A bit of light conversation: who goes to hell?

We usually use the word punishment when it comes to hell

You break God’s rules so you’re sent to hell to be punished

I think we get it wrong
I think people chose to go to hell

Think like a freeway with a speed limit

Now I’m driving 90 in a 65 stretch
A police officer pulls me over
I get a ticket
I am being punished, I have to pay a fine. The goal is that I will want to avoid the fine in the future and that’ll motivate me to follow the speed limit.

I don’t think hell works like that.
I don’t think God works like that.

I’m driving that same stretch of highway. The 65 speed limit is there for a reason. There are a series of curves and if I take them too fast I’ll fly off the road. The limit is to prevent me from injury myself and others.

I ignore it again and drive 90.
There is no police officer this time and I lose control. I fly off the road and am horribly injured.

I’m not being punished now.
I’m suffering the consequences of my choices.

Ignored the speed limit and that choice resulted in the crash.

This is how God works
God gives us instructions
To prevent us from crashing
When we crash it’s not punishment from God
It’s the inevitable outcome of our decisions

Why do people go to hell?
Because they choose to.
It’s the inevitable outcome of their actions.

Jesus gave us clear simple instructions, the steps to avoid crashing.

Attend the hungry & thirsty & stranger & naked & sick & imprisoned

Love your God & your neighbor

Do it with all your mind and soul

Or you’ll crash

If you want to know where I got most of this, check out the parables of Matthew 25 and even 22. Even if just as a jumping off point.

Also, I’m not talking about earning salvation eyeroll but I’ll talk about justification and all that academic nonsense at some point later on. When I’m bored

Same with Hell

I’m def on the left side of Christianity where the concept of Hell is not as prominent. I’ll probably talk about why I still believe in it at some point. Though my belief, as outlined above, is definitely not in favor on the right side of Christianity

Cultures

Biology is the story that nature tells us about ourselves

Culture is the story that we tell about ourselves

True that we often attribute our cultural story to some other force

A deity
Or deities
Sometimes our ansestors

But ultimately we ourselves are the ones who pass on those stories

That’s why they’re so variable from group to group

Even groups like Christians who have a book that records their story can’t agree on how to tell the story

And as a result you get versions of the story so different that it becomes difficult or even impossible to see them as one

We tell our story
We create our culture and renew it
We tell ourselves who we are

I want to make sure I am proud of the story I tell myself
I want to make sure the story I tell others about myself is a story in which I actually want to be a character

As a Christian
As a man
As an American

And not only the story of who I am
But also the story of who I want to be
The story of who I strive to be

Be sure to tell your story well

A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall

I’m not Catholic

And I probably never could be, regardless any changes made to their ideology or institutions

Though I do REALLY like the Maronites

Compelling history

Worth learning about

But I do have a suggestion that would change some of my feelings towards the catholic institution

Maybe even heal the bitter divides that the current and long running abuse scandals have created

One of the clear instructions that Jesus gave was disestablishment of institutions

He definitely did not like the idea of humans creating institutions and investing them with power

Did not like humans building their own traditions and claiming authority through that tradition

He believed in communities

Communities where the individuals look to each other’s strength to keep the community together, instead of power invested in one person or one office

Communities where the individuals tended to each other’s weaknesses so that everyone had the means to overcome them, instead of relying on authoritative positions and offices that have sole authority to render judgement

Lifting up the broken instead of casting them out

Supportive them in their struggle

Binding the community through compassion and forgiveness

Not institutional authority

In the catholic church the institution is old and running strong

But it’s a mess

The priests that run the institution are a mess

If they want to enact change; take the priests from power and put the sisters in charge

At least for a while

It may not make a difference I guess

More of an experiment

But at least it would be an attempt at something different

Since they’ve not been the agents of institutional authority

Maybe they will be able to institute the

Just look at the ongoing scandals and it’s clear

The current institution is not regulating itself

And new leadership is desperately needed.

That’s my advice

My informed opinion from the cross-sectional religious perspective

Put the sisters in charge

It would upend millennia of church teaching…which is why I could probably never be Catholic: I don’t mind upheaval

But maybe an upheaval like that would be what the institution would need to transform itself

Maybe under that new leadership it would become the community it should be

Community of self sacrifice
Community that lifts up without judgement
Community where the leadership takes responsibility for it’s failures

This is where I got all that junk I said about Jesus and institutions

Mark 7

Matthew 23

Luke 11

THOSE people are destroying society

Whoever they are. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be anymore that’s unstitching society. Uprooting our morals, our standards for what is acceptable. I really don’t know because so many of the arguments are silly

