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Old 08-14-2005, 12:58 PM   #136
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I have never gotten over the fact that I exist in the first place.
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Old 08-15-2005, 01:05 AM   #137
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trisherina
If you don't blame God for the bad things that happen while he's directing traffic and you were trying to be the best driver ever, then, why would you bother to praise or thank God when good things happen? Since you made it happen yourself with your free will, after all. What it boils down to there is that God is inconsequential, unless He decides not to be and make a big hairy thing of Himself. Reminds me a lot of the Canadian constitution. It's really no different from coping with a random universe. To paraphrase Heinlein, there is no luck, simply the ability or inability to deal with a statistical universe.
It does seem pretty random, all right. Your point is a good one.
Maybe blaming God does make sense - but like any hurt or outrage, it's really best, don't you think, to take it directly to the offender and have it out with them - something which many people don't do once they get mad at God. All communication tends to halt.

David did that constantly in the Psalms - time after time he basically asked God what the hell was going on and why didn't God do something to fix things and was God even listening at all? But if you read them through, no matter how violently afraid or angry or worried or vengeful David is, he almost always comes to a place of peace at the end of the Psalm, reaffirming God's blessings in his life, how worthy God is, how majestic and worthy of his trust, etc. etc.

To me, this would read as very strange, even psychotic unless one considers the possibility that while David is yelling at/communing with God, God is answering him in his spirit, calming him and restoring his peace. That's what the writing reflects, anyway. This transaction couldn't occur unless David had been real with God, and trusted that God could handle his authentic anger at him without sending down lightning bolts or something.

When I first became a Christian, I remember once, early on, suddenly standing up in the middle of a service, bringing all the worship to a halt and crying out "God, I'm so mad at you! You've let me down! I can't count on You!" There were gasps of shock all around me - it was a fairly small congregation of about 200 in an extremely conservative church.
I proceeded to list all of my grievances, sobbing and oblivious to what anyone thought. I couldn't just continue on pretending as if there weren't any disappointments and outrages that had happened to me that God didn't protect me from, and I couldn't see why anyone else should either. I challenged him to show himself to be real, to show me why I should pay any attention to him at all, let alone devote my life to him.

I highly recommend to anyone who has a grievance with God and can't forgive him to do this. Um - maybe not exactly how I did it, but really, if we can't be real with God in church, and they can't handle that kind of outburst and disruption, then church needs to change.

I stood there crying, and found myself gently surrounded by the arms of all the women there, and they were all praying for me. That was the beginning of a lot of healing for me.
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Old 08-15-2005, 02:28 AM   #138
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Well, I'm not good at taking things directly to the offender. Experience has led me to expect an overall unhappy outcome, even if short-term satisfaction can be gained.

It's good to hear that people were supportive at your church, and didn't just pretend you didn't exist and then whisper about you at coffee hour.

When you see yourself as talking to God, how do you know it's not just your own head?
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Old 08-16-2005, 06:17 PM   #139
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It's interesting - Assemblies of God and other charismatic/pentecostal churches get a lot of things wrong - a lot of things, starting with their politics. But loving on people who wander into their midst isn't one of them. Their worship style is open and immediate and flexible enough to accomodate spontaneity like that - they see it as evidence that the Spirit is moving in someone's heart, shaking hard things up and moving it to the surface light to be addressed. Which was actually what was happening in my case.

The reaction you describe is an extremely common one in the Bible Belt, but isn't confined to it. There's nothing worse than to be sitting in a strange church overwhelmed with big ropey oozes of snot and tears covering your hands and no one so much as offers you a wad of toilet paper. I think people in general are so overwhelmed by their society and the culture of surviving stress that they can't see beyond their own Bibles sometimes.

