Observation 1: Pop-Up Books In School
I am burning out a bit with school so I doubt this will be too incredibly deep. I find myself knee deep in books; Voltaire, Kierkegaard, Tolstoy, Watchman Nee, Plato, C.S. Lewis, Emerson, Thoreau, Augustine, Calvin, Brother Lawrence, Tozer; as well as my studies on the Bible, The Gnostic Scriptures, Dhammapada, Tao, Benjamin Hoff, The Vedas, Upanishads, The Bhagavad Gita, Thich Nhat Hanh; as well as psychic development/intuition texts by Sherrie Dillard, and healing with Douglas De Long.
Please note that none of the above authors/subjects was I required to read for school; I read all of that for fun. So you can add on top to that all my required reading.
I say none of this to taught my intelligence; reading does not show any capability of intelligence on my part, other that I am capable of reading.
The study of religion is a passion of mine; I wish to to know who God is, and, unlike others in my school, do not pretend to know who he is already. I do not profess to be Christian.
Speaking of my “required reading materials” in bible college they hand me textbooks which can be better equated to children’s pop-up books and wonder why I am not impressed. I take my pursuit of God a lot more seriously than these Christians seem to take it, and they take me for a fool.
Our courses have been edited, dumbed-down, and gone over with fine-toothed combs in order to skip over any of the heresies, hard questions, embarrassing mistakes, or difficult subject matters that we may otherwise blindly stumble upon and loose faith over. We are being told the synopsis of a synopsis of a synopsis, and only those of which co-inside neatly with current church doctrine or philosophy. If I want to really learn what Origen actually taught, know the lives of Abelard or Luther; if I wanted to actually know what the Gnostic’s taught; to learn of Platonic Christianity (Neoplatonism), or what nominalism was – I would have to read my own books, and on my own time.
They are not preening the next generation of scholars; they are breeding the next generation of idiots. This has been a point of frustration for me.
These poor kids are going to get their heads spun around once they get out into the world and are faced with some actual theological debate, and tough questioning.
Observation 2: Pseudo Intelligent Pastors
On Saturday I had to attend a church service where the pastor decided to talk on what he calls two primary things that you must understand and believe in to be a Christian; the first was a literal 7 day creation as stated exactly in the book of Genesis. Supposedly you can not be a real Christian and believe in evolution or intelligent design.
Personally, I always liked saying that I believe in Uniformitarianism just to be difficult.
He lost the majority of his audience on this topic; I do not think it was a good move to inform the majority of your perish members that you do not think they are really “saved”. His major argument against evolution was the scenario of; what would happen if a fish developed lungs? His answer was that it would drown. Funny enough, his evolution believing congregation pointed out that actually you would get what is called a lung fish. It did happen, and they still live to this day…. not drowned yet.
I took all that with a grain of salt though. I do not actually care if Genesis is accurate or not, and it has no basis for my faith or lack thereof. It does not bother me if this man thinks me to be un-Christian; I don’t even call myself one anyway, but if I ever do I would hope that it be based on who I think the person of Christ is; not my position on the lung fish.
His second point though did really bother me. He got onto the topic of why suffering exists in this world. He said that he was going to answer the great question of how if there was a loving, kind God – there could be suffering and evil in his world. He said that as a Christian you have to believe that “evil exists outside of God”.
Evil exists outside of God? What the heck are you talking about? Your answer to how God can allow evil to exist is that the evil exists outside of God? At first I thought that maybe he just misspoke or chose his words unwisely, but he said it again and again He even brought it up on a PowerPoint presentation; there it was, bold and underlined, evil exists outside of God.
Let’s actually think this through for a moment. A primary theological principle of Christianity is that NOTHING exists outside of God. Nothing. What is outside of God? Nothing is outside of God. All of reality, space, time, existence, and non-existence is held within God. Outside of God there is nothing. Or better put, there is no such thing as an outside of God to be outside of. All is within God.
In order for there to be something outside of God there would have to be a thing/being who was independent of God, did not need God, and was not created by God. If we take this further and say that this being was evil, in direct opposition to God (his will, and his plans) then this being would have to be a God on his own to accomplish such a feat.
To a theology major his discussion was nothing but gibberish, and the worst part was that he is a professor at and is on the board of the bible college.
As a side note however, I would like to point out that with Christianity on the decline in our society I see little logic in further fragmenting it by informing people that they are not really Christian (or Christian enough for you) over such issues. Is there not something more important that truly binds you all?
