Tag Archives: faith

Coffee thoughts: a pagan’s faith

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” — Oswald Chambers

 

“Humans…by nature’s deep design  and purpose, are created for one another. They are meant to help those who deserve help and in no way harm one another. He who shrugs off the will of nature sins against the oldest of the Gods. He who tells lies sins against the same God. … Truth is just another name of nature, the first cause of all that is.”  — Marcus Aurelius

 

Here thousands of years ago, a grumpy pagan emperor (God rest his soul) had confidence in the character of God. He held on to what I sometimes struggle to hold on to: that the true God, the “oldest of the Gods” is all goodness. That he is a God who demands much of us: (1) to do good to one another, and (2) to cling to the truth.

The father behind all fathers. He stands behind every shadow and corner, calling our name.

And he is Holy and Just and True, burning us with his steadfast love.

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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.

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.

Proof of God

“If you are standing back and waiting for the data alone to convince you that God exists, that’s like holding a piece of litmus paper above a solution but never dipping it in. You can have a complete understanding of how the hydrogen atoms in the liquid would potentially interact with the dye on the paper, but until the paper has contact with the solution, the experiment is not complete.

And guess what: in the God experiment, your entire life is the litmus paper.

So no, you absolutely do not have to check your analytical, evidence-based way of evaluating the world at the door when you step into the waters of spirituality. Just understand that when you begin to explore God, you’re looking for an entirely different kind of proof”

– See more at: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2013/09/on-proving-god.html#sthash.uuPqYAa3.dpuf

“People value religion on the basis of cost, and they don’t value the cheapest ones the most. Religions that ask nothing get nothing. You’ve got a choice: you can be a church or a country club. If you’re going to be a church, you’d better offer religion on Sunday. If you’re not, you’d better build a golf course, because you’re not going to get away with being a country club with no golf course. That’s what happened to the Episcopalians, Methodists, Congregationalists, Unitarians and, indeed, to some sectors of Catholicism.”

This guy isn’t even a Christian, but he is completely right about that.

Read more at  www.jknirp.com/stark.htm

Religion

Ultimately, religion can either be

(1) used to ‘prove yourself’ (e.g. show you are a Holy/Nice/Correct/Authentic Person)

or

(2) to abandon yourself before the Face of Goodness (in God, in other people, etc).

Everything ends up being one of these two ways. Of course in this life, it is a constant struggle that goes on throughout our lives. But we will end up becoming more or less like one of these ways.

And religion that is a tool to use to prove yourself…eventually becomes a horribly ugly thing….it degenerates into legalism, or petty judgementalness, or self-righteousness (both the old-fashioned variety and the hip ‘meta’ kind…there’s no difference really).

In the end, we have a choice to take faith into our hands, as something to control and manipulate as we see fit, in order to justify ourselves or make ourselves look good. It ends with the studied ‘niceness’/or/’holiness’/or/’authenticity’ that is glancing at itself in the periphery vision, managing to mention to other people all the good they do….But all of it is a sham, revealed in the moment when they are annoyed at those who are better, just because; or when they delight in the painful failures of those who are worse, so that it can judge and feel righteous in comparison.

(e.g. the old-fashioned legalist getting smug satisfaction in insisting on reminding everyone of someone else’s out-of-wedlock  pregnancy AND the hip do-gooder that takes great satisfaction in talking about how much they nobly care for those pathetic wretches that other people always allegedly despise, with scant concern for the dignity/actual happiness of the aforementioned)

You know that jarring moment, when someone has petty malice (in some ways, the most ugly kind of hate–more so than ‘graver’ passionate rages)…and this petty malice is directed at some decent soul for no other reason than that they are good/holy/kind….because they are worried it will make themselves look shabby in comparison…

And so they are before the face of all that is good, decent, and beautiful…and they hate it! That is the most dreadful blindness of all. If that is not hell, I don’t know what is. And it is within all of us…there is only one way to escape it.

