I have had a couple papers due over the last two weeks and so this post isn’t developing very quickly.
The book on humility that I’ve been reading is written by a priest from some years ago (maybe a couple hundred). I am also doing some reading about Eastern Orthodoxy for a theological synopsis paper.
(Random thought: If you’re a believer and have some time, pick up some systematic theologies and read the chapter on the atonement. Extended thinking on the atonement is, as one says, “Marvelous to relate”.)
Anyhow, taken together (the West and the East), I am beginning to notice something about Evangelicals (or my thought process as an Evangelical) that I think can be more finely tuned. (BTW, I discovered from a friend what Evangelical means as it falls within Protestant. We Evangelicals believe the Bible is true. Apparently there are quite a few “Mainline Protestants” who think the Bible is helpful, but not true. For instance, my sister shared that in KC there was a news story about some 30 or so Methodist pastors who signed something that declared they did not believe Jesus resurrected. Be that as it may, Evangelicals still believe the Bible is true.)
Anyhow, back to humility and the Western and Eastern churches. I’ve mentioned that another exercise I’m doing is memorizing the Psalms. So my big “reveal” in this post about humility is that throughout all these different perspectives it is becoming clear that humility is really just about right orientation towards the one true God. The priest emphasizes this directly. The bishop communicates this by his insistence on mystery. I spent most of the last two weeks pondering the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. It appears that that my attempt to solve “the problem” is a feature of my being an Evangelical. The Orthodox church simply calls the sovereignty/responsibility dilemma mystery and keeps its focus on God. Oh well.
The bigger point is that when taken together with David’s psalms, it is becoming clear to me that the very way I have been thinking about God is in need of correction. In the Psalms David never seems to compare God to the way he used to think about him. For some reason we have all these bizarre conceptions of God. I think Sunday school is to blame, but even now I am not following my own advice. See what I mean? It’s easy to get distracted from God, even when talking about him. I am now feeling that I need to eliminate “compare and contrast” past and present out of my walk with God. As in, an ever-vigilant, “Okay, Pete, get a grip. Instead of talking about God, talk to God.”
Finally, as always, when talking about humility and God, I can never forget that gratitude is in order. Put another way: Thank God. It’s almost magical what happens when you thank God.
A fellow student in my theology class told me that in his 69 years of existence he’d never encountered hamartiology. My own 34 year old pink body hadn’t either until two weeks ago. Hamartiology is the field of Christian theology which studies sin. Fascinating stuff. How many people even believe in sin anymore? Here in Denver the concept has very little support. I have had several older folks tell me bluntly, “Well, I don’t believe in sin.” Like I said, it’s fascinating. Then this past week we read about atonement and all the different reasons Christian thinkers over the years have deduced the reason for Jesus’ death to be.
As I hope the savvy reader can imagine, there are no clear cut answers. Christians have been doing their best and generally fall into only a handful of categories, but there is no universal agreement. (No surprise here). What was intriguing to me, however, was how integral a person’s concept of sin is to their concept of atonement and why Jesus had to die.
Obviously, I have nothing new to add to the study of sin, but I do have one observation that brings me some hope. One of the books mentioned that sin is both our condition and the result of our condition. We sin because we’re sinners and we’re sinners because we sin. That’s easy enough, nothing new. But then it went on to remind readers that we (humanity) commit sins not just because we’re sinners, but because we’re the recipient of others’ sins as well. For example, I have been living a fairly spartan life these last couple weeks. Early to rise, been memorizing scripture, reading voluminously, no movie/TV-watching etc. Yet I have still been sinning in some very easy to acknowledge acts. Before I read the aforementioned section about being on the receiving end of fellow humans’ sin, I was a bit perplexed. But now I feel like I’ve gained some understanding, or perhaps one more example, of the reality that I cannot ever do it on my own. Theoretically, if I could erase my memory and become a hermit on Mars with no more contact from humans, maybe I could avoid sins of commission. But even then sins of omission would be occurring because I’d be avoiding my purpose.
The point of all this is that hamartiology and the Christian doctrine of sin is the most accurate description of reality/evil I have discovered as of today. Consequently, I believe, like most Christians do, that I am a sinner in need of repentance and that God sent Jesus to die to take my place in order to restore the broken relationship that the first man caused by his sin. Those of you who know the story know that the ironic piece, of course, is that the biblical writers suggest that in my act of recognizing both my status and that there has been a substitution of characters; instead of being punished, I am forgiven. That’s a relief, a veritable un-burdening–especially compared to the sensation that accompanied me while I distorted the reality of sin’s effect on my life.
