Category Archives: questioning

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!

 

 

 

 


Christmas list?

This post was originally published in December 2010, but I thought it could use an update. Even though I am working now, I still can’t help but feel like crap because half the time I forget things that are easy for everyone else to remember and I seem to always be doing something wrong. I’m not saying that because I get constant criticism, although it feels like that sometimes. I’m saying that because I’m oversensitive and tend to respond to things like the tones people use when sometimes it’s better to remember that that’s just how someone talks or that this isn’t a good time of the year for me in general. It’s better this year than it has been because I’m working and making money, although I do wish I could see my family and friends more often. Anyway, back to your regularly-scheduled whine-fest.

My husband asked me what I wanted for Christmas. The first things I thought of were a Bible with the Apocrypha in it and/or one of my favorite party games. Of course, we’d actually have to *have* parties in order to play said game, but that’s something else entirely. I can think of a few things I’d like, but I don’t think they would be something he could give me. For instance:

-He can’t give me my brain back. One thing I hate to no end is that I feel like I am ‘slipping’…everyone else ‘gets’ things that I don’t, and I keep missing and forgetting things. I don’t want to immediately say it’s because of my bipolar and/or ADHD, but that’s probably the most likely scenario. My doctors have told me that it affects the way I think; I test lower on IQ tests than I did before because my brain works differently (well, assuming it works at all 😛 ). Seriously. I’ve been told over and over again that I ‘don’t think’ or whatnot, but that’s not true at all. I *do* think, I just tend to think so fast that nothing really ‘sticks’. My last few employers-you know, the two jobs I was fired from in two weeks-can attest to that. It’s just so frustrating, because I feel like everyone else is smarter than me and understands everything much better. Maybe this is true, but maybe I’m just *different*, not any less or any more. I don’t know.

-He can’t help me lose weight. Maybe he can in terms of eating more vegetables and less fatty stuff, but he can’t exercise for me or stop me from liking things like soda and cookies. I feel like I’ve nagged him enough about that in terms of getting him to buy veggies and fruit for produce, although truth be told I really don’t push anywhere near as much as I could. Still, I know that money has been really tight for us and that he feels like the stuff we can afford is often the stuff that’s really the worst for us. He doesn’t say it like that, but that’s what it comes out to. We *do* get canned veggies but It’s up to me to actually *eat* them, or to choose them over other stuff when I have a choice.

-He can’t help me get motivated to do, well, anything. I have so many projects I’ve started that I haven’t finished and don’t really know if I will. A children’s book, a novel of sorts, a few other writing projects…at least I’ve had some stories published, although they haven’t sold yet and *ahem* aren’t the type of stories you let your dad read. I have a couple of tabs open in my browser right now for things I keep meaning to read, but somehow never get around to it because I’m so easily distracted. Maybe at some point I’ll stop playing Facebook games long enough to read the stuff I’m supposed to read on Beliefnet for my job, and Slater, get off the counter,then do some writing I get paid for and Dr Phil’s head looks particularly shiny today….oops, got distracted again.

-He can’t get me to stand up for myself the way I need to.

-He can’t ward off my depression or make other people do stuff with us. They have their own lives and I totally appreciate that, but sometimes I just get bored with the same old thing. Boredom often leads to depression with me and, since I don’t work outside of the home, I get bored quite a bit. It’s gotten better now that we’ve paid the car off and I’ve been doing more stuff at church. Just to get out among other people-especially more women since most of my friends here are men-really helps. Even so, sometimes I still feel really “meh”. Which leads me to my next point:

-He can’t make me feel like less of a piece of crap because I get disability even though a lot of the time I feel as though I can work. I know from experience that my mental issues cause major problems and my physical issues aren’t much better, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling as though I’m one of those “sponges” or “cheats” some people rant about. I would never, ever say that to someone else, but I’ll say that to myself. Hmm.

He can’t change the past, which is ultimately what it would take to ward this off.

That’s just it. He can’t change the past. I know he would if he could, though. The only thing that can be done is to get to be more comfortable and content with the way things are and to try and improve things from there, but that’s something I have to do for myself. I have to ask God to help me with that every day, if I remember. That’s really sad, ‘if I remember’, but the point is that he can’t do it for me because it’s not *for* him to do. It’s for me, with God’s help. And I need all the help I can get.

*sigh*

Maybe I should just stick with new jeans and some bras to replace the ones I can’t wear anymore. That would require a lot less explanation.


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.


Do we ever really grow up?

my-little-pony-468916_640

I had about 40-50 of these growing up. They didn’t look quite this “anime”, but whatever.

 

I guess I’m thinking about this because a lot of my friends with anxiety or mood disorders of some kind still have a lot of the same fears and frustrations from childhood that everybody else seems to have gotten past. It might just be me, but I think it’s a lot more difficult to let go of things when you have a mind that holds onto absolutely everything and won’t shut up for five seconds.

For instance, my husband has a lot of anxiety about money. There’s a good reason for this since I’ve had so many problems working, which is why I feel like a sorry sack of bipolar scum most of the time. We also went through all of our savings within nine months because I had an accident that rendered me unable to work much for seven months and racked up obscene amounts of bills and stress. But that’s not the point; the point is that any time I mention wanting or needing something, he gets nervous. I know he has anxiety issues, which I guess is one thing that makes him so understanding of the problems I’ve had. He tells me he loves me all the time, that I’m really good for him. I believe it. He’s a lot more than I deserve. Even so, it makes me feel the same way I did when my parents would balk when I needed or wanted anything that cost a lot of money. They didn’t say anything, but they really didn’t have to. The “look” they got on their faces when I mentioned needing $25 for a field trip or $70 to have a new color guard uniform made was enough to make me feel like I did something wrong.

As it turns out, they were having money issues because the treatments my sister got earlier on (doctors, rehab etc) were expensive to the point where they thought they’d have to go bankrupt. At least, this is what my dad told my brother about five years ago. I did not know any of this-I thought that they sent her away because she was bad and they didn’t want her anymore. I feared that, if I wasn’t perfect, I’d be sent away too. If I upset them too much the way she did…and money seemed to be the main thing they got upset about. I used to think that I would probably have turned out less sensitive or whatever had I known some of these things, but whatever. They did the best they could. I know nobody is going to send me away now, just like nobody would have then. Even so, the looks and demeanor my husband sometimes takes when I mention money makes me feel like that ten-year-old kid worried that she did something wrong or the 17-year-old who ran to her room crying when she told her dad how much the “senior stuff” (cap, gown, yearbooks, etc) would cost.

But I’m not a kid anymore. My husband has gotten a lot better about getting nervous and ranting for the same reason-my dad used to do that and it scared the living crap out of me. He didn’t mean to; it just did. To this day, it scares me when a man screams at me in anger. But I’m not a kid anymore. So why should it? Why do I still worry or think I’ve done something wrong anytime someone seems the slightest bit less than happy with me? Or when they seem miffed, period? I know that most people aren’t aware of how their words or non-verbal cues (tone of voice, body language etc) come across. So why do I still pay so much attention to it?

I know I’m not alone in this. It’s just that I think there’s something about the minds of myself and other friends with similar issues (I have a friend with OCD in mind) that holds onto things others would ignore and, in doing so, misses the primary stuff. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it can actually be quite helpful when you’re studying things like philosophy or religion where there are multiple layers you have to sift through. I didn’t realize this before, but one symptom of OCD is unwanted and distressing thoughts. I thought it was just about germs or whatever since that’s what all the movies show, but I learned that my obsession with body odor* and the scary thoughts I’d had about hurting my cats or wondering what would happen if I pushed my Spanish professor off a balcony (no, I didn’t do it) can point back to that too. I don’t want to say I have PTSD because I haven’t had anything traumatic happen that bothers me, but I wonder if people who *do* have even more problems because of the way our minds won’t let anything go.

I think I might have gotten off track here, but my question still stands. Do we ever really forget the things we learned about ourselves when we were growing up? Even if the “lessons” were false, do we ever forget about the bad things we learned enough to focus on the good things? Do we ever get past the memories and the feelings that they bring to light? Or are we destined to mentally become our ten-year-old selves when something goes wrong?

