrupting an institution that God created.  I know this is a sensitive
issue, and I will try my best to treat it fairly and gently.  We must
admit that the word marriage is full of different meanings on different
levels.  Traditionally, marriage has not always been meant as a
spiritual union in the eyes of God.  There has always been a social
aspect as well.  Marriage has been used as a political tool to unite
warring factions or countries.  It has been used in order to barter out
a better life for your family line.  It has been used as a financial
safety net.  Even today, people marry for all sorts of reasons.  They
marry for money, for lust, or for social status.  Some people get
married for love, but do not associate themselves with any religious
tradition at all.

This does not in any way detract from the beauty and profundity of
the Sacrament of marriage in its religious context.  It is as if we can
talk about marriage on two levels.  There is the social/political
level, and the spiritual/religious level.  The social/political level
has changed many times over the centuries without affecting the
spiritual/religious ideal of marriage.  And so it is today.  Allowing
same sex marriage affects the social definition of marriage, not the
religious one.  As a Christian, you do not have to recognize same sex
marriages as being approved or sanctioned by God.  It is in the name of
the State only.

If this proves to be too difficult of a place for us to reach, then
perhaps we need to take another route.  Many have stated that they are
just fine with civil unions, as long as gays aren't allowed to marry. 
But what is a civil union other than the social/political level of
marriage?  Although, if we insist on keeping the word marriage solely
in its religious context, then we must be fair in how we treat it on a
social/political level.  By this I mean taking the word marriage out of
State hands entirely.  Everyone would get civil unions, and then if
they chose to take the extra step of getting married, they can do so
through their Church.

But it is imperative that we maintain equality between same sex
couples and heterosexual couples.  When Jesus dealt with sinners,
whores, and thieves, did he not treat them as equals?  Isn't that what
allowed him to get through to them?

Calming Leftover Fears – The Children

The other
major fear has to do with what our children will see and be taught with
regards to homosexuality.  We do not like the idea that schools and/or
the media will be telling our children that homosexuality is okay and
perfectly acceptable.

Before we go into ways to ease this fear, let us explore for a bit
the root of it.  When it comes to our children, we want nothing to
corrupt them.  We want the best for them.  And because we are
Christians, we want them to grow up with those same values, that they
might find their way to God as well.  But this leads us to be fearful
of letting anything "unclean" touch them.  We are afraid that the power
of evil is too strong, too tempting, and that if our children are
exposed, their weaker minds will be enveloped and there will be nothing
we can do about it.

But children can smell our fear.  And they react in one of two
major ways.  They either adopt the same fears, or they rebel against
them and challenge them.  As we discussed earlier, fear is not truth. 
Truth is Freedom.  Some children sense this on a deep level…that the
actions we take are spawned from fear, and so they reject any truth
that they might express.  Either we perpetuate the feeling of fear, or
our children take their lives in a radically different direction in
order to reject it.

There is a better way.  Do not be afraid to talk to your children. 
Do not be afraid that they won't turn out how you want them to, or that
their lives won't be as happy as the lives you imagine and want for
them.  Trust God.  By working on your own inner state, you can better
help them grow up in God's love. 

If you adopt the frame of mind discussed in this essay, talking to
your children about same sex marriage is not as confusing as many,
including the National Organization for Marriage, have made it out to
be.  By showing your acceptance of it on a political level, you do not
give off the same fear, and children are less likely to rebel.  You can
then explain to your child what I explained in this essay, that
marriage for Christians is something even more deep and spiritual and
religious than society's definition.

Should your child still grow up and choose to marry someone of the same
sex, the other thing that legalizing same sex marriage will do to help
you
is that it will drastically change the homosexual community.  With
marriage and finding someone to love seen as the end goal of any life,
even a homosexual one, your child will grow up seeing examples of gay
men in loving, committed relationships.  They will see gay women caring
for each other and their children.  If your child does end up to be
homosexual, wouldn't you rather they choose this sort of life as
opposed to one of promiscuity?

This brings me to another caveat
to adopting a position free of fear.  We must maintain a sort of
"detachment" from the outcome.  If your child does happen to be
homosexual and to choose to marry someone of the same sex, you cannot
take it personally.  It may break your heart, but to force your child
to deny what he feels is truth makes you look fearful and your child
will not respond.  To give your child a chance at Freedom,
authenticity, and Truth…you must let him make his own choices.

Conclusion

In summary, the Christian life is
about transforming ourselves and emulating Christ, who is God in human
form.  In order to become like God we must follow Freedom,
authenticity, and Truth…and we must lay aside fear.  It is difficult,
and there is much resistance. The path is indeed narrow.  It is hard to
give up what we think keeps us safe.  But to do so shows that we really
do have Faith and Trust in God, that we are willing to let Him shape
events and to adopt His perspective rather than merely our own.  In our
own struggle towards Freedom, we must surrender our fears about the
paths of others and strive, by example, to be a light to the world,
should they choose to see it or not.


*As you may have guessed, I am by no means conservative.  I tried to adopt that perspective for the sake of the argument.

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The Multifaceted Issue of Abortion

In my opinion, the problem of abortion is a multifaceted issue.  And, it is more of a symptom than a problem in itself.

