Christianity

Clarity > Confusion

My navel is beginning to feel neglected. Must be time for a gazing session.

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I have a friend who, when he prays aloud, always includes a request for “confusion to our enemies.” It’s always bothered me a little.

When I pray for the people who have set themselves against me, it’s always clarity and enlightenment I ask for them, not more confusion. Their minds and lives seem full of confusion already; I don’t want to add to it.

This post isn’t meant as an attack on my friend; in fact I okayed it with him before I began writing it. It’s just that I’ve been reading the news headlines lately and thinking, confusion to our enemies? No…no…I don’t think the world needs any more confusion, we’ve got plenty. Confusion is violent and destructive and senseless. Humanity is going down in flames of confusion. We should all be praying for clarity to our enemies, and to our friends, and to ourselves.

I look at it this way: if you pray for clarity for your enemies, and God grants that prayer, and the problem still doesn’t go away, then maybe the confusion wasn’t all on their end to begin with. I always begin by asking wisdom and clarity for myself first; it keeps my life much simpler.

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I’m trying to dial back my “soapbox” posts, but this one was loud in my head this morning and needed out. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled whimsy.

Categories: Christianity, Life | 4 Comments

Misty Pomegranate-Colored Musings

Sunday night we got another nice rain, and Monday night we got our first frost of fall. Yesterday most of the pomegranates on my tree had suddenly developed those little splits in their skins that means they need to be harvested soon or they’ll go to waste. So I spent most of yesterday taking pomegranates apart, putting the seeds in containers, and putting the containers in the freezer, which was…about as tedious as it sounds. But also satisfying, because around January and February a handful of half-thawed pomegranate seeds tastes like a fresh little boost of happy.

Still pretty tedious, though. The mind wanders while the hands work, and my mind had lots of time to wander on Tuesday. Some thoughts it offered up for my consideration:

1. I’m amazed at how many people see love as a weakness to be exploited. These people are seriously shortchanging themselves. Love is the most powerful force in the universe, and they will live and die without ever tapping into that vast, amazing power.

2. People have to receive before they can understand the value of giving. People have to be listened to before they can understand the value of listening to others. They have to be accepted and respected, in all their quirky uniqueness, before they can accept and respect others who are different from them. If you convince a child that her feelings don’t matter, she will grow up believing that no one’s feelings matter. Feelings either matter or they don’t. If you’re constantly telling your child not to be so sensitive whenever your thoughtless words and actions wound him, don’t be surprised if he grows up to be insensitive and thoughtless of others. If you try to teach your child humility by treating her as if she has no great value or importance, don’t be surprised if she grows up treating herself (and others) like garbage. This often involves chemical addictions and promiscuity. If you try to impose your will on your child by force, don’t be surprised if he grows up believing that might makes right. If you try to impose your will on your child through lies and manipulation, don’t be surprised if he grows up to be a manipulative liar.

3. A common misconception among Christians is that they are (or should be) somehow exempt from the natural consequences of their own poor choices. This is an unrealistic expectation. You may be “saved by grace,” but you still have to water your garden, tend lovingly to your personal relationships and feed the dog, or they will all wither and die. If you lie and cheat and steal people will stop trusting you. If you are unreliable people will stop investing in you. Being “a Christian” doesn’t absolve you of any earthly repercussions or responsibilities. It’s silly (and totally missing the point) to think it should.

4. One person’s “normal” is another person’s “completely unacceptable.” One person’s “attractive and desirable” is another person’s “eww.” What one person admires and reveres, someone else will feel nothing but contempt for. A way of life that feels like heaven to one person will feel like hell to another. What feels like glorious success to one person will feel like dismal failure to another. I don’t think there are any exceptions to this rule. To borrow Alan Alda’s phrase, “all laws are local.” You have to walk the path God designed you for, and accept that not everyone is going to understand.

So much for the navel-gazing. In other news:

5. I’m currently reading “Travels With Charley” by John Steinbeck. It’s one of the books that came with my house when we bought it twelve years ago and it’s been in my “to read” pile all this time, and I finally got around to it. It is an incredible book, and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in shrewd, amusing and often brilliant observations on human nature and eerily accurate predictions (it was written in 1961) about the impact of technology on American life.

