Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Who Do We Think We Are?

I would like to quote Phillip Gulley & James Mulholland from their book If Grace Is True, which is a great testament for universal reconciliation and God's grace. I highly recommend it.

The problem isn't that God is lost and we have to find him. It's just the opposite. We are lost and God has sought us. Jesus said, "The Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost" (Luke 19:10)

I once gloried in the statement "I accepted Christ." Now I celebrate the even better news, "God accepted us." Jesus made it clear to the disciples who did the choosing: "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16)

My (previous) mistake, as well as the error of most traditional theology, was to believe we could reject God's love and determine God's attitude toward us.

This collective statement bears facts that no one can be "the hand that moves the hand of God." A child who throws a tantrum and screams that they hate their parent will likely and ideally be responded to with "Well, I still love you" from the parent. Because God the Father provides love that is utterly superior to the love of a human parent/child relationship, how can we think for one minute that any punishment God delves out is (me laughing) eternal. Not to mention this word is missing from original scriptures, a parent would never send their child to their room for forever. Reason: no punishment warrants it. It is the same with God, but on a lifetime scale: no sin is greater than God's love. Lots of Christians like to play the hellfire and damnation cards, but they miss the bigger picture and WHOLE REASON of the Gospel of Christ: Love, love, love! Anyone can reject God and His Love, but no one is powerful enough to stop God from loving them back. Typical Christians think they contain the power to save or damn themselves. Nope. Humans are powerless to do anything but be the clay in the hands of the Creator. Such arrogance on the part of people. God's will is the only true power there is. To think that God would like to save everyone but cannot because people choose to damn themselves takes power away from God. It limits God's ABILITY to save everyone. Why do Christians put measurements on God's capacity to love? Maybe because people have limits to who and how much they love, falsely assuming God loves as they do.

The judgment we each may individually require according to our sins will come as a soul carwash we pass through to end up clean at our destination of being reconciled to God. His love is like the ocean - deep, wide, enveloping and refreshing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Genius of Contrast


God's India ink pen on the stark white board. The extremes of life exhibit themselves as necessary landscapes we must traverse in our journey to "the promised land". The low times in life allow us to appreciate the better times. The sickness we get allows us to better appreciate the health we have once we recover. Sometimes visiting foreign places result in a greater appreciation of the country or home we live in. Almost or actually losing a loved one often results in a renewed love and appreciation of them, as does absence itself. It is God's genius of contrast in which we learn to differentiate these experiences. This finite life is riddled with fear, volatility, inconsistencies, heartbreak and deceptions (spiked with times of plenty) in order for us to truly celebrate and revel in the Life of the World to Come. An infinite life of love, balance, loyalty, trust, consistency and truth. This is what I imagine heaven is...the opposite of what we are in now. The greatest contrast. Our lesson in this life is to know various pains so that we can forever appreciate the impending bliss.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hell is Other People

In light of next month, February, which is African-American History Month, I wanted to cover a tradition that, while a part of African history, still occurs in parts of Africa with regards to women.

When I was a kid my parents had huge stacks of National Geographic magazines around. I would flip through them to see scantily clad tribal peoples of Africa walking around their mud huts with spears. I marveled at how dark their skin was and how they didn't care about being fully clothed. Some of them had elaborate nose and ear piercings and jewelry. Some of the women had rings around their necks. One of the photos that stands out for me is one that I didn't understand at the time. It was a photo of several older women holding down a crying girl. When I was young I didn't know what genital mutilation was, but as an adult it makes me want to cry for those women.

For a full description of this procedure, also referred to as "female circumcision" click this link:

In the year 2008 there is still a global suppression of female education that needs to be addressed. Waris Dirie, a victim of this procedure and a Revlon model escaped from Somalia and has been an outspoken advocate of putting an end to this "tradition".

