Sunday, November 7, 2010
Consider the work of God;
who can make straight what he has made crooked?
On the day of prosperity be joyful,
and on the day of adversity consider;
God has made the one as well as the other,
The story of Job demonstrates that life’s trials remind us that YHWH is in ultimate control—and that humans were created to worship and commune with a wondrous God. Through the life of Job we can learn that God works as a filter, nothing can happen to us without His permission. Romans 15:4 [emphasis added] explains, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.” The footnotes of the NRSV explain that the “Patience of Job” is better explained as “’endurance,’ persistence,’ or steadfastness’” (p. 726). Thereby, the story of Job is a morality tale whose theme is to encourage humans to praise God during the sunshine and during the storm. The life of Job does (in part) answer question of why bad things happen to good people. Often times life’s difficulties seem complex and overwhelming—but the essential elements are the same as Job’s circumstances.
The story begins with a challenge—a duel between Good and Evil. In Job 1:10-11 the devil says, “You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.’” The bet that God and the devil have made centers on Job’s reaction and choices. Similarly, what determines our fate is our own freewill. Alvin Plantinga’s philosophy of good and evil resonates as truth with me,
“A world containing creatures who are significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions)
is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all. Now God can create
free creatures, but He can't cause or determine them to do only what is right. For if He does so, then they
aren't significantly free after all; they do not do what is right freely. To create creatures capable of moral
good, therefore, He must create creatures capable of moral evil; and He can't give these creatures the
freedom to perform evil and at the same time prevent them from doing so. As it turned out, sadly enough,
some of the free creatures God created went wrong in the exercise of their freedom; this is the source of
moral evil. The fact that free creatures sometimes go wrong, however, counts neither against God's
omnipotence nor against His goodness; for He could have forestalled the occurrence of moral evil only by removing the possibility of moral good.”
Similar to Job, we are often unaware of this spiritual warfare at work in our lives. The antagonist’s purpose is to destroy mankind, “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you come from?’ Satan answered the Lord, ‘From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it’” (Job 1:7). The adversary’s role is further explained in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” The enemy of our soul’s job is to redirect our attention on our suffering; and as a result, we will stop worshiping God (the divine purpose for humans). We become bitter, question God, and no longer follow his instructions. The wager between YHWH and Satan will be determined by how Job responds to great suffering…will he curse God or will he continue to remain pious?
Usually, the bible demonstrates two primary reasons for our trials: 1) they are a natural consequence of sin and/or 2) YHWH is using difficulties to re-FORM us. God is using the struggle as a call for remediation. Hebrews 12:9 explains, “Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” At this point in the tale Job has lost his family, livestock, material possessions, and he is covered in festering boils. His suffering and anguish is described vividly. At first, his friends support him and try to comfort his grief.
Shortly thereafter, they begin pointing accusatory fingers in his direction. The elders base their beliefs on the traditional Jewish philosophy that a good and omnipotent YHWH blesses the virtuous and punishes the wicked. As a composite, look at Eliphaz’s speech in Job 15:17-19, “‘what sages have told, and their ancestors have not hidden …The wicked writhe in pain all their days, through all the years that are laid up for the ruthless.” The elders’ argument is that no man is without sin. Wikipedia condenses, “Job's friends do not waver from their belief that Job must have sinned to incite God's punishment. As the speeches progress, Job's friends increasingly berate him for refusing to confess his sins, although they themselves are at a loss as to which sin he has committed. They also assume, in their view of theology, that God always rewards good and punishes evil, with no apparent exceptions allowed. There seems to be no room in their understanding of God for divine discretion and mystery in allowing and arranging suffering for purposes other than retribution” (Wikipedia). Furthermore, Satan is actually the one tormenting Job. When his initial evils don’t cause Job to waver in his faith, he returns to God to authorize increasing physically injury.
At this point in the story, the suffering begins to wither the resolve of all the moral characters. Job’s wife, who had also suffered great loss, betrays Job and the Lord. In Job 2:9 she falls prey to Satan’s devises, “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.’” Quickly Job has fallen from a town leader to a pariah. His friends and wife are bewildered by his suffering. Job refuses to admit any guilt, and instead, calls out to God for answers. . Job chapter 17 illustrates a pitiful, desperate Job crying out to a God who doesn’t respond, “Surely there are mockers around me…‘Lay down a pledge for me with yourself; who is there that will give surety for me? … where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?’” At this point, it seems that Job has lost all faith and does indeed entreat death.
