Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Revolution of a Passive Resistance

Some have understood Jesus life as exempliary for Christians to emulate, while others have understood that Jesus' life was a life that signified injustice personified.

Christendom has heralded this life as salvific, but nothing salvific happens other than this one life resisting in passivity the injustic of the religious and political systems of his day. He did not resist as an activist of any kind, but in quiet resistance in ministering to the outsiders. He, himself, was not one of the elite.

Today, in America, Christians do not face persecution. We, for the most part, have a government that allows religious freedom. Freedom, in our country is manifested in many ways, from religious expression to personal lifestyle. These values are what makes man like "god" in moral image. It is only in moral choice that moral virtue, or moral value can be assessed or judged. But, moral choice is not clearly evaluated, unless there is some standard of measurement, or an ultimate model. Consevative Christians believe that this standard is in the text or the life of Jesus, as written within Scripture.

Jesus' life was modeled on a sectarian model, historically. But, his life has been interpreted differently by many. His life inspired Martin Luther King, Jr., who brought about a social revolution with passive resistance. He did not seek a violent revolution, although violence happened and in the end, he paid for his commitment with his life.

I don't believe that conservative Christians of a Calvinistic flavor, who seek to carry out a discipleship "program", understand truely that the individual must choose their own personal values, if there is any moral virtue or value, whatsoever. Theirs is an understanding of Providence, Sovereignty, eschaotological "hope", etc. But, in understanding life in this way, they do not understand that Scriptures are not written with all of the theological jargon that "comes with the package of Christendom". Scriptures are undestood within a "Christian" framework that superintends agendas, that are presumed to be "God's will".

Although Jesus, as a moral model, has value, his life does not universalize virtue. Virtue is just as much appreciated in many "revolutionaries" that were not passive in their resistance. Justice cannot be sought in passivity (unless one wants to wait for the "sweet by and by")...

Freedom and justice for all means that each individual has a right to representation and equal treatment under law. Jesus' life did not have these protections. It is not "un-Christian" to seek protection under law. It is a moral duty, as it holds others accountable to right relationship.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

An Owner's Responsibility and A Worker's Right

Yesterday, I wrote about government being "man's best friend". Government is any form of leadership. In the economic realm, the relationship between "boss" and "worker" is a governing one and I mentioned how important it was that there be a mutuality of respect and trust.

These past couple of weeks has challenged my son in these attitudes. He is a "worker". In his company, the "boss" decided there must be "cut-backs" and suggested that the work week be cut to four 10 hours days. This "cut-back" would bring savings in many areas to the company. This is just good "business sense". But, my son found that many of the workers were hesitant about going to a four day week, suggesting that their pay would be cut from "over-time". My son argued that the "workers" could choose to look at their four day week as a three day week-end and that saving the company would save many of their jobs. I was proud of his attitude, as were his bosses.

Workers do need to respect and regard their bosses, but they also deserve respect in their commitment to their company and their work. A mutual attitude of co-operation and an understanding that no "role" determines the value of the person is an important atmosphere for companies who want to prosper through another's "work" and commitment. It is unfortunate that in a competive market, this atmosphere is hindered and attitudes of disregard for another further anomoisity and suspicion. There can be no "winners" when competition leads to disregard and disrepect and a lack of consideration for another's life.

My son has learned that a proper attitude on his part and defending the companie's right to consider beneficial options were only the result of being respected by his company as well. He has worked for this company for several years. It is hard manuel labor on third shift. He hopes his commitment and loyalty pay off with promotion.

It behooves all of us in this economy to respect both worker and boss, as the only way out is the way of "respect" and a concern for the future welfare of all. It used to be an assumed attitude of civility in the past, but our market economy has made beasts of us all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Government is Man's Best Friend

Lately, I have been thinking about dogs, as dogs have been a part of my life since childhood. Dogs are considered man's "best friend", but government is a better friend. Government allows the freedom to enjoy dogs and other such "unnecessaries".

Why are dogs considered man's best friend? Dogs, if trained properly, protect thier owners and families. Properly trained dogs do not demand or dominate. Dogs are companions that benefit man's life as a social animal. The same is true of good government. Government protects and provides the freedom to choose how one lives their life.

Government is only as good as the leaders who lead. Leadership should be trained in the necessary characteristics of a "well trained dog".

A local advertisement in our paper a number of years ago bragged on "top dogs" and their advantage over 'underdogs". This type of thinking is based on market driven economic structuring and evolutionary thinking of survival of the fittest. It is nothing other than "dog eat dog". Our justice system is not based on such inequality. Justice is equality under law, no matter what class or ethnicity. Our laws protect and our government upholds those laws for the protection of our freedoms. No such freedoms are understood in evolutionary thinking, as natural selection will justify those who "rise to the top". Justification of the elite class was what the monied and powerful sought early in our country's history.

Leadership should not protect their own interests at the costs of the "underdog". Worker's rights activists sought to bring about a balance of power in these situations. While unions have brought about "justice" in certain instances, they have also brought about an attitude that undermines mutual gratitude between the owner and worker when it comes to capital. Each party vies to "win" over the other without understanding the mutual benefit of co-operation. The atmosphere of our "market-driven" economy has benefitted many, but has also led to a greedy competitiveness that has lessened the conscience of leadership in accountability. This must change, as our nation's future prosperity depends on it.

Just recently, I went to the American History museum in D.C. and was moved by our nation's history of seeking justice for those whose cause was not represented in our government! We must continue to seek this kind of justice for all within our borders, for it is only when justice rules at home that we can represent our values abroad. Americans have a history of seeking "freedom and justice for all". Let us not rest while there are areas of injustice that are protected by a priviledged class, that disregards all ethical limitations on power.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Organizational Structures, and Human Beings

Organziational structures are to bless man. The family is the first encounter that a child has in udnerstanding himself. Family does not have to be defined in terms as conservative Christians would maintain, but is understood as any intimate social context. The child grows and identifies with the values of his family. His identity is created by these values. But, with a broader understanding of life, through education, formal and informal, the child comes to understand himself within a context. These contexts are deteminitive roles, but in Western culture is not understood to be unchangeing. The West embraces the individual's growthe and opprotunity to develop. It is not a caste system.

In understanding a broader world and context, the child understands that his "world" is not universal , but limited by his parent's, his education so far in formal and informal education, and his culture. This is the challenge of the young adult in developing their own sense of "self" and their own personal values. No longer do tradition, or community determine the person's complete identity, but it can still be a part. The young adult is ready to engage and understand the world at large.

These growth transitions are changes in viewpoint, worldview and commitments and are furthered through the child's exposure in family, school and culture. It is a priviledged and blessed position to be in such a free and open environment, so that change can be embraced. Change is a necessary condition for growth, empowerment, and opportunity. These are values that our government upholds for all. And I think these are the values that I think are most conducive for life's flourishing and furthering the "cause of becoming a human being".

The Law and the "Gospel"?

I don't know about you, but when something is not settled with me in my thinking, I can't stop thinking about it, even in my sleep (which makes for a restless night (s)). Last night was such a night.

I had come to faith believing a gnostic "gospel"(otherworldly) of equality, justice and mercy, which is in effect, the fruit of love. The laws of our land are made with this standard. And since I have always felt "the little person", I was always taking up the cause of the "little guy" when I thought that justcie was not served. But, I never imagined myself in any place of authority, it was only in regards to the Law that was written on my heart.

Who are the little guys? The little guys are children, mothers, women, workers, minorities, and immigrants. Those who have no "voice" are the "causes of social justice". I can even think about it and it gets me upset. I guess I am "continually angry" as this is not a just world (so much for peace and goodwill to men!).

It is funny that I so berated the "cause of social justice" as that was not the "true gospel", but was in my naive years of "religion". This is why I have found myself resonating with the atheists. While I am still unsure about a "god", I am more and more sure about my desire to see all men as equal, which was the ideal of our founding Fathers. I guess this is why human rights have appealed to me and the issue that the U.N. will allow special "declarations" to the Islamic states under the name of religious freedom appalls me. Human rights means the every individual has a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Islam does not allow women that right. And their judicial system is built upon a religious tradition that is legalistic in its implementation. Where Nazism was a political system that oppressed and was prejuidiced and brought about horrendous crimes against humanity, Islam is a religious one. America's cause to see freedom come to all nations, I think is a noble one, but how do we persuade those in power that freedom is good, when it would usurp their all-knowing, all-powerful position and allow others to have a "voice"? I don't know, but the whole subject intrigues me.

There has been much on the news and the blogs about the "shoe throwing incidence". My intitial response was not to look at the position of the President, as an "authority", but to look at the context. People of power must always understand the context in which they are speaking, just as our Secretary of State does when she travels and meets with dignitaries. The customs and social norms are important to affirm so that communication can remain open or be opened and there is no offense.

