Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Conversation Between the Brothers….

Long ago and far away, I ended the first post in this series….The POE Revisited….

More in my next post about the conversation between the two brothers, Ivan and Alyosha.   Here is the link to the excerpt.....Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Problem of Evil from the Brothers Karamazov.

Perhaps the title of this post isn’t quite accurate.  What goes on between the brothers isn’t actually a conversation….it is a one man dissertation.  Ivan presents his complaints against God to his brother …monologue fashion. Alyosha… mainly listens. 

And it is the children…the suffering children….the stereotypical argument that is so often raised against God…that bothers Ivan the most.  He makes his case using examples of suffering children….facts and anecdotes that he’s collected from newspapers and books.  And he has some really abhorrent examples.

The “theory of theodicy” he rails against is one of the many explanations mankind has come up with to reconcile the big three pillars of theodicy….the goodness of God, the omnipotence of God…and the existence of suffering.

Ivan is a made up character birthed from the mind and imagination of Fyodor Dostoevsky but he is a composite of many real life people who also find the POE and mystery of suffering….especially the suffering of children, to be the ultimate paradox…the unexplainable enigma…the “fly in the ointment”….the unforgiveable sin for a God who is supposed to be love.  The suffering of children is a frequent theme in Dostoevsky’s work so perhaps he, too, is trying to hash it all out…make sense of it…through his writings?

The angle Ivan chisels away at in his monologue is the necessity of suffering for an eventual, eternal harmony. The conclusion comes to is “no way, Jose’” It’s not worth it.   And he uses the examples of children to prove his point….even though he muses that….

I meant to speak of the suffering of mankind generally, but we had better confine ourselves to the sufferings of the children. That reduces the scope of my argument to a tenth of what it would be.


I took the case of children only to make my case clearer.

Of the other tears of humanity with which the earth is soaked from its crust to its centre, I will say nothing. I have narrowed my subject on purpose.

I’ve had trouble getting started on this series. Perhaps because I don’t know exactly what I want to say.  There is so much to say…so many aspects of it to explore.  I’m just going start typing and see what unfolds…looking at it from several angles. Writing brings a clarity to thoughts, gives them form and order.  A bit like free style mind mapping, without the map. 

More to come in my next post. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Can You Pray Away the Gay….?

This morning, via someone’s facebook link, I watched a 10 minute video of a “pray away the gay” altar call by Damon Thompson, an Alabama preacher who heads up a youth ministry called The Ramp

His style of preaching is similar to many preachers I’ve heard….and the southern accent is sort of disarming.  He seems likeable.  He seems sincere. 

He dubbed it the hardest altar call anywhere…any time.  And yet they came.  Crying, shaking, kneeling face down on the floor, pounding on the altar with clenched fists, hands raised in pseudo victory.  

My heart hurt for those teenagers…and the message he drummed into their heads….just a carbon copy message of so many other preachers in so many other churches.  Homosexuality is an abomination.  You are second rate…detestable.  God wants nothing to do with you the way you are.  The Holy Spirit?  Well he’s not about to share your house with a homosexual devil.” 

“God has not nor will he ever coexisted [sic] with the devil,” Damon began. “And God’s not gonna come live in there with you and your homosexual devil.”

Sorry Damon…there is no “gonna come live in there” about it.  He is already there in all those sobbing, quivering kids.  

The seed of God is in ALL humanity. Gospel of John?  He is the light that lights every man that comes into the world?  Sound familiar?  He is our life force, our spark…our very breath. Without him sustaining us…it’s curtains…all over but the crying….the fat lady sang.  Ever hear of laminin? You can read a little about it HERE and check out this video.  What about Acts 17?  In Him we live and move and have our being?

Psalm 139?  Where can I run from your spirit?  Even if I make my bed in hell….behold THOU. ART. THERE.   

I truly believe that the verses “about homosexuality” in the Bible, understood in their proper context and not just taken at face value (a concept anyone who has embraced universal reconciliation should be familiar with) are not talking about modern day committed homosexual relationships.  

And just a side trip/rabbit trail here for anyone who takes issue with the idea that there is such a thing as a committed homosexual relationship…clinging instead to the stereotypical belief that gay equals promiscuous….just a couple of thoughts to consider.

A lot of gay folks are hiding their true sexual orientation…and really…who can blame them?  Living in a society where many frown on gay marriage, it isn’t as viable an option as it is for those of us born on the hetero side of the human sexuality spectrum.  For many, their careers, their standing in the community….in the church would be destroyed if they came out in such a blatant (courageous) way.  So they settle for encounters…rendezvous…..without outward commitment. 

And as for those who are truly promiscuous….who engage in risky behavior with many sex partners? If someone has been brainwashed into believing that they are a worthless piece of shit…less than….not good enough…vile, even….then they are apt to act the part…..just like their heterosexual counterparts who have internalized a sense of unworthiness.

Sermons and altar calls like the one depicted in this video, go a long way toward promoting that sense of unworthiness.  Watch the faces of these kids….contorted with pain….wanting to be anyone but who they were created to be.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The POE Revisited

The idea for this series was sparked as I read some of the excerpts from The Brothers Karamazov.  How loving your specific neighbor was so suprisingly difficult to pull off.  In that same chapter, Fyodor Dostoyevsky deals with another big theological paradox.  Perhaps the biggest paradox there is....

The POE....the problem of to reconcile a loving omnipotent God....with all the evil and suffering in the world.  That is the basis of theodicy, the defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil. 

