Weekly Ponderings

Here are some blogs/articles that made me think this week. Inclusion does not equal a full endorsement of everything in each post or at each site. To read each post in it entirety click on the link under each excerpt. (Anything in bold is an emphasis made by me).

“On any given week our fellowship will have between 200 and 300 attendees. In that group is the full range of Christian denominations. From high church liturgical to aisle dancing charismatic, we all come together as foreigners and believers. Like any church, ours has taken on its own personality (somewhere in between those two) but the full spectrum of potential theological debate is always present…

Disagreeing actually forces our focus towards what matters instead of an unchecked sense of rightness

Our worship team routinely consists of some mix of a couple of a couple Brits, a German, a Canadian, two Filipinos, an Indian and an American or two. Once a month a team of African students come from the other side of the city to lead. It’s not uncommon for 30-40 nationalities to be present and yet we join in a common voice.

It’s like a little taste of heaven.”

Three Things I Love About An International Church by Jerry Jones

I see a lot of places where I made mistakes or I “should have known better.” But none of that changes the fact that I was a victim and they took advantage of me. Nobody should be talking about sub-optimal choices a victim made, when another person consciously made a choice to hurt and manipulate someone.

When people talk about abuse, they ask questions like “but why didn’t the victim leave?” or “but why didn’t you report the rape immediately?” Really? I can think of SO MANY reasons why. My situation was just about money, not anything as serious as rape or abuse- but you could ask why I kept choosing to go back there. So many reasons. My own optimism. I didn’t want to believe I had made a bad decision. I didn’t want to believe that they were the kind of people who would claim to be my friends but really just want money. I thought maybe someday I would win an argument with them and they’d have to treat me better. I thought I could get them to respect my right to receive the service I had already paid for, without constant harassment. I didn’t even realize how badly it was affecting me because I didn’t know my feelings mattered- I didn’t know that it could be so hurtful and unhealthy to just have a “friendly and polite conversation.”

An essential part of manipulation/ coercion/ abuse is making the victim believe that they actually like it, that they chose it, that it’s not manipulation/ coercion/ abuse. So OF COURSE you’re going to have victims that don’t realize they’re victims until much later. I totally believe you if you say that’s what happened.

A victim who’s made mistakes is still a victim by perfect number 628

“We talk about how suicide is ‘selfish,’” a friend said to me a few weeks ago. “But that means that people who are suicidal but struggling to live are doing something incredibly selfless, every day. Why don’t we talk about that?”

On a societal level, we rarely, if ever, acknowledge all of the thankless work that people who wrestle with suicidal ideation pour into staying alive — labor that they engage in not for themselves, for the most part, but because they know how much their deaths would devastate family and friends. There’s not much in the way of resources or aid available to those doing their ultimate best to avoid suicide. Instead, we mostly treat those who are suicidal — as I am, sometimes — as morally deficient for even thinking about killing themselves in the first place…

The other day a friend and I were dreaming up a place where people might learn how to live. We called it the not-hospital, because it should be everything the hospital isn’t: warm, comfortable, loving, tolerant. A place with corners full of blankets and pillows where you can go cry if you need to. A place with huge heated tubs full of salt water where you can soak and read and sip fancy drinks. Common rooms where people can be together if they want to; individual rooms where people can go if they need to be alone. A proper convalescent home, where people can recuperate and rest and feel cared for — that’s maybe what the not-hospital would be.

But until we invent the not-hospital and start training people in how to live, the least we can do is acknowledge the massive amount of effort it takes not to die

If You’re Suicidal, Staying Alive Is The Most Selfless Thing You Can Do by Anne Thériault

But the thing that struck me the most this past Sunday morning was how much everyone talked about God’s amazing grace, the amazing love he showed us in sending his son to be beaten to death on our behalf. The message was primarily a positive one, I’ll grant that. But there was something else lurking beneath the surface, something far more negative…about us.

This preacher got up in front of an auditorium full of people to tell them they are lucky to have God in their lives, lucky to have him condescend to show grace and mercy to them because they deserve so much less. His love for us and his grace toward us is amazing, the man told us.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? We are being told over and over again that what they have to offer us is good news. But implicit in this good news is the very bad news that we are so bad, God had to kill himself in order to get over it.