Oh. What is sin, you ask? What is the root of all sin? It’s the displacement of God from his rightful place.
Last week wasn’t one of my favorites.
Remember my character formation class that I have been touting? Well, the character trait that I have decided to specifically get working on this semester is humility. That really has nothing to do with this post except to share that one of the spiritual disciplines that a book suggests is journaling. All of us bloggers do this without thinking and so while I have been blogging for a few years now, I am specifically going to dedicate one blog a week to my walk with God, if you will. I share this because sometimes I get the feeling that Christians do read these posts every once in a while and maybe they’d be interested to see just what goes on at a seminary. Anyhow, back to last week.
I had lunch with a friend and there was discussion about the nature of God and scripture etc. A couple years ago when we met, we both were in the agnostic category, but obviously I don’t believe I can ignore what I’ve been feeling and learning, nor do I want to. Suffice it to say that he hasn’t changed. He’s old, so it’s not like I expected him to during the course of one conversation. I even said this in the conversation. But I love the conversation and he’s kind of been a mentor of sorts so I wanted to pick his brain a bit about why he believes what he does. Long story short, I sent him a follow up email (old habits–post-flight debriefs–die hard). At the end of the email he wrote that he does not want to continue talking about the subject.
I don’t know what to do next. “The subject” is kind of my life right now. I wouldn’t know what else to talk about. As I have gotten older I have begun to recognize the subtleties of my body’s physiological reactions to life. The physical reaction happens before the words develop to describe how I feel. In this instance, as I read his “conversation over” assertion, I felt a sadness in my gut that demanded a long nap with the hope that upon waking I would discover that it was just a bad dream. Then I labeled all that rejection.
Am I that unbearable?
Perhaps it’s because I plain and simple talk too much, but ever since my divorce I’ve noticed that divorced men are huge conspiracy theorists. Have you noticed this? Now that I’ve mentioned it, do your observations support my claim? Or no?
Last night at work a gentlemen was trying to explain to me all about the Illuminati and Freemasons and some letter written in 1871 that successfully predicted the first two world wars and also looks to predict a still-to-come third world war. What gives?
All I said to provoke all of it was that I was attending school where I am attending school. I think I was just musing about how awesome it is to work at a pizza place again at night while doing school during the day. Then boom. Can you imagine it? It was three on one. Three fellas citing this, that, and the other about the most outrageous claims about the nature of human life on planet earth, and all the while I just said, “I don’t see any hope in those beliefs, in believing what you believe. All I see is that it takes all responsibility for proper living out of your hands if you believe some secret societies are controlling everything anyhow.”
The point is, this isn’t my first encounter with these type of divorcees. There’s something about the breakup that causes men (I’ve never noticed this in divorced women) to just latch onto conspiracy theories. Maybe it’s because they return to drinking fluoride-laced tap water (you know what that does, right?) out of the sink instead of bottled water. I don’t know. I guess it’s just an observation I wanted to get onto this blog for the record.
As I keep sharing with folks that I’m excited to be in a masters program that is based in “purpose”, I keep getting the same response I already mentioned.
“You’re going to school to become a preacher?”
It seems, then, that a further note of clarification is in order.
I never have, nor ever will believe in educating myself in order to gain financially. I went to college after high school because I wanted to be (first an FBI or CIA agent and finally) an Air Force officer and pilot. I wanted to “be” those things because of what they meant in and of themselves. Whether I was paid or not was never part of the equation. Becoming them required college, therefore, college.
But somewhere along the way learning became an end in addition to a means. For a Three Amigos plethora of reasons, I am now taking courses at a local seminary because I am interested, not in someday getting paid for my future and resultant mastery of all things evangelical Christianity, but rather I am interested in what a right relationship with God looks like. And this in order to determine if I want to pursue that sort of thing.
Put another way, there is a quote from Tom Selleck’s Mr. Baseball where he is exasperatedly explaining to the exceedingly high work-ethic filled Japanese team to which he’s been demoted that: “Baseball is a game and games are supposed to be fun.” Like Selleck’s delivery of this line, I can’t do more than encourage you to discover learning as an end. I can’t reason you into understanding this anymore than he can force the Japanese team to have fun.
One more observation: It’s nice to be around people who can read aloud with confidence. (Maybe everyone in a masters program can, but for some reason I have been surprised that nobody elects to “pass” when it’s their turn to read and also that they don’t struggle with English. And even writing this now makes me suspicious. Should it really take a college degree to be able to read aloud?)
