Just Some Thoughts I Have…

I share a lot of thoughts here on this blog, and by far most of them relate (either directly or indirectly) with homelessness and bearing the image of God.  Once in a while I stray off that path a bit, and this is one of those times.  Actually, I see a relation to it all, but only in the most complex and esoteric ways.  So, let’s just consider this as being off the beaten path for this blog.

I like to talk about Jesus a lot – mostly Jesus.  And I enjoy conversation about faith and biblical things.  And I like to challenge other people’s thinking and to be challenged by other people.  Sometimes this means debating, but I am not actually a great debater.  But often there is a sense of it.

And often people get into some complex ideas.  So do I, for that matter.  And it really happens when someone is making a complex statement that I find I agree with some parts and not with others.  And then trying to share that, and iron out the distinction between them becomes even more complex.

So say a friend writes a blog post and makes almost 8 or 10 theological points about a passage of scripture.  One or two of them I find really important and meaningful and well said, three or four of them I think are okay, but not crucial – or whatever.  But then one or two I find objectionable.

Now, I can try to engage the post critically, which is my main modus operandi.   Or I can just give it the nod… after all, some of it I really liked, most of it was pretty good stuff, even if less than richly inspirational, and the small bits I didn’t like are, after all, small and possibly insignificant.  But that is not really engaged, that is just flattery.

But of course I cannot engage every blog post all the time like I would prefer.  I don’t have the time or energy.  And of course in the engagement, I might, just maybe, be persuaded to change my mind on some points.  But of course, I am not likely to go in to it thinking that.

So what do I do?  Engage or not?  And if I do, then it becomes complex.  I must of course be nice and supportive of the stuff that I really do like.  And of course if that part is something truly rich and enlightening, then I will be enthusiastic to do so.  But then there are the bits I contend with, and I must somehow go sort out which bits they are and then begin explaining why I differ.  And just as a matter of complexity, that can be a challenge.

And then there is the matter of how well I know the other person or not.  If we have been long time friends and have done this kind of thing before, it should go well.  But if I hardly know you or you me, what are the odds that your feelings might get hurt?  What if I come off as a jerk?  Does that even really matter?

And once we are talking about feelings, there is a possibility that arguing an issue on the merits can get a little confused with insults for those with a thin skin.  And this is still a matter of complexity at this point, not whether I might really intend to belittle you.

There is so much risk.

And then there is the matter of how much disagreement is okay before we cant be friends?  What issues are more important than our friendship?  I mean if you are pretty sure you want to be an idolater and want to blend your love for Jesus with a bit of pagan worship, I really might oughta draw a line between us, but if we both love Jesus devoutly, and if one of us worships Catholic (I am Catholic btw) and the other devoutly Protestant, should this line exist?  Surely one of us has some mistaken views about Jesus (and actually almost assuredly both of us do), but do we have to have those mistaken bits worked out before we can extend true and deep fellowship to one another?  (I trust I have offered two scenarios where the choice is easy to see, but with an eye toward all the harder choices in between!)

And if one or both of us persist in some mistaken views, and if some of those views are buried in complexity – thus making them hard to sort out just on that level alone, not counting real spiritual commitments – how do we move forward together and honor Jesus and one another?  Is sorting this stuff out important at all?

I have a blogger acquaintance who loves to explicate scripture.  He often does a wonderful job of it.  Very imaginative, powerful, and engaging.  Lots of people follow his blog and respond with comments that are very supportive.  This blogger has demonstrated, to my satisfaction, that he loves Jesus deeply with his heart and his mind.  And I praise his work because it is well deserving of it.

One of the points he frequently makes, one I agree with completely, is his view that so much traditional Christianity has mistakenly told us adherents that the goal of our lives is to Go-to-heaven-when-we-die.  He calls this a mistake, and I agree with him.  And in doing that, he is engaging a larger conversation in a manner much like I describe in this post.  But then the same brother also holds a traditional view of “legalism” and paints the New Testament’s Pharisees with that paint brush, and I disagree with him on that.  I have taken him to task with it a few times to no avail.  And I have come to expect these things from his offerings.  He does not see a need to change his views.  I don’t have some incessant desire to continually hound him about it.  I like the one bit, not the other.  He knows this about me.  I know his view too.

