Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Day 14

I am confronted by my need to be right. It’s been part of my faith experience for so long. One of the first things that I was taught was that we are right and they are wrong. The world may have lots of questions, but we have in our possession the only right answer. That theology kick started a way of thinking for me. I did not want to engage with people different from me. I did want to hear about the arguments for a new way of thinking, because it might just confuse me.

I know it’s not just me. It’s part of the collective identity of so many religious people. I see it many times. We need to be right. That is how religion works.

It’s like a fortress: sturdy, solid and steadfast. It can’t be bent, move or give in without breaking. If you remove one brick, it weakens. If you remove a few others, the walls might come tumbling down. A fortress needs to be defended, protected, guarded and maintained. The idea is to keep foreign objects out. It is always tense, most of the times hostile and more often than not highly threatened. In a fortress mercy is weakness and power is safety. It is always looking for the best vantage point from where it can stand over and against things that are different. It cannot compromise, relax, flex, appreciate, accommodate, stretch or drop its guard at all. The moment it does that, it seizes to be a good fortress any longer.

That kind of faith just does not work for me anymore. (I hope there is still some space left in the box labelled “Junk”.)

This journey hopes to find better metaphors for faith, because life bends and God moves.

Like a Jumping Castle as a symbol for faith.

When faith moves from religion to relationship it tends to be more like a JC. If you watch children play in it you sometimes get the feeling that the castle is going to brake, but that’s when the jumping is at its best. The walls, corners and pillars are supposed to give in, they are made that way. If they don’t, then you are not jumping wild enough!

Jumping alone is fine for a while, but the best times are when the castle is bursting with kids going crazy.

There is also no competition, no technique, and no prize for the best jumper and no awards for the most back-flips in one jump.

It’s not about the castle, the ticket sales or whether you get the jumping part right or not.

It’s really just about getting your hair messy and your clothes wrinkled, in other words having a bag full of fun.

In the end the JC way of faith is guided only by two rules:

1. You always have to take of your shoes.
2. Don’t hurt the other kids.


Sparky said...

An absolute awesome post Fourie – I love your Jumping Castling analogy!

(1) Always take off your shoes. (Take off the garbage and follow Jesus!)
(2) Don’t hurt the other kids. (This should be rather self-explanatory!)

I use to be a fortress of absolute truths – something like: "There is the right (my?) way and the wrong way and woe to thee who dare to falter from the only path..." Is there room in your box Fourie? Such a faith falls to tatters rather quickly, because it simply cannot accommodate many people and people get hurt by it.... badly! I think that this is the kind of religion that Jesus warned against in Mark 9:42 ("Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.")

I had a terrible experience with another church group that had me nearly convinced that if I don’t get baptised as an adult, I am doomed and will thrown in the fiery pits of hell to burn for all eternity. What a load of hogwash. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everything goes... but there is definitely more than one correct way to eat your yogurt.

I find myself rowing the same boat as you – and it gives me great comfort to know I’m not alone. I find myself reading my Bible with renewed interest again – thinking about God more often and trying harder to be a better person. I will (and have) failed repeatedly, but frankly, I really don’t care – because I’ll simply get up and try again. For a change, my feeble attempts are not out of guilt or fear, but out of love and this is a great place to be in.

Fourie Rossouw said...

Sparky, I like the way you say things! "Hogwash", now there's a word I haven't heard in a long time!

Your experience on church and baptism sounds so familiar. I have been there, on either side, sad to say. I have dealt my share of hurt to people not believing like I do.

Your last paragraph is very hopeful, thanx.

Another way of looking at "taking off your shoes" is to live with a sense of awe and wonder for the holiness of Life.

But I do like your spin on it!

Sparky said...

That's the nice thing about analogies... everyone sees something different in it. I like your way of looking it as well - like Moses taking of his shoes when God spoke to him. Keep your sense of awe and wonder, come just as you are and remove everything that stands between you and the Jumping Castle!

Keep it up - I can't wait for the next post!

Karen said...

Hi Fourie,

On being right, and the existence of hell: You leave me confused...

You want to change your need to be right, thereby allowing others an opinion of their own. However, you’ve already made some kind of decision, haven’t you? You’ve chosen Jesus.
Do you believe you are right in choosing him as your saviour?
If you believe that you are right in choosing Jesus, do you then believe that others are wrong in choosing someone or something else as their saviour?
Are your faith right and all others wrong?
I am just wondering how far you are prepared to let go of your need to be right.

Are you sure that you are reading the right book?
I met a girl last week. She was truly beautiful. Soft, gentle and kind. She told me that she was reading the series of books called "Conversations with God" by Neale Donald Walsh. His books have become her bible. She does not believe in Hell. (Just like you) She also believes that you are what you are, and whatever you are is OK. According to her: “People just need to accept themselves for who they are: If you are the kind of person who finds fault with everyone, even screams and shouts...Hey, that’s who you are. Accept it, and make peace with it.”

I was at a lost for words. All my knowledge of the bible, and Jesus and love and everything else, did not bring one piece of wisdom to my mind. As a Christian woman, I believe that this girl is on a path to death, because she is not accepting Jesus. However, while she was so soft and gentle, and accepting of those around her, I could not think of any way to warn her of it. I could not warn her of hell, because she doesn’t believe there is one. I could not warn her of death, because she believes in reincarnation. I could not tell her to be good, loving or caring, because she already lived life that way. What could I say, how could I explain, that there is truly something more? If we all live life as kind and gentle people, do we really need Jesus?

I am truly sad that I had nothing to offer this girl. I thought that I had grown. I thought that I had become knowledgeable in the things of God. Obviously I thought too much of myself. I could not even sow a seed for Jesus, when the opportunity arose.

