limitations of faith

Day 133

Went to church this morning. I don’t know if I was tired or what but it was not as emotional but it was enlightening. As an update/continuation from yesterday, I did indeed dream last night. It was a dream of war and international strife. I’m not so sure it was an actual war, though, because despite being decked out in combat gear and getting ready to get into a combat-ready vehicle, I think my “unit” was going to bring aid to some area hit by a natural disaster.

It was interesting.

But, in relation to my dream (and last night’s weather), I learned that James and John, two of the Apostles, were called by Jesus the “Sons of Thunder.” Apparently it is suspected that a) this has to do with their temperament or that b) the transliteration is not entirely accurate. I might say a little of both.

The word “revival” was in my head today at church. It’s a good description of my vision of the future, in terms of faith, but it’s already been appropriated and given meaning by various Christian sects. The other thing I got out of church came directly from the sermon, which spoke about finding God’s purpose for oneself.  The pastor talked about how in the Bible, there are many stories about someone waiting and having patience for God to act through them, but the pastor mentioned that it’s not just waiting — another term that is used is preparing.

It gave me a good perspective on my blog: perhaps this three year endeavor is preparation. For what, I can only guess. I sort of hope it’s in line with my vision, but I know that whatever God has me do will be good. He and I had a productive talk last night. I still have a lot to work on. A lot to prepare for.

The other thing, that came into my head while I was driving around for work today was a sort-of answer to a question I’ve had for a long time. So the conundrum goes like this:

The Bible exists. I’m staring at one now.

I have no way of knowing if anything (in general, but that’s another story) that happened in the past is actually true, therefore I can’t know that the Bible is true.

And then it goes on like: then why is it so important? Do I accept it just because I have no reason to believe otherwise? At that point, wouldn’t I believe anything that is equally a) distant in time and b) irrefutable?

So phooey on all that. I mean I know at some point, theoretically, people had to be around to witness events and write them down and its possible that they got embellished over time but how on earth do you explain something like the resurrection being written down but not actually happening because it seems like the kind of thing people would remember very clearly and the issue is that that event is like the whole crux (no pun intended) of Christianity but on the other hand even though overt miracles like that don’t really seem to happen any more the truth of the matter to me seems to be that every moment of our lives is miraculous and who are we as mortals to say that one miracle is more or less miraculous than any other but how in the world do you explain the resurrection using any kind of science because what the eff unless of course Jesus actually was God at which point I guess anything is possible but that can never be proven so then it all has to be accepted on faith which to an outside observer means and does nothing but the truth of the matter is that faith makes real changes in people’s lives.

Yeah, it’s a run-on sentence. What of it?

Anyway, the sort-of answer I got about all this is that ultimately I believe it because I want to believe it. But why? Couldn’t I then believe anything I “wanted” to believe? Isn’t that what everyone does?

So then the next question was, “Why should I want to believe it?” And the answer is tied to what I wrote above about faith: because of what it means to people, what it means to me. It is a transformative faith, one that brings about the betterment of human beings, individually and as a whole. We can be so much more than what we are, and this faith, this book elaborates on how and why that is as well as why we should seek to grow and how to achieve that growth.

I used to believe that we are who we are, and that’s okay. As I’ve said, there’s no guilt in who we are, but we should have the good sense to look higher, look at the possibilities of what could be, and have the good sense to be ashamed of our miserable state. People can suffer so much and yet never seek to change. The Bible has been good to me thus far, and God in combination with the book have done great things in my life. I want to see God do great things in other people’s lives too.

Numbers 16

Rekris. I click away for like a minute and come back and realize how much I wrote. This is part of why I didn’t originally want to do this tonight. Of course, if I weren’t distracted by the rest of the internet I’d probably be fine. Or I’d find a different distraction. My brain is dying fast; I’m super tired and going to wrap this up.

Basically, a bunch of Levites call out Moses saying essentially that they want to take over the priesthood and that Moses can shove it up his ass. So Moses tells them, alright, you’re-so-smart, get your holy censers and your incense and the 250 of you meet me at the tabernacle in the morning.

So this happens. And predictably, God shows up and tells Moses and Aaron to go right ahead and step back because He’s gotta waste some fools. “Consume them in a moment,” He says in Numbers 16:21.

Moses and Aaron convince God to dial it back a notch and just deal with those responsible. So everyone backs up from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the three guys behind this whole debacle. Moses, says look, if I’m not the appointed priest, then these men and their families will die a nice natural death. But if I am, then they’re about to get eaten by the earth.

