Thursday, 6 July 2017

Short Meditations III: The argument from tradition, there's a lot more light, epithets, etc...

 If you're lost with good friends then you're not really lost at all.

The Argument from Tradition

In a recent debate with an acquaintance, the father of dear friends, a good man and a vicar (the two are not mutually exclusive) he resorted to what I call "the argument from tradition" when defending the churches' interpretation of scripture. His setting out of that argument, and my response, are a neat look at this common pattern of argument.
"If you question the authority of scripture in the way it has been viewed over the generations by venerated Christians, then either you are saying they were wrong or implying that modern critics have a better spiritual knowledge than they did. When I read of the faith of people before us which they lived based on the traditional reading of scripture, and what they accomplished, I couldn't ever dare to do that."
My response: so you still think that we shouldn't remarry the divorced, that whites and coloured shouldn't marry, that women must wear had-coverings to attend church (or even whenever in public), that owning slaves is fine, that women must not teach? These are all traditional (and longstanding) interpretations of scripture. I don't find the argument from tradition overwhelmingly compelling. Our understanding of the nature of humanity and the nature of God has evolved. It just has. Sorry.

That's not even taking into account that the breadth of source material (for scripture) has greatly increased, alongside our understanding of New Testament Greek and second temple era culture. In every way we have access to more knowledge and understanding than those upon whose shoulders we stand.

My favourite example being that it's now understood that there was actually very little difference in the usage patterns of phileo and agape in New Testament Greek (and the supposed distinction isn't even present in the Aramaic that Jesus would have probably spoken):
How do bible scholars reconcile the difference between Greek and Aramaic?
Twice Paul says he does not permit women to speak in church. Is this an authoritative statement on the role of women or is it influenced by his cultural context? If the latter then we must be permitted to reinterpret scripture in the light of progress (our increased understanding) - the work of God in humanity. Progress, a word hated by so many Christians.

The Pain of Love Not Received

What a painful tragedy when friends you love won't receive your love, won't let you love them but keep you at a distance. When their own fears, or their judgement, or the judgement of others, is more important to them than love.

In the end you have to move on and be in a place where you can love, where your love is received and rejoiced in as you rejoice in the love of others. Ouch, how painful.

There's a Lot More Light

It's easy to think that the world is darker and scarier than it was. I remember the eighties, with the cold war still going and the threat of nuclear annihilation hanging in the air. Regular IRA bombings on the UK mainland and killings in Northern Ireland. Plane hijackings. War in Lebanon, the Falklands war, the Iran-Iraq war, famine in Africa. The AIDS epidemic.
What's changed is that we're much more aware, and much more quickly aware, of disaster and terror. Different fear but the same fear. But there's more light, we see more.

True Motherhood

True motherhood cuts a deep line of pure love into women, and marks them forever.

By "true motherhood" I mean "of the heart", specifically so as not to exclude adoption. It's the bond of pure love that exists between mother and child, and I see that bond with adopted children as well as biological children. I just say what I see and I don't claim andy special qualification in this area.

I also say "true" because I see cases of physical motherhood where the bond doesn't exist, and it is very painful to see. However I see so many examples of women who lay down their lives for their children and I see a real beauty in their lives because of it, I also see the cost they pay. These observations are the basis of my comment. Motherhood is something I admire deeply and am in awe of it, so many examples of costly sacrificial love which I hold to be the highest form of love. Love which costs you.

Tragedy in Manchester

Yesterday in Manchester thousands of people gathered at a concert in memory of those who died in the horrible tragedy. The theme of the concert was "One Love" and its message was that we must respond with love and not hate or fear. Thousands of people gathered together in the name of love. What a holy and sacred thing, what a precious thing.
1 John 4:18 Perfect love drives out all fear.

Epithets

The core message of Christianity, the inner secret of the cross, is that the path of love is the path of taking on the pain of others.

Tribalism gives you permission to hate. I'm a socialist and I voted green. There's a lot of hate for Theresa May. I dislike hate.

When younger I read the Carlos Castaneda books on Don Juan. My conclusion then and now: incoherent nonsense dressed up as mysticism.

The best defence is a perfect mirror. The fiercer and uglier your opponent the less they can stand to see themselves. Mind as a still lake.

The viciousness is that which does not care. Get rid of it.

Much respect to sir and madam spider. How did *anything* get quite so scary. That's really very impressive indeed.

You must become more fierce than that which binds you.

When I was homeless, for about a year more than 20 years ago, I was beaten up on the street just because people like beating up the homeless.

So much prayer is just going through the motions and wishing it would make a difference. Really wrestling and grappling with reality is hard.

I think my conclusion is that I just don't give a damn about the rules. Love and righteousness is about what's right in the circumstances right now. No rule can tell you what's right.

Hell is not for people, it never was. Hell is for bad ideas. It turns out, being a bad idea is a really bad idea! Hell is not something to be scared of, hell is good and was made by God. Hell is where the evil goes and it's how the world becomes a better place.

Black coffee, like dark chocolate, is a wonderful metaphor for life. The interesting flavours are in the bitter edge, but all are unbearable without a little sweetness.

In times of terror we get to see who loves evil, for it gives them a reason to hate.

Women made men and told them to be in charge. We've done a really, really, really shit job but it's their fault too. They literally made us. "You can never understand" is a lie, by the way. It's either men versus women and black versus white, or it's us. Our choice.

Only a heart that's been broken can help to mend a broken heart.

Not a Paradox

Tolerance need not tolerate intolerance, for if it did it would mean nothing. Tolerance is the absence of intolerance, it must not tolerate intolerance. Likewise full acceptance must not accept rejection, for acceptance is the absence of rejection. Acceptance must reject that which rejects and love must hate that which hates.This is not a paradox, it is what the words mean. A thing is not that which it is the opposite of, nor must it be persuaded otherwise.

That love is not rules is the rule of love.

Worship

Love is deep, love is wide and it covers us
Love is fierce, love is strong and it's furious
Love is sweet, love is wild and it's waking hearts to life
-- Furious, Bethel Music

Rejoice, rejoice The Christ is in you
The hope of glory in our lives
Love lives, love lives, love's breath is in you
Arise a might army, we arise!
-- a paraphrase of a 1980s' worship song by Graham Kendrick

Scriptures: Joshua 6:2, Joshua 6:7, Ezekiel 37:10, Matthew 19:26, Matthew 21:5



"Luke 19:27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me."