Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Larry Parker: Wrestling With God

posted by Beyond Blue

This journal entry (blog post) of Larry’s can be found at http://community.beliefnet.com/blogs/1580

(with thanks to David Kuo of Bnet’s “J-Walking” blog for the inspiration … and apologies in advance to my non-Catholic/Christian friends online and off …)
David Kuo, the former White House aide who has turned sharply critical of President Bush for not putting his money (and belief) where his mouth was when it comes to faith-based initiatives, is close friends with an evangelical preacher from the Twin Cities of Minnesota named Rev. Greg Boyd.
Through Kuo’s blog, I’ve heard tapes of Boyd’s sermons. And, being raised Catholic, I’m frankly allergic to the style. The only saving grace :-) to the constant, staccato “Can I get an Amen?”‘s is that he has a Fargo accent rather than an oleaginous Southern one a la Falwell or Robertson (or, from a more forgiving tradition, Joel Osteen …). I can assure (or disappoint) my friends reading this I will never convert to evangelical Protestantism.
But the substance … that is interesting.


Here’s an excerpt from one of Boyd’s sermons:

If we didn’t have confidence Easter was coming, we’d be locked in a Good Friday world. The darkness that fell on the world during Christ’s crucifixion would be a permanent state of affairs. Every loss would be a final loss, with no recovery. Injustice, pain, death and meaninglessness would have the final word. The highest aspirations of the human heart would amount to nothing more than a sick joke, serving no point in the total scheme of things other than to torment us.
Thank G-d Jesus rose from the dead!

Here’s the rub.
There has been much discussion in the media lately of Christopher Hitchens, the British journalist, and his American writing colleague Sam Harris and their avowed atheism.
All of the logic of an unremittingly hostile world is on Hitchens’ and Harris’ side. Yet both ultimately make me stumble. Hitchens in particular, if you’ve ever heard/seen him speak on TV, is so vitriolic, so angry, so hateful, that his manner invokes the bald slam on atheism that “Life sucks and then you die.” His blood must literally be boiling. That’s no way to live, with such bitterness in one’s heart.
Yet when one tries to justify Christian cosmology and, in its strictest, most judgmental forms, theology — it’s not asking us to make a leap of faith. It’s asking us to jump like Evel Knievel over the Grand Canyon.
So does that mean the idea of a benevolent G-d is automatically wrong? I don’t know.
And the “I don’t knows,” when you ask such questions (was G-d really punishing New Orleans for its sin with Katrina? where was G-d during the tsunami? where is G-d when a Darfuri woman is raped — again — by the Janjaweed?) add up. Which make Hitchens and Harris, insufferable though they are personally, tempting nonetheless.
Until you get to a point that — and here may be what Greg Boyd was getting at — to believe that the Cross is Good News, you must believe that up is down, that right is left, and that round is square, and this is what G-d commands us, no matter how bizarre.
My mind is too logical; it’s difficult to get my head (let alone my heart) around that.
Of course I know the conventional Christian answer to suffering — G-d cannot prevent evil acts of free will against another (thus the haplessness of the Darfuri refugee), but He can be there to comfort the afflicted. This used to be persuasive to me. It isn’t any longer. Among other things, even if you believe New Orleans is Sodom and Gomorrah and deserved its fate, what “evil act of free will” did the residents of the Indian Ocean basin, commit besides living close to the water? (Perhaps, to a fundamentalist, not being Christian was itself a good enough reason for G-d’s destruction. Scary.)
And if G-d is only concerned with our souls and not with our bodies, why do so many things happen in the world that are not only body-destroying but soul-destroying? You can name your litany of diseases (Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, persistent vegetative state, severe depression, substance abuse) — many of which I have seen in my family and even myself — along with sudden displacement, the sudden loss of one’s family (see Job, Book of), and so many more situations.
And yes, I know the conventional Christian (or should I say, Boyd/Kuo evangelical — the Jesuits who educated me at Georgetown were much more nuanced) answer, too: You don’t have enough faith. So start prayin’ and confessin’ those sins. When Harris and Hitchens say that’s blaming the victim, well, they seem to have a logical point.
(Unless, again, logic has no place in this world, as Boyd seems to believe.)
I guess you’d have to say I’m still a theist, and more of a lapsed Catholic/Christian than an agnostic or atheist, simply because 1. I do care, badly, whether there is a G-d and 2. I believe there is a soul, whether it is destroyed on earth (if there is a h*ll, and people go there upon death, I don’t think Satan even has a soul to destroy by that point …) or preserved and elevated to heaven.
And some theologians would say that the very fact that one doubts means that one admits there is a possibility of G-d; therefore, look at the positive — one actually has faith.
(An observation buttressed for me by the fact that probably the most spiritually lost person I have ever known — she was not a bad person at all, just lost; that’s the best way to describe it — was quite intentionally raised by her parents without any religious training. A wag once said that you send your kids to Sunday school — or Hebrew school, or what have you — so they’ll have something to rebel against one day. But I’m not sure it’s such a joke.)
OK. Nevertheless, my faith is a weak one right now. Or — at most — one that is constantly wrestling with G-d, as Jacob did famously in Genesis 32.
Note on usage: Because many Orthodox Jews read and post on Beliefnet — and have complained to me in the past for not doing so — I have used their formulation of G-d’s name. Plus, I actually like the idea of fear and awe it symbolizes — and the idea it encompasses, shown in this very essay, that we can never truly know G-d.



  • Lisa

    Larry! (picture a church-lady voice here)
    SHAME on you!
    I realize that shame, in this enlightened day and age is no longer politically correct, but REALLY.
    “Fargo accent?”
    The Twin Cities are in Minnesota. Home of my beloved Minnesota Vikings. Home of the medical care of my childhood in Rochester. The prairie home of “A Prairie Home Companion.”
    Fargo, on the other hand, is in NORTH DAKOTA. A lovely place, to be sure (I lived in Fargo-Moorhead – on the MINNESOTA side) for many years, and also in Bismarck) but it is NOT in Minnesota. Fargo was the name of the movie, sure, but they even shot it in Minnesota, the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes being so naturally … cinematic.
    People from Minnesota do NOT have “Fargo accents”. They speak the King’s English (as long as we’re talking King Carl Gustaf of Sweden or King Harald of Norway.) I expect a complete retraction and an abject apology, or I shall sick the Sons Of Knut on you and they will make you eat a plate of lutefisk.
    Uff da!!
    Lisa ;)

  • Larry Parker

    Lisa:
    But where was Fargo the MOVIE set? In the Twin Cities, not North Dakota :-)
    I have no idea why the Coens named the movie Fargo, either. But there ya go.