I admire the guy and his blog.  But there is not much more to say really.  Not that I can see.  I sense that he and I are actually a lot alike.  I sense that he admires me too.  But there is this stubborn thing.  And I don’t know what to do with it.  Sit back and be patient, I suppose.  I have no reason to believe he will ever change his mind.  I have no reason to believe I will ever go back to his view (I once held a view very similar, if not the same).

And of course that is just one example.  There are others.

What about my church?  Same thing there too.  Some fine point of theology becomes a sticking point for me in the sermon or the Bible class.  I raise my objection.  I don’t have some innate need to heckle the teacher to death.  I really would like to have my questions answered, but I am not the only one in the class, AND after all, I really could be looking at it wrong and not know it.  After all, if I knew which bits I was mistaken about, I would change them!  And I have no need to change the teacher’s mind, necessarily, but I really would like to have my concerns heard, understood, and acknowledged AT LEAST.  Because as the lecture moves on from here… building on the bit I object to, there is a sense, to me at least, that I am now left out of the discussion from way back there at point C or D.

But then there is the matter of the church vis-à-vis the homeless.  The way the church practically ignores the homeless while sending boat loads of money to the nonprofit homeless ministry across town.  And I blog on this stuff all the time hoping someone will take notice and make changes.  And I really must be stubborn on this point, because those are HUMAN beings sleeping out in the gutter and in the cold while we tell ourselves we are the Body of Christ in here!  And that actually is a Matthew-25 JUDGMENT ISSUE!  With very, very, very little hope that the church will wise up to it.

And there are other issues too.  But these will suffice for my ever growing post here.  One I make no actual conclusions in, just ponder them and offer them for referral when every now and again this kind of thing comes up.

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15 comments

  1. Debi · March 24

    Wow. This is a tough one for me. I hold some views that are considered to be quite progressive. I would even have to ask why you would feel the need to “draw a line” between you and your Jesus-loving pagan friend?

    The bottom line for me is that we’re all wrong about something. The question is, do we love Jesus? Or perhaps the better question is, doesn’t Jesus love us all? ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agent X · March 25

      Yes… Thanx for responding. And how much, when, and why would I / should I engage you at the places where we agree and then again at the places where we disagree? And when I do any of that, how do I go about affirming our kinship?

      I too am quite progressive in some ways (to use your term), but also conservative in others. In fact, I view myself as conservative, really, but some of my friends view me as progressive. So, there is the matter of how I see myself over against how other see me. AND THEN there is still the matter of the bits where I am mistaken and where they are.

      No doubt, I must have humility in whatever I say or do.

      And then you ask why I would need to “draw a line” between me an my Jesus-loving pagan friends.

      Let me unpack that a bit.

      Abraham likely started out pagan. I have reason to believe YHWH spoke to him and he responded to YHWH initially, at least, as One among many. But YHWH drew him in to a relationship that became exclusive.

      There is a dynamic here that plays out much like my relationship with my wife. She once was One among many, but as I moved into relationship with her, she and I became exclusive.

      If my Jesus-loving pagan friend were in a similar process with Jesus, I would not want to draw such a line. I would want to encourage that friend to move closer to Jesus, who I am sure will insist on exclusivity as an end goal.

      On the other hand, if my Jesus-loving pagan friend perverts that relationship, and especially if s/he goes on to blend the Christian faith in some syncretistic manner with Voodoo or with worship of Jupiter or whatever and even more proclaims this twisted faith for others, then yes, I must draw that line.

      But then of course I am not sure it is me drawing that line. It is me highlighting a line already drawn, really.

      But what if we are talking about Westboro Baptists who run around parading a theology of hate in the name of Jesus? I really do not want to be confused with that mess! I will draw the line there too… (or highlight one already drawn).

      Why, in the letter to Galatians, does St. Paul “oppose Peter to his face”? Why in I Corinthians does he tell the church to put the man living in sin with his father’s wife out of the church and then not to even eat with someone like that?

      There obviously are times when St. Paul takes it upon himself to get in others’ faces with his agenda. Do NOT get circumcised!!!

      I am not going to iron out St. Paul in this response, but he shows us there are moments when having this kind of moxie, this kind of spine, are warranted. And usually, his is being INCLUSIVE of people that some others would want to exclude! (And that sounds like Fat Beggars to me… making a stink with other insiders in an effort to open up to these outsiders who rightfully should be included!)

      I hope this answers your questions… or at least gets it off on the right foot…

      Thanx again for your response! I really did not expect this post to get read and almost did not publish it. I really figured I was posting a marker with which I could refer to later when these kinds of things come up in the give-n-take of engagement on the blog-O-sphere.