I was going to a great therapist last year, but I had to stop because we couldn’t afford it. I’ve joined a ladies’ depression support group that I think is helping, if only because I get to get out of the house and talk with people outside of our social circle. In fact, that’s what we talked about last week-how simply seeing friends in a different setting that usual can be very helpful.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll be able to motivate myself enough to write more paid articles rather than playing Pet Rescue Saga and randomly babbling here. If anyone else is in the same “hold onto everything”, tell me in the comments. Maybe then we can figure out how to keep it from sinking.

 

 

* Don’t laugh. If you had enough people from high school saying you stink both behind your back and to your face, you’d have a complex too.


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.


“Unworthily”? What Does That Mean?

I’ve always found myself with more questions than answers…
So I invite my readers-all five of you-to help me find the answers.

The Bible Gateway devotional focused on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. It’s talking about proper conduct during the Lord’s Supper, but one part popped out at me:

Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. -1 Cor 11:27

The context of this passage is saying that a person should “examine himself” before they take the body and blood of Christ. If not, judgement will come. I get that these acts are sacred, but what I don’t understand is what makes someone unworthy of taking them?

For instance, what if you made a promise before God that was broken later. Would that make you unworthy?

A few years ago, a good friend of mine was getting a divorce. It wasn’t because his wife had been unfaithful (although she was) so much as that they hadn’t been happy for a very long time and simply couldn’t take it anymore. Even though he knew it would happen, he was still really torn up inside about the idea that he might have sinned against God by going through with the divorce. He, like me, believes that marriage is a sacred institution that should last a lifetime-“what God has joined, let no man put asunder.” His concern was that, by going through with the divorce, he was breaking his promise that he’d be with her “as long as [they] both shall live”. Even though he tried like hell to make things work but nothing helped, he felt that he needed to stay in the marriage because that what what he told God (and everyone in that church) he would do when he took his vows. Even when I told him that he technically had what Jesus said was the only acceptable reason for divorce (I was grasping for straws at this point), he was afraid that all of it meant that he lied and, as a result, had been taking communion (the body and the blood) unworthily the entire time.

But was he? That’s my question. Was he “breaking a promise” and, if so, would that make him unworthy?

In light of the verses I mentioned above, is divorce (no matter what the cause) something that makes one unworthy? That’s what the Catholic church thinks, which is why you’ll hear about a Catholic who divorces being denied the Eucharist. Does it matter if the person did all they could and it still didn’t work?

Does continuing to be affected by things in your past make you unworthy? For instance, a friend of mine’s father used to yell a lot when she was growing up. Twenty-something years later, she still gets scared when a man yells at her in anger. Does this mean she hasn’t forgiven her father? They have a decent relationship now.

Does telling “little white lies” make you unworthy? How about “big, black ones’?

Does gossiping make you unworthy?

Does having had sex outside of marriage make you unworthy, even if your spouse has forgiven you? What about premarital sex?

I’ve always felt guilty for thinking badly of people. Even if I there’s a reason to, I felt that this was a failure to love my neighbor as myself. Do these thoughts make me unworthy? After all, adultery and murder begin in the heart (Matt. 5:21-28).

Does greed make you unworthy? Wrath? Lust? Sloth (whatever that is)? Envy? Gluttony? Pride? Because if lust does, I’m screwed.

If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for indulging me. Like I said, I have a lot more questions than answers and would greatly appreciate insight from others. What do you think?

 


 

 

 

 

 


Faith ≠ Intelligence?

faith-and-intelligence-mdSeveral of my friends are atheists. Some say they do not believe in a God or any other sort of faith because it’s not ‘rational’…one person in particular is very condescending about religion and says that he no longer believes ‘because he has a brain, and if [I] had a brain, [I] wouldn’t either’. An ex once asked me how someone ‘as intelligent as I am’ could believe in something ‘stupid and irrational’ like God, the rudeness being one reason he’s an ex! 🙂 Even if they aren’t quite this blatant, the sentiment is the same-faith makes no logical sense, and thus isn’t worth pursuing. I’ve heard this a lot.
They’re entitled to their opinion; frankly, I don’t care what anyone else believes or doesn’t believe, as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else by it.

