Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Response for Spencer
Actually I hope Spencer reads it too (I'll post it) because he'll see where he fits in in the larger scheme of universalist theories. For me, what's been most interesting has been finding all these nuances to the term, and how differently it's been used throughout history and now. My goal is to help people see there are many ways to think about universal salvation, and some are compatible with Scripture, Tradition and Reason, and then they can go read more about the ones they like (from my ever-lengthening bibliography).
I mean, it's not going to be the greatest paper ever. I don't have tons of energy and I don't want to overdo it. I've spent 3 half days on research and hope to finish writing this afternoon. All told it will be about 12-15 hours for a 10 page paper, which I know is too much. So I gotta discipline myself or I'll go overboard.
Besides, I wanna read these books for fun now. Especially the one I recommended yesterday. And I'm reading The Great Divorce for fun and boy howdy if that isn't a laugh riot.
Anyway I promised a response to the comments. I just wanted to say that I flipped through the rest of the book (remember I'd only read the first chapter and end before) and I think what's happening is that we're talking about the same thing using different words. Which spencer said in his comment, and he's right.
Like for instance, on p 59-60 he has a list of the differences between "spirituality" and "religion". But all the spirituality stuff is what I do in my church and what I consider my religion. The religion stuff is what I consider fundamentalism. So it's just semantics.
I think his thoughts are very good for people still in fundamentalist churches or anywhere where religion is not how he describes "spirituality." Yeah, definitely. But what I want those people to do is not make new communities of faith from scratch but rather join my church. Seriously. I think everyone should go there. If you don't live here, move here.
OK, I guess you all can't move here or traffic will be even more unbearable. But there are really great churches out there - churches that are everything he wants to see Christianity be. And so I'm lucky to be at one and I don't mind the word "religion" because my "religion" is awesome. These churches are really out there. There's mine. And cota. And probably Spence's. I know there must be others.
What's interesting is a lot of these churches are the ones that do the rituals - especially Eucharist. How about that? And that's one of the things that I have to disagree with Spencer about. He says rituals are important but not central. And I say they are central. I say there's no faith without them. But I'm a radical sacramental theologian, not an Evangelical. I know Evangelical - really Protestant - faith is based on a personal relationship with God. And I get that. But I don't think it happens apart from the rituals that bring us to God and God to us. So I add that.
It would be so cool to study how the other religions use rituals in that way, wouldn't it? My friend is going to India for three weeks in December and kind of hinted I might come. I'm seriously considering it.
Okay, I am totally out of the realm of serious thought and into procrastination now. And I have to finish my paper. I'll be so happy when it's done. So I must bid you adieu until probably tomorrow. Cheers to all.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Anyway, so far nothing Burke is saying is all that original. Barth talked about chucking religions, and Lewis talked about opting out of grace (rather than it being an opt-in situation).
But what bothers and frightens me is this new hostility to the church. I've seen it also in the people from the church plant. It's this rejection of everything, and it's quite easy to lump in ritual and dump it without realizing what you've lost. Or worse, bring it back in little pieces that don't relate or have meaning or power because they're out of context and divorced from history.
I don't like it. Sure, lots of churches are messed up. I grew up in a particularly sick one. But I didn't leave the religion altogether - I found a well one. Several, actually, and even my old sick one seems better nowadays. If the church isn't working for you, there might be something wrong with that particular community or there might be something wrong with you. I don't like how the first thing is to say we need a whole new kind of Christian that's not stuck in the mire of cultus. No, no, no, why can't we trust that God works in the church - it's his body after all, his presence on earth - and figure out where things are going right and encourage that rather than leave altogether?
I know, I am sounding more and more Catholic. Salvation only found in the church. Only I'm not really talking about salvation...except in the sense of it being reconciliation and intimacy with God which yes, I do believe is found most successfully in community (primiarly, but not exclusively, Christian community).
The thing that I think Burke is missing is that ritual is something that young people love. It's by no means a deterrent to their faith. In fact, many would chuck out the deeds and beliefs and keep the pure aesthetic performance. And you know, I feel like those rituals - especially of course the sacraments - have power in them that will work to transform despite the intentions of those performing them (all - leaders and otherwise). There I go with the Catholicism again.
Anyway, let's just lose the misconception that so many boomers are laboring under that young people are turned off by rituals and church services and prayer and even, yes, propositional truth. In fact, you know, I think these movements out of the churches are just today's seeker sensitive approach. They think they have to water Christianity down, this time not into a snazzy worship service but instead into the deeds and words of the good teacher Jesus. Jesus is no longer Christus Victor who is celebrated at Eucharist, but rather a nice man who healed and fed and taught, so we go out and do likewise.
And we miss, in the process, so much of what our transformational journey is about.
In my research for the universalism paper, I've found a really wonderful book written by two Quaker pastors. It says a lot of the same stuff as Burke, BUT they are not abandoning the church, and they approach the questions Burke raises with grace and humility rather than the rather shock-jock, sensationalist attitude the self-proclaimed (and proud) heretic offers. They advocate universalism, but they present it as very good news and maintain the urgency of spreading the gospel (something that many critics claim is impossible for universalists). Burke falls back on Lewis's ideas about it being possible to reject grace, and that's fine. These pastors don't believe it's possible forever, though, and their book is about why that is.
The book is more pop than scholarly and relies heavily on personal experience and stories. But it's beautifully written and speaks well of what's been on my heart in regards to this whole issue. So no more suspense: it's called If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person and it's by Phillip Gulley and James Mulholland. I highly strongly deeply recommend it.