      Like

      • Debi · March 25

        Thanks for expanding on your post. And I do understand that we all have to draw the line somewhere. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  2. T. F. Thompson · March 24

    This is a well thought out blog. Actually I know you are more sensitive to differing opinions than you express.Too, I know you don’t have the type of ego that you are determined to ‘set everyone straight’, but like the rest of us know you can learn from others.

    Okay, and I say that differing dogma means nothing, almost nothing at all. What is even more important is possessing a love for the Lord and too, having and maintaining a good heart.
    Yes, we need correct guiding principles to assist us in doing and being what we think the Lord wants us to do and be, but more important, or at least just as important also realize we are working-out our salvation with each other.

    To put this even different: As much as I think I have the answers, I’m also sure I am as full of it as the next guy.

    A case in point: I visit a lady at the hospital where in giving birth her baby dies. Now then> Does anyone really think that my stupid words mean anything at a time like that? Of course not. My words are empty, but my presence is everything and my attitude toward the lady is also everything.

    As smart or as ‘right’ as I might be in theology, my words are empty as really, truly, I am guessing just like everyone else.
    Heck there is a very good chance that you even know God better than I do, and really, I know very little about Him as he doesn’t exactly come by daily and have a cup of coffee with me and share the news.

    So you see, really all I can honestly do is provide my honest assessment of a situation in reference to what I know about the scriptures. That is all.

    I can point to Jesus and His Father. I can do that, but really everything else I say is almost meaningless, and in fact will be forgotten just about the moment I speak them.

    And all of that is okay, for I am only a man. As long as I point to the source of creation, His Son Jesus, then I’ll leave the rest for them to correct. Amen

    PS You did a great job on your post. You should continue this later and those of us who know you have love, will read and digest it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · March 25

      I think some of my response to Debi works for some of the response I would offer here too. But I am really surprised this post has been generating this much readership and response actually. Thanx for taking it seriously.

      I sense, really though non verbal feedback among a few of my important flesh-n-blood relationships in recent weeks/months, but also from feedback I get from the blog (some of that in private emails) that I come off too brash or gritty (I am changing the words to say it this way). And I am okay with that, except that I don’t want to alienate folx WITH THAT. I am not easy to get along with, but that does not mean I am impossible to get along with. I have dear friends who I hold disagreement with profoundly. And my best college buddy, way back when, and I used to argue tooth-n-nail both in class and out. (He was from Ukraine, of Jewish descent by the way – and we both dreamed of going to law school… He did!) And yet we were the closest of friends while almost never agreeing on anything (except where to go for dinner so we could argue there too, it seemed).

      I really cant afford to relate that way with everyone all the time. Nor do I want to. But I do want to engage the world with my full self… with what I believe and think.

      That said, I also happen to believe that you really don’t argue people into certain things or out of certain things very often. I am extremely unlikely to argue a pagan into being a Christian. I am extremely unlikely to argue an atheist into being a Christian. Even if I am right about everything and they are wrong about everything… the arguing itself is very unlikely to achieve those changes.

      But I do have a voice. I do have things to say. And those things do confront and challenge the things a lot of other people think and say. And in MOST of the conversations I find myself in, those confrontations and challenges are not matters which should drive us (or keep us) apart. Rather, they should sharpen us up, and hopefully help us to see better when, where, and how we might fit together all the more tightly. Or so I would hope.

      Thanx for your response too…

      And I will say this: I have other thoughts that go off the beaten path in whole other directions. I might share them too in other posts. But I plan to stay pretty close to the path most of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Debi · March 25

        “That said, I also happen to believe that you really don’t argue people into certain things or out of certain things very often. I am extremely unlikely to argue a pagan into being a Christian. I am extremely unlikely to argue an atheist into being a Christian. Even if I am right about everything and they are wrong about everything… the arguing itself is very unlikely to achieve those changes.”

        This is exactly the reason why I stopped almost all political posts on my personal facebook page. I was either preaching to the choir or pissing off the other side, including my own kids.

        Besides, I believe that our *being* Jesus speaks way louder than our words (which is not to say we should never speak).

        Liked by 3 people

      • Agent X · March 25

        Me too, Debi.

        I will admit that arguing has its place, but that place is limited and it is not everywhere all the time.

