Too Complicated

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 29, 2007:

It’s too complicated, too heartbreaking to have something to say and not the freedom to say it. It’s too strenuous to have a truth to share and not the proper reception of others to receive it. It’s too horrible, too painful to watch a friend throw away something she knows is true, to allow something in place that intentionally tries to dismantle truth, replacing it with a new truth (a fabricated truth). But then, who am I to judge? If the Christian world is quick to judge those who step away, then why should I cater to that stereotype if I’m to be the example of love?

There are two bulls staring each other eye-to-eye. Both stand on opposite sides of a pen, but they’re ready to charge, ready to headbutt, until both knock each other to the ground. At one time they ate from the same trough, but now the circumstances have changed. Now one refuses to share with the other. The one wants to understand the other, but the other wants to be left alone. What once served as common ground has been split in two, divided at the trough. The one can ask what happened, but judgment is implied. Now the truth must be concealed, for respect is endangered. And though love might convince the one to “rescue” the other from separation, the other’s perception of judgment is already implied, and now the horns have been lowered from the other side, for no agreement can be made.

I’ve been criticized for explaining too much, and maybe that’s justified. I’ve been criticized for needing too much, and maybe that’s false advertising. I’ve been criticized for being too nice, and maybe that’s a fault. I’ve been criticized of not laughing enough, and maybe that’s a joke. I’ve been criticized for being too closed-minded, and maybe that’s a stereotype. But then, who are they to judge? Clearly, to judge me without knowing me is to misunderstand who I am.

A famous line from The Usual Suspects claims that “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to convince the world that he doesn’t exist.”

In scouring the testimonies of ex-Christians, of seeing what could possibly convince them to forsake the truth they knew, one element that seems surprisingly absent is the Devil himself. No one acknowledges the fact that he knows us very keenly, and knows how to trip us up. No one acknowledges that there’s a war for the heart of man and that Satan is pulling every trick he can to pull us away from God. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use our quest for understanding against us if we let him. No one acknowledges the fact that he can use anyone, regardless of race, gender, or religious affiliation or stature for his own malicious purposes. No one acknowledges the fact that his first attempt at playing the deception game was to tempt Eve with knowledge (and understanding)—the contradiction to relationship (experience). They just “see” something wrong with Christianity—whether something failed to line up in their understanding or if they trusted the doctrine of a false witness, or even if they find fault with the Bible itself—and so their understanding of truth is lost.

It’s as if the line “lean not on your own understanding (for the heart is deceitful)” actually speaks truth.

Unfortunately, we cannot explain the truths that we know to them—the ones who fell away—for their hearts are now hardened. We cannot adequately provide the love they need because they refuse to let us into their hearts to understand them. All we can do is to be nice, so that we don’t step on their toes and drive them further away. And though we might want to laugh like old times, we can’t separate ourselves from the fact that our hearts are now broken, for the friend we once celebrated with has turned down another path, and has no interest in coming back. And all we want is to understand what brought them there, even if it means, too, that we want to find a way to return them to the truth that we know, whether what we consider truth is true or not, just because we love our friends too much to see them slip away. But alas, that comprises the love that they want from us—the love that says, “I won’t try to ‘rescue’ you.”

These are haphazard thoughts that I’m sifting through, with details far too complicated to flesh out. And I suppose much of me is in disarray, for this revelation came out of the blue, and I wasn’t prepared. But bear with me.

This happened once before, ten years ago, with another close friend, a friend who loved God, a friend who not even a year earlier had written research papers on grace because he was so enamored with the subject. He tried to analyze the depths of God, beyond what God shares with us, and couldn’t do it. His secular college groups couldn’t help. Now he’s an atheist, for his intelligence couldn’t process his investigation. He had leaned on his own understanding.

When a devout, passionate Christian falls away, based on his or her findings through the investigation, I can’t help but to be suspicious. Sure, our faith as a whole is criticized for being one that we just accept without investigation. But these same people who criticize us fail to realize that there are accounts of mathematicians and science scholars who set out to disprove the Bible and the truths behind it, through investigation, only to get saved because they couldn’t find the inconsistencies that so many skeptics and information hunters claim are there. So I find it suspect when those who decide to dig deeper end up falling away because something they found didn’t line up to their current beliefs. It makes me, first, suspicious of their researching skills, but second, and more importantly, suspicious of the sources that fed them these “truths.”

