Does God Want Shaun Groves to Be Happy?

I read Shaun Groves all the time.  Normally, he’s not talking to me or trying to change my world, so I leave him be.  But today, in his column pondering this prosperity theology, he does turn his attention, briefly, to preaching to people like me.

Here’s what he says:

And you non-Christians aren’t off the hook either. I know you’re reading and smiling, glad this isn’t about you. But it is. I think it could be anyway. It would be harder for you to poke fun at the prosperity preacher too if you’d be honest about why you’re not religious. Religion seem too narrow minded for you? Too unkind? A real God wouldn’t be like the Christian God? One way and all that junk? Well, if there is a God, I mean just imagine there is for minute, why would He have to be the kind of God you want Him to be? Is it possible that there could be a God who said through Jesus "The way is narrow that leads to life" and "not everyone will find it" – is that possible, even though it makes you unhappy? If God is really God isn’t it likely and logical that He’ll do or say something sometime eventually that we humans just don’t like? Don’t think so? Well, I wonder if you’re a prosperity preacher in atheist or universalist clothing.

Groves makes two enormous logical errors in this paragraph; he conflates non-Christian with non-religious (One) which he then conflates with atheism (Two).  Clearly, one can be religious without being Christian and one can be non-Christian without being an atheist.

But he asks questions and I’m happy to answer.

Does religion seem too narrow minded for me?

No.  I have religious practices I’m quite happy with, so even though I’m no longer a Christian, I see great value in religion (as well, of course, as great danger–but just because something’s dangerous doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done). 

Too unkind?

I have no idea what Groves means by this.  Do I think Christians are too unkind?  Well, yes.  Do I think this is Christianity’s fault.  Not really.  I think people in general tends to be assholes and, if they aren’t actively aware of that and trying to be better, no amount of words from a preacher are going to change that.  Do I think that’s the Christian god’s fault?  No.  I wouldn’t hold a god accountable for what His or Her followers do when they’re disobeying Him or Her.

Am I a non-Christian because Christians are unkind?  No.  Did the unkindness of Christians drive me from the church?  Yes.

A real God wouldn’t be like the Christian God?

The Christian God is a real god, so I assume that if the Christian God is a real god then a real God can indeed be like the Christian God.

One way and all that junk?

Unless there’s been some change I don’t know of in the last thirty seconds, I believe that evidence shows that even Christians cannot agree on one way, so, if y’all can’t agree on one way, why should I hold your hope for one against you?

Why would He have to be the kind of God I want Him to be?

He doesn’t.  But if I’m going to tie myself to anyone (or Anyone, in this case) and make promises of filiety and fidelity, I expect the same in return.  I never expected the Christian God to provide for me materially.  I mean, I have dear friends and family I love more than anything and who I know love me to the ends of the earth.  They’re not handing me money or great jobs or new cars.  I wouldn’t want them to.  I want them to be on my side, to be loyal to me, and to tell me the truth.

If they can’t do that, I don’t hang out with them.  If the Christian God can’t do for me the bare minimum I’m offering Him–loyalty, faithfulness, and honesty–then why would I follow him?

He can do as he likes; I’ll do as I like; and we’ll both go our own way.  But if the relationship isn’t mutually beneficial–and I don’t mean in some prosperity theology way (though I’m disturbed by how Groves conflates material wealth for happiness)–I mean in an "it is well with my soul" way, why would I continue it?

I think prosperity theology is an enormous misreading of the New Testament.  Enormous.  As we’ve talked about before, if Jesus was about anything, he was about demanding that people reconsider their assumptions and do the very things that scare them the most.

I’m sorry to inform Christendom, but hogging all you can for yourself so that you can feel secure is not actually that scary.  In fact, living in the world in a way that makes you feel secure is just about the opposite of the life that Jesus led.

But here’s the mistake I think Groves is making.  He’s asking himself–Does Jesus want me to be happy?  

Shaun, the answer to that is ‘yes.’

Does Jesus want you to be happy because you’ve finally got all the good shit you think you deserve?  Will you be able to tell that you’ve pleased God when you’ve got all the trappings of a good secular life?

No and no.

Jesus wants you to be happy through some real soul-transformation.  Hence the reason he’s all the time spouting this crap that sounds like nonsense at first–mustard seeds and eyes of needles.  Look at the world differently.  Stop measuring God’s pleasure with you through your ability to acquire all the stuff you’d like.  Don’t expect God to transform your material circumstances; expect inward transformation.

Etc. Etc.

But here’s the thing, Groves.

If you’re not being changed in a way that makes you feel more whole and more healthy and more connected to the rest of us, if it’s not good for you to be Christian, by the measure you set in consideration with Jesus, there’s no reason to continue to be faithful to that God.

Just a thought. 

It’s a big universe.  There are plenty of ways to be in it.

If you’re happy, fine.  If you’re not, that’s your business.  But leave the rest of us out of it.  Don’t paint me with your brush just because you don’t want to be the only one standing there covered in it. 




32 thoughts on “Does God Want Shaun Groves to Be Happy?

  1. There’s another logical fallacy in what you quoted, that you missed. Groves seems to be saying that "not everyone will find the way" with "there is only one way." Every teacher (well, not math teachers, I guess, but just about any other kind) knows that’s wrong. "There is more than one right answer" does not mean "there are no wrong answers."

  2. Okay, I followed you all the way through until here:"If you’re not being changed in a way that makes you feel more whole and more healthy and more connected to the rest of us, if it’s not good for you to be Christian, by the measure you set in consideration with Jesus, there’s no reason to continue to be faithful to that God."And for some reason this statement doesn’t make any sense to me. I don’t understand what you are saying here. Elaborate?

  3. Sure.What I mean is first that I don’t think Jesus ever promises that following him will alleviate your unhappiness. I think that’s clear. Just because you’re Christian doesn’t mean you get to skip out on the pain and suffering life brings.But I don’t see where Jesus says that following him ought to make you more miserable than you would be if you didn’t follow him.That’s the first part. Jesus never says that being Christian is going to suck more than being non-Christian. It may be a very different lifestyle. It may be harder. It might not have the same outward rewards. But it shouldn’t make you more miserable than being non-Christian.If God is love and love is patient and kind and all those other things that asshole Paul was smart enough to realize, being in the presense of God should be good for you.Maybe not good for you in a way that those of us who aren’t Christian would recognize as good, but you as a Christian should recognize it as good, the same way you recognize good parenting or a kindness from a spouse or a cute puppy. God’s love for you should be self-apparent to you.If it’s not, if being faithful to your god has brought you nothing but misery, you need to radically re-evaluate your relationship. If you’re certain that everything is right between you and you’re still miserable, if that love isn’t self-apparent, I don’t believe you have any obligation to continue to align yourself with that God.You could align yourself with no god (you couldn’t be any worse off) or you could go out in search of another god in whose presense you do feel well.If you only believe in one god, though, I guess you don’t have all those options. Still, certainly, the option of a radical reevaluation of how your relationship works is a viable possibility.

  4. "You could align yourself with no god (you couldn’t be any worse off)"Ain’t that the truth? I don’t have to worry about any of it. At least, not anymore.I mean, Jesus! What an unholy mess people make for themselves when they don’t have to.

  5. The thing about Groves’ post that still leaves me scratching my head is that it seems to be all about what God is doing for us. Are we rich? Are we happy? The point of Jesus is that you will be rich or poor, happy or sad, sick or well. But your relationship with God–mediated through the death and resurrection of Jesus–is a transcendent committment. It is very much a relationship, in the same way that a parent loves a child. You will have days where you aren’t swimming blissfully in pools of money and happiness, but the fact that you engage in this relationship with God transcends the minutae of this life. That was the point of Jesus. In Christianity "Are You Happy?" is an irrelevant question. Not that there is no happiness to be had, but that any happiness or unhappiness is wholly apart from that <I>peace that passeth understanding</I> in Christ. As far as stretching this lesson like taffy to apply to non-Christians, it makes no sense. If we claim to have a special relationship with Christ that can only be fully understood once in that relationship, we can’t then demand that others outside that relationship acknowledge the Mysteries they do not participate in.

