Christian

Day 147

Numbers 29

Moses outlines the festivals that followers of the Lord are commanded to celebrate. Interestingly enough, celebration was the topic at last Sunday’s sermon, which… took place on the day after I was supposed to write about Numbers 29.

The problem with the sermon, as well-meaning as I believe the pastor to have been, is that it sounded a lot like “if you’re somber or sad, then you’re not being a good Christian.” This is a little too close to what has been called prosperity theology, or the prosperity gospel. To quote Wikipedia,

“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being and, because physical and spiritual realities are seen as one inseparable reality, this is interpreted as physical health and economic prosperity.”

It is also noted that followers and preachers of the prosperity gospel view poverty and sickness as spiritual ailments or curses that can be alleviated through faith. My partner has had some very negative experiences with churches that follow prosperity theology.

Poverty and illness are curses? Yeah, I mean it’s a damn shame to be sick or poor, and I believe that dedicated faith can lead to greater willpower and desire which can in turn lead to financial success. However, I don’t think that God’s plan for people involves or guarantees financial well-being. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor.

Can poor personal habits and a lack of direction lead to poverty? Yes. But I don’t think that physical, material wealth has much to do with faith in Christ.

I see this situations as teaching surrender to God and His will, as opposed to undesirable curses. Does being poor debilitate a person? Damn right it does. I’ve lived with it for a long time, and sitting around that poverty line is depressing. It emotionally and spiritually drains you. Or it can.

But regardless, God can and will give you the strength to work through it, if you ask. “Thy will be done, in all things.” I seriously hate the phrase “Let go and let God,” but it’s important to ask that His will be done, that He may guide you to it.

Can the principles in the Bible teach you to be rich? Probably? I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I’m willing to bet that if that’s the motivation one has while reading it, one will find a variety of implementable tips or lessons for financial success.

And just to be clear, I have no problem with people who want to be rich. I myself am determined to achieve some measure of wealth, to surpass my parents and my family, to provide for my own family and possible future children.

However, I think we, especially as Christians, have to see wealth as a means and not an end. Wealth as an end is idolatrous. But with wealth, one can do many things and help many others. We should seek to do our best as Christians even in poverty, but if we are wealthy, then our goal should still be to serve and glorify God.

Bill Gates is probably my favorite example of a wealthy person who does amazing things with his riches. Go to the website of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Read the 2014 annual letter. If that doesn’t restore some of your faith in humanity, I don’t know what will.

Wealth and power are responsibilities. Health and stability may be gifts if God intends them to be, but they may make us complacent.

“[A]s there may be pleasures in Hell (God shield us from them), there may be something not all unlike pains in Heaven (God grant us soon to taste them).”

— C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

In Numbers 29, the Israelites are commanded to celebrate, but every day of these festivals and celebrations involves sacrifices and offerings to God. Even, or especially, in our celebrations, we are told to humble ourselves to God, to supplicate ourselves before Him, and to glorify Him in all things.

In sorrow and in joy, do not forget the Lord.


Numbers 30

Oh my goodness, I went and looked at Matthew Henry’s unabridged commentary. It made my head hurt a little.

Numbers 30 concerns the making of vows, oaths, and pledges. Basically, at its core, this chapter states that a man who makes a vow must not break his word.

That’s a quote, by the way: “[H]e must not break his word but must do everything he said.”

This chapter also outlines how fathers and husbands have the power to override vows made by their daughters and wives, respectively. I think this is meant to be indicative of the Biblical position of fathers/husbands as the heads of households, which I think is intended to correlate with how God (the Father) is meant to be the head of the Church, both as a collective and as the singular body of worship that one human being offers.

Now, I don’t have the book in front of me, but I am reminded of the book Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. If I recall correctly, he talks at some point(s) about the importance of keeping one’s word or speaking the truth. Or maybe I’m thinking of The Four Agreements, in which I know for a fact the author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the importance of what he calls “being impeccable with [one’s] word.”

