Perspective is everything.

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So I was reading Balls and Walnuts today, and I wanted to respond in the comments, but I knew it would end up being a book, so I decided to come over here and take a stab [HA!] at why Christians seem to like the passover and crucifixion so much.

Here’s a linkto Doug’s original story.  It was a blog against theocracy post, and I rather agree with Doug’s view that people like George W. are completely insane and more than likely don’t have an inside track on the mind of God.  And just for the record, I know better than to think I have one, either. 

So anyway, I was reading yesterday’s post, and I commented, and then I read the original post after the fact, and a thought popped into my head that might help non-Christians understand why Christians don’t seem to make any sense.

I know it seems like we’re completely bonkers, but I think it’s more that our perspective is different than any real craziness [I’m talking about mainstream Christianity here, not the fringe weird fundamentalist crap that is a cancer on Christianity’s ass… that’s another post altogether].

The main thing that is different between us is the belief that God is our creator.  Christians believe that God made man out of nothing.  The image of clay is used in Genesis, and it communicates the essence of the belief very well:  we are nothing but dust without God.

In the same way that I can make a sculpture out of wet clay and destroy it or squash it up and make something new if I don’t like what I’ve done,  Christians believe that God is our ‘sculptor’ [if you want to continue the analogy] and he can squash us, paint us, fire us in a kiln, or break us into a million pieces whenever he wants, because we belong to him. He gave us life, and he can take it away.

That goes against everything people want to believe about themselves, and I can hear the screams of outrage, and the judgment that I must be completely insane to believe such things.  However, that is why the passover doesn’t make me scream that God is immoral any more than reading a book where the writer kills my favorite character makes me scream that the author is immoral.

I like this analogy, so let’s go with it! 

I might get angry at the author, and I may never read another one of her books, but ultimately, it’s her book, not mine. And she knows a LOT more about the story than I do, so there might be a very good reason to kill the character. 

I’m not privy to the author’s character and plot notes, so I may have no idea why she wrote something the way she did. It may irritate the hell out of me, or even make me decide I hate her personally [if I’m a bit childish], but the only choice I really have in dealing with it is to either accept that she knows what she’s doing, and trust that the ending will be worth the pain of having my favorite character written out, or to decide that she’s a complete hack and not worthy of me spending anymore of my time and money on reading her stuff.

I can also write to her and ask her to explain herself, but we all know that she has no obligation to answer or even acknowledge that I’ve contacted her. The analogy fails because we’re talking about living, breathing people here, but in the end, I think it holds true.  And maybe even more so because from this view, we’re essentially characters in God’s creation, and much like a writer’s characters take on a life and begin to do things we never intended within the story, we probably do the same to God, eh?

This is only a small part of the story, but it’s a bit of a foundation for our faith:  God is God.  I am not. 

If there is a creator, he created me, and he’s really under no moral obligation to me to explain, justify or modify his behavior.  Since I’m just a creation [albeit a wonderful, complex, and interesting one] if he wants to annihilate the entire planet, what am I gonna do about it?

I don’t have to agree with his choice, but seriously, does it matter?  I’m still gone.

I am well aware that there are nerves shattering all over the blogosphere right now, and there is a whole lotta more stuff to go along with this, but when you look at Christianity and the Bible through that lens, hopefully you can begin to understand where we’re coming from, and why we don’t question everything all the time.

For me, I’m focusing on the stuff in the Bible that affects me right now: trying to love God, and trying to love others [I realize that based on what I’ve written above, there isn’t much to recommend loving God, but trust me, that’s not all there is].

The second piece of the Christian perspective is more important than the first, and that is that in spite of the fact that I am dust, God loves me even more than I love my own children [no, seriously, but that’s another post].

Anyway, this really isn’t about trying to convince anyone that I’m “right.” I’m not looking to argue theology, I’m just hoping this made enough sense that you can at least understand the frame of reference we’re dealing with.

Peace out.

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About Shelbi

Work-at-home wife, mom of three kids, and caregiver for my brother, who has Cerebral Palsy. Never a dull moment, in other words. No idea how much I'll post, since I'm super busy these days, but maybe I'll get over here once in a while.

13 responses »

  1. Hmmm…

    The problem I see with this is it’s – seriously, not speaking figuratively here or anything – stomp-down, flat-ass bugnuts crazy.

    Here you’re postulating a creature that is the omniscient, omnipotent Creator of all things living and unliving, Lord of Lords, God of Gods, soverign of the Universe, who, frankly, has no real reason for NOT wanting to give its creation anything but peace, love and happiness. You yourself say that God loves you, among his most worthless creations, more than you love your children. Do you not want your children to grow strong and happy, loving and being loved?

