Monday, April 30, 2012

Love Betwixt Universes

There has always been something alluring about a love that must transverse, or transcend between two, unlike universes. The fictional stories abound, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Avatar and several within Greek mythology of mortals engaged, romantically with immortals . . . to name a few. More recently it has been girl meets vampire type of stories.  In reality, there are some other examples (Grace Kelly and the Prince of Monaco).  While such loves enchant us, in reality they come with complications, which the fairy tales don't even pretend to address.

I remember having a beer with a young Navigator staff guy, Dave, in a foreign country. He was betrothed to a national girl. The elder staff guy was delighted in the match, a match literally (in his eyes) made in Heaven. I was a little uncomfortable with the arrangement because Dave was young (22 I think) wet behind the ears and was only in the country for a year.  The senior Nav staff guy thought it was wonderful that one of their new converts was going to marry a "godly man" something the girl would have a hard time finding among her own people.  I looked at their roots. The southern, what you might call red neck, guy and a girl from a Muslim world and who had never even been outside her country.

After sipping his beer Dave said to me, "I'm being attacked by Satan."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"I feel that I don't love or even know Mona . . . and we are getting married in two months.  I know that God has brought us together, so these doubts are Satanic attacks."

I could try and deconstruct that thinking but that would side-track me. I will simply say that I told Dave to cancel the wedding. He said to do so would be an act of disobedience to God.  He married her. I lost contact with them and have no clue as to how they are doing.

After that long introduction, the thing I wanted to explore is within my personal world.  My wife, Denise, and I have entered different universes . . . yet we still love each other. Finding resolution in these situations are hard.  I guess I'm the beast in this story . . .  certainly not the charming prince, or even the prince of Monaco. I'm too the mortal.

When we first met, thirty years ago, she was a Midwest Lutheran who just recently discovered evangelicalism through Inner Varsity Fellowship.  I, on the other hand, was born in the Bible belt, raised as a Baptist (and taught that Lutherans weren't real Christians). Then I had just spent eight years with intense training with the Navigators.  I had not kissed a girl since I was 17 and when I met Denise I was 24. At the time we met, I was in frankly living in a evangelical monastery. We didn't associate with women. We spent our days praying and memorizing verses, if not sharing the Gospel.

When we first got married, Denise felt intimidated by my "spirituality."  I saw  myself as a godly man and she did too. But then things changed. Over the years I've pulled her deeper and deeper into Evangelism.  For a few years of bliss we were both at the center of it and "equally yoked."  But then came the age of my great disillusionment.  It came in step by step fashion. It took me twenty years to complete my fall.

So, it has been a year and a half since I left our evangelical church. I had no choice. I'm so glad I did.  It was a no-brainer for me to go. But, equally, it was a no-brainer for her to stay.  Her closes friends go to that church. She still believes all that makes up that culture.  She honestly enjoys the Sunday morning service, the praise singing and respects the pastor . . . the same one which came to my house in a fit of rage screaming at me when he found out I was leaving his church.  It was a painful chapter. There is no resolution. Humpty Dumpty can't be reassembled. Maybe if we were to move to a far away place we could find a meeting place between us, at a Lutheran church. But for now it is learning art of loving in dissonance.

I remember Mike Spencer sharing a glimpse of the turmoil of his heart when his wife, also Denise, joined the Catholic Church. He couldn't get his head around it.  But he loved her as she did him. They had to find this place of mutual respect for each other.

So my Denise and I are striving to bridge this gap.  It can't be resolved mechanically. I would make a miserable evangelical. She doesn't see the point of my transition out of it. But, we love each other . . . we must love each other . . . across the great chasm and through the interface between matter and antimatter.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

If Only this Was What Sunday School was Really Like

I was blown away today by my church's adult Sunday school program. I rarely go for personal reasons. My youngest son is usually in town on Sundays. He and I go out for coffee then to the main service of my church. If I to go to Sunday school, he would not go with me to either.

My son wasn't in town this week.  The church was having a special program about the conflict between science and Christianity.  I went.  I think I can say, hands down, it was the best Sunday school class I've ever attended in my 50 years of going.  The guest teacher has two PhDs, one in science history and the second in theology. It was simple excellent. We talked about a lot of things I've been discussing here. There about 60 in attendance today.