In an attempt to understand this friend’s position better, I decided to retrace some of these tracks that led her to these conclusions. The one I found most startling, as a source, was a group of academicians and scholars called the Jesus Seminar who claimed to be on a mission to uncover the real sayings and actions of Jesus. It seemed like a worthy group, if not somewhat unnecessary, that wanted to bring the deeper truth of Jesus to light. The most notable work of this group is a book called The Five Gospels, which color codes phrases from the four canonical gospels and the Gospel of Thomas—a Gnostic work discovered in the 1940s full of “sayings,” most of them mystical in nature—and bases those colors on the likelihood that Jesus really said that, or that it was said by someone else, or that it was too “out there” to be said by anyone at all. According to ChristianAnswers.org, nearly the entire Book of John was “black-coded,” meaning invalidated as the actual words of Christ, because it refers too much to supernatural instances, and “science” cannot support it. On the contrary, the only sayings to get “red-coded,” as in there’s absolution here, are the ones that sound like fortune cookie lines. In other words, The Five Gospels, after everything is color-coded, makes Jesus look like a hippie, and nothing more. In the end, I can see where a serious Christian looking for serious answers would be disheartened by this revelation—as I would, too, if I thought my Savior was not in fact who He said He was but just another hippie.

Including a Gnostic work into the collection left me suspicious anyway, especially when it received the most red marks of all the Gospels combined (ironic for a Gospel that was never accepted into the inspired Word of God). But I still had to understand more. I mean, these people are former professors, theologians, etc., many with doctorate degrees, so they have every right to be considered authorities on the subject of Christian investigation and truth hunting and the personage of Christ, if that’s what they spent their lives doing. But when the membership drops from 200 to 78 because ill-feelings about the project surmount its scholars, and when half of the remaining members are full-blown liberals, while only a tiny fraction consist of Christian, Catholic, or Jewish faith (a fraction that has very little popularity or say in the “consensus”), and when the consensus that votes on the authenticity of the words (or actions or whatever) can be between as few as two people, and when the founder (a Unitarian in practice) claims toward the end of his opening speech that the Bible is just a work of fiction, with a beginning and ending that have already been voted “hard to accept,” that needs to have its middle portions reevaluated and rewritten (yes, rewritten!!!) to portray a “new Jesus” so the new fiction holds water, then I can’t help but to be suspect of the validity of this group’s “findings.”

I could go on speculating for hours and days and never find an ending to these examples. But for Christians to investigate faith without also investigating the sources behind various claims, I think it’s foolish. If anyone were to accept the statements made by “scholars” and “experts” such as these without questioning whether or not the founders were purposely trying to discredit the Christian foundation, then it’s no surprise that the person investigating would step off the path if the answers looked like truth but were deceptive.

It would be naïve of me to assume that this is the only source of this new confusion, of course. I’m under the impression that many sources contributed to this loss of Christianity (most of which were not listed). But, though the source of the information is unknown to me, the biggest stab through the heart for my friend was the discovery that the Bible we have today doesn’t contain the original text that was written in that first century. Something to do with translations being messed up and whatnot, if I comprehended correctly. Ultimately, the subject of contradictions also came about (something that my other friend who walked this path ten years ago had claimed). Never mind that the translation problems that are present had merely altered the details rather than the messages—an alteration of any kind is still grounds for dismissing the Bible as truth, according to the critics. Never mind that the contradictions are in “scenery items,” like one gospel reporting Jesus interacting with two blind men, while another reports Him interacting with just one. In filmmaking, the screenplay rarely includes any such detail, while the film itself shows everything. It’s still the same story, but with different imagery. In truth, the scenery isn’t what matters. Since the Gospels were retained as memories before they were written down, it’s easy for two different authors to remember (or hear) differing accounts of scenery items. But, because the infallible Word of God was described through different authors with different memories (though the written narrative of the messages was still under the direction of the Holy Spirit), the minor inconsistencies caused the infallibility to fall, according to the critics, and thus the Bible is no longer truthful. And that’s not to include the corruption of those who handled the translations throughout the generations. Never mind that hundreds of people risked their lives (many of who lost them) to get the scriptures to the right people, to keep them preserved and properly translated. They did it for nothing, because the church corrupted it with its own agenda, writing in its own sayings as truth, so say the skeptics. Again, translations against the original Greek and Hebrew versions show that the changes were minor, affecting only the inconsequential details and not the messages, but that’s just not acceptable, is it? In truth, the only big corruptible change that the Bible did incur during those early years was not in the content, but in the order of the books. The original Bible was written a specific way (with a specific number of Books), but the Roman church decided to mess with the order a bit and split a few books into separate accounts. And though that might get the skeptics roaring with “a-ha!,” it doesn’t change the fact that the original order has been recorded, and that anyone wanting to read it in the right order can just refer to the list when reading the Bible they have. In fact, this would be recommended since certain verses might make more sense if the reader knows what it refers to (oftentimes to the book that follows it in the original order).

I don’t know—this is all philosophical, and biblical philosophy isn’t my strongpoint. I’m probably missing a lot of points here. Then again, a subject like this can have points to support and criticize all across the board and the board stretches the span of the world. I can’t address everything, nor can I understand everything. Maybe there is a deeper truth that could challenge our faith. But then, what would be the point of Jesus? I guess logic can run a healthy course, but common sense should have its rightful place, too. And let’s not forget personal experience. Ex-Christians are quick to point out the “emotional” response to things that current Christians might refer to as healing or spiritual. But that doesn’t explain the personal relationships with Jesus, or the interpretation of tongues, or the ability some people have to prophesy, or the specific gift of healing (one ex-Christian refuted this by justifying the timing of his body’s natural healing—on a related note, I may have a 9 1/2 shoe size, but I can justify being a size 11 if I stuff cotton in my shoes or change my interpretation of the measuring scale), or even (gasp!) the origin and purpose of love (not the romantic kind, but the unconditional kind).

In the end, I’m heartbroken because a friend in Christ became disgusted with Christianity and thus “jumped ship.” And I’m heartbroken because I think she got there by trusting false sources for truth. And I’m heartbroken because now she won’t listen to what I have to say because she just wants to accept her new beliefs in peace. And I’m heartbroken because I know in my heart that I have to honor this request, despite my desire to share the truth that I know, a truth that clearly validates all the points that were made invalidated, the truth that goes beyond logical findings to invite experience, and even common sense into the picture, because to dishonor it would be “unloving.” And it sucks because I don’t know how to respond. Our common ground was through Christianity, through faith. Without that common ground there isn’t much else to share. And yet, the stereotypically Christian thing to do would be to abandon her now for her change in faith. But, ironically, abandonment is not what Jesus would do, and thus, despite my uncertainties about the state of our connection, I can’t do such a thing, either, even if other Christians might find judgment and abandonment easy.

I may not be perfect. I may have my share of sins. I may have my problems with relational issues. But I hope I’m not a hypocrite. I hope. I hope. I hope. In this hour of my friend’s confusion, it would be unfair of me to become one now.

Though, I admit that I don’t know where I stand in this friend’s life now that this is reality, as the tendency, it seems, for ex-Christians is to detach themselves from fellowship, or at least trust, (for fear of judgment) with other Christians. Though, I argue that it’s just another confirmation that the Devil has her hand, as it’s his every intention to divide the Body of Christ, and what better way to do that than to lead the confused away from the very people who could (and should) offer support? Again, the ex-Christians fail to see this. I wonder why.

Some may criticize my actions tonight. I stepped into the hornet’s nest to see what drew her in, and it was risky considering the effect that it had on many others who ventured in and never returned. I admit that I didn’t go in searching for myself, as I really have no interest in sabotaging my faith, since I’ve already gone through the trials that would test the truth of my faith and found that my faith endured (Praise God), and I could care less about the things that agnostics, liberals, Unitarians, cult leaders, etc. are trying to pass as biblical truth for my own understanding. But I did want to know what the thorns were that made her bleed, and discover for myself their validity, so that I might understand where she’s standing. In the end, the above is what I found. Based on what I found, I’m sad to say that a good, strong, inspiring, and gifted Christian seems to have slipped off the path for nothing. And I can’t show her why.

