Category Archives: God

What is Schadenfreude and is it sinful?

Scha·den·freu·de- noun\ˈshä-dən-ˌfri-də\:taking pleasure out of someone else’s misfortune.

My husband and I were talking about this earlier today. I know the definition of four-syllable German words I’ve beaten to death might seem like an odd topic to discuss over spaghetti, but it was something I was thinking about in regards to the kingdom of God. I wanted to settle a debate, if only in my own head.

Exactly what constitutes Schadenfreude? I’m not sure it’s always capitalized, but I’ve seen it a lot when talking about revenge and forgiveness.

One question was is it an active or passive term? The idea is that you didn’t cause the misfortune, but you like the results of it. Exactly what does that mean, though?

I’ll admit to having indulged in this a bit. Actually, more than a bit. In some cases, a lot. I know it’s wrong, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

Is it poetic justice? For instance, I had a boyfriend in college who was a Class A jerk. Not all the time, mind you-there were some good things-but generally he’s not someone I’d associate with today and only stayed with because I got sucked into his dirty black hole. To be fair, there were a lot of good things, mostly his family and the way he’d say I was beautiful-I was shy and awkward growing up, so I did *not* hear this very often. I wasn’t always an angel either. He was in the Air Force and, one summer, had to go to ROTC field training-basically officer-training boot camp. Being a total sexist pig, he made some comments that were directed at and heard by a female superior. It was one of those cases where you only hear half of what was said, but apparently it was the wrong half because he was called in front of her and two (male) superiors and had to explain himself. This is probably bad of me, but I was glad he “finally got what was coming to him”…he’d made very sexually-tilted comments to me and about other female cadets and, thus far, had gotten away with it because they weren’t heard by anyone in charge.

I know that “qualifies”-in fact, it’s textbook. But what about pleasure taken at something you could have done, but didn’t? The knowledge that you could have caused a lot of harm to someone who hurt you, but never really would?

A conversation with my dad-a career Navy man-over ten years later told me that I could have really screwed my ex over because his ex-wife-not my mother-caused a lot of trouble for him by telling his superior officers all these lies about things he did to her (cheating and verbal abuse come to mind) for no reason other than to hurt him. She was a civilian, by the way. My ex never cheated, but he did do a lot of other things that I did not realize were actionable at the time-harassing my friends and other potential suitors behind my back, begging off coaching PT the next morning so he could fake a suicide threat that night, turning in one of my English papers as his own etc. Some of it illegal, but all against the rules of his program. I got confirmation from some former cadets and officers I spoke with when doing research for other projects, although that wasn’t what I was looking for. Most importantly, all of it true. If I had known about this and were vindictive enough, I could have effed-up his career big time. Sometimes I wish I had. 

Nothing happened with my dad, by the way. His supervisor knew she was nuttier than a Snickers bar and basically ignored her.

I *did* manage to let superior cadets know about things he did or said regarding them, but that was only because I called their attention to it while it was happening. Don’t ask.

My point is, what level of schadenfreude-if any-was acceptable in this situation? Was my being glad he got into trouble for running his mouth? Were the “I could have gotten even” thoughts I had after talking to my dad? Would it have been sinful if I  *had* gone to his superiors-I wouldn’t be lying, after all. I’d have been believed, too, since I’d have witnesses. But would my intent be at issue?

When does it become sinful, or does it? The impression I got was anything beyond laughing at Chevy Chase fall on Saturday Night Live or saying, “I told you so” was wading into that territory. Perhaps it’s referring to a spiteful kind of glee, the kind you might have if someone “gets what they deserve”. The kind of smug satisfaction I see in the eyes of some Christians when things like the earthquake in Haiti or the 2004 tsunami happen in places with “pagan” beliefs (voodoo and Islam come to mind)? I know a lot of people are excited about the End Times, where all of God’s children will be saved while the rest of the world suffers. Exactly when and in what order these things happen varies by doctrine, but the idea is that 1/3 of the world’s population will be ravaged by disease while another 1/3 dies in some kind of conflict. As happy as I’m glad for my Savior to come back, I just can’t get past all the suffering. Maybe something’s wrong with me. I don’t know.

