Friday, March 4, 2011

The God-Man War

I'm sure everyone has heard of the Supreme Court ruling this week on the Westboro Baptist's protest at military funerals. While I agree with the principle of the ruling, I, like most people, think what those so-called saints do is hideous. I don't need to waste my time arguing against their insanity, because I would be preaching to the choir. While I am often cynical of Evangelicalism, I'm confident that the majority of Evangelicals find these Baptist disgusting.

But when I saw the signs the little kids were holding up, I felt grief, but I also knew that there was a much bigger, more mainstream debate at stake. What I'm trying to say is deep and translucent and to put it into words is like trying to fence in a fog bank.

Okay, I will try and start. Someone out there can probably say it better. The universal Christian message is that sin entered into the world and tainted everything. It also put distance between us and God. The Garden of Eden story implicates that God is then at war with Satan, but in my opinion does not implicate that God is at war with mankind. We, even the unregenerate us, are not God's enemy. In my concept of God, I don't see Him, stroking his beard and in with a face of both anger and glee, stomping the wretched little humans under His feet like fire ants because we have sinned.

In my concept of God, He is overflowing with grace. Like Jesus looking down on Jerusalem and wanted to pick up the confused, wayward people, like chicks and put them under his wing, that is how I see God seeing us--even when we've failed. In my view, if God ever did get the notion to smite someone, He would smite the TV evangelist and the leaders of this Baptist church who corrupt these innocent ones.

So I think there is an issue closer to home and more practical in our churches. I don't like the part of Amazing Grace where it says "A wretch like me." When I've suggested that to others, they see it as arrogance on my part. I do like the ideal of Amazing Grace and I am in deep need of that grace every minute of every day. But when I call myself, or anyone "garbage," a "wretch," "scumbag" etc (and I've heard all those used in the context of the Church, with people talking about sinners) I am calling God a scumbag, garbage maker. He is not. I look at the earth, the plants, the animals and all humans still carrying that same God-given majesty. It is the same thought as C. S. Lewis had when he talked about the fact that if we really understood how wonderful (or cruel) our fellowman was, we would be tempted to fall down and worship them, or run in terror (in the later case).

Hebrews says that we are made just a little bit lower than the angels, and for just a while (during our earth dwelling). Humans are glorious. Our brains are glorious. Our talents are glorious. There is nothing to be ashamed about making those statements. If I made a clay pot, one of great artistry, and then the pot (think of the animation Beauty and the Beast here) could talk and the first words out of its mouth were, "I'm a wretch!" I would be hurt. Giving glory to ourselves, gives God, the created, the glory.

I'm not at all talking about the comparison game. Where we, in a desire for increased personal worth, push others down to push ourselves up. That usually goes, "Yeah, I made X amount of money last year because I'm so good." I'm talking about a universal praise of creation, including us created beings. It too has nothing to do with being soft on sin.

It came to my mind a couple of weeks ago when we had someone play the piano and sing at church. It was beautiful. Then you could tell that there was a social awkwardness afterwards. A few people clapped. Many didn't. Then the pastor came up to the microphone and said, "Oh please clap," and everyone did. From the Victorian age it was believed that to clap was to give the artist the praise instead of God. My view, to clap is to give God praise because of the gifts he's given us.

I noticed that both in the Islamic culture of Norther Pakistan and the Buddhist area of Nepal, they had the same attitude. The kids who weave the beautiful wool rugs in Pakistan (a small one is beneath my laptop as I type, which I got during my first trip to Pakistan in 1982) or in Nepal when the painters made these incredibly beautiful paintings, they were forced to, a) make an intentional mistake and b) never associate their personal name with their artwork. It is from the same mentality.

I'm reading a book on the Renaissance right now because my son, Ramsey, and I are using frequent flyer miles to go to Florence in two weeks. As I'm working my way through the Renaissance, there was a point (about 1200) when artists started signing their works. Before that, it was deeply frowned upon, as lowly man taking credit and being proud. But eventually the artists took credit for what God had given them.

So, when I talk like this, my Evangelical friends call me a "Humanist." I am not, in the true sense of the word. I don't, for a moment, suggest that we create our god in OUR image, which is the crux of Humanism. Nor do I hold up ourselves, the way we are, as the standard for how we should be.