  6. nm, "there’s not only one right answer, but there are wrong answers" is one of my favorite things to say to students who are scared of my exams and who assume that they can read me and answer "my" way instead of learning the material, thinking about it, and making an argument. I’ve never thought about using that to understand religion or morality before though – how exciting.

  7. Wow, did I apparently miscommunicate. Thanks for bringing it to my attention – and with your usual dose of humor to help the medicine slide down.I’m not asking God to make me happy. I’m not in the Joel Osteen "camp." I’m not asking these things of God. The post, rather, was supposed to show how we all – me included – allow certain expectations of God affect the way we approach God and whether or not we believe in God in the first place. And really, that thesis, in our consumeristic culture, applies to any god/God does it not? Or to our choice to believe in multiple gods/goddesses – correct?Don’t we expect God/gods to be certain things to us and for us? I’m saying that Joel Osteen and company expect God to make them wealthy and how, honestly, I can’t look down my nose at that way of thinking because on a certain level we all do that to God/god: expect Him to operate the way we WANT Him to operate.Someone once said – someone famous I think – that God made man in His own image and man’s been returning the favor ever since.The Christians who obviously hurt you, or just plain pissed you off years ago, made God in their own image. God’s true image, if represented by His followers, wouldn’t treat you the way I assume you’ve been treated by them – reading between the lines of numerous posts there. (I’m a big fan.)Well, the prosperity thing is just one more way of re-imaging God to better a person’s preferences and meet their expectations.That’s the thing I tried unsuccessfully to write about: the tendency in all of us to make God fit us. Whereas I agree with you that Jesus (God with skin, I believe) preached the need for man to conform to God’s image. He taught the opposite of our natural tendency. Revolutionary.I also didn’t mean to imply that non-Christian = non-religious = atheist. I meant to be inclusive of all those groups. "This might also be a tendency of those who are non-Christians, the non-religious and the atheist" not "This might be a tendency of non-Christians, who, by the way, are also non-religious atheists." That’s my fault. I wrote too early in the morning.I did rewrite that paragraph you quoted just minutes after I wrote it for fear of the original sounding a little snarky, which wasn’t my intended tone at all. It’s softer now and more what I intended it to be.Thanks for the good discussion. My blog tends to be commented on by "fans" who, regrettably, have a tendency to butt-kiss – and that doesn’t teach me a thing. I learn a lot here. Thanks for that.-Shaun

  8. One thing I forgot. <i>Does Jesus want me to be happy? Shaun, the answer to that is ‘yes.'</i>I never asked that. In fact I’m saying its stupid thing to ask. Asking it puts me at the center of God’s existence instead of Him at the center of mine.But I disagree with your answer. Happiness, as in elation dependent upon circumstance, is not something God wants me to be in a perpetual state of. He promises His followers "persecution" and asks them to "take up" a "cross" for Him. He promises mourning, sacrifice for the needs of others etc. When I sold my big ass McMansion so I could spend less on me and more on eleviating need for others, I didn’t feel happy pushing the for sale sign into my yard. I did feel joy. A state of peace, shalom, wholeness, feeling and being complete without need in the deepest most important places.Semantics? Maybe.Again, thanks for the butt kicking. Made me think…and realize I’m not the writer you are yet.-Shaun