I will put this in the context that most of the 50 years of Sunday school attendance has been totally wasted time I can never get back.  I just wish I had brought up kids in this environment rather than the one they've endured.

I believe that Sunday school is usually an exercise in penitence, going to win God's favor. I actually came out of this morning's session a better person, though by a millimeter.

Here is my least favorite song of all time . . . because it reeks of penitence. I've never liked the word "ought," and when said, I try my best to do the opposite. But this morning . . . all I can say is that you ought to have been there:>)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It is not often I have such time to type anything. But I’ve been traveling for the past few days. I came to Minneapolis to visit my son and his wife, to see my grandson #1 who was having surgery and meet grandson # 2 for the very first time.

I’m on my way home to Seattle and because the Minneapolis airport security was so efficient, I now have an hour to wait before boarding.  I wanted to put down some thoughts while I have the chance.

I watched a report last week from where a group of thought leaders (mostly innovators from Silicon Valley) and the like at the "Invent Your Future" conference. They were looking at the next 20 years.  One after one they proclaimed that all the world’s problems would be solved, through technology, within this time-frame. The examples cited were small (dorm room refrigerator-sized) machines that took filthy water and then through distillation, turned it into perfect water in a few minutes.

The thought that came to mind was “been there . . . done that” and I was thinking on the grand human scale.

Human thinking is like the pendulum, swinging eternally back and forth, never finding the proper place of balance.  There is something about human nature that when we reach a limit in thinking, and it doesn’t work, we don’t just modify it a bit, but we start immediately looking to the answer in the opposite extreme.

One of the major spheres of this pendulum swing is in the area of reason and non-reason. On the non-reason side you can add words such as feeing, mysticism, faith, grace and others.

So if you go back a couple of thousand years, at least in the West, you will see the desire for reason in the Greek philosophers, especially in the linage of Socrates. But even Plato (Socrates’ student) started to look at non-reason as the source of meaning and the resolution of problems. The entire western world sunk deeply in the non-reason direction during the Dark Ages.

The Renaissance of course rediscovered reason, or at least opened the door for it in the sixtieth century.  The pendulum swung in the direction of reason reaching apogees in the French Revolution and Empiricism and the Enlightenment.  They had this eternal optimism that was eventually dashed in the trenches east of Ypres under the cloud of poisons chlorine gas, a gas which was produced by the same scientists that held that hope. It was crushed under the power of the atom’s destruction in the crater of Hiroshima.

Slowly the artists led us, like haggard men and women with dimly lit torches out of those dark places where reason had abandoned us.

Finally that journey went to seed as the New Age, expressed in the total loss of reason.  Now that light of New Age mysticism is burning itself out.  I had the suspicion that the pendulum had once again reached its apogee in the direction of non-reason and now we are back on the swing towards reason.  This time, with communications so much faster than before, the swing will be at light-speed. Our kids will certainly live in the Neo-rationalistic world. But I also wander, that different from the last time, reason will splinter and be more narrowly defined as technology. So an extremely precise “techonologist” might still hold to mysticism in his/her philosophical world, while the last they were pure rationalist in both their professional and private worlds. So they would attempt to find personal meaning in mysticism, but The Answers (of life) in their technological worlds.

All of human endeavors shadow these swings. Christianity is no exception. We went from the total darkness (and extreme dualism) of the Middle Ages, to the rationalistic, theological hair splitting of the Catholic Scholastics and the Protestant denominationalism.  As the secular world moved into the New Age, the church moved deeply into the world of non-reason.  This age of Christian non-reason became the back bone of charismatic movement and Evangelicalism.

As the Church starts its parallel swing back, it too may endorse this intellectual schizophrenia divided between technology and mysticism. The coming Evangelical might feel the Holy Spirit speaking to them through their screen saver or find new level of an experience with God through a virtual reality helmet and system.

It is my dream, and prayer, that the new, coming age of the Church, would for the first time find a balance. Where the average Christian would see reason, logic and scientific advancement as a gift from God and the way He has made us. Yet, not give up the hope that comes with the beauty of nature, the arts, music and passion.  That the new Christian age would usher in a deep respect of knowing, where education is not a treat to dogma, but a channel for knowing God better through the universe He has made. Yet . . . understanding the Fall had buffeted reason so it will always fall short of resolution. We can’t know God or even know if God is there at all, through reason alone. But we can come close.