In an accused-plaintiff format, Job restates his blamelessness and proclaims that he is the victim of YHWH’s wrong-doing. By accusing God, Job is guilty of blasphemy. Furthermore, Job pleads for a redeemer to act as a mediator between himself and God. As is typical of YHWH, that person’s physical characteristics and personality are underestimated.
Speaking with the voice of wisdom, Elihu’s, a humble youth, speech comes before God’s and serves as a precursor to help Job recognize God’s perspective. Wikipedia analyzes, “By contrast, Elihu stresses that real repentance entails renouncing moral authority, which is God's alone. Elihu therefore underscores the inherent arrogance in Job's desire to 'make his case' before God, which presupposes that Job possesses a superior moral standard that can be prevailed upon God.” Of all the characters, he comes closest to explaining God’s rationale for Job’s seemingly cruel punishment. The reprimand wasn’t punitive, but rather, a call for atonement. In Job 36:17-26 Elihu reprimands both the elders for their accusations and Job for questioning God’s ways,
“‘But you are obsessed with the case of the wicked; judgment and justice seize you. Beware that wrath
does not entice you into scoffing… Do not long for the night, when peoples are cut off in their place.
Beware! Do not turn to iniquity; because of that you have been tried by affliction. See, God is exalted in his
power; who is a teacher like him? Who has prescribed for him his way, or who can say, “You have done
wrong”? ‘Remember to extol his work, of which mortals have sung. All people have looked on it; everyone watches it from far away. Surely God is great, and we do not know him….”
Elihu argues that God is mysterious and no man can understand His ways. Mankind’s role isn’t to question YHWH, but freewill to worship him.
Only God knows the bigger purpose for the events of our lives. 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 explains God’s purpose behind this chastisement, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Elihu reprimands Job for not understanding that God chastises mankind—similar to a teacher or parent-- because He loves them. Contrast Elihu’s speech with that of the elders, “then he prays to God, and is accepted by him, he comes into his presence with joy, and God repays him for his righteousness. That person sings to others and says, “I sinned, and perverted what was right, and it was not paid back to me. He has redeemed my soul from going down to the Pit, and my life shall see the light”’ (Job 33:26-28). Job was stripped of all his material possessions so that he could acknowledge the power of God, be humbled, and serve as an example for the rest of humanity. Similar to the story of Joseph, what the devil had intended for evil, God used for good is powerfully illustrated.
As humans it is difficult for us to see our trials from God’s perspective. As a teacher, I broke down big concepts into daily lesson plans, provided clear goals and guidelines, gave demonstrations with visual aids, and assigned projects. But how did I assess student knowledge? I tested them! 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 explains what our Christian attitude should be, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” Metals are fired to burn off impurities, clay is fired to make vessels, and sand is molten into glass—we are no different. Furthermore, “In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1 Peter 1:6-7. Indeed, Job does acknowledge this principal at work, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out like gold” ( Job 23:10). After years of poverty and the death of his wife, Smith Wigglesworth wrote, “Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” In the human body, bones are thickest where muscular stress and tension are applied. Tests can let our patience and faith grow—but only if we let God have control.
The whole book of Ecclesiastes seems to ponder the meaning of life—in Ecclesiastes 4:4-8 the writer observes, “And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man's envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind…There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’ This too is meaningless—a miserable business!” The writer ponders focus all one’s energy on prosperity; when it is only temporary and in the end, unfulfilling. Similar to Job, the theme of trusting in the divine will of YHWH run throughout the text. The NRSV footnotes explain, “life can only be lived before a sovereign God who alone determines all that happens on earth” (p.945). The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be encouraging a life of moderation, to appreciate both hard work and the simple things in life. In the Good News Bible verse six translates, “It is better to have only a little with peace of mind, than be busy all the time with both hands.” The wisdom found in Ecclesiastes corresponds with the apostle Paul who emphasizes the importance of Christ-reliance and describes the peace he’s found as a result, “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:12-13. Therefore, the secret to success is find balance in our lives and trust in God to supply our needs. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3, 5-6). As demonstrated by the story of Job, the rationale for reverence isn’t because YHWY is like Santa Claus, lavishly doling out presents to good little boys and girls; but praise be to God—the mysterious and majestic One who gives and takes away. Ecclesiastes 12:13 concisely states the writer’s philosophy, “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone.” So, be righteous for righteousness sake!