That other choice is to abandon ourselves to Goodness, both in ourselves and in other people and in the universe and beyond the universe (= God). Then we shall find ourselves at last, complete. Blissfully adoring Goodness in others–marvelling at their belovedness, so absorbed that we will forget ourselves in the moment of it. And catch ourselves, and laugh, and it doesn’t matter, and there is great joy.

Someday we will be purified, and then…of course you would suffer for them, and give up your own things, even give up your life, and sacrifice…and it isn’t because you are trying to ‘prove’ that you are a nice person….but because they are a thousand times worth it.  It would be a great honour.

In the end, there are only two choices:

Control religion—or abandon yourself to Goodness.

Construct yourself into the prison of your own peculiar  self-righteousness—or lose yourself, and be deified.

All faiths lead to God…

I’ve been listening to Son of Hamas audiobook, and got to thinking…

Hassan Yousef (one of the seven founders of Hamas) was as “Christian” as St Francis. In his heart–he knew deeply and practiced all that was holy, kind, merciful, just, good, humble. In a word: selfless love and honest integrity. He is a devout Muslim.

“Walk towards God and He will run toward you.” I read that in 2002, on an introduce-the-highschool-class display case in a Chicago suburb. It was the favorite quote of a beaming girl in a headscarf, the only one in the whole class to bravely identify herself as Muslim, in the post 9-11 tensions. Walk towards God and He will run toward you!

He does come. He doesn’t only answer his favorite clan, or those with the correct theology. He does not desert any of His children who look up, calling to Him. He comes. So the postmodernists who say all religions lead to God, are on to something. We all turn, in our various ways, to a Higher Power who is Goodness and Love. And He comes to us, for He is gracious.

But Hassan Yousef couldn’t condemn terrorism. He couldn’t stand up to  Islamic men of a different kind of religious fanaticism, one of killing (and torture and paranoid sexual fantasy– the same as sixteenth-century european witch trials). Like tolerant westerners, he too could say that personally couldn’t stomach the killing–but he couldn’t judge/condemn/rebuke those who did. He had no theological backing.

And that is why doctrine matters too. The heart can learn all from God, by just yearning towards him in a selfless life. But the mind must be given words, words of truth, to fight the violent perversions of faith and twisted men.

Because those violent perversion of faith eat humankind. They destroy the sacred (ripping and stomping upon Torah scrolls, cutting the throat of child after child, meting out ‘justice’ by rape, burning to death non-virginal teenage girls, ripping an infant limb from limb, etc.).

Nowadays we call it ‘genocide’….at a conference on genocide studies at Penn, I heard a woman describe how genociders typically attack what she termed “life-force symbols”, that is (1) the aged of the community (its history), (2) the young of the community (its future), (2) their sexuality (gang rape, or force them to act out with eachother in aberrant ways, etc), (4) their spirituality (ripping Torah scrolls, smashing gravestones, urinating on Bibles, sexualizing religious sanctuaries, etc). And yes, I had to flee in the middle of the presentation when she started citing examples.

But it struck me: it was all a desecration of the Holy, a defilement of the Sacred. Grandmothers, babies, sex, sanctuaries — reverently approached in their fitting place — those are the dearest and most beautiful things in this world. The things that give meaning to everything else in life, and are hence life itself. The Sacred.

And for every rapacious thug-horde that have defiled those things in sheer greed of conquest, there are also those who have done the same for twisted ideologies, some of them claiming to be faiths serving God. It is sickening to see how religious faith can be twisted to such perverse postures — but then, so can sexual and familial love (for example, incest). Of course it is the most beautiful things that can be twisted into the most horrible things.

So yes and no. All faiths — when reaching out to the Higher Power through goodness and love — do lead to God. But we need doctrine and truth too, to defend the sacred — specifically, the doctrine of the Incarnate Christ, who became flesh like us, deifying every human being (who thus must be treated as such), who demands perfect holiness of us and yet bled on a cross to fulfill it, who charges us to forgive every sin, who calls us all to follow him and abandon everything, and who says “whatever you do to the least of these–you do to me.” Who makes Holy what was defiled, who gives life to the world.