A symptom of what?  Fear.  Taking yourself out of your normal
perspective, can you imagine how scary it would be to find out you are
pregnant and do not have the means to care for this child?  And what
about what your parents will think?  They might even disown you.  Or if
you’re a single mother living in a poor community…how will you
provide for your child?  You can’t work and take care of her at the
same time, except for very select jobs that probably won’t pay much
money.  And besides, you’re not married.  What will society think?

I know it is their fault for getting into the situation (at least most
times…rape is a special circumstance that most people are more
compassionate towards), but that still doesn’t change the fact that the
guiding principle in these situations is fear.

Making abortion illegal, in my opinion, will only increase that fear.
Because before there was an out, a backup, if you couldn’t figure
anything else out.  And now there is no (legal) escape.  Because of
this increased fear, I think women might go to greater lengths, unsafe
ones, to be rid of that fear.

But then what do they trade the fear for?  Regret and guilt.  It’s not a happy situation.

So I would approach the problem with the goal of easing these fears so
that the woman can make a genuine choice from her heart rather than let
her fear consume her.

On a social level, I would probably do things like provide free
childcare in poorer communities, so the mother can work and earn money
to take care of her child, or continue going to school.  I actually
stole that idea from Obama. 😉  In addition, I would try to find ways
to increase the quality of schools in poorer areas.  As it is, richer
schools = better schools, and so the poor keep going in circles.
Basically, find things that will make it easier for the mother to give
her child a good life, and you’ll reduce some of the fear that consumes
her.

Also, reform and improve the foster care system.  Address the issues
that make people think growing up in the foster care system is a
nightmare you wouldn’t ever wish on your child.  Perhaps also offer tax
credits or extra benefits to couples who adopt a child.

But the most important thing, in my opinion, is the hardest to
implement.  I would make it a rule that before a woman can get an
abortion, she must attend one or two counseling sessions.  The purpose
of these sessions is not to persuade her to change her mind.  If it
were, it would never work.  Abortion has to remain an option because it
serves as the initial fear-reducer that will get them into the
building, where counselors can hopefully help guide them to be sure
they are making the best decision…the one their hearts tell them to
make.

On a wide level this idea will only work so well because it relies upon
an abundance of really good counselors.  If the counselor is pushing
the woman towards one particular option (be it keeping the baby, giving
it up for adoption, or having the abortion), she will sense that and
resist.  The conversation really needs to be centered around the
woman’s situation and her psyche.  And the counselor must give up the
idea that they can control the outcome, because by exerting control the
situation is only made worse.

The idea is to get them to talk and think about their situation.  There
might be an option they hadn’t thought of, or a way to make it work
they hadn’t considered.  It also may be that they hadn’t been thinking
of the long term, only the short term goal of being rid of all this
fear.  Regardless of the situation, their life would drastically change
if they kept the child, and some of that fear is rational, and some of
it isn’t.  It would help to have someone you can trust, someone who
isn’t going to push anything on you but who will help you come to your
own decision…one you can live with.

Yes, some of these women will still end up choosing to get an
abortion.  But, if we approach them with compassion and understanding,
I believe that many more women will make other, better decisions.  And
our society as a whole will not look upon these women with either
indifference or contempt but rather with compassion.

I think a combination of all these ideas plus many many more, all aimed
at making the decision to keep the child or give it up for adoption
easier to make, will help the situation the most.

But to just make it illegal, to me, is admitting we don’t understand
the problem, or that we don’t have or want to give up the resources
needed in order to really address it.  It’s easier to just call
something wrong and disallow it than to really engage the problem on
all levels.  And that is what I think we need to do.

Torture

There’s been a lot of talk about torture lately, with some people
arguing that we should never torture based on our moral standards, and
others saying that it is a necessary evil and must be kept up if we are
to protect ourselves.

Ironically, it’s the right, known for containing a majority of Christians, who are arguing for torture.

So here’s my question: how can you claim to be both a Christian and a supporter of torture?

Discussion

So, I’m having an interesting discussion with a friend on a message board.  He belongs to the Orthodox Church, believes that no one goes to Hell when they die, and thinks that Jesus’ message was primarily about *this* life and not the next.  So far I agree.

Our discussion is centered around the events in Christ’s life, and whether them actually taking place in the time line has any affect on the meaning derived from them.  I’m quite enjoying this discussion, so I’m going to paste some parts of it here for remembrance sake…and for anyone who wishes to continue it. 🙂

*****

So, it’s important to you
because it gives you a warm feeling that you’re on the right path? lol,
I don’t mean it that harsh of course, but if it was important to the
apostles, *why* was it important? Surely this seems to be a question
worth exploring, right?

I guess I find so much meaning in the story that I’m not sure what affect its historicity would have on its impact?

I
mean, say we had the bible, but the names were all changed…would it
still have the same power? If it doesn’t, is it a meaningful
difference, or does it just have less power because it’s not what we
are used to? Or, say someone came up with undeniable proof that Jesus
never existed at all, would that shake your faith?