  9. There’s a picture of Jesus hanging in our living room. The Butcher’s friends always laugh and call it our Buddy Christ picture, because Jesus is smiling.In fact, almost everyone who comes over says something about the picture, because who the hell ever sees a picture of Christ grinning?That’s actually one of my favorite moments in the Bible, though–when Jesus makes breakfast for the disciples. There’s nothing solemn about it. He teases them and jokes with them. And, even though they don’t know who he is at first, once they can’t haul the net full of fish in, they recognize him.I think, Shaun, that there’s something to that that’s crucial for ministers to own up to. Yes, it’s fine and true to say that God is bigger and greater than we can imagine. But I think that there’s a tendency to use this "so much more than us" trait to explain away every thing that doesn’t make sense.No, we should not remake our gods in our image, but our gods are recognizable to us. That’s the whole point running through Jesus’ interactions with his disciples after the resurrection. They recognize him, even though they are certain that the man they knew is dead.If the gods we know cease to be recognizable and we still claim to care about them, we owe it to them to fight with them about it, I think. Just like you would a friend who doesn’t seem to be acting like himself.There’s precident. Jacob did it. And he won.I wonder why so many of us are afraid to do that now–really have it out with God… Hmm.I think I’ve wandered completely off-topic now, but it’s interesting to mull over.I keep feeling like you’re on the verge of something, Shaun, like a lot of groundwork has been laid for something to happen. It seems like you’re flirting awfully close to it and I’m excited to see what comes of it for you.As for the butt-kicking, you’re welcome. Any time you need it, you just let me know.

  10. And that’s the beautiful paradox of Jesus I love. Bugs my Western little brain – this Middle Eastern guy living comfortably in the middle of so much contradiction. Promising a "burden" that’s "light" AND persecution and crosses. Making breakfast for disciples one minute and calling one of them the devil the next. Chasing bad guys of the temple with a whip and then telling us to turn the other cheek. Promising "blessing" AND bloodshed to his followers. Fully human AND fully God?Paradox.I love it and hate it. And I guess the discomfort of it is what tempts me so often to remake Jesus and God into something a little more palatable, predictable, explainable – more like, you know, us.Yea, I wrestle with who God is. I don’t like Him and I love Him. Now there’s a paradox…Thanks for talking about all this. As always, you move me to feel and think in new ways.-Shaun

  11. > Making breakfast for disciples one minute and calling one of them the devil the next. Chasing bad guys of the temple with a whip and then telling us to turn the other cheek.That’s not ‘paradox’. It’s bi-polar disorder with a side of hypocrisy.

  12. Yeah, but don’t you think that gets directly into what Coble was saying?From the outside, it does look crazy. From the inside, though? Shoot, if it works for you, go right ahead.I think, though, that forever the problems Christians have prostelytizing in places like the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia is not that non-Christians in those countries haven’t heard about Jesus, but that we have and think it sounds nuts.I mean, when you’re two billion strong and you’re talking about bringing the word of God to a world that’s never heard it… Shoot, you’re one in three of us. I think we’ve heard it.But reaching out to a world fully aware of who you are and what you stand for? I don’t think they’ve quite switched gears yet to get that that’s what they should be doing, because this whole "We are a persecuted minority" crap sounds like crap to the rest of us. Can one switch from being the underdog to not? It’s interesting to watch Christians struggle to understand themselves as the major world religion and to reimagine what that means in terms of outreach to the rest of the world.

  13. > you’re talking about bringing the word of God to a world that’s never heard itWhat is this "word of God" of which you speak? It sounds intriguing. Can you send some people over to my house to explain it to me? And I’m a little dense, so they might need to come back every month or so, until I ‘get it’.The local school probably has some kids who would be interested as well. Focus on the ones who don’t have critical thinking skills yet. They’ll be less dense than old codgers like me.

  14. Shaun, I think you and B. are talking about two different kinds of wrestling with God. You make it sound like you’re trying to get your head around who God is (which is cool). B. seems to be talking about confronting God, demanding that God live up to our expectations (which is awesome). She cites Jacob literally wrestling with the angel. But I have always been more impressed by Abraham, telling God that the Father of Justice cannot destroy a city just because some of its inhabitants are unrighteous. And he argues and argues until God admits that the city should be spared if even ten of its inhabitants are righteous. Demanding that justice really be just–that the divine fulfill its attributes–is very powerful. The prophets did this constantly, if we are to believe Jewish scripture. Sometimes they won. Sometimes they lost, and humans had to reinterpret what God is. Christians, for whatever reason, tend not to engage in making this kind of demand. I’m not sure why.