Conservative/fundamentalist Christians only see a separation of powers where if there is no submission to the "authority" then there is a lack of respect for God, as an authority. This is nothing other than cultish thinking. Justice is not sought, but a submissive attitude no matter the costs is required. This culture breeds inequality, as it accentuates differences of status. Of course, there will be times where roles are important to maintain, but as a whole, is one's attitude toward the "other" appropriate? That is my question and my concern. Our emotional health in feeling secure is based on social contract. It is only when we know that laws are respected that we know where we stand anad that we need not fear subversion, or control from those in "other positions, or roles'. When roles beomce our identity, then we feel threatened by those who question our authority and we desire to control, or manipulate others. When we feel we haven't been heard, "as an underdog", we seek justice and seeking justice is not wrong. It is right, because all men are created equal.

More and more I am seeing more clearly how I view Church and State. And I wonder if there will be anything left of my previous faith, when I am "through".

Monday, December 15, 2008

Humans, Experience, Fahtih and Reason

There has been a lot of talk lately about human beings. What does that mean to be a human beings? And what about the human being is different from the animal kingdom, if there is any difference?

Our physical bodies do impact the way we understand our life. Our physicality is our situadedness, or our culture, as well as our personal and unique identification factors. The Christian worldview is challenged today to understand how it is a distinct understanding of truth. Some have reverted to a somewhat fundamentalistic understanding of truth in Scripture. This is nothing less that a warmed over fundamentalism, where Scripture was understood apart from the other disciplines. Scripture was understood to be a uniquely inspired text, where all the disciplines were to be understood within the text's understanding. It is the pieistic understanding of truth, through faith, which presupposes the text, as foremost in the seeking after truth....

I find that understanding faith as the end of of every situation and person's difficulty is so short-sighted. And I think that the Church has an interest in "protecting" the Scritptures as special revelation, but at what costs is this "war"? The costs is the costs of understanding a broader perspective of "truth". It is, in effect, the costs of edcuation! Christians should not be perpetuating an unenlightened view of faith. We should seek to help students and others to critically think about their faith, so that real growth can happen.

I watched a documentary on Jim Jones last night. It is amazing that so many people would come under the influence of such a person. Jim Jones was not particularly chraismatic. But, the people that followed him were predisposed to being "led' into the abyss. There's was not a critical faith, but a pieistic one. Faith in faith is a leap into the dark of another's control, or an irrational priority of life. And all of this is done in the name of the "kingdom", or "the people of God" or other such terms. It is dangerous and harmful.

Reason must be embraced so that in a climate of irrationality, faith can be educated into true commitment, not based on a childish "dream" but a true conviction.

The Bible as Scripture or the Scripture as Bible.

How we understand Scripture is pivotal in our understanding of faith. If we are justified by faith, then does it matter how we understand Scripture? Ken Schenck of Quadralateral Thoughts, has several entires about "the Bible as Christian Scripture". If you read these entries, you understand that usually Christians approach the text with a Christian bias, or a Christian understanding of theology. It presuppoese upon the text what the text means, before investigation into the full context of the original audience. This is where scholarship should "inform" the people in the pew. Fundamentalism believes that the Bible can be understood by one sitting in an easy chair. Fundamentalists take a simplistic view of inspiration, spirit, and understanding.

Fundamenatlists believe that Scripture is useful for "correction, training, so that the man of God can be...."The Scriptures themselves are what is of importance, with no consideration of the person's context, or personal situatedness, or the larger questions of historicity. Theologizing doesn't take seriously the place, or the text, itself. Theologizing assumes upon the text and presumes upon the other. Theologizing is having prejuidice and bias!

The real question is: Are the Scripture sufficient in all areas of understanding? How one understands and answer that question determines a lot about one's worldview.

The text was written within a certain cultural and philosophical framework, which was not "inspiried", but was the worldview that was prevalent in that day. There is no super spiritual "worldview" or sanctified understanding, when it comes to ancient texts. Ancient texts held a kernel of "truth" or wisdom, but should not be pervasively understood as the epitome of truth for all times, all people and all situations. Ancient texts did not have the understanding of science we do today. It did not understand sociology, biology, or government in the same way as modern or civilized people do today. The question arises; what is the usefulness of the text, as many have been damaged by mis-understanding the application of the text?

The answer can run the gambit from:
The text is the epitome of truth for application. This way of understanding is based on reason.
The text is useful for allegorical purposes to teach wisdom. this way of understanding is based on faith.
The text is irrelevant in today's climate, as we have come to develop our understanding in a far more sophisticated way. This way of understanding is based on reason.

While there are many who encourage the "faith way", as reason is limited, I think that approaching the text with faith, is really nothing other than bias and a "thologized' understanding" that still presupposes upon the text. An ancient text is best understood within the larger framework of ancient history. There we will find the "issues of the heart", such as malice, pride, maliciousness, which result in all kinds of disorder. This is why I like to understand ethics as the epitome of truth today. Ethics helps everyone to understand better what the issues are and where there convictions really play out in the world at large....

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Defining Faith in Scientific Terms

Thinking about faith, I have come to understand the complexity of defining faith. I have come to understand my faith in completely ethical terms. While this does not dismiss different opportunities for playing out that ethical "commitment", faith, itself, is undefined and is meaningful only to the individuals that give meaning to their lives by the things they choose to do or commit to because of various understandings of faith. This view can be applauded by Lutherans, Anglicans and their cousins. I don't think that Roman Catholicism or the Reformed traditions understand their faith in this way, as they look to define their faith too stringently on 'other wordly" terms or " this worldly" terms.

Just recently the Roman Catholics have decided that stem cell research, the morning after pill, and in vitro fertilization are wrong for people of faith! Their tradition defines their faith from the top down, while the Reformed and charismatics define their faith from their theology or experience. Their faith is one of common understanding as well. I think both kinds of Christian traditions are limited in their frameworks! One uses the Church as a means to define everyone's behavior, while the other defines everyone's understanding or experience! Both are exclusivistic in their ways and understandings.

I think the Church at large should not be defined upon these things, as they limit everyone's personal growth. That growth should not be gauged and determined by another, but should be the fruition of the relationships that are wrought within the walls of the Church, as well as society at large. The individual cannot grow if there is limitations upon his education, because the parents define and determine the particular job the individual will do. This limits growth, as it does not allow the child freedom to explore themselves. And most of us know that young adults in college change their majors, as they become aware of another subject that intrigues them. Who are the parents, to limit that young person's growth by deciding and determining what that child may become? Some cultures, of course, allow this type of upbringing and the parents even determine the child's marriage partner. While it may help further the tradition and the families' "name", deciding or determination by the parent limits the child's awareness of himself and the "other". It breeds prejuidice toward those "outside the tradition". These kinds of cultures are not ethical in their understandings of themselves or the broader world, as they judge the outside world as "evil", "immoral", "bad", or etc. It does not breed in the child a desire to investigate, explore or value "becoming". Tradition is limiting in this way.

While Christian faith has been defined upon tradition, experience, and text, all of these hinder the broader scope of moral development in ethical understandings of those outside one's denomination or tradition. And it limits all of us in our coming to terms of peaceful co-existence!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Auto Industry and the Government

As most everyone knows, the auto industry is wanting a bailout by the government. But, the government wants concessions from stockholders and employees. As most Americans have budgeted their salaries into their 'stuff' this is a scary prospect. How will they pay the bills?

I told my husband this morning that at least the government was not going to ask for ownership of the companies and completely change our system of free enterprise. What the government proposes does hold responsible those who are accuntable for the mess in the first place. The government will not be scapegoated, which I think is wise.

I also think that the conditions are good for those who have an investment in the company. As the company will survive or not, depending on how all of the employees and sharholders cooperate with ownership. Not only does this hold others to accountability but it also brings responsibility to "community". That is a good thing, I think, as it was the choice of the Unions' leadership to continue to bid for higher and higher salaries, which ran down the profits for the company.

As for the shareholders, they are holding the bag in hope's of the company pulling out. They must hold steady and not bail out themselves. But, I wonder how Wall Street's bailout is nothing but a crass disregard for responsibility and accountability, as the government handed the money over. Those who work on Wall Street are good at knowing how to use other people's money for their own benefit. This shrewdness is respected in our country, as it allows those who want to be resourceful a means to that end.

In the responsibility and accountability mode, all parties are paying their dues to "abide in community". There is no one that is not affected nor held to the same standards. I think this is wise, otherwise, one creates a climate for revolution (when the worker and the employer are playing on a different playing field.). Socialism it is. Or isn't it?

No one asked for this economic crisis, but good can come from it. I was encouraged to hear that those in NYC were returning to re-soling their shoes, and re-finishing their furniture, instead of buying new. While I don't believe that there is any virtue in living in poverty, I do think that our government and our lifestyles need a more thoughtful approach.

Ethics in our form of government is based on social contract, which is collective ownership of companies, while maintaining private property. Private property should be protects as this divides us from a completely socialized society. P

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Childish Faith Births a Faithful Skeptic

I used to believe in fairy tales that there was a prince that would come and take me away to a fairy land to live happily ever after. But, life is more tragic than a child's imaginings. We are not protected by God and there are no supernatural interventions, at least in my life. That does not mean that I don't believe that blessings are from God, as all things are blessings. But, to me, to assume in a supernatural intervention and presume upon that in plans is presumptuous. David prayed that God would keep him from presumptuous sins. Presumption is taking things into one's own hands. Faith is much more like my husband's life of quiet trust, a lack of worry, fear and anxiety. He believes that things will work out. Unfortunately, for me my grandmother used to tell me that all the time (usually during periods of tragedy). But, life did not work out as my heart desired. So, I don't believe that things work out. I used to.