Monday, August 28, 2006
across the universe
Anyway, I'm working on my universalism paper. It's actually turned into a descriptive paper rather than an argument. See, it turns out, people mean a lot of different things when they talk about it. And I'm not sure anybody's bothered to compile all these types of universalism and explain the subtleties in them. So it's really easy to dismiss it if you only know of one aspect, but it's not so easy when you find several other ideas calling themselves universalism that actually hold some appeal (and have some nice biblical support).
So I think I'm going to categorize these and then maybe at the end I'll tell which I find most compelling (if any). It's not going to be a super scholarly paper, but hopefully it will be enough to finish off the class. I so wish it was done...this and the other one. I'm really really really ready for my break now.
One thing that happens because of this blog is that people sometimes email me offering me books to read (assuming I will blog about them, I guess). Now as a confirmed geek I can't really turn down free books. So I take 'em. And in good faith, I really do read them.
Right now I've started a new book by Spencer Burke (who founded theooze.com) and Barry Taylor called The Heretic's Guide to Eternity. I'm not far into it, but so far, I can tell you this:
- The title is pretty much entirely sensational. Near as I can tell, it's not that heretical, and it's really not much about eternity. As the LA Times review put it, it's more about how to reject religion than anything having to do with the afterlife.
- This dude's method of citing his sources has got to go. It's driving me up the wall. I got an advance copy and I can only pray that when they really publish there will be actual endnotes. Right now, there are no numbers next to the quotations. So I'm thinking wow, this guy is seriously plagiarizing, right? But then I looked in the back and there are actually notes, they just aren't numbered. Now either the numbers are coming later, or he thinks numbers in the text will bug people so he's left them out. But let me tell you - numbers in the text aren't all that distracting, and what is seriously distracting is not being able to follow up on his sources. It drives me up the wall when I can't find the note because it's buried in some paragraph and there's nothing to point me to it. And some of this stuff I really wonder if he isn't pulling out of his ass. Hopefully this will be remedied, but if ya'll are trying to be "different" please just don't.
- Somehow he strikes me as more hostile to the church than the majority of non-Christians I know, and he professes faith in Christ! Now you all know me. You know I'm hardly Ms. Christian role model. But although I challenge the church and my fellow Christians I hope I never come off as hating them. This guy is so totally bitter! I can't believe how much damage is seeping through the pages. And I can't quite tell if he's really messed up or he's just trying to say what he thinks will sound appealing to the younger kids. Problem, dude - you're just coming off as whiny, intolerant (of your own! never cool), and...well...old.
- Finally, and here's my biggest peeve and soapbox, he's suggesting we throw out all the rituals, rites, performances, prayers, and other trappings of the cult of Christianity. He calls this "religion" and basically wants to throw it out with propositional truth. Now I am all for getting rid of prop truth as a foundation for Christianity. And there is some stuff about religion - polity, denominational barriers, etc - that certainly can be dispensed with. But if you've read this blog for any length of time you know I am NOT going to stand by and let somebody say our rites and rituals are worthless.
Oh. No. He. Di. Int.
Dude has completely thrown out the baby with the baptismal water (that's a Todd Johnson joke, not mine). He apparently hates the church so much that he's willing to dispense with the very foundation of Christianity - namely, a community that meets together to do ritual. Yes, my friends, that is what the church of Christ is. And Jesus set it up that way.
This author says he wants to get back to Jesus' way - feeding people and making relationships and reaching real physical needs (it sounds a lot like the mission church we almost joined). But that wasn't Jesus' way!
Everything he did was laden with symbolism. He didn't feed all the hungry people - he fed at times and with actions that had significance to the message he was bringing. He didn't heal everybody who needed it - he healed with specific intention to preach a bigger point. He was constantly doing performance art, performative action and utterance - he was always, always revealing a bigger picture behind his words and deeds.
Jesus didn't set up a religion? Bullshit. Jesus was founding a movement - he was purposely molding a group of people to become a community, not a bunch of individuals with great relationships with God (which seems to be Burke's final solution - I skipped to the end) who don't need the church because they've transcended all that nonsense. Excuse me? Jesus gave us a ritual! He didn't even give us the scriptures - but he gave us a ritual!!! So what the hell is more Christian than meeting together to do the ritual Jesus commanded us to do? He wasn't doing it for fun, people. He was doing it because he knew it was the way we would become like him. I just read it today - we've been reading it all week - unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no life in you...whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live...I will raise him up on the last day.
I mean, there's not really a clearer way to put it. The ritual is absolutely central. The coming together is the very center of life with God. We cannot have life with God without religion. I'm sorry, Spence. We can't. I know there are a lot of things wrong with religion and it's gotten ugly. I know it's really hard to believe in a lot of the time. But without it we are lost. I would rather you convert to another religion, and still have ritual in your life, than give up on it altogether.
We are creatures of habit, we are creatures who need rites and performances and prayers - to learn who we are, to learn how to get by in the world, and to learn to relate to and become like God. We are lost without them. You can't take ritual away from people and expect them to be able to relate to God. They will only be able to do so on the most superficial level. You will wind up with them worse off than they were before they left the church.
So please, please, please, you can say the church has gone astray and it's a dangerous place to be. But we can never, never give up on it. It is what God gave us - it was established by God's Spirit as Christ's body on earth. It is central to our faith and without it I don't know what we have but it's not a relationship with Jesus.
Anyway, I don't know if this is making any sense because I'm not taking the time to formulate a smart argument, I'm just streaming consciousness. Or perhaps vomiting it. I just can't deal with this. I could explain myself better in person.
Just think...this is only from chapter one.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I'm so happy. I'm sitting in the library and I don't have to wait for one of their computers to be available! The thing that did it was learning the library limits you to one computer session a day. What! I couldn't really deal with that, even for free internet access. So now we got this computer for the same price as 10 mos of internet would have been (oh, before taxes, that is), but we get to keep it and it does many other fun things. So I think we did the smart thing. Now I grab it and head over here any time I need to go online. Awesome. I think this was a good move. Great use of money we don't necessarily have.
