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When I was in Seminary I was approached by a fellow student who had heard me offering an opposing view in class. He quickly asked me a straightforward question. Would I consider myself a three or a five point Calvinist? I was on my way to the restroom in between classes and was really not looking to discuss Calvinist Theology at the time. I responded by rattling out an answer that was neither of his preset choices and not something that fit his paradigm. He began to follow me into the restroom and debate his view against my statement through the stall door. Taking the socially awkward moment even a step further, he began to get agitated that I was clearly not giving his argument my full attention. All I could remember thinking was “This guy is in my next class so at least we will be late together.”
As inelegant as this persons methods were, his motive were pure. He thought there was something wrong with my belief structure that would hinder my relationship with God. He wanted to correct that. Unfortunately no matter how pure his motives, his actions were indefensible and rude. With that being the case I have to wonder what value he ever thought he would gain. I am taken back regularly when I see the actions of the modern church resemble this persons’ tactics greatly.
One of the largest questions in our country today is marriage equality. The LGBT society is looking to secure an equal footing in the area of marriage. Their focus is based upon human and national rights that they feel are not being given them based upon that issue. The church is responding by telling them they are wrong and marriage is about one man plus one woman. The LGBT community is responding by saying the Church is full of hypocrites and haters. Can you think of a more awkward and inelegant conversation? How do human and national rights have anything to do with marriage and how does the Church feel it can respond to this concern with a calculation? Why can’t there be conversation that leeds to a supportive agreement? Oh, I remember now, the Bible defines marriage specifically. But does it?
When the Biblical passages on marriage were written, marriage was a social construct with the intent on preserving the family through progeny. The multiplication of workforce was the added benefit that made fertility the focus in marriage. This included marrying within your family if possible to ensure the family line. I am not saying there was not love, but that was clearly not the focus. There were many instances of multiple wives and incest based upon today’s standards. Is this really what we are using to proclaim God’s message about modern marriage? I understand how we would use it to proclaim that message within the body of Christ, but why are we doing it outside that body? If people don’t want the relationship with God that we are presenting, why are we holding them accountable to the standards of that relationship?
The modern family is a social microcosm that is far different than anything this world has ever seen. Our structured understanding that we would want to see in the Bible comes from 20th century Americana and not the Biblical text. Families don’t look like the Cleavers anymore and we should not expect that to be the goal. I am a single parent of a 14 year old that is not my son. I am a bald tattooed biker freak who has security following him because of profiling far too often. The Cleavers would consider calling social services on me rather than calling me and my nephew a family. Does that mean we are any less? Where does the church get the right to make a decision what is a family? I am not removing any of their authority to make statements within the body of Christ but doing so for the world is backwards.
It would seem to me that the church should be understanding this and supporting unique family structures if that is where people are finding peace. Are we really saying the love of Christ can’t permeate those bonds? If we truly believe that our God is the Almighty, graceful, loving, and forgiving, how can we not stand for justice even at our own detriment? If people we disagree with want to live their beliefs, why not let them? Why not help them? Why not encourage them to experience God? Do we not believe that God will break down the barriers and communicate himself to them? I can not save anyone. You can not save anyone. Only God can. So why do we spend so much time trying to do it for him?
We sing songs that cry out “If God be for us who can be against us”. If we truly believe this, why do we need the world to do things our way? And why are we so willing to tell people that they are wrong for doing the best they know how to. I am not advocating we baptize the behavior into Christianity but to stop it from happening before the people want to be Christians is just wrong. I am really tired of hearing people fight and argue about rights when we are referring to how people have sex, watch movies, cohabit, and exist. We are not preserving God’s justice but we very well maybe inhibiting his love. Are we afraid if we let people be who they are we will somehow look bad ourselves? If we truly believe in the forgiveness of God, why are we so afraid if our intention is to serve God by loving his people? Cant we maintain our beliefs without trashing someone else’s?
