Monthly Archives: May 2013

God butcher these people!

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Drag these people away like sheep to be butchered! Set them aside to be slaughtered!(Jeremiah 12:3)

This seems so barbarous, so unlike Jesus. But I should remember that these are people of power and influence who are abusing hurting & killing innocent people. This is the guttural cry for justice. In my world injustice has been pushed to the margins. My worst injustice is encountering a pot smoker at a park, stepping on dog poop, or meeting an overzealous traffic cop. In my comfortable, safe, predictable environment of North American Western society it becomes easy for me to sit in judgment of verses like this one. But put me in a war-torn environment where I have had to endure murder, corruption and scandal, and I would probably really resonate with this verse.

Suffering & Death: Life’s two Guarantees

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Calamity happens to both the righteous and the unrighteous. Often it does no good to try to figure out why bad things are happening, they simply do — life always ends in death, the journey to the grave requires suffering. The best thing to do at times is to sit in silence and just be with the one who’s hurting. We all must hurt but no one need hurt alone — Grief is one of the rhythms that we share at Meta

Great Soul by Joseph Lelyveld (Book Review)

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Great Soul Mahatma Gandhi and his struggle with India. Joseph Lelyveld.

With every “Great Soul” comes great complexity. Gandhi is no exception. Lelyyeld has written a remarkable biography that burrows deep into the complexities of this man and the world in which he lived.
 Gandhi the absentee husband & father — after 21 years of marriage, of which he only spent 9 living with his wife & family he simply declared to his wife that there would be no more sex, and that his calling was higher than that of husband and father. His calling was to India, without remorse he made the disengagement with his family official, it was the price they all must pay. His wife was Gandhi’s greatest source of frustration, She didn’t believe like he did, and the more welcoming he became of Untouchables the more he expected her to serve them, which was very difficult for her. If ever Gandhi was tempted to give up his belief in non-violence it was with his wife. His four sons struggled in their development without a father, causing family strife in later years. Gandhi seemed willing to lead people but not live with people, this was part of his commitment to detachment.
Gandhi the celibate — Gandhi embraced a branch of Hinduism which taught that a man loses strength every time semen leaves his body. Thus he encouraged anybody who would listen to give up sex. He was shocked and discouraged to discover that in his sixties he would still have erections, so to practice detachment, he secured the services of a 17 year old relative to sleep naked with him at nights, so as to be finally rid of lust. This created no small stir within his entourage, and eventually he gave up the practice.
 Gandhi the detached – His 30 year tirade against sex was born out of a greater Hindu belief that sought to detach ones self from the trap of pleasure. The doctrine taught that giving in to strong urges & desires always leads to despair, therefore all strong urges for pleasure were to be resisted. Food, for example was for sustenance only.  Housing should be very simple. Anger also was a desire that should never be acted on in violence to another. When Gandhi experienced anger and felt as though he must lash out, he would strike himself in the head as a compromise. Power was to be shunned as well, and even though Gandhi wielded lots of it for much of his life, he seemed ambivalent to it. Often disappearing for months at a time.
 Gandhi the politician – National Unity was his priority, his convictions to bring it about were: Peace between Hindu’s & Muslim’s, the ending of Untouchability, self sustained living for each village in india by teaching everyone to grow their own food, and make their own clothes, and Non violence as a way of life. Gandhi had to prioritize these values often creating controversy. Gandhi often said “the only reliable position I have on an issue is the last thing I have said.” Gandhi was also a solo show, he was not interested in consulting anyone about his leadership decisions. His preference was to be alone at the top.
Gandhi the humble  – He visited hospitals, nursed Untouchables in their dying hours, rode only third class, welcomed Untouchables in to his schools, and he wore the clothing of these despised people. All of this was unthinkable in his day.  He cared nothing for power, prestige or image. He wanted to defend the week, by liberating them from the tyranny of their caste system. His own peril & discomfort were always secondary in his mind. Often worshiped, Gandhi dismissed these affections, saying the time was not for hero worship but for service.
 Gandhi the failure? — Everything came crashing down on Gandhi. He was unable to keep the Muslims & Hindu’s from slaughtering each other, The British took the violence as an opportunity to justify violent crackdowns of their own. The masses of India, didn’t embrace his vision of self sustenance. For some reason his views on sex did not gather a large following 🙂 India did end up being carved up into three separate countries because of religious differences, and the caste system remained.  But yet Gandhi is revered & loved world wide. Why? On a positive note it took 50 years from the time of Gandhi’s assassination for Hindu Muslim violence to resume in earnest (2002). While he was alive he was able to control the violence somewhat, through hunger strikes. 17 in all. “I won’t eat until you guys learn to play nicely” was the strategy, and since Gandhi was one of the few who had the respect of all sides this strategy actually worked. Surely it would have been way worse had he not been there.
 Gandhi the Hindu — He was strongly influenced by Christianity, but remained a Hindu, believing that “Everything you have in your Scriptures we have in ours.” He was a tremendous help to Muslims, but didn’t want to become one. In the end it was a Hindu assassin that killed him, because of his closeness to Muslims. As a Hindu he had a real challenge before him: Untouchability existed as a primary tenant of Hindu belief. The caste system is based on the belief that your current life is judgement or reward for a past life. If you are low caste it is because of your sins. The gods have willed it. Gandhi tried in vain to change the theology of Hindu religious leaders. Grudgingly, Hindu’s bent their theology a little bit to slightly improve the quality of life for Untouchables, but it was only because Untouchables by the thousands were converting to Islam, Christianity & Buddhism  in order to carve out better lives for themselves. To Embedcar the other significant leader of that time period Gandhi was pathetic because he refused to see Hinduism for the bankrupt religion that it was.  Embedcar converted to Buddhism and led about 2 million Untouchables with him into that faith.
   Gandhi the optimist: Often there is not much discernible difference between an optimist and a liar. For example when Gandhi returned to India from South Africa, he credited himself with creating a virtual utopia of unity & independence among the Indian’s of South Africa. It’s a nice story, and Gandhi did a lot of good things in Africa, but the hype doesn’t measure with the facts. Gandhi capitalized on this optimistic version of the events in Africa in order to get himself instant credibility in India and a clear path to positions of influence.
 Gandhi the idealist: Ideally you would think if a bad person was doing bad things, and a good person protested in reasonable and non violent ways. The bad person would feel guilty and change his ways. Gandhi projected this ideal into the real to a fault, so for example, when asked what the Jews should do in Germany with Hitler, he suggested that the Jews simply talk to him, Hitler would feel bad, and then change his policies.
Confronting familiar ideas and accepted norms of living are more challenging then confronting armies, and as history has proven, if you confront one you almost certainly have to confront the other. Gandhi, though flawed and “quirky” by Western standards, fulfilled his confrontational destiny with humility, fearlessness and unyielding resolve.

