All posts by Ron Amundson

Christian Unity and Uniformity of Beliefs

You know trouble is on the horizon, when someone says, the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it without truly thinking things through. The Bible says a ton of stuff for sure… alas man’s leaning towards self-deception, man’s inability to see things clearly, and our old Adam zest for power muddies the water a great deal when it comes to how we interpret what the Bible says. 33,000 is a figure often quoted as to the number of distinct Christian belief systems… and yet within those belief structures, when you start asking questions at the pew level, you will often find even greater diversity.

Did God intend for potentially millions of different interpretations of the scriptures?

Genesis 11 suggests God has issues with too much like minded thinking. Ie, God’s confusion of languages and scattering of peoples with respect to the construction of the tower of Babel.

And yet, we have Jesus prayer for unity in John 17…

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one,Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

So what gives with this… is God changing his tune, or do we have something hosed up in how we are reading this?

I think the answer in part is the trinity.

One issue in The Shack film, is the bit where in papa had the marks of the cross. For theological nerds, this heresy known as patripassionism is problematic as it makes the Son and The Father one, rather than 2 distinct persons. Ie, within the teachings of the trinity, Jesus is God, the Father is God, but Jesus is not the Father, nor is the Father, Jesus. For many folks though, this distinction is probably glossed over… on the surface it seems we theological nerd types may as well be arguing over how many angels will fit on the tip of a pin.

But this is key… the Father and Jesus are distinct persons. Consider John 17:22-23 taken to an extreme, is Jesus suggesting that we are to be God in the above text too?

And while I don’t necessarily think God’s plan was to have millions of interpretations of the scriptures, I think its also pretty clear his thoughts on being one do not equate to 100% uniformity in beliefs either. Consider the later part of Galatians 3 where Paul talks about oneness in Christ, there is no Jew nor Greek…. and yet Romans 11 is pretty clear that he didn’t throw the old covenant away with the bathwater either.

Its also helpful to ponder 1 Cor 13, where it talks about us seeing dimly, and the passing of gifts, ages, and time as well as growth in Christ.

And yet, people can have a intense need for certainty. Struggles with the mysteries of faith can become really hard at times…  The whole bit about working out your salvation with fear and trembling is not really applicable to the dude the Samaritan found alongside the road, the pilot who came within seconds of death, or the husband whose wife just died in his arms. In those times, Jesus is reaching out, just as he did for Peter, but it may not feel like such…

And while we do have certainty in the resurrection… the error is one where in we take said certainty from beyond the scriptures into our personal and/or tribal interpretations of said scriptures. Consider what could happen if one built their faith on rapture theology, and then learned about Darby later in life where in things start to unravel. And while basing ones relationship on the rapture is an extreme… building God into an exclusive box of ones own making generally doesn’t work out too well.

And for the box rattling that The Shack film brings about I am grateful.

Ponderings on “The Shack” Film

So I watched The Shack last night… what a fascinating film. Unlike a lot of films which go off into lala land theologically or others in trying not to offend go Christian cliche crazy, The Shack dived in with gusto. Granted, as an act of fiction, there was a fair bit of creative license, but in general, I found nothing worth getting bent out of shape over. Alas, I can understand that others may well have a bird, as films generally do drive public theology… and if that happens, significant challenges to some belief structures may come about, and most certainly questions, perhaps uncomfortable ones will be raised.

One of the biggest issues and an overwhelming theme presented in the film is theodicy, (the problem of evil). In a nutshell, if God is all good, and God is all powerful, then why does evil exist? This is an uncomfortable question… the scriptures are really dim, so glossed over responses like Genesis 50:20 which really don’t address it at large are pretty typical. Such works in Sunday school… being most youngsters aren’t going to get hit with a need for that question straight on, and even if they do, the glossed over stuff is likely enough for them to get by. The challenge is that outside of Sunday school, and more typically later in life… that question can become very real, with the most common results being to reject God’s goodness, His all powerful nature, or even His existence.

