Thursday, May 11, 2006

left, left, left right left

we were talking about this whole holy-militia approach to social issues. a good question came up:

are believers supposed to march or simply stand?

i mean, you can have your own stand on a social issue without marching around trying to spiritually bully people.

next up for incineration- the harry potter series... but narnia is fine.
and we can only drink milk from a christian cow.

onward christian soldiers
marching as to war
with the cross of Jesus
going on before...

i know that the brown shirt variety of believers make it very hard to even briefly consider that the God they serve may be valid, however they are hard right minority and like their islamic counterparts the al qaeda network, they don't speak for us all... they just think they do.

matt7.21-23 comes to mind... it's better to let God do the judging.

but everywhere we look, it becomes apparent that people are getting really tired of a bad-news gospel. take my friend fredcall... please! (jokes)

if i remember correctly, the conversational thread that led to fred's story about his younger brother began when he sent me a note that had been written proudly by a mother whose elementary school-age child had torn nearly the entire book of leviticus out of a bible because of basic justice issues arising from a literal misinterpretation of the scriptures.

i made a remark about this jefferson bible maneouver being simply an anti-religious expression of the same mindset that has books like catcher in the rye and huckleberry finn removed from schools and burned.

and, well, off we went, exploring together the differences between theology and ideology.

Ideology and spirituality are not one and the same. Unfortunately what is passing for fundamentalism (Christian, Judaic, Islamic, Scientologists and Moonies for example) are basing their beliefs on ideology, not spirituality...

Theosophically (or philosophically or politically or scientifically or whaterver) understanding what you are talking about goes a long way toward something along the spiritual line of tackling life's situations. Manchurian Candidate ideology is far short of anything I look upon as spirituality. If you (figuratively you) are marching to war, do you understand why you are marching to war, or are you wound up by an invisible hand- turned key. -fredcall

if i read his attitude towards most things correctly, he is interested in people's ability to sort things out for themselves rather than the simple adoption of a company line with regard to topics of ultimate importance. although fred's approach is confrontational and mildly unorthodox, his quest is the pursuit of enlightenment- not only for himself but for others- and it is fueled by, among other things, love and frustration.

love for his younger brother (which could be pretty much anyone who has been drawn into a faith that has robbed him or her of the capacity for reason amidst the faith) and frustration with empty words and pat answers in an increasingly complicated world.

One time I playfully asked my kid brother what he thought about Free Will versus Determinism (as bandied about by Dante and Milton and lots of others). My kid brother got this far away look in his eyes before saying, "Let me think about this before I answer." To which I said, "Sure, take your time." He went back to his (church) Elders with my question and they told him point blank rote what to say to me. He came back with some kind of response that were not his words. He didn't even understand what he was saying. He had memorized what he was told to reply without the foggiest clue what it all theosophically meant.

I had to bite my tongue cause he's my little brother and it's not my place to embarrass him in front of his fundamentalist friends. I just nodded and left the discussion at that having learned a lesson that I can't engage this (church) ideological bunch in a theosophical discussion.

well, now that is one heckuva playful discussion topic.
yeah, let's keep it nice and light and then we'll go wrestle in the backyard!

yet so much of our take on what's happening with regard to the big questions (and, might i also say, others' big answers) has to do with how we've managed to sort through this one in order to sleep at night.

in the last month, not prompted by anything circumstancial or situational or relational, I have been reading job. interesting book- especially as we read behind the dialogue that takes place between job and his friends. I really believe that these friends love him and that they are sincere, but their theology continues to take them around the horn to one particular notion: job has done evil and is refusing to acknowledge it.

we, the readers, have a pretty nice little role in the story: do nothing and learn all there is to learn vicariously. we read job's words to his friends and feel his frustration. we read his friends' words and hear the conventional, cause-and-effect wisdom. yet we have the luxury of knowing before the whole thing starts that God is in charge and job is, in fact, righteous. the discrepancies and the real spiritual danger for job lie in the fact that these dear friends are being used to cause job to doubt himself, his heart and his life, considering the possible integrity questions that are inherent in the statements that these guys make in order to defend himself against them. when they could be bringing strength, they are instead bringing doubt.

the book of job is a pretty good example that this kind of discussion has been going on for as long as people have been trying to sort out why so many bad things happen to good people in a world created and overseen/manipulated (big fork in the road right here) by a God who is supposed to be sovereign.

