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Saturday, April 30, 2005

open is as open allows


my friend icarus has posted an open letter to christians. here is the link.
http://icarusgoodman.blogspot.com/2005/04/letter-to-christians.html

his questions are real and he has invited believers to respond.
(because i'm long-winded, i am responding in sections...)

something to think about.
(below is a quick copy and paste of the letter... it is far easier to read it on icarus' sight.)

***
Dear Christian,
I have recently heard you talking about some "God" who created the universe and a guy named Jesus who loves me and who can grant me everlasting life in paradise. As I am always interested in ways to live forever in eternal bliss, I am very interested in learning more about your religion. However, I've also heard many other people talking about other ideas concerning "God" and life after death. I certainly don't want to follow teachings that are not correct and live my entire life following false notions. So, before I ascribe to your religious views of existence, I have a few simple questions that need to be answered. Please indulge me.


Now from some preliminary research I have conducted, I learned that your knowledge of "God" and his ways comes from a collection of books called the Bible. This Bible you claim to be the word of god, as it was revealed to men who then wrote it down for the rest of us. Please answer me this, Why do you believe this? Why do you believe the Bible to be the word of God?Now, you might say "because it says it is." But this is obviously not sufficient. As I have learned in my research, there are other books that claim to be the word of god. For instance, there is this religion called Islam, and the core of its teachings come from a book called the Quran. Now these Muslims, as they are called, believe the Quran to be the word of God, as it was revealed to a prophet named Muhammad, who then had it written down.

Now see, here is the funny thing. After doing some brief examinations of the two texts, it turns out they say very different things about God, what he is, and what he wants from us. Now it seems obvious that, since they say contradictory things, they can not both be the word of god. We really have three options: Option 1-- the Bible is true and the Quran is false, Option 2-- The Quran is true and the Bible is false, or option 3-- the are both false. Now obviously, you hold on to option 1, believing the bible to be true and the Quran false. My question is why? What criteria did you use to determine the authenticity of the Bible and the falsehood of the Quran? Such information would be greatly helpful.

But maybe I should pose the question a bit differently, a bit more hypothetical. Since both books contain a lot of historical events and earthly happenings that might detract from our dialogue and I don't want to get side-tracked into irrelevant arguments, lets create a parallel hypothetical argument to pose our question.

Imagine that I am a nomadic wanderer living six thousand years ago. One day, while going to a well to retrieve some water, two strange men come up to me. They introduce themselves and strangely enough, they both claim to be prophets who have received divine revelations from god, and they are charged with spreading the word to all the people. We'll call them "Prophet A" and "prophet B."

Always wanting to know the truth, I implored each man to tell me what god had said to them. After listening to each man in turn, it became apparent that what each man said was the complete opposite of the other. If one said god was a cat, the other would say he was a dog. If one said that we must love each other, the other said we must hate. Seeing that what they claimed god said to them was completely contradictory, I knew that both could not be telling me the truth. One of three options had to be true. Option 1--Prophet A was telling the truth and Prophet B was lying, Option 2--Prophet B was telling the truth and Prophet A was lying, or Option 3--both prophets were lying.

Here is where I ran into my problem. I did not know how to determine which one was being truthful, if either. What criteria should I use to determine which one was a true messenger from god? What criteria would you use?

PS.On a nother note, It seems that there might be some flaws in believing such a book as the Bible to be the word of god. Here is another hypothetical.

One day your roommate locks himself in his room. He does not come out for forty days. When he finally does emerge, all shaggy haired and wide-eyed, he has with him a big stake of paper. He then tells you that for the last forty days God had been talking to him, laying down a new covenant with man. Apparently God had changed his mind on the whole "Jesus thing" and had new rules for us to follow. Your roommate had been typing everything God said on MS word and he just got done printing it out. Now let me ask you this. Would you believe him?

It seems that the majority of people, would say absolutely not. Most would laugh and think him to be crazy. Yet if we think about it, one would have more reason to believe the roommate then the Bible. With the Bible, many of the books are anonymous, or we are unsure about their authorship, while you know for sure that your roommate has written this new covenant. Secondly, you don't know anything about the people who wrote the bible. Even if we assume that the books were written by those that they are claimed to have been written by, we know nothing of these people. None of us lived in the times when the bible was being written. None of us personally knew any of these authors. How do we know their character? How do we know if they are to be trusted? How do we know that those who wrote the Bible were not' a bunch of very seedy and opportunistic con men? In comparison, you would know your roommate. He is your friend. You would know something of his character and thus would be able to judge whether or not he was a trustworthy person or not. This information could help you decide whether or not you give credence to his claims of talking with God.