But I will let this thought rest for a while.

I'm still in the middle of about 70 hour weeks right now, working full time while trying to create a business. I hope to be back here more often in the near future.

17 comments:

Eagle said...

MJ...

Would you be willing to give some thought to the following issues and slowly blog about them. I'd love to get your thoughts on them...


Thanks

Eagle

1. Can a Christian be disappointed in God? Can they ever be angry at God? If not…then why? Why do Christians always attribute positive acts to God and negative acts to Satan? Why don’t they ever hold God responsible? Why don’t Christians ever get frustrated publically about God? Do they believe its a sin…and if so..is that Biblical?

2. Can I hear your take on evil that is not the result of free will? (please elaborate, give an example)

3. What exactly is the prosperity gospel? How would you define it? What is the difference between being blessed versus believing in the prosperity gospel?

4. Do Christians make the Bible and idol? Do Christians worship the Bible?

5. Do Christians take some liberties in saying that the Bible is from God and divine? I was thinking the Gospel of John starts out by saying the word became flesh (reference to Jesus) and while I am familiar with vs like 2 Timothy 3:16, Joshua 1:8-9, etc.. wouldn’t you say those versus are retrospective to those individual books? I mean (and I may be mistaken…call me on the carpet…) there really isn’t a verse in the Bible that says these 66 Books from Genesis to Revelation are divine and from God and exist in this intended format to be used in this way. Do you think Christians are mistranslating the Bible when they say that?

6. In the Bible if it talks about generational sin, and that comes down upon people, then where does the issue of free will come in? Isn’t there a conflict there?

7. Also in regards to Adam…why is it that Adams’ sin affects and carries down to you? Why am I or anyone held responsible for Adams’ original sin?

8. Salvation exclusively in Christ? What then will happen to those people who never heard the gospel due to historical or geograghic limitation? Does the person who lived and died in China in 100 BC go to hell becuase he never knew Christ?

9. God and murder or committing genocide. How can Christians worship a God who has killed so many people? Take Exodus..you kill the first born but not Pharoah? What did an Egyptian infant do to where he deserved to be killed? Why don’t Christinas become bothered by all the attrocities that God committed?

10. How can a loving God allow evil? Especially if he’s omnscient? So according to Christian theology…that 5 year old kid who is being molested by that Sunday school teacher…God knew all along that it was going to happen and did nothing to intervene. How can Christians respect such a God? I mean heck if you allowed a child to be molested in Minnesota and did nothing to stop it you yourself could face charges by the state. Yet Christians excuse God and let him off the hook? Why…?

Leanne said...

If you've never read Madeline L'Engle's book "Walking on Water," I highly recommend it!!!

Basically, the jist of it is that God is a creator. He made us in HIS image. Therefore, we are created to BE creators. When we do what God created us to do, we are bringing Him glory.

I see it this way: A loving parent is thrilled with any painting or drawing that their child does. My mom did not demand, every time I created a drawing in school, or wrote a prize-winning essay, or whatever...that I publicly thank her for giving birth to me, thus making it possible to create whatever I created.

The very fact that we exist and create brings glory to God!

jmj said...

Gee Whiz Eagle you're not asking for much are you. :>) Each of those topics could be weeks of discussion. I will take them as food for thought.

jmj said...

Leanne, I'm ashamed to say the only book I've read of hers is A Wrinkle in Time. I should read more of her work. She actually lives about 25 miles from me and I've known people who personally know her. But, I've haven't gotten around to reading more. I will put that on my list.

Dana said...

Mike,
don't know who you're thinking of who lives near you, but it isn't M. L'Engle. She died in 2007.

Eagle,
So sorry for all the confusion and soul-suffering you have undergone. N.T. Wright tells about when he was a college chaplain and students would come to him saying they didn't believe in God. He would say, "Tell me about the god you don't believe in." He says they would say things similar to the things you question. He would tell them, "I don't believe in that god, either."

Hugs to you, friend.

Dana

jmj said...

Dana, of course you are right. I just read her bio. Either I have her mixed up with someone else or the person that told me that she lived in Bellingham, WA and was a friend of her's . . . hoodwinked me.

jmj said...

I figured it out. It was a friend of hers, author Luci Shaw, who lives near by.

http://www.lucishaw.com/books_all_titles.html

Eagle said...

