Faith as a System – Paradigm Shifts

Is it a viable position for a person to choose not to believe based on no other reason than they just do not feel that God exists?” (Steve at SCP)

This is where this question gets real interesting. How much can we trust feelings? How much can we trust experience? How much can you trust you thoughts? What serves as the back-drop for filtering these things and making a paradigm for them? I do know for certain that all aspects of the human experience make us.

I personally use my belief system (Jesus’ Teachings) as a back-drop to develop a system whereby feelings and experiences are thought upon and then developed into the paradigm (value system). I feel, I think, I live, I interact, I draw a conclusion (value – changeable), I develop – then do it all over again. I don’t know – does anyone else’s faith system work this way – so easily?

PS: I don’t actually think faith is based in feelings (which differ from experiences – they are not one in the same – actually sometimes run contrary to one another and help define each other).

Jewish Scriptures (Joshua and Judges)

Recently, I have picked up to resume where I stopped reading – right after the first 5 books of the Tanakh. I felt I need to re-read the Tanakh to see if my view of the scriptures has changed whatsoever – or maybe I can bring more clarity now by reading as someone less doctrinated – with simple eyes.

I just finished reading Joshua and 9 chapters of Judges – and my view on those books is quite simple – they are ‘war books’ (in a nutshell). They seem to be Jewish history about war for the land of Canaan framed within the promises to Moses (and the law) – but mainly describe the people, territories, and situations they are found ‘fighting’ in.

It’s a fun read and all (I’ll try to finish Judges today or tomorrow) but I have found very little ‘teachings’ within the 2 books thus far. For Joshua it seems like a recant of the victories on way to taking all of Canaan (which does not happen by the end of the book). Then Judges starts with that premise (chapter 1 is a re-hash of Joshua) and the Israelites having ‘mini battles’ for the rest of the land. The story usually goes (in Judges) the Israelites worshipped idols, they got ruled by another one of the people groups around them, then a ‘judge’ stood up for the people and freed them (from this bondage), and the land had peace again.

I just don’t find the need to base teachings out of these books to be perfectly honest – there seems to be very little of that being done. It seems more Jewish writing about history and the wars they fought within that land. If you think about it – Jesus does not mention any of these stories in his teachings (or characters). Were these books that mentioned in the synagogue or were they plainly known to be a Jewish historical (of sorts) recant of those battles alone? I have to lean to the latter from some simple reading of it.

Equality of the Nations – starts with our churches

My brother(s) have begun a little campaign (which I am backing) concerning a certain idea about the missionary mindset in Aboriginal communities (started by a certain pastor and his mindset). Which couldn’t of happened at a weirder time for me – I just had it out with 2 managers of mine at work about ‘what seems to be vast cultural differences’ and the way we view ourselves. That being said, I stood my ground for self-respect and now see my brothers doing the same (on a somewhat larger scale).

My older brother has been somewhat harrassed by a local church pastor about his son (who attends a church school there). The incidences seem to involve a syatematic picking on of his children for not following the cultural norms of the school (ex: hair length). One of his sons was booted for accusations of pornography and for ‘long hair’ (which were unfounded and without proof). Now the second son is feeling the heat for that (it seems) – he was picked out of a whole service and made to feel ashamed for his ‘haircut’ and said to not ‘be listening’ (again accusations without ground and made the kid feel such shame). The real problem in this is these kids are Aboriginal and ‘long hair’ is a sign of pride in our culture (something we see a right to do).

This was later followed by that pastor calling my older brother’s wife and calling them bad parents – for the 2 kids more or less. Needless to say, you know what attitude happened next (anger). The pastor apparently never stopped there and went on to blame my younger brother for being a parapalegic on his choices and the ‘he brought this on himself’. Top that off, I also had a sister who just went through a divorce at that church and was judged very extremely by that congregation there – and her kids attended that church school only to hear ‘un-truths’ about their mother. Add this all up and you have the systematic damaging of one family – that one being mine.

My younger brother is now writing letters to a group that supports that church and is questioning the very tactics of the faith they use towards Aboriginal people (and with these incidences at his side – he has some good reason to be skeptical). He uses much more militant language than I do but makes his point very clear – calling that church to account what they are doing. He has a meeting with these church funders later this week (unbelievably they granted him some time to hear his case).

I don’t usually make a stand for anything but this time I am asked to search my conscience on the issue and I have heard the stories first-hand – and they are not heart-warming in the least. What seems to be at the core of the issue is European views and Aboriginal one’s regarding the teachings of the faith (at least this is the case being made by my younger & older brother). I agree they are onto something. I can’t quite recall when this particular church has ever built the esteem of the Aboriginal peoples they ‘preach’ to in regards to history, culture, community, and family. It’s a real sad state of affiars that one un-accountable pastor cannot find the reality to humble himself and make things right (and maybe even being some cultural training about the people he thinks he is a missionary to).

The real odd thing is – this is the same pastor I wrote that letter of thanks to (concerning my time spent under his tutolage as a youth) – yet he can’t find the heart to do the same for my family? I find that extremely sad. But I will continue to hear this story out and defend my family with all their faults and their faith (of which we all share in common) – only on the issues of accountability and cultural identity of this inner-city church. I can’t help but think why this pastor to the inner-city has pushed away so many Aboriginal peoples he has worked with (and this possibly un-intentionally)?

