Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

I am pulling up another past post form Red Letter Living that I wrote almost three years ago. At that time in my spiritual journey I was trying to decide where church doctrine and its creeds belonged in my faith. Needless to say this book by Harvey Cox did a lot to show me a different path on this topic and many others. When I came to realize just how much man had a hand in formalizing current Christian doctrine it convinced me that Christianity is an ever evolving process and is not to be paralyzed by some of the now outdated fourth and fifth century man-made worldviews.

I am going to start this post with an alarming story of Constantine’s involvement in the Council of Nicaea. It is from a book by Harvey Cox entitle The Future of Faith.   If this doesn’t cast out any doubt of man’s involvement in the change from faith to rigid belief nothing will:

2015-02-22_10-55-08Constantine, not Jesus, was the dominant figure at Nicaea, and it is hardly surprising that almost all the bishops, to the emperor’s satisfaction, arrived at a nearly unanimous decision in his favor. Only Arius himself and three other stubbornly independent bishops withheld their approval. Constantine promptly exiled Arius to the remote province of Illyricum. Then, in a statement that suggests he had forgotten his previous view both that this was all a matter of small significance and that all the parties should show forbearance to one another, he decreed: If any treatise composed by Arius be discovered, let it be consigned to the flames…and if anyone shall be caught concealing a book by Arius, and does not instantly bring it out and burn it, the penalty shall be death; the criminal shall suffer punishment immediately after conviction.

But the emperor’s draconian measures did not succeed. The historic Council of Nicaea, as an effort to unify the church and the empire by imposing a creed, proved a dismal failure. Within months arguments flared up again. One of the bishops who had attended the Nicaea council and had not supported the final decision, Hilary of Poitiers (d. ca. 367), found himself banished to Asia. No doubt his experience tinctured his opinion of councils and creeds, but a letter he wrote from his place of exile at the time pinpoints how little the Council of Nicaea had accomplished and what a debacle it had been. Hilary says: It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as opinions among men, as many doctrines because we make creeds arbitrarily and explain their inclinations…arbitrarily…every year, nay every moon we make a new creed and describe invisible mysteries. We repent what we have done. We defend those who repent. We anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other’s ruin.

Arius definitely caught the ire of Constantine and his brutality. Not only did he banish this noble bishop who dared to disagree with him on church matters he made even having anything written by Arius a penalty of death!! Sadly these types of stories are somewhat frequent in the years following Constantine’s mandating Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire.

We will be studying some more about this period in future posts but for now it is important that you realize that Christianity’s history is messy indeed. I am not saying that there are no good parts to what became the Church of Jesus Christ but only that we must be aware that much of the simple teachings of Jesus were later polluted by men seeking to consolidate personal power in earthly focused empires. Power corrupts, even inside the Christian church!

Too Much Bad Evangelism…

February 22, 2015 — 2 Comments

I find myself yet again using words from Stehpen Mattson over at Red Letter Christians as a source for one of my Sunday posts.  He just seems to say what needs to be said.  This time it is about how we Christians are becoming so tainted by bad evangelism. We let the crazies among us control the chicken house so to speak.

Crazed LunaticThe problem with many modern Christians is that we’ve seen and experienced too much bad evangelism: the crazy street preachers shouting at strangers, the late-night televangelists peddling for money, The Westboro Baptists picketing funerals, the corrupt pastors who eventually make the news for all the wrong reasons.

Christians are so tired of the harassment, manipulation, hidden agendas, lies, abuse, hate, bigotry, and downright sin that’s been associated with “spreading the gospel of Christ” that they’ve simply abandoned talking about Jesus altogether….

Telling anyone about Christ, the Bible, or even carefully inviting someone to church is a social faux pas. It’s becoming less culturally acceptable to evangelize. It’s understandable why many believers don’t want to. You don’t want to be seen as that person: The crazed lunatic who believes in a supernatural deity, the anti-science, anti-environment, homophobic, religious fundamentalist who believes in the existence of an afterlife.

SOURCE:  Christianity Is More Than Just Being A Good Person | Stephen Mattson.

Lets face it modern-day Christianity is too often seen by most outside the faith as being associated with hate, bigotry, and hidden political agendas instead of love, forgiveness, and mercy as our founder tried to teach us. Christians are seen as being anti-science and extremists in the political realm.  A big part of the problem is because most of the leaders of today’s churches are not courageous enough to distance themselves from this relatively recent toxic view.  They let others define how the world perceives what Christianity is. I might say one glaring exception to this seems to be the Catholic church and their latest pope. He gives me reason to be optimistic about the future of Christianity.

The little startup church that I joined more than a dozen years ago, and was asked to leave because of “doctrinal issues” more than four years ago, continues to struggle to increase its membership above a critical mass. They just can’t seem to get people in any numbers to even consider membership there.  A big part of that is probably that they are one of those who reject so much of what most of the world takes for granted in favor of a narrow biblical view.  They just can’t seem to see that the bible, which they even fail to accept was put together under a Roman king trying to shore up his failing kingdom, was not the last words God gave us or even all the words he gave us then. God continues to give us the knowledge to more fully love each other as each day passes. He did not leave us to stagnate with a fourth century mentality of the world. They just don’t seem to fathom that concept.

