Burden

I am a straight, white, male, CIS,  Christian.  In a disgusting variety of circumstances, me, or somebody a lot like me, is likely to be the first to ask questions, answer questions, expound, pontificate, and attempt to take charge.  I am learning that this is a problem.

It was a bunch of years ago I started to wrap my head around this.  I first started to think about it when the film, “Cry Freedom” lead me to the book, “Biko.”  These are a portrait of a South African freedom fighter who wouldn’t allow European-descended allies to join his groups.  In college, I began to process the idea that racism, sexism, etc packs a 1-2 punch.  The obvious loss is the way that oppressed groups are made to feel as though they can’t, shouldn’t, and don’t have the answers.  The more subtle, but no less significant problem is that people in the majority like myself are socialized to think that we always have to provide the answers, that we have this burden and duty to work out these issues.

Steve-Biko-Quotes-5

Much more recently, my awesome church spent these months focusing on these issues.  I was introduced to the concept of whitespaining and mansplaining.  (If these terms are new to you, I rustled up this definition online: ” to explain or comment on something in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner, from the perspective of the group one identifies with,”

I have been trying to listen more and talk less.  I am embarrassed by how difficult it is.

And yet…  here I am.  Pontificating away on my little blog.   I am hoping that this is ironic, and not hypocritical, that I am pondering these things here.

Here is the thing I was thinking about today:

In addition to all the problems and injustices that this system perpetuates on myself and others, I had this realization today about the ways that I think this fouls up my attempts at relating to God.

I have these delusions that I ought to be self sufficient.  I live on these happy lies that I am not dependent on others.  I can earn my keep and my worth is proportional to the value that I have created.  I think the world needs to hear my deep thoughts.

None of this is true in the material world.  But is also diminishes my relationship with my maker.  Because I require and fully depend on “him.”  The love “he” holds for me is not earned, and he has already thought and dismissed every silly little thought I will ever have.

Maybe this is why Jesus shows up among the starving, naked, and enslaved; maybe this is why the rich man will have such a battle in entering the kingdom of heaven.  It is such a primal lesson, how we hold ourselves in comparison to the other in our relationships.  If we can’t get past that, holding ourselves above the people around us, we aren’t likely to connect with God.

 

 

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The Wrong Question

I have had these golden moments.

They are connected to others, sometimes.  Or something in me.  Or something about the world.  Often times, it is a combination.  A perfect moment with people who I love in a beautiful place.  Or a moment when I was doing what I know I must have been made to do, a moment when I forget my worries and my own petty limitations…

I know that you have had these moments, too.

For better or worse, we have had the opposite of these moments.  Conspiracies of our factors beyond our control our baggage, betrayal and hurt that runs so deep.

There is an obvious question about these extremes: Is it worth it?  Are those moments of good worth putting up with the bad?  Perhaps this implies a related question: Which happen more often?  It feels like this one is a no-brainer.  Certainly, the bad times some times feel a lot more prevalent, sometimes.

But these are the wrong questions, I think.  There is a more important question.

What is the universe?

Nebula Wallpaper, carina, ngc 3372, stars, universe

Is one of these extremes the fundamental nature of the world?  Is one an abberation?  Is the world just a mish-mash, of the good and bad all mixed up together?

Faith, for me, is trust that the good is the most basic part of the universe: no matter how deeply things have been broken and perverted, there is something beneath that is better.  Beneath the surface of our personalities, beneath the pettiness and anger and hate.  And beneath the surface of the world.  The created world is like a lottery ticket, there is this thin, grey covering, and it is hiding riches beneath.

The source of love, the author of mercy invented power itself.  The world sprang up out of his kindness.  He made us and placed his reflection within us.  This is not a denial of evil, not a minimization of your hurt or my hurt.  It is a proclamation that these things are not the last word.  There is so much more.

It all hangs on Easter

Sometimes, being a Christian can feel like learning an obscure card game.

Have you ever been learning one of these games and it seems like people are toying with you, because the rules are just this long list of unrelated points?

Christianity can appear that way: a long list of unrelated points.

We have this list of things:

Individual souls go to heaven.

Jesus was reseructed bodily.

Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world.

The rules that applied to Jews don’t apply to us anymore.

There is/will be a new kingdom.

If these beliefs, taken together, formed a garden we might enter into that garden and think it was made up of 5 different plants.  Some of us would try to tend all the plants.  Some of us would emphasize others.  Some of might view one or two of the plants as a weed and try to get rid of them in the hopes that the others would flourish.

I’d submit that if we dug a little into the ground we’d find that these five plants which look different actually share a common root.  They aren’t a list of five unrelated rules.  They flow naturally out of one great story.

In some way, the miracle of Easter, the truth of Jesus’ bodily resseruction is the central piece of this story.  Scripture attests to this.  And also, logic.  One could wrongly neglect any of the above premises with out it impacting the others: except for the fact that Jesus returned from the dead.  Without this truth, the others just fade away.

Here’s my attempt at digging below the surface and finding the common root:

A long time ago, sin entered the world.  The result of this sin was death.  All sorts of death.  Humanity attempted to overcome sin on its own.  God was kind enough to share a long list of rules in helping us determine what counts as a sin.

The problem was nobody was able to follow these rules.  If somebody had lived sinlessly he would have escaped the consequences of sin (which is death) but nobody did.

Systems and rulers popped up that operated in a fallen, sin-filled, dead world.  Even God’s chosen people eventually gave up on the rules and wanted a king like everybody else.  The promises of every empire and government that has ever been have ultimately been ones which are built around managing sin and death.  Without sin and death, these sorts of empires would be irrelevant.

Along comes Jesus.  We can choose for him to have lived and died for us.  If we do, we get the benefits as if we had lived the sinless life.  We transcend all those forms of death that entered into the world.

And here’s how all those different ideas listed above come together:

In living sinlessly and transcending death, Jesus changed the structure of the cosmos.  He gave us a path to escaping the death that had entered into the world.   Following the old rules becomes irrelevant.  I would submit that the law, as handed down to Moses and company would never have been necessary if Adam hadn’t sinned.  (If it had been necessary in the first place than I think God would have given it to Adam and not waited centuries.)

Because of this new order, all the old empires are instantly irrelevant.  They are like the soldiers you hear about in World War II, the ones who were isolated on islands for decades and hadn’t heard that Japan lost the war.

Some last thoughts on our final destination

A while ago, I posted some reflections here.  This was my attempt to square our common understanding with the nature of heaven with what I saw in the biblical account.  There were some amazing, and some frustrating responses to this post.  If you care for the gory details, I shared them in this post.

My good friend and pastor, Marty, just shared some information that I find fascinating.  It’s an interview with a well-known theologion who’s asking some of the same questions I was.  For a much more coherent and sophisticated execution of what I was trying to explore, check this interview out.

As a result of the insights, conversations, and over-all iron-sharpening-iron that I’ve had the privilige to share in, these are a few things I’d like to add or emphasize…

#1) God is ridiculously over the top in love with us and plans only the best for us.  What the afterlife is, whenever it occurs, we will be with Him and it will be amazing.  Working out some of the details are at best irrelevant and at worst divisive and distracting.

#2) The strongest biblical case that can be made for the traditional view is based on the fact that Jesus says that we will be with him; he also says that he will be with the father; and the bible clearly states that God is in heaven.  In my mind, this makes it a medium-sized jump to assume that all this will occur in heaven.

#3) It’s awesome to be supported by friends who know your heart.

#4) We all should be careful in assuming motivations in those we don’t know.  It’s hurtful and divisive.

#5) Sometimes, in debates, it’s not really about the issues at all.  People draw comfort from tradition and this is not a bad thing.  When I’m questioning tradition I should weigh this discomfort with the importance of seeking truth.

Return of “Will We Got to Heaven?”

So, there’s been all this talk about a blog I posted a while ago.  (See http://pastormarty.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/76/ for all the gorey details.)

The original posting is small enough to quote here:

December 4, 2007

Will we go to Heaven?

So I’ve been going through the gazillions of scriptural references on “Heaven.”  And I’m beginning to come a realization that I find quite surprising:

Heaven, so far as I can see, is never described as a place we’ll go when we die.

I’m not denying that we’ll live forever.  I’m not denying that the bible speaks of Heaven.  It seems to be the home of amazing and wonderful things. 

I’m not denying that we’re supposed to bring about a kingdom of heaven.  This kingdom seems like a place where there will be people… But the kingdom of heaven seems like the Earth after it’s been transformed through Christ’s work (both outside and inside people)

Can anybody point me toward some scripture that supports the traditional view, that heaven is this destination intended for humans after they die? ”

I wanted to specify a few things, as sort-of an epilogue:

#1) I want to reiterate that I am 100% convinced that our souls are eternal.

#2) This quest of mine is really motivated out of a desire to hold scripture as important.  I’m not trying to be a heretic.

#3) If there’s stuff I’ve missed, I’d really, really like to know.

Because the thing is, there’s only been 7 actual comments in response to the posting.  There’s been tons of people viewing it, but nobody responding.

I’m seriously looking for counsel, not for a debate.  Some folks have been disturbed by this posting.  Others have decided that it’s disturbing, or wrong, or whatever…

This is all frustrating for me.  None of these people have come to me and tried to guide me toward the truth.  This leaves me seeing 2 possibilities.

A) Folks aren’t interested in guiding me toward the truth.

B) There actually isn’t a scriptural precedent for the idea that our souls go to heaven.

A few folks responded to the original post and I’d like to thank them for their counsel.  I took it all seriously and appreciate the insight.

Will we go to Heaven?

So I’ve been going through the gazillions of scriptural references on “Heaven.”  And I’m beginning to come a realization that I find quite surprising:

Heaven, so far as I can see, is never described as a place we’ll go when we die.

I’m not denying that we’ll live forever.  I’m not denying that the bible speaks of Heaven.  It seems to be the home of amazing and wonderful things. 

I’m not denying that we’re supposed to bring about a kingdom of heaven.  This kingdom seems like a place where there will be people… But the kingdom of heaven seems like the Earth after it’s been transformed through Christ’s work (both outside and inside people)

Can anybody point me toward some scripture that supports the traditional view, that heaven is this destination intended for humans after they die?