I’ll give you three guesses as to what happens, and the first two don’t count.

The ground shakes and caves in right below their tents. Them, their stuff, their families, just gone. So the people start freaking out and scattering, but… God just smokes em. Every one of the 250 dissenters is fried by holy fire. Oh, and Aaron takes the consecrated censers to hammer them into a covering for the altar, so commandeth the Lord.

Anyway, the next day, the congregation comes to Moses and Aaron and complains about all the people who died the previous day. God has had about enough, and barely gives Moses and Aaron warning before bringing death down upon the people in a giant wave of wrathful plague. Aaron lights his incense and runs out into the crowd to make atonement and stop the death. Sure enough, we get into a “Hold me back, bro! Hold me back!” situation where the plague literally stops in a line right where Aaron is.

You’d think by now the people would learn to stop messing up, right? Nobody’s perfect. :\

Good night, all. Peace be upon you.

Advertisements

Day 54

Ohhhhh, I am behind on everything! No time to waste!


Exodus 4

God starts pulling out the miracles on this one. Moses is still expressing his doubts that the people should listen to him, so God turns his rod into a serpent (and back again) and also tells Moses to tuck his hand into his clothes. When Moses draws his hand out of his bosom, it is white as snow, appearing ill. He repeats the process and the hand returns to normal. Ta-da!

Still Moses expresses his doubts. “I am slow of speech,” he says, in Exodus 4:10, and God just tells him, “Look, I made your mouth. I’m the one who decides who is mute or deaf or blind. If I say you can do it, just do it.”

Moses: “Couldn’t you just send someone else?”

God: “Oh, for My sake…” God rubs His eyebrows and sighs. “Look, you don’t always have to take everything so literally… I just… Fine. I’ll spell it out for you: You tell your brother Aaron what to say and he’ll do the talking. He will be your mouth.”

Moses finally gets the picture, and having been told by God that no one in Egypt still has it out for him, he bids farewell to Jethro and returns to the land of his birth. God warns Moses that He will “harden [Pharaoh’s] heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exod 4:21). This one I had to look up.

Matthew Henry makes the point that

“Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the oppressed Israelites; and now God, in the way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart against the teaching of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues. But whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses must tell him, Thus saith the Lord.”¹

I find this part super interesting because a point of contention in the past between myself and my partner is the way that people understand/accept or fail to understand/accept God. What I’ve heard from her and from other Christians in the past is a belief that everyone, every single person, essentially will have God revealed to them and has a choice to make. I agree and I disagree.

The teachings of Christianity have been around for over a thousand years now, but there were not always central churches. Those grew and came later. Once things got organized, people went around farther and farther to spread the word. My point is, a thousand years ago in the middle of Africa or China, or North America for that matter, what experience did anyone have with the God of Abraham?

There is an old joke or apocryphal story that goes like this:

A missionary travels to a remote village to spread the gospel. He talks with everyone there about Jesus, telling them that if they do not accept Jesus into their hearts, they will burn in hell for all eternity. Before the missionary leaves, the tribal elder asks, “What if we had never heard about Jesus? Would we still burn in hell?” The missionary replies, “No, I suppose you would go to heaven for all eternity,” to which the elder replies “Then why the hell did you tell us!?”

The article that I paraphrased this from is from a blog called 500 Questions and they all pertain to God and Christianity. Seems pretty interesting, and I may have to check it out. But anyway.

Do I believe that we can all experience the numinous, that we can all experience awe and come face-to-face with infinity? Truly, any human being that has looked to the stars at night has probably felt this feeling, no matter where they are in the world. When we gaze deeply into a pool of water, focus our attention on a flower or a lover, when we turn our attention inward and lose the boundaries between ourselves and the world… we experience what Christians call the Holy Spirit, we perceive the feeling of God.

But I don’t think that this is enough if we accept the belief that God has specific rules and desires for us. If God wants us to behave a certain way, then why do we have so many different cultures with different beliefs? Why do we have polytheism and ancestor worship and whatever else? And what is to become of these people? The article I mentioned cites several verses that seem to answer this question but I do not know them in context.

If we accept the Bible as literal, through-and-through, then we have problems. Specifically, John 14:6.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus says that the only way to God is through Him. So what of all those people that never got the chance to hear about Jesus? It would not be fair to condemn them to an eternity in Hell if they didn’t get the memo. And if they’re not going to be condemned to Hell specifically because of their ignorance then why tell them about Jesus in the first place?