Just like my namesake, I have a message to share, but to deaf ears. And like my namesake, the hardened heart makes me cry. And to be honest, I hate being here, for the tears of frustration seem never ending on my side.

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Word Evolution

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 24, 2007:

The evolution of a word is a strange thing, I think. Sometimes what begins life as two words, whether realistically or conceptually—like “life boat” for instance—can segue to a hyphenated word, and eventually, to a single word—like “lifeboat”—where it gains acceptance in literary circles throughout all English-speaking worlds, including England, America, Australia, and every planet in the Star Wars galaxy. This is a fascinating phenomenon that shows how a word adopted into the English language can never stop on a dime, as scholars and authors are trying new ways to lay it on a page.

Having said this, I feel like I’m facing a conundrum with the word(s) “cell phone.” While ninety-five percent of the world’s applications present it as two words, the Oxford Complete Wordfinder, the authority on all things English—a dictionary for those who can’t see past the double word posing as one—lists it as one word. The meaning is still the same: a cell phone/cellphone is a handheld device used for communicating with another cell phone/cellphone holder. However, the semantics of the latter version makes more sense. After all, its older brother, the telephone, is not referred to as a tele phone, as that would be weird; though, maybe it was in its heyday. In any case, as a writer, I find it difficult to accept one form over another as both have been represented with great authority. Therefore, I think in the end that using either version in fiction, in print, or wherever is acceptable, and that anyone who complains about the presentation otherwise can kiss the author’s butt.

Now that I’ve gotten that out in the open, I will continue combining the word as one to my heart’s content.

That reminds me, the new Lifehouse CD (another double word made single) called Who We Are offers free ringtones to cellphone holders who buy the CD. I might have to take advantage of that.

That Old Rusty Formula

Originally posted to MySpace on:

June 5, 2007:

Recently, I’ve been hearing a lot about this new book and movie craze called The Secret. At first I thought it was a movie starring that kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun—and I really don’t know why I thought that, random brain activity I guess—but later came to find out that it was a lesson in forcing what we want through positive thinking. Interesting.

As New Agey as it may seem, and probably is, it makes a good point: positive thinking brings positive results. Fair enough. Obviously it speaks some truth, because the entire world is biting into it the way a starving man on a desert island might bite into a Big Mac. If it didn’t work, the masses would throw the book into the fire. Right?

Well, if it weren’t any surprise, the Christian community has picked up on some of its principles and applied its meaning to its own sense of faith. Admirable, I think, considering the speed at which we condemned rock music and Harry Potter for its blatant promotions of evil. Because of this idea of viewing the “Law of Attraction,” as it’s called, as a form of faith, I have to admit that the possibility of finding out more about it “attracted” me. After all, if it really does show me how to attract what I want—to essentially step up my faith a notch—then it must be a good thing. Right? Right?

A few weeks ago, my Wednesday night Bible study decided to spend a week studying it. So now, after all the hype surrounding it, I got to see what it was all about for myself. And with all the visual stunners, like that wave of some crazy force ring shooting out like a pulsar cannon from the thoughts of those who dream of big houses and sexy wives, I have to say I was impressed with the production. With all the positive thinking that obviously went into it, all I could think was that the geniuses who made this film were certainly tapping into the “Law of Attraction” when they told themselves they would be gazillionaires someday.

Jokes aside, I could understand why the Christian community jumped on board with this phenomenon. It encourages faith—I mean, it has to—the whole point of the Law of Attraction is to see yourself with the very thing you want, which to me requires a heck of a lot of faith. If a penniless nobody can say he wants to make $100,000, actually draw (in marker) the extra zeroes onto a one dollar bill so that he can see the hundred grand as reality, and then somehow sell his $.25 concept to a tabloid and call it “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” then obviously somewhere in that equation he had more than a mustard seed’s worth of faith, because we all know what became of that little $.25 idea. A hundred grand is merely chump change now.

For those who haven’t seen the video, though, I’m not gonna spoil it for you. The bottom line is that this methodology teaches us that whatever we set our minds on, that’s what becomes reality. To some degree, I can accept this. For those who really believe in their abilities, somehow they make it work. But there has to be a line.