But will soon! Thank God, we finally get a paycheck this month!! Oh, it's been such a long time. I feel most bad, actually, that we've so neglected our pledges at church. I'm sure they don't expect people to pledge when they don't have an income, but it still feels bad to fall behind. I hope we can also build up our savings again, but we'll have to pay off a lot of bills first.
We visited my internship church today because my supe was preaching. It wasn't as bad as I remembered it - that is, last time I was there I was really offended by a lot of what they did with the liturgy and language, but this time, I could understand why (maybe I just know more about liturgy now), and I got it. There are a few tweaks I still don't care for - their sung version of the creed, for instance, hits the highlights but leaves out a mention of baptism, which I think is important. If our entire Christian life is living into our baptism, as my prof Todd would say, then it is a great thing to remind ourselves of that glorious event in which we joined the community of saints, every week!
And that reminds me of another thing. Our church does the kids' birthdays each week, which has become a riot because they read anywhere from 5-15 names (we have a lot of kiddos) and usually a couple births every last week. But I have been thinking that it would be actually more appropriate to name baptism anniversaries, both for the kids and why not? everybody else too. This would be a way to affirm our Christian rebirth and emphasize our new life in Christ, rather than celebrating a birthday that has to do with the old life which will pass away.
I'm not judging birthday parties - heck, I throw renowned ones annually. I just think in church it would be cool to remind the children (and us all) about the life we have together as a result of our baptism, rather than the life we have as individuals as a result of our parents making whoopee. I think I'd like to have a party every year for my kids to celebrate their baptisms. Maybe do it with the other parents whose kids were dunked with mine (or sprinkled...but I'd rather dunk 'em! You lose the death symbolism otherwise, you see. Poor kids of a liturgical nerd).
There were a couple great things in the paper today, including this story about people addicted to watching TV on DVD. Oh yeah, baby. That's so us. This summer alone we've binged on season 5 of Curb Your Enthusiasm (The Christ Nail was my favorite ep), two seasons of Entourage (which started slow but got better and better. it's really accurate in its characterizations - esp the agent - but just know real Hollywood people aren't quite that clever in their speech. it's how HW would be if professional writers wrote everything everybody said), and now season one of Weeds, to which I am, big pun coming, completely addicted. Weeds was one of those that we'd watch the entire dvd, 6 episodes, without stopping. And then watch the commentaries.
And I put on Buffy when I'm packing and unpacking, which eases the pain. At least it makes me laugh now & then. And I take (sometimes too frequent) breaks when something stops me in my tracks and I have to sit and watch.
Actually, I'm a bit put out that the article above credits all this to 24. I mean, yes, they were the first to put out the old season before the new one aired. And that pushed things into high gear. But I would argue that Buffy and X-Files were more anticipated in their day, and certainly more purchased. Even Sex & the City, and of course Firefly. I mean, the only way to even see the latter in the correct order was on dvd! So the studios get it. And I'm just hoping the advertisers don't freak out. Because if I have my way, I'll just download or rent all my television and watch it in my own time in long stretches with no commercials. It's the only way to TV. Plus, you don't have to pay for cable. ha ha.
Anyhoo, I should really go on about my day. This week I'm finally going to write my Eschatology paper. I think it's not going to be about eternity anymore. Largely b/c of the discussion on here, I've decided to write about universalism. I am really looking forward to the research. So thanks. It's awfully cool to be able to do schoolwork on a topic that I'm currently obsessing about anyway.
Friday, August 25, 2006
As far as my discernment goes, you guys have written great stuff. Go check out all the replies if you haven't already. Really appreciate it all. I've decided to get over myself and wait and see how the other dozen meetings go before I get all judgmental about me or them. Duh.
I have to go soon to meet re: my internship. I'm so nervous. It will be my first parish ministry. I've never so much been in charge of stuff.
Oops, blogger says it can't connect. This internet sucks. I better save this and publish if I can. Will try to write more later (about how my apt is falling apart, for instance? Cabinets literally falling out of the walls!)...but who knows when...
Monday, August 21, 2006
I'm back, everybody!
I took a particularly nasty spill on the concrete, carrying stuff, and twisted my ankle and wrist. But it was my knee, which I'd scraped up, that hurt later, and is still tender several days later. The weirdest was that a few hours later my middle finger on my left hand, which I don't even remember jamming, turned dark purple and swelled up hugely. It's still a bit discolored and typing doesn't feel great, so I better not talk too long.
But I have to tell you about my first discernment meeting yesterday. A very important thing to process with my online community!
Overall, I can't really say how it went. I honestly have no idea. I couldn't tell if these people liked me even. Their faces were so blank - I know they are taking it very seriously, which is good, but I'm used to a touch more feedback. Maybe I should say so. I felt very ambiguous afterwards and didn't know whether to be pleased or not. I didn't feel good, that's for sure. But mostly because I was disappointed that I couldn't tell how it went. I tell you, it is SO hard to do this with strangers! I mean, they are great people, but they don't know me at all. My first committee was all people who really knew me well. I think they'd have been better.
But this group is obviously picked very carefully. I have a woman who went to Fuller, doing PhD work studying my generation (X). I have people from the world of higher ed, a real estate lawyer, and spiritual director. I have one man married with kids, a single (I think) lady, and three partnered gay/lesbian people (God bless the Episcopal church!). One person has a child with developmental disabilities. One is a baby Christian (4 years), others are former Presbys, Methodists, and Catholics (like LA, nobody is born into the Epis church anymore). I mean, the diversity is truly awesome (oh, except ethnically, but that's more b/c our church isn't that diverse in that area). So I appreciate that. And I have a lot in common with them. And I know I could learn a lot from them.