“Impeccable,” by the way, comes from a Latin word, meaning “not liable to sin.” An impeccable word is free of sin.

The way I see it, breaking vows erodes the strength of one’s soul. You make a habit of being disingenuous, of saying things that you have no intention of following through upon, of being careless in word and in deed. There is some Biblical support for this, I think:

“Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.”

— Ecclesiastes 5:5

Keep those words and deeds in line, dear readers! Keep that soul strong, exercise the power of your will, that you may have more dedication to offer to God.

Peace be upon you.

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Day 98-105

“It came to pass on the eighth day that the writer finally updated In Excelsis Deo.”

Welcome back, people. I’m alive, and mostly well. I’ve been very busy, apparently too busy for my duty to myself and to God. It feels bad to write that, sort of.

Here’s the thing: I struggled back and forth with doing

A) a series of rapid-fire, single-post updates, or

B) one giant update with everything in it.

I obviously went with option B. My first thought was that I’d just write every post and make each update individually so that I wouldn’t feel as bad about “copping out” and cramming everything together in one big update. But then, I thought, if I feel bad about writing one big update, then maybe I should just do it and accept my shame. Then I thought, what if I’m being prideful about my shame, and parading it around by admitting it, the way people do when they talk about how humble they are?

“Oh, I’m so ashamed of myself! Look at how low I’ve brought myself before God! Look how devoted I actually am! More than you, I bet!”

It’s like I’m ten layers deep into self-aggrandizement. It’s like Asshole-ception.

So I decided to just say “f*** it” and go for it. It’s true that I goofed up, but apparently (partly due to the nature of this blog) I can neither sin nor be forgiven in silence. Part of the point of this blog is to explain my thought process (often in wondrous streams of consciousness) as I read the Bible and (ideally) move closer to an understanding of God and what He means in my life.

But I was struggling with this last night, because all day yesterday I put off this update. I recorded this little gem on my phone, describing my feelings:

“Is this one reason that people give up? That people lose faith? Because they don’t feel they’ll ever be good enough? They feel like they’re just too imperfect, too weak, too animalistic, and that it’ll never change? That they’ll never ever be satisfied? That they’ll never be good enough? Is that why?

I don’t know. Because I know it’s hard to reconcile that with the idea of infinite forgiveness. I don’t know what to tell you.”

I mean, it sucks. This is something I’m seeing, especially in our modern society, where suddenly no one has to feel bad for who they are. That’s good, sort of, but we’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. I once heard some quote about — ah, f*** it, it’s worth looking up:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'”

— Isaac Asimov, The Cult of Ignorance

So now what we have is a combination of that as well as what C. S. Lewis mentioned when he wrote that we are (paraphrased) “reducing all virtues to kindness.” So there are two things at play: we reduce all virtue to kindness, thus discounting the possibility of submission, faith, etc., as being virtuous, and then we have this attitude that Isaac Asimov described above.

People want to have the right to not be ashamed of themselves, to not feel guilty. To that I say, well, don’t feel guilty. We can’t help what we are, so there’s no sense feeling guilty about it. But shame? Here’s how I see it, and I’m sorry if I’ve written this before.

“We should have the good sense to look ahead, to dream for something bigger and better, so that when we look at ourselves, we are not content with our current state.”

I wish I could say that more fluidly right now, but oh well. You get the gist of it. By aiming for righteousness, by submitting to God’s will and finding the Good that He works in everything, we can look at the way we are now in comparison to what we will become (so to speak), and we can be ashamed of ourselves. Again, no sense in feeling guilty! But I see now that shame can be a very Good thing.

But people don’t want to feel that. Comfort in life may be an incredible burden disguised by our society as the greatest blessing. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, to not be discriminated against. And you can find that in God. But here’s the problem: people also want to be told that who they are is okay. God will not tell you that. God says, “I love you for who you are, no matter what, but I love you so much that I want you, I need you, to become better. I cannot bear to see you the way you are now. I love you and I cannot bear to see you suffering in your sin and imperfection.”

