Sunday, November 20, 2011

When You Have no Idea

This post is a somewhat a departure from religion and other themes I cover. I was reading some fitness blogs, as I often do. I am also thinking of starting taekwondo again, the popular and greatly criticized sport (criticised by people who don't understand the point of it). So I have been thinking about fitness and body image a lot. I think I understand how it is for people who are overweight and are trying to get into shape. Hard, that is what it is. Slow progress is also what comes to mind, nothing like what shows like the biggest loser would have us beleave.

Still the truth is, I have no idea what this feels like. I have never been overweight. I have never been so out of shape I was endangering my own health. I do know what it is like to struggle to get back to my prepregnancy weight and not achieving it for years, but that is not the same thing, because I was normal weight through all this. I was "overweight" slightly during my pregnancy but the second I gave birth I was normal weight for my height, so not the same thing at all.

I don't undertand what it is like to carry another me in excess fat. I do know what unexpectedly gaining weight does to my running. I do know how it slows me down and makes my runs shorter and frustrates me, but that is not the same thing.

I am not writing this to show off the excellent convergeance of nature, nuture and will. I am saying that we do not understand the strugles of others especially when we have not lived through them. It would be arrogant and selfabsorbed of me to think these minor physical problems I have gone through tell me one thing about the struggles of truly overweight people.

People who are thin often think they know what is going on and compare it to their own struggles and come up with an offensive and wrong picture of overweight people. They are not any lazier than the general public, they can be extremely hard workers and that may contribute to their weight problem. They do not necesarily gorge themselves, just a few extra unused calories a meal over a few years can do more than a few weeks of total gluttony. An extremely large person can't just get on a treadmill and start sprinting away the pounds, no matter what the biggest loser would have you beleave.

Did I get it right? I did say I do not know what it is like to be overweight or the struggles but like with any people who are different from me I try to encounter them as people and look past the differences and try not to explain them away using my own experience. If we do try to explain things using our personal experiences to explain other people in areas we know nothing about we end up with statements as stupid as: "That person is black because they haven't bathed in a while." That statement is offensive and completely incorrect, unless the person we are talking about is a caucasian coal miner. Weather or not a person's circumstances match ours, or not, we should attempt to get to know them as real people and not lessen their humanity by turning them into objects and narrating their stories outselves.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Lies we Believe

I never accept what people say at face value. I do not think this makes me a cynical person nor does this make me an ass. You may say: "But you gotto trust someone. How can you live like that?" Quite well, thank you. That is not the point, I trust my husband. The point is he is a human being and he might be wrong and frequently is. I am wrong a lot too so don't just accept everything I have to say because I am so impressively intelligent and silver fingered. If you do the next thing you know you will be in some jungle drinking poisoned kool aid. I will start a cult, if I can't get people to think for themselves. There is good money in cults.

Good people, honest people, trustworthy people, intelligent people are often wrong. Remember back when e-mail was the thing and people sent forwards? Remember the" Hotmail will start charging", " they will deactivate your account if you do not forward this", "SUNSCREEN CAUSES BLINDNESS, wont somebody think of the children!!!!". Now we have similar things on facebook too but let’s use the e-mails as examples. All these were false. All these were sent to me by honest and trustworthy people yet they were false. These people assumed because they got them from honest, trustworthy and even intelligent people that they must have been true. After all honest people would not forward these. The people who sent these to them thought based on the exact same principle and all quickly pressed the forward button without looking it up and verifying it. After realizing how the chain worked I started to look stuff up.

There are people out there who knowingly deceive people. Are they evil? I don't know. I do know they are sometimes looking just for a little fun at our gullible expense. Sometimes they want our money and at other times they are trying to do something good and will lie to achieve it.

People tell little white lies for ideological reasons all the time. This very much includes Christians. I do not trust Christians at face value. They spread misinformation sometimes because they just heard it from someone they trust other times they think a little white lie will bring glory to God better than the truth. Here are a few examples: condoms don't prevent HIV, abstinence only (condoms are great at preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, so is abstinence, but abstinence is preferable to ideologues so they outright lie). Darwinists (term for a group of people who do not exist in reality) believe life started from nothing (if they mean evolutionary biologists, they lie. Evolutionary biologists do not officially care where life came from, just how it changed overtime). So there are some, of many lies, perpetuated by Christians for good causes. I picked a few obvious ones.

Don't trust in humans without question. I only trust in God fully because he is the only one worthy of it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

FIrst Vlog!!!!

So, made a vlog. My accent in English has gtten atrocious and stuff but hope you like it. My face also looks super long and other self criticisms but I think I did pretty well. I used the abilities gained from talking to myself all the time so I felt pretty comfortable talking to the camera.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Many times we forget the concept of love. It is a central principle of our faith but it seems like it is talked about very little at church. We Christians seem to skip over it as a kids lesson. It is alright for the little ones at children's church but not for us mature Christians. We like to deal in mature stuff like financial stewardship or church growth. Those topics maybe mature, and boring, but very much not important compared to love. ”And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)

I see Christianity like the game of Othello. Easy to learn lifetime to master. Just like the game after we learn how Christianity works we just want to play, have fun and start mastering the game. Any player of any game like Othello and chess would tell you practicing the basics is key. Terrible is the chess player who does not have the basics down but knows the most complicated moves. We should still remember while reading my clever analogy that Christianity is not a game it is our lives and who we are. We don't need to win. It is not a game of who can be more holy. In fact one upping others in the Bible is frowned up on. It is said to be Pharisee like behavior of showing off.

