Monthly Archives: September 2007

Am I a friend with ME if all we ever do is blog and respond?

I loved ME’s comment… okay, let’s throw anonymity aside and call thee, Marcelo!  Thanks for writing me, ME.  I have to say I smiled when I saw the comment that was signed with ME.  It’s the way I sign off when I write a very close friend, or heaven forbid, my wife. 

The kind of thing I leave on a note for my daughter when I remember to drop one in her lunch box. 

“Me.”   Like Henri J. M. Nouwen (he said it stood for “Just Me”).  What a great way to define ourselves.  Not Unitedstatesian, not Uruguayan, not Christian, Buddhist, Baptist, teacher, businessman, housewife, white, black, female, male, homosexual, heterosexual…

Just me. 

I wonder if that is why the God of the Hebrews called himself, “I am.”  I wonder, if in the original Hebrew (or whatever Semitic language or transcendental linguistic bypass mechanism God used), “I am” really meant, “Me.”  “Just me.” 

“Who shall I say sent me to them.”
“Tell them, ‘Just me.'”, and then perhaps, “and tell them I love them.”

Well, at the risk of more honesty than any of us have asked for, I would venture to say that I have a friend in “ME.”  Even though we have yet to eat an asado or play music together.

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No other alternative but to stay and fight?

Washington needs a primer on Buddhism… you know, “the third way”?  Remember, it is not a middle course, but a third, unknown course that reveals itself to the aware person (or nation, or political party) as they “take their seat beside the fire” of whatever problem they are facing, and take a posture of not only an actor, but of one who acts while watching their acting.  It is then that new alternatives open up.

And to borrow once more from Eastern wisdom, in the gateway to a higher consciousness regarding the current unpleasantness, “If you’re going to bow, bow low.” 

The option I don’t hear coming out of Washington is one that maybe Jesus himself would have advocated…   REPENT!!! 

No, I don’t mean the guy with the sandwich-board signs telling everyone they are going to hell.  I mean the Greek, man…  Like, metanoia, you know, dude?  Like, a radical shift of internal awareness vis-a-vis the etat d’affaires, catch me? (sorry, my internal hippie just snuck out and took over!)

Metanoia…  it’s the same thing those Buddhists were talking about, and the same thing the Hebrews talked about when they said, “A haughty spirit cometh before the fall,” and all that good business.

So here’s the medicine…  What about this?  What about going before the rest of the world that ALSO doesn’t like terrorism (I think it’s like 99.99% of the population) and saying, “We as a nation have made a grave moral failure and further jeopardized international security, destabilized the world, and caused fuel prices to skyrocket.  We rescind all our rights to control foreign contracts and now once more retake the moral high ground by telling you, the world, that we are extending our hands to take yours so that we, fully together, might serve as agents of healing, not as agents of further destruction.”

As we now have more U.S. soldiers dead (not to mention the tens of thousands of Iraqi fighters and civilians) than died in the World Trade Center bombing, isn’t it time to put down the bottle and call out for help?

It might start like this:

–“Hello, my name is Sam, and I am a power-holic…”
–“Welcome, Sam.  We are too.  We’re glad you’re here.”

Am I naive here?  Really… I’m open, just need some help understanding a bit more.

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Is this still an argument?

An atheist friend of mine trusted me with one of their secrets the other day.  I think she has held this as a secret for three reasons, and I think the whole secret slipped out in spite of herself yesterday, because she got so excited talking about Herman Hesse and Demian.  The way she dropped it scared me, like the way I used to get scared as an 18 year old in Philosophy 101 class, when the “sure proof for God’s non-existence” was presented by a smug 50 year old professor, as though being 50 and a philosophy professor automatically made you smarter than anyone else on the entire planet.

So this is what she said, “Oh, have you ever read Demian, it is my absolute favorite book by Hesse.  Have you ever heard of Abraxas?  You know that idea that a benevolent God wouldn’t make a world of suffering, and an omnipotent God would be powerful enough to make a world without suffering.  Suffering exists, therefore God is either not all-benevolent, or he is not omnipotent?”  Like, “You know, that argument?  Well, gotta go, bye!”

