"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Timng is Everything

Ok, I admit, I have a very caustic, sarcastic sense of humour. Most people seem to think I'm fairly funny, at least at times. I guess I have my moments. The trouble with this kind of humour is that timing is everything. Say something too soon and you've just insulted someone, too late and you've lost the moment and it's not funny. I'm afraid my timing has sometimes been less than perfect. My kids have inherited this sense of humour, but when they were younger it didn't always work because their timing was off. So I would remind them of the importance of timing. They're way better at it now.

I've often wondered why Jesus came when he did. Why that particular time in history. Was the world an especially bad place at the time? Was there something about the Jewish people that triggered it? Did God just suddenly say "well, now's as good a time as any"?

I have a lot of problems with the violence of the Old Testament and God's part in it. I also have problems with a lot of the rules and regulations in the Old Testament which can seem arbitrary and outdated.

Lots of very smart, published, people think that the Bible isn't so much a rule book as it is a giant narrative of God's people. A narrative that has a single overarching theme of Love. That it's the story of his people and how they progressed, and failed, and progressed again. How God led them, and his faithfulness despite their failures.

In Rob Bell's latest book he  points out that a lot of the less progressive rules that were instituted were actually very progressive at the time. How, given the culture, what seems like an arbitrary, or even backwards rule, was actually inching them forward.

All of which brings me back to sarcasm and Jesus.

Maybe God was moving his people slowly forward, baby step by baby step, until they had been brought to the point that he could send Jesus and they would finally get it. Perhaps, if Jesus had come sooner, it would have been too much of a difference for them and his teachings would have been rejected outright. Maybe God looked down and said "Now's the time. They're ready for the next step".

Which makes me wonder some more.

If the Bible is the story of progression towards Love, why do we keep quoting it when we're trying to deal with modern issues like homosexuals, divorce, and the roles of women. Maybe those were baby steps and the time has come to move on.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Staggering Down the Street

I must admit that these days I have a hard time with Christians who say things like; " I've been so blessed by God". I mean, does God like them more than non-Christians or even other Christians? Generally speaking it's mostly fundamentalist Christians who use words like that, which drives me crazy. Even when I was in the fundy scene it drove me crazy. I'd hear words like that, and I'd think I must be some kind of loser, because I didn't feel blessed - maybe I was, but I certainly didn't feel that way.

I have a certain viewpoint on the Christian life and what it's all about, and it's different from the "I'm on the bus to heaven" viewpoint of the fundamentalists.
Shalom is the state of all things and all people doing what they were created to do. It is nothing less than God's intention for his creation. In an fallen world, shalom is always falling apart. Our job as people of faith is to always be repairing and extending it. The concept of shalom offers a core principle by which to make decisions within our stories. We should repeatedly ask ourselves, What, in this situation, contributes most to the repairing and extension of God's shalom? What action, what attitude, what use of money, what vote, what words?

Daniel Taylor
And I agree.

And what's God's intention for his creation? To get to heaven? No. It's Love. Love for all people. Not just love for those that are lovable, or those in our tribe, but all people. Now, the word shalom includes other nuances like justice, peace, righteousness, etc. but at it's core, it's love.

Sin is any act or attitude which undercuts God's shalom. It is best not thought of as hurting God's feelings by breaking his rules; it is an offence against wholeness, justice, and righteousness. As such, it is always harmful - to the self and to the community ...

Daniel Taylor
In other words sin is any act or attitude we have that isn't loving - that isn't contributing to the repairing or extension of shalom; which probably makes sin much more about what we don't do, than what we do.

And it affects everyone.

When we love everyone around us - when we act according to God's intended purpose for his creation, and the world moves just a little closer to the way it was designed to be in the first place - everyone benefits.

Back to my irritating little phrase.

Mostly when I hear that phrase - if not outwardly, then at least inwardly - I roll my eyes, have a little smirk, and then carry on as if I'd never heard it. Because, truth be told, I suspect most of these so called blessings are really just coincidences. But, the other day I paid attention as the person who made it started to recount their various blessings. The person who said it is outgoing, friendly, always willing help someone out; a real roll-up-the-shirtsleeves-and-get-the-job-done sort of person. And it occurred to me that most of the blessings they were talking about were probably just people responding in kind - effectively, it was shalom in action.

Maybe it's not that fundamentalists are irritatingly naive in this regard, maybe it's just that their practise of shalom is so limited. Your typical fundamentalist is very good at practising shalom with others within their church community, but not so good with people outside that community, unless they're a project to be saved. However, maybe in a small way they've actually got it right, but what they attribute to God's blessing is really just the natural consequence of living as designed.

You know, I look over what I just wrote, crossing the I's, dotting the T's, trying to make sure it flows, and I think to myself;

"What a bunch of BS".

I mean, what I wrote is 100% true, but do I have any right to criticize anyone? Sure, my outlook might be more generous - I try really hard to treat everyone equally with the shalom of God - but I fail miserably, and regularily. At least a lot of these fundy's are consistently treating those in their tribe with shalom, but is that better or worse than my inconsistent treatment of everyone?

Maybe I need to preface every blog post with those infamous words from Tolstoy:
"Do not judge God's holy ideals by my inability to meet them"
But then he goes on to explain;
"... you preach very well, but do you carry out what you preach?” This is the most natural of questions and one that is always asked of me; it is usually asked victoriously, as though it were a way of stopping my mouth. “You preach, but how do you live?” And I answer that I do not preach, that I am not able to preach, although I passionately wish to. I can preach only through my actions, and my actions are vile. … And I answer that I am guilty, and vile, and worthy of contempt for my failure to carry them out.At the same time, not in order to justify, but simply in order to explain my lack of consistency, I say: Look at my present life and then at my former life, and you will see that I do attempt to carry them out. It is true that I have not fulfilled one thousandth part of them [Christian precepts], and I am ashamed of this, but I have failed to fulfill them not because I did not wish to, but because I was unable to. Teach me how to escape from the net of temptations that surrounds me, help me and I will fulfill them; even without help I wish and hope to fulfill them.
Attack me, I do this myself, but attack me rather than the path I follow and which I point out to anyone who asks me where I think it lies. If I know the way home and am walking along it drunkenly, is it any less the right way because I am staggering from side to side! If it is not the right way, then show me another way; but if I stagger and lose the way, you must help me, you must keep me on the true path, just as I am ready to support you. Do not mislead me, do not be glad that I have got lost, do not shout out joyfully: “Look at him! He said he was going home, but there he is crawling into a bog!” No, do not gloat, but give me your help and support.