Sometimes the holiest people know the value of simplicity the best. It is no secret that my husband is a Quaker and I, while not sure what I should label myself as, have definite Quaker sentiments. I love their adherence to peace, tolerance and the traditional value of simplicity. Love is simple, love is clear, love is joy, love is sacrifice when necessary. Love is the love of Jesus. I have confined my studies mostly, due to time constraints and possible ADD, to the life of Jesus. It has really taught me what is important. Love is important. Faith is important. Looking at the world through the lens of love makes knowing what would Jesus do way easier. What would Jesus do? Jesus would love.

I pray to love more and to act in love. It is something God has given to my heart to do. I could never love too much. I think Christians could use genuine non-self seeking love a whole lot more.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corintheans 13)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sexism in the Church

his is a sort of an addendum to my post about sexism. I did not want to talk about sexism in the church and among Christians in it because that was not really necessarily a part of the Christian faith but a behaviour of His followers. I thought I would write about that separately here. I hope this will be the last post about sexism I write for a while because I would like to focus on other things and deal with my anger with this issue alone with God, but I am open to chatting about it in the comments.

When I was about 14 and experienced anger toward God for the first and only time in my life. It started out so simply. I was spending Christmastime at my grandmother's house. I arrived with my mother early before my brother and father. They had some business to take care of. Before they came we three took turns doing the dishes and I was fine with it. It was fair and I was happy to co-operate. When they came it came my turn again I stated that it was one of their turns. My grandmother stated, with the support of my mother, that they did not have to because they were men. Why not? Well they were men, like that meant something. They worked hard all year. Well, did my mother not work hard all year to keep the house and she still was? “Women's” work, when done well is not laziness and my mother was not lazy. The men were not working my mother was, the same as ever. I became frustrated and angry in a way only teenagers can manage. Refused to take my turn out of principle and stomped up to the attic and cried from sheer frustration and self loathing remembering all the awful things preachers in church has been saying about me. I really felt worthless in the eyes of God.

Once I went to a Sunday school class that was about marriage. I was only about 19 so marriage was not on my radar but it was the only interesting sounding class on offer. At this point my parents had had a successful marriage of over 25 years, now they are at something like 35, I cannot remember. The couple teaching the class had been married only a mere 12 years. They taught the class they stated, very clearly, that their was was the only “Godly” way to do a marriage. They advocated that all Christian marriages should have the man as the only breadwinner and the woman should never work after marriage unless absolutely, vitally, no other choice about it, necessary. The most infuriating thing was the lack of confidence in his position as the head the man exhibited. He repeatedly said “Christ” pointing to himself and”church” pointing to his wife. He did this over and over and over again. Really? Are you afraid that we will forget or you just have no confidence in your Biblical manhood that you need to keep doing that? It was ridiculous. He also advocated not using birth control and letting God be in control of that. Really, I thought God was omnipotent and therefore capable of being in charge of that regardless of what measures we took? They stated that theirs was the only way. Well, that was obviously false in the fact that my parents had had a Godly marriage of many more years than theirs and my mother had worked during most of it and they had practiced birth control. So, obviously theirs was not the only way. I was angry to have been given false information in such a condescending way. As I left the Sunday school room. A girl, I have no idea who she was, asked me if I had liked the class. I made a mistake and told her I did not like some of the aspects of it, especially the condescending manner in which a man rules over his family. She told me I had a problem with submission. She was right I do, I have a BIG problem with unquestioned submission to some flawed human. True, I suppose the penis is an organ of leadership, but still, even it is fallible phallus (sorry for the penis sarcasm).

So many Christians, men and women alike come up to me and tell me that this submission is noble and Biblical and I don't get it. I mean I get what the Bible says, as far as I detailed in my last post. Still when contrasting it with the explicit spiritual equality of men and women that the Bible claims this is a bit of a contradiction.

These things are white washed to be something noble but they feel like punches to my stomach. The noble job of a woman raising her children in the home, while her husband works. Noble job of cooking, cleaning doing laundry and other assorted things that go into the job of a help mate, that word makes me gag. It is like I am supposed to be the Robin to my husband's Batman. The Cato to his Green Hornet. The Tonto to his Lone Ranger. I am to play second fiddle and like it, weather I like it or not and say “Ugh, kimosabe, the roast is ready.” Then there is the no women preachers thing. Finally the most egregious thing. Men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the home. This is the last bastion of the separation of the roles. Many modern churches are willing to give women the same rights as men, except this. It makes me feel like I am inferior to my husband. It really does. I have listened to preacher after preacher try and justify this and make me feel like it is a privilege to be given the same spiritual role as my child when it comes to my husband. I have heard it all, don't even bother explaining it. Men with followings of thousands have tried to explain it. As have women who are happy as their roles not being equal partners with their men. It hurts, it does, it hurts a lot.

Also I admit, I am angry, hurt and betrayed by the Church, not by God but by the Church. I am a little annoyed that God allowed his word to be written in such a manner as to cause this but it is his Church that interprets it and insults my intelligence, talents and worth as a human. It makes me angry about being a woman. I feel like I can't be myself because I am a woman.

How has the Church betrayed you?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Speaking Christian

This is very interesting and makes me want to buy the book it is based on and it validates some of my previous assumptions and will probably inspire future blog posts.

There is also a longer article that you can read that goes in more detain and then there is a book too. I so wish I could afford it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More of this except with talent

Found a great new blog on wordpress, the writer really deals in very similar stuff as I do.

