Monthly Archives: November 2008

compassion

When is the last time you did something truly compassionate? I have to admit its been a while for me. Too long really – an act of total giving with no expection of acknowledgement, thanks, gratitude, just because it was the right thing to do. I see too often the opposite, people making excuses for why they deserve, why they shouldn’t have to give or care – and these aren’t bad people, they are Christian, or religious of some kind. They’ve just forgotten that what they have isn’t nearly as important as what they can give – and what it does for the soul to give.

http://charterforcompassion.com/about

I’m completely inspired by Karen Armstrong’s Charter for Compassion. And I can’t even watch the video without crying 🙂 Check it out for yourself, and join the cause if you feel moved.

http://charterforcompassion.com/

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leap of faith

What I don’t understand is the people who try to convince me of some Christian position by saying “It’s in the Bible!” Ok, but… “But it’s the word of God” they say. And? Just because you believe that I’m supposed to? It’s not that easy and expecting it to be is insulting to my intelligence.

Look, the Bible is a great book – but it takes a leap of faith to sincerely believe that everything (or even most things) in it are complete truth. I will reiterate that I have no problem with people believing wholeheartedly in the Bible. However, one cannot logically use that as an argument for understanding the why’s and how’s of the Christian faith. That would assume that EVERYONE believes the same thing.

There has to be another level to the debate, there has to be a way to talk about it (Christianity and religion in general) without assuming the other person is wrong because they do or don’t believe. I often get people quoting the Bible to me when I explain a position that I have trouble understanding or believing. That is just not helpful if I have not made the same leap of faith. And not that I don’t want to, I’m just not there yet – may never be. Some tend to assume I just haven’t tried and therefore don’t “get it”. Never a fair assumption, that the other person is just not as smart as you are.

The “it’s in the Bible” arguments are a complete turn off. It’s like having a door slammed in your face, while the person doing the slamming is smiling. That may not be the intention, but that’s what’s conveyed. The explicit truth of the Bible and God are not things we can prove or disprove so they cannot be used as THE justification.

defining christianity

There is so much out there I want to write about, it’s overwhelming!

I’ll start with my usual, because Crunchy Con had a blog post on it today and it’s a topic that intrigues me…am I a Christian, and more broadly, what defines a Christian?

Crunchy con’s post was about our president elect and statements he had made, in particular:

Quote from Barack Obama: “Jesus is an historical figure for me, and he’s also a bridge between God and man, in the Christian faith, and one that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of us reaching something higher.
And he’s also a wonderful teacher. I think it’s important for all of us, of whatever faith, to have teachers in the flesh and also teachers in history.”

And Crunchy con’s reaction:

“Unless Obama was being incredibly and uncharacteristically inarticulate, this is heterodox. You cannot be a Christian in any meaningful sense and deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. You just can’t.”

This is my same dilemma of course and normally I would have agreed with the philosophy that someone who does not believe in the divine nature of Jesus, does not believe in the trinity and does not believe that Jesus is the son of god was by definition not a Christian. Hmmmm, does that mean that the early Christians were indeed not Christian? Many of them did not believe what I’ve stated here. Is a Christian defined by what the majority of the religions called Christian believe about one person (that would be Jesus)? An obvious answer is yes, of course. And by that definition I’m happy to admit I’m not a Christian. But, I do hope that Jesus was the son of God, I do hope that He sacrificed his only son so that our sins could be forgiven. It would be an amazing, loving truth – but I can’t say that I know for sure. I can’t say the all the creeds and memorization stuff because I actually want to believe it and won’t say it until I’m sure. Does Christianity reject me as one of it’s own? It’s okay if they do, I’m just asking.

But what if, just if, it’s not all true – what if Jesus wasn’t the actual son of God, wasn’t divine? Would that negate his message? Would that make everyone who believed that’s what he was a non-Christian and all the rest of us doubters the real Christians? I don’t believe so. Who gets to define what a Christian is?

Why can’t someone like me, someone who believes in the amazing nature of a man (yes a man) named Jesus be a Christian? What takes precedence, acting Christian or believing Christian? Maybe the Christians should adopt the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy…

This an on-going question for me and isn’t easy, because as you know my mantra: if it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong! (that includes spelling by the way). I’d love to hear your thoughts!

May God bless you with as many margaritas as you can handle!

purging

I was 15 years old, I think.

Sitting on the edge of the hotel room bed, stiff as a board. Afraid to move almost.

My brother was watching TV or listening to music or something that I was far to consumed with fear to notice.

I wonder if he sensed the tension?

Amazingly I’m not even sure what the conversation was I’d had with my father, or if I’d even had it yet. But I must have because they were arguing about it, about me.

My best recollection is that I’d decided not to come back to visit them the next summer – my fear wasn’t about his reaction or anticipated anger that his daughter didn’t want to see him. On the contrary, anger would have proved he cared.

