the distributive middle: part 2

(Even though this is more of a conversation, I like to start things off with a quote. The Rambling Taoist has been doing a verse-by-verse ramble through the Tao Te Ching, and this is one of the ones I really like.)

Stop being holy, forget being prudent,
it'll be a hundred times better for everyone.
Stop being altruistic, forget being righteous,
people will remember what family feeling is.
Stop planning, forget making profit,
there won't be any thieves and robbers.

But even these three rules
needn't be followed; what works reliably
is to know the raw silk,
hold the uncut wood.
Need little,
want less.
Forget the rules.
Be untroubled.

~ Ursula LeGuin rendition

(The below is as follows: Amber's quotes of my previous post in italics, Amber's comments in bold and blue, my responses in plain.)

"But an experience of this caliber in which the Great Big Thing of Refulgent Wonder and Unadulterated Joy came up to me in some way and said, "You should call me Jesus. That's my name, has been all along. Thought you should know." That would convince me."

If this is what you really, really want I will pray for it to happen. I have the joy and hope of salvation and want you to know that joy. It is strange to me the tormented twisty anguish that you seem to be feeling but how can I help. I am glad you are seeking answers.

I thank you as always for your support and good wishes!

However, I wish to nitpickily say that the above is not “what [I] really want.” It is what I would accept. I would not even then be terribly pleased about it, but I would be convinced.

What I've been trying to do in these posts is explain the tormented twisty anguish that is so strange to you. It’s what I was feeling, for those years when you and I did not talk to one another about what was happening inside us because we each had other concerns and other stuff to talk about. I am glad you had "the joy and hope of salvation" to sustain you during that time. The promise of salvation and of heaven after death was rarely joy and hope to me. If you’re up for a long, long bunny trail, I had a somewhat lengthy comment on this Geds post where I discuss it in some detail.

(Though I now, on reflection, want to point out there is a fourth option to the three I mentioned in that comment. A person can combine the mind-manufactured imaginary friend with a dimly-glimpsed recognition of the big, good thing and attempt conscientiously to bring the former gradually into alignment with the latter. It can be done, and I hope it is what the majority of nice people are working on deep in the bottom of themselves.)

And you are helping. You are helping me sort out my negative feelings about Christianity. When you can look and listen to my story that I spent too long being too ashamed and afraid to share, without treating me like a leper or rejecting me, that is helping. So even if it's not what you would most prefer, you are still doing something good for me!

Now, if only I could get a dozen Christians who are at least as willing to listen compassionately as you are, and a dozen atheists who could actually refrain from snarking at the Christians or calling them names long enough to really listen to their perspective. Then this crazy blog would be halfway to my goal for it!

My new goal, that is. It already served and outlived its original goal, which was to both provide me with a secure outlet for my crazy ramblings and enable me to use said ramblings as reference material in my continuing quest for a semblance of sanity. The tipping point was when I determined that ‘the sneakiest one knows where the rat faucet is.’ And no, I am NOT going to translate that, this tangent is long enough already.

"Things that are unlikely to convince me, or any other person whose mind is not yet made up, include things the Jesus described in the stories did not do, to the best of my recollection. He did not threaten people with hell, even by reminding them obliquely that hell exists."

Okay, I will have to stop sending you greeting cards that say things like Happy Birthday, I love you, oh by the way Hell exists just so ya know, Laterz!" Ok seriously from my limited Bible scholarship I actually agree with you on the whole sheol vs. lake of burning fire thing. (No, I repeat, no relationship to the movie Joe vs. the Volcano). I believe you understand that people are trying to be kind. For example if you saw people walking past you into certain death (insert humerously improbably form of certain death here) even though it was their life and their choice you might point out 'that way danger, easy to avoid, go this way instead'.

Teehee. No, you are not the person I was chiding with this statement, nor really this whole paragraph. I do get that when you bring it up, and that is rarely, it’s because you believe that this is true. And you don’t want to see your sister either a) suffer eternal torment and pain for rejecting the advances of the One True Love, or b) suffer eternal loneliness and regret for rejecting the advances of the One True Love.

