Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quick update

Parts II and III of "A House Divided Against Itself" have been written, but are waiting for transcription. I should be getting to those posts over the weekend. Part II will deal mainly with the misuses of Scripture that have been used to deny rights to women. This same theological underpinning will play a part in Part III, which deals mainly with the practical nature of injustices that are committed towards men: for to see the injustice in one and to confront it must mean seeing the injustice in the other case and confronting it just as directly.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Complacent in the miraculous

Don't worry--I'll be getting back to the series I started soon...I just wanted to offer this remark given the timeliness of the subject matter.

While I think the actual premise of Stephen Hawking's recent statement that the universe was in essence "fated" to create itself because of its own physical laws--laws whose presence is completely unexplained since if there is nothing, then there is also nothing for any laws to be grounded in--I will go into no further detail on the actual argument, as other sites are doing very well at addressing these more direct issues and exposing the fundamental flaws in Hawking's argument. (Though I might make the comment that if laws somehow pre-existed all somethings in this universe, then you open the possibility of a multiverse, and if there's a multiverse, then how did IT get there? You're right back to the question of a first cause and hence a Creator...)

Rather, I wanted to offer a meditation on the nature of...well, nature itself, and the miraculous.

I should state that I have great respect for Professor Hawking's intellect, and perseverance in his profession in the face of serious adversity. However, that doesn't stop me from disagreeing completely with his conclusion, and suspecting that perhaps he's not exactly a disinterested party in this argument. I don't mean that to suggest anything malicious, of course--rather, I think it's quite notable that Hawking doesn't acknowledge the miraculous when many people, from an outside perspective, would suggest that he himself is quite possibly the beneficiary of a major one. His survival with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) is quite simply unprecedented. Especially to those who have known people who have this disease and have not shown Hawking's longevity, the miraculousness of this is quite obvious.

I wondered how it was that one who is constantly experiencing such an unusual and miraculous happening as this would not acknowledge that indeed it is a miracle, would find no reason to suspect that there is something beyond the deterministic forces of physics. Even to conclude that the human will was capable of making a difference, without even acknowledging deity, would seem more sensible from an outside perspective.

Yet as I thought about it, I realized that there's something about the kinds of miracles that get our attention in life, and which ones don't. When you read the Bible, there are many examples of sudden, "bolt-out-of-the-blue" miracles: voices speaking from the sky, vivid visions, and even life and death themselves dealt out at the spoken word of God. These jolt us out of our routines--we are very ready to acknowledge that these are far from everyday experiences.

But not all Biblical figures that we are familiar with seem to recognize the miraculousness of the circumstances in which they are involved. It's interesting to consider that Abraham and Sarah had fixated upon having children, only recognizing that sudden event as a miracle. Yet it is made quite clear that their lifespan is not one commonly lived by people in their time. That in and of itself was a miracle right there, yet they were so fixed upon the one they wanted that they never saw this other miracle that they lived every day. There's another reason they didn't see it as well, I think: the fact that it was every day. It wasn't a dramatic bang...rather, a set of circumstances that crept up quietly, slowly, and in a drawn-out manner.

That's what I think may have happened in Hawking's case--being in the thick of it, so to speak, and understandably being concerned with the hope of a better future outcome, may have made what seems obvious from the outside very difficult to see indeed. It's a matter of perspective, and I think that we should all take the time, as Christians, to step back and look at some of the "quiet" and "slow" circumstances in our lives that are also miracles from God, not just the quick, bold bolts out of the blue.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A House Divided Against Itself, Part I

Today I begin the first of a series of posts about gender roles for us as Christians--to examine the distortions of these roles that have been perpetrated both by those who do and do not claim Christianity.

In modern Christianity, the debate has mostly centered around the rights and the dignity of women: the role of women in marriage, in service of God, as participants in the affairs of society, and the Christian response to violence and injustice done to women. There have been many and severe problems in this regard, of course--and I will address these, but what we as a society and as a faith have ignored of late is that there have also been very real and painful assaults against the rights and dignity of men, and we as Christians are called to take it seriously, to respond with support wherever there is injustice.

Looking all the way back to our brief glimpse of humanity before we betrayed God, we see Adam created and taught how to use his power of speech to name the creatures he encounters. As he does so, he is also learning how to think about the world around him; he recognizes the natural order of male and female, and he comes to realize that there is no being with a physical form, a mind, and a soul compatible to his. He feels the need in himself for this--he feels loneliness, but it's a very different experience than what we know in a world where our relationships with God and those around us are so badly disrupted: this feeling teaches him, and shows him that he has been made to be compatible with another, to be part of the exchange of love. He knew this feeling and understood with a depth we rarely do these days that he would be answered. And he was. God created Eve, and together they began to experience what humanity was meant to be.

As to the love they experienced during that time--love is a dynamic thing, not a static one: it must flow from heart to heart in order to truly live. This dynamic is inherent in the trinitarian nature of our God; one need only observe the relationship between Jesus and His Father during His time on Earth to see just how dynamic and alive such a relationship is, in the truest sense. We were made for a relationship with God far greater than that which we have in this world, and Jesus died for our sins to mend what we could not mend on our own.

We were created as reflections in miniature of God's own nature, and our natural relationship--male and female united to each other--was intended to point the way towards that far greater nature. We were never intended to be set at each other's throats and to be caught up in a cycle of mutual blame and shame, any more than we were meant to suffer physical pain and die. And if we are Christians--if we accept Jesus' help to set our relationship right with God, then surely the love and comprehension that flows from that should compel us to set our relationships right with each other.

Of course, being finite beings, we are obviously not identical to each other as men and women. We should not be surprised that certain traits and gifts are more frequently distributed to one gender or another: this is not a popular thing to say these days, but it is readily evident in the way we were designed. Yet we do a disservice to each other--and we disarm ourselves in our battle against the evil around us--if we do not treat each man and woman as an individual creation of God and we interfere with how that person is meant to serve Him simply because it is less common.

I will leave you this time with a point to ponder: to be a Christian is not to be a misogynist or a misandrist (one who hates men). It is not to advocate the rights of one to the exclusion of or above those of the other, or to take prior victimization as an excuse to hate or dominate others. It is to be one who loves and honors all of God's creations and addresses injustice in any form where it is found. And even when the world would like to give us power that we could use to oppress others--just as Jesus refused to take up the call of the Zealots to lead an armed rebellion when His work was to pour Himself out for our sake (kenosis), we are not to take the false crowns of the world upon ourselves...we are to surrender worldly glory, to pour it out, and to serve one another rather than ourselves.

In my next two posts I will speak of the types of power we must refuse to take for ourselves as Christians. Post II will address the inequities we have done towards women out of this distorted order--Post II will address those done towards men.