It is a tough question… theologians have been pounding on it for centuries and a number of theories are possible, most with a heavy dose of philosophy, most remaining within the bounds of the scriptures, and only a few going off into theological lala land. Craig Smith presents a list of common theories, as well as where he felt “The Shack” aligned.  I agree with his conclusion that “The Shack’s” means of addressing the problem of evil seems to fall within the confines of scripture.

One of the most visible controversies is how the trinity is portrayed. While I agree with the objections as concerned trinitarian heresies… I’ll counter this with the fact that its really really easy to slip into such when trying to explain it, even more so when you step away from the creeds of the early church. I remember a buddy doing a survey of US evangelicals years ago… 70% proudly proclaimed they were trinitarian and in the next question denied Mary as the Mother of God. Now, some might argue this is being too picky… but then again, Nestorianism was named for this heresy. Thus, when The Shack steps into Patripassionism (that the Father died on the cross) and a form of modalism (when the Father changes persons)… is it really that huge a deal for a fiction film?

the trinity
The Trinity in a graphical representation

Granted the trinity is important, and that deviations from such have historically proved problematic. Ie the early church dudes mostly wanted to keep folks on the right path as illuminated by the scriptures when they identified these heresies. And yet, theology should be accessible, but egads, we’ve got a kazillian latin word combos and names to identify said heresies. Add in that today’s average Christian’s doesn’t even participate in Bible studies, I don’t know what the answer is… but I do know its pretty easy to end up with a lot of glazed eyeballs if discussions get too deep in this.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1617 - 1682<br /> The Heavenly and Earthly Trinities ('The Pedroso Murillo')<br /> about 1675-82<br /> Oil on canvas, 293 x 207 cm<br /> Bought, 1837<br /> NG13<br /> http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/NG13
The Pedroso Murillo

Another controversy was the use of an African American Woman, A Jewish Carpenter, and an Asian woman to represent God and a bit later a Native American. Since we are created in the image of God, trinitarian issues aside, I see nothing wrong with this representation. God is not male nor female and exhibits both gender attributes. Casting an old white European dude as God and a European Jesus and leaving the Holy Spirit as a dove while perhaps traditional in some sense, would not have really aligned with the scriptures or history. I think character representation was a great call. I also think it really cool that Sarayu, a Hindu name which means flow / wind was also brilliantly chosen to say nothing of the fact that the Holy Spirit is of the female gender from a linguistic pov.

 

An interesting thing to ponder with the film is the almost exclusive  focus on God’s love leaving His wrath and justice aside. Consider the following bits:

  • We were never put on this earth to judge. We were put on this earth to love and find joy. Evil wins when we judge.
  • “I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

Such has echoes of the Christus Victor or even Eastern atonement theories… and while scripture supports many atonement theories, some in the US often only ascribe to one, namely PSA (Penal Substitutionay Atonement). Ie, Christ’s bearing of man’s sins takes the punishment for them and sets the believer free from the penal demands of the law: The righteousness of the law and the holiness of God are satisfied by this substitution.

This will cause conflict, as some in the exclusive PSA camp integrate it with the Gospel itself, completely ignoring the other major theories of atonement. In such a worldview, “The Shack” would be presenting a totally different Gospel. So yes, some heartburn over this within the exclusive PSA camp is going to happen…

The thing is, atonement theories are a complex and somewhat tricky thing to get ones head around. In isolation, its easy for a single theory to put God in a box by selectively downplaying parts of scripture counter to its focus. Such happens whether its Ransom, Satisfaction, Christus Victor, PSA, Moral Influence , Recapulation, Scapegoat, Government, Eastern, or any of a multitude of minor theories. Folks digging into this may well find its a fruitful experience as their worldview will expand, but its likely to be uncomfortable for some.

Theology aside, the Gospel in and of itself is pretty simple and readily accessible to all. Paul hits on this pretty explicitly in 1 Col :15-23

15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

 

Contextualizing Biblical truths through stories and even film to make them accessible to the masses is a very good thing as it can bring new people into the fold, it can encourage those already in the fold, and it can even bring about greater depth through the discussions that result. Its a film which is well worth seeing.

