Is Philip Sasser’s Our Man in the Pews. I wish he updated it more, but honestly it’s well worth the wait.
Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’
Posted in The South, tagged Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, Blogging, Blogs, Chuck Thompson, Magazines, Oxford American, Philip Sasser, Print, Reading, Religion, The South, Tumblr on September 5, 2012 | 3 Comments »
Go read Philip Sasser’s excellent and genteel review of Chuck Thompson’s anti-Southern screed, Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession.
Then, follow Philip Sasser’s blog (I know, I know, its tumblr, but I forgive him), folow all the Oxford American blogs, and purchase a subscription to the Oxford American (a print subscription, because print is better than the internet). You will be glad you did.
Posted in Religion, tagged Articles of Faith, Atonement, Aura Salve, Blogging, Christianity, Depression, Doctrine, God, Heaven, Individualism, Into the Hills, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Justice, Mercy, Meta, Mormonism, Original Sin, Redemption, Religion, Salvation, Sin, Soteriology, Theology on September 3, 2012 |
The Mormon Second Article of Faith says “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” This understanding of personal accountability for sin is a rejection of the idea of original sin. On its face, it seems incredibly just. Why should we be held accountable for someone else’s misdeeds? Mormons are proud of this doctrine. And while I have not taken a thorough survey of worldwide Christians on the subject, I imagine that the understanding of sin and the Fall that are wrapped up in this Article of Faith are in no way unique to Mormonism.
This understanding of the Fall says that through Adam and Eve’s transgression, humanity became not corrupt but corruptible. This belief holds that we inherit from Adam and Eve only the capacity to sin. As free agents, we are able to choose between sin and not-sin. This is very important: just as we have the capacity to be sinful, we also theoretically have the capacity to be sinless, but as a practical matter, each of us individually fails to do so. The fact that we all inevitably choose to transgress is forseeable and predictable, but really, at the end of the day your sins are nobody’s fault but your own, and the consequences of your sins are justly earned by you and you alone. You could choose not to sin, but you do not. If you simply exercised enough self-discipline, you would be sinless. Thus, your eligibility for heaven is a product of the quantity of sins you have committed. If you have committed more sins than zero, you are ineligible for heaven and in need of salvation. If you have committed zero sins, you are eligible for heaven. Your guilt is your own; you have nobody to blame but yourself.
That’s important. Think about that. Consider its magnitude. You have free agency, and you have personally and individually chosen to sin. Consequently, you are ineligible for heaven unless you, personally and individually, are able to erase the stain of your sin or find a way to get someone else to erase it for you. Because you have chosen to commit a quantity of sin that is greater than zero (whether it is a finite or infinite quantity is, for the purposes of this discussion, irrelevant), you are in need of a quantity of atonement that is greater than zero. The scales must be balanced.
This is a harsh rule, but certainly holding me accountable for the sins I committed is more fair than holding me accountable for the sins someone else committed, right?
Except, that’s not what original sin is all about at all.
I shouldn’t have to sell you Aura Salve to convince you that we are a fallen race living in a fallen world. Just look around at, oh, the entire sum of human history. We are broken and dysfunctional on an individual, cultural, national, and even global level. We hurt each other. We exploit each other. We destroy our environment. We hurt ourselves. We destroy ourselves. We are slaves to our habits, our appetites and our addictions. We are sick. Sure, we manage to do some good things too, but rarely without some destructive fallout somewhere, usually with a lot of it, and the fact that we are able to callously ignore so much of the fallout is even more evidence of our sickness. We are broken. We are fallen.
Through the Fall of Adam and Eve, we have inherited a broken nature. A sin nature. That’s original sin. We are heirs to brokenness. The idea that if we just exercised our free agency correctly we could choose to live sinless lives is a ridiculous and self-destructive notion. We are broken because we have a broken nature. Yes, we are autonomous moral agents, hypothetically capable of making any decision. For that to really play out in practical terms would require a kind of neutral contextual baseline that does not exist. We are not blank slates of pure will born into blank slate world. To an incredibly great extent, the way we are able to exercise our free agency is limited by our circumstances. By our environment. By culture, situation and upbringing. We are invariably the product of our situation, and our situation is a fallen world, and here is the rub: ours is a fallen world for which we, individually, are not responsible.
