Raised by Wolves

Gaki: writing myself Real

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More Jesus than you can shake a boxcutter at...

(This is posted in response to threads on litmus and merikus's LJs. It's only here because I'm a long-winded sonuvabitch when writing, and I overran my character limit for comment responses. If you wanna comment on it here, of course that's okay. But you'd be better served to run over and read the past couple of posts over there, so you can see what I was replying to, and add your two cents on to THOSE journal entries if you're so inclined. Or just feel free to skip reading it altogether.)

(Edit #1: Ack; had I been more awake, I'd have realized that actually part of merikus's entry on that thread isn't publically available. So you might not be able to read it. Dang. Well if you're uber-curious, though, maybe I'll ask permission to repost parts of it here later.)

I tend to steer away from Biblical debates; there are a number of reasons for this, but it comes down to the fact that no matter how objective you are, when you're analyzing a holy writing, you are in effect calling into question a person's belief system, and you have to be prepared to face the consequences of that. It has taken me many long years to understand that winning a debate has very little point, if I've offended the person I'm debating with.

When I pose a religious question, I take careful pains to make sure it's understood that I am simply under the compulsion to investigate things that I don't understand. Matters of the spirit are, for the most part, understandable only through direct experience of the divine. My experiences over time have led me to a place where I have little interest in church or mythology except as recreational reading, because it's not relevant to my experience. The questions that I ask are very different from the ones that most people in church, temple, or synagogue spend their time on; their answers are found in different places. At the end of the day, if I'm questioned about my thoughts or beliefs, I prefer to be held accountable myself for those thoughts and beliefs... not to cite a reference in a book that someone else wrote. ;) Knowledge may be universal, but wisdom is personal.

That said, I of course have my own views on abortion (I support the right to choose), homosexuality (I support the right to fall in love), and more besides. And I love debating them, of course, like most people who think too much. But I find it difficult to sustain an argument on them in the context of Scripture, for the simple reason that the Christian Bible is NOT a cohesive document. As we all know, it is composed of many different documents, all by different authors, written during different time periods. There are histories in there, accounts and bookkeeping (why the hell is Numbers even in there?), all kinds of apocrypha (as if Catholics didn't have enough ways to punish themselves, they even need a LONGER BIBLE to read), and doubtless, there are embellishments. (A timeline as to how long after Jesus' death it was before the New Testament's books were written, collected, and compiled would be useful here, but at 4 a.m. I'm going to slack on my research for tonight.) How real do you think Plato's Socrates was? But we quote him all the time.

It's easy to call the cheap shots... "An eye for an eye," "Why don't Christians still sacrifice animals," "Vengeance is mine," the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, etc. There are many notable examples of such contradictions and more, but there is no point to highlighting such things. If I take an American History book, and point out that Thomas Jefferson is a respected symbol of the fight for human equality, and then point out that he owned slaves (a fact, perhaps, left out of that history book), and say, "Therefore, America is fundamentally flawed and makes no sense," I haven't proven anything, other than that history is more than the printed page. The Bible's writing is fairly terse, too; I often wonder how many events that happened during that time period were left out, where the author was trying to make a point?

The Bible has been translated countless times, from Hebrew to Latin to English, and I'm glossing over a few there I'm sure. How many times do you think the original meanings were confused by that? Hell, I'm not even happy with Camus' "The Stranger" or the english dubs of "Akira," and those are pretty damn up to date. I'm interested, but I'm not sure it evokes an accurate picture of the time, any more than I'm sure that Edith Hamilton's "Greek Mythology" gives me any idea what the stories of Zeus and Apollo meant to the Greeks personally.

I don't want to come off heavy-handed here; this isn't an attack on the Bible's historical veracity. The value in the Bible is that, in bits and pieces, it contains a valuable and instructive philosophy about the nature of love, and the nature of faith, and the nature of sacrifice. Just the way American history, for all it's blood, opportunism, greed, and ambition, is held together by the shreds of a myth of freedom and idealism that I hold very dear to my heart. (I suppose it may not have occurred to Bush yet, that Independence Day itself celebrates the actions of a focused and determined group of subversive terrorists. Shh. I won't tell him if you won't.) Even in it's rawest form I don't agree with it all completely, but there is illumination to be found in those pages, and I respect those who adopt it as an ideal. We need people who believe in ideals. But I can't bring myself to comb through it to look for individual lines that might be construed to support or not support my views on life here in the 21st century. It's too much of a stretch.

In short, I just feel that debating social topics in a Scriptural space is best left to those who believe wholeheartedly in the given Scripture. Otherwise, it's like saying, "Let's talk about whether or not art is valuable, but we're only going to look at Renaissance paintings." Sure you can (maybe the painters would have approved, too...), but there's so much left out of the picture.

To me, the heart of this debate isn't really about homosexuality or abortion; it seems as though the stickier issue lies in one assertion: that Jesus hung out with (and was killed with) the criminals, madmen, hookers, and frustrated blue-collar types -- and another assertion: that Jesus brought a vision of God that was truer and more pure than the Church's vision. (I paraphrase greatly; correct me if I've strayed.)

History belongs to the writers, and a heretic doesn't always know he's a heretic. Can we really ever claim to know what Jesus' life was like, past the ancient, translated recorded impressions of those who journeyed with him? And how can anyone be certain that the Christian church of our time isn't just as wrong and mistaken about the nature of God, as the Jewish church was, 2000 years ago?