I don’t really have an ending for this, so I’ll leave it here. My fingers are tired anyway. Later on!

 

 

 

 

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The Painted Kitty

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This is my cat Missy. I call her “The Painted Kitty” (or just “Painted”) because of the way each individual hair of hers has specks of the colors that make up her patterns. You’ll probably find this on most tabbies, although it’s usually easier to see in cats with multiple colors than with different shades of the same color. She looks as though God took a paintbrush and started marking up a canvas in whatever pattern He wanted to use. My friend’s tortie (tortoiseshell calico) Daimos was the same way-black with yellow and orange blotches that showed up bit by bit on each of her hairs. My vet said that no two tabbies or torties have exactly the same patterns, so it’s as though He really did “paint her special”. That’s what I tell her, anyway.

She might not understand the words, but I think animals pick up on a lot more than we think. My old roommate’s cat Thomas would immediately follow her into her room when she came in crying, which happened a lot. Her other cat would camp out on the edge of my bed when I was home with a sinus infection; she had sinus issues too, so it was like she “felt my pain.” When I came home from the hospital after having been there for a month, I’d wake up to find Missy at the end of my bed each morning. I think she wanted to make sure I didn’t go away again. They’re aware of these things, sometimes more so than humans.

Anyway, I hope you liked looking at her as much as I do. It’s like I’ve said about a sunset-if God is willing to put so much care and effort into something that can’t talk or have a relationship with Him, imagine how much care He puts into us. Something to think about.


Why I’m *Really* Going to Hell (Or So I’m Told)

(I’m re-publishing this because I added an item. Hope you like it.)

Last year, I wrote a post joking about going to Hell based on a discussion thread I posted on Beliefnet.com. It was meant to lighten the mood on a normally-heavy debate board. It was mostly successful, but there were several people who didn’t appreciate my sense of humor and implied that God wouldn’t either; I *am* in the Bible Belt, after all. After reading a few responses, I figured I’d better write a something a bit more serious. According to some people, here are the reasons I’m going to Hell.

Having the wrong political views.

But Here’s 5 Reasons Why American Evangelicalism Completely Lost Me

I’m citing this post by Benjamin Corey because item #1 speaks directly to what I’ve experienced. The person I dated before my husband was a deeply conservative Christian. It ended for a lot of reasons, but I’m mentioning this because being with him got me sucked into the Evangelical culture and politics Corey mentions. It’s very disturbing how some people would judge your faith by whether or not you supported the Bush administration and/or the Republican party. It wasn’t as creepy as the movie Jesus Camp, but it still felt weird. As a then-Democrat, I learned very quickly to keep my mouth shut lest I be accused of “helping the Devil” or something like that. I can’t explain it any better than Corey does, but what got to me the most was that there really was a time when I thought God had abandoned me because of my beliefs. Before you scoff, consider that few things make you feel farther from God than the depression that comes along with untreated bipolar disorder. Why was it untreated, you ask? Well….

Seeing secular medical treatment. It wasn’t getting medical treatment that was the problem so much as the “lack of faith” that prompted me to seek said treatment instead of relying on God to heal me. In “Prosperity Gospel” circles (more on why it’s BS in another post), that can mean anything from having somehow lost my way to (gasp!) not being a Real Christian at all. The fact that I had gone back on medication after having tried the “supernatural healing” approach made it even worse because it was thought that I got sick again because I lost faith and God had taken away the healing. How this made sense to anyone I’ll never know, but it’s thoughts like this that can make someone already suffering from depression or something like it feel even worse. If even God doesn’t love you, you must be a piece of crap, right? I actually began to wonder if the “diagnoses” of me having an unclean spirit that needed to be cast out were true after all. Again, scoff all you want; When you feel like something else is inside of you controlling your thoughts and actions the way you would in “mixed state”, you’d believe it too.

