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This is a continuation of the post about two distinctive worldveiws so prevalent in our society today. Let me say up front that even with violating my self imposed 500 word limit on posts this will only very lightly touch on the matter of good or evil. Lets pull a couple of quotes from yesterday’s post to concentrate on here.

Still, the distinction is real and important — and its implications touch on areas of our cultural life far beyond criminal justice. It helps to explain, for example, the very different ways that Platonic liberals and Pauline conservatives approach sex — with the former willing to trust in the power of rational sex education to help shape behavior, and the latter much more concerned about their children succumbing to sinful temptation no matter how many rational arguments they’re exposed to. 

SOURCE:  The real fault line in the culture war isn’t race or sex. It’s sin..

Different worldviews depending on whether you are a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative is an interesting concept.  I don’t necessarily agree with the liberal/conservative tags added but be that as it may. I will acknowledge that most people can probably be classified as one or the other of these groups. And then there are people like me, and I hope many others, who might look at it from a different angle.

As I always like to point out this issue is not black/white, Plato/Paul but instead shades of both. As the quote from yesterday said it is too simplistic that one view holds people as good and the other as people are evil because they are always sinful.  Let’s look at Paul and his teaching first.

In order to understand the words of Paul so dominant in the Christian bible you must look at his life’s experiences to see how his philosophy was shaped. Paul was first and foremost a Jewish scholar. He was all about rules. Rules on how to live, what to eat, how to pray, rules about everything. These rules are to keep you from sinning. Paul’s education and everything about him was jewish. When he saw his vision on the road to Damascus it made him realize that he had part of  it wrong. But only part. Since he was a very educated man he wrote much about his new-found faith but intertwined it with his jewish beliefs of rules and sin. I am one of those who align with Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Plato on the other hand generally believed in the goodness of man. He believed that this innate goodness came from our creator and was deeply embedded in us. He was more about shedding off faulty traditions than about rules. Plato was a very complicated guy but for this discussion his idea of innatism is at the center.  Innatism is a philosophical doctrine that holds that the mind is born with ideas/knowledge, and that therefore the mind is not a ‘blank slate’ at birth and that knowledge is generally about wanting to become one with your creator. Therefore he, unlike Paul,concluded that man is at his foundation good as it comes from God who is good.

Plato or Paul?  To me these are two different interpretations of how to live our lives. I personally gather some insight from both but probably align more with Plato. As my Quaker friends say I believe that “there is the light of God in all of us” and that light was given to us by our creator. But I also recognize that temptations are always there. So am I a Platonic liberal or a Pauline conservative?  I am a shade of grey somewhere in between.

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Of course the title of this post came from the Sermon on the Mount found in the Christian Bible. Many, if not most Christians, believe that these teaching called the Beatitudes are fundamental to their faith. They are one of the primary lessons that Jesus left us on how he wants us to act. Here are all eight:

Blessed are..

….the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
….those who mourn: for they will be comforted.
….the meek: for they will inherit the earth.
….those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: for they will be filled.
….the merciful: for they will be shown mercy.
….the pure in heart: for they will see God.
….the peacemakers: for they will be called children of God.
….those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

And here is a little about what Wiki says about them:

Each Beatitude consists of two phrases: the condition and the result. In almost every case the condition is from familiar Old Testament context, but Jesus teaches a new interpretation. Together, the Beatitudes present a new set of Christian ideals that focus on a spirit of love and humility different in orientation than the usual force and exaction taken. They echo the highest ideals of the teachings of Jesus on mercy, spirituality, and compassion.

As typical with so many of his teachings Jesus brought a new meaning to an Old Testament lesson. That lesson here is that war and warriors that were so common in the Old Testament are now to be superseded by the peacemakers and a “turn the other cheek” philosophy. That is a hard lesson for many to learn especially those who still cling to only an Old Testament version of these things.  Jesus told us to be meek, be merciful, be pure of heart, and to be peacemakers. Almost everything the current Israeli Prime Minister says and does fails to live up to these principles. His only solution to the “Iran Problem” is overthrow or total annihilation. His only solution to the “Palestinian Problem” is dominance and “you kill one of us and we kill fifty of you”.

There are many in this country who call the U.S. a Christian nation but then seem to align only with Old Testament solutions to the world’s problems. As a matter of principle I will not be one of those who listen to the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to the U.S. Congress tonight. Sadly, I already know his solutions to all of the conflicts around him.  Isn’t it about time that this “Christian nation” gave Christian solutions a chance and  firmly tell Mr. Netanyahu that there are other options.

