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Old 06-25-2006, 09:16 PM   #16
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Awesome post Yolland. It is great getting this sort of background that's not from the classic Christian textbooks. I am not saying that they are totally wrong, but I want to be educated on the subject from more than one group of sources.

That's why I linger here...
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Old 06-25-2006, 09:27 PM   #17
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painful, certainly, as the "Christ-killer" label--and for all the times I had that one spat at me growing up where I did, I have yet to be called a Pharisee, lol;
As a Christian, I am embarrased to hear this...and disgusted...and saddened. My heart truly goes out to you. I am amazed you still speak (or write) to us at all. That says a lot about you brother. Christ never taught us to behave in such a way (assuming of course, these people that treated you this way proclaimed Christianity).
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Old 06-25-2006, 11:48 PM   #18
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It never really occurred to me to think of it as something "Christians" did...just something ugly, mean-spirited people did (who, yes, did always happen to be Christians--white Baptists and Methodists mostly, not that it matters; the Catholics were a fellow sore-thumb minority, and so not ones to point fingers). It probably helped a little that in those days (meaning the '70s, mostly; I'm your age) this was basically Just The Way Things Were there--not in the sense that the majority of people said such things, but in the sense that no one intervened when they did, and it never occurred to us to feel profoundly wronged by it. (Which is nothing to celebrate, of course; I'm just observing that the "transitional" phase, in most civic evolutions like this, is ironically one of the hardest on people, because then you get these painful collisions between indignation and outrage on one side--which is totally understandable--and shame mixed with a bit of anger at some of the guilt-by-association that occurs on the other--which is totally understandable too. From what I can tell from the odd visit "home" in recent years, the next generation of Jews there are a lot angrier about such incidents, even though they happen a lot less.)

And many of my black friends from those days (all still believing Christians themselves, incidentally) thought the same way about white people who called them some truly awful things, or got all worked up quoting the Bible about "miscegenation" and so forth--they didn't grow up holding this against white people generally...and that really is "amazing," far far more so...because quite a few of them had grandfathers, great-uncles, in-laws who'd been lynched, let alone what came before that. You know of BB King, I'm sure--he's from my hometown, and he said this in an interview not long ago about the place:
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And despite all the fame, the worldwide accolades and the records with rock kings like Eric Clapton and Bono, he has never forgotten growing up in the segregated South, where they just opened the BB King museum in Indianola, Mississippi, near his birthplace on a plantation. [in Itta Bena, September 16, 1925. --y.]

"We went through some hard times," King, who turned 80 last week, recalled. "Let me tell you this: if we didn't have good white friends during that era when I was growing up, there would be no blacks in Mississippi. At that time, a white person could kill you any time they wished and nothing would ever be done about it.

"But, there was a lot of white people who didn't believe in that and wouldn't allow it. So I was lucky."
Lucky. I mean, can you imagine?? And the man meant it, too. I don't think my own heart could ever be that big, but I learned so much from people who saw that place and time in the way he does. And also--more in retrospect, more later in life--from the kind of "people who didn't believe in that and wouldn't allow it." Largely through the process of reconsidering what I'd learned growing up about gay people...and realizing that just being open-minded by virtue of "benign" non-involvement wasn't going to cut it, and I was going to have to learn to draw on my heart and my moral imagination as well and take some risks and take some lumps, just like (so I came to realize) all those folks back then who "wouldn't allow it" that I'd once taken for granted ("Well of course! It's just the right thing to do!") did. Not that simple! But...no one should feel afraid that they'll lose their faith or their moral compass when they undertake such a process. It probably will raise some unsettling questions...reopen some old wounds...create a few new vulnerabilities as well...but this "grows up" your trust and your faith and the depth of your commitment to the place you finally arrive at so, so much. I wish I could express it better. But I think you've probably already experienced some of this with the journeys you've undertaken already...I've gone through more than one myself.

