Posts Tagged God
Last Thanksgiving was one to remember. Somewhere in-between the compliments on my mashed potatoes and questions about whether dessert should be both pumpkin and pecan pie, I was told by a fellow Christ follower that I was accursed and going to hell. The conversation had turned from culinary choices to Christian responsibility in discussion of things like same sex marriage, security at church, and evolution versus creation. I felt comfortable around my fellow believers to speak openly about the bible and how it is used in our modern churches. I think that may have been my mistake. Honestly it probably was one of the better thanksgiving meals I have had. It was enlightening.
The specifics of the conversation are less important but the overall context speaks volumes to how we understand God and how the world actually sees us. The modern church seems to have adopted a unique view of biblical understanding. We mash verses like James 1:5 explaining where we should seek wisdom together with Colossians 2:8 about reliance on Christ and not human acumen and we end up with the ability to blame the Holy Spirit for our willingness to argue with the world about what we don’t like. Do we really think that is honoring God?
It seems like our desire for expedience and frankly our fears that we might agree with something we shouldn’t causes us to jump to conclusions about things we probably should chew on and struggle with more. Paul preached in a town called Berea and their response in Acts 17 was to examine the scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true. The word used (anakrino) is one of active and diligent searching. We seem to have sacrificed that today with a rote memorization of lists of things we are suppose to oppose. One offers the ability to swim in the words of the Creator himself and see how they change us to be more like him. The other affords us the ability to regurgitate on command. How can this truly honor God?
This is not a dark plot to squelch the words of the Spirit or a plan to usurp the throne of God with a conservative agenda of monotone “churchspeak”, it is more realistically a direction adopted from society itself to ease the burden of actually performing anakrino. With the information superhighway linked to everyone’s phones and the focus of modern communication, we are inundated with so many factoids that the only possibility to absorb them is to respond with “like” or “dislike”. We have exchanged the idea of a well-rounded and thorough education with a strong web presence. This does not honor God.
Don’t get me wrong, technology is not to blame, it is just a tool. Our use of it though will determine our efficacy in preaching the true gospel. I met a young man who was pursuing an online theology degree through a major Christian University. He explained it was faster and would get him into ministry sooner with the same educational value. He had been studying for a while so I asked who his favorite theologians were and his answer was that he couldn’t remember the names but he was willing to let me review his textbooks. If the quality of theological education being pursued by ministers today reduces the need to understand the history that brought us where we are and replaces that need with the requirement to offer an opinion in a class discussion post then we are breeding future ministers that will have no real ability to speak for the God they serve. Frankly this dishonors God.
If the some total of biblical examination that we are fostering in our church bodies is to look at an abridged online commentary or for that matter listen to a person who has done that and accept their version of truth, than how are we actually pursuing the call that was given? We are no longer preaching the gospel. We are preaching modern “churchspeak”. One of the clearest directives given in the text is from the prophet Micah. He tells us to pursue justice and mercy and walk humbly before our God. Humility starts with recognizing that our words about God are steeped in the tension of the fact we are speaking about something we have no possibility of understanding fully. If we present it as if it is simple and can be verified through a checklist, if we address the world’s concerns as if they are either on that list or not and therefore some type of abomination, if we stop examining the scripture and just read it to find agreement with our preconceived notions, than our ability to honor God has left the building. I have a large concern that God will follow shortly.
The message of the modern church is being obscured by our own voice. We are reaching some people, but I have to wonder if we are doing justice to them or the ones we are not reaching if we are encouraging compliance instead of diligent scripture searching. This does open up doors for possible misunderstanding and even not addressing sins in peoples lives. I am just not certain that is a bad thing. If we are truly seeking to honor God, then the most important thing to remember is we cannot bind his power to work in people’s lives by the insecurities of our own beliefs. The alternative is simply not working and I fear is an offense to the one we serve.