"Female genital mutilation is a painful and unnecessary procedure with lifelong consequences for those who undergo it," says Dr Nafis Sadik, UNFPA executive director. "It exposes young girls to infection; it can cause serious injury or even death; it can damage psychological, social and sexual well-being."

Yet at the same time, it is a practice which exists in silence. In traditional Somali society women are discouraged from even discussing circumcision, or sexuality in general. "Nobody talks about it, it just happens - but it happens to all women," Dirie explains.

Until she fled from home to avoid an arranged marriage at the age of 13, she says, she did not even know that there existed places in the world where female genital mutilation did not occur.

The sad part is that women impart this procedure upon women. I wish I could smuggle these women out of their society and bring them here and tell them how their bodies are not evil and educate them. I wonder if this tradition that began over 2000 years ago was a man's idea.

I recently listened to podcast from NPR (National Public Radio) about a Pastor Carlton Pearson of New Dimensions Church (see link on my Recommended Links section). He came to know the Truth of universal salvation - the Gospel of Inclusion and prior to being labeled a heretic, had made a poignant statement during the show. While watching TV from the comfort of his home, with his daughter on his lap, he saw a news segment that showed suffering children and babies in Africa with distended stomachs, flies buzzing around their eyes and the unbelievable starvation, malnourishment, uneducation, poverty and death they were enduring. He realized that he could not get on a plane and go over to save these people from eternal hell. He meditated on this. He then realized that they WERE in hell -- the agony, torment, gnashing of teeth -- is by and large HERE AND NOW. Moreso, he realized God would never condemn those people, believers or not, a loving and sovereign God is about mercy and compassion. A loving God would never EVER impart an eternity of suffering on someone who has only lived maybe 70 years... and suffered a good portion of those years. More than the agony, Pastor Pearson realized that a loving God would deliver unto Himself even those unbelieving pagan babies dying of hunger. His eyes were opened. He realized the truth that I also found, that God saved the world for all humans, especially believers, but he saves ALL.

Inaccurately translated from the original Greek manuscripts to Latin, then to English, the word Hell was incorrectly inserted into subsequent Bibles to replace three different words in one fell swoop that mean three totally different things (Gehenna, Tartarus and Hades). The majority of Christians do not realize this. The majority of Christians take the typical King James-type version at face value and never take a scholarly approach to understanding the original Bible on their own. Anyone who wishes to do this must get their hands on a version of the Bible that is as close to the original Greek language Bible as possible. For those people, I recommend the Condcordant Literal New Testament with Greek Concordance.

My point, in relation to female genital mutilation (FGM) is this: God LOVINGLY gave women the ability to experience brief moments of ecstasy while in the throes of sexual climax (some would use the word 'heavenly'). For the women who undergo FGM, the special parts of the female body designed by God for their benefit that would allow this awesome experience are cut out, cut off from the women. Their existing Hell of being second-class, suppressed, objectified and uneducated is intensified by the denial of any natural sexual pleasure gifted to them by God.

When you are in such pain (and I cannot even IMAGINE the pain that would accompany a female circumcision) it feels like ETERNITY. Yes, I would tend to agree that an eternity in Hell is now. And I have to agree with the French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre when he said, "Hell is other people". I think here and now we create hell for ourselves and for others. Our environment, actions, inactions, thoughts, internal struggles - hell is different to each person, but it is a hell nonetheless. We are weak vessels of impotence and purposefully experience the devastation of human inevitabilities (suffering, death) now so that we can truly enjoy the Life of the World to Come, where, I believe, those victimized women will be made whole again. All will return to God in the condition in which He dispatched them.

I would like to close this entry with these three quotes:

God so loved the world that he made up his mind to damn a large majority of the human race — Robert G. Ingersoll

I do not believe in hell as a place of a literal burning fire. — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (Ebony magazine, January 1961)

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears; they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. — The Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:4)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

On Faith

The culmination of all the definitions for "faith" I could find = “to trust or believe without reason”.