And thank you for the kind words.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:53 AM   #19
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Originally posted by yolland
But...no one should feel afraid that they'll lose their faith or their moral compass when they undertake such a process. It probably will raise some unsettling questions...reopen some old wounds...create a few new vulnerabilities as well...but this "grows up" your trust and your faith and the depth of your commitment to the place you finally arrive at so, so much.
Very well said. I find this type of fear both within and without Christianity. I do not think the mind needs to be a total floodgate to new ideas, for that is equivelant of being "blown by every breeze" - but the door should always be open at least a sliver. And if you must close it, don't throw away the key! It is not that Truth ever changes, but our understanding of it and application of it certainly can and does change.

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Originally posted by yolland

I wish I could express it better.

I'm not sure you could express what you said any better - it was very well written and made perfect sense.


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Originally posted by yolland
And thank you for the kind words.

You are welcome. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

I am treated a bit like an outsider within the Evangelical Christian community because I support Theistic Evolution and I think it is possible the universe is 12 or 13 billions years old. (It is actually even older - it is eternal is it not?- but that is another discussion). And living where I live - well, having even a mild touch of conservativism in a conversation will bring a tirade of insults. However, I do not suffer anything near what men like BB King have suffered. Or yourself. I am grateful for his and your courage. And I am also grateful that there were/are white male Christians who will risk everything to do as Christ taught...or die trying. I hope that when I face similar situations that I am one of them.
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Old 06-26-2006, 12:55 AM   #20
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Thanks for the background on the Pharisees, Yolland. I will definitely think twice before slinging the word "Pharisee"around in a disparaging way.

Your memories of growing up in the South really struck a chord with me. You're right, we really should trade war stories!
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Old 06-28-2006, 08:05 PM   #21
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The funny thing about all this is, the "Golden Rule" actually comes from Leviticus (19:18) and--especially in Jesus' time--the Pharisees were well-known for their emphasis on it. Rabbi Hillel (ca. 70 BC-10 AD, roughly), the founder of the most influential rabbinical school of that era (and a Pharisee), and to this day regarded by most Jews as probably our greatest teacher ever, is famous above all for having said--purportedly in response to some smartass prospective convert who asked him to summarize the essentials of Torah "while standing on one foot"-- "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah: all the rest is just commentary. Now--go and study!"

That precise encounter, as recorded in the Talmud, may never have happened, but that it sums up what Hillel's school was best known for is not in doubt. It's still one of the first little "fables" (in the sense of a story meant to teach values) that religious Jews teach their children today. Along with a lot of other values Hillel's school was known for:


-- that the spirit of the law takes primacy over the letter;

-- that the study and practice of the law, as a kind of spiritual discipline, was the birthright of all Jews as "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:6) before a God who "desire[s] goodness, rather than sacrifice; obedience...rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)--not the prerogative of elitist temple priests (read: Sadducees, from their POV) who supposedly held some monopoly on expiation; [*Note: Although--so as not to idealize here--I will point out that the Pharisees quite literally profited from this stance, since they had their origins as rabbis in the synagogue (beit knesset) system that evolved to keep Jewish learning alive during the Babylonian captivity, and they naturally sought to retain that prestige in the Second Temple era. And unfortunately, most of what we know about the Sadducees today relies on what are almost certainly highly biased and unfair Pharisaic-penned accounts--e.g., "the (ritual) uncleanness of the knife (used in a murder at the Temple) was to them worse than the murder itself!" sneers the Talmud.]