We have to love ourselves enough to want more. Being content with our sins is not self-love, maybe self-acceptance at best. But that is only the first step. If we love ourselves as God loves us, we will strive to be better and better, but we will realize, as I did above, that we hit a wall. We can only go so far in these human bodies. This is why we must turn our eyes above.

As a quick aside, I’m surprised more Christians don’t believe in evolution. To me, the idea that we struggle against our animal natures on the path to God is perfectly in line with Christian theology. Divine souls though we may be, we are confined to animal bodies governed by physical laws.

In the Bible, Adam was created to be supposedly “perfect.” The first sin was disobedience, which granted knowledge that led to self-awareness and shame. The ego is the source of sin.

The way I see it is this: humans evolve, but are still essentially animalistic. They are in awe of the world around them because it does not make sense. It appears in many ways to be unpredictable and uncontrollable. Humans, though having small and “crude” tools, essentially rely on the patterns of earth and sky for their sustenance. And then that changed.

Perhaps in the end it was a fruit: an apple, or perhaps as some have suggested, a fig. Something as simple and innocuous as all that. A person ate the fruit, and found smallish bits inside of it, seeds, that fell to the ground. At some point, some one put two and two together: food could be grown on purpose. Suddenly, Man could rely on himself. This is the turning away from God, from nature, from a state of ignorant bliss. Man thought that he knew how to game the system. Man thought he would no longer struggle, no longer hunger and thirst.

But now rules have to be established. People have to work long hours in the fields and grinding grain. Irrigation has to be controlled and monitored lest floods break out. People want to own land, own livestock, own workers or slaves. There needs to be a sense of order. Rulers have to enforce rules. People gain power and abuse it. Over-farming occurs. Lush fertile land reduces into barren desert. The land turns away from Man, the very earth spurns him. Man is brought low and is ashamed.

Some men find God and turn to him, appealing to a higher power, looking for the answer they cannot find by themselves. Some curse God for their misfortune and decide that they can make it work on their own without His help. And so it goes…


Leviticus 8

Alright, now these are going to be rapid-fire updates. Here goes nothing!

Moses takes Aaron and his sons, dresses them up in the prescribed priest’s clothes, they sacrifice some animals, and Moses consecrates Aaron and his boys with oil. Here’s a bunch more rules that you have to follow, the end.

(I know this is half-assed. Deal with it.)


Leviticus 9

Moses explains some things to Aaron about making atonement, not just for himself but for the people of Israel. They sprinkle lots of blood around the altar, several times, I believe. Aaron blesses all the people, comes out from the tabernacle, the Lord appears in all his glory, and consumes the burnt offering in fire. Everyone is awed and falls on their faces.


Leviticus 10

Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, decide to make an offering or some such thing that was previously forbidden by the Lord. He fries them.

Aaron is understandably upset about this, but Moses basically tells him, hey, look, God said “if people are going to try and come to Me, they need to do it properly and respectfully.” In my opinion, this is so that people will not constantly be making excuses, misinterpreting God’s word and trying to do His work while in reality committing sin against Him. I could see how this would be applicable today.

So anyway, there’s also a thing in here about not getting drunk in the tabernacle so that no one goofs up the sacrifices.

At the end of this chapter, two of Aaron’s sons screw up an offering. Moses rails against them and Aaron explains:

“Look. My boys are grieving. I am grieving. Sorry we were stressed out and couldn’t do it right, but we tried our best to keep the spirit of the offering. I was supposed to be rejoicing over this gift of food, but I am not in the right mind to do so. Do you really think God would have wanted me to eat it and disobey him thusly?”

Moses realizes that Aaron is sincere in his desire to please God, and has done nothing wrong. As long we have that desire sincerely in our hearts, we will eventually begin to do right.