Since it appears that we would have more reason to believe the roommate, yet most of us would not, it seems odd that one would believe in the Bible, which you have less reason to.

PSS.Another thing before you go. Doesn't it seem odd that God, if he exists as you say, being all powerful and whatnot, would use the method of revealed religion in order to communicate his message? For one thing, we know humans lie. Therefore, how am I supposed to know whether or not someone is telling the truth when he claims to be speaking for god? Surely if God reveals himself to a man, it is a truly wonderful thing to behold. But, when that man then goes and tells another man of his revelation, it is no revelation to that man. It is simply the word of a fellow man, who he knows to be fallible and often deceitful. It is no revelation to him. He seems justified in being extremely guarded against such messages.

Also why use such an imperfect means of communication as language. So much meaning can be lost or misinterpreted through human language. And when the word is translated into other languages, even more can be lost. Also, a large segment of humanity cannot read, or cannot read the language of the bible, or maybe live in remote regions of the earth where knowledge of the bible might not exist. If god had a message that was so important for humanity, seeing that one's adherence to it or failure to adhere to it decides his fate between eternal bliss and eternal damnation, with a message so important, why would he chose to communicate it in such an imperfect way? Why not just reveal himself simultaneously to all of mankind instead of a select few?

PSSS.These are just some philosophical problems I have with the idea of revealed religion that I need to have answered adequately before I even begin to examine the actual contents of the Bible. If you can please answer these questions for me, then we can move on to the questions I have about the actual contents and merits of what the book says.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

table for three

"scientists, poets, painters and writers are all members of the same family of people whose gift it is by nature to take those things which we call commonplace and re-present them to us in such ways that our self-imposed limitations are expanded...

the wu li master dances with his student. the wu li master does not teach, but the student learns. the wu li master always begins at the centre, at the heart of the matter."
(gary zukav- the dancing wu li masters)

life is a dance toward God
(don miller- prayer and the art of volkswagen maintenance)

i just got back from breakfast with a wild-eyed missionary friend who is in his tent-making phase before launching into another six-months of God-busy which will take him from june until Christmas. although i did not feel that there was a human agenda being brought to the table, it became very clear that today was one of those 'you and me at a table for three' moments because God pulled up a chair.

i kinda wonder what Jesus would have been like to have breakfast with, because often when God pulls up a chair strange things start happening to the conversation.

anyway, before i get to that, i need to share something that i read on the same day as my eventful breakfast, posted by a sincerely insane friend of mine that i've always called 'bignose' since we watched monty python's life of brian together. why share it rather than link it? just because i know how many links i click on...
***
from grantley morris:
Our Leader's behavior shocked the religious establishment.

Christ partied with crooks, drunks and sluts. A prostitute kissed his feet. He did things on the Sabbath he wasn't supposed to. He insulted dignitaries, calling them vipers, blind fools, whitewashed tombs and other endearing names.

Those closest to him usually had no idea what he was talking about - he's warning them about the Pharisees and they think he's complaining about leaving the bread behind - but to those outside his inner circle, Christ wasn't nearly so intelligible.

He was acknowledged by demons and rejected by theologians.

He spoke to a fever, a tree, even a storm.

Before long, Jesus' sanity was called into question and at one stage his family came to take charge of him. He was forever messing up funerals, wrecking beggars' only source of income - their infirmities - and outraging religious leaders.

He made goo with spit and smeared it on a beggar's eyes. He stuck his fingers in a man's ears, spat, and grabbed the man's tongue.

How many churches would tolerate such ludicrous behavior? He took a short-cut across the lake - without a boat. He sent two thousand swine hurtling to their death. He physically assaulted temple workers.

No one - whether friends, family, admirers; devout, legalistic or lax - could agree with him for long.

Where are the creative, madcap warriors today? Are we patterning ourselves after a bunch of straight laced marshmallows who repel the creative and outlandish?
***

we were talking pleasantly when the nature of our conversation suddenly changed from to regular to revolutionary. the following ideas poured into my ears and then back out onto the paper through the mechanical pencil clutched in my soft middle class hand.

"the congregation uses leaders as an excuse to NOT do, to NOT give, to NOT..."

"as a church, why don't we do something in the world? why don't we step out of the land of ideas?"

