Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A blog entry for people who refuse to listen

This is more personal an entry than I usually write but in this case I feel like here is a suitable venue. I sometimes find that I may explain why I don't feel up to this or that particular thing (and those who know me need not long speculate as to what this or that thing would be since I will get to it in a minute) to find that someone I may have shared some things with will proceed to ask me what I'm waiting for or what my excuse for not doing something is. I would have thought that the explanations proferred would have been more than sufficient, particularly in the context of still other reasons given that the person scolding me doesn't remember, despite having been told these things multiple times.

It would be as though someone accosts a blind man and asks, "Sir, why don't you drive a car already?" The man replies, "Because I'm blind."

"They have machines to help blind men drive now, you know?"

"I don't make enough money for those kinds of machines."

"Sure you do, all you need to do is go buy one."

"Okay, but you'll notice I don't have a car."

"Why don't you have a car?"

"Because I can't drive. I can't afford a car and insurance even if I weren't blind."

"Why aren't you driving a car already?"

"Didn't I explain this just a second ago?"

That's roughly how it goes. It continues to surprise me how some people don't listen and don't remember. People that listen and misunderstand, that's a totally different thing. I can be remarkably inarticulate in person and remarkably able to both misinterpret what and how people mean things, and also to misinterpret what they said. And I find that I can say or write all sorts of things that get misunderstood, misinterpreted, or that are simply offensive and that I need to apologize for.

What's a bit more rare and bewildering is to lay out things very clearly and have some person just refuse to accept that anything I said applies. And the subject on which this all tends to hinge is the great evangelical Christian talisman, marriage. That's right, marriage, true love. Marriage is great, I support the institution of marriage. Many friends I dearly love are married, and many family members, too. I have some family members who are not married and I consider their situations with some regret not because they aren't married but, well, because they contributed to the continuation of the human race in other ways not exactly befitting Christian conduct but I confess to not knowing that said relatives are so committed to the path of Christ that I could even complain about their doings either way, just that I'm happier for my married family. I guess I'll just put it that way.

Be all that as it may, I have wearied of marriage seeming to be a fad, an idol of some kind, that marriage and family are the highest aspirations of a Christian's calling. They are not, never will be, and can be positively antagonistic toward Christ. Not that they are bad in themselves ... but they are not necessarily so awesome as some Christians advertise.

What I have found curious is that Protestants tend to be anti-sacramental and yet can occasionally trot out a view of "saved through childbirth" and preach about motherhood as a means of sanctifying grace. Gee, how very Catholic that sounds! Yes, I'm being a smart-ass here. A more consistent and perhaps iconoclastic assessment might be that neither marriage nor parenthood necessarily confer any sanctification of a person at all, though people may certainly cooperate with the Spirit toward the end of sanctification and that really is what I hope everyone both does and believes the purpose of those sacraments are. But, being a Protestant, I admit to having still a certain amount of skepticism about how much sacraments sanctify. People who are married and parents who partake in communion can still be assholes, after all.

Nevertheless, it seems as though I have heard at least one Protestant pastor say that motherhood is a sanctifying grace and if it is that then by process of inclusion marriage must be, too. And fittingly enough the pastor said there is nothing more holy than a wife holding the child of a man, more or less, that the holiest moment in his life was seeing his wife hold their baby.

Since I have neither dated nor married nor sired children I guess I just have to take his word for it. I have not yet participated in any such things that have led to so much holiness. God willing, perhaps I may in the future.

But at this point I would say that on the basis of career limitations; lack of credentials to rapidly pursue other employment; the conviction that my failure to secure other employment in conjunction with my being the only person who can effectively even do the job I currently have; and a consideration that I am not yet mature enough to embark on this path even though I'm easily past my 20s are all factors.

But the person who insists that I'm more than ready already is not going to be dissuaded. Some people relish the idea that any Christian guy can take any Christian girl and just make the relationship work through some act of will. Let me say up front that this is so laughable as an applied principle it hardly needs rebuttal. However, it does still need a rebuttal precisely because one has to ask such a bold Christian moralist whether he will apply such a grand aphorism with the life and heart of his own daughter or son?

No? Then I call bullcrap on the whole premise. Some concepts are merely employed as having a certain polemical value and are divorced from the flesh and blood ethics that someone like Bonhoeffer told us were the only basis for a legitimately Christian ethic. You don't get to love some abstraction of "my neighbor", you are called by Christ to love your actual neighbor. And you do not get to, as the law expert tried, to justify yourself by asking "And who is my neighbor?" when you have already decided who your neighbor is or (more importantly) isn't.

The second I decide someone isn't my neighboor for whatever reason I consider legitimate (say, that they are doctrinally errant or morally beneath you or blasphemers of true religion because of their wicked ways and thoughts) then I've just invited myself to be a recipient of the real, painful aim of the parable of the Good Samaritan, where you get to be told by Christ Himself that your neighbor is the one who showed kindness. This does not mean that your neighbor is just the person in need, the person who is oppressed. That's true but that's just half the truth. If we don't see that the person who treated the mugged man as a neighbor was himself the neighbor in the parable then we blind ourselves to the frighteningly clear message of Christ, that our neighbor is the person we refuse to recognize. I can think of numerous practical applications for this that would go over like lead balloons because the people involved don't feel comfortable acknowledging each other as neighbors just now. I pray that that changes.

And I suppose it might go without saying that precisely because this is a blog entry for those who don't listen, don't remember, and probably won't listen in the future and remember ... I don't think any of those people are reading this. I guess that's okay because blogging is more about expressing yourself to yourself in some ways than expressing yourself to others.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The problem is that the supposed objectivity that they think they have attained has become their master. They fail to realize that their conversion, irregardless of its justification, may have actually tainted their view more. They have fooled themselves into thinking that to take off the sunglasses of their former perspective means that they are wearing no sunglasses at all.

Calvinists who convert from Arminianism are also good examples. I am sad to say that we can be the most imbalanced of all. Suddenly, Arminians are absolute losers with regard to theological integrity. All things Arminian are not far from all things Satan. Many of these converts make it their life’s goal to correct the error of Arminianism. And they think they are the most qualified to do so because they used to be one!

What I am trying to say is that when one converts from on tradition to another, this does not necessarily mean they can speak objectively about the issues. In fact, they often exchange one pair of glasses for its antonymous rival with a special feature of non-appreciation, hatred, and misrepresentation.

This is not simply the case for Calvinists who converted from Arminianism. Evangelicals who convert to Orthodoxy tend to be the same way, as Frank Schaeffer obviously was. He admits in Crazy for God that he resents what evangelicalism has become, but he doesn't think that his upbringing within Francis and Edith Schaeffer's home was all bad. I blogged a little about this rather broad topic of post-conversion demonization earlier. It can be easy to blame the previous tradition we were part of for something that really amounts to my own failure to love and seek Christ as I could. I consider myself a Calvinist but I have no reason to speak against Arminianism as a tradition. I benefited from it greatly and still consider it be a blessing. The Wesleyan tradition has given us a lot of good stuff and Wesleyan music tends to be more fun than most Calvinist music (yeah, narrow and biased, but this is a blog). The Lutherans win overall because of Bach but the Catholics and Orthodox have cool stuff. But I digress. :)