Was it gay bashing or freedom of speech? Was it posturing or proclaiming the word? Was it clear and concise or was it not well thought out? And probably the most important question, did it deserve the backlash it received from either side. Phil Robertson made a series of bad choices that led him to a crossroads he may not have foreseen. The first was to be candidly interviewed by GQ magazine. As strange as that sounds, it has a strong resemblance to Jimmy Carter being interviewed by Playboy Magazine and expecting to be seen in a positive light when asked about impure thoughts. When walking through a mine field it is best not to tap dance.
Another bad choice was to discuss racial history and how another race did or did not act. How could his understanding in high school offer any value? At the very best he could have dealt with this topic by saying he was naïve at the time and was not aware of problems. But frankly why interact on the subject at all if he was that naïve? If he could not help the situation by offering true insight, why engage? What is the real point of asking any celebrity their view on things they are not experts on? And why would they answer? As confusing as this may sound, this wasn’t the real firestorm in his interview.
The next bad choice involved answering questions on homosexuality. One side is saying his statements are hate speak and another says it was freedom of speech. In reality, it was neither. Phil tried to make light of the concept by equating an anus to a vagina. This is ignorance. Diminishing the importance of sexuality in our culture to a choice of human orifices shows that he is unable to speak cogently on the subject. His next set of statements regarding sin and the slippery slope idea that homosexuality somehow leads to bestiality and multiple partners or group sex is no better. The only thing that Phil proved is that he should not speak on the subject. His attempt to use scripture to support his view showed only that his ability to communicate biblical truths in complicated areas is not a strong skill.
Why do we feel that truth is delivering every thought that is in our mind? I think plenty of things that make me incredibly smart. Not the thoughts themselves, but knowing when to keep them internal and not say them. The biochemical and neurological events that interact with our sensory organs cause information to enter our brains. Our ability to perceive that data properly is based upon a variety of factors ranging from education, experience, physical health, vitamin deficiency or excess, and amount of sleep. The ability to coherently formulate a complex argument depends on all of those things working together well so we can filter the data that our senses provide. Basically just because we think something, does not make it right, viable, worth saying, or even a good idea. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Popularity does not make this process easier.
This issue is not about free speech or about hate speak. It is about a man put into a situation where he made statements that should have been filtered better. And because of that, people are choosing to be very, very opportunistic and throw stones at each other. Both groups are saying in a way that the other side hates them. When are we going to get to a point where we can put aside our differences and realize that everything thought does not need to be said in order to be truthful. When can we start to bridge the communication gap and get past the intolerance, on both sides? When will be able to reach out and tell a person that God loves them and we do as well and truly mean it? When will we be able to talk openly, respect each other, and not claim hatred over petty words? When will we begin to see that God does not care so much what we think, but cares greatly what we do?
I sat and watched her fidget and do menial tasks when she was clearly upset about something. She was a fellow student in seminary who had dreams of pastoral leadership and quite frankly was far more gifted than I in several disciplines. But something had clearly rattled her. When I asked she told me about a man in one of her classes who made broad statements to her about how she would be unable to perform certain duties within the church because she was a woman. I told her that was interesting; I didn’t know we had had a clairvoyant in our school but realistically the only thing that would make him correct is if she believed he was.
I think she understood my point but the truth is that the problem here was far larger than my angled quip could solve. There is so much history and tradition infused in the interpretation of the actual text that sifting through it just to reach consensus seems arduous at best. It confuses and angers both genders and at times has even split churches. What I can’t figure out is why.
I guess that is not quite true. I understand the history and see how the pieces to the puzzle have built the labyrinth we now have, I just don’t understand why we don’t tear a few walls down to let the people trapped inside out. Should we blame the old boys club or the male dominated denominational structures? How about blaming women directly for accepting the roles? How about blaming society for adopting a model that the church echoed so easily? How about we blame the Apostle Paul for his misogyny and self centered directions? For that matter, why don’t we just blame God himself, after all it is his book we got it from? Or better yet, how about we take the blame off the table, we re-evaluate, re-vision, re-think, and somehow build a model that not only gives the people hope, but helps heal the evils of the past.
