Thursday, January 26, 2006

FAITH, FOLLOWING, FAWNING, AND FEEDBACK








So I've been pondering some things for a while. Last week I posted about my need for feedback, and how I feel when I do or don't get it. Lots of people responded that they crave it, too. Right around the same time, Cliff posted about how someone told him the life of an atheist is easier than the life of a Christian. And Nancy posted some of her own thoughts on the existence (or not) of God.

And these three posts came together in my mind and took a new shape.

OK. Where to start.... Well, you gotta review these other three posts to get where I'm coming from.

So does God need people to tell Him how great He is and how much they love Him? No. God doesn't need anything. But He likes it when we do these things. And when I thought about this, I thought, "Bingo!" Because, if there is a God (I believe in God but I'm being broadminded here) and if the stories are true, then humans are made to be reflections of what God is like ("Let us make man in our image and likeness"), which implies, since we have emotions, that God has them too. He can be sad, and happy, angry, and excited, and proud, and concerned. And if, as we are also told, He is a loving father, then He is subject to all of these feelings towards us, just as we are towards our own children. Hey, when we have children, we think of producing a being who will embody, to a certain extent, who and what we are. And we love it when they tell us they love us, when they come for hugs and affection, when they ask us for help, when they show pleasure in gifts we've given them. We are sad when they ignore us or rebel against us. Go back to the idea of being made in God's image..... we have these feelings because God has them! God likes positive feedback! Bingo! That's why we like feedback. I feel a lot better now.

Is it harder to be a Christian than an atheist? I guess maybe it depends in part on where you live... in some places you can get killed for openly practicing or professing Christianity. But in general, in this neck of the woods we're allowed to practice whatever religion we want as long as we don't force differently-thinking people to go our way or hurt them when they don't.

Now, that's a knotty question. Maybe I won't get into it because that's not what I'm about in this post. I thought about it a lot at Christmastime but that dust has settled for another year or so.

I think it's harder to follow many defined modes of behavior than not to follow them.... it's harder to follow a diet than not to; harder to follow a budget than not to; harder to follow a training plan than not to.

But my take on whether it's actually hard to lead a Christian life is, a great majority of people in America and and the rest of the developed world live their lives demonstrating Judeo-Christian values whether they believe in a personal, living Judeo-Christian God or not. Most people are kind, and conscientious, and reliable, and helpful, and they don't steal things or kill people or deliberately hurt people physically or spiritually. It's not all that hard to live this way because it's the most rewarding and the least likely to lead to trouble. And because.... back up a couple paragraphs..... these are attributes of the Judeo-Christian God in whose image, it is said, we are created. God is kind, and reliable (although a lot of folks would say they have to look real hard for that one), and helpful, and He doesn't kill or hurt people or willingly cause us grief or pain. The big difference is, we screw up. This is not a divine attribute.... this is a gift God gave us, the choice to do what we want and not be bound to act in a rigidly prescribed way, like wild animals. I'm thinking of a conversation between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her father in "The Long Winter." Laura wanted to be free like a muskrat, and her pa told her, much to her wonderment, that muskrats are not free. Look at that muskrat den, he told her. That's the only way a muskrat can make a den. Everything a muskrat does is because that's the way a muskrat must do things. For them, there is no other way. Humans are different.

God made us this way, free to decide, because He wanted us to choose to love Him, and go His way willingly. It wouldn't mean anything to God or to us if we had to do things in a certain way. Like our kids. We love it when they behave in ways that show they have absorbed our values, because it shows they believe in us and love us and want to be like us. This makes us happy.

Sometimes we do the wrong thing and that does hurt or kill us or cause us grief or pain. Sometimes pain and grief and death come to us even if we haven't done anything to bring it on ourselves. That is because it is not a perfect world, and sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and sometimes stuff just happens. And in general, God does not do flashy magic tricks to bail us out of our mistakes or compensate for imperfections in the world. The world is a work in progress.

That brings up the heated question....was it created or did it evolve? Personally..... I find it hard to understand how either one could happen except in the presence of the other. I believe the two "theories" complement and complete each other as perfectly as male and female bodies, as surely as the outlines of the continents all fit together. I find it hard to contemplate that there could be any other answer.

Being Christian doesn't mean burning evolution-teaching schoolbooks or heckling women going into family-planning facilities or bombing abortion clinics or trying to persuade people to do anything by scaring or forcing them. These actions hurt people and therefore are not Christian actions. They also put a bad-looking pseudo-Christianity into the public eye.

Whether or not a person is a believer in any God or religion, what can it hurt to consider "What would Jesus do?" or for that matter "What would Buddha do?" To emulate a kind, peace-loving philanthropist can do no harm.

And even if one is not certain whether someone is listening or caring, no harm can be done by a quick, "Thank you, Lord."

10 comments:

nancytoby said...

You touch on the possibility that it may be harder to follow a training plan than not, etc., but then urge us to follow the example of certain religious figures.