On the Hating of Christians

In John 15:18-24, Jesus talks about how the world will hate the disciples, just as it first hated him. On first glance, I’m thinking why would the world hate Jesus, I mean the Gospel’s a pretty powerful thing, it makes no sense. Or maybe it does… Jesus had a lot of hard words to say to religious folks, he up ended their power structures, he rolled the temple money changers, he stopped a woman caught in adultery from being stoned, he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton, he worked on Sunday. In other words, he convicted a lot of religious folks that they really weren’t all the righteous. Beyond that aspect… why would he be hated? Verse 25 gives us a clue in this in that it is fullfillment of what is written in the law. That he would be hated without reason.

As such, hate at some point or another should be expected, folks don’t like to be called on the carpet.  Alas, care is also needed in this… Christian’s should not expect to get a free pass from the world when they do heinous things. Psalm 35:19 is instructive in this…

Do not let those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; do not let those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.

An old buddy of mine lives in Ireland, and his wife shared a news clipping a few days back… and the commentary was filled with hate for Christians. Probably some of the most intense hate I’ve ever encountered which prompted me to crank out this blog posting. The thing is, in this case, the hate of the world was not only reasonable, it was more than justifiable. Christianity did many horrendous things in ages long past… folks may have started out with seemingly good intentions, and then as time passed, they found it expeditious to do more and more evil, so that good would come… except good never came, rather evil enveloped Christianity. And in the case of the news clipping where 800 babies were buried in a septic tank by nuns as little as 50-60 years ago… to say nothing of what appears to be a failure to provide food and medical care, thus leasing to the demise of said children, its plain and simple evil. Considering there were many such homes, with some saying there may be as many as 7000 victims… Well, the world is going to condemn such actions in a huge way.

Sure, the scriptures tell us to flee sexual immorality, but there is NO excuse whatsoever to cast unwed mothers and their babies aside, much less to separate them and deny them food and medical care. I don’t care how much of a prude or sexual control freak one is, there is no place for actions done in the name of Christianity or even humanity for this.

And yet, you have the apologists for such actions saying well, abortion is much worse… but unlike Jesus, where he convicted religious people of their sin and was hated, the world doesn’t see abortion is worse, as many don’t see an embryo as really human. And yet, anyone can see that an unwed mother and her baby are just as human as the pope… and yet by the actions of those Christians,  the unwed mother and her baby must have been considered less than human.

I think its a similar deal with the hate experienced by the anti-biracial marriage folks of the past, or the anti-gay marriage folks of the present. The world says, hey you want to get married, go for it, where as some Christians say wait a minute, this isn’t right… and if it was left at a theological disagreement, there would be no hate in the matter. Alas, a small minority of Christians ie Fred Phelps types go off the deep end, where no fruits of the spirit can be found and hate abounds. Sadly, this small number of folks polarizes things and builds hate up on both sides.

I mean, its crazy making that parent child relationships end when a kid comes out gay and marries his partner. There is no loving God or loving one’s neighbor when a parent child relationship gets destroyed and/or a church or synagoge gets a bullet hole in if after being willing to marry a bi-racial or gay couple… and lots of innocent folks on both sides get caught up in it. Its going to take a long time to rebuild some of those relationships. Alas, I think Psalm 69:4 may be useful  in such… but it is a hard thing to handle too.

Those who hate me without reason outnumber the hairs of my head; many are my enemies without cause, those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore what I did not steal.

Bottom line, hate without reason is what Jesus was talking about. Ie hate due to someone being convicted of sin, leads said convicted folks to hate the messenger… after all its a large part of why folks back then hung Jesus on the cross. Alas, this is much different than hate directed at the messenger for the damage the messenger created apart from the message. There is no get out of jail free card for that.

Random Thoughts on Syrian Refugees

I’ve been pondering this for a couple weeks. It seems there is a lot of diversity in opinion, and likewise a certain level of calling each other out as to what an appropriate Christian response might be. Each respective side think’s their’s is the correct one, and some have gone so far as to raise the “not a true Christian” argument thing. As such, some thoughts.