The primary underlying firebrand that ignites so much of the Middle East turmoil is the Palestinian problem. Until that is resolved there will NEVER be peace in the Middle East. Maybe it is time to tell Israel who we give billions of dollars in weapons annually that their solutions have not worked for the sixty plus years of their existence so to now we insist that it is time to get out of the way and give the peacemakers a chance….

Despite the Loud Minority…

February 20, 2015

2015-02-05_08-24-50Despite a loud minority, most of the U.S. has moved on. Last year, seven states accounted for 80 percent of all executions. And it is even more evident when you look at counties. More than half of death penalty convictions originate in 2 percent of the counties in the U.S.

More and more Christians are troubled that 85 percent of executions take place in the Bible Belt. A 2014 poll showed that millennial Christians are overwhelmingly against the death penalty, and only 5 percent of Americans think Jesus would favor it…..

It feels like we have death-fatigue.

Perhaps it is no surprise that alongside constant stories of death from Paris and Nigeria to Ferguson and NY, there is a surge of opposition to the death penalty in the U.S. It just feels strange to protest another ISIS beheading and then watch another botched execution in the U.S 

Revolution is in the air — and the revolution is about how life matters. Let’s say no to death —  from ISIS to Texas.

SOURCE:  Checking Pulse on the Death Penalty | Shane Claiborne | Red Letter Christians.

It never fails to amaze me that so much that I think is wrong with our country is because of small minorities. Democracy is supposed to be about majority rule, or at least a form of it. How can we let 2 percent of the counties in the U.S. hand out over 50 percent of our execution orders. I am even more ashamed that 85 percent of execution are in the so-called Christian Bible Belt, that is primarily the southern states.  This seems totally without any sense when only 5 percent of us think that Jesus would favor executions. Aren’t we Christians supposed to look to Jesus on how to be in our lives?

It is heartening to see though that Christian millennials are overwhelmingly against the death penalty. That says that soon, maybe within a generation, this execution trend will finally end. It seems strange that the United State is in an alliance with China, and the Middle East in allowing the state to execute its citizens. Everyone else in the world has abolished it.  Being pro-life is about being for life and against human generated death in all it forms.

Small minorities that are primarily due to the very low population northern desert states along with their bible belt co-conspirators are responsible for holding up all forms of gun control. It seems they would rather see a “Newton” occur weekly rather than giving up their guns in any way shape or form.

But as Shane Claiborne says in his article above we should all rejoice that the death penalty is perhaps in its last stages. I can only pray that everyone who calls themselves Christian take up the Bible once in a while and concentrate on the words of Jesus found in it. He brought us the new covenant from God and showed us how to implement it by his personal life practices. When we listen to those words we can in no way be anything but pro-life in all regards and that certainly includes murders caused by our love of guns and the death penalty.

2014-09-04_19-56-10“Now, just suppose, for a change they preach to you about the Lord and not about the other fellow’s church, for every religion is good. There is none of it bad.  We are all trying to arrive at the same place according to our own conscience and teachings. It don’t matter which road you take.” – Will Rogers March 11, 1923

Since Will Rogers is a hero of mine, of course I get a daily dose of his Facebook page. Here is one that strikes me as typical of his wisdom. Will was not particularly a religious person, his mom wanted him to be a Methodist minister but as he said he slipped and became an entertainer instead. He wasn’t much of a church goer but he didn’t put down except maybe on a few rare slips those who were.

Religious establishments, or at least the ones I know much about,  seem to go to an extreme to pronounce that the god of Allah is not the same as the Christian god. Each different group of religious people seems to insist that their god is the true one and everyone else is praying to a pagan one. After ten years of theological self-study I kind of think that Will got it about right almost a hundred years ago. Of course the religious pundits of today say otherwise.

We all latch onto one version of God and therefore proclaim that one the true god. Then we proceed to fashion words based on what we want from our particular god. For many Muslims that includes going to prayer five times a day and always praying toward Mecca. It is also about praising Allah and keeping others away from him.  For Some Jews it is about obeying thousands of different rules and eating only very strictly prepared foods. They think that is what their god demands of them.  Many of us Christians believe in a something-for-nothing god who only thinks of us a poor miserable human beings but will take us to heaven anyway provided we say the right words and believe what we are told. For them nothing else is required. And then there are other Christians who believe the exact opposite.  Got to love us Christians as we are all over the map on just what God wants from us.

We all spend way too much time convincing ourselves that “our “version of God is the only true one. We pick and choose various words from our particular religious documents to back up that feeling while ignoring everything else that doesn’t align with our chosen beliefs. We ALL do this to one level or another.