(Credit for this chapter goes to John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes, because I had no idea how to interpret Lev 10:16-20.)


Leviticus 11

Here’s what you can eat, here’s what you can’t eat, here’s what dead animals not to ever touch, here’s how to clean yourself if you do touch them.

Taxonomy Bonus: Apparently bats are birds. (Lev 11:13-19)

Entomology Bonus: Apparently flying insects have four feet. (Lev11:20-25) This one I’m willing to chalk up to translation errors, but who knows.


Leviticus 12

If a lady gives birth, she’s unclean, she needs to be purified, etc. etc. Longer for a female than for a male, apparently.

This passage probably draws a lot of ire, but I interpret it like this: the whole blood and suffering thing that comes along with childbirth should serve as a reminder of our animal natures. Therefore, we should seek to “clean” ourselves afterward, reaffirming our commitment to being cleansed by God. Hell, wait til Leviticus 15, and men get theirs too.


Leviticus 13


Leviticus 14

Here’s the process for ceremoniously cleansing a leper or someone with a skin condition.

Also, if you get mold or whatever in your house, here’s how you guys deal with that. There’s only a moderate chance that you’ll have to tear down the whole house. Wash your clothes, don’t let them get moldy. Nasty.


Leviticus 15

This is the Biblical prescription for STDs. Enjoy that. Anything you sit or lie on or whatever is unclean.

If a man emits semen, he is a filthy animal and needs to wash. If he has sex (but only if he finishes?) then both need to wash.

If a woman is on her period, then for God’s sake, anything she sits on is unclean. If you have sex with her, you’re unclean.

If anyone’s unclean, separate them so that they don’t walk into the tabernacle and get fried.


And that’s the ball game!

Peace be upon you.

 

Day 92

(This would have gone up on Sunday, June 15, 2014. I’m going to go ahead and write it based on that day.)

So today was awesome. My partner’s brother got married, and it was a beautiful ceremony held at a vineyard in a little mountain town. Beautiful lights, dinner right at sunset, the whole thing was lovely. Oh, and an open bar.

(Lordy. A quick Google image search for “happy drunk” turned up like 7 NSFW pictures, and that was just in the most immediate results.)

It was interesting because the ceremony was a Christian one, and I was reasonably sure her brother was not Christian. I talked to him afterwards; he is not. But apparently the family of the bride is, and her mother overrode a great deal of their wedding decisions. He said that if it been his choice, he would have had either me, or a Buddhist monk. I would have been honored, but c’est la vie.

I really like officiating weddings because it is such a beautiful moment between two people. I suppose that’s the same reason I like attending weddings. That and all the free food/alcohol. But seriously, it is a beautiful moment in what one can only hope is a long and happy marriage. For the most part, barring family drama, everyone at a wedding is happy and joyous, especially at a beautiful venue like a mountain vineyard. The last wedding I attended, also the last one I officiated, was on a steamboat on a lake. We caught the sunset there as well and watched that orange light gleam down through the canyons.

Simply magnificent.

There must be some reason that God made me find so much joy and beauty in nature, but I’m not sure where that will go yet. I suppose out in the woods is where I found Him, so that’s as good a reason as any (and a better reason than most). It’s weird because out in the woods with my friends, I had no desire to write like this, but I did read the Bible. Perhaps a reminder not to get too caught up in the interpretation?

If I ever become one of those legalistic people who, as C. S. Lewis puts it,

“[are] so preoccupied with spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ,”

then just put me down. He rails as well in the same breath at

“men… who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself… as if the good Lord had nothing to do but to exist.”

Maybe this is why I find comfort in absurdist philosophy; seeing the illogic, the impossibility of any concrete foundation… perhaps in a way this is my defense against becoming too moralistic or legalistic with my faith. Or perhaps I’m just being a prideful jackass who needs to shut up. 😛

Who knows.