The first step is to understand what the scripture really says. I am not going to attempt a full commentary on Paul or even list out the parts in Ephesians, Galatians, or Corinthians that address this. I don’t think that is needed because there is a larger hermeneutical issue here. The biblical text was never intended to be used in the support of a categorical syllogism to limit the ability of a gender to fulfill their desire for service to God. We cannot take Paul’s statements in one book, add them to statements in another, and conclude that he was misogynistic and that the church should not allow women to lead. This process creates a philosophical and hermeneutical error before we even begin. There is no code in the text and it is not a puzzle to be solved. As clearly as I can put it, if you have to stand on an old chair facing north east while thinking of something angelic to get the meaning out of the text, you are doing it wrong. Instructions given to the church on how to administer the church were aimed at specific churches with specific problems. Whereas that may give information that should be used in modern churches to help administer them, it cannot be taken as a singular contextual statement aimed at the church model 2000 years later without understanding the individual churches in a holistic manner.
Paul’s work was aimed at the unification of believers around the gospel of Christ. He was not setting up a universal church structure. He traveled from town to town and delivered the gospel. That was his focus. He wrote to the churches he had been to with corrective action and support for the furthering of that gospel. He was almost annoyed with administrative items. His statements about those types of items were curt and simplistic. It was almost that he was trying to get past the arguments with the first idea that came into his head. If we take those as direct mandates from God as how women are to be viewed, then not only are we contradicting other scripture that clearly shows equality, but we are placing our own selfish desires in front of God’s and denying his overall requirement to seek justice and love mercy.
We have done such a disservice to God in this arena. I have heard so much heretical garbage proclaimed in the name of tradition that has caused people to accept the inexcusable as the norm. And when we do try to push against it we end up with solutions that are almost as offensive as the problem. I have heard pastors proclaim that Paul was actually elevating the status of women from their even lower place to where we claim he said they should be. That kind of reminds me of a support for slavery from the 1800’s. Sometimes I feel more passion against the church than for it.
We have got to stop defending our traditions and understand that God cares more about our actions. The person who should be leading the church is the best qualified person, regardless of gender. If a man says he cannot learn from a woman, then the problem is with him, not them. Don’t get me wrong, there are clearly different roles intended for men than women. I will never be a mother nor have the nurturing skills that mothers have. But that in no way says that a woman should be silent in church. Simply put, those that feel women should be silent in church should do so themselves before they ever consider speaking.
Changing the world starts with changing ourselves. If we are unable to see through our own walls we build, the image of God we want to show cannot be seen by those on the other side. Sometimes we need to tear down the walls to find truth.
A man stood on a street corner and waived a bible in the air as if a mug at Octoberfest proclaiming the “eternal truths” of that bible as he saw them. He was wearing the same clothes he had slept in and worn the last several days. He had a story that was full of sorrow about drugs and loss, pain and regret, and sin and consequence. He had given up a home, a wife, a family, and his health for moments of pleasure centered on small crystals and a small tube. He had changed all that but unfortunately it was a little too late for many of those broken things to be fixed. His name was Roger. I felt for him and offered him some food and water; he gratefully accepted and rewarded my kindness with a healthy dose of his beliefs. He said the world had taken so much away from him but couldn’t take away his beliefs.
Humans have an innate ability to hold onto their beliefs regardless of circumstances. They may be strong, they may be weak, they may be caustic or fluid, they may be centered on a god or an anti-god or a god in absentia or even no god at all, but they are held on to like they are the last breath in our lungs. Even when they are crushed, they are soon replaced with more beliefs. They serve as almost a personal accomplishment or validation of a job well done. Once we have secured them, they comfort us by their existence, whether right or wrong. We act as if the belief itself makes us knowledgeable whether or not we have ever studied the subject we believe something about. We present and defend our beliefs attempting to provide them as fact we have proven and at the same time reduce opposing beliefs to rubble offering the superiority of our own. It becomes almost a game. Walt Disney was a master at this. He caused a world of children to “believe” so Tinkerbelle would come back to life when the film already contained the conclusion whether children believed or not.