That doesn’t make us any less broken and miserable. That doesn’t make us any more able to bear the presence of God. But what it does mean is that we are hurting enough as it is without needing to borrow pain. The belief that we are ineligible for heaven because of our particular, individual sins leaves us on a self-destructive treadmill of guilt and shame, because we are never gong to stop committing them. Even if we believe that forgiveness for specific sins is obtainable, it still means a lifetime of feeling like heaven is slipping through our grasp as, no matter how often we believe we can obtain forgiveness, we inevitably sin again. The result may very well be a lifetime of darkness, self-loathing, despair and moral exhaustion: evidence that the notion that righteousness is a matter of disciplined sinlessness, the Second Article of Faith itself, is itself a product of our fallen nature and this fallen world.
None of this is necessary at all. Compared to the enormity of our fallen world and our fallen nature, our particular, individual sins are really kind of petty.
Original sin is thus a profoundly merciful doctrine. It is a realistic doctrine. Yes, you sin. Yes, you choose to sin. But let’s be honest, you choose to sin because you are broken and you are broken because humanity is broken. You were born broken. You were born a slave to sin and darkness.
Jesus Christ wasn’t crucified to balance a cosmic ledger-book and pay off a debt you incurred by committing your specific sins so that you can get a priceless reward you don’t deserve. Jesus Christ was crucified to defeat sin itself and ransom you from the shackles of a fallen world, to work in you a transformation from brokenness to wholeness. Jesus Christ came to redeem you, not from your sins, but from the reason that you commit them–the brokenness that is at the heart of all the dysfunction and darkness in your life. Jesus Christ came to redeem you from your sinful nature. Jesus Christ came to redeem you from original sin.
You didn’t choose original sin; you inherited it. You didn’t choose darkness, you were born into it. And that is why the atonement makes original sin also a just doctrine. Injustice would be if God expected you to overcome your broken nature through self-discipline, which is impossible precisely because of your broken nature. Instead, God came into the world to free you from your broken nature: you didn’t break yourself, and you are not responsible for fixing yourself.
(Author’s Note: This is cross-posted from Into the Hills, a group blog I contribute to. Because it is so relevant to where I am right now in my spiritual journey, I thought it made more sense to re-post it here in full and open it to comments than to jsut post a closed link. But Into the Hills is a pheomenal blog and you should head over there, check it out, and follow it as it really takes off.)
Just saying. It seems like it’s a crappy blog platform with less functionality. What am I missing? What’s the point of Tumblr supposed to be? How is it more fun or more useful than something like Blogger or WordPress? Is there some big huge payoff to Tumblr that I don’t know about? Are there big Tumblr enthusiasts out there who think it’s just great? If so, why?
Posted in Religion, tagged Anglican Church, Anglicanism, Appalachia, Bible, Blogging, Catholicism, Cedar Ridge Community Church, Christianity, Church, Communion, Conservative Theology, Conservativism, Culture Wars, Emergent Christianity, Emergent Church, Episcopal Church, Episcopalianism, Esoteric Christianity, Esotericism, Eucharist, Green, Green Christianity, Green Spirituality, Heresy, Heretic, Heterodoxy, Hinduism, Holy Bible, Homily, Jews, Judaism, Knoxville, Liberal Theology, Liberalism, Liturgy, Mainline Protestantism, Meta, Orthodoxy, Paganism, PC(USA), Personal Righteousness, Politics, Presbyterian Church (USA), Presbyterianism, Protestantism, Quiet Heresy, Religion, Roman Catholicism, Sermon, Social Gospel, Social Justice, South, Spirituality, Tennessee, Theology, Transcendentalism, Upper South, Urban Churches, Virtue on July 18, 2012 | 13 Comments »
So, at this point I am identifying as some kind of a quasi-transcendentalist vaguely-Hinduish esoterically-inclined green Christian. How I got there from paganism is not really the topic of this post, but I promise to post about it someday. Maybe.
The topic of this post if the trouble with finding a church home for my family, and the disappointment of modern liberal Mainline Christianity.
We have been going to a Presbyterian (PC(USA)) church for a couple of weeks, and I am increasingly feeling like it’s probably not going to work out. I haven’t passed a verdict yet, but so far I am seeing a lot of things that lead me to conclude that this church, like many other liberal Protestant churches, emphasizes social justice to the near-total exclusion of theology, personal righteousness, and spirituality.
