Musings on Belief and the Current State of Communications Between Me and Myself

Some Musings on a Facebook Conversation between “Believers”

by Jane Tawel

July 13, 2017

 

Hello:

I don’t know any of you in this Facebook exchange, except Scotty. Disclaimer: I have claimed a “form of” Christianity as my own Worldview and worked with Scotty at a Christian high school. Second Disclaimer:  I struggle with the idea of calling myself a “Christian” in the same way I might struggle with calling myself an “American”.  I am both, but the violence done to both of these titles and in the name of both of these identities  has led them to be misnomers in my own heart if not elsewhere. As a person who  values the integrity of words and truth, I am content to continue to struggle with both.

Pete –your arguments are sound and I find they point to something I have been struggling with for the last several years perhaps especially as I continue to work and “play” in “Christian” circles and assess what we have “done to” the Judeo-Christian worldview in the First – World Orders in which we  live.  I don’t want to intrude on this conversation but at the same time I don’t like to “snoop” on conversations that I find important and I think this one is.

My own experience throughout my life is that God as a Being will be as relational as I, as a being, want Him to be. At various points in my life, I made different choices in whether I wanted to be a “Christ-follower” and a “God-believer” or did not. There have been lots and lots of days when for my purposes God worked best as an afterthought. I have found that God is perfectly okay with leaving me alone but He also doesn’t just come when I whistle for Him. He is faithful but not on a leash.  He has no need at all for me to believe in Him or do anything for Him.  He has an Otherness and a  love for humanity that people from the very beginning have tried to communicate with varying degrees of success. Those who call themselves “Christians” believe Jesus communicated it best in the flesh.

A person having no need of what we know as god(s) is an historical, rational non-belief life choice, as you rightly say. There is nothing new about it nor can we blame science for it. We also therefore cannot look to science or any other religions as a basis for argument.  The very tenant of the Judeo-Christian Worldview is “Shut up for once and Just Know that Yahweh is The God.”  (Psalm 46:10) If anyone has forgotten the mystery of this it is probably us yakking, arguing, bullying, world-conforming “Christians”.

Perhaps, Pete, what your friends are trying to argue but choosing what I would say is merely an unhelpful word choice — faith — is more that everyone believes in something.  Perhaps what you are correctly pointing out is that it is also true that many think they believe in something like God who is Otherness, when in fact, they believe in god who is a reflection of their own desires and need and self image. It is kind of like people saying they believe in “free market” or don’t believe in everyone having healthcare and yet their actions show what they really believe in for themselves — just not for others. Believing in God has always meant actions over words. And this is what the non-believers rightly shake their heads at as our actions too often show what we really believe.  Hence, we try to argue Otherness empirically  and temporally and personally and get ourselves all tied up in nonsense. No wonder you keep trying to point that out.  I can only apologize for myself not for all of us, but I feel a great sense of guilt in all of this. I’m sorry.

God is a choice, not a fact for everyone’s life.   I think what many Christians fear is the admission that they have lived their lives exactly as you surmise is the truth — God as a convenient Santa Claus or God as a convenient excuse and more wrongly — God as personal power and justification– and so we give in to this constant need to convince the rest of the world that we are “right”. (Side note: I keep recommending this but I highly recommend Kathryn Schultz’s Ted Talk on “Being Wrong” or her book if any of you Facebook folk have the time.  It has nothing to do with “religion” and everything to do with thinking and believing unscathed in anything  at all including the infallibility of science.)  Also, with people I love, I feel very sad when they don’t want to believe in God but I have erred so many times on letting that sadness be anger and worry.  It is a Mobius  Strip paradigm, is it not?

Many of us who claim to be “Christians” — and I put it in quotes time and time again because our idea of Christianity is too often like people who think selfies are art — We too, too often have no more real  Need —  or real love or conception and pattern of worship of Another Being — than you do. This of course is why much of the world sadly has found no need of us or Our God. I believe we will be “judged” for this as individuals and also as religious institutions and nations.  I don’t know exactly what judgment means and I understand that to you, Pete, it has no sense in eternal terms, but perhaps if I might just say that I think that somehow what I have been given as soul-life is mine to develop and will someday either be connected to an Otherness Eternity and a “Lifeforce” that  I know and love and that knows and loves me or not.