-- that the Sanhedrin had the power to abrogate the letter of the law where it contradicted its spirit, in accord with the principles and procedures laid out in the Oral Law (later codified as the Mishnah)--an ancient principle, as illustrated by the much earlier (and universally accepted) abrogation of Deut 21:18-21 (which commands to kill one's rebellious son); the Sadducees nonetheless rejected this view, and fought against most of the reforms the Pharisees introduced to (for example) provide technically "illegal" incentives to offer more loans to the poor, or to loosen the Sabbath moratoria on "work" to facilitate the sharing of food and the ministry to the sick; [*Again, a historical note here: while both Jewish and Christian scholars have traditionally assumed that the Sanhedrin in Jesus' time was dominated by Sadducees, there is in fact little credible evidence to support this theory. We really don't have much in the way of reliable information about which factions the various members belonged to--and the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as the Essenes, etc., are best understood as just that: political factions that fought with each other to curry Roman favor. (Well OK, maybe not the Essenes--they were more like ascetic hermits.) While most Jews "supported" both groups to the extent that they regarded both temple priests and rabbis as pillars of community life, the majority of Israelites lacked both the learning and the motivation to personally identify as one or the other.]

-- high regard for the value of debate among scholars regarded as equals (rather than the dictates of some all-powerful high priest) as the best way to advance knowledge and understanding of law and scripture; [*Though again, so as not to idealize--there certainly were some Pharisaic heads of the Sanhedrin who abused their power to crush ideological opposition.]

-- the possibility of an afterlife and resurrection into a new covenant at some future time, again a concept the Sadducees rejected.


While not all Pharisees understood these teachings the same way, and in particular there were disputes between the School of Hillel and the (also Pharisaic, but ritually stricter) School of Shammai (who for a time dominated the Sanhedrin after Hillel's death), all of these were characteristically Pharisaic stances and priorities in Jesus' day. As an Orthodox Jewish kid reading the Sermon on the Mount for the first time (in a good old-fashioned Catholic high school), I found myself nodding and smiling in recognition all the way through at the familiar teachings and disputes it invoked. But it's a bittersweet memory...because unfortunately, the way the Pharisees are generally portrayed in the New Testament has led to widespread casual use of the term as a dismissive, pejorative synonym for all manner of small-brained, draconian pseudo-piety that purports to come from God. Yet modern rabbinic Judaism understands itself to derive ultimately from Pharisaic teachings, and so this is more painful for Jews to hear than, I think, most Christians realize. Not as painful, certainly, as the "Christ-killer" label--and for all the times I had that one spat at me growing up where I did, I have yet to be called a Pharisee, lol; seems to be more a word Christians sling at each other nowadays--but, in view of where it comes from, and the diverse and complicated bunch of people it's reducing to a crude caricature of extremist hypocrisy...it really does make us wince and grit our teeth a bit. I'm sure some among the Pharisees really were corrupt hypocrites, or self-righteous backstabbers, or just in general sanctimonious little pricks...but, that said, other than what's contained in the New Testament, there is little if anything in other contemporary sources to suggest that the Pharisees, as a group, would've in fact objected to healing the sick through "forgiveness" (a common enough practice at the time), or preaching to the lepers and beggars, or for sure ministering to the sick on Shabbat.

Not that I can't understand where it all comes from. The harsh climate that Christians (though Jews, too) were dwelling in during the years when much of the New Testament was being written; the mission to the Gentiles and final rupture with the Pharisee-dominated Sanhedrin (and risky turn towards the Romans) this created; all those waves of persecution...Roman rule was an ugly, ugly time, and perhaps no more so than on the many occasions when Jewish factionalism and the ill-fated alliances it gave rise to resulted in disastrous revolts followed by violent purges, like the mass crucifixions following Herod's death, or the bloody putdown of the Zealot revolt and the destruction of the Second Temple that clinched it. (The Talmud, pointedly if exaggeratedly, actually blames the latter calamity on "baseless hatred" among the Jews.) So...I can certainly feel some sympathy for anyone who was trying to accomplish something revolutionary (in whatever sense of the term) among Jews in Israel at that time. You need only know the history to imagine what a socially and politically treacherous venture that would be...and how many enemies you could make, sometimes over the stupidest things...and how much resentment and ill will it might breed.
this is the best post i've seen on this topic...probably ever. jesus and the pharisees had much more in common than people realize...one of the reasons i think the gospels to be rather antisemetic and, of course, a twisted account of what actually happened in first century judea.
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Old 06-30-2006, 08:12 PM   #22
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"To do unto others the way you would want to be treated." Likewise, I believe that God experiences our love through the way we treat His creation. It gives us a great responsibility to live and act ethically.

