Tag Archives: Christianity

Idealists

Idealists aren’t wrong.

We are just guilty of the sin of shortcuts.

The only way is the long way round.

We keep trying to take shortcuts, to make things simpler, easier,  to force the end of the story long before it is due.

So maybe its going to be far longer and more painful than first expected. OK. But that doesn’t mean it’s over.

The long way round might be a very, very long way. But there is a way.

I trust you now

Lord Jesus, I believe that You are able and willing to deliver me
from all the worry, and unrest and bondage of my Christian life. I
believe You did die to set me free, not only in the future, but now
and here. I believe You are stronger than Satan, and that You can
keep me, even me, in my extreme of weakness, from falling into his
snares or yielding obedience to his commands. And, Lord, I am going to
trust You to keep me. I have tried keeping myself, and have failed,
and failed most grievously. I am absolutely helpless; so now I will
trust You. I will give myself to You; I keep back no reserves. Body,
soul, and spirit, I present myself to You, a lump of clay, to be made
into anything Your love and Your wisdom shall choose. And now,
I am Yours. I believe You do accept what I present to You; I
believe that this poor, weak, foolish heart has been taken possession
of by You, and You have even at this very moment begun to work in me
to will and to do of Your good pleasure. I trust You utterly, and I
trust You now.

Right and Wrong in Heterodoxy, Orthodoxy, and Culture Wars

This morning, I just sat through a social activism meeting in the basement of a Catholic church, between two different proponents of the culture wars. They were all doing their best to be conciliatory. But no surprise, it wasn’t exactly successful.

It was painful.

I cried later that day about it. Both sides probably felt so dismissed and silenced, or dismissed and judged. I could feel it both ways. I admit I’m not exactly an impartial outsider of the culture wars, but I think I’ve seen enough of both sides to feel both their pain.

Also, I had the awkward advantage of being the only protestant outsider in their tense discussion of their current pope’s views. My faith doesn’t depend on Pope Francis’s theology. It’s a terribly vulnerable thing, having a leader to follow and love and fear for. Communal, shared identities inevitably become battlegrounds, and that is rough on everyone.

I’m not sure if it is worth the fight. Probably it is, I don’t know. But there is something far more important. There comes a point when each one of us must cry out to the Holy Spirit, and then follow our own conscience. In the end, we each will stand before God alone.

For it is written:

As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

And:

And I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will have to give account of it in the day of judgment.

And again:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life.

And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to what he had done.

We will each stand before God alone. So cry out to God, and then follow your conscience. I’m not saying whatever you do is fine. Of course your choices matter, and matter so incredibly much at that. I am saying, hash it out with Him personally. Talk to Him, fight with Him, talk to Him, cry out to Him, talk to Him. Rage at Him if you must, but don’t stop talking to Him. Then, with fear and yearning, do what you think is right. Because God is righteousness. So do what you think is right, what He wants you to do. Some day you will stand with Him, face to face.

And then you will know, it was always just between the two of you.

Thoughts on Sex: On traditional patriarchy and Christianity

I’m calling it “traditional patriarchy” for lack of a better term. What I mean by it is a certain sexual code that conservative traditional societies generally hold by. From ancient Greece to modern Afghanistan to tribal Africa to nineteenth-century Korea, it is basically the same:

(1) Women carry the burden of sexual honor. Sexual abstinence before marriage, and sexual fidelity in marriage are honorable, but they are required of the woman only. You insult a woman by questioning her sexual honor — you insult a man by questioning his mom & sister & wife & daughter’s sexual honor. Women carry the sexual honor for the family.

(2) Men, on the other hand, are expected to sow their wild oats in their youth, and to have an occasional affair during marriage. As long as he doesn’t do it too much, his wife has no right to complain.

(3) Adultery only “counts” if the woman is married. In other words, a woman can cheat on her husband, but a husband’s extra-marital affairs don’t count as cheating against his wife. Because fidelity is one-way, men can often be polygamous. The women must be faithful to one man, the man does not need to be faithful to anyone.

(4) Because women carry the burden of sexual honor, female rape victims are often required/expected by society to commit suicide. Not that they are necessarily blamed for what happened, but their “honor” is “broken” and the way to restore your “honor” to your family is by your death. It’s not required all the time, but it is certainly admired (e.g. Lucretia’s suicide lauded/celebrated in Roman tradition).

The fact that this traditional patriarchy is across all cultures makes me suspect that it is inherent to human beings. It’s a bad thing and I hate it, but I think any society, given a few hundred years, has a high likelihood of evolving into traditional patriarchy. I don’t know why, but I suspect it will be around until the end of the world. The “progressive approach” (for lack of a better term) tries to bring back some gender-fairness by extending to women as well traditional patriarchy’s permissive sexual code for men. Women, along with men, should not have to bear the burden of sexual honor– nobody should. We can scoff at Traditional Patriarchy as “unprogressive”, but that won’t stop it (as darwinian-style, unprogressive societies outproduce progressive ones throughout history. Progressive cultures have a tendency to fade away, a dead end reproductively-speaking, hence they die out after a few centuries).

Anyways, Christianity has made various compromises/treaties with patriarchy, creating its own modified form of it. The first modification is to (1) transmute sexual honor/dishonor into sexual sin, because unlike dishonor, sins can be washed away by Christ’s blood. The second modification is (2) to hold men to the same standard. What Christianity attempts to do is also approach gender-fairness as the progressives have, but through the exact opposite of the progressive approach. Rather than extend traditional patriarchy’s permissive code for men to women as well, they try to extend patriarchy’s strict code for women to men as well.

Here is a sermon from a bishop in sixth-century France, when it was still a hodge-podge of the remains of the Roman Empire and Germanic tribes. His name is Caesarius of Arles.

Since [these men] want their wives to be chaste, with what kind of a conscience do they commit wicked adultery, thereby asserting that what is not lawful for their wives is perfectly licit for themselves? As though God gave two commandments, one for men and another for women! If anyone does this, let him tell us with what sanction he acts, for all adultery is punished by both divine and human law. This vice is not forbidden because many people commit it. In fact, the less it is restricted by men, the more severely it is punished by the divine Judge.

How is it that some men are so insolent that they say cruel vice is lawful for men but not for women? They do not reflect that men and women have been redeemed equally by Christ’s Blood, have been cleansed by the very same baptism, approach the Lord’s altar to receive His Body and Blood together, and that with God there is no distinction of male or female. ‘God is not a respecter of persons.’

Therefore, what is unlawful for women similarly never was and never can be lawful for men. However, the unfortunate practice has been introduced whereby a wife who is found with her man-servant is punished, but if a man wallows in the sewer of lust with many maids, not only is he not punished, but he is even praised by his associates. Moreover, telling each other who has done most of this sort of thing, they admit it with laughter and most foolish jeering. On judgment day their laughter will be turned into wailing, and their jests will be changed into wounds. But men who do this do not fear or believe at all in the future judgment.

— from Sermon 42, titled “A Reproof of Married Men Who Do Not Blush or Fear to Commit Adultery.” by Bishop Caesarius of Arles, 500s A.D.

On Real Faith

Faith isn’t about ‘believing what you know ain’t so.”

If you have to believe something to ‘make’ it true, then its all the Easter bunny and the Magic of Santa Claus and Carebears and the Power of Friendship.

Faith is actually a vulnerable, radical openness. But this ‘radical openness’ is not about believing it. It is more like going to a bridge and waiting through the long winter night, because of a letter just received, (purportedly) from someone you had loved and lost a long time ago, which asked you to wait here for them at this meeting place. You might catch pneumonia, and its a dangerous part of the city at night, they might not show up. Perhaps they really are dead, and its all a ruse. Perhaps your enemies are playing a cruel prank on you, perhaps you dreamed the whole thing (and the letter is now misplaced or missing). You aren’t pretending your beloved is already there, you aren’t having an imaginary conversation with them on the bridge. You are merely willing to gamble everything on this moment of vulnerability, to walk away from your normal life, and be willing to lose your health/life/mental-state/reputation in the process.

Here in affluent America, we Christians (of all stripes) do not truly have Him because we don’t truly seek Him–a seeking not of heroics of our own doing, but a seeking of honestly giving God total permission to really take everything else away. The fiery bloody God of Sinai and Golgotha is as real now as He was then, we only need to be willing to pay the cost of seeing His face.