Ken Pulliam has a disturbing report here about another “leader” of a church being investigated for unspeakable crimes against children.
Everyone’s Talking About “Lost”
I gave up on the TV series Lost three seasons ago because I found it hopelessly convoluted. However some people invested a lot of their time watching it and analyzing it. I know the rudiments of what went on in the plot so I won’t hazard a guess as to what it was all about, but Rev. Jeremy has as good an explanation as I’ve read anywhere about what it all means. Makes sense to me.
Plurality of Beliefs
This is one of the most helpful posts I’ve read on the plurality of belief systems. My favorite bit:
In the main, I agree with what Prothero writes and the perspective that he takes. One of my early mentors who encouraged my academic investigations of Buddhism and Asian religion impressed upon me that if all religions are simply a path to the same thing that there was no reason for us to talk. That is and remains a fundamental principle of mine and is an important core around which to form an understand of pluralism as it exists in modern America.
If all paths indeed head to the same place, then no dialog is needed, right? I don’t necessarily ascribe to the “all paths..” viewpoint either and neither does Derek Olsen. Overall, it’s a fine post on where, positionally, the dialog should take place, and I don’t mean on the kitchen table either. (smile)
The Sin of Be-ing
I’ve often argued that religion and faith in something mystical are not synonymous. Jeff Lily has written a nice series on the subject of religion, and written it very well. Start here and wend your way through all six arguments. While I was reading elsewhere on the internet this morning I came across an interview with Dallas Willard. I would like to contrast Lilly’s assessment of religion with Dallas Willard’s excellent explanation regarding atonement theories and Jesus Christ. Coming at it from the theological angle, Willard tries to explain the meaning of justification, atonement, and other Christian terms. While Lilly’s argument takes on Christianity in general, Christians still argue amongst themselves about what role Jesus played.
Surprisingly, after reading both of these, less is Jesus becoming the “sticking point” for me in my spirituality. I’ve long been suspicious of religions and their leaders, but Jesus seemed always to loom large in my world view. However, the whole idea of a necessary atonement implies that humanity is just basically “wrong” from the beginning. This is indeed how many religionists view life and the world, especially the Catholic and Protestant churches. I viewed it once thus myself. All of Christian doctrine hinges on what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, if anything. However, let’s back up and say that no atonement theory explains to my satisfaction the thorny issue of such a God creating a world and then holding it accountable for the flaws this God created. Atonement then is extremely tautological. This doctrine would be like your parents berating you your entire life for having been born, when you are merely the product of their own lusts. They didn’t ask you to be born. You just were. Imagine if they then told you that you can be brought fully into the family if your sister died to make up for it! We are all shocked at such a suggestion. But yet, we are not shocked when the Christian God demands that only by the death of a “son” can said God forgive the world! And THEN we aren’t done! We must then still work and work for a “kingdom” that never arrives and be satisfied that our whole life was spent working for an ethereal idea, all because of the possibility of reward “after death” when there is no proof of life after death either, except Jesus, who was resurrected they say. The church as an institution was created specifically to be the “family” gatekeeper; ones who could say “You are in.” or “You are out.” And not as nicely as Heidi Klum either!
Jeff Lilly makes a good argument for questioning religious leaders and our assumptions about religion, but I think everyone should back up from atonement theories and even religion in general and ask the bigger question behind all of it: Who said there is such a thing as “sin” to begin with and why the automatic assumption that people are “wrong” or guilty from birth? Mary Daly, a radical feminist philosopher with two doctorates in sacred theology and philosophy from the University of Fribourg, Switzerland and a doctorate of religion from St. Mary’s College, writes that sin is “derived from the Indo-European root es- … meaning to be.” (Pure Lust, The Women’s Press, Ltd., London, page 151) She writes further, “clearly our ontological courage, our courage to be implies the courage to be wrong.” (152) In other words, according to men’s religions, we are simply “wrong” from the beginning, women especially so. Therefore to be fully alive, we must find the courage to sin, not avoid sin. We must fully come into be-ing, not try to avoid it, something I believe Eve was faulted for in the Garden of Eden myth and something for which women have been paying ever since.
It’s a lot to take on but Daly’s thinking has so radically jarred my own for the past 10 years, that I have never been able to ignore it and it’s all well worth exploring. Since my college days I’ve asked, “Who said so?” and “Why?” The answers to those questions are why I’m here.
Misogyny in the Morning
Everyone seems so curious about why the Roman Catholic church would allow Anglican congregations to convert en masse to Catholicism, still retaining married priests, etc. The answer is simple: the Catholic Church is suffering a priest shortage and has to solve this somehow. The numbers of those entering the priesthood has been in steady decline since the 60s. So why else would they do it? This allows them to get more priests without having to admit that celibacy should be chosen not forced and also to keep those pesky women out of the priesthood; a “problem” that Anglicans are grappling with right now.
Well damn!! It’s all us “tainted” women’s fault again. If we would just keep our taints out of religion everyone would be happier don’t you think? Then all men can avoid the “pussification” of the countries they live in. Ah… love the smell of misogyny in the morning…..
(thanks Reg for all the links and Tweets that informed this post)
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.
Giving Up Popery For Lent
On second thought, this pisses me off. Everyone should have one long Fat Tuesday for Lent and unashamedly so! Therefore, I’m breaking my Lenten fast before it starts! I’m giving up religious dogmatical rules (I thought I’d done this already) that have an appearance of wisdom, but merely indulge the fantasies of old men. Let the games begin.