6. I decided to make some of my kids’ Christmas presents this year, to save money. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that this would suck up the last vestiges of my spare time. If my blog goes dark for a while, that’s why. Turns out there is a finite number of minutes per day, and that number is not negotiable. Who knew?

7. A closing quote borrowed from one of my favorite bloggers, wordsmith Scott White of Caveat Emptor:

Once I met a man with a hundred hands. “It must be amazing to be able to get so many things done,” I said. “Alas,” he replied, “if only I had a few more brains and a longer reach, maybe that would be true.” Then I understood the value of people working together.

Categories: books, Christianity, Christmas, Family, frugality, Gardening, Health, kids, Life, Love, Nutrition, Self-Sufficiency, trees, Weather, Winter | 9 Comments

Inquisitors

Pastor Bill left this comment on my last post:

I am curious how does it happen that a person adopts the mindset of an inquisitor? My study of history shows me they are always a strong believer in one idea, which needs to be defended against other ideas the basis of this defense I would say is fear. Because the Human Soul is the birthplace of ideas then it goes without saying, destroy the person any way you can and destroy the idea. In a Google World this is a ridiculous idea in and of itself but yet it still holds sway. It appears the two institutions yet to embrace this Google Reality is the Political and Religious Classes their vested interest in the status quo is obvious. Attacking the Other person’s ideas will soon become seen for the foolishness it is, because these two institutions are no longer seen as possessing the solutions to life. The truth is the solutions we seek are to be found in the sharing and blending of “so called” opposing ideas and there is no room in a Google World for the inquisitor’s mindset anymore.

I’m guessing that current events inspired this question; there was an incident recently here in Anza involving a rather outspoken Christian woman, a teenage Wiccan girl, various other recipients of the woman’s particular brand of Christian love, a subsequent protest, and the resulting social uproar. A largish portion of the Anza community is now polarizing to one side or the other of this conflict.

It’s a big long story that I don’t really want to get into on this blog, because in the interest of fairness and responsible journalism I would have to relate all the tiresome details of both sides of the issue. Meh. For this post, the relevant information is that Pastor Bill feels that the Wiccan girl has as much right as anyone else to wear jewelry bearing symbols of her religion while participating in a federal, non-church-related food commodities program, and for that he’s been heavily criticized by certain members of the church community who have LOTS and LOTS of bible verses supporting the righteousness of their condemnation.

You can almost hear Jesus weeping.

The question of how “Love thy neighbor as thyself” turned into “destroy everyone who doesn’t think exactly the way you do because that’s what Jesus wants” is a complex and baffling subject. There are so many intertwining aspects of modern religion that disconnect its followers from their own humanity and the humanity of others, and each one is a big enough issue to deserve its own post.

But in my opinion it boils down to this: Christianity has stopped being about human relationships and started being about power and control because people have let themselves become too dependent on the materialistic systems of men instead of nurturing the abundance of God’s natural world. In ancient times the Roman Catholic church grew in authority and control by claiming the power of God to subjugate its subjects and take their resources. Men claimed (and still claim) the power of the church to subjugate, neglect or abuse their wives and children. Women are taught that their only value lies in serving their men, no matter how badly they’re treated in return. There’s no true relationship or love or happiness in any of this, but convince people that they’re headed straight to eternal damnation if they don’t go along with it and they’ll fall into line.

So men become Inquisitors to protect their position of superiority and power, never realizing how lonely and empty that position is making their lives. Women become Inquisitors because if their ONLY value lies in being a good Christian servant, then people who are on a different path must have no value at all and are clearly an outrage to all that is good and holy.

As Pastor Bill pointed out, fewer and fewer people are buying into this spiritually empty and unfulfilling version of what passes for the Christian Religion these days, because the Internet has opened up a whole new world of shared vision. Sure, there’s more chaff than wheat out here in the intertubes, but the sheer volume of creativity and differing viewpoints makes it pretty hard for a modern person to convince himself that he’s the sole proprietor of the One True Way. Slowly but surely, Christian churches that don’t extend a true sense of community and fellowship to all of humanity are becoming irrelevant and obsolete.

Pity the Inquisitors, don’t hate or fear them. They’ve traded their spiritual birthright for earthly “treasure,” and then stockpiled it all on a sinking ship.