My central issues aren’t as existential as Ryk’s—he finds himself unable to reconcile the concept of the perfectly loving ultimate being with a being who would consign any sapient entity to limitless torture while it still has the will and self-awareness to recognize its mistake. Ending the selection process at death seems kind of arbitrary for a being who invented the complex relationship between life and death, and has shown itself, according to the books, able to conquer both. But I’ve wrapped my mind the idea of hell and/or the grave to the extent possible given my extremely limited actual information versus the riotous host of claimed information. While it is a curious thing, it doesn’t pose a structural problem for me in terms of being able to expend effort to overcome my disbelief—certebus parebus, all other things being equal.

I appreciate your care, but I must point out that we still disagree about the location of the danger. In the place where you say there is danger, I have found refuge from harm. In the place where I remember there being danger, you say there is safety. If a random stranger came up to me on the street and earnestly told me about the dangers of hell and the joys of salvation, I’d feel kind of like Charlie the Unicorn in episode 3, after they’d already taken his kidney in episode one. (It’s a weird video, if you haven’t seen it, but definitely SFW.) I believe you that your God is not, in fact, after my kidney or whatever, but that is mainly because a) I trust you and am willing to take your word for it, and b) I am seriously doubtful that I have any metaphorical “kidneys” left to steal. This is therefore a matter which requires close scrutiny on my part.

Just please try not to overanalyze and think things. Analysis is good but your last couple have posts have seemed almost frenzied. Yes, eternal salvation is worth being excited over but remember. God is Love, you've read about that. Remember that fruit thing. Okay so it was talking about people being known by their fruit and a good tree brings for good fruit etc. I think God is like that too, the love of God does not bring frenzy and stress. (okay Mom, Pearl and I are reading a kind of cowboy up devotional that is about stuff like developing patience and character through hardship but that is different).

Ah, overanalyzing and overthinking. (I think I may safely assume you still wish me to think things—just not to overthink them!) Frenzied, eh? *shakes fist playfully* I’ll show ya frenzied!

Seriously, though, I am glad we had a chance to discuss this one on the phone. The tone of frenzy, as I mentioned then, may come from the fact that this part of my personal story is something I hadn’t “gone public” with, especially within the family, while it was happening. The main motives for the kinda-secrecy were fears--fear of being misunderstood, rejected, or oh-so-well-meaningly emotionally pressured into what I then perceived as a lifetime commitment to despair, self-loathing, shame, and worthlessness.

And “by their fruits you shall know them”, like most of the things said by the Jesus of the Gospels, is really very good advice even if one is not religious! My favorite thing to do is actually to take the logical inverse of statements like these; in my experience they actually have equal predictive power, and the different phrasing helps my brain not gloss over the advice as an oft-heard cliche.

“If you’re not looking at the results of their actions, you don’t really know them.”

“If it doesn’t set you free, it isn’t the truth.”

“If you wouldn’t want someone else to do it to you, don’t do it.”

I like the thing is says somewhere in the new testament about "God does not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a strong mind." I know you have a strong mind Viz and I pray for you to also have a spirit of power and love. Oh gosh, this is why I'm glad we read scriptures as kids, now I'm reminded of the perfect love casts out fear verse. Okay, I'm rambling back to your post.

Again, thank you for your good wishes.

I’m working towards a spirit of love; a spirit of power is something I’m decidedly not working towards in any specific way. As my guy Gareth Knight says, if you truly desire a thing, work to obtain its causal antecedent (that which causes it to exist). Love is antecedent to true power, so that seems to be the right track.

As to not having previously acquired those beneficial spiritual attributes through communion with God, who knows? Perhaps I was asking in the wrong way, or as I feared at the time, without sufficient earnestness. Perhaps the only times I actually experienced God back in the day were those “mountaintop experiences”, which with a few notable exceptions were mostly those big group sessions where the group’s emotions drove back the chaos in my own mind. Maybe all that baptism in water and baptism in the spirit and asking Jesus into my heart as my personal savior just didn’t take. "Sorry, none for you." If so, alleged God and I would have a few things to discuss if communications ever were established. Pointedly.