  • Lynn

    Judge not lest ye be judged, Those christians with their fists in the air declaring that all you non- whatevers are going to hell. (forgive me here BULLSHIT.)I have HIV, I did not do drugs nor am I gay , I did however fornicate, perhaps it is my punishment! But I do not believe that! I am being very frank here so I am letting it rip after years of listening to my baptist forbearers. Thoes BORN _ AGAINS who judge are just being self rightious and that is not CHRISTIAN.I made up my own little list of rules, I believe in god and I believe that I was saved. Your heart is what saves you, the compassion of Christ that lives in that heart. Jesus does not need to be shoved down anyone’s throat. He makes him self know in peaceful , quiet loving ways all the time. If you believe you can hear him, you can , if you believe he is in you, he is. If you are not a believer , I personally respect that, do what is right for you. I have no intention of changing by belief system nor do I expect others to do so unless they want to. I will continue to extend my compassion to all and wish only good for mankind and hope that all manners of injustice and suffering be healed. Give Me a AMEN.

  • Lynn

    Another thing (can you tell I am fired up here , and not at you Larry I think you are great)Maybe just maybe all this crap that happens is not GOD”S fault, man has messed with the natural world for so long now that what do we expect. Perhaps the only healing that can be done is in our hearts, maybe God is just shaking his head and saying What a bunch of Moron’s , I gave them Paradise and look what they have done to it. What did they think would happen!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Larry Parker

    I would anticipate that sentiments like yours might come from my words, Lynn. I certainly feel them at times.
    (And, of course, I hope and pray your health is stable given your HIV positive status.)

  • Babs

    My take on natural disasters and God — I don’t believe that God is using nature to punish anyone. Back in the day when we didn’t line the coasts with homes, and build over faults, and in the middle of forests, and on the edge of cliffs, hurricanes hit, earthquakes happened, forest fires raged, and mountains slid. It is only since we have insisted on defying nature with a roll of the dice, that we have faced these sorts of natural disasters on a massive scale. What is the first thing we hear after a disaster, “We will rebuild because we love it here.” Okayyy…
    When one looks across the oceans, we see people who continue to build near the sea because that is where they make their living as they have over the centuries. I am not being blithe about the seriousness of natural disasters or the loss of life. I grew up in the midwest in tornado alley; had two hit very close by. Lived through a disasterous flood in ’85 which I will never forget.
    Lynn, I don’t see your HIV as a punishment, rather a consequence of being exposed in some way. Life is a series of acts and consequences, some great, some terrible, many, not under our control.
    I guess that I am more accepting of the idea of mystery; that as the Bible says, God’s ways are not our own. I’ve wrestled with the concept that as a parent, I wouldn’t allow some of the things I see happen to children, occur at all, if I were God. The scripture is rife with the prophets asking when God will avenge the innocents. I thought about John the Baptist the other day. As we understand it, Jesus and John were cousins, and probably knew each other. John recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God. Yet, John was beheaded and Jesus (as far as we know) did nothing to try to stop it. Were the disciples of John and Jesus troubled by that? The scripture doesn’t say, but I imagine they were.
    What I am saying is that in the realm of God, I am uneasy with quick answers, beyond the idea that we must ultimately have faith that what is happening unseen, is of greater import than we can understand. I have seen it observed that in poorer countries, faith in God’s provision is substantially larger than in the affluent ones, and that we could learn from reliance upon God. Many people don’t find that satisfying, and I often don’t either. But faith is what is asked of us.

  • Lisa

    It had SOME scenes in the Twin Cities, dear one, but it was mostly set and filmed in BRAINERD.
    What we in the toolies like to call “outstate,” as opposed to “the metro.”
    Needless to say, those of us who know and love Fargo (the city) were VERY disappointed, but us Minnesotans managed to suck it up and soldier on.
    ‘Cause that’s what we do here, doncha know. ;)
    Lisa

  • Larry Parker

    Babs:
    Thanks for your response.
    We’ve had this debate before, on- and offline — it’s a friendly one, but a serious one where we differ nonetheless.
    I have a tough time fully accepting mystery, at least in the sense that logic has no place at all in spirituality, as Rev. Boyd seems to be saying.
    I mentioned the writer Jorge Luis Borges (my favorite author) in my interview. He wrote a story called “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” in 1940 — the story of an elaborate fantasy world like Dungeons and Dragons amazingly becoming accepted by people around the world as reality, an elaborate allegory (and criticism) of the rise of fascism then going on during the beginning of World War II.
    But it has implications for our relationship with G-d, as well. (I literally had an ongoing colloquy for my entire tenure at Georgetown with my favorite English professor about this.) Here is the key excerpt from the story:
    “Almost immediately, reality yielded on more than one account. The truth is that it longed to yield. Ten years ago any symmetry with a resemblance of order – dialectical materialism, anti-Semitism, Nazism – was sufficient to entrance the minds of men. How could one do other than submit to Tlön, to the minute and vast evidence of an orderly plant? It is useless to answer that reality is also orderly. Perhaps it is, but in accordance with divine laws – I translate: inhuman laws – which we never quite grasp. Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men.”
    Yet Borges somewhat contradicts himself — and stands up for theism — in his very next line:
    “The contact and the habit of Tlön have disintegrated this world. Enchanted by its rigor, humanity forgets over and again that it is a rigor of chess masters, not of angels.”
    Borges wrestled with G-d just as I do.

  • Cully

    AMEN and AMEN again!

  • Cully

    Larry writes: “…So does that mean the idea of a benevolent G-d is automatically wrong? I don’t know.
    And the “I don’t knows,” when you ask such questions (was G-d really punishing New Orleans for its sin with Katrina? where was G-d during the tsunami? where is G-d when a Darfuri woman is raped — again — by the Janjaweed?) add up. Which make Hitchens and Harris, insufferable though they are personally, tempting nonetheless.
    Until you get to a point that — and here may be what Greg Boyd was getting at — to believe that the Cross is Good News, you must believe that up is down, that right is left, and that round is square, and this is what G-d commands us, no matter how bizarre.
    My mind is too logical; it’s difficult to get my head (let alone my heart) around that.”
    me too… I worked very hard to get the G-d, I know and love to fit the religion I was raised in (Catholic school from start through convent High School) but my mind and my heart just kept saying this just doesn’t fit. I never doubted G-d but rather started looking at religion(s). The rituals, the upsidedown doctrines, and the fear are all there for a reason; and, in my heart (and mind) I know it has nothing to do with G-d but rather the need for power.
    You know, I don’t care if Jesus rose from the grave or not – what matters is the message he brought and died for. G-d loves us. Holy maccaroni, after everything that we have done in (and with) this physical life… G-d (still and will always) LOVE us!!

  • Larry Parker

    It betrays my age that I used Dungeons and Dragons instead of Second Life in my answer to Babs. Second Life is a much more modern, much closer (and IMHO, MUCH scarier) analogy to what Borges was hinting at in “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    As Rev. Greg Boyd would say, “Can I get an Amen?” right back at you! :-)

  • Cully

    Larry,
    thanks and my “amens” were for my lovely Sister Lynn

  • Larry Parker

    Hey, we all need prayers, Cully :-)

  • Cully

    “Hey, we all need prayers, Cully :-)”
    Posted by: Larry Parker | December 1, 2007 1:49 PM
    That’s the thing about BB – we all (including T) seem to care about eachother and we are all in eachother’s prayers.
    hugz,
    Cully

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Larry: Wrestling with g-d is something wgich I think ALL Christians with any measurable level of intelligence do. It’s only those with the minds of sheep who can go through the steps of becoming a christian without ANY questions. Predictably, though, most people won’t admit their doubts. That, I think, is one of the things that makes you special.
    Although I AM a parent, and it’s a role I cherish, I certainly respect your decision to remain childless, though I question your reasoning. My father was also an alcoholic, which I’ve mentioned on BB at tseveral times. And alcoholism, like bipolar/depression has a genetic predisposition. BUT, just the other day I read online about a study citing that cancer is onlyONE of the genetic predispositions more likely to be passed on to our offspring than bipolar disorder. And people (at least ones I know NEVER (or very, very rarely) use a family historu of cancer as their reason for not reproducing. I am a prime example of a “walking wounded” parent who at least to this point can happily say that my son dodged the genetic bullets aimed at his existence, and he’ll beTHIRTY come July! (I STILL can’t believe that; it seems only yesterday that I was buying transformers or HeMan accessories for christmas and even more recentLY than that when I was joining other parents in the bleachers at football or baseball Games. From his preadolesence, I was open with him about how it was dangerous for him to experiment with either drugs or alcohol due to his genetic makeip(Not that it isn’t dangerous for ANYONE) and since he had witnessed my father’s drunken state on more than one occasion (My father was a MEAN drunk) he understood where I ws coming from. That doesn’t mean he never drank or took drugs, I know now that our relationship is one of two adults that he did both. My point is that even though there is a genetic component to bipolar disorder and depression, it doesn’t necessarily follow that our children will ALL develop the disease. I realize that nature versus nurture is an old argument, butI strongly believe the fact that my son seeing me seek counseling for my depression was a boon rather than a curse. He saw me fighting it and that translated into the knowledge that it can be treated. From the way you’ve talked about the children of other responders here on B.B., you strike me as a man who would be a WONDERFUL father and one who would model DEALING with circumstances rather than avoiding them. If fear of geneticsor repeating your own father’s mistakes is the only thing holding you back, I would encourage you to rethink that in the future. Parenting is the absolutely MOST rewarding thing of my life. Yes, there have been frightening, doubt-filled moments, but they are FAR outweighed by the wonderful reality of the person my son has become/is still becoming. I realize parenting is and SHOULD be a choice; just make sure that you aren’t weighting your fears of “passing it on” too heavily. I am extremely grateful that I waited until I was nearly thirty to have a child ()ops, I just gave away my age with that one!) As an older mom, I think I was more able to apply my “life’s lessons” to my parenting stylethan are the younger mothers who haven’t yet experienced many of life’s pitfalls. I make that obsercvation from watching and supporting many younger mothers diring my years of teaching. ENOUGH! I didn’t intend to rave on avout this, and it’s certainly your perrogative not to be a father. You’re just young enough that it seems a shame to close AND lock that door! (Especially if your “soulmate” DOES desire children. IMHO we (our society) NEED more fathers who demonstrate the sensitivity your writing displays as opposed to more of those “be a man” type of fathers who often break the spirits of their children (especialy boys)

  • Babs

    Larry — I’ve not played either Dungeons and Dragons or Second Life, so some of your analogy is lost on me. Nor am I familiar with Borges writings. (Three strikes and I’m out?) Since your synopsis doesn’t tell me enough to reply, let me ask a question: how do you explain the mystery of love, within (or without) your concept of orderliness and logic?

  • Wisdum

    Re – Larry Parker: Wrestling With God
    Yet when one tries to justify Christian cosmology and, in its strictest, most judgmental forms, theology — it’s not asking us to make a leap of faith. It’s asking us to jump like Evel Knievel over the Grand Canyon.
    ** Not really, Faith and Science are not really in conflict, they are running down different roads, using different criteria, semantics and language. Faith is the belief in something unproven, and science is an examination of the evidence and facts. The existence of God can neither be proven or dis-proven
    So does that mean the idea of a benevolent G-d is automatically wrong?
    ** That depends on how you perceive “benevolent”. If we are given freewill in the name of Love, then it only stands to reason, the God shall not interfere with our decisions (unless of course we ask for help, and that of course brings in ”Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it!”)
    Until you get to a point that — and here may be what Greg Boyd was getting at — to believe that the Cross is Good News, you must believe that up is down, that right is left, and that round is square, and this is what G-d commands us, no matter how bizarre.
    ** This is where it all gets corrupt, and you can thank the Roman Paulist Theology for that. It was not the crucifixion, the Romans crucified thousands of people in their path for world wide domination . . . it was the fact that Yeshuah was willing to spend all eternity in Hell to pay for all of our sins! (Now that’s a sacrifice, doncha think!)
    what “evil act of free will” did the residents of the Indian Ocean basin, commit besides living close to the water?
    ** Absolutely none! Natural disasters are natural disasters. Perhaps Shakespeare said it best “The world is a stage, and we are ALL but actors playing a part. There are no small parts, only small actors” . . . There is no death, only a change of address, souls are eternal!
    (Perhaps, to a fundamentalist, not being Christian was itself a good enough reason for G-d’s destruction. Scary.)
    ** Stupid would be a better adjective!
    why do so many things happen in the world that are not only body-destroying but soul-destroying?
    ** You cannot destroy a soul, but you sure can dampen its spirit! (just a bit of twisted semantic humor there !)
    (see Job, Book of)
    ** Jobs problem was, he never once asked God “What in Hell is going on here!” … If he did it would have all been over! (Let’s face it God and Satan/Lucifer were playing a game/bet at Job’s expense, what kind of crap is that!) Be the Way, right in the beginning of Job, it states “Job was a very righteous man, in fact the most righteous man on the face of the earth. You think that might put him right up there with Yeshuah ? So much for being righteous. The worst sin we ALL commit is the sin of self-righteousness!
    When Harris and Hitchens say that’s blaming the victim, well, they seem to have a logical point.
    ** Here’s the point they skip around, and perhaps Albert Einstein said it best for all these atheists “I don’t know if there is a God, but if it were me, I wouldn’t have done it this Way” It’s not that they don’t believe in God as much as they disagree with how God runs the shop! (You might agree, that there are a lot of religious theologians who thing that Way also! And have to come up with some halfwit metaphor to explain it)
    And some theologians would say that the very fact that one doubts means that one admits there is a possibility of G-d; therefore, look at the positive — one actually has faith.
    ** I use this on atheists all the Time (a lot of them right here at beliefnet !) In order for you not to believe in something, you must first define it. First you say that it is this and that and the other think, and it is not this, that and the other thing. And after you compile all of the data and define what it is and is not … you then say that you do not believe it? How does that compute? Perhaps you just have the wrong definition!
    you send your kids to Sunday school — or Hebrew school, or what have you — so they’ll have something to rebel against one day.
    ** The gift of “freewill” applies to all that we are taught, including religion … especially religion. Religion means to be tied to, to be bound by …You decide what it is that will put you into bondage. Bear in mind that Yeshuah, came here to “Set you free, from bondage!” (and that kind of thing can get you abused, tortured and crucified!)
    Or — at most — one that is constantly wrestling with G-d, as Jacob did
    ** Yeah! It appears that God is a sports fan! And wrestles with ALL of us all the Time too! Look, how boring would all of this be, if we had no excitement in our lives for all eternity (like in Heaven, what kind of Hell would that be … especially for God)
    I have used their formulation of G-d’s name. Plus, I actually like the idea of fear and awe it symbolizes — and the idea it encompasses, shown in this very essay, that we can never truly know G-d.
    ** God is not God’s name, that is a generic term signifying all that we cannot grasp or comprehend. In fact the Christian Messiahs’s name was not Jesus. That is a Greek name, what do you figure the odds are that this Ju(dah) kid had a Greek name? On the other hand if nobody knows God’s or the Messiah’s name … no body can take it in vain! How cool is that ! By the Way, if you pray for something from God, and do not fully expect to get it…that is taking God’s name in vain! On the other have be careful what you ask or pray for, you just might get it!
    LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Larry Parker