I am hopeful that the post-evangelical Christianity or whatever you want to call it which will surely follow these times will return to the basic teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am hopeful that someday being a Christian will not automatically label me as a radical-right, non-caring, crazed lunatic but instead as a person who lives out Christ’s command to love him and to love each other.

JEFFREY BROWN: But couldn’t you make the argument that it would be better if we all spoke the same language, that we all understood each other? There would be — well, there would be more understanding in the world.

BOB HOLMAN: Well, I love that argument, and it makes so much sense, until you understand what understanding is.

Icon_apps_22 [Converted] [Converted]You know, language is much more than communication. When we talk about it on the surface, that’s what it is. But language is the way we think. And it’s the way it’s been handed down through generations. If you begin to think in another language, that’s fine.

But if you have to lose the way that your family has been speaking, that’s not so fine. That’s losing who you are. And when we lose who we are, that’s when we become this homogenized consumer of life, rather than a citizen who comes from a place and knows who you are.

SOURCE:  What does the world lose when a language dies?.

The above quotes came from a transcript of a recent PBS Newshour segment about languages that are being lost in recent years. I will tell you up front so there is no confusion that I simply don’t buy much of the reasons to lament this happening. To me less languages in the world is instead something to celebrate.

Being deaf and living fully in the hearing world I know that communications is vital to how we live our daily lives. Daily conversations, yes even chit-chat is important. When communications is broken for whatever reason conflict often arises, sometimes deadly conflict. I have often said that the times I feel the most lonely is when I am surrounded by people who I am unable to communicate with. Sitting with a group of people and not being able to join in on whatever the topic of conversation happens to be about is totally isolating to me.

Even communications between those of us who are deaf are often nearly impossible because of different languages. The 20% or so of the deaf are those who were born deaf and part of the Deaf culture. They use a sign language called ASL. For the other 80% of us who went deaf after learning how to speak we use Signed English if we use signing at all, and many don’t. While the two share some common signs they are very different in context and application.  I have great difficulty knowing what a person using ASL is saying.

If only we all could talk directly with each other without the social, political, or physical barriers of different languages much of the world’s current problems would cease to exist. Because I am not privy to many conversations around me I often come to very  wrong conclusions about what is being discussed.  Because, for the most part Christians and Muslims speak different languages communication at the grass-roots level are simply not possible.  Communications is everything in today’s world. Speaking  and writing different languages kills communications.  Languages are not to be confused with thoughts. They are not the same thing. Thoughts, philosophies, cultures and such promote different ways of thinking. We should never lose our ability to think differently than the crowd.

These won’t get teens into college, but will make them better people

Teen with cell phone1. Write a letter. An actual letter that does not begin with “Hey” and is written, in handwriting, on real paper.

2. Learn to cook a good meal that can feed the entire family, no matter what size family you have. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the average American household has 2.58 people. One nice chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables might even provide leftovers.

3. Hold down an unpleasant job that makes you hate your parents a little bit because they won’t let you quit. When I was your age, I worked as an intern on Capitol Hill and on an assembly line in a Westvaco paper-box factory. Guess which job taught me more about life. (Although I did find myself alone in the hall one afternoon with Senator Sam Nunn and he actually said hi to me, which was superthrilling.)

4. Go somewhere for the weekend without your phone, just so you know what it feels like to be in solitary confinement, or dying.

5. Every time you get a new toy or gadget, give an old toy or gadget away to someone who doesn’t get new things as often as you do.

6. Take care of someone or something other than yourself. A pet does nicely here. And if it’s a dog, learn to brush the dog far enough away from the back door that the hair does not all come whooshing back in when you are finished. Yes, I speak from experience.

7. Write a heartfelt thank-you note to someone over the age of 70. Even if this person hasn’t given you a holiday or birthday present, find something to thank them for.

8. Read a book for pleasure. If you start one and still hate it on page 50, find another one. Repeat as needed until you find a book you really love.

9. Do something nice for a neighbor without expecting any credit for it. Rake the leaves, shovel the walk, put the newspaper on the front step if it landed in the middle of the driveway. Keep your identity here secret.

10. Don’t race to the top. Never race to the top. If you want to aim for the top, good for you. But try to get there slowly, deliberately, without knocking everyone else out of the way. Or missing the beautiful view.

SOURCE:10 Things Teens Really Need to Know Before They Leave Home | TIME.

I love this list whether it is reality or not. :)  There are words of wisdom here that all young people, and some not so young, need to learn. Number one is near and dear to me. I am a wordsmith and take great pride in being able to form intelligent complete sentences to relay my thought about all the issues I care about. I know I am going to sound like an old person here but tweeting and such is ruining the written word for too many of the latest generations. They need to sit down and write a letter once in a while.  No, fifty truncated words doesn’t make a letter.

I guess home economics is probably a thing of the past in today’s schools. In my day it was pretty much restricted to one gender. If a guy ever took the class he would be forever labeled.  I learned to cook when my mom left us for greener pastures. Better quit here as this post is beyond my self-imposed length already… (Ok, I know this kind of contradicts #1 but get used to irony in your life maybe should be #11)