It is my dream that we give up the mysticism and mystery that goes against logic.  It would be a place where emotions don’t have to be re-named as movements of the spirit in order for us to place value on them. In that place we can enjoy laughter, grief, anger, depression as gifts from God without having to be reflections of our godliness (for example “godly people don’t mourn”).

I dream of an age where we can shed the Christian ridiculous, the stretching of legs as example of miracles. Where there is real chance once more. If you flipped a coin a thousand times, roughly 500 would be heads and 500 tails, complying with the rules of probability, gravity and kinetic energy not demons and angels determining which way is up.

I also dream of a place where we could get away from using spiritual labels to cover up our manipulative behaviors. For example, “You are going against my wishes?  That is very sad. God, in his great sovereignty has put me over you. When you remove yourself from my authority, you are in great danger!”  Or even, “Hey, I would love to come over to your house and meet with you and your wife. I’m so excited about what is doing in my life in the area of finances.”  The later is a typical mutual fund sales pitch in the vestibule of an evangelical church.

I’m now on the plane somewhere over North Dakota. The peanuts and Coke are coming my way and I’m hungry. I’ve said enough for one post so I’m signing off.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

True Spirituality

I had a deep re-evaluation if I should continue this blog. Blogs, of course, are a dime a dozen these days. I even thought it would be a funny line in a sitcom where someone (like a narcissistic male) says, "You may know of me . . .  I'm the one with the blog." (then the laugh track goes off).

So, I know I come here to just give personal ventilation to thoughts when I know there is no one in my real world in which to speak.   Those often come across as simply criticism of evangelicalism.  Maybe there is a self-center purpose of that, on a psychological level.

Of course I would be the first to say that we all blog, tweet, Facebook with the main drive of trying to feel that what we think, or feel, has value. You tweet, "I stubbed my toe this morning and it hurt" and, if you are lucky, three people will tweet back, "I'm so sorry" and therefore you feel that your life does have some meaning to someone.

But the hard question I had to ask myself was, am I blogging here with a voice that isn't well represented elsewhere?  I have very little time to write and when I do, especially when I use my tiny smart-phone sized computer, I make a lot of typos. Surely others write with more thought and purpose.  There's plenty of good post-Evangelical types of blogs, like Imonk.  They write with careful consideration and much more eloquently.

So here is what I came up with. If I stick to my original intent, to juxtapose the Christian monist view vs dualism, then I may be one of the, if not the only voice. So, I think I need to keep returning to my roots to make this blog have any reason to exist.

This came to mind as I followed ( in relationship to my last post) about new ideas of "doing church." While there are many out there who see a need for a different interpretation of the church, I find that they want to go in a very different direction than me.  They want to go deeper into dualistic thinking, rather from it like me. I found this out first hand when I tried to start a house church once. I thought I had the right ideas. However, all five of the families that came with us were deeply entrenched within the Dualistic-Evangelical way of thinking and wanted more, not less of it.  They saw the spiritual as being mystic.  God was telling each one great (and often bizarre) things through their dreams, through the shapes of clouds and through the fluttering of gastric muscles.

So here is the contrast. As a monist, I see the entire universe, visible and invisible, as from God. It is beautiful.  Part of that physical universe are our brains and emotions (God given).  Reason, while not perfect, is good. So, for us to be spiritual, we don't have to transcend this physical world into another world without matter in order to make sense of life. So, we can call indigestion, indigestion and we don't have to embellish it as the Holy Spirit talking to us.

Do I believe in the supernatural?  Of course I do. But as an honest observer I can say that I have never witnessed a supernatural event.  I don't have to. I can be more honest about things they way they are and still give God praise for it.

I will try to speak with that voice more often.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Spaceship Church

One of my favorite movies as a child was 2001 A Space Odyssey.  Even at about age 6 I was a space nerd. The highlight of my early life was Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon. While my classmates were collecting baseball cards, I was scrapbooking stories about the Saturn V rocket and the Apollo program.

I thought I knew science well.  One of the reasons that I liked 2001 so well was that it was a fictional fulfillment of what we (meaning the scientist at the time) anticipated about the year 2001. However, one scene confused me (okay, the monolith was a little confusing to a 7 year old too). That scene was where Dave was locked outside the spaceship without his helmet.  The computer, which had evolved an artificial intelligence, including human-like emotions, had a fatal attraction for Dave and wouldn’t open the pod doors so he could reenter via the airlock.  So Dave had to leap through space, while holding his breath, to the door and unlock it himself.  He was pissed. He shut down the computer after that.

