Saturday, September 30, 2006
not the enemy
I had lent my stepfather one of my copies of "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell, and rather than read it through he found a couple online articles to put the book down at every turn. I read the articles, at least most of them, and I find them to be without merit..... certainly perfectly justified according to orthodox christian doctrine, but when I say without merit what I mean is that the authors don't seem to have an original or interactive thought in their heads.
I am frequently baffled by the incredibly intelligent, well meaning lemmings out there, who can spar with a book page for page and still miss the point.
I think it's largely a result of my recent distance from fundamentalism, but it's become the most natural thing in the world for me to question the accuracy of any biblical concept, because I don't believe it to be inerrant. It has become natural for me to assume that christianity doesn't have it all figured out. It seems like the most ridiculous thing to me for anyone to claim they've got a monopoly on truth. It frightens me when people don't question the doctrine that rules their lives.
Quite frankly, I could go on forever about fundamentalism and the mob mentality that is modern christianity (in my jaded opinion) but I'm reminding myself tonight that christians are not the enemy.
After all, it's hard to accept paradoxes, and the unknown is frightening, and mysteries should always be resolved, right? I know where they're coming from, because I used to feel the same way. I guess the big question is how I can be one of them without being like them?
Let's face it, it is what it is. It's not likely to change anytime soon. Christianity is dependent on it's doctrine and I will always be a heretic. But the enemy is not religion, or the people who subscribe to them. The enemy is something else, something devious that dwells in the mind and seeks to divide us all. This is my idea of the gnostic "archons." But then I could very well be on crack.
Tonight the challenge seems insurmountable. How to corrupt the fundamentalists with a healthy dose of doubt. For their own good, understand. They're not my enemies.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
quizzes are fun
|Your Personality Profile|
You are funky, outdoorsy, and down to earth.
While you may not be a total hippie...
You're definitely one of the most free spirited people around.
You are very impulsive - every day is a new adventure.
However, you do put some thought behind all your actions.
Still, you do tend to shock and offend people from time to time!
|In a Past Life...|
You Were: A Mute Alchemist.
Where You Lived: Greece.
How You Died: Buried alive.
|Your Brain's Pattern|
You have a dreamy mind, full of fancy and fantasy.
You have the ability to stay forever entertained with your thoughts.
People may say you're hard to read, but that's because you're so internally focused.
But when you do share what you're thinking, people are impressed with your imagination.
|You Are From Neptune|
You are dreamy and mystical, with a natural psychic ability.
You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea.
Your soul is filled with possibilities, and your heart overflows with compassion.
You can be in a room full of friendly people and feel all alone.
If you don't get carried away with one idea, your spiritual nature will see you through anything.
|You Are 92% Gross|
Ewwww! You really have some disgusting habits.
Now go take a shower... with extra soap.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
the speed of light
"He simply creates light, a nonsubstance that is like a particle and like a wave, but perhaps neither, just some kind of traveling energy. A kind of magnetic wave. Light, then, becomes a fitting metaphor for a nonbeing who is. God, if like light, travels at the speed of light, and because space and time are mingled with speed, the speed of light is the magic, exact number that allows a kind of escape from time. Scientists have played with atomic clocks, matched exactly, setting one in a plane to fly around the world, and another motionless, waiting for the return of its partner. When they reunite, the one that traveled rests milliseconds behind the one fixed. The faster you move, physicists have found, the less you experience time. And if you move at the speed of light, you will never age; you are outside of time; you are an eternal creature.
But before you strap on your running shoes, you should know scientists warn us that with speed, matter increases in density, so an attempt at the speed of light will have you imploded by the time you hit Wichita, your atoms as dense as bowling balls. And to make matters worse, your density increases on a curve, the faster you go, the greater the density, and though you can get close to the speed of light, matter and that magic speed can never meet; the faster you go, the steeper the trajectory on the graph. You and I, made from molecules, cannot travel at the speed of light and cannot escape time, at least not with a body. Consider the complexity of light in light of the Hebrew metaphor: we don't see light; we see what it touches. It is more or less invisible, made from nothing, just purposed and focused energy, infinite in its power (it will never tire if fired into a vacuum, going on forever). How fitting, then, for God to create an existence, then a metaphor, as if to say, here is something entirely unlike you, outside of time, infinite in its power and thrust: here is something you can experience but cannot understand."
Sunday, September 24, 2006
There was a room with a rickety screen door, a long table with long benches, plates of dry sandwiches made with white bread. There were as many white people as you could fit on the table, and bottles of water, canisters of gatorade powder. We had been in Liberia for 3 weeks, and were set to drive to the airport after lunch, whereupon we would begin the arduous journey to new york, where we would all split up and proceed to our respective north american homes. From New York, naomi and I were scheduled to catch a flight to minneapolis, where her parents would pick us up and drive us 7 hours to southern manitoba, where my parents would pick me up and drive me one hour further to steinbach, and when I was good and ready, I would drive myself yet one more hour home to winnipeg. The journey would take two days, assuming all went well.
It was as we sat and pondered the white bread sandwiches and the previous life altering days in the heat of liberia that our team leader stood up and delivered the news.
Ghana Airways had been grounded by the FAA due to an unrenewed operating license and inferior aircraft. They were not permitted to land on american soil. We had been advised not to board our flight to ghana, and stay on the acfi compound in monrovia until further notice. Appeals to the american government to rescue the "stranded missionaries" were not heard. Eat your sandwiches and pray. And remember. God is in control. He cares, and He has a plan.
This is the threefold mantra. God is in control. He cares. He has a plan.