Does that not strike you as…I dunno…excessively demeaning? For every time we are told that God’s love surpasses all other loves, we are being told that it takes an extraordinary kind of love in order to love the likes of us…

See, I know this narrative very, very well. I’ve inhaled deeply of this message and I can recognize its aroma almost anywhere. Each mention of the surpassing love of God reminds the listener of his or her own innate unworthiness. Without that unworthiness, without the implicit notion of our own horribleness, this love wouldn’t even be anything special.

For grace to be amazing, it has to overcome something terrible. According to the Christian message, that terrible thing is us

The sugar coating on that pile of anti-human excrement satiated me for many, many years, but time has made clear to me what lies beneath that saccharine exterior: The good news of the Christian message is built upon an inescapably dehumanizing narrative which says that you’re so very bad that only God can love you the way you really need to be loved. If you look for that love in any other source, you’ll be disappointed because the likes of you requires something especially gracious and forgiving…”

The Dark Side of Grace by Neil Carter

“The Christian agenda to “get” people is so weird to me. Having these strategizing meetings to best figure out how they can convert whomever and convince them of the “truth” they hold. I imagine Christians having a conversation with whomever non-Christian they want to convert, sitting there not listening but waiting for any chance to strategically insert their beliefs. It’s uncomfortable, that’s not how normal people have a conversation.

And before everyone gets all mad, I’m not saying to never talk about your faith or whatever. I really like Jesus and I talk about him all the time, but not with the agenda to convert anyone – that’s where it gets weird. Awkwardly inserting your religious ideals or straight up arguing why people need Jesus so they don’t go to hell is kind of creepy.

What if instead of focusing so much on how we can convert, we focused all that energy on how we can love bolder like Jesus? Seriously, sit and have meetings to try to figure out how to love our neighbors better. There are people out there doing this and they are changing the world and people actually like hanging out with them…”

It’s Okay to Love Your Religion Without Forcing People to Convert by Sheri Faye Rosendahl

Christians speak about “Judgement Day.” For many, this is a terrifying concept where everyone’s secrets are laid bare so that God can “smite” people for what they’ve done. But I believe that the very opposite is true. God’s justice is actually about everything being in right relationship, in its right place—“the way things should be.” God’s judgement is not a heavenly courtroom where we are all tried “for our sins,” instead, judgement is the means by which God’s justice is achieved, the process of righting all wrongs so that His justice comes into full fruition.

God’s justice and His judgement are therefore restorational concepts, not punitive ones. Like most Kingdom concepts, this is happening in the here and now wherever Christ’s followers bring Him into a situation. It is also what will happen at the “Last Judgement” when it will be brought to its completion. I look forward to everything being restored to its proper order and place, with everyone in right relationship with God and with others. I look forward to everything that was ever wrong being made right, and every injustice set straight. I look forward to everything being “the way that it should be.” When viewed in that manner, Judgement and Justice take on entirely different meanings from that of the angry god taking out his “wrath” on people, they become the means by which a loving God establishes peace and wholeness for everything He has made.

Why is this relevant to whether or not animals will be in Heaven?

Well, death is one of those things that is wrong and that needs to be put right. It’s so hurtful, so damaging, and so painful—and permanent too…

But I really don’t know—we’ll just have to wait and see. What I do believe is that intelligent, conscious animals, with which we formed a good relationship, will be raised up with us as part of our inheritance as saints.

Finally, there’s this vitally important point: God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes (Rev. 21:4). This means that everything that ever upset you, everything that ever hurt you, everything will be made right and things will be just as if the bad stuff never happened! This is part of God’s restorative justice. It’s part of what will happen. The Bible is full of God’s promises to restore. The heart of God is always to restore. Restoring: putting things back where they belong; giving them back; restoring relationship—including those with our beloved pets.

So, animals in Heaven. Why not? Given the unimaginably generous and, moreover, restoring nature of God, that He loves to surprise us and bless us with every good thing, and that Heaven will be better than anything and everything we could ever have dreamed, why not?”

Do Our Pets Go to Heaven? by Tony Cutty

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