I remember sitting in the theater with my big sister (about 25 at the time) and feeling puzzled. But that scene was not true to science. You couldn’t leap through the vacuum of space without a helmet. It isn’t the simple lack of oxygen as the movie conveniently portrayed but the lack of free gasses . . . or in other words an almost total vacuum. You would die. Your body would be sucked through the neck hole on your suit and maybe your lungs would be pulled inside out through your mouth. Not a pretty sight.

This week something very unexpectedly happened. My new church called and asked me to be an elder. I was surprised because during my year there, I’ve been peripherally involved . . .  by design. I’m afraid to venture deeper. I like what I have and I’m afraid that if I dared to enter the core, I would be disappointed.  The reason is that the church, while far better for me than my last church, is still the product of American Evangelicalism. I know that my endeavor could bring some greatly disappointing encounters. I recognize that I am the exception. Most Christians my age (different than the < 30 generation) actually and honestly do love the present state of the evangelical church. 

Our church has a surprisingly large population of educated people, scientists, engineers, CEOs, physicians and others, like Bob whom I sat with last Sunday. He is a retired professor of Science History from a major Christian university.  I bet Bob and I would share a lot of similar interests. So, my present church is about as good as it gets (in my view) but still, I am nervous about going deeper.

I turned down the offer for several reasons. For one, I am literally working right now 10-11 hour days, plus several hours on Saturday and Sunday.  I’m way behind in so many things (and why I don’t write much here anymore). I have virtually no recreational time.  The job description of the Elder came with many, many time consuming strings. 

The second, and most compelling reason I said no, is my fear of entering the inner-most chambers of the spaceship, is that I was an elder at my old church . . . and it was a crazy-hell realm of dysfunctionality.  While the pastor there promoted himself as being “anal about being Biblical” that was just window dressing, and a cover for his insanity.  I loath being in dysfunctional relationships with evangelicals.  With non Christians (and I’m involved with plenty of those dysfunctional relationships through my patients) you can call a spade a spade. They may not like it, but you can tell them they are being manipulative, controlling, angry, anxious and etc. In the Evangelical world, you can not.  They wrap their dysfunctional in “Biblical” cloaks.

A good friend taught me something a long time ago. No, she wasn’t a believer. She was a co-worker and a widowed thirty-five year old. I was often trying to set her up with dates with friends.  She never had a lot of interest. She had been involved with a couple of men, and it turned out ugly. She would always say, “It is easier to stay out than to get out.”

So I reside just inside the door of the spaceship . . . actually in the air-lock. I’m still inside, because outside is a deadly vacuum.

This is another reason so many youth leave Christianity completely. The choice is between the safety of the traditional church, and its baggage . . . or the vacuum.  I believe that we must create space . . . in space . . . where people can breathe and thrive. 

I dream of the coffee shop church. But it would shed its weirdness.  People there would be very honest with each other and very close. There would be no pressure to lie, to fake miracles or to act spiritual.  They wouldn’t be expected to put on the show that my evangelical friends feel compelled to do.  I can’t go to Facebook anymore without seeing them trying to out-do each other in their spiritual statements. “I just love Go so much, that I’m about to bust.”  Or, “I’ve witnessed five miracles this morning and it is only 10 AM.” I can't stand that chatter anymore and if I attempted to do it . . . I would be a Caulfied Phony.

There would be a seamless flow between how the people in the coffee shop church were in their private world and how they are in their church world.  Relationships would be meaningful, really meaningful.  Others would not just be an audience where could try and project our spirituality onto, but people whom we honestly care about and are deeply empathic with.

 In the coffee shop church, if one of the members was caught stealing from their employer, they wouldn’t be thrown out on their heels (which I saw happy at a previous church years ago).  But the “members” would gab a six pack of beer, come over to that person’s house and sit with them. They would listen and talk and help them unravel the mess they got themselves into.  In that church, everyone would know that they are just one decision away from a personal disaster and therefore they could humbly support one another. They would never pretend that they are "godly" thus above the fray. I could go on ad nauseam about this idealize church . . . but I will stop with that one example.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or mostly true). The Problems with Christianity

I promised that before I ended this narrative that I would talk about the problems within the Christian option . . . meaning the problems that I personally perceive. Sticking with the intention of writing ingenuously, I will reveal what no Christian testimony normally would.