A small number of folks are convinced that as a nation with a Christian identity/history, to not take them in, would put us in the situation as Sodom (Ezekiel 16:49-50) and potentially bring God’s wrath upon our nation. In opposition, a likewise small number of folks believe Christian beliefs and actions need to be limited only to the church and to the individual. Ie, the entire US should not be put at greater risk by allowing the refugee process to continue.

On the one hand, I very much agree with Jamietheworstmissionary with her post “When we are all priests and levites” in reference to the parable of the good Samaritan. Ie, doing nothing should not be the answer. On the other hand, its a very complex and nuanced issue. The scriptures on innocent as doves and wise as serpents comes to mind.

According to  http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.ph pas of 11/21/2015 there are 4,289,792 refugees from Syria.

If we do bring in 10,000, then what about the other 4, 279,792 people? If we bring in 10,000 and something really bad happens, will we as the American people have the will to bring in more?

It would be disingenuous to state that their is no risk in doing this. Yes, it is very small, and certainly if a terrorist is determined to get on US soil, there are much easier paths than trojan horse action via refugee status., but when the door is opened, even with many checks and balances, the risk level will increase. Bottom line, no government process is perfect, whether it be refugee verification, ebola containment, or even our criminal justice system where innocent folks end up going to prison for many years.

Depopulating a country of diverse beliefs, leaving only Daesh, their supporters, and those neutral to said beliefs behind is likely not going to end well. Left in isolation, such is likely to turn into another conflict that dwarfs Iraq and Afghanistan, once US economic interests in the middle east are threatened, and/or we encounter directly attributable  on shore terrorist attacks.

Some suggest its just too expensive to screen and to receive refugees, especially so when we don’t take care of our veterans, our homeless, and our poor. Then again, should the aforementioned attacks on US soil, and/or our interests be threatened, it seems some will want to go to war over it. Such would likely mean committing 10,000 American lives, and 4 trillion dollars…. assuming double the life loss and costs of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Would not a more responsible choice be to make smaller sacrifices now, rather than waiting to the point that such large sacrifices have to be made?

Each one of the 10,000 is someone’s son or daughter, perhaps someones parent, each person saved is very likely to be someone else’s world.

The US, while having a strong Christian contingent and history is pretty diverse. Should a Hindi, Taoist, or even an Atheist be subject to increased risks, and/or increased taxes to assist the refugees? Even among Christian beliefs, there is a wide range, from pre-Augustines Christianity and its teachings of self sacrifice and pacifism to the point that even self-defense was condemned, all the way to post WWII Christian dominionism which adopts Aquinas views to an extreme and adds tribalism on steroids to the mix. (A contemporary Augustinian struggle on this can be found starting at this comment on John Pavlovitz blog, as well as this posting on pacifism and militarism through the years with the Stone Campbell movement).

Christian views on tribalism are exceedingly diverse as well. Some Christians view super tribalism as near Christian dogma, vs others view the teachings of Christ as anti-tribalistic. Taken to extremes, does Matthew 25 require total submission to Christ, including sacrificing self, as well as family (Luke 14:26), church, and country to assist anyone, even non-believers? Or does Matthew 25 only refer to the least of these as believers in ones immediate faith community, and that family, church, and country should rarely if ever make sacrifices… and that even self sacrifice must be limited.

For Christians who ascribe to pronatalism and see birthrate evangelism as the primary means of fulfilling the great commission, the idea of 10,000 Islamic refugees strikes terror in their heart. Ie, they fear Christianity becoming a minority religion with a correspondingly massive loss in privilege… and considering that recent US history shows birthrate and immigration driven evangelism to be the most effective forms in the US, said fear seems justifiable to folks holding that worldview.

In a similar vein, some are concerned with sharia law. Alas, will 10,000 people really make a difference in a society of 320,000,000? Even more so, would the US seriously consider rolling back gay marriage, women’s rights, and our monetization of sex at every turn? Realistically, even if they found a number of like minded people, the economic powers that be would never let that happen. There is just too much money at stake for it to be considered.

