Toward A Fair Balance

images (4) I’ve always had something of a love/hate relationship with Paul. A fair reading of the entire corpus of Paul, well it leaves something to be desired from a woman’s standpoint. Later, when I learned that there is wide discrepancy between “authentic” Paul and non, he fared a bit better. The worst texts were probably not written by him at all.

It has been a truism that in talking with fundamentalists, it’s my experience that Paul is quoted about 4-1 in making any conservative point. I guess that stands to reason, since pseudo-Paul fits the conservative ticket much more than the liberal side of life.

However it does seem odd that the very people who “confess Jesus as their personal savior” so infrequently quote Jesus for how Christians should behave.

It almost makes one wonder if they somehow use the scriptures to substantiate personal opinions rather than “learn how to behave”.

Plenty of so-called Christians have offered me the following gems of pseudo-knowledge:

  1. Paul endorses the notion that if you don’t work, you don’t eat, negating the present government’s attempt to “give” people stuff rather than make them get a job.
  2. Paul of course echoes God in decrying homosexuality.
  3. Paul believed women should be seen and not heard.
  4. Paul believed women should be obedient to their husbands who are their natural betters.

When it comes to Jesus, they become more brazen. Jesus, they tell me, favored owning guns for self-defense, didn’t want the government involved in taking care of the poor, and didn’t believe in minimum wages.

In today’s reading, (2Cor 8: 7, 9, 13-15) Paul finds himself in a bit of a pickle. He literally begs the Corinthians to be generous. He has, it turns out, been exhorting the Macedonians to give generously by touting the largess of the Corinthians and vice versa. Macedonia has come through with great giving and Corinth so far has not.

Paul is concerned about the contribution to the Jerusalem “saints” for a couple of reasons. First, they are genuinely in need, and Paul recognizes that the hallmark of this new way of being requires serious attention to the problem of the poor. Second, the Gentiles that Paul “leads” are still quite suspect as far as the very Jewish Jerusalem church is concerned. Paul hopes a good contribution will do much to ease the tension between the two groups, and unify them in their common quest to spread the Gospel to all nations.

Paul says some interesting things. God, Paul claims, gives Christians the grace to give lovingly and generously. Using the Macedonians as an example, he explains that God gives to those who give generously, and their generosity is met with God’s largess to them. Further he points out that if they take care of Jerusalem’s needs now, in the future Jerusalem may well be in position to help them in their hour of need.

There should be a “fair balance” or equality between them, as he puts it.

“. . .[Y]our surplus at present may fill their deficit, and another time their surplus may fill your deficit.”

No simpler explanation need be given. You give when you can, and trust that if the tables become turned in the future, others may do the same for you. Or, as Jesus might have said, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Lest there be a doubt, Paul explains that God will make it so. Quoting Exodus wherein God provided manna to the complaining Israelites in the desert:

“No one who had collected more had too much, no one who collected less had t little.”

In other words, you human need not keep score. God will take care of that. Just do what you are called by God to do: take care of those in need.

Somehow that message seems lost to many Christians today.

Continuously I hear this from conservative Christians: I object to paying taxes for “handouts” to those who are too lazy to work. I was taught to work and to not expect stuff to be given to me, but rather earned. These folks are all about give me. Our government has taught them that. The bible tells me to give to the poor, and I do so. But I decide how much and for what. That is as it should be. I’m tired of supporting dead beats.

What follows is almost always a rendition of all the wonderful things this person has done for the poor. Each believes with their full being that they have purchased salvation by their acts, although they would deny this as a blasphemous negation of Luther’s main thrust of justification by faith alone. Yet they will, as proof, point out that Jesus said, “the poor you will always have with you.” This they claim shows that government cannot solve the problem. What they don’t say is what they also believe–the poor are there to be the recipient of charity offered to secure one’s own salvation.

What kind of God is this?

Paul’s exhortations to the Corinthians suggests a different arrangement. You give the very most you can, and let God take care of the rest. God makes sure that it’s all evened out in the end.

