Tuesday, February 12, 2008

prayer and the lying bastard






















i was just digging back through some old emails when i stumbled upon this note that someone sent me once:

"Given my neurotic tendencies, my natural proclivity is to think God is upset with me for offering up such prayers."

i wonder if God, in divine grace, could ever actually be upset with us for praying. no matter how egocentric, experiencially narrow and theologically "off" our prayers might be, to what degree does God judge them versus simply considering their source?

i think that the accusor would have us subjected daily to the judgements of a harsh and perfectionistic divine parent, the approval of whom we fail to receive ad infinitum.

if i was a lying bastard, that's who I'D say God is...

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10 Comments:

Blogger hineini said...

If I were a lying bastard I'd set up a malevolent being to torment and frighten people or a being that works as an excuse for bad behaviour or a being that people would focus on "fighting" rather than loving their neighbour. Keeping people in a "war" mentality in which they fight for their very souls. Nothing like spiritual warfare to keep us combative with each other, seeing a possible enemy behind every face and without sufficient time to love the flesh and blood people around us.

Deliver us from evil damnit!

2/16/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

right, good thing you are not such a 'son of a motherless goat'!

however, in my view, to permit is not to set up (although i think we've been round that one before with regard to the burden of responsibility to and for the other) and my theology would contend that it is indeed a lying bastard who has set himself up as an adversary, presuming to somehow be up to the task.

that this has been allowed is something that i don't pretend to understand. however, i think that it might have something to do with free will and the idea that, just as humankind has freedom to will or will not, there are others in the cosmos who have also been endowed with the freedom to choose between faithfulness and rebellion.

2/17/2008  
Blogger hineini said...

I wasn't specifically meaning that God was the one doing the setting up or even that God was the lying bastard. I guess my response was to something I caught a hint at in your original post.
There is a danger in attributing certain conceptions of God to "the accuser" because if, for one reason or another, at one time or another, I hold that conception of God then what does that mean? I'm evil?
In the post before you spoke of faith and its ability to bully spiritually. Maybe I still had that in mind when I read this post and have recalled the occurences, too many to count now, where some sort of reference to the devil has been used to attack the way someone is thinking or to judge the expressions of someone's relationship with the divine.

Maybe God does get upset with us for offering all sorts of prayers. Maybe God gets upset some days and not others. Maybe we think God capable of that and maybe not but I guess the point is that if we equate a certain way of thinking with "the accuser" or "Satan" or "the evil one" I'm just not sure how we can avoid calling anyone (at least implicitly) who thinks this way evil.

I appreciated that you predicated each of your wonderings with "I think" so thank-you. I was just sniffing some sort of defensiveness and the employment of some pat answers and thought I'd probe a little deeper. Thanks for your grace and I'm sure we'll talk more :)

2/18/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

i just began a lengthy comment and then realized that it is another post. that's awesome.
the reason for beginning this blog is slowly being rekindled in me.

anyway, i do recognize in myself the tendency to default to the classic cartoon image of the angel on one shoulder whispering true while the little demon on the other shoulder whispers lies. i remember long ago we discussed at fair length the possibility of or need for a 'satan.' this is probably the place that this piece of an idea in the original post came from... it was a little piece of popcorn that had someone eluded the toothbrush, getting lodged between the tooth and the gum and ultimately causing me to make funny sounds with my tongue as i tried to get the thing outta there. i actually have no idea when i originally typed the post itself.

'I wasn't specifically meaning that God was the one doing the setting up or even that God was the lying bastard.' (hineini)

see, this is totally where i thought you were going, but there we have it. our language is still imperfect and our efforts to articulate any message or idea in the interest of deeper understanding still rely on both intention AND realization. ha ha.

as i think about this burden of communication further, however, i must apologize for defaulting to this conclusion without looking deeper into your words or asking you about them.

having said this, however, i need to also say that, in my view, to hold this or that conception of God better not be to 'surrender to the dark side' so to speak, or the psalmists and the prophets are in great danger of paving a road to perdition so smooth and with so many lanes that travellers who miss their turnoff for the new testament at esther are in hell before they can even check their map.

i don't believe that one who has come to understand God differently than i do is evil, or being controlled by evil or whatever. again, that is rather cartoonish. the human beings with whom i have come in contact so far are deeper, more complex spiritual creatures than these black and white default caricatures that would be drawn of them in a theme park on a sunny day in paradise.

interesting... both the post that began earlier (that is now in process as a draft) and this comment seem to find their conclusion at the same idea:

"to increase one's capacity to love and express this love is, in my view, the point of a personal theology."

2/18/2008  
Blogger hineini said...

I'm still baffled as to how defending the existence of "Satan" (choose your word here..accuser, evil one, the enemy etc.) and giving this figure a role in our personal theology/cosmology helps us love anyone? If that is the ultimate point....

I have been the one asking "maybe God does (or says or thinks) X" only to be told I am being decieved by "the enemy". Needless to say, I didn't feel loved.

2/18/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I'm still baffled as to how defending the existence of "Satan" (choose your word here..accuser, evil one, the enemy etc.) and giving this figure a role in our personal theology/cosmology helps us love anyone?... i didn't feel loved" (hineini)

this is an incredibly good question that is prompting me to even consider removing the post... however, i won't be doing this simply because the dialogue that has followed since posting is worth keeping.

still, the question hangs in the air: how does a cosmology that involves a spiritual adversary as part of God's creative process further equip us to love, seeing others not as 'devils in disguise' (to glibly paraphrase an old elvis song) but as bearers of God's image... and seeing contrarian ideas about who God is or may be not as heresies but as challenges to our present conception of God in the interest of truth?

you know, rather than try to make up an answer, i feel that i need to find one.

thank you for asking these kinds of questions, hineini. i love that about you.

2/20/2008  
Blogger hineini said...

I appreciate the love, and thanks for recipricating. To know asking questions helps, even in a limited sense, makes me feel warm and fuzzy.

2/21/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

ha ha- no, that's just because your beard is coming in again...

2/21/2008  
OpenID societyvs said...

"i wonder if God, in divine grace, could ever actually be upset with us for praying. no matter how egocentric, experiencially narrow and theologically "off" our prayers might be" (JB)

I would think it would be weird for God not to be upset with us - namely if our prayers included the idea of harming another (which I have heard people wish upon another). I have to think God gets a little upset with that in the human mentality? Maybe not though.

I think prayer is good though - I don't truly do it that often - but I can't knock someone for their meditations. I like the idea of prayer and asking - it's something we humans should put into practice more with one another.

3/19/2008  
Blogger jollybeggar said...

"I would think it would be weird for God not to be upset with us - namely if our prayers included the idea of harming another.." (sVs)

and yet we see this kind of prayer modeled in scripture all over the old testament- particularly in the psalms, a book of poetry written largely by a man whom paul identified as 'after God's own heart.'

i'm not saying i feel good about this kind of praying... more just that the more i study the word of God the smaller my bag of defaults becomes.

it is the systematic dismantling of a sunday-school theology, i think.

3/20/2008  

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