But they scare me.
After I told my story, they asked questions, and it started feeling very much like a job interview. I don't know if that's normal or not. The questions they were asking (What are the advantages of being a priest for what you want to do?) were not things I knew how to answer (Well, I want to be a priest, so being a priest would be an advantage). They were already testing me, it seemed, to see if I "qualified." I felt very much like I had to prove myself. So then I went into prove myself mode, and I think that's why I started worrying about seeing some reaction from them.
I really sputtered on these questions. I don't know how to prove to them that I'm gifted. All I know is that people keep telling me I'm a priest and I need to go get ordained. They see the gifts, they see why I'm supposed to do it. I know I need to articulate it because these new people don't know me. But it's hard. I want them to ask me about me, about my life and what I love and am passionate about. And then from that, you extrapolate my qualifications for ministry. Not by me saying, "Well I've done X number of counseling sessions and I've evangelized X number of people" and so on. It's not like that. It's who you are, not what you do.
Now some of this is my own nature, desiring to please and be well regarded. But I am concerned. Is this going to be like a 7-9 month job interview? I don't think I can handle that.
I thought the point was for them to learn more about me where I'm at right now, not how I already qualify for priesthood (something which I'm not even sure I completely understand). So I need to find a way to talk to them about this but I'm not sure how to go about it. Any advice is appreciated.
They seemed not pleased but troubled by my passion for the liturgy. As if that somehow sets me back as a potential priest. Probably because it seems impractical to them. I mean, most people (even liturgical theologians) consider worship a waste of time. But it is the source of everything! I had to explain how even in a small urban parish, a liturgically-minded priest would be an asset (not only b/c we are formed into God's people by worship, but also because hello, urban people can like liturgy too! it's almost racist to assume our liturgy only works with white rich people). But what if I am assigned to a place where the music is terrible? Well, they are probably doing the wrong kind of music for their culture. Very rarely do you find a group of 50 people in which nobody is a good musician. You just have to find the right musical inculturation of the gospel.
But you see, all of this is stuff J told me I should have said. His response to what I actually said (which I will not repeat here because I'm embarrassed) was, "Oh, no! You're going to completely screw this up!" Thanks, honey. You really know how to support me.
Yeah, I think that's why I feel the worst. J believes in me so strongly that he's frustrated that they didn't sign off on me on day one. I try to explain that's not how it works, but his doubts creep into my head and I start worrying that I said all the wrong things. I could say all the right things now, and maybe I should, since my committee will probably find this blog eventually.
I just wish I could have done better. Or I wish it would have been a situation in which I wouldn't have had to "do" well. I just want to be me and I want them to see that. I don't want to have to make the connections for them.
Anyway, feelin' frustrated here. Tell me about your process, you priests/seminarians. Were you as confused as me? Did you want to run from the room several times during the meeting? Did you cry? I did. I couldn't find words. Imagine that.
If only we could meet online.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
My cat Jeoffrey
Lately my poor ma has been dealing with the shittiness of the working life. She's not really had a job - at least an office job - since I was born, or possibly ever (I know she was once a crossing guard and worked retail). She's having the same crap everyone goes through: bad boss who doesn't understand you, etc., etc., and it's all well and good except this particular week I've been feeling like I'm getting an ulcer (extreme pain in the right side) and I'm just not up to hours of bitching about the workplace. I've undergone two phone conversations, but it's been really hard. I know she needs me to listen and needs to vent. But at the same time, it upsets me. I need to keep some kind of momentum going to get through this move. And I don't know how to tell her to stop complaining, now's not a good time (she might read this...yikes).
I did think the other day of just interrupting her as such (think robot voice):
Beep - I'm sorry, Stasi can't have negativity in her life right now. Would you please try your call again later. Beep. (hang up)
Ah, what we'd do if we were all Larry David.
Anyway, I didn't think I'd have anything to say (ha ha ha - I should know better), so I wrote the title referencing a poem that I planned to share with you. Because I just like it. J found it when he was doing his various researches...or just reading, I don't remember which. Anyway, here's something nice for you. May we all wax so eloquent upon the beasts which lower our blood pressure (even as we raise theirs by moving and overfeeding chicken tidbits from guilt).
FOR I WILL CONSIDER MY CAT JEOFFRY from"Jubilate Agno" by Christopher Smart
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--
Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.
Christopher Smart , 1722 - 1771
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Cry for help
This last bit is chapping my ass today. I actually have a raging headache purely from thinking about it (and pricing trucks and movers). If we go with movers, then we pay probably $250-300, but at least I can have them come any time (I'm done with class and J is out working every day except Friday). But we don't have that much money. So we rent a truck. But oops, we can't load a truck by ourselves (especially because my carpal tunnel/tendonitis flares up if I carry anything too heavy). So that adds the stress of asking friends to help. I hate asking for help. Mostly because it's rude - people don't want to help and they shouldn't have to. It's shitty work. I wish to God I could afford to pay for people to move us like the last several times. But as J pointed out, every other time we moved because we were richer. This time it's because we're poorer. So the entire situation is different. And sucks.
Anyway, if you're a friend or fan of Feminary who lives in the LA area and could help out, you'd be doing a pretty awesome crown-in-heaven giant-ass mitzvah for someone in serious need. OK, I'm not starving or in a war situation. So I shouldn't be so dramatic. But I do have this monster headache. And while it's not a crisis, it is a need.
Email me if you can help. I'll owe you big time.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Many Christians will defend (to the death, literally) a theory of "just war."
So why won't they even consider the possibility that there could be a "just abortion?"
My first response was that the fetus is innocent so you're murdering an innocent. To which he responded that the majority of casualties in most wars are also innocents (in fact, he believes the soldiers are innocent too, because the war is actually not theirs but their government's - which would make pretty much all the deaths in war the murder of innocents).