If Christ were here in the flesh now, would he be acting like our churches are or would he be talking to people instead of at them? I think he would be the first to say that using politics to pursue an agenda in the name of God is wrong. How will people ever change if we don’t give them enough room to want to? How will we ever be able to tell people about the love of God if we are too busy telling people how wrong they are? If we truly believe that God loves all, shouldn’t we be willing to prove that by doing it ourselves? If the only thing stopping us is our own moral code we are afraid to cross, we need to rethink it with Christ code and love others even to the point of loss of ourselves. I don’t have have any respect for a person who just knows the answer, but a person who knows the answer and is willing to back it up by action has my undying respect. I think God would agree. No, that is wrong, I know he would.
It is a single moment in time that all too often changes the world. It can be quiet or cataclysmic, profound or mundane, but our reaction to it determines our direction and builds a pathway into our future.That pathway may be completely separate from the actual event but will trace back to it somehow even though we may not know how. The event itself is less important but our reaction to it is key to our behavior and future self so responding in the best way seems obvious but is much harder than it seems. Frequently we choose to follow instinct rather than use instinct as the tool it was intended to be. One of the most common instincts is fear.
The Limbic System in the brain contains the Amygdala. This area acts like a filter for the stimuli that comes in and funnels the information to the appropriate bodily areas for response through aggression or fear. Anthropologists feel fear is the oldest emotional response that goes back to the evolutionary stages of man. Although the Neuroscience and Anthropology is interesting, the conclusions are a bit of a stretch and more importantly the learned behavioral actions of the process pay a much larger role. Two people can respond to the same stimuli differently. The patterns of behavior suggest that the how of fear is less important than the why. Some people fear heights and others do not, some fears snakes and others do not. The stimuli of the height or the snake are the same for both but the circumstances surrounding the why are different. Fear is the reaction to the stimuli due to the learned behavior of the past circumstances. It is not a genetic trait but moreover a physical tool.
Fear is the catalyst for revolution in the moment of revelation. It is the cosmic “Oh Crud” factor. It is a biochemical response to external stimuli. We let it become a motivating factor in our decisions rather than use it to create better decision making. We fear the unseen rather than seeing what we should fear and avoiding it. We let it control us rather than using it as a tool to control our circumstances.
Fear comes in all flavors but for conversation purposes can be broken down into a simple causal factor. Freud noticed the first instance of fear a person has is separation from their mother. I think he began to go pretty south after that point but realistically started with a key idea. Fear begins with the recognition of separation from something we want. The idea is simple, we understand loss and it sucks so we want to limit it as much as possible. The reaction to anticipated loss is fear. This manifests itself in all forms of loss. Whether it is loss of items, health, relationships, life, status, etc., the reaction to this anticipated loss is fear. In reality, if we had no concerns or problems with loss, we would never fear.
The problem is no matter who we are, we will at some point in time, and some place experience loss. We cannot avoid it. Expecting that we accept the loss without regret or problem is unrealistic and frankly unhealthy. The real challenge is managing the tolerance for loss. How much do we fear things that really should be no concern and no long term value? If I am walking across the street and a bus comes at me at full speed, the anticipate loss of health and or life should cause me to get out of the street and protect myself. However if the news tells me that a major earthquake is anticipated in the future but that could mean days, weeks, years, decades, or centuries away, should that really cause fear? The anticipation of loss should be negligible and not something I need to plan for. The specifics of circumstances are less relevant than the perspective. Are we really willing to allow the anticipation of possibilities to control our actions.
The fear itself should be healthy and protective but the reaction to it can be and usually is unhealthy and in some cases can be deadly. The irony is that the reaction to fear can cause worse problems than the loss or separation that is feared. If a person overeats or smokes due to anxiety and fear, the physical problems will be much worse than anything they fear. In order to be healthy, we need to control the response to the stimuli causing the fear.
What is the value of protecting a dollar and losing a thousand? What is the value of protecting a moment in a relationship but losing the relationship? How can we get to the place where fear is managed like the tool it is? Simple really, we need to stop worrying about the loss and accept it as part of life. This includes appreciating the things we have while we have them. The list of items we own is worthless if we do not have time to appreciate them. The amount of money in the bank is worthless if all it does is make money for the bank. The number of friends we have is meaningless if the relationships are founded on shallow purposes. The need to accumulate spawns the need to protect and the desire to fear.