If I do as you say, and throw away my believe in hell, what then makes me different from this young girl? Both of us are kind, loving and accepting people. If the only difference between her and me is that I believe in Jesus, and she does not, were will we go when we die? After death, where will I go? Heaven? And she? Not-Heaven? Is that hell?

There is only one faith, one hope, and one true love: Jesus. All others are false, and bring death. In this I know I am right. All others are wrong.
Please tell me: Is there a way to live this believe in Jesus, without telling others they are wrong?


Fourie Rossouw said...

Karen, you grind to the core of the conversation with your comment. It's tricky. I don't know how my faith in Jesus is going to plot out after I've let go of the need to be right so that others can be wrong. There is always a chance of ending up with something very fuzzy with out a solid back bone.

I just feel that somewhere the Good News turned into the Great Warning. "Believe in Jesus or burn forever in Hell." Something just does not sounds right.

The great thing about the stories told of the first followers, was that every odd now and then they discoverd that Jesus was already inmeshed in the lives of the people that crossed their paths. Their task was to help them see it too.

I am not giving up on my belief that Jesus reconnects us with our true identity=wholesome humanbeings, loved by and in love with God.

I am just letting go of the part of my faith that tries to believe out of guilt and fear. Hence the reason why I showed the Devil the door...

Asator said...

It is soooo sad...It seems as if you have lost your fear of God, and that is sad because the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom. (That is if you believe the Bible). That would make the opposite true, without Godly fear you are without wisdom. We are supposed to cultivate the mind of Christ, make every decision or opinion subject to what Jesus would have done. What would He have done? Teach that there is no devil and no hell? (Although He saw the devil fell from heaven). That you do not need to be on guard for the enemy, the powers and principalities in the air (according to Paul),although He did deliverance, that holiness is not that big of a deal because the devil and hell is not real? (although He suffered to save us from exatly that). I doubt that and can imagine why you call yourself a doubtful believer...everything is too grey, no right or wrong, good or bad. no obedience or disobedience because the rules are so confusing. It is sad.

Fourie Rossouw said...

Asator, I understand your comment about the fear of God, although I think it is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the Judeo-Christian Religion. (More of that later...)

I disagree with your statement that there is no right or wrong, good or bad in my way of thinking. If you take a second look, you'll probably pick up where I am heading in terms of ethics, obedience and the call to follow Jesus 'till kingdom come.

My doubtful faith is far from grey, Asator, I like to think it's technicolour...

Asator said...

The Point Being, Fourie..
(And I Hope I am not Being to Harsh or Rude...)

Hell DOES Exist...
Anyway You Slice It...

And A True Believer wouldn't Stand Against What the Bible says, Am I Right?!

Well Fourie.. I Have Given you Direct Quotes From the Bible, (and I can Give you More) Stating that hell does Exist.
And Yet you Continue to Believe that There is no Hell?!?!

As Karen Said: "Are you sure that you are reading the right book?"

Karen said...

Hi Fourie,

I hear what you say about not believing out of fear for hell.
I agree that if I believe in God, ONLY because I fear hell,
that I am probably missing the boat.

I have been sincerely committed to God for the past three years.
However, for the last year I have been struggling with God. I often ask myself this very same question: Why do I believe in God? What is it that convinced me that He is the true saviour?
At times it feels that everything I believe could be attributed to coincidence.
Earlier this year I have even decided to give-up my faith. I told God that I have had enough.
Guess what happened?
I became fearful and scared. I could not drive home alone at night. I was scared to get out of the car to open our gate. I could not sleep. I jumped at every sound.
After that I decided to re-commit to God, even though I could not find any logical explanation for His existence.

I wish that I could have dreams and visions from God.
Or maybe a Damascus experience.
But I do not.
I have to believe in the things not seen, not experienced.
I don’t have any physical experience to back-up my believe in God.

Now I ask you:
Do I believe in God out of fear of Hell?
Do I believe in God because of the peace it brings me?

Blizzard said...

Just something I picked up. Fourie never said that the devil does not exist, and I do not think that the point he is trying to make has anything to do with the devil existing or not. The point is rather to remove hell (or rather the avoidance thereof) as the core of what we believe, and rather replace it with GOD, with Who and What He is, and focus on the relationship He wishes to have with us.

Sparky said...

Read Fourie's post about hell that "does not exist" a second time. If you read very carefully you'll notice that he states that hell does not exist for him, as a person, anymore. It makes perfect sense for a child of God to remove hell completely from his/her frame of reference. If God is in your life and you stand in a relationship with Him there is no more room for fear (from the Greek root "fob'os", meaning terror or severe fright). The Bible even refers to this in 1 Joh 4:18 ("There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love.") Godly-fear, or "fob-eh'-o" is something different and is similar to that of child towards his father. A child reveres his father out of respect and love ("my dad can do anything!"). This, I think, is what God desires for us...

Believing in God and serving God to avoid the punishment of hell is "fob'-os". What Fourie is saying, is that he wants to follows Jesus out of "fob-eh'-o" alone, and because of that, he needs to remove "hell" from his frame of reverence. (I am trying to do the same...)

Just to be clear: There is a place like hell. It is a place devoid of God where prayers truly remain unanswered and the occupants forgotten. Personally, I don’t even believe it is a place of physical torture – the heartbroken regret will be the unquenchable fire that the Bible refers to (but that is my personal opinion).

(As a side note – Greek is really not my area of expertise and I’m trotting on dangerous ground by referring to the Greek roots. My apologies to those that do know...)

Blizzard said...

Yep, when comparing 'reverence' to 'terror', the former sounds much closer to what I believe GOD intended with regards to our relationship with him.