Tuesday, November 21, 2006

one side

Neo: "I suppose the most obvious question is, how can I trust you?"
The Oracle: "Bingo. It is a pickle. No doubt about it. The bad news is there's no way if you can really know whether I'm here to help you or not, so it's really up to you. You just have to make up your own damned mind to either accept what I'm going to tell you, or reject it."

“I expect you to do what you’ve always done … to make up your own damn mind.”

at the end of it, i was just confused. i could tell that i'm not fully understood. but the whole scene seemed volatile. as if the slightest thing could have upset the delicate balance of composure to the room, so i tried to tread as lightly and humbly as i could. i did my best to be honest and open and vulnerable. to say nothing untrue. and, when called for, to say nothing at all. heard tell through the grapevine that erin and i handled ourselves with grace and dignity and we are not the only ones confused as to why this whole ordeal is taking place.

it began with an explanation of a few scriptures. mainly the ones at the heart of these proceedings. matthew 18:15-17 being one. then another from romans 16:17-18. a couple of questions as to whether things had changed with what was understood to be my thinking about pornography, marijuana, or salvation. a description of the three beliefs was outlined and i said that nothing had changed with pot or salvation, but that their thinking on my position on pornography was mistaken and retold my experience in brief hoping that this time it would be heard. i do not know if it was or not. the congregation was then warned upon hearing this news not to associate or have fellowship with me and that i am considered dangerous. this concluded trent's portion. and i know it was not something that he wanted to see happen or have to do. but in bowing to the authority he believes is over him, he did what set things right in his own conscience and i bear him no ill will. to symbolize and confirm the struggle, he received a lengthy hug from the elder at the conclusion of trent's portion.

then the elder took the podium.

what followed was about an hour long session of quotes from my blog being posted alongside scriptures to contrast things i say with what is accepted at this body as "sound doctrine." an intense time to say the least. my initial impression is one of surprise. i had no idea i was being followed so closely. it does not make me want to close off at all, but rather it gives me a greater idea of my audience at large. there are several quiet faithfuls who come here, but i didn't know about all i guess. and that i was being followed not just on my own blog, but on other blogs where i had commented as well. i found quotes of myself from other people's blogs up there as well. i find it strange i am being followed so closely everywhere i go here. but not regretful.

the more i have thought back on it, however, i am still confused by several things. first of all why it was even happening in the first place. difference of opinions doesn't seem to me to be sufficient grounds for what happened. it has been spoken to me that a certain degree of "unity in beliefs" needs to be maintained. but what beliefs are those? is there a menu of acceptable differences? "let's see... arminian... yes, we have some of that. calvinist?... yes, we just got some in. universalist?... universalist... sorry. that's not on the menu..." of course i use levity and metaphors, but it is in this that i feel my emotion and thoughts are best conveyed.

and jesus was quoted as saying, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged..." we were then admonished when reading the bible to compare scripture with scripture in order to get the correct interpretation. (strangely enough, THAT'S not actually an ideal i've seen spelled out in scripture. but apparently it is a universal we must abide by.) and we were then quoted several scriptures on judgement of which i cannot remember all of them. the ones i do recall are,
john 7:24 "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” (highly ironic to me) and 1 corinthians 5:9-13 "I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. 'Expel the wicked man from among you.'"

it was then explained how these verses show that the same people who said not to judge also said to judge. that we are not to judge the world, but we are to judge the church. here's where the confusion comes twofold for me. 1st - in approaching scripture in this fashion, aren't you negating half of it? wasn't the part about not judging thrown out the window because there are other sections that say we are to judge? could i not easily then do the same thing about reading the verses about judging and then saying i should compare scripture with scripture, find the verses against judging and then just go with them because they are what suit my needs at the time?
2nd- much later, towards the end of the time, i was criticized for being too accepting and non judgmental of the world and far too critical and sitting in judgement of the church and that i had it backwards. when it was this very approach that we were admonished not an hour before was the correct way to be members of the body and use judgement. so it would seem that i am on trial in two different ways for the same reason. because i believe it and they do too.

the middle part was the hardest, though. it seemed as though i was being baited. as if someone was trying to catch me in my words in order to draw conclusions out of people. i do not know if i disappointed or not. as i said, i did my best to remain composed and not fall into arguing or haggling over words. questions were asked and i did my best to answer. i did not see the point in trying to disagree with an elder of the congregation in that forum. i am not out to lower his status in the eyes of his flock at all.

but a part of me thinks they ought to know everything.

i mean, in truth, this man who was questioning me is the same man who gave me the first piece of universalist literature i ever read. it was called "the unselfishness of god" by hannah whitall smith. i still have it. the same man who was the first to tell me he thought there were going to be many surprises in eternity as many who did not identify themselves as "christians" would find themselves in paradise. and many who did identify themselves as christians would not. he was the first to tell me that he didn't think that the bible was the only word of god. not that it wasn't... just that it was not exclusive. he was the one who also gave me a book about three weeks before everything hit the fan called, "everyday apocalypse" in which the idea is put forth that god is speaking to us all the time from many sources. we just need to be willing to listen and hear it. and he is also the one who sent me this message. it is the last piece of mail i ever received from him on myspace. "thank you, jOn. I need to hear that we're still in this together. I also understand you are out on the limb and you know that people you care about are traditional enough to saw you off. I'll do whatever I can to keep you climbing. Your journey encourages me."

it is these things that confuse me the most. in adding up all of these things that i received from him, i got something else... and for that, i am dangerous and unacceptable and need to be cast out.