  15. I think that it has to do with the difference between the relationship God has with the Jewish people and the relationship he has with Christians.When God and Jewish folks first strike up their deal, he’s aware that he has competition. He doesn’t say "There’s no God but me," he says "Don’t have any other gods but me." In essense, "you are my people and I am your god. I had other choices; you had other choices, but we’re striking a deal to be there for each other and we will hold each other accountable to that deal."The thing I like about the Old Testament view of God is that he is changeable. He can change his mind; he can be fought with and argued with.And how could it be any other way? Even if God is eternal and everlasting, we each are the first of our kind to exist and before he struck up his deal with that small Middle Eastern clan, he’d never struck up a deal like that before.That’s something new. That indicates a change.But by the time you get to the point we’re at now, where three billion plus people all claim to be worshiping the same god and who all claim that there is only one God, well… shoot. That’s something very different. Especially if he’s omnipotent and omniscient.If god is everywhere, he’s not stopping by your house with two of his buddies to have dinner and make outlandish promises to your wife, who has just laughed in his face.We talk about a personal Jesus, but in a symbolic way. Most people are not friends with Jesus. They aren’t watching football with him; they aren’t wrestling around in the living room with him. They’re not arguing theology with him while he’s drinking their beer. (With the exception of my Uncle B., possibly, though I haven’t told y’all that story because I didn’t want you to think he was crazy.)There’s a remove.God is now up on some pedestal where his actions are inscrutible and his authority is unquestioned.If modern monotheists have a problem with God, they assume it’s because THEY are not in right relation with HIM. They never assume the problem could be otherwise.I think this is because Christians (and, I suspect, Moslems) aren’t chosen. God made a deal with the Jewish people–"I’m yours; you’re mine." It doesn’t matter where Jewish people live or what they do or even if they cease to believe. God is a tribal god (though I hate to use that word). The ties between God and people are impossible to untangle.But Christians, in order to be Christian, have to believe. They have to make a profession of faith and they have act recognizeably Christian in order to be considered Christian. And there’s always the threat of Hell if they don’t get it right.Their inclusion into God’s people is based on specific beliefs and behaviors, not on blood ties. Fighting with God, then, has enormous stakes for Christians in a way much different than for the people in Jewish scripture.I believe it can be done. I believe I know people who’ve done it. But I think most Christians think "Well, God knows more than me and He made all this. He must know what he’s doing. I just better suck it up and go along with it."I don’t believe that attitude–"I just better take this"–is very healthy. I also don’t believe that it’s the only Biblically sound way to interact with that God.

  16. I’m sorry, I got to this late…and apologies to any and all sides for weighing in from an entirely different direction…my cred is that I am profoundly skeptical of Christianity, and yet cannot quite walk away from it…being a preacher’s widow and all that.Anyway…When I’ve felt connected with Christianity, it’s always that moment in Gethsemenae that gets me…the "Um, wait, no, Hell no, I’d rather not DIE right now thanks"…Christ was never more in tune with the human side of himself than in that moment…but…I’ve always thought it the height of bad manners to impose one’s religious belief on someone else.Many Christians seem to see this as the height of their responsibilty, and it just isn’t. The Great Commision is not a license to intrude on others, disrespect them and their belief systems, or thedecision to rely on reason alone. (Paul would no doubt argue with me on this point. My late husband already knows that if there is in fact an Hereafter, and I get there, I have a reservation to spend my first thousand years of eternity arguing with Paul about what he wrote.) If in fact God is the God of the Bible…he has plenty of power to bring people *toward* himself without anyone knocking on any doors and asking me if I know Jesus…"Just saw him. Went Thataway." You are in fact, limiting God when you decide to be a nosy nellie for the cause.I’ve never felt more invited in than when I see good caregiving, medicine, teaching (as in secular education) friendship, mercy, kindness…*Those* are the miraculous ways in. Not "Evangelism" as defined by American Protestants in the 20th century.Ok. I’m done.

