Theological arguments [are no longer part of my framework]

I was raised to believe that you have to know what you believe in order to believe.

I was raised to think that the answers mattered, and if one was lacking answers you better out those answers QUICK, or else (although I never found out what the “or else” scenario presented, “back sliding” perhaps?)

And I was good at learning about God, about the bible, about church history, et al. I could present sound arguments as to why I believed what I believed, and consequently I built this wall around myself- whether it was to keep myself in or others out, I think the answer to this is yes.

I knew the songs, I knew the bible verses, I was the Babe Ruth of bible baseball (questions ranged from easy / single to hard / home run).

The thing is, at that time in my life I equated knowing with believing, and thus my faith was secure as I thought it had to be.

But the funny thing is,
life happened.

Life happened to me in general, but the more definitive marks on my mortal coil were and have been the friendships and relationships I have invested my time and energy into. As my bro Ben says; “it’s not about stepping out of your comfort zone, it’s about expanding it” and I realize that’s what did it for me.

I also realized that arguments, and a “locking down” of one’s beliefs to assert what you believe can be a futile endeavor. Sure you can speak of God, but you can’t speak on God’s behalf. If anything, the more you learn about God the less you know (a beautiful paradox I find to be true). Mere words are drops of water in the ocean, no one has an upper hand in the God market.

I realize that when people are faced with new twists and turns in life, we can either resist or embrace what comes our way, mainly people who are different than ourselves. Living in our day and age, I don’t think it is possible to be completely closed off from whomever is the “other”, and so we will face the crossroads of resist/embrace.

So what does this look like to my system of faith? I’d say that when it comes to matters of God, theology, and everything in between, I hold it all with open hands. I am adaptable, I allow myself to be challenged, I allow myself to think for myself, I allow questions and doubts to swim about in my mind, I allow myself to take things in and leave things out.
Admittedly I’ve been accused of changing my mind and perspective on a variety of things, and I’m not worried in the slightest because I hold to the notion that the close I am in touch with my humanity and divinity, the humanity and divinity of others, the closer I am to God. “Closer” but nowhere close, and still I partake in learning and doing what I can to be the best possible follower of Christ I can be.

We as the human race are all trying to get through this life together, so please be kind and be loving to each other in this journey.

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

Christmas Holidazed and Confused

As we near Christmas, I realize more and more that I dislike the holiday. Now Advent Sundays, the weeks leading up to Christmas are some of my favorite weeks within the church calendar, but I have a certain disdain for Christmas.

A part of me dwells on Christmases past; some years were good, spent with individuals who weren’t part of my immediate family, and some years it was lonely and depressing, Christmas spirit was extinct in those years. There’s also the part of me that dwells on Christmas present, and while I am content with my life I still want more out of it (why I’m going back to school among other things).

I can’t pinpoint it on these alone, there’s the part of me that abhors the commercialism of it all. Now don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts (more than receiving them) and watching the “wow” in their eyes, but when the reasons for the Christmas holiday are misaligned, I’m prone to seethe a bit.
When it comes to gifts and receiving, I might / probably come across as ungrateful, but at this time in my life I would much rather the money used to purchase things for me go to a charity or organization of my choosing rather than some new bauble to entertain me for a short while.


I do what I can not to dwell on the haves and have-nots in my life, and when it comes to Christmas it isn’t any different. I am still pushing forward to make a better life for myself, hoping and desiring and working for Christmases to come when I’m not so dazed and confused by it all, rather I choose (because everything that is comes from choice) to transcend the bullshit and learn to accept Christmases in stride. Taking it all in and eating the meat and spitting out the bones.

This Christmas will be a meaningful one after all! 🙂

Onward and upward,
Nathanael

If there’s a heaven; Of unanswered questions, my grandfather, and Adolf Hitler

Earlier today as a personal exercise I examined myself from the inside as to what I’d like to do if Heaven exists. I realized as I was writing it that I slightly presented hell but not one of eternal conscious torment, but one where the fires lap at our human imperfections like dross from gold; a removal, an extraction of what isn’t good until we’re able to be reconnected with ourselves, with others, and also unto God.
With that being said, here goes something…

***

If Heaven does in fact exist, and if I am allowed to partake and enjoy it with God and all of humanity I want to do the following 3 things:

1) Find my maternal grandfather and catch up with him for an eon or so.
At this point in my life he is the number one person I miss the most of those who have passed away. He passed away when I was younger and I miss him a lot; I miss his stories, his humor, the weird twitching of his bicep when he’d flex, and so on. I do honor him now when it comes to All Saints Day and also when I meditate on the “cloud of witnesses” of saints who have gone before during my time of prayer. I hope that I am able to do this when I myself have passed away.

2) Present to God all the why questions I have.
I don’t know if I will have inner peace or satisfaction in asking all my why questions, but I’m going to give it my best shot. I realize that if given the opportunity it will take some time, but as the musician Chris Rice aptly put it; “it’s a good thing forever’s forever.” Yet maybe even still all I might receive is a hug and a resounding but comforting “I know…I know…I know” and that will be it. If it happens to be the latter, I am hoping that will be enough for my wearied mind.