    And yet this God kills and kills, throughout his story, mercilessly and without reason. The firstborn of the Egyptians. The Amalekites. The kids mocking Samuel slain by frigging she-bears, for heaven’s sake..!

    So, okay – I can understand fearing a creature like that. Obeying it – hell, I don’t want to get killed, either! But love..?

    If you’re trying to make sense of Christianity for the heathern you’re gonna have to do better than this. Explaining that God is God because he can and will swat you like a fly because, like, whatever, is like explaining very carefully that you know that the pyramid on the back of the dollar is a symbol of George Washington’s secret Masonic cospiracy because the wires in the walls tell you so.

    The deal with us heathens is that, frankly, the idea that humans – real humans, not characters in a book – with lives, hopes, fears, loves and needs can be just wiped out and the explanation is no explanation at all, just a casual shrug of the shoulders that “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away”.

    A “Lord” with that approach to its creation is a creature with the manners of a Hun and te morals of a thug. A “human being” that can accept that casual dismissal of human life would do well apprenticing under Attila or Timur – those pyramids of skulls wou be a fitting altar for that God.

    I prefer to think that the kinds of atrocities described in Exodus and elsewhere in the Bible are the product of the kind of evil human imagination we’ve seen so much of hrough human history. To accuse a loving and benificent God of such vile and casual butchery seems gauche at best, and sacriligious at worst…

  2. I hear you, FD. Like I said, that’s only an explanation of where we’re coming from. It’s not the whole story, and I’m not trying to convince any ‘heathens’ that I’m right, only saying that when you look at it from the perspective that we are created beings, created for nothing but God’s pleasure, it causes you to be a little bit humble [although I have to say I’m not afraid of God, even if he can squash me like a bug].

    I’m also not saying that I never question God, or that I’ve never doubted. Just read earlier entries from my blog and you’ll find loads of stuff, from a Christian, that sounds a LOT like what you’ve just said.

    It’s been a long-assed journey to come back to this faith, but it’s given me a peace that none of the others I tried did [that’s a completely different topic, and not intended as an argument that you should convert. Just so we’re clear, none of what I say is an attempt to convert anyone, I’m just trying to explain… okay?]

    And also, it’s very important that you understand that I agree with you about the atrocities of history NOT being God’s fault, but the evil of man’s heart.

    I never went into what I really think happened in history, who perpetrated all those deaths, or even if I believe that the Bible is literally true. My only point was that since Christians believe that God is all-powerful, we understand that there are things we can’t possibly grasp.

    Some of us worry about what really happened in history, and whether the events of the Bible really happened.

    Others of us focus on different things, like the main themes of the Bible, and we study the whole thing and read commentaries and pray about the weird stuff, and honestly, when this has happened to me, I’ve been able to figure out something that makes sense to me.

    It’s interpretive, of course, but if twenty people read a book, you’ll get twenty different descriptions of what happened, you know?

    So anyway, I do understand what you’re saying, but I was not intending to answer those particular questions with my post.

    I’m not saying they’re not valuable, and there are some things that explain some of it for me, but my intent was to let people know that for most Christians, accepting a lot of stuff on faith is what we do [And I’m also not saying that I’m one of those Christians].

    It just makes sense to us that since God is bigger than we are, and since he created us, then there are some things we’re not going to understand about him, and for most Christians [not all, by any means] that’s good enough for us to just ignore the hard stuff.

    Naturally it doesn’t seem logical to you, but I’ve yet to find any religion that operates on faith in a creator that does seem logical.

    My faith can’t be justified by logic, because it isn’t there in the strictest sense of the word, but there’s something very real about it. It really does give me peace, hope, and love, in spite of the appearance that it doesn’t make any sense.

    Yeah, so this got really long, but my point is, you bring up valid questions, but they are not questions I was trying to answer in my post, so naturally, it fell short for explaining what you want explained.

    I don’t have all the answers, and I won’t claim that I can answer any of your questions to your satisfaction, but you are still welcome to ask, okay?

  3. Hmmm…

    OK, so I get that what you’re saying here is “We Christians dig the Passover/Christmas sacrifice thing because 1) our God is a powerful, capricious being that we can’t and don’t understand, and 2) he does stuff like this for our own good, because he IS good, and we just have to accept this as good because, well, God did it and therefore, it’s good.

    It’s not that I don’t understand that people – and you identify as one of those people – believe this. What I don’t understand is why people who believe this DON’T understand why people who DON’T believe this wouldn’t sieze on this to kill the people who DO believe it out of hand and on sight, like you’d kill a rabid dog.

    Because when someone like me hears this stuff it brings to mind people like Arnuld-Amalric (“kill them all; God will recognize his own”), “Deus Lo Volt”, every whacko Crusader with a Bible in one hand and a sword/AK-47 in the other all the way down to the Whacko in Waco and Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy. The kind of people who, providing God says the right kind of things to him or her, will cheerfully butcher their way through throngs of innocents, serenely confident that they are doing the Lord’s Holy Work.