There are no easy answers to this, and a lot of unintended consequences no matter which way we turn. Alas, I don’t think we want to be priests and levites either.

Worship Should Be Exceedingly Boring?

Is worship really just about entertainment / personal fullfillment? Certainly if one follows the style wars, such seems to be the case. Some are entertained, reach emotional highs, or find inner peace via the liturgy and an organ or chants, others find similar benefits via a folk, polka, or even a rock band…

Even the following from 8 reasons the worship industry is killing worship this AM points to the personal entertainment domain.

Just like good art, Christian worship demands our engagement. In a sense, worship should be exceedingly boring in that it doesn’t offer that over-stimulation that the masses crave. But to those who really give themselves in participation, it is more entertaining than the anything media (mainstream or Christian) can offer, because it offers something so radically alternative to fallen mundanity.

So, if we are looking to escape the mundane, change seems to be the answer, as over time, pretty much any form of worship is going to loose its grass is always greener over there appeal at some point. The thing is… worship isn’t just about us… its a lot bigger than that.
Somehow it seems discussions of worship devolve inwards rather than as a means of connecting to God and to the body of Christ as a whole. Certainly its a lot easier to engage in worship style wars, rather than to ponder the connections we share across a whole multitude of Christian churches, even those who are drastically different than us. Likewise, its easier to ponder painting an offshore church somewhere than it is to engage with and enter into fall cleanup tasks for a church or community center with declining and/or greying membership within a 50 mile radius… even more so if they hold to differing beliefs!

Imagine what might happen….

Thanks to http://www.freethoughtproject.com for the image.

Image courtesy of http://www.freethoughtproject.com

And yet, just because worship isn’t only about us, it doesn’t mean we should become gnostics and deny our anthropology. After all, we were created in the image of God… would He really approve of boredom in worship, even if we achieved all the other facets?

Likewise, service to others as a form or worship doesn’t mean we should deny our beliefs. Would God really approve hiding our light, or worse, selectively withholding our gifts to try and manipulate others into believing as we do? The body of Christ is pretty huge, I fully believe it can do this… I think the bigger question is to whether we are willing to go there.

kNOw Jesus kNOw Peace???

I was at a Casting Crowns concert at the WI state fair, and was blown away… it was so cool to see them live. The music was awesome, the messaging was incredible, the energy was amazing. 0810152227a

 

The only downside was the recurrent struggle I run up against with their theology. Its not just theirs either, but actually a good chunk of contemporary Christian theology.  I’ll go even further and state it was also a theology I lived and promoted years ago. In its simplest form, its probably best demonstrated by the following tshirt graphic from www.notw.com.

knowjesus

At the outset, the above sounds great, it seems to make logical sense, and we can find a significant number of scriptures supporting peace coming about from knowing Jesus.

2 Peter 1:2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

The bugger in this, is despite the scriptural support, its rarely lived out as a matter of practice. Many devoted Christians do not have peace, many non-Christians have found peace surpassing the peace exhibited by many Christians. This is a recurrent challenge I run up against with my prior as well as Casting Crowns underlying theology. We’re preaching a message that while true in many ways, ends up not ringing true in practice and thus sends messages which outside of a few theological bubble lands, rarely rings true.

My friend Mike posted some profound stuff on facebook this AM which got me thinking on this.

I was standing in line at Target and in the line there were two Christian women who kept raving about how “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” non-Christians are.

I walked out of the store, put my Frank Turner album in, and see one of these ladies drive in the same direction in front of me. She has the infamous, “Know Jesus, Know Peace/ No Jesus, No Peace” bumper sticker on her car.

What struck me as I was driving was that a sociopath or narcissist could do horrible things without regret, shame or guilt. While a Christian could give up a destructive life pattern, and because there’s change and repressed emotions, there’s anxiety, stress, and other unexplained emotions. All if these good things but are the antithesis of emotional peace.

