Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

Competing worldviews within the Church.

It’s Sunday, and I would rather hang out with my family that edit this blog.  So here it is is first draft glory.

My sister noticed a few blogs ago that I had repented of my vicious anti-Christian stance, but felt that I had not articulated it clearly enough.  She wanted me to expound on the theory a bit.  I’m not going to delete any blogs I’ve already done about Christianity and the church.  There’s two kinds of truth in the world.  Objective truth, and subjective truth.  Objective truth is truth that conforms to tangible, anybody-can-see-it reality.  Subjective truth is truth that conforms to intangible reality.  Emotions are intangible truth.  They are real, but not the same kind of real as the sun or the earth. My emotions about christianity and the church are real.  They are the true statement of how I fell, and conform to the reality of my mind, but they don’t nessisarily conform to objective reality.

So, for her and anyone else who might be interested I clarify my position.  I don’t believe that the Bible is the perfect, inspired, word of God.  I see nothing in the Bible that offers any evidnece that it is anything but collection of myths and stories.   As such, I reject the Bible as a scientific document.  I accept it, however, as a historical document.  Even if nothing the Bible said was true it would still be incredibly important because so many people believe it is true.  What people believe is reality is usually more important than reality itself, but, in fact, a lot of the Bible is true.

There really was a nation of Israel, it really had the Kings described, they died when it says they died.  Much of the moral advice is good too.  The ten commandmants offer sound words to live by.  Not murdering, not stealing, not fantasizing about your neighbors wife, and not fantasizing about having all your neighbors’ stuff are all great ideas.  Jesus’s teachings are almost all centered around the idea of treating people the way you want to be treated, regardless of tradition, which is a fantastic teaching.

The test of a worldview is does it do good to the believer and to those the believer associates with.  A wonderful worldview can be created from the above teachings.  Following those ideals will lead one away from social and legal trouble.  However, to create that worldview, one must believe that certain teaching are more important than others.  If one believes that all teachings are equally important to forming the worldview, then God’s rules for the nation of Israel are still important, even if we are no longer under the impetus (due to Jesus completing the Law) to follow them.

A worldview created with the kind teachings at the expense of the cruel ones makes for a good, long, and happy life for the believer and his fellows.  This worldview  includes no “personal God”.  It is a simple ethical code followed with thoughtful self interest.  But the introducing the aspect of personal God suddenly complicates things. The question of “How should I treat my fellow man?” is replaced with the question of “What must I do to please God?”

Obedience to the rules of “don’t murder” and “don’t steal” is not remotely enough for God.  One must not obey these laws out of self interest, but out of knowledge of thier writer, or one will be just as damned as one who never obeyed them, leading one to another question: What benefit in this life is there to following the rules of God?  The answer: blessings.  At the end of this life, those who know God will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell.  In this life, there are blessing over and above the mere protection of consequence to following God’s rules out of fear of God rather than because they are ethical rules.

The worst extreme of this worldview is, regardless of what people wish to do (since, of course, they wish to sin), there is corporate blessing available to groups (including nations) who follow God’s commands.  This is the worldview which says that since God doesn’t approve of homosexuality, making it illegal to be a homosexual would be ideal, and making homosesuals second class citizens is a good compromise.  Or, that since God doesn’t approve of abortion, making it illegal would be ideal, and making it complicated, inconvient, and expensive is good compromise.  Ultimately, this is the view that says making it illegal to be anything but a Christain would be ideal, and codifying Christian morality is a good compromise, sure to bring as much blessing as possible.

The trouble with this worldview is the idea God’s actions towards all people are controlled by those people.  The final resting place of that idea is that human beings are responsible to do God’s work.  Teen pregnancy up?  It’s because we are to soft on homosexuals.   That logic leads to murder eventually.  Even if you believe in God, any person who claims to act for him is a danger to himself and others.

So here are two worldviews on opposite ends of the spectrum.  One concerns itself with question “How should I treat others?” and answers it “The way I wish to be treated.”  The other asks “How do I please God?” and answers it “By acting out his heart upon others”.   They can lead to the exact same place if one believes that God’s heart is to treat others the way I want to be treated.  Or murder and misery if the what is on God’s heart is his hatred of sin and desire to punish sinners.

Christianity believes that the goal of man is to obey the heart of God.  Within that spectrum there is every kind of worldview, based on what the person precieves to be the heart of God.  There are Christians who are models of ethics.  There are Christians who are models of hate and extremism.

I no longer hate Christianity because when it is working right, it provides the exact same ethical framework that all ethical people believe in. It certainly provides better answers to life’s questions than nilhism. It’s OK.  Some people want to hate.  The approach Christianity to hate, and find validation.  Some people want to love, and they find in Christianity a validation of love.  Since the God of the Bible is construct of man, we find in Him whatever man needs to validate his point.

Christianity is above all, a world view.  And an OK one.  Not the worst.  Not the best.

December 14, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ode to the Good people, abandoned

So for English I had to write one of those “who I am and where I came from” papers. I talked about my childhood a bit. I’ve an odd relationship with my childhood: My parents were pretty different. They made an interesting home life for us and all of us kids grew up a little confused about our place in the world. Through it all, I think they meant well, though. Yes, they held some odd viewpoints and values, but I think that they did everything they did because they really loved us and wanted the best for us. I think that’s why we all turned out OK.

But as anyone reads this blog or knows me understands, when I was kid I thought I had all kinds of problems. As a young adult my biggest problem was all the problems I thought I had. (Which disguised the fact there were actually somethings I could work on, but I wouldn’t find that out for years.) But as a 14 year old I was a bundle of insecurities and self loathing.