When I came to faith, I understood it to be the best news on earth, because I didn't have to perform, because God loved me like I was. That meant that I was loveable, and since I'd neve felt loveable all my life, this was exciting for me. In fact, I thought that my identification with Christ's death was good news. Why? Because I hated myself so much that this was an easy emotional suicide of 'self". This way a better person could live, Christ. I practiced my faith and continued to believe irregardless of any trial that this was the way of learning how to be holy and like Christ. I was crucifying my flesh, so that Christ could live in me. But, what I came to experienc in the end was an annihlation of my very identity and self. This is not good news, as it leaves no person and no sense of personhood or boundaries, which are a healthy necessity for personal identity and a healthy sense of self. So, lately, whenever I hear of "dying to self", "being crucified with Christ", etc. It has connotations for me of an emotional pain that I cannot describe. This is not healthy Christian faith. And those who believe that I am only protecting myself are unfortunately, misguided, as whenever someone has no sense of "self' there is a tendency for others to trample boundaries that must be maintained. This is a healthy self-respect and regard. It is not selfhishness, as I had always thought and had practiced denying myself in this regard. Sometimes, those like me with little of no identity attach to a religious identity to bulwark a lack of development. Recently, I have come to recognize that boundary maintenance is a discipline that I must practice, just as much as those who are presumptuous must practice self-control.

Now, my faith is tattered, worn, faltering at times, wondering for a reason, and thinking about a faith that has died and birthed a critical doubt, sometimes skepticism,. The death of my previous faith breeds anger at those who propose a simplistic faith and trust, and a grief and self-recrimination over being so naive and gullible. This is a place of learning about myself, my values, my friends, my family, and my own sense of self identity. It is a place of growth and a place of faith, nonetheless.

Development of the Individual Within Society

When I used to believe that evangelical inductive study was "truth", I understood that "context was king". Context meant what the text meant within the culture, and language of the given frame of "orginal meaning". Of course the context was understood with different textual "helps". I understood that there was diversity within the Church and understood many of the arguments which brought about separation or understandings of difference.

But, in postmodernity, there is a need to understand the human as made in God's image. What is a human being and how is one developed? This is a question that is not new, but is one that faces the Church in uncerstanding how people have come to understand their faith. In academic terms, this way of approaching the understanding of religion, is the psychology of religion paradigm.

Not only is the person's context to be understood, as this is what gives a person identification, but also, the person's way of interpreting, which is hard to define in America's diverse environment. Families are not built around tradition necessarily, as in the "old country". So, how does the psychologist understand someone else's faith? Some have said that it is not just cultural influence, but actual brain science, as neurobiology has many "new understandings" of what makes man, "man".

Experience is the everyday encounters with everything from what one reads, hears, but what one encounters through people and circumstances. I don't believe that man made in God's image will come to maturity without understanding themself as a separate individual, who understands that life is valued and valueable on many elements of "faith". How one defines faith depends on personal convictions and values.

Of course, some conservatives would find this problematic, as their belief that tradition is to continue to define truth, as any other way of thinking is idolatry or rebellion. I find that parenting has led me to believe otherwise. We support our children when they become adults, but helathy parenting wants them to grow into full responsible independent individuals. That does not mean that they disregard us as parent altogether, but that they only use our advice, as advice and don't feel compelled to believe as we do about any certain given area of conviction. I do not think that parents can take full responsibility for how their children turn out, as many factores influence and form the individual youg adult. We must, as parents, and teachers expose them to as amny opportunities as possible to broaden their world , so that they will be as free as possible from prejuidice and where they are biased, they understand and fully choose that bias.

This if the personal aspect of individual development. But, there is also, a moral responsibility toward our nation that is also an important value for the individual. I think that we live in a great nation, that is presently experiencing some challenges that we, the people, have been responsible for, but, these consequences are just the result of individuals seeking after their own interests at the expense of others. We cannot be a people without a moral responsibility and order that defends the values that we hold dearly, which is freedom and justice for ALL the people. If justice is compromised for those in places of power, then we will all suffer due to consequences that impinge upon our own freedoms. So, whenever anyone commits a crime, then there must be an understanding that we are morally responsible to hold the other to accountability. Justice maintains the structure that allows all of us to be "at peace" and seek our own interests within reason (reason being the consequences of not adhereing to law).

Terriorists are those who do not respect others in a just way. They seek to undermine our sense of security which is maintained by our laws. Therefore, it is imperative for us to hold these people to just laws and consequences that make them understand that the West will not allow disorder.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Theology, Science and the Disciplines

Science gifts us with "ordered" understandings, which our Founding Fathers understood during the Enlightenment. But, today's science challenges most of us in coming to terms with "order", as science reveals a "disordered structure", because of our limited capacity to understand all deminsions of reality. In past posts, I have written about how history has developed around different understandings of "truth". Today's understanding is no less of a challenge, as there have been many claims in how to reconcile science and religion.

While science has challenged the Church's understanding of itself, it is imperative in today's climate that the Church define itself in a universal, but grounded framework. The grounding has to be understood within all the discipline's scientific understandings, as otherwise, theology becomes disconnected to the "real" world of politics, psychology, philosophy, ethics, social sciences, history, and the natural sciences. But, theology must not be limited to one aspect of understanding "reality", as this would diminish the fullest understanding. The Quadralateral is a good place to direct the Academy's focus.

In the Classical "days", theology was the "queen of the sciences", where all the disciplines point back to "God" as understood as Creator. God was the epitome of understanding and wisdom. Science was useful as a means of knowing and understanding God. So, in today's Christian colleges, there is a call, a fervent call of challenge to discern the times and bring about a reformulation of theological give a reason to believe.

Moral Models, Faith and Values

There are many moral models that have impacted history in religion, education, society and politics. All of these models represent different values, but are useful for educational means and ends. Education within a religious tradition should not dissolve understanding of all moral models, as this would attempt to form students into one form. Tradition holds many understandings of faith and should affirm diversity. Moral training should be understood in larger terms than a "unified theological" text, as even Scripture attests to diverse views of one person, Christ. The person, themself, is the focus of educational goals, developing the person's own giftings and values, without limitation.

Equal Opportunity is Leadership's Responsibility

Pretty is something you're born with. But beautiful, that's an equal opportunity adjective.

Christology, Character and the Constitution

"The Word Became Flesh" is the celebration of Christmas. What does this mean that the Word became flesh?

It affirms humanity made in God's image. But, the question in Christian circles revolves around what does the "God/Man" mean?

"All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" is the cry of our Founding Fathers. We, Americans, celebrate this tradition on the 4th of July. It is our country's "Declaration of Independence". Our Constitution was written to protect us form tyranny and empower the disempowered by giving them a right to vote.

How do these two views come together? Opportunity, Empowerment, Responsibility, and Character.

Jesus did not support the purity laws of segregating himself from those who did not meet the standards of "tradition". The values that Jesus upheld were the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He gave life to those who were disempowered by disease, poverty, and prejuidice. He gave liberty to those who were captive to their own self-judgments and weaknesses and told them to "sin no more". He gave the opportunity for the pursuit of happiness to those who were despised, rejected and oppressed. And this was the liberty of the "gospel's message", that is represented in our government's values.

Each and every person is valued in God's sight, as there are not little ones among us. And because of our values, many come to our shores to attain those liberties to pursue their own lives at peace.

Our country values "ordered liberty", which upholds one's right to worship, work and play in the way that the individual deems "fit". No one determines our "way of life", other than maintaining the ordered structure. A dissenting viewpoint is still valued, as liberty is only maintained as we allow "freedom of speech" and "freedom of press".

So, America has been rooted in Christian values, but these values are intepreted as differently as the people who make up the country we love.

Why Do We Think Politics Changes?

Politics holds us to the reality that life in this world is built upon money, power, and position. Those of us who are priviledged to live in free societies are not as impacted by their leaders political positions. Or aren't we?

Politics, even in free societies, influence the future, because the decisions we make today have consequences. As Lord Acton said many years ago, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.". Do political leaders want accountability, or do they want to use legal language to dodge the responsibility they have for those who are dependent on their character, in honesty, forthrightness, transparency, loyalty, commitment, dedication, dependability, trustworthiness, etc.? Our freedoms are dependent on these qualities, because without them there will be a disregard of our interests for their own interests. This is the reason why the President on Inaugaration Day pledges to uphold the Constitution.

In our last election, we were promised change. But, we need to question what kind of change is necessary. The question facing our leadership is one of character. The Illonois governor is charged with unethical behavior and the Supreme Court has decided not to investigate charges that Obama's place of birth is in question. The Constitution is to be upheld by citizens born in the U.S. Our laws do not allow nepotism and political positioning. Just recently an Indiana county was charged with breaking these laws.