If we control our expectations by appreciating what we have while we have it then losing it will only be a step in a new direction. Fearing the loss will be meaningless if the loss is understood as part of the journey and the lack of fear will give us the ability to appreciate it all the more. The apparent circuity makes far more sense than we want it to. The only thing it depends on is our willingness to let go.
At one time the world was flat or at least that is what people believed. There was plenty of evidence for them to believe it as the scientists of their time told them so. But then more evidence was found to suggest and later prove it wasn’t flat. It was argued against, disbelieved, mistrusted, and then accepted. A simple shift caused the most prominent and intelligent to become the most ignorant.
So when is evidence understood enough evidence to believe? Where is the point we reach that moves items from the gentle musing stage to part of our own dogma. What is the event that we come to that tells us that we now accept and believe an item as fact. Is it more or less determined by the information or how we perceive the information?
Evidence comes with many definitions. Scientific evidence follows the pattern of the scientific method whereby a hypothesis is turned into theory and then tested and repeated to establish a pattern that is then fact. Legal evidence follows a standard set by the court to present findings that all parties agree follows those standards and thereby becomes evidence or facts in a case. There is also anecdotal evidence whereby people see a small set of realities and extrapolate them into the larger realm. This on a larger scale becomes statistical evidence where the numbers or incidences increase to be judged against the number of non incidents. But where does evidence develop to the point it should be seen as fact?
We use facts to do everything from develop technology, create medicine, determine justice, and fuel religion. Each of the areas however use a different understanding of acceptable error within those facts. But does an acceptable error ratio create fact? If I am taking medicine that cures 99.99% of the people who take it and the option to not take it means I will remain sick, then the error ratio is worth the risk. If it is fatal in the .01% that becomes less worth the risk. If there is other ways to cure with less risk, then I might choose those methods. But in reality, acceptable error ratios in facts or evidence do not give assurances. There is always a risk of being wrong so why would we accept evidence to believe in something like God?
Religion is based upon a choice to follow a god. Christianity is based upon the choice to follow the God YHWH through his son Jesus Christ. He is the supreme almighty God who created all things. I have no evidence for this. I was not there and can not attest in court. I do not have an experiment that can be repeated and confirm. I can not point to instances of God’s interaction in this world and claim that as enough evidence to support my belief. If there was, then we would have verifiable proof and nothing to believe in. If there is videotape of me running a mud run or skydiving, or something extreme, then there is no need for someone to believe I did them. They can verify it themselves and have no need to accept the responsibility of belief.
We wish to find evidence to prove because we are afraid of the responsibility of belief. We do not want to be wrong, and if we are, we want to point that blame at something or someone else. That misses the whole point of belief. If we need evidence, we don’t believe, we affirm. Affirmation is provided by an equal or third party judge. God is not interested in us affirming him, he wants us to believe and take actions based upon that. That is faith. I have chosen to direct my life with full knowledge of sacrifices I am making because of my belief in God. If I only make sacrifices that I know will work to benefit me because I have seen it happen before, how is that true belief? The Israelites understood God brought them out of Egypt and showed them evidence of his power regularly yet they still chose to not believe and because of that went against his laws. I think we follow that far to often.
In reality, all of our actions are based upon our beliefs. Either we believe we have acquired enough evidence to support our actions or we believe in something outside of our understanding. If we believe in evidence, we are looking to blame the evidence if we wrong. If we believe in something outside of ourselves, we take the responsibility for those actions but also the freedom that comes with it. I choose belief.