The author of 500 Questions makes this point in his article:

“If the ignorant are excused from sin and wrath, then the first rule of Christianity should be ‘Don’t talk about Christianity,’ because it only brings condemnation.”

Even if you make the point that there are “natural laws” or our conscience or whatever that gives us a sense of right and wrong, even this is a product of culture and time. To the ancient Greeks, homosexuality wasn’t even a thing, for example. Hell, even in America, prior to the 70s and 80s there was no grand polyamorous or promiscuous homosexual subculture to be condemned by modern conservatives. In other parts of the world and in other times, people learn values, morals, and ethics according to their culture and what they are taught by their parents and their society. Hell again! Americans pledge allegiance to their country and the flag every day in schools and I’ve heard some people from other countries who see this common ritual as horrifying, smacking of blind nationalism.

Do I agree that everyone can find peace, love, and acceptance within themselves? Absolutely. Different cultures have different styles of prayer and meditation, but overall I feel that we all reach out or reach in to the same transcendental states. Our experience of these states and the feelings we find within are subjective, shaped by our experience and our worldview.

And what happens if we feel this feeling in a church? In a forest? In a mosque? What are we to believe?

And beyond that, what if we never feel this feeling at all, or only very faintly because we are lost, alone, and have just been beaten down and s*** on our entire lives? Or what if we have been broken more slowly, sat in front of a television from a young age, never finding joy in the natural world or the vast infinite potential within ourselves?

I’m going to share with you the most sacrilegious song I can think of because it helps illustrate my point. In my world, God has a sense of humor, so I apologize if in yours He does not. Not much I can do about that. Warning: serious language and blasphemy!

In this song, people living in Africa sing about all the things that trouble them, and finish by shouting “Hasa diga Eebowai!” We (and the horrified Mormon missionaries) learn that this means “F*** you, God!” See what I mean about sacrilegious?

But the thing is, even though this song is played for comedic effect, there are people who feel this way! You’ve probably met some of them. There are people who are angry at God, who resist God, who deny God for various reasons. How, pray tell, is a person like that supposed to accept a kind and loving God?

In my view, this lack of acceptance of God comes from a misunderstanding of the very concept of God. I’ve said it before: God is not a genie who grants wishes. I don’t even see God as a person, certainly not the Caucasian bearded male of old European art. Now, Jesus was a person, yes… but that’s another part of the Trinity. The same and different, I get it.

If God is a force, an eternal infinite Being that resides within all of us and everything, then honestly we have no problems. This view of God, my view of God, leads to peace and acceptance of what is. There are no “shoulds” and “should-nots” in my world. In the human view, could the world be better? Yes, of course. We have so much suffering and so many hurt and downtrodden and victimized people…

However!! (I had a point a long time ago, and I’m getting back to it, I swear.) JUST LIKE GOD HAD HARDENED PHARAOH’S HEART, knowing that Pharaoh would bring more suffering, this was a natural consequence of Pharaoh’s actions. Pharaoh was not about to suddenly and miraculously have a change of heart; the Israelites had to endure their trials and things had to happen the way they did and so on and so on down the line until Jesus and so on until TODAY! (See? Told you.)

BUT! Just as God is the impetus for all the events of the universe, these events and all the participants are of and within God. God hardens the heart of the Pharaoh even in the face of miracles, Old-Testament-style turning rods into snakes and s***.

If Pharaoh’s heart can be hardened against a miracle, then so too can the hearts of men be hardened against God through no fault of their own. It is simply the way of the world.

The “eternal punishment” of these people is that they shall burn in the fires of their own jealousy, anger, and fear for the entirety of their lives. They will find misery and will be unsure and unknowing of their place in the universe; they will resist life and all its wonders.

However! Those that learn, understand, and accept God will find peace in the Now, will find acceptance of the present moment and their circumstances, and will be blessed with a worldview where everything is indeed perfect, a life that some would call “Heaven.” The human part of me sometimes rejects or resists my circumstances, but the spark of infinite “divine” awareness flows with these moments and finds the silver linings where the human mind sees only clouds.

Accepting God requires a subjective understanding of God; God must be taught to people in a way that makes sense to them. When I talk to God, when I pray and when I listen, there is both humor and seriousness. I see the absurdity of life, the lack of provable objectivity in the universe, the limitations of science and of faith and God has met me halfway. He has presented himself in a way that I understand and accept. Some Christians say that this will eventually happen to everyone. To me, that is unknowable. All I can say for certain is that it has happened to me.

Good day, all. Peace be upon you.


¹ Henry, Matthew. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=2&c=4