God it seems (along with Paul) is a Marxist.

Talk of “equality and fairness” are concepts unknown to a winner-take-all free market analysis. What is fair in such a system is that smarter and harder working people are supposed to gain while slackers sink. Of course it isn’t at all smartness or hard work that make the difference really. Luck and favorable opportunity count for as much if not more. But that doesn’t feed the scenario being offered.

The very point Paul makes is ignored by the conservative Christian who prefers to focus on interpretations that support their own needs and wants. This goes along with Susan B. Anthony’s remark:

“I distrust those who claim to know what God wants when it always so perfectly coincides with their own desires.”

Paul is very crafty in his explanation: Give exactly what you feel is appropriate, but remember God will make sure you are given all you need to give generously. In other words, the more you give, the more you prove that God is indeed actively supporting you. Who could ignore that incentive?

There is no reason at all theoretically why one cannot take as much satisfaction in the paying of taxes for equitable redistribution as to give personally. But theory pales in the face of our very human need to feel superior and to be noted. So we insist that somehow it’s better if I choose what and where to offer my alms. At least we do if we aren’t really about the help so much as we are being sure that we are duly credited publicly for our benevolence.

We must recall as well that Paul is exhorting Gentiles to be generous with those who are making their lives more difficult–Jerusalem Christians of Jewish descent, who are still not quite sure these Gentiles are properly God’s children without converting and adopting Jewish traditions and codes of behavior.

Paul recognized that we are called to give no matter how well we relate to the recipient. We could do well to emulate that notion in our own giving. None of us will necessarily agree with every program that seeks to improve the imbalance between rich and poor, but we can be mindful of Paul’s assurance that God will sort it all out and make it “fair.”

Don’t we have enough to deal with without taking on God’ job as well?

An Excellent read on the subject of charity: Treasure in Heaven

Do You Not Yet Have Faith?

god Once upon a time in a land far away, an editor had an idea. He solicited a number of authors and asked them to write a story given the following given: Jesus returns in a very public display of power and glory.

The editor collected the stories and put them in an anthology. I bought it. I read it. You can guess the stories. Almost universally, somehow, someway, every story centered around a theme that Jesus was denied, questioned, or sought to be exploited. There was no “happy ending”.

You would think that people would be satisfied with Jesus’ second coming. It would be a time of world-wide rejoicing. The end of strife, the beginning of heaven on earth?

But somehow we don’t get it. We never did.

Mark’s rendition of Jesus’ calming the storm tells us that.

It’s confusing I admit.

A lady who saw the shooter from South Carolina was adamant that God had made her be on that highway, had forced her to pay close attention to the news, all because she was His instrument to bring the man to justice. She is utterly convinced, so she says, that God directed it all. Yet, that must mean he directed the shooter to kill innocents too. If God controls, well, he controls the good and bad. If he pulled you off a flight that would eventually crash, he failed to do so for the hundred or so who perished.

We aren’t very good at defining God.

We are even less good at describing how God operates.

We say that all we think about God is nothing more than what God is not. Augustine said that or words to that effect at the very beginning of this adventure in Christianity. We can forgive him perhaps since God was in his Christian infancy and nobody could be expected to “get it right.”

Atheists complain that believers continue to narrow where God fits as science expands the world we do understand. God is no more the creator of thunder and whirlwinds. We have science for that.

The problem with atheists is that they just figure that everything that we now don’t know, we will someday figure out. And the ever shrinking God will finally be reduced to a comical pinhead. They assume this is true because history has proven to be a movement from lesser knowledge to greater. Why won’t it continue?

But there are unknowns that will always be indescribable and never pinned down and defined or explained. What of beauty? Define it in absolutes and you will soon have no hair on your head from the tugging and twisting. I issue nothing new in this, for such vagueries apply to truth and freedom and other states of being that defy us to establish any perimeter that will hold.

Mystery abounds and will always do so, no matter how science probes and explains all manner of phenomenon. Reality is a constant shifting, not quite in focus thing. The present becomes the past in each blink of the eye, and future shrinks as it becomes present, all the while expanding at the horizon, infinitely.