Leviticus 2

Honestly, this chapter is about how you offer your baked goods to God. Let me tell you, it is quite possibly the most exciting chapter in the Bible.

Make sure to add oil and salt to your pita bread/cake/flatbread/whatever before giving it to God, kiddos!

Wowsers. Even my partner said some of this stuff was boring.

Peace be upon you.

Day 32

I was digging through some old posts today, looking to see if I’d talked about a particular idea yet, and I remembered my Medicine Cards and decided to draw one. After some shuffling and deliberation, I fanned through the deck and drew forth… Contrary Blank. Same as last time.

We’ll see what I draw forth tomorrow.

Yesterday’s post was more the kind of thing I envisioned when I started this blog, as opposed to a breakdown of verses and chapters. But when it comes to the long view, I am still in the earliest stages. My first month of this project is behind me, and many more months yet lie ahead.


Genesis 31

In Genesis 31, Jacob leaves the house and land of Laban for his home. He takes his wives and children, all his flocks and servants, and steals away before Laban is aware. This chapter also seems to indicate (through a vision that Jacob received in a dream) that it was God’s will that Jacob would come to possess the largest flocks and the best animals. God knew that Laban had cheated Jacob, had “changed [his] wages ten times,” and Laban lost much of the greatness of his flocks for having wronged Jacob (Genesis 31:7).

Laban catches up with Jacob and accuses him of stealing his idols. Jacob denies this and tells him to search for the man who took them and feel free to kill him. Jacob does not realize that Rachel, his wife, took the idols, but Rachel conceals them from her father and he comes up empty-handed. Jacob rebukes him for this false accusation, and together they come to an understanding. They make a pillar and a covenant, which basically amounts to “You stay on that side, and I’ll stay on this side, and we’ll leave each other alone.”

It is interesting to note that one of the names or titles of God is “the Fear of Isaac,” used in Genesis 31:42 and again mentioned in 31:53. I analyzed the use of the word “fear” back on Day 15, and interested readers will return there to see the three levels of meaning, the last being akin to “reverence” or “awe.”

In the end of this chapter, Laban leaves and returns to his home, leaving Jacob in peace.


Genesis 32

Jacob witnesses the angels of the Lord at his camp, and recognizes that God is with him. He knows that in the past twenty years that Laban kept him, Esau has become a leader of men in the land of Seir. Jacob sends a message to his brother, asking for his brother’s favor and telling Esau of his time with Laban. The messengers return, telling Jacob that Esau is coming with four hundred men.

Jacob divides his forces and flocks, and is afraid. He prays to God that night, humbling himself before the Lord and praising God for His assistance. He prays that God will deliver him from his brother Esau.

Jacob takes huge numbers of livestock and sends them as tribute to Esau. He tells his servants to let Esau know that Jacob is sending these gifts, and in this way he hopes to appease his brother’s anger.

I find this interesting because a common point of theological contention between myself and my partner is the idea of condoning behavior by association. My partner is a passionate and outspoken woman, and not known for her willingness to compromise on matters of importance. She is not afraid to share her opinion, and to me is representative of Christians who know that they will bear their faith like a cross. Many of them know that they will be condemned by the world, and take this as a point of pride. I cannot say if my partner feels this way, or at least in the way that I explain it.

Carl Sagan once said,

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.”

I say also, the fact that some good people are condemned does not imply that all who are condemned are good people. Some Christians go out into the world expecting to be condemned, expecting to be put down or ridiculed, expecting to be criticized, and to them this is proof of their faith. I see the reasoning, but I don’t always agree. Some criticism can be valid, and good criticism (or being a good listener to criticism) can open doors for new understanding.

My point is, instead of being vocal or critical, expressing details that make me different from one another, information that sets me apart from others, I focus on what brings us together first. Once rapport and respect have been established, once a person has been understood, then it is possible to show how your beliefs or your ideas relate to them, showing them the value that they might find.

