Tuesday, April 27, 2010

deconstructing the skeptical fridge magnet

so what do you say to something like this?

i mean, sure, the tone is a bit off, but this executive summary of the basic articles of religion has a lot that is found in scripture, the apostles creed and church dogma.

(and if you don't feel like reading a lengthy rant today, scroll down to the bottom for the whole point.)

Christ praised thomas the twin for his belief when presented with visual evidence. however, he had even higher praise and blessing for those having faith, believing even in that which they have not seen.

Jesus Christ was of jewish ethnicity, raised by jewish parents in a jewish household of a respected line (Jesus' stepfather was of the royal line of david, which was kind of a big deal) in ancient disciplines that would equip him for a rabbinical role in the leadership structures of his traditional belief system.

the holy writings of this tradition spoke of an enlightened deliverer who would lift israel and the world out of the disparity, desperation, disease and death that had become the feeling of life... and when considered in a certain light, appeared to be pointing right at Jesus with such focal clarity that
  • his birth triggered a tragic infanticide
  • his life (or at least the last three years of it) was considered a model of perfect living even though it seems oxymoronic, being simultaneously gracious, loving and kind on the one hand and outrageously sacrilegious, impatient, outspoken, rebellious and rude on the other
  • his death became the scandalous stuff of debate for millennia to follow, claiming exclusive rights to the redemption solution for all humankind in the face of the tradition from which he had risen.
and the zombie idea? well that's just kind of a fun way to try to get our brains around something as beyond our scope as resurrection and eternal life.

we are arguably the only species on earth that deals with its mortality from a very young age. part of our early childhood development has to do with coming to grips with what it means to 'be' while also sorting out what it means to 'not be anymore.' mortality is a huge pill to swallow, and tends to scrape a bit going down, leaving scar tissue that is tender and prone to discomfort when similar objects are swallowed at future meals.
(ha ha- for some further rambling on the zombie Jesus idea, go here )

speaking of meals, this one was a bit dodgy in the first century as the symbolic part was missed and people thought that this new cult had, as the centerpoint of its ritual, embraced cannibalism as a means of grace. in truth, symbolic enactments play meaningful roles in nearly every religious tradition (the fact that the Lord's Supper is derived from the jewish passover Seder that Jesus and the boys were celebrating that thursday night is, perhaps, good evidence of this) because of the common spiritual aspect of these traditions: religions turn upon the possibility that there is an order to things which is broader in scope than those immersed in these things can grasp completely.

its a problem of perspective, like the awareness of a missing sense. within humankind there is both this existential self-knowledge that we are mortal and this desire for meaning and legacy in larger than immediate physical terms. we recognize the comfort in being reminded that our impact on humanity is as difficult to gather and gauge as seeds carried by the wind are traceable, yet this comfort is cold. religion and its ritual help us address this need for a place in the cosmos, while also addressing the 'God-shaped void' (pascal) within.

all that being said, however, there is a common dogmatic misconception that has led to many an infant baptism and probably even more final communions as a way to somehow secure resurrection reservations in advance. the enactment of the Lord's Supper (with all that eating of flesh and the drinking of blood) carries deep significance, but does not accomplish this eternal life thing any more than the sacrament of baptism saves us from being 'consigned to flames of woe'. both of these are celebrations in the physical realm and on physical terms, of something that has taken place in the spiritual realm. they are participatory spiritual metaphors. they are symbolic.

well, the telepathic bit (prayer) has to do with trying to establish relationship with an invisible being. quite frankly, i'm surprised that the problem of the invisible God hasn't made the list of things that are hard to embrace.

let's face it- if God was more apparent it would be a lot easier to relate. instead, we have to sort out just what we conclude from God's invisibility: is God gone? is God here, but hiding? is God present but uninvolved? is God present and involved in deterministic ways that impede upon our freedom to make choices? all these lead us to the big two:
  1. if God IS involved, then why do awful things happen?
  2. if God ISN'T involved, then why not?
so what to do with these? well, there are a couple defaults that can be set in order to not go crazy thinking about it all but these are issues that are greater than can even be encapsulated in this humble blogspace, much less solved here.

it could be that the face of God is perceptible only by that 'missing sense' mentioned above, and that apart from this we need to rely on revelations- small glimpses of glory- in order to hold that this God person even exists.

revelations of God come in many sizes and shapes, but are usually contingent upon our will for their recognition and interpretation. one person will look at a tree with blossoms in spring and see a miracle of God and a metaphor for resurrection there, while another will look at the same tree and see life and hope and the promise of fruit. both are encouraged at the evidence of the passing of winter, but take different meanings- one more natural, the other more supernatural- from this glimpse of glory. both could be considered correct. both have depth. both have to do with the person's perspective and what that person is seeking. however, another thing to consider is that neither contradicts the other and neither ceases to be a possible interpretation simply because it is not being considered.

possibilities simply exist. they are static.
one might even say they are a form of objective truth.

conclusions, however, are arrived at as part of our journey through observing, speculating, synthesizing, and in all other ways interacting with both nature and supernature.

it could be that this is our whole problem with God: we treat God as a subjective creation rather than an objective creator. if we simply embrace God as a possibility rather than a conclusion, then all this need for data which proves or disproves is done away with. furthermore, if we are able to bend our minds away from the empirical (which is a fairly closed system of thought) in order to be more theoretical (more openly ready to embrace possibilities) we might find that master, that Lord, who invites engagement through the most subtle of revelations, to be a rather welcome friend in a suddenly much larger universe.

okay, so evil is all around, in and through us. please tell me we don't need to argue this one too much. it is an inescapable reality. whether the story of the tree and the snake is an allegory for self-awareness (which, by the way, includes both the awareness of our imminent demise and the desire for immortality and purpose built into it) or a literal play by play chronicle of humankind's fall from grace is one of those things that we can intellectually and theologically arm-wrestle over in perpetuity to no avail. the problem is not whether there is evil or how it came to be so easy for us to express- the problem is what are we gonna do about it?

this is where those who wanted to skip all the drivel should rejoin the dialogue, for herein lies my actual point:

who said it was all supposed to make sense?
i don't think God said this...
i think we did.


Blogger David Kelling said...

I look forward to reading your "drivel" (not!) later but wanted to say "YES!" to your "point". It's kind of like the "problem of pain." Who said there wasn't going to be any pain in this life? I don't think God said this... I think we did.

Blogger Kharisma1980 said...

Hey! I enjoyed this a lot. But there's something that bothers me about the tone of "I think we did." It smacks of Pentecostal anti-intellectualism and negates the rather interesting work you did in the post body. Christianity does make sense, but not if sense is defined by the Enlightenment--only if we're willing to accept the sweep of this strange story about Yahweh's love affair with (a) slut(s) called humanity. Good to read you!

Blogger jollybeggar said...

kharisma poignantly summarizes the 'sense' christianity makes in one sentence. would that i could be so succinct!

Blogger jollybeggar said...

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