"be able to challenge people from a deeper place to a deeper place..."

i believe that i was in the presence of a wu li master- one who has mastered the patterns of organic energy. dancing by my side, my friend invited me into a place that i had been before, only this time i was here inside out, and therefore my insides were able to take note of what God was saying without all the self-imposed limitations that my outsides tend to impose.

now i have to decide what to do with the learning.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

flashlight


i get up but you knock me down
i try to walk the line but you spin me round
you bait the hook and i take a bite
you slip forbidden fruit into my apple pie and i know why

sometimes i dream in black and white
and sometimes i miss the point
sometimes i believe that wrong is alright
but most of the time i use my flashlight

when i am well you wish me ill
i'm an easy target when i'm standing on this hill
i say i slipped but you say i fell
one step from innocence means one foot in hell as you know so well

i know you well enough to know you hate to eat alone
when misery has no company he calls it on the telephone
and when this life comes down on me i scream it's all your fault
i hear you laughing as you pour in the salt

i look up crying 'help me please!'
i can only see his face when i'm on my knees
he flips the switch with words of fire
in the light of his great love you're just a thieving liar

but sometimes i dream in black and white
and sometimes i miss the point
sometimes i believe that wrong is alright
but most of the time i use my flashlight

most of the time i use my flashlight
most of the time
most of the time

(august 99)

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

gasbar-hopping

the discipline of secrecy... how do you apply this and still 'give a cup of water in the name of the Lord?'

it's interesting how coincedence often just means that one happening coincides with another.

this guy pulls up to the gasbar and realizes that he has pulled up behind a former boss of his that he hasn't seen in awhile. he gets out of his car and says hello, but it is clear that his friend is in a hurry to be somewhere else (he's always going somewhere fast- he's lived his whole life trying to cram as many experiences into it as possible... why would he stop upon retiring?)

but here's the kicker: the whole conversation has put the guy's basic gaspumping duties back just enough that he is standing by his car when the girl with the van on the other side of the gasbar realizes that she has locked her keys in there with her screaming two year-old. she goes into the early stages of frantic, checking all of the doors and thumping on the window to try to assure the little one that she has not ditched.

minivan, safe and secure. no one is getting in there without proper access credentials (ie: keys)

so the guy pipes up with 'you know, autoclub will come and unlock your door...'

to which she gives him the facial 'thanks- good to know' before going back to pacing and pulling her hair off of her undoubtedly throbbing forehead again and again.

'do you have autoclub?'

'no'

'well i do. if you pump my gas i'll call them...'
this is how you get things done these days: life is a negotiation.

so anyway, she pumps his gas while he makes the call and the autoclub guy comes with his patented coat hanger thingie and the guy sees a mother and child reunion in his rear view mirror as he drives away.

and then it dawns on him: he hasn't said anything about Jesus... how will she know from whence the good deed came?

discipline of secrecy. God's deal. as far as this girl is concerned, this 'do-gooder' has just walked into her life and then walked out again like one of those angels on t.v. maybe she'll think about it later- maybe she won't. maybe she'll recognize Jesus in there somewhere- maybe she won't. the ultimate conclusion of any act, great or small, comes down to two things: how God intends to use it and what the other person does with it.

seems to me that either way, this guy's work here was done. the sooner we can release our hold on something the better. any good that we are capable of begins with God and ultimately ends with him.

i know that God knows how to turn a person's eyes towards him. i guess i just want to make sure that i am not the cause of someone turning their eyes away.

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Saturday, April 16, 2005

klingons kant jump

What's more, if there is no God at all, we're all suckers for limiting the only pleasure we'll ever have - the pleasure of this life. If I knew there was no God, I'd lie, cheat and steal just enough to maximize my own pleasure. Without categorical imperative, the duty of man is nothing. We have no final judgement, no reckoning day. We only have the incentive to avoid the worldly powers that be in our own selfish quests.

( matthew has a great blog of his own, but these comments are taken OUT OF CONTEXT from icarus' blog)

not much point in it all if we are ultimately subscribing to somebody else's lie.

some interesting things are said here about what one person would do if he/she knew for sure that there was no God... basically live a barbaric life pursuing the realization of physical pleasure through any means necessary and equating it with happiness in a klingon-sorta way.

the phrase 'just enough.' is an interesting one. i'm not sure that there would be a whole lot of moderation if it was 'anything goes,' nor would there be any 'powers that be' to avoid (apart from avoiding the bigger and more agressive klingons who had already in fact inherited the earth)

c.s.lewis had some pretty cool things to say in his book 'mere christianity' about moral law and our capacity to understand right and wrong even without subscribing to a faith in or relationship with a god who authored such things.