My girlfriend has, multiple times, quoted a verse or statement about Christians “being in the world, but not a part of the world” or something along those lines. I understand the meaning but I cringe a little on the inside when I hear it. I understand that there is this idea of higher levels of existence, of moving on to Heaven, away from earthly suffering, but to me it sounds so much like creating deliberate distance between oneself and others.

This world has so many wonderful things and wonderful opportunities. There is beauty and joy that can be found, love that can be experienced. There are 7 billion people on this planet, each with different stories and experiences; with so much to learn and do, why would we not want to be a part of it? Why would we not want to join our fellow man in seeking brotherhood and peace? While the message of her statement relates more (I think) to not getting caught up in material things, it sounds like it is used as reasoning to keep oneself separated from other people, and that to me is irreconcilable with who I am and what I do.

Yes, I understand not wanting to condone something indirectly. I have a very close friend who is slowly destroying himself with nicotine and alcohol. Do I think it is okay? Not in the least. I love this bastard to death, but I haven’t yet found something to say or do that will help him change. So do I condemn him for this? Do I focus my attention on telling him the wrong he is doing or the sin he is committing? Or do I recognize that there are underlying needs that are not addressed, that there is underlying emptiness in his heart, and shall I not fill it with my love and friendship for him? Shall I not stand by his side and carry him, even when his injuries are his own doing?

God does not prevent us from harming ourselves. We as a collective species of humanity are very self-destructive, but God does not reach down out of the sky and stop us. We have chosen our lot in life. But God is always present to give us love, to show us both our humility and our worthiness. We get angry, we fight, we get hurt, and we weep… but no matter our shortcomings, God is present to comfort us, to let us rest in the love that He embodies.

My goal, and this is the first time I have worded it this way, is to be an ambassador for God, to show others that His love is the Truth and to show that one doesn’t need to become a pious monk with a stick up his ass to commune with God. God has a sense of humor, and this is apparent if one can recognize the jokes. God wants us to love, laugh, and smile. We are meant to be happy, or at least content and at peace, rather than dour and disagreeable. It is my opinion that being condemning and contrary does not inspire others to join one’s cause. Being open, friendly, accepting, and loving above all else is of the utmost importance. I cannot emphasize this point enough.

Before I get back to Genesis 32, I want to share two videos. The first is from the Christian movement Got a Hug that focuses on expressing and showing love. The second is from a group called The Marin Foundation and the website loveisanorientation.com, which seeks to bridge opposing worldviews.

These videos depict the work of Christians who attend gay pride parades to demonstrate love and acceptance to members of the oft-persecuted LGBT community. Shouting down fire and brimstone and exhorting people to change does not work. Meeting people where they are physically, emotionally, and spiritually, but coming from a place of love is a much better way to show people that your cause is true and just. In my eyes, some of the most obnoxious types of people are those who believe themselves to be above others because of their beliefs, and would rather look down on others than associate with them, teach them, or (worst of all) learn from them.

All that now said, let us get back to Genesis.

Jacob sets out one evening, after having sent his tribute to Esau, and he sends his wives and servants over the brook to the other side. When he is left alone, a man (Man in NKJV) wrestles with him all throughout the night. Once day breaks, this wrestler dislocates Jacob’s hip with a touch, but Jacob maintains his hold. Jacob seems to recognize this “man” with whom he wrestles, and Jacob says that he will not let go until his opponent blesses him. This mysterious Man blesses Jacob, granting him the new name of Israel, meaning “Prince of God,” for he has “struggled with God and with men, and [has] prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

Jacob asks for his opponent’s name, and I can just picture the Lord smiling as He says “Why is it that you ask about My name?”

Matthew Henry writes that this wrestling match between God and Jacob is a way for us to understand the nature of prayer.