As we learn from Job, we can never be virtuous beyond reproach. Ecclesiastes 7:20 reinforces this theme, “Surely there is no one on earth so righteous as to do good without ever sinning.” In the New Testament this truth is explained, “for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45). If a pious man such as Job wasn’t immune from troubles during his time on earth, why should we arrogantly think we should be spared? Personally, “Why me?” is a dangerous question because my thoughts and actions reflect a victim mindset. As I’ve matured, I realize the more appropriate questions is, “Why not me?” If there is a car crash, call the medics and seek immediate treatment…it isn’t the time to ponder why the accident happened. Standing in the street, bawling that you are an innocent victim isn’t advantageous either. “Why?” should happen later in the healing process. The goal of reflection shouldn’t be to blame, but rather, to prevent another accident. We need to check ourselves and ask, “Bitter or better, which do I choose? “Pastor Rick Warren reminds us, “… God is glorified when we bear “much fruit” (John 15:8), and that requires pruning. We must remember that the loppers are in the hands of our loving God. He knows what he is doing, and he wants what is best for us. If you are a Christian, you are going to be pruned. Count on it. You may be going through pruning right now, and it may not all be deadwood. God cuts off branches that we feel are productive so that more fruit may be produced”.
As a result of my own devastating events, I was humbled like Job and learned to submit to God’s sovereignty. My attitude has been chastened and I realize there but the grace of God go I. I am now compassionate and understand why someone would rebelliously turn to drugs and alcohol, prostitution, or sin in general. Sometimes we feel that not even God could love us, or that we couldn’t possibly ever live a good life; so we might as well succeed at being hell-bent. There is a powerful attraction to obstinacy, having the power to not listen to anyone—including God. Humans are desperately seeking to fill a void that only God can fill and the self-destructive lifestyle temporarily may provide a “fix,” but this compounds physical, mental, spiritual, financial health issues. In my own Job-like experience, I’d forgotten the Biblical principal of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. When I reflect on my own life history, I truly believe this is what kept my mom going; somehow she never lost sight of this truth. I’d forgotten the principle she’d held fast to even on her death bed…when people would ask, “What can we do for you?” She’d unassumingly answer, “Pray for my children.” She knew that the only thing you can take to heaven is your loved ones! My mother wasn’t a fair weather fan of God—she praised Him in the highlights of her life and she acknowledged His grace on her deathbed.
As always, the divine rational for our trials is to shape us into righteous men and women. After complaining and repeatedly questioning God, Job also achieves this wisdom,
“Then Job answered the Lord:
‘I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
“Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?”
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
but now my eye sees you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.’ "’
As a result of his confession, God blesses Job even more than what was taken away and he lived another 140 years. Job’s life demonstrates the promise in Isaiah 58:12, “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” One can easily infer that Job’s torment was prolonged by his rebellion and complaining; the sooner he accepted God’s omnipotent power, the sooner the trial would have ended and the devil lost the wager. Wikipedia summarizes, “The point of these speeches, and ultimately the entire book of Job, is to proclaim the absolute freedom of God over His creation. … Finally, humbled by God's chastising, Job turns speechless, giving up and repenting his previous requests of justice. In the epilogue, God condemns Job's friends for their ignorance and lack of understanding while commending Job for his righteous words, commands them to prepare burnt offerings and reassures them that Job will pray for their forgiveness. Job is restored to health, gaining double the riches he possessed before … and lives on another 140 years after the ordeal, living to see his children to the fourth generation and dying peacefully of old age”. As the parable concludes, we realize that it does in fact reinforce the Deuteronomic principle, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess” (Deuteronomy 30:15-16). The story of Job firmly explains to me that God is more concerned about our spirit, than our physical condition~ His concern is who we are rather than what we have.
Ed. Michael D. Coogan et al. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard
Version, with the Apocrypha. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Plantinga, Alvin (1974). The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p.166-167.
Warren, Rick. God’s Power to Change Your Life. New York: Zondervan , 2006.
Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Job
Monday, October 18, 2010
“No one spoke ill of her, for she feared God with great devotion”
For me the story of Judith is multilayered. When visiting The Art Institute of Chicago, I was struck by the Jan Sanders van Hemessen’s painting of Judith. Most Flemish Renaissance painters utilize movement, juxtapose light and shadows, and emphasize sensuality. Not only was the depiction of a nude, fair, beautiful, and muscular woman wielding a sword striking, but also, the illuminated head of a large male was ghastly. Judith’s face is depicted as serene for such a gruesome act. I didn’t know the story behind the picture and was intrigued—after all, my mother’s name was Judith. Returning home, I began to research the story and was even more surprised to find it was a Biblical story. The story of Judith isn’t a part of the cannon of my Protestant faith tradition. After the death of my mother and when I was deciding to name my own daughter, I revisited the story. My daughter is named Judith in honor of both remarkable women.
As I began to read Judith, I was impressed by the similarities between my mother and the character. Both are unmarried women who draw on inner strength, wit, bravery, and faith to defeat giants. Both suffered loss—while the biblical Judith was a widow, my mother was divorced and decided to never remarry. Judith courageously faced the brutal Holofernes; described in Judith 3:7-8 as “… he demolished all their shrines and cut down their sacred groves.” In contrast, righteous Judith is praised, “Today is not the first time your wisdom has been shown…for your heart’s disposition is right” (Judith 8:29). My mother too embodied a simple, ageless wisdom. For example, Appalachian colloquialisms were so much a part of her vernacular that when I read “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who reverts to his folly” I was amazed to learn this was Biblical and not just another one of her sayings (Proverbs 26:11). As I will detail, my mother faced her own tests and bullies. Lastly, their beauty and charm opened up doors of opportunity. When friends remember her they always mention her piercing blue eyes and full body laughter. The verse “When the mend heard her words and observed her face—she was in their eyes marvelously beautiful” eloquently describes both. In summary, the Bible Gallery emphasizes, “Her story is a variant on the David and Goliath story, where a seemingly weak person overcomes a person of superior strength by calling on God's help and using cunning and intelligence.”
Judith Bright Litz too was a self-sacrificing warrior. Family stories of my mother’s childhood reflect a light-hearted nature, gregarious disposition, and love of dance—an everyday Shirley Temple. However, the woman I know carried many burdens and I only saw glimpses of her radiance. As an adult, her main attribute and job title was a single parent raising two children. Like Judith, she preferred peace but refused to acquiesce, especially when her family was at risk. My parent’s idea of “talking about the kids” usually happened in front of a judge. Instead of helping my mother pay the basic bills, when he found out the temperature inside the house was 62 degrees; he saw that as an opportunity to call children’s services. When the bank began foreclosure proceedings, she begged her father to cover the mortgage at 7% interest.
More than once, she referenced men as “chauvinist pigs.” Although I do not agree, I can sympathize--especially since the males who were the central figures in her life are also in mine. The only way her father exercised control over her strong-willed, high-spirited mother was with physical force. Lastly, my philandering father and their short lived marriage cemented her negative view of men.
In order to survive, she became resourceful, hardworking, and faithful. After her divorce at 26, my mother began working at Dayton Tire and Rubber, loading tires by hand and forklift onto semi-trucks. It was a man’s job, but it was also a man’s wage. Around the home, she tackled the more masculine chores, such as changing the oil in the car, painting the house, and minor plumbing repairs. Although not as pious as Judith, she still could be characterized, “Many desired to marry her, but she gave herself to no man all the days of her life after her husband” (Judith 16:22). The impact of the mid1970s recession, hit our home especially hard when my mother was unemployed for over a year. She began to seek comfort in two things, ice cream and bedcovers.
Thankfully, she reached a turning point and started attending church regularly. Once I confronted her about the real issues behind her weight gain, she admitted that not only did her appearance discourage men’s advances, but the food was a comfort and socially accepted by our religious community. Church wasn’t only about religious teachings, but it was also our main source of entertainment and social events—and lastly, it was free. Being Pentecostal, I indeed saw my mother, going “before all the people in the dance” and heard many prayers that resembled:
“For your strength does not depend on numbers, nor your might on the powerful. But you are the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, saviour of those without hope. Please, please, …Lord of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of all your creation, hear my prayer!’” (Judith 14:13,911-12).
Eventually, she attended Sinclair Community College and began working as a secretary and data entry—but the pay never met basic needs. Frequently, she would use the colloquialisms of “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” and “A day late and a dollar short” to describe our financial situation. She would go without having a tooth filled or a new outfit, so that we could attend a school dance. I was forced to grow up fast--built a fire, housecleaning, and cooking—and I was angry about our circumstances. Unfortunately, my mother was my main target for that angst. On the other hand, my brother looked like and had more of my mother’s gentle nature. At the age of ten, he was diagnosed with Chron’s disease and so my mother had a tendency to protect and over-protect him. With my brother’s illness and my independent spirit, she had her hands more than full with a fulltime job, childrearing, and endless bills.
