i care but i don’t care

God

“But Jobs’ discussion about God with Isaacson later in his life leaves us wondering: Did Steve Jobs accept Christ before he died?” (Read the rest of the article here.)

The article was going out well until the part I quoted above. It’s just like saying, “I care about you, really. But only until I know for sure you “accepted Christ.” I don’t think we really do care at all, and that’s how (not) to speak of God.

 

 

Ideas, idealists and a communal perspective

Note: Sometimes I just sit and stuff comes up to my head and I just write them down. This particular post might have some political thought behind them, but the main point is on the topic of idealists working out ideas, concepts and manifestos in isolation of their own thoughts. I guess the ideas written are pretty broad and can work, on anything to do with community, leadership and progress. These are just my own thoughts anyways but I’m a willing listener. I’m not so sure about the title of the post but at best this post is rather experimental and needs a lot of unpacking from others who disagree or resonate with.

Ideas, regardless of how we conjure them are realities spaced out on a landscape created by the one responsible for thinking them up. It does not matter how well versed the idealist is in matters of what he or she had and has experienced, his or her views are always biased to what he or she thinks as the way to go. This also holds true to concepts as well.

Ideas and concepts live well in the reality conjured up by the idealist, worked out under the conditions and probabilities reworked in the mind of the one thinking them up. Alone, the idealist paints a reality where he or she has thought up of every known probability taken from their own experience, knowledge and wisdom.

So if the community takes up the idealists’ ideas and conception as something pure and thought up to be something perfect, the community relents or denies its own responsibility in the conversation of what would work best in the vicinity constructed by physical reality; the real world, and also how their own ideas would be meshed together with the idealist.

The idea of truth should not be grounded in or on one solidarity figure to carry out what works best if he or she is in the position of leadership. This relinquishes the power embedded in a community as they relent their responsibility to think for themselves. There is always the tendency of leaders who are ushered into or onto a position of leadership to corrupt their platform by thinking that it becomes their sole responsibility to define truth for everyone. I suppose this is what happens when some leaders revert from their initial support from the people and become dictators, ruthless to those who oppose them, or disagree with their rule.

An idealist who is given the power to think by a community because they view the leader is capable of bridging a pure concept for everyone to live have ceased responsibility of conjuring space for realistic progress. Sure, progress is certainly easy if only one sole idea is followed. But the reality of diversity deconstructs this and renders this concept numb and in someways unrealistic. If progress is to be realized it needs unity formed in the conceptual dimension of diversity. Unity in it purest sense is unity that understands diversity. That understands dialogue. That is unafraid to sit down and discuss opposing positions and work out a third way to going about.

And in a more realistic conception to this writers idea, progress is slow. Real progress is when it is willing to discuss humanely opposing views in the vicinity of reality’s probability and taking consideration from all views coming from the desires of the collective voice of the people, the community in the hope that working together is the only way forward.

Society told me so

Poverty shackles our physical reality into a prison which depletes a platform for movement. It eradicated peace in the physical and plants a seed in the hearts of those who suffer in that manner to grow and believe in a stagnant growth. The physical reality then becomes a flat surface where peaks have been mowed down. The melody played by the affects of poverty is a steady, monotonous beep that will sometimes last forever. Those who make their home here are hedged in a room that depletes movement, more in the physical state of being that is. And if one wants to or lets it, poverty infects the mind as well.

But it spells a roof ripping surge, in terms of possibility for those ‘blessed’ with the necessary means to believe, the opposite of those who are shackled by the guardians that lock people away in the confines of poverty. They have what is needed (or the access of it) to breath the freshness of air, for they are free from the confines of reality to have imagination, to do something about it. There is no lack in their predisposed trait.

Now these are two extreme positions to be in. One that lacks the necessary means to believe and one that is not hunched in their physical state of reality. On the surface, those who are stuck with their eyes living in these two spheres lack the necessary outlook to see what their positions impose.

So let me propose some thoughts for us to reflect and think about their conditions.