“When the spirit helpeth our infirmities, and our earnest and vast desires can scarcely find words to utter them, and we still mean more than we can express, then prayer is indeed wrestling with God. However tried or discouraged, we shall prevail; and prevailing with Him in prayer, we shall prevail against all enemies that strive with us. Nothing requires more vigour and unceasing exertion than wrestling. It is an emblem of the true spirit of faith and prayer.”¹

I can attest to this, for at times when I have prayed, it is not a simple task but a long and arduous process. Answers and understandings are not always forthcoming, but we must press on if we are to have resolution. When Jacob is finished, the sun is rising; Jacob’s troubled heart is at peace, and he is filled with righteous purpose.

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=1&c=32

Day 31

I’ve said quite a bit and done quite a few summaries of the chapters of Genesis thus far. This is the latest I’ve been, I think, but I haven’t slept yet, so to me it’s still “today.” I read Genesis 31, and I will talk about it and summarize it, but I feel the need to discuss something else.

My girlfriend recently sent me an article called This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore that it seems has been all over under slightly different titles. I remember when I was in middle school, I knew a boy who was Christian, whose family went to church, and he listened to Switchfoot and Christian rock. I just now looked up the name of the band, and while it is related to surfing, it has a connotation that I expected. Quoting Jon Foreman, the lead vocalist,

“To switch your feet means to take a new stance facing the opposite direction. It’s about change and movement, a different way of approaching life and music.”

Sounds about right to me. This article was written because of a question that Jon was asked about whether or not Switchfoot is a Christian band. This is his response, as edited by me.

“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple [Switchfoot] tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed.

These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Many songs are worthy of being written…. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.

None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing….

You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others….”

Mr. Foreman here makes several good points. A song can inspire religious feelings, or it can inspire someone to do or be better. But a song does not itself feel the Holy Spirit, although the notes may be a wonderful vessel by which God speaks to you.

This line of thinking is important to me because it implies that different things and different people exist for a reason. But I took this reasoning down a road that I don’t think Mr. Foreman would like. If he says that a profession cannot be “Christian,” or a song or work of art cannot be “Christian”… Then I am curious if the Bible can be considered to be so. I realize this line of thinking may be disrespectful to some and downright heretical to many, but as Christ did not die for a song, neither did He die for a book. The purpose of His death was to save the souls of men. (I have not yet decided how I feel about souls, since I know that the Greek word was “psyche,” meaning mind. I’ll let you know when I’m done with the Bible.)

Is the Bible not a useful tool, that we may know God and His works? That we may better serve Him and ourselves? Truly, it is, and I think anyone who says otherwise has a skewed perception of the Bible, of religion in general, or of Christianity. As far as I’m concerned, that skewed perception is understandable. Vocal people who call themselves Christians give the group as a whole a bad name. Consider Pastor Terry Jones, who burned a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Quran, because of the September 11th attacks. Consider Ken Ham, who denies or comes up with alternative explanations for things that are measurable, observable, and help our understanding of the modern world (biology and evolution, to name a few).

I realize I’m diverging from my point here, but I don’t care. I had a good conversation with my partner about this the other day, and I finally just said, “You take the Bible literally, and I do not.” There is no biological mechanism that indicates how a human being would have lived to be nearly a thousand years old, and there is no historical evidence to my knowledge, besides the Bible (if you consider that to be historical), that makes mention of men living for fifty generations. There are no fossil records or anthropological sites that show evidence of long-lived, “perfect” humans who degenerate (whatever that means biologically) due to sin.

Now, the archaeological record does show that life expectancy and quality of life dropped after the development of agriculture. People lost their hunting and gathering lifestyle and were confined to long work days, slaves to the seasons and the growth of crops. Over-farming would destroy lush wilderness and leave barren desert in its place, and women sat for hours grinding grain into flour only to develop malformed backs, crippled knees, arthritic joints, and so on. A high-starch diet rotted teeth and gave way to more suffering. If one looks at the story of Adam and Eve as an allegory, this is the Fall of Man. This is the loss of innocence: a carefree lifestyle gone and never to return. Hell, the first murderer was a farmer, according to the Bible.