And that is the heart of my conundrum. There simply appear to not be a lot of churches out there that are able to be theologically liberal without it reducing to merely politically liberal (and theologically nothing at all). I’m sure my more theologically conservative friends are going to insist that such a reduction is inevitable, that theological liberalism invariably leads to no theology at all. I dunno; they may be right, but I kind of think that’s a false dichotomy. I think that the reduction of theologically liberal churches to mere social justice clubs has a lot more to do with American culture wars and political polarization than it does about anything inherent about liberal theology. But either way, it’s immensely frustrating.
My notions of spirituality and theology may be offbeat, but they’re what I am focused on and interested in, not social justice. Make no mistake, I believe that Christianity can and should give rise to social gospel concerns and the desire to address the evils of our society. But if that’s all that’s going on at your church, I would suggest that you are putting the cart before the horse, and I suspect that if I look hard, I will see that your social gospel is motivated almost purely by political and cultural considerations, not by spiritual or theological ones. And thus I am not interested in going to your church at all, because it has nothing that interests me.
In many ways, I think I would be happier being a quiet heretic in an orthodox, theologically conservative church. Except that I don’t necessarily want my kids indoctrinated that way. And I’m not sure how well being a quiet heretic really works out in practice.
A related issue is the fact that right now we live in a large northern metropolitan area: most of my neighbors are Catholics, Jews, or nonreligious. There’s not the massive smorgasbord of Protestant churches to pick from that I grew up with in my Appalachian-upper-South hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. And while I would dearly love to move back to the South (sooner rather than later), this is where I am at the moment.
Going to church is important to me and to my family (for a lot of reasons–maybe a topic for another post that I can promise to write and then never deliver on?), so I’m not okay with just being religious-at-home. So that’s out, too.
One thing I am considering is whether I will find more satisfaction in a communion/eucharist-centered liturgical tradition. The homily may be about something ridiculously politically liberal, but the service is centered on the eucharist, the eucharist is the real message. Isn’t it? Or am I just cruising for more disappointment? Of course, this line of thinking points me once again in an Anglican direction, which is somewhat comforting. I wouldn’t mind finding a nice Episcopal parish to belong to.
On the other hand, I know that a thought-provoking sermon is essential for my beautiful and sexy wife–it’s basically what she wants to go to church for. And she’s not wild about lots of liturgy. so, Episcopalianism may not be the way to go after all. Where we would really like most to be is back at Cedar Ridge Community Church, but that’s a long drive for a Sunday morning. Cedar Ridge was far from my personally perfect, ideal church, but it was a pretty good place for us as a family. But that’s moot, because there doesn’t seem to be anything comparable around here. I’ve looked.
So there you go. I’m not really sure what to do. I feel like I and my family have pressing spiritual needs, but I am growing increasingly concerned that the right church for meeting those needs doesn’t exist anywhere nearby.
PS, here’s a good recent editorial about (sigh) the state of the Episcopal Church that addresses a lot of these issues.
Posted in Religion, tagged Analogy, Anointing, Appalachia, Appalachians, Bigotry, Blogging, Charismatic Christianity, Christianity, Chuch, Conversion, Death, Denominations, Fanaticism, FLDS, Fundamentalist Mormonism, George W. Hensley, God, Gospel of Mark, Ignorance, LDS, Mainstream, Mark, Mormonism, Mormons, Mountains, Mysticism, Outsiders, Pentecostalism, Personal Revelation, Poison, Polygamy, Prayer, Prejudice, Religion, Revelation, Serpents, Shane, Signs, Signs Following, Snake-handlers, Snakes, Strychnine, Tim on June 20, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Uh . . . no. No Pentecostal did that until George W. Hensley started the practice in 1912, 12 years after Pentecostalism began. He was still a rather new convert and was praying in a mountain reading a passage in Mark when he received some weird revelation. Pentecostal denominations quickly labeled serpent handling as fanaticism and it has only ever been a feature of some churches in Appalachia. It is not a characteristic of Pentecostalism, neither now or in the past.
Why do you ask?
All I know about it is what I’ve read (having never encountered a serpent handler before). They believe, according to their interpretation of Mark 16:17-18 that serpent handling and drinking poison (some serpent handlers may also consume strychnine) are commanded in Scripture.
