Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

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Posted September 22, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Recovering Stone-Chucker   8 comments

Feb 18, 2019

What was your best drop the mic moment?

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I guess it depends on how you define a “mic drop moment.”

Those who have followed my discussions on Facebook know that I don’t advocate for shutting down conversations, so quite often, when I could have a “mic drop”, I choose to let it go. I think mic drops are (mostly) arrogantly executed by people who believe they’re right and are unwilling to hear any evidence to the contrary. That’s not me (most of the time). I do believe I know some things a lot of people don’t know (and, I’ve tested that theory a bunch, so I have evidence to support my suspicion I’m right), but I like seeing a broad range of discussions and points of view. Sometimes they change my mind, mostly I’m hoping I can change their minds. If I do a mic drop, I’m shutting down that conversation and that rarely, if ever, changes anyone’s mind.

But I do have them occasionally. Often it’s not intentional. I’m a quippy person in my everyday life and I’ve gotten into some verbal sword-play and I’ve said something that caused the other person to go – “hmm, I can’t think of a comeback”. Since it’s not intentional, I don’t keep track. I don’t glory in it. I kind of think it was a failure because it stopped the discussion. A few times, though, I’ve had that person come back to me and say “You had a point and I changed my mind.” Good, but half the time, I can’t even remember what I said.

I had one to share with people on gun control (it really was a glory moment), but I changed my mind this morning after my pastor’s sermon mic-dropped a bunch of people in the congregation and I thought, yeah, there’s my topic.

The Bible is unequivocally clear that Christians aren’t supposed to participate in sin and I try to live my life accordingly. It’s been 27 years ago in December since I’ve drunk alcohol – not because I have a problem with alcohol. I’ve always been able to stop at one beer, wine, whatever and I’ve never really needed it to have a good time. But I take seriously that if I cause my brother (or husband) to stumble, I am as guilty of his sin as he is, and so, I chose to give it up and I don’t regret that. I don’t judge anyone for their ability to handle an adult beverage or two, it’s just that someone in my household can’t, so I judge myself accordingly. It certainly wasn’t a sin when Jesus turned water in REALLY GOOD wine, but it would be a sin for me to drink it because it stands a good chance of dragging my husband into what is truly a sin for him.

I also don’t cheat on my husband and that includes reading (or writing) books that have detailed sexual encounters in them because I take seriously Jesus’ admonition that if you commit a sin in your head, you’re as guilty as if you committed it with your body. I don’t judge you if you can read (or write) such books and feel fine in your marriage. It would be a sin for me. It might not be a sin for you. If you’re worried about it, consult your Maker, not me.

Lest you think I’m as pure as the fresh-driven snow, I’m not, and I don’t pretend to be. I slammed a lot of caffeine before writing this article, for example, and my heartrate informs me that is not treating the temple of God (my body) with the respect it deserves. I also still have some weight I’m trying to lose and that too is a desolation of God’s temple (my body). My lack of self-control assures me I am a sinner just like everyone else. My sins are just more socially acceptable than some people’s sins, but God isn’t a socialite, so I am without excuse.

Romans 2:1-11 is an interesting passage – I won’t post the whole thing here because it’s long, but it basically says (after talking about non-Christians in Chapter 1) – “Christians, you are sinners too, and you have no excuse for judging those who are non-Christians because God doesn’t see shades of grey when it comes to sin. And you will be judged if you treat non-Christians as if you are better than them because you’re not.”

My overindulgence in caffeine is not better than my husband’s past overindulgence in alcohol … just as an example. The teller of “white lies” is as much a sinner as the murderer. In God’s eyes, we’re the same, sinners one and all. The only thing that separates Christian sinners from non-Christian sinners is that Christians have accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf as salvation. He bought out our slave contract, in essence. WE didn’t do that. He did and He did it for the whole world, we’re just the ones who have accepted it. Anyone else wanting to join us is welcome … by me anways and certainly by Jesus … but more on that in subsequent paragraphs.

Now, understand, paired with other passages of the Bible, this passage is not saying Christians are supposed to join the non-Christians in their sin. No, we absolutely are called to be a counter-cultural movement within society. But we are absolutely wrong if we think that makes us better than those who compose the cultural tide we’re swimming against. We’re all wading through the same cesspool, it’s just Christians have heard that rescue is upstream, not down.

