Friday, September 23, 2011

Stumbled upon the blog: Cognitive Discopants

In real life, I was pretty surprised to be smacked with my pastor's disapproval of my recent political postings on facebook. First of all, since when did my political beliefs become my pastor's concern. Heck, I go to a LUTHERAN church! But then, the church itself doesn't have a great track record historically concerning politics (cough* nazis* cough*), so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. But I am.

I have always been involved in politics, ever since I came of voting age. I have stumped for politicians, attended precinct platform committee meetings, read through volumes of political literature and voted in most elections available to me. I take the responsibility to vote very seriously. Being an American citizen comes with a huge responsibility. I believe we are each responsible not only to vote, but to discuss the issues openly and advocate for what we think is right.

No one is going to shame me out of fulfilling that responsibility.

My religion is only a part of my politics in that it has helped shape my personality and values. While the right is continually appealing to people politically in the name of God, I have a long standing tradition of resisting that kind of rhetoric. That kind of rhetoric is flying fast and hard on right wing radio, and in religio-political emails, letters, and sermons. Thankfully I have never heard such a sermon in my church!

Which I guess I mistook for level-headednes and a desire on my pastor's part to major on Jesus and keep the line of separation between the kingdom of God and the realm of Caesar separate. My bad.

If that's how it is going to come down from my pastor because I support gay rights, what will happen if he finds out I am coming to believe that a universalist reading of the Bible is the most true to scripture? As Talbot pointed out in this book "The Inescapable Love of God" there are three truths (all have scriptural support, depending on the presuppositions you bring to your reading of scripture) which the Bible seems to teach BUT they cannot all three be true:

#1 God is omnipotent, and what He wills He can accomplish.

#2 God will is to reconcile all things in heaven and earth to Himself through Christ.

#3 God will punish some people in hell for all eternity; they will never be reconciled to God.

The Calvinists get around this contradiction by denying proposition #2. They find scripture to support the idea that God does not really want all to be saved, and that's how they make peace between #1 and #3.

Arminians decide that #1 is the proposition to be finangled with, as in God has created a mountain even He can't move in giving man free will. They find scripture to support their belief and ignore scripture that belies their belief, or explain it away, LIKE WE ALL DO.

The universalist position is that #1 and #2 are true, and therefore #3 must be false. They do not deny the existence of hell, but they do deny that hell is eternal and that whose who experience hell will never be reconciled to God. What I personally know of the character of God, my own sense of justice, and my logical brain tell me that the universalist position provides the best fit with the revealed heart of God in Jesus Christ, the writings of the apostles, and the fact that Judaism never taught the existence of hell. That was a Greek concept. (Sheol=grave,the ground, where you are buried when you cease to be alive. Gehanna=city dump outside of Jerusalem, where worthless garbage was burned. Hades= the Greek god of the dead, a place known as the underworld where the dead who were not invited to the Elyssian fields continued their existence. My Greek mythology is very rusty, so I may be wonky on that point.)

So, if my pastor is labelling me "enemy" because I support civil unions for American citizens who can't marry in the traditional sense, I wonder what label he would give me if he knew- AFTER YEARS OF STUDYING SCRIPTURE AND CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY- that I was embracing the universalist reading of the Bible as the most accurate?

Once again, heading outside the camp to where Jesus is...Hebrew 13:13

My comment of the Cognitive Discopants blog:

"Thank God for the internet! I am so glad to have found others who love Jesus and the Bible and are coming to the same conclusions I am. The evangelical/fundamentalist world apparently WANTS hell to be eternal and for people who don’t join their religion, which is very discouraging to me. I have heard them say that without the threat of eternal punishment, why would people come to Jesus? Seriously? Uh, to experience the uxurious, unilateral love of God right now? To know the joy that comes from accepting that God delights in you and accepts you just as you are? To seek wisdom from the Creator of all things about how to live your life here and now in light of His eternal mercy?

What they really fear is that if people actually begin to grasp that the gospel means, as Paul wrote, “that God has reconciled the world to Himself, not counting men’s trespasses against them”, then said people will no longer need to attend their church, pay their salary, and let’s face it, allow themselves to be manipulated from the pulpit to do whatever it is that MOG wants them to do. In this organized Christianity as it currently exists does have much to lose by “giving up” the doctrine of hell.