Go check her out.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 3: Sexism

This post hits home for me a little more than parts 1 and 2 because it is personal. As a result the tone is different. I still attempt to be rational and fair.

I don't really like being a woman. It is a topic I have explored more in another post in a rather graphic way. It is not really that being a woman is so bad, it is more like the societal pressures as one are. The stereotype of a typical woman has nothing to do with me. I have also posted before about how I identify more as a human being than a woman, call it androgyny if you want but that does not really fit. What it really is is being an individual but that is kinda vague and people don't like vague. As in the post about not being happy with being a woman and how awful it was things in society have gotten a lot better and I am really grateful about that. One place where it has not gotten better is the Bible. My favorite verse is Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis mine) I belonged to a Quaker fellowship when I was in the United States and they believed in that firmly. In the church and in God's work we were all equals. A woman was the same as a man in the service of Christ all was looked at was merit. I really enjoyed that and when I become really depressed thinking about being a woman and all the roles, tendencies, talents and weaknesses people try to impose on my that have nothing to do with me as a real complete person I think about this verse. It comforts me a great deal.

What about the rest of the Bible it was written by a bunch of men in a patriarchal culture that permeates the language, counting, examples etc. If you have read the Bible all the generic examples independent of gender use he. For example my favourite Psalm states (emphasis again mine):

Blessed is the man

who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked

or stand in the way of sinners

or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

(Psalm 1)

So, the good guy is a guy and unless I ignore that it has nothing to do with me, when read in the English language (in Finnish it is not so bad because we only have one word covering both he and she). I chose this passage because it is my favourite and it, like any generic excerpt is a good example of this. Women are only mentioned in verses specifically referring to women and the roles of women and I want nothing to do with these verses because I cannot relate with them. I would like to emphasize that over all this is not a big deal, neither is calling “manned spaceflight” manned spaceflight, that is because “peopled spaceflight” sounds retarded and is not a real thing.

As for counting, only men are counted, women like slaves, children and donkeys are not mentioned except in passing like, there were 1,000 men and some women and children in addition. That is because we women were property. "You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Ex. 20:17) So, I am property. This is fracking depressing. As a wife I am property of my husband, just like his slaves (servants), oxen ,donkeys and other belongings. It did not say husband in there so men are not property of their wives.

What does the Bible say about women? They are usually seen as bringers of food, bearers of children. Sisters, mothers, daughters. Pretty standard stuff. In Titus 2:4-5: “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” In Timothy 3:6-7 “They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” In 1 Peter 3:5-6 “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

What are these verses saying, let me summarize. Or at least tell you what I personally hear. I am supposed to love my family and be self-controlled. That sounds great, that would work for men too, but I am also supposed to be submissive to my husband because I am liable to malign the word of God otherwise. WTF Titus? What do you think I am? Timothy assumes I am weak-willed. If he did not he would have said weak-willed men, or people. Remember, men first and by default women only when specifically speaking of them. Peter says to be holy as a woman I am supposed to be submissive to my husband.

These can all be justified, explained away and if these were the only parts of the Bible that did this is would be fine but this is just a handful of examples. Paul says that women are not supposed to speak in the church and frequently that is justified as something to do with the times. Women who were temple priestesses in pagan temples were also prostitutes and therefore a decent woman would not want to be mistaken for a prostitute. I have also heard that women gossip and gossip is bad and in order to keep it out of God's house we should make the women STFU.

Justifying these away is like getting called stupid and then having someone explain to me that, while what they said was all true, but only applicable under certain circumstances. Still I am being called stupid, childlike and less than human and over time it starts to get to me. I start to wonder. Reading too much of Paul makes me want to book a sex change ASAP or convert to some other religion. I don't want to be that which those verses describe.

What about the good things of the Bible that are said about women? What about Proverbs 31? The passage about the perfect woman often used in modern churches to make the Bible seem feminist. It is a fine passage, equally applicable to a man. Being a hard worker, respected and loved and valued by your family is a great thing. I have nothing really negative about it. My favourite part is: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.” Little passages like this are all too rare and a drop in the bucket compared to all the other crap women get heaped on them.

Many people say that Jesus is a very feminist character in the Bible. I suppose that is true. He never says anything truly demeaning to any woman, in my opinion. His conversations with his female friends are not recorded. I would love to know what words he and Mary Magdalene and sisters Martha and Mary exchanged since he was around them a lot of the time. It was women who found out about his resurrection first before others. What good things he might have said to women were not recorded because the recorders were men and that did not matter to them. Women may have mattered to Jesus and been valuable friends and companions to him but they were not to the men who wrote the gospels (this may not have been more than a cultural trait, I am sure they were fine men otherwise).

How do I deal with this? The homosexuality topic is easier to think through and get past and conclude because I am not homosexual it is not personal. This is and every time I read the Bible it is there and especially in the letters of the New Testament. It is very blatant and when ever I read the letters I become angry all over again. I feel less than human. I feel like there is this exclusive club of true Christians that a penis is the passport to, just like circumcision was the passport to Judaism that also was something not possible to women. I feel like I am on the outside. I cannot use my true talents. I will always be less than. So I am still working on this. This reconciling myself with being told by the Bible that I am something I am not. I am not a Biblical woman and, barring a miracle, will never be. God just did not create me like that. It is harder still when Christians remind me of this. That is something I will explore in another post very soon.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Need Your Opinion

I still have a few posts to go in my series What I don't like about Christianity. I will edit and post another part soon. In the meanwhile I have noticed that my posts on Jehowah's Witnesses have enjoyed some popularity. Should I go to their service and write another entry on the subject? I mean I am planning on going anyway when I get around to it because I love being a spiritual tourist.

