Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A night of the Grateful Dead and the Ten Commandments

Tonight...tonight was good.

I'm not gonna lie. Losing two pastors who were instrumental in changing my view on my relationship with the church has been rough. I'm scared. I fear change like this not for the change itself, but because I fear the organization could once again become something from my past that I actively distance myself from. Black, White, whatever, traditional churches are places where I have a difficult time growing--a hard time staying out of holes of resentment and frustration and doubt..and that's mostly because I end up spending the bulk of my time dealing with the emotional weight of lack of acceptance or flat out rejection, be it because of my color, my culture or my personality.

But yes...tonight. Tonight our new small group went on a field trip (all the way to the main sanctuary) to hear the church counselor speak on the Ten Commandments in relationship to the family...not the most obvious connection. There were four of couple and two single. I was happy to walk into the room and see a mixture of singles and marrieds (mostly couples and parents, but that makes sense). I really think we need to learn together, if only to maintain understanding of what the other group is going through. Beyond that though, any of us could end up on the other side of the relationship coin at any point in life, so it's a good idea to keep an ear out regardless of what team you're on.

I love the way this guy teaches. I adore quirky people to the point that I have to contain my elation at finding another outlier in the world. Humans that, for whatever reason, are aliens among their own pique my curiosity like nothing else. This guy...he is one of us Nots--going off on Faulknerian tangents mid-sentence, considerately wavering in and out of awareness of his audience with quick apologies and an occasional qualifier (that's where the Grateful Dead and the Monkey and the Engineer come in). He's aware, I'm sure because of his background and because he's a professor, of cultural impact. I was giddy when he spoke on individualism vs. collectivism in the Western World and how it's almost impossible to not be affected by an entire country with an individualistic bent...seriously giddy. For a split second I was digging frantically for reasons that I might need to make an appointment for counseling--though I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate my guise of personal turmoil and efforts to pick his brain.

Any Christian who can use the gifts God gave them, take their field of study seriously and live their lives flying in the face of anti-intellectualism gets a +10 from me.

He paralleled Ephesians and the Ten Commandments and spoke on why they are basically only two (Love God, Love others) split into more detail for our little brains...but if I remember nothing else, it will be these two concepts that he spoke on in relation to the family...

  • The honor of a child is not the right of the parent, it is a command to the child.
  • Men are the spiritual head of household 
That first one was blatantly ground-breaking for me. He spoke on how often he has clients come in, complaining of not being honored by their children, and how he then has to gently remind them that they are not entitled to honor...that their job, simply, is not to frustrate their children and to train them up to follow God's word.

The second though, much more subtly, but more profoundly sounds like a repeat of what I've heard before, but he said it in a way that changed the way I'll view it forever. Tonight was the first time I heard anyone explain it in a way that clearly articulated the importance of the use of "spiritual" as a limitation on the word "head". As he stated..."that does not mean that he is the head of where the cups go in the cabinet, that he has the final say in disciplining children or in money. Go read Proverbs 31." He also went on to say that boyfriends are not the head of girlfriends in any way, and that headly status is not conferred until marriage has occurred. 

I think I'm still internalizing all that. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Rethinking Science vs. Religion

I adored The Dark Knight Rises. It's seriously going in my top 10 movies. The purposeful action, the elegant melancholy, the cool accents...and that plane scene (my jaw was literally open both times I saw it). One thing spoke to me more than anything else though. The movie struck me as one long effort to highlight the futility of the false dichotomies we create in life and relish on a daily basis in efforts to keep an otherwise messy existence clean and simple. We do it all day, every day, Bulls or Heat, Democrat or Republican, us or them, Creation or Evolution. While the core of Christian status is quite black or white (did you go through Jesus or not), the clarity after that point, I believe, is only to be fully grasped by God.

The Pharisees were NOTORIOUS for trying to trap Jesus with false dichotomies...Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife or not? Is it right for a man to pay taxes or not? Should this adulterous woman be punished or not? Each time, Jesus responded with an answer that rejected the yes/no dynamic inherent in the Pharisees' efforts to confine him to two choices.

Reading The Guide for the Perplexed, I'm seeing the false dichotomy has almost a tradition in Jewish culture of being used to deceive...which would make perfect sense as to why the Pharisees ran straight to it so often.  This time, it's Natural and Divine sciences. The section I'm on now addresses the placement of creation in the Bible, how it should be taught and what importance in plays. Maimonides asserts that Divine sciences  cannot be understood until the Natural sciences are grasped and quotes Jewish sages as saying:

 "It is impossible to tell mortals of the power of the Account of the Beginning. For this reason Scripture tells you obscurely: In the Beginning God created, and so on."

That flies in the face of the stance main-stream modern American Christianity has taken against the sciences and it continues to make me did we get here? Why was it, that so many years ago, American colleges, universities and scientists believed in and worshiped God, following the paths of Jewish teachings like that listed above, but now, some Christians reject science altogether. Maybe it really is as simple as the backlash of the emotional Second Great Awakening against the cerebral bent of its predecessor...that though, I am beginning to think, is a mere case of the Church again absorbing secular culture instead of blazing its own paths to God.  As Mark 12:24 says, I think we are in error very much because we simultaneously do not know the scriptures, and want to limit the power of God to fit human understanding. 

This book turns my head upside down and my soul inside out. I'm only a few pages in (it's a VERY rough read) but I am very much beginning to believe that creation...something we regard as simple enough to be grasped by 5 year olds (I spent a lot of time in Christian school, and we spent a lot of time on creation) much more advanced a concept than we realize and that we ask people to do the impossible when we tell them to simply accept the teachings of Genesis at face value. I am beginning to believe the reason Jesus did not speak much on creation was not because it was not important, but that it was simply too advanced a concept for his following, then and now, to begin to contemplate or understand.