J has decided, after all his research for the class (including a history of how abortions have been performed from ancient times, and how they weren't actually illegal until less than a century ago), that abortion is always morally wrong for a Christian, due to our morality coming from Jesus (who wouldn't have an abortion - or Mary, if you like - so therefore we don't). But that doesn't necessarily mean it is morally wrong for non-Christians when the situation merits it being the best choice.
Or should we call society to our standard?
[One thing that's important to know is that the scope of the class isn't dealing with politics or laws at all. He's dealing purely on a moral level. So arguing about legality isn't the point - the point is whether it is morally wrong or right.]
So here is my question and I'd love your feedback. Is there a situation in which abortion could be the least wrong of many evil options (as people say war is)?
Or to put it more provocatively, can abortion be, not a good choice, but still the right choice?
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
I don't want to move. Ugh, it just sucks. I don't like our new place. It's just too too small. I don't need a lot of stuff, but this place can't fit a couch and a chair! It's the size of a dorm room, I swear. It's not for 2 people, that's for damn sure. I sure hope saving this money is worth it. I guess I'll just spend my time outside at the pool area.
So today Eddie Gibbs told us his wife's spiritual gift is "gaydar." I kid you not.
What else? Well you should read this article and get righteously angry with me. I'm so sick of these freaks. They make the world so much stupider. And them getting power is just the end of sanity. You're telling me pastors are going to get up in pulpits and actually preach warmongering? Please tell me that people will not buy that. I want to give my country more credit than that. God, I hope I can give my Christians more credit than that!!
I was actually quite pleased to discover that this current war has pissed off pretty much everybody I know who was formerly in favor of pretty much everything Israel and Bush did. Finally people are waking up and seeing that war pretty much always sucks for just about everybody involved. And yeah, I'll say it - there's no such thing as a just war. That's hooey. (technical term)
Anyway I had the most amazing conversation last night with my neighbors and another friend, ranging from abortion to free will to sex compatibility to moral subjectivity to the relative merits of Kool & the Gang vs. Earth, Wind, & Fire. I love those kind of talks. I was really speaking my mind, too, and found it suddenly quite natural to say what I believe. I think it must be because I've been around people from other walks of life so much that I'm no longer worried about what they'll think of me, because I know I don't think badly of them. Turns out, as long as I'm authentic, people really dig my love for God. They can understand why I choose to live with Jesus as my guide. They even listened to me when I explained why I don't think that the Bible is a book just anybody can pick up and understand. That's not the kind of thing most Christians tell them - they're told by Christians to go ahead and start reading. But I love Scripture too much to let it be misunderstood. And I told them that, and they got it.
What's funny is that I'll never know, really, where they are with God. I always have these great talks with people but I never seem to be the one who gets to "close the deal." And you know, I'm really okay with that. God closes the deal in the end anyway. So I may never know whether it made any difference that I told someone that I believe what I do, but I can pray that it will.
And someday maybe I'll get to heaven and someone will walk up to me and say, "Thaaaaank you, for giving to the Looooord. For I am a life, that was saaaaaaaaaaaaaved."
It was a really great group last night. Someone pointed out that in the room we had all the makings of a 60's movement: two activist Christians, a Jew, an African-American, and a hippie. So we talked about Diebold's stupid voting machines (concensus: sledgehammer to machine) and about bringing Armaggedon (see article above) which is what led to the conversation about how not everybody is on equal footing when it comes to interpreting Scripture. Don't get me wrong now - I'm not saying Bibles shouldn't be freely distributed. But like our worship, there's some scary, powerful, dangerous stuff in there. And it is infinitely better to have a guide. Like me! Because I'm so awesome.
My neighbor also told us that we should reproduce. We should bless the world with our offspring, because we'd be cool parents. I like that. I think when I run out of the pill in 3 months I might just not bother getting a new prescription. I might just see what happens. I mean, I won't try for anything, but I also wouldn't not try. Wouldn't hurt anyway to learn early whether this is going to be easy or difficult. My sister-in-law got pregnant a month after going off the pill; other friends are starting $800/month fertility treatments; other friends are adopting from all over the world; and my sis is pregnant again right at baby #1's first birthday. Some of my friends have those gorgeous 3-dimensional sonograms, and expensive baby stuff that goes in a baby's room. Then there are people whose children are on Medi-Cal and put the baby in the dresser drawer (that would be us, although since we don't have a dresser I'm thinking file cabinet. Although if that fell over on them...ouch). So everybody does this at different times and in different situations. And I was thinking I needed to wait to have a house, then I lessened it to insurance, and now I'm thinking oh what the hell. People a lot poorer than me have babies all the time! And at least I'm responsible! I'm going to stress out about being on welfare and/or in credit card debt (and I've paid taxes many years so maybe that counts for something). I'm not sure there's much that can keep me from doing this any more. It won't be an ideal - or easy or even probably very nice - situation, but it is what it is and I can't really stop the clock ticking.
OK, I've really got to stop goofing off now. I'm totally procrastinating because the books I have to read for this class are sooooooo dull. I'm going to roast a chicken for the first time tonight. Wish me luck. But I have to read first. Maybe.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
Yes, I think that's where I'm at. That's the CS Lewis Great Divorce scenario - people are shown heaven and still choose not to be there, because they don't want to be with God. I don't think God will force anyone to be with him who doesn't want to. But I also don't think God will reject anyone who genuinely does want to be with him.
I leave the sort of punishment to God. I think that simply being out of God's presence - outside the gates of the city, if you will - and alone is quite a punishment. But smarter people than me have lots of theories about annihilation, etc. And frankly nobody knows.