Strangely enough, I never *did* lose faith. I still believed and sought God throughout all of this. Take that!

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Despite the fact that it comes right from the source , I haven’t heard this one as often as the others. The only reason I’m mentioning it is because no one can tell me what this actually *means*. Was it laughing when I saw, “I found Jesus-He was behind the couch” on a T-shirt? Was it playing Cards Against Humanity and giggling at some of the less-disrespectful cards? Some of them *do* mention God or Jesus. When I see a really rude one I’ll say “that’s just wrong” or “that’s sacrilegious”, but I don’t bow out of the game. Was it when I used to play with Ouija boards as a teenager? I won’t touch the damned things now; they creep me out. Was it when a boyfriend started exploring Paganism in college? When a Catholic one stopped going to confession? He said he’d been made to do the “church thing” growing up and was enjoying the freedom. Was it when my friend told God to “shove it” when her husband died shortly after their son was born?

The definition that makes the most sense to me is, strangely again, not the one I hear most often. The way my former Southern Baptist church explained it to me was that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an ongoing, willful rejection of God. It’s not something you do out of anger or youthful ignorance, nor is it related to your choice of entertainment; that’s another matter altogether. It was also said that it’s not something a Christian can do because, if someone is willing to completely deny Jesus, they probably weren’t saved to begin with. If you’re asking this question, you probably haven’t committed this sin because if you had, you wouldn’t care.

As for the aforementioned Catholic, he never left the church; as much as he liked sleeping in on Sunday, he realized pretty quickly that nothing can take the place of Jesus. I wonder if this minor “straying” was a way of showing him that.

I’m happy for my brother. Before you say “huh?”, let me explain. My brother and his now-husband live in a state (Hawaii) that, after years of debate, finally allows same-sex marriage. They have been together for nearly 35 years but, because of their genders, somehow their relationship is less “real” and worthy of celebration than celebrities who ask for divorce via text message or leave after six months because the “honeymoon phase” is over and it’s not fun anymore.

Some in the more conservative circles would say that homosexuality is an “abomination” and that, by being happy for my brother, I’m somehow “condoning sin” or, worse, participating in it. I think this is ridiculous because even if I did believe homosexuality was a “choice”-and the hell my gay friends went through in trying to “make themselves straight” tells me it’s not-, I’m happy that someone I care about is happy. Period. It would be one thing if this happiness hurt someone else, but it doesn’t. It’s just there for him, his husband and everyone they love to share in. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

I’m a feminist of sorts. I think women are equal to men and should be treated as such. I don’t see why this is a big deal.

Not trying to convert everyone I meet. I’ve had friends of other faiths (or none at all) for a long time. This isn’t a problem for most Evangelicals, but I heard some pretty nasty comments about how I needed to “convert” certain people so they won’t go to Hell. I see two things wrong with this view: 1) I was under the impression that it was the Holy Spirit who converted people, I was just the messenger, and b) I know from experience that the harder you push something on someone, the more likely they are to push back. Harder. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about your faith; in fact, I do it all the time. I’m not aggressive about it or bring it up in every conversation, but I love learning and talking about Jesus and religion in general. I wasn’t raised a Christian, so this is a big change. I just don’t know why I would need to be aggressive about it when the people who showed me to Jesus were anything but. They didn’t just talk about the Gospel-they lived it. Even if they didn’t say word one about God, you could see Him written all over their faces and in their lives. That is how I want to be. I want to bring people to God the way they did for me. Like I said, though, He’s the one who does the “saving”. I just want to lead people to the door. I suck at that, but that’s another post.

These are just a few of the reasons I’ve been told I’m going to Hell. I’m not saying that doing the right things isn’t important because it is, but I’m not sure if that’s really the “point” of Christianity. I don’t know; I just want to be like Jesus. Perhaps I need to be thinking more about *that* than what other people say. One day at a time.