I think it was important to them for a number of reasons, including
validation of Jesus’ claims, encouragement in their sorrow, hope that
they share the same fate, and confidence that they could now risk their
lives and do anything they dreamt of.

I see your point here. And I know for a great many people throughout
history it has been somewhat of a security blanket that gives them
courage and strengthens their faith. But, I guess, that’s exactly my
point. It’s a huge comfort, and since when did Jesus tell us to seek
comfort? Again, I’m not arguing that the story *wasn’t* historically
true, I just think that we tend to be way too attached to that aspect,
and it can limit our understanding so that we miss some of the most
profound and meaningful things in the story itself.

I guess I am just wary of attachment to particulars. smile.gif

For
me, even thinking that the story may be entirely myth, I still find
incredible power in it. My life experience validates Jesus’ claims. The
concepts in the story give me encouragement in my sorrows and hope for
my own resurrection (mainly in my life here, but sure after death too).
It doesn’t always give me the courage to risk everything and follow my
dreams, because often my vision is clouded by fear. But when I am calm
and centered, I see clearly and that courage comes to me in waves. I
worry that a courage based on a particular historical event is a way to
deny that fear. It’s a subtle underlying aspect of human life, and it
cannot be denied.

The only way to be rid of it is, as through
Jesus’ example, letting it in and not avoiding it. It’s a subtle thing
I’m talking about, how someone might push down a feeling of fear
because of their unshattering faith in a particular event…versus
understanding what that event tries to show us (regardless of whether
it happened that way or not) and listening to that advice and being
open and receptive…even to fear and suffering.

Let’s not forget though that it was important to Jesus too. For some reason, it had to happen, he predicted that it would, and told his followers to look forward to it.

It did have to happen, in the story, because of what it means. Because
of how it teaches us. It would make sense that Jesus would acknowledge
that it has to happen, because part of his point is that even seeing
something like this looming up ahead in our future, we must not be
afraid, for there is nothing to fear. If you imagine Jesus’ prediction
as a literary device in the story of the resurrection, it makes a lot
of sense. Not that it can’t be real as well, but it seems that the
meaning is there regardless.

But as to why it should be important historically, I guess I don’t
really have an answer right now, but it seems inseparable from the
story, to me anyway. Perhaps they are pat Christian answers, but if
it’s just a story, and never happened, and the Son of God didn’t exist,
and the Incarnation didn’t really happen, I’m forced ask what the point
would even be then? Besides just trying to be a better person by
modeling your life after a character in a story. And the Gospels, as
well as the other NT writings, and the writings of those shortly
thereafter, place great importance upon these events really happening.

Do you really think the Bible becomes empty and meaningless if these
events didn’t happen? Acknowledging that the events may not have taken
place in real life does not take away from the profundity and the
*truth* found in the story. This story puts into beautiful and precise
terms what so many other stories try to get at…some with better
success than others. It speaks directly to our hearts the way only
stories can. And there are echoes of these truths in almost every story
we write, in almost every life we live. But here we have it unclouded
by the fear in our normal stories. Jesus is a character without fear
(or rather, who does not act of fear), without sin, and the huge
tragedy in his life puts God’s lessons to us practically in neon
lights. smile.gif

It’s
so much more than just trying to be a better person. It’s discovering
the path to truth, to life. It’s trusting in the process, even if it
looks like it is leading you toward death…because the path to death
is a path to rebirth. It teaches us that there is no need to fear,
ever. And that love is a never ending spring; the more you pour out of
yourself the more you have. It is about letting go.

Stories are
meant to teach eternal truths in such a way that we can resonate with
them on the deepest level. Christ’s story is one of, if not the, most
profound of all. I don’t know about you, but when I talk about these
things my heart fills with excitement and joy at the sheer *truth* of
it all. It’s incredible.

Question for you, what was Paul meaning when he said if Jesus didn’t
really die and rise again, our faith is in vain? If it’s not important
as an event that really happened, why do they all place so much
importance upon it?

Well, I’m not a bible scholar,
so I can’t tell you what his original meaning was. I can only tell you
what I gather from it. Why must Paul be talking about a concrete event?
In the same passage he talks about the reflection between Christ and
Adam. But you don’t believe Adam existed. You have no attachment to the
particulars in that story. Yet somehow what Paul says is true, isn’t
it? That what was introduced with Adam is now overcome by Christ. Is it
an event that somehow canceled out a prior event? No, because the
prior event never happened in real life. It was a myth. But the meaning
of it is still strong…and the eternal aspect of the myth, the truth
of it…is now reflected and expanded on in the story of Christ.

I
don’t think he’s really talking about Christ being risen on a concrete
level (though again, it may be concrete as well), but on a personal and
existential level that goes much deeper. If Christ is not risen, if
there is no rebirth after death, then your faith and your preaching are
worthless. You do not fully believe in the meaning you preach. You do
not truly have faith. You are still in sin because you are still in
fear of death and suffering. And in your mind, those who are asleep
(notice he doesn’t say dead, interesting) have no hope of awakening, so
why preach? I think he’s showing how their point of view is reflective
of an inner state of despair and fear, when it should be one of hope
and life.

Anyway, just my perspective. wink.gif

*****

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