When the video was over, I had one nagging problem: the idea of making reality of what we think about. In the video, it talks about how a man who focuses primarily on getting out of debt is still thinking about debt, and thus he’ll never get out of it (because the “universe”—New Agey term—thinks he wants the debt because he keeps thinking about it and yada yada yada). Again, I can sort of see where this might apply. But, at the same time, from a Christian standpoint, it has one fatal flaw: our relationship with God, namely.

Here’s the thing: the Christian community can accept this thing called the Law of Attraction, because it promotes faith. But where the Christian community is completely turning the deaf ear is that this form of faith rules out relationship. In other words, if I’m asking God to help me out of debt, then, according to the Law of Attraction, I am still thinking about my debt, and thus God will keep me in debt.

What?!!

The workaround, of course, comes back to positive thinking, as the creators of this video might say. “Don’t think about debt,” they say, “but think about prosperity. If you dwell on prosperity, then you’ll have prosperity.” Fine, if you say so. I’ll have prosperity.

But why should I have to say it like that?

If this Law of Attraction is a real thing that God can use to answer our prayers, then isn’t it still possible that God has complete control over how it works? If He doesn’t, then how are we supposed to be ourselves before Him if we’re too busy nitpicking over vocabulary, trying to manipulate Him into blessing us?

My understanding of the Bible, and thus, my understanding of my own existence is to have a relationship with my Heavenly Father. Shouldn’t that mean, then, that I have freedom to tell Him exactly how I feel, and trust that He’ll hear me for my heart and not for my AOL keywords? If He doesn’t hear me for what I bring before His throne, then what is the point of trusting Him with my heart?

So that’s the thing that left me unsettled as I dwelt on this theory—which could have some truth to it, as some people do make it work. But then, that brings us to another point.

First of all, I’m not going to continue this journal pretending that I know everything. I don’t. I know some things in biblical context, though there is still plenty more that I don’t have a clue about. My memory skills suck when it comes to verses and song lyrics (though I could probably still tell you the names, identities, and allegiances to every single character from the first season of the original Transformers—how sad is that?), so I’m not the grand authority of all things spiritual. Because of this, I tend to seek counsel in these matters when I turn up clueless. Sometimes I find it in Christian “rulebooks.” Lately, I’ve just been asking people that I trust to know the Spirit better than I do. After spending the last few weeks trying to figure out how the Law of Attraction coincides with God’s will, I finally asked a mentor.

Having said that, keep in mind that most everything to follow from this point on are not my own thoughts, but a redevelopment of the conversation that a friend of mine and I had about God, faith, and the direction that ministry is heading.

There’s a reason why I had this problem with the Law of Attraction as an absolute—as the video would describe it to me. It’s because it pigeonholes God’s authority in my life. It puts control into my own hands, and more or less disregards His personal will for my life. Maybe this thing does work, for some people, but does it mean it’s the right thing?

The Secret and the Christian church’s adoption of its principles as a form of faith subscribe to a key issue that controls western thought: it’s all about the marketing.

What?!!!

Never mind that God is sovereign, free to bless people His own way and in His own time—if He chooses to bless us at all. No, according to this new marketing trend, all Christians are automatically promised prosperity (remember Jeremiah 29:11—my favorite verse to be perpetually taken out of context?), and so the positive thinking trick guarantees us the desires of our hearts.

As long as we don’t think a single ill thought against it.

What?!!! That sounds a bit limiting for God, the author of the world, doesn’t it? Also gives a little too much power to the Devil, the Force, and Jedi Master Yoda, all of who, despite our fears, can’t actually read our minds. Only God has that kind of authority.

God is creative, am I right? Does He not know the desires of our hearts before we even ask? Does He not know of the best path in which to see His will fulfilled in our lives? Of course He does. So why does the Christian church throw heaps and heaps of formulas in His way?

Years ago a friend of mine told me that he would never again read another book about relationships. Why? They seemed to be pretty harmless, certainly informative, and probably the surest bet to finding “the one,” and having the best relationship possible with “the one.” So why stop reading them?