We too, who call ourselves “believers” have quite often  created a god in our own image. And sadly, this is what people see in today’s religion called “Christianity”.  I say sadly because –mea culpa. It is why some of us are seeking a new name and new pattern of living spiritually and relationally even as we continue to turn to the Scriptures and other spiritual writings for direction and reality checks.

You are correct of course — there is something inherently irrational about both Otherness as a God and divine souls in humans — and when we keep trying to prove its rationality to atheists we do in fact “spin our wheels” as Scotty said. Spinning one’s wheels in my experience, just throws a lot of dirt on everyone nearby.  Those who believe in True Myth — and again you are correct — all religions have some coherent similarities in terms of true myths– know myth to be as divinely inspired as art or communication or sunsets or tornadoes or the inexplicable love at one’s first sight of one’s baby — or anything that we “feel” and thereby “know” to be a Truth truer than “reality”. I know this idea of “True” myth sticks in your craw.  If it helps you any, it also bugs a lot of Christians for the opposite reason! 🙂 Throw it around sometime with “Christians” and have some fun.

The two things that I have been dealing with the past few years are: One — God is not a one way street and faith, hope and love are my part of living intentionally in the world daily and living in a covenant with God daily — not once and then arguing with non-believers for the rest of my life that I am right and they are wrong. Just like my marriage, there are days and nights that I want out of this covenant with God because I just don’t love Him any more or He doesn’t love me enough any more. But just like my marriage, a covenant goes beyond “reality” to a different level of living together and that kind of loving relationship is quite different than anything else I know.

As those who claim “Christ” continue to use Him as a weapon or excuse or battering ram or fear tactic or successful hierarchical corporation or “community”, we create resistance, disbelief, anguish, unfaith, anger, disgust, and as you rightly say again, war and more war and more war.  This is a team mentality that has made us all so small, I fear, at best. At worst, it has made us “cursed are those who give the name of good to evil, and of evil to what is good: who make light dark, and dark light: who make bitter sweet, and sweet bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Secondly, I think a lot about this idea that belief is not about what I do or what God does or what tenets I believe, or what I can prove.  If I read and think about what my Worldview clearly says time and time again, the purpose of my journey is about whether I know God and He knows me.  Whether I love God and whether He loves me — because the idea of “Know” in the Judeo-Christian parlance is that most intimate of knowledge that marriage partners have.

So — all of this to say — these are the kinds of discussions that we should be having with JOY– with excitement — because respecting and being connected to another human’s “innerness” — albeit unusual and uncomfortable in the age of reality TV — is so much more fulfilling knowledge  than knowing about a two fanged snake or whatever you were referencing as a proof.  Our need to communicate with each other, our desire to love or direct each other to “truth”, our own inner light — all of these inexplicable but true facts of self and other — are the greatest “proofs” I know of that there is a Something, and I believe, Someone, greater than just “me”. Wrestling with it as you all are doing is mentally and  emotionally exhausting work, but as my family says at the end of certain work days — It’s a good kind of tired.

…  Thanks for a good start to a thinking working day via Facebook!!! Thanks for letting me go on and on as I think through the important ideas you all raise.

The Sky Is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods by Jane Tawel

The Sky is Indeed Falling and There are Wolves in the Woods

by Jane Tawel

My husband and son call me “Chicken”.  I have somehow lost all my other nicknames, including “wifey” or “mom”.  And now that I am the sole female left to live amongst my two men, their daughters and sisters having moved to different Dreamlands, I am beckoned or lovingly teased by being called “Chicken”.