We spend almost no time with these thoughts, deeming them curious and shrug worthy after brief bouts of wrinkled brow thinking. But these are the thoughts of God. Time spent slipping over the event horizon into the abyss of unknowing brings counterintuitively, what? Clarity? Yes, surprisingly so.

We don’t have to land on an outcrop of rocks to break our fall into forever, we suddenly realize that we are floating, and we can look around at all this. We can examine time and we can move into no time. As our comfort increases, we open, relax, given up and give in and give out in one inexplicable action. We rest in God, and we KNOW that we do.

Yet we can describe it barely at all. It is reserved for the hushed tones of pure sound and pure color, and pure movement. We touch it briefly and we cause it, by the attempt, to leave us. For it will not bear the focus of intent to SEE it for what it is. It will remain on the periphery, fuzzy, undefined, graspable but elusive. Like the soap bubble that bursts leaving us but a dampness on the fingertips as a passing reminder that we were in the presence of something much more real than what passes for reality.

We bask in the warmth of safety and of peace. Love hovers over all, providing a blanket of such quiet joy that we feel our hearts wrench. The atheist merely cries, “wow, one hell of a sunset” and moves on, retracing his steps to the car, gunning the engine and heading for the bar for a beer and a burger. We sit shaken by the experience, hungering for more, but realizing that such moments are gifts offered for the moment, then snatched away before they becomes routine and common.

Jesus speaks to his disciples and is mildly amused. He plaintively asks, “do you not yet have faith?”

What does it take?

Why must we bind it to saving our souls and accomplishing feats of healing and other tangible results? Is it not enough on its own, or must there be a payoff to count? Yeah, lady, God may love me but what has he done for me lately? We want a servant God. We want him like that genie in a bottle to just wait upon our needs. We want to be saved, and blessed, and presented with bounty. If we are going to do this thing, God better pay off!

He has.

Once you enter into the mysteries and stop fighting to logically deduce.

You can call it something else, and you probably will, but that changes nothing. There will be other opportunities and perhaps one day, you will let go and Let God.

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Thinking About Religion

religionYou hear it from both atheists and some believers. Religion does more harm than good. And what’s often pointed to as the rationale for this belief is all the death and misery caused by differences between religions.

They point to the Crusades, to Ireland, to India, and of course to the Middle East as proof that all too much killing has occurred “in the name of God.”

Since religious identities are apparent in all these situations, it’s an easy argument to make and is not often dissected. In other words, the conclusion that religion is at fault is usually not questioned by anyone. It becomes the backdrop to an argument, a given, while debaters continue on to argue whether other religious functions do or do not make up for the bloodshed.

A couple of articles I’ve read lately suggest that I and others who have taken this “truth” for granted, may be fairly off the mark. Benjamin Wiker tackles this problem in The Myth of Religious Violence. I think he makes some excellent points. Relying on William Cavanaugh’s book of the same name, he argues most so-called religious wars are really political in nature and have much less to do with religion as the subject. According to Cavanaugh, religious differences are easily abandoned when some greater issue unites the otherwise religious opposites.

This is confirmed in John Wilkins, Undefining Religion. Wilkins, who is in my estimation, a thoughtful and deep thinker, argues that religions get blamed for many (but not all) wars based on a thing called the reference class problem, i.e., the tendency to ascribe fault based on an easily identifiable “class” rather than on actual facts, or the fallacy of composition. An example would be, I’m for Obama and I’m Catholic, you’re against Obama and Protestant, thus Catholics are for Obama and Protestants against him.

Wilkins argues:

Even the so-called religious wars, such as The Troubles in Ireland or the Crusades, were the outcome of social, economic and political processes, for which religion stood, not as a cause, but as a proxy for the opposing sides. This is not to say that religion never causes problems of this kind – of course it does. But often enough it is not the cause so much as the banner under which other issues are being resolved. The Irish Catholics and the imported Protestants were representative of ethnic groups with different social status and power, and so being Catholic was not so much the root of the Troubles as the honest signal of group identity.