    To me the Passover story is an unrelieved horror. All those kids dying in a night, all those grieving parents, and why? So God can show the Israelites who’s Boss? Brrrr…

    Look, I don’t expect people to justify their beliefs. You and him and her can believe in Jehovah of the Thunders, Odin or the Flying Spaghetti Monster so long as those dieties play nicety and keep you home and dry. But my reading of history is that religion isn’t a cafeteria. If you play by the rules you don’t get to pick the Golden Rule and forget all the smite-the-heathen stuff (that was the point of the original post over at Balls and Walnuts, as I recall). You’ve gotta be all in or not. And gods, if the historical (and biblical) record is correct, are uncomfortable neighbors. You never know when they will choose to smite you, and for what. You say that yourself – you just say that you’re OK with that.

    But – here’s the big deal – I’m not. And the moment I see the banners of the crusading host over the ridgeline I’m calling in a battalion ten on their ass. Because for me the miracle of a pregnant woman’s slow smile, a chuckling baby in a peaceful room, a sunrise, a field of flowers, every human moment ever lived, is more glory and greatness than every god and all the angels that every danced in heaven.

  4. Looking over my response to your last post, I realize that I took about a page to saw what Voltaire said in a sentence.

    The problem that unbelievers like me have with your explanation of faith is that “if you can believe impossibility you can be convinced to commit atrocity”. To me, there’s not a huge leap from “since God is bigger than we are, and since he created us, then there are some things we’re not going to understand about him, and for most Christians that’s good enough for us to just ignore the hard stuff” to “since God tells me that this family is evil, vile and an abomination I can forget all that hard stuff about loving my neighbor and doing good to them that hate me and give them a good old-fashioned Joshua-style smiting, hip and thigh, man, woman, infant, cat, dog, cow and ox!”

    Reason doesn’t help much when times are hard, but it requires me to justify my actions in human terms. It doesn’t mean I can’t be a right bloody old bastard, but it does mean I can’t pretend that it’s not my fault, that God has a plan that justifies my atrocities, or that I can just trust in faith and ignore “the hard stuff”…

  5. And this is what I was trying to get at:

    “I think I might be able to explain some of the rationale behind why Christians are okay with the whole sacrifice thing.”

    That’s what you posted that got me over here.

    So what I get you saying is that you’re OK with the sacrifice thing because God does it, His works are too immense for us mere mortals to understand, and that’s enough for you?

    Not sure if I’m getting this right, but that’s my reading.

    So – my question still stands. Given this, why should those of us who DON’T believe trust you around automatic weaponry?

    I’ll give you Christmas, since the Christian theology has pretty much snuggled into the original Mithran “God-who-sacrifices-himself-for-us” thing, like Lugh the Long Spear dying for his people in the midwinter fire so that the grain will ripen in the spring. Nobody gets hurt except the willing sacrifice.

    But Passover? Ugh! God doesn’t sacrifice Himself, or even his believers, but the innocent kids of a foreign people living under a despot whose decision God himself makes for him!

    Bad God! Scary God! Why should ANYone be okay with THAT kind of sacrifice?

  6. “To me, there’s not a huge leap from “since God is bigger than we are, and since he created us, then there are some things we’re not going to understand about him, and for most Christians that’s good enough for us to just ignore the hard stuff” to “since God tells me that this family is evil, vile and an abomination I can forget all that hard stuff about loving my neighbor and doing good to them that hate me and give them a good old-fashioned Joshua-style smiting, hip and thigh, man, woman, infant, cat, dog, cow and ox!”

    But for most believers, it is a huge leap. Like you said on my Muslim post,

    “All faiths have thugs that murder, rape and loot in their name.”

    But that’s not just limited to people of faith, there are thugs that murder, rape and loot in their own name, too.

    All humans have a desire for power, and some will use whatever tools are at their disposal to get that power, including whatever religion suits their fancy.

    There’s no doubt that many so-called Christians over the years have used Christianity to try to rule the world, but they missed the point completely, and at least one of today’s Christians is disgusted with those people [and I don’t think I’m the only one].

    Still, God didn’t cause that to happen, man did.

    My possible explanation of passover is coming. Hang on.

  7. Wow, Shelbi. You really got FDChief rolling. And although he’s a bit strident, I agree with him, especially on Passover. But you knew that.

    Yes, I understand where you’re coming from. Your metaphor of God-as-author strikes me as disturbingly amoral. God gets to do whatever he likes because only he knows “where he’s going with this” (plot-wise), and that includes wiping out all creation, if he so chooses (i.e., the Flood). Surely the only way to reconcile the “God is Good” meme with the many stories of biblical cruelty (including Jesus’ death by slow torture) is to invoke that unknowability clause. God’s mind is unknowable. Only he knows “where he’s going with this.”