    Wisdum:
    When I said “justify” Christian cosmology and theology, implied in that was trying to prove it as fact rather than faith. So I don’t think we disagree.
    And we certainly agree 100% — no, I think 1,000% — on the Book of Job.

  • Larry Parker

    Babs:
    Without resorting to Borges, Dungeons and Dragons or Second Life (none of which really have to do with your question anyway), here’s what I’d say:
    It’s all about connections and what I call “the world beyond.”
    I’ll start with the latter first. In my worst doubts about G-d’s presence in my depression, and about some of the angry theology preached in his name (including, IMHO, in my ancestral religion), I have NEVER doubted that there is a spiritual realm beyond our own.
    I don’t mean that I believe in the occult; I’m not talking about ghosts haunting houses. Rather, I believe that even if depression is a biologically based disease, it doesn’t change the fact that there is something in us (you may call it a “soul”) that is not defined by our bodies, or even our minds, but rather is symbolized by our hearts and is ineffable. (Even if, in our depression, we might lose touch with that part of ourselves.)
    We might go to heaven or h*ll, that I don’t know (for sure, though I don’t lack beliefs in that regard); but we definitely go SOMEWHERE after death, IMHO; part of us truly continues to exist, almost certainly forever. (And probably existed before we were born on this earth … I don’t particularly believe in reincarnation, but it does fit my ideas, I admit.)
    Those atheists/agnostics who refuse to believe that someone goes to heaven (or h*ll), but who say upon a friend or family member’s death that “my loved one will truly live on in all our memories,” are actually admitting this, IMHO.
    The key to our emotional survival, in turn, is to make connections between our souls that nourish and strengthen them, because IMHO we wither without such connections (and let’s face it, the loneliness of depression, even if we are physically “in a crowd,” cuts us off from such connections — that’s why I say depression is soul-killing).
    In marriages that fail, for example, there are connections that are only of the body (obviously …); there are connections that are only of the mind (my marriage, e.g.; E. and I “loved” each other most of all, I think, for our mutual intelligence and, for awhile, ambition).
    But in marriages that succeed, I see the rarer connection of the soul. I don’t mean “soulmate” per se; I think very few of us are that lucky. But I do mean someone who we not only have day-to-day things in common with — sexual attraction, respecting and liking each other and having at least basic compatibility on the issues that come up in relationships — but who also can peer in to the most wounded parts of our soul, and not only not be afraid but embrace them.
    Just as we, IMHO, must do for them.
    All of which can happen, excluding the sexuality, in our relationships with friends and family as well (if we are lucky).
    THAT is love.

  • Larry Parker

    I realize I somewhat contradicted myself in the above answer.
    I said that everyone’s “soul,” (or essence, or whatever you’d like to call it), IMHO, goes on to an afterlife.
    But I’ve also said in the past that I’m not sure the most despicable among us even have a soul left to go to an afterlife.
    I stick by the latter comment. But I also believe the Hitlers, Stalins and Bin Ladens of the world are rare enough that, for most people, the former comment applies.

  • Babs

    Larry — There is a lot of emotion attached to how you relate to God, as there is, I guess, in all of us. Your views seem to go in this general direction — that God is uninvolved with us because he does not rescue those in trouble; that unlike you who feel compassion for the downtrodden, God doesn’t or is impotent. How much of that parallels your personal experiences in relationships?
    I struggle with many aspects of God in my personal life — why didn’t he intervene when I was but a child? Why did we lose our beloved home a few years ago? Why did my sister die of a brain tumor at only age 47, never having known love in her life? Why is he allowing me to go jobless when I really need a job? A few days ago I saw myself punching Jesus in the face because I was so angry, and yet (as you would say)…
    I don’t doubt the love or wisdom of God. I am not a brainwashed parrot, spitting out what was ingrained in me through my Catholic schooling (which was quite at odds with what I experienced in my family). If I am to be intellectually honest, I have to question why the numerous *blessings* have come my way, too many to even begin to enumerate. I am a crappy pray-er, but still make pathetic attempts to know God’s will. I read Scripture and rather than relying on my impressions of the moment, rely on what Jesus says about God and love. I guess that means that I wrestle with God and whether God cares about me or anyone else, within the limitations of my understanding. I don’t feel uncomfortable saying, “I don’t know” to questions of “why?” I don’t think God is accountable to me for the reasons things happen the way they do. So much of what you and others write about has to do with situations in which we make choices, often when we are not at our best. Divorce, affairs, bankruptcy, even in many cases, ill health, stem from decisions that either we have made, our friends, spouses, or ancestors. Obviously, not all manner of things are controlled by our decisions, but much of what we rail and rage about, are the results of decisions made by or for us. God never promises to spare us — only to be with us to the end of the age.
    If I think only of the places where I *perceive* God’s absence, then I’ll miss the places He is, like the friend who seeing two little carved figures in a shop on Saturday, bought and gave them to me because they reminded her of me. If I ask where is God in my joblessness, and it is a valid question I think, but stay only there, then I miss the blessings of friendship demonstrated to me these past months — friendships I never knew I had. God is a God of relationship. It is a theme that runs throughout the Scriptures.
    A belief in God that does not involve struggle and questioning, hardly seems like a relationship worth having. Jacob’s struggle with the angel brought a blessing, but left him marked for life. His wrestling lasted a night. He didn’t even know at the time who he was wrestling with. Couldn’t that be a metaphor for the darkness in which we continue to wrestle and be engaged with the Creator?