This is all fine so far as it goes, and I’m happy to see some clarity brought to an issue that has always been troubling in discussions about the value of religion. But unfortunately, Wiker takes it a step further, and enters into what I think is simply a sea of illogical conclusion.

Wiker contends that this false premise, that religion causes wars and strife, death and misery, is the reason why our country rejected a religious-state connection. He argues as Cavanaugh’s beard, that this belief is necessary to those who wish to create secular states. Notice the innuendo here. Secularists (bad) conspire to make religion the cause of bad things in the minds of the people which allows them to strip religion from the state apparatus, and thus make a secularist state (truly bad).

Wiker goes on to carry Cavanaugh’s argument that the case of Everson v Board of Education, is seminal in this regard, wherein Hugo Black borrowed Jefferson’s words from a letter of 1802, interpreting the 1st Amendment, non-establishment clause, as “thus building a wall of separation between Church and State.” Wiker argues that forever after “secular-minded” justices have used the violence excuse as the basis for their secularization of government.

Somehow I fail to see the connection, and nowhere does Wiker point me to any other verbiage in the opinion or other opinions for that matter from which I may logically deduce such a conclusion. Wiker claims that but not for this dastardly act, we would still be the Judeo-Christian country that he, no doubt, feels was intended.

Funny, but throughout my investigation of religion and the 1st Amendment, I’ve never come across the “violence” argument before. Actually what we find is a constant reverberating chant of argument that relates to the sanctity of religious freedom being maintained through its separation from government. Enlightenment founders were aware no doubt of the sordid an often ugly connection between religion and government in Europe. Indeed Wiker makes his own argument for this, in explaining to us that religion is merely the vehicle used by governments to effect results having little to do with faith. The argument actually becomes circular.

While we can be safe, I think, in our historical conclusions that the Clause was erected and maintained to protect religious minorities their freedom to exist and practice as they wished, Wiker has unknowingly it seems, add the very argument of religious violence to the pot. Religion and government together too often makes religion the tool of government. And that tool is a powerful one indeed, giving rise to passions that can be far greater than any other argument as a call to arms.

Just what I have been thinking about this week.

 

Resurrection City

ResurrectioinCityI approached Resurrection City: A Theological Improvisation with some skepticism, I admit. The message of Jesus seen through the eyes of jazz? Somehow it seemed rather implausible and frankly a bit gimmicky. After all, I guess one could do the same with weather or baking a cake if one tried hard enough, but would one actually learn anything?

Yes.

Professor Heltzel has in fact not only pulled it off, but offered us a truly meaningful way of looking at the ministry of Jesus, the message of God, and how we as mortals upon this flawed earth can bring forth true justice amongst ourselves.

I have indeed listened, during one portion of my life, a fair amount of jazz. I am not a musician and thus I can only say that I liked a good deal of it, and found some of it harsh and difficult. My expertise is sorely lacking.

Such is not the case with Heltzel, who obviously knows his stuff. He uses the idea of jazz and how “good jazz” works as metaphor for how we must approach the fractured world we live in, in hopes of resurrecting our lives to reflect the mishpat envisioned by God.

We are taken on a tour of the Hebrew Scriptures wherein we are reminded that throughout the pages of Isaiah and Jeremiah God’s people are continually called to do justice and to care for the weak, the dispossessed, the widow, orphan, and the stranger. We are reminded of God’s call for Jubilee, a time reserved to “re-balance” the scales of economic inequality.

Jesus, Heltzel tells us, was the improviser, taking the old laws, the old prophetic calls to justice, and re-imagining them in new ways. Jesus in effect gives us a new way to see and interact with God. The Jesus Way, the way of love, which moves beyond love of neighbor to love of enemy, replacing violence with loving resistance to inequity in the world.

This is what jazz is all about, improvisation. It is taking the old, well-known song, and changes it, probing and altering, tinkering, imprinting one’s own voice upon it, making it anew. We still hear the strains of the old, but we are revived in this new way of hearing.