JMJ...sorry if you felt overwhelmed... No rush and whenever I'm flexible. I don't want to be a burden....

@Dana-

Love ya sis!!! Hug all the way from Washington, D.C.!! =)

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this post.
Am currently in a phase of spiritual life that deeply deeply detests any big focus on the "wretchedness." I'm not so sure we are wretched. And I think the doctrine of Total Depravity has caused man to do some really depraved things to each other...because through the lens of "wretchedness," we look at humanity (including ourselves) and see wretchedness instead of the stamp of the Creator, and that DOES have repercussions.

--M

Anonymous said...

The Garden of Eden story implicates that God is then at war with Satan, but in my opinion does not implicate that God is at war with mankind. We, even the unregenerate us, are not God's enemy.

In other words, we're the ones who are caught in the crossfire.

jmj said...

Rather than being caught in the crossfire, I see it more like this.

Jesus is this giant chicken hen. I'm a fragile chick under his wing. His wing is made of Dragonskin (bullet-proof body armor) and the giant hen is sporting a machine gun in the other wing and the enemy is running while we are chasing him at full speed. (The Church will prevail) Okay, maybe that is a little hard to imagine.

Eagle said...

Love the fear tactics....

Why do evangelicals get "orgasmic" over tragedy....can this be spiritual masturbation?

I guess the rapture is around the corner....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrRGDU2S1b4&feature=channel_video_title

jmj said...

Eagle, I will respond with my next posting.

Anna A said...

Eagle,

I hope you don't mind if I share some of my answers to your questions.

1) I think that Christians can and sometimes should be upset, disappointed, mad at God. I know that I've yelled at Him a time or two in my car. Just like you understand an upset child saying, "I hate you." I do believe that God is even more loving and understanding. One of the reasons that I found it easy to leave the Baptists is that some of my classmates in Sunday School were giving God all the credit for everything good that they did, but taking full responsibility for all bad that they did. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. Either God gets full credit for both or you get full credit for both. (I never could convince them of the contradiction.)

Is it a sin? In God's eyes not, consider what Jeremiah told him. In the eyes of Baptist, yes, and again I say yes.

2) I'm skipping

3)Prosperity gospel is when we treat God like a machine. We put in our tithe and get out more. We pray a certain number of rosaries, and get a miracle. He doesn't work that way.

I believe that our prayers can make a difference, but not in a mechanical, predicable way.

4)In some cases, yes. And make sure that you are using the correct translation.

5) I am bothered by the fact that some Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe. I think that some parts are more important than others, I don't get much out of the listings of numbers of the men in the various tribes. I think that many who treat the Bible like you are talking about, don't know much on how the books of the Bible were selected as canonical. Time and church wisdom weeded out the worst ones.

6)Generational sin. I've seen it, and I wonder if God was talking about what He observed or what He commanded. My guess is observation.

8)I believe that salvation is through Christ alone, but that many may be following him either rejecting his name, or the baggage that Christians have added to Him. I'm thinking of Oriani Fallaci, who defined herself as a Christian agnostic but did so much good at pointing out evil in the world, and even left her library to the Vatican.

jmj said...

Anna you are always welcome to comment on Eagle or anyone else's thoughts. I wish I could focus more on this right now. I do dream of more of a "forum" setting where there is a community of insightful and thought-provoking (like Eagle) people helping each other. I am deeply grateful for Eagle's questions and for those who respond.

Eagle said...

Anna & MJ

Hugs from Washington, D.C.!!!

Eagle

shadowspring said...

Delightful!

I'll take a stab at #4: some do, yes and yes. I am not the first to say it, I know I have read the term Bibliolatry somewhere.

To my mind, anytime you are choosing a doctrine or verse over the greatest commandments of all, the commands of Christ to love- one another, our neighbor as ourselves, even our enemies- then you are making an idol of a verse or doctrine that either you find easier or were wrongly taught was the "real" definition of love.

I have known some hard-hearted, proud, cruel Christians convinced that they love God because they reinterpret the words in I John 'this is love for God, when we keep his commands'to mean we are obeying the command to love by not working on the Sabbath, or swearing, or some such easy-peasy behavioral twaddle that has absolutely nothing to do with love at all.

I aspire to love.