The mic drop here is that many many conservative Christians are judgmental stone-chuckers and I’m not really innocent of this charge. I’m a recovering stone-chucker. It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I can look at people who commit sins, clearly know that they are committing sins, commit to not joining them, and just say “Yeah, your choice, I’ll pray for you.” This doesn’t mean I condone their sins by any stretch of the imagination. Just as I am still working on learning not to make excuses for my own failures, I am not going to white-wash the world around me. There is a lot of crap in my culture that I know makes God’s heart bleed for my fellow humans and so I (try to) refrain from those activities because I don’t want to embarrass my Heavenly Father, but there were a lot of people in the congregation this morning who walked out trying to justify their own stone-chucker behavior. I could see it in their eyes. They were a little pissed at the pastor, but in reality, they were more than a little pissed at the word of God, and that’s on them – that’s their sin and I’m called to not join my fellow Christians in their immorality either.

So, I didn’t do that. It was done to me and to the people sitting around me by a man (our pastor) with an incredibly tender heart and a son sitting in SuperMax lockup. Do I think my pastor might be a recovering stone-chucker? Oh, yeah! And, I know people in my congregation who are WAY bigger stone-chuckers than I am (some of them have recently written letters to the editor so that we know how judgmental they are) — but God doesn’t see it that way. In His eyes, my little tiny pebbles of judgment are the same as the meteors some of my fellow church-goers hail down on secular society. There is a fine line between recognizing that something is a sin that Christians shouldn’t participate in (and choosing not to participate even when there are big consequences for our refusal to comply) and using that knowledge as a bludgeon against an unbelieving world. I AM CALLED to NOT PARTICIPATE in the world’s folly, but I am NOT called to try to make the world conform to my morality. I’m supposed to be a spiritual salmon, swimming upriver, but not trying to change the river’s course. Let the river go where it will. I know my destination.

So, the mic got dropped on me this morning and I am without excuse. And, as with all mic drops, now that I’ve been rendered without defense, I get to decide what I’m going to do about it. Not “What am I going to do to other people about it”. Judgment of others is always the temptation, right? No, I must decide “What am I myself going to do with this knowledge?”

Posted February 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Do You See the Matrix?   Leave a comment

I don’t generally watch TED Talks. They just seem slick and superficial to me. I prefer to read and the only visual media I really interact with is long-form discussions similar to what Jordan Peterson, Dave Ruben and Joe Rogan do. But Brad enjoys visual media, so sometimes I’m in the room when he’s consuming them.

Thus, I watched this TED Talk by Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who has researched morality and culture for 30-odd years. He’s spent a large pat of his career trying to understand and explain the foundations of human morality. Not too surprisingly, he’s noticed that humans often struggle to agree on what morality is. It’s to his credit that he hasn’t thrown up his hands in disgust and walked away from the topic.

During a TED Talk that I think is a few years old, Haidt shared his discovery that human beings don’t begin as a blank slate. I know … that’s contrary to common mythology, which Haidt calls “the worst idea in all psychology.” According to Haidt, humans are born with a “first draft” of moral knowledge, possessed of innate but malleable sets of values “organized in advance of experience.”

If the slate isn’t blank, then something is on it. What?

These are not new concepts to Christians. The Bible has asserted for time immemorial that mankind is created in the image of God. Since God is a Spirit and doesn’t have a body, this is not a physical image, but a spiritual or moral one. So, this Ted Talk didn’t surprise me in the least, though it may have come as news to Haidt and his team.

To find out what is on our moral template, Haidt and a colleague read the most current literature on anthropology, cultural variations, and evolutionary psychology to identify cross-cultural matches. They found five primary categories that serve as our moral foundation:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and community. (As a Christian, I suspect it’s part of the innate code God gave us before the Fall).
2) Fairness/reciprocity: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, when Haidt reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, his team emphasized proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives.
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: According to Haidt, this foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions and it underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions. (I attribute it to our original relationship with God, now damaged by the Fall.)
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions…just ask vegetarians and athletes).

Haidt found that both conservatives and liberals recognize the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity values. Liberal-minded people, however, tend to reject the three remaining foundational values—Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation—while conservatives accept them.

I was so stunned by overhearing that as I wrote in the living room while Brad listened to the video, that I watched it again — twice. That’s a striking difference, which helps explain why many liberals and conservatives in America think “the other side” is delusional.

Now, a lot of liberals will contend that the three extra values are not proper morals at all but base human traits responsible for xenophobia and religious oppression. Haidt rejects this thesis. Through a series of historical illustrations, psychological studies, and cross-cultural references, he explains that many liberals often fail to appreciate a timeless truth that conservatives usually accept: order tends to decay. (If that sounds familiar, google the Second Law of Thermodynamics.)