As examples of the Jesus Way, Heltzel focuses of John Coltrane as his Jazz improviser, and Sojourner Truth, and Martin Luther King, Jr. as theological improvisers. Each made a seminal and world-changing offering to the “old” way of seeing, listening, and doing.

Heltzel maps out how the Christian Church has been, over the centuries, molded into something far removed from God’s loving call to mishpat. It has strayed into a patriarchal, white seat of power, that justified slavery, and the oppression of women throughout the ages. What is required is a “new way” of being church, one that returns us to the radical Jesus Way, and calls us to improvise in order to achieve that social justice that God desires.

In that social justice, all of us are freed as we learn the truth of our past, while we gain the tools to begin the process of building our resurrection cities, where communities operate for the benefit of all their people. We must start that process, as he points out, by looking clear-eyed at our past. Through the stories of Sojourner Truth and MLK, Jr, we examine with honesty the past that still haunts us, and how both of them improvised solutions to the problems before them. Each surrendered totally and followed the call for justice.

Perhaps the most striking image for me was his reference to the famous theologian James Cone, who writes:

“Theologically speaking, Jesus was the ‘first lynchee’ who foreshadowed all the lynched black bodies on American soil. He was crucified by the same principalities and powers that lynched black people in America.”

This is a powerful metaphor, and comes at the beginning of our journey through the ugly past of American slavery. It informs our thinking, in a deeply powerful way when we juxtapose that against the determination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to maintain a non-violent resistance to Jim Crow in the South. How does the anger and hatred that the Cone statement engenders get translated into the sedaqah (righteousness) of the love-based non-violent resistance of King, or his mentor Gandhi?

Heltzel steps forth with his jazz references. The “blues” of slavery meld into the spirituals that both bespeak that evil and pain while yet pointing to a better time and a better life. These are grafted by the jazz musician into the new music of a world to come, one infused with power and new directions.

We see the Poor People’s March on Washington and in our own time, the Occupy Movement, as similar jazzy improvs–people joining together in their pain and anger, and forging a loving yet determinedly non-violent response to the powers that oppress and dehumanize us all.

Heltzel informs us, and then calls us to action in our place and in our time to create the new songs that God calls forth from us to build a new world, one of justice and for all.

Read this book. You will be transformed.

**This book was sent to me for review. The opinions contained within this review are mine and mine alone. No other agreements exist between the writer and anyone connected to the book or its dissemination.

Religion vs Spirituality

A friend of mine posted this a few days ago on Facebook. religionspirituality

I commented that “I could agree with that.”

And I can.

But like all memes it suffers from simplicity.

Often memes are just plain wrong upon further reflection. Sometimes they are right “most” of the time. Maybe they are mostly wrong except in a few circumstances.

This one I think is mostly right, but with a few caveats.

First of all, most religions are not “someone else’s experience.” They are a lot of someone elses. Where Christianity is concerned that numbers in the dozens. And that only relates to its scriptural base, the bible. If you add all the other writings not canonized, but still reflective of how people of generally the same time frame came to see the Jesus experience, then it grows substantially.

And of course, that says nothing to all the theologians and biblical scholars that have expanded our knowledge of exactly what that experience was, and how it should be conceived of. They number in the thousands over the years. And of course the mystical writers have their own experiences to relate.

So we actually have a lot to dig through in discerning what that “experience” is. Much the same could be said I suspect of most other religions. The end belief system is the product of hundreds if not thousands of minds. And of course, there is much conflict between minds.

But religions have surely set dogma and told believers that they should adhere to those beliefs. They divide them often into those that “must” be adhered to, those that should be, and perhaps those that are “up to your conscious”. And these change too, moving from one category to another. That is where the trouble begins.

Do we dare question the insights of a St. John of the Cross? Or The little Flower Theresa? Are their visions and spiritual deductions sacrosanct because of their sainthood? Is mine less so because I lack the imprimatur of the Church? That is where one’s spirituality conflicts it seems to me. And it is where the Church, standing for religion errs.