I couldn't choke down the sandwich. I love Liberia, but I was tired, and I was tired of living on someone else's plot. I wanted to haul my own water, in a manner of speaking. I missed Abu. I had been toiling for the orphans for three weeks from dawn to dusk, giving every ounce of myself. I was tired in the way that a threadbare t-shirt is tired right before you turn it into a dustrag. I wrapped the sandwhich in paper, and saved it for my friend Chris, who had walked all the way from caldwell to see us off.
God is in control. He cares. He has a plan. It was the recitation of this mantra that kept me from the emotional breakdowns that were happening all around me. People were afraid, understandably, of how things would turn out. Things don't go down in africa the way they do in america. For all we knew, we could be here for months. We might need to choke up a couple thousand dollars each to book alternate flights through europe. We didn't know. Everyone was in tears. Naomi was a mess.
There is a song that the children on the orphanage sing:
"A very big God, He is always by my side
A big big God, He's by my side, by my side"
I went for a walk with some humans to a convenience store for a much needed salt snack and pepsi. Then I went for a walk on the west coast of africa, looked over the ocean to america, pondered the smell of human feces on the beach. I had joked with boys at the dixville children's village that I would hide in the grass when the plane came for me, and stay with them until I was old. At this point I wanted to go home, but the only thing I would go home to was my dog. I hated my life. Could I have a home of my own in Caldwell or the jungle surrounding the orphanage, and Abu to keep me company, I would have happily stayed put. I loved the ocean. It reminded me of the Teleri elves in the Silmarillion. It reminded me of Ulmo seducing them with his song to never leave the ocean.
I watched that huge, powerful, endless ocean, and I told myself that God was in control, and that He cared, and that He had a plan. I told it to myself over and over and over and closed my eyes and told myself again.
Then there was a child shouting that we were packing up the bus and heading to the airport. There was a flurry of panicked packing. Next thing I knew I was on the inside looking out, with tears in my eyes, waving goodbye to Chris and all the other friends I had made, and we were off to the airport, 45 minutes late, where we rushed through customs. The plane almost left without our team leader, who dashed out onto the tarmac in front of the rolling plane and wouldn't move until they stopped and put down a ladder. Our take-off was accompanied by applause.
Long story short, in ghana the story hadn't changed, and they were upset with us for coming, but we wrangled accomodations in a nice hotel until the matter was taken care of. For one week we lived in a hotel, ready to jump in a heartbeat and run to the airport. We swam in the pool, we shopped in the marketplaces, we visited the buduburam refugee camp, which is where chris is currently living. We paid ridiculous amounts of money to call home just long enough to leave a number, so our families could call us back. We ate like kings and slept with airconditioning.
Needless to say we had missed our connecting flights in new york. Naomi and I stayed one night in Queens, thanks to her father's credit card, before catching three different connecting flights to minneapolis. We arrived in the evening, and drove until 4 am, when we met with my parents on the highway.
For one week, it was the threefold mantra that kept me sane. For one week the voices of children singing of a big big God held me together. Since then when life seems out of control I go back to that. I sing that song under my breath, though the words I quoted are the only words I know. I close myself and tell myself that God is in control, so I needn't worry, I can just enjoy the journey. As an anxiety management technique, it has proven very effective.
It was three days ago that the realization struck: God cannot possibly be in control.
I will tell you why this occurred to me. It is the same reason I can't accept the bible as inerrant. It is very simply freedom of choice.
Specifically, other people's freedom of choice. The freedom that ghanan executives had to decide not to renew their operating license. The freedom that poor liberian craftsment had not to rob us. The freedom that the chartared airline pilot who finally came to pick us up had to not drink before he flew that plane. God will not control people, He does not force us to make good choices, He does not subvert the rules He has laid in for us. If the events of my life are affected by the choices that the humans around me make, then God cannot be in control, because He is not controlling those humans.
Shockingly, this thought was not accompanied by an anxiety attack. I don't know why. I have been known to have the occasional anxiety attack. I was stroke sanding a maple newel post at the time that the thought occured to me. I merely smiled to myself and continued sanding.
I don't know why this idea does not evoke panic. I have built my life around the assumption that God is in control. I have built a mindset that accepts hardship in the name of trust. I have worked very hard to bring myself to a place of faith in God's provision and wisdom, and every day of my life all these things are being torn down and it doesn't bother me. It sets me free.
I mean, if God is in control, it means he allowed Chris' family to be killed in a civil war, and it was His will that Chris be recruited as a child soldier. If God is in control, that means He could have stopped the rwandan genocide, but chose not to. If God is in control, the terrible abuses of children all around the world happen because He wills it.
But how could God be God unless He was in control? He doesn't control me, though he influences my will. In the end, I can do whatever the hell I want to do, and He will not stop me. Perhaps there was a time when He had the option of control, and decided to forego it. I don't know. The nature of God is a mystery to me.
But if God is not in control, then He is free of blame, and if He is free of blame, then I am free to love Him. If God is within me, then I am free of blame, and I am free to love myself.
Does that make any sense? I always doubted His goodwill, deep down, I didn't understand, and still don't. I never will. But something in my mindset is shifting. I don't know. I long so much to understand even in a rudementary sense what God is and what He's like, but I don't know. I sense that He is good, and that He grieves over the condition of planet earth, and that He is powerful and wise, but that He is restrained, and He is not in control, because He gave it away. There are those who would hold him guilty for that, but I'm not so sure.
I'm gonna throw a quote in from "The Alchemist" because it resonated so deeply with me.
"When I first reached through to it, I thought the Soul of the World was perfect. But later, I could see that it was like other aspects of creation, and had its own passions and wars. It is we who nourish the Soul of the World, and the world we live in will be either better or worse, depending on whether we become better or worse. And that's where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are."