sadly, it occurs to me that fear of judgement and punishment might be the only way that some would place healthy limits upon their own behaviour. i mean, there are drivers who know all the hottest speed traps and will only slow down for them... you just know there would be no slowing down if there weren't some officer sitting in a cruiser with a radar gun collecting his or her quota of donations to the policemen's ball.

i haven't read his stuff (yet?) but the whole notion of kant's categorical imperative still seems to break down in that there are sociopaths who have no respect for anything or anyone and require external 'motivation' in order to protect others from the enactment of their free will. they will only do the right thing if the wrong thing lands them in jail or in breach of contract or in detox or in cement shoes at the bottom of the river... and to make things worse, there are others who become incredibily successful in monetary terms from having learned really well how to dodge the external consequences in court if the sociopath fails to dodge getting caught.

round round round we go-if she don't stop it's all gonna blow. we've got to reach higher, even if it means jumping for it.

anyway, i look at these things and am tempted to make the over-simple call: if we are as good as it gets then we're all pooched. i choose God thanks!

luckily, it doesn't stop there... in fact, that's where the conversation usually starts.

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Thursday, April 14, 2005

image of crucifiction?


marcy said:
well { ...it keeps truncating the link. Guess you aren't supposed to see that painting either. Maybe the Holy Ghost is protecting your innocent eyes..........

apparently the Holy Spirit chooses to honour our gift of free will in allowing us to put images into our innocent minds where they will be stamped indellibly until Jesus stops counting time and says 'ready or not, here i come'

tangent:
cosmic hide-and-seek... sounds way more eschatological than i ever actually think. the preoccupation with 'endtimes' thinking had more to do with 70's evangelicalism's spiritual answer to the cold war than with apocalyptic literature, i think. every generation since john wrote revelation from his lounge chair on the private beach of patmos thought that the book was about them and the end times were upon them...

how completely zaphod we can all be as a race of humanity, yeah? it's not that it is about us or our time, it is that the message is timeless. somedays it seems that human beings are immutable in all the wrong ways...


whatever the case, the painting here is true gospel: if Jesus were to be crucified today, what better place to hold the event than a parking lot outside a place where everyone congregates readily without being invited or having to pay admission.

look at the signs- forget the cars and the stylish suits and all that.
open 24 hours- the cross, always open for business.
eat here- the bread of life; the wine of freedom.
no vacancy- although the cross itself should probably be vacant here (as Jesus- being the Lamb of God, the Word incarnate, all purity and truth- was the only one who needed to be crucified and to ultimately overcome that crucifixion and death in place of sinful man in order for God's desire for the redemption of the world to be realized) the fact that Jesus' presence on the cross means there is no room for us there is a beautiful truth. although Christians maintain and cling to the notion of being crucified with Jesus, the truth is that they are only there by association. attempting to go to the cross without him results in a self-serving matyrdom... a crucifiction of one's own design, according to a personal agenda. as matt redman said in a song he wrote awhile back: "i've crafted myself a more comfortable cross..."

there is no vacancy at the cross of Jesus, only a note that reads:

'keep moving on the road- it's not much further now. if you leave your stuff here, i'll take care of it for you- JC'

but malls are too retro...should be outside of wal-mart.

Crucifixion at Barton Creek Mall by Jim Janknegt gathered from http://www.newpantagruel.com/issues/1.2/my_faith_is_in_the_rock_and_my.php

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

insatiable

the closer you grow to God
the more intimacy you can imagine
and the more dissatisfied you become
with your current experience of him.
like eating to grow hungrier
like drinking to grow thirstier...

somehow there is joy to be found in being insatiated
that is not found in being satisfied.

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Monday, April 11, 2005

nexus at the rainbow theatre snack bar

relationship: a collective state of experiencing each other...

we enter into some form of relationship the instant we come in contact with another being capable of communicating- verbally, nonverbally, spiritually even. how we conduct ourselves within these connections with others determines where the relationship goes and how quickly it gets there. maybe people remain disconnected (or even outright rude) because they feel that if they do then a relationship will not form between themselves and the other person and they will have no further responsibility.

this, in my opinion is exactly the opposite of what happens, because we are impressionable and things leave marks on our emotions that might be comparable to cookies left in the temp folders of our hard drives from the websites we visit- these marks are hyperlinks (probably the wrong word) back to a connection with another person. the thing we forget is that, by doing our best to remain disconnected and therefore not responsible for any further connection for our part, we still leave an impression upon the other person which registers as positive, negative or whatever. the problem is that we allow that person a very limited opportunity to experience who we are and, although we have essentially taken the coward's way out and are safe from any feelings of emotional responsibility, our whole relationship with that person can be summarized by as little as one word- jerk. loser. creep... (feel free to fill in more colourful ones on your own) and based on a very concentrated experience devoid of any real context.

i experienced this one this evening when we went to a movie with our kids...