For the Church seeks, based upon its self-defined expertise, to tell the parishioner  what she must believe to remain within the good graces of said institution. An institution made by humans I might add, whatever your current theology might be about what Jesus intended when he laid the mantle upon Peter’s shoulders. This is error as I see it.

The Church has a serious and important role. That role is to nurture, care for, and raise up the individual who comes seeking. It can and should not judge, but only facilitate  with love and forgiveness, warmth and understanding, that relationship between God and creature. It should in no way be a barrier, EVER. When it does so, well as Jesus said, better tie a millstone around its neck and drown it.

And of course many would do just that. In the name of God.

And they are just as wrong as those who see the Church as God, speaking for, judging for, and forgiving for God.

For that purpose of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending to the sick, and ministering to all who are suffering, is the primary goal and purpose of religion, or Church. And if, I would argue, it limited itself to that purpose, it might well effectively reduce suffering in the world in a degree that would stupefy modern governments.

That is not it’s only purpose however. It serves to be the gathering forum for believers, and that is of no small importance. For the scriptures make clear to us, throughout them, that the gathering of the people in “church” is valuable and necessary. In some sense the Trinity teaches us that–one God in three forms operating in perfect community. We are communal creatures, and Church can and should mirror that perfect community. We are called to act selflessly, and no better place to learn it SHOULD be the Church.

Instead of course, we find nothing but judgment and rejection for so many. As if God needs humans to prevent other humans from approaching the altar. As if somehow the Church sanctifies and not God.

Spirituality is not a substitute for church in this sense. All too many people are walking around proclaiming their spirituality and their self-interpretation of scripture. The trouble is, scripture is not something that one can “just understand with an IQ of 100″ as a self-proclaimed atheist recently told me. Although not a believer, he insisted that our “debate” be limited to the four corners of the bible, and using the common sense meaning of the words themselves. Of course such a notion is absurd.

Millions of unchurched Christianists proclaim what God wants, needs,  and hates. They then insist that we conform to their beliefs. Church can and should be the counterpoint to this sort of self-serving Christianity. If it is wrong for a church to speak for God, how much more so when an individual seeks to tell another what God wills or punishes? Here faith is simply used as a defense to calls of bigotry. We hear, “I personally don’t care about _______, but God is against it in the bible, and it’s my Christian duty to speak up.”

This is what comes from unfettered “spirituality” absent the restraints religion heterodoxy. But heterodoxy is in the end a human endeavor, and should never be confused with God, now with eternal truth. It is the best of what we understand now, and not what we may realize tomorrow.

Smart churches do this. All churches should do this.

Churches should be spending more time helping its members explore and think. As in all things, critical thinking skills apply. The dogma of the present church should but serve to start the discussion, and the exploration. God gave us these marvelous thinking instruments and they are meant to be used. Only by the deepest and broadest searching will we be rewarded with the most meaningful experience of God.

So, it’s not all one, or all the other. Each goes wrong by itself. It is the blending of both, and the value of both that enriches the individual.

Amen.

The Hypocrisy of Treating Jesus with “Tough Love”: Here’s a Riddle for You . . . (Sunday Homily)

Sherry:

Because I can’t say it any better.

Originally posted on Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog: ". . .about things that matter":

the least

Readings for Third Sunday of Advent: IS 35: 1-6A, 10; PS 146: 6-10; JAS 5: 7-10; MT 11: 2-11 http://usccb.org/bible/readings/121513.cfm

Recently, Mary Shaw contributed a well-received article to the pages if OpEdNews (my favorite online news source). The article was called “American Hunger and the Christian Right.” There Ms. Shaw pointed to the irony of predominant elements within the GOP adopting as their two main goals cutting social services such as Food Stamps and eliminating labor unions while at the same time calling themselves “Christian.” In Ms, Shaw’s analysis, such inconsistency does not jibe with the personal poverty of Jesus himself, or his concern for the poor manifested in mass feedings on more than one occasion.