Fear is an amazingly effective motivator. Organized Christianity is afraid that we will no longer be afraid of hell. Fear of punishment gives religion great power over people’s lives, and apparently the ones at the lead in that power structure have no plans to give up that source of control.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the apostle John wrote, (I John 4) ” 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19 We love because he first loved us.”

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Left Foot of Fellowship

This should probably be much more well-thought-out and much less rushed. I have been doing all my posting in a hurry these days. I am really busy with school and very happy with my progress. Studying/schoolwork is my top priority, then laundry, then cooking and finally cleaning. Blogging sneaks in between laundry and cooking usually, but it belongs at the end of the line. So, I have little time for composition and less for editing. Sorry.

I saw a documentary last night while I was doing homework.It was called "Born Again" and it was about a young girl raised in a strict fundamentalist home (like my husband's) who was never happy or at peace with herself. As a teen, she finds she is secretly attracted to other girls. She eventually goes to college, and after a long struggle with depression and fear of damnation, eventually gets a girlfriend. Along the way she becomes an atheist as well, and it was no simple process or flippant decision. Her family of origin disowns her, and only calls or writes to tell her they are praying for her and that she is deceived by Satan. She longs to be loved unconditionally, but only finds that kind of love from her girlfriend and the new life they build together. She calls it being born again. I totally get where she is coming from.

The thing is, I have written those kinds of letter to my own relatives. Ouch. I believed my love was unconditional, but it wasn't. My approval hinged on how well my family member fit in with my theology. Not fitting in with my theology meant (in my mind at the time) eternal damnation, and before I could even begin to relate on any other level, that issue had to be settled, for me. My loved one had already made her own mind up, and I wasn't going to be able to change it. Why did changing her mind mean more to me than loving her unconditionally?

I equated love with approval, and approval with love. I couldn't help myself. If I did not approve of your choices, and they were in my mind of theological significance, then I couldn't accept you until you changed your choice. I think it was charismatic T.L. Osborn who got me out of that ditch, probably unintentionally! He once said that if you believe someone is destined for hell, than why would you want anything less than the best for them on this earth- as this reality was as good as it would ever get for them.

Big thought.

Since then I have been reading many verboten books- The Shack, Love Wins, God of the Possible, and most recently, The Inescapable Love of God. I have been reading the Bible with new eyes. Taking off the lens of fundamentalism is harder than I ever imagined. I had no idea how many religious presuppositions I decided before I even began to read a passage, not until I started confronting some of them. Who knows how many more I have to face off with in the future?

I have also been adding up my personal experiences with church and church people. It's a really interesting personal inventory to take. And it's not easy. These are people the Lord loves. His body was broken for them as well as me. His blood was shed for them as well as me. These people, who are so picky about who is allowed to speak and what they are allowed to say, these people are flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone. And He is my beloved.

So, I guess this is enough rambling for one post. Peace and good will, SS

Monday, September 5, 2011

Questions of a Historical/Theological Nature

Matthew 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The above passage is taken from the most famous sermon ever preached- the Sermon on the Mount given by no less than the Lord Jesus Christ himself!

Why then do we honor and exalt the people that we do in Christianity?

I am a studious person by nature, and after hearing so much about the venerated Saint Augustine, I finally picked up a copy of his Confessions and read it.

What a reprobate.

While he was positing this (imo erroneous) doctrine of original sin that would become THE cornerstone of evangelical Christianity for centuries to come, he was sleeping around with a mistress- and had no shame about it at all. Later in his autobiography, when he decides to commit all the way to Christianity, what do you think he does? Marry his mistress and give their love child a place in society equal to children of "legitimate" homes? Not even close. He abandons them completely to join a monastery! W. T. F. Did no one ever consider the fruit of his life before honoring him and treating his ideas as if they were on level with the words of Christ? How many of the "early church fathers" were selfish, slutty people? I wonder...

Not only that, I am pretty sure that Augustine was the first church voice to approve of violent means of conversion. I will have to research that further when I have time. Again, huh to the nth power? Why did anyone ever elevate this person and his thoughts to such a high status?

I am pretty sure the answer is that he supported Constantine's wholesale takeover of the church and subsequent politicizing/institutionalizing of the body of Christ. This gave him a position of respect by propaganda, one that has weathered scrutiny for centuries, mainly because people excuse his sin as a product of his time. The warnings of Jesus to judge people by their fruits is ignored, as if living in the first few centuries of the church meant that being slutty and a deadbeat dad would not have merited conviction from the Holy Spirit. Yet Jesus spoke all his words about fruit, the honor and care that children deserve, and the importance of marriage centuries earlier. Even the Apostle Pauls injunctions against immorality were well known to Augustine and the rest of the church in their time. It makes no sense to excuse his really rotten fruit by saying that he didn't know any better.