        I certainly recall a philosophy class or two where arguing really opened my eyes. I recall arguing with N. T. Wright’s book, What Saint Paul Really Said, back when I first read it. I really did not like it at first. I only read it through a couple of times to pass the test on it in my St Paul class. But after the test, it kept eating on me, so I read it again and again and it won me over.

        But that is the caveat. I don’t want to throw it out, but actually your point is the bigger matter at hand. You are right. It becomes preaching to the choir and pissing off the others soooooo easily and readily that it hardly seems worth it. And often just does a lot of damage.

        I argued with those guys from the Premier Homeless Church – even quoting scripture they already knew to them and insisting that they let the homeless come in on cold nights like they already had been doing for years. But they refused to listen. Arguing did not achieve what I hoped it would.

        But then someone had argued for the new position before I got there. There was a book floating around that inspired a lot of changes in more than one church in Lubbock around that time, and the book got really popular. Personally, I think it managed to appear that it married up very Republican/conservative ideals with Christian charity and that was a model these folks were eager to be argued into. When I countered the claims of the book with Jesus, I was too little too late.

        But still, I don’t typically argue people into being Christian, nor are Christians typically argued out of it. There are other ways of making a case besides mere words and arguing, and creativity can and should play a part.

        But C.S. Lewis had a great line that went like this: There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who in the end say to God, “Thy will be done” and those to whom in the end God says, “thy will be done.” Yeah… God wont argue you into being a Christian either. He will actually respect your choice not to be if you insist on it. And that is also a missing part in a lot of this.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. paulfg · March 25

    Interesting post, thank you. Something I have learned (a personal view as always) is this: The writing should never be just mine. I try and fashion what I am hearing/sharing with my Father. Sometimes that means writing words which are uncomfortable as well as “right”. And sometime He says “bin” when i think I have heard wonderfully. Other times He says ok when I look at words which need work. But always when I press publish the ripple are not mine. And I have got into trouble when I forget that. And that makes this much easier. If I hear okay from start to end – that;s is me done. The same applies to responses like this. I have felt moved to add comments where I would have happily passed by, and vice versa.
    But mostly I have found this: these words are not really to change anyone but me. I get a real sense that “trying to do this right” ultimately is to change me rather than anyone else.
    I sometimes wonder if that is all Jesus did. He never had to worry about the details.
    And then I wonder if I wonder too much! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agent X · March 25

      Thanx for reading and responding.

      I am cool with having differing opinions – especially where getting something “right” is not (in the strictest sense) necessary. There used to be a great advertisement for Miller Beer (I cannot quote it exactly now) that featured a young man meeting his girlfriend’s father for the first time. They bantered back and forth in what was obvious disagreement up until they got to the matter of beer. It went something like:

      Red; Blue…
      Ford; Chevy…
      Liberal; Conservative…
      Democrat; Republican…
      Less filling!; Tastes great!…
      Dad!; Son!

      I try to keep in mind that though that example is humorous, it can be (and hopefully often is) true for many of us at many times.

      There are boundaries to this Christian faith – at least for the first generation there was (those who wrote the New Testament and so forth, and there was for Jesus too). There are insiders and outsiders in this LOVE EVERYBODY BUSINESS… You really must say: Jesus is LORD to be an insider. And if you say Jesus is Lord, by implication at the least, you are saying Caesar is not.

      Caesar’s heralds did not go around the empire announcing: If you care to have a Caesar is Lord kind of experience, you might try Nero on for size. No. They said: Caesar is Lord! He brings peace to the world. Accept him as your lord and savior (or die)!

      St Paul goes around the same empire announcing Jesus is Lord. He is not making this some consumerist option. You accept his peace or die (or even AND die – which many, many did). You are either in or out. But a day will come when EVERY KNEE will bend and EVERY TONGUE confess… and that will include Nero’s knees and tongue as well!

      This is very hard for us modern/post modern westerners to accept. But it is a hard reality of which there is a right and a wrong – and in and an out. The choice is stark. There is loads of patience and care for those considering it, but it is still that stark, that wrong or right. And Salvation/Damnation are on the line.

      I don’t presume that every matter of Christian faith deals in this starkness. But plenty of them do. I want to deal in words that at least seek what is right. I don’t want to reduce important matters to the level of consumerist wishy washy tastes. Nor do I want to elevate every matter to that level when I disagree with someone. But I hope that in the debates, to the extent they are debates, that the challenges presented will sharpen us up rather than run us off.