Haidt isn’t suggesting conservatives are superior to liberals. He’s actually pointing out that conservatives tend to value order even at the cost of those at the bottom of society, which can result in morally dubious social implications (or, as Brad pointed out, more robust church charity programs). In contrast, liberals often desire change even at the risk of chaos and the associated damage that accrues from it. A friend I shared the chart with pointed out that it makes conservatives look like the more open-minded ones, which is an interesting take on the usual condemnation.

If your head is exploding, you might want to reach for the duct tape. You can certainly refuse to accept Haidt’s explanation of moral reality. The human inclination is to believe in one’s own understanding of morality, and many people will live their entire lives without seriously attempting to understand their ideological counterparts, but of course Haidt (and I) don’t recommend living in reality bubbles.

“If you think that half of America votes Republican because they’re blinded… then my message to you is you’re trapped in a moral matrix,” Haidt said. “You can either take the blue pill and stick to your comforting delusions. Or you can take the red pill, learn some moral psychology, and step outside your moral matrix.”

So what to make of all this? I found Haidt’s explanations pretty insightful, but I already knew it. He was just catching up to writings from Francis Schaefer I read 30+ years ago or with the Bible itself which was written millennia ago. But for those who like their cultural and philosophical analysis to be more timely, it certainly helps explain America’s  current contentious culture. Intelligent and reasonable people will have a difficult time agreeing on anything if they view the moral underpinnings of society through vastly divergent lenses and it is no stretch to contend that American liberals have largely abandoned the latter three values (exceptions exist, of course), or that conservatives are highly influenced by them.

If you really hate this theory, it may just be evidence that you’re living in a moral matrix of either stripe and you might need to take the red pill to wake up and see your neighbor as he truly is rather than in the role your worldview has cast him into. And, maybe, having done that, we can sit down to coffee and have a pleasant conversation in which we discover that we can find common ground if we’ll just stop totally rejecting what the other person sees and believes about reality.

Price of False Witness   2 comments

I don’t know who is lying and it doesn’t matter. I’m just going to point out what God has to say on the subject.

Related imageYou shall not give (answer as in a court of law) false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

The faithful witness tells what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit. Speaking recklessly (rashly) is like the thrusts of a sword, but the words of the wise bring healing. The one who tells the truth will endure forever, but the one who lies will last only for a moment. Deceit is in the heart of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.  Proverbs 12:17-20

A false witness (a witness of lies) will not go unpunishedand the one who spouts out (breaths out lies) lies will not escape punishment. Proverbs 19:5

(Jesus said) “I tell you that on the day of judgmentpeople will give an account for every worthless word they speak. For by your words you will be justifiedand by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:26-27

Blessed are those who wash their robes so they can have access to the tree of life and can enter into the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the sexually immoraland the murderersand the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood! Revelations 22:14-15

So, whoever is lying — and they know which they are — might want to pay close attention to what real judgment on their behavior will look like because God promises there is punishment not just for lying, but for the disruptions caused by lying.

Posted October 7, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in cultural divide, Uncategorized

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Angels Unawares   5 comments

October 1, 2018

What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you or said to you? Why did this mean so much?

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We live in a pretty uncivil world these days. People just treat each other badly, often … in traffic, on social media, in the grocery store … it would be easy to get discouraged with the current state of affairs.

CoolerBut I’ve had lots of people do kind things to me and for me. Once when our family was going through a really rough time, I came home from work to find a cooler of Alaska wild-harvest products (jams, jellies, crabapple butter, and a raspberry and rhubarb pie) sitting on my front porch. Under the sweets was a caribou roast and a bag of potatoes with the dirt still on them. Twenty-four years later, I have no idea who did this. It wasn’t that we needed the food so much as someone knew we were having a hard time and they took the time to show me they cared. If you’re reading this, thanks for the cooler. We still use it on picnics.

I am an Alaskan woman which means I can change my own car tires and do simple auto repair because people (male or female) who can’t do that here end up dying of hypothermia waiting for rescue. Triple-A comes from Seattle, so that’s three days at 60 mph if the tow truck driver doesn’t sleep. We have cell phone service these days, but not everywhere. So skills are a necessity here. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it when young military guys pull up behind my car on the highway and offer to “change that tire for you, ma’am?” I’ll compliment him on his skill and pull over at the nearest gas station to check those bolts are tight enough. Be grateful, but verify.

When I worked for an agency that was going through a rough re-organization, the Executive Director (who was not known for handing out compliments) said to me one day that he appreciated that I always kept a good attitude and never said “No, I can’t do that” without a good reason. That compliment meant a lot of me because I knew I’d earned it.

