Beware the Vosh

There is a voice that rises up in me.  It is not my voice.  It is not God’s.  If I had to give it a name, I’d call it the Voice of Should-Have.  Vosh, for short.

Vosh speaks the words that I think I’m supposed to think.  He tells me to feel the feelings I’m supposed to feel.  Vosh is a voice for the way the world works.  He’s a voice for the way the world thinks.

Vosh is a master mimic.  He can pitch his voice very much like that still, quiet voice of the holy spirit.  Other times he speaks so much like my own self that I barely know it’s not me.

When I think about the importance of being child-like, of wandering, of exploring, of being open, with out a goal or agenda, Vosh chimes in.

He speaks up.  He calls me out.  He can be quite intimidating, when he has to be.

Vosh says things like, “Your spirituality is too important to do those things, be an explorer.”

At first, I try to bargain and clarify with Vosh.  There are vital and important things I believe.  To these I hold firm: I will follow Jesus because he was uniquely the son of God and he paid the price of my sin to restore my relationship with him.

But at some point, I have to man up.  I have to call Vosh out.  I have to name him.  And I have to say that my spirituality is too important not to be a wanderer.

As I reflect on my life, I see that my need to act as though I had the answers was some times an act of idolatry.  I was worshipping my own cleverness.  Other times it was an act of faithlessness.  I did not trust God to work it all out and suspected that he needed me to explain things to him.

There is an act of submission here.  Submission is so hard.  Especially when things are challenging.

Have you ever driven on an icy road?  For me, the hardest thing is that as the car begins to slide, you have to relax.  If you tighten the grip, things go from bad to worse.

Or repelling.  Have you ever repelled?  It’s an incredibly unnatural thing.  The more you lean back, the closer you coming to make a 90 degree angle with the cliff, the more control you have.  Our instincts tell us, when we feel unstable, to hug the rock.  But the thing to do is lean back and away from it and trust the rope and our feet.

As we sense the importance of God to us, our natural instinct is to want to be tidy, organized, goal-oriented.  Rely on our little human words and thoughts.  We’re told that this is the way to be.  Vosh says it.  It must be true, right?


Dear “The Truth”

Dear “The Truth”

As you know, you recently placed this comment in one of my posts:

“There is no God, but good plan. Just be, you know, nice. By the way, you stop existing after death, there is no soul either.

Sorry for the spoiler!

And yes, I do know.”

I realize that it’s unlikely that you ever make it back here to my blog.  But I figured I’d give it a try.

I want you to know that I feel bad for you, but I actually find the whole thing a little bit funny.

It seems like maybe you are having some trouble figuring out just who you are and what you want to be.

I agree with you, that it’s a good idea to be nice.   But I’m wondering how your comment models that behavior… being nice.  It seems like if you truly believe it’s nice to share the truth with people, and if you believe that the truth is that there is no God, then you’d try and spend a little more time being persuasive about it.  Your message doesn’t really give me much in the way of reasons to think that you might be on to something. 

Further, it seems like telling me that I’ve got a good plan must be intended as sarcasm.  And to be honest, it strikes me as rather bitter sarcasm at that.  It certainly seems strange after the whole “be nice” thing.

It was nice of you to apologize for the spoiler, but the truth is,  I think maybe you and are watching different movies.   My “movie” has an ending I’m quite excited about.

Usually, it’s we religious folks who get blamed for being pushy and irrational.  And sometimes, this blame is quite deserved.

But this is a case where you wandered into my blog and decided to share some opinions that really didn’t have much to do with the post at all.  Of course, if I’d had a major issue with your comment I would have simply deleted it.  I want to be clear on this point: it’s o.k. with me if you did that.  But I’d like to ask you, “The Truth”  How would you have felt if I wandered onto a blog sharing atheistic beliefs where the post made a quite specific point, and my comment was just sort-of a vague sharing of basic Christianity?

Part of the reason that I posted this is that I do hope that you’ll come back and I wanted to give you a natural place to do it.  (I have written some other posts that would be more logical places to debate theism versus atheism… but it’d probably be pushy for me to suggest that you ought to hunt around on my blog for them.)  I’m not afraid of disagreeing with people.  Maybe we can learn something from each other.

You’ve given me a little bit to work with in that brief couple sentences you left.  So I’ll pose a few questions for you:

#1) If there is in fact no God, does “the truth” even matter?  As limitied and finite beings, will we ever even arrive at it and recognize it for what it is if something greater than wiser than us isn’t helping us along?

#2) Is there any real reason to being nice if there is no God?  I can see why appearing to be nice might be beneficial sometimes, but when the chips are down and the lights are off, why should we be nice at all in a world without God?

#3) If in fact there is no soul, how would you account for the differences between what is detectable by science and what is observed from within our personality?  More specifically: Science might be able to trace a certain synapses firing with certain brain activity… But there’s no good reason to think that we’ll ever be able to analyze those synaptic firings in such a way that we’re finding out what someones thoughts are simply by looking at the biological artifacts. 

#4) If there is no soul, how do you account for the existence of so many constructs which aren’t related for biological survival?  I have no problem with the Neodarwinian account of how we phyiscally evolved, but do you seriously hold to the evolutionary accounts of how art, altruistic love, religious impulses, the universality of conscience and taboos against muder, nudity, and incest?  And if you do hold to the evolutionary accounts, whose do you hold to?  And how do you explain the neodarwinism has had a fairly easy time explaining physical structures but can’t arrive at the most fundamental agreements in explaining how these cultural constructs arrive.