  17. Shoot, imfunnytoo, I bet Paul’s got nothing but women following him all over the afterlife being all "What the fuck, dude? Seriously, what the fuck?"Ha, that makes me laugh.

  18. The Paul jokes actually make my point. See, the way I see it, and I’m not alone on this, Paul was radically pro-woman. He went into a society that classified women as cattle, as property, and told men to submit to them and love them as Christ loved the Church – in other words, die for the woman you love, serve her, care for her in ways you never cared for a cow.That’s radical feminism first Century style.BUT, white Western men with political agendas, not wanting to love as Paul told them to love, not liking that kind of a God making those kinds of demands, changed the interpretation. They brought God in line with their modern politics. They conformed God to them instead of conforming to God.They told us Paul meant something other than He did. THe Baptists draft a statement of belief that insists women submit to men but deletes Paul’s command for men to submit also to women and, well, you bought it. You You bought it and decided you didn’t like Paul. Some people no doubt have gone farther and said because of the Baptist version of Paul they can’t like Paul’s God.See? This is the meat of my post. We make God meet our expectations – which is different I think from expecting God to act like He said He would and demanding Him to (wrestling).Aunt B, you said, "if it works for you, go right ahead." Do you understand that what I’m saying is that you and I don’t get to determine who and what God is. If it works for me? That’s Osteen all over again. That’s to me saying, "Make what ever God makes you happy." Alright then, I want a God that hates country music and Sean Hannity and was born in Texas and sends people who watch NASCAR to hell. That would make me happy. That would work for me. What would also work for me is a God that has no problem with me having sex with women other than my wife and wants me to never pay taxes and strongly encourages an all beef diet. That works for me.What I’m thinking these days is that God gets to define Himself – in various ways – and as we discover how He’s defined Himself we conform to/believe in/live in light of/die for His rendition of Himself…whether it works for us, makes us happy or changes us in unpleasant ways. (And sometimes it will.)The tricky part of course, the part that causes so much disagreement among Christians, is how to discover who God has defined Himself as. Figure that one out and I’ll buy the book.

  19. "If modern monotheists have a problem with God, they assume it’s because THEY are not in right relation with HIM. They never assume the problem could be otherwise."Just because God is everywhere doesn’t mean God’s gotten smarter. "I think this is because Christians (and, I suspect, Moslems) aren’t chosen."There’s stuff in Hebrew scriptures about other covenants with other tribes. (There’s also stuff about how Jews are the only chosen group, but then there’s instructions to the Jews not to mess with this group or that group, because God’s got a deal going with them, so you have to figure that the "only us" stuff is some sort of bragging.) So I think *everyone* has the right to argue with a divinity who is failing to live up to its claims. You may get slapped down–Job did, Jonah did, others did–but we never get told that God is going to blame you for it. "the way I see it, and I’m not alone on this, Paul was radically pro-woman. He went into a society that classified women as cattle, as property, and told men to submit to them and love them as Christ loved the Church – in other words, die for the woman you love, serve her, care for her in ways you never cared for a cow."Which society was this? Perhaps that was the case in Roman society–although if you look at Roman legal codes from the period it’s a bit exaggerated. But what we know about women in Jewish law and life during Paul’s time suggests that they owned and managed property, that they could compel husbands who mistreated them to divorce them and pay them alimony, and, most of all, that they were responsible for sanctifying the household. The way I see it, Paul demanded a considerable loss of spiritual rights for women, and certainly a loss of legal autonomy.