i forgive him. though it has caused great pain for everyone, i still forgive. because i know that the shockwaves of this go far deeper than i know. this is absolutely rocking a church community right now. something has been started here that is completely out of any human control and it is going to be one heck of a finish let me tell you. i have NO idea what it is... but it's going to be something. and if not something... then something else...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

is this the end, or just the beginning?

tonight it goes down. the process has continued and we are now at the point where a meeting HAS to be held by the church to discuss me with the congregation. shrewdly enough, i have not been invited to the meeting. and in inquiries made by erin as to whether my attendance is allowed she has been met with furrowed brows and hems and haws and statements about not wanting arguments. but... i'm still going to go anyway. i figure i have every right to know what is being said about me at the very least. as well as be available for any questions from the congregation so that they can hear what's really going on with me and not the skewed version that is going around.

but i have to tell you that i am really confused. i don't really understand the process that has been started. i have been told it has something to do with matthew 18 (calling witnesses and bringing a brother back to reason and whatnot...) but truthfully, i'm unsure exactly what it is i am supposed to be brought back to or from. i have always had the impression that truth and healing and growing fruit and sharing that fruit were foundational to our faith. and yet it is, in my world, for these very reasons that i am going through this. or perhaps because i desired to reconcile my two selves into one. you know... the two selves? your church self and your real self?

perhaps you do not have this problem. if you don't, i commend you. i hope it has been resolved in a fruit bearing manner. but for many, especially those who "grow up" in the church, we have two selves. because much of who we are is not acceptable inside of 'church culture', we come up with another version of ourselves to present to the church body. and when we leave, we can exhale and be ourselves again. i saw this problem earlier, at about 23 or 24 years of age, and tried to turn my church self into my real self. problem was that the more i made this rule-laiden life my real life and live it and try to make others live it, the more of an overbearing, arrogant, cold, distant, hard, insensitive, disingenuous, and unloving prick i became. having notived this about a year ago and being horrified when i looked in the heart mirror and saw that the person i wanted to become...the person i THOUGHT i was... was completely different from the person i really was as told by my actions and priorities. and not in a good way. i was a first grade asshole. don't get me wrong, i listened to christian radio, i listened to christian music, i DID read my bible every day, i DIDN'T drink or even go into bars... the list goes on. but it turns out, that doing those things didn't turn me into the person i believe god wants me to be.

so i took the other approach and decided to make my real life my church life and be who i truly am in my heart 24/7. this is what has not gone over so well. instead of putting up a front and continuing to be a LIAR, i have maintained that i am not perfect and that i am who i am right now and i'm not ashamed of who i am. i am a work in progress and i am not perfect, and chances are good i never will be. and i'm done beating myself up about that. and i'm interested in being with people and loving them and helping them to have better lives in the here and now. and being in a world where i can be who i am at any time, and whether or not people agree, they love me. genuine love. and they treat me in the same manner in which they want to be treated.

which i don't see much of in this situation i am going through. but because scripture "demands" it, people are doing things that they're hearts are telling them are wrong. because i don't think they know what else to do.

the biggest rift has come over how i came out to my wife with my pornography earlier this year. in opening up to her and showing her everywhere my mind and my thought life had been and WHY it went there, healing happened. it has been my upbringing in the church to fear sex and any sort of discussions about said EVIL topic. so in trying to understand my own desires and fantasies, i went to secret places and explored them apart from my wife. this should not have been so. i did it for fear of her reactions at me being vulnerable and sharing the things that genuinely excite me sexually. but i will never regret sharing these things with my wife and opening up with her so that i could explore these things apart from judgement and fear WITH her and not apart from her.(thank you, wonderful woman) and as a result, we have shared a much greater degree of connection and intimacy and excitement in our physical intimacy. apparently i'm supposed to "feel bad" about it and "repent" of being healed in an unorthodox way. and i flat out refuse. i'm not going to apologize for one of the best things that god has ever done for our marriage. and so, we have congregational meetings like the one tonight.

strangely enough, suddenly, i understand why the pharisees were so pissed off that jesus was healing on the sabbath. not because they were so cold that they didn't want people healed, they just didn't like how the healing came. it came in direct antecedance to their teachings. they couldn't see through the "law breaking" that was happening to see the hand of god at work. because they were convinced that god wouldn't break his own law. or at least, their human interpretation and life lived paradigm according to that interpretation that everyone had to adhere to in order to "prove" their sincerity and devotion to god. through this lens, jesus was an evil, evil man who needed to be stopped at all costs because he encouraged people to flagrantly, and unrepentanly, break god's law. i see no difference in the situation i am in here. whether it is a man whose withered hand gets healed on the sabbath or a man who gets healed by sharing his pornographic mind with his wife, the religious leaders are pissed about how the healing happened and want to deny god his due.

i'm not looking for a fight. and if i am asked to leave, i certainly will. and perhaps that's something people need to see. i just ask that you would pray for truth and healing to be abundant.

Monday, November 06, 2006

what is the bible?

word of god? god's love letter? god's little instruction book? (insert your own cute colaquialism here)? i am asking because i am seriously curious. i am interested in your thoughts as to just what the bible is. and how it is to be used in our lives. i, of course, have thoughts. but i would like to hear yours first. i can hear myself talk anytime.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

brothers and sisters, please

your intercessions are requested. today my boss has flown out of town to meet with his boss to have a "state of the union" type meeting. and one part of that meeting is to discuss me and whether or not they want to create my dream job. so i am not asking that we pelt the throne with requests to tip the scales as i would like to see them tipped. i am simply asking for a moment of your time to ask the father that his will would be done in this situation and that the enemy would not prevail. one way or the other.