So there it is… a glaring example.. and perhaps more so, what about those Christians who choose to maintain sociopathic or narcissistic practices? What about chronic abusers who fail to leave such at the cross? We’ve all heard and many know of the “super Christian” in public thats the epitome of evil in private. Yes, they are forgiven by the blood of Christ… but the carnage and destruction they leave behind to say nothing of the witness they are showing… whoa.

Mike continues:

You can not feel peace or know peace but follow Jesus. You could not follow Jesus and feel completely okay about life. The failure of these women is they don’t see or trust in the Spirit who Comforts in trouble and a God who creates life out of chaos. This is the Presence of God, who is peace.

What these women also fail to see, as Stanley Hauerwas has taught me, the Gospel is more seen than believed in. We come to know the Gospel when we encounter Jesus. We see it when the Church us being the Church. We see it when Christians incarnate the Kingdom in the world. We see it in prayer, the Eucharist, and when we are loved like Jesus loves us. Embodying to someone that they are “stupid, ignorant, and rebellious” does not embody this and allow them to see the Gospel we believe in. Our postures, attitudes, and reflections towards people say a lot about what we know about God and how God works in the world.

Mikes post really resonates with me, as there is a lot of great truth expressed within….

Going forward what to do about this? No Christian is going to be 100% on message 100% of the time, so we will always be falling short and shooting holes in our Gospel witness. By the same token, to throw the baby out with the bath water and not preach about the amazing peace available through Christ Jesus is not cool either. I sort of wonder if the answer isn’t some level of hard core authentic anthropology in combination with the scriptures. Such would create a significant amount of tempering, yet allow the scriptures to remain in full force at the same time. Belinda keyed me into something on this last night… the path is likely nowhere near as narrow as we project it to be, but it certainly can be a very odd and strange one at times.

The above all makes great sense within the confines of a community walking with Christ, its a whole other ball game when it comes to conveying such on a t-shirt or song lyrics. (Perhaps this is why something like the mass grandstand sing of Amazing Grace was so powerful).

Amazing Grace from the Grandstand
Folks singing amazing grace with their cell phones lifted high.

Rose Colored Stained Glass Windows

I’ve been plowing through some of my old bass stuff, and came across Rose Colored Stain Glass Windows from back in the 80’s. It was especially cool back then, as a bunch of us were within inches of opening for Petra… but alas it was not to be. That being said, the music stayed with me over the years, this tune especially.

Its written from the standpoint of an church / belief system, where in they are so apart from the world with their white knuckle sin avoidance thing or related polity, that their light from within is so dimmed, that it doesn’t reach very far, if it does at all.

Looking through rose colored stained glass windows
Never allowing the world to come in
Seeing no evil and feeling no pain
Making the light as it come from within, so dim, so dim

On a church level, yep it can absolutely resonate if one is not careful.

Going a bit further, it easily reaches down to the individual level too. In the days immediately after my wife’s passing, lots of folks said, hey, come over and we can talk… ok cool, and it ends up I end up wearing the listeners hat, as there are a ton of hurting people out there. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine… but I had a ton of stuff to process myself. More than a few times it was like, egads, my grief is tough enough in and of itself, and now I’ve got a ton of others folks issues and concerns to deal with too.

Granted, I did hose myself in this boundary wise, as grief tends to seriously impair judgment and boundaries on all sides… so traditional coping mechanisms I’d used to deal with other folks pain didn’t work worth a hoot as my boundaries were shot to bits. Fortunately an amazing friend did lend an ear and walked with me as I processed the grief of my wife’s passing. On the one hand, its pretty freaky how quickly the clouds of grief left as concerned my late wife, on the other, the rose colored stained glass windows as concerns others shot up to the moon the first week couple weeks…

Obviously they can’t remain there for too long..

Out on your doorstep lay the masses in decay
Ignore them long enough, maybe, they’ll go away
When you have so much you think, you have so much to lose
You think you have no lack when you’re really destitute

Thus, the challenge, those rose colored stained glass windows are super comfortable, and one could argue that they do assist greatly with self care… but there is a point when they need to be taken down. I’ve had some fascinating super deep convo’s on walls, windows, vulnerability and boundaries this week… I’m about 30% of the way academically, but the big challenge will be reconstructing the boundaries within the construct of a new normal, whatever it is to be. I was starting the process back in early June, but alas that form of normal was not to be, so a new season of construction is in order. The rose colored stain glass windows remain.