One of my guilty pleasures is a film called Mystery Men. It is about a group of misfits trying to be superheroes. I could bend words and views and try to find some deep philosophical reasons for it but there really isn’t one, it is just fun. Any movie that has a man dressed in his mothers drapes throwing silverware at bad guys limits itself greatly on the philosophical front. With that said it does offer an unintended truth about society in its subtext. The group goes to a pacifist weapons expert for help. He shows them his storehouse of non violent weapons and one of the most powerful is the Blame Thrower. It causes people to uncontrollably blame others for everything that goes wrong rather than accept responsibility for there own faults. It was a brilliant idea that focused everyone on others and away from themselves eventually causing nothing but fighting and worthless bickering.
Blame is a vile and contemptible beast that we let into our homes on a regular basis. We feed it and groom it to try and make it healthy and remove the stench but no matter how hard we try, it festers and spreads rot through anything it touches. It is utterly useless and yet we bring it out so often it becomes our go to tool. It becomes easier and easier the more we use it. It is the weapon of choice yet proves the one who yields it is missing the very thing needed to hold a weapon, discipline.
We blame the government for the condition of the country and yet don’t actively interact with our political leaders or even vote for real change. We blame the church for the evils it has done for trying to control and contain our lives rather than actually understanding the truth it offers and deciding if we want to be part of it. We blame religious leaders for the hypocrisy in their lives without addressing the hypocrisy in our own. We blame our parents for not giving us what we needed rather than looking at what we need as really what we want. We blame ourselves for what we see rather than accepting ourselves for who we are and changing what we don’t like. We use blame as a four letter word. We need change, not blame.
The desire is to create a false equality in ability so we can effectively blame another for not doing it our way. This is the beginning of the problem. I do not like everything Obama does. I can guarantee that if I were given all the information he has I would not answer the exact same way he does because I am a different person. But I don’t have all the information he does so claiming my answers are right and his wrong is ludicrous. I do not agree with everything the Pope says. I do think my background and training are enough to argue my points against his. I am pretty sure though that he has done a lot of work and study to reach his conclusions so discounting them and blaming him for the current condition of the Church is disrespectful and hubris unless I am able to interact with him and sway him to my view. This is hard work though and most blamers will no want to put the time in to do that because it is easier to sit on the sidelines and complain. Sitting on the fence is the best place to throw rocks at both sides but in order to balance, it does require a fence plank be lodged in a very uncomfortable place.
Truth is not an abstract concept that changes. It can not, if it did, it would no longer be true. It is not malleable and formed by perspective. It is not yours for your view and mine for mine. It is the standard that all things are judged by. No matter how much this is distasteful at times, it is still fact. It can be concealed however. If we do not recognize that, we will be left with false comparisons and false dichotomies. No matter how eloquent we speak, without knowledge equal to another persons on a given subject, we can not speak in the same light as them and if we have that knowledge, we should still only speak with love and respect. Blame never reaches those areas.
If our desire is to merely stir the pot and cause more problems, blame is a real good tool. If we really care however and want to help fix the problems, blaming people merely makes us a tool. It is certainly easier to say no one has a handle on truth, religion is wrong, things change, so just sit back and relax. We can blame everyone who disagrees and brand them haters and intolerant. That is the surest way however to find destruction. Each person has value from where they come from. Missing that because we are too busy to look is a fast way to a bad end.
Blame is a worthless endeavor and better off forgotten. I hold to the old Japanese proverb. Fix the problem, not the blame.
When I was much younger I knew it all, or at least I thought I did. I took all the classes and read all the books I needed to form the most infamous weapon ever to be used against mankind, the opinion. It was like a logic puzzle, all I had to do was find the right ways to shape the right scriptures and support the right views to make myself feel right (read superior). There wasn’t a subject I wouldn’t tackle because I had all the information I needed in the bible. It was simply a matter of how I used it. I cant claim I was alone in doing this or even that I was the best. I was taught well by many before me but I was quite good at it. If an argument against God came my way it had to go through both barrels of my baseball bat theology (I know I mixed my metaphors but it made about as much sense and some of the arguments I would use). It is almost as if the book itself was a cacophony of magic spells that I just needed to decipher to defeat evil (read anyone who disagreed with me). The world was my battleground and all who disagreed with my God were my target, and frankly my soul has been paying the toll ever since.