Sometimes prayer is in my own head, definitely, but I've found that happens when I'm not "listening" and when I'm not in seeking mode. I wished I prayed on a more continuous basis, but all too often, I pray only when I'm desperate or panicked or sleepy. Sometimes I'm just in "dumping" and "venting" mode too - and that's fine. But the best way I've found to talk to God is with a Bible open besides me, and a pen and paper. I mean, it's called his "Word," for crying out loud.

Writing about it feels like going out on a limb, and I'm sure that I'll be opening myself up to ridicule by doing so. My inflated ego says there will be flurries of pm's going back and forth about what a nutjob I am, and getting snarky posts after my other posts elsewhere (okay, that actually happens sometimes ) but I'm almost over that.
The reality is that I was really dubious about this. It sounded whacko, and the idea reminded me a little of playing with a Ouija board when I was a kid (an activity that I would strongly discourage, but if no one's ever had a bad experience with it yet, then why listen to some crazy person like me in the Christianity thread, what do I know?).

Anyone who has played with a Ouija board alone and had a freaky experience with it knows that something weird is going on that isn't comprehensively explicable. The problem is, when you give an open invitation like that on a Ouija board, you don't know what the cat's going to drag in. You have no control, and no assurance about the truth of what you're going to experience, or whether or not whatever that thing you're talking to has good intentions. It's the occult, and the Ouija board just isn't something to play with that way. But I bring it up because I think the image of playing with a Ouija board is an accessible one.

The difference is with a Bible, the entire process is protected. If we ask in the name of Christ, he's a kind of gatekeeper. When I started doing this, I did treat it something like an 8-ball or a Ouija board. I'd close my eyes like a kid making a wish and say "God, I want you to speak to me please - I ask in the name of Jesus." Then I'd randomly open it up and read in the first place my eye landed on. Sometimes I'd land right in the middle of the "begots" or the arcane laws of Deuteronomy, sure, but more often than not I found myself reading something that I really needed to read, absorb and meditate on for that moment. It was usually practical and immediately useful to me in a way that made me start thinking of it as "the magic book."

To test this further, I started writing out particular questions prayerfully in a notebook, then sit and "listen," opening the Bible to wherever it seemed a good idea to look. The results were really interesting. Sometimes it was a vague kind of thing, but I found if I persisted and pressed in, I was truly startled at a certain point.
Look, what I'm describing isn't the most mature way to go about it. Some people are horrified by the idea of using the Bible this way. I guess when I get more disciplined and go through the Bible methodically like they do, perhaps something else, something deeper will arise out of it. But right now that way just makes me feel tired, and I figure doing it this way is better than not doing it at all.

The point, however, of all of this, is that using the Bible to converse with God gets me out of my own head, and gives me perspectives I wouldn't ordinarily encounter in my own mind. It's really hard when I run up against something admonishing me - pride is a biggie. But if I accept it with a sense of yielding and surrender, I very often feel something bad in me falling away, or like (pardon the cliche) light hitting a dark patch.
The other thing that tells me that prayer doesn't just hit the ceiling and fall back down into the pool of my own doubts is a very real sense of reciprocation. I pray and pray and pray until I feel a sense of peace over whatever it is I'm praying about, and I try not to give up until I do. I pray, trying as best I can to believe that God hears me (or as the man said to Jesus "Help thou my unbelief.") Something floats down and penetrates my spirit - I don't know how else to describe it.
I do believe strongly that this happens simply because I gave Jesus permission to enter my heart to do this. I remember trying to do this before, using Jesus' name as a kind of talisman to sprinkle over everything as a kind of good luck charm but not really wanting him or his words inside me, not really and truly wanting my life to be altered. It was a complete failure. Eventually I had to ask for his presence in my life and give permission before I started seeing any results. Yep. I guess you could turn your proselytizing radar on there , but all I can say is that's how it worked for me, so take it or leave it.