In a way, I can see their point. Maybe it isn’t ‘rational’ to believe in things you cannot see, touch, smell, count, etc. I guess it isn’t scientific to believe a person rose from the dead, although zombie movies make a good effort. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense for five loaves of bread and two fish to be made into a meal for 5,000+ people or for a grown man to walk on water. Truth be told, it all seems a little strange to me too. However, I’d like to let my friends know that it isn’t necessarily about cold, hard facts. Faith has its purpose; that it can meet other needs a person might have. What are those needs, you ask?

One of the biggest needs I’ve seen is the need to feel ‘connected’. To feel a community with other people, or a connection to something outside of and higher than ourselves. Faith can certainly give those things, or at least put a name to them.

Sometimes the love and acceptance of God, spoken of in the Bible and/or displayed through the actions of other people, is the only real experience of love a person has. I had a friend in college, who I will call ‘A’, who had had a rough time of it in life. He didn’t have much of a family life growing up and had been either let down or rejected by people in school, church or pretty much any other group he joined. For Simpsons fans, he was a ‘real life’ . He had friends, certainly, but hadn’t really experienced ‘belonging’ or ‘being accepted’ on an ongoing basis. He was very much into computers and thus didn’t have much trust in things that couldn’t be tinkered with or proven. One night we were talking in the computer lab in my dorm, and I told him I was a Christian. He began to go off about how nasty some of the people in his earlier life had been, particularly those who claimed to be Christians. It turned out that he had been abused in some way and he didn’t find any support regardless of where he turned. He didn’t understand how any God who is thought to be so powerful and loving could allow this happen, much less how such a God could allow some of the worst things in human history to be done in His name. I wished I had an answer for him…hell, I wish I had an answer for myself! I think I then told him about my experiences, or maybe we talked about Monty Python. I don’t remember.

I saw A again about a month later, and he was in a much better mood than I’d seen him in a while. Turned out, he’d met a lady and they hit it off. She was a church-goer, and A started going along with her. At first he was going just to satisfy her, but then something started to happen. He’d heard of Jesus before, but now he started to really learn about who He is and what He taught. What’s more, he saw the people in the group practice what they preached. They told about how Jesus talked about welcoming strangers, and welcomed them. They told about how Jesus said not to judge others and didn’t judge others…or at least, tried not to. They didn’t do a lot of the negative things commonly associated with Christians, particularly in the Bible Belt where we live. They treated others as they would want to be treated, which to me is the summation of most everything else. They weren’t perfect with this, but the fact that they actually cared and made an effort made as big an impression on him as my ‘first church’ did for me.

Now, I know what you are going to say. I know that Christians don’t have the monopoly on good behavior. In fact, Christians and other religious people can be pretty nasty and hurtful…history can tell you that. I know how people can be hurt by doctrines and ‘church people’-oh, do I ever-but I am telling this story because it happened to be faith and the sort of community that this church group provided that changed A’s life. It was the behavior of this group and their exemplifying what Jesus taught that helped A learn about the love of Jesus, and feel that sort of unconditional love for the first time in his life. I know this is not the case with everyone, but this article is about the way faith or religion can fill needs a person has other than intellectual, and A’s story perfectly illustrates my point.

Faith can also give a person a sense of purpose in the world. I don’t mind ambiguity in many areas of life, but I really can’t stand the idea that the things that happen are just random, that there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to any of it. I don’t have to know what that reason is, just that there is one.

Sometimes I think that the only thing that makes me feel even the slightest bit better about the deaths of so many people in my life is the belief that they’re not simply gone…that there’s something else outside of this world that a person’s soul can look to and find comfort. Other religions handle this by the belief in reincarnation-the soul being reborn in other sorts of bodies, with the ultimate destination of a person’s soul being eternal comfort. This concept is foreign to many of us, but the idea is the same-the soul doesn’t die when the body does. We’re not just ‘blips on the radar’. If someone can be comforted by the belief that there’s something else out there at work and they’re not hurting anyone else, what is the harm in letting them?

I’ll stop preaching now.

I guess my question is…if a person thinks that they ‘are too smart to believe’, why can’t they also figure out that perhaps religion can meet other needs? There are other needs, you know. If they were really so much smarter than everyone else, they’d know that.

What needs does faith meet for you? How do you decide which needs are more important for you? How do you reconcile times when ‘heart’ needs and ‘head’ needs conflict with each other?


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