Fast forward to Calvin. He had his enemy murdered over a doctrinal dispute! MURDER!!! And people excuse this as a one-off!!! Because the self-importance of theologians is way more impressive to scholars of the faith than the very plain, simple, straight-forward words of the Son of God!

Even my own dear Luther is not worthy of emulation or honor to the extent with which some people want to laud him. He was an open hater of Jews! I myself have repeated the excuse that he was just a product of his times, but that is such a lame excuse. Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves, and even to love our enemies and do them good CENTURIES earlier! It's not like Luther never read those passages. He CHOSE to hold onto his hate in spite of the words of Christ. He has no more excuse than anyone living today.

Deitrich Boenhoffer, whom I love for his desire to see racial equality in the church and his detestation for the Nazi regime, was a sexist jerk. I hold out hope for him, that if he had gained the opportunity to marry his eyes would have been opened to the injustice of his doctrine. We will never know, since Hitler murdered him while he was yet single. But still, the words of the Apostle Paul that in Christ is "neither male nor female" were right there in black and white where he could see them. All the honor and respect Jesus showed to female disciples had been in plain view for centuries. To quote a comedian, "I think you see what you want to see..." That's all fine to explain these gross errors as unavoidable human foible if they are just average joes, but then don't make exalted doctrines out of such men's merely human thoughts. No one has done that with Dietrich, but St. (cough cough) Augustine, Calvin and Luther are given that power. Unbelievable.

Why is it that the church has dismissed Jesus warning to us? He told us to look at people's lives, and only listen to those whose personal choices matched up to the life of love disciples are called to live. So how did a slutty, deadbeat dad, a cold-blooded murderer and a racist wind up "church fathers"?

They're not MY fathers, that's for sure!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Of a Personal Nature

Just wanted to let everyone know what I am up to these days. =D

I am taking three classes this fall, including Physics (with Trig even!). This makes me very happy. I had not learned any trig or geometry until I learned it to teach to my home school students. I am thrilled that I am able to keep up in this class. I am working hard to earn another A, at least that's my goal. The other two classes, Intercultural Communications and Medical Terminology II are subjects that fascinate me. I am looking forward to knocking them out of the park.

I finished up the CNA course work and clinical trials. I take the state exam on September 29th, for all who pray for me. I would appreciate your prayers. Normally the test is supposed to take place within two weeks of the end of course work, but due to a scheduling error I am taking it over a month later. I need to remember every detail to pass the test. I plan to review like all get out, but prayers on my behalf will no doubt help too. :)

Other than the above, I will have met all the requirements to apply for the 21-month course of training I need to pursue the career I want. I am competing with hundreds of other applicants for a mere fifteen spots. I am giving it my all. The application deadline is January 31st, and I will know the middle of February if I make it.

I am still in EMDR therapy and I still highly recommend it. Nuff said there.

My husband is still in therapy and on anti-depressants. While he has struggled with bouts of worsened depression since we visited his parents at the end of July, it has been nowhere near as bad for me as life got last March. The worst was two weeks ago, which I published on this blog and then removed again. I put it back up just now. I am happy to say that he fully admitted his fault and admitted that what was really going on was a worsening of his depression since visiting his folks again. Things did not continue to build up after that admission. Merely coming out of denial was a benefit, and while he still struggles with feelings of shame and abandonment, he isn't blaming me. Progress.

My daughter is a senior in college this year, and next year the Air Force will spirit her away. I plan to make the very most of the time left with her so close.

My son is back from the Caribbean. His secular mission trip renewed his interest in becoming a doctor. He is applying for scholarships and colleges now. He does have one gap in his education that needs filled: I can not get the kid to write a killer essay. I was able to teach my daughter, and I can write a quality paper myself. But I just can't get the kid out of the middle of the pack on this one. Pray that we will find a solution soon, as he is a senior in high school. (Personally, I blame facebook, twitter, reddit, etc. for teaching his brain to think in short, incomplete thoughts. *sigh*)

So, there you have it. Thank you for sticking with me, dear readers. Your support means so much to me.