Praying, meditation, chanting, whatever you want to call it, is a healthy thing to do in a stressful world, regardless of whether or not you're talking to yourself. But I think it's really more effective if a person can find that tiny seed of belief in themselves - everyone has one - and nourish it, be nice to it, allow it to grow a little. It's not hurting anyone, or you, and it can be done privately. I think God is so gracious, and gives everybody a lot of space for their anger and their worries and doubts about him. The Bible puts it beautifully: draw near to him, and he will draw near to you. Even if it's to slug him and give him "The Big Whatfor?" .
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Old 08-16-2005, 06:27 PM   #140
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brynn
To test this further, I started writing out particular questions prayerfully in a notebook, then sit and "listen," opening the Bible to wherever it seemed a good idea to look. The results were really interesting. Sometimes it was a vague kind of thing, but I found if I persisted and pressed in, I was truly startled at a certain point.
Sounds like the I Ching!
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Old 08-16-2005, 07:17 PM   #141
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Just a little question that I've had for years with no really good answer.

Some people take the written word in the Bible to be the literal "word of God". Now, I'm not picking, and certainly ill equiped to quote any, but I have always had trouble in that the "Bible" referred to is in English. An English translation by monks in 1611 (King James version) from Latin and Greek translations of Hebrew and Aramaic.
This has always given me big questions when I hear someone quoting word for word
e.g "And Jesus said "blessed are the peacemakers"" when his actual words were probably something else (like in the Life of Brian where the people at the back of the sermon think he said "cheesemakers".)
That light-hearted example set aside, I have never been able to understand Bible literalists.

Sorry for the interruption.
Carry on.
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Old 08-16-2005, 07:19 PM   #142
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It reminded me of tarot.

Ask a question of the universe and the answer can become clear. Two people with the same question and getting the same cards may get different answers depending on the reader and the situation specific to the asker.

I am not saying that your beliefs are wrong or your methods less than holy Brynn. I see parallels to other belief systems and thought I would mention it.
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Old 08-16-2005, 07:41 PM   #143
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Dinz, you reminded me of one of the great quotes to come out of the debate over bilingual education in California. One opponent interviewed in the press said, "If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it should be good enough for these Mexicans!"

Now, who can argue with THAT?? LOL!
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Old 08-16-2005, 08:24 PM   #144
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Just to clarify, I have no problem whatsoever with someone believing the Bible passes on "God's message", and gets something from it. But please dont tell me it's word for word exactly what anyone said or did.
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Old 08-17-2005, 03:06 AM   #145
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smartypants
"If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it should be good enough for these Mexicans!"

Now, who can argue with THAT?? LOL!
I'm going to hope that can't be serious.

I think it's cool that you even bother to seek guidance, Brynn. People... don't. I do think that using the method described you might do as well with the daily horoscope. For all your caveats, though, you're no nuttier than anyone else I know, including the woman I saw in the mirror today (who is she? old biatch)

I know a bit about the sense of peace you describe. It comes just as well from meditation as it does from prayer. I don't say that to be argumentative or difficult; it is simply true. Consciousness altering experiences (and lest you get me wrong, that is ALL people are ever seeking by using their brains) derived from meditation read word for word interchangeably with experiences derived from prayer; they differ in the following only: meditation in this respect is an attempt to alter state of consciousness through thoughts not directed at a presumed object. Christian prayer presumes an object.

Hey, I think I'll compile all this crap I'm saying and write one of those insane people websites.
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Old 08-17-2005, 03:58 AM   #146
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Who needs Ron Price when we have trisherina?
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Old 08-18-2005, 06:29 AM   #147
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^why not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aphrodite
It reminded me of tarot.

Ask a question of the universe and the answer can become clear. Two people with the same question and getting the same cards may get different answers depending on the reader and the situation specific to the asker.