I used to take my mother to the doctor who was treating her for Parkinson’s and it was almost funny how he would relate to me. I have a 10,000 foot understanding of the neurochemistry involved in that disease so when he would describe how the neurotransmitters Norepinephrine and Dopamine are inhibited when neurons die or are impaired, I would understand. But it was almost like he was asking my opinion on his diagnosis and treatment. I am positive that was just his way of making patients and family members comfortable but it illustrates the point well. Just because I have a small amount of knowledge about that disease my beliefs about treatment and diagnosis are worthless.
Our understanding of belief redefines the word to agreement. We hear something, see something, or experience something that we cannot explain or rationalize in our current belief system and we either agree with it and import it into our system or we dismiss as not being valid enough to be agreed upon. Somehow we gain internal approval by filtering items through our belief system and filing them where appropriate. We do this with God most of all.
But does God really care what we believe?
God is not something we should believe in, he is something we should follow whether or not our experiences, systems, or beliefs tell us we are right. God is really not concerned whether or not we agree with his practice. An assessment of his instruction whether concluding for or against is similar to me telling my mother’s doctor I concurred with his diagnosis and treatment protocols. I could have gone to school, learned everything about medicine I needed, evaluated here test results myself and then offered my sign off but if I had done that, she would have passed away sooner and long before I completed medical school. With God, all lifetimes combined would not be enough time to draw in the education needed to offer a valid opinion.
God does not care if we believe in him; he cares if we follow him. I think I get that. If I am starving and in need of food, a person believing that God will take care of me is far less valuable at the moment than a person doing what God requires and offering food. Tangible action outweighs philosophical belief any and every day. Character is not affected by belief, it is defined by action. I for one prefer a strong character over a strong opinion.
If I were to say that Atheists are stupid, I would be labeled intolerant, disgruntled, biased, arrogant, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. However some militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins feel that I as a theist am stupid, dimwitted, foolish, and many other things that frankly I do my best to avoid. But do they have a point? I mean realistically I am asking Atheists to have an open mind so I should as well. I believe in something that has no empirical evidence, requires me to act in ways that are completely contrary to my normal thought process, asks me to sacrifice myself for the sake of others, and ensures that I will be persecuted to some extent while alive. I have to admit the evidence weighs against me.
Historically my kind have offered responses to this that I would love to grab hold of and swing for the fence against these heinous accusations but I find they leave me empty at times. If Christians are going to respond to views like Dawkins, we need to be able to provide a defense for the hope that is within us. This is not just a theoretical polemic based upon the advent of the Spirit in time of need; it takes thought and preparation ahead of time which Dawkins feels we do not use.
Dawkins argues in his book The God Delusion that “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe discoverable in principle if not in practice”. He feels that even if we cannot prove for or against the existence of God, we should be able to do much better than a 50% chance of being correct. I disagree with these hypotheses. If human science is able to open the door and find the man behind the curtain, then there must be a curtain, a door, and a place for the man to stand. In other words, if we are using tools common to the human realm, how can they determine something outside the human realm? If the best we can offer is not 100% accurate, than replacing faith with reason is faulty.
Dawkins argues that the existence of an advanced being that is more complex than human beings would require either an even more advanced being to create him or that a more advanced process would need to create that being. This starts with an assumption that all things need to be created or evolved. This is a carefully constructed false alternative fallacy. For a mind to be truly open about God, we need to be willing to accept options that are outside of our parameter set.
He argues that the Bible is “just plain weird”. It is “a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents”. I would have to agree. It was clearly not written by a single author or even complied by one. It has structural elements that span two millennia and was complied over the better part of one. But what does that have to do with God or Christianity. If my intention was to do a Book Review on the text I understand his concerns, but whether the ancient writings are collected in a book, online, PDF’s on my laptop, or scrolls in jar somewhere, that really doesn’t address their information. He says that the God of the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak”. That sounds an awful lot like a schoolyard bully trying to control a conversation through an ad hominem abusive argument, not a scholar looking to gain wisdom. I guess my challenge is I don’t see much explaining why my beliefs are stupid, dimwitted, and foolish. I do see an awful lot showing Dawkins doesn’t like them. I can live with that.