Those who suffer poverty, or living below the means of what society sees a somewhere below par, are actually those who have a predisposed trait embedded in them to freedom. Although being shackled by the poverty demon that strips them bare to believe in a reality that the successful live in, they in someways can or could create an alternative reality for existence. This in turn will inhibit a steady growth in how they can think, to live life in a creative way. Poverty only affects the physical dimension, it does not necessarily have to affect our inner disposition or traits. That is, if the poverty stricken, take strides in the reexamination of their state, they will eventually see themselves as free; freed from the bane and prison state of those who are slaves of success live in. They inherently have the capacity to believe in a different way and to live in a different way, burrowing an alternative dimension away from the clutter seen of the surface of society, for living.

But those who we think who have freedom, those who society looks to as successful, if they are not careful, are the ones who are actually shackled to be slaves. Shackled to be living in mediocrity. For society writes the scrip of life for them in the what is and what not. Their only pursuit is the Never-ending surge forward, avoiding any steps to plunge into the fringes of the unwanted, the rubbish that society makes of those who live below what it sees as success. Society has a way to tell people, what they should have, wheat they should desire, where they should live, how they should live, what to eat and so on and so forth.

Which poses a question for us to reflect on. What then is freedom and what then is success? Are these two traits, poverty and success, for a certain group of people? Or who owns meaning to determine those who hinge them as badges to be worn by?

I ask this not to glory in the meaninglessness of poverty or for that matter depleting value in success. I ask this because we sometimes leave interpretation of ones state of being based on stereotypical designations based on ones condition. There is a deeper reality in which we should reflect and think about. In which we should not write off too quickly. Those stricken with the sickness of poverty do not lack anything really. They need to rise above their physical shackles to see a reality other than what society lumps them in. Those who live above, who are freaking rich, should reflect steadily that they do not become a slave to how society tries to push them or drag them like stubborn donkeys to a cliff scripting their death becoming.

This is not to say that we should not help those who suffer poverty. This actually poses a question as to how we are helping them. Are we feeding them with the junk or ideology of what society thinks as acceptable, to make them be like what society thinks of them?

Or we should also ask, “are those who are rich and successful really free from being shackled or are they simply being enslaved in the system created by society at large?”

Note: This is my reflection from a post by Peter Rollins who I admire in the way that he thinks. One of my favorite philosopher/ theologian. He stretches the mind to think. Here’s the link: http://peterrollins.net/?p=3226

1 Cor 3:16 and 6:19-20: Dealing with Misconceptions

A memorial tattoo of a deceased loved one's in...
Image via Wikipedia

The verses above seen from the title of this post have been in my opinion dealt beyond their proper meaning by people misquoting verses to support their pet peeves which I find rather annoying.

One of the problems with reading the bible is that people tend to be reading them in bits and pieces which the numbering of chapter and verse seem to influence. For the purpose of citation they are helpful, but for the use of reading passages as a whole they become somewhat deadly.

I study theology and one of the things that gets drummed in us is that context matters. Reading a verse without interpreting it in the confines of the context will land the interpreter in all sorts of trouble and funny ideas come into place.

Part of the reason for me to write this is to somewhat respond to those who teach that tattoos are forbidden for Christians. The two verses above are supplementary verses to make the argument against the practice substantive. Please note that I’m not advocating tattoos (although I do have tattoos on my body and I love them), but the thing I’m largely responding to is the rather lame argument that people generally make to their arguments and reasons.

 

1 Cor 3:16

The verse states that “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Now people quote this and say, “See, it says our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” I would’t disagree with them. But taken in the context of where this particular verse is placed there is a misconception to their argument. Earlier on before Paul mentioned v.3:16, there was a mention on how some believers were bickering one another on who they were following. They were creating dissensions in terms of siding the best teachers as it seems to be stated (3:3-4).

So, taking that into consideration 1 Cor 3:16 gives a rather different rendering to the argument that our individual bodies are the temple of God. Paul uses this statement to tell the Corinth believers that they were as a community of believers are the temple of the Holy Spirit. As the argument goes, those who create this dissension (choosing sides) of tearing down the unity of the community of believers are actually working to tear down what God has worked for, that is to bring unity. 

So, taking this verse into this context, it’s not talking about individuals being the temple of the Holy Spirit but the community of believers in their unity as the temple that God had established.

Context matters. So my advise to those who pull this verse out as their weapon should think twice. Are they reading too much into just one verse? It seems so to me.