And so many don’t care to make an argument at all. They just care to identify a scapegoat

It’s

The Gays
The Jews
The Rednecks
The Latinos
The Blacks
The Scientists
The Atheists
The Catholics
The Mormons
The Millenials
The Capitalists
The Socialists
Hillary Clinton

THOSE people

Whatever

I don’t care about the scapegoating and labeling that obviously has nothing to do with what’s actually driving our society into darker and darker places

I did come across a great example of what’s destroying our society that has nothing to do with a scapegoat

The example is an incident that distills popular sentiments into a simple act

This young man knocked on a door for assistance and was met

With a gun

That my friends, is what’s destroying our society

I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– Matthew 25:35c NRSVCE

Nested Hierarchy

Finally, I wrote about Nested Hierarchy

I’m trying to keep this intro post as short as possible

…probably not doing a very good job though

Nested Hierarchy is the way I read the Bible. There are a number of ways to approach the Bible and many of them overlap

I’m just going to make a basic comparison here though

To contrast my view I’ll talk about a narrative hierarchy

That’s how we read most books

You start at the beginning of a book and read to the end, a straight line through the text

It’s an easy way to read for sure

That’s why most books are arranged this way; the beginning chapter creates a foundation and each chapter slowly builds on that foundation

I can’t read the Bible this way for one simple reason:

The Bible is not a book, it’s a collection of books

Some of the individual books have a narrative hierarchy, some don’t

But the collection as a whole definitely does not

So I have to look elsewhere for the foundation

I believe that foundation is Jesus

Jesus is the center of a nest, with the other layers in the nest built around him

Jesus is like an egg

The egg is the point of the nest
The egg gives the nest purpose
The egg is the reason the nest was built
Everything about the nest has to be viewed through the object at it’s center

I believe Jesus is the center of the Biblical nest

All the books of the Bible are read through the lens of Jesus

His teachings
His life
His death
His resurrection
His return

The books of the Bible have their purpose fulfilled by Jesus
Jesus is the reason this collection of books was built
Jesus is the point of the collection

The center of the Nested Hierarchy

This is a theological nest I’m talking about, others may use a similar nested approach but with a different goal.

A good example would be a historical approach. Instead of trying to find the theological center of the biblical texts you might try to determine which books were written first. Then you could look at the Bible in terms of how each book is related to those that came before it.

You could do the same with language or culture as the center around which everything was built

To be honest most of us use some combination of these different different approaches

Me included

But the most important to me is the the theological nested hierarchy

My theological perspective is definitely Christian. There are others as well.

Jewish theology for example. You could say that Jewish theology places the first five books of the Hebrew Bible at the center and builds theological interpretation of the other books around them. Those first five books are also know as the Torah or the Pentateuch.

Even Muslims revere the Bible, though they view it with the lens of their prophet and their holy book at the center

My lens is Jesus
Every book points to him
Every conundrum and question that the diverse writers of the Bible attempt to address are fulfilled by him

All of my beliefs, my faith flow from this method of understanding the Bible

The Nested Hierarchy of the Bible leads me to a number of different conclusions, many that other Christians don’t share

About history
About neurology
About physics
About human sexuality
About any aspect of life that I relate to by way of the Bible

All these conclusions and more are the result of reading the Bible as a Nested Hierarchy

The term nested hierarchy is used in a variety of contexts

Brain science

Genealogy

Those Russian dolls that fit inside each other

Reading about these examples might help illustrate what I’m saying here better than I can

I know that thinking this way has led me to many conclusions that other Christians would disagree with. I certainly disagree with many Christians as a result of my nested approach to the Bible.

I guess that’s one point of this blog

We can’t find common ground if we don’t understand each other. If you want to understand my religious beliefs whether you’re Christian or not

Nested Hierarchy is my staring point

For someone you love

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It’s hard to talk about love & suffering

they don’t seem to go together well

especially when it comes to the idea of a God who loves but allows suffering

So my thought for this Easter is something I think parents will understand better than I do

If I asked:

What would you do for your children? How far would you go? To protect them? To keep them safe?

Most of the parents I know would have the same answer:

Anything
I’d do anything for my children

I think maybe that’s why suffering exists, because love means you’ll suffer for someone you love.