  • Larry Parker

    Babs:
    This is a colloquy in which we will have to continue to agree to disagree.
    I do want to clarify one thing, though. I acknowledge the doctrine of free will. Unquestioningly. And I acknowledge that when humans choose to do evil things to each other, G-d cannot stop them. The football player Sean Taylor could not be rescued from the thugs around him who killed him even though, by all accounts, he was turning his life around. (Natural disasters are a bit more of a question mark for me, though … as is whether G-d is truly there to “comfort” afterward.)
    And likewise, even when humans are just mistaken, we must pay the consequences — sometimes disastrous ones. My ex-wife and I made a terrible mistake to decide on a whim, hey, let’s not break up, let’s get married, and we have both paid a terrible price. In the cosmic justice of the universe, maybe even rightly so.
    But in your very language of, well, G-d gives us some blessings and withholds others from us, you are getting right to my greatest religious/spiritual fear. Perhaps, I sometimes lie awake at night pondering, the killjoys from the early Calvinists (and in this country, the Puritans) to the modern Religious Right ARE ACTUALLY CORRECT — at least in a way.
    Maybe not in the extreme of double predestination (IMHO, there’s too much theological evidence against that), but in the sense that G-d can do whatever the heck He wants to us (in this view, obviously, G-d is male) to show His favor or disfavor. So if we live lives of prosperity and wealth, we’re obviously on the road to heaven and virtuous people. And if we have misfortune after misfortune, we are evil people on a one-way ticket to the underworld.
    Frankly, this is too close to the G-d of the Book of Job. Job railed against G-d (rightly, IMHO, given what G-d did to Job), but ultimately decided to keep his faith in G-d — because, he figured, what choice did he have? The end of Job even parallels “the prosperity Gospel” — G-d changed his mind and decided to give Job back his wealth and kids (though how on earth do you give dead kids? — Jesus and Lazarus aren’t mentioned in Job’s story …).
    Job, like Qoheleth (Solomon) in Ecclesiastes, was intensely fatalistic — again, in their view, G-d is going to do whatever the heck He wants to us anyway, so in the end you might as well accept it. A Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate once lost his election to the late Ann Richards because he made a remark like that in a not too different (IMHO) context — about sexual assault.
    And I’m not at that point in my own mind where I can just lay down on the tracks and let the train run over me (image chosen quite intentionally). Thus the wrestling.
    If this G-d — the G-d of the Book of Job, the G-d of the Calvinists/Puritans/Religious Right, the G-d of “The Secret” and the Laws of Attraction — is the real G-d, then Lucifer didn’t fall. LUCIFER BECAME G-D, in all of Lucifer’s pride and arrogance and willfulness.
    Now, I’m not 100% sure that’s what happened or is happening. But it sure looks that way sometimes.
    You’ll notice I only once mentioned the word “Jesus” so far. Regarding the Gospels and the New Testament, I would simply go back to Rev. Boyd’s points — which are powerful and therefore frightening to me in their power. G-d doesn’t die — Jesus did, even if He was resurrected later. G-d doesn’t suffer — Jesus did. G-d doesn’t come down to earth — Jesus did. G-d appears in spirit wrapped in royal robes and splendor and riding chariots — Jesus was born bodily in a manger, and lived as a humble carpenter and later an itinerant preacher, and became a convict sentenced to death.
    (Unfairly, of course — even in the story of Jesus, there is the Old Testament tone that nothing is fair in the world. OK, I accept that part, because like Job and Solomon, I don’t have much choice — but the idea that NOR SHOULD IT BE is problematic to me.)
    Yet and still, Jesus, for one raised Christian with depression, is very much potentially comforting — that the suffering does have meaning, that it may lead to heaven instead of h*ll, that His yoke is easy and His burden light. And it will not surprise you to learn that 1 John 4 is perhaps my favorite chapter in all of Scripture.
    But then there’s his Dad :-) in all of His Old Testament fury, smiting one guy just because he didn’t want to be a father. (Hmmm, I say to myself …) And as I’ve freely confessed in this series of interviews, I have some major daddy issues, both in my fathers (a series of them, actually) and in wanting or not wanting to be one …
    And more generally, if Rev. Boyd is right, there is the small matter of living upside down and inside out to truly believe in Jesus.
    As I said in the interviews, I have too logical a mind to truly get my head around that. More saliently, to someone with depression, that command feels a bit too much like voluntarily submitting to dissociation or even delusion.
    And let’s face it, losing touch with the real world is the greatest EARTHLY fear of anyone with depression.

  • zana

    Hi everybody. Once again, perfect timing. I came home the other day from another frustrating day where I felt completely broken by fatigue, having to put on a game face, all the hoops those of us who have not “come out” to our outer circle of contacts yet have to jump through to sustain our lives (in addition to meds, eating well, stress management…) This time I didn’t immediately search online for an updated resource giving instructions on how to get off the sinking boat by choice, not circumstance. I stormed through the house, grabbed every cross, crucifix I own, threw them in the fireplace and lit a match. I was thinking “I’m done. It’s too hard. You said you would never give us more than we could handle. Well. This stinkin’ illness is way beyond my load limit.” Here it is the season we celebrate our savior’s birth and I am too angry to feel any joy. Yet, I could hear that little voice telling me not to give up. To wait it out just a little longer and blessings woulld be unveiled. To believe or not to believe. To end my life or stay on the ride. If I choose to give up, what will I miss? Doubting as evidence for still believing even if it’s a tiny corner of my heart, is a comforting thought. Even if I still have angry days, doubtful days, if I give my burden over to some one, thing, entity, whatever, I am saved from at least some degree of suffering through free will or faith. I’m thinking about fetching the charred remnants from the fireplace. I’m not ready to display them prominently yet, though, By the way, what does IMHO stand for?

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Re:Zana
    When i use it, IMHO translates to In My Humble Opinion. I’m fairly sure it’s standard chat room language (though I’ve rarely visited those so am no expert) along with:
    BTW (By The Way), LOL (Laugh Out Loud)and
    FYI(For Your Information)
    I’m sorry you had such a hard day that you felt the need to vent your anger, fear and pain by destroying all the symbols of youe faith. Please remember, though that that’s ALL they are…symbols. Had you truly destroyed your faith, you wouldn’t be having second thoughts (IMHO)AND YOU AREN’Trequired
    I have been there in terms of that depth of fear, pain and lonliness, and it’s PAINFUL.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Here I go again~ i’m starting to wonder if my computer is possessed!
    Zana, my sentence should have finished that it’s been my experience that oftentimes those who display synbols most prominently are the ones whose inner faith and commitment to it are lowest. It’s conversely been my experience that those who truly have a deep faith and love for the Lord can’t help but display iy, but not through the hanging of sybols, by their very LIVES! It’s visible in theirfaces, their speech and their actions.
    IMGO if an individual has a real relationship with God,s/he WILL go through periods of anger and questioningm just as we all do in our various earthly relationships. It’s part of what having a relationship encompasses. I can’t give scriptural backing for this, but I believe that God expects us to get angry at times because He KNOWS our hearts and even without us vocalizing our anger or destroying our symbols, He’s aware of our innermost feelings. Like job, I don’t curse God, but I HAVE on occassion railed at him. I’ve even gone so far as to ask Him if He’s gotten me confused with someone else since it seems as if I HAVE been given more than I can handle! I’m not sure what learned theologians would say to this, but I personally think it’s only the shallowest of relationships that don’t accomodate anger. As humans, we’re very egocentric and consequently we expect to have our needs, whatever they might be, met whether by our friends, family, mates or God Himself. Think about little babies; they don’t hesitate to cry when they’re upset abut something, be it hunger, a wet diaper or lonliness. and they learn very quickly how to get those needs met by cryong out their frustrations. Don’t misunderstand, I know we aren’t ENTITLED to God’s love and attention to our every desire, but I DO think He understands our complaints in the same way that a parent does those of his/her human children. One thing that has helped me is keeping a prayer journal in which I actually write letters to God as if he were able to receive them. (and since He’s both omnipotent and omnopresent, I guess in a way He DOES) For me, taking the time to write down myanger and fears serves a dual purpose:
    1. It keeps me from “losingit: and saying or doing something I might later regret
    2. It puts me more deeply in touch with what’s REALLY going on in my psyche in order to write it down.
    It also has often amazed me because words will flow from my pen (or pencil or keyboard( that I wasn’t aware I was thinking or feeling. In that way it creates moments of epiphant for me. I realize that not everyone likesto write as I do, but you might want to give it a try.