  20. In orthodox Jewish worship the practice was to allow the men in the service and to keep the women behind a barrier or screen.The verses where Paul talks about a woman in assembly are radical for the time in that he is encouraging the congregants to allow women to come out from behind the screen and participate in the service. His "quietness and submission" is asking the congregants for a compromise. Basically, let them be part of the worship–we promise they won’t take over.As for the rest of these conversations I’m choosing to take a larger backseat (ha! fat butt joke) than I normally do. I think it’s ironic that a post inspired by a Christian making unfair assumptions about the religious life of non-Christians should be morphed into non-Christians making unfair assumptions about the religious life of Christians.

  21. Sorry, what’s unfair about it? There’s a lot more to Jewish spiritual life than attendance at worship services. And there are more Jewish worship services than take place in a temple or synagogue. Jews were told they had the task of bringing God into the world. Women were responsible for doing this in all aspects of home and family life. And for those worship services that take place in the home, women were neither separate from nor behind the men. Christianity made priests responsible for the sacral tasks women had performed. That’s a loss of spiritual responsibilities, and in the forms of Christianity that don’t allow for a female priesthood, a loss of the right to aspire to take on those responsibilities for others. I recognize that Christianity is a ceremonially public religion, and I honor it for allowing women a public place in its public ceremonies. But the public sphere isn’t the only one that matters.

  22. shaun graves said:<blockqote>The Paul jokes actually make my point. See, the way I see it, and I’m not alone on this, Paul was radically pro-woman. He went into a society that classified women as cattle, as property, and told men to submit to them and love them as Christ loved the Church – in other words, die for the woman you love, serve her, care for her in ways you never cared for a cow.That’s radical feminism first Century style.</blockquote>first century….Yes indeed…I’m going to excersize some restraint here…Yes, I’m egalitarian rather than complementarian in my theology, because it is immutably true and without error that God made women’s brains for a reason…and that reason is not to use them *only* for the purposes of other humans, husbands, children…"neither male nor female…"You and I will differ.I have seen someone who…loved his wife as Christ loved the church…eventually ;) And while he did not "give up" his life for me…He certainly fit the definition of a suffering servant…where the Baptists have gotten to today would break his heart…but they’ve been on this path for centuries now, even after their ‘escaping from religious persecution’ Anabaptist beginnings.Human persons will not live up to those definitions by the very nature of humanity…You, sir, have your spaces and I have mine…and what was it I said about *trying* so intrusively hard to convince that your position is the correct one…Show it. Don’t just speak about it. :)

  23. Coble, are you an orthodox Jew now? Or is there some way to differentiate between when it’s okay to talk about religions you aren’t a part of and when it’s unfair? I put in as much time in the Methodist church as folks who get pensions when they leave, so I think the insinuation that I don’t know what I’m talking about is a bit unfair itself.Shaun, ha, now we’re to the place I cannot follow you, where we have to drop hands and part ways. Because, you see, I’m tired of that. I don’t mean that in some petulant way, I mean that in some bone-deep way. Either the Bible says what it says and any one can read it for themselves and understand it and, more importantly, take it at its word OR one spends all of her time doing the mental gymnastics necessary to feel okay about believing that, say, Paul, meant something quite different than what’s there on the page.I’m all for interpretations that enrich. But interpretations that contradict? "Sure, Paul says ‘Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.’ but he doesn’t really think women are idiots who will lead men astray if given any power in the Church. Instead, if you just look at extra-textual context, he’s a great feminist."I can’t. I just can’t do that. I can’t look at those words on that page and continue to force my brain to try to understand them as not saying what they clearly say.If you can make it work, more power to you. But for me? That’s the way of madness. I put a lot of trust in words and a lot of my heart into believing that if everyone speaks as clearly as they can and with an open and receptive heart, we can make connections that allow us to be truly known to each other.I strive for that, though I sometimes fall short.And so I just can’t take that leap with you. I can’t look at those words on that page or in that whole book and say "Everything’s up for grabs. Words don’t mean what they normally mean. People who seem like fuckers actually aren’t. Everything you think you know the ways you usually come to know them is probably wrong." and be a sane and healthy person. I need words to mean something generally agreed upon. I need to be able to come to an understanding of a text based on what the text gives me or with easily available secondary sources.But I can’t both take the text seriously enough to devote my life to the study of it and not take it at face value. They aren’t actually contradictory and I don’t begrudge people who can do that. But to me, they do feel so much like almost opposites that I can’t.If I’m supposed to believe that a religion is True, I have to be able to trust that the texts and stories produced by that religion as I encounter them tell me something I can see for myself about the people and deities at the center of that religion.