But in the end there has to be only one God in the universe and I kind of think she is almost laughing at our absurd efforts to split her into so many different parts. But she is probably also crying because of the same thing. As Will says all religions are good at some level but they all got it wrong at others. The sooner we all realize that the sooner we can quit fighting and killing each other to defend our version of God against their version.

Enough said…

Wounded Souls….

May 28, 2014

Christians have a presumption against war as well as an obligation to help heal those who suffer its consequences.

2014-05-17_10-56-06The above title and words come from a Sojourners Magazine article by Gregg Brekke in the April 2014 issue. I have made it clear on most of my blogs that I am pro-peace in almost all regards and of course that makes me anti-war. All the wars and conflicts that the U.S. has fought in  my lifetime have not had any long, or even medium term, consequences. If they had not been fought at all nothing much would have changed.

The big war of my generation was Vietnam. Because of my hearing loss I was not drafted into fighting in it but I did lose several good friends in it. That war claimed 55,000 American lives and many more thousands in psychological and emotional duress. Even today after almost 50 years there are still those of my generation who can’t get loose from their experiences in Vietnam.

I would add a list of all the wars we have been involved in since Vietnam here but that would take up most of my self-imposed 500 word limit for this post. Thousands and thousands of  young American lives have been lost in our meaningless wars. Being a follower of Jesus, it is clear from his words that he was against all forms of violence. I very much align with those thoughts. Does that mean I am against those who fought in those wars, either by choice or were drafted? Absolutely not!! As the quote above says we followers of Jesus Christ have an obligation to help heal those who suffer from war’s consequences.

The article from which this quote comes goes on to cite  examples of those injured and killed by war. PSTD is a new acronym explaining an age-old condition. You can’t expect anyone to come back from war in the same way they left. The very act of killing in the name of your government and in defending your life in those circumstances changes everyone exposed to it. Some return much more damaged than others. Some don’t return at all.

As the article says veterans can be the biggest allies in advocating for peace. They have been exposed to the ugly realities of war. I feel very deeply and emotionally for the wounded souls who have fought in our wars.  It is up to us as Christians to do everything we can to ensure that help is there to heal those who have been grievously injured both physically and emotionally. We need to make it very clear to them that while we don’t condone the wars that they might have fought in we will do all we can to understand their pain and to help them overcome it.

2014-04-27_10-32-46It’s hard to face, but humanity — image bearers of God — is largely responsible for destroying much of this great witness to God’s glory. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening, humans are primarily responsible, and it will keep getting worse if nothing is done.The impact of carbon pollution mars not only the beauty of God’s earth, but affects the flourishing of God’s people. Many of the poorest among us are suffering from food scarcity, droughts, flooding and increased diseases caused by climate change. And — to use an image from creation itself — our politics on this issue are stuck in the mire of cynicism and inaction, wasting time that we simply don’t have.

Which is why for Christians, caring for God’s creation should be a priority. It is not just a matter of science or politics, but an indication of our worship and praise of the Creator.

SOURCE: Earth Week: A Witness to God’s Glory – Jim Wallis | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

Like most things I am passionate about this is not the first time I have talked about how we are destroying God’s creation with our continued over use of carbon based fuel. I have had some discussions with some here and those readers for the most part indicate they are just not certain enough about this topic to believe we should spend the money to do anything about it.  As the words above mention now 97% of the world’s climate scientists believe we are doing irreparable harm to our environment. Sadly there are many in our population who are not yet on board so we continue in our old ways.

As with many things to do with certain groups of Christian organizations I am saddened that Christ’s church is seen to be among those the most opposed to doing something now. Taking care of God’s creation is very biblical. I’m sure that it the climate denier response has two fundamental roots in many of those religious organizations. One is the conservative nature of many Christians but probably the most prominent is  political alignment.

Abortion seems to trump absolutely everything else in the political realm for these folks.  I also believe that abortion kills an innocent life but unlike many in this camp I go on to be pro-life both before and after birth. I am against capital punishment and against doing nothing while millions die each years due to malnutrition and lack of safe drinking water.  I am against war in all its aspects. All of these problems could be solved it only we put aside our religious and political differences.

Getting back to the topic at hand, There will always be those who are opposed to one thing or another. Logic and facts just don’t affect some people’s  beliefs. It is up to the rest of us outside those stubborn groups to take up the charge of making sure that this earth can sustain our grand children and great grand children. As Jim Wallis said it is not a matter of science or politics but of our worship and praise of the Creator.