As my brother and I began building our own lives, my mother’s depression worsened. For twenty years, her life was our life. During my sophomore year of college, she was diagnosed and treated for cervical cancer. She seemed to be making a full recovery, when four years later she began complaining of back pain. After several “brush offs” by her gynecologist (and a prescription for Valium), it was discovered that she had terminal lymphoma and was only given weeks to live. She decided to not take chemotherapy and instead strive for short term quality of life. When people would ask if there was anything they could do for her, my mother would say, “Please pray for my children.” Once again, like the biblical Judith she “dedicated to God” her most valuable assets—her children. She lived through the summer and died on September 14, 1994-- a beautiful fall day with a sky as blue as her eyes.
Art Insitute of Chicago Retrieved from http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/4575
BIBLE ART GALLERY Retrieved from http://www.bible-art.info/Judith.htm
Ed. Michael D. Coogan et al. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocrypha. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Friday, September 17, 2010
“He has made everything suitable for its time;
moreover, he has put a sense of past and future into their minds,
yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end”
As a Christian, I stand firm in my religious convictions. As an American, I value freedom of speech, ideology, and religion. Lastly, as an advocate for critical thinking and the scientific method, I value research and scientific observations. All of these values come into conflict when debating Creationism vs. Evolution; the public is constantly updated on the latest left hook of this barnburner. This month’s bout centers around Steven Hawkins new book The Grand Design wherein he asserts, "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going” (CNN). In the opposite corner is the religious right, arguing the literal word of God—when the Bible states that all the creatures of the land were made in one day, it was indeed twenty-four hours.
So how do I reconcile these convictions? I do not believe science and God are mutually exclusive. I do not like to put God in a box, which is what I believe the creationist do. Creationist argue that if you question the foundation of Genesis; then you open the door to doubt about everything the Bible says, “When we consider the possibility that God used evolutionary processes to create over millions of years, we are faced with serious consequences: the Word of God is no longer authoritative, and the character of our loving God is questioned” (answers in genesis).I believe in a God that can do anything He wants. The legalism of the creationist reminds me of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They were so caught up in the details and self-righteous pointing finger that they missed the big picture. Is it more important that people believe in a “young earth” or in God? Jesus answers all of them in Luke 10.27-42, “He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’”However, it is possible that “a day” was 100,000 years, especially since the sun wasn’t created until the fourth “day.” Furthermore, God could allow natural selection/adaptions/mutations in order to allow some flexibility in creatures adapting to their environment. For example, melanin is ingenious—a person living near the equator has dark skin to protect from sunburn, and someone living near the North Pole is fair enough to absorb Vitamin D. I’m not sure how it all works, but I know God did it.
On the other hand, I don’t believe wholly in evolution either. Evolutionists contend, “All organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor or ancestral gene pool. Current species are a stage in the process of evolution, with their diversity the product of a long series of speciation and extinction events. The common descent of organisms was first deduced from four simple facts about organisms: First, they have geographic distributions that cannot be explained by local adaptation. Second, the diversity of life is not a set of completely unique organisms, but organisms that share morphological similarities. Third, vestigial traits with no clear purpose resemble functional ancestral traits, and finally, that organisms can be classified using these similarities into a hierarchy of nested groups – similar to a family tree. However, modern research has suggested that, due to horizontal gene transfer, this ‘tree of life’ may be more complicated than a simple branching tree since some genes have spread independently between distantly related species” (Wikipedia/evolution). The sequence of the Genesis story does follow the evolutionary sequence. If God made all species with the definition of “day” being flexible; then, these don’t need to be created at the exact same time, which would account for different periods/eras. However, one genus didn’t evolve into another species. Some species have died off within my lifetime; however, a new species hasn’t suddenly appeared in my lifetime. Neanderthals and modern day pygmies are both “man”, but a chimpanzee is a monkey and evolved from ancient monkeys, even if we do share a large part of our genetic make-up. A cake and fried chicken both contain four, egg, salt; but they are obviously quite different. Admittedly, the scientists do not know all the pieces to the origin of life or the evolutionary puzzle. Both creationist and evolutionist require faith (belief in what is unknown/unseen).