Why is it important that we support and uphold these laws? These laws protect us from a political "class", where everyone is doing "what comes naturally", which is primarily privileging themselves with favors, and paybacks. When this is the climate of our politics, then there is little representation, and a lot of "political class". And those on the "sidelines" pay the bill to support the "game"...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Need to Belong to the Human Race

Psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, and moral philosophers all understand man's need to belong Belonging means that "being" is affirmed. Our places of formation are within group frameworks of family, community and the larger culture. Whenever the child's "world" of family is broken, either through a physical divorce or a spiritual one, the child's identity is marginalized. Children in these kinds of environments grow up without a sense of "self". Their undeveloped selves are fertile ground for others to trample upon, either through overt abuse or self-limiting behavior. This sad state never leads to a productive life, where the child attains their dreams, goals or hopes (if they ever recognized them). Over and over these children play out in their lives the "victimization"that has defined their lives from the time of broken-ness.

I think whenever the child grows beyond this mind-set of victimization, then there is hope for change. But, first the child must recognize through their own self-reflection, or other's reflection and help that change is needed. Then the child/adult is ready to take ownership of thier own lives and not continue the patterns that have so long defined their behavior. This is maturation.

"Self" is not to be denied, in these instances, because "self" needs to grow and become. This becoming never becomes actualized without another loving the person's "being". Unconditional love and encouragement is necessary in these instances, so that the person can earn their goals and develop their character.

I find that fundamentalistic environments hinder, in fact annilhalate the development of self, because of the teaching of "depravity". When the "flesh" is considered "evil" or "bent innately upon itself", then there is a necessity to "train children out of "self" and into "other". While teaching children to consider others, it should not directly or indirectly disaffirm the child's sense of "self". Self is the child's identity and is the ground upon which the child develops their desires. Fundamentalists would not condone affirming desires, as desires are "bent on evil" and are "selfish". Even certain disciplines would be considered anti-Christian, which would limit the young person's areas of interests!

I find that all of life is to be affirmed, as all of life is a gift and potential gifting of God. So, I choose this Christmas season to not allow another to define my life (unless I choose for them to do so). I choose to not be the "victim" or the "second class citizen" in the culture of "god". Fundamentalism loves to define and confine lives for the "sake of god", and i choose that fundamentalism will not be allowed to maintain any control over my life any longer. It has had enough to say in and about my life so far. The rest of my life is going to be taken back from a fundamentalist's view. And I will become a part of the Human Race and become and enjoy being HUMAN!

A Contextualized Universalism; Faith Within Context

I have been raised in a country, which has traditionally been understood as Christian. Christian faith has been defined in many ways in our culture of diversity, as the United States was founded on the principle of the "freedom of religion". Not only has my own culture affirmed many types of faith within its borders, but postmodernity has also dissolved the understanding of a universal faith. Of course, fundamentalists/conservatives in many religous traiditons have understood their universalization in two ways; contextualizing the text by translation and/or converting others by proselytzing. I don't believe either of these ways affirms what should or ought to be true according to the "law of Christ", which is love.

The human being is made in God's image and has be gifted with reason and talents, which are innate. These gifts have to be trained and encouraged to develop, but always develop within a "context". Because man is bound within his religious/political/social context, man assumes that his reality of experience is "true". As men are educated about the larger or greater world, they learn that their way of understanding is only one among many.

Yesterday's post was about my grand-daughter's desire to become a princess. Her desire is an innate desire to become, which is a desire to develop and represents her desire to express transcendence! In Christian terms, the "incarnation" was the Christ child, God within flesh. The "sons of God' are those who develp and express their giftings. The human heart should be affirmed in its desires, and not oppressed or suppressed, as the fundamentalists do.

Fundameantlism absolutizes reason, text, tradition, and "self"! Their understanding is the absolute truth and is mainifested in their zeal to convert (at the point of sword/death). Their understanding is a culture of death to other "selves", the physical life of others, and the culture of others. Culture is neutral and should be a place of affirming worship of a transcendent BEING. There is no ONE culture that epitomizes "truth", but is only one form.

Cultural diversity should be affirmed, as long as it allows freedom of expression, without limiting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Culture expresses itself not only in the religious realm of worship, but also the political realm of interantional relations. Globalization has opened our experiential "eyes" to recognize the 'other's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These diverse ways of being in the world are all limited understandings of the 'Universal", but are a necessary part, just the same.

Diversity humbles all of us in understanding our limited "worlds" of reference and helps us to become more understanding of difference. This affirms the "way of love". Love is not defined except in affirming of the other. Of course, that does not mean that we will not question other about certain beliefs or ways of understanding, and hopefully, it will help to educate ourselves and others about the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The universal is worshipped in many forms, recognizing the human limitations to "truth" claims, which makes for humility and self-examination, which breeds a good cultural climate for dialogue and change. And this is the "way of love" and unity in diversity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Is Behavior Based on Reason, or Tradition? And Is Belief Based on Reason or Tradition?

I wrote a post a few days ago about belonging was the ideal for faith, as it affirm all people as made in God's image and affims a humanitarian view of religion. But, as my thinking has "matured" these past few days, I understand they way I categorized belief and behavior as only one way of understanding; where belief was based on tradition and behavior was based on reason.

This is true if one wants to believe that all belief systems are limited ways to understand "god" and therefore, all relgions are man's attempt to interpret "god". The history of traditions area would affirm this way of thinking.

But, can't belief also be based on reason? Reason is useful in any attempt within a particular tradition to understand "faith". This way of thinking would be affirmed by the philosophy of traditions approach.

Behavior can be viewed as cultural (tradition) or theological (reason). If one undestands the culture's tradition and the way that culture defines worship, then behavior reinforces the tradition's understanding of "truth". This way of thinking is understood by the psychology of religion approach...

So, whether one understands behavior or belief in a cultural or reasoned way, both are "ways of life", a "way of understanding" and a "cultural framework".

A Grandmother's View of Fairy Tales

The human "heart" has been formed in such a way that we can "dream". My grand-daughter, Hannah, is the tender age of 2 and has already "dreamed" of being a princess! We didn't have to tell her this, or expose her overly to 'fairy tales". She just "knew" she was meant for "big things".

When my daughter and I went home with the grandkids to visit family this past October, Hannah entertained my grandfather and mother with singing the song from "Sleeping Beauty" and dancing. She got us all to participate with her. Although these childish dreams and antics are so adorable, I cringe somewhere inside, when life doesn't "meet up" to her desires. Do you remember the first time you understood that you weren't the center of the earth, or that "dreams don't come true". Life is more tragic, than fairy tale-like.

In training Hannah, I don't look at her like I did my own children (as oftentimes, grandparents have learned some wisdom). Just as I wrote in my last blog about dog training, dogs must be trained, but that does not mean that I look at my grand-daughter with those eyes. In the past, with my own children, I saw them as "totally depraved", which is not dissimilar from an evolutionist's view of animalistic behavior. Because I believed in their total depravity, I did not "listen" well to them as individuals, for I knew before they made a request "what the real problem was", and it was their need to learn to obey! I wanted full authority over them, as this would teach them that I was the "law" and this is what I thought would make them prepared for the world! Little did I understand that a child's heart is crushed and diminished by such an attitude. It is a much healthier attitude to understand their need for guidance, not control.

So, in regards to those who are rearing children, take care to know your children. Listen to their bents and listen to their hearts. And who know, perhaps, fairy tales will come true for them! I truelyhope so!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dogs, Training, and Incarnation

Evolutionary biologists, psychologists, and moral philosophers all concur that humans are animals. Animal behavior, such as dogs, must be trained. Without training, dogs are not socialized and may have destructive behavior toward others.

I have been thinking about this, as we just got a new puppy this week-end. Top dog (alpha) behavior must be trained out of the animal, so that the human can control the environment according to ends that meet the humans needs and desires.

In organizational structures, unless "top dogs" have learned to curtail their behavior, then, there are disastarous consequences for the person, organization and others within the organization. Many of the religious traditions have a meditative "arm" that lends itself to self-examination. These meditative "ways' are called various things by the different religious traditions. These "ways" where the tendencies to "run over" others, or to lack self-reflection are recognized and re-directed, re-focused or limited.

On the other hand, those whose tendency is reticence, will find that these self-reflective "ways" will help them to recognize their own limitations and seek help. Dogs who haven't been socialized, as humans that have not had the proper training, also need socialization and someone who knows how to handle them so that resistance, attack or self-defeating behavior can subside.

I do not think that affirming evolutionary thinking in the disciplines is "wrong headed" unless one uses it as ultimate truth. Science does reduce man, but does not affirm man's giftedness, potentialities, etc. That is the re-direction that must happen when one takes evolutionary thinking seriously. In reductionistic thinking, materialist, or physicalist do not give leeway for man's difference from the animal kingdom. Behaviorists who treat man as an animal in "training" wil be implementing a form of legalistic uniformity that ultimately destroys the personability of the person.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Am I the ONLY One?Social Construction and Determinism

Am I the only one that doesn't like to be determined? controlled? manipulated? "predestined"? I like choice.

Some social constructionists like to believe that they can create another in an image they want formed. But, can they? How do they know how a person will respond, or react? Do they know what "patterns" are in the brain that may "kick in" and hinder the result they desire?

Some believe, as I do, that the early Church formulated their theology because of the meaning that Jesus' life gave to them. Does this mean that our theology is framed within our own paradigms of understanding in experience? Agnosticism and atheism would come about because the person experiences tragedies that are inexplicable, bring incongruence, and cognitive dissonance. Attempts to resolve these incongruencies resolve themselves in agnosticism or atheism.