(gotta break in on my own rant to say that the girls working at this particular second-run movie theatre are ALWAYS amazing- this isn't about them, it's about a guy in the lineup for popcorn. this post originally began as a comment response to some of the ideas concerning deteriorating customer/service relations that newguy and icarus posted as comments on yesterday's blog. just wanted to clarify.)

...this guy feels that my son has pushed in front of him, so when my wife steps into the snack bar lineup as well, the guy pipes up with 'is there anyone ELSE in your family who is going to join you?' he launches this missile just as i step towards my wife... now i'm involved and i'm immediately ticked, saying to my wife (loud enough for the guy to hear, of course) 'whatever, life's too short to get bent outta shape about the popcorn line.' with that, i check out and go talk with the friends that we have come to the theatre with.

so there it is: i think he's a petty old fart and he thinks i'm an blindly arrogant jerk... i guess we're even-steven.

my wife, however, chooses a higher road: she gives this guy a chance to experience her more completely than he has expected... when she gets to the counter, she orders his refill on the popcorn (because he has refused to step ahead of her in line- can't really be mad anymore if he does that) and waits patiently for this guy to be served before she orders our combos. he is dumbfounded, but leaves having a much clearer picture of who my wife is than he has of who i am. (although one could probably argue that, given the same context, i would misbehave the same way again and again making it abundantly clear that this is EXACTLY who i am- whether i intend to be or not... thank God the whole of any of us cannot be expressed in one specific context with numerous factors that need to be identical... but that's a whole nother blog.)

point is, he probably walks away from this whole exchange thinking 'wow, how did that jerk ever get such an amazing woman to put up with him?'

and in a strange and unforeseen spin we find ourselves at a nexus, he and i, because i ask myself the same question- often daily.

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Sunday, April 10, 2005

wal mart perspective

i was in a wal-mart in orlando during the christmas season of 03-04...

(which is just a really great thing to be able to say, since i live in what often feels like the canadian tundra... honestly, it feels like the canadian plains are strategically located on a special equator because that keeps the weather changeless and cold for months- perspective being subjective and personal and all that, we all realize that there is change taking place... it just takes too bloody long!)

and the girl working was incredibly bereft of personality except for the aspects that are negative in their expression. i asked her how her day was going and she looked at me like i was some overly-white-due-to-lack-of-sun-canadian with nothing better to do than to ask her stupid questions that didn't really matter.

i seized the opportunity to try to make a difference in the world and said:"you know, you're really blessed to live here. i know it seems like a hassle sometimes, but there are people like me and my kids who spend our whole life dreaming of visiting the place where you get to live 24/7."

she looked at my lack of pigmentation and my clothing that was far too light for december, even in florida (i was still climatized to withstand blizzards) and smiled noticeably, saying "i never really thought of it that way."

he shoots he scores!

getting somebody to smile- that's awesome. so much of our lives default to negatives if we let it. call it emotional entropy or something, i don't know.

for an engaging discussion on wal mart wages and sam walton's impact upon american commerce, check out my friend icarus' blog...
http://icarusgoodman.blogspot.com/2005/04/lower-wages-everyday.html

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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

seeking to be understood?

scientists attempt to explain why bloggers are the way they are...
http://eideneurolearningblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/brain-of-blogger.html

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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

beware of dog

i don't know how many times i've read that on a sign somewhere- usually at someone's house as i'm delivering papers or flyers or whatever. the sign is posted on the fence leading to the back yard, or in the front picture window, flanked by an ADT (or other- there is no corporate sponsorship behind any of the powerfully impacting things i post on this blog... for the record, our home security needs are addressed by another company- but who cares?) sticker and a neighbourhood watch sticker.

i always find myself looking around for the dog of which i am to beware. i listen carefully for some evidence that the dog is actually there. occasionally i even find myself wondering if there is a dog because of the silence. i mean, i've got a warning there and part of my response to the posted warning- part of my bewaring- is to try to figure out where the dog's at. what the dog is doing. what i can get away with before the dog becomes beware-worthy and comes for me! you know, basic limbic-system, fight or flight stuff.

so when i was delivering a flyer to a house and misread the sign to read 'BEWARE OF GOD' i got thinking the same way.
***

i went out there in search of experience
to taste and to touch and to feel as much as a man can before he repents
(bono, 'the wanderer'... collaborating with johnny cash on u2's 'zooropa' album)