It would be the first time I have visited a "non-Christian" church. I have been to Assemblies of God, Southern Babtist, Independent Pentecostal, Independent Babtist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Catholic so I really think I need to expand my horizons. It is shocking that I have not gone to the services of more religious groups since I enjoy the exploration so much.

So what is your opinion? Do you want to hear more?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 2: Homosexuality

In my ongoing series about what I don't like about Christianity I present homosexuality. Let me make it clear, I am a Christian I love the Lord and Jesus lives in my heart. Now that that is out of the way I have thought that some Christians focus on the gays a little too much. It is almost creepy, heck, it is creepy. Let me tell you a story.

When I was in college I went to a wonderful little international church. I loved the people there. I loved the diversity. I loved the sermons that were so simple, clear and to the point. I even liked the music and I am super picky about music. The only thing that leaves a sort of bad taste in my mouth is the memory of a Korean man. In general I hear that Koreans act as if there are no gay Koreans and as a result there is no homophobia. (Also I have never met another Korean like him.) This man certainly did not fit that stereotype. I never asked him about his views of homosexuals in Korea probably because I did not want to encourage him. I cannot remember a single conversation I had with this man that did not disintegrate to talking about homosexuals and the evils of those people. As a result the only thing I remember about this man is ignorance and homosexuality, but mostly homosexuality. I am sure he would love to know that is what I think about him. Only once I tried to debate him on a false statement he made, it was that AIDS was a gay disease and that most people with AIDS were gay men. Actually at the time black straight women were the ones with most HIV cases. I told him so and he asked me who I had heard that from. Had I heard it from a gay person? So what if I had? That did not make it untrue, I really cannot remember whether my source was gay or not. I confess I hated him.

He is not the only one with that attitude that I have met among Christians, just the only one so obsessed, makes me wonder... Anyway, when I was like 12 I bought into that homosexuals are evil thing, but once I got older and a midge of sense I saw the truth. Homosexuals are people just like me and therefore not a strawman of stereotypes and lies. They are not “other” their hearts and minds are not different except in this one little way. I also met gay people and realized they were a lot more loving and accepting than my fellow Christians usually were toward me. When I had other Christians asking me loaded questions about my faith and practice of it so they could judge me, my gay friends were enthusiastically welcoming me to hang out with them and joking with me and making me feel really accepted. What ever left over stereotypes of gays I had fell down. They had no foundation in truth they were build on sand and the wind of truth blew and the rain fell and the misconception was swept away.

What am I saying? Could I possibly be saying homosexuality is not a sin? I can't make that statement. I cannot judge others. I have read all the parts in the Bible, that you have, about how homosexual acts are wrong. Please do not quote them. I just know that there is an awful lot of stuff in this world I do not understand. While everything may be black and white to God but for me to see the world that way makes me judgmental and that is a sin, at least for me. Only God can look into the hearts of men and see the truth about them. I cannot do that, I can barely understand my own.

What is the point? The point is: Why are Christians so judgmental of homosexuals? Could it be a greater sin than premarital sex? Having lustful thoughts? Stealing office supplies? Speeding on the way to work? Lying to your spouse about how much money you spent on something you really wanted that they thought was an unnecessary purchase? No, it is not and could not be a greater sin. All sins are the same in the eyes of God. They all lead to death according to the Bible and they can all be forgiven just the same. Really, whose opinion should we care about God's or man's? Man can set degrees of sin, God does not. I am not also going to sit here and arbitrate and list all the sins someone else commits, I am not God. It is none of my business. I have hard enough time with my own, mostly heterosexual lustful thoughts. After all, having a lustful thought about someone other than my husband is the same as having committed adultery, yikes! I know I am committing sin because I know my own heart. I better fix this and the thousands of other sins I have a problem with before tackling the sins of others, or even commenting weather something is a sin or not. Regardless of all my habitual sinning I am still going to Heaven because I have a promise in my heart. I just can't see how I am better than a gay person. Maybe homosexuality is a sin but Christ said nothing about it so I am not going to worry about it and he knows best about what is important to God.

Also, scientific evidence shows therapies are rather unsuccessful at reversing it.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What I don't like about Christianity Part 1: The Old Testament

I have been feeling rather angry, depressed and disappointed lately so I have decided to vent some of that by writing about all the things I do not like about Christianity. Yes my disappointment has to do with Christianity and Christians but instead of getting into that I want to discuss the Old Testament.

I really do not like the Old Testament. I don't like it in the same way that I do not like brussels sprouts. They are one of the few vegetables I hate. I mean I like the idea of them they are like tiny cabbages and I want to eat them by peeling off the little leafs one by one. The only thing stopping me is the taste. It is really horrible. My brother actually loves brussels sprouts so I know this dislike is not universal by any means. It is merely my opinion. No reading weird stuff into this and saying I am implying no one should eat brussels sprouts or they are a bad thing, no one should infer anything like that about the Old Testament either.

I was not always a disliker of the writings of the Old Testament. I used to enjoy the fun stories a lot as a kid. I did have some trouble reconciling it with the New Testament but I compartmentalized it in my head and no problem. As I got older I started to understand the Old Testament better and being able to reconcile it with the New Testament in my own way. Also as I did this my dislike of it grew. I have no idea why this is. I have no real reason to dislike the book just people's interpretations of it and the way they try to defend it.

