So these religious posts are getting me views… and Happy Valentine’s Day

And I was sick all day today, and after getting some more of Tolkien’s Nar Ni Hin Hurin (his best work, in my opinion; it’s in the book Unfinished Tales if you are interested) what do I pick up to read but the Gospel of Judas, within the book Judas: A Definitive Collection of Gospels and Legends about the Infamous Apostle of Jesus by Marvin Meyer, which has been sitting on my shelf for years now.

JudasBetrayalI got about half way through it, read the whole of the Judas gospel writing and a LOT of explanation by the author which was mostly him repeating himself on why Judas was likely the good guy in the story, not the bad guy. Personally, I totally agree. It makes more sense to me that Jesus was in on it with Judas. For a guy who followed and believed in Jesus as long as the rest of the apostles, it is not likely that he would fall so fast to give his closest friend up for execution, especially with the whole ‘Son of God’ thing going for Jesus. But if Jesus ASKED Judas to turn him over (not betray, by the way; Meyer goes into paragraphs about how the original word used in the four gospels as well as Judas’ gospel means ‘to hand over,’ not ‘to betray’), Judas must have had some mucho balls and some mucho love for his friend to basically unconditionally do what his friend asked. I feel the same about the story of Pontius Pilate. He did nothing to directly harm Jesus. In fact, in all the four used gospels he basically says he considers Jesus an innocent man. He knew little to nothing about Jews except that they paid taxes. So why get his hands into the mess? They have their punishments, let them deal with the guy as they want. How was he supposed to know they would decide to kill him? Frankly, in the end, he avoids all blame from them, and that is a very safe thing to be in those times when it came to the Jews. (Nothing against Jews today, they are quite nice people. But everyone has their dark past, so you know.) Both Judas and Pilate are used as scapegoats of evil or even demonic inference in the story of Jesus. Once again, human emotion used as tools to command the masses which followed the church in more manipulative times. So why do people still hold to these old stories?

In fact, why do people still follow the basic format of the Bible at all? Pardon the bouncing thought process, but I’m going back to the point that this story of Judas as the closest follower and loyal friend of Jesus is titled as a gospel. There is the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, and many more less known which were all used in the beginning of Christianity. Eventually all the different sides got too much to take, so the Catholic authorities in Rome took charge and decided to vote. Hurray for democracy at work in history! They claim that the Holy Spirit helped them decide the proper pieces of their biblical puzzle. But in a time when women were still considered (despite Jesus’ teachings) under men and should have no opinion of their own, and a world where fear of the unknown (aka the afterlife) was rampant thanks to disease and war, some gospels were considered more attractive than others. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is not so completely different from the other four known gospels, but since it was written as a woman’s perspective and illustrated the love and respect Jesus had for women, they nixed it. Since the Gospel of Thomas did not so closely follow the stories of Jesus as Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, they nixed that too. And to a point, I can understand the want for unity in teachings. But even the current four gospels have many deviations from each other which are not explained. The concept of Judas as an all-out traitor is only illustrated in two of the gospels, and nowhere in Paul’s letters, a very core part of the New Testament, does mention Judas, let alone condemn any man for handing Jesus over. He actually goes to say that Jesus handed himself over, and even that ‘God’ handed ‘his’ son over directly. Perspective people, it’s all about perspective.

I have had people tell me that Catholicism is not a form of Christianity… and I still don’t know where the hell that comes from. They both use the same books in their bibles; different wordings and interpretations, but the same books. They both believe in the Trinity; again, they have different interpretations of what the Trinity means, but the symbol is there, to include the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit. If any of this is a reflection of the truth of the world, I vote for the Spirit.

My point of all of this is why are there no religiously inspired people taking these old gospels to heart? And don’t tell me it is because the actual scripture is divinely inspired, and so these books do not inspire the soul and spirit the way the Bible does. If that is the case, than you have no argument against the Quran, Buddhist Scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, or any other religious text of other religions. Are we still so shut off from exploring our faith that people do not venture into the ‘forbidden’ realms of old? Or are people just so lazy that they do not question, but simply follow the flock off the cliff?

People say that religion is of the spirit. Well, I say it is the beautiful melding of the spirit and the mind, the finite place where they mingle together into something beyond each of them separated. Exploring and experiencing the spiritual with the mind open is what faith is all about. Our faith should not be blind, and we should not follow it with blinders on. Open your eyes, people. Open your minds and spirits alike, and see what is really out there. You do not have to doubt your faith to expand it. Get out there and see the world, all of it, all of god’s gifts to you, and take it all in, even if it hurts. That is true love, isn’t it? So for Valentine’s Day, do yourself a favor and love the world. For one day, have no blinders on, feel no judgment, and just experience everything. Give a nod to Judas and Pilate if you are Christian (Catholics included), because without them, Jesus wouldn’t have been crucified for you, now would he? So have a day without blinders, kids. And Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

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12 thoughts on “So these religious posts are getting me views… and Happy Valentine’s Day

  1. Rana,
    I’ve decided to reply to this post after all, but not like you might expect. I’ve selected excerpts from one of my books from the chapter on “Generation X” (and beyond), which I side-steps your post in a way, but may get down to the heart of the real issue. I’ve left out the title of the book so as to not presumptuously advertize on your website. See what you think.
    Ch. 5- Generation X
    “Generation X” describes those born roughly between 1965 and 1982, who at the time of this writing (2012) are now ages twenty-nine to forty-four. Their identifying traits as noted in Wikipedia are as follows:

    • “Generation X” has always signified a group of young people, seemingly without identity, who face an uncertain, ill-defined (and perhaps hostile) future.”
    • “Often the children of divorced parents. The beginning of the divorce rate growth; change is more the rule for the people of Generation X than the exception. Unlike their parents who challenged leaders with an intent to replace them, Generation X tends to ignore leaders”
    • “They truly are an accelerated culture- highly more educated than their parents, The US Census Bureau cites Generation X as statistically holding the highest education levels when looking at age group.
    • “When compared with previous generations, Generation X represents a more heterogeneous generation, exhibiting great variety of diversity in such aspects as race, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.”
    • The study revealed a generation of teenagers who “sleep together before they are married, were not taught to believe in God as ‘much’, dislike the Queen [re: UK], and don’t respect parents.
    The heart’s cry of Generation X
    To these I would like to add my own observations and thoughts and to relate what I believe is the heart’s cry of Generation X, which I broaden somewhat beyond the actual boundaries of Generation X. I would suggest that those of this generation were brought up without hard lines, without absolutes, and without boundaries. These lines were blurred in behavior, sexuality, and the confusion of the family unit. This generation was raised to not “judge” in a mentality where everyone gets a star on his paper. To make a distinction between right and wrong, good and bad, was branded an evil in and of itself. This is the self-esteem generation. Lack of identity is their quintessential characteristic – and no wonder, no one defined anything for them. A culture of tolerance associates definition with an act of violence to one’s esteem and personhood. They do not know where they fit into the universe. They live in an uncertain, boundary-less, amorphous, virtual world, where the lines of responsibility and consequence are blurred. In the confusion of roles, who would even get those consequences if they would be real? They do not know who they are! They do not know who you are, and they do not know who God is. A God who does not change is an alien entity to them. Nothing is solid or stable in their world. Therefore, can God be any different? They may have only one parent, or may have four or six! Some of their “parents” were not parents at all, but grandparents or live-in boyfriends. Absolutes are not a part of their thinking. The very ground they walk on is uncertain, yet they’ve somehow managed to live like this.

    Generation X is an extension of the “Me” generation, patterned after their baby boomer parents. Their parents, or whoever happened to raise them, for that matter, have raised them in a self-centered universe, which begins to break down as they face their fellow Generation X’ers who all make the same impossible and conflicting claim to universal centrality. They were overindulged and under-loved, with indulgence being the apology and consolation prize for the lack of a basic and nurturing family life. It is no wonder that they would view the Gospel with themselves and their interests, rather than God and His, at center. The unwritten pact that their parents laid out for them goes something like this: “We will indulge you and make you center of the universe if you will demand nothing from us and overlook your parents’ inability to get it together.” Except now they are breaking their pact (I said it was unwritten!), and they are making demands.

    This generation is truly challenging and provoking its parent’s generation. What are they challenging? What are they seeking to provoke? What are they after? They are DARING us to lay down a hard line. They are DARING us to resist them. They are DARING us to set limits and boundaries, and they intend to test our resolve every step of the way. They want to know what is real, what they can depend on, what they can take to the bank. They want to know what ground they can stand on that will not fall through. They want the security of the hard lines that no one would give to them. Should we oblige, they will kick against us with everything in their power. They will not relent until the hard lines prove stronger than their wills, which their parents had never broken. Their parents were not in unity and therefore were incapable of communicating the necessary unified voice required in addressing a child’s will – a voice that cannot be manipulated or be played one parent against the other. They will not cease until their wills are finally conquered. When all the kicking and thrashing is at last done, they will collapse in exhaustion and will rest – perhaps for the first time in their lives, and lovingly stroke and caress that wall that would not move for them – that wall that would finally answer their innermost need – that wall that finally tells them where they are, and gives them hope of discovering who they are; and they will cry, “Abba, Father”. Only then, with secure boundaries, can they find rest in the arms of an immovable, yet loving God. For the first time they will be capable of understanding at face value who they are, who God is, who their parents are, and what the universe is. Nothing to figure out. Nothing to assess. No weighing of one parent’s advice or demands against the other’s. No questioning whether mom’s boyfriend really has the right to tell them what to do. They can rest in what is. They will finally have a platform from which they can address the rest of life’s perplexing issues. After a lifetime in futile attempt, they will have discovered that they cannot self-define. Abandoning their place at center of the universe, they can finally rest in a God who is unfathomably greater than their own selves, who is fully able, fully willing, and fully competent in handling their life’s questions; a God who need never apologize for His parenting.

    When this generation learns from the Bible that God presents the inescapable hard line of eternal choices, they have a difficult time receiving it. “I thought you said their were no hard lines!” Their first response is to challenge it. Is it real? Will God move? Will God bend? (After all, my parents and everyone else did!) The same God that will not bend or move, is at first terrifying, but paradoxically, secure. There is a final word in the universe after all. *sigh* Relief at last.

    Generation X’s defiance of their parents’ generation goes like this. “If you’re not going to lay down rules, we’re going to shame you, provoke you, interfere with you, and become such a source of vexation that it will overcome your selfishness, passivity and political correctness, and you will be forced to lay them down for us – even if you do so in exasperation and anger! (At least when you’re angry we know where you are at!) If we truly loved them with God’s kind of love, we would have prepared them with hard lines, for life is full them, with none greater than that of passing into eternity. To lay down hard lines will bring us to the end of our own righteousness and into God’s. From this “sure foundation”, we can lay down one for others. The answer is not “Don’t lay down hard lines: Who are we to judge?” This may get us out of hypocrisy, but only because we are failing to address issues of righteousness at all! As we lay them down for others, we find ourselves face to face with our own unrighteousness and with our need for entering into God’s.

    This generation, on the one hand, despises the weakness and spinelessness of the generation that failed to set parameters, and on the other hand, the hard lines are –
    well – HARD, and they don’t want them. What should have been handled from age one over many years is now become necessary all at once. Their parents, though they knew where the hard lines where, ignored them, and they could not enforce these hard lines without saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.” So they left it up to their children to decide before they were ready. The boomers have done this generation a real disservice.
    Ministry to Generation X (It’s not what you may think!)
    When our children were very young, I pulled them on a sled along the frozen Conestoga Creek behind my parent’s house. As a kid, I had enjoyed countless hours skating up and down this creek – perhaps a half mile or so in each direction. From experience, I knew what conditions of the ice were safe and what were not. On this particular day, two girls whose parents had just divorced joined me. I was responsible for watching them, and as we proceeded down the creek, the one girl, age eleven, was terrified she would fall through the ice and began protesting, “We’re going to die!” She kept this up and was ruining this beautiful day for all of us. Finally, I turned to her and said firmly, “I know what I’m doing. I was raised on this ice. I want you to be quiet now and trust me.” She was startled, even shocked, but knew I meant it. (The only thin ice in this story is my grounds for disciplining a girl who was not my own child, but I felt I had little choice.) She complied. We proceeded on the ice for half a mile through bucolic scenery and branches glistening with snow until we reached a waterfall, where we could proceed no further. About half the way back, this young girl turned to me and blurted out, “I’m so glad you made me go! I had the best time of my whole life!”

    This girl with her world turned upside down needed someone to conquer her. She fought it, but needed it. She was not free to enjoy life until someone stronger than she wrestled from her her premature attempts to control her life and her world. She’s thirty-something now, neatly fitting into our Generation X discussion.

    Hard lines can be like fences. Fences define and set boundaries: they bring security, as well as terror. They not only tell us when we are in bounds, but when we are out of bounds. We had better let people know when they are on the wrong side of these fences! At the time of my writing there are people marching in the streets, angry because their heads are telling them we are running into obvious hard lines as a nation. But they were taught, through default and lack of enforcement, that there are no hard lines! No wonder they are angry! Imagine them entering eternity thinking that eternity is as malleable as what they were led to believe everything else was! If eternity is still malleable, then in their minds they still have eternity to tinker with it! We’d better find the courage to tell these people the truth, and be adult-like and loving enough to endure their reactions. The baby boomers’ parents raised them with hard lines and they rebelled against many of them. But we knew where we stood and had a foundation from which to find our way back. These have not rebelled because there was no clear stand against which to push! They’ve simply never been offered an alternative to their own wills. What a shame that we’ve left them dealing with the hard lines of consequences, when we could have given them much more merciful parental consequences, and taught them how to negotiate successfully those hard, often irreversible, lines.

    With the young girl on the ice, the same guy who withstood her was the same guy that made her secure enough to enjoy the day. On the way down, I was a monster, and on the way back, a liberating friend. God’s holiness is a monster as we view it from the transgression side of the line, but our dearest friend once reconciled. Deep down, we crave hard lines, even as they terrify us. We need the security of the One who calls Himself, “I AM”, but how can fallen man face the One who absolutely defines all that is, while yet bearing the awareness of sin? Who wants a holy and immovable God to define him in his condition of sin? Who wants to be found out by an absolute standard from which one cannot hide, nor argue its validity? Who can face One who allows for no wiggle room or self-justification, and whose assessment and judgment is final? As Isaiah said in the presence of God, “Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5). An angel then flew and touched his lips with a hot coal and cleansed him. We’ve not allowed this generation to see its need for cleansing, or that it comes up short before a holy God. What can grace mean without the knowledge of sin? Our dilemma is in the fact that only this God who calls Himself “I AM” can fully affirm us and approve us in the deepest places of our hearts where we most crave it. This is one and the same being. In our sin nature He terrifies us, yet we crave Him like no other.

    This young lady could not feel safe until someone conquered her. Let’s understand the true cry of this generation. It is crying out from the heart, “Please show me where those hard lines are!” Love that does not ultimately address the deepest cries of the heart is not love at all, and will never satisfy.

    In consideration of this generation’s challenge, I do not think they are challenging and provoking the boomer generation to thought; they are provoking it to action. They wanted us to be the platform from which they could base their lives. They wanted a firm, sure, starting point. They wanted parents they could respect, and deep down, they want a God they can respect! This platform is ultimately God, but parents represent God in a child’s early life.

    At this stage it is too late too be that platform they desire, but we can stand in our places and demonstrate those hard lines from our various positions in society, and point them toward an unchangeable God. By doing this, we will love them in the way they need us to love them, while they may at first interpret this as hate.
    Childhood is the one time in life when it is good to learn to accept things as they are, because children first need a foundation. This brings security, and allows our kids to just be kids. The divorce culture completely obliterates all that, heaping upon our kids the burden of being their own foundation. The nuclear family is the link to God as “I AM” that we all need somewhere at a core level in order to function properly in society. We were born into families, and did not choose our parents or our brothers and sisters. We suddenly found ourselves here in this world by the will of God.

    For the older generations to take their place and take their stand would perhaps be the first time those of Generation X would learn to respect someone or something. Perhaps they are challenging even God to set some boundaries for them. Deep down they view God as benevolent, but weak, and so much want a God who is strong. Only a God who is strong can define them and make them secure. If they understood who God truly is, they would revere Him.

    The passage from this life to the next is most definitely a hard line. It is the hardest of lines. “There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.” (Eccl 8:8 KJV). God’s will will stand, and will stand apart from the opinions of all others – and particularly of those of the person standing before Him in judgment. This is a God we cannot manipulate, and who feels no compunction to please or to prove. God does not change with our generational swings. He may meet us in them, but will always bring us back to what does not change, and this is what we need to preach and teach.

    ……
    The teaching of hard lines is difficult, but merciful. The meeting up with hard lines –
    whether by breaking physical laws and ruining our health, by breaking the laws of the harvest and having nothing to eat in winter, or by breaking spiritual laws to the destruction of our soul – is often without remedy. Hard lines convey their dire messages as we meet up against them. They are silent, but insistent and resistless. How much better is it for warm, loving human beings to instruct while there is yet hope? A parent’s loving spanking of a child is the beginning of a lifetime’s preparation of enabling the child to one day say to God, “Not my will but thy will be done.” (Luke 22:42), even as Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered (Heb. 5:8).
    …………
    This applies to finance and it applies to matters of the soul. Nature itself teaches us these things. The sixteen-year-old boy who wrecks his car at a hundred miles per hour finds out in a very terrible way that the concrete bridge abutment is immovable, even as he is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Are we truly merciful in our failure to lay out, define, and enforce hard lines? Why are we not teaching our children these things? Why are we not preaching these things from the pulpits of America? It is because we have left off loving our children in favor of buying them, conning them, and pandering to them, and the churches continue the process of indulgence with their congregations.

    ……………

    It is very important to point out the differences in the life questions of these two generations. (Though being mindful that in speaking of generations, we are necessarily painting with a very broad brush.) The boomers were looking for individuality. Generation X is looking for identity, roots, grounding: WHO THEY ARE. Boomers felt over-defined or improperly defined. They were raised with standards, and were asking “Do I measure up?”, or “What is the source of this standard I feel obligated to conform to?” Generation X knows no standard, so they will make themselves the standard of all that is, or make an idol of some other entity, such as government, to be their absolute. Some of Generation X wore the loose-fitting, punk clothing as an expression of meaninglessness, nothingness, emptiness, sexlessness – an outward representation of the formlessness and complete lack of definition within. They are crying out for someone to shape and define them. This challenge falls squarely on the boomer’s shoulders as a failure of their generation.
    They needed parents. We gave them buddies. They needed foundations on which to build their lives. We gave them great, accelerated houses with no foundations. They needed God and family for security and identity. We gave them electronics to baby-sit them, and neglected them as they whiled away the day.
    They will now seek what is lacking by looking to government, and will seek to convert the church into what can only effectively come from the family. Now we must brace ourselves to receive the blows. (Spoken from a baby doomer!)

    …………
    The baby boomers toyed and experimented with the lines. This generation knows no lines. As it spills over into subsequent generations – Y and Z, we will find that many of the questions have stopped at Generation X. Generation Y and beyond will have embraced the dysfunction presented them in its mature form, removing much of the basis or tension required for even formulating a question. These will not feel their need until things start failing them. These will stumble in the dark, having no idea why they stumble (Prov 4:19). They have no foundation whatsoever for understanding, let alone addressing their failures. There will be no scent or trail connecting their failures with their causes.

    • Greg, I really appreciate the response. I will let you know my thoughts tomorrow. It’s getting late for me and I really need to sleep this cold off. Thanks for the well-wishes too. I hope our conversation on Yahoo isn’t getting tense. I do truly appreciate your concern. I’m trying to explain myself as best as I can. Talk to you tomorrow.

  2. Rana,
    Our internet conversation has gotten a little bit tense, but I don’t see tension as necessarily a bad thing (as you will see when you read my third book) I have six grown children (three boys and three girls) from the ages of 18-28. I just calculated their average age to be 23, which places you right smack at the average age of my children. Two are married, and my youngest daughter is getting married this summer. Besides my own sons and daughters, they bring their friends, who sometimes hang around our house as much as my own kids. I grow fond of these kids (Kid’s? They’re young adults!) and they become like surrogate sons and daughters to me. (Just cut one of the boy’s hair the other day with the one and only hairstyle I give my own sons when they ask me!) There is both a fondness and fatherly protectiveness I feel toward these young people who are not my own, and they become like part of the family. That would describe the way I think of you. Think of yourself as my internet daughter! (A little wayward, yes, but we’re working with it! 🙂 ) I think what you may be experiencing from me is a mixture of genuine fondness and affection, along with some very definite caution and protectiveness. (Hope I’m not being to patronizing, but the fatherly instincts take over when I’m dealing with people around my own kid’s age) At the same time, I very much respect my kids as adults, respect their choices, and when they come to me for advice, I try to lay out principles without telling them what to do, and reinforce their own decision making as they launch out and make their own way in life. I try to define parameters for them.
    What you are picking up in our Yahoo conversation is a bit of protectiveness. (And also a little horror) After seeing some common ground and enjoying communicating with you, your posting here opened my eyes suddenly to a considerable chasm between our thinking. I see very real dangers in the waters in which you are swimming. When I was slightly younger than you, having abandoned the Catholic church and having pushed off from the shore on my own spiritual search, I came dangerously close to some things that fall into the category of the occult. In fact, just before a radical, life-changing encounter with God, I had a list of books in my dresser that I wanted to read, which were all cultic in nature, and I somehow never got around to them. God had protected me in my search. One danger you are seeing clearly (perhaps even in an exaggerated sense) is the danger of narrowness – of latching onto something that is false, legalistic, ritualistic, dead, etc. What you may not be seeing is the danger in the wide-open. Think of the internet. It is full of information, opportunities – There is a whole world out there waiting to be explored. On the other hand, there are viruses, scam artists, sexual predators, and identity thieves. This is why we have firewalls – so that we are not exposed to things we simply cannot see. The spiritual world is the same, and not all of it has your best interests in mind. (In fact the word “occult” means “hidden”.) Like on the internet, they will exploit weakness, naivete, desire, or any opening they can find. They approach in the guise of a friend (“an angel of light”), or the fulfillment of a need. Like internet viruses, we cannot adequately see them or understand them in order to fend them off. If we knew the email had a virus, we would not have opened it! But we were not trying to let in evil. Evil just happens to be opportunistic.
    So what do we do? With freedom there is danger, and with being overly narrow, there is danger too! I believe the key is in learning God’s boundaries, which secure us and protect us, and enable us to enjoy great freedom within those boundaries. In my books, one recurring them in political correctness is radical openness, associating restraint and boundaries as “bad” or oppressive. P.C. also embraces extreme tolerance (like leaving your computer wide open to whatever is out there), no judging, no differentiation, etc. To even make a distinction among religions, or even what our common sense tells us, is in itself considered an act of hate and violence. What I put forth is to very clearly define the boundaries, remove the illegitimate boundaries (which we find all the time in false or compromised religion), and to be free to walk right up to those lines. The battle is at the boundary lines. (which I explain)
    Now don’t start calling me “Pop” or anything (And remember to keep your room clean and eat all your vegetables!)