There are arguments that have validity that question my views. I am nowhere near arrogant enough to dispute that. But questions do not make me stupid, they actually should help to either reinforce my beliefs or help realign them. I believe in the God who communicated his message for man through scripture. Unless I am willing to say that I have a lock on all scriptural understanding, which I am quite unwilling to do, I have to accept that questions can only help me.
One question centers on Theodicy. It centers on the problem of evil and destruction in our world and the question of how an omnipotent and omniscient God could allow this. It argues against the assertion that God is all powerful, all knowing, or benevolent if he allows these things. This question calls out the same issue with Dawkins original hypothesis above. For us to claim God is not these things that befit the character of God, we are saying we fully understand how God is involved with the world, how he interacts, and we are judging that as not correct thereby claiming dominion over God and reducing his godhood. The question appeals to an outside governing agency to determine that God’s actions are either right or wrong. The problem is that if they are truly able to determine that, he is not God.
Another question comes from the idea that Jesus is the only way to get to God. The idea is that it is narrow minded to require all people to accept this single view point when there are a plethora of religions to choose from. A young pastor I once new felt that this argument had weight. He began to accept the idea that as no concrete scientific evidence exists for the assertions of the Biblical texts, than no religion should be excluded and all ideas should be embraced. He felt this larger more inclusive view better represented a god he would want to believe in and gave up his pastoral role and began to build out his own religion centered on this new god. Redacting the text by virtue of what is popular is nothing more than creating fiction. Calling it loving and inclusive makes it sound nice but does not reduce the fact that it is still creating fiction. The biblical text requires faith in God to be in right relationship with God. Emasculating that God on the account of our inability to reconcile his justice with our desires is rebellion and not faith. We can call it harsh, we can question the purpose, and we can even say we don’t like it. The moment we choose executive privilege to rewrite it is the moment we stop believing in it and elevate ourselves to godlike status.
Many other questions exist but none prove the idea that Christian belief in God is sub intelligent. The answers may be difficult and may not even best represent the God they are meant to represent. But believer are not less intellectual because they exist. If we are unable to openly discuss the idea that God exists outside of our ability to control, we only discuss what we control and that will never be God. It is not wrong to question God, in a lot of ways it makes sense. If we do however, we need to be ready for the answers and not expect they will fit in the boxes we want them to. Abusive rhetoric will not change that. Asking God why makes sense, listening to his answers makes even more sense.
There is an idea in modern pop culture that tolerance is a virtue and that anything that is not supportive of others actions is bigoted and judgmental. This sounds nice and leads rather seamlessly to Universalism. This concept involves a universal reconciliation between all of humanity and God and so the beliefs of all religions even anti religion are acceptable and included. This more inclusive approach is favored by many. It is certainly easier to say “go in peace, be warmed and filled” than to get involved difficult questions. But does that do anything to address the problems in our world today?
There are far too many pseudo philosopher/theologians using religion to try and get rich with half baked pithy arguments. I know that sounds harsh but the world does not need more Joel Osteens, we need to stop caring more about how we can best navigate the quagmire of mendacity and grime in our world to get rich and self satisfied and start finding ways to clean it up. In our desire to be politically correct, we venture down the path of blending all actions into the realm of acceptable in the sight of God. They become baptized in a sense and no longer something that we need to change, or at least change with any urgency. We downgrade evil from horrible to just not preferable. If we just say we are working on it that is enough. That is the problem, if the sum total of our philosophical journey is to claim that evil is not a real problem, we have not changed anything. We still are forced to swim in the sewer we have created. The toughest part is no matter how loud we scream, yell, call it something else, and try to spin doctor it into oblivion, the truth is simple. If we take God out of the picture or reformatted him into our own versions, the world is never a better place.