This was how “witnessing” was taught and this is why it has become malodorous in today’s world. I am not owning that responsibility but I certainly played my role. So many years later and many miles wiser (hopefully) I am sickened when I see my younger self in people today. How can we ever believe we are honoring the Creator of the universe by dishonoring his creations so entirely? A persons voice or view is an extension of who they are. It may be right at times and wrong at times and somewhere in between at times but it is always part of who they are. Dishonoring that dishonors God.
This happened within the church as well as without and still happens unfortunately. It seems like the epitome of Christian growth is the ability to understand (read control) the text. That then leads to instructing (read control) others within the church body and directing (read control) the church body and where it focuses its attention. All of this happens under the umbrella of being lead by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately I have heard far too many things that he would he not take credit for and he shouldn’t be blamed for either.
The real problem is not so much that this makes us look like arrogant fools (which many times we deserve) but also effectively removes the ability to speak cogently on issues that are truly facing the world. Here is a perfect case in point. Ellen Page recently came out of the closet and announced to the world that she is gay. This brought almost immediate support from many celebrities and thankfully Christian groups have not said anything stupid yet. Here however is the concern. I watched her speech and was genuinely moved by her view and experience when dealing with gender and role expectations and the hypocrisy and atrocities associated with that. Of which the church has historically been part of and I feel the issues she raised are large value points we should address. She said “If we could take just 5 minutes to recognize each others beauty instead of attacking each other for our difference…..ultimately it would save lives”. I think that is brilliant and something the church should spearhead instead of attack. At the same time I couldn’t care less what gender Ellen Page wants to have sex with or couple with. I was never on the short list for that role so my opinion on the fact is irrelevant. (Ellen, if I was and I missed your calls, I have really screwed the pooch on this and am sorry) As a matter of fact, I don’t think anyones opinion on that is relevant beyond her and her partner. I think that this personal choice of hers should be private and not something that should be seen as a badge of courage for proclaiming. Why does sexual choice have anything to do with human rights. The two things are not linked unless we make them so.
Christians however have almost lost the ability to speak on this because we have been the major voice in linking these things. We have abused human rights because of our opinions and now we are seen as the villains instead of the voice of reason. People are far less willing to listen to a view if they don’t understand we respect them for listening and see the beauty in them that God created. Why do we think so negatively about people when God spent so much effort building them for positive things?
If we do not change out tactics, our message is going to be heard less and less and eventually maybe not at all. I am not a pessimist who believes the church will cease to exist, but I do think we are in danger of ceasing to be relevant on the most important topic ever. God loves us and wants us in relationship with him. How can we ever believe that any other message could be more important than that?
I saw an article about the Coca Cola add aired during the Super Bowl. It discussed how upset people were because it portrayed a representation of America as a multi cultural entity and summed it up by singing America the Beautiful in multiple languages. Honestly it did not decrease my estimation of that company much. Whether the message that it delivered was appropriate/accurate or not was not really Coca Cola’s concern. They just wanted to sell Coke to whoever would buy it. They have been contributing to obesity, diabetes, and who knows what else for so long that in comparison, this is minor. What struck me more was the hate speak that I saw in reaction to it. Many people commented on either side about how much the other side was wrong in a variety of hateful terms. Whether the goal was humor or angst, it was still fueled by hate. So is the real message that typifies our world that it is okay to hate in response to mistakes?
Christian Music singer Natalie Grant was nominated for two Grammy awards this year. She left the event early for personal reasons she did not clearly state. She alluded to not being comfortable with the event. My cynical side immediately has to question her for going in the first place. Did she not know ahead of time what music would be performed and the secular views that would be promoted? It is a secular event. Should we expect people who are not Christian to act Christian? With that said, the responses to her departure sparked nothing short of hate. They accused her of being homophobic, hate filled, and basically stupid for serving an ignorant and prejudicial God. Really? Hate speak is still hate speak even if you are claiming others have done something wrong. I don’t agree with her decision to leave and feel that God could have been glorified even more if she had stayed, but she never truly said why she left. The message to her was you are welcome here as long as you agree with us, or the fans will hate you. Once again, are we saying the choice to hate is okay if it is in response to mistakes?