I dare you to stand up in any evangelical church service and say, "While I really believe that Christianity is true, some parts make no sense."  Then sit down and see what happens.  I guarantee that a wave of superficial cliches would pour out on you.  "I know God is there because I sense Him in my heart . . . in a very real way, it all makes perfect sense. If you have the mind of God you would see that it is profoundly reasonable."

Like I said many times before, there is no easy path out of the pit. As a Christian, I can explain this difficulty as the mind is fallen, thus can not find its way out easily. A perfect mind would not, in theory, have this problem.

So what are my problems with Christianity.

1) God is silent.  While the Christian narrative has God acting in space and time, historically, there has not been a verifiable contact with God in space and time in two millennia. Sure, miracles are attested to all the time. Sit with a group of evangelicals and you will hear of constant miracles . . . but let's get real for a moment.  Raising Lazarus from the dead after rotting for three days . . . that's a miracle. Your uncle recovering from heart surgery (when 78% of patients do) is not a miracle. The Mets winning the World Series in 1969 was not a miracle. The fluttering feeling that you felt in your stomach, was not supernatural.

Now a Christian would have to assume that the reason God is silent is because it is part of His plan rather than Him being impotent. But it would certainly make life a heck of lot easier if He made a grand appearance now and then.

2) Why Was the Gospel Necessary? While I've personally explained why the gospel was necessary many, many times and even preached on it myself, it does beg the question as to why?  If God is omnipotent, then He would have the ability to do things differently. He could have prevented sin from entering the world. He could have avoided the need for Christ to die on the cross.  The gospel story, in ways, sounds like it could have been written by Hans Christian Anderson.

3) If the Holy Spirit's role is to purify people, why is it that Christians have no more, overall, purity than non-Christians?  While Christians may drink, smoke, curse less than non-Christians, I honestly think they, in general, lie more.  They lie about their motives, their witness of miracles, and even about the events of day to day life, in order to make themselves appear more spiritual.

4) Why is there this confusion between the Biblical narrative in primordial history and the scientific record? It would be much easier if the two dove tailed without question.

I will rest my case with those problems. But despite these, I am still a Christian because I believe the Christian answers, such as the problem of evil, is better than the answers of the other possibilities.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or mostly true.

A good day in church. A retired college professor is doing a series on Science and Christianity. Today, most of the time was in discussion however, he did show the following video by Francis Collins, MD, PhD.  I would embed it if I could but you just have to follow this link. It is consistent with the series I was doing on why I personally believe.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Me, the Fundie-Conflict-Magnet

I decided to delete this post. I just had the feeling if the information fell into the wrong hands . . .  well, it would be used against me.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Why I'm Not a Muslim

It was almost a quarter of a century ago that I arrived on the streets of Cairo, as a missionary.  I had read many books on Islam up that point and had many Muslim friends. We had been the host family for Yemeni students at a Michigan university for four years, not to mention the summer I had spent in Abu Dhabi and Pakistan.

Soon after arriving, I met an American evangelical missionary.  He made a statement to me, that I will never forget. "Mike," he said, "when you get to the point of being strongly tempted to convert to Islam, only then do you truly understand it."

Well, either I never understood it . . . or he was wrong.  I think he was wrong. After all, once I got to know him better, I saw why he felt this way.  He was so Islamic, in his thinking, that he called himself a "Christian Taliban (this was before the rise of the Taliban but he used terms that meant the same, extremely fundamentalist  and ruthless Muslims).

I never became an expert on Islam. I did have many conversations with many Muslims and read many more books before my dance with that culture came to an end. I have forgotten much of it now. But, I will readily admit, while not tempted at all to become a Muslim, I was smitten by the beauty of the culture and the language.  I am so smitten that I'll always conniving of ways to get back, even for a visit. Even tonight I hope to be buying tickets for Dubi so my wife and I can go and celebrate our anniversary there in the fall. I would love to retire in Morocco or Algeria.

So if I were to try to put into words why Islam is not appealing to me, I would simply say that at this time in history, of all the things I hate about evangelicalism . . . in Islam those issues are worse.  I will break it down into a few of those.