What is important, I think, is to get it through our heads that it is not really God punishing people so much as people punishing themselves. We want to blame an angry God for being mean, but really if we realize our free will is what leads us away from God (or toward her, as the case may be), then we can't blame God, only ourselves. And if God didn't set up some eternal torture chamber, but rather simply graciously says "OK don't be with me if you can't stand me", then it's pretty much not God who's the bad guy.
I do not believe in instant restoration for everyone. But I do believe in the power of God's love (I've seen too much evidence of it changing lives not to). So if people choose to be away from God for a spell, that doesn't mean it has to last forever. That's all I'm saying. The eventual restoration of all things because, at heart, I am an optimist. That's what J told me yesterday: You're not a universalist, you're just a really big optimist. There are those who can live with eternal punishment and pain for others and grieve over it and genuinely feel terrible about it (as God would) but accept it. I don't know if I can, simply because I know my God. Sure, people can choose to reject God, perhaps for all eternity. I just really really hope they come around.
Now, about this charge of heresy....
I can totally see where our Catholic friend is coming from because to his church, yes, I'm definitely a heretic (see The Bro's comment re: dictionary definition). I grew up in a church where heresy was basically a viewpoint that disagrees with any given individual's beliefs. Obviously a difficult thing to track.
I was wondering why, though, I'm always so hurt when people call me a heretic. I think my fears are:
People don't like me - just good ol' need for acceptance. Calling someone heretic means they're not in your club (for all eternity - ouch!).
I love Christians and the Church, and I don't want anyone to think I don't. I genuinely want to bring the church to deeper truth by questioning everything.
The State of Me in Eternity - because hey, what if God rejects me?
So my questions about my heretical thoughts are:
1. Does it hurt others?
2. Does it hurt me?
So to 1., I say: Possibly, if they think they don't have to turn to Jesus. But I preach Jesus and God's love. Not sure how you can overemphasize God's love. Still, this frightens me - I never want to sell Jesus short. But I've found people really dig Jesus and are never upset when we talk about him. Of course the gospel is foolishness to them - it doesn't make any sense to accept a free gift of grace, it offends our internal sense of justice (that sense that wants a hell and judgment to exist...). Sometimes the gospel isn't good news because it's just too unbelievable. And I think we frequently take the gospel for granted and don't realize just how hard it is to swallow.
I think that aspect of Jesus is offensive, but I don't think Jesus was ever offensive because he was exclusive. He purposely reached out to those he shouldn't have. He showed equal regard for those of other faiths and class. But yeah, if someone were to see me saying Jesus is the Son of God, but then, other faiths also have truths about God, they could conceivably choose against Christianity (though that would probably be because they have a beef with the church in general). I don't say the faiths are equivalent, I'm not there yet...but I say they are valid. And that God reaches back to anyone reaching toward her.
So I dunno if it hurts others or not.
Second question, does it hurt me? Well, actually it makes me more loving and accepting of my neighbor. It gives me access to talk about Jesus with people who would not listen to most Christians. It gives me this forum online where all these people read about something scandalous - the completely free and overwhelming love of God - and how it has impacted my life. Changed the entire course and purpose of my life, really.
So no, I don't think it hurts me, except psychologically when I let those fears mentioned up there overcome me.
Finally, to our friend writing about visiting churches...
You're just like my husband. He's not social situation man. And he's rubbed off on me in that I also get shy around strangers now. It's all well and good for us to categorize and systematize and quantify when each person should be reached. But of course every person is an individual and systems fail. I hope I can be sensitive to folks like you because I live with one. And I'm grateful for your word so that others can realize that aggressive church welcoming (just like aggressive evangelism) just isn't always the way to go.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Many thoughts today
OK, now let me respond to a few recent comments.
First, yes, I also was convicted especially by Eddie's comment about spending time with God now. We were having such a wonderful time, earlier in the summer, when we were doing the morning prayer together every day. But now we can't because we have to be up and out so early. It was lovely, though, to read scripture (which was always new and interesting) and to read a piece from a Father or Mother, or about that day's saint, or just to debate and discuss the passage we'd read. I don't know how to make that happen with our current schedule. And it will only get harder once the fall comes.
I can do morning prayer alone and I do, but it's just not as nice. It makes one feel a bit shizophrenic to say to oneself: "The Lord be with me" "And also with me" "let us pray."
Ah, well, we must carry on. I read the most lovely bit from Julian of Norwich today - her meditation upon Jesus as Mother. Not Katherine our new Presiding Bishop, not some radical feminist (of the 20th century, anyway) - no, good old Julian, mystic from the 15th century. This idea is not an imposition of our times. Beyond Christ himself longing to be like a mother hen, we have evidence in the Fathers (who weren't the greatest towards women, so that's saying something), and then this from Julian:
We make our humble complaint to our beloved Mother, and he sprinkles us with his precious blood, and makes oursoul pliable and tender, and restores us to our full beauty in course of time...And this sweet and lovely work he will never cease from doing until all his beloved children are born and delivered...And I understood that there is no higher state in this life than that of childhood, because of our inadequate and feeble capacitty and intellect, until such time as our gracious Mother shall bring us up to our Father's bliss. And then the true menaning of those lovely words will be made known to us, 'It is going to be all right. You will see for yourself that everything is going to be all right.'
Preach it, grrrl.
Anyway, about this Christology thing, let me see how many ways I can be heretical today. But first let me point out that I don't see anything against universalism in the Nicene Creed, and I think I explained yesterday how I still have a pretty strong Christology, just not one that is based in exclusivism and substitutionary atonement. So the anonymous person who said I was a heretic b/c of universalism and weak Christology isn't actually correct. I'm not a Baptist or Roman Catholic, to be sure...I'm not even following the 39 articles, probably...but I don't think I've gone beyond the Creeds. So am I really a heretic? Well maybe by today's standards. And being a strong believer in the progression of the Church and God's continued revelation to us, and the true faith of our tradition being as much God's Word as the Scriptures (tho of course it's not as easy to read! Or is it? Perhaps the Scriptures are harder than we think!), I do strongly respect that I am not following the journey on which the church has found itself. But then again, I do fall into line with many in my church, and I do agree with many of the founders of our faith (although of course I know Origen was considered a heretic for universalism) on the issues they were hashing out. I'm certainly not a gnostic.