Melon
While very appealing in its humanistic focus, and a position broadly adopted at a gut level, the idea is essentially is circular reasoning that takes God entirely out of the equation. You are using the second of the two commands to satisfy the first – as if it need not ever be written.

It is also faulty in that no one really believes this alone enough to change their behavior. This bears out in society, and we also see it in our own little world. For every time someone posts on FYM about loving one another as the core to human existence, they have another about who is to be hated (or strongly disliked) or who is not worthy of such love. A relationship with God, the entire point of Scripture, cannot hinge on these verses as we see how quickly the hinge falls apart.
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Old 07-01-2006, 12:34 AM   #23
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Remember, the commandment to love is twofold - Matthew 22:37-40 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “The second is like it, ‘aYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

This is the model of the 10 commandments. The first 4 commandments demonstrate how to show your love toward God, and the last 6 are how to demonstrate your love toward others.

Yes, it is a simple as "just love" in one way - but a little more complex when we try and define what loving God and loving others really means.
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Old 07-01-2006, 07:43 AM   #24
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
While very appealing in its humanistic focus, and a position broadly adopted at a gut level, the idea is essentially is circular reasoning that takes God entirely out of the equation. You are using the second of the two commands to satisfy the first – as if it need not ever be written.

It is also faulty in that no one really believes this alone enough to change their behavior. This bears out in society, and we also see it in our own little world. For every time someone posts on FYM about loving one another as the core to human existence, they have another about who is to be hated (or strongly disliked) or who is not worthy of such love. A relationship with God, the entire point of Scripture, cannot hinge on these verses as we see how quickly the hinge falls apart.
Your argument here is predicated on the assumption that mankind must always satisfy these conditions for it to be upheld. On the contrary, if we could always satisfy these conditions, we would probably end up being gods ourselves.

Since we like talking about ideals over reality, this is the ideal that we should live up to. Disliking/hating people sometimes is the reality of humanity, and we can see it through all parts of humanity--self-righteous believers included.

But then that brings me back to what is theoretically the Protestant idea of faith and grace for salvation over good works. Of course, I say "theoretically," because, in practice, many Protestants just do an end around this by defining "faith" as "following commands," essentially making it no different than the old Catholic doctrine of "faith and good works" for salvation.

Regardless, love alone should be enough to change behavior. But that's where our clerics are failing us. Even they are far from living up to that ideal, so how could I expect their congregations to be better?

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Old 07-01-2006, 08:00 AM   #25
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Originally posted by AEON
Remember, the commandment to love is twofold - Matthew 22:37-40 "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 “This is the great and foremost commandment.
39 “The second is like it, ‘aYou shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

This is the model of the 10 commandments. The first 4 commandments demonstrate how to show your love toward God, and the last 6 are how to demonstrate your love toward others.

Yes, it is a simple as "just love" in one way - but a little more complex when we try and define what loving God and loving others really means.
When I state that the Ten Commandments are obsolete and "love" is now the model from which we must live our lives, I believe it to be simultaneously simpler and tremendously difficult. It is "simpler" in that you have fewer "commands" to remember, and much more "difficult" in that it means that your actions reverberate far beyond ten concrete commandments.

I believe what I am saying here is likely being lost in translation here, mainly because the philosophy of today's Christianity is overwhelmingly essentialist/literalist. My theology, on the other hand, is more influenced by personalism, combined with a rejection of essentialism. As such, my view on "love" in the Bible likely doesn't make much sense to outsiders unfamiliar with these two philosophies of Christianity.