 

1 Cor 6:19-20

Now this particular verse does speak more inline with individuals being the temple of the Holy Spirit. The context of the use of this verse comes where Paul was making an argument with those who were practicing sexual immorality where one commits sin with a prostitute. The argument that Paul presents is that sex is not just an act one does for feeding the sexual appetite but it is something different. Sex is something sacred and when one enters into it the two persons become one flesh.

Paul was exhorting believers of the implication of their practice and used verse 19-20 as a statement to give perspective of the implication they were involving themselves in the practice.

So, taking this verse into context, it had more to do with the implication of sexual immorality. Not so much with everything else. The call to honor our bodies can be read with much greater degree of implications though. But why for goodness sake must it be tattoos? What about excessive eating which is a common practice among native people in Malaysia or Malaysians for that matter? Some studies have even showed that Malaysians are among those who have one of the most percentage of people who are obese. Why not honor God by eating moderately? Why has no preacher talked about this issue which is so prevalent that it becomes nothing of importance?

 

Conclusion

I hope some reasonable way of reading these passages would come out of this for those who took the time reading. One thing that you will notice is that context matters and it will determine how one particular verse is used. The sickness of many Christians who profess to be bible loving Christians is that no one gives a damn about reading passages as a whole. You don’t go reading a novel and read one line and that one line would be substantive to tell the whole story. So again on a final note, context demands that we read a verse not to get out of line in the way we interpret them. Context controls our interpretation of a verse. Context matters. And let me repeat again in bold letters CONTEXT MATTERS. 

“hatred breeds nothing but hatred”

Redesekration
Image via Wikipedia

call them what you want
just “harmless” opinions
voicing out positions
for the good of everyone
probably the nation.
differentiate people
like you do with colors
our chasms are all but simple
for you make them others.
now crimson is the state at hand
all because of words of men
no word just leaves without demand
for hate breeds hatred…
who would have thought would steer this end.

Hatred breeds nothing but hatred.”

How Leadership Determines Dialouge

Photo of the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Image via Wikipedia

This week had been a grueling one. Just finished a course on “Contextualization.” But I’m not complaining of being drained by stuff that requires one to think. If anything it makes me more motivated.

Anyway, during the course on Contextualization, we were doing some discussions on the weaknesses of Asian churches (and our Western counterpart). I pointed out that one thing that is noticeable in Asian churches in general, because of the way Asians do leadership (hierarchical or in some ways autocratic), there seems to be difficulty when one wants to dialouge on issues, or just to say, a normal dialouge on opposing views. But, this is not to say that all Asians struggle with this. I’m simply taking this on a general sense.

Based on my own experience, I’ve struggled with this. Having opposing views on things, stuff about doing church, was what got me in hot soup with leaders in a church I worked and served before. It had nothing to do with doctrinal matters but on the how one should do church. I was in their view a disrespectful young adult who did not respect the views of the leaders. To cut the story short, we never did had the opportunity to dialouge, which was the thing that I wanted. Decisions were made and the rest is history.

But this inability to dialouge on matters of importance, is not only something that one encounters in church, but on a broader scale as well. Being a pluralistic country, Malaysia struggles with the issue on dialouge as well. There have been ugly tussles between religions and one of the reasons that might contribute to this is the influence of a typical Asian leadership mentality. Although our national leaders might call Malaysia to be a democratic country, that is something far from evident taking the recent Bersih 2.0 rally which the Malaysian Government labeled as illegal. (I’ve posted something on this with some links that might show why Malaysia is not really a Democratic country.)

Following a recent article by The Star which can be read here, Malaysian Prime Minister called for mutual respect from religions in the country. But to my understanding, based on the religious tension coming from the banning of the word “Allah” by the government, which was something of a hot issue a few months back, there seems to be no commitment to the term of mutual respect that Najib calls for. For, the notion of engagement, implies that we come into discussion of controversial issues with an open mind. To my understanding, in the context of Malaysia, respect, discussion and engagement all have different bearings when wielded in the interpretation of authoritative leaders. But for these words to come into their intended meaning, there needs to be some kind of controversial issue that people come to engage in and find viable solutions for the sake of peace to be possible.