Raoul and Gordon tell me I have achieved this moniker because I am always, and they mean ALWAYS, screaming. Shrieking, they claim.  Hence, I am a “chicken”.  Evidently I not only scream during scary and violent movies, which I am now forbidden to watch in their presence, but I am told I also scream, when in the passenger seat; when someone quietly comes up behind me unexpectedly; when some thing bangs in the wind; and I scream, when, or so I am told, a fly lands on the counter, a kitten walks by, a child sneezes, an ant passes in front of me, or someone silently nods their head unexpectedly. I am a Chicken.

I have lately been called, I think “Chicken” perhaps by many of my friends and family.  Perhaps not to my face, but, there is definitely the feeling that many consider me “Chicken” in the sense of the old fairy tale, “Chicken Little”, or “Henny Penny” as the Brexits call it.  It is true.  I have been unable to clear my head ever since the large piece of firmament fell on it in the last weeks, toppled from the sky, Made in the USA,  in the land in which I live.  I have been running around, screaming, “The Sky is Falling!  The Sky is Falling!” My head literally still feels numb and aching — as if my head will blow apart — from the very large chunk of celestial  matter that fell right on top of my mind.  It is like a window in my mind opened up, was blown to bits in fact, and I could suddenly see out on a world that I might have suspected was the reality in which I lived, but which I could still turn away from.  Now I feel as if my mind’s eye is forced to look out that blown out window at what my world — physical, human, and spiritual — is really like after all. It is mind-blowing — like being hit on the head with a sky boulder.

The phrase, “The sky is falling” is meant to imply that the person, or “Chicken” saying it, is foolish and hysterical — humorous –if it weren’t for the fact that the chicken convinces so many of her friends — the Duck, the Goose, the Rabbit — to panic and run with her because the sky is falling.  All these peaceful, non-aggressive truth-seeking animals eventually let the Fox lead them to the Lion — the King of the Forest. The Fox assures all the wrongly hysterical animals that  the Lion will confirm whether the sky is in fact falling or not.  Of course — the Lion assures them they are hysterical and that the sky is in fact not falling.  Then he eats them.  The clever, wily Fox enjoys the leftovers.

So you see, even though everyone tells the story as if the Chicken is foolish and wrong, in the end she is right.   The world might not have been ending right then for everyone, not necessarily because the sky was literally falling, but Chicken Little’s world of peace and unity and justice and love and joy, did end. Just not the way she expected.  The sky is falling is a metaphor —  and of course some of us believe metaphors are always truer than fact — deeper Truth needing to be told in pictures or poetry. The World doesn’t get better. It does actually end. It ends because a predator capitalist fox and a greedy power-mongering lion, ate Chicken and the other animals — not because they were hungry, but because they could,(and because Chicken was irritating).   Just like in the past, a predator fascist Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And a predator communist Fox and a greedy power-mongering Lion ate other animals.  And  a predator Khmer Rouge Fox and a greedy power mongering Lion ate other animals. And before that a predator European Fox and a greedy power mongering  Colonist Lion ate other animals. And before that, and before that, and before that, and before that, and before that. . . .

And once a Fox named Herod and a Lion called God’s Chosen People Judah, killed a Chicken named Jesus.

And throughout time,  Chicken Littles are mocked or calmed or silenced. Or crucified.  Chickens are told that it is time to move on– “The sky hasn’t fallen, Join us!”, — and we all need to just go back to the pretense of getting along. But Chicken Little was right. Because unless we are caring for the sky, and the earth, and the children, and the other animals, and each other, and Yahweh, and unless we are caring for justice and truth and free will and sharing and serving and mercy and love and shalom — well then,  the sky  is always going to be falling.  The climate is indeed, always changing. And we want to look at a dark night sky and call it daylight. But the sky is falling. And it always has been, since The Fall. Falling. Falling. Falling.

Until Jesus comes riding in on the clouds. Then the Falling will stop.