And once again, dammit, I'm up at 5 a.m. preaching to myself. Thanks a lot, the both of you. ;P

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i agree with almost everything you said about the bible here; in fact, normally i would not use scripture in my arguments. however, i have found that when debating these issues with those who believe in the teachings therein literraly, i have to use scripture to advance my argument 'cause the bible *will* be brought up.

also, the other reason i use scripture in my arguments is that i truly believe that the bible teaches us many beautiful and important lessons. and i have no problem with the bible being the basis of anyone's life. but i would like to help people see that to say that the bible teaches us at its core love, and to say that any love (eg between two men) is wrong would be to go inherantly against its teachings imho.

Actually, I have a feeling that YOUR post would be too long to fit in one of these comment spaces, too! (And I'm sure as hell not gonna give you a whole entry space to yourself. Share the spotlight? Feh.)

And I totally get your point about why it's necessary to debate within the context of Scripture when limiting an argument to the assumption that the Bible is all literally true. It's just, I have a hard time DOING it. I have the same problem with people who answer moral questions with, "It's the Law," as if that were an explanation of any sort. (Can you tell I was one of those kids who asked "Why?" a lot, and got "Because," more often than not?)

Since I'm here, though, I'll throw you a curveball, because I'm always up for devil's advocate. ;) You say that the Bible is all about Love, and that therefore any argument founded on the Bible that leads to the negation of Love is therefore wrong. I tend to agree.

However, on that basis, then, how does one address issues such as stalkers, or the NAMBLA organization, many of whom would say that their actions are also based in love? This argument can be extended a ways... Love has been held accountable for any number of detestable acts throughout the years. Right and wrong can't be totally relative... can they?

feel free to repost the post i wrote; it's only not public because of the greg stuff :D

It's all about Faith.

And I don't mean faith=religion.

That's the total point of Chritian belief is, simply, BELIEF. You have to believe the impossible and the unfair and the horrid along with the love and the peace and the joy. A total package. God is Love, but he's also the one who destroyed places and people for going against Him.

You have to believe Jesus was the Christ, the SOn of the Living God...or else he was just some radical fruitcake who said a lot of nice things and zinged a few Jewish Leaders in his time.

You have to believe homosexuality is wrong while still believing that people can change and that ANYONE can come to Christ. You have to believe there can be homosexual Christians just as there can be straight Christians. you ahve to believe that if Manson got down on his knees and rpayed to God for fogrgiveness...he'd get it. You'd have to believe that if Hitler asked God for forgiveness...he'd get it. Jonah had to believe the Ninevites could be forgiven...when he thought they should've burned.

It's knowing you can show people the things God said were right and wrong, but that God gave them either come in line with His Will...or not. If I get angry with people who don't have this's like when I would get angry with my husband for his drug addiction. He KNEW the choices...yet he kept choosing drugs. It's taken so much for him to change. FUnny thing is...this time he had to be driven to his knees and be stripped of pride in order to find the way to overcome.

And I may not be the last time it has to happen, either. Heck, even *I* continue in bahaviors that are wrong. I'm trying to change like anyone else. I don't claim perfection as anything...but an inheritence I'm gonna get way down the line from now.:) And I'm in awe of that, not saying it out of arrogance...'cause like I said...anyone can get it, too. And that, my fiends, is beautiful mercy in action.

Re: It's all about Faith.

Well, this is where a lot of faith debates bog down, isn't it?

I don't agree with what you're saying, but I agree with where you're coming from. Does that make sense? It is true, faith goes beyond the provable. That's what makes it beautiful, that when you take the leap off that bridge, even though all the evidence is against you, you know that things will all work out.

But faith needs a genesis event... something to inspire the believer to believe. Something that makes one think that their faith will pan out. Without that, their faith is just madness. Faith for faith's sake is as much of a deadly tool as it is a glorious wonder. Crusades have been fought, blood has been spilt, women have been raped, people have been gassed, tortured, and killed, and all of these things in the name of God. I'm not trying to liken all of these atrocities to true Christianity. What I'm saying is, their justification, too, was "I have Faith that those who instructed me were True."

Now, many people have had experiences in their lives that point them, irrevocably and unmistakably, towards a Faith of some sort. They felt the divine enter their lives at that point, and it was such an experience that no further fact checking was necessary - they'd found the way. I've had my share of experiences like that... they've pointed me in the direction I'm going now. I don't question people's Faith; I question the tenets of their beliefs, to see if there is something in there that I should know more about.

That's why earlier I was saying that arguments about a given Faith should stay either within the realm of Scripture or without, because of this essential boundary. There are many statements in your comment about why YOU have to believe, but they are iterations, not points. If you tell me that there is a God who loves me but destroys people like me but I should model my behavior after what he says not what he does, and I ask WHY...

... or if you tell me that the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, but there isn't any place in the Bible it says that, other than some generalized statements about sexuality as a WHOLE, and I ask WHY you're singling out homosexuals...

... or if you say Jesus had to be divine, that his works and life wouldn't be as important if he weren't divine, and since I believe his efforts would be MORE genuine and worthy of praise if he weren't all-powerful, so of course I ask WHY...

... or you say abortion's wrong, but there isn't any verse in the Bible about that either, just some about murder, and it certainly doesn't say what Jesus might have thought regarding it, and there's no Biblical support for the concept that a three month old conglomeration of cells is a human being, so naturally I ask WHY...

... and all the time, the only answer is "Faith," then you now know why I don't debate religion much any more. That's not really a debate in the first place. I guess that's why I stopped looking for people with the right Answers... and started looking for the people with the right Questions. :) But I'm always glad to think about or speak on any of these subjects, with anybody.

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