Behavio (reason), Belief(tradition) or Belonging (experience)

Many have tried to define faith on belief systems, which has done nothing for bringing unity. Others have tried to define unity on practice, or behavior, but this attempt also does not affirm diversity. So, how are we to define and affirm a unity in diversity? Faith.

Faith is in belonging to the human race, which brings unity, while belonging to certain cultures, nationalities, cultures, or traditions, brings about the diverse ways in understanding one's faith. Faith can be in anything, but all of us have faith. Belonging is a matter of finding where we belong, where we agree about how we define our faith. Faith in our common humanity, which needs identification factors in norms of behavior (as defined by religion, culture, or community), will bring about the environment where we can engage in understanding our diverse understandings of faith.

Faith in reason, faith in tradition, or faith in experience will guide the discussion over what our faith means and how that meaning affects our behavior. Behavior cannot be limited to a certain definition, other than a respect and honoring of another's difference. Nor can faith be defined by a spcified understanding, as faith is about our understanding of life itself, which ultimately means we affirm ourselves and another's belonging to the human race.

Orthodoxy, Orthopraxy and Faith

I find that defining religion on theology or practice still becomes a hinderance to understanding faith. Faith, as I have said before is undefined, by belief, or practice, as far as objectively. Faith is personal commitment to value. Faith can be aligned in one's life ot a certain religion, but does not have to be. I hope that those who place all their hopes on definitions OR behavior will undstand that both are limited when it comes to judging for the outside, what comes from faith.

Why do I say that faith is not to be or can not be judged? Because, besides faith being a personal conviction and commitment, it's very expression is unique. Faith doesn' t necessarily conform to a tradition or another person's definition of faith. Faith just is. It is being itself and what I do with that being. Sometimes people are not practicing their faith, because they are dealing with issues that have hindered healthy faith. Distance to communities of faith or to orhtopraxy can be healthy, if they hide unhealthy dependency. Healthy faith is a free expression of choice. It must be voluntary, otherwise, faith is being defined by someone or something other than the individual who must possess it.

Science and Religion, a Dichotomy?

Science is a journey of exploration, while religion is defined and confined. Science is open ended, where religion is closed and contained. Science reveals "god", where religion defines god!

Is this true? It depends on what avenue of science one is talking about. The natural sciences not only reveal our understanding of the natural world, but does it or can it reveal anything about the "moral world"? If Kant is right that categories exist in our mind, then can it be "proven" by neurobiological investigation? But, is the mind the same as the brain? How we construct our realities are unique, in that we are individuals, who not only have unique experiences, but we understand those same experiences differently! How is that?

C.S.Lewis became a Christian because he believed that all men were created with a sense of justice. He wrote a book about this in "Mere Christianity".

Kant believed that we should act in a way that we would want to be universal. It was his way of understanding the "Golden Rule". How are we to act in a world that does not function on the "Golden Rule", but on the principles of business models? Can the "world' function on "trust", when the world has different understandings of what is right, or good? How are we to bring about a universal understanding of what is right without undermining diversity?

Science does not tell us what is right, but what is. How do we put "what is" in a framework of "what is right"? Is there a universal framework?

I think the danger of separating the two realms, is disconnnecting the "ethical" from the "real". What is real to a human being is their personal reality, which are created by many variables. The "Golden Rule" would mean that we affirm their "reality", which is not a universal. What about "mental illness"? How do we affirm that reality without helping them out of that reality? And who is to gauge what is "normal behavior"? Many eccentrics have been geniuses, as history revealed later, just as many moral or religious reformers had impact in history, but at the time were ostracized. How are we to gauge and make our judgments?

Religion does not like to explore the world, but define the world. I find that this limits man's creative spirit. Creativity can not be boxed, defined, or manipulated, but it must be expressed. Each person is a creative spirit that needs to be freed to experience life, and express their giftedness in their own unique way.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Views of Truth continued in Postmodernity

Last night I wrote about three different understandings of truth. Of course this does not exhaust the "theories" concerning truth. Some would not root truth in philosophical terms and ways, but would understand truth in the postmodern sense, as a way of life, in cultural terms. This understanding of truth is a linguistic approach, where words have meanings and is text and culturally bound.

But, last night I suggested three ways of understanding that I think follow historical development of philosophical stances toward truth. The first, correspondence was useful in understand the Middle Ages. The Church, the text and the people represented truth, as they corresponded to a transcentdent realm. This view is held in evangelical and consevative circles where Church and/or text, point back to God.

The second view of truth is the coherent view, which is a scientific understanding. The Modern Age where critical inquiry was useful in determining what was real according to scientific investigation. Evidence found in archeological science supported historical science. These disciplines brought a more comprehensive view of ancient history and culture, which undermined the Church's claims on truth. Just recently the James ossuary which supported the historical Jesus was viewed as fradulant. Other findings show that Christian faith is not spcecial revelation, but one of many attempts by man to understand the transcentdent. The Bible, as understood by conservatives is a text of coherency, but textual criticism shows that Scripture reveals diverse views, peoples, and languages. The text has no coherent meaning, which leaves the believer in the quandary of questions concerning faith.

Pragmatism is the postmodern view, where there is no universal, but only individual understandings. These understandings are cultural understandings and identification factors for the individual. Because of the diversity and fragmentation to universal truth claims, which is highly problematic for conservatives, there has been an attempt to build some understanding of universal truth. Some have fallen back on the text, and "replacement theory", where the Church replaces Israel, as the "covenant people of God". This view understands the Church as mandated to herald the "Kingdom of God" on earth. Questions arise in ethics, where it concerns diversity issues in a modern society. Others, in relying on the text, limit their understanding to the early Church as a way to understand truth. Not understanding fully the early Church's context, these believers try to create "communities of faith". This is the emergent movement. Others have fallen back on theological rendering of the Trinity.

All of these attempts to create a transcendental and universal realm are short-sighted. Whether one creates an "Old Testament People of God" implementing God's Kingdom upon others, like Islam; creating local communities of faith, as the early Church; or create identification factors, such as Trinitarian attempts, all have ethical problems in bringing about an understanding unity in diversity. Postmodernity has attempted to bring about a "new identity" through these means of creating a unified identity, because the Church has an identification crisis.

Where does the Church go from here, as pragmatism is a means to accomplish things on earth, while having no need for the transcendent. Is the transcdent necessary? Some believe, not, as just as long as needs are met in the present, then it doesn't matter about God, the afterlife, or the Church. What do you think? Do you think that the transcendent is necessary? Is the church and if so, what for?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Views of Truth

There are three ways of understanding "truth" or reality; correspondence, coherent and pragmatic. These understanding relate to the Quadralateral in different ways.'

Correspondence truth is truth in the transcendental realm where the real world should coincide with the spiritual. The different understandings of the transcentdent, then become problematic. The real world becomes defined upon texts, or tradition, unless one understands human representation. Plato would be a good representative of correspondence theory to truth.

Coherent truth is based on the "real world' of experience. Whenever cognitive dissonance happens people try to resolve the dissonance by philosophizing. Aristotle would be a good example of trying to bring coherence in life. This can be done in many ways, some choose to live with a Stoic attitude of resignation that life will not be coherent and this may bring them to a pragmatic view, where what is important is decided upon the priority of value.

The third view, Pragmatism believes that what works is the epitome of truth. Pragmatists understand their reality or real world in the material realm with utilitarian goals. The dissonance happens whenever believing pragmatists encounter ethical dilemmas. Is any means useful to justify the end? The answer again,will depend on the values affected and which has priority.

Three different ways of understanding "truth" in the real world. What defines your understanding to truth?

Worldviews, Science, and Roles

I have been thinking a lot in the last few years about my faith. What is the role and function of the Church, the State, and the individual. I had understood my faith to be about a separation between Church and State, as this left freedom for the individual's expression and commitment. I think this was what our Founding Fathers meant to do, so that there would be no conflict of interest when it concerns the realm of politics. This is a complentarity view.

From what I can gather, the complentarirty view sees science, and faith as distinct spheres. This view to be consistent would also view roles and functions as distinct. This view would lend itself to a two level view of leadership. The sacred realm is to be led by ministers, while the secular realm would be for "worldly" leaders. Likewise, in the home there would be distinct roles and functions for the male and female. The problem becomes one of hierarchy, importance, and prejuidice in understanding life in all its diversity. In the philosophical realm, this view holds faith and reason in two distinct areas of understanding. And purpose is found within the sacred realm where "god" determines what is to be done or one submits to what is understood to be "god's will". Science is a means to an end. This view would be more conservative in traditional terms.

On the other hand, a more liberal view would lend itself to a integrated view. Faith is not anti-thetical to reason, nor is faith anti-thetical to politics. Faith contains reason, as faith encompasses values that are reasoned from ethical commitments. Character is viewed as the epitome of truth claims. This is where the life lived is a commitment to values held. Purpose is made, not found by the individual. Life is lived under social contract understanding. And science is the way of understanding more about life. Science is an end itself. Reason is embraced as a means, but should not be the end.

Revelation in the former view is outside of the individual, in moral models, texts, relgious understandings, or groups, where the later would view revelation as the individual themself. The individual who holds to the former view does not necessarily hold a lower view or development of character, if, that is, the character has come to resolve the values of revelation as "other' and the trascendent as a separate realm. It is a matter of perception of reality, life, personal development, identification, value, and commitment.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Obama and His Cabinet

I was so pleased to hear several comments by president elect Obama. He spoke of having strong personalities on his team and open ended debate, with his decision concluding the discussion!!! I think this is good leadership. He has chosen to keep Gates on as Secretary of Defense to provide continuity during two ongoing wars. He is also going to appoint the U.N. ambassador to a Cabinet position, as Clinton did during his presidency. In my opinion, the things he has envisioned and spoken about are promising...

He is open to appoint people in position across party lines. He called for unity of national identity. He is open to others who are strongly opinionated about issues. I find this promising in that he doesn't feel threatened by those who have strong opinions, but at the same time, recognizes that ultimately, he will make the decision. To me, this means a strong sense of who he is and what he believes. He has the courage to take responsibility for the decision he will make, as he used "the buck stops here".

He and his cabinet have many challenges ahead of them. I wish that we (my husband and I) were closer to the top to feel a part of these changes. The auto-makers will again approach Congress about bailing out the auto industry. Many have already taken early retirement, but those who are under the age of 65 will find it hard to manage healthcare costs and will not be eligible for Medicare. Some may loose their pensions. This is definately an important history making time.

We need to applaud these ventures into new avenues of making a difference in the world at large. I find this heartening for our values of life and liberty. May we all be grateful for living in this great country and understand that we are much better off in many ways than other parts of the world. But, at the same time let us be understanding of what needs to be addressed by our country, as it concerns other countries. I think our president elect has a "world awareness" and will bring a new "hope" for all of us. At least, this is my hope.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Faith, Life, and Leadership

Yesterday, I wrote about faith and how people come to faith differently. In that blog entry, I said that people understand their faith differently, therefore, it is hard to distinguish what faith means to someone.

In another entry, a couple of days ago, I stated that the purpose of the Jews was to represent God to others. God's representatives are human beings that are not defined by ethnicity, cultural identifiers, or other outward forms, but a heart that represents character.

Character is not defined by any "commitment" of life, such as religious conviction, cultural identification, job commitment, or any other outward performance of "duty", but an attitude of heart and focus of life.

Christians have debated how one understood faith and works, but it doesn't matter what one does, or what one believes, but an attitude and motivation of life and heart. Leaders make plans for their ideas to be implemented, but that does not necessarily mean that another is obligated to perform the task, unless leaders have respected those who are to work under them. This is what character is about, social contract. And America's government allows the freedom of opportunity for social contract, as our country's laws have defined this as justice.

A social contract maintains equalitbility, and negotiation. In Jewish/Christian terms it is the covenant. But, how is the covenant to be understood? Some have argued that men have no choice, they must obey, or they believe that one will obey, as election has chosen. This is a deterministic view, while other Christians believe that men are called and can choose one way or another. Some in scientific/philosophical circles, argue that one is determined by social construction. This way of thinking is nothing other than belief in determinism through social structures.

I don't believe that men are determined by social structures ( unless leadership had so limited another), although social structures will impact one's life. Determination would limit the individual's developmental potentialities in opportunities, education, counselling, mentoring, etc. The academy's disciplines are the arena of development of potential. The religious realm is limited in scope, but can be the focus of what one does, but such is the case with any job. there is no separation between the sacred and the secular, in fact, there is no distinction between the two, as the world works on pragmatic goals of leadership.

It behooves all of us to take care what kind of leaders one follows.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Quadralateral and Faith

I have often used the Quadralateral in understanding or categorizing my thinking. Today, I was reflecting on my journey of faith and how it differed from my husband's, which led me to think abuot faith in general.

My husband came to Christian faith through understanding reason's limitation in religion and experiencing Christian commitment and character. I, on the other hand, came to faith through personal encounter with Christian character, and began to understand Christian understanding as a limited view through reason. We came to faith differently and now, understand faith differently (although, I may still be behind to my husband'ss development of faith).

I, then, started thinking that faith is understood differently depending on how we have been raised, understood and experienced our faith. Maybe this seems self-evident to most people, but to me it is a fascinating thought, that each person's faith is so uniquely defined. Of course, that does not negate certain universals of, say, a specified religious understanding, but nevertheless, faith is truely a unique and personal understanding.

Faith in these terms certainly will look different, depending on how one has understood what faith means. Personal faith comes to fruition in our lives through commitments, values and desires.

I think faith is a fascinating topic for understanding people.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Law's Intent

Ken Schenck has been writing on Romans lately. His last entry was on a "theology of Romans". If theology is understood in leadership terms, how does "that" look, according to Romans?

The Jews were to represent God to other nations. They exemplified what God was like, which illustrated his character. At least, this is the bilblical understanding. The Jews understood the "law" as that which perfected man, because the "law" represented "God". But, along comes Paul, who, as a Jew persecuted Christians stoning them because they did not "do" the requirements of the "law" (according to his understanding). Christians were following in Christ's footsteps in meeting the needs of others, and theologizing about Christ. Even though Paul was a Jew and educated as a leader (Greek) under Gamiel, he did not "do the works of the "law"", according to Paul's own self-judgment.

There are two ideas that run together concerning the understanding of the Law. One is a personal dimension of grace and mercy to others, which was understood and exemplified by Christ in his earthly life. The other side of the 'law is justice" where all were equally 'sold under sin" as Paul would term it. What does this mean?

Life is understood by the Christian as sacred because it is a gift, so all men are equal under the 'law's protection of justice". Social justice is what the law demands and human rights are to be protected and sought by all religions. This is the ethical demension to the law, which is not about morality, as defined by a text, culture, or moral model, so much as it is about treating others with respect and dignity.

Morality is about specific human behavior. One can be moral, but ethically perverse. That is, one can meet the legal demensions of the law requirements, without really giving equality under and by the law. Many times taking advantage of another is done by those who know better about the law's "ins and outs". The law can give a check to our human nature, in helping us to understand and question ourselves and motivations and at the same time protect the rights of those who aren't 'in the know". Whenever there is a flagrant disregard of the law, because of arrogance, self-satisfaction, self-indulgence, or selfishness there is also a payment that must be made by someone.

Just today it was reported that a Wal-Mart employee was trampled to death because shoppers trampled him underfoot in the name of a bargain. People were seeking after their own interests at the expense of this Wal-Mart employee. Did they intend to trample him? I'm sure not . All they had in mind was their own agenda, to get that bargain before another got it. Paul would say that these shoppers who had the "law" in its allowing freedom to shop, were not "doing the law" because they were focused on something other than self reflective moderation of life. The Gentiles did not have the law, and yet were obeying its requirements. In an honor/shame culture, this would either humble or infuriate the Jewish believer by accentuating their heart.

I think Paul was using the legal language of the Jew, who boasted in its "civility" to cause a humbling attitude toward those who did not have that civilizing law. It does behoove the American to understand what this might mean to us as a culture of indulgence. I do not believe nor think that sacrifice is the "gospel", but I do think that a self-reflective look at what America is about is needed. We are a great nation. But, do we boast in our greatness, and disregard another? Is our attempt at diplomacy only in "word" and not in deed? In seeking freedom for individuals, which is the 'ideal" how much do we question our pursuit of "ends" that justify means that are only self-interested goals for advancement? We became great becasue we believed in a government for and by the people, with representatives that showed a concern for the common good.

Paul's Romans is a good dose of medicine for us all, but especially in light of America's goal-oriented, market-driven, money-making, business-protective environment.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Leadership and Representation

Fortunately, the presidential campaign is over. It was a bloody battle that divided our country.

Politics has come to be known as a competitive, dog-eat-dog world of survival of the fittest. The fittest being those who have great rhetorical skills, can make friends with the right people to gain support and momentum for their agenda and choose the right campaign managers, so that their campaigns are productive, as well as lucrative. Politics, which was supposed be the realm of the practical representation of "real people", has become the world of selfishness, greed and dishonesty. And this is good leadership?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Albert Einstein on Research

"If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn't be called research." A. Einstein.

Politics, Tradition, Reason and Thankfulness for Faith

The political realm is the "real world", the world in which we do our jobs, love our families, share our concerns, live our lives and understand our faith. Faith is whatever defines our lives.

Human beings must understand their faith as secular, political and/or transcendental. Each aspect of faith is understood within a frame of what is important. Tradition develops how the transcendental realm understands faith for it is about "God". Reason develops the realm of the secular as sacred, as all of life is understood as a blessing, while experience understands our faith within the political realm of relationship. Each part, reason, experience and tradition is important in developing a full understanding of one's faith. Tradition has history, reason has a philosophy and experience has the political realm; all involve the person's understanding of themselves in thier situatedness.

A full grown faith is not understood as dependent on any certain way of understanding for each person understands their place in this world in a different way. Faith is about being itself, for no one understands all about life, God or relationships with others. We live our lives in the best understanding we have at the time and trust that life is good and blessed because we have it.

Conservative Evangelicals Call for Concern

I just read a friend's forwarded e-mail about a concern over the UN's passage of "Defamation of Religions" resolution. It is driven by th 57 Islamic states to protect themselves from "persecution" of practicing their religion. It calls for tolerance.

Of course, evangelical Christians are concerned because their faith is the "right one" and those who risk their lives by converting Muslims are in danger of death, as well as the converted. The question remains, can we be tolerant to intolerance? Certainly international law would promote tolerance in general, but it should protect the human rights of the individual and not give Islam the right to kill in the name of their religion (god). It is outrageous that the West cannot take a stand against intolerance such as this. It combines law and religion over conscience and demands obedience under fear of death. This type of culture is a culture of death indeed, for it leaves no room for creativity or difference and it impedes the full development and flourishing of man. Human rights have no "rights" within Islam's tight frame of identity.

There is much discussion concerning what it means to be a human being. Islam doesn't care about what it means to be a human being because their view of God is more important than man and being a human being.

The Church, The State, Progressives and Conservatives

The Church has been understood as a universal community, at least by the apostle Paul. Perhaps a better terminology is the household of God, as Ken Schenck uses in Quadralateral Thoughts.

But, how is this universality understood today? Conservatives of course point to Scriptures, while the Progressives point to science. Conservatives believe that God made one humanity in Christ, while progressives believe that we are one humanity.

Conservatives do things for the glory of God, while progressive do things for the "common good", the betterment of mankind. Conservatives tend to understand their identity in specified and special terms. Progressives understand this tendency as group identification. Group identification distinctifies one group from another, as this was what has transpired throughout the course of history with any kind of group; religious, political, cultural, etc. Humans love to create an identity by maintaining their distinct boundary markers. But, progressives question whether some boundary markers are healthy to maintain.

The question of mental health and "the common good" is the question of one's reason for boundary markers. What is a healthy boundary marker? Both conservative and progressives would agree that a good boundary marker would be the personal convictions, or commitments of a person, or the laws that define a nation's culture. Laws define what is deviant. While deviancy is an important value to uphold in a civilized society, what defines unhealthy reasons for boundary maintainence?

When one describes an individual commitment or conviction, or a nation's laws, both conservative and progressives agree that these should be respected. But, religious identifiers or boundary markers are harder to rally full agreement. Religion defines itself upon the "rules of faith", but progressives question the "rules" as being "right" in describing faith, as faith is a personal commitment to value. Religion, on the other hand, has many ways of maintaining its group identity.

Religion bases its claims of identification of beliefs, a divine figure, a culture, group "rules". Religion delights in coformity and thinks of itself in conservative circles, as exclusivist. Relgion colors one's perception and perspective and breeds prejuidice, and the prejuidice is reinforced by sacred texts, or sacred persons. Progressives are more open to define religion in objectified terms.

With many distinctions between the conservative and progressive, there has been an attempt to unify both through "purpose" or "teleos". In Chrisiian circles, this attempt has been based on "the Kingdom of God" and the "common good". The public square meets the Church on the Church's "terminology' , while using the Church's gifts for "the common good" of humanity. There is nothing wrong with this unity of purpose, as long as all individuals that are affected are informed of the specific requirements upon their life. If a "purpose" is useful for the "common good" (pragmatism), especially if it is underwritten in the conservative's mind, by "God", then the State can bring about its plans in a peaceful and unified way.

True progressives, though, would question the wisdom of combining Church and State in this way, as it brings about an intrusion of government into private lives. Privacy is a value in American culture for it repects the individual. But, both conservative and progressive moralists bring "the rule of law" upon others in the "name of God" (reconstruction, restoration, or social gospel), to teach others about God's rule. I question how this is anything other than Shai ria Law, or Constiantine's Empire...

Although I am not clear as to how I view Church and State, I question the ways in which moralists understand themselves as a "superior" breed of humanity. Whether one rules as the Taliban, or "legislating the Pentateuch", both do not breed tolerance for difference, or an openness to intepretation of that law. Laws define a nation's values, and America was founded on freedom of religion and a separation of Church and State. This separation was not to be a "wall", as a Founding Father claimed, but was to maintain the boundary of public/private, so that individuals could come to their own convictions, values, and faith, which is found within the culture's social structures of family, church and comminity. Objectifying morals transgresses the universal ethic of "doing unto others", "the categorical imperative", even when the moralists is convinced of their "rightness" of conviction. The battle of morality should be for the conservative in love from a pure heart, while the progressive should use reason to explore morality's reasonableness in scienctific discovery and philosophical discussion.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Culture and Chrstian Faith

In First Things today, it was asserted that Christian faith cannot live without culture. This is true, but the question is, what kind of culture, if there is one, or is there a diversity of culture.

Culture represents the values we hold most dearly and those values are the things that we will live and die for. I think that question needs to be asked and answered, "is Christian faith about belief, belonging, or behavior"? Is there a "Christian culture"? And is Christian faith an exclusivist faith or it is just a reflection of culture itself?

I think that tradition is part of culture, which also adheres to religon and religon's "values". Muslims adhere to a strict culture that is defined by their law, which impacts their culture, in dress, and behavior. On the other hand, the West for the most part, has freedom of conviction and conscience in form of worship, which leads to diversity within culture. Is Christian faith about conformity to the Law, as in Muslim culture, or is Christian faith about diversity and freedom of expression?

The Laws that we hold to are the laws that define our identity as they are things that protect our values. Values cannot be uniform, unless one wants to limit a liberal society. A liberal society is based on reason and not "revelational texts", like theocracys are. I think that whenever a government is defined by "god", we have problems, because it lends itself to justify predjuidice and exclusivity, which undermines universal ethical decision-making. Humans, not "god" are the creators of governments, and the humans who lead the government are responsible as to the type of government that exists and how it governs. Therefore, good government is most important and good governement is only as good as it is limited.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Circumcision, Christianity, and Common Sense

I was told tonight by a scholar of "Lost Christianities" that Christian faith was rooted in Muslim faith and that someone from this time period would have felt more comfortable in a Mosque than a Western Church and that some of the practices, such as how they pray were much closer to Christian roots. While I understand that Jewish, Islamic and Christian roots are rooted in the Hebrew text, I do not adhere to this tradition's understanding of ethics...

In "Infidel", a Somalian woman talks about how she is circumcised and sewn up to prevent premarital intercourse. She has no pleasure within her marital sexual experience as she is torn and scared by the procedure! She cannot go outside without a male accompanying her. She recites all of her geneology for generations back, as this is her identity and tribal culture.

Phillip Jenkins, a religious studies professor, as well as historian of 20th century America, etc. from PennState, spoke on his new book, "Lost Christianities". His approach was solely a religious one and I was curious as he did not talk about colonialism or politics in general. Religious studies, of course, does not necessarily cover other subjects, but I find it very limiting and narrow to view a tradition even within its own history without expanding that udnerstanding beyond the tradition. Traditions do create a "world", but a limited one....

Christianity is rooted in Judiasm and was a peasant movement. In understanding group identity and how these identities form, Christianity became a separate identity under the writers of Pauls letters and was furthered through the testimony of the scribes who wrote the Gospels. It was an attempt to create a special identity within a God framework, as Judiasm had in the past. Those who have been discriminated, the "outsider", are those who are likely to create their own story, rather than identify with those who persecute or oppose them. Was this what Dr. Jenkins purposes happened to these people under the persecution of Constantine and the Crusades? The empire persecutes the underdogs and the underdogs create a way to survive under persecution. It is an interesting thought/theory. I don't know enough about the history and have not read Dr. Jenkins book.

I do know that Hirshi Ayraan Ali is an atheist because of her abuse. Her identity is not found within a God framework, but a political one. I don't find that this is wrong, as we all desire to survive in the best environment possible, which is one that is free of oppression, whether it be religious, or political. Common sense tells us that we choose freedom for our own self-interest, as well as the interests of others! What better framework than our American identity?

Being Human, as an ART

I read an a blog entry on "Christian art" today. The argument that I think is more palatable when it comes to art, is that any art is a representation of the human who "made it", just as the natural world testifies to God. The meaning is there and by it's very proximity to the human being, it is sacred, as it is communication.

In the Reformation, early Reformers destroyed many works of art, thinking that they were being obedient to the commandment to have no images of God. However, all images are representative, so, it is not reasonable to say that we must do away with images. And since man is made in God's image, we cannot destroy man, can we?

The argument in Christian circles centers around cultural values and virtue. All of us would agree that pornography is not appropriate for anyone. However, there are variations in our abilities to tolerate certain art forms. Some Christians have forbidden dance, as sexually titilating or T.V. as "worldly". All of these convictions are based on a false fear of the "world" and a hyper vigilence to not be associated with the things of the world. The things of the world are not "sinful" in and of themselves, it is what we do with those things, and what those things do to us. Virtue is not just about what we don't do, but what we do do. Are we tolerant towards those who have differences of opinion, Do we allow them freedom to worship as they deem fit? Is there a proper form of worship? And how do we determine these things? Scripture, when scirpture was written before certain "modern inventions"? Church authority, when Church authority are falliable human beings? or science?