  • Babs

    Larry — I hope that you understand that this is a friendly discussion and not an attempt to be a put-down of any sort. This sorting through is important to our understanding of ourselves re God. When you and I write, I am sure that we better understand what we believe.
    Blessings and who receives them: I think that we are all blessed, whether we receive them consciously or not. Unlike humans who most often seek some sort of “pay-off” for a gift, God grants gifts to the most unlikely people seeming to ignore whether they are “deserving” in the eyes of the world. Bad times will come for all of us. In my own family, we were fortunate enough to have the birth of twin boys who nearly lost their lives at twenty-two weeks. At the same time, a friend lost her babies to the same condition at a slightly younger age. I thank God that the boys survived, but do I know that God intervened in our case, and didn’t in the other? No, I don’t. I don’t have those sort of answers and shudder at those quick to give them.
    As for disasters, having lived through a couple, I can say that God is present in the compassion and generosity of those who give so freely of their time and labor. There are still people from our area and across the US who are going down to the Gulf Coast to help rebuild people’s lives. How else does the presence of God manifest itself?
    You can choose to believe otherwise, but to me, that is God with us.
    I have noticed, as you mention, that you most often cite the Old (or first) Testament. There is much to be taken from those Scriptures, but the manner in which they were written is quite different from those in the New Testament. I don’t interpret them in the same way I do the NT. Are you a literalist re the OT? Is the point of Job to ram home the idea that God allows Satan to attack us? Jesus warned the Peter that Satan wanted to “sift” him. Can some greater good come from it all? Although Job suffered much, in the writer’s view, he was restored. I would wager that we have more trouble with the resolution of Job, than did the people of the time.
    I don’t ignore the OT at all, but my focus is on Emmanuel, “God with us.” As I understand it, the Gospel of Matthew, which is the one we will be reading for this year, opens with the promise of Emmanuel, and closes with Jesus’s promise to be with us always. That is powerful stuff. I focus on Jesus because he is God incarnate.

  • Wisdum

    Re – Larry Parker | December 2, 2007 10:09 PM
    When I said “justify” Christian cosmology and theology, implied in that was trying to prove it as fact rather than faith. So I don’t think we disagree.
    ** When you get down to the real basics of organized religion, I think most would agree that we ALL believe in the same thing and the same God (commomly called Monotheism…if there is only One God, then everybody’s God is the same God) We don’t have different Gods, we have different perceptions of the same God. And the problem with that is “Everybody knows something, nobody knows everything” (except God!)There are things we were taught as children, to instill fear in our hearts of God, which imn my mind is completely off track, base, theology or whatever! Tell me one person that you fear, that you Love…just one … I’ll settle for one! That’s all BS and is an insult to God! The other thing, is many of the things we were taught are beyond our comprehension, which is why Yeshuah said “Come to me like a child!” … it appears we are born smart and grow up to be stupid! (I don’t wann grow up!)
    And we certainly agree 100% — no, I think 1,000% — on the Book of Job.
    ** It amazed me that guy never once questioned what was going on, and says stupid stuff like “I am a worthless pile of dung, I deserve everything I get !” … which is the same thing good old King David said. Hey! This is all a crapshoot and a chess game being played between God and Lucifer. Face it, how many of you out there would be willing to be in a serious competition with God, after all, you know He/She is always gonna win, the poor guy/gal, can’t play any serious sports or games with anybody… well not anybody, except Lucifer … interesting it says in the Bible that Lucifer was one of God’s favorite Angels. You think it was because Lucifer was the only one with kahoonas big enough to challange God? hmmmmm
    LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Larry Parker

    Margaret:
    I should have responded earlier to your kind and thoughtful words regarding fatherhood.
    I’d say fear of passing on bipolar disorder is about 20% of my concern. The exhaustion factor of having bipolar disorder with kids is about 30%. Even if the kids are fine healthwise, what will they think of a dad who’s in the hospital every couple of years from stressing himself out taking care of them? Well, they might get the sense he loves them, but mostly they’ll think he’s … absent.
    And therein comes the other 50% of my reasoning — my “daddy issues.”
    I had a father literally and emotionally absent from my life. I had to grow up fast; in essence, between constantly studying and never playing and then becoming a “surrogate father” in not entirely healthy ways to my mom with chores, babysitting my sister, etc., I never really had a childhood. In some ways … it’s not that I’ve regressed into childhood, but I’m spending time discovering things about myself that most people realize when they are 20 or 30 years younger. And I don’t think that type of self-exploration (which from the outside seems like navel-gazing, and maybe is to some degree) is compatible with childhood.
    But here’s the worst part. My dad was the way he was because HE NEVER HAD A CHILDHOOD EITHER. He was treated the same way by his mother, my grandmother, and especially by my grandfather — and abused by them and other relatives physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. And I want to tell you, my grandfather in particular could have won a few of Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” awards had they existed in the day. He was like the title character of that Temptations’ song “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.”
    When my grandfather developed Alzheimer’s several years ago, my dad locked him a nursing home and threw away the key. And frankly, I considered that quite merciful on my dad’s part, given what I now know of his own childhood.
    Boy, it would make things easier in life if I didn’t have all these conflicting emotions and fears, you’re right, because theoretically I could be with the woman I carry a torch for (and who still, without being egotistical, adores me) and we could live happily ever after.
    Except … we wouldn’t, because I’m in no position with my unemployment to provide responsibly for a relationship with her, let alone a family.
    And it is always possible she is the Keira Knightley to my Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually, the Meryl Streep to my Clint Eastwood in the Bridges of Madison County … or, given her Catholicism, the Beatrice to my Dante in the Divine Comedy.

  • Larry Parker

    zana:
    I’d encourage you to keep wrestling.
    Like Winston Churchill, another famous person with depression, “never surrender.”

  • Larry Parker

    Babs:
    You and I will have to disagree on the Book of Job. I don’t think it is honestly possible to interpret any work of literature (and the Bible is a work of literature — the greatest, in fact) without the context of the age one lives in. (This is a theme of Borges’ works … not a coincidence that I admire him, obviously.)
    So I’m not a fundamentalist at all — in fact, the complete opposite in some ways. The end of Job may have seemed happy to the ancient Jews reading it, and bully for them. It strikes me, and I dare say a lot of people, as twisted. (Particularly when the narrator knew, but in the story Job himself did not, of G-d and Satan’s bet.)
    BTW, I have always tried to pair my mentions of Job in BB with 2 Corinthians 12, the far shorter but in many ways just as powerful tale of G-d refusing to remove the thorn in Paul’s side.
    I was thinking about your words today, Babs, and there really is a much simpler way of expressing my theological thoughts:
    I accept the idea of “blessings” much easier from fellow humans than I do from G-d. Because humans have original sin; they are likelier, ultimately, to hurt you than help you. But of course, even so, many do touch you throughout a lifetime in a profound and loving way. They are most certainly blessings in our lives. (Though there are also people you meet of whom you curse the day they were ever born, as well.)
    But the things that are greater than one-on-one relationships, that involve fate and destiny? If G-d is benevolent, yet bad things happen to us that are not immediately apparent as consequences from our own actions (or perhaps, I should say, from our own FAULT — I do lots of things in my depression that rebound negatively on me, even in a logical way, but it’s not something fully or sometimes even partially in my control, either), what is happening?
    You could say G-d is wise about which prayers to answer or not; and some of them, yes, are blindingly obvious, as in Garth Brooks’ song “Unanswered Prayers” (which I like, by the way). But there is another possibility — that G-d bestows curses as much as blessings. Which an all-powerful G-d could certainly do — but then, that wouldn’t make G-d benevolent, would it?
    And if G-d is not all-powerful, what exactly makes G-d worthy of our worship and adoration?
    And on and on I wrestle …

  • Larry Parker

    BTW, since I mentioned him in this post, RIP, Evel Knievel.

  • Larry Parker

    **Tell me one person that you fear, that you Love…just one … I’ll settle for one! That’s all BS and is an insult to God!** (from Wisdum)
    Wisdum:
    I’ll give you one:
    My dad.
    That should tell you all you need to know about my philosophy toward life and G-d.

  • Margaret Balyeat

    Larry: although my father wasn’t physically absent (Unless he was on a binge), he was certainly emotionally unavailable, at least to me! His emotional and physical abuse actually helped me be a BETTERparent, though (in that20/20 hindsight because I was DETERMINED that my son not go through what I had. (I know that it’s often a vicious cycle, but I simply REFUSED for that to be the case The exhaustion bit I can understand; parenting (especially conscientious parenting DOES take a lot of time and energy.
    You say you were raised by the original “Rolling Stone, well, I was raised by Archie Bunker! (there was even a slight physical resemblance. ) That was the nicknamr my high school friends actually gave him (behind his back, of course) because it was so apt. If Carroll Oconnor (God Forbid!) had suddenly dropped dead, the show could hve gone on with my father merely being himself (I kid you not) Because my father’s parents and only brotherand his wife were all killed in a tragic car accidentdown in Texas six weeks before I was born(I was the reason he hadn’t gone along to help with the driving) i weas supposed to have been a boy so there would be someone to “carry on the family namr” Obviously, that didn’t happen, but I spent the first twelve years of my life trying DESPERATELY to be the son my father so wanted. I went so far in my “tomboyishness” as to ask for “boy” presents for my birthday and Christmas. Then, not only was I not male, I was also the scapegoat due to my second child birth orderand he couln’t even like me as a girl (I believe he LOVED me; he just didn’t like me, and there’s a big difference With hindsight visio, i think my father equated my birth withthe loss od the majority of his birth family and that whenever he looked at me he was reminded of that horrific event. Family lore says that my mother was so despondant at having delivered another girl that she wouldn’t even HOLD me for three days! (One of my therapisys was HORRIFIED that my parents had seen fit to share that with me! Yhe irony is that as I grew older, I was the daughter (out of four of us) who developed the closest bond with my mother!
    Regardless, becoming a parent is a very PERSONAL decision and rightly so; I won’t harraunge (sp?) you any longer about it.

  • Babs

    Larry — I think that where you and I fundamentally disagree is in my belief that God does not “afflict” us. A personal note: I have a child who is getting married in a few weeks to a practicing, self-confessed alcoholic. She was diagnosed as bi-polar and takes only an antidepressant. They have known each other less than a year. Unlike others, he brings out the worst in her. It is a trainwreck in slow-motion and heartbreaking to me. She has received and rejected my counsel. As she grew up, she assumed more and more responsibility for her actions. As much as I wanted to spare her the consequences, it was a more loving thing to allow her to handle them. Unfortunately, she seems determined to learn from personal experience alone. While the situation grieves me, I will not desert her and I pray for her and her fiance. Are her choices my fault or God’s? If her life crumbles, should she shake her fist at God? I ask myself “Why is she doing this?” It is a mystery to me and her siblings.
    Granted, this is a human example and we can’t necessarily apply it to God, but it is the best I can offer. We, God and the people who love my daughter, can bear with her, but ultimately she is in the driver’s seat. She can turn to us for help, or not. Perhaps this marriage will be a transforming one for the better, but it most likely won’t come without a good deal of pain. What she learns from it is her choice.
    I don’t have all the answers as to why God seems to allow some to suffer while others appear to glide through life. It is a mystery. Paul didn’t complain about the thorn so much as offer an insight into our relationship with God. Perhaps the insight is that God’s decisions at times are unfathomable. That God will allow us pain and yes, suffering because of how it has the possibility of transforming us. Back during the trials held in South Africa I remember reading the most amazing accounts of reconciliation between the victims of brutality and their perpetrators. How could this be? Those guilty had to come to some realization of what they had done to other human beings. They couldn’t change history, but they could choose to use what they learned from it to further peace. Many seemed to make that choice.
    When we are in the midst of sorrow and suffering, it may be impossible for us to foresee any good that can emerge, but my experience is that it can and does happen. If we nourish our faith in the “fat” times, then it will help carry us through in the “lean.”