Good and evil are polar opposites in the spectrum. They are not contingent factors and therefore do not depend upon each other. If one is removed you are not left with the other. In other words the absence of evil does not create good. Good is only created by direct action, specifically direct good action. This may sound circular but it is foundational. Mankind’s actions are neither inherently good nor evil, they are neutral. Christian theology states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. This sin is inherited through our genetic makeup basically and traces back to Adam. I understand the theology and where it comes from but it is an attempt to explain a concept as opposed to map the genome. In other words the figurative language is not a viable statement to explain how a newborn is evil or good. The Bible explains that only God is good and thereby good is preexisting to man. The only way to do good is to follow the guidelines that God has set forth such as seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly before him. By following his teachings we are able to do good. By rebelling against his teachings we become evil.
If we try to take God out of the picture, we no longer have a framework to explain what good is. If we remove the concept of evil, the only thing we have done is put blinders on, turned the music up and yelled out “La, la, la, la, la, la” hoping to drown out the noise of our conscience. Advising others to tolerate is nothing more than seeking approval by consensus. It really doesn’t matter how many people want to do it, it will never be good and the rebellion will always be evil. If we want to make changes to the world, we need to start with ourselves and stop glossing over bumpy parts. We need to seek forgiveness where needed and change. Arguing we are not wrong will never make a bad situation better.
How do you prove the un-provable? How can you describe the indescribable? There is a large question in modern philosophy regarding the existence of God. Theists and Atheists argue the point using carefully constructed arguments. Theists use Ontological and Cosmological arguments. The Ontological argument starts with the assumption that there is a supreme existence even if that is measured only by determining that whatever man can think of, something else must be better. Cosmological arguments start with the assumption that something had to cause the existence of everything. Even if it was an explosion of atoms at the start of time, something caused that to occur and that thing must be God. Atheists use Logical and Evidential arguments. A Logical argument would be similar to “God is perfect, perfect things are usually made up by people seeking validation for their imperfections, therefore God is made up”. An Evidential argument would be similar to saying that “God is perfect and good, and a perfect and good being would not allow evil to exist, therefore God does not exist”. These approaches whether internally consistent, fallacious, or truly logical are not the problem. The problem is in the argument itself.
Both of these approaches start with assumptions that require external validation to reach their given conclusions. Whether the arguments for or against God are logical, evidential, ontological, or cosmological, they all start with the assumption that we have the ability to define the parameters of the indefinable. If I discover something scientifically, I will weigh it, measure it, examine it, describe it, and provide my evidence for my conclusions using pre existing tools. Assuming my evidence holds true, my evidence becomes fact. I become the master of that evidence. That fact is disputable only by someone who can disprove my evidence or use of the pre existing tools in which case they become the master of that evidence. All of this would be subject to the scientific community for validation. That cannot work with God. By definition of the job, God is the supreme source and not verifiable by outside sources. Human logic can never encapsulate something that is outside the realm of humanity.
We approach the concept of God with a mindset that says we can understand him, we can figure him out. This is not just an atheist view. Christians approach God the same way. We assume the ability to understand God. So even in the most heinous circumstances, we force information into boxes to let ourselves sleep at night. We make claims on God by claiming we understand. Here is a perfect example. The story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac is utterly disturbing. It has historically been seen as a way of testing Abraham’s faith. We put an asterisk on the story by stating that God never intended to go through with it. I want that to be true as much as the next person but that is a conclusion inside a box initiated by the author of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament. The story does not give God’s motivation. It only provides circumstance. If anything, we should look at the story and say “Wow, I don’t get that. I will need to relay on my faith and know that God is just, but wow, I still don’t get that”. Instead, we package it, seal it, and pass it off as theology rather than accept the tension. That is the same thing Atheists do.
A relationship with God is based on faith. This faith says that no matter what we may see, feel, understand, perceive, or think, God is still God and worthy of our trust and eternal service. If we place conditions on the fealty, we switch roles and try to usurp the throne. If we try to do that philosophically through argument, the only thing we prove is that we become our own god, whether we conclude he exists or not.