3) If Adolf Hitler is already there, I want to forgive him.
If Hitler is already in Heaven, if he has already been removed of the dross that separates him from himself, humanity, and God, and provided I am dross-free as well I want to let him know that I forgive him. If, as Alexander Pope put it, “to err is human, to forgive divine” then I want to do that because I want to aid in reconnecting Hitler with his humanity and his Imago Dei-ness if at all possible. I realize the reason behind this is that I believe within every cell of my BEing that no one is able to fully resist the love of God forever because the very essence of God is love. It might take years or eons to “get it” and accept it, but love will win eventually. May the dross that separates us from ourselves, each other, and our creator be quickly stripped away!

Onward, Inward, and Upward!
~Nathanael~

Boats aren’t made for mooring; a metaphorical journey into the nature and heart of faith

https://www.kksblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/boat-on-stormy-ocean.jpg

Disclaimer: I don’t know exactly why I am using boat language to describe faith, so if I lose you along the way just let me know…

On the sea / In this life, there are many different types of boats / people; big boats, small boats, rowboats, sailboats, ocean liners, oil tankers, etc. All were designed / created for purposes, and their purposes vary boat to boat / person to person.

But the nature of boats / people and their purposes take them away from the docks / from comfort zones. Certainly they come to land / return to familiar places, but for a season because boats / people weren’t meant to be moored / contained for very long.
No boat / person serves out its life attached to the docks / tied to same thought process, the best years are served at sea / out in life and yet so often the waves and storms / problems of this life come in. Yes, seeking land / security is usually the knee-jerk go-to action. It’s safe, it’s comfortable, but it is just a smatter of the stuff character and identity is made of.

The thing is, waves / hardships have the capacity to show us what we’re made of and what we need to do to improve our situations on the sea / in this life. If we confine ourselves to the dock / our comfort zone what does that do to us? Well for starters, it gives us a warped sense of what life is about; we might think that things are primarily black and white, we might think our way is the only way and we might solidify our thoughts and concepts about anything and everything without weighing out that we might indeed be wrong.
The waves / hardships are inevitable, but it’s up to us to stick to our destinations through it all, because it’s only after going through them we’re able to assess what is worth salvaging and what’s worth discarding.

***
And when it comes to matters of faith and belief (human examples only in this scenario) I am a byproduct of all my experiences, all my encounters with the Divine, all my encounters with humanity. I very much have a “eat the meat, spit out the bones” mentality when it comes to matters of faith and belief.

When it comes to matters of faith and belief, I am evolving, and where I am at isn’t where I was 5 years ago or 10 years ago or even 20 years ago! And that’s the clincher; faith must develop, be weathered, be strained, be smacked about, be the shit and be the fan in order for it to grow!
A faith that doesn’t allow room for doubt, for challenging, for questioning, for microscoping and telescoping isn’t much of a faith at all. It becomes a locked down, dogmatic, black-and-white-no-room-for-grey kind of belief system. And that is something I rather abhor when it comes down to it.

So when the problems of life come your way, don’t be quick to make your way back to where you started off from. Take the time needed to be “lost at sea”, to reacquaint yourself with yourself and certainly your faith and your beliefs. Because in doing so you might be surprised as to where you end up, and I’m willing to venture you will never be the same after having gone through it all.

~Nathanael~

Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism 101: Two views on Heaven, two views on Hell (part 2)

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I have two different views a piece for heaven and for hell, and again these aren’t views I hold with a close hand but rather an open one. I very well could be wrong in both cases, but still I want to put them here for this series that I am doing on Red Letter Christ-centric Universalism…

Perspective of Hell 1
My first perspective of Hell is one where for a time undetermined, the flames of hell purify us from our sinful dross. Sin cannot be in the presence of God, and so from the first perspective of hell I have (which I’ve been told is akin to Trinitarian Universalism) it takes time to get to being in the presence of God in Heaven because of the things that separate ourselves from ourselves, God, and others.

Perspective of Hell 2
My second perspective of Hell is one where there is no eternal afterlife hell. I am one to believe that we do create hells for others and for ourselves, but to say that a worse place exists than those I don’t buy into it. For starters it strikes me as control to suggest such a place exists, that if you do the right things (Orthodoxy) and say the right things (Orthopraxis) this will get you on the right side with God, that you will become part of “us” (hence the paradigm us versus them).
And the thing is, the majority of people who claim hell exists and that those who don’t do and say the right things are (supposedly) on “God’s side” (as if she draws up sides and leans towards one exclusively).

Also I tend to think that God loves everyone period, and to say “God is love but people go to hell for not believing in him” or something similar takes away from stating that God is love. I have been a dad before and God willing I will be one again, and in my time of being a dad I loved my sons and there were times I grew frustrated with my sons. Yet in my times of correcting them there was never a time where I stopped loving them, there was never a time where I told them I never wanted to be with them ever again. If God is both father and mother, if God is love, wouldn’t God want that re-connection with us more than I did when I was a dad?
I’d like do think so, I’d like to think that God’s love goes the distance in all our lives, not just those who are supposedly on God’s side. Which is why I dislike limitations put on God about how far or for how long we have an opportunity to “get right with God” because it seems very human, very limiting, to put a time frame in which we’re all supposed to get “this” (whatever this might be).

But then again, I could be wrong.

~Nathanael~