"Jesus did not sigh at and turn away and whisper over those who were being led astray. Instead he took people who had lost all hope, and helped them to see themselves through his eyes--as redeemable, as worthy, as wonderful.

Which is one of many reasons, many reasons I've gone into here and elsewhere, and some I've yet to name, that the idea of returning to Christianity in truth fills me with trepidation."

Golly, he just sounds so trepeditaion inspiring and annoying. Who is he to go around loving people and stuff.

"The person in those stories is a damn hard act to follow." So you want to follow that act? I am pleased to hear that. Perhaps you can encourage me to do likewise. That whole feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisioned stuff he instructed his followers to do is stuff I believe in but can be hard to remember when there is shiny cable and internet to be distracted by.

Heheh. Yeah, loving people is pretty audacious. It’s kind of like with listening to people. At one end of the spectrum, some soak it all up without seeming to get any benefit from it, while at the other end, some seem totally unwilling to receive it even when you desperately want to give it to them. Small wonder the guy in the stories got killed. If humans don’t eat one alive for trying to help them, they take mortal offense that one dared to offer them help.

It IS a scary example to contemplate following, even in small ways. Like you say, good and fun things in life are distracting. And the God you’ve described to me doesn’t seem like to sort who would want his followers to be eaten alive or killed. (Unless they decided they wanted to make a really, really important point by doing so.) Most of the preachers I thought were not full of hooey over the years advocated making the most of the places you already were. Loving people more than expected, helping people more than strictly necessary, listening to people whom no one else wanted to be around.

So hey, maybe if I were a follower of this neat imaginary friend, it would be easier to become that kind of person faster and more efficiently. In the meantime, I have a pretty happy life, and I perversely kind of enjoy doing anything the long way around. You get to know where you are better that way.

Especially (no offense meant, sweetie!) when I have grave suspicions that the shortcut involves chloroform and kidney thieves.


Amber E said...

Thank you for opening up with the nifty, honest, open post. I will respond in more length later. Just wanted to say a couple of things now inspired by the later part of your post.

My favorite verse is Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?"

I like to have a secure foundation or home base before building castles in the air or running down theological bunny trails. We have actually discussed the scriptures related to salvation found in the Gospels and the book of Romans in a previous post so we don't have to go all into that now unless you want to.

Okay, salvation, of which I'm convinced, is part of my foundation of belief as in why am I a Christain. The next part of my foundation is. Now I'm a Christan, other than the essential area of Salvation do I maybe do anything, how should I live, being a Christian.

The Micah verse is my touchstone for Christian living. I like have paramaters. So do justly, love mercy walk humbly are desired behaviors that I can work on. (Note it says walk humbly not eviscerate your identity and submit to kidney stealing).

The other things I am drawn to are the bits about the fruit of the spirit and when Jesus directly instructs his followers that they should be doing things like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for sick and imprisoned people. (I keep repeating that not so much for you but to remind me!) Also taking care of all the world's kity cats is clearly a responsibility because since God gave Adam and Eve, and their descendants dominion over the world we have responsibilites so I consider indulging cats to be a virtue.

Okay seriously, this is a bunny trail but I saw a great book the other day about Christians environmenal responsibilites. Like God gave us authority to look after things for him on this planet and we really should be getting on with that instead of messing things up.

One delicate thing I should mention. Of course you know that not all nominal or professed Christians may actually be attempting to live by Christian principles. I find that really, really annoying but I certainly fail and fall short so with the mote/beam thing (I believe you recall that Bible verse) I do not want to be too critical. What I am saying is God has all the kidneys and wants to share but there certainly may be people who state they are Christian who want to take your kidneys or who mistakenly think kidney stealing is good.

For example Mary I of Endland, 'Bloody Mary', from what I understand of history really truly believed she was saving people's souls by burning heretics. That if people would not convert due to harangues then fire was the obvious solution. That is so sick. There is also no scripture that I can find for that deviant behavior. Do not trust Mary I of England, you would be wise to be wary around a 'Christian' like her. I picked her as an example because, since she is dead there isn't the whole hurt feelings issue.