I think maybe she has never brought this up because first she basically is all-benevolent and wouldn’t want to cause me suffering.  Basically, she is a dear, dear woman.  Secondly, I wonder if this is a such big piece for her for kicking back against the great Cosmic Load of Crap that was served up for her life that it becomes a pretty essential piece to hold on to in order to not get crapped on anymore.  Lastly, I wonder if she secretly believed that the argument really doesn’t work at the end.  That if you used it as a big umbrella to keep God’s Love or Power from reaching in and screwing up your life, you would still end up getting wet.

I have been spinning the whole thing around for the last day or so, and I am wondering how much truck the whole thing gets in any serious philosophy departments.   I am thinking about Alvin Plantinga’s book on God, Evil, and Freedom and am wondering are there any philosopher’s worth their salt who still use this argument (I know it has a name, and I have never heard it called Abraxas; though I trust in Uruguay, given all its subterranean esoterism and other forms of “rational religiosity” that perhaps it is called this here and lots of other places).

The argument seems to be answered very easily, and that’s why, perhaps, the answer is suspect.

What about this:

A loving God would not create creatures that have a mere appearance of free will but who, in reality, are automatons.  Freedom is a legitimate choice.  If freedom is really real, suffering must be then be a real possibility.   The presence of suffering in the world, at least that chosen by human beings (whether inflicted on self or inflicted on others) is neither a reflection on God’s power or God’s love. 

However, a all-loving, all-powerful God would indeed need to build in a “failsafe” to his/her system.  What happens when the real, true, bona fide freedom is used for malevolent ends and thereby suffering results? 

If God had not answered that question, then I would start to fill out my complaint letter.  On the question, “How would you rate your service today?,” God would score a big, whopping, UNSATISFACTORY.   So, as I browse around the whole created order looking for God’s answer to suffering resultant from the free will of finite beings, I think of a couple of answers.  When I put those reflections together, I have no problem conceiving of, and trusting in, a benevolent, omnipotent God who allows suffering.

Here are a smattering of answers:
1.  The universe is broken, and it became broken by through the free will of a finite created being. 
2.  Who says suffering is senseless?  Buddhists seems to have this question licked even before you start thinking about it, and that is why I love Buddhists.  They suggest that we suffer because we want reality to be other than what it is.  If we could accept suffering as a clear part of life, than we would cease to suffer. 
3.  Is suffering redeemable?  That seems to be the essential question, and the essential answer.   God’s great metaphor for suffering he painted for us by showing himself suffering.   In doing so, he did two things:  a.  In the resurrection, he ended suffering as “the final word,” and b. he showed that the new life resulting after the crucifixion is suffering redeemed. 
4.  There is ultimately no growth without suffering.  This might not have been necessary in the original plan.  But, being born finite and out of sync with the original design for things, human beings (and all sentient creatures for that matter), have a gazillion imperfections.   We are a bit like that  hunk of stone Michaelangelo looked at and saw David.  After chipping off and beating out everything that was not David, something extremely beautiful emerged.  Well, something very beautiful, with really big hands, emerged.  If David had been there inside the marble waiting to come out, I can only sense there would have been a suffocating feeling that dominated his existence.  And once the hammer blows started falling, I can only imagine the concussive effects.  But in the end, there was sense to it all.

So, if you have real freedom, a broken universe, and a path for suffering to be redemptive, can you really say that the presence of suffering in the world is incompatible with an all-loving, all-powerful God? 

I, for one, can’t imagine any other scenario that sufficiently explains all the beauty and beastliness I am steeped in every day. 

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World Silence Day

Ganithguru proposed a day for World Silence.  You can see the nondescript link by clicking on http://www.perfspot.com/groups/comment.asp?id=2557

It is a rather silly thing really.  I googled “International Stillness Day” this morning before googling the other, because I just knew that someone, somewhere, must be on to this.

I wonder what a day would be like where we opted for complete stillness and silence.  Remember that ancient Hebrew concept of shabat?  I have always thought that individualized, personalized shabats were well-nigh fruitless.  I mean, what if I am shabating and my neighbor is out turning business hand over fist?  What if I am shabating when the spiritual need comes, and the seeker becomes a Muslim or a Buddhist instead of an upright Christian such as myself? 

You get the idea.

But if we all stopped…

If…  Just a day. 

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Don’t worry, Larry, We all Need You, Left to Right…

Okay, these are GOOD days for Larry Craig, in spite of the embarassment of almost, but not quite, having a little tryst in the men’s room at the Minneapolis airport.  I mean, being a pastor sort of fellow, I am supposed to object at such behavior.  But perhaps it’s the whole, “Be thou hottest or coldest or I shalt spew thee forth from mine mouth,” thing.  Either you were doing something wrong, and you are guilty as sin, or you were just leaning down to tie your shoe, and t’ain’t nothin’ wrong, Lare.