I mentioned in post number one today that a theologian named Marcus Borg labeled Jesus of Nazareth a “movement initiator.” That’s funny to me because it’s so demonstrative of effort. Borg was a Believer, but he really thought that things weren’t good enough as is. He seemed to think, “Maybe if we change the words and labels more people will buy into this garbage.
“Messiah? Too old testament. Movement initiator? Brilliant!
“Christ? Too Greek. Che Guevara? That’s the ticket!
“Son of God? Too not-atheistic. Barack Obama? Exactly!”
Well, I have a revision of my own that I’d like to share. This one came to me the other morning. Different than a phrase, mine is an image. But I’m no artist, so I’ll do my best to describe the image.
To make it palatable, you need some backstory. The backstory is that a good friend, or former good friend (he has a girlfriend now and naturally we don’t talk anymore), is a little brother. And through conversations he shared with me that he has lent his big brother money and never been repaid–not that he ever expected to be. Why did he lend the big brother the money? Obviously love is the reason.
Most of you know that I, too, have a brother. But in my case, I am the big brother. So the other morning, I am reporting in to my little brother that a big conversation with the ex ended terribly and left me without hope, at least in the financial realm of life. As we chit-chatted via the wonder of texting, I jokingly asked him for money. (Actually, I asked him to buy me a house.) Suddenly, my friend’s situation came to mind, and I felt terrible because it occurred to me that maybe my question, despite being ridiculous and clearly a joke, would actually cause my little brother consternation because of how much he loves me. Still with me? I suddenly feared that I was becoming my friend’s douche-bag older brother who was taking advantage of his position in relation to my good friend. And that was not my intent at all.
Now, whether or not my little brother felt any pang of “maybe I should…” before he texted me a resolute “no”, a new version of Jesus’ attitude/demeanor before/during the crucifixion came to mind.
Mel Gibson and the events as recorded in the Gospels seem to have it that he willfully submitted to the punishment because he knew that it was what had to happen if we were ever to understand the better. But for today, at least, I’m kinda in love with this new revision of his emotional state at that trying time. Instead of willful submission, try picturing Jesus of Nazareth in a discussion with the human race. His side of the argument? “Listen to me. Life because better. I speak the truth.” Our side? “Prove it.”
And much like my friend, Jesus would really prefer to avoid the debate. Not because he doubts himself–no. But because he knows how far he will go to prove his conviction. He knows that he will do anything to convince humanity that he’s telling the truth–that he loves us more than he loves himself and that that’s because we deserve the love that we just won’t accept for some reason. So my revision of Jesus during the passion is an unkemptly bearded man pleading with me, a sure sadness in his eyes, “Please don’t ask me to prove it. Please.” And then to himself only, continuing, “Because I will. You don’t know how far I will go.”
Forgive me, brother. My request was in poor taste.
It’s official. I’ve fallen in love. I’ve fallen in love with myself. You read that right. I’m officially announcing my new dating status: confirmed bachelor.
Now, I don’t exactly know what this means, but I feel like some very attractive men have made this claim in the past and that makes me want to be a part of that group. God’s honest truth, though, is I hope it means that I don’t ever have to break up with another woman. Breaking up is no fun, and I like fun. Fun is good; no fun is not good. It’s that simple. So I’m a bachelor for life. Neato burrito.
One lady in the medical profession, who fell in love with my blog personality back in the beginning of the year, emailed me. I emailed her back. Steamy words were exchanged. Then she felt guilty and asked if I was running a “predator site”. Wow. I was shocked and angry. But I took note. Was/am I running a predator site? Was my blog and my expression of myself some indirect way of luring unsuspecting women into giving themselves to me, albeit in digital form? Obviously the answer was no. But I have been thinking a lot about the whole scenario and realized that me expressing my problems on this blog is really not the way to go. I don’t need any help. I’m not weak. I don’t have PTSD. I don’t have women problems. I’m not looking for pity. Sometimes I’m pretty angry at how life is unfolding, but in reality I’m good.
Recently I haven’t been writing because I feel like all that I want to say falls under the I-can-help-this-man-if-he’d-only-give-me-the-chance predator-ish category. Today, however, I had this confirmed bachelor epiphany, so I’m running with it.
Yet, I still am a man and fantasize about meeting the perfect woman. I’m going to share these fantasies in an effort to help demonstrate why I am declaring my confirmed bachelorhood. The newest one came to me while at the gym. I noticed a few female members giving it their all and realized that while their bodies and energy and focus and dedication were extremely attractive, the truth was that I don’t want a woman who has to put effort in to maintain a desirable figure. Nope. I want a woman who looks great in workout attire as she waves around the rubber coated two-pound weights that literally accomplish nothing. That’s my dream woman. If it takes effort to keep her figure, then that scares me. What happens if she gets lazy? Seriously. No one wants that.