What do I think the old testament is? This would be a good question to answer at this point. It is the chronicle of the Jewish people. It is their story. Christianity was an outgrowth or Judaism and therefore the main influence on the New Testament. It was heavily cited by Jesus and others in it. That is the simple answer that I can articulate with no problem. The long answer that I have a harder time putting into words is: What does it mean to me? Part of my acceptance of the apparent contradictions of the book and understanding them was phasing the Old Testament out in importance. Just like the New Covenant is greater than the Old, the New Testament is greater. I see the Old Testament as incomplete. It is attempting to state the same thing as the New Testament without Jesus and failing at it. Instead of Jesus it uses the law and gets tangled up in it and spans twice the pages of the New and fails to make the point. The New Testament, however, has Jesus and makes the point already in the Gospel of Mathew.

What I mean is I find references to salvation, or hints of it all over the Psalms. They are the one book of the Old Testament that lets its hair down and forgets about the rules and merely revels on the greatness of God. Rest of the time it is all about the rules, how we should follow the rules and stories about people trying to follow the rules and usually failing at it.

There was one story that bothered me as a child. I cannot find the exact location because I cannot figure out what words to use exactly. It took place while Moses was leading the people of Israel to the promised land. They attacked a town and no one was supposed to keep any loot for themselves. God told Moses someone had kept some loot so they threw lots to determine the tribe then on down until they got down to the nuclear family unit and the culprit. He confesses and gives back the item he had taken. Then in true Old Testament style he gets killed and so does his entire family unit, his kids wife and, if I remember, pack animals.

This was really hard to swallow. When my mother read it to me as a child out of her grown up Bible I really shocked and confused me but I tried not to think about it. As a little child it seemed so wrong, so contradictory of the God I believed in. With the faith of a child I shut the entire story out off my mind and separated that cruel petty unforgiving God from the one I believed in. Still it stayed with me and as I got older until I had to think about it and wonder at it. I had to either accept it as a story of my God or reject it.

It was at this time I considered the Old Testament as a whole and I considered weather or not to reject the whole thing because it seemed to me this was not the God I wanted to believe in. I have always had very well defined ideas of right and wrong, sure they have evolved over time and have incorporated a lot more gray area but they are still very well defined. The God of the Old Testament seemed to me to be so cruel, petty and xenophobic. This God did not seem to give a hoot about the rest of the people he created just his chosen people. F those pagans. Lets not even try to make them one of the Chosen people He loves. They can just go die in a fire set by the Chosen.

So you can see what a dilemma I had. The image of the Old Testament god contradicted so fiercely with the truth God had set in my heart from birth about what I saw as my God. What to do? I was able to reason away the problems I had with bits of the New Testament a lot easier. In the end I realized something. The Old Testament was given to us to show what a world with out grace was like. I personally think they could have done it in a fewer pages but it seems to make the point very well. Only a very few people are capable of even being good enough to communicate with God personally and no one is perfect and transgressors get destroyed instead of forgiven. As the Psalms hint, salvation was still there but much harder to find and not available to everyone. When Jesus came he fulfilled the law and swept it aside and we no longer had to be tangled up in it to attain salvation. We can just go to Him and be forgiven. The message of salvation is so clear when seen through the lens of Jesus and an impossible jungle of confusion and fear when seen through the lens of the law. The law can only show us our sin it cannot save us. Jesus can save us and remove the sin that the law showed us.

This is my opinion on the subject and I guess I don't like the Old Testament because to me it is a scary vision on a world where grace is so rare and the Law so abundant. I know I am incapable of being good. Even with grace I fail daily, no hourly, and the thought of not having forgiveness and understanding for this fills me with dread. This is why I hate it when people quote the Old Testament or try to defend the law so profusely as to make it seem like it is a good thing instead of a failed method only conceived to show us how woefully deficient we are. In my opinion, if you cannot make you point using the New Testament you are making the wrong point. If there are no relevant scripture in the New Testament it is simply irrelevant. Also if Jesus did not speak about it it obviously was not the point. The rest of the New testament after Jesus's death was written to answer questions people of the time had and they were written by biased flawed men about their biased flawed opinions. I am not saying they are not worthwhile and useful, I merely am saying I do not hold them nearly in the same esteem as the words of Jesus. If I can understand all that Jesus said, or nearly all, and attempt to live based on that I think I am in good shape. I have decided to focus on Jesus and his words because they are more than adequate. They are perfect and the rest is just periphery.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Jehovah's Witnesses Revisited

In my post What to do About those Jehovah’s Witnesses I expressed a sentiment that the name of God is not all that important to me. It happens to be very important to the Witnesses so it was the first thing they asked: Does God have a name? What is it? You know, I knew what they meant. They showed me passages in the Bible etc. I mean they are Jehovah's Witnesses.

I had an anonymous commenter disagree and point to some parts of the Bible where this matter was discussed (Lords prayer and the ten commandments). I felt like he assumed that I did not know the Bible very well, I am sure that is not what he meant but I had not missed these passages. I said as much in my reply. In light of this I feel like I need to explain that point.

It is not that I do not believe in a specific God with specific attributes. It is very clear to me what my God is like and if I were to call him a proper name I would rather use the name Jesus than Yahweh. Three in one trinity and all that jazz.