Why Do I Need God?

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Its another beautiful day in Vancouver, the fountains at Lost Lagoon soothe me, the beauty of the mountains and trees amaze me, the sun warms me, I breathe in deeply the fresh air invigorates me. My belly is full, thanks to a wife who loves me. I sit here without fear. This is Canada, we love peace & simplicity. The turtles are sunning themselves on the log, a swan glides gracefully by, these are the reassurances of the serenity that I have found. The question rises, “Why do I need God?” An answer does not immediately come. I think for a minute, the wind picks up a bit, a swallow races by my head, effortlessly defying gravity. A crow makes it’s presence known. Could I not just be content with the natural beauties of this world and leave God out of it? There are these things in this world, be amazed, enjoy them and leave it at that. The crow has found two peanuts, he is greedy, so he works hard to fit them both into his beak, he is unsuccessful. He stands in danger of losing everything as three smaller birds hop towards him. In the end he takes one, and hides it by a lamp post, then dashes back to grab the remaining morsel and fly off. What’s wrong with greed? The crow knows that he needs food or he dies, he cares nothing for other birds, and why should he, is not life about survival? The tour guide Dan stops by, he has people from St Louis, Virginia, & Edmonton, now I am learning all about Stanley Park, evidently it took 70 years to build the sea wall, each rock laid by hand. Dan is good, he has everybody laughing, it’s clear he loves his job. Why do we love? Love seems to mess with this idea of survival as the primary thing. I know of people who for love have forfeited their own lives. My mind drifts back to my original question “why do I need God?” A beautiful woman just sat down one bench over, she’s delicate, yet appears strong, she has a beauty about her that draws me in, the breeze loosens her hair, a soft hand reaches up to address the erring lock. I want to imagine certain pleasures with her, a man comes up and asks her for the time, does he really want to know the time? She’s writing now, I imagine she’s writing wonderful things about me. Faithfulness, that’s what I start thinking about, a picture of my wife flashes through my mind. What’s so bad about unfaithfulness? Back to my question — It’s the story really, I want a meta narrative, a grand story that helps me find the proper place for greed, for love, and for unfaithfulness. A framework that helps me identify a right path and a wrong path. Ultimate meaninglessness as a grand story and the human as the central figure of that story leave me feeling bloated and hollow. I want to believe that life is so much more than the material world, so much more than me. I want to believe in things like redemption, hope, and happy endings. I want the beauty of nature that I am experiencing today to point me in a direction toward someone, someone greater than us all. Perhaps this is why I need God.