Soil or thorns?

Warning: A very long and crappily-written whine sits below. I’m not sure if “crappily” is really a word, but there’s a first time for everything.

I was reading an essay from on Bible.com talking about how to know if you’re ready for the Second Coming. I don’t normally think about the Second Coming at all (which the article said wasn’t a good thing), but I thought of it because there was a “blood moon” last night-a lunar eclipse that made the moon look blood-red. I’m not sure how that happens, but that’s not really important. I’m not sure I’m ready, or if it’s really something I should think about.

Anyway, I got to a part about soils, which reminded me of the parable of the seed sower…some fell among the rocks (didn’t take root at all), some in the thorns (that took root but it wasn’t very deep and could easily be removed), others fell into the fertile soil, took root, and grew. There was a point in my life that I would have considered myself one of the seeds in the soil…hungry for the presence of God, devout in public and in private, taking root and growing. For the past few years, however, I’ve felt like a “thorn”. Or, in keeping with the story, “among the thorns”. It’s not that I lack faith or have stopped trusting Jesus so much as that I don’t think about Him as much as I used to, don’t always keep myself from sin, don’t read/pray as much/go to church/seek to serve.  When I do pray, it’s more of a short babble than anything else. I can’t remember anything in the sermons or liturgy in church, assuming I’ve paid attention to begin with. That bothers me, but what bothers me the most is that I used to feel God’s presence and love very deeply. Even if I wasn’t bouncing up and down in my seat with joy, I felt a deep happiness and peace. Other times, I felt a deep gratitude, a deep feeling of reverence and felt the significance of everything around me.  But I don’t anymore. I don’t feel much of anything. I know that I should appreciate things like that, should be hungry for God, should seek Jesus and put Him first in my daily life. That I should make Him my master. And yet, I sometimes see church or Bible study as an obligation, a duty. I don’t have the excitement I used to, or the deep love and need I see in other people. I don’t feel the “high” I used to…come to think of it, I don’t feel the “low” either. I don’t feel anything.

I spend a lot of time reading online and playing Candy Crush on the couch with Grey’s Anatomy or Bones on in the background. I know I should do more, serve more, write more (for pay or otherwise), but I don’t. I end up wasting time without intending to. I’d say it’s depression, but I don’t feel sad. I don’t feel hopeless or helpless. I don’t feel anything.

Do you see the pattern here?

I know it’s possible that it could be my medications at work. I know it’s possible that I could just be deeply bored. It’s just frustrating that I can’t tell if this is the reason I feel so numb or if it’s become I’ve become a “thorn”. If I have either moved to different soil or never was that deep in the first place.

Is it possible for someone to become a thorn, to be choked by the weeds in the rougher part of the soil when you used to be deeper?

I know I should do something about this, but I know that the moment I get off of the computer here I’m either going to take a nap or go back to watching Dr. Phil while playing games on my iPod. If I start a “program” or whatever, I know I have a tendency to forget about things and never finish what I start. I haven’t finished a book in months.

My friend K told me that the fact that I know I should be feeling something, know that something is significant and powerful means that I’m on the right track. She also says that my bipolar/ADHD could be to blame, since one of the major problems is the inability for anything to “stick”. The Velcro doesn’t work. I wonder, though, if this is true or if it will be seen by God as an “excuse” for an unwilling, seared and stale heart or if this is part of what’s behind my numbness.

So I ask anyone reading this-is it possible for someone to have thought they had taken root when they actually hadn’t? Or maybe they took root, but they weren’t as deep as you thought? Is the numbness something all Christians deal with, or is it just me? I know that my current Episcopal church is nowhere near as emotionally-charged as the Baptist/Pentecostal/non-denominational churches of my past*, but I used to think that was a good thing. Is it really? I have no desire to go back.  Does my lack of thought and feeling mean I’m not really saved, not ready and never will be?

And how can I get that “about me” section below every post to stop showing up? 🙂

Thanks for indulging me.  I’d better give Haley (cat) her pill and let her out before she plots her revenge on me. Assuming she hasn’t already. 🙂

 

 

*In fact, the numbness was part of why I left. It was the inability to feel God’s presence, the feeling that He hated me and left me, that pushed me to seek treatment for bipolar. I’d suggest this was the case now, but I’d have to feel something to do that. Oops.

 


A Different Look At Being ‘Born Again’

John 3:3-[to Nicodemus] Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (New King James Version)

2 Corinthians 5:17-Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (also NKJV)

Hi, I’m [river in Ireland], and I’m not an addict. I’m not an alcoholic either, although such things run in my family. I’m not a sex addict, since it’s kind of hard to be one of those when you’ve only been with one person. I’m not a criminal, have never been homeless and had a pretty good childhood. And yet, I am what you could call a born-again Christian. In a sense, anyway.

When I first came to know God, I was part of a very small Independent Baptist church. I was fifteen. For most of the [censored] years since then, I’ve traveled in various Baptist and Pentecostal/non-denominational circles. If you’ve been there, you know that those churches tend to be full of ‘born-again’ Christians. One of the biggest things I’ve heard them say is how God brought them up out of the pit of Hell in the form of addiction, sex, abuse, crime, etc. I’m not discounting their conversions at all-in fact, I admire them. I can’t even begin to imagine what their lives were like or how difficult it has been to change. If this describes you, bravo-you are a better woman than I, my friend. Or man. Or whatever.

One thing I also saw, though, was how these were thought of as the only “real” conversions. It seemed that, the more dramatic the change, the more “legitimate” your faith. I heard it said that people who grew up in traditional churches or always lived on the straight-and-narrow couldn’t be really Christians because they couldn’t be “born again”. We weren’t ‘new creations’ because we have always lived the “Christian” life, even if we didn’t call it that. I wasn’t raised a Christian so technically my conversion “took”, but I had always lived like one. Leaving one denomination for another as many of my sorority sisters did counted because their previous churches were “dead” and they needed to go somewhere else for an “authentic” experience of God. I’m not saying that every new Christian I met felt this way or that this is the Evangelical “party line”, but it was something I hadn’t heard before and it made an impression. Some were downright rude about it, but others just spoke from their own experience. I see their point, but I think they’re missing something.

A big part of being “born again” is recognizing your need for God; that you can’t do it all by yourself. People being brought up from the depths of whatever usually acknowledge that a change is needed, that they are on a path that only leads to destruction. The “good kids”, however, usually think they’re doing just fine. That’s how I was, anyway. They might not see their need for God because, to them, He’s always been there; they’ve never known what it’s like not to have Him in their lives. They never “look for” Him because they don’t think they need to.

Then, enter college. I say college because this is a time that many people are away from home for the first time, but it can happen anytime a big change comes. At some point in our lives we will sit back, take stock of what we’ve believed so far and decide where to go from there. We’ll decide which pill to take and whether or not to walk through the door we’ve been guided to.*

For instance, take my friend D. He was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school the whole way and was pretty devout until he went away to college at 18. The first thing he thought when he got there was, “yay, freedom! I can stay up as long as I want, watch dirty movies and sleep late on Sunday because no one will make me go to church! Yay!” He thought he didn’t need to go to church or keep up a relationship with God because He was always going to be there no matter what.

He was partly right. God was there, just as He always is. However, it wasn’t long before he felt that something was missing in his life. Am I homesick? Not really. Friends? That’s what email is for. Is it a girlfriend? Maybe. When all those needs were fulfilled, though, something was still lacking. Then, he came across a Catholic campus ministry, found a church and resumed the observances that he’d been ignoring. The “hole” he’d felt was filled and he went back to the way of life he’d gotten “freedom” from before.