You’ll place someone’s needs above yours

Above your own life

This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends

John 15:12-13 NLT

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A’ Chàisg sona
Ka hari Aranga
Kristos sotonnheton;
oriwiio tsi sotonnheton
hyvää pääsiäistä
M’shee ho dkom!
Happy Easter

Links to

the images above

I should really do a post just about Peter Gomes & why no one knows who he is

But for now I’ll just post this quote

And think about what it says to me today

Then also think about the fact that he spoke these words in 1989

And think about what that says about us today

“There must be such a hope for the destitute of our American Calcuttas,’ Gomes said. ‘There must be such a hope for the prisoners of the inner city within sight of this cathedral church and beyond; there must be such a hope for the aged and the destitute; there must be such a hope for persons with AIDS and those who love and care for them”

I encourage you to think on these words

What does it look like to be Christian? Part 1

Impossible to answer

Believing in Jesus
In the Gospel

Should change me
The way I think
The way I behave

I should be transformed

But there is no way to verify that those changes have taken place

The change in one person won’t look the same as the change in others

Our actions may be a clue
But those actions can be deceiving
You can’t know the motive
What lurks behind the actions
What they are born of

Only God knows

That’s why I can’t judge

I don’t know your life
I don’t know your struggle
I don’t know your repentance
I don’t know what transformation will mean for you

So I don’t judge

But I want transformation for you
For everyone that craves it
I pray for it

I pray for you

Rape and the crimes of Gibeah

You might say society is falling apart because of stories like this

That our secular culture is to blame

That our modern obsession with video games, war, sex, guns, consumerism are the root of heinous behavior.

It’s not true

Just look around and you’ll see it

In our Religious Communities
just as frequently as our
Political Leaders
Law Enforcement
& Entertainers

No arena is exempt

Michigan

Sexual violence is all-pervasive

It’s everywhere

Bible

It always has been

Belt

And it has nothing to do with sex itself

Sexual violence is about power. It about degrading, demeaning, dehumanizing, and destroying any and all sense of selfworth a person has.

The gratification experienced through these heinous crimes is grotesque and depraved

And utterly unlike the pleasure of an intimate, consensual sexual experience based on mutual trust and love.

That’s what the people in cases like this fail to understand.

But the Bible understands.

Just read this passage and think about what I’ve said:

While they were enjoying themselves, the men of the city, a perverse lot, surrounded the house, and started pounding on the door. They said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, so that we may have intercourse with him.” And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Since this man is my guest, do not do this vile thing. Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.” But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine, and put her out to them. They wantonly raped her, and abused her all through the night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. As morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light. In the morning her master got up, opened the doors of the house, and when he went out to go on his way, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. “Get up,” he said to her, “we are going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey; and the man set out for his home. When he had entered his house, he took a knife, and grasping his concubine he cut her into twelve pieces, limb by limb, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. Then he commanded the men whom he sent, saying, “Thus shall you say to all the Israelites, ‘Has such a thing ever happened since the day that the Israelites came up from the land of Egypt until this day? Consider it, take counsel, and speak out.’

-Judges 19:22-30 NRSVCE

Now ask yourself,

Does that story have anything to do with sex?

No way

Not as far as I’m concerned

The gruesome encounter described is filled with violence that is not even close to any form of sex I’ve ever engaged in

Those men were getting pleasure from sick acts of dehumanization

It’s also speaks to my point

Brutal acts of sexual assault are not new
They are not unique to modern culture

They have nothing to do with the groups that are constantly scapegoated for creating moral decline

In fact depraved sexual violence can be traced back to the foundations of this country

So instead of condemnatory statements about “the world today”

We need to confront the pervasiveness of this issue.

Recognize it’s long horrid history.

And maybe we’ll start to address the problem and even potentially form some solutions.

When we deny the history and prevalence, when we scapegoat and fail to take responsibility for our ability to influence change, we contribute to the problem

Contribute to Solutions

This is barely scratching the surface here, but also consider the way the women in that Bible passage were valued:

“Here are my virgin daughter and his concubine; let me bring them out now. Ravish them and do whatever you want to them”

👆!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!👆

Empty Words and Fleeing to the Desert

I don’t want to hear boring music about nothing

I wouldn’t mind hearing old music with some real depth, but the churches that still use old hymns have become cloistered and unwelcoming

Both of those types, and every variation between them, are filled with rigid, religious human shields who resist any attempt at self examination

I’m not the only one. And it goes well beyond music

It’s about the roar and grasping of empty words

That’s why so many leave

They realize they’re not part of a community

They’re definitely not constituents, not integral components of a larger whole

They’re subjects

To something unfulfilling, unwilling to self reflect

Or improve.

So they find community elsewhere

Outside the buildings

Somewhere with a mind of humility, openness, and rejuvenation

The promise that so many Christian communities leave unfulfilled

Like the Desert Mothers and Fathers of the 3rd century, many are now building communities that fulfill the promises of Christ
Instead of asking for admittance to communities that claim to own those promises

The Desert vs Trolls

Read the Desert