From my own experience, I've found that his defense...or vindication, the word used in some dictionaries "ain't easy." I wasn't a Christian very long before I was faced with reconciling those three key points that form the theodicy riddle, the "therein lies the question" quandary/paradox/koan....
  1. The goodness of God
  2. The omnipotence of God
  3. The existence of evil
 Epicurus summed it up:
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
It haunted me for the longest time and  I was just absolutely, totally pissed off at God about all the starving children, death, disease, pestilence, natural disasters etc that abound in our world. We were barely on speaking terms, He and I. Well, mainly "I." He was still whispering softly to my heart but I wasn't interested in listening, I had a major pout going.  Huge chip on my shoulder.
But I wanted....needed....answers. And so I googled....and surfed.....and clicked on link after link about suffering and evil.  The Brothers Kromanov might have inspired this series, but I have no shortage of resources to draw from.  I have dozens, possibly hundreds, of articles saved on my computer....about suffering, the POE…..all trying to answer questions like…. just where the hell is God when we suffer.  I printed many of them off and saved them in binders.  I have at least as many links saved in my favorites and just as many quotes saved in my quotes file.

I plan on this being a series....but you know how I sometimes stray from the original, central theme.  I think the conversation between the two brothers is profound.  It sums up the problem of evil in a nutshell....succinctly.  Perhaps it will remind some of you of a long forgotten required reading assignment in English Lit....or perhaps it will be prose that many, like me, never struggled to read and understand.   And when it comes to the problem of evil, who really does understand? 

More in my next post about the conversation between the two brothers, Ivan and Alyosha.   Here is the link to the excerpt.....Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Problem of Evil from the Brothers Karamazov.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It’s all a matter of perspective :)

And another snippet from Craig Harper’s motivational blog…a blog I mentioned a while back. He has a great sense of humor…although in some of his writings he is somewhat on the….ah….course side. Quote follows….

A few years back, I met with a guy who wanted my help to lose some weight; not an altogether uncommon request in my world. Without giving you specific details, it’s fair to say that he was morbidly obese. That is, huge. Somewhere in the vicinity of double his ideal bodyweight.

Or, half his ideal height. Image(3)


Like so many other things, it's all a matter of perspective....

weiner dog

You can find this wiener dog magnet at Cafe Press

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bucket List? Phucket List?

I came upon a post this morning…long after I should have been in (and back out of) the shower…on The Naked Pastor. It was buried within the feeds from the (way too) many blogs that live in my google reader account. 

The blog is called…The Naked Pastor..and is owned and operated by David Hayward.  The post was called The Phucket List.  Yep…a play on words…a sort of round about phonetic spelling…enabling him to say a word without really saying it…although we know exactly the word he is sort of saying.  Very clever.

The post was inspired by the movie, Bucket List.  We all have a Bucket List….things we want to do before we die…and I suspect we all have a Phucket List too…or we should.  In the bucket…stuff that, upon first glance, seems totally pertinent and important but upon further pondering and evaluation actually isn’t…and so it should go live in the Phucket Bucket. 

Check out the post.  Check out the blog.  He’s also an artist/cartoonist and his cartoons are sure to bring a wry smile to your face.  And give some thought today to what’s in your phucket bucket….what it should be filled with….and what it shouldn’t. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Who are your untouchables/unspeakables?

This is the fourth…or fifth….post in a (long drawn out) series that has touched on all kinds of stuff. Gays, gay marriage, gay agendas, what Jesus did, what we should do based on what Jesus did. And particular people as opposed to hypothetical people who are easier to hate and the paradoxical fact that sometimes hypothetical people are easier to love. Easier, that is, than the individuals we get down and dirty with in our every day face to face lives.

After proclaiming that the law could be summed up as Love the Lord thy God with all you heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself, Jesus was asked… okay then….just who exactly is my neighbor?

Ah...loaded question. And as usual, Jesus provided a loaded answer. Rather than just flat out tell them, Jesus used an analogy, a story....a parable. He told them the story of the Good Samaritan. In my web wanderings, I came across an article, "Touch The Untouchable - Speak the Unspeakable" that talked about this particular parable and had some really interesting insights into what Jesus was trying to get across.

In the article, Dr. Edwina Hunter,the Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, talks about how scandalous this story would have been to the Jews he was addressing. The Jews loathed the Samaritans.

So the gist of the story, a Levite and a Priest happened upon a man...robbed, beaten and dumped on the side of the road….and neither of them stopped to help. But the Samaritan did. So then Jesus asked another trick question, “who was a neighbor to this man?” Nobody could/would utter it out loud. They so vehemently hated Samaritans, they wouldn’t even speak the word!!

So without actually saying Samaritan, the asker answered "The one who showed him kindness." Yep….right answer.

A quote from the article:

Jesus' original audience was shocked because they and the Samaritans hated and despised each other. So? So, what does this parable have to say to us? We can hear that only if we translate it very personally. Whom do I, whom do you despise, fear, hate so much that you hate even to speak the name? Or take it further. Jesus said that the Samaritan actually touched the man who had been left for dead. Touched? He touched one who, for him and his, was untouchable. What is Jesus saying? He is saying that we will never understand who our neighbor is -- who the one is that we are to love as ourselves -- until we are able to touch the untouchable one and speak the unspeakable name. Biblical scholar, Robert Funk, says that we have to ask, "Whom would I least like to be touched by?" By whom would I least like to be helped, indebted to? Only then can we understand, hear what Jesus was saying.

There you have it….it turns out that even the folks we cannot stand…the ones we loathe….are our neighbors. The untouchables….the unspeakables. We are supposed to even love them as we love ourselves. For some of us our untouchables are gay. For some of us, our unspeakables are Democrats….or Republicans….or Catholics….or Muslims. How about fundamentalist, evangelical Christians? Yep, even those folks.

Check out the article……and think about the questions. Who is your neighbor? Turns out it is every one. Jesus did not let us off the hook about loving our neighbors….not the ones on the other side of the globe….not the ones on the other side of the street.