In the spirit of this blog, one huge issue for me with evangelicalism is its infatuation with dualism. Simply, all things of this physical world are inferior to the "spiritual." But because reality is no so divided, the evangelicals live much of their world in a fantasy. So to them, the emotions don't exist . . . only the spiritual.

At this time in history Islam is more dualistic than Christianity . . . but it wasn't always so.  During Islam's enlighten (and formative) years (The Middle Ages), they carried the torch for scientific discovery while Christianity was suffocating under the black waters of dualism.

The way that this translates is that when you are a dualist, you loose the insight into your own psychological phenomena. The reason is, if the physical world has no value, then the matters of the brain and psychology have no value.  So then you start to use the so-called principles of the "other" to get what you want and you want those things from simple psychological ( and egocentricitic ) reasons.

In case I lost you (and this is where I wished I had the vocabulary of a Leonard Cohen) I will illustrate.  If you deconstructed what the Taliban want, it would come to this. They want to have sex with many women, even very young girls and they want those girls to be totally loyal to them. They want to dominate other people ( not just women) and have them severe them. Part of that domination is keeping people ignorant. Ignorant people are much easier to enslave. That is why Ken Ham doesn't want you to send your kids to college. I could go on an on. But it is no coincidence that God spoke to Joseph Smith and told him that he should take multiple wives, the younger the better.

I remember sitting in this very remote, oasis, village in the mountains of Oman. The group of about 20 houses clustered around a deep wadi and spring, where they could grow some wheat and raise some sheep.  One household (of women and children) invited me in for tea, dates and bread.  As we were eating, we were trying to figure out who each person was in the household.  The master was not at home. The six women were his four wives, one of his wives' mothers and even an ex-wife. She had no place to go so she was still living there after the divorce.

I asked the ex-wife why he had divorced her. She said that Islam only allows four wives and her ex-husband wanted to take a new wife. She pointed at this girl (looked like she was 10 but was made up to look like an adult) who was his most recent acquisition. The ex-wife I was speaking to must have been in her forties (but looked much older under the parching sun).

I asked her how she felt about being replace by a very young girl.  Tears started building up in her eyes and running down her cheek. She wiped them quickly with her sleeve, (in Arabic of course) she said, "Oh, I am delighted because this is God's will. Her husband was a very noble man and only took the young girl ( remember to have sex with) as his wife because he wanted to honor God and if the girl was left without a husband her whole family would be dishonored."

So, while Islam is centered around a God who is just (without compassion) they live in practice and promote a horrible, egocentristic injustice.  To quickly get a sense of this cultural injustice, I suggest that you do a read (would take about 2 hours at most) of Craig Thompson's graphic novel Habibi . That book will also introduce you to the some of the beauty of Islamic art.

So, I, by no means, am saying that American, evangelical culture is more just. If you take Christianity's history as a whole, when they were even more dualistic back in the Dark Ages, Christian atrocities were even worse than the Taliban.

I may be back to add more . . . or maybe not.

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Why I'm Not a Polytheist

I debated if I should even cover this topic. While polytheism may have made sense in a finite, geocentric world where the "universe" was dispersed on concentric spheres above, it became obsolete in the modern world.

The problem became finitism. Finite gods can't rule in an infinite universe. The issue quickly became, the gods were too small.  They were entertaining, exciting and gave meaning to the mundane events of life. However, the answers to the big questions, the reason for being, the purposes of life and such were left mute.

The Greco Roman system could have been written and produced by Marvel. The gods of that age were little more than the fictional super heroes of today. So, were the gods above fate or did fate control the gods? Who defined evil? Good? Even those gods did evil, were jealous and had hate.

That's all I will say. Simply the gods were too small to satisfy the real questions of life . . . although a worthwhile read and made great movies.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Why I'm Not a Pantheist Part II

In many ways, because I'm a product of and live in this pluralistic culture, pantheism is more attractive to me than many of the other options.  Besides the removal of the moral tensions, mentioned last time, it does give some answer for meaning (the cycle of life) and even for some of the mysteries of the universe (quantum physics, dark matter and etc). But those answers are general at best and are somewhat pandering to the real questions of physics.

I grew up within an easy drive to the Biltmore House, outside of Asheville, NC (pictured).  In my eyes, it is clearly the most beautiful home in America and one of the most beautiful in the world (I found the Palace of Versailles both plain outside and over the top inside). The way the limestone is cut and crafted together and the asymmetry it all adds up as domestic architecture at its best. Thus, men and women in God's image being creative in His like.