Consistent Ethic of Life?

Brandon stated: Dom Hélder Câmara talked about a ‘consistent ethic of life’, wherein *all* life possesses equal value, and the marked lack of a consistent ethic of life has been one of my long standing critiques of the “pro-life” (or more appropriately: “anti-abortion”) movement.
Links to http://thelewisnote.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-miscarriage-matters-if-youre-pro.html

When you spit the “anti-abortion” movement into its sexual purity vs the life aspect, the inconsistency almost completely goes away if one looks at the sexual purity side alone. 

Alas, said splitting off often leads to the heart wrenching commentary many of those ladies received post miscarriage. I’m guilty of this too, ie I would grieve for a highly promising youth group leader killed by a drunk driver on the way to church… but for someone who started out with 4 embryos via fertility treatments and only 1 took, not so much. It would be the same lack of grief for the unborn with the young couple who keeps on trying to have children, but the zygote never implants. 

The end state gets really ethically murky, as in the above situations, its no longer a natural or even probability issue… going in, its known that said actions will result in deaths, despite your hope that eventually one might survive. Its a similar murky deal as concerns environmental issues… ie we know with significant confidence that some pollutants and/or specific concentrations result in massive increases to the probability of miscarriage and/or fertility issues. We also suspect a few others, and there are many others which might lead to trouble but we turn a blind eye out of convenience / intentional ignorance. Bottom line, we as society as well as individuals have made the call either by pocket book or by voting that the cost of reducing the rate of miscarriages / infertility is too high to justify.

This then runs into the tribal values… ie a consistent ethic of life for the unborn while it sounds good is anathema to most groups who put a very high value on sexual purity. Environmental issues, reproductive science etc are not only counter to the tribal mores, they are a distraction from the bottom line issue of sexual purity… Ie, we need to stop abortion, we don’t want to splinter our efforts to save zygotes, they workaround it by stating the death of the unborn is by chance, or is natural, and its definitely not by intent… which flies in the face of observational evidence to the contrary.

If one does hold to a consistent ethic of life from conception… things get really sticky too. Ie, contraceptives prevent fertilization, but when you go off them, you now generate a bunch of zygotes of which you play the probability game for one to implant and to survive to birth, leaving who knows how many to die. Its probably a good thing that human nature overruns scientific knowledge or our species would cease to exist, at least within the confines of those who wish to ascribe to a consistent ethic of life from conception.

Problems w Conservative Argument Against SSM….

A fellow from my aviation universe posted a seemingly very well thought out conservative argument against SSM. It was not meant to convince, but more so to help others understand his opposition to it. I have to give the author types a lot of credit, there was a lot of thought put into it, and unlike the hating types, these Christian aviation folks really seem to be trying to walk a Christlike path. It did receive a lot of praise, from the conservative crowd… but crickets from most everyone else.

The problem is the vastly different frames of reference… the appeals to the scriptures, the focus on love and the hope of the Gospels are shared by both camps. Likewise, the same scriptures used by those against SSM marriage, are also commonly used by those for same sex marriage…. and thus we have vastly different outcomes from mostly the same reference material.

Being Pastor Steve and I have spent way too much time arguing back and forth over the years on this very issue, I thought it would be worth shedding some light on things I discovered over the years.

The following factors are at play:

The weighting factors leading to approval or dismissal of higher criticism as concerns the 7 clobber texts (6 here, plus this one) plays a huge role. If all we had were today’s English translations, things would be pretty easy to sort out. Alas, even something as simple as reading the texts in the original languages sends a drastically different message, and that alone should raise the red flags. In addition, since we have a ton of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts and literature of that time period, even more of this shifts into a land of intense gray with higher criticism. There is no easy way to resolve this…

The perception of antinomianism (anti-law) is at the hands of both parties.  In the case against SSM, if one merely dismisses the 7 clobber texts without the use of higher criticism, such a charge seems quite reasonable… the proverbial, these scriptures are too hard to hear, so we won’t consider them is very much anti-law..