The Animal in Me

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If ever I was to believe in the way of nature over the way of grace it would be because of who I am. In my natural state I am not much different than an animal. I want to kill, I want to copulate. There really isn’t much more to it than that. I sustain my self through consumption. I am alive only because something else dies — it really is a dog eat dog world — So is it not unreasonable to think that the human created God as a means to prevent his own extinction? It is reasonable but it is also awful. I don’t want to believe this. The blunt book of time, chance and matter that culminates in ultimate meaninglessness has no room for transcendence or love, there is no chapter for longing or courage, no place for dreams or destiny, there is no page in this story for hope, eternity or any of the deeper things. Granted, these urges, these desires, these instincts, the rough deadly, & uncaring world that is our home makes way for brute nature as the only story to be believed, but could there be another, equally reasonable way of seeing life? Yes, it’s a glorious story of hope and salvation, love and longing, peace and eternity. It’s a story worth shaping ones life around. Believe the Better StoryMetacommunities.ca

How Bad Can You Be?

Ideas have consequences:

If chance existence followed by natural selection and survival of the fittest are true, how bad can you be? The Lorax gives us the answer, see video clip

The Shack (Book Review)

The Shack
Wm. Paul Young
How can God be considered “good” when there is so much pain & suffering in this world? Young’s attempt at answering this question, comes in the form of a story. Mackenzie’s 6 year old daughter is abducted and brutally murdered by a serial killer with a sadistic fetish for young girls. How could God allow this to happen? After four years of “great sadness”, God invites Mackenzie to meet with him to talk it over. Over the course of a weekend with God, Mackenzie’s life goes through a complete transformation. The bitterness, anger, hatred, depression, and doubt in Mack’s life are removed and replaced with a contagious love and joy for God and others.
The goal of this compelling & engaging story is to help the reader believe that God is in fact good in all of his purposes and plans, even the ones that appear particularly dark. According to Young it is utterly foolish to sit in judgment upon God. God has put this world together, and he is weaving an incredibly complex masterpiece. God’s love for mankind is painted into this masterpiece with his own blood.
God is portrayed as a trinity, working together in perfect harmony, carrying out a perfect plan. God laughs and cries, he cares, and he craves relationship with his creation. Not because he needs it but because he wants it. A relationship with God is only possible when man gives up his independence. From independence springs all evil. The circle of relationship that is displayed in the trinity – is inter-dependence, trust, and love. The trinity is to serve as the model for all relationships. The trinity is a relationship that has no hierarchy, there is no “boss” it’s a perfect circle. This is why God opposes the machinery of religion. Its lists of “do’s” and “don’ts”, its authority structures and power struggles, its rigid obedience to rules & regulations all make it impossible for the flower of relationship to grow. Thin and flimsy relationships with God are produced and when the fires of tragedy come these weak relationships are disintegrated. Ones relationship with God is the principle thing. Mack’s weekend with God was designed not so much so he could understand why the tragedy happened but so he could get to know the God who allowed it to happen. As Mack came to know the three persons of God his love for God grew, his love for self shrank and he began to trust. Trusting in God allows a person to embrace forgiveness. You no longer need to have your hands on the throat of the one that hurt you. “Papa” will take care of it. Freedom to live and love again springs from the soil of forgiveness. Tears, anger, and grief are right emotions with tragedy, but they never should come at the expense of forgiveness.
There are a number of issues that Young engages through out the book – all in an effort to help support his overall conclusion Free will a “yes and no” kind of thing – Because “true love never forces” man is free to choose his own way, but God knows what way man will choose, but even still that fact doesn’t reduce mans freedom to make that choice. Anyway, considering, all of the limiting influences on our lives, what is freedom anyway? (P. 95 is a masterpiece on this) “Freedom” is a process that happens inside of a relationship with “the truth” – the truth has a name, it’s Jesus. Egalitarianism – since the trinity is a circle of relationship, without any “chain of command” the assumption is that the closest human relationships should mirror this as well. Structure of authority and rule are all man made, the closer we get to God the more we see equality and relationship and the less we see “roles” and “responsibilities” – There is no effort made on Young’s part to reconcile his thoughts with gender role or authority structure teachings found in Scripture. No more organized church – church is not about programs, institutions and structure, the church is people and relationships, from all over the world, and in all kinds of settings. The church is someone Jesus builds, someone Jesus loves. The church is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, and it’s not a place you go to every Sunday. Young makes no attempt to reconcile his thoughts with the value Scripture places on the local church.  The Trinity of Terror – Politics, economics, & religion, God is fond of none of these. They all tear away at the relationship that God is after.
God’s control is never doubted in this story – he allowed Missy’s death. What is doubted is His goodness. Young does a very admirable job in painting a picture of a trinity that is undeniably good — God is very fond of us. Image