The Purpose of this Blog

purpose of this blog

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Years ago I made a decision about my purpose on earth, and that has become the purpose of this blog. It is to guide and inspire those who willingly come seeking guidance from me, based on my life, experiences, and best understanding of both God and my fellow human beings. I don’t always live faithfully by that, but it’s my goal.

On this blog, I share my experiences and my worldview, mostly on topics involving personal growth (including both spirituality and psychology) developed from what I think is a quite special gift I have. That is the ability to remain open to ideas even when they bother me, and being genuinely willing to change my mind about something I deeply believe if the evidence is there. These qualities are rare, and are largely what create my unique platform, perspective, and voice.

This openness (which I have intentionally cultivated over many years) has allowed me to explore many things most people are too afraid to explore, and ask questions most people fear asking. This has helped to create in me, I am often told by others, a certain wisdom.

The final piece of my unique contribution to the blogosphere (also cultivated over many years), is non-anxious presence. In other words, as passionately as I believe what I believe, I do not need you to agree with me. I do not need your validation and do not expect you to need mine. I am not threatened by your journey and ideas, no matter how they may diverge from my own. I do not get offended or worked up when someone believes differently than I do. When I do find myself getting worked up, I realize that’s a character flaw in me, and I work on letting it go.

All of this means the number of people in this world I can help is inherently limited. My worldview will seem completely foreign to some, perhaps even scary or heretical to others. My life’s work is not to argue anyone into submission, or to prove anything, but simply to share my own perspective, limited as it is by my life experiences and education, and be of whatever help I can to those with whom it resonates.

Richard Rohr says, “Every viewpoint is a view from a point.” To anyone learning the lessons of life and willing to receive them, increasing age brings increasing wisdom, and this is perhaps one of the most important lessons wisdom brings. The older I get the more I understand how true is the adage that “If you have ask to ask the question, you wouldn’t possibly understand the answer.” This is why I try to avoid back-and-forth with readers who clearly seek little from me but argument, as if I have some absolute duty to defend my existence, experience, and opinions on demand, to anyone who insists on that defense, regardless of the amount of time it takes, how many times I have done it before, or how pointless the whole exercise is from the start.

So again, the purpose of this blog, and of my life, is to guide and inspire those who willingly come seeking guidance from me, based on my life, experiences, and best understanding of both God and my fellow human beings.

I hope you enjoy my blog and I invite you to be part of the conversation here. We’re all on this journey together and can all learn from each other, even when, and perhaps especially when, we disagree.

Evangelicals Support Torture — Isn’t That Weird?

supporting torture

Dick Cheney, Torture Apologist in Chief

Isn’t it weird that evangelicals support torture? Apparently the majority of people in the U.S. are fine with it, including the majority of evangelical Christians. I wanted to put the word “Christians” in quotes, like I just did, but I know some of these people and they are sincere, good people. That’s what deeply bothers me about this.

Is there any greater testament to the fact that Christianity has been taught horribly, catastrophically, unconscionably wrong in the U.S. than the fact that the majority of evangelicals, who serve the Lord of Peace that they will stand in candle-lit sanctuaries in a week and celebrate, have no problem with barbaric things being done to other people God loves? Isn’t it strange that if I claim Jesus was speaking metaphorically about hell, many evangelicals would question my theology, but the majority of evangelicals can outright ignore what Jesus plainly said about loving one’s enemies and not have a second thought?

This demonstrates how much faith has become about what a person claims to believe and not about whether they actually do what Jesus commanded. If you don’t “believe” the “correct” doctrine about hell, you’ll be called a heretic almost for sure, but ignore the clearest and most direct teachings of Jesus and you’ll be in good company with the majority of both believers and non-believers. Apparently being a heretic, believing something that may be wrong, is far worse than disobedience — blatantly ignoring what we are clearly told to do, and not even intending to do it.

I’m no Pollyanna. I realize the fact that God loves these people doesn’t make them safe. It doesn’t make them good. It certainly doesn’t not make them terrorists who want to kill us. But it does compel we who claim to follow Jesus to actually consider what it means to “love our enemies.”

If you can figure out a way to excuse yourself when it comes to this thing Jesus spoke most clearly about, why not just exempt yourself from the entire enterprise of being Christian? What in God’s name does it even mean, if you get to be just as barbaric, just as fearful, just as reactionary as everybody else?