Why is it that I don't see it as important, unlike the missionaries and the commenter. Well, let's use an analogy the ladies who came to my door used. What they said was: If there was a group of men and one of them was her husband if she just called out “man!” they would all turn, but if she called her husband by name only he would turn (well, perhaps another would turn too if there was more than one man with the same name but she did not include this in her analogy). My version of this is: My husband is not only a man he is my husband by virtue of our relationship and if I see a group of men and my husband is in it and I call out “Husband, get over here and get me my dinner!” ('cause I am a jerk). All the men that are husbands might turn around but only my husband would trot on over because we have a special relationship that requires him to do that. The other husbands would not recognize me as their wife so they would get back to what they were doing.

I see calling out to God in prayer to be the same way. Only my God would recognize me and come to me. My husband would not be offended if I were never to call him by his proper name again. I could just call him sweetie or honey or other saccharine things. He knows I mean him.

Also there is the assumption that there are other gods. The Jehovah's Witnesses are monotheistic but this analogy does kind of assume more than one entity listening to the prayer. I do not personally believe there are other entities out there to listen to my prayer and only the God I believe in.

So I am a little confused as to why it is a big deal especially since most translations of the Bible do not say Yahveh on these instances. My New Jerusalem Bible does. It is not usually used by evangelicals. We usually use the NIV. The Lords prayer does not use the name Yahveh even in the NJB. It just says “Father in heaven”. How ever His name is to be kept holy but does not mention what that name is so it is not really any proof for the Yahveh side of the argument. Hope that clears up my personal position on the point.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Victorian times

Sometimes I get really angry that I am a woman. I can't go pee in the woods with out exposing my bottom and the risk of getting my shoes wet. I am incapacitated for a day with extreme stomach pain once a month and gush out great quantities of thick blood after that for a week becoming anemic. I have had a human being grow inside of me and stretch me out and leave me scarred. I have to spend more than 50euros to get a contraption to hold my chest fat in place just so I can run with out pain. When my house is messy I am terrified people will see and judge me because society places all the responsibility on me as the woman to keep things neat even thou there are two adults in the house. I cannot cut my hair short because a shaved head would probably kill my mother, even thou they are ever so comfortable. People judge me more on appearance, something I have very little in control over, more than they judge me on intelligence and ability. I have to maintain my looks, it is considered my duty to my husband even thou a person has relatively little they can do to halt the ravages of age.

When ever I have these thoughts I try to remember I have so much more freedoms than women used to. I can wear comfortable pants, I can vote and I do not need my husbands permission to make simple decisions and legally I have the same rights as a man. If I cannot remember these things I read a Victorian novel, like Ann Veronica by H.G. Wells. Then I remember how lucky I truly am. This story is about a smart biology student named Ann Veronica who wants her human rights. She is in her early 20's she is smart and does well in her college classes. Yet she has to live with her father and ask permission to go to costume balls with her friends and can't even get a good answer as to why she cannot go. As a result she runs away to London hoping to get a job and freedom. Unfortunately neither is to be had for a woman of her times. She was never educated in the sexual politics between men and women and accepts a “loan” from an older man that is not considered a loan by him and he practically tries to rape her and she apologies for punching him ion the jaw and feels guilty for it. In one part she gets in a heated exchange with her male teacher. He is against votes for women, more or less, but mostly just enjoys the argument. She accuses all of mankind as treating women as a joke and not giving them any freedoms and that he, her teacher, could never understand the confinement until he tries to run in petticoats.

Reading this book made me appreciate comfortable foot wear, pants, the vote, and having full legal freedoms just like a man. I truly hate the Victorian era and it is a great contrast in its attitudes to mine. I wonder how women can faint with out the aid of corsets? I think it does not happen.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Great Detached Single Family Dwelling

Why are Americans obsessed with owning detached single family dwellings?

Not that there is anything wrong with it. Having a home of your very own is nice but the obsession with getting one is riduculous. I for one do not want a house of my own because there is all that yard work and responsibility in regards to repairs etc. and if you need to move you can't really. You and your assets are tied to this building and mobility for better oportunities is curtailed.

On the flip side I can see some positives. You can remodel and landscape with out getting anyones permission, heck you can knock down an entire wall and when you realize it is load bering you only have yourself to blame. Once the morgage is paid off, no more rent. Just property taxes and bills. You cannot lose you property to foreclosure anymore, or can you?

It has been hashed over and over again by much smarter people than me and better writers. The high rate of foreclosures a few years ago in the US was the direct result of this strange subset of the American dream that stated that you are nothing and you have not really made it until you are living in your very own single family detached dwelling, preferrably in a gated community or a culdesac. Never mind that the bank still technically owns it not you, you are just living in it and have the hope of someday finishing paying off the mortgage and really owning it when you are 63.

Finnish people like having their own homes too. They used to have an incentives program here that gave low interest loans to youn families to have their own houses. Now that is no longer the case. Now if you get more money the logical step is not to buy your own house but perhaps an apartment. Some older finnish homes are infact so tiny that you get more space in an apartment with the same number of rooms.

I also hear that renters in America are seen as shifty unsettled people. While that may be true is it better to get an adjustable rate mortgage on a house you have neither the brains nor the financies to afford?