My point is that, despite his upbringing, he still had to make an active decision whether or not he still needed or wanted God in his life, which is the same thing I did when I “got saved” and my hard-living sister did when she found God and got onto a better path. It wasn’t a dramatic change and it didn’t look like the “brought up from the pit of Hell” things we often see, but he was still “born again” because he had analyzed his circumstances and decided that He still wanted to follow Jesus. However, a lot of people I’ve known would say that his experience isn’t “valid” because he didn’t “get saved” and make the 180° turnabout that many think is required. Even so, he still had to make that commitment, he still had to renew his focus on God and accept the charge that is given to all Christians to do God’s work on earth.

When I first learned about God, I was taught that our past wasn’t of concern to Him so much as our present and future. We often take that to mean that He can redeem even the worst of sinners because they are the ones most in need of it. This is true, but perhaps it’s the not the only “right” way of looking at it. Perhaps the past God doesn’t care about also includes our past of thinking we could earn “brownie points” by being good and of not thinking we need Him at all. Like I said before, the people who know they are on a destructive path usually know something needs to change and will do what they have to to make it happen. They’ll turn to God because they will learn that there’s really no other way. Those of us who think we’re okay without God might not see it this way. However, I still think you could say that we’re even *more* in need of being “born again” because then we will come to the realization that it’s Him that saves, not our good works. It’s not about what we do, but what He already did.

Each person has his/her own path to follow. Whether it starts at age four in Children’s Chapel, age 18 when entering a transitory period or age 40 after decades of hard living, each person experiences God and the message of Christianity in their own way. No one else can tell us whether or not our walk started in a “valid” way; it’s following Jesus and giving Him our whole hearts that matters most. I’m not the best at this, but I guess that’s part of the process that is the Christian life.

My cat Toby agrees, which I guess is as much of an ‘endorsement’ as I can expect. 🙂 He probably just wants me to feed him. Typical cat.

*Please forgive me the Matrix references. It was a big franchise when I was younger, back in the dark ages.


A Good-And Long Overdue-Change Of Mind

It’s not *my* change of mind I’m talking about here, although I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. Don’t worry, I’ve got the fire extinguishers handy in case anything starts burning. 🙂

My friend J posted this on Facebook today, and I just felt the need to share it. It’s “old”, but it’s an interesting viewpoint on an issue that has been breaking my heart.

http://www.salon.com/2011/03/27/presbyterian_minister_changes_mind_about_gays/

I for one am glad to see someone change their stance on Christianity and homosexuality. It breaks my heart how hateful I’ve heard some of my ‘co-religionists’ being. Actually, I should probably say, ‘former co-religionists’, because I no longer belong to a church or denomination that would condemn someone for something they can’t control. To be honest, I’m kind of embarrassed to ‘claim’ some of the people this pastor says he used to be and that he mentioned being in his church. I’m including myself here too, since I used to be one of them.  There are even some people I used to know who I simply *can’t* claim. Here is a quote from the article that says a lot of what I feel:

The truth is, I was put out that this was an issue. Feeding the hungry, preaching the gospel, comforting the afflicted, standing up to racial intolerance — these were the struggles I signed up for, not determining the morality of what adults did in their bedrooms.

I don’t really understand why it’s an issue either. Aren’t there a lot more important things we should be thinking about as Christians trying to figure out how to best live our lives in service to Christ? I’m not saying that sexual sins shouldn’t be thought of because a lot of them should-things like adultery that can destroy marriages, pedophilia, etc. I just don’t see why this *particular* issue-the issue of which gender a person sleeps with-is really all that important, or even interesting. I’m not saying that all people who hold to the “traditional” view that homosexuality is a sin are somehow knuckle-dragging bigots; if I did that, I’d have to include some people very dear to me. It just bothers me that so much more attention is paid to this issue at the expense of others.

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God proved His Love…

Reblogged..

God proved His Love….

Say what you want about evangelists..I’m no longer a Southern Baptist, but I have nothing but respect for Rev. Graham.


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