Categories: Christianity, Life, Love, Marriage | Leave a comment

More Changes, Part Last

Pastor Bill has basically asked me to stop posting on this subject. He’s the last person I expected such a request from, since I’d thought that he and I felt the same way about how organized religion seems to destroy the humanity in people and undermine the practice of true Christianity.

My mistake.

Anyway, I’m going to respect his wishes and move this topic off of my public blog, since it’s apparently causing an uproar among his flock.

As a side note, if there’s anyone currently on my Blog Update mailing list who would prefer to be removed, just drop me an email and I’ll be happy to do that.

Categories: Christianity, Life | 23 Comments

More Changes, Part 3: Personal Responsibility

One of my oldest friends posted a comment on yesterday’s post about how God created men and women in his own image, complete with the ability to think and feel and reason, and yet when we use these abilities to make important life-defining decisions people tell us that we aren’t listening to God.

His comment made me realize that I have a lot to say on that subject. It’s not the topic I’d intended for today’s post, but the other stuff can wait.

It was actually something that someone on the worship team said recently that first got me thinking about this. They were about to sing “Rescue,” and he mentioned that a lot of times he doesn’t “feel like” doing the right thing, and in moments like that he relies on God to change his heart and “rescue” him from being unforgiving or selfish or whatever.

It was another one of those flashes of clarity for me.

I’m not trying to be antagonistic or hostile when I point out that A LOT of good Christians won’t have anything to do with organized religion because they feel that the churches are full of hypocrites. It’s not hard to see why they feel that way, but I truly believe that the majority of church people honestly do not see themselves as hypocrites, even when to any non-churchy observer their behavior bears no resemblance to their proclaimed beliefs. It’s like they’re somehow blind to their own duplicity.

As an unofficial student of humanity, this was a mystery I really wanted to solve. Worship-Team-Guy’s comments helped with that. So, here are my conclusions on the matter.

I believe that church people (I think I’ll just call them CP’s) believe that if God meant for them to feel compassion (or forgiveness or tolerance or whatever) in any given circumstance, that He would put that feeling into their hearts so that they could behave accordingly. If a difficult situation arises and what they feel is resentment and a desire to punish someone…well then obviously God must have put those feelings into their heart, since they walk so closely with Him and all. The person/people who caused the resentful feelings must be Wrong and Bad, and it’s just doing God’s work to punish them. If an uncertain situation comes up and the CP feels threatened by something unfamiliar to them, then obviously God MADE them feel threatened because that unfamiliar thing is A Threat and must be destroyed. Just doing the work of Jesus. If circumstances are changing and the CP liked things the way they were before, then God must be telling them that the changes are Wrong and Bad and have to be stopped by any means, up to and including manipulation, deceit and sabotage. It’s GOD’S WORK, people.

This is, of course, a big steaming pile of what cattle leave behind.

Jesus was pretty clear on how we’re supposed to to treat one another. And those 10 Commandments seem pretty clearly defined too. Nowhere in my Bible have I read, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor…unless you’re pretty sure he’s no friend of thine or Mine.”

Christian love isn’t something you “have.” It’s something you DO. It’s a choice you make every day, ESPECIALLY in the difficult situations when your heart is full of resentment at some injustice and you have to decide, right there in the middle of your anger, between grace or vengeance. That’s why they’re CALLED trials. It wouldn’t be much of a test if the Holy Spirit just swooped down and made you FEEL like doing the right thing, would it?

We are personally responsible for every choice we make, every hard truth or convenient lie we tell, every act of kindness or cruelty we commit, every bit of sly manipulation or honest respectful communication we extend to our fellow humans. Not just the humans who are like us, not just the ones on “our side,” not just the wealthy ones or the popular ones or the Republicans or the Americans or the ones who don’t let their kids read Harry Potter books.

As Jesus pointed out, a shiny-clean appearance doesn’t count for much in the eyes of God if your insides are full of lies and spite.

I’ve known for a long time that the quickest, surest way to really get to know someone is to let them behave however they want, with no criticism or negative consequences from you. It doesn’t take some people very long to realize that they are free to treat you however they like, and that’s when you begin to see who they really are underneath the shiny-clean appearance. And when you’ve seen enough, you can decide for yourself whether to keep that relationship or move on.

I’ve had my good long look at organized religion.

I’m moving on.

Categories: Christianity, Life | 7 Comments

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