      Perhaps one way of looking at this stuff is to say, there was this group of tourists stranded up in the high country forests. They were searching for their way back home, but didn’t know for sure which way to go. Two leaders in the group rose up, but disagreed with each other when the found a fork in the path. One was convinced that the high road would keep the group more visible for search-n-rescue aircraft, which is what the really needed badly, but there was reason to believe the high road was more infested with bears that might harm them. The other leader insisted on taking the low road, where it was believed there was a cabin in which they might get shelter for the night, but were much less likely to be rescued.

      Who do you follow? And why?

      Well of course you would have to be there to really know. How well do you trust this leader or that? Aren’t there risks either way? Are there any other factors that might influence your opinion about which one to trust?

      And really, not EVERYTHING is up for grabs ALL THE TIME. Believing in Jesus is not a crap shoot proposition. And he surely is not here to appeal to your every consumerist whim! He actually makes demands that you can read about in Scripture – which is a living witness to him. And anyway, once you sign on with him, you are by virtue of that decision implying further decisions as well – such as what he says matters and following what he says matters even if some folks don’t like it.

      X

      Liked by 1 person

      • paulfg · March 27

        “There are boundaries to this Christian faith” is something I have been taught.

        And yet maybe it is not the “fact” of the boundaries, but the choice of boundary that I kick against. That if I am to believe in a God who created all of this, and who then came and died for all of this, what does that same God get out of all of this? And what boundaries does that God set which must include and exclude – and why?

        I have come up against “The Golden Rule” which I understand to be the “love is …” verses. But then I come up against the “boundaries”. And it seems the Golden Rule doesn’t work because the rest (boundaries) must.

        Yet the God I know does nothing else than invite those boundaries and “the rest” to be re-examined under the lens of love. And every time I accept that invitation I find less and less need for boundaries (and even “the rest”).

        What strikes me more and more is that when I write that (same kind of invitation) on my blog – I find the majority of Christians who write about “the rest” are some of the least enthused. The comment of “my writing changing me” is (for me) a continuous loop between me and my God – and includes the responses or absence of from others (as here).

        “Believing in Jesus is not a crap shoot proposition”

        But neither is it “and I believe because I have been taught to believe (that Scripture is sacred).” My “knowing” is Jesus challenging not Scripture – but “use of Scripture”. And he challenged it mostly with those who taught their perfect understanding of the sacredness of scripture. I still see that “perfect understanding” happening today.

        >>> The “orchestra” of individual uniqueness we call the human trace I think thrives on difference. But only when “music” is the common bond. My own thoughts are that boundaries are simply the score (of the music), but that kindness trumps “the score”. Perhaps even that kindness is the intended score.

        And then wonder if that is just me redefining my preferred boundaries. 🙂

        (You have thoughtful; conversations under your posts. I don’t see that very often. Thank you.)

        Like

    • Debi · March 25

      “But mostly I have found this: these words are not really to change anyone but me.”

      Love this!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. T. F. Thompson · March 25

    I think our job is simply to speak the truth as we know it, then to back away and to actually do what we believe should be done. The rest, I believe is in the hands of the Holy Spirit. To that effect, the I am only responsible to account for myself. At other times, to simply shake the dust off my feet.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. LoiterLarry · March 26

    Schizophrenic voices my friend.

    This is another example of the voices. We talked about this before. Is it your voice you want to be heard? Or do you just want to stir up the other voices? Surely you don’t really think you are going to solve anything. Even if you are right, completely right (which you are not, but neither is anyone else), do you really think the things you offer are going to change things for the better? Maybe save the world? Change even one mind – one life? And if all it is doing is changing yourself, isn’t that just vanity? The sound of your own schizophrenic voice coming back at you?

    I don’t mean to be a deconstructionist here. I just think you are frustrated and setting yourself up for more frustration. But then I tend to think you are mostly right too. So, it is more a matter of asking … To what end?

    Just Some Thoughts I Have after reading yours, brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    • T. F. Thompson · March 26

      Larry,
      I see lives changed all the time. Some are for the WORSE! Then again, I’ve seen many others that are turned around for the good. For most cases, turning them around takes a good example and some words of encouragement. Too, they need a mark to shoot for and that is out of the abundance of our words. Yes, we tend to overdo this, but then again mostly on the side of caution. Actually hope is in the world and it is there because we put it there because of our Lord., Jesus.

      Liked by 1 person

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