If it’s going to be like this, I’m left to wonder, what did Jesus actually save you from?

 

Most people are scared of dying, and that fear will motivate terrible, panicked behavior when a disaster breaks out. I’m not afraid to die. I don’t look forward to it but I’m not afraid of it.

I try to live in such a way as to overcome the fear of death more and more. I’m convinced this is the very best way to live and, when my time comes for dying, I’ll be glad I learned to live that way.

I don’t want to live, or die, in fear.

When Scholarship Serves Superstition


enns

image credit: credomag.com

I just came across this statement on a blog I was reading. It refers to a book written by Dr. Peter Enns, former professor at Westminster Seminary, who was fired for writing said book.

Here’s the statement:

Upon my second reading and more reflection, however, I questioned whether Enn’s answer helped doubters to keep the faith.

Is this what scholarship is about? Helping doubters keep the faith?

Some people think the Christian (or any) faith is about deciding first what’s true, and then making sure one never says anything that conflicts with the truth one has already decided is true. Enns, and most real scholars, believe one decides what is true based on where the data leads.

Enns got fired several years ago for not holding to the truth the seminary had already declared. The problem, of course, is that this conflicts with the very essence of scholarship itself. It makes no sense to declare one’s self a Biblical scholar if one has already decided, before even approaching the text, that the Bible says this or means that. That’s not scholarship, that’s superstition, which scholarship is meant to combat.

If I say, “I believe the human hand is made of gummy bears,” and then every time somebody tries to show me evidence to the contrary, I dismiss them, saying, “You’re misleading me because your evidence is telling me the opposite of what I know to be true,” then I have — with that statement — surrendered my right to be a called a rational person. And if I surrender my right to be called a rational person, then how much more have I surrendered my right to be called a scholar?

Scholarship — when it is real — has not decided in advance what the outcome of a study must be before the study has been done. Neither does it dismiss the results of a study simply because the results conflict with the beliefs of those who did the study (or their bosses, or the stated beliefs of the organization they work for). Indeed one of the things that makes the work of academics so critical is this commitment to following truth wherever it leads.

It is deeply disconcerting for me to see such a lack of understanding of what sound thinking is in an academic environment that awards Ph.D’s to people, calls itself a university/seminary, and claims to value knowledge.

Do You Need to Move Past Fundamentalism?

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Unfortunately, the Onion gets it right again, I’m afraid.

When I was a fundamentalist many years ago, I would hear negative media reports about Christians and think, “What’s wrong with us? We’re perfectly nice people! Super friendly. If only others would learn about Jesus, and come to our church, the world would truly be a better place.” I meant this sincerely, and no I didn’t understand — at all — how scary that way of thinking was.

It allowed me to say and do some really dehumanizing things to people.

I was sincere. I truly loved the people I hurt. But for some reason they just couldn’t see my love through my words and actions that were constantly hurting, devaluing, and patronizing them, treating them as “marks” or “targets” or “lost.”

[I’m not denying people can be lost. I’ve been lost myself. Lately I feel I’ve been lost for weeks. But if anyone else told me I was “lost,” I wouldn’t respond well. When I already know I’m lost, I already know it. When I don’t know it, chances are pretty good I won’t be very receptive to someone else telling me that.]

I wasn’t an evil person during this time.

I meant well.

Most Christians do, I deeply believe that.

But when Christians can use our faith to explain away the call to sacrificial love for all people (yes, including even those gays!), defend war of all kinds, defend hostility toward the poor — the very people Jesus loved and defended most — and somehow explain away the life Jesus lived and taught, something huge is missing.

And just like when I’m lost no one can tell me that but me, the journey out of the strange kind of religious lostness we call fundamentalism is a personal journey. I can’t make someone see it. The harder I try, the more they will dig their heels in.

My life now is about making sure people know it’s not just between fundamentalism and atheism. There’s a deep, rich, Biblical, nourishing Christian life beyond fundamentalism that offers more than you could ever imagine. But everyone is on their own journey and everyone needs different things.

For those who have burned out on fundamentalism and strict and rote evangelicalism, maybe you would allow me to introduce you to something else.

It’s not new, but it will be new to you.

Stay tuned.

Question: What is your story about coming out of fundamentalism? Engage with  me in the Comments section!