Tag Archives: Argument

What’s The Real Goal?

I just read a post about how (supposedly) Christians are killing Christianity. The post largely claimed that it is due to the hypocrisy of many people who claim the Christian title, but do not live Christian lives. The ultimate problem with the article is that it suggested that Christianity has been, at various times, a respected belief system and moral philosophy, and is no longer. It went on to suggest things Christians can do in order to make Christianity a respected belief system again. I do not disagree with the claim that many Christians do not live according to Christian teachings, and this is part of the problem. The problem I have with the article is actually that its writer is missing an important point. Jesus never said that, as His followers, we would be respected. In fact, He said we should expect to be discredited, mocked, and persecuted for our belief.

I do, however, agree with much of what the writer of the article suggested. His suggestions were as follows:

1: “Stop focusing on your position in life, and concern yourself with Christ’s position in your life.”

I would absolutely agree with this point, and I have had to relearn it many times. However, I have never thought of it in terms of making Christianity, or the Church more respected. The point is to make sure Jesus Christ is respected, and respect for His Church will follow.

2: “Realize that Christ is distinct from any other cultural influence or person.”

He goes on to explain that Christ, and therefore Christian philosophy, is outside of any cultural influence, whether that be popular media, politics, local, or the life of one’s particular church/parish. I’m not entirely sure I agree. Jesus inserted Himself into a particular culture in a particular place and time. He promised before His ascension that He would always be with us. That means that He is always involved in our culture in our place and time. He is not attached to it, and He is not influenced by it, but He is aware of it, and He does use it because He is directly involved in each of our lives. Furthermore, it’s a simple fact that there are distinct aspects of our culture that are in line with Christian philosophy, and distinct aspects that are opposed to it. I would agree that Christ is distinct from all of it in that He, and by extension, we can use all of these aspects to complete His work.

3: “Do not try to fit Christ into your culture. Make Christ your culture.”

Christians have literally never done this. It is impossible. This implies that it is possible to live entirely outside of one’s culture. What is most important is to make Christ the center of one’s life, and to structure everything else around that center. For example, Christian poets have used pagan imagery (like the phoenix) to express Christ’s beauty and greatness. Furthermore, Jesus Himself did not live outside of His culture. It was His mission to be a part of the lives of sinners in order to redeem them. That meant doing the things that “normal” people do. As Christ’s witnesses, it is our job to bring Jesus into our culture to transform it; it is not our job to take ourselves out of it.

4: “Stop looking at how “church” can better other people’s lives and look at how your life does not line up in obedience to Christ and repent.  Scripture is not a window you use to look out at other people and judge them, Scripture is a mirror showing us how God wants to transform us into the image of his Son.”

I’m not sure how much I need to expand on this because I think it really says all it needs to. I think I would just add that, particularly from a Catholic standpoint, we simply don’t spend enough time studying Scripture or actually listening rather than talking when we pray. I would also say that it’s important to keep in mind that your pastor or priest really isn’t the ultimate authority, and it’s important to know the Scriptures, but it’s also important to know Church history and tradition.

5: “We need to model our lives after Christ, not the cultural expectations of other influences.”

I would also agree with this, but it’s easier said than done. It inherently means we will be seen as strange because Jesus was seen as strange in His own place and time. It does often mean going against popular opinion. It means forgiving the unforgivable. It means giving and expecting nothing in return. It means praying for those who have offended you. It means making and staying friends with people you vehemently disagree with. It means being patient with frustrating people. It means praying for people who don’t deserve even that. People see that and are often perplexed because they have never experienced God’s mercy. This is how we live it. It doesn’t mean we’ll be perfect at it, but we have to try.

6: I am paraphrasing here, but his final point was that we need to make sure that we are following the true Christ, and not a skewed version of Him.

Jesus makes plain who He is in the Gospels, but also through the witness of the prophets, the various writers of the Old Testament, the Apostles, the Saints throughout history, and His faithful followers today. By “faithful” I here mean those who are committed to an authentic relationship with Him as their Friend, Savior, Lord, and God. To sustain this relationship we must read Scripture, we must pray, and again, as I am writing as a Catholic, we must take part in the sacraments that He has given to us.

As I said, I mostly agree with what the original writer said. The flaw, however, is that he is putting forth these points in order to make Christianity a respected mode of living. It doesn’t matter if our faith is respected. It likely never will be. As I have mentioned many times before, there are parts in the world where it puts one’s life in jeopardy to be Christian. In many cases in our own country we face, at best, rolling eyes, and at worst, scorn and ridicule, and occasionally, violence. Our purpose is not to make our way of living appear respectable. The Church is God’s Church no matter what, and though its members are flawed, the Church itself is holy because Christ the Head is holy. Our only goal is to help people come to know God’s love for them personally, and to work on ourselves to become the holy people God wants us to be so we can, with His help, make it home to Heaven.

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I Stayed

I recently read a blog post by someone who used to be Catholic and is no more. She said that many aspects of Catholicism were a hindrance to her faith. She learned many things about the Catholic Church through sermons and other things, and never enough about Jesus. This post is in defense of Catholicism. I’m writing this because there was a time when I was in the same boat. I was very close to leaving the Catholic Church for almost the same reason. Ultimately, I did the exact opposite. I jumped right in, and this is why.

Initially, I stayed for convenience. I went to CCD (Sunday School) and grew up in a Catholic Church just a mile from my house. It’s extremely easy to walk or drive to, and it’s right next to the elementary school I attended. Many of my friends went there, and my dad actually taught our CCD class when we were really young. Sometimes, because three of the kids, including myself, lived in the same neighborhood, we would have class at my house. Later, I kept going to CCD and I kept going to Mass because A) my parents made me, and B) because it had become a habit by then. At the time, as far as I can remember, I really didn’t get much, if anything out of it, at least not consciously. The truth of the matter, which I didn’t realize at the time, is that, when it comes to faith, particularly Catholic faith, you have to put in effort to get anything real out of it. I think that’s true of any relationship.

What didn’t matter until some time later is that most of my extended Family is at least culturally Catholic. Many of them don’t practice, but the particulars of Catholicism matter to the ones who do, and that made me hesitant to leave once faith actually started to matter to me. I thought about leaving because, at the time, I was attending a Christian college, and Jesus seemed so much more alive there than at my church. Even during class, people would talk about their personal experiences of God’s love, and I wanted that. During worship services, fellow students would play contemporary worship music, instead of the boring hymns we sang on the weekends. At the time, that mattered. The music at school moved me. The music at church did not.

Two things Christians of other denominations often take issue with are the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. confession to a priest), and the matter of transubstantiation (whether or not, and if so, how Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist). I intentionally went to confession for the first time during Lent this year. The first time I went, I was six or seven. This was before I took my first communion. The second time was about ten years later when I was confirmed. The third time was when I was acting as my brother’s Confirmation sponsor, three years after that. I didn’t want to. I went several months ago because there was something on my mind, and even though I had talked about it with God, and asked for forgiveness, it still bothered me. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the priesthood and the hierarchy as a whole, is directly descended from the first priests (the twelve Apostles) not by blood, obviously, but by appointment. Jesus gave them the right to act in his name on this Earth–to teach and to forgive sins. They do not act as God. They act for him. It’s an important distinction. When Jesus sends his disciples to do his work, he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” So clearly, they have the right to do this, but it’s important to remember that it’s really God who forgives.

I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like my sins were not forgiven. I went because I wanted to talk to someone. Talking directly to God often feels easier than talking to a person about the darkest parts of my soul. At the same time, I just needed to get it out, and I needed to hear from an external source that I was okay. I don’t like going to confession, but I go now because I can look at someone who is acting in God’s name and hear, quite conclusively, that I am, in fact, forgiven. I need that reassurance. Furthermore, going to confession does two important things: it forces me to really examine myself from an emotional and spiritual standpoint, and it cuts through my pride because it forces me to admit things I really don’t want to. Ultimately, it forces me to try a lot harder to be a better person because I don’t want to have to talk about it again. Pride stops me from doing things that I otherwise would or could. It stops me from doing things that I really want to for God because they’re uncool or weird or what have you. I’m working on this, and I’m getting better. I admit my sins to my priest because I really am sorry. It’s hard to admit that I’m not perfect. God already knows I’m not, so I think it actually matters more in a way that I’m willing to admit it to another person.

To me, the Catholic faith is actually very practical. Personally, I need this. The fact of the matter is that I’m much more willing than a lot of people to believe what sound like ridiculous things. At times I even find myself thinking, “God, that’s completely ridiculous.” It’s ridiculous to believe that Jesus could “magically” bring people back to life or heal people who had been disabled for most of their lives. It’s even more ridiculous to believe that he came back to life after dying. What’s the most ridiculous of all is that a perfect, all-powerful God loves a weird, scatter-brained, broken, sinful kid (i.e. me). He’s shown me practically, and supernaturally that he loves me to an unfathomable extent. It actually doesn’t make sense. This love is one of the reasons I need to really hear “Your sins are forgiven.”

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, as I grow in my faith, I need practical things. For example, communion was nothing more to me than a habit for a long time. Now I need it. I can’t live without it. I didn’t feel like this until I started to actually feel a strong connection with Jesus. It wasn’t the Eucharist that got this going. It was a completely supernatural experience, and it’s been a long, complicated journey. I can honestly say that I love Jesus, and I need the Eucharist because it’s the one thing through which I can actually see and touch him. Obviously it’s not him in all his glory. Sometimes when I get even a sense of his true nature I get an impulse to hide. I definitely know what it means to fear God. Humans require physical connection and intimacy. God, who is love, makes himself actually, physically present during communion so that we can have that connection with him. I’ve heard that some people take issue with this because of the idea that it’s a sacrifice. This sacrifice is meant to be seen as a perpetual commitment. Jesus perpetually offers himself to his Father, and allows us to also make that commitment, perhaps in a similar way that when a couple is married, they are making a perpetual commitment to each other. His suffering and death  was literally once and for all. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of love.

Sometimes the Mass itself is boring. I get that. It’s very methodical, whereas I imagine the “process” in other churches is less spelled out. I could be wrong. I’ve mostly only ever gone to Catholic churches, with a few exceptions. When I was at school, I thought about exploring other options, but now I don’t just believe, I somehow know that Jesus is there during communion. Sometimes I’m just not totally “with it” during most of the Mass. Sometimes the sermon just doesn’t do anything for me. For just a few minutes, however, I know that the most important thing in the world is happening. It really is amazing to me, and at the same time, it seems so simple.

Sometimes I find that I’m baffled by God. He’s complicated, and sometimes I find myself thinking that he’s so human. That’s actually backwards. God made humans in his image, so actually, we’re like him. I don’t think it’s wrong to equate humanity with goodness. To be human–to be as we really should be–is to be like God: to love, to forgive, to be helpful, to be together, and to be happy. Jesus says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you.” (John 6:56). He means this literally. He offers himself to us in this way so that we can not only be like him, but so that we can be with him.

I learned these things partly because I stayed, but now I stay because of what I know. I also want to say that not all Catholic churches are alike. Perhaps the church my fellow blogger attended was too hung up on details and really did forget about why they were there in the first place. God loved us first, and he wants us to love him back, both individually, and as a community. If we forget about love at church, then we’re missing the point. Honestly, I hear so much more about God’s love these days because I’m actually paying attention. The truth is that it’s everywhere. It’s kind of overwhelming, and yeah, some of it is found in the “details.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Declaration Of Love

I wish I could convince the world that God exists. I wish I could convince my readers. I wish I could convince my friends. I’m not a fighter. It’s not in me to argue. It’s not even in me to talk about God very much when a stranger brings it up in small talk. I avoid topics that might bring us there. I have to be very comfortable with you to be able to talk about God. Truthfully, this is, in part, because I don’t want to be judged. However, it is more and more so because I don’t want people to be annoyed or scared and avoid the topic or even avoid me completely. There’s a principle in writing that dictates you should try to show, not tell, when trying to illustrate or explain an event, situation, inner thoughts, etc. I think I translate that principle into everyday life. Maybe it’s not helpful for people to hear that God exists or that he loves them because they’ve heard it a thousand times and still don’t believe it for whatever reason. I just want to show you.

I’ve been given a plethora of resources that could help me argue the case. I can’t bring myself to read any of it because I already know God exists. I already know he loves me. There have been rare occasions on which I’ve had to argue the case because someone threw the first stone. If I had read more, I probably could have put up a better fight, but like I said, I’m not a fighter. Jesus wasn’t a fighter either. He let people know when they were doing something very wrong, but he never started a fight. He’s braver than I am. My philosophy has always been “live and let live.” Lately I’ve started using a new strategy. I’ve been more vocal and opinionated about things that influence, or are influenced by my faith, but I do not, and will not argue the case for God’s existence unless someone intentionally starts an argument with me or asks me about it.

Furthermore, the “show don’t tell” principle makes more sense to me when I consider the fact that Christians are supposed to be the body of Christ. Truthfully, I think that includes his voice. It’s hard to know exactly what he would say to specific people in specific situations, but a good place to start is to ask, “Is this a loving thing to say?” The fact of the matter is, I’m a pacifist, simply by nature. I’ll admit that sometimes even love hurts. I personally just can’t go there, but if it’s necessary to go there, one should remember that it is only loving if it truly helps the other person. I don’t go there because it is very difficult to know whether a loving but still hurtful thing will actually help.

Many Christians make the mistake of thinking too much about the afterlife. We can’t truly know what comes next. There are so many interpretations of the same idea that it’s almost impossible. We do know, however, that we were made for this world; this life. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here. I want my peeps to know God in and for this life. I became a much happier and much more peaceful person after becoming Christian. I’m not sure how well they understand that or see it. It happened gradually, and even I didn’t see it for a long time. I had a tough time in public school, and it took me several years to be able to forgive people. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea of loving my “enemies.”

It’s in human nature to get angry and to hate, and I fall prey to it sometimes. I find myself hating “the haters” in this world, despite my best efforts not to. Really, though, it’s not productive. It just creates walls that are very difficult to break down. Jesus showed us what it is and what it takes to forgive. Forgiving the ones who hurt us allows them to see who God is and what he does. Forgiving does not mean allowing bad situations to persist. It means moving on. It means starting over. Sometimes that means breaking ties, and sometimes that means making bonds stronger. Forgiving and moving on allows people to become better. It fosters greater empathy and strengthens the love they already have for others.

Furthermore, knowing God’s love and forgiveness allows us to love and forgive ourselves as well as others. For some that is difficult. God loves us no matter what. Despite everything we do, say, think, or feel, if we try to follow God’s requirements for spiritual, moral life, he will always forgive us. We are finite, so we cannot always wrap our minds around absolutes. God will always forgive us. He loves us no matter what. Can we do that when it comes to our relationships with others? God is love, and for him, it’s probably automatic. For us, it often takes effort–sometimes a lot, but it is a necessity for a real, successful, strong friendship or any other relationship. It’s a scary notion considering that we cannot know the future, but if we did not adhere to it, we would be forever alone.

I’m a writer, but it’s hard to say in words what actions can show. I can’t just tell you that God loves you, and without explaining some things, I can’t simply show you. It’s hard to find that balance. To this day I’ve never convinced anyone, at least to my knowledge, but I also don’t think God created anyone simply to convince people of his existence. The fact of the matter is, you have to be willing to believe before you will find any evidence that he exists, at least from my experience. God creates people with a purpose in mind. Sometimes that purpose is specific and vague at the same time. I think he created me to write, but it isn’t always clear what he wants me to write and why he wants me to write it.

I’ve heard stories about friends of friends, etc, who knew exactly what they were going to do from the day they were born. I get the sense this is not common. We don’t have to know what the heck we’re doing to serve God. We just have to do whatever we do with a purpose. We have to write intentionally. We have to love intentionally. We have to create intentionally. God just wants us to make his world better. Maybe that just means writing interesting stories for the world’s enjoyment. Maybe it means doing missionary work. Maybe it means running a business and being super nice to customers. As I said, it’s not always easy to tell.

I started this post by saying that I’m not a fighter. There are militant atheists out there who feel it is their duty to convince the world that believing in God is simply willful ignorance. There are people out there from various religions who would kill me for what I believe. I try not to fight at all costs, but I do believe it’s my duty to defend those who can’t defend themselves. I defend my friends, and that includes Jesus. I don’t need to defend his existence or the fact that he is God, but I will always defend his honor. The same goes for any of my friends. We defend each other. It’s what friends do. That being said, I will end that fight as quickly as I can, even if it means letting the other person think they’ve won. In fact, I think that’s a good policy in general. If an argument cannot otherwise end peacefully, end it quickly, and let the “enemy” think they’ve won. Your own pride should never be a factor in an important argument.

Hatred and war are self-perpetuating. Love negates both. If you forgive a person you’ve been fighting with, the fight cannot continue. If you let go of hate, it will eventually die. The world can be made perfect, maybe even in our lifetime. Only love will make that happen. I can’t convince anyone that God exists. That’s been made clear. I can love people, including those who dislike me or disagree with me, because he’s shown me how. I’m not asking anyone to believe tonight. I’m not even asking anyone to consider the facts because I haven’t provided any. All I’m asking is that people would try love. Love no matter what. Forgive everything. Make it your default. If you do the world, or at least your little part of it, will be a better place. I can promise you that.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

We Should Be Nice

My friend asked me to help her with a research paper. The topic is whether or not the U.S. should welcome Syrian refugees into our borders. I told her that I don’t know a lot of the details, and honestly, I don’t know the extent of the dangers that this could cause. All I know is that I am 200% for helping these people. All I can give right now is a moralistic argument, but here it is.

A lot of people in this country don’t want to let refugees into our borders for one reason: they’re scared. They are afraid that potential terrorists are hiding among the people who honestly just need a safe place to go. One argument I have repeatedly heard in favor of admitting the refugees is that their situation appears very similar to that of the Jews during World War 2. The counter argument is that it is actually a very different situation because the Jews were a clearly defined, and clearly innocent group of people. It would be absurd to expect any of them to do anything violent and troublesome. However, I think many who are opposed to bringing in any refugees forget that the majority of these people really are innocent. We can’t lock the doors to all of them just because some of them might be bad. We must help the innocent and needy. We need a proper and effective screening process that is also efficient so that we can get these people into a stable situation as soon as possible.

While there is and always will be a threat of terrorists sneaking in among the refugees, we have to remember that it really isn’t all that difficult for ISIS to influence American citizens to do their work for them. They target isolated and marginalized people who are seeking an outlet to express their frustration. Many isolated people simply want to belong to something, and if they are convinced that they are important to a holy war, and that they will be greatly rewarded, they may and have been led to do horrible, violent things. These could be French, English, or American citizens who feel that they belong nowhere else and that they can succeed at nothing else. ISIS recruits these people through commonly used social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and through other less known outlets as well. They have people who are very technologically savvy and can communicate and transfer funds and information across the globe without being detected via the dark web (a closed system that avoids using sites that are detectable by search engines–for more information on the dark web, go here: Dark Web). So while there is a danger of radicalized Syrians coming into our country, there is always a danger of ISIS radicalizing our own people.

Lastly, the U.S. has seen a lot of violent crimes perpetrated by American citizens. Young American people who are frustrated with life go into schools and movie theaters what seems like several times a year sometimes, and kill as many people as they can. While we don’t know their motives, we have to realize that this is a result of isolation. People who have healthy relationships, stable home lives, and a network of support to help with any mental health problems they may have, don’t do these things. It is the people who are neglected and ignored who end up resorting to violence. In this situation, we can all take some of the blame. Our citizens simply don’t want to deal with these people because we’re too busy or because we don’t want to get into an uncomfortable situation, our government doesn’t help because they don’t have enough money, or because they don’t know how, and our religious institutions, Christian, Muslim, or whatever else, don’t get involved because of the complicated theological and existential implications, and because their leaders are inadequately trained to deal with these kinds of issues. Refusing to accept refugees is not going to stop violent crime in this country.

The ultimate solution to our problem is to be careful, but also to be loving. We can increase productivity and the overall happiness of our people, including those we help from other countries, by developing a more inclusive, more caring society. Ultimately what will solve our problem is a change within ourselves. We need to be willing to do two things: get over our fear, and sacrifice a little of our time. We can be kind and loving while still being practical, but we need to be intentional about it. We need to make conscious choices about how we act toward every other person. I’ve had this conversation with my dad over and over: if we could just show our enemies how prosperous our nation is and how happy our people are overall, we might change their minds about us. Our country was built by immigrants and refugees. By not helping our Syrian friends, we are proving our enemies right about us.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!I

Hope For The Waiting

I am a huge fan of epic stories. Most people are. I think this is in large part because they are a lot more interesting than our own mundane lives. Last night my dad and I finished watching the Lord of the Rings series for the umpteenth time. I don’t think either of us will ever get tired of those movies. The thing is, after you’ve seen them so many times, you begin to see different things that you’ve missed before, or you begin to view the characters differently. You begin to look at the movies as a whole from an artistic standpoint in some ways. They just never get old.

It’s the same with any good story, but what exactly is it that makes a story good; what makes a story timeless? I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Inheritance Cycle, the Hunger Games, and other stand-alone novels and movies. In some ways, all of these stories are very different, but what they all have in common is the triumph of good over evil. I think it is precisely this that makes a story great. Of course they are well written, and employ elements of suspense, high stakes, etc, but ultimately, what the human heart wants is for everything to work out. The human heart wants love and justice and some kind of redemption. Furthermore, we like things to be black and white. We like heroes and villains because we know who is right and whose side we should be on.

Real life doesn’t always give us that, and our stories aren’t usually that epic. Perhaps we are side characters in someone else’s epic story, or perhaps we’re really just not that exciting. Everything isn’t as cut and dry as we would like it, and we find that between shadow and light is a lot of gray area. Truth becomes a loaded word and white lies become useful. Stories are confused, exaggerated and changed to fit the situation, and the future is uncertain. The truth is that even though real life is less exciting than epic stories most of the time, it’s a lot more complicated. We have some guidelines for right and wrong; good and evil, but even so, we often have to trust that what we’re doing is right based on our best guess and a hope.

I think stories give us that hope: especially true stories. We have to remember that there are plenty of real-life stories about good triumphing over evil. There are plenty of real-life stories about human redemption. It happens in small, unlikely places, in weird, unexpected ways. We believe in these stories because they make real life a little more interesting and a little more bearable.

This is Easter weekend, and whether you believe in it or not, I think the resurrection of Christ is an excellent finish to a really good story. The Old Testament is filled with trials and adventures and triumphs and failures. It’s filled with danger and suspense, and in some cases, peace and redemption seem impossible. Even the Exodus alone is an excellent story, as evidenced by the fact that it has been portrayed countless times and different ways in movies.

Even if it is taken simply as a story, I think the implications of Christ’s triumph over death is enough to bring people a little joy and hope. It is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Of course some might argue that, from a literary perspective (if we are only taking it as a story), it’s a little bit cheap to have him rise from the dead, but Gandalf did the exact same thing in Lord of the Rings, and I don’t know of too many people who would argue with that. Lord of the Rings clearly falls into the category of fantasy, and taken only as a story, the Bible does, too. I suppose that’s why it is rather hard to digest: it is a fantastic story of epic proportions that is taken as true.

If the Gospels are taken as the last several chapters of an epic story, it seems like a rather anticlimactic conclusion. A baby is born in a barn. He grows up in a good, but poor family. As he grows up, he begins to realize who he is and his importance. Eventually he starts teaching and his message is one of peace, acceptance and love. He is condemned and killed for it. He comes back from the dead to give hope to his followers and to show the world who he really is. He goes up into Heaven and sends his Spirit as a moral and spiritual guide for humanity. He leaves his people with the promise that he will make the world right.

This is the end of one story. However, it is the beginning of another, and each of us is writing our own version. Ultimately, the story will end like this: Jesus will come back and bring his Kingdom with him. The world will be made right and evil will finally be eradicated. That is why the resurrection is such a good ending. It might be seemingly anticlimactic, but it makes a difference in our real-life stories, and it gives us hope for the waiting.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Making Sense Of Things

It took me a very long time to understand how one is supposed to love and fear God, when actually, it’s not all that complicated. There are a lot of passages in the Bible where, in the same sentence, the speaker will say one ought to fear the Lord and, oh by the way, he loves you. On the surface that sounds contradictory, but what I think it means is that God is exceptionally powerful, and his power, understandably, should be feared and respected. There are a lot of verses that instruct the reader not to be afraid of dangers in the world. We are loved by the most powerful being in the universe.

Before I continue, I want to address some objections. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are as follows:

1) If God loves us (all of humanity), then why is there so much suffering in the world? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t he just fix everything?

2) If God truly loves everyone, then why does the Bible, as well as many followers of the Christian faith say that a large portion of the world’s population is going to Hell where they will be tortured for eternity?

These are two questions I encounter a lot, and they are questions that have bothered me for a long time. I don’t think I will ever find answers that will completely satisfy me, let alone anyone else, but I wanted to share the conclusions I have come to over the past several years.

1) God has a plan. It’s a good plan, and God intends to redeem humanity: to make the world a better place where there will be no more suffering. For whatever reason, it’s taking a long time, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. It just means that it has to take this long.

2) The fact of the matter is, I know close to nothing about the afterlife. I am certainly not an authority on the issue. I have come to a couple disjointed conclusions, based on research and personal experience, which are as follows:

I: No one is predestined for Heaven or Hell. I should preface this by saying that my understanding of Heaven is being in the full presence of God, while Hell is complete separation. In God’s presence is love and joy and peace, while outside of it is some sort of emptiness and danger. I believe that, in this life, we are stuck somewhere in the middle. That being said, It’s a choice where we end up.

II: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that all of humanity could be redeemed. God doesn’t want anyone to be left outside. Historical and linguistic evidence suggests that while some might go to Hell, it won’t be forever. When the Kingdom comes, even the worst, most immoral people who rejected God their entire lives will be returned to him. In fact, there is reason to believe that Hell is a place of reformation. This is evidenced by the development of the idea of Purgatory.

III: It isn’t the duty of any Christian to condemn people. It’s our duty to teach love and salvation. For one thing, it’s more effective, and for another, it’s closer to the Truth.

Another objection I can think of is: If salvation is universal, then why bother being Christian?

Salvation isn’t about booking a room in eternity. It’s about making the world a better place. Most of what Jesus told people to do was relevant to here and now. It was about taking care of the poor, making peace among enemies, and respecting people because they are worth a lot to God. It’s a way of life: not strictly an escape from death.

I just wanted to get this out there.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

3 Way Split?

I was thinking earlier about different kinds of worship music. I’ve thought about this before, but I haven’t really come up with a conclusion about it, partly because I haven’t thought about it deeply enough; what is the (for lack of a better word) best kind of worship music?