    What scares me is the idea that high-ranking government officials and military officers believe this, too, and believe they are facilitators of God’s plan. Since that plan leads to Armageddon . . . see what I mean? And you have agreed, above, that humans are quite capable of perpetrating great evil independent of God’s plan (otherwise, God would be the responsible party, right?) So whether it’s God’s plan or not, we’re at the mercy of these raving fundamentalists. That’s what frightens me.

  8. Oh my gosh! I was almost finished with your reply, Doug, and I hit the wrong fucking button and it disappeared!

    Dammit.

    I think I’ll just start on part 2 [mentioned at the end of my first post on this] and we’ll go from there.

    Except I do want to say that the raving fundamentalists are scary beings, and completely insane. Anyone who reads Revelation and sees an exact, literal, chronological, exhaustive tale about the end of the world, and then tries to bring about that end, is completely insane, and a total idiot.

    I’m going to work on part two now.

  9. FDChief – I can’t offer any wisdom, because I’m not really good at this kind of thing. But I did want to let you know I prayed for you just now and will continue to do so.

    You sound so angry. I am truly sorry that you aren’t experiencing the love of Christ. But (and I hope I don’t really tick you off with this . . .), I wonder if you’re trying to justify your unbelief to the readers of this blog, or to yourself.

    Like I said, I’m not one to argue theological points, but if you are really searching for answers there are lots of apologetics teachers who would be happy to give answers to your questions. I would recommend Scott Richards (you can google him), he has a live radio broadcast that you can call and ask questions for him to answer.

    Sorry if I offended you. I hope you have a truly personal encounter with Jesus soon! It’s amazing, to say the least.

  10. Lindsay: actually, I’m a pretty peaceable guy. But I get pretty riled up at the apparently vast numbers of people of all sorts of different faiths that seem to be willing to justify all sorts of things that, as an unchurched heathen, I’d call “being a vicious bastard” by saying “it’s God’s will” or “I don’t understand why this happened, but it must be part of God’s plan.”

    The thing is, there’s tons of beautiful stuff on religious iconism. There’s passages in the Bible, the Koran, the Analects, Zen koans that make me weep, they’re so moving and human.

    But I keep coming up against the problem that I don’t see how you can pick and choose. If Chistianity was JUST about love, peace and the Golden Rule, wow, super. But you have to square that with “I come not to bring peace but a sword” and the long, long history of faith being used to justify everything from Crusades to warehousing the indigent – “the poor will be with us always…”

    ISTM that to accept that you can be asked to do things you don’t understand, for reasons that can’t be explained – or are not explained at all – is an open invitation to unscrupulous people to use faith as a lever to commit everything from scam to atrocity – that’s the point of Voltaire’s quote.

    No one expects Shelbi, or you, or anyone, to “justify” the God of the Sermon on the Mount. But to “justify” the God of the Passover atrocity…mmmm…to me, that’s a problem. If it was a person, you’d say, well, gee, (s)he is a great mom (or dad) and husband but also a serial killer, so we need to put them in jail for a long, long time so they won’t hurt anyone again. But because “they” are God, they get a pass.

    That doesn’t seem right to me as a person, or as a parent. Shelbi’s explanation seems to be “well, that’s just the way it is, I can’t explain it, it’s a God deal”. How would YOU explain the “loving father/serial killer” to your child? I know I can’t to mine…

  11. “Surely the only way to reconcile the “God is Good” meme with the many stories of biblical cruelty (including Jesus’ death by slow torture) is to invoke that unknowability clause. God’s mind is unknowable. Only he knows “where he’s going with this.”

    Yep. Doug gets it – the God of these horrific acts isn’t particularly loving or caring, other than in the same sense as the serial-killing family man.

    Put this God in the hands of an unscrupulous human, and you get the Inquisition, the Crusades and the Holocaust.

    That’s why I treat religion like C-4. Great stuff, terrifically useful, occasionally capable of producing incredible beauty. But it’s SO powerful that one nut with a case of it can ruin the whole day for thousands – or millions – of people just minding their own business.

  12. I don’t see him as a serial killer. Every action has a consequence, and Pharoah’s refusal to let an entire nation out of brutal slavery had terrible consequences.

    Can you imagine if no one had put a stop to Hitler in WWII to stop the genocide of the Jewish nation (go figure . . .)? Lots of innocent people died trying to stop it – in the same way the innocent children of the Egyptians were killed.

    I can understand where you are coming from in being confused about the very nature of God. He is so immense in the facets of his personality. But, if you prayerfully study, he’ll reveal himself to you. I don’t know if that’s what you’re seeking or not, but good luck in your journey!

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