I have a tough time separating faith from reason. I have faith in reason. I also have reason in faith. I have reason to have faith. Remove reason from faith and you have an ignorant child, remove faith from reason and you have an ignorant adult.

I believe that “faith” and “reason” are different, yet interlocking, parallel and equivalent ways of knowing.

Everybody has faith in one form or another and to differing degrees - whether they admit it or not [faith in their spouse, their drugs, their alarm clock, their deity, their insurance, themselves, etc.]. This gives evidence that we are not hard-wired to have tunnel vision to make decisions simply based on tangibles and reason alone. We use faith to trust, to a degree, those things which are out of our immediate control. Faith is part of the checks and balances of one’s internal government. Reason is that faculty of mind that is able to judge things whether they be true or not. You cannot reason with an unreasonable person and it is unfair to have a war of wits with an unarmed person. Reason has become a prejudice for the ignorant, the worst form of prejudice because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice. To believe that we are to have faith and not reason is to have a theology of ignorance. The fact is that reason and faith validate each other.

Most associate faith with spiritual or religious beliefs that extend beyond this life and world.

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" -- Hebrews 11:1

Faith in an unseen noun or verb can be construed as a comfort and a gift – or dismissed as a placebo meant to lend a false sense of well-being or illogical consolation. Either way, faith exists for the benefit of the faithful, just as a judgment occurs for the benefit of the judged.

“We look not at things seen, but things unseen; for things seen are temporary, but things unseen are eternal.” -- 2 Corinthians 4:18

Regarding faith as it relates to belief in God, some have it, some don’t. I possess it. I have faith in many things, but the biggest avenue of faith that I have is in the love of God and the Truth of the eventual universal salvation of all.

"The Father has given ALL things into the Son's hands" (John 3:35) and so "ALL flesh shall see the salvation of God" -- Luke 3:6

Faith is one of the many internal compasses that help steer people’s decisions and disposition in life. The power and size of the compass depends on the individual and their thoughts and experiences as is the state of faith being gained, maintained, or lost.

I have many reasons for why I have my faith and how my faith has evolved.I think a role of faith should be to use reason to ask more questions in order to enhance both our reason and our faith, to seek inner chambers within ourselves that are in need of occupancy and to attempt to make a greater connection to that which is known but unseen.

"In the end there are three things that will last: faith, hope, and love…and the greatest of these is love." --1 Corinthians 13:13

My Faith Sherpa is on my right, my Reason Sherpa is on my left. One without the other is a tough climb.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Church & The Plague

Last night my husband and I watched a documentary on The History Channel about the Bubonic Plague in Europe during the 14th century. It was interesting that during that period of history religion, specifically Catholicism, was the center of many peoples' lives and it was a common practice to attend mass daily. The idea that God punished people through such things as famine, drought, plagues, etc. was drilled into the masses by the Church. It was instilled that the sins of the people were so great so it was obvious that God was smiting them. (Aside: I love all forms of the word smite - smote, smiting - it is a very entertaining word for me.) It was also drilled into the peoples of olde, as well as today, that before one dies that they should receive Last Rites (also called the Blessing of the Sick). For those non-Catholics out there, this means that the dying person delivers their last confession to a priest, who will then "absolve them of their sins" and give them the Eucharistic host (if able) before they pass on, thus ensuring a shorter wait into the Pearly Gates.

So, as it goes, once the plague broke out and people were dying left and right, the clergy in many of the churches made themselves purposely 'unavailable'. People would carry their dying children into the vestibules of the church for the administration of Last Rites only to see the priest scurrying away into their chambers.

Jesus said, "Whatever you do unto the least of these, you do unto me."

"Greater love has no man than this, that a man gives up his life for his friends." - John 15:13

The Church then decreed that those dying who wished to receive Last Rites were given permission to confess to each other, even if that last person to see them was...(wait for it)... a WOMAN. Confess to a woman? A woman who was obviously not a coward to be there to care for the dying. A woman who does not make last-minute decrees (as appointed by the Lord - ha!) to preserve their life instead of carrying out the sworn and honorable duty of caring for the dying ones and seeing their spiritual comfort and assurance is tended to. A woman who does not serve the Church during the day and a mistress at night.