Furthermore, if I were to speak of 2 major points that people had to “get down” to be in a certain religion I think I would choose something dealing with purpose and passion. People need purpose and passion; passion is contagious, and purpose breathes hope. What is going to truly revitalize your church? You all being on the same page about creation; or you all living with a contagious passion? Agreeing on the dogma of original sin; or living holy lives that inspire others?
Observation 3: A Pound Of Bacon At All Times
My roommates eat meat at every meal; they snack on bacon like Cheez-Its. At all times (I repeat: all times) there is at least a pound of pre-cooked bacon in the fridge; just in case. They are Christians, and they all are over weight. One likes to hunt, and likes to tell funny stories of how he likes to brutalize animals. Everything from shooting coyotes for fun, to sticking fireworks up cats butts and lighting them on fire. My room is right next to the kitchen and I get to wake up every morning to the smell of the next pound of bacon being cooked.
I am vegan by the way. I consider all life to be sacred.
Yesterday I was taking a nap and woke up to a smell so thick and sickening that I ran out of my room and had to throw up. They were cooking up a few pounds of ground beef for dinner. I guess even the smell of meat now makes me sick to the stomach.
Observation 4: We Can Respect An Ant
On Sunday I had the chance to participate in a 6 hour long Buddhist meditation, or Day of Mindfulness. We were told to all arrive early (since being late would be disrespectful to the holiness of the day) and everyone was there early; none were late. It was amazing. Over 20 of us were there; from ages 20 to 60. It was held in a small, cold recreation center of an apartment complex. The floor was cold, hard, and uncomfortable; we sat down and meditated in stillness for hours. Everyone was silent and respectful, for the day this place became sacred. Nobody moved, got up, or made a noise. If your leg hurts you deal with it, if your foot falls asleep then great – you can meditate on that. Got to go to the bathroom? Hold it.
For lunch it was the first time in a long while that I got to eat with other vegans or vegetarians. There was no meat in sight. There still was no talking, it wasn’t an enforced rule, but we simply did not want to ruin the moment with it. However there was community; without rule or speech everyone simply began passing around and sharing their food and drink with the others gathered there.
We noticed that a family of ants had come in from the cold and made their way onto the floor with us. We smiled at them and shared some food with them as well. When it was time to start meditating again everyone was careful where they stepped and sat so as to make sure that none of the ants would be harmed. All life is sacred.
Observation 5: We Can Respect An Ant; You Can Not Respect Your Own Church
Sunday night I went to a different church service with a Christian friend of mine who does not go to the bible college. I actually like this church, and I enjoy their worship services a lot. I appreciate the fact that when they worship I can tell that it is towards an awe-inspiring God instead of them just asking for stuff fromtheir buddy Jesus. They praise the Father for his worth, glory, magnitude, majesty, holiness; and this I can revere and appreciate. I can also join in this with them since I believe in revering a God as well.
I came early, paying this church the same respects I gave to a rec-center just a few hours earlier, and walked inside. On the way there I grabbed a coffee, but I noticed a sign that said that this was a holy place and that we should not bring food or drinks inside. I felt bad and immediately dumped my almost full coffee out and threw it away. I noticed that nobody else was there yet other than the pastor and the worship team. Service time came, and eventually some people started to drift in. Most people wandered in about half an hour late, some totally skipped worship; arriving even later.
They had to be reminded a few times to stop talking, and to make sure their cell phones were off. My friend started to laugh and nudged me to point out a series of people walking in with their cups of coffee; some of them brought in food to snack on as well.
Worship was still amazing, minus the fact that in the row behind me the family had decided to bring in their children’s toys for them to play with. That was a bit distracting. It is hard to concentrate on worshiping even a divine God when a baby rattle is going off behind your ear, or a race car is scurrying across the pew.
The pastor began to preach on the cross, and on the Eucharist since we are nearing Easter. He announced that they were going to take communion that night, but before they did he wanted to church to take a moment of silence and do some real reflection on their lives. He asked the church to be still for just one minute. People started talking. He reminded them to be silent as a cell phone goes off; and gets answered. He pleads with them to be silent before their God and reflect, as the couple behind me loudly starts discussing how their week at work was.
I stood up and I told my friend that I had to leave. I said,
Your people don’t even take this seriously, how am I supposed to?
They can’t even be quiet before their God for a minute, I was with a group of people who were silent for 6 hours before theirs. We treated a rec-center with more respect than these people treat their temples, and we treated an ant with more reverence than these people show to your Lord’s communion. I was offended. I am not even Christian, and I was offended. I guess you are all lucky that you have such a laid-back God who does not expect much from you. If the bar were any higher I do not think the majority of you would still be going there; it would get in the way too much with your busy lifestyles, and petty demands.
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