Sunday, October 30, 2005

My "Weekend Wondering" Thoughts

Some cool thoughts came through on this one. Andrea raised the issue of the "jealous God" and I found myself struck by a new way of viewing that. Generally, the word "jealous" has such negative connotations. But in reading Andrea's comment, I realized that it's more in the selfish sense, out of love ... wanting us all for himself, wanting to be the focus of our attentions. Kinda like how I relish my role as "favorite aunt."

Seeking_Something and Lorna both seem to go with the idea that our choice is made for eternity -- Seeking b/c once you stand before God and still say no, odds are you won't change your mind; Lorna allows the possibility of an escape clause but doesn't want to bank on it. Andrea initially agreed as well, saying that without "the option to say no in a final way" the idea of free will is negated. But, once I devil's-advocatedly asked about changing one's mind .... she then said Hmmmmm.

I liked Lorem's very concrete and definitive "Yes, there is a hell. It is a state of mind." The piece about making the choice to crawl out and the difficulty involved in staying in the rediscovered light reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle's reflections on the post-crucifixion Judas -- a beautiful legend that describes the thousands of years before Judas finally hauls himself out of the pit ... and what happens on his ultimate emergence.

To quote my teacher-self: "In my mind I believe ..." I'm kinda with Jo(e) on this. I find it hard to reconcile the all-loving all-merciful God with the God who will smiteth me to Hell if when I screw up too many times. The way I put it with the kids, I can't see God sending me to hell. At the same time ... it's my choice. The way I see it, I can choose to go towards God, or choose to turn away from God. But, if God has the unlimited unreserved love that I'm telling the kids that he has ... I've gotta believe that God will be right there waiting, the moment I turn back around towards him. Yeah, sure, there's the story of Lazarus and the rich man. But what about the Prodigal Son (or, as some say, the Prodigal Father) -- "While he was still a far way off, his father saw him and ran to meet him" ... looking out the window, watching, waiting for that moment of return, of "coming to [our] senses."

How many of us faulty and flawed human parents would continue to support and love our children despite their errors in judgment? And so how much more would our heavenly father do so? (Another cool L'Engle snippet on this thought, too.) Our book mentions that the presence of evil is our doing, that it is we who reject God, not vice versa. Like the kid who runs away from home, and then calls their parents from the bus station -- yeah, sure, the mom'll be mad, but I'm thinking that the relief at the kid's safety and the joy at their return would far outweigh the wrath and anger of that immediate moment. Not to say that there wouldn't (or shouldn't) be consequences, but love is ultimately the overriding feature (theoretically, anyway -- as I said, we are all faulty and flawed and less-than-perfect human beings).

With the turning away from God ... how many kids stay on the streets or in other "bad" situations out of fear of going back home -- and how many of those worst nightmares end up being realized? I think we are our own harshest judges, and give ourselves our own worst punishments. Again with kids -- I've found that if I ask the kids what they feel the consequences should be for their actions, they are generally far more extensive than what I would have even thought of assigning them. Think of The Mission, the scene where Mendoza climbs the cliff with all his weapons and chains, and the response of the priest who is frustrated by their slow progress up the mountain. If we, when we feel worthy enough to turn back to God ... we will have already done far more penance than God would require. After all, just the simple act of turning back is all he asks.

And, again, from my perspective ... I think the choice to turn towards or away from God can be made even by those who don't openly subscribe to the idea of "God." I ask the kids what's more important -- where they are for one hour Sunday morning, or how they live the other 6 days and 23 hours of the week? How well are they living out their Christian message if they are in the front pew at church and singing in the choir, and then getting a case of massive road rage in the slow-moving parking lot after Mass? I know people who insist that they have not a single spiritual bone in their body that are more Christ-like than those who are in church every evening. Look at Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, run by the Reverend Fred Phelps. I won't dignify their actions by a link, but I will let the record show that lists them as a "hate group" alongside the Klan, neo-nazis, and racist skinheads. You can't tell me that Fred Phelps has more of a "right" to be in heaven than Abraham Joshua Heschel.

But, of course, do any of us have a "right" to be in heaven? After all, do my previous comments about Westboro Baptist make me any more Christian than Phelps himself? We say the Lord's Prayer ... but how much do we realize what we're truly requesting when we ask God to forgive us in the same manner that we forgive others? We are ALL flawed and faulty human beings, but we were still made that way by God, "who saw that it was good." In my mind, perseverence has to count for something ... and so all I can do is try, try again. And fall flat on my face, and try, try again. And fall flat on my face once more and try ....

Although ... I may have mentioned this before, but ... this has all been what I think, but we can't know -- because it's an attitude that grows out of your own individual view and image and understanding of God ......
..... And that's different for everyone.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful piece! :)


10/31/2005 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Lorna said...

yeah beautiful.

I think God always calls us home - while we are on earth. But I do believe in a day of reakoning - not for what we have done - but for what we have believed.

Actually we are also judged on what we did with our faith - but that does come second. Way down in my opinion.

