Posts Tagged ‘judgment

10
Mar
09

Two-fer Tuesday: Blindness by Deacon Blue

eyes-1Blindness is an all-too-common ailment in this world. And no, I don’t mean vision impairment. I don’t mean literally blindess. I mean the way we blind ourselves to suffering, blind ourselves to truth and blind ourselves to good paths that present themselves to us and that we ignore in favor of what feels better but is ultimately emptier.

More importantly, perhaps—and I harp on this because I so dislike hypocrisy, in myself or others—we blind ourselves to our personal failings and the blatant contradictions we foist on those around us. The lies about our motivations and the judgments we make of others while letting ourselves off the hook every time.

In politics and social commentary, I’ve watched left-wing folks cry that characters in movies or words that are part of our daily language are demeaning. (Really, are any gypsies really bitching that the phrase “to gyp” paints them as a thieving ethnic group? Does the “full retard” schpiel in Tropic Thunder really insult people with developmental disabilities? Must people who can’t walk or otherwise have a physical disability be called “differently” abled?). I’ve seen them cry that we must stop using such words and we must call for an end to such things in media. We must purge bad words and bad habits (like drinking and drug use) from all movies so that we don’t poison the minds of the young.

…Right after they’ve talked about the need for freedom of speech.

On the right-wing side, I see people crying out that Barack Obama will make us a socialist nation, stipping away our rights and our property and making us into mindless automatons that serve the state…all while ignoring the GOP’s handouts to the rich and to industries for so many years. While ignoring the fact that people in the armed forces have been forced to remain in service past their agreed-upon time and been forced to do longer tours of duty than they should. They’re fine with an authoritarian state, as long as the privileged and rich are calling the shots and the middle class, working class and poor mind their places.

Recently, right in my own backyard, a preacher is crying out that he’s been wronged, and his ministry taken from him. No matter that he was doing some sketchy things and engaging in shady behavior. No, he cries that he was wronged, and that he must pray for the strength to forgive. And as the same time he is doing this, he is calling out all of his “oppressors” for their sins and failings. Publicly. He is saying he’s being judged, though no one has said publicly why he was stripped of his duties, and then he goes and judges others while saying he will pray for the ability to forgive.

Sorry, God doesn’t give us the power to forgive. We are required to do that ourselves. It’s part of what God expects of us if we want the same kind of treatment from Him. If you are striking down people while praying for the ability to forgive, then you don’t want to forgive. Simple as that.

I’ve been guilty of defending behaviors that I engage in and I’m not sure I should be. I try to keep a balance of rational vs. spiritual and I try to maintain a balance between what I want and what is right, but I’ve been guilty of veering to one side or the other. When I do, I try to correct my position. I don’t stubbornly stick to the notion that I am right and everyone else is wrong.

We shouldn’t choose blindness. Because to be perfectly honest, even when we don’t like what we see, it’s better to go through life (temporally or spiritually) with our eyes wide open.

04
Feb
09

Pastors Ain’t Special by Mrs. Blue

slacksAs has been the case, about as often as not, it is one of my periodic (and increasingly rare) phone calls with Mrs. Eager that has inspired me to come over here to the dear hubby’s blog and go on a rant about something.

In talking with her, she told me Mr. Eager has been having some trouble with ringing in his ears (tinnitus for you technical minded types), and he was starting to wonder if it was God’s judgment on him for having words with the pastor of a church they were going to until recently. Give me a break! But before I get to that rant, in all seriousness, if you’re Christian, pray for Mr. Eager. He’s a musician, and a good one (guitar and bass mostly) and I think he could do great with a modern music ministry. But hearing problems could be a big muck-up for plans like that.

Anyway, to get back to the point, I think it’s ridiculous that he’s worried God has judged him with illness or injury for questioning  the head of a congregation. Granted, this is the second church he’s done this at, but let me recap:

The first time, it was at the same church that hubby and I fled from as it got increasingly freaky and fixated on speaking in tongues and espousing questionable doctrine and things like that. Mr. Eager and Mrs. Eager were essentially kicked out (of the church band and the church) when he questioned that pastor on doctrinal stuff. This is the very same kind of stuff that made us leave, so fact is that he was on the money. The stuff that was (and is now) being preached there is half made up by the pastor now.

The second time well, I’m not sure the details on that discussion/confrontation, but dear hubby and I had taste-tested that church too and found it a bit wanting. I think the new pastor there has a bit of an ego (though he was an improvement over the fire-and-brimstone, vegetarians-are-all-pagans guy who came before him) and he seems more focused on his own vision of stuff than on leading the congregation he has in the way that they need to be led. Just my humble opinion of course.

But the point is that pastors aren’t special. They crap out the same kind of hole the rest of us do. Assuming they have both their legs, they put ’em into separate legs of the jeans or slacks just like you or I do. They get angry, they can be selfish and shallow, they can get hopeless, they can get confused.

In short, they are human.

Pastors are not, as some poor souls seem to think, some special spiritual emissaries that God has set down in a church. I like to hope that most pastors are put in place with a little nudge by God, but realistically, I know it is church boards who do this, and they’re human too. They hire humans. Humans who can get led astray or get full of themselves or just make mistakes.

Pastors are great for providing leadership, just as an executive director leads a non-profit. But they still have to answer to a board of directors, just like an executive director does, and they sometimes have to answer to the membership (congregation) as well. They aren’t perfect. And when they are wrong, either because of bullheaded choice or by honest mistake or by a case of the raving loonies, they need to be called to task. They need to be made aware. Mind you, I say this as the daughter of a preacher, who used to head his own small church. I love my dad, but if anything shows you how a pastor can be just as imperfect as the rest of us, no matter how much biblical knowledge he has, being the child of one will do it.

I know Mr. Eager well enough to know he’s pretty softspoken for a big guy. I doubt he read the riot act to the pastor. I’m sure he was trying to be helpful and led by God to say something. In short, even if he was mistaken about the pastor, he was right to speak up.

What wasn’t right was for the pastor and cronies to ease him out of the church for having spoken up. Dealing with dissent by kicking people out is a piss-poor and un-Christian way to handle things.

No, the tinnitus is most likely from a life of playing loud music. And I hope Mr. Eager gets past that physical problem. He really wants to do a music ministry and I hope he can. The only punishment he is receiving is what he is heaping on himself for no good reason, and what yet another pastor did to for trying to do the right thing.

27
Jan
09

Two-fer Tuesday: Respect by Deacon Blue

For there is no respect of persons with God. (Romans, chapter 2, verse 11)

It is also said, in relation to the above passage and related ones in the Bible, that “God is not a respecter of persons.” Or, in more modern language translations (unlike the King James version above), “For there is no partiality with God” or “God does not play favorites.”

family01Critics of such sentiments would point out that plenty of people get different treatment in life, including among Christian circles or Jewish or Muslim ones, so that God we worship, if He exists, certainly must be playing favorites.

But that misses the point. Some are granted blessings for various reasons. Some get blessings which don’t seem that great in comparison to someone else’s, but which could be just as powerful if the person recognized, tapped and ran with that blessing. Also, not all the things we get in life are because God said we do or don’t deserve it. Life is life, and it goes on because of our actions or inactions, our faith or lack of it, our selfishness or our selflessness, etc. God doesn’t manipulate every string directly.

We have a world to live in and we are expected to live in it. God would like us to shape a world that was building around goodness, but we choose not to. Those with power and money choose not to look beyond their own greed. The masses of people who could call them to task sit on their asses. The people who have no ability to stand up and fight wonder why the masses of people who could do something don’t give them a little assist so that they could all make some positive change together. Mostly, though, I suppose it’s greed and apathy that keep our world in its current state.

But I digress…

God’s grace and salvation for us is without partiality though, and that is the point of Him not being a respecter of persons. Are we expected to do some things or be willing to give up our own conceits or whatever to get that salvation? Sure. But the point is that it is available to everyone. God would like to see everyone saved. And I think He does his damndest to make sure as many of us can be who are truly desirous of being something more than this shallow, sinful and selfish flesh.

God doesn’t care what social class you belong to. He doesn’t care what clubs or organizations you belong to or donate to. He doesn’t care what color you are. Or gender. Or age.

There are rules to be certain, but the gift is there for everyone who will reach out for it and open it.

That was a shocker in the early Christian church, when Jewish converts who accepted Jesus as messiah saw Gentiles coming to the faith as well. It startled them that they weren’t special; it wasn’t just the Jews who were going to get this gift.

As the apostle Peter noted, “God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

OK, so maybe you’re one of my readers who still thinks that if there is a God He is still being too restrictive and unfair. Or you believe that my faith is simply me holding to a fairy tale. Fair enough.

But I think we can agree that “not showing respect of persons” is a good thing. Because what that really means is to respect everyone.

In the King James version of Acts of the Apostles, where it says, “God is no respecter of persons” (similar to the passage from Romans that I started with), that Greek word translated as “respecter of persons” is, apparently prosopolemptes, a word that refers to a judge who looks at a man’s face instead of at the facts of the case, and makes a decision based on whether or not he likes the man.

We are told that this isn’t how God operates. And neither are we. In fact, there are several passages in both the Old Testament and New Testament that make it clear we shouldn’t be playing favorites ourselves.

  • 2 Chronicles 19:7: “Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes.”
  • Job 34:19: “Yet He is not partial to princes, nor does He regard the rich more than the poor; for they are all the work of His hands.”
  • Romans 2:10-11: “[B]ut glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”
  • Galatians 5:6: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision or uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”
  • 1 Peter 1:17: “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”

We shouldn’t be looking up to people just because they seem important and we shouldn’t be looking down at people thinking we’re better than they are.

If we can’t agree on God’s fairness, let’s at least agree that the sentiment is the right one. God, and Jesus, are examples and an ideals that are worthy for us to aspire to. The overriding theme of their existences and missions is to build a better world and one that is ultimately just. That can be messy at times, but it can be done. What it requires is both respect and not being a respecter of persons.

21
Jan
09

Judge Not…Not Too Much at Least

gavelI don’t like to get judgmental about anyone. OK, that’s not true. I’ve have some notable and very amusing conversations with Mrs. Blue in which I have been very judgmental. Shame on me. Truly.

But my point is that, really, I don’t generally feel comfortable judging folks. Which is as it should be, biblically speaking, for we are told “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

And yet, you may have noticed that around here, I’ve taken certain well-known pastors of huge churches to task. I’ve pretty much said that one of my own recent former pastors has essentially become a virtual cult leader.

I’m not judging.

Really, I’m not. I am, however, pointing out that some of these guys are taking very dangerous paths. In terms of their teachings, the dogma they espouse and the way they treat people, they show themselves to be of questionable characters and motivations.

At times, I cut them at least some slack, based to a certain extent on this:

For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (From Romans chapter 12)

There are those, I’m sure, who would take me to task for my approach to spiritual matters, what with my cavalier language and my propensity to talk about sexual odds and ends (and tips and crevices…oh my!). I feel that I am responding to a calling to reach out in a different way and perhaps to different people.

Who am I to say that Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church isn’t fulfilling his own calling to the letter? Perhaps that is what God wants Joel Osteen to be doing. Or Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church. Or Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.

And I find myself with these passages from the Book of Romans staring me in the face: 

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand…But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this-