but will one man's answer ever really satisfy the longings of another man's soul? hmm.

i was thinking about an interesting quote by brian d mclaren from his book finding faith and decided to try to google it in order to cite his words correctly. i ended up at the site of a blogger whose online handle is based upon the same quote by cs lewis as my own... (
well anyway, whether by free will, determinism or just a goofy coincidence, this guy has a post dealing with the emergent church... citing and acquiescing with, in particular, one guy's (a certain tim challies) misgivings with mclaren's take on the emergent church in the postmodern world:

The faith McLaren commends is a faith that always questions, always doubts. It seems that the only faith McLaren hates is the faith of a person who knows what he believes and is convicted by Scripture and by plain reason that what God has revealed is truth--true truth. As others have observed, the real enemy of the Emerging Church is conservative, biblical Protestantism.

well, regardless of challies' feelings about brother brian, the description cited is exactly what makes the work of mclaren resonnate with me. since when is questioning wrong? although Jesus likened people to sheep, i don't think that he intended for us to adopt the orwellian animal farm sheep's characteristic blind, unthinking ascent. Jesus also said that we are to have the faith of a child and, as you know, little children ask a million questions a day because it is in seeking answers to questions that people grow. if there's any point at all to this, it is that our asking of questions is as crucial to our brother's journey as it is to our own.

a friend of mine is a successful financial planner who was once a seminarian and decided that he just had too many questions of God to continue. well, whether he missed some sort of calling or not is between him and God, as he seems to be doing quite well managing other people's fortunes for fun and profit. i like going out for a guinness with him because the conversation is always engaging and always challenging.

i once said to him that if he were to ever meet someone who could ask him questions that stretched him and ripped conversational remote control from his hands long enough for him to begin searching for the answers, his faith journey might resume. you see, he knows that no one can respond to his questions with answers that satisfy his reason, so he does not have to change or grow.

i think that the primary factor at work in the heart and life of the 'questioning faithful' is that person's desire to actually discover the answers to the questions posed. sometimes we just ask questions to make points. who has time for all that rhetoric?

as for all this marching, standing, and burning things, there is nothing wrong with being activistic. however, sometimes we can be so convinced that we are the only ones who are right that everyone left is a liberal or heretic. the important spiritual, not ideological, discernment helps us to determine whether to march or to stand still to listen to the message on the wind. (yep, that's a fredcall soundbyte)

how much love is there in calling anyone an anything?

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Blogger Christopher said...

“but will one man's answer ever really satisfy the longings of another man's soul? hmm.” I Dig it man.

B. Mclaren “description cited is exactly what makes the work of mclaren resonnate with me.” Me too.

I preached on Thomas the doubter a few weeks ago, making the point that big questions lead to big answers i.e. Thomas questioning in john 14.5 makes Jesus’ answer in jn 14.6 revealed. A growing faith is a seeking faith, and a seeking faith is a questioning faith.

Good thoughts.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

well we should just email brian up, telling him what a fine job he's doing and to keep up the good work...

only half joking

Blogger SocietyVs said...

I am reading a book on this same subject called the 'end of faith'. The writer is fairly harsh and puts moderates and fundamentalists in the same category, condemning both for a destructive faith that ask no questions and has even less proof. Which plays right into this post.
Nothing wrong with spirituality as long as it remains responsible and even less judgemental of others. It is too easy to judge people anyways, were idiot humans that know less then we think yet percieve to have all the answers because some book said so. That's when I think living and learning is essential with faith.
When I read those gospels I see a faith being played in real world time by real world people. That cannot change for us, even if the words might be interpretated differently by many, the point still remains we have to figure out our belief system. Funny, a hunt for the truth would lead back to reality.

Blogger jollybeggar said...

"It is too easy to judge people anyways, were idiot humans that know less then we think yet percieve to have all the answers because some book said so."

yes- to presume to have arrived is to make plain how great the distance yet to travel.

my gosh, i hate it when i sound like a fortune cookie!

Blogger bjk said...

A seeking heart HE NEVER denies....

Blogger jollybeggar said...

bjk, i think that you've nailed two very important things in your brief comment:

1) a seeking heart... truly seeking, not just asking smart-sounding questions or whatever... gains the attention of the God being sought.

2) HE... salvation is in the Lord, not in our cleverness as we try to respond to the questions of others. we need to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit speak... that is sometimes tough for us because we like feeling important.


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