Just keep in mind that it is the invisible God I want you to be friends with not heretic burning people. You know my struggles with interacting with the 'bride of Christ' the Church I think Christian community is important but that very few people are called to lives like Mother Teresa. Remember I believe God created everything and when you think about everything there is a sense of humor and wonder and niftiness.

Okay, sorry for the long ramble, catch you after work and remember:

God does not need to steal your kidneys, God totally invented kidneys.

Fiat Lex said...

:D Let me know what you think of the Charlie video, though. We found out about it from some of Dave's cousins several weeks before it "went viral" as they say on the internet.

Alleged God, indeed, does not want to steal my kidneys. Though there are plenty of humans trying desperately not to itch the crudely-stitched, kidney-less gashes in their own torsos who would not mind distracting themselves by taking mine, too.

Yeah, the Micah verse is a good one, and like the other Biblical thingys I quoted, is good advice no matter what your beliefs. Well, it'd work for atheists if you stop the verse after "walk humbly", since they don't have a God to do the walking with.

Oo, the Christians with environmental responsibilities thing reminds me of that Wendell Berry essay that barkingreed linked to. Here it is! Good, good stuff.

See, here's the thing about heretic burners. You and I both agree that they are not following Jesus' commandments, whether or not they believe in their own minds that they are or not. But they don't just call themselves Christians. They "take on the name of the Lord" and paint all their activities as the "will of God," all without actually making a good-faith effort to DO the will of God. They condemn their opponents not just as opponents of themselves, but as opponents of Jesus. They make it easy for a scared and low-self-esteemy kid like me to get the idea that Jesus wants her to be sad and afraid all the time.

They are ruining it for the rest of you. They are assholes. And by letting them set the tone for Christianity, Christians allow these unprincipled jerks to convince the unsuspecting (and the highly suspicious) that all Christians are jerks and that the God you worship is an evil, torture-happy pervert.

Trying in good faith to follow Jesus's commandments and occasionally failing because you are merely human is not even in the same league with those heretic-burning, Bloody Maryish chumps. Whether they are small-timers who harangue their fellow congregants and threaten them with hell for smoking or cussing, or famous TV preachers who make a living saying other people are bad, rather than by doing good and encouraging others to do good, they are despicable charlatans who have nothing to do with Jesus.

In my view, these guys should be the average well-intentioned Christian's opponent number 1. They take something that can be used for good and use it for evil.

You as a Christian, I don't think should ever be ashamed to give one of these villains whatfor. You may not be perfect--you may not spend as much time as you possibly could feeding the hungry, visiting the sick etc. But you also don't, by your actions, actively drive people away from God. You aren't stealing people's kidneys and telling them God did it. And if you ever catch somebody stealing kidneys or making people hate themselves or encouraging people to hate and degrade others and saying they're doing it for Jesus--please please please, do me a big favor. Or do it for Jesus, or the childrens, I don't care.

Yell at them. And if possible, get them to stop!


I see your bunny trail, and I raise you a fiery rant! XD That there is one of my hot buttons, as you may have guessed. And I am glad we are in further agreeance vis-a-vis alleged God and the wickedness of certain human beings.

Amber E said...

Darlin' I have no problem doing that. Unfortunately most people's behavior is not so cut and dried as burning people at the stake = bad. I try to be gracious with you, give you the benefit of the doubt and allow you to come to your own conclusions because, like Pastor Mayo used to say 'a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still'.

I may care more about you and your eternal soul given our relationship but everyone has a soul to save and I do not want to harshly react to people. Please do not encourage me to inadvertently become what you hate. Incidentially I always think of you when the guy on Moody radio talks about people claiming to be Christians and not living by Christian principles. Yes that doesn't just tick you off Christians notice and God certainly notices. People will have to answer to God for their behavior. Even people who have been mean or judgemental I pray for them to be granted grace and forgiveness. Yes of course I also pray that for people who are led astray by harshness.

The Catholics have a prayer I like that includes the line 'bring all souls to heaven especially those in most need of Thy mercy'. I like that. Rather than focus on punishing people I hope for their salvation and forgiveness of sins. Um, that may sound weird and churchy but I really do hope that.