In the end, I want a total halt to the superiority of some ‘European’ view on the faith and find equality for the Aboriginal view of it. This mentality may have worked in times past but those days are now past – and now we need to grow up. Maybe this endeavor will spark just that – a re-birth of the Aboriginal giving to the faith and how there is nothing wrong with viewing it through our experiences (which oddly enough was horrendously oppressed by Churches and the gov’t in Canada through years of documented school-churches/institutions). One can hope that it will get more respect and value the views of the Aboriginal in the faith.

Matthew 5:17-20 – Examining Jesus’ Authority on the Law

I have been at Gracehead for a bit (again commenting on the law) and have found myself asking what does Matthew 5:17-20 mean? It seems to be very controversial on the aspects of what the law means. I have examined it a few times and again I do it here – for discussion.

(v.17-18) “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus mentions the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Tanakh – the Law) and the prophets (a series of books from prophets to Israel) – the two great movements in Jewish faith (bookends within the Tanakh). Jesus simply says he came ‘to fulfill/accomplish’ these things (likely in a messianic sense). Well what would that look-like (or what can he mean)? Would you say Jesus has accomplished/fulfilled the law/prophets? This is what is being pointed to here. Matthew seems to be making this exact point – he will ‘fulfill/accomplish’ by the end of this book. Matthew also splatters numerous messianic quotations from prophets and the law in his writings (maybe as proof-texts of this point). Then the resurrection at the end- really what more do we need as ‘proof’ it is ‘fulfilled’?

Matt 7:12 also seems to make sense here – “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets“. Same point being made here by Jesus in Matt 22:36-40 (love God & your neighbor – on these 2 commandments depend all the law and prophets). Matt 24:35 says “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.” Jesus seems to be the person who outlines the meaning of the law (also in Matt 5:21-48) for us and equates his words with ‘not passing away’. How interesting the ‘Love God and love your neighbor as yourself’ values have never fallen out as the cornerstones of the Christian faith? Those words have ‘never passed away’. As for other aspects of the law – well some faded out – not much to say there (ex: temple sacrifices).

(v.19-20) “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

One key point is being made here and it relates to these words ‘these commandments’. What commandments? Nothing has even been really said up to this point except for the beatitudes (which I could see being the reference for this passage as ‘these commandments’). If you actually look at the beatitudes they are framed like the Moses scene @ Sinai. Jesus is on a mountain, there is multitude of people, and then gives 10 ‘blessed are you’s’ – quite the parallel. Just maybe, these are the ideals that frame the book of Matthew as an index of the core teachings Matthew will touch upon as we continue to read on (and if you check it out – those beatitudes are continually touched upon).

But the goal that Jesus points to is ‘unless your righteousness surpass that of the scribes/Pharisees’. Anyone ever study the Pharisee’s? They were literalists and they followed the law to it’s core. Surpass that? How? Well what makes it easier is Jesus lays down some of their mistakes throughout Matthew (check almost any chapter). But right after this passage (vs.20) Jesus does go into a whole teaching pattern of ‘how this (vs. 21-48) righteousness’ looks. Then at the end of the chapter 7 (v.24-29) Jesus again relates these teachings to wisdom and folly, or his teachings are a good foundation vs. some of the other teachings he over-rides. Jesus claims ‘authority’ even within the sermon on the mount – as someone who knows God more than the scribes.

I think Jesus teachings are the ‘fulfillment/accomplishment’ of the law – even the very person of Jesus was (ie: messiah). I don’t think Matthew is hearkening to the idea ‘keep the whole law’ but ‘keep the teachings of Jesus’ (as they are the greater weight in authority). The law has to be looked at through this newer rabbi’s sayings – our teacher – and to look back in that lense if we look back into the law. Basically, it’s 2 commandments – Love God and love your neighbor (as yourself) – and that is the end/beginning of the law for us.

What do you think – am I hitting the mark here or am I off? Jesus levies 2 commandments as the ‘whole law and prophets’ – twice within Matthew – is this true? Is teaching against those ideals what Jesus is referring to (ie: least in the kingdom)? Or is the law still in tact and this is only a piece of what is being said about the ‘whole law’? Worth considering that’s for sure – especially if you are of a Gentile culture who came to this faith.

Judgement Time – Taking a Stand

I woke up the other morning and just considered the passage in Matthew 7:1-5 for a detailed amount of time. It led to this blog (obviously) and to other idea’s. Here is some of the idea’s I thought about.

‘Do not judge…’ (7:1)

This passage follows a few ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ by Jesus and the idea of ‘do unto others’ – and this idea ties them all in beautifully. I think Jesus knew humanity very good and it shows in this passage. We should not ‘judge’ other people since we do not know all the circumstances surrounding their personal situation. We may be able to relate – but that doesn’t mean we totally understand. But Jesus knew we would judge (since we are human after all) so it goes on.