It was her, my step-mother’s reaction that I most feared. And fear is the right word. I sat there listening to them trying (maybe not very hard) to conceal their argument in the bathroom of the hotel room. I wanted more than anything to stand up and say “It doesn’t matter, I’m not coming. No one’s to blame, I just don’t want to.”

Sounds simple now anyway. Maybe I was afraid for him – she was always yelling at him. Maybe I didn’t want what I said to get him in more trouble.

All I know is that this moment is one that has had one of the most lasting impressions on me throughout my life. It was the first time I remember feeling that I wasn’t standing up for myself and it felt awful! Throwing up would have been a welcome relief.

How did that hotel trip end? I don’t even know. I have this habit – probably a good one – of blocking out the bad memories. Needless to say I don’t have many of my time with my dad and his wife.

But this one was different; even then as I was sitting on the bed, it was changing me. I never wanted to feel this way again. So completely left out of my own life, a total lack of control over my fear. It froze me in place and at times felt like my head would explode.

The situation may not sound too dramatic, and it probably wasn’t in reality. But for that 15 year old it was obviously the culmination of years of fear, silence, and dealing with an overbearing person. All I know is that I think back on that day with both regret that I didn’t stand up for myself in whatever small way I could have; and pride that I used it as a positive influence to change the way I let others interact with me now. I don’t know of any other memory that I have such conflicting and simultaneous feelings about.

It feels good to write about it. It is a relief, if for no other reason than it was good to get it out. I don’t think of my step-mother now as someone I fear at all. I’ve since stood up to her and even get the sense that she’s slightly intimidated by me now. But that day and those feelings are so easy to bring back up – that’s how I knew they were important. I had to understand them. That point may have made me more of who I am than any other single day in my life.

answers

On a recent Speaking of Faith podcast on religion and politics on the Right, Krista Tippett interviewed Rod Dreher, a columnist for the Dallas Morning News and the author of Crunchy Cons, a BeliefNet.org blog. http://blog.beliefnet.com/crunchycon/ Not only would I recommend listening to this interview but also the one she did with Time magazine national correspondent Amy Sullivan on “the Democratic Party’s complex relationship with faith.” One of the first quotes in the interview caught my attention. According to Mr. Dreher,

Religious progressives find the search and find seeking to be so important, religious conservatives put their emphasis on the finding…”

Really? I’d never heard this, but it sounds plausible. True that the people I know who trust that what the bible says is literal and and believe they have “found” the truth are more conservative.
I would put myself in the religious progressive category; and for me the search is not just more important is one of the most important things. If I had no reason to continue looking, asking and searching I would be nowhere. I can’t imagine ever being able to claim that I had found it; that I knew the truth for certain. I’d be interested to hear from those who put themselves in the religious conservative category for more insight on this issue.

Needless to say, this concept intrigued me. Around the same, time I was reading Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor. For those unfamiliar, she is a former Episcopal priest and this is her story of why she left her position and found God anyway. She had some very poignant points to make about this concept of searching vs. finding that certainly hit home for me. I underlined them in the book because God knows my brain won’t remember anything the minute I turn the page! Here are a few of the biggie quotes for me:

I want to recover the kind of faith that has nothing to do with being sure what I believe and everything to do with trusting God to catch me though I am not sure of anything.” P. 111

By the time I resigned from Grace-Calvary, I had arrived at an understanding of faith that has far more to do with trust than with certainty. I trusted God to God even if I could not say who God was for sure. I trusted God to sustain the world although I could not say for sure how that happened. I trusted God to hold me and those I loved, in life and in death, without giving me one shred of conclusive evidence that it was so.” P.170

I discovered that faith did not have the least thing to do with certainty. Insofar as I had any faith at all, that faith consisted of trusting God in the face of my vastly painful ignorance…” p. 224

These sentiments hit home with me. I’ve never questioned the reality of God; I’ve questioned a lot of things in the Bible, in church, in other religions…you name it – but not the existence of a God. You could say that I “know” there is a God, but I don’t. I certainly can’t prove it. Because I believe it does not mean I Know it nor do I expect others to believe it just because I do. This is the importance of the personal journey for me. Finding your own path to belief, a path that you never really get off…unless you quit the search of course.

Only a week after thinking about these two concepts, I was reading my daughter’s school Bible with her (she’s in 2nd grade at a Lutheran school) and the glossary in the back had a definition of faith. Unfortunately I didn’t write it down at the time and she’s since taken the book back to school. But it was something along the lines that Faith is when you know God. Maybe this should not have shocked me having heard Mr. Dreher’s statement. But it did and still does.

I don’t know God; I don’t hold out hope that someday I will. I don’t even believe that God is knowable. Isn’t that what faith means – that we believe even though we can’t know? Isn’t God “supposed” (I hate that word) to be so amazing and ultimately unknowable to us very imperfect humans? And I certainly don’t want my 7 year old feeling inadequate because she doesn’t know everything for sure. But maybe I’m taking it too literally. I definitely need help understanding this one.