Humans were made by God with a specific purpose in mind; and that is to worship the Grand Architect. My Truth aligns with Sir Isaac Newton, “It is the perfection of God's works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order and not of confusion“(bhoibhoi.multiply). When we make scientific discoveries, humans are unraveling the mysterious laws and ways of God. For example, DNA is the recipe for life—how marvelous that something so simple can have such variety and importance! Science will not ever prove or disprove the existence of God—this is where Faith walks through the door.
Darwin seems to be a misunderstood scientist and historical figure. I’m inquisitive (aka nerdy) enough to have watched the movie Creation, mainly because I wanted to learn more about his humanistic side, rather than the vilified persona depicted by the religious right. Filmcritic summarizes, “In the book [Annie’s Box authored by Randal Keynes, great-great grandson of Charles Darwin], and subsequently the film[Creation], it is suggested that Darwin, while writing 'On the Origin of Species', was deeply affected and haunted by the death of his eldest daughter Annie -- she was rumored to have suffered from tuberculosis after contracting scarlet fever. Her passing also coincides with the end of Darwin's relationship with Christianity, the faith his wife Emma had devoted herself to for her entire life.” It seems he is grappling with the common philosophical question of Why do bad things happen to good people?
Darwin’s own words reflect his angst, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created parasitic wasps with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars” (thinkexist). It seems Darwin believes in a God as a creator, but is conflicted about His interactions in daily human life. Also, he doesn’t view God as the great judge doling out rewards and punishments. Amazingly, Darwin concludes at the end of Origins of the Species, "to my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual (Sober). Therefore, Darwin supports that “the Creator” has established laws of the universe, but has a hands-off approach—basically allowing the rules of nature to take its course. Other biologists were able to merge theology and science. Theodosius Dobzhansky concludes, "I am a creationist and an evolutionist. Evolution is God's, or Nature's, method of creation. Creation is not an event that happened in 4004 BC; it is a process that began some 10 billion years ago and is still under way... Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology" (wikipedia/evolutionary-creationsim). The story of Genesis is one of many narratives that we should consider in learning how the universe came to be.
Ed. Michael D. Coogan et al. The New Oxford Annotated Bible. New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocrypha.
3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Sober, Elliot. Darwin & Intelligent Design Retrieved from
Retrieved from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/couldnt-god-have-used-evolution
Retrieved from http://bhoibhoi.multiply.com/journal/item/4
Retrieved from http://www.filmcritic.com/reviews/2010/creation/
Retrieved from http://thinkexist.com/quotes/charles_darwin/2.html
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution
Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_creationism
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
I sit here in front of my computer starting on a paper…typing black letters onto a white page. My thoughts whirl with a myriad of questions and answers. This is my personal Theme for English B; “The instructor said, Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you--Then, it will be true.” (Hughes, 1951). Only you asked about our bias and prejudices. Years ago I was at the Ohio Reading Conference in Columbus, the guest speaker was Louanne Johnson whose book My Posse Don’t Do Homework became the movie Dangerous Minds. She shared one of her classroom truths, so profound in a simple way that I wrote it in my personal notes. When a teachable moment arose, I’d quote that petite ex-Marine who became an inner-city teacher, “Prejudice is like underpants. We all have them, but it is rude to show it.” I’m not so self-righteous to think I don’t have biases, but I’ve lived so long with mental illness—my mother, my father, my grandparents, my uncle, myself— that the generic prejudices don’t apply. You know the old joke found on refrigerator magnets, Our family puts the FUN in dysfunctional—Well, my family puts the DYS in dysfunctional. Some of these are diagnosed and treated illness, some are not.
I once heard it said that “Normal is someone you don’t know very well.” What I do know from my long dance with mental illness is that it is a painful journey, a lifelong journey. I know that there is hope to be found in medicines, in psychotherapy, in recovery, in self-acceptance—but you are never really cured. “Abnormal Behavior” can be a deep abyss. Like a compound fracture—you can take pain meds, set the cast, and declare it healed. Years down the road, the scar, limp, stiffness, and diagnosis of Arthritis reminds you that it never really is gone.