‘so that you will not be judged’ (7:1)

This is the reason to not ‘judge’ – since we do not like being ‘type-cast’. This ties in the idea of ‘doing unto others as we would like done unto us’ – which includes how we view another person. I am a Christian and I get judged to be certian things all the time – but it’s always quite unfair to make those presumptions. So I try not to judge anyone so I don’t get treated the same way – by the calls I make on your life – get made on mine – which is unfortunate and un-neccesary. Things can be avoided if we think through what we say about another person.

Verses 3-5 go on about the idea in more depth – and about looking at our own deficiencies and not the next persons (so as to find our justification or self-righteousness). I think as humans we have a whole host of ideas to deal with in our own lives and this is where ‘judgment’ needs to start and to stay. But if I am going to judge on something – I tend to take the person out of the situation – and measure on the basis of what the value is alone. I need to be careful to allow people the right to change – so I avoid the idea of judging the individual – since this can become quite condemnatory quite fast – and extremely hypocritical. I think it’s hypocritical to judge when we are asked not to – simply said.

We have all been judged by people around us and it has effected the view we had of ourselves. I have had parents, teachers, friends, pastors, etc which helped to de-rail the values I held about myself (or they destroyed my esteem). I have found this to be very disturbing in my life and I had to go through years just to ‘drop that baggage’. I think Jesus’ teachings about judging is not an excuse for being judgmental (as I have heard over pulpits in the past) but a reason not to do it at all. Judgments can hurt people in case you haven’t figured that out yet (and in some cases can help a person condemn themself). Let’s be vigilant to love one another and less vigilant to rush to judgment.

**On a side note, I am doing something about this idea. I had a falling out with a pastor of mine (years ago) and we haven’t seen ‘eye to eye’ since then – and he was a mentor of sorts to me. I realized I got to judgmental about the whole thing and I am going to write him a letter letting him know all the good things he did for me and my faith system. Call it my way of ‘making things right’ and letting another know that they are important – even if I took that for granted.

Real Love (J. Lennon) – Never Dies..

Just a song that inspires me…makes me think of the idea ‘love my neighbor’

All the little girls and boys, Playing with their little toys
All they really needed from you is maybe some love.

All the little boys and girls, Living in this crazy world
All they really needed from you is maybe some love.

Why must we be alone? Why must we be alone?
It’s real love…Yes, it’s real.

I don’t expect you to understand, The kingdom of heaven is in your hand.
I don’t expect you to awake from your dreams, Too late for pride now it seems.

All the little plans and schemes, Nothing but a bunch of dreams
All you really needed to do is maybe some love.

Questions = Confusion (Ma, Where’s the Grace?)

I just learned that Gracehead.com (a blog site) has erased all of my comments (and Ambree’s) from their discussions/dialogues – and anything we had to say to the prophet Timothy. I was quite shocked to see this was the case and found Gracehead.com had really ‘let their brothers/sisters down’ – let me explain my position.

This is censorship (an ideal I rather despise) at the core. I had all of my comments ‘wiped off’ the chalk board of discussion – and what were they – questions and nothing more. I never once called a single person by any rudimentary names nor did I ever question a single person’s faith in the endeavor (since I have the utmost respect for that). I questioned Timothy on some rather simple things and in the end had my faith criticized, was told my questions caused confusion, and eventually was wiped from planet Gracehead as some kind of dissenter? (along with Ambree).

What I learned to think was questions = confusion. I asked a lot of questions and raised some concerns I had with a few things Timothy said – and that was it. I didn’t agree with him and for some reason this was ‘confusing’? It wasn’t encouraging (I understand that) but does everything I disgree with have to be done with a big smile on my face? (Something a Mormon made known as she was ex-communicated – ‘there was vicousness to their niceness’). No. Sometimes I don’t agree but I don’t start hurling stones or worse – silence the other person permenantly. Things graduated from ‘questions = confusion’ to ‘questions = banned/you mean nothing to us’. Why thanks brothers and sisters in Christ, suppose you served that noble intent with a smile also?

What is the real problem for me is this is only the 2nd time I have had this done to me by anything ‘web-related’ ever. Fundamental atheists (who despise this faith and curse God) kicked me once for having an opinion…I find it amazing Gracehead is the 2nd to do so (what a luxury to be in that company). Gracehead made me feel dis-regarded – as if – anything I said did not matter. In my community this is tantamount to calling someone a ‘nobody’ (or meaningless) – and that’s what I became – all my thoughts vanished – I was no more – I became nobody. And this from people that call themselves Christians? Who needs enemies when I have perfectly good people in the faith to ‘demean’ my value and make me know my place – worthless?

In the end, the problem is what Ambree pointed out ‘Everything is ‘Yea’ and ‘Amen’ over there now–with no debate.’. Is that representative of our faith at work in our community? If so, that’s horrendously sad and does no favors to the Christ I read in the gospels (who was asked and posed questions to others – open dialogue). But if we want a world (or even an afterlife) where we all agree on everything – then we are sadly mistaken about the faith (and human race) we are a part of. If we do not have the power to overlook differences we are to be (of all people) avoided at all costs? Is God so small he has to fit into our view of him alone?