On the other hand, if one looks to Matthew 25 and the greatest commandments, follow by Jesus explicit statement that the law and the prophets hang from them… the argument against SSM ends up coming from the bottom up, rather than top down… and thus, we end up anti-law mode in reference to the greatest commandments. Consider how often Jesus worked on the Sabbath… which really was more important  big picture wise than adhering explicitly to the third commandment.

Both of the above antinomianism scenarios are very hard to understand by the opposing parties on the opposing side… I’m not quite sure how to get past this one either. Belinda suggested that looking at the scriptures as a whole vs proof texting might be a helpful route.

Another factor that plays off of this is the difference between complementarianism and egalitarianism in marriage as concerns consent. Within the construct of egalitarianism, consent plays a huge role, where as its downplayed a fair amount in complementarianism. While this difference plays out mostly in the haterz realm with straw man arguments (ie what next, marry your dog or pet fish), I’ve often seen a semblance of decreased focus on consent circling through specific sectors of the conservative domain… which often leads to errant assumptions that one is talking about the same thing, when in reality they are not. I think this is one of the easier things to process through such that both parties can understand.

Lastly, a somewhat over shadowing aspect is sanctity/disgust as defined in Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory. I remember when a couple young gal friends of mine told me some years they were moving in with each other and starting a relationship. In my mind, the relationship was a most beautiful thing, but I also had some concerns about cohabitation aspect / the lack of church community support and preparation that would be available to them if they were not same gender. Even today, all these years later, I find the churches inaction in this domain bordering on negligence. No doubt it will change with time… but still, isn’t every relationship worth supporting? And there in lies a huge difference in the sanctity/disgust domain… many would not find such a relationship a beautiful thing, some might even find it borderline disgusting.

Despite all of the above seemingly impossible paths going forward, I came across the following from Brandon’s blog where he publishes an anonymous story of a young Catholic girl trying to process SCOTUS decision… there is much wisdom in the young. I think the next generation will do us proud in a variety of ways.

Ponderings on SSM

As pretty much everyone is aware, SCOTUS ruled in favor of SSM on Friday. Many celebrated with rainbow colored pictures, some expressed sadness and disagreement, and more than a few expressed great hate, anger, and condemnation.  Its ok to disagree with the ruling, but when the fruits of the spirit get cast aside and replaced with hate we (Christianity in general) have a big problem

I wrote on World Vision’s local church SSM autonomy policy and reversal about 15 months ago, where in I focused on folks who possess other than strong faith. Folks responses to Friday’s decision have many parallels to that posting, so I’ll copy a snippet….

The issue of whether SSM is aligned with, or counter to the scriptures is not the big deal. The issue of whether the ancient creeds of the historical Christian faith have been cast aside to the point that SSM is a bigger deal than the trinity is not the primary issue at hand either. This is not to say such is not important, especially over the long haul, but they pale in comparison to something else right here, right now.

The big deal today is the weaker brother and sister as well as those who were trampled upon….

The most disturbing aspect of this is the folks in tears over loosing their faith. It is a tragedy.

The brood of vipers behaviors actions appeared the last straw for many. One person said, “I was hanging onto Christianity by a thread, its now been broken”. There are many similar stories, and no doubt even more that will never be known. I think such is quite likely destroying the work of God which Paul preaches against in Romans 14.

Those experiencing the last straw are not just gay folks, not just young folks, not just old folks, but a wide variety of Christians from a whole multitude of life stories and denominations… this is a much bigger problem than what the govt does, or doesn’t do as concerns marriage.

Lastly, while I am pro SSM, I do allow opposing views on my blog comment stream… barring in mind that I will delete spam, TLDR, and hate comments. If you can keep it pastoral and disagree, do feel free to chime in. You won’t convince me, as I’ve studied this for over ten years, but the dialog may help those on the fence to lean one way or the other.