Flipping papal hypocrites. The more things change the more they stay the same.

So, you have a panicked populace scared to death of dying, upset that their God is smiting them for their terrible sins, but even more panicked at the thought of not receiving a last confession and Eurcharist. The Church was officially unavailable. They felt they were damned. The worst feeling in the world, I imagine. There were also zealot crazies who would scourge themselves while walking up and down the street because they thought they needed to suffer as Christ did to "make up for this smiting".

Today the Church pushes for baptisms moreso than Last Rites, I feel. But even unbaptized babies immediately return to the Grace of God. For what sin did they commit unto themselves that would warrant eternity in purgatory or (a fictional) hell? There is no such thing as Original Sin, remember - that was an invention of St. Augustine. I did a post on this if you want details of this laughable concept. Original Sin means that we were created in God's imperfection. Like He spillled coffee on our blueprint or something.

All I can say is that it is absolutely ridiculous for anyone to think that they can save themselves, let alone any others - babies, the dying, etc. God is the only hope for us. We are but weak vessels barely able to spiritually support our sad selves of our own volition. Why is this such a hard concept to grasp? We're unable to stop ourselves as we age and fall apart. We are unable to stop current events, wars, poverty, etc. We are unable to stop ourselves from that second piece of cake. So how the hell can people think that they are able to provide themselves with their own salvation? It is only through God that this is possible. And I believe this to be true.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Straight From The Mouth of Jesus

Happy New Year! I thank God for another year of life.

And we're off:

The typical Christian mistakenly credits him/herself for their own salvation. They don't like to admit it, but they don't credit God. It is an "I believe therefore I am saved" method. I have free will so I saved myself by believing? Not quite, junior. The problem with "free will" is that it is not technically free. It is not free from the influences of God, not free from the influences of others. There is no such thing as free will, only influenced will. If God created man, God created the creamy nouggat that is his / her mind and therefore all that passes through it. God is not a hands-off God. He has created us and uses us to suit His purposes, not the other way around. We are clay in the hands of The Great Sculptor. Our lives have purpose - whether the life of a big influential president or a premature baby that does not live but a few hours and passes on. Everything is on purpose. All that comes to life is of God and has purpose. God does not dabble in the superfluous and the is only Man who makes it seem so.

Jesus even said that Man cannot save him/herself. Not possible. God makes it possible, though. And again, it is not just the believers who are saved. I repeat: Salvation of ALL is the only outcome worthy of God's plan. He will not fail. Yes, a temporary purification will come as we are all unclean and riddled with sin, but it is just that - temporary. It will all be washed off like dirt. All will return to God. As sure as the seasons and cycles make their way around, so will we return from whence we came. Everything is cyclical. It is the brilliant and unending Truth.

And to those Christians who say I am wrong and that there is an eternal hell which God has all those unbelieving people lined up to go (me laughing) and that I will one day stand before God to explain my sorry self and my "wrong" interpretation of His Word, what am I to say to God: Sorry, I overestimated your love?


My parents forgive me when I screw up. Over and over and over again. God loves me more than they do. What can I do to be banished forever? There is no sin that can ever be committed on this earth to warrant an alleged eternity in punishment. That does not mean I am going to run amok sinning it up and no worries about consequences. Grace allows me to have a conscience to keep me in line. It is our automatic angel-on-the-shoulder. I think its working properly. And my knowing the love and grace of God also puts me on my (trying to) best behavior. When you love someone you want to do all you can to please them. That someone here happens to be God.

Matthew 19:25-27

Now, hearing it, the disciples were tremendously astonished saying "Who, consequently, can be saved?" Now, looking at them, Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, yet with God all is possible."

2 Timothy 2-11

"We have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers."