Posts Tagged ‘ love ’

And Words Will Never Hurt Me

I was participating in a discussion the other day where it was asked,  How should we Christians Show Christ’s Love to Homosexuals? The person who posed the question for discussion said he felt he wanted to apologize to LGBTQ people for the horrid way that the church catholic has treated them. He was asking the best way to do this. Being a Christian forum, of mainly straight, white men, many were quick to say that such an apology is unwarranted because one cannot apologize for the church. Besides, the church has done nothing wrong.

This is where I tuned out. I become incensed at such notions and they inevitably lead to victim blaming, or are born of it. Either way there is no conversing with people that do this. No matter what is said tempers flare and the ad hominems begin to fly. To be honest I am not above slinging them myself while simultaneously touting the virtues of non-fallacious argument.

Of course the person that asked the question can and should apologize for the church’s despicable treatment of LGBTQ people. If I am a member of a group that has members, even a fringe, minority of the membership, that treats communities of people in such  dehumanizing and hurtful ways as some within the church have treated the LGBTQ community and individuals, it reflects upon every member of the group and the group itself. The group and all its members share in the guilt, so it is appropriate to apologize, to try to make amends to the injured. Just because I have personally done nothing wrong, have not harmed anyone (something I cannot personally claim, I have at one time or another held views, said things, made jokes that were homophobic, racist, sexist, etc. I do try to search myself for vestigial remnants. Being called on my privilege, when it appears, offers me that opportunity.) we still share the group’s guilt by choosing to associate with it. Christians should understand this concept of imputed guilt as it is at the core of many atonement theologies and the whole fallen nature thing, yet we deny it. But this isn’t really the topic of this post. My apologies for the digression.

I didn’t totally tune out, just avoided certain persons’ responses.

Somehow the topic of verbal abuse came up, this is what I actually came here to talk about. Someone came close to denying the existence of verbal abuse when he said that words cannot hurt, unless we choose to be hurt by them. He recited the lil ditty

Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

When I look at bullying and how verbal abuse is a part of bullying, and other forms of abuse, I recall being taught this very same ditty as a child. It was our standard response when our children were being taunted, called names, etc. I was taught this by people I trusted as a child. I do not think they meant any harm, just don’t think that they thought it through. I know they had the best of intentions, to give us comfort, to help us stand strong in the face of abuse. But the idiom is false. Words do hurt, they can hurt very much. No, it is not just my choice to be hurt by a verbal assault. Verbal assaults are hurtful, they are meant to inflict pain, why else would we use them? Words become weapons the same way a baseball bat, or a steak knife can become weapons. I know, I’ve used them to this end. Have had them used against me as weapons.

This idiom, seems to me can lead to further abuse in the form invalidating someone’s feelings and victim blaming. “If you were stronger…” “If you weren’t a weakling…” then you wouldn’t choose to be hurt by simple words. This is fucking non-sense. Hurtful, dangerous non-sense. The words were strung together as a weapon, of course they hurt. You are not wrong for feeling hurt, you were. Your feelings are real, no one should deny you your feelings, tell you they are wrong. This idiom lends itself to doing just that. No people should be taught not to be abusers, verbal or otherwise.

This same person who recited the lil ditty said that verbal abuse can cause no real harm, not like physical abuse. I’d like to say that emotional abuse, of which verbal abuse is a part, is very much damaging physically. Negative emotions lead to the release of stress hormones which are rather toxic to the body. Verbal abuse harms people physically.

But, this isn’t the only harm that can come from this saying. Imagine what we would have to do in order to choose to not be affected by verbal assaults. It seems to require a hardening of the heart. I think we have to kill off a part of our humanity, Imago Dei for the Christian audience, to not be affected by verbal, emotional assaults. Actually I know this from experience. I internalized the idiom, tried desperately to live it out and in the process muted that part of me that would be hurt by what people said to or about me. I became less than fully human. I was missing the part of me that could truly love, feel sympathy for the other. Isn’t this what we are asking people to do when we insist that words will never hurt me?

Words can hurt, can be used as weapons. The good taken and used for evil. When we are beaten with words it is not our fault for “choosing” to be hurt, as that is only a choice that can be made from a hardened, less than fully human heart.

For all those who I have beaten with words I am truly sorry for abusing you. You did nothing to deserve that treatment. The pain you felt was not a result of your skin not being thick enough, but of my heart being too hard. I wish I could turn the clock back and undo the harm I caused you. All I can do, and I know it falls very short, is say, I am truly sorry.

Biblical Witness & Christian Life in Relational Perspective

The third part of what is a four part review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. Part one is here and part two here.

The section, Biblical Witness in Relational Perspective, is quite short containing four essays, all of which are excellent and well written.

I am going to tell you a little bit about and quote from Dennis Bratcher’s The Revelation and Inspiration of Scripture.  Dr. Bratcher starts the essay off telling us, “Christianity is a response to God’s self-disclosure.” A God the reveals Godself, self-discloses, is a relational God and this is reinforced in the biblical texts.

Scripture is the witness that the community of faith has borne to or about revelation…. God is the content of the revelation. Scripture tells us about and points us toward that revelation.

God revealed Himself in history (events), and the community of faith interpreted those events…. The Scriptures reflect this dynamic of the “story of God woven into the life of the community of faith through the centuries.

In this way the Scriptures, the Bible, becomes relational. Relational in the way in which it was initially received. Relational in the way it is interpreted and applied within faith communities.

The three other essays are also excellent. Of note is Dwight Swanson’s The Authority of the Bible. Swanson packs so much into his short essay that I would have to quote the whole thing, so I’ll just say that it is well worth the read.

Section III, The Christian Life in Relational Perspective, has seven essays in living out the Christian life relationally, the way it is intended.

In Prayer and our Relationship with God Libby Tedder tells us, “Prayer is to relational theology as communication is to relationship. You cannot have one without the other.”  She acknowledges that for some the idea of prayer brings up feelings of guilt, we know we are supposed to pray, but aren’t clear on how, so we neglect it.

Relational theology affirms that prayer affects us. But there is a sense in which it also affects God.

God affected by our prayers. Let that dwell a moment. God affected by our prayers.

Prayer literally changes the world. The way we pray relate to Godin prayer changes the way we live and move and have our being. By transforming us, prayer transforms the way God is present to the world by opening up new ways for love to abound…. Praying is the waking up to the presence of God.

Tedder goes on to talk about different ways to pray, some components of prayer.

Prayer can engage all the senses. Prayer can be turning to the inner world of reflections and the outer wolrd electric with clues that God is on the move.

Prayer is relational, it is interaction with God.

There is one more section, Ethics and Justice in Relational Perspective which I will get in another post very soon.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective

Earlier in the week I posted the first part of a review of Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction. In that post I talked about the introduction by editor Tom Oord. I also promised to talk about the four sections of relational perspective that divide the book.

Doctrines of Theology in Relational Perspective is the first and largest section of the book, comprised of 12 essays. As I read through them I found that I like all of them and underlined most of each for quotes to use here. If I were to do that this review would be longer than the book and I would violate some copyright law by quoting almost the entire section. So, what I have decided to do is to select a couple of the fine essays, ones that stand out, to me. I hope that you will find them as interesting as I did.

Relational theologies don’t tell you how to think about God, but open doors of possibility for thinking about God, opening the doors of exploration. Well, at least that’s how I see them.

In his essay Relational Theology and the Holy Spirit, Amos Yong tells us that, “The Holy Spirit lies at the very heart of relational theology.” I think that he has something here, God in Trinity is by nature a relational being, the Holy Spirit brings us into that relationship.

If the Spirit is at the center of the relational life of God, the Spirit is also central to God’s relationship with the world….Ireneus held that the Father created the world with his “two hands”–the Word and the Spirit. If the Word of God structures the world and its creatures, the Spirit of God is the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.

I love that last line, “the dynamic life force that infuses creativity and novelty into the rhythms of creation.” It is packed full of possibility.

Human beings find meaning, fulfillment, and significance precisely in relationship one to another, bonded together by the common creator Spirit.

In a fallen world, the bonds of human communion have been broken and people alienated from themselves, others, and their natural environments. But God’s redeeming work consists of healing the estrangement of our hearts, reconciling human beings with one another, and restoring harmony between humanity and the cosmos.

This is a brilliant little essay, so full of possibility based in the redemptive power of God.

The Image of God by Samuel M. Powell talks about how our Imago Dei  relational.

Because we are created in the image of God, our existence is marked by relationships. To be the creaturely image of God is to be essentially and unavoidably related to God, to fellow humans, and to the rest of creation.

Because we are created in God’s image we are afforded certain rights and responsibilities of relationship.

Because we are created in God’s image, each of us is due the highest moral consideration in every respect.

To be created in God’s image is to be a member of a human community in which everyone should receive respect, dignity, and consideration.

Everyone, not just a chosen elite, everyone, isn’t that how Jesus treats people?

I am going to quote from one more essay in this section.

Faith in Relations by Wm. Curtis Holtzen.

Relationship, like “faith”, is a multifaceted notion and not easily defined. When we explore relationship through the notions of love and trust, however, we see that faith and relationship become inseparable.

If faith is a relationship or communal bond, shouldn’t we think of God as someone of faith? … “Yes!” Faith is relational and relationships are reciprocal, two-sided. Because God is relational, God has faith. God’s relationship with us is not only loving but also trusting.

There are nine other essays in this section. They talk about love in relational terms, sin, and salvation in relational terms. They all open up the possibility of thinking about God and ourselves, theology in new ways, relational ways.

The  third part in this series, Biblical Witness & Christian Living in Relational Perspective is up.

Again the book is Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction,  (2012), Eds. Brint Montgomery, Thomas Jay Oord, and Karen Winslow, Point Loma Press, San Diego. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction

Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is a collection of short essays on relational theologies. There are 31, each about three pages long. Short, concise very good for those of us with short attention spans. Short, concise yet packed full of information.

In the introduction, What is Relational Theology?,  Thomas Jay Oord tells a little about what relational theologies are and the need for them in the Christian theological landscape. Dr. Oord tells us that in the biblical descriptions of God, by His very nature He is relational.

God instructs, expects, and responds to creatures–all of which are relational activities.

Dr. Oord goes on to explain, and even show graphically, how several other theologies fall under the umbrella of relational theology. Theologies such as process, liberation, feminist, and missional all are relational theologies.

The essays are then broken down into four sections of relational perspective: Doctrines of Theology, Biblical Witness, The Christian Life, and Ethics and Justice. In future posts we will explore each of these sections.

If you don’t want to wait Relational Theology: A Contemporary Introduction is available from Amazon. It is a very good book, well worth the read.

The first section Doctrines of theology in Relational Perspective and the second & third sections, Biblical Witness & Christian Life in Relational Perspective are now up.

How NOT to Talk to Atheists

So, there I was this morning going through my Twitter timeline (@persecuted23 for those interested) when I caught part of a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian. (I follow many Atheists, Pagans, non-Christians.) I find the conversations between Christians and Atheists particularly interesting.  I can really see why the Atheists get so damned frustrated. Actually, I remember the same conversations I have had as I was an Atheist most of my life.

The conversations tend to go something like this:

“Oh so you’re an Atheist, are you?”

“Yes, I am an Atheist.”

“But don’t you know what God says? That if you don’t believe in Jesus you are going to Hell.”

“Well, for starters, I do not believe in God, neither do I believe in Hell.”

“But God’s word, the Bible, says….”

What the Christians neglect that the frame of reference that they most often use in these conversations has been rejected prior to the conversation.  They keep going back to it in a never ending spiral of  the logical fallacy of petitio principii. These people can’t seem to understand that the argument that they are trying to make will never be made because the premise is rejected. For Atheists God, and therefore the Bible, have no authority because for them God is non-existent. So, to keep referring to God, to keep repeating the Psychologist’s fallacy becomes nonsensical within the conversation. I have never witnessed a conversation between an Atheist and a Christian where the Atheist hasn’t tried until she was blue in the face to get that point across. Yet, Christians keep pressing the petitio principii and the psychologist’s fallacy. You may well desire that your position, your frame of reference to be universally accepted and think it objective, but it just simply isn’t either.

Not only am I offended by the ridiculousness of the continued repetition of these fallacious arguments I am equally offended by the confrontational and combative nature of them. Instead of approaching people with an attitude of “I’m right, you’re wrong”, why not try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe, just maybe it was conversations like these that pushed someone from agnosticism to atheism. Maybe take a lesson from Paul when he visited Athens. He first explored the city, went to their temples and shrines and learned what they believe. Then used the truths that they possessed as a starting point. He found points of agreement before he engaged in conversation with non-believers. Paul did not look for points of disagreement. Jesus never looked for points of disagreement when He approached people, whoever they were.  Jesus and Paul honored people and their opinions, did not approach them with, “You’re wrong.”

Listen to the Atheists, the Pagans, the Muslims, the Buddhists, to everybody and find where we intersect, where we have common belief, common experience. Then, and only then, can you even begin to even communicate.

Jesus and the Death Penalty

Lately there seems to have been a rash of “Christian” pastors/preachers saying that certain groups of people should be put to death. While they are absurd and most of us think so, there are still those who buy into their hate and bigotry, “Yeah, put those people to death!” followers of these false teachers cry. These false teachers are not so much Christian as they are Leviticans (a really cool term coined by John Scalzi in his 2004 blog post Leviticans. These are people more interested in holding others to the holiness codes of Leviticus and not so much interested in the grace brought by Jesus.

It is true that the Levitical code called for a death penalty for a myriad of transgressions, among them was adultery. In ancient times adultery was a capital offense, just like murder. Even in Jesus day the punishment for adultery was death by stoning.

But here comes this rabbi from Nazareth with this radical teaching: radical love and radical forgiveness. Jesus reinterprets the law and reduces it to Love, God and everybody else. Just love, that is the law. In his most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:2-7:27 Jesus turns the law upsidedown and inside out. No, He doesn’t abolish it, He redefines it, shows it for what it was meant to be all along. Go ahead, go check it out for yourselves, I’ll wait, it is only 108 verses long, I have time.

See? Did I lie? Turns the law and what the religious leaders have been teaching the people on its head. Then in verse 7:28 the people recognize that Jesus taught them what they should have been taught all along, ” Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.” The scribes were the authority on the law, yet Jesus reinterpretation comes from one with even greater authority. Jesus reinterpretation, recasting of the law into the simple command to Love, increases the amount of love in the world, where the old interpretation, the old casting of the law served to diminish love in the world.

What’s this have to do with the death penalty, you ask? Well, stay with me a few minutes more and I just might make it clear. I certainly hope I can.

2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. 5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’

We see that the religious leaders bring before Jesus a woman caught in the act of committing a capital offense, adultery. These leaders want to execute her, rightly under the law as written and interpreted for a millennium (Leviticus 20:10). Yet they ask Jesus what should be done with her, what should her punishment be? Basically Jesus says, you know the law and it calls for execution, execute her. Oh yeah, before you do you better make sure you are not guilty of any transgressions yourselves. If you have any guilt whatsoever then you may not execute this transgressor. The would be executioners drop their implements and walk away. The religious leaders recognize that Jesus has recast the law. In this recasting death is no longer a viable punishment. The death penalty is abolished because only the one with no guilt, no sin, can actually carry it out. We learned in the Sermon on the Mount that no one, no matter how righteous she thinks she is, is free from transgressing the law. That those who have lived by and obeyed the letter of the law have violated the spirit of the law. No one is fit, according to Jesus, to carry out a death penalty. In so interpreting and recasting, Jesus changes the law to the law of love, as it was always intended. Sure there are consequences and punishments for criminal behaviour, but the death penalty, for the Christian is no longer one of the options, it has been abolished through the fulfillment of the law.

Guest Post: Why I Love Islam –Jennifer

When asked to write a few words about why I love Islam, I jumped at the opportunity! Of course I would write about the greatest gift I have ever been blessed with, but where to begin? So, out came my notepad and pencil and I began scribbling away.

 

“Islam is a religion of peace”, I wrote. I sat with that for a moment. Yeah, so? That is one cliche we’ve all heard ad nauseum, the line almost every Muslim uses apologetically or in defense to some accusatory comment about Islam. I’m sorry, but being a true lover of this faith and a writer at heart, those words simply aren’t going to cut it. Something inside of me, and the vastness of this beautiful faith, demand more. Here it is:

 

Yesterday, as I was leaving my Doctor’s appointment, I walked by a long row of bright red, yellow and orange bushes. Yes, it is Autumn here in Toronto and the landscape of colors is breathtaking. For some reason, I found myself unable to move. I stood there in awe of this perfect scene and felt completely overwhelmed by the beauty of nature before me. Without even a thought, I found my heart and lips uttering these words:

 

رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَذا بَاطِلاً سُبْحَانَكَ

Our Lord, you have not created all of this is vain. Glory be to you!

 

That, is one of the reasons I love Islam. You see, Islam is not a list of do’s and do nots. It is not simply a dogma to be followed or a prescribed set of rules to govern, but rather a true love, a spirt, that dwells inside the hearts of those who believe. It is a gift for all of us to be blessed with so much beauty that surrounds us, not only in nature, but in science, language, human kindness, etc., but an even a more so profound gift for our hearts to be inclined to naturally associate beauty with God and his bounties. So, when we see something that catches our eye, makes our hearts flutter, such as the Autumn scene I fell in love with yesterday, it is not short of a miracle that we can see God’s intrinsic beauty in those things and in turn give thanks and duly praise Him! Islam lends that gift to its believers. It leaves us in a continuous state of internal worship, reflection and connection.

 

Connection, is one of the other many blessings of Islam. When I think of my faith I think of a family; a group of people from different places all over the world, speaking a myriad of languages, celebrating the richness in the diversities of their cultures and yet sharing in the love of One God, following the teachings of One final messenger and striving towards One ultimate goal: living a mindful, peaceful, content life in hopes of attaining God’s pleasure. It always amazes me when I’m out and about and someone smiles and says “As-salaamu ‘alaikoum Sister” to me as they pass by. It makes my heart overfill with a sense of belonging. There could be no greeting lovelier than “Peace be upon you, Sister”. Sister.  Just the thought of us all being a part of one big family, that binds us only by God’s love and mercy, brings tears to my eyes.

 

When I think of a family, I think of safety, security and well being. Those are all things that I feel my faith offers me. Yes, it would be nice to sit and write an entire article on things that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but the reality of the world we live in is that there are things that can lead us unto paths that aren’t  in our best interests.

 

Probably one of the most important things I’ve learned from my faith is Trust. I Trust that God loves me and wants what’s best for me. In that, I follow what He has lovingly and wisely prescribed for me so that I might live the best possible life I can. Having my faith to turn to for answers when choices are difficult takes a huge weight off of my shoulders. In essence, I turn my faith and trust to God and know that I am in good hands.

 

What I really love about Islam is its simplicity. There is no middle man between me and God. His promise to me, as revealed in the Holy Qur’an is this: “When My servants ask you concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them), I respond to the prayer of every supplicant when he calls on Me”.  (Al-Baqarah: 186). Each time I read or hear this verse I break down in tears because it is a reminder to me of just how easy it is to be close to my Creator. I love this verse because it says “every supplicant”, not only the super pious ones, those in positions of power, saints, but EVERYONE, including me! It also says, “whenever he calls upon me”. It doesn’t say during the 5 daily prayers, or in the middle of the night or at any other prescribed time. It simply says, “whenever”. For me, this is the best gift God has given me: His presence and closeness in my life at all times.