Getting a detached single family dwelling in America is a faustian bargain. You risk a lot for it. You get a loan and if all of a sudden you are unable to pay it off you lose everything. You lose the place you were calling home, perhaps in the middle of remodeling, you had become attached and thought of it as your home. When it is taken away you feel a lot of anger and resentment toward the bank and you credit rating is ruined. Perhaps the apropriate emotion to feel might be some regret at making this bargain in the first place. By this I am not saying no one should get home loans, I am saying that if it ends up in foreclosure it might have been a mistake.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Some assorted stories from my life with a theme

I never remember truly believing in Santa Clause. I am sure I must have at some point. I also never recall losing my faith in him. I am sure I had lost my belief in this by the time I was five, if I ever really believed. I know I no longer believed by the time I was five because I started giving presents to my family because I figured out how this worked. This did not make me lose the fun of Christmas nor did it stop me from pretending I believed in the mythos, it just made it all more fun.

When we moved to the United States my parents became avid watchers of TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network). TBN had a lot of Biblical prophets and especially faith healers. They were good at making the money roll in. Benny Hinn was one of the most prominent faith healers in the station. He held huge crusades where people were healed of their infirmities by their faith.

When I was in middle school he came to my town and we got tickets to it. We came in a little late so we were sent to the row right in front of the wheel chairs. Awesome! We had an “in front of the row seats” to the whole event when they would get healed, right? No. None of them were healed. Did I lose my faith, no, this was periphery to what I truly believed. It was a fringe phenomena. Still, I cannot say it did not make me look at the claims of Christians a little more critically.

Also at the time there was a car dealership with a Christian fish symbol on it and we passed it every time in our drive to church. One day my father said “You know they cheat everyone as much as they can.” Every Sunday after that I looked at that place on the way to church and thought about it and it made me realize that you cannot trust someone anymore because they claim that they are a Christian than if they are not. Shortly after that we were judged out of our church because of the prosperity doctrine.

We moved to another church and another state and I started to put a few things together like how every time someone spoke in tongues it sounded the same and I was able to imitate it perfectly. Did the Bible not say that speaking in tongues sounds like your native language when the person speaking does not speak it? Also the translation, which my Sunday school teacher said was essential to verify that it was from God, never stuck in my mind. I thought to myself, as I listened intently trying to gain some insight, that if it was really a direct message from God should it not be a little more memorable, instead of completely forgetable.

I had a very progressive sort of a Sunday school teacher. He wanted to teach us to think for ourselves, especially if it led us to the same conclusions as it was accepted in the church. By this time I was already taking everything with a grain of salt, I was in high school, and I found several things in the doctrine of my church that they treated as essential that I could not reconcile with my conscience and the Bible. There was their stance on the death penalty, war, a Christians involvement in politics to name a few. My Sunday school teacher taught us about different religions other than Christianity. I thought this was some great perspective, well I thought that when he started. I asked, as he was in the middle of teaching about Mormonism, weather this is what the Mormons claimed to believe or this was the interpretation of a non-Mormon. You can guess what the answer was.

One day my teacher made a mistake and taught me an important lesson without meaning to. We were studying Paul and specifically his experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). He divided us into two groups. One was to argue how this was the best thing that ever happened to Paul and one was to play the devil's advocate. I was randomly selected to be in the opposing group. I, of course, believed that this was the best thing that ever happened to Paul but as I started to think about it the ideas to the contrary just started to flow out. Arguing against what I believed in was fascinating. I loved exploring the opposing point of view. The other kids in my group came up with no ideas at all, I came up with plenty of really good ones. When we presented our arguments, mine were better than the opposing groups. I could see on the teachers face the mistake he realized he had made. He thought none of us could come up with good reasons and therefore discrediting opposing point of views from the church’s in our minds. I just did a too good of a job. He carried on as before. I was super pleased with myself and had a lot of fun.

That taught me that other people are incapable of holding two opposing points of view in their minds at the same time. They are too scared to face two opposing realities. That is the thing I am trying to do with this blog. I am trying to get people to stop being scared of seeing their opposer's point of view in anything but a mocking context. We cannot truly understand what we believe in until we comprehend its opposite. If you are afraid of losing your faith, it is not strong enough and hardly worth keeping if a simple mental exercise will destroy it. A faith unquestioned is a faith not worth having. A child may believe unquestioningly, but when I was little I asked questions like who were Gods parents? If little kids can ask that why are you too scared? You are a grown up, grow a pair and start thinking for yourself.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What to do about those Jehovah’s Witnesses

When I was little Jehovah’s Witnesses were seen as a huge nuisance. Only old lonely people let them in. Then the rest of the old bored ladies gossiped about them letting them in. Most Christians that I know seem to have a phobia of other religions. Why are they afraid? I don't really get it. If the God we believe in is so great and there are no other gods then why fear other religions? They often say that they are Satanic. Well, I do not fear Satan, the Bible says God is greater than Satan so why fear him. I serve God, so I am covered. I know God, I trust God, Satan is not going to sneak in like a cold virus from speaking to a door to door mission sales person. That is not how it works. Besides, they are sincere, what ever else they might be, they are sincere.

I say this because this Jehovah’s Witness lady has been coming to my door with an assortment of quieter younger women, missionaries in training, I suppose. I don't let her in, not because of the Biblical mandate not to let in representatives of false religions but because my house is always a mess and unfit to host guests so I speak to them at the door. She thinks she is getting somewhere with me. I have told her several times that I love discussing religion in a respectful way. I also write a blog about religion. This is just what I do. I have not directly told her she is not getting anywhere with me. She thinks that Jehovah has led her to me and that and she is getting somewhere. The truth is she isn't. My faith is not tied to a denomination. I do not 100% believe what any denomination teaches. She feels optimistic that we agree on so much. We do because I focus on only the "important" stuff and don't care too much about details like what is God's name. This is a detail that is very important to her, being a Jehovah’s Witness. I told her that the name of God means very little to me because I believe he is the only God out there so if I say God in prayer, he is the only one that hears me. Therefore, I do not give a hoot about God's name. She does, but because I care so little, it has not become a bone of contention between us. She wants to find something we disagree on she has but they are things that matter to me very little.