In the light of today’s liturgy of the word, I would go even further and argue that the GOP position flies in the face of the entire Judeo-Christian tradition expressing (as it does) God’s…

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Unstructured Thoughts

EinsteinWe can never explain God simply can we? Never, no matter how much we try.

Oh we can pretend that we can. We can for instance call God, “love”.  All that needs saying right?

No, it but starts the conversation surely. How does this “love” allow for all this hate and misery and pain and suffering in this world of ours? And even before these creatures called humans deigned to stand up and gaze over the grasslands, it was so. Some animals are carnivorous, feeding off other passive creatures. How “loving” is that?

When the opposable thumbed ones stood up, did they do so out of a desire to see the world in a bigger context or because it enabled them to see danger when  it was still far enough away to do something about it? Before they too became somebody’s meal?

Creator of the universe? Yes, but is this “our” universe, or a lot of “ours” universe? Is it our playground or simply our small slice of this one? Are there many? Do they each have a God, or is this one running them all? Is Jesus our Jesus, or is Jesus, Jesus everywhere?

Oh you know the answer? Confess, it’s only a guess. You guess you know. You choose to believe you know. You don’t really know.

Is that the essence of God? Is it determining to believe what you can’t know? But perhaps I cannot know what came before the “Big Bang”. Astrophysicists tell me that I may not ever be able to. Is that where God is?

Are we all just struggling humans trying to make human sense out of what is not human? After all, did the psalmist have it right when he said, “how hard for me to grasp your thoughts”? Can I grasp them? What exactly is “in my image” mean after all?

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But then there is this: “if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?”

We are tantalized with both you see, the confounded frustration of never “getting it” to the assurance that we can. Or at least the belief that we can. For that image thing surely means that we must “think” in the manner of God, in the sense that 2 + 2 = 4, and if A = B, and A = C then B = C. It must be like that, surely?

So why can’t we KNOW for God’s sake? Actually why can’t we know for our own sake, for surely God doesn’t need us to know, but we desperately need to know. Or don’t we? Is there some delicious wonderment in believing rather than knowing? Is that comforting and empowering somehow that cold factual knowing can’t be?

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After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: a glimpse of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what has happened is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then the master gives the student dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he says, kill him.

Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.

If that’s true, and it may well be, then what are we to do then? Toss the bible in the trash? Stay away from every edifice that signifies the place of knowing, i.e., Church? Don’t read what anyone writes about the subject? Because the minute you think you have a handle on God, like partially set jello in your hands, it slides away? The minute somebody makes sense, or assures you that they know, you can be very sure they don’t?

I don’t recall wherein his Confessions, he said this, but  Augustine said, “God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.”

How much clearer could that be? And pray tell, why does Augustine then proceed to tell us so much about God? We are driven to explain what is inexplicable, and by its very nature is probably clearly not what we explain.
Perhaps it is what keeps me in the Catholic church and out of it at the same time. I don’t trust the messenger any more, yet I know God is there. It’s all very funky in my head when I try to sort it all out. Perhaps sorting is the wrong thing to do. Just let it ferment old girl, just let it ferment. It will take care of itself.

♥ ♥

I do know that this passage has stayed in my head for more than a week. I can’t shake it. I guess I ask God a lot for wisdom. Maybe because that is one of the few things in the Bible where a feminine aspect of God is clear. Wisdom is SHE, damn it, and if you don’t like it, well too bad.

Anyway, I long for this:

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,

unique, manifold, subtle,

mobile, clear, unpolluted,

distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,

irresistible, 23 beneficent, humane,

steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,

all-powerful, overseeing all,

and penetrating through all spirits

that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;

because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.

25 For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

26 For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

27 Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;

in every generation she passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

28 for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

29 She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light she is found to be superior,

30 for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

8 She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.(Wis. 7: 22-8:1)

Until God so chooses to grace me, I remain but a God Seeker. But then, truly, whether we know it or not, aren’t we all?

Amen

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