Anyway, let me muse on Christology for a moment. Is Jesus the son of God? Of course. But does that matter? Of course it does. If I say it doesn't I am not a Christian. But is it necessary for salvation to recognize this? Or does it just make it much easier to live your life in line with God's story? My husband, paraphrasing Dallas Willard, says, "The smartest man who ever lived is offering a master class in how to live your life and you're invited to join and learn." Now I know that could be reducing Jesus to just a good teacher or smart man...but then again, we should recognize that. It seems often that the non-Christians recognize these aspects of Jesus (good teacher, smart) better than Christians do! How many Christ followers really think Jesus was a genius?
So I think Jesus was the smartest person who ever lived. And I believe he is the son of God. I believe his incarnation was the turning point in history when all the universe was able to start heading back toward God. I believe that his life is the model for our lives. I believe that his death and resurrection were the model for our future. Did they separately do something to balance the cosmic scales? Well they did make a big difference, in that nobody had been resurrected before. And the resurrection is the foretaste, as they say, of what is to come. Solid evidence of God's kingdom come.
But I don't think I believe that God demanded the sacrifice nor that without Christ's death we'd all be lost. Perhaps without Christ's resurrection we'd not be able to resurrect. But this idea of cosmic scales balancing...well I just don't see it. It sounds more like yin/yang to me. What I see when I read God's story is a God who never balances the scales. A God who always pushes toward us no matter how crappy we act. A God who forgives over and over and over and over again. A God who deeply longs for people to love him no matter what they've done against him. A God who doesn't hold grudges. This is the story of God. This is the whole story, not a prooftext.
How can you know that story and not be universalist?
That's rhetorical, anonymous. (I'm considering blocking anonymous posting anyway...)
We don't have the answers yet at all, and we are on a journey. Why can't we be on different places in our journey? Not just you and me, but those from other cultures and faith traditions.
My journey is going through some woods right now. I fear what I think - things that go against what I was always taught was salvation. But salvation isn't based on what I believe, is it? I mean, come on. Is it really based on what we believe? Or is it based on who we love?
Jesus is the answer, that is my Christology. But he is the answer because he is the incarnation of God's love, he is God reaching into the world in love. I love him and I want to live like he did. The answer to the question of what is the meaning of life, I guess.
Which is where the pluralism has affected my Christology. I'm not longer sure Jesus is the only way to God. I think I believe he's the best way. At least, he's definitely the most direct route! But the only way? Jesus is God's love in the world. But God's love is manifest in other ways, albeit not as powerfully. My exposure to world religions has convinced me that God has revealed Godself through other religions in some ways. So the piece of information that we Christians have is Jesus - perhaps he's the thing we know about that others don't. But I believe others know things about God that we don't know - or that we are blind to. There is beauty in the manifold names and faces for God in Hinduism - their God is much bigger and more diverse than ours. There is genius and peace in the meditation of many traditions, especially that of Buddhism which gives such honor to the natural world (and that's something Christians often neglect). We can learn so much from the Baha'is about peace and ecumenism. I personally am fascinated with the eschatology of the LDS church. Muslim devotion to prayer is certainly beyond most of us. Jewish liturgy is gorgeous and their reverence for Scripture is enviable. Even pagan religions (or cosmological) recognize the revelation of God in nature and respect and work with that better than we do.
So. Whew. All of that to say that there's a lot of not just wisdom but TRUTH in other religions. God's truth. God's revelation. So the pluralism has affected my sotierology and eschatology. I said that it's affected my Christology, but you know, I actually don't think it has. I still pretty much think the same things about Jesus that I ever did. I've changed my mind about salvation and about what happens after death, and of course that's wrapped up in Christology to an extent. But I'm not sure having a "high" Christology necessitates exclusivism.
There, Rachel. That was for you. :)
One last thing, if you're still with me. I watched a fantastic, terrifying film that I strongly, strongly recommend you run out and rent. It's called The Corporation. I'm just going to tell you to see it. We can chat about it in the comments once you've seen it (or if you already have). Very. Scary. Stuff. And very, very important to know.
I got to thinking about why the younger generation - my brother's age and below (he was born in 1980) - is so up in arms and ready to mobilize. I thank God for it. But it's curious to me, because it's like this groundswell all of a sudden (this is largely anecdotal - my brother's on a kick). And as we were watching this Corporation movie, it struck us: the thing people are most afraid of is Communism and/or Socialism. That's why they are willing to let Corporations run the country - really, own the world - because they are so terrified of the government doing it. Because if the government does it (which I think is what democracy is?), then that is socialism. Or can become it.
But my brother was a kid when Communism fell. Young'ns today simply weren't taught about the evils of it. So they don't fear it. They don't have anti-Communism deep in their bones. So they can see the happy medium that just might be possible between fascism and socialism. They can visualize democracy. They don't fear stripping corporations of power and actually would prefer the government not be in bed with them. They aren't afraid of universal healthcare because they see that it makes sense. Many older ones of us can't see that it makes sense because we're afraid of what it could turn in to, or what it could portent. But it doesn't have to! And I think the next generation is finally in a place to teach us that. Maybe they can get us out of this mess of wars, too. They're not equating the terrorists with the commies. They're not interested in another cold (or hot) war, and they don't seem all that interested in defending our "honor" or "way of life." They can see the flaws in the American way of life and call us on it.