Kirk Cameron assaulted the Grammy Awards on Facebook for what he called an “all out assault on the traditional family”. He then made reference to lines of separation and that the current world is not one he would want to have his kids grow up in. Responses came back negative and unkind at best. He then plugged his new movie and later deleted his post. I have to admit I am less than thrilled with his voice and feel that he should stand more for God and less for his personal ideals. Choosing to use a public event for self promotion may be effective but it is cheesy at best and in this case uneducated and irresponsible. With that said, nothing he said warrants hate. Are we really pushing a message that says it is ok to respond in hate if we just disagree with an opinion?
Katy Perry performed at that show and provided what she referred to as a spooky themed performance. Others made reference to it being satanic in nature and called her everything from a whore to a fool. Really? The performance was milder than many houses in my neighborhood during halloween. If it offends you, turn the station. A single button push will fix the problem. She was trying to make waves to sell music. Get over it and stop fanning the flames. That is what is done these days, it is not new. Are we really pushing a message that says it is ok to respond in hate if we just disagree with a performance? Are we really responding with hate and thinking that somehow this glorifies God?
When did hate become our go to tool? Is it just because our arguments are too weak to stand and need the extra fuel? I have heard hate from both sides on many issues and frankly, I should not be surprised when it comes from the secular world, not because they are bad people but because the bible clearly tells me to expect it. I should be very surprised however when it comes from the Christian world. For them, that is sin and contrary to Christ. The part that is honestly more distressing is that is shuts down our ability to be heard. I have never been a Katy Perry fan, her music is just not my thing. But to treat her or anyone else with anything less than human respect and the love that God intended is criminal.
If our eyes are filled with hate, how will we ever see where we are going. Why do we think we have that right? If we are so offended by a persons views that we feel hate, maybe the problem is with us. Wait, no, that is wrong. There is no maybe. The problem is with us. If hate is our response, we should lose the right to respond. If we can not disagree with each other without hating each other, we should probably stop speaking all together.
I have spent many years working in technology on a team delivering software systems. I am not a coder but have developed a large amount of respect for them over the years. The focus and energy it takes to translate systematic requirements into binary statements that integrate into other chunks of binary statements and deliver an overall whole is impressive. Part of the reason is that even the smallest error or miss directed code jeopardizes the overall project. The devil is in the details so to speak. It does not have to be a critical fault or even an errantly written syntax; there are programs that check for those things. It just has to be something that veers off from the goal of the project to sink the whole thing. It is not even that the program wont function, it will just not be able to ever reach the potential that it was created for.
I cant help but see the similarity in the world today. We seem to be living a dream that says somehow we will be able to master our circumstances and achieve success. Confucius said “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” The Dalai Lama said “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” Pope John XXIII said “Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.” These people are just icons of this overall thought process and have many counterparts. The problem is that their direction is as wrong as it is right. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that there is no value in their wisdom. I am saying we need to be careful not to think that this will fix the world. It won’t. It can’t.
The problem is in the code. In the deepest structures of our soul we have a binary device that gives us the ability to choose right or wrong. The choices are not predetermined, they are left up to us. That is the bad code as essentially we are able to rewrite the code daily and even wipe out all existing code, barring consequences, up to but not including that initial line that gives us the ability to choose wrong. No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, we will never wipe out the ability to choose incorrectly. This is what prevents us from being able to reach our utmost potential. Without that, we will never truly solve problems or eradicate evil in this world. Simply put, we cant because we will always have the ability to choose it. This is pandemic at the largest scale. It is not a few bad seeds but basically bad code in all.
We need to re-adjust our thinking in order to address this and stop proliferating the hollow ideal that says we can rise above it. We are breeding a problem by preaching two sides of this coin. We either preach that you are bad and will be punished by a God who is out to get you or we preach a false sense of security in that if you try hard enough you will finally after great patience and struggle reach a state of set actualization that will afford you true peace and happiness. I realize there are many other philosophical views on life but they seem to either broach off of or are summed up in these archetypes. Both however are wrong.