Hitch HikingI was one day sharing my concerns about my daughter’s gypsy musician lifestyle and one of the women in our Bible Study group apparently misunderstood what I was saying because she said “Isn’t it marvelous that she’s so brave and what a incredible testimony to how you and your husband raised her?” It was a different way of looking at the situation and changed my attitude toward Bri’s adventures. I am partially responsible for them because my husband and I raised her to be fierce and independent and comfortable with hiking in the wilderness with bears, so she’s not frightened by the highways and byways of America. I still worry about her (you never stop worrying about your kids, I think), but I now see her life as an adventure and believe that God has her back and will see her through many of the dangers associated with the life she’s chosen.

But the most heart-touching compliment I ever received wasn’t really a compliment. It was more like a prophesy. Several years ago, events caused me to decide to leave the church I’d been a member of for decades. I loved that church. That spiritual family had seen me and my family through some wonderful times and some hard times. It is still my heart-home. But the pastor at the time was insufferable and the other members were backing him up, so it was time to go. I made that decision on a Sunday morning just before church service. I was literally in the parking lot when I decided I couldn’t go in. So, I went to a gas station to buy a coffee and decide what church I would go to that day. My heart was breaking as I waited for the man in front of me to fill his coffee vase so I could fill my cup. He turned around and I smiled because I have a commitment to being civil with people in public and it wasn’t his fault I was sad. And these words came out of his mouth:

Bless you, my sister in Christ, for your value is far above rubies and you have come into this world for just such a time as this. Your feet are upon the mountain path and it looks scary now, but don’t you worry because He has your hand and will lead you home.

He was right. I did find another spiritual home. Ironically, I went to the church we are currently members of that first morning, but because we had several friends already at that church, we didn’t want to just make an easy choice. We wanted to be where God wants us to be. So we visited about 10 churches over the next couple of months, but we finally returned to the first church I went to that morning of the prophesy. And, while it isn’t like our old church in so many ways, the feeling of spiritual family has gradually grown so that when we were asked if we would come back to our old church after the insufferable pastor left, we decided it was best for us not to do that.

But how he knew my situation that morning — it was a pure God thing. I’ve since met him again. He’s a deacon at a local church and he says God gave him those words many years ago and he’s felt called to say them a couple of dozen times to various people for no reason that he has ever known. He has another one for men. It’s a prophesy of foresaying – speaking God’s word into the life of someone at that moment rather than some future event (foreseeing). It draws from four different Bible passages — it’s not new revelation. I probably already knew what he said, but I needed to be reminded of God’s word and he was there to deliver the message. He was quite blessed when I was able to tell him that his message was delivered to the right person at the right time that day. It gave him hope that he’s not just a crazy man spouting forth Bible verses to random strangers in gas stations. And here’s the rub — two seconds before he said those words, I had decided I was going to go home and not attend church that morning. Maybe that would have been a fateful decision. How that would have turned out, only God knows, but I suspect it wouldn’t have been healthy for me, which is why God arranged for me to encounter this angel unawares.

Storm Clouds Rainbow

We live in a divisive world full of people who backbite and strive to outdo one another, where civility is a limping, bleeding sacrifice to the tyrannical attitudes people hold toward each other. But there are a lot of bright spots if we keep our eyes open for them. Sunlight shines through the clouds and, even now, still creates rainbows.

Posted October 1, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Why Does Separation of Church & State Grow Churches?   2 comments

Image result for image of a anglican churchHave you ever noticed that Europe is largely a non-Christian society while in the United States, we value freedom of religion and have relatively higher levels of faith?

It’s sort of interesting how that works because in Europe, most countries have a state religion that is subsidized by the government while in the United States people have to dole out their hard-earned money if they want to support a church.

Seventy percent of young people in Europe identify with no religion. But almost every country in Europe has a state religion. In the UK, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, which is the government-sponsored religion of the United Kingdom. In Germany, where the state church is Lutheran, about 45% of young people never attend church. I’m told by a friend who is from Germany and attends our church here in the States that there is a growing independent evangelical movement in Germany.

“And we want nothing to do with the state. We’d rather meet in someone’s home than take a dime from the government because it appears the government is a killer of faith.”

His view echoes a friend from England who says the same thing — that non-subsidized evangelical churches are growing while the government-supported Anglican churches are mostly empty.

I read an article a few days ago about how the Church in the Czech Republic is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, small evangelical and charismatic denominations are thriving. These are the churches that never used the State to compel them to come in and now the faithful are willingly coming into their sanctuaries.

Of course, church attendance was declining in the United States for a long time even without government interference and I’m not convinced it has stabilized. But I just find it interesting that churches without government support do better than churches with government support.

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