One of the largest foundational understandings of the Bible is that God created the world. Scientists and hardcore creationists can debate the “how” on that for years to come but from a purely faith perspective, God created it and throughout the prophetic books calls on it as witness to his majesty. He is first seen as Lord over creation and then allows humans to live in his domain through that creation. It would seem this subject should be very important in our daily lives, not the worship of creation but the respect for God’s creation. So why hasn’t the church historically been more concerned about that creation?
The claim that the polar ice caps are melting and that may cause torrential weather shifts is becoming less and less believable based upon scientific evidence. But it doesn’t take much to see that world is decaying on a dramatic scale. Air quality is getting worse, our natural resources are being drained, our landfills are overflowing, our ozone layer is reducing, and we spray toxic substances on our growing vegetables to decrease spoilage. We use nuclear reactors to power our world that even when run “safely” create a byproduct of spent uranium and thorium cells that remain wickedly radioactive for a thousand or so years. We currently have no manner of destroying them but we continue to produce them. As a people, we have learned to pollute and contaminate our world to an absurd level.
I am certain that the Christian church cannot stop this. I am certain it will only get worse and God’s creation will only take more and more abuse. But does that mean we do nothing to try? Do we think we are less culpable because the job is daunting? Do we think that God will hold us less accountable for our actions or lack thereof? Do we really think we are not to blame for the damage these actions have caused?
Think about this. We as consumers will not want to spend more money for fruits and vegetables. Stores will look for the lowest prices to ensure their profit margins. Farmers will do as much as they can to make as much of their crop sellable at the best cost possible, this includes toxic pesticides. The workers spraying these pesticides have statistically shown to have higher rates of disease, this includes their families though “take home” exposure. So in effect, simply because I want vegetables without spots at the cheapest price possible, I am affecting the health of other people. And somehow God will not care that I am unwilling to spend more because I want to save up money for a larger TV or Ipad?
I know it is not this simple and buying organic products solely is not possible for all and would not solve to overall issue. But is it not something to think about? I am not the one directly causing these problems, but do I have an indirect responsibility? Does the Church for not getting involved sooner? For myself, I would have to say yes, I do.
My concern is not that Churches are not picketing the local Ralphs or boycotting conventional products. That wouldn’t help and frankly Churches have done enough of that noise for a lifetime. I am more concerned they greatly ignore the question. As I stated, buying Organic will not solve the problem. But turning a blind eye will solve even less. If we are not willing to look at the problem, how can we claim we are acting morally? How can we claim we are treating God’s creation with respect? I don’t have a great answer for all the problems. But I do know that doing nothing is the worst possible answer.
I am a hypocrite. I know that. I am constantly at war with my own desires reaching to polar opposites of the moral spectrum. I have in alternating moments sacrificed everything for God and then sacrificed my ethic for my desire. I am duplicitous by nature and I know that. I am not alone. All Christians fit this description, as a matter of fact, all people do. The question is whether we see it. I have seen Christians recently expressing outrage over the actions of Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards and then supporting their favorite musical artist or television show that promotes open sexuality through innuendo and provocative speech. Whereas the shows and artists they like may be more talented and skillful at the art, at least Miley Cyrus is being honest. Many non Christians have weighed in on the same moral battleground with very similar views. Hypocrisy and duplicity are easy allies and bring comfort like a warm blanket. They look to lull us to sleep while trying to steal our souls. We are not alone. Even the apostle Paul recognized this. In Romans he says:
For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Rom 7:15 NAS)
With that said, it should be no surprise to others when I act in a way that goes against something which means so much to me. It shouldn’t surprise me. But it should disgust me. I think that is one of the largest problems in the church today. We have forgotten that our sin should be repulsive. It should be something that grieves us and makes us understand what sacrifice God has made for us. Instead many act as if the sins of others should be repulsive but theirs should be accepted or forgotten. After all, it is forgiven, right?