    • I’m not going to make this too long, as I’m working on a post for a friend’s question from Facebook.

      Going to put my internet guard up just a little (don’t be upset), but the father thing is a little creepy. 🙂 I get the general idea though. I get the protectiveness. If I saw a dear friend going down a dangerous path I would react the same way. But I still think you’re misinterpreting my point. Trust me, my mother was drastically over-protective about everything with me; child predators, thieves, deceivers of all kinds, etc.

      Please understand that I’m not ‘latching’ onto these teachings. It is a passing interest to read up on things I don’t know, thought processes of other people, either from my time or from ancient times. I can keep a personal ‘firewall’ up while reading, keep my beliefs in the forefront and still have an independent train of thought about what I read. Take everything with a grain of salt, you know? And again, to me good and evil are just experiences. I don’t really want to walk into evil, but I also don’t want to take advantage of good by avoiding all evil completely. Learning about others’ perspectives isn’t an evil act, no matter what that perspective may be, and I find it better for my own growth to know all perspectives that I can learn to make the best determination for myself. This includes all the things that you have said to me during this conversation. Don’t think that I’m ignoring all this advice; I’m certainly not. But I’m not going to cut off all other learning outlets while I listen to you. When we’re done having this conversation, I’m not going to turn off all Christian knowledge that is put before me. I have to sift through it all.

      As for boundaries, I speak through my own beliefs, that I need to determine my own boundaries in my own life. This doesn’t mean I won’t take helpful advice (as I have been here) or give helpful advice when I can if I am invited to. To me, god creates a different boundary for every person, and it is up to that person to fell out that boundary for themselves. If they need the help of god, they ask it in the way that is comfortable to them. See my next blog post for a HUGE expansion on this topic. And I really don’t know if this train of thought followed, so if I screwed up, please tell me.

  3. On internet creepiness
    That’s actually a really good example of what we are talking about here in relating to both God and evil. On the internet there is a distance, just as we feel with God. We evaluate the other person out there in cyberspace by very limited criteria. We can misinterpret in either direction. But my REAL children know me for who I am. (as do the surrogate ones I joke about hanging around my house.) Because they KNOW me in person they have a basis to evaluate me. A God from afar is like trying to pick out decent people from creeps on the internet. In fact the more decent they seem, the more we wonder if they are just an unusually manipulative creep. But your real father you know. If I would say to you, Rana, your real father is a murderer, you’d say back to me, I KNOW MY FATHER, AND HE IS NOT A MURDER! I could stand there all day and suggest that many fathers are actually murderers, and wonder where you get the audacity to say yours is different! What I am saying is that I know God like you know your natural father, and God wants to make Himself known to all this way – that is, in the heart. But a God we only read about, who is distant, and uncertain, we find ourselves second-guessing, questioning his motives, and uncertain of which renditions are good and which do not have our best interests at heart. We wonder if he’s all good, or is up to evil as well. Can you really trust a God you don’t know and who operates from afar? Can you properly interpret his motives? Can you truly love this kind of a God with out KNOWING him. Love involves trust. We cannot give all and yield all to a God we aren’t really sure if we can trust. Love that withholds comes up short. Love that is tentative is short of the ideal. And if we’ve been burned in one religious system, that makes it even more difficult, just like someone who has been burned in marriage. What I am saying is that if you KNEW this God, 90% of your questions would disappear. You’d still have questions, but when you trust on the most basic level, the remaining questions we can live with. I believe God wants to reveal Himself to you on a more real and personal level, and that is my prayer for you.

    • Greg, I am not arguing your points, as they are all reasonable. But you still are not understanding what I’m doing here. I know the god I believe in. I know what I know of it. I can trust it, even from afar, and why should it need a motive at all but to let us experience the world? You say people second-guess a ‘God’ they only read about; well isn’t that what most Christians do? Most of the ones I know that call themselves Christian go to church once a week and don’t talk about it for the other six days. I know Jews who are the same. I am firm and confident in the way I believe in god. I am prepared to accept direction from it if it so desires to send it to me, although I have no expectations from it. And I know that I will feel something great when I am given that guidance, if I am given it at all. Just because I decide to read the beliefs of others, learn about them, does not mean that I am not certain in my own belief. That fear of doubt is what creates the divides between religions that cause such tension among people. I don’t have questions about god. I have questions about how people choose their way of believing in god. You’ll see in the blog post I’m working on (going to have to post it tomorrow, lot of things going on at home right now) that to me, all religions are true and real religions, and that they are all manifestations of the passion we have for god. God is not jealous, it is not greedy for our attention, and again it does not judge us for believing in one way versus another. With this in mind, I enjoy finding god in every religion, and watching people and wondering how they cause so much agony for themselves by arguing about which way is best, which way is right. That is what this post is about.

  4. First some quick responses before I go off on a tangent. Regarding most Christians guessing about a God they only read about: I would say that is completely untrue about most Christians who are born again and hold to a biblical faith. Most I know came into a relationship with God FIRST, and God revealed the validity of scripture subsequent to that fact. In other words, it began with a revelation of Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit. In fact scripture tells us that no man can come to God unless the Father draws him. Regarding most Christians you know going to church once a week and not talking about it the other six days, this was certainly true of my Catholic church experience, and with mainline tradition based churches, which in my mind retain an empty shell of religious trappings that is completely devoid of the life of God. It’s like those locust shells we see lying around in the summer. They look like a locust, but there is no life inside. Most bible-based Christians I know are consumed with God in their daily lives. Not a matter for argument, just a statement of my experience. Regarding your statement, “I am prepared to accept direction from it if it so desires to send it to me, although I have no expectations from it.”, You may have your expectations of God reversed, consistent with the things I wrote about Generation X. Rather “It” will reveal Himself to you and direct your life when you seek “it” with all of your heart. This will take some stretching toward God on your part. As to your having “no expectations from it”, you will not hear from God until you reach a point in your life where you MUST hear, and will not take “No” for an answer. This place I speak of represents the end of your self. It will likely take some sort of crisis to bring you to that point (It did for me, for my wife, and for most people I know) It takes a situation that requires something utterly beyond our own resources. Also regarding expectations, scripture says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Heb 11:6) Regarding your statement, “I have questions about how people choose their way of believing in god.” I would only say that scripturally, we cannot come to God at all on our own resources. When we exhaust ourselves of these, we may for the first time be in a place of receiving His. For the record, scripture also tells us that we did not choose God, but He chose us. Also, “Who has given to God that God should repay him?” (Rom. 11:35) Regarding, “all religions are true and real religions, and that they are all manifestations of the passion we have for god” This would be true if true faith were based on man and his efforts. And this is the paradigm shift, I believe, that needs to occur in your mind. It is not based on man and his efforts; it is based on God. It centers on God, not man. Regarding your statement that God is not jealous, or that He will not judge us for believing one way or another, I can only say that scripture tells us point blank that God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5, 34:14, Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15, Jsh. 24:9, Nah 1:2, Zech. 1:14, 2Cor. 11:2) (But that is a separate discussion) Regarding how we believe, I would say that our hearts, more than anything, determine our beliefs. God knows our hearts. (And our hearts can be quite deceitful, by the way – believing a certain way, or not believing based on its own desires and intentions.
    Now for the tangent, which after somewhat of a machine-gun response to you, may be all the more appropriate. I’ll call this, “From creepiness to boldness”. When you said, “Going to put my internet guard up just a little (don’t be upset), but the father thing is a little creepy.”, it actually did upset me – a lot. I said to my wife, “I was afraid this might be misinterpreted, and now I feel like some creepy guy on the internet” As I laid my head on my pillow, I said to the Lord, “I know my heart was right in this, but was I unwise in expressing any kind of warmth at all on the internet? I felt the Lord brought the following scripture to my mind. (Prayer is the Christian response to things in this world that feel out of kilter, and this response may serve as a demonstration of how I relate to God, and how scripture comes into play) The verse was:
    1 Tim 5:1-2
    1 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers,
    2 older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

    I believe the biblical answer to relating to the opposite sex beyond one’s spouse, date, fiancé, etc., is to relate with a familial warmth. Mothers and sisters (and by extension, daughters), are the last people in the world that most men would want to think of with wrong motives. In your posting, that preceded the one in which I mentioned a kind of fatherly affection, you had raised the concern about “our conversation on Yahoo getting tense” (And indeed, the first part of this letter is certainly full of strong disagreement as well) I was trying to set you at ease. I believe that the Christian response to disagreement is both warmth and commitment – the kind that we find in family relationships. For this reason, you persevere with the sometimes intense disagreements with your mother, and she with you. (And the commitment will sustain the relationship where warmth is absent, and the greater challenge may be in maintaining the warmth)
    Contrast this for a moment to the Muslim handling of the dangers of impropriety between men and women. Rather than familial warmth, we have legalistic distancing and separation, veils, burqas – anything but love. In fact, unlike the biblical instruction for a man to love his wife and love his children, the Muslim model is austere and degrading to them both – even within their own families. And the opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference. (In fact, I would call hatred a sign of violated love, and would call indifference lovelessness) In the dangerous waters between the sexes, God has an answer – an active, but familial love operating within very clearly prescribed boundaries.
    When I think of my own children, I often disagree with what they are doing, but am committed to them no matter what they do or say. In love, I will also speak my thoughts and admonition to them – more freely than to most people. This idea of love based on the family goes in both directions, and introduces additional proprieties into the picture. For instance, when I relate to those who are a generation older than me (and the number left is starting to dwindle, and they do not usually relate on the internet!), I tend, even at my age, to relate to them with a degree of deference and respect. In relating to those a generation younger, I tend to relate with patience, affection, and with striving to listen and understand. You mentioned in your post about people critiquing your writing, that you most dread the people with the two-word empty compliment, or the two word put down. I would suggest to you that neither of these are loving. The first is indifferent and loveless, the second is harsh and loveless. People on the internet tend to relate this way because of the separation involved – just like people will be rude in traffic in a way that they would not be face to face. Not much real communication occurs without warmth and without commitment. The issue is propriety. Hope this clears things up. I know I’m clear – mostly because I resolved it between God and myself. What I am saying is that I can retain warmth in the midst of strong disagreement. In the heat of issues I can return to a friendliness with people as if we agreed on everything all the time. God’s kind of love is interested primarily in the other’s well-being. It is not passive (though it can let differences and offenses pass when it is best) It is not indifferent. It can come on strong, or refrain, depending on what it perceives is in the ultimate best interest of the other. The bond of real love (and I mean God’s kind of love) is strong, and can handle a great deal of turbulence. And I leave you with one final scripture verse (not to antagonize you!)

    Prov 27:6
    6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (KJV)

    Take care

    • Greg, the whole putting my guard up thing: I think you’re taking way too personally. It is more a message to anyone else who ends up reading our discussion that I put that statement. Anyone reading this discussion who minutely thinks that your dialogue has managed to make me put my ‘guard down’ as it were, would immediately try to copycat your intelligence as a way to deceive me. It’s the way the internet works, and it’s sick and obnoxious, but what are you going to do? Frankly, if it weren’t for that possibility, I’d likely not have said anything at all. And it has nothing to do with you being male or female. I couldn’t care less. You can’t allow yourself to 100% trust anyone over this medium. I trust myself to make the proper judgment after a good amount of information to base that judgment off of in this kind of situation, and I trust you. That doesn’t mean I can’t put a disclaimer reminding everyone else that I still have a guard up, just in case. But let’s just leave that be.

      For your first comments: as a general answer, let me say that I agree with your description of reaching out to god when I need it most. But that being the case, there is nothing wrong with working myself to the bone trying to make it my own way, holding the burden back from it, if you like. Especially since I live with the mindset that I am to live my life on the world, for a small moment in my eternal existence, without its help. I trust myself and trust in the gifts it has given me to make it through this life on my own, and rely on its power later on, when I can understand far more than I can understand in this life.

      As for difference in people, I see this as a difference in who we associate with. Not that you actively avoid people who have not had this ‘experience’ as you have, but that because I do not associate directly with either anymore, I have managed to meet both kinds of people in a very broad spectrum. For people who live that way, it is enough for them, a once a week comfort, that they live their lives around, whether they live their lives well or not, that is their choice.

      Addressing using our own resources, etc., my study of other religions is not to find a resource I am comfortable with, and in fact is not really a spiritual search for myself at all. I look to see where god fits itself into every religion, how it spiritually inspires so many people across the planet using so many different names. You are right, it doesn’t have anything to do with our human resources, but how god works through those resources to essentially the same end in every part of the world.

      To touch on the jealousy thing, again, I really can’t just take scripture as an answer there. If god is unconditionally loving, then why be jealous of anything? Anything that ‘God’ is jealous of, it would have to be jealous of its own creation, which to me makes no sense. If God is unconditionally loving, it would have no need for any other emotion, and as I’ve said (or tried to) god’s love is beyond the petty love we humans have come to understand. It is something beyond all other emotions, and so blots out all other emotions. There is no need for jealousy, and unconditional trust is simply an aspect of that unconditional love, not a separate emotion to itself.

      On the topic of true religion, although I’m still working on the blog post to complete this part of the discussion, I have to say that although I agree it does come from god, but that does not mean that every person on the planet will translate god the same way. There have been religions before Christianity, before Catholicism, before Judaism, and there will be religions when those are dead and gone. It is not the religion that you are supposed to worship, but the god behind it. And to me, every religion I have found holds a piece of god in it, and that’s all that matters. The people believing it don’t have to understand that. And sometimes there are people who don’t follow the part of their religion that holds god. But at some point in every person’s life, they have religion, and at some point in that religion they touch god, whether they know it or not, and whether they act on it or not. That piece of god will follow them for the rest of their lives. To be continued in the blog post.

  5. Rana,
    I appreciate your reply, and it clears things up about my concerns in not being misinterpreted, which is easy, by the way – not just on the internet, but with any written medium. I wrestle with this with people who know me directly. Every now and then, without being in person, humor can be interpreted as a derogatory remark, directness as anger, and a delay in response as who knows what. You responded at a perfect time here, in that you provided me with a convenient procrastination in my next project (a website), as I am finished my books, have gathered information about web hosting, and there is not much left but the doing. (And I’m thinking, “Do I really want to get into this?”) It will be an involved site, with a public section, as well as passworded modules for people to discuss (anonymously at first) issues within their own churches that would normally be ignored or suppressed by taking them right to the leadership. I will have a “Take the discussion private” button, so people can link up with one another in common issues, and go into details that are not appropriate in public, and reveal their identities beyond their screen names to each other if they choose. A third section yet will involve underground church groups, and will involve even more password protection. The interesting thing is that when people type in their church name on google, the website will also come up, though the church modules will only be accessible by those who have registered to that particular church. So you can probably understand a little procrastination on my part before jumping into these waters. Can you say, “glutton for punishment”? I also am assessing the time commitment involved. It will involve a lot of engaging (which I love, by the way), and hammering things out in the arena.

    On the jealousy issue, this is a tough one, and can only be answered in the context of what real love truly is. Just some thoughts to jog your thinking. First, we are clearly not speaking of the kind of jealousy as when we are jealous of someone’s talents, or what someone has, etc. I would put jealousy in the same boat as anger. (And scripture is also very clear that God gets angry.) It also says, “Be angry, but do not sin in your anger”. Both jealousy and anger are responses to a violation. So the first question is, in a given situation, “Do I have a right to be angry or jealous”? Is the anger or jealousy aroused out of love, or out of selfishness? I have no right, for instance, to be jealous of another’s abilities. I did nothing to earn them, and in fact, did nothing to earn my own. If my wife cheated on me, however, I would have a right to both jealous and angry. (Though I would not have a right to just any old response) For me to not be jealous, angry, and hurt in response to a violation of a deeply committed and intimate relationship would reveal an icy coldness, indifference, and a lack of vulnerability. Love must be warm, intensely caring, and necessarily vulnerable. The God of love (In fact, it says, “God is love”) has created us with such incredible significance, that He cannot relate to a conscious, choosing, self-aware being without subjecting Himself to hurt and pain, given that the fundamental quality of His nature is love. (And this love is active and passionate!) The God of love, in fact, considers pain a small price to pay for love. Imagine for a moment if your boyfriend misinterpreted some situation as your being with someone else, and when you go to clear up the misunderstanding, you discover he is completely unruffled – total equanimity – not hurt or upset in the slightest! I think this would not reveal some sort of superior love, but callousness, untouchableness, and that you really are not significant enough to him to even move him to anger or jealousy at the loss or violation of the relationship. Now husband wife, and usually boyfriend and girlfriend, are exclusive relationships where we do not want another occupying the place in the heart that we occupy. In a similar fashion, your boyfriend would not be jealous of your mother’s love for you (and if he was, he would have no right to it, in that your mother’s love for you is not intrinsically competitive with his (Unless you’ve somehow hooked up with a very needy man! 🙂 ) It was God, in fact, that said, after creating Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone”. God was completely understanding of his need for an equal. The only jealousy God has is for those things that compete with the exclusive relationship of God in our hearts – whether speaking of other spiritual entities, or even of created things which are good, but do not deserve the place of God in the heart. In fact, anything we place in that place will bring us grief, emptiness, and trouble. God requires of His creatures one thing, really – to occupy first place in the heart. (And the Creator certainly has the right to occupy the place above all others in the heart of Hs creatures) (And by the way, it is significant that we are in agreement to the idea of a Creator) After that, He rejoices in our enjoying one another, and creation, and it says, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. Being “born again”, is basically a reinstatement of God to the rightful place of the heart, which places all other things in proper perspective. God’s jealousy is an exclamation point on His love and His humility in leaving Himself vulnerable to His creatures. We can freely subject ourselves to a God with this kind of love. We can also relate to Him in this. Ever wonder why a God of infinite intelligence does not get bored of us? It is because God never gets bored with love.

  6. The Gospel of Judas is fascinating but before you make up your mind about what it is saying you might want to consider a new book “The Thirteenth Disciple” http://www.amazon.com/The-Thirteenth-Disciple-Ahmed-al-Hasan/dp/1481997181/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1361453349&sr=8-10&keywords=the+thirteenth+disciple or iBookstore https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-thirteenth-disciple/id590961145?ls=1 . All of the other authors, such as Marvin Meyer, have made a fundamental assumption that has led them to a mistaken conclusion. The fundamental assumption is that every Judas spoken to in the Gospel of Judas is Judas Iscariot. And that might seem like a safe assumption before you read the book I linked. A couple of other points to be made: first, the name is not really Judas, but Yehudah. Judas is the anglicized Greek rendering of the name and it is generally reserved for Judas Iscariot. But in the Bible there is Judah and Jude as well and they all are actually simply Yehudah, but in context when the person is known they are represented with various names. And this is the problem with the Gospel of Judas as it is assumed that everytime the name Judas appears it is Judas Iscariot. Second point is, before even getting into the overwhelming evidence heavily footnoted with references in The Thirteenth Disciple, an obvious problem is the apparent contradictions. This is why Iraneous and others tried to erase the Gospel of Judas 1800 years ago. According to their understanding, if this is Judas Iscariot being referred to in the Gospel of Judas, it is obviously contradicting accepted gospels and if forced to make a choice then the weight of evidence is against the Gospel of Judas. But once one realizes that this Judas who is asked to “sacrifice the man who clothes me” is not Judas Iscariot, but the one who betrays in the end is Judas Iscariot, then things start to make more sense. And then an even larger question arises that actually dwarfs the mystery of the Gospel of Judas, the question: if this Judas who is so close to Jesus is not Judas Iscariot, who is he? And that story is the really amazing part of this.

    • Without the current ability to glance at the book you have graciously linked (which I plan to do once I’m on a computer and not my phone) I’d like to make a preliminary guess that the second Judas you and the book refer to is Judas, twin brother of Jesus? Or Judas, brother of Matthew and possible one of the other Twelve. Meyer references both in the introduction to the book I was reading. Interesting possibilities and interpretations no matter which Judas you put in the context of the gospel text.

      • Actually Rana, this Judas is neither a twin brother of Jesus, the brother of Matthew, nor one of the twelve, but another Judah. Jesus says in the Gospel of Judah, “You will become the thirteenth, and you will be cursed by the other generations — and you will come to rule over them. In the last days they will curse your ascent [47] to the holy [generation]”
        “but you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.”
        “Already your horn has been raised, your wrath has been kindled,
        your star has shown brightly,
        and your heart has … [57]”

        This Judah is described by Jesus as being destined to rule over them. So that raises the question, what Judah has ruled over them? And if it has not yet occurred, then how can the Judah being spoken to 2000 years ago come to rule over 2000 years later?

        This question and more have been answered in the book I linked, Rana. And what is unique about it is that other interpretations of these events must ignore some evidence, such as “you will come to rule over them”, in order to make their interpretations seem to make sense.

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