Last week I read the description of Psychodynamic Models, and thought to myself, “What a load of psychobabble!” My fear of snakes isn’t some repressed fear of penises; but rather remembering my grandmother’s warnings, “Watch out for snakes and don’t go playing in any creeks!” when we’d visit her Kentucky homestead. During Saturday’s HDV 413 class, I argued that treating a patient only using one model of psychopathy was inadequate, which follows my bias that humans are integrated earth, breath, and intelligence—to tug on one thread is to tug on the whole tapestry. After looking closer at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and its revisions, it strives to assess the whole picture of the patient in a clear, consistent, and holistic way. I still wonder why treatment would be any different.
However, I am not advocating that one healer/doctor/therapist has to treat each part; but rather, attention must be paid to the whole DIS-ease in order for there to be healing. I am not alone in this conviction, “Everyone wants to lead a healthy, satisfying, meaningful life. But how do you do it? At Omega, we believe it has to do with integrating your body, mind, and spirit. This means paying attention to all three aspects in your life, listening to their needs and desires, and acting in ways that give you a sense of wholeness and balance” (http://eomega.org/omega/omegaliving/4). Epiphany! I have the start to my Bias paper….
Then, a funny thing happened at church on Sunday; I got a hell of a sucker-punch from Grief. I was invited to visit a long-time friend’s church. Greeted by my dear friend, I was excited to commune in worship and learning…Then, I greeted her mother who was sitting beside her. BAM! I was confronted by a vision of my mother who’d passed from cervical cancer fifteen years earlier. There has always been a bit of a physical similarity between her mother and mine. In truth, I think it was more of a spiritual similarity. They’d experienced innocence in the 50s; became rebellious teens during the revolutions of the 60s; in the 70s, they’d become wives and mothers—and divorcees and single mothers shortly thereafter; and in the 80s they discovered their true selves and spirituality…that is where there paths diverged. I stood there looking at what could have been…my mother, my ally, my best friend seated next to me at church. Just when I thought I’d entered the “acceptance phase” of grief, I was faced with the loss once again. When I left the sanctuary that day, I passed by my mom’s friend fellowshipping with friends and family, and doting on her grandchildren. As I collected my own child from Sunday school and exitied the building, I pretended not to notice. I felt that adrenalin rush of fear that I’d have an emotional breakdown in the lobby.
I wasn’t jealous of my friend; I celebrated and honored the joy mother and daughter have in one other. The opposite side of the same coin was that I lamented my loss. I embraced the words of Washington Irving, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are messengers of overwhelming grief and of unspeakable love.” In the depths of my own depression years ago, I found that insanity was to get stuck in the despair and grief—the feeling that moving beyond it was to forget those who’d transitioned into the afterlife and to forget those dreams deferred. Today, I embrace grief when it comes; but I also know that honoring the memory is to move on and embrace the life I encounter today…to accept the new normal.
One of the very first things I know to be true is that humans are made for eternity. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier with his expertise in chemistry concluded, “Nothing is born and nothing can die.” Paradoxically, French cardinal of the Catholic Church François de la Rochefoucauld reasoned, “The only thing constant in life is change.” I doubt I need a great quote from a philosopher, psychologist, or guru to tell you that change is difficult. Great change can bring us to a crossroads—it can bring us to our knees. Transaction model of stress examines how humans can healthily appraise, manage and cope with life’s hiccups (Lazarus, R.S. & Cohen, J.B. (1977). Physiologically, we feel the rush of adrenaline—we choose between the fight or flight response. Most of the time, humans are resilient. We view the conflict or change as “do-able” and we make the necessary adjustments—and magically transform.
Conversely, Freud (1910) describes the negative impacts on the psyche brought about by the change. He describes what happens when humans are overwhelmed by stress, “There had been a short conflict, and the end of this inner struggle was the repression of the idea which presented itself to consciousness as the bearer of this irreconcilable wish. This was, then, repressed from consciousness and forgotten. The incompatibility of the idea in question with the ‘ego’ of the patient was the motive of the repression, the ethical and other pretensions of the individual were the repressing forces. The presence of the incompatible wish, or the duration of the conflict, had given rise to a high degree of mental pain; this pain was avoided by the repression. This latter process is evidently in such a case a device for the protection of the personality.” Change can march into our lives as birth, puberty, marriage, divorce, job loss, moving, etc.