I am not saying that your beliefs are wrong or your methods less than holy Brynn. I see parallels to other belief systems and thought I would mention it.
Oh, I don't think my methods are very holy at all . A very nasty brush with the occult (after being drawn to it for many years) made me swerve in the opposite direction - I guess Jesus Christ was the farthest away I could get from it. I do admit that I tend to lump horoscopes and tarot cards in with all that could be construed as occult as a reaction, but who knows - maybe I've carried my earlier dabblings in the occult into the present day with how I approach scripture. I feel safer, more protected with scripture rather than tarot or horoscopes, but that's just me.

No, I think the point you and Trish are making is completely valid - however it happens, it's important to keep seeking answers, and if there are parallel examples of spiritual experience to be found elsewhere, I don't think it diminishes the truth of the experience as much as it supports it - truth is truth, and is indifferent to whatever mantle people insist on throwing over it.

As Trish pointed out in another thread, we can't even figure out how to grow hair, so how our brains work - especially during worship, prayer, etc. - is still a huge mystery. There are quantum physicists out there who are even theorizing that thought and intent have matter, of all things
(there's an amazing movie called Mindwalk that talks about this - anybody seen it? I need to rent it again).

Dinz, you wrote -
Just to clarify, I have no problem whatsoever with someone believing the Bible passes on "God's message", and gets something from it. But please dont tell me it's word for word exactly what anyone said or did.
I think that's why there are so many translations out there. People trying over and over to get it as close as possible to the original text. That's why most bible experts I know use so many different sources - CIV, NIV, NKJV, The "Message" (that one's said to be translated directly from the Hebrew and Greek rather than the Hebrew translated into Latin and then into English, like (I think this is right) the King James version was.
Then there are all the priests/ministers/pastors who are required to learn the original Hebrew and Greek in Bible colleges order to bring their own insight into whatever they happen to teach - that's going to impact the way scripture is interpreted as well.

Even with all the doubts raised about translation, I'm still in awe of how one text, written by so many authors over so many thousands of years, carefully preserved through oral tradition and then later painstakingly copied by hand before the invention of the printing press - has still retained the consistency of message and tone throughout, no matter what translation you read. Some ideas are going to be highlighted differently than others from translation to translation - but I see all of them as lending light to one another rather than competing with one another in terms of truthfulness.
It's as important to consult several translations of scripture as it is to, say, get one's news from more sources than just the Fox Channel.

Then there's the idea of a scripture's rhema to consider as well. This is the idea that while one is reading scripture prayerfully, something is going to shine out in a way that is extremely relevant and personal to the reader, while still remaining connected to the rest of the text. This is the active part of scripture that is said to be alive and responsive to the reader himself - the aspect that provides inspiration beyond what the words say on the page.

Although this aspect is what makes the Bible different from other ordinary texts, I think this is where people really can get into trouble with misinterpretation, especially when things are taken out of context. The Bible takes pains to warn against that. It's constantly admonishing believers to remember that the law of love must inform any interpretation, that love supercedes any other law that someone might want to pull out of the text and thump someone else over the head with. We are told over and over to forgive, not to judge others, to be kind and patient blah blah blah, but it always astonishes me how easy it is for us within the Christian community to ignore these basic things. Which is why the Bible has to mention it over and over, I guess.
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:11 PM   #148
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Writing with only a literal meaning only dates back to Sir Isaac Newton's time. Science required writing that was precise, with only one possible interpretation. Before that, why handcuff yourself?

So those who hold that the Bible must only be interpreted literally must also claim that up until the 1600's, everyone was doomed to misunderstand it.

(This is taken from Understanding the Bible as Literature by Northrop Frye)
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Old 08-18-2005, 06:35 PM   #149
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And look at the Gospels. Those disciples who recorded Jesus' life are a prime example of how people can see the same thing yet come up with such different interpretations, even to the extent of the events that were or were not emphasized.
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Old 08-19-2005, 05:58 PM   #150
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The latest entry from Julia Sweeney's blog (www.juliasweeney.com):
Aug. 18, 2005
Dawn's Demons

Today I was pointed to a blog, by Dawn Eden (dawneden.com). In her August 16, 2005 entry she comments on my San Francisco Chronicle interview.