These activities will only take place when participants perceive the direct intervention of God. In other words, they wont do it unless “the anointing” is present. Deaths are explained by these people in the following ways: 1) the anointing was not present, 2) such deaths prove to outsiders that the snakes are poisonous and have not been defanged, 3) God wills their death.
I do hope you realize that the vast majority of Pentecostals are not serpent handlers. I would point out that people who assume that will be looked on as terribly ignorant and offensive by Pentecostals.
Now, I realize that the historical and organizational relationship between Appalachian snake-handlers and mainstream American Pentecostals is not even remotely similar to the relationship between fundamentalist polygamist Mormons and the mainstream Mormon Church, but Shane’s response may as well have been cut-and-pasted and searched-and-replaced from a mainstream Mormon’s reaction to being confronted about polygamy.
The only difference is that, as a bonus, Shane’s response also just drips with prejudice and snobbery towards Appalachian people.
Posted in Spirituality, tagged 2006, Account Deletion, Authenticity, Blogging, Communication, Culture, Delete Facebook Account, Facebook, Friendship, Gadgets, How To Delete Your Facebook Account, How To Quit Facebook, Internet, iPhone, Law School, Life, Memory Hole, Passion, Quit Facebook, Relationships, Social Media, Society, Technology on March 10, 2011 | 52 Comments »
I deleted my Facebook account a few weeks ago. Not set it to inactive; I actually deleted my account. It’s all flushed down the memory hole now, after using it fairly actively since 2006 (I set up my Facebook account when I started law school, a few months before I started this blog).
Honestly, I haven’t missed it. And I haven’t regretted it even a little bit.
As a general matter, I am extremely unhappy with how much my life is dominated by gadgets and technology (yes, I realize that the fact that I am writing that on the internet right now is sort of hypocritical, but I’m prepared to live with that). I resent my iPhone. I resent the amount of time that I have wasted as an adult on the internet. Some of it has been valuable, but the vast majority of it has just been a complete and total waste. And wasting my life on the internet is just completely incompatible with the kind of active, passionate authentic life I want to live.
But the proximate cause of my decision was this video, posted by my pal Kaosaur:
I watched it, and I couldn’t get the thought that I had to get off Facebook out of my head. I realized very quickly that it was inevitable–I couldn’t un-think it. I needed to get off Facebook. The idea of deleting my Facebook account actually made me panicky and that in itself actually strengthened my resolve. For gods’ sake, five years ago I had never even heard of Facebook, and now I am having an anxiety attack at the thought of getting rid of it? Facebook had to go.
Think about it. Only five years ago, most people, like me, had never even heard of it. Now, a massive amount of our society is funneled through it. Life happens on Facebook. That is extremely alarming to me. Like, red-lights-and-klaaxons alarming.
But what about the people I keep in touch with on Facebook that I would lost touch with otherwise? Honestly? Friendships have life cycles. You don’t stay friends with everyone forever in real life. It’s okay that I ma not in touch with everyone I went to high school with. Without Facebook, I am still in touch with maybe a half-dozen old friends, and thats really the way it should be. You keep some good friends, others fade away. That’s how life goes. That’s real life. That’s real relationships. Instead, like everyone else, I am having e-relationships with 100 to 500 people based mostly on whether they use Facebook a lot and whether they annoy me enough to make me hide their feeds.
That’s not real life. That’s not authentic. That’s not something I value.
We were perfectly happy before Facebook. So why can’t we live without it now? What does it really add that is valuable to our lives? For me, the answer is “not a hell of a lot.” So I bit the bullet and requested deletion. I still have a blog. I still have an e-mail address. I still have a phone number and a street address. You can still get in touch with me. But I’m not on Facebook anymore, and I think I am better off for it.
Some of my friends and I have started up a group blog called Burning At The Stake. It is intended to be “a place for heretics, dissidents, pagans, and true believers of every stripe to hang together so they don’t hang separately,” in other words, an anarchic commune of a blog with too many rulers and not enough rules where we talk about god and spirituality and anything else that strikes our fancy without taking ourselves too seriously, and without limiting the conversation to any sort of thematic perspective other than whatever we happen to bring to the table at the moment. I’m pretty excited about it, and I hope you will tune in and follow along.
Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Army, Art, Asatru, Blogging, Brigham Young University, BYU, Catharsis, Censorship, Civilization, Community, Deity, Democratic Party, Dionysus, Druidry, Earth-based, Episcopalianism, Euripides, Faith, God, Gods, Hellenic Polytheism, Hellenismos, Hinduism, Ideology, Labels, Maenad, Meta, Miscellaneous, Mormonism, Music, National Guard, Nature, Neodruidry, Neopaganism, Paganism, Politics, Polytheism, Pragmatism, Procrastination, Rebellion, Religion, Rhetoric, Rock and Roll, Rolling Stone, Semantics, Service, Stubs, Taylor Swift, The Bacchae, The Bakkhai, Wicca, Wine, Worship, Writing on February 11, 2010 | 6 Comments »
I was navigating through my WordPress dashboard and once again I noticed the list of unfinished drafts sitting there. The familiar twinge of guilt came, followed by the old, habitual “You’ll get to it eventually” lie that I tell myself. It’s time I faced the truth: I am probably never going to finish writing those posts. That being said, there is no reason that the unposted ideas should simply die.
Therefore I have decided to do them all in one go, as “stubs.” A list of rough ideas for posts I never got around to actually writing and that I probably never will write, alsong with any bits of them that I think are particularly worth sharing.
So without further ado:
Are Wiccans Really Pagan?: After the hubub following the Parliament of World Religions, this is sort of a dead horse. My opinion is that labels are mostly just semantic, but they do matter because they influence how we think about things, how we generalize, and thus how we interpret the world. Despite the fact a Hellenic polytheist may pay lip service to some of the same gods as a Wiccan, I do not think that Wicca and Reconstructionist Polytheism are even in the same category of religions. The term “earth-based” gets bandied about a lot, but I think it’s bullshit rhetoric. What does it even mean to be “earth-based,” and what makes a religion “earth-based?” In what way is your religion (or mine, or anyone else’s) “earth-based?” It has been taken for granted by most that all of the disparate religions and spiritual paths that congregate under the broad umbrella of “Neopaganism” actually belong together, but it is my opinion that they do not. I think that Neopaganism as a conceptual category is a net negative: by thinking of all of these religions as related, it causes people to treat them as if they are related, and it pushes their adherents to practice them as if they are related, and in the end, I think that is bad for everyone involved. I think that a Hellenic polytheist without a neopagan background has a lot more in common with a Hindu than he or she does with most Wiccans or neo-druids.
BYU vs. The Bakkhai: Last year, Brigham Young University canceled a performance of Euripides’ The Bakkhai, because it had “adult material.” I think that’s lame for a lot of reasons, but mostly because it is a kind of religious censorship. The Bakkhai, as originally conceived and performed, was a part of the Dionysian theater festival. It wasn’t entertainment; it was religion. By not allowing the Bakkhai because of its content, BYU actually censored the exprsssion of another religion. BYU is a Mormon university, so I guess it can do that if it wants, but it’s the kind of thing that strikes me as a petty and desperate form of ideological control. The best part about it is that one of the central messages of the Bakkhai is that by denying the place of Dionysus–by denying the wildness and the transgressory reveler within us–we give rise to tragedy. Our Dionysian natures will have their expression whether we want them to or not. We either drink the wine and dance with the maenads in a controlled and ultimately harmess expression of our untamed natures, or we try to deny them, and subject ourselves to savage backlash. And that is exactly what BYU has done, and exactly what Mormonism does: by trying to deny the Natural Man completely, Mormonism only invites him to come back and haunt us in far darker and more destructive ways.
Rolling Stone Is Kind Of Lame: I subscribed to Rolling Stone because I am a music enthusiast and because it was inexpensive, but usually I find myself irritated and disappointed by every issue. As long as the magazine sticks to music, it’s decent (although sometimes unnecessarily snide and nasty, as they were with the Taylor Swift cover story), but every time it ventures into politics and society, it does so ridiculously. News Flash, Rolling Stone: knee-jerk partisan support for the Democratic Party platform is not rock and roll rebellion.
I May Be A Civilian But I Will Never Be Civilized: My end of term of service date with the National Guard came and went, which means I am no longer even an active reservist. Getting out at that time was practical and prudent, but not a day goes by that I don’t wish I was back in. I had some bad times in the Army, but I had some incredible times, too, and for the last three years, being in the Army has made me happy. My heart aches to be a soldier again., and if I can figure out a way to make it happen, I will.