In my contention, when leaders (in a general observation of an Asian context) say, lets have dialouge, what they mean is actually, “Let’s have dialouge that follows my standard of how we are to resolve things, for I (or a certain party that is in power) am the one most capable of seeing issues on an objective level.”

I’m not sure if anyone resonates with me on this but based on my own experience, that is how I see and reflect on what it actually means to dialouge in an Asian context. Again, I do have to stress that not all Asians think in this manner as a lot have been influenced by Western thought, which is good. I’m just saying on a general level, it seems that an old way of thinking is still very much at home in how Asians think about leadership and dialouge.

I’d like very much for some discussions on this. You might bring to the table some other views that I’m not aware of. A critique is most welcomed I would add.

Reflections on “Screwtape Letters” 2

All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily, are still in our favor.” p.25

“Work hard, then, on the disappointment of anti-climax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman…In any department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspirations to laborious doing.” p.26-27

As Christians, saints as we are, we still have the notion that we are still very much under the influence of sin. That is why saint Paul calls for us to put off the old self and pun on the new, which is Christ.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

I am somewhat amused with the talk about the victorious Christian life perspective. They take a stance which is all too narrow in a sense. The implication that we are to put off and put on talks about discipline. And with all talk about discipline it then implies that there is the notion of struggle happening in the process. Walking daily putting on Christ is not something that comes naturally. It is a constant daily decision that we undertake. There is no talk of shallow romanticism here. What it does tell us is that commitment is not the byproduct of sweeping emotional highs but rather, hard tireless work. Commitment is love coming full circle.

So, do you struggle in putting on Christ? Do not despair if you fail sometimes. If you do have that sense that you struggle, and your consciousness is tearing you in your mind, it might be the indication that your love is budding into what it is supposed to be; commitment. Something that has substance and not shallow. If on the other hand you are not tormented with the feeling of struggle, then I think your contentment is leading your love has all turned stale.

Loving God, Giving Away our Possessions for the Other

Photos from the Scot McKnight Seminar at GFES ...

Here is a quote by Scot McKnight, reflecting on Keller’s explanation on his encounter with the rich young ruler (read the rest of the post here):

I’ll give you my take: I think Jesus showed the man that he didn’t follow the second table of the Ten Commandments because Jesus adds Lev 19:18, love your neighbor, as the way to read the second table, and Jesus reveals to the man that he really doesn’t love others because true love for neighbor is to surrender possessions for the poor. I see here a radical kingdom vision wherein Jesus is Lord (where I see the gravity of this passage), where fellowship with others (all) shapes what we do with what we have, and wherein Jesus as Lord (the cross-shaped life to be sure) means we undertake to live what he calls us to do.

In this post, McKnight sees Keller’s explanation as “vintage Keller” reading from a view that is derived “from his Augustinian anthropology and Reformation lens of soteriology.” But in McKnight’s take on Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, I have to say this is vintage McKnight. If you’ve read Jesus Creed then you’d know what I mean. Because for McKnight, our love for God should spill out to reflect our love for others. In this case, the real test for the rich young ruler to really show his devotion to God is by giving away all his possession. I think McKnight gets the broader picture here, although not undermining Keller’s take that the young ruler was in fact holding tight on his reliance on his riches as a means for security.

It’s quite a call as well as demand but initially it will eventually reflect where our devotion to God lies.

AlKitab Related Posts and an Updated Post

I’ve been relatively quiet for some days now due to the usual workload in seminary but all is well. I’d just like to direct your attention to two great posts, both of which are written by the same author which details a response to the cries of “desecration” of the bible by Christians in Malaysia following the issue regarding the detention of Bibles followed by Malaysian Government’s stamping on them.

In the first post Joshua writes in responding to how Christians have reacted to the cry of “desecration” by Christian leaders in Malaysia. Some have branded the cry of “desecration” as unwarranted and irresponsible. But what is really at stake? It’s a long post, so be warned. But regardless of that those who read through will benefit from it. 🙂

Writing on the same issue but focusing more on the biblical perspective of what “desecration” means, this is part 1 of a series of 3 articles written for a Christian response to the Bible detention issue in Malaysia.

And on a side not I’ve recently updated my Resource Bank post. Scroll to the bottom to see a the new link I added there.