Isn't it more difficult and challenging, rather, to think and decide how to act based on one's own personal ethics and principles about what is right, than to follow a pattern prescribed by another, whether it's Jesus or the Pope or Karl Marx?

I believe it is important for the truly ethical person to *always* question and doubt.

Just food for thought. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and your clarity. :-)

Jack said...

Great thoughts and very well said. I think we should not be shy or even quiet about our faith (or personal ethics and principles). I am a Christian, I freely admit it, and those around me know it. On the other side I don't get in other people's face about it, I don't pretend that I am any better than anyone else and I am happy to answer questions or even defend my beliefs if anyone asks. If someone cannot except what I believe, well that's fine, I don't have a problem with that or think negatively towards them. We all have to make our own choice. I didn't become a Christian because of what any church or person did, I became a Christian because I made a choice (faith) to believe the promises that are written in the Bible. Each of us must choose what we believe, just as we must choose to get out on the trail, pump iron, lose weight or whatever. Sitting on the couch doesn't get us anywhere no matter what journey we are on.

Cliff said...

Good post, Ellie.

There is a lot of deep issue that you brought up.

My friend made a good point on Sunday. She ask if Athiest is an easier life to live by, how come there is so many suicides? It is rare for a Christian to take away his/her live.

Evolution theory does not explain the origin of life. So there is a miss link.

Creationism on the other hand have trouble explaining all the dinosaur bones we have dug up.

But if u put Creationism with evolution theory, everything make sense. There is a creator that started life and slowly it evolve into life we have today.

Does this in anyway contradict the Bible that say men (and women) was created in 7 days? Well, to answer that question we have to look at the context of Genesis. Is Moses writing literally or is it more of a metaphoric sense?? (not going to to discuss this b/c it will take a very long post).

I want to add last point is that the Bible is not all love and fuzzy. There is a lot of dark passages. Example is the book of Jeremiah where God is comparing the Israelites as prostitues b/c they abadon their God, sin and worship idols instead. This is an absolute betray b/c the covenant that Moses made with God and these are the people that God rescued and supposed to be the light of the world.

Dawn - Pink Chick said...

Well done Ellie. As for God liking feedback, like it or not, occasionally I give it to him. I'll be doing something, I look upward and say "thank God"

Of course many of us say "Thank God its Friday!!!!" :-)

Kranky C Dale said...

Worship is a question of relationship....

Kewl Nitrox said...

Hi Ellie, extremely wise words. You are so right about us being created to worship (give feedback to, have a relationship with) God - in fact, I think it may be a fundermental precept in Christianity. You have also got it absolutley right that God doesn't need our worship, he LIKES (wants) it. That's why from Old Testament to New Testament, we see the same God saying that He wants to dwell with us (1st in the Tabanacle/Temple, then after Jesus came, within each of us).

I believe the key in Christianity is not the behaviour or ethics but the RELATIONSHIP that you alluded to. Many Christians falter when trying to follow the pattern of Christ - just look at my posts for me as a prime example. :) But the difference is that Christians do it out of love/fear of God rather than the desire/requirement to conform to a pattern or the fear of consequences.

And Nancy, you are absolutely right in that we should *always* question and be sure of our stand - in fact Paul instructed that when dealing with the issues of how to worship. He basically said that each of us should be "fully convinced" in our own mind that waht we are doing is right with God. That is certainly not just following a set pattern but to always check what we are doing with what (who?) is in our hearts.

Sorry for the long comment. :)

jeanne said...

wow, well said. nothing much to add; jack's comments are right on. Funny, a colleague of mine was busy making fun of God "needing to be loved and worshiped" the other night. I didn't even try to explain it. But you did a great job. God is in love with us, and he wants us to be in love with him. This person would have no way understood that.

I do, however, believe the word "christianity"should be copyrighted and only certain people allowed to use it...bcs it is SO mis-used; imho, of course!

Ellie said...

Thank you all for your responses. Some of you have said things much more clearly than I did.

As for examples, programs, patterns...

I have Natascha and Lance as role models but I couldn't possibly aspire to follow their training programs...

I study training programs (literally as well as metaphorically) and interpret what is helpful and reasonable to me and what isn't.

Questions, doubt, and skepticism are constants in my life. They are strength-training for my conclusions and convictions.

Flo said...

Wow Ellie, what an amazing post. You have articulated many thoughts I've had in the past but had never fully evolved.

I agree with Nancy, question everything, and I also agree with Jack and Nitrox. All very good, valid points.

I am a scientist and I have always believed that evolution and creationism go hand in hand. My God would not create a static system. He would create something that is constantly changing and growing. So I completely agree with you.

Just a quick note. I once had an extended conversation with an orthodox Jewish science teacher (I am not making this up). She said that the latest orthodox Jewish physicists had used a new view of time to relate the creation in Genisis to the big bang. It was completely fascinating and made so much sense, how can we possibly understand time as God knows it??

Anyway, awesome post, I throughly enjoyed it and the comments.

Dennis Cesone said...

Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it. We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts. 1 Timothy 4:4

I enjoyed reading this post. Thanks, Ellie.