Anyhow. Just a random thought that leads me to conclude single-hood is the way to go and rightly so. Happy Monday, as they say.
(If you’re short on time, skip to the bottom for numbered instructions.)
Whether you reside under a rock or not, you’ve heard of online dating. It seems so easy, so natural, so smart. Just post a few pictures of yourself, answer a few personality questions and that’s it. Wedding bells will be ringing soon enough. The problem is that it isn’t that easy. Lucky for us, I’ve finally figured it out. No, that doesn’t mean wedding bells are in my future, it just means that after nearly two years of online dating in some form or fashion I’ve finally developed a “how to” guide.
The number one difficulty with online dating is pushing the idea out of your head that someone can be captured by a photograph or a profile. They can’t. It’d be nice if they could, but it is not possible. Just like cameras don’t steal people’s souls, pictures don’t contain them. Neither do words. Bodies do, however. Real human bodies. So that’s the starting point, that’s where we’ll begin. We’ll begin with human bodies.
No matter what site or app you’re on, the most important question you need to ask yourself is, “Do I want to have sex with this picture?” It sounds base, it sounds dirty, it sounds disreputable, but it absolutely must lead the way. If it doesn’t, then you’re being dishonest with yourself and the other person who may or may not be sitting with you some day. By starting here we also cut right through idealizing the person behind the profile. Who cares if you read the same books or love the same lord? What gal doesn’t write that she prefers jeans and a t-shirt, but dolls up really nice too? And what guy doesn’t like sports or movies or video games or hunting or reading? Is anyone not passionate about their job? Seriously, there’s not that many options in life. Again, look at the pictures and ask, “Do I want to have sex with this picture?”
Next, skip everything to do with pen pals and make time to meet the other person. Then from the moment they arrive, stick with the sex question in its new, modified form, “Do I want to have sex with this person?” Not “would I?” or “what would their personality have to be like in order for me to want to?” but a chemistry/spark type unquantifiable feeling of attraction. If you don’t, if the attraction that was there isn’t there anymore for whatever reason, then politely thank them for meeting with you, but explain that it is in everyone’s best interest to not waste any time pretending. If on the off-chance you do desire them sexually in that moment, keep the moment going for as long as you can. Minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, etc. Or whatever. I have no idea how to maintain a relationship. This post is about how to online date, not how to be in a relationship.
My point here is to simplify all the bullshyat that confuses online dating into something it can never be. We’re people first. People who are attracted to other people. In everyday life the physical attraction comes before the date. In online life it seems like there are other factors to consider. But that’s a lie. Physical and sexual attraction must be there. So trust in it and run with it.
Instructions for How To Online Date
Step 1 — ASK yourself, “Do I want to have sex with this picture?”
Step 2 — If the answer to Step 1 is “Yes”, then MAKE time for a date. If the answer is “No”, then MOVE on.
Step 3 — SCHEDULE a date.
Step 4 — At the date ASK yourself, “Do I want to have sex with this person?”
Step 5 — If the answer to Step 4 is “No”, then immediately–though politely–END the date.
Step 6 — If the answer to Step 4 is “Yes”, then I guess you at least know what you want to do, so DO it.
What’s fascinating about eHarmony’s take on online dating is how NOT according to these steps it is. Take for instance this pop-up that appeared when I took “white” off the list of races I was interested in dating.
Really, eHarmony? Really? After you’ve taken my money upfront and not given me any women with whom I seem remotely compatible, now you’re going to tell me that if I don’t feel like seeing anymore pics of white women’s dogs (is the dog interested in a date?), now you’re going to tell me if I don’t feel like seeing anymore ridiculous pics of white women being photographed while surrounded by non-white, third-world, presumably just converted heathen children, then I should stop and reconsider my tactic? Really? And what’s with the save button being grey’d out like it’s not even clickable? It’s like you are doing everything in your power to keep the races pure. That makes you my enemy, I think. And I thought you were supposed to be helping. Oh well. Just under two more months of fun. I can’t wait.
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Constitution or no constitution, I think it’s a valid question.
And if my daughter’s classroom had anything to say about them around last St. Patty’s Day, what with chairs overturned and tables on their side, I wouldn’t want to piss those little guys off. They can be awfully mischievous.