What is the value of forgiveness if the actions being forgiven become common place? If all we do is expect that by uttering two words with faint shame in our eyes we bring right to the universe and celebrate the selfless act of a God/man that appeased an angry God, we are only fooling ourselves. My mother had Parkinson’s. It is a particularly evil disease that eats at you little by little over the course of many years. The main medication is a synthetic metabolic precursor of Dopamine that is able to cross the blood brain barrier and help regulate the nervous system. It works great to begin with in small doses and then as you build a tolerance, requires more and more. Eventually it no longer functions as the dosage requirements can no longer effectively be metabolized. What began as a life saver is no longer effective because its effect is no longer useful to the person. Forgiveness can never go away but our ability to effectively accept it can disappear. If we are callous to the forgiveness, the actions that need forgiving will be common place. Just showing up at church on a regular basis does nothing to stop this.
Both Israel and Judah proved that God has a tolerance point where he will let people go in the direction they want to most. Monday morning theologians want to claim that doctrine states Gods love never ends and his faithfulness and forgiveness are eternal. I agree whole heartedly. I also don’t believe that God will be asking for my exegesis on passages from the text when his examples through history show that if people act like they are separated from God long enough, they are. Debating Calvinism vs Arminianism becomes a pedantic exercise when the evidence of separation and pain in people’s lives is so real. Even correct doctrine can be an illusion that offers little comfort if misunderstood.
One of the best weapons against Parkinson’s is exercise. Every day fight the desire to just relax and take it easy: everything from running and stretching to getting up to change the channel instead of using the remote control. It stops the body from accepting the limitations of the disease and holds them off allowing the medication to work longer. We need to do the same by resisting sin. Spend less time pointing out others and more time controlling our own. The evil that invades our soul and looks like a beautiful dream we never deserved is actually a deadly poison wanting to slowly choke us to death. Look past the lies and fight. Look past our desires and fight. Look past ourselves and see God.
One of my favorite actors is Peter O’Toole and one of my favorite roles he played is Alan Swann in My Favorite Year. The character is a drunken actor that had never truly been held accountable for his hedonistic actions and had begun to find less and less enjoyment in them. He has a quote in the film that I will never forget. “A rose by any other name will wither and die”. His take on William Shakespeare explained his utter disdain for the fact that he had allowed the studios to make him change his name to brand his image as an action star. I think the essence of this is seen in society today. Many people want to re-brand Christianity to make it more palatable.
It is clear that our world is in decline. For every advancement we make on a technological or scholarly level we move backward on a human level and reduce the value of our own souls. We are aware of the problem and we seek earnestly for an answer. From major religions and secular philosophers to modern day mystics sitting outside the local Starbucks solving the worlds issues one cigarette at a time, we all look for it. Is what we are doing though just rebranding the same concepts under different names or blending the past to build a new future?
Christianity is seen as almost a bad word in our world. The actions of some people who have used that name have caused others to want to stop using the name. I have to say though; a rose by any other name will wither and die. Christianity has only one meaning. It means the act of following Christ and his teachings. This is an all or nothing gig. A person can find some or even most of the teachings of Christ valuable but that would not make them Christian. It is the same concept in other religions. Personally I find some of the teachings of the Buddha extremely wise and worth following. I feel the Hindu belief in the sacredness of life to be very valuable. These thoughts in no way make me a Buddhist or a Hindu. It would be insulting to either group to say that. For some reason however people feel that Christianity is different and you can use the name as long as you have heard of Jesus Christ. It really is no wonder people want to re-brand what they see. I would ask though, does that make what they see truly Christian? Not hardly.
We can’t solve the world’s problems by walking through a spiritual supermarket, picking up the items we want and then calling our shopping bag Christian. Rebranding destroys the old and muddies the new. Listening to many opinions does not bring about truth, it usually confuses it. All we end up doing is taking God out of the picture and creating our own religion. But if that is all we want to do, why do we need to invoke the name of Christ? Christianity starts with the mercy and justice of God and finishes with reconciliation. If parts are removed for the sake of modern sensibility, we effectively destroy the whole. Christianity is not based on a mental practice of agreeing with terms. It is based upon the action of doing the deeds. If a person doesn’t do that, they are not Christian.
Seeking the supremacy of proving our work is better than theirs and our blend is smoother and flows better is useless. A rose by any other name will still wither and die.