Archives For Heaven and Hell

The Image of God….

January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-01-10_11-13-00When St. Augustine wrote On the Trinity, he tried to work out a conundrum. He wanted to figure out how women could be the image of God. He finally solved the puzzle by writing that when a woman is alone, then she is not in the image of God. It is only when she is joined with a man, when she is one flesh with him, she can be considered the image of God.

Of course, we cannot take our ideas of gender equality and try to compare them to a different time and culture. We shouldn’t judge Augustine by our liberated standards. But, it is important to ask if we let Augustine ideas seep into our current debates. Do we still do this? Do we reduce a woman’s worth to her sexuality or her fertility?

SOURCE: Sex, Pills and the Image of God | Carol Howard Merritt | Red Letter Christians.

I love reading all the bloggers over at Red Letter Christians. Carol Howard Merritt is no exception. As she mentions in the quote above it is not surprising to see what St. Augustine thought about women only being in the image of God after they are married. That was just the way it was during those times. These are the same circumstances that made Paul tell women to be quiet in church and wait till they got home to ask their husbands about it. Women during that period were considered more property than anything else. Of course Jesus’ actions told us to think otherwise but as usual we failed to get the message.

What is truly saddening about this is those who continue with that same mentality today.  Some say that the Bible is the only word of God and it is meant for all eternity. They have locked down God to the fourth century when the Roman King Constantine put that document together in order to strengthen his control of his kingdom.

I can still hear all the rationalizations around keeping women in their place, even and maybe especially by some women in the fundamentalist church I once belonged. They proclaimed that God has ordained women to be the helper of men and that men are the “deciders” so to speak. They cite some words attributed to Paul as the foundation for this still on-going discrimination.

But when we look at the actions of Jesus we see he for the most part treated women as equals to men. In fact the first person he showed himself to after is resurrection was a woman.

When we lock-down God to a fourth century mentality we are in effect denying that he has any real place in today’s world. We are denying any revelations either personal or public that God has given us since that time. I personally believe that things like cures for diseases, DNA, and other life saving discoveries come from God revealing it to us.

I have had a couple of pretty significant revelations from God in my lifetime. When I mentioned this to my then pastor his first comment was “How do you know it wasn’t from the devil?” Given that the clergyman was one of those lock-down Christians I shouldn’t have been a surprised as I was by his comment.

Sheer Christianity….

November 6, 2012 — Leave a comment

I came across an article entitled Sheer Christianity in the November 2012 Sojourners Magazine that moved me. I want to tell you a little about it and quote some of the inspiring words. It is by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson who is the general secretary of the Reformed Church of America. I have to admit that I don’t know much about this organization.  Here is a quote that got me to thinking about the issue. The article is basically about another article in Newsweek cover story entitled “Christianity in Crisis”

My sense is that people are leaving organized Christianity because it has left behind the radical message of its founder. It has been a long and continuous struggle….

The church confesses him as risen Savior and Lord. But then, so often, it tries to domesticate him, explaining away those sharp, demanding edges of his compelling words, and finding theological excuses for not following his radical ways.  We call upon people to believe “in” Jesus. But question is whether we “believe” Jesus…..

The more articles I run across about this the more I am surprised that what I discovered several years ago was not as outlandish as I had imagined.  When I sat down over four years ago and concentrated on the words of Jesus I discovered that his messages were not what I was hearing from the church congregation that I then belonged. Twelve years ago, as a condition of membership in that church, I was required to stand in front of the congregation and cite a bundle of various beliefs about Jesus. It didn’t strike at the time but all of those “pronouncement of beliefs” had little to do with the what Jesus told us to do. Instead were just things, mostly man-made, that I was required to believe about him.

From that point on for the next eight years I heard the common theme that I am a miserable person but God loves me anyway. I was told that if I felt like it I could say thanks to Jesus by my actions but those actions were totally optional. At the time that was convenient in that being a Christian, at least in that denomination, didn’t interfere with how I wanted to live my life. About the only thing required was to show up in the pews once in a while with a donation in hand and when I died I was assured that I would go heaven.  Pretty easy stuff, or at least that is what I was lead to believe.

But, as I mentioned above as I seriously studied into the words of Jesus I discovered that, contrary to what my church told me, being a follower of Jesus meant everything changed. I was to live my life as Jesus taught me. His words were very clear about that. The story about the sheep and the goats took on an entirely different meaning than what I was taught all those weeks in the pew. I was told that the sheep were believers and the goats were non-believers.  In reality I learned that, as Jesus said, the sheep are those that take care of the least of these and the goats were those that ignored Jesus’ words. So, as the quote above says many congregations today have domesticated Jesus. How sad is that????

Fear of Death….

October 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

Everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die to get there.

I first heard the above quote many years ago but have never tried to learn its source. I looked it up and here is what I found:

   According to research by quote maven and Oxford English Dictionary contributor Barry Popik, the earliest verifiable use of this insightful saying seems to be as a song title and lyric by Delaney. The date of the song’s composition is uncertain, but it was mentioned as one of Delaney’s popular sings in an article about him in The Afro American newspaper on October 16, 1948. Delaney was a prolific blues and jazz music composer whose career started in the 1920s.

I am not at all surprised that a African-American blues singer was the author although the last few words seem to have been added later.

Those who reject the idea of a life after this one don’t want to leave as there is nothing out there. They basically don’t believe that there is an underlying spirit around us that survives death.  What I find sad about some of these folks is that they seem to spend their life trying to convince others of their viewpoint. If I thought this was it for me and my spirit I would try to spend my only life more productively.

Those who look at their life and think maybe they have not earned heaven don’t want to leave. That is also one of the reasons for so many deathbed conversions. They fear the consequences of what they have done or maybe not done with their life. Then there are those who believe that they took an altar call many years ago as “fire insurance” but they just don’t know if the policy is really up to date.

Those whose world has been totally self-centered fear losing the spotlight in the next world. I am very familiar with one such person. She insisted on having the attention on herself throughout her life.  I think this person really had doubts that that was the way their creator intended them to live and therefore dreaded what might be beyond.

I personally don’t dread death especially as my body continues to degrade. There will likely come a point where I just want to end the pain and suffering. But I hope that time is still many years away. 🙂  I am coming to believe that when God says he wants all people to come to him that he will eventually make that actually happen; maybe not in this life but in the next one or somewhere in between. In some ways I really look forward to seeing just what is beyond this life and to learn just how badly we have botched our interpretations of what heaven really is.  I think every living soul, popes and all, will be very surprised just how little we could conceive what God has in mind for us in the next world wherever that might be.