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.