God's love is great - but even He can't stand sin - and if we haven't been washed in the blood of Jesus, then I just don't see how we can be in heaven - not WITH God

does that make sense (fuzzy Monday)

10/31/2005 9:40 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Interesting thoughts. The Judas story is one I'm going to have to add to my collection. Believing in God's forgiveness -- believing that he forgives me even when I don't forgive myself -- is alwyas a tough one.

10/31/2005 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, my thoughts on hell: Similar to what someone else said, I think of hell along the lines of being a state of mind. Fr. Chris described it like this: If there is no where we can go that can separate is from the love of God, and if God is all love, then hell is our choosing to not accept that love. The fire of God's love still rains down on us, but in rejecting that love, we experience it as a deeply negative thing. It is hell. The myriad of little (and big) choices we make throughout our lives are how we say "yes" or "no" to God. Ultimately, we get a final "yes" or "no." The results are the same though: God keeps loving us. If we say yes to that love and that God, then it is an experience of eternal heavenly bliss, united with God. If we say no, well, God still keeps raining down God's love, but it is an experience of pain and torture, refusing to accept that eternal, intense love. (cont...)

11/01/2005 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steph, thanks so much for visiting my blog. I've been perusing yours for a bit. Wow! An nun?!! I've never known a nun! lol. What a dumb statement.

Anyway, I've got some more reading material if you're interested - the free will, predestination thing. Also you can listen online to a wonderful teaching that totally explains and disects this in a very concise, truth-filled way. This is my own pastor who is teaching, and he wrestled with this whole doctrine for about 6 years. Here's how to get there, and I highly recommend it!

The Village Church

At the top right hand corner, click on Resources.

In the left hand sidebar, click on Listen. Then click on downloads. Click on Sermons.

Scroll down and click on Sermon Archives.

Scroll down and on the right hand side at the bottom, click on: 1)Does God Have Two Wills?

Whew! More difficult to write out than to actually do it!

Matt covers this topic very well.

Anyway, if you listen, let me know what you think, 'k?

As far as hell, Jesus talks about it as a very real place; it's not a mere mind state. Matt 5:22, 29, 20
Matt 10:28; Matt 18:9; Matt 23:33;
Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5

Also in James 3:6 and 2 Peter 2;4

I'm of the opinion that our opinions are pretty meaningless, in light of what is in Scripture. It doesn't matter what we'd like to 'think' about God; what matters is what He says about Himself.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. I enjoyed reading your blog.

11/01/2005 1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang it, I just lost the second half of my comments. *sigh*

The jist of it was that I used to worry, back in the days when I was of a more fundamnetalist/pentecostal bent, that I would somehow commit that singular unforgiveable sin of "blaspheming the spirit" and earn my one-way ticket to hell.

But now I understand that to "blaspheme the spirit" is to reject God's forgiveness, and to insist on holding on to our guilt, our feelings of unworthiness, thereby insisting that God is not capable of healing us. That we are doing a better job than God possibly could by holding on to whatever it is we're holding on to. It's not something you can do by accident, then later found out, "oops, sorry, you lose; go to hell, go directly to hell for all eternity, do not pass Go, do not collect $200." ;-)

11/01/2005 2:11 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I like this post and the ideas presented but you're talking about 'normal' people and their relationship with God.

How does God judge a schizophrenic murderer who truly believes he is murdering for God?

When the judgment day comes and the schizophrnic murderer (SM) professes his deep love for God does he go to heaven? Or does he go to hell for killing people in the name of God? Or does God give him a pass because he has a mental illness? Or can God see the 'essence' of the SM and tell whether he believes in God or not? But if the essence of the SM does not believe in God and the SM never had cotrol over this 'essence' then how can God condemn the SM to hell?

If God does not condemn the SM to hell because the SM had no free will over his essence then how can God condemn someone who uses his free will to not believe in God?

It's sort of that 'can God create a rock so heavy that even God can't lift the rock' dilemma.

None of it makes any sense to me which is why I don't believe in the Christian God.

11/02/2005 12:02 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

Elizabeth ~ you'd fit right in with some of my students ... that's not too far from some of the "What-if's" that they've been throwing at me. Of course, I don't help matters much by pointing out that "No one knows, we can't know -- but what do YOU think?"

Also reminds me of a friend of mine attempting to explain 9/11 to her then-seven-year-old daughter, who then raised the question: "But, Mom, if they thought they were doing what God wanting, how can it be wrong?"

And, if you figure that God created SM, like any other human, "in God's image and likeness" .... and you take the idea of unconditional unlimited love and forgiveness .... then does it matter what SM thinks?

And I guess that's where I have difficulty with the idea of God condemning ANYONE to hell, SM or not.

Of course, is it hugely scandalous for me to say, also, that I don't believe in a "Christian God" versus and "Everybody-else God"? Especially considering what some people say their "Christian God" wants .... I don't think I'd necessarily buy into the Christian-God idea myself.

11/02/2005 12:20 AM  

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