In the interview (which you can read on this site) I make a mistake when I recount the story from Mark where Jesus send the evil spirits into the pigs and they run off the mountain. I said he sent the people too. That was incorrect.

She writes:

“Further proof that Christians need to continually remind the mainstream media of the most basic facts concerning their faith: San Francisco Chronicle religion writer David Ian Miller's failure to correct Julia Sweeney as she utterly mangles a story from the Gospels.”

And then,

“Apparently, it is too much to expect a San Francisco Chronicle religion writer to have the Bible knowledge of a 7-year-old Sunday-school student.”

This is what I wrote back to her today:

Dear Dawn,

Yes. I misrepresented the Jesus-commands-evil spirits-to-go-into-pigs-and-run-them-off-a-cliff story in the bible. I suggested that that Jesus caused the people & pigs to run off the cliff. He didn’t. He just caused a COUPLE OF THOUSAND PIGS to run off the cliff.

The point I was trying to make is that Jesus does several things that aren't particularly charitable or compassionate or even logical. I mean, if Jesus is capable of anything, why doesn't he just kill the evil spirits right there? Why does he have to kill two thousand innocent pigs to do that? Regardless of the fact that Jews of the period thought that pigs were unclean, we know that this is not true. So if we know this, why didn't Jesus? Why would that action be acceptable to him?

Plus, evil spirits? COME ON. Are we to believe that there are "evil spirits" that can infect a person and then be driven out of a person? And then driven into an…animal?

You say my mistake is the reason that Christians have to remind the mainstream media of the most basic facts concerning their religion. I completely agree. I think you should remind everyone in the mainstream culture (which is predominantly Christian) that their God is someone who sends evil spirits into pigs and drives them off mountains. (Pigs owned by people, by the way. Even if the mainstream culture you are trying to remind the “most basic facts” to isn’t moved by the specter of two thousand pigs hurling themselves off a cliff by Jesus’ direction, they might be upset – in this most commercial & profits driven culture -- that those pigs were owned by someone. Even by today’s standards, two thousand lost pigs have to be counted as an economic loss.)

So yes. Jesus didn’t send some people and pigs off a cliff. He sent the “evil spirits” into two thousand pigs and they ran off a cliff. Is that so much better? Is this the story that you say any seven-year-old Church student knows?

Personally, I would find that defending Jesus’ killing off of a couple of thousand pigs after he infected them with evil spirits a “basic fact” of your faith not worth defending. But that’s just me.

Good luck to you. I hope your mother gets well.

Julia Sweeney


This is the Gospel story: Mark 5:1-20 (New American Standard Bible)

Mark 5

The Gerasene Demoniac
1They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.
2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,
3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;
4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.
6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;
7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"
8 For He had been saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"
9 And He was asking him, "What is your name?" And he said to Him, "My name is Legion; for we are many."
10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.
12 The demons implored Him, saying, "Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."
13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.
14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.
15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the "legion"; and they became frightened.
16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.
17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.
18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.
19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."
20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

More thoughts on this story:

Rereading this story, I find it even more upsetting. We know that people who behave in the way this man is behaving are psychologically traumatized and need help, maybe even medical help. If Jesus is the Son of an all-knowing God and they are also One, why wouldn’t Jesus know this? Why wouldn’t he prescribe a medication for the man, or offer to hear the man’s story and try to help him with some Talk-therapy? Clearly Jesus doesn’t know about these things. Clearly this was written in a time when no one knew about these things. Jesus was responding to this poor crazy man in a way that was consistent with the scientific information they had. They believed that mentally disabled people were possessed. And they believed that pigs were bad.

I mean, isn’t this obviously a story that would have wowed people two thousand years ago and isn’t relevant to us today? Why does anyone cling to these stories for spiritual sustenance? Why do they look at this story and find it meaningful? I don’t get it.

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