As a quick example, essentialists might agree with the "greed is good" mantra of the last 25 years, because there's no explicit commandment against it. Personalists might consider it unethical/sinful, because of the social stratification/tensions it has created. You cannot love your fellow man, after all, by purposely keeping them poor or ignoring their needs, while you live lavishly. I think Congress had best remember this, but that argument is for another day.

In short, "love" alone actually makes your responsibility to God and your fellow man higher, not lower.

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Old 07-01-2006, 10:25 AM   #26
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I wrote a longer response then deleted it, having resolved not to discuss a faith I do not practice very well and to leave that discussion to others (when I can, lol, because the topic interests me). But I thought Melon's response above was exquisite and I wanted to tell him so.
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Old 07-01-2006, 12:05 PM   #27
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Originally posted by melon



I believe what I am saying here is likely being lost in translation here, mainly because the philosophy of today's Christianity is overwhelmingly essentialist/literalist. My theology, on the other hand, is more influenced by personalism, combined with a rejection of essentialism. As such, my view on "love" in the Bible likely doesn't make much sense to outsiders unfamiliar with these two philosophies of Christianity.

I will do some more research on personalism and essentialism. I admit – your posts about Christianity sound good and pleasing to viewers here. I can tell because you immediately get positive replies. However, after reading your link, "personalism" does not seem to have a real Scriptural basis (neither a literal or an allegorical one) - and there is always a danger when we try to place our opinion/experience/personal interpretation over God's Word. We get down to the passage "...everyone did what was right in his own eyes." in Judges 21:25b, and then followed up with the concept in the following verses:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

"Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust." Psalm 16:1

"He who trusts in his own heart is a fool...." Proverbs 28:26

"And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God." 2 Corinthians 3:4-5

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil." Proverbs 3:5-7
"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." Psalm 118:8

These are just a few Scriptures that I think refute the theology of personalism. There are more. The theme of trusting God, trusting Christ, and trusting the Holy Spirit runs throughout the Bible.

Again, I will have to look into it more. The link you gave me was a good start.


Quote:
Originally posted by melon
In short, "love" alone actually makes your responsibility to God and your fellow man higher, not lower.

I agree. I do no think anyone here tried to put love "low." It is the "highest" of all virtues. My point was to help define Christian love. Just saying "All We Need Is Love" is one thing, trying to define and apply that love is quite another. There is so much to it, in fact, that the best book about it took thousands of years to write by numerous authors...i.e. The Bible.
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Old 07-01-2006, 01:00 PM   #28
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I have read more on personalism. So far, it seems to main point of this school of though is that "persons have value."

I don't see how standard Christian teaching is against this.

However, there are "off-shoot" ideas of personalism that have lead to more of a New Age interpretation.

Also, I am assuming that you are coming from a Christian perspective. If you are not a Christian, please feel free to correct me.
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Old 07-02-2006, 01:32 AM   #29
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"Personalism" is a competing Christian philosophy that I learned within my 12 years of Catholic school education. I believe you have said that you are a seminarian (correct me if I'm wrong), so I'm surprised that you've never heard of it.

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Old 07-02-2006, 07:06 AM   #30
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That was a little dismissive of me, AEON. For the record, I am not naive, new agey or filled with the warm fuzzies nor am I unversed in the Bible. I understand that both sides have a tendency to throw the word love around as slogan without any bite, a meaningless mantra.

I merely find it bewildering when many Christians cite Paul scripture and verse and dance around the words of Jesus. Simple commandment, but bitterly hard--not as easy as making sure you follow the checkoff sheet on the other commandments, which Melon made infinitely clear allows a whole myriad of loopholes which the great commandment does not, which I think was the point Melon was making.

I am more inclined to trust my own understanding than I am to trust yours, no disrespect intended. You're not asking me to ask for guidance, you're asking me to listen to you and your interpretation. "Lean not on Aeon's understanding."

Please define Christian love for me on a practical day to day basis and tell me where it differs from Melon's. I think he has hit it right on the nail and there was absolutely nothing feel-good about it.
In fact it is much harder than anything I've heard proposed so far.
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