  24. This conversation is beginning to remind me of another:`I don’t know what you mean by "glory",’ Alice said.Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant "there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!"’`But "glory" doesn’t mean "a nice knock-down argument",’ Alice objected.`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’`The question is,’ said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.’`The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master — that’s all.’Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. `They’ve a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they’re the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!’`Would you tell me please,’ said Alice, `what that means?’`Now you talk like a reasonable child,’ said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. `I meant by "impenetrability" that we’ve had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you’d mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don’t mean to stop here all the rest of your life.’`That’s a great deal to make one word mean,’ Alice said in a thoughtful tone.`When I make a word do a lot of work like that,’ said Humpty Dumpty, `I always pay it extra.’– Through the Looking Glass, ch 6

  25. Not mental gymnastics. Context. Considering the time, place and audience for which words were originally written. Time passes. Language changes. Word get translated to various languages. Just 50 years ago the word "bad" actually meant "bad" and 10 years ago krunk wasn’t a word, so yea, you might have to think a little when you read a two thousand year old piece of literature.imfunnytoo, I don’t know what I said to piss you off. I don’t what makes you think I don’t "live it" and what exactly "it" is. But if you could clarify I’d be glad to plea innocent or guilty to the charges.It’s funny to me as well that the only ideas you can’t assert in conversation in without being scolded are religious. I’m explaining a belief. A belief which is merely an idea pertaining to the supernatural, unseen world some folks call "Religion." I think I’m doing so politely, respectfully, and with total admission of inadequacy. Why is this offensive? I haven’t condemn any other belief. I haven’t called any a name or demeaned a soul. I’ve come here to clarify my original post. And I’ve learned a lot in the process. Thanks for that.As for the first century attitude towards women, I have quotes somewhere on this computer from rabbis of the day calling women animals and other degrading things. Paul, I still assert, was progressive for his time. To be more progressive would have harmed the spread of the story of jesus (the gospel) and that spread was his primary concern – not women’s rights or anyone else’s. He says as much in 1 Corinthians. The gospel was paramount to Paul. And every Christian, in some way, male or female, slave or free, greek or Jew or pagan, sacrificed for it’s spread.-Shaun

  26. B, I didn’t mean that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I know you’ve been in the trenches.I just see these various comments from (not just you) but several commenters that led me to understand that various people with negative opinions of Christianity are not practicing Christians. And I don’t mean to be obtuse or obfuscatory, but I truly believe there is a level of mystical transformation to a Christian experience that leads to peace with these apparantly un-peaceful parts of the religion. "Faith" is too simplistic a word. But it’s a start. And I think that’s also a part of what Shaun is trying to say. As for me being an orthodox Jew, no. But I have spent 10 years of my life studying Hebrew and Jewish history and culture with various rabbis. So I have book knowledge–such as it is. Comparative Religious Studies is one of my hobbies.

  27. "As for the first century attitude towards women, I have quotes somewhere on this computer from rabbis of the day calling women animals and other degrading things."I’m sure you may (although I’d guess they were actually from a century later). Rabbinical texts tend to preserve all the positions that got argued out and led to either consensus or lack of consensus. That doesn’t mean that all the opinions that have been preserved were prevalent or that they had legal standing or influence. And, Katherine, I don’t think that suggesting that one of the reasons first-century Jewish women largely weren’t drawn to Christianity was that they did not see it as improving their situation is expressing a "negative opinion of Christianity," any more than Shaun is attacking Judaism. We’re having a discussion here, or at least I thought we were.

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