The young changed the world in the 60's. Let's let them do it again. I know I'm being way simplistic and overoptimistic here (but hey, I'm accused of being such a negative person on here, may as well go off the other end now & then). But if you could hear the desperation in my brother's voice when he calls me and begs for information to DO something...it's really touching. And he's connected - his generation is way networked. Which, funnily enough, is what Eddie is telling us at the moment is quite key to the future of the church. It was the key to the early church, too - Christians were out there in the marketplace and you couldn't not meet them. But they stayed friends with non-Christians and never retreated into a bubble (either a literal one or one of ideology and opinion). They couldn't have grown like they did (like rabbits, not pandas, as Gibbs put it today! He said we're the giant pandas ha ha) without networking and without taking advantage of their urban environment.
I guess you're doing the right thing, reading me here. :) And I'll keep writing for you. I wrote most of this during class today. So that's why you're not getting notes (sorry). I'll bet Eddie would be tickled to know his words are going up each day (almost). But anyway what I'm saying is let's keep networking, and keep telling each other about great films like The Corporation, and great websites like (you fill in the blank), and great churches like cota and All Saints, and great social movements like Sojourners and the Center for Action and Contemplation and their conference here in Pasadena. We are a community. It's real, not virtual. We exist. And we will change the world.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Day 2: Me, the Evangelist
I think that's what our professor is trying to trick us into believing.
Here are notes from today: "Describing Nominality"
Accept people on the basis of their own self-understanding (if they say they are a Christian don't argue with them, simply surround them w/cmmty of faith). "Treat people as Christians until they discover they're not."
(or presumably realize they can be...more)
"The issue is not whether someone is born again. It's whether they are grown again. People can be born again and again and again and again. What matters is if they are growing."
We can't impose but must propose the gospel.
It's very important that we don't pretend with God - the Bible is a brutally honest book. Be grateful for the bits you don't like b/c there will be times you need them (eg psalms of wrath).
There are a lot of angry preachers - lots of repressed anger in Ev tradition. Turn off sound on TV preacher and ask yourself what is the message. Sad - we are proclaiming message of a gracious God, grace to the undeserving.
"The longer I've been a preacher, the less I use 'you' and the more I use 'we.'"
Why are we angry?
We've made God into an angry person. Wrath appeasement on the cross (simplistic).
Church leaders are extremely unhappy and under too much pressure.
"I sincerely hope you do not do your dating like you do your evangelism." We're talking about a life commitment here. Jesus didn't nail people to the wall, requiring instant decisions. When people aren't ready to make decisions he doesn't push (Nicodemus, for instance, who in John 3 isn't ready yet but by the end of the gospel seems converted).
Sometimes the spirit prompts boldness, but that's very different from brashness.
Our witness is to tell people as much as God wants them to hear.
The art of communication is to tell a little less than people want to know, rather than more, so they'll come back. Most Evangelicals are still talking after people have stopped listening!
We're accustomed to our language, but it doesn't communicate to outsiders. He actually quoted us Chaucer in the old English to show us how foreign we sound to outsiders!
[but note that the Brad Kallenberg book - "Live to Tell" - has the good solution, which is that we teach them our language, not dumb it down or translate for them - while making no assumptions about what people will get on their own]
Gibbs: 'Words do not contain meanings' - it's not what we say, it's what others hear. So Amazing Grace was understood as a love song about a girl named Grace when on the pop charts in the UK.
Practical exercise: ask a new person at church to write down any word/phrase/action they don't understand. You'll be surprised how much there is.
Short-term pastors are a problem contributing to nominality: "It's a brother who stays, it's a boss who moves." Congregations will commit to pastors if they commit to them first. Huge issue for emerging churches b/c they are founded by apostolic types (who get bored after about 5 years).
People drift in and out. You've got 3 mos to incorporate a newcomer (if no new friends, brought into relational group, you'll lose them).
Peter Wagner: "Much easier to have babies than raise the dead" (ie plant new churches than renew old ones); Gibbs: "I believe in signs and wonders." (resurrection is God's work)
Recommendation: The Missional Leader by Alan Roxburgh & Fred Romanack(Jossey Bass)- helpful book in terms of changing DNA of an established church. If you want to fix what you've got rather than start over (and we need some of that in my denomination!)
True church membership manifests in ministry. But ministry flows from relationships (not from filling out a questionnaire and identifying your gift!). If you don't use a gift it atrophies. "An undiscovered gift is an unlived life." (New Wineskins). Most church members (80% says Gibbs) have never discovered their gift, and it's not their fault, it's the fault of a controlling leadership.
"Healing is primarily a sign of the Kingdom rather than God's answer to every medical condition." (an explanation as to why it is visited upon those without faith and sometimes not to those with it)
Pastors need not only theology, but wisdom in how to survive in ministry. It's not great to burn-out for God!
Many people are in dead churches and simply know no different. But to bring vitality and freshness will change things for them. They don't even know they are nominal!
In a pluralistic society, ministers need a very high Christology (but with humility and not a power-ploy). [this set me off on a mental tangent. I am terrified of what's becoming of my Christology. Well I don't know first if I even had one. I must have. But I haven't take that class yet so it's hard to know. But what I'm saying is that I'm scared because I don't think mine is very high anymore and it's a result of my exposure to pluralism. I don't know if I can say that Christ is the ultimate end for everyone who believes in God...yet he must be, if I am Trinitarian, and I do believe all will come to God eventually. I mean, I've decided I'm a pretty stout universalist. And the love of God, which is what will eventually save everyone, was most greatly manifest in Christ. So Jesus must be the eventual salvation of all the world. So maybe I do still have a decent Christology. Am I a heretic yet?]