  • Wisdum

    Re -Larry Parker | December 4, 2007 12:46 AM
    **Tell me one person that you fear, that you Love…just one … I’ll settle for one! That’s all BS and is an insult to God!** (from Wisdum)
    I’ll give you one: My dad.
    OK!, I can accept that (which BTW is the same problem we ALL have with God, our Father!) This is where the corruption and depression begins. What we learn as Love is defined by our own experience, and to some extent what we are taught (if we can accept any of the BS) nobody can define Love or God, we have to experience it ourselves, individually. In the process of growing up, we segregate what we choose to believe and not believe as far as theology is concerned (especially in this country, they call us Cafeteria Christians, we pick and choose what we will believe!) That fear aspect was designed for authority to control you (in a religious manner), which could be Caesar or God or your parents. Unfortunately that fear influence can define what your perception is of Love (and perception is everything!), and you can carry that into all your relationships and family (and what a bunch of bs that is!) Yeshuah tried desperately to show us all that bondage crap and set us free, and was crucified for it. It didn’t take too long for the opportunist capitalists to take advantage of it either … “Lust for money is the root of all evil”
    LUV 2 U / LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Larry Parker

    Babs:
    I feel terrible about the situation with your daughter.
    At the same time, if you’re using it as an analogy for me, I don’t know what’s scarier — that I’m that ruthlessly self-destructive or that **I DON’T KNOW** I’m that ruthlessly self-destructive.
    I also (as you might have predicted) have a problem with the whole Truth Commission concept.
    I realize it has done wonderful things to defuse tensions in South Africa and other countries. Yet and still …
    The very idea of a Truth Commission posits that fairness and justice, at times, not only cannot be acquired but are actively WRONG. Because, in this view, fairness and justice can only come at the cost of tearing a country apart. And that, those who establish a Truth Commission have decided, would be worse than tolerating (gross, appalling) unfairness. Indeed, one of the angriest critics of the Truth Commission in South Africa was the family of Stephen Biko …
    But of course, the idea that a Truth Commission is necessary to avert further bloodshed (usually coming after a civil war) or “victor’s justice” is ultimately untestable.
    What is better — a South African Truth Commission model or a Nuremberg Trials model?
    Both have pluses and minuses (Nuremberg, of course, being bitterly criticized by members of our own Supreme Court). But West Germany didn’t revolt against its occupiers and redeclare war against the U.S. (for what would have been the third time in three decades) in anger about Nuremberg, did it?

  • Anonymous

    Re – Larry Parker | December 4, 2007 11:01 PM
    I also (as you might have predicted) have a problem with the whole Truth Commission concept.
    ** Reminds me of something Pontius Pilate said to Yeshuah
    “Truth! What is Truth?” …
    “There is your truth, then there is my truth … then there is The Truth!” which I guess is designed to lead you into the Light and find your Way!
    LUV 2 U / LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Babs

    Larry — You read things into my posting that were not there or intended. In speaking about my daughter, I wrote about a situation very present in my life, as the wedding is ten days away. I was assuredly not writing about you or anyone else on this blog. My example had to do with choices we make, whether they are health, where we live, or how we live, and how when things go sour it is so easy to hold God somehow responsible, or think that the consequences were sent from God. I could have just as easily used an example from my own life. I don’t know enough about the Truth Commission to comment on the overall rightness/wrongness of it; only the personal stories that were in the press that offered hope of reconciliation, and that personal forgiveness being an example of the presence of God in that relationship. If you think the example stinks, toss it out.
    The bigger issue for me is how our image of God and God’s presence in the world contributes to our health and healing. Much of that image comes from the significant relationships in our lives and if they have been crappy, then our image of God will be warped. I think your image of God is warped, my image of God is warped, and just about everyone else’s as well. It is in our nature to attribute to God the faults, cruelties, and abandonments we’ve experienced in our parents and others who’ve let us down. And because we experience these things at a formative time in our lives, we become self-absorbed and expend a lot of energy trying to figure out exactly what is wrong and fix it. The picture I wrestle with currently is one of a little girl, not even two, sitting on the floor in my family’s kitchen feeling utterly abandoned and alone. I don’t like feeling that I operate so much out of that place. In fact, it embarrasses me, but that is part of who I am, and I have to reooncile those feelings with my concept of the presence of God. That is where I punch Jesus in the face. It is part of where I am with God, but thank goodness, not the only place.
    We who have been rejected, abandoned, beaten emotionally and physically, have a challenge and an opportunity wrapped up in one package. We can use our God-given intelligence and sensitivity to grow tremendously in our relationship with God and with those around us. We can be healers or we can continue to rage (I really don’t like that poem; rage, for me, is ultimately impotent). The rage will only destroy us. Healing is painful, too, but not destructive. And like burn victims (the worst sort of pain I can imagine) our healing will not leave us unscarred. But those scars can represent less our injury, and more, our healing. The more I contemplate my own situation, my loneliness, abandonment, and rejection, the more I see it as a blessing (well-disguised)if I choose to use those things to make me a more compassionate, whole person. Instead of being an impediment, they are actually the means by which it can happen.
    That, is what I have been trying to communicate.

  • Anonymous

    Re -Babs | December 5, 2007 9:55 AM
    That, is what I have been trying to communicate.
    ** Hi Babs, listen, that is what we have ALL been trying to communicate. I was in the same space as everybody else (still am in fact!)and one day a friend of mine told me, of this message she got from the Holy Spirit “You have to connect the dots! It’s like one of those dot pictures that you connect the dots and a picture forms”
    We are ALL part of the same picture, dots, pixels, cells, micro organisms, whatever contstitutes (or is that pro-stitutes ?) the Whole, the One, the ALL, the God. We are ALL part of God defining Him/Her Self as Love (is, is not !) This concept (or is that pro-cept?) happens every second of every day of every year of our Lives. How do we justify all the murder, mayhem, peace, happiness, anger and joy within our own body/uni-verse? If you can answer that you may be well on your Way to explaining the entire Uni-verse!
    “We are many parts, we are ALL One body!”
    LUV 2 ALL
    Wisdum

  • Larry Parker

    VERY well-disguised, Babs.
    But you may be right all the same.

  • Robert E. Davis

    To All Trying to Fathom IRL, You all certainly respond and give this guy a lot of attention, compassion, sympathy, and air-play. I saw in his profile that he was a “12-stepper”. Is that really just his dance or does he truly subscribe to the 12 Steps as drawn together by the writer(s) of the book, Alchoholics Anonymous? If thoroughly worked through and practiced “in all our (his affairs)”, honesty- with ourself and others-should be eventually realized, the word “blame” is struck from our vocabulary, the difference between free will and God’s will is clarified, and full reckoning that “we manufacture our own misery” transpires. We can even work through William Spencer’s keen observation of “contempt prior to investigation”. There is so much “paralysis from analysis” going on in everything I’ve read by IRL, I DO feel sorry for him, but it is his deal and I can’t change him unless HE WANTS TO CHANGE.
    My comeback to all the pain and misery he decries, but creates in his own mind and actions, is “how’s that working for you?” The writers of the previous communication had some apt observations on God’s work in our individual lives- basically, the situations that at the time were perceived to be negative will (if we choose) reap positive results.
    From my own experience in depression before my 12 Step Recovery, I can look back to a gazillion reasons in my childhood for it. The common thread through it all, which triggered my pre-disposition to depression, was “not getting what I wanted, losing something I had, and the world wasn’t treating me the way I wanted to be treated.” Upon entering Recovery, getting honest with myself, and ardent work on those simple 12 steps, I have not had a bout with depression in almost 10 years. It’s all about ego and only dealing with life from the ego. Ego can be defined as “the person we “think” we are”–THINK, being be the flawed image of our true identity and character. Thus our ego leads to all kinds of dastardly actions in order to defend that flawed image in our heads.
    So, I’m going to engage Sir IRL in some dialogue about something I know we have in common- dachshunds. Thanks for letting me share. Bob

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