If we keep reproducing the same ideas without addressing the root cause we will never reach our intended and true potential. We can choose to blame God for instilling the bad code if we wish. There is a flaw in that as well. It presupposes that the code is bad because of the programmer and not the choices of the program. In other words if we always answered by choosing right, we would be able to reach God on our own. Again, the devil is in the details. We would be able to reach our human potential, but that does not mean we would attain or reach godliness. We would simply be fully productive humans or in other words, machines. God is what makes the machine human. God is the one who brings value to the potential. God is the one who brings reality to the dream. God is the one who takes that bad code and corrects it by forgiving the wrong choices and rebooting the program. God is the one who takes what is wrong and makes it right. God is the one who brings relationship to existence. God is the one who makes true potential occur. God is the one who takes bad code and makes it a son.
Without understanding the true expectations of the program, we will never be able to correct the bad code to reach what the program was intended to do.
There are moments in life that all people reach where homage is paid to Murphy and we realize the fit has hit the shan. These times are unavoidable and although circumstances may be different, the idea of human frailty is so ingrained in humanity it will probably be found in the genome mapping one day. Whether or not the circumstances are our fault, bad things happen to everyone. Whether we attribute them to random chance, Darwinism, a maniacal deity, or a mischievous embodiment of destiny, they happen to everyone. When they happen, we reach out to those around us for help.
A popular response in modern Christendom to seeing someone in these types of circumstances is to tell them “I will pray for you”. This statement of good intention is meant to offer emotional support and provide hope. Admittedly, it is problematic. There are several factors that determine its value. Will the person actually pray? It is easy to feel for someone when they are in pain but too often Christians will say this and not do it. Simply put, this is repugnant. If you say it, do it. If we do pray then, are we praying for what we should? If we are just throwing it into our prayers as an afterthought and telling God to “fix it”, maybe we should reconsider what we are doing. If we are presenting the idea that prayer is something that brings attention to God about something he missed, we are misleading people and devaluing God. There is a huge responsibility people are taking on when they say this; if we do a poor job we are responsible to God for that.
With that said, I wonder about other things I hear when these circumstances occur. A popular counter from outside of modern Christendom is to offer positive thoughts and energy. Ok, I get it that our PC world is avoiding the concept of prayer and some people would truly not appreciate being told or even asking for prayer. I respect that. But what is the value of positive thoughts and energy? What does that even look like? A person sits in their home and thinks about positive things and a person in trouble at the same time? I get the idea that positive outlook and lessoned stress on a person who is ill is healing in many ways. I get offering to help that by not loading stress on them and helping remove stress from them. But how does that relate to “sending positive thoughts”? “Hey, I just sent a thought mail of a picture of a puppy”. I am not trying to be overly sarcastic, but saying this because we feel helpless is worthless and misleading. How does positive energy work? What does that do for a person? We are concerned that mentioning prayer and God is bad but we feel that bringing up the concept of a universal tank of positive energy that we can psychically link to and make deposits for others makes sense? Isn’t that how Tinker Bell was saved in Peter Pan?
When I pray for a person, I am connecting with the creator of the universe and specifically asking him to change the physical nature of the universe for somebody else’s well being. I am telling him I care enough about of the person who I am praying for to want God to intervene and I am doing the best I can possibly do for that person by doing this. It is a very real action. If a person does not believe in that or want that, I respect it but that does not change the reality of what I am doing. Offering someone positive thoughts does nothing regardless of the intentions of the person.
How is stating something that makes no sense better than telling a person you care enough about them to offer them hope. If a Hindu offered to pray from me I would not be offended. I do not believe that Vishnu will fix the problem but I understand that that person was offering the best they could for my bad circumstances. If we are unwilling to accept or offer prayers due to person beliefs, we are telling the people who offer them or need them we care more about our sensibilities than their concerns.
Regardless of personal beliefs, positive energy is like offering a person who is bleeding a happy word rather than a band aid.