Maybe I should bring up that she, as in Jehovah’s Witnesses, does not have the monopoly on salvation but anyone, anyone of any faith has an opportunity to encounter God and accept him indepenbdent of the faith community they are raised in. I bet we could disagree on that one. For that reason I have no reason in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. They have no answers that I have not already worked out in my head, our answers may already disagree but I am uncertain about nothing. Her tact is directed toward people who have uncertainties, or people who do not think about God and the spiritual a lot. I do. I already have my own answers to: Why does God allow suffering? Where is all this going? etc.

I suspect she does not have any experience with dealing with people like me. People certain in their faith but unafraid of questioning, entertaining other people's point of view. I suppose she probably thinks most of the people she meets she lumps into two categories: the unready and the ready. I suspect she sees me as the latter. I wonder if I am wasting her time. Some Christians would say either that I am keeping her from spreading her “lies” to others, or that I am putting myself in danger, or that I am not trying to convert her aggressively enough. I don't know. I enjoy my chats with her and may actually visit a service at the Kingdom Hall. I have been to the services of many other denominations and would enjoy seeing how they do things.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Going to Hell for Fashion, and Other Judgements

Once I went on a missions trip of sorts to Duluth MN when I was in college and living in the United States. It was my mother's idea but I thought it was a great change of pace while visiting home. There were a few people from Finland there to invite locals of Finnish heritage to an evening of Finnish spiritual music. Our motley crew was made up of a former convict, a former drug addict, a former famous singer, a math major who really just wanted to play the piano, me and my mother. We were from different churches there were Baptists and Pentecostals, old and young but we were all Christians and Finnish. We spent a lot of time together and and got to know each other pretty well.

I remember a conversation where, I cannot remember if it was he math major, me or both of us teasing the old people insisting that harps would not be played in heaven because they were pagan instruments played by polytheistic Greeks romping about in various states of undress but the true instrument of heaven was in fact the accordion. I also remember a time he countered their claims of rock music being of the devil that jazz was in fact the music of Satan because it was so sensual. Then he would aggravate the old people by starting to play some old hymn on the piano and jazzing it up. It was all done in good humor and the old people liked the young man exceedingly.

One day while we were driving somewhere in a car the conversation among the older people turned to the fact that everybody in the Tampere Pentecostal Church youth group had dreadlocks. It was big and had many young people but that did not count because they had dreadlocks. That meant they were Rastafarian. I said that it was just a hairstyle and it had to be nothing more, it did not mean they were Rastafarian. One of the older people countered me by stating that it was more than a hairstyle in a way that meant that there was to be no more discussion of it.

I knew they were wrong, very wrong but I was not interested in an argument and I liked all these people, especially the two men with questionable pasts. Still my perception of them became a little colored and my own knowledge in my heart was not shaken that hair was just dead protein. I cannot pretend that this did not in part did not influence in past some of my later choices of hair styles. I spent a few years alternating my hair between shaven and a mohawk. I proved myself to be right. I was not altered with the change in the way I looked. The reactions of other people toward me changed, but I did not. One day I was being cat called and hassled, the next I looked like a 12 year old boy from a distance and was left alone.

What I am trying to get at is many things are labeled as sinful, gateways to sin or signs of sin when there is barely correlation, certainly not causation. When my parents were young, Pentecostals in Finland did not drink alcohol, dance, play cards and the women did not pierce their ears. The root cause was that sometimes these things were associated with activities that the church deemed sinful, and in many cases Bible too, and therefore they became sin by association. Alcohol drinking was all out banned for obvious reasons, overuse of alcohol is a terrible thing and still a wide reaching and real problem in Finnish society. Card playing was out because it was associated with drinking and gambling and such and both are bad when not exercised in strict moderation. Dancing was out because it was seen as a gateway to fornication and a lot of other vises, like drinking, went along with it.

As for pierced ears I am not sure what was bad about them. I suppose they were like the dreadlocks, they looked sinful and had sinful correlations in the minds of people. All I know is that when my mother was newly saved, still fresh and enthusiastic, went to church with tiny pearl studs a woman told her that she could not be saved and wear earnings. She was mortified and took them out for ten years or so. Still, while she does not oppose others wearing earrings she does not feel comfortable wearing them herself.

First Corinthians speaks about this topic. In chapter 8 it states that eating meat that is consecrated to idols is no sin, unless by doing it you lead others astray. In the same way dreadlocks are no sin and neither are earrings. In both cases no one was lead astray, no where in the Bible does it state that incurring the judgment of your brothers and sisters in Christ is a sin. Your sin is ultimately between you and God and outward adornments are not sinful. It does not matter to God nearly as much what we put on or in our bodies as what is in our hearts. If our hearts are for him it does not matter how our hair is done, how many piercings we have or if we enjoy a good game of solitaire while sipping a beer, or what ever. Those things are not sin. Sin happens when your heart turns away from God because it knows you are hurting someone, be that yourself by ripping your liver apart with excessive alcohol or by gambling your family to the poorhouse.