Trust me, this doom of mine really bugs people.  You are so bugged right now. And I do not blame you. I am not a very good prophet — not really one at all — I am after all,  not Chicken Little but, as  my boys will tell you, I am “Little Chicken”. I don’t mean by this story I’ve retold here, to compare myself to any true prophetic voices — but there are plenty of true prophets out there.  They are even more irritating that I am because they are much smarter and more spiritual than I.

And I don’t blame you for being upset.  No one likes to hear their Sky is falling. Not even Chicken Little– after all she keeps trying to prove to her own self that she is wrong! She is looking for signs and people to convince her she is wrong.  But her head is still hurting from the blow and she is still looking out of the window. And she can’t not see or feel. And she can’t not hear the voices of the prophets, written on subway walls and in Bible verses.

After the prophets are shut up or killed, the people  left don’t care. They can finally move on.   They get to live on with the knowledge that they were right.  The sky didn’t fall after all.  And so everyone gets to say, “I was right, see. You were wrong.” Only a wee part of the sky fell and that part doesn’t affect me. Everyone is safe in the knowledge that they were right.

Except Chicken Little.  She’s dead.

 

You know, the Lion of Judah — the real Aslan — compared Himself to a chicken.  In his own words, Jesus said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Luke 13: 34, 35)

Jesus’ hearers would have remembered their scripture and the words that God Himself spoke to His Chosen People, Israel in Psalm 91, when God compares Himself to a Chicken.

Surely he will save you

from the fowler’s snare

and from the deadly pestilence.

He will cover you with his feathers,

and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

 

.  Perhaps what has really made my mind go numb lately as if a piece of the heavens had fallen on top of it, is the forgetfulness of God’s people about Who God is, Who Jesus is.  About my forgetfulness about Who God Is. You see God and Jesus are Chickens.  God and Jesus try to warn us over and over and over again, through their prophets, through their Words, through metaphor and myth and story and laws and examples– through Jesus’ non- powerful death as a criminal on a cross — through The Father’s non-greedy serving heart — God warns us that the Sky is Indeed Falling– but that you, dearly beloved, do  not need to panic like chickens with your heads cut off. You do not need to look to any one — not the Fox nor the Lion — to tell you the truth and save you. You do not need to fear or grasp, or grab, or deny, or fall by the wayside and curl up in a little ball of denial. BUT — (God loves this conditional conjunction and uses it often)  BUT!! — My beloved little chicks, says God: You do need to waddle along  on your little feet and imprint on Me, Your Mother Chicken.You do need to obey me. You do need to repent.You do need to follow in the ways of my servant Son. You do need to see and speak the truth.  You do need to love.  You do need to be different.  You do need to trust Me.  You do need to converse with Me and listen.  You do need to walk the narrow path. You need to seek The Kingdom and The King. You need to lay up treasures that don’t have a president’s picture on them. You need to worship in humility and joy not power and comfort. You need to cover yourself not with the strength of the Lion, but with the blood of The Lamb.

But you know, there are always people who want to see God as being on the side of the Fox and the Lion. There will always be those of us who can not submit to a God who uses feathers not claws. There are always people who will do semantic and spiritual gymnastics to get the leftovers. We always prefer the powerful because we prefer not to trust. And so the sky keeps falling and people call it evolution. And the world never changes til the end, but we call it progress. And the prophets are killed and we call it reality. And the Son of Man weeps and calls… until He judges. And one day He gathers His chicks to a new earth and a new sky.

You know to be honest, of course, the Chicken Littles really just want, like everyone else, to turn off the violence, and not look at the signs, and not scream any more, and go back to pretending that they were never hit on the head with a piece of the sky.  But until this Little Chicken gets tired and folds her cards and admits she is trumped. . . . well, as any one will tell, you, I hate gambling so until I get that tired…..  I’d rather read a good story and keep inviting you all to hear Good Stories as well.

Tomorrow I will tell you the story of “Peter and the Wolf” — another prophetic myth seldom told any more.  After all, the “Wolf of Wall Street” is a lot more fun to hear. And The Ending is to die for.

“Chicken and Her Men”

 

15069153_962804097156892_2077733355811966555_o-1