Modern psychology has proven that certain art forms have an effect on people. Is this wrong, and is it understood as "sin"? If so, why? Where are the "lines" of a tolerant attitude to those who differ? Of do we only define virtue as conformity to a certain way of life?

Certainly, society's best interest, as well as the individual's good is in view when discussion is made about these issues. And as I mentioned earlier, pornography would certainly not be beneficial to either society or the individual. But, what about nude art forms? Is the body seen as beautiful as a form, or is the body seen as evil and suggestive in and of itself? I find it hard to argue from reason that the body is evil in and of itself.

Back in 1990, when my husband was attending a conference in southern Germany, the spouses were touring all of the churches in the area. There was a particular Jewish lady that asked me a question that I will never forget. She asked why the Church would spend all the money on the extravagence to embellish the churches, when there were people starving. I told her that if someone has the gift of painting as Rafael, or Micheangelo, should they be stewards of their gift in worshipping God through it, or should they feed the poor? She agreed that it would be a terrible loss to culture if they had inhibited their gift for what she had understood to be virtuous.

Virtue is seen in many forms and should not be limited by religious understandings, but is most understood and experienced in our government's unity in diversity.

A Critique of Spirituality

I have yet to meet or know a "spiritual person" that I want to emulate. But, there are many who do not claim to a superior spirituality that I would like to emulate.

"Spiritual people" always have to keep their appearances up. Who knows who might think they were "unspiritual"? Spiritual people have to perform things they don't like or care (really) about doing, because, well, they are "supposed" to be spiritual. Spiritual people like for you to know Scripture and verse to support their understanding of spirituality. Spiritual people are more than human; they are "like God". Spiritual people like to be followed, as they are exempliers of the faith sent down from the saints. Spiritual people like to make distinctions, so they can preen over their spirituality. Spiritual people always have an agenda for you and your life, for they think that they are to take Paul's admonition to Timothy as theirs, be "imitators of me". Spiritual people don't like to show their faults, questions, doubts, struggles, or failures, as that would be admitting their human-ness, which is unspiritual. Spiritual people are focused on their spirituality, first and foremost and the more radical their spiritualty, the more committed they gauge themselves. Spritual people like to set "standards" for others to follow which are curious to other humans. But, spiritual people believe that these 'boundary marker' make them "set apart", so that others know that they are believers.

I find that whenever someone has character, (which is a "common virtue" in man, although certain attributes must be developed), humans are naturally attracted. Take my husband, for instance. He can be critical, this is true, as he is a perfectionist. But, he tempers his perfection, with gentleness and meekness. My husband is kind and forbearing and tender. I love to see him play with our grandkids. It reminds me of when our kids were young. His eyes twinkle with delight, as he tickles them or plays "ride a little horsey". He is direct, but he can be direct with humor and grace. He can compromise, though he is firm when he thinks that I am trying to "play him for a fool". He loves me, and this I know, for his life tells me so!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Truth and Values

I came upon an article that discussed the interface of truth claims based on history and value claims based on personal conviction. The article sounded as if there was no interface, but two distinct realms, vying for affirmation. One starts with history's historical analysis and lays a foundation of True or False. The other lays claims to relativity of personal choice, conviction, and commitment. Which is true?

Is there really to be a separation in the two realms of "truth"? I don't think so. The Academy believes, and rightfully so, that the disciplines are the way to truth. This is the objective realm.

But, what about personal truth? These truth claims are also true, as this truth becomes a personal value system,. The individual develops within certain frameworks and his/her identity is formed by those "truths" of experience. While these personal identification factors are important, as they are tradition's values held within "culture", the academic understanding of "truth" is more important for humanity's sake, or the greater good.

The greater good is the public's good, which is the arena of political discourse, which should involve diversity of opinion. Opinions should be open to change, where evidence shows that it is better to "see" things another way. Change is hard for traditional understandings that maintain personal values. But, if these traditions are challenged along lines of objectivity or rationale, then there should be an openness to discussion and a tolerance for change, while at the same time, allowing others the right to choose another path. Cooperation with/in change can only be brought about with full disclosure to everyone involved, otherwise, there will always be "outsiders and insiders", which troubles the waters of change and hinders growth of understanding and acceptance.

In America's climate of diversity and tolerance, we do not have tradition tightly defined around cultural norms or values, as we value freedom of individual conscience. While conscience is formed within the frameworks of traditional social structures, America's government has protected civil rights at the expense of traditional values. Therein lies our cultural conflict, but, also our greatness. Because we value the individual conscience, even while the traditional social structures have undergone great stress and change, we, Americans are open to be educated. Education was what our Bill of Rights is about in allowing the Freedom of the Press, the Freedom of Assembly, the Freedom of Speech, ETC. We are a free nation, which should value civil discourse, which should include religious freedom and expression as well!

I think that American ideals are the great future for the Globe!

The Jesus Seminar Meets the Atheist's Inquiry

I was glad to see that the Center for Inquiry Transnational was hosting the Jesus Seminar and Jesus Project for a conference (of types)....

The inter-disciplinary approach to religious claims is an important discussion topic in today's religiously impacted culture. What one believes becomes an identification factor and identification factors, while not "wrong" in and of themselves, can lead to horrendous inhumane crimes. A culture of cruelty is cultivated in climates of identification, whether they are ethnic, religious or political. Religious identification can be extremely dangerous as God sanctioned prejuidice and is above reason's reasonableness! We cannot live in a globalized culture without addressing the "claims of truth", especially exclusivistic understandings.

I applaud these religious scholars and their hosts, the scientists. There must be an addressing of how humans come to understand themselves within their cultural, national and religious boundaries before a real unification of diversity can transpire. How important an issue is it? All of our future depends on it!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Scripture, Theology and Ethics

Christian faith has been defined by theological reflection uponScripture. Although theologians use Scripture as a guide or framework to develop their theology, theologians differ in what themes they use in Scripture to develop their theology. While some theologians develop their theology grounded in the historical realities of their time or situatededness, all theologians seek to explain God. While this has been a commendable excercise in past times, today's cultural climate challenges theology's connection to reality.

Today's cultural climates has stretched all areas of expertise because of globalization. We are no longer islands of culture separated by miles of distance, but are interacting on a large scale through economic exchange and global networking through the internet. This cultural climate is a unification of all cultures' in many areas, but it challenges how we go about allowing diversity of cultural expression.

Radical Muslims do not adhere to a tolerant attitude or behavior when it comes to difference. A lack of tolerance challenges all of us globally, if we do not learn to get along in our differences. I believe Han Kung has attempted to bring unity through a Global Ethic. I think this is a commenable goal.

While I agree that a Global ethic is necessary to affirm to bring unity, our diversity is no less important to affirm. How do we affirm difference, and yet, remained unified? Is this the challenge of civil discourse? Exclusivist claims to truth in culture is a danger in our climate of globalization. Therefore, it behooves all of us to develop our convictions and reasons for those convictions, while we engage others who differ with graciousness, openness, and tolerance.

I believe that the ideal of unity in diversity is also the American ideal. And I couldn't be happier, than to see democracy extend around the world!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ethics, Values and (Christian) Faith

I have been thinking about several things that have impressed me the past few days.
One was the attitude of two totally different people towards those who were questioning their convictions and commitments.

I wrote about Mike Huckabee's response to an atheist in this blog not long ago. I was impressed with how he responded with respect, instead of reacting in defensiveness or hostility. I also was impressed with Bart Ehrman's response to an interview and his moderate and deferiential attitude toward the interviewer. Two very different people, but similar in their attitudes. It has something to do with character, values, and civil discourse.

The civility toward those who were different in values, conviction and commitment was something to respect and desire to emulate. Some Christians believe that unless you hold to uniformity of commitment, you are not fully commited, may not love God, Etc. Etc. These types of believers think that their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, behavior and way of life is the eptiome of truth and should be the standard for all believers. Their example is to followed and this, they think, is "making disciples". I find this attitude the height of arrogance, as no one should decide or determine another's way of life, as to the values, commitments and convictions. True love does not seek to uphold one's own life, but seeks to understand the difference of the other person and how that difference can best be developed, or challenged. The individual is known and loved in the process. Otherwise, it is only an assembly line, where the individual is fine-tuned to mimic the "group's tune" without thought or reason. This is not leadership, but cultish behavior.

Virtues are epitomized in a human life when character has developed. Character is still based on virtues that are exemplified by the values that are most important, which may look different depending of how the value manifests itself. These values are individual specific and should not be defined by anyone else. The question for Christian faith is; is Christian faith about culture, such as dress, behavior, food, music, etc. or is Christian faith about ethics, which is about how we hold to those convictions and values before others. Obviously, those that think Christianity is mostly about cultural issues will be more apt to have difficulties understanding those who hold to a more inward understanding of God's Kingdom. Interestingly, enough, I saw two diverse kinds of believers that exemplified the Kingdom within; Bart Ehrman, an agnostic is a Biblical scholar, while Mike Huckabee is a conservative Baptist minister turned political pundit. While both have different types of jobs, lifestyles, and values, both showed a tolerance of difference and a graciousness that is hard to miss. And both of them did not, nor would not demand that their way of understanding how to live a virtuous life was a universal one!