Eden was a lifestyle of innocence and freedom. It was also likely a place, preserved in memory and eventually in text, of the once-lush land that existed, watered by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Before I return to my point (whatever that was), if you are a Christian, I want to hear your opinions on these things. I want to know if you take the Bible literally or figuratively, and if so, which parts, and why? I’ll reiterate this at the end, and hopefully someone will comment for me and we can start a dialogue.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The Bible as a “Christian” book. As I have said before, I operate under the assumption belief feeling knowledge idea that there is one omnipresent God. I tend to stick with the Christian convention of a male personal pronoun, and I have the idea that this omnipresent God is timeless, that He forever was and forever will be. I have the idea that all things are manifested through God, and that His energy is what brings us into being. I have the idea that God’s existence implies everything we see, know, and do, and that our existence implies God. I have the idea that God is a Consciousness, but not in a human sense, and that He is present in all the matter and energy and space and time that comprises our universe. Perhaps, if there be something beyond this universe, then God is there as well. But these are just ideas.

Together they form what I consider to be a functional theology. My theology and my ideas lead me to see an underlying Unity with my fellow man, with the beasts and plants of the earth, with the water and the fire and the wind and the stars that shine from impossible distances. My theology leads me to deem everything and everyone worthy of respect and reverence, not in an idolatrous sense, but in the sense that everything is an aspect or manifestation of God. My theology leads me to love myself, to meditate and write and create art and go deeper within the depths of my mind and soul, to find where God resides in the shadows of my heart. My theology leads me to always strive for more, to be a shining example to others that they too may seek more. My theology motivates me to learn and to grow and to strive for spiritual Unity with God, that my life may be transformed and that I may realize the spark of divinity within myself.


I think I’m forgetting something. Oh, right, the Bible. I’m not very good at this game.

I consider the Bible to be a good way of learning about God. But it is not the only way. Truly, it is a sacred book, but in my eyes all things are sacred, one way or another. The problem I have with the Bible that I will address today is that as much as God can speak to us in our own language, God’s power works within the world, and the Language of the World is closer to what I would call God’s “native tongue.” My Bible is the world itself, all that I experience and all that I do. It teaches me many of the same lessons taught in this book which lies before me. Just as the Bible has many books, so too does the world, and each chapter of one’s life, no matter how long or short, contains valuable lessons.

If anything, the Bible is important because it teaches about Christ. Christ, as a person, an idea, or both, is to me the ultimate key. In the Bible, he is a link between God and man. A point of contention that I have with Christians is that they heap all of the divinity on Jesus and forget their own. True, perhaps we are not the miraculously conceived “Son of God,” complete with Capital Letters (again if you believe in that), but we are all children of God, and we have the potential within us to know God and to be like God, filled with mercy and wisdom and love.

My new Bible that I received from the Jehovah’s Witnesses has some introductory questions, and the second of these is “How can you learn about God?” It offers numerous examples from scripture, but this is my favorite:

“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

— Romans 1:20, NKJV

God is present in the Bible, but He is also present in everything else. His qualities and presence are “clearly seen,” but only by those who have the eyes to see them. To me, subject of one’s study is less important than the act of contemplation, the act of wanting to understand, the act of seeking God. Seek God in the Bible, and you will find him. Seek Him in a thimble, and you will find him there as well. But perhaps you have to look differently.

On that note, I will leave you with a quote from the Book of Matthew.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

— Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:7-8

Peace be upon you.


 

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

– See more at: http://faithlikes.com/2014/04/05/this-is-why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs-anymore/#sthash.Tq8JXNSF.dpuf

This Is Why Switchfoot Won’t Sing Christian Songs Anymore

– See more at: http://faithlikes.com/2014/04/05/this-is-why-switchfoot-wont-sing-christian-songs-anymore/#sthash.Tq8JXNSF.dpuf