I realize that this debate has been going on for milenia.  But each of these was a can of worms that you opened in some part in your response.  I hope that you (or someone like minded) will try and explain how you see these things.

Luke 12 and the church parking lot

I noticed some things that never occurred to me before in Luke 12.  I thought I’d share some of them. 

“1Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

I’d always thought this was Jesus sharing little pieces of happiness and joy with us.  And as always, he partially is.  If we are saying things we should be proud of in private, we can look foreward to these coming true.

But there’s a different spin to all this.  I don’t think it’s an accident that Luke observes that the crowd begins to trample on one another.  And then the first thing out of Jesus mouth?  Call it encouragement, call it a warning, whatever.  But it’s a promise that who we really are on the inside will be known. 

If we’re the sort-of person who behaves himself even in the annyonomity of a crowd: it’ll be known.

If we’re the sort-of person who jostles and tramples others: that too, will be known.

It seems to me that there couldn’t be a more direct paralell to that thing so many of us (myself included) wrestle with, where we leave the church, and we’re not even out of the parking lot, and we’re already starting to struggle with acting Christ-like.

It’s like Jesus says “Today, you can hide behind your tinted windows.  But some day everybody will know.”

I’d always taken these verses to indicate that the docrtinal statements we hold in our quiet little meetings will someday be broadcast to the world.  The more I read, pray, and understand, though, the more I see this pattern.

We have this tendency to presume or project that the important thing is head knowledge.  We emphasize the content of our thoughts.  Over and over again, it seems to me that Jesus’ real intent and meaning was about heart knowledge.  There’s probably a whole lot in this realization about the modern/post-modern split, but that, I suppose, is another post.


Mother Theresa and Beethoven walk into a bar…

By now, pretty much everybody knows that Mother Theresa struggled with her faith for much of her life. But it seems like we can’t really agree on just what it means that she struggled.
I can’t say that I’ve seen anybody explicitly and openly use her as a pawn in their arguments. But her struggles with faith are this subtext to lots of stuff that’s been left implied.
The interesting thing to me is that there are at least two sides, perhaps more, that seem to think her struggles with God indicate something. A snap shot of this dynamic is captured in the fact that she herself did not seem to want her struggles made public; on the other hand huge numbers of people of faith find comfort in her struggles.
Though I have mixed feelings about making something like this public against the deceased wishes, I am deeply moved. It took me a while to put my finger in why.

And then I got it, at quite an unexpected day and time.
I was reading to my daughter a passage about Beethoven. (I’m not as much a culture vulture as that makes it sound like. The selection was sent home by the school.) It focused on how he coped with his deafness and made music despite the fact that he couldn’t hear. My beautiful daughter found this fascinating. Though on some level I’d known Beethoven had continued to compose while deaf, through her fascination I rediscovered what an amazing thing this is.
It wasn’t the music itself that motivated him. He never heard the pieces he composed late in his life. (Atleast in this life he never heard it… I have this idea that he will get to hear it in the next life. What a cool thing.) It was his memory of the music, it was his faith in music itself that had to keep him going.
And that’s how Mother Theresa fits into all this. Jesus was such a powerful figure in her world that even while spiritually deaf, she continuted to submit and follow. Paradoxically, this witnesses to God’s truth and reality so much more powerfully than if she’d been assured, in every moment, of God’s reality and greatness.

What I believe

I believe that we live in a world that is not what it was meant to be.

I believe that the central problem with the world is a broken relationship with God.

I believe that God is a God of love, justice, and peace. 

I believe that the closer our hearts are to God, the more we will experience love and peace and the harder we will work for justice.

I believe that the life, death, and resseruction of Jesus were the pivotal points in history.  I believe that everything that happened before Jesus’ coming to Earth was preparing this situation.  I believe that everything that has happened since that time has been a result of this occasion.

I believe that God will someday return everything to what it would have been if we had never fallen… We will live in a place like what the Garden of Eden would have become.

I believe that we are eternal.

I believe that God wants us to wrestle with his truths.

I believe that God uses the world to grow us.  I believe that he wishes we had not made the choices we did. 

I believe that God weeps with us. 

I believe that God’s church has done things which make God laugh with joy and things which make God shake his head in shame at us.

I believe that God’s holy spirit is in the places we least expect to find it.

I believe that the enemy of God and man often masquerades as holiness, piousness, normalacy, and conformity.

Sometimes, I think it’s easy for emergents like me to throw the baby out with the bath water.  We see how quiet mainstream Christianity has been about its doubts.  We see how tabboo being authentic has become.

And so we open up about our fears and the ambiguities we see.  And it’s a good thing to do this.  But my fear is that we end up looking like depressed, faithless, nit pickers.  

As I consider the stuff I’ve blogged about, it looks like I’ve got more questions than answers. 

The thing is, this isn’t really true.  There’s lots of stuff I’ve believe.  With all that I am.  This post is a sort-of state-of-my-faith adress. 

Most of the stuff on this list is actually pretty close to more moderate and even conservative folks.  It’s easy but dangerous to miss all the things which unite us… because really, the only important thing… Jesus Christ… does unite us.