I believe sickness—whether physical, spiritual or emotional—is a result of us not accepting our new normal. In his poem, We Wear the Masks, Paul Laurence Dunbar described this process, “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes--This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.” The mask might be prescribed medication to help with the pain. I can hear my grandmother handing my mother Valumn, “Honey, just take you a little nerve pill.” We wear the mask by shopping, smoking pot, drinking, lying…anything to hide the truth. Similarly, Elizabeth Lesser explains the conflict of change in Broken Open: How difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, “When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts the normal bewilderment of being human—it turns into something else. Our pain and fear and longing in the absence of company, become alienation and envy and competition” (p.26). As a people-pleaser, I’ve worn the mask most of my life. Eventually, we forget what’s mask and what the authentic self is. And what the true self is this, “We’re all bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride,” spoken by clown Wavy Gravy (best known for his efforts to spread love and a helping hand in the midst of chaos at Woodstock).
In order to heal, we need to heal all of what makes us human; and what makes us human is where body, mind, and soul intersect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dualism_(philosophy_of_mind). Norman Brown wrote, “The aim of psychoanalysis—still unfulfilled, and still only half-conscious—is to return our souls to our bodies, to return ourselves to ourselves...Hence, since sublimation is the essential activity of soul divorced from body, psychoanalysis must return our sublimations to our bodies; and conversely, sublimation cannot be understood unless we understand the nature of the soul in psychoanalytic terminology, the nature of the ego.” With greying temples and a German accent, Sigmund Freud sardonically asks in my mind, “So tell me about your mother?” Shoulders shrugged, I reluctantly admit, “Ok, Ok—I can’t even eliminate your model from my diagnostic and therapeutic repertoire. I guess I’m a Jungian after all! The id is the body, the ego is the mind, and the superego is the spirit!” And so, like all great epochs the end is the beginning; and the beginning is the end. As my two year old daughter puts the Lion King in for the 200th time this week (which so happens to be the last movie I saw with my mother), these words echo in my house, my ears, my mind, and my spirit:
Rafiki: [after guiding Simba to a spot where he says will show him Mufasa]
Look down there.
Adult Simba: [looks into a pool of water]
That's not my father. That's just my reflection.
Rafiki: No, look harder.
[touches the water, as it ripples Simba's reflection changes to that of his father]
Rafiki: You see? He lives in you.
Mufasa's ghost: [from above]
Adult Simba: Father?
Mufasa's ghost: [apears among the stars]
Simba, you have forgotten me.
Adult Simba: No. How could I?
Mufasa's ghost: You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.
Adult Simba: How can I go back? I'm not who I used to be.
Mufasa's ghost: Remember who you are. You are my son, and the one true king. Remember...
On the first day of class you revealed your personal crisis of searching for a new job, feeling a bit lost. Being laid-off after 10 years of teaching, I was familiar with those dark shadows of the soul. If I wasn’t Mrs. Morelock, the teacher, then who was I? At the end of class, I told you that through the chaos, I emerged on the other side with a new pair of glasses—those glasses are how I view the world, my personal bias. And, I remember your words to me as we parted after that first class, “Keep your glasses clean!”
Honestly, I’d doing the best I can. Sometimes I forget these metaphysical life-gems and my lenses get dirty. If they get too dirty, then God sends life-lessons. He begins with a whisper. Oprah Winfrey (1997) enlightened graduates a commencement address, “Try to get the whisper before the earthquake comes because the whisper is always followed by a little louder voice, then you get a brick I say, and then sometimes a brick wall, and then the earthquake comes. Try to get it on the whisper.” Yep, I’ll try to remember to keep my glasses clean!
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. We Wear the Masks. Retrieved from http://www.poetry-archive.com
Freud, Sigmund. (1910). The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis. American Journal of
Psychology, 21, 181-218. Retrieved from http://psychclassics.asu.edu/Freud/Origin/
Hughes, Langston. Theme for English B. Retrieved from http://www.poetry-archive.com
Lazarus, R.S. & Cohen, J.B. (1977). Environmental Stress. Human Behavior and Environment.
2.Retrieved from http://www.cw.utwente.nl/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20clusters/Health%20Communication/transactional_model_of_stress_and_coping.doc/
Lesser, Elizabeth. (2004). Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. New York. Villard
Norman O. Brown (1959). Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History. Middletown, CT:
Wesleyan University Press. Retrieved from http://www.psych-culture.com/docs/brown-life_against_death.pdf
Winfrey, Oprah. (May 30, 1997). Commencement Address Wellesley College. Retrieved from
Various quotes Retrieved from www.brainyquote.com