Having toured the "house" many times, I noticed that over the years the family has slowly opened up more and more of it to the public.

Typical of the Victorian age, the area of the house designed for the owners, the George Washington and Edit Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, plus their single child, daughter Cornelia, were opulent in style (see the dinning room).
However as you make your way further and further into the bowels of the rear of the house (the rear pictured below), you stumble into the quarters of the most common servants. The house required one hundred such servants to keep it running smoothly.

As I walked through those tiny rooms, not much bigger than the single bed, it reminded of a federal prison I once worked in. Tiny, cell-sized rooms, many without windows. But this too was typical of the Victorian age. Now, this is not to say that the servants weren't well treated and loved their work, but this stands as a metaphor for my relationship with pantheism.

The belief that everything is part of God (and that means EVERYTHING) and God is in everything is very comforting and takes away that moral tension I was speaking of.  All of us desire, okay most of us, desire peace in our personal lives and pantheism can bring that quickly. The problem, for me, is that same moral relevance that gives that enticing grandeur in the front of pantheism, creates an awful consequence in the rear.

So, if I were a pantheist, I would have no tension of helping a sibling become a better Mormon one day and help my best friend become a better Scientologist the next. But that same moral relativism would force me to accept the child molester-murder in that same spirit of peace. In summary, it is the philosophical problem of evil, that on the back side of pantheism that I could not accept. If all is from the god-force, then not only is the child molester/murderer created in god's image, but the actions of that molester would have to somehow originate in that god-force.

Christianity (meaning simple, pure Christianity and not a particular brand such as American-Evangelical) deals with the problem of evil differently. It states that the molester is indeed created in God's image and can do many things, creatively, to reflect that image. He can also love with unselfish love as God has intended. But when he molests, then it is anti-theist, against all that God is. That is why the Christian concept of the Fall seems to solve this problem better than most philosophical ideas.  However, as I will talk about later, Christianity has its own areas of absurdity.

So as a Christian, I can respect and love the person whom God created, but hate their actions with all my heart. I can hate cancer, without hating God (although many modern evangelicals have perverted this idea and they thank God for their cancer as "His plan").

I will illustrate this further.

Once I was at a birthday party for a profession (can't remember why I was invited). His 21 year old son was there, just getting back from six months in India. I love the Indian culture and cornered him, each with a beer in our hands. "So, what were you doing in India?"

He responded, "I've converted to Hinduism and I wanted to go and learn the culture much better."

I was intrigued. "So, how did you convert (knowing that his father was an Anglican)?"

He explained, "I've found Christianity to be extremely racist. I knew that they would have to be a better way. Hinduism is a peaceful religion that places the love of all men at the highest level of calling."

I had to scratch my head.  Then I realized that as a causal Hindu, he was living in that large part of the front of the house, the one with all the grandeur. Because true Hinduism is the most racist religions and cultural systems in the world. If you don't believe me, walk the slums of Calcutta.  Look at how the untouchables are treated. It is deplorable. They clean the pit toilets of the higher castes with their bare hand. Why? Because the color of their skin. It works out that the darker-skinned groups are pushed to the bottom of the pile (an in this case it is a pile of shit) simply because they were born with darker skin. But in a pantheistic frame of mind, this too is from the god-force as EVERYTHING is. Practically, my Hindu friends have told me that the untouchables deserve being untouchables because in a previous life, they did something that made this deserve this treatment.

But, in the front rooms of the house, the George Harrisons ( I know he really was a follower of Hare Krishna) or the Shirley MacLaines of the western world never venture beyond the front and beautiful rooms of the front of the house of pantheism. To Shirley reincarnation is a beautiful thing, not an excuse to treat another human being like a shit-sifter.

I've gone on long enough. But I will close by saying that I could never just live in the glorious rooms in the front of pantheism in the same way I can't stand in church Sunday after Sunday, raising my hands and rolling back my eyes and living in the magically world of evangelicalism. I've always colored outside the lines. I've always been a red pill taker. If I were an pantheist, I would have to explore and deal with the issues of pain, suffering and evil. I didn't find the answers I needed in pantheism.

Once again I had to type as fast as I could and then typos may reign here tonight. Sorry.