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Jun. 6th, 2010

hate everything

Sad.

I really don't have a lot to say.  It was probably very stupid of me to spend like an hour reading fml.  Not that I was in a good mood before that.  I'm not a very responsible person and it's coming back to bite me all the time.  Not cool.  And I'm stupid.  And Troy is miserable which doesn't exactly help MY mood any.

Life sucks.

Apr. 14th, 2010

galaxy

Reflections on Monty Python's Galaxy Song

(In case you're not familiar with the song, it can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buqtdpuZxvk The video does get rather NSFW around 1:40, so it might be wise to let the audio play and navigate to a different window and/or tab at that point.  When Eric Idle starts to sing again, you're good to go back.)

(Also, I've been listening to the Stuff Christians Like audiobook a lot today, so if I sound like I'm ripping off of Jon Acuff, I'm not meaning to, it's just that his style is addictive and it gets all muddled around in my head.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, anyway, so if you read this, Jon, I hope you see that it's because I think you're awesome, not cause I'm a thief.)

The basic message of the Galaxy Song is that we are ridiculously insignificant, so our problems don't matter.  Or, as the last lines assert, the universe is pretty amazing, which is good, cause it kind of sucks here on earth.  But - call me crazy - I see a connection to Job in this song.

Yep.  Like the book of the Bible.  Job.  Right before Psalms, if you care to look it up.  It's 40-odd chapters long, so maybe you want to grab the cliffnotes version to brush up if you're a little rusty, though.  Anyway, the reader's digest version of the reader's digest version is that Job is suffering and searching desperately for some kind of answer to his predicament.  His friends can't really provide it to him, but in the end, God shows up and gives him an answer that is laced in creation theology even though it doesn't seem to have much to do with Job's situation.  And I think that actually has something in common with the Galaxy Song.  This IS an amazing and astounding universe, and Job gets a laundry list of things about the universe that are amazing and astounding, but he never gets an explanation for his suffering.  The Galaxy Song gives much the same answer, with one crucial difference: God is not present.

I don't want to explore why God is not in the Galaxy Song, nor do I mean to spend the rest of this post bemoaning the usurpation of God by scientists or secularists or any other ists whom Christians feel so threatened by.  What  Iwas really struck by is that even Monty Python turns (albeit jokingly) to creation imagery when talking about human suffering (or at least human frustration, anger, feelings of futility - you get the idea.)  Do we have no other category to use when we talk about such things?  What is it that leads us to the vast and mysterious and uncontrollable of the universe when we are dissatisfied with our lives?  

I'm going to guess that it must be God, because that's where he led Job.  Not that Job and his "miserable comforters" hadn't thought of it already.  I mean, they all bring up creation imagery (or un-creation imagery, if you want to explore that aspect of Job's speeches, which is fun to do if you're a nerd like me) in their dialogues.  But God takes it further.  He doesn't just dip a toe in the water, he sends a hurricane of chaotic creation rushing to Job's waiting ears.  I don't think it's exactly what Job had in mind when he brought up creation or demanded God to come and defend himself.  But it's what he got.

Weirdly, I think in this way the Galaxy Song gets it more than Job did.  I know, that seems somehow blasphemous, but stick with me here.  God comes in and lays before Job all the vastness, the incomprehensibility of the universe.  The Galaxy Song comes in and lays before Mrs. Brown all the vastness, the incomprehensibility of the universe.  It even has someone (Eric Idle) show up out of nowhere (well, out of the refrigerator) and act as Mrs. Brown's guide as he walks her through the mysterious wonders of our universe.  Almost like God shows up and guides Job through the mysterious wonders of our universe.  It's like we all - even the minds behind the crude brilliance of Monty Python - are deawn to the parts of creation we simply do not understand when faced with the unjustness of life. 

That isn't to say that Monty Python is the best way to understand things when life sucks, because Job gets something right that Eric Idle and co neglected to mention: God.  You've got to involve him in your search for answers, because otherwise all you're left with is the universe, cold and unresponsive and uncaring, and a futile prayer (to whom?) that there's intelligent life out there somewhere, "cause there's bugger all down here on earth."  When you put God in the equation, at least there is something - someone - behind that vast, impersonal universe.  We still have chaos and mystery and a lot that we just don't understand, but behind it all we can find the Creator God, and we have his word to us, and we can trust him.  And that part is super important.  It's just that sometimes it's hard to get there if you don't go through the Galaxy Song and see the terror of the chaos first hand.  Even in jest. 
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Mar. 22nd, 2010

pretty

Mostly about my boy and stuff.

Because I don't much want to dwell in Job any longer - at least, not for the next few minutes.

So, as I've been working on this paper, I've been watching various movies that I know and love very well: Anne of Green Gables (the sequel, as sadly I don't have the first one on DVD), Singin' in the Rain, Hello Dolly (ok I don't know that one AS well but I do love it, in great part thanks to Wall-E) - next on the list is Pride and Prejudice, though I haven't discovered yet whether I'm going to finish it or whether I'll make it to bed tonight. I watch these movies when I'm working on papers because they're movies I don't have to watch, since  I know them so well.  They just run pleasantly on in the background and I can turn my attention to them when something comes on I particularly love.

And I talked to Troy today (surprise, surprise, I talk to him every day.  Can't fall asleep if I haven't heard from my boy!) - he will likely be disappointed in me for taking the time to write this instead of finishing my homework but I can't help it, my brain is spinning and I just HAVE to get this out of my system, and perhaps when he reads it he won't be so mad.  Well, anyway, he's absolutely right.  I am lazy and for whatever reason I procrastinate the dickens out of everything because well I don't want to, and it's a horrible quality to have and something I really should work on, and I AM, I promise, in fact I even started my Job paper early even though apparently it didn't help because here I am... well anyway, I don't deserve someone as patient with me as he is, and in all honesty I feel like such a sham sometimes because I wonder if I'll ever be the kind of woman he really does deserve.

But that's not the point.  My brain does things when I've been dwelling in one subject for such a long time.  And by "things" I mean it wanders something dreadful.  No wonder I have so much trouble finishing things before the zero hour.

ANYWAY.  The point is, all those movies, and all those favorite stories that have thrilled my dreamer's heart for such a long time, they still hold my heart and my dreams.  I still thrill to the core at them.  And I'm so lucky because now the parts I only dreamt of are happening in my life, and it's because of Troy, and it's ways I never thought they would.  Because, you know, I fought him for such a long time, and I was so silly about it, but then, how could I not?  No matter that I always told myself that I would not be so foolish as to NOT know my dearest love when I met him.  No matter that I always thought that Anne was a fool to resist Gilbert for so long, that Elizabeth ridiculous for persisting in her hatred of Darcy, that Margaret was just plain blind not to see what a catch Mr. Thornton was.  And here I was just as blind as any of them.  And how could I not be?  How could my story go any differently?  I suppose it wouldn't have been half as exciting as it was if I'd just been smart about it.  But watching those stories just makes me even happier now, because they are not tainted with that bittersweet sting of longing for the same in my own life.  I have it, and I can't let it get away from me.  Because I have my Gilbert, my Darcy, my Thornton... well I suppose he oughtn't to be a Romeo or I'll never get my happy ending, but yannow.

Senseless ramblings.  I know.  But I love my boy and I feel bad for not being the kind of girl he deserves.  So I'm going to go back to my paper now that my head is cleared of all this rubble that was rumbling around in it and I can perhaps stomach Job for one more night.  And tomorrow I'm going to stop by Wal-Mart on my way home, and I'm calling the dealership.  And maybe I'll even make it to get plates, though that might be a little bit ambitious since I have to get to the post office, too.

Yep.  Because (and this is a movie I don't love as well as you might think I should): Tomorra, is another day!
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Dec. 1st, 2009

nano

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!

NaNo Winner Banner!

Yes, that's right, boys and girls, for the 5th year in a row, I've won NaNoWriMo! This victory was rather sweeter than most, because I really thought I wasn't going to make it this year. It was a difficult November for a number of reasons, and there were more 0 word days on my word count graph than ever before. I had reached 41,000, and figured that was the best I could expect.

But I had a couple of hours this evening which, while I probably should have spent sleeping, I spent noveling - and I won! It was really exhilarating to cross the finish line so close to the deadline - and though my story isn't finished, in that last push I found out how to defeat the bad guy, developed an unexpected romance and introduced a new character! So it was totally worth it. I can't wait to finish my novel - this one's a good 'un.
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Oct. 6th, 2009

cross

For a Sunrise

This has been cross-posted to my website.  Read it there!
"I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." - C. S. Lewis
Most early-morning commuters hate the sunrise.  Low on the horizon and blindingly bright, the sun makes it hard to see the road in one direction or another no matter how you're facing.  The beauty of the sunrise is lost in frustrated squinting and ineffective attempts to block enough light to see clearly.  And for the most part, on those occasions when I have found myself driving home from Ault early in the morning to make it to work on time, I have been among those who wish the sun wasn't quite so bright when it first comes up.

But this morning, for some reason, I couldn't be annoyed. Instead, Lewis's words above kept popping into my head, and I began to think about the sunrise very differently.  Now, I know that most Protestants are obligated to pretend they love C. S. Lewis even if they don't (Don't believe me?  See what Jon Acuff has to say about it...) but I'm not pretending.  His love for God and his love for literature, stories, and language both resonate with me strongly, and I absolutely love reading every little thing he's written.  He chooses every word with precision and care, and he can say more in one sentence than many people can say with an entire book.  The way he says what he says is often as impressive to me as what he says itself.  I don't think very many people can honestly say they appreciate him to the fullest - including me.  But I had an insight into just how beautifully crafted this particular sentence is as I drove home this morning.

The sunrise, you see, has long been a symbol of the resurrection of Christ.  Indeed, as Father Anthony explained the last time I was in his church, whenever it is possible, an Eastern Orthodox church is built so that the congregation faces the east.  This is not, as is the case with the Muslims, in order to face some holy place on the other side of the world, but in order to face the sunrise.  The sunrise is creation's daily testimony to the glorious fact that Jesus is risen.

Do you begin to see what Lewis was doing?  His vision is so steeped in Christ that he sees everything else, even down to the metaphor he uses to describe his vision, through a lens of Christianity.  Just as the sun rasies from the darkness of night to send it away and illuminate our daily lives, so the Son is risen from the darkness of death to defeat it forever and illuminate our daily lives.  And every single morning, all of creation points toward this most miraculous of truths as the sun reappears in the sky.

I'm not trying to suggest that you have never heard this quote before, or that you have never heard this metaphor before.  But if you're like me, you never put the two together, and you certainly never applied it to what happens every single morning, as it happened.  I suggest changing that.  If you wake before the sunrise, take a moment out of your normal routine to reflect.  If you don't, try it one day.  There's something indefinable about that short time between dawn and day, when the sun is just beginning its journey, that can give a great peace if you let it.  Take a look as the new day dawns.  Appreciate the beauty you see before you.  Watch the sun rise, and think about C. S. Lewis, about Father Anthony, and about the very first Easter, and proclaim along with all of creation,
Jesus Christ is risen indeed!  Alleluia and amen!
-Jaya-

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Aug. 23rd, 2009

awesome

How to be just as computer savvy as I am.

'Hey Megan, it's your father. How do I print out a flowchart?'

Courtesy of xkcd.

Consider it a PSA.

That is all.

-Jaya-

Aug. 21st, 2009

Jane

When to Hold Tight

(This has been cross-posted to my website.  Read it there!)

I'm going to say something now that might rock your world, but hang on. You see, I want to tell you that Christians don't know everything.

I know! Astonishing! There are things that, when we are being very honest with ourselves, completely flabbergast us. Like, for example, what happens to the “noble savage” (I know it's not PC, but I think it sounds so cool, and I've never been too scared of the PC police) – the one who lives his life according to what little revelation he has of God from nature and his “primitive” religion, but never hears the Gospel. Does he go to hell? Does God know that he would have accepted Jesus, too, had he heard the right message? Does he go to purgatory?

We don't know. But there are other, less serious questions which also baffle us, if we're being totally honest with ourselves, like whether or not God wants Christians to have awesome sex. Does God want Christians to have good sex? There's a large section of Christianity which believes that God absolutely wants us to have awesome, wonderful, amazing sex provided it's within the bounds of a marriage, because it's a good gift and as long as we use it in the way he intended it for us, we'll be fine. There are other Christians, apparently, who seem to think that asking the mere question is scandalous, to say the least. Like they somehow think that God gets all awkward and uncomfortable too, whenever we bring up sex, because it's not like he really meant for it to be so darn fun, and now it's turned into this big deal, and gah, the worst part of his evenings are always when all the married couples go off and have great, passionate, wonderful, non-sinful sex because he can't exactly get mad at them for doing what they're supposed to do, but darn it, they're just having too much fun... Because, you know, God is just as freaked out by sex as we are. How droll.

It's funny, because I used to be there. I used to be very fundamental. I mean, I still believe that the Bible is the most reliable source of knowledge about God we have, and that everything we experience in life should be tested against what the Bible says to make absolutely sure that it is, in fact, from God. I believe that there are some people who will go to hell, though I won't presume to say which ones. See, it's little things like that which make me not a fundamentalist. Because I will stand up and say with conviction that homosexual behavior is sinful and not to be tolerated, let alone encouraged, in a church community – but we are called to love those who struggle with homosexual desires and not treat it as though it's any worse of a sin when they slip up than when we slip up in struggling with our own sins. It's the unrepentant part that's the problem in this picture, not so much the homosexuality part. That's a sin, but so is lying, stealing, cheating on your wife, looking at porn, valuing money over God, and a whole host of other things that the rest of us struggle with, so it's not like being gay makes you a worse person than I am. You just struggle with a different sin than I do. At least you're struggling, and you haven't just given in, because that's where the problem lies.

But the extremest of the extreme refuse to hold any conviction lightly. Do I believe in dispensationalism? Not really, but I don't think you're going to hell if you do. Actually, Systematic Theology III had a whole unit on eschatology and what people think about the end times, and I still don't know what I believe about it, but I also don't think that it matters very much. And, to be quite honest, I think that the people who are such strong dispensationalists, or amillennialists, or whateverelseists, are completely missing the point of the passages they use to back up their views. The point is not whether Jesus is going to reign in a figurative millennium or a literal one, whether there's going to be a rapture (personally I don't think there will – it's always seemed kind of weird to assume that God's going to pull out all the loyal people and then let the bad ones go fight it out among themselves like some kind of global cage match for our amusement, because he doesn't strike me as that kind of God, but I digress). The point is that God loves us more than we could ever hope to comprehend, and we were really screwed up but he came into our screwed up world and died and rose again, not for his own amusement but because he wanted to fix it for us. He wants us to be with him, because we are his creation and he loves us. At that point, the little details of how the last couple events in the big time-line are going to go down really seems superfluous. Definitely not worth arguing over.

So I really struggle with people who post things on the web that fill the stereotypes of the fundamentalist Christian who is so narrow-minded and judgmental that Jesus himself would be cringing. Or, you know, calling them Pharisees and perhaps even a brood of vipers, because Jesus wasn't really the sort to just sit back and let people like that destroy others.

Take, for example, alittleleaven. Now, I do not know this man personally, so I don't want to say anything about him as a person. For all I know, he could be the sweetest, most loving person in his whole state. But that's definitely not how he comes off in the videos he has posted questioning the theology of people like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.  (By the way, I love how he compares Warren to a member of the Evil Empire on that video.  Because, didn't you know, the Emperor preached that God wants us to do what we were created to do, too!)

Now, I have my quibbles with Osteen and Warren. Osteen does seem to slip into the prosperity gospel too often for me to be wholly comfortable with him, and Warren the same to a lesser extent. I haven't finished reading Purpose-Driven Life yet (my first copy was *ahem* borrowed and never returned, and the second I got at a thrift store for about a dollar and just haven't spent the time with it) but from what I read, it did seem to flirt with prosperity gospel now and again. However, little as I know about Osteen, Warren has always seemed to be a pretty orthodox kind of guy. Not entirely perfect – none of us can truthfully claim that – but his heart is in the right place and he has some good things to say about Christianity. I would like to say the same of Osteen, but I don't know enough to say for sure, so I'll hold off.

