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

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~

The interconnectedness of trees; we have more in common than not

Today I attended the Aurora Jewish Renewal Congregation, a collective of individuals whom I find to be very inclusive as well as progressive, who admit the diversity in their thinking as well as their theology. Unbeknownst to me until I arrived was that today is Tu B’Shevat in the Jewish calendar.
Tu B’Shevat is essentially New Years Day for trees; a time to come together to thank God for food grown on the vine or tree, but to also be mindful in ecological matters too. It was nice to not only break bread (Challah is becoming one of my favorites) but to also be mindful in the bounty God has given us in the form of dates, apricots, grapes, almonds, and walnuts.

This got me to thinking on my own as well, especially the nature of trees and more to the point, groves of trees and trees intentionally planted to block wind.

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These trees are placed together, their roots are interconnected, they stand together and they support the other…and what does this mean to me? It means to me that we have more in common than we don’t, we have a commingling of divinity and humanity rolled into one, and ultimately- when we stand together, our roots entwined, we are at our strongest when we work together as one.
This truth I have known for sometime, but it sometimes becomes even clearer than it normally is. It is a thing of beauty to have a-ha/eureka moments, it is good to be mindful and aware and thankful and grateful for the diversity and unity of interconnectedness of friends across the spectrum of life.

Thanks be to God!
~Nathanael~

I won’t play second fiddle to religion; a vent of sorts

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I love you too much to let you go or dismiss you, and I won’t ever discard you…but why do you discard me?

Why do you take on some new church activity? You are already involved in a LOT, and here you go and be a part of something new. But in your process of being a part, it’s making us apart, and when I see how you’re doing and what to hang out with you but you say you have a church function to go to, I get hurt. I get hurt because you place religion ahead of me, I get hurt because I question what you’re actually learning and if you’re applying it in someway to your life- if you did, it’s quite possible you’d see through the religiosity and actually interact with me.
Is it because you want to be affirmed and lauded without having to change a thing about yourself? I mean, I see what you do and I get that you’re someone striving to change yourself without changing your behaviours, and if you’re not changing your behaviours then…why and what exactly are you trying to prove?

And yet I realize the hypocrisy in my tone, I too once piled on a lot of religious activities and functions within the week, and it took a dear close friend to point out what I was doing, it took the holy spirit to point out why I was doing what I was doing. So can I fault you? Not entirely, but I would hope you and I have a good enough relationship at this point where if I’m calling you out on this you know it’s from a place of love and not condemnation.

Please, come back, to reality and life with me. Please, stop faking it, stop using religion as a means to doctor the symptoms (and perhaps even the cure) and just. get. well.
Trust me, when you’ve let go of this you’ll be more free (it takes one to know one).

I’m not asking you to pull the plug on all of your activities, but I would just like you to be a more selective with what you do and with whom, because it’s not all healthy…because not all Christians are healthy…and those are worth letting go, but it’s up for you to determine said individuals that not me.

Come back, please, for me…for us…for all the goodness in the world that exists outside the parameters of religion. I need you in my life, I need a whole person working out their life and not someone who compartmentalizes everything and subsequently me.

I’m not playing second fiddle to your religion any more.

~Nathanael~

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transplant, but don’t cut, your roots; an open letter to new Christians

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Recently I found out about an event where some former Muslims turned Christians talked about their experiences and how they became followers of Christ/Isa Al-Masih. When they were asked questions about Islam they chose to focus on some of the negative aspects they found within Islam, they also perpetuated some fear based around Sharia law and Islamic fundamentalism especially in the area of it coming to the United States of America.

***

Fundamentalist ideals and views can be found all over, and not solely in religious forms. So to get worked up about the minority in Islam is rather foolish, because focusing on this may lead to fear, and fear is a horrible way to live out one’s life. Sure be proactive, but don’t be foolish.

Also there’s the nature of followers of Islam, they have dreams and ideals for their families and community at large, they have values that benefits all. I have some Muslim friends and I’ve been to the local mosque on more than one occasion and for a while last year I was learning about Islam 101 through the local mosque and I received nothing but love and hospitality. While some skeptics might say they were being nice to me because it was their intention to convert me to Islam, that this was the sole reason why they were being nice, I beg to differ; I used to bullshit others (for many reasons) and I can tell you this, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter (past or present) and the love and hospitality I received at the mosque was genuine.

***

So this message is primarily intended by new Christians, and here’s what I have to say. Transplant your roots if you do, but don’t hack away at them. The time you were oriented in another religious direction or even if you had no previous religious direction was not spent in vain. The process I kind of mentally go through in any new situation or direction is examining my past, learning from it, and essentially “eat the meat, spit out the bones”. One of my more recent favorite authors (Ian Morgan Cron) spoke at my church last year and I got the chance to talk to him privately about his book, and how I appreciated it but more to the point I could relate to it. He listened exceedingly well and responded in 3 words:
nothing is wastedin regards to where I’ve been in this life. It stuck deep and it is still something I dwell on, and I recognize this can be placed on pretty much any experience life throws our way. nothing is wasted, there’s always something to learn from and grow on when we transplant our roots.

***

So if you’re entering a new job, becoming part of a new religion, or anything else that matter, I hope you’re able to glean from where you’ve come from to become a better you where you’re at with what you’ve gone through and/or where you’ve come from.

~Nathanael~