So, when I was 14, I visited Emmaus Bible College where my sister was a freshman. I met a lot of people there, but most importantly for this story, I met Jason, Tyler, Sarah, and Paul. Jason is still one of my closest friends, a crazy home experimenter and hacker. Paul is also still one of my closest friends, my go-to-guy for anything I need career advice on. While I was finishing high, school Tyler and Sarah fell in love and got married.

My senior year of high school I was dating this girl from my hometown. One night I had a vision. I saw her getting pregnant and us buying a house behind the window factory, where I was would live for the rest of my life. That didn’t appeal to me. I had around $4000 I had saved up throughout my short life. I had been alternating between wanting to use that money to (1.) buy a used airplane and teaching myself to fly or (2.) going to Pittsburgh, legally changing my name, and inventing a new life for myself free of the constraints Christian living. Both had problems: if I bought the plane, I would not have enough money to leave home. I would have to stay with my parents “forever”. (Forever being more than 2-3 years to an 18 year old.) If I moved to Pittsburgh and started Me 2.0 I thought I would probably do such crazy sinful things that I would kill myself because of the guilt (or at least that was the plan. I was 18, don’t judge.) If I went to Pittsburgh, I was going launch into crazy orgies and stuff, if I stayed home I was going to start sleeping with my girlfriend. (My apologizes to the good people of Pittsburgh. I don’t know why as angry young man, I fixated on Pittsburgh and not New York and LA like everyone else who wants to leave a small town and go to the big city. I don’t know why I thought orgies would be particularly available in Pittsburgh either. ) Either way, I was getting laid and feeling icky.

But I had a third option. I could take my $4000 and pay for one semester of Bible college. It was the path of least moral failure. But I still didn’t feel really good about myself. We went around the auditorium and said why we had come there. Everyone said “To learn more about JESUS!” I knew for a fact at least one of the guys on my floor was there because his parents told him that if he went to a year of Bible college they would give him a Jeep Wrangler. So when it got to me I said “I’m just here to meet a nice Christian girl and marry her”. Now this wasn’t strictly true, I was there so a girl back home didn’t get pregnant, but I really didn’t mind the image I thought this gave me, and I was uncomfortable about lying about Jesus. Lying about God to impress your friends just seemed (and seems) like a really awful idea.

Well, it turned out, not surprisingly, the guy who went to Bible college so he wouldn’t join (or start) a sex cult in Pittsburgh was NOT really cut out for Bible college. I met a girl there who was much life myself (named Lydia): a basically kind person who life had beaned her with a series of complicated hard to deal with things. In that environment of judgment, conformism, and emotional and sexual desperation we found each other and leaned on each other to survive.

And the person who was a life line to us: Sarah, Tyler’s wife. Now, I’d known Sarah since I was 14. She’d come to Emmaus with her own story of what she wanted to run away from (something I would not find out until years later) and when she had met geeky, awkward, bespectacled me, I reminded her of her brother Paul. So she was really nice to me. She was always really happy to see me and listened to all my silly talk warmly. Gentle reader, do you remember when you were 14? How would you have felt if an attractive, street smart, 20 something women treated you kindly? If Sarah had told me to cut my right arm off and give it to her I would have.

Well, then I was 18. Sarah opened her home to Lydia and me. She trusted us, listened to us and gave us a home. That last bit is more important that you can imagine. Both Lydia and I had good reasons to never want to go back home. We both had loving parents who meant well but just didn’t get it, and “Christian” friends who characterized the Sanhedrin a lot more than the Son of God. (Her more so that I. Everyone has a different burden to carry, I’d be lying if I said hers wasn’t heavier.) Sarah’s house was warmth and honesty and openness. It was the place we could go and be our real selves instead of the Christian selves we had to be at Emmaus. Sarah was my hero.

When I broke up with Lydia I was so ashamed. I was ashamed of what I had done. I was ashamed of what I had not done. I was ashamed of breaking up with her in the first place. I was ashamed that I hadn’t done it sooner. And I didn’t want to go to Sarah and Tyler’s house anymore. They had seen me as my most honest self: a good man but not a Christian, desperately lonely, easily hurt, and high strung. Every time I saw them, it was like looking into a mirror of who I really was.

But not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be Amazing Christian! I wanted to love Jesus so much that I didn’t sin anymore. I wanted to be GOOD man. I wanted to be rich, or have the capacity to be so and not take it because I choose poverty out of love for Christ. I wanted to be the best Christian in the world. And every time I looked at Ty and Sarah, I saw the people who saw what I really was.

So, gradually, I stopped calling. Stopped dropping in. I moved. They moved. Time passes.

Now its 2008, nine years after I left Emmaus. I don’t want to be Amazing Christian anymore. More than not caring if I meet the churches ideal, I now consider meeting the churches ideal a moral failure in and of itself. I find that I really care about the people that loved me back then.

So I called Tyler and Sarah up. Sarah answered. We talked. She’s having some problems. She had rough life physically and emotionally when she was a kid, and those scars run deep. Sarah’s strong, she’s holding up. And Tyler is a good man, always was. He takes good care of her.

But they could have had one more friend helping shoulder the load. One more person to listen. One more person to cry with. And I pushed them away. On purpose, because horror of all horrors, they saw me for what I was instead of who I wanted to be.

So, to Sarah and Tyler, Anna and Joe, Ben and Heather, Scott, and anyone else who I have forgotten, or purposely not put on this list due to its public nature.

Thanks for trying, and I am sorry I pushed you all away.

June 10, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments