The Sin of Weight and the Weight of Sin

I believe that I have finally come to terms with my weight. Why now you ask? Because I no longer listen to what others proscribe when it comes to the size and disposition of my body; A) because, like politics, social engineering has gone way overboard in their intrusiveness into the private lives of the average person and B) because it’s nobody’s business how and what I eat, what size clothes I wear, or how often I exercise or even if I don’t.  Curiously, today I was thinking that the weight loss industry was pretty similar to what I like to call the “sin loss industry;” in other words, religion. Social engineers and the religious tell you that you are not acceptable as you are and each offers a way to “fix” you, but only if you are motivated enough! Each thrives on the guilt of the person marketed to. Each has a thriving book, DVD, food supplement, and CD industry committed to selling you the next best thing to keep you motivated. And each convinces you that you are the failure if the next best thing fails to work. They create the problem and then offer the cure.

Two blogs made me come to terms with how closely Weight and Sin are allied in the world; Corpulent’s post and Angry Gray Rainbow’s post.  Corpulent makes the point that even in the Fatosphere, we must prove that we are doing the right things and eating the right things in order to explain our fatness.  Angry Gray Rainbow reveals to us how her husband’s battle with a particular “sin” in his life transferred to her life and drew her in by implication. Reading these made me realize how closely people equate Weight with Sin and how both worlds try to impose standards of confession, repentance, and behavior modification so as to make them feel better about the imposition on our lives but to also make us feel worse when we can’t meet the standard. The emphasis is of course on feeling worse, without which feeling we would not sink our hard earned money into more remedies, more diets, more books, bibles, philanthropic giving, etc. to assuage the guilt. Both are about making us as small as possible to escape the notice of our fellow humans and a retributive God.

How many people do you know recount every bite of food they had to eat that day as if you are the priest and they are sitting in a confessional? Quite often, I’d guess. I’ve even done it myself, not only to others, but ad nauseum in my journals. I still do it as a matter of fact. Not because I care what I eat, but because it’s a habit that I can’t now break, even though it does not one bit of good. The diet industry has trained all its minions to constantly count calories and keep food journals because they tell us it will make us more mindful of what we eat. What it seems to do more often than not is create many more obsessive compulsive behaviors; bulimia, anorexia, OCD, etc.. Likewise, religions, especially Christianity, tell us that we must confess and repent of our sins daily. Recount, recount, recount and then we are to take steps to stop our behavior. All of course this does is to focus our attentions on all that we do “wrong” and not on all that we’ve done right. Rather than allow us to make these decisions ourselves, we must predict dire consequences for those who stray outside the bounds of the proscribed rules.

The emphasis is so much on failure that the obsession to find a fix takes over in harmful ways. The insidious part of this is that we are also blamed mightily for having failed to keep to the rigorous structure of our obsession with recounting. In the diet/entertainment industry, you must be weighed all the time, your measurements recorded and a goal posted for all to see.  This is a shaming technique similar to public confession of sin during church, recounting sins in a confessional, or any amount of “accountability” which is supposed to keep one on the straight and narrow. When one slips up, it’s always, always because you weren’t motivated enough, didn’t stick to the diet, didn’t pray, didn’t believe in this or that ideology, didn’t do this or do that. In other words, the onus of failure is always on the person attempting to modify their behavior, never on the method for procuring it. Your public excoriation and humiliation is supposed to cure you of course. The method itself is suspect in my opinion.

When I shifted the constant and unwarranted blame from myself and began to focus on the obvious faults of the method used to “cure” me, I could better focus on living each day to its fullest. In Christianity, I no longer blamed myself for not having enough time for devotions, for not reading the bible enough, or not praying, especially if I got no response and God failed to show up for these encounters. I just quit seeing everything I did or didn’t do as the heinous sin I was told it was.  Some see this as giving license to sin, but one has to question a method that fails again and again to effect change in most people. One would wonder that perhaps it’s the method that doesn’t work. No sooner did I give up this self maligning tactic, than I found it easier to just focus on living life, not merely avoiding sin. Avoidance only makes the thing avoided take on monumental importance, almost to the degree that you can’t avoid it even if you wanted to! It’s almost sure to happen!

Similarly, when I finally figured out that it wasn’t me who failed to recount every single food item I ate, failed to weigh myself daily, or failed to follow this or that exercise regime, it was the unrealistic expectations of an industry designed to make money off of my failures. Writing down every single food item made me realize how much I penalized myself in the pursuit of thinness. I therefore stopped blaming myself for failing to fit into the mold outlined for me. What a bunch of hooey that is too. Woman A can follow all the guidelines and expect perhaps to lose X amount of weight while Woman B down the street does exactly the same thing and gains weight.  Conclusion? We are not exactly alike.  I firmly believe that despite the nonsense of it on principle, BMI’s are adjusted downward arbitrarily every year by a panel of folks supported by the Diet Industry. Yet the Diet Industry and the Sin Industry treat us all as if we were cookie cutouts of each other (except for the gurus of course, who can live as they please off the largess of their minions). They rely on our wishing to fit in and pay any amount to do so.

I also learned to quit “feeding” the industry machine. I wasn’t going to be a better Christian if I bought one more re-issue of a study bible. I would not become a better Christian if I followed assiduously every morning, this or that bible study written by the latest christian guru,  prayed for two hours on my knees, or spent every Saturday afternoon in confession. I also would not make my fat acceptable to others if I constantly told people what I put into my mouth every day or shared with them how many calories I ate or didn’t. I was not going to be more loved and live life more fully just because I bought clothes off the same rack as a skinnier girl down the street. I have a lot of other things going for me than what size pair of pants I wear. The incessant noise of this over-sharing even invades the work place where everyone I know is on some kind of diet and feels the need to confess  it on a daily basis so that others know they are on the straight and narrow path. They are like evangelists trying to save your soul. If only everyone was on a diet, they would feel so much better about themselves.

Likewise, a public figure’s battles with “sin” merely confirm to me that we are all human beings who fail. I have much sympathy for them, not scorn. Those who fall hardest are often those who rail against sin the loudest and that’s unfortunate. They are the ones most in need of learning to live their own lives and taking their own responsibility for mistakes. Anyone who claims an “ism” and sets out the rules for following such “isms” are often just as guilty of setting up failure. The only ones getting any joy out of this blaming scenarios are those who point fingers and say, “See? See? I told you he/she was just sinful to the core!” It’s all about making ourselves feel superior isn’t it?

Feel superior if you must, but I know my failings. I know my responsibilities. I know what size is good for me. Rather than the constant monologue of failure, I’m learning to replace it with a common sense of kinship with every other human being who “sins” daily and begins the cycle of hating myself, repenting, sin again, and hating myself. Someone has to jump off that wheel. I’m glad to see more people doing it.

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Working and Blogging Don’t Mix

I’ve had the month from hell at work. Yes, I said hell in church because sometimes there is no difference between the church I work for and any other business. There are still deadlines, etc. January is one of those months. I hate it. I’ve also found that since I started blogging, my work has suffered. This past year has seen me admit to an enormous amount of mistakes at work. Why? I honestly think that my mind is on 22201397.jpgblogging and not on my job. No one polices our internet usage here. We are trusted to do the appropriate things at our desks and on the internet. So unless I police myself, no one will; not to mention that the use of my time is not well spent on the internet when there is work to do. Also, it’s not very good stewardship to get paid for having fun on the internet.

Therefore, during this Lenten season, I’m going to blog less and concentrate on my job more, which means comments will be moderated nightly, but not hourly. It means that I won’t be paying close attention to dialogue here or over at DeConversion blog where I also write. But, I think the internet will survive nicely without me checking in 10 or 11 times an hour.  It’s been a battle this year to get focus, to do a good job, and to get my head in the game. To give myself some slack, it was a fierce year healthwise. I’ve had an artery unblocked and I’ve had a hysterectomy, as well as recurring back trouble due to stress, so I’m not being TOO hard on myself. My stress level is directly at odds with my hormone level, so it’s a bit confusing right now. However, Lent is a time to remember that we are from dust and to dust we will return. I think I can practice SOME discipline here, and it just might help my workday.  Blessings!

“Eat, Pray, Love” Wisdom

God dwells within you, as you….God dwells within you as you yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn’t interested in watching you enact some performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have about how a spiritual person looks or behaves. We all seem to get this idea that, in order to be sacred, we have to make some massive, dramatic change of character, that we have to renounce our individuality. This is a classic example of what they call in the East “wrong-thinking.” Swamiji used to say that every day renunciants find something new to renounce, but it is usually depression, not peace, that they attain. Constantly he was teaching that austerity and renunciation–just for their own sake–are not what you need. To know God, you need only to renounce one thing–your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character (Liz Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, pages 191-192).

There is much truth in this. Who among us have not thought that we had to suddenly become meek if we were boisterous and outgoing? Who among us have thought that we needed to become evangelists even though we are terrified of public speaking? Moses aside, I don’t believe God makes everyone of us to be cookie-cutter Christians, imitating each other and each other’s gifts. Christianity proclaims repentance as a necessary step in the journey, but for many new Christians, repentance is never explained. The biblical view of repentance means to turn around and go in another direction, NOT renounce yourself, your thoughts, your actions, or your personality and become a totally different person. Turning around in the middle of your path and going in another direction will no doubt make you grow and mature in unexpected ways, but by no means are we enjoined to become something we are not. Renew your minds, don’t erase them!

Sadly, I’ve seen marriage crumble in my own family due to conversions when those converted become mere caricatures of themselves. They so drastically alter their personalities that they are virtually unrecognizable and what endeared us to them is no longer there. They attempt to put on this mask of holiness; what they believe people expect of them. I found that the more I pushed to be something I wasn’t, the more I hated everything about church and Christianity. The more I decided to just be myself and all that that entailed, the more I was able to let go of legalism, christian fadism, and rage against all those who didn’t see things the way I did. All of these things were results of trying to be something I wasn’t and trying to force others to do the same. Refusing to become like every other brainwashed Christian is the first step in freeing yourself from being a slave to religious trends and fashions.

God dwells within us, AS US. God doesn’t come and erase all our years of living and our personalities and take up residence in our souls to make us Stepford Children. God chooses us, woos us, and justifies us just as we are.

Carving Out Your Own Spiritual Space Among a Sea of Religionists

This week has been a particularly stress free spiritual week for me, until today. I started sensing this peace a couple of weeks ago by first carving out a new space on the web for my personal musings (somewhere secret and far away from here) and by attending Mass a couple of times at my local Catholic church.  The two experiences have melded very nicely together. However, my peace came to a screeching halt. I can’t believe how choosing to experience my spirituality in several different ways would be so bothersome to so many people! I’ve learned that there is great benefit in surrendering to whatever comes my way as spiritual food. I don’t question it. It’s all a gift.  But, for others who think they know me, it’s the height of absurdity.  I’m doing it all wrong! Increasingly, I am getting a sneaking suspicion that those who read this particular blog in a cursory manner might think that I am either just a religionist or a spineless agnostic unwilling to take the existential leap into the surety of unbelief. Either way, my blog has gotten wrested out of my hands in a most peculiar manner.  I almost feel as if I can’t be honest anymore without being attacked by men from every side. Some choose to leave anonymous barbs. Others choose to tackle what they see as a “stubborn woman.” Sadly, this is typical of women’s blogs. I’ve become cornered and corralled by men who would assume to know what is good for me in the faith and belief department or even in the no faith or belief department. I hope to set this straight right now.

I am a woman whose spirituality is eclectic and I am free to absorb the graces of all traditions. I am a cultural religionist, meaning that I like the trappings of all religions, especially the Pagan and Roman Catholic variety, but I also know that I am most definitely not committed to religion as a necessity of faith. Spirituality and religious institutions are poles apart. One is true faith. The other is a man-made attempt to trap the impossible and to dispense it’s forms of piety to humankind. the former is egalitarian and nurturing of all. The other is top-down, power-over hierarchy plain and simple. I am also most definitely a pagan theistic agnostic. I don’t believe that anyone can know for certain whether the doctrine they teach so assuredly about God is true. I believe that Godde is neither male nor female and that in order to nourish all souls, this genderless Godde must take precedence in our mass psyche. No one can possibly know that such a Godde exists because there is no proof beyond one’s own experience of Godde. Revelation to one person is that one person’s experience. All else is hearsay.

But! I am also a Christian, someone who believes in Christ.  I am not your definition of a Christian nor am I someone else’s definition of a Christian. One may have one’s own experience of Christ or one may take the word of other people who have had an experience of Christ. There is no other option.  I have had an experience with Christ. I do not, however, believe that every person who claims to have an experience has indeed had one.  People are free to think this of me as well. It’s my word against theirs after all. To me Christ is all of the grace of Godde embodied.  I do not believe in the Old Testament God. Israel’s experience with their God is very problematic, because it posits a male God who is hateful, vengeful, and spiteful to all other nations but Israel. This is how Israel experienced God because Israel had a personal stake in carving out their spiritual space among the plethora of religions rampant in that area during the formation of the their nation. However, Israel’s experience is by no means proof of who God really is, nor is it the God of the New Testament. All is speculative and unprovable.

Many, many folks seem to want to equate institutional religion as we know it today with spirituality. They think that just because you have faith, you MUST practice a religion of some kind. Not true. Many Buddhists have faith in a perfected soul or universe, but they have no religious practice. Yet other Buddhists do have religious practice. Many Muslims are practitioners of religion. Many other mystical Muslims are not. It’s the same for every religion. Protestant Christians especially believe that any other practice but their own is legalistic. They are usually pointing fingers at the Catholic church when they say this. Growing up in church, they will say, doesn’t mean you have faith. This is true. Church is a great place to grow some faith if you’re so inclined, but it’s not an automatic “in.” Going to church may also kill what faith you may have had to begin with (some of the people I know here such as me, and those at agnosticatheism’s blog, have had this happen to us). For us, religion gets in the way of faith and inserts its own agenda where there should be none. Some of these friends are in the process of deconversion from their religions, but some of us cling to what little faith we have, recognizing full well the tactics of religionists to get us within their clutches once again. Religion is merely a tool in the hands of the wise and a battering ram in the hands of the power hungry.

Conversely, NOT going to church does not mean I DON’T have faith. End of discussion.  I know that I am prone to assuming many things myself,  but really, how many times do I have to be hit with the same story or the same comments or the same accusations to know that the debate isn’t worth the trouble or that it will always lead to a stalemate or that it will always end the same way? It’s only a battle of wills and who’s more stubborn than who? When Christians debate non-Christians, or even other Christians, it’s very easy for them to assume things about their “opponent” that isn’t necessarily true and toss off comments meant to be scathing rather than those that promote dialogue. It’s been going on for thousands of years. It will continue to go on for thousands more and it will never be resolved. Our own pride often prevents us from listening. Much like the jockeying for position that takes place during my morning commute to work. All anyone wants to do is get in front of everyone else. There’s no discussion of why or how or no polite gestures of letting people go first. Everyone wants to go first! When Christians assume you don’t have faith because you don’t go to church any longer, they are really jockeying for position to be first by saying that you don’t have THEIR brand of faith, or you don’t go to THEIR church, or you don’t practice piety as THEY do. It’s not about respecting your faith at all, it’s about promoting their own. Submit to what we believe and only THEN will we rest.

You see what other people believe about the religion of Christianity are all moot points for me. I’ve decided to pick and choose what I practice, because the practice of religion is only for my spiritual nourishment, not a test of faith for others to judge me. Religion is not meant to be a “marker” of my piety, to somehow show others how far I’ve come up the spiritual ladder, so that they can judge my progress and report back to those in power. Practicing religion how and when I choose to has nothing to do with whether I even have faith or not. To me religion and the institutions that generate them are not faith but are only pretty ways to “practice piety before men to be seen by them (Matthew 6:1-6),” ways of jockeying for spiritual position.So, what feeds my faith? Many different things. By embracing all religions or none at all, I am bound by none. I know the difference between the definition of legalism and pure grace and I am no more convicted to confess to a priest that I missed Mass on Sunday, than I am to feel guilty that I have “forsaken the assembling of ourselves together” with my fellow Protestants. Both may pronounce me hell bound, but I know in heart that my fate is in Godde’s hands alone, if indeed there is a Godde who decides such mundane things or who even cares that humans down here are theoretically and actually killing each other over interpretations of such things. Who can know? But if I want to pray to the saints, speak in tongues, or prance naked in a coven full of wiccans, it’s my business and my spirituality. It’s what feeds me.

Bottom line is: I go to church or to coven or to Zen meditation to nurture the tiny amount of faith that is left in me, that hasn’t been squashed out of me by religious male zealots, but I am not bound by religious rules made by men. I’ve carved out my own spirituality, one that’s my own. That’s true freedom from legalism. That’s true grace. That’s true spirituality. But don’t assume, because I don’t believe as you do, because I don’t go to the same church you do, or even because I don’t go to church at all, that I am in need of “correction” or that I don’t properly “understand” the Gospel or even that I am inviting debate about it. I’m not. It’s my business. I don’t need men’s advice. I don’t need someone else telling me I’m doing it wrong. This is the hardest thing to get men to understand about why we create our own woman’s space on the web. You see, I’ve earned the rewards of my own spirituality through hard-won experience, faith in myself, confidence, and spiritual practice.  I’m not asking your permission. I’m telling you like it is.

Who Is This Person So Full of Grace?

 

Did I really write this? I wrote it not so very long ago, yet it seems an eternity. Who is this woman? What were her thoughts, feelings, fears? How could she have written something so beautiful and be so bitter now? Where did the sweet spirit go that I sense here? Was it all a charade? Who is real? Which one is the “glittering image” designed to awe and which one is the true self designed to inspire?

Where did this obvious longing for God go? A. W. Tozer, in The Pursuit of God, wrote:

I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. Too bad that with many of us He waits so long, so very long, in vain…

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and the servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all.

If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to `babes’ and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent. We must simplify our approach to Him. We must strip down to essentials (and they will be found to be blessedly few). We must put away all effort to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.

“We must first determine to find Him…” My way has not been simple, but more complicated. I have not come to God at all, but visibly pushed Him at arm’s length. I am pulled between two logical places: my head vs. my heart. My head is evidenced in my latest post. What an insufferable bore I sound in this post. I am all for good principles: alleviating suffering for the vulnerable, but I come at it with a ferocious atheistic determinism. I must believe myself a good person, dammit! However, my heart is evidenced from the post I mention at the beginning of this one.

How can two mutually exclusive modes be coexistent in one person? Am I insane? Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Entertaining two contradictory thoughts at the same time as if they were both true? Someone told me recently that I would benefit from some counseling. I’m beginning to believe they are right, but who can afford it? I suppose I must continue to use my blog as my Freudian couch until the funds roll in. Until then, my head says it’s all bullshit, but my heart says,

We need not fear that in seeking God only we may narrow our lives or restrict the motions of our expanding hearts. The opposite is true. We can well afford to make God our All, to concentrate, to sacrifice the many for the One (Tozer).

If the Body of Christ Doesn’t Represent Jesus Who Does?

Don’t you hate it when Christians say:

it sounds to me like you have a hurt, perhaps by someone (or people) from church, or even the church system itself. You need to remember, that we should not put our trust in the church system, or even people. Jesus is the only one we can depend on, the only one who will never let us down.

Whenever someone says this I want to scream. Why? Because it’s a cop out that’s why. “Jesus will never let us down,” they say. “Depend on Him,” they say.  Well, how exactly do you “depend” on Jesus? The bible says we are to depend on Jesus through the church, the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12: 12, 27; Eph. 4:12; Col. 1:24). What is the church made of? People.  Therefore, we are to depend on the Body of Christ to represent Jesus on earth. When this fails, then what? Why we are right back to where we started. Someone will say, “You must depend on Jesus, not flawed humans.” Bleck! Such tripe. It’s merely an attempt to escape the responsibility of BEING the body of Christ and owning up to the failure of the church when it happens.  It’s so easy to say, “You should never look to people, but only to Jesus!” When we are also told constantly that “we need a God with skin on!” Remember that in Sunday sermons! The only God with “skin on” is the Body of Christ represented by the church.

Come on! Won’t someone please say, “You know what, we’ve failed as the body of Christ. Many, many people are hurt by the church and perhaps we need to do something about it. We are not representing Christ to other people. We’ve failed and we’re sorry.” Now THAT would be refreshing!

What is Meant by “Intimacy” With Christ?

As new believers, no one needed to tell us how to have what Christians call a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. When we came to Jesus for the first time, we were usually looking for something to fill a need and it wasn’t necessary to school us in the ways of being a Christian. In those early “flush” days as new believers, we are as close to Jesus as we will ever be in our entire lives, even if we don’t know how we’ve accomplished it. We believe we experience a fresh flow of the Holy Spirit. We start reading the bible daily because we are told that we will find Jesus there. We attend bible studies at church. We go to church events 2 or 3 times a week. We can’t help but tell others of our salvation from whatever background we had come from because we have been saved from ourselves. Yes, the new Christian’s honeymoon with Jesus seems never ending and always fresh and exciting. But, sadly, it usually comes to a screeching halt, some earlier than others. Enthusiasm wanes. Our spirits no longer tingle with excitement over what we’ve read that day in the bible. We cannot hear God any longer either in church or in our bible reading and we begin to wonder if we ever did.

It’s not until many years later that we see hundreds of books written by other Christians, that are marketed specifically to fill the faith void that strikes most Christians at most times in their lives. We read them voraciously and try to discover how to rekindle that lost love we felt we had as new believers. It’s a lot like a marriage, really, and most language used in describing the Christian life are peculiarly similar to language used to counsel long married couples. One of the words used to describe what our ideal relationship to Christ is, is the word intimacy. Consider the many definitions of “intimacy:”

1. the state of being intimate.
2. a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.
3. a close association with or detailed knowledge or deep understanding of a place, subject, period of history, etc.: an intimacy with Japan.
4. an act or expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, or the like: to allow the intimacy of using first names.
5. an amorously familiar act; liberty.
6. sexual intercourse.
7. the quality of being comfortable, warm, or familiar: the intimacy of the room.
8. privacy, esp. as suitable to the telling of a secret: in the intimacy of his studio.

I’m sure we can eliminate #6 right off the bat, unless you were a 13th or 14th century nun or priest and has such repressive tendencies. The only definition that I think even comes close to describing what Christian teachers may mean when they say that we are to “develop intimacy with Christ” is #3, yet that definition seems purely academic. We can become entirely familiar with a subject, but that does not mean we are close to it in any real personal sense. What I think Christian teachers are aiming for is #2, but I have never been able to understand how you can develop a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with someone who has no physical form or with someone who we are never sure is responding to our advances. According to these Christian teachers, the Holy Spirit serves as a kind of go-between, a mediator, between us and Jesus. However, when it comes to how exactly we are supposed to accomplish this or how we are to establish contact with this Holy Spirit, the best they can offer is to tell us to read the bible and pray more; a purely subjective way of “communicating” with the Holy Spirit.

Despite their objections to the contrary, for every Christian, prayer, or communication with God, is purely a subjective experience. One can never be sure that when one prays, God or Jesus hears us or, that God or Jesus answers us. The same holds with bible reading. One person could read a verse and interpret it to mean something completely inappropriate, for example those who murder abortion clinic doctors in God’s name or those who wish that all unbelievers will die horrible deaths in hell because they don’t believe. Who is the judge of such things one learns in their prayer time? Is the bible the judge? In the Old Testament, God surely encouraged the Israelites to go in and slay those who resisted them. Take what happened to Joshua after he had a particular prayer time with God:

Jos 6:17-27 GNB

(17)The city and everything in it must be totally destroyed as an offering to the LORD. Only the prostitute Rahab and her household will be spared, because she hid our spies.

(18) But you are not to take anything that is to be destroyed; if you do, you will bring trouble and destruction on the Israelite camp.

(19)Everything made of silver, gold, bronze, or iron is set apart for the LORD. It is to be put in the LORD’s treasury.”

(20) So the priests blew the trumpets. As soon as the people heard it, they gave a loud shout, and the walls collapsed. Then all the army went straight up the hill into the city and captured it.

(21) With their swords they killed everyone in the city, men and women, young and old. They also killed the cattle, sheep, and donkeys.

(22) Joshua then told the two men who had served as spies, “Go into the prostitute’s house, and bring her and her family out, as you promised her.”

(23)So they went and brought Rahab out, along with her father and mother, her brothers, and the rest of her family. They took them all, family and slaves, to safety near the Israelite camp.

(24)Then they set fire to the city and burned it to the ground, along with everything in it, except the things made of gold, silver, bronze, and iron, which they took and put in the LORD’s treasury.

(25)But Joshua spared the lives of the prostitute Rahab and all her relatives, because she had hidden the two spies that he had sent to Jericho. (Her descendants have lived in Israel to this day.)

(26)At this time Joshua issued a solemn warning: “Anyone who tries to rebuild the city of Jericho will be under the LORD’s curse. Whoever lays the foundation will lose his oldest son; Whoever builds the gates will lose his youngest.”

(27) So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread through the whole country.

“Oh, that’s different!” our Christian teachers tell us. It was necessary to establish Israel in their land. Oh, really? Doesn’t God work the same way today? No? Yes? If God doesn’t work the same way, then why not? Who decides whether our actions, gleaned from prayer and bible reading, are the “correct” ones? More “mature” Christians you say. Oh? Who decides that their interpretations are also correct? Where does the individual Christian draw the line when deciding what Christian preachers and teachers tell us is true?

Modern Christian teachers are the worst kind of teachers when it comes to advising us on how to maintain a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ or how to inquire of God and receive answers. For them, the evidence of intimacy with Christ may be material prosperity. According to these teachers you must be doing something right if you are becoming more prosperous. Another may preach about positive thinking and about having a purpose statement that will lead us in the right direction for church growth, because after all personal growth leads to larger churches, and isn’t that what Christianity is all about? Yet, Christian teachers can even take their reliance on the inspiration of the bible to extremes and condemn all those to hell for not believing exactly as they do.

Others teach that in order to be “close to God” we must “tithe” like an Israelite. We will receive God’s blessings we are told. If we don’t tithe and offer, then God will not hear us. I heard this on Christian radio just yesterday. Tithing, tithing, tithing, the man screamed. God will not honor us if we don’t give back to him a portion of what he has given to us! Now what does this mean really? It’s not a biblical doctrine in the New Testament. What teachers like this man on the radio means is that the only way he and other Christian teachers and preachers can make money and keep their jobs is if they teach others to give until it hurts. They convince people that God wants us to give tithes and offerings or we aren’t truly Christians. Think about what this means for a minute. How does one give money to God? Does God care about your money? Why not, when you go to church this Sunday, write a check to God and put it in the offering plate? You say that we are required to support the ministers and keep the church buildings going? Why? How do you know that’s what God wants? There were no churches in the New Testament. Ministers had their own jobs and did not make a living off of their preaching. No, tithing is not biblical. But we would never know that unless we looked for ourselves and trusted OUR OWN interpretation of the bible. Again, it’s subjective. All of this confusing and diverse array of Christian teaching serves only to muddy the waters of the Christian life and cause many of us to stumble, fall, and even to lose our faith completely. They are all merely “formulas” to try because some persona tried them and thinks they work for everybody else. And hey, why not make a few bucks telling people that?

The only person who knows about what an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ means is you. The only person who can tell you how to further this relationship to Jesus Christ is you. How do you achieve “intimacy” with Christ? Only YOU can say. Who is to say that we even NEED to have such a relationship with Jesus? Jesus never said, “Have an intimate relationship with me.” He didn’t have to. All the “communication” comes from his direction, “I will send another comforter,” he said (John 15:26). Even, if you never pick up another bible again, you would be able to maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ if that’s what you choose and believe. Who puts limits on the Holy Spirit and tells it where it can go and who it can inspire or how it can inspire us? Who decides which teacher has a valid way to experience God?

My method for deciding who to listen to, if I listen to Christian teachers at all, is to ask one question about their teaching, “Who benefits?” What are they selling? Books? DVDs? Audio sermons? Can a Christian find this out on their own? Do we really NEED that new version of the bible? Have we “bought” into the idea that we can get closer to Jesus if we just have this or that item, if we support this or that ministry? Are we trying to buy faith? Do we feel guilty and judged continually by this or that teacher? (Yes, yes, I know, some will call that being “convicted by the Spirit” but who died and made that teacher a “tool” of conviction?) I know I fall into to this trap fo trying to “feed” my faith with buying crap all the time. I have numerous bibles on my shelf because when my faith wanes or when I feel far from God, I believe that buying another bible (which we’ve been told has ALL the answers) will fill that void. And christian marketers are right there with just the right packaged product that wil lfill the bill.

We are taught NOT to trust our own experience. We are taught to fill ourselves up with that preacher’s ideas. We are taught to give all our money to the church because God will give it all back and then some (but not right away and we must give with the proper attitude and don’t expect it to work like it does for me right now, etc. etc.). We are taught to literally starve ourselves, physically and psychologically, to fast and to tithe, to give, give, give, to feed the Christian machine when really, like Dorothy and all her friends in the Wizard of Oz, we had what we needed for our journey all along; a brain and a heart and a home. Reason, faith, and those we love AND in that order. We can’t have any one of them exclusively without the others to temper us. Don’t even try.

Shepherd Book: “I am a Shepherd. Folks like a man of God.”

Mal: “No, they don’t. Men of God make everyone feel guilty and judged.”

~Firefly