Because they’re formulaic? Because they take the adventure out of life? Because they limit God from establishing things His own way, should He choose to even make it happen? Hmm, the truth kinda takes the thunder out of “How To” books, doesn’t it?

Why are Christians disappointed when a church promises prosperity if they “get their heart right with God” just to wind up in debt, in bad relationships, or being falsely accused of murder? Didn’t God promise the desires of my heart—of prosperity—according to Jeremiah 29:11, the most out of context verse ever? I thought I was supposed to do this and that and then my dreams would come true. If only I had read my Bible more, my dreams would come true. If only I had tithed more, my dreams would come true.

If churches told us that only some of us would prosper, while the rest of us would fight the rest of our lives for the desires of our hearts just to die poor and alone with 28 cats, then would we be interested in going back? Western culture, says “hell no,” so squeaky clean Reverend Mafia Man (apparently they exist—yikes!!!) tells us that prosperity is eminent so that we keep coming back and filling the coffers. Marketing genius. Spiritual suicide.

Why does the starving Christian want to put more hope in The Secret than he does in the sovereign will of God? Marketing. Is God not good if He doesn’t fulfill the desires of man’s heart? Or is He just? Would the CEO of Starbucks love God if God told him, “All right, now it’s time to try something new; go spend the next ten years getting to know the common man while running the register at Burger King.” Or would he be fighting God on the matter, arguing about how such a move would affect his God-promised prosperity? If he argues, then why would he? Is he no longer content with the will of God? If the CEO of Starbucks didn’t rate his prosperity on the size of his limo, would he be content, then, with a rusted jalopy from 1923? Probably not. Marketing strikes again.

So why then do some people make the Law of Attraction work? If it puts a limit on God’s sovereignty, then why can some people still get what they want through positive thinking? Here’s a better question: why do the wicked prosper if prosperity is meant for “those with faith?” My theory on the wicked prospering had always been that this is the best they’ll have. For them to prosper now is like God having compassion on them in light of their destructive future. But the friend I talked to about this the other night had a better theory: prosperity, like everything else, is a gift bestowed among certain people. Just as a wicked man can paint a glorious portrait through the gift of creativity (as can a Christian with the same gift), so can a wicked man turn three dollars into a million if he has the gift of business (as can a Christian with the same gift). Not everyone will have the ability to do both (I, for example, have creativity, but my business sense is atrocious), so not everyone should expect to have both (or either, if that’s the case).

The bottom line is that Secret or no Secret, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. If He wants to prosper us, then good for us. If He wants to let us die in captivity, then we should probably learn to like it. In the end, it’s unfair of us to limit our relationship with Him to certain boundaries so that the formulas of prosperous Christian living can endure. Isn’t it better to live each day as it is, continue to ask for the desires of our heart, be content with the answer He gives us, whether it’s what we want or not, and let Him flourish in His ways and in His story for our lives? I might get discouraged at times for seeing opportunities I’ve desired float away far beyond my reach, but then, how would I ever be content if I got every blasted thing I ever wanted? I’d just end up wanting more anyway.

Of course, if God wanted to be the Father who gives to His prodigal son, then that’s His business. It’s not my job to grumble it. It’s my job to love Him anyway and do what I can to follow the path He’s lit for me.

Anyway, these were just some issues that came up during this processing time. After spending many sessions of positive thinking toward the things I wanted in the past, just to have them rejected anyway, kinda tells me that the “Law of Attraction” is just a thing that some people can use, but ultimately doesn’t override the sovereign will of God. If we trust Him with His will, then that’s what we’ll see come to pass. Whether or not that means pleasure for us is irrelevant. Whether or not we become an army He can use, however, is relevant. Submitting to God and letting Him do as He wills is a mark of faith, I think, and one that lets God be who He is through us. Yes, we can still ask God for the desires of our hearts—the Bible makes that clear—but true faith, I believe, accepts the answer regardless of what it might be.

If anyone would like to add a remark to this, please do, as I’d like to build a discussion here.

And you’re welcome to send this wherever you want, if you feel like it. But you don’t have to; this isn’t a chain letter. I know that you still love Jesus, even if you delete this. No accusations, hidden agendas, or condemnations here. Be who you are.