But the thing I don’t get is how in the world you “panicked” and agreed to plead guilty and that now you are retracting the plea?  Okay, it’s not that I don’t get that.  It is the pretext of saying you were panicked and confused about the legal ramifications.

I’m sorry?  A U.S. Legislator confused about the law?  Made the decision without calling a lawyer?

Well, that’s all Brother Larry’s silliness, but what about OUR silliness?  You know, “we the people”?  Many are saying Larry is on a “long fall from grace” (Daniel Schorr, NPR, click here to hear), but I think his fall is going to be into a great trampoline of love and hypocrisy held by hands running across the political spectrum.

The congressionally impoverished G.O.P. needs to hold onto as many seats as they can possibly hold on to, what with their guilt by association with that guy who told a Lie of Mass Destruction.  So, we gotcha on the right Larry.

And from the other side?  Well, Larry, it’s a politically expedient time to embrace your sexuality, but just not the politics that go with it.  Who of us on the left could repudiate and despise a repressed White Anglo-Saxon Male who has been tied up so long in the chains of normalcy.  The left needs you to keep infiltrating those Good Ole Boys.  So, it is a good time for you to sit tight and be Pro-Gay and quietly Pro-Civil Union, so that the folks holding the left side of the trampoline can help soften the blow of your politically suicidal nosedive.

With any luck, everyone will keep their eyes on you and not look across and see those awful others who are helping save your political neck.

Goodbye Madeleine, I’ve Only Begun to Get to Know You

A Wrinkle in Time is one of those books that I never read in childhood.  I remember it in my older sister’s library long before those nasty events with my parents happened and the bomb hit. 

I was fascinated, horribly fascinated, by those images on the cover.  And as with many such books that I attempted to read at age 8 or so, I put them back down not understanding a dern thing, a response which still carries me through to today.

And then I missed that whole season of life of growing up in a well-read, theistic literary home where Narnia, and the Rings, and Madeleine L’Engle and many others just hang out on the shelves, waiting to sneak out and transport some young, unsuspecting one such as myself to fall into the portrait on the wall or to meet the witches in the house out back, or to greet Gandalf when he shows up to send me off to fight the dragon.

It’s not that I play the victim card here, it’s just that my parents left me with a lot of catch up work to do. 

And Madeleine…  well, I only found out in church this morning that you have been glorified.  Beatified.  Transported.  Translated.   But…   removed. 

It is said that the dead have no contact with the living.  I cannot wait to join you in the land of the living.  How great it will be to breathe for the very first time. 

Until then, and even with greater passion for play, so is the call to sit and wait and love and play on the page and let all that stuff begin to ooze out. 

So, since this is all really about saying, Thanks, let me waste no more of your time (doesn’t mean much now, does it?), and tell you.  Thanks.

Thanks for Wrinkle.  Thanks for all the other books I haven’t read yet.  Thanks for that Love relationship you maintained.  You know the one I am talking about.  And thanks for Walking on Water, and for telling us about floating down the stairs. 

Floating. 

I believe you.  Sometimes I do it to.

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Continuity and Discontinuity

A friend of mine recently “became a Christian,” whatever that actually means (I have my ideas, with supporting material, of course).  He is in his mid-30’s.  I gather he’s been thinking about it for about 16 years.

I started thinking about what changes and what stays the same when a person has their soul fused with Christ’s (if that is what actually happens).  St. Augustine, and other people far smarter than myself, suggest that it is a homecoming.  Irenaus, as we all know now that John Eldredge and Sara Groves have reminded us, said that “The glory of God is man fully alive.” 

And so, you fuse your soul with Christ’s, and you come home, you come fully alive (maybe?), but certainly, and perhaps above all, you become more yourself than you ever were before.  Or, at least you walk through an open door back into your own life in a way you’ve never been there before, but it is up to you how quickly you begin to explore the place.

But it strikes me that there is SO MUCH the same about a person when they become a Christ-follower.  I guess I begin the process of ceasing to be a shadow of myself, and the Spirit of Christ just vivifies the whole thing.  Maybe it’s like Christmas tree lights strung all around and through the place finally get turned on, and I say, “Oh, that’s what those did.  I never knew that.” 

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