But this "alittleleaven" person was ripping into them, completely unfairly, expecting them to live up to an incredibly narrow and limited view of what Christianity is. This kind of thing has bothered me for quite some time, so I'm going to address it here. I would like to remind us that salvation is not only about forgiving sin.

Yes, I'll give you a moment to let you recover from the shock.

Are we good? Have I thoroughly rattled your cage yet? Excellent. Now, let me explain. Salvation is definitely partly about forgiving sin. It might even be mostly about forgiving sin, though I don't know that I'd say so. But it is very certainly not only about forgiving sin. It is about restoring us – and all of creation with us – to a right relationship with God. His creation is meant for his presence. Not just on the obvious side, the “well the whole creation would cease to exist if God stopped supporting it for a split second” side, although that is also true. In the garden, before the fall, back when things were the way they were meant to be, all of creation was in constant fellowship with God. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. He talked with them. He provided for them. He was there. Salvation is about restoring the world to that, and maybe even something a little bit better. Thinking that salvation is forgiveness of sins alone is such a narrow view of what is really going on. Of course God wants to forgive your sins. But that is not the goal. He forgives your sins in order to have a relationship with you. It's not like you're forgiven and then you go on your merry way. You want to approach God, your sin makes that impossible, and so he clears away that huge, lumbering obstacle and now you can approach him, you can have a relationship with him, and it's redeemed. And all of creation is redeemed, too. We're not saved for harps and white robes and fluffy clouds and halos. We're saved for a party with God on the new earth that he's redeemed. Revelation describes it as a wedding feast.

Have you ever been to a wedding feast? I'm right at that time of my life where approximately everyone I know is getting married. I have been to at least one wedding per summer (two, this summer) for the past several years. I've been to quite a few wedding feasts. And they are not boring, solemn, stuffy events. There's great food, and laughter, and dancing, and silly traditions, and cake, and lots of joy and celebration centered around people that everyone present genuinely loves. (Even the most awkward wedding I have ever gone to, in which I knew neither the bride or the groom but was invited because my boyfriend did, was still awesome, and by the end of it I really did love Ben and Dana and was genuinely rejoicing for them. And since then I've gotten to know them a little bit better and I still love them. Weddings are just a great place for genuine love to happen, and not just the romantic sort.)

And you know what? To do all of that dancing (yes! Dancing! It's not a sin!) we need bodies. This is one of the most exciting things I have learned in seminary. I get a body when I die. And it's going to be a redeemed body, so while it'll be kind of like the body I have now in that it'll still be uniquely Brittany, it's not going to have all the PCOS and the overweight problems and the brokenness that this one has. Do you have any idea how much I'm looking forward to feasting with God and all his people, and getting to drink all the tea I want, eat all the delicious bread I want, all the ice cream I want, all the Snickers bars I want – and all the while enjoy a chat with C. S. Lewis, Jane Austen and Paul (the top three on my Christian Heroes I Want to Eat Dinner With list), about how awesome our host is, how much we love Jesus, and whatever else we want? That, my friends, would be heaven. Doesn't that sound amazing?

Now. Which version of salvation do you like better: forgiveness of sins, or the Party of Awesomeness With God and Friends that I just described? I sure hope it's the second one, because that's the one we get. It's not that forgiveness of sins isn't part of that. It's just that there's SO much more to it, and I hate it when people focus so much on one tiny detail that they miss the big picture of God and the huge, amazing, mind-bogglingly cool thing he's doing.

Certainly, you can pull texts out of the Bible which say that God forgives our sins, and we were all horrible sinners who deserved death and eternal damnation and Jesus saved us from all that. But you're missing half the picture when you do that, and it's the prettiest half! This is why prooftexting is such an awful thing. Because then you really are doing the blind man thing, and thinking that because you've held the elephant's tail, the elephant must be a rope. Only you're really worse, because you're just willfully squeezing your eyes shut, and if you'd just open them up you'd see that the rope is a very tiny part of a very big elephant, and you're missing out on some of its cooler features, like its awesomely long nose, or its big fan-like ears.

So, can I please, please, please ask my dear brothers and sisters in Christ to stop holding on to every little detail with such an iron grip? There are things about God that we don't know. That's okay. He's God – we don't have to know everything about him, like he knows everything about us. There are things we can hold loosely. If God did not create the world in six literal days and if perhaps he used some kind of evolution to get some of his work done, it will not be the end of Christianity. He's God – I think he can use whatever he wants to. Focus on holding tightly to the more important truths: God is love, he loves us so much that he gave his life so that we could be with him forever, and he will never ever stop being as awesome as he is right now and has always been. The rest of it doesn't matter one billionth as much as that. As long as we have that one truth, the rest of it we can hold lightly in our grasp and know that we're just trying to make sense of what we think we understand, and we don't have all the answers. But God does, and that is enough.

-Jaya-

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Aug. 8th, 2009

Jane

"Just" strikes again!

Friends, I just want to ask you, today, to just look at this blog post, friends, and just read what he has to say, friends, because it's just really good, friends, and I just think you'd all really enjoy it.  So, my friends, just click on this link, friends, and just enjoy it!
http://stufffchristianslike.blogspot.com/2008/03/96-using-gods-favorite-word.html

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Aug. 6th, 2009

Jane

Yeah, but, no...

This article has been cross-posted to my website.  Read it there!

Lately I have been painfully aware of well-meaning Christians who genuinely believe that we still live in a Christian nation, and/or that we were founded by Christians or under Christian principles. This breaks my heart, for I wish it were true... but it is not. Let me give you an example.

Today, I received this email from a dear friend at Fuller:
The White House is under fire for a blog post asking supporters to send "fishy" information received through rumors, chain e-mails and casual conversations to a White House e-mail address, flag@whitehouse.gov. "

(Retrieved August 5, 2009 from: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/08/05/white-house-draws-requesting-fishy-information-supporters-health-reform/)

White house officials qualify this effort by asserting that they are attempting to gain insight on public opinion regarding President Obama's proposed Health Care Initiative, but I am sure they would appreciate additional information. So, for those of you who care to turn me in, I believe:

That the government bailout plan, the cash-for-clunkers plan and the healthcare initiative are well-meaning but ill-concieved plans that will achieve short-term goals but will fail horrendously in the long run;

That citizens of the United States have the right to keep and bear arms;

That our men and women in uniform have a duty perform at home and overseas, that they deserve our full support, and should persevere until the job is done;

That life, from the moment of conception is sacred;

That freedom of speech is sancrosanct and should not be employed or manipulated to compile an "Enemies List" so that patriotic Americans can be censured or censored;

That the United States of America was founded with a clear commitment to the principles established in the Bible...One Nation, under God...not Brahma, not some "Ultimate Reality", not the God of Islam but the Triune God consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...and those foundational principles should be maintained. We do live, in contrast to the Commander in Chief's assertion, in a Christian Nation;

But then, Jesus himself said, "On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will repel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stand firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 19:18-22, NIV)

Now, while I could write on for pages and pages as have done the other intelligent Americans in this country about how this sounds WAY more like 1984 and Big Brother than I could have imagined for a man who has held his office for a mere seven months and change, but I think that has been articulated very well by others. (Although, may I point you in this direction? Here I found a quote I really liked: "If anything, this kind of reaction to dissent is going to make the dissenters even angrier than they already are. The United States was founded by just the sort of people that President Obama and his Congressional allies disdain, gun toting, tax resisting red necks who didn't flinch when the King's men came marching up the lane to put down a group of patriots that they thought of as a 'mob' as well.")

But, like I said, that's not my point.  My point is the last two paragraphs of the email I was sent (and let me stress that I enjoyed it to that point).  To reiterate:

That the United States of America was founded with a clear commitment to the principles established in the Bible...One Nation, under God...not Brahma, not some "Ultimate Reality", not the God of Islam but the Triune God consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit...and those foundational principles should be maintained. We do live, in contrast to the Commander in Chief's assertion, in a Christian Nation;

But then, Jesus himself said, "On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will repel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stand firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 19:18-22, NIV)

How I wish it was so!  But, as they say, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.  Wishful thinking will not get us anywhere.  We are not a Christian nation.  We are a nation which is so fortunate as to enjoy the presence of many, many Christians, who have had a formative impact on the development of our country.  But those men we affectionately refer to as "Founding Fathers" were mostly deists, tainted by the enlightenment disdain for anything that smacks of the supernatural and denying that ultimate truth is to be found in Jesus Christ or in the Bible (which, by the way, is not the only, or even the greatest, manifestation of God's word - that honor goes to the former: Jesus).  The truth is, while we have liked to think of ourselves as a Christian nation, there are many, many people who are not Christian, whether or not they hold to any other faith, and the truth is, we have to deal with that.  The truth is, we know that Christianity is True, but we aren't going to convince the rest of the nation of that overnight.  The truth is, the Triune God was rejected by at least some of the founding fathers, if not all of them. 

We need to quit living like we're a Christian nation with some bad leadership.  We need to start living like we're Christians who are fortunate enough to live in a nation that guarantees that we are free from the most severe persecution and free to worship with other Christians in the manner we see fit.

Now, I do not advocate for the fictitious separation of church and state.  The Constitution only insists that there be no state religion; it does not say that the state must approach the church as though it were poisionous for its very existence.  I think that anyone who calls himself a Christian and does not allow his Christianity to influence every single aspect of his life - politics especially - is a hypocrite.

But if we are going to be effective in our work under the Great Commission, we need to quit thinking that we're a Christian nation that has gone astray.  The USA is not the new nation of Israel.  It's not the nation that God has singled out to be his new people and there aren't going to be any prophets sent from God to the USA calling his people back to a right relationship with him.  God's people are the Christians (and whether or not his people are also still the Israelites is an issue I am not going to address here).  If he chooses to send prophets - and prophetesses! - to the Christians to call them back to a right relationship with him, which I think he does, all the better.  But he sends them to Christians, not to the USA.  God's people are no longer confined to a political or geographical boundary, but are found throughout the world, and that means that you don't have to be an American to be a Christian - nor do you have to be a Christian to be an American.  I am not saying whether this is right or wrong.  I am saying that's the way it is, and we need to learn to deal with reality, and quit living in a little American=Christian bubble.  It's irresponsible and harmful to the spreading of the gospel and living truly Christlike lives.

Because, you see, we can call out other Christians when they are not following Christ in love.  They have, so to speak, signed up for living a Christian lifestyle, and when they fail to do so we have a responsibility to call them out (lovingly) and guide them back to the path they have chosen to walk.  But how can we force those who have not signed up for Christianity to follow the rules of Christianity?  May I remind you of 1 Corinthians 5:12-13? "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside."  Please, read 1 Corinthains 5-6.  We are supposed to judge those inside the church, to arbitrate differences and to keep each other in line - lovingly, as always.  We are supposed to let God judge those outside the church.  

This is going to require a radical change in the way we Christians live our lives.  We cannot assume that we live in a Christian nation.  We must live as though the people we meet are in need of the Gospel, not as though they already have it.  And if we want to demonstrate the good that Christianity can do for our nation, we need to show the good that it does in our lives, in the lives of our churches, and in the relationships we have with non-Christians.  Only then can we begin to say that Christian values ought to inform what the nation does - when we have proved that they are good values, worth following, when we can point to our churches and our lives and our relationships and say, "That's why Christianity is so wonderful, so worth having, and that's why we should incorporate its principles back into our government."

There is more to be said about this, but I think I've rambled long enough for now.  Hopefully this has given you some food for thought, and I welcome any comments you might have on what I've said.

Blessings to you all!

-Jaya-

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Jul. 1st, 2009

Book love

WCMI

Check out this awesome cake!  And, perhaps it wasn't intentional, but even the blogger recognized that it's tailor-built for the Hatter and his bride!

http://weddingcakedesigns.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/topsy-turvy-wedding-cake/

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