What I mean by this is that there are several different kinds: there’s “sneaky” worship music, which I tend to like the most, there’s “me and You” worship music, and then there’s straight up “praise” music. Basically I define these as follows: “Sneaky” worship is when you take a song that could be about anyone/anything and direct it to God. For example, I have a song called “Passenger,” which is about driving home late at night and not wanting to fall asleep because I enjoy the driver’s company so much. The metaphor is that I don’t always know where my life is headed, but God does, and I’m pretty content to just let him drive. “me and You” worship music is explicitly spiritual in terms of the lyrics, and it’s about the human relationship with God. What I define as “Praise” music excludes the human element as much as possible and focuses entirely on God’s greatness.

The reason I was thinking about this was because I remembered last semester I was taking a music of worship class, and someone brought up the idea that music that includes the human element is somehow less worshipful than music that does not. I’m not sure I agree with that, but I’m not entirely sure what I think in general, which is why I’m posting about it.

It seems to me that it’s difficult to think about God in nonhuman terms. For example, most people think of God as loving his creation. Love is a very human feeling. Furthermore, most people think about God in terms of what he does; whether that is what he does for them personally or in general. Then there is the fact that for a period of time he actually became human (at least I believe so).

Obviously there are some distinct aspects of God that are not human at all. He created the universe, for one, and he has greater power, strength and knowledge than anyone that has ever lived on the earth or ever will. He can perform miracles that no one would even think of doing because the thought is just absurd. Lastly, he is invisible and intangible, which is obviously not a human quality.

It seems to me that both sides of him need to be acknowledged; of course the list I’ve made doesn’t even scratch the surface of who or what God is, but that’s a whole other story. My intuition says that music that acknowledges the relationship between man and God is more effective in terms of allowing someone to have a more worshipful experience, but perhaps straight up praise music is more appropriate in terms of actually acknowledging who God is. Of course there is always the argument that different music is better for different situations, but how does one know what to use and when?

My thinking is that maybe “me and You” music is better for individual worship; i.e. when someone just wants to have their own little spiritual jam session in their basement, but praise music is better for communal situations.

I’ve said this before, but I prefer “sneaky” worship music because it tends to be more creative and artful (at least in my opinion). I think because it’s “sneaky” however, it can tend to be less spiritual sometimes. This might simply be because of the fact that it can be played/listened to in less spiritual situations and still be enjoyed; the spiritual nature of it can basically be ignored. Maybe that just makes it better music; it can be appealing to a larger audience. I have argued before that if it is partly the duty of Christians to spread the Gospel (which is definitely the case), then it follows that music which appeals to a larger audience should be more effective in achieving that end. This is probably a large part of the reason that there is Christian pop, country, punk, metal and rock music.

If I remember correctly, the argument against music that acknowledges the human relationship with God is that it can tend to be self indulgent and and at times, whiney. It can definitely be whiney; I will concede to that. I still don’t believe that the style in general is so. Furthermore I think that less upbeat songs can be more helpful in someone’s spiritual life depending on their emotional state and their beliefs in general. Even some of the psalms are rather dismal; they’re essentially calls for help. Modern music does the same thing.

In general I feel that straight up praise music is less relatable, which doesn’t make it bad by any means. It just feels to me that removing myself from the worship of God alienates us instead of bringing us closer, which I feel is kind of the point. Of course the point is also to acknowledge God’s greatness, in which case praise music is just fine. I will conclude that in an individual or small group situation it’s up to the individual(s) to decide what will work best. When it comes to a larger audience however, I think the best thing to do is to do all 3 (provided the audience is willingly going into a worship situation). Some would argue that it’s best to figure out what works best for the person/people in charge and then like minded people will join them, but I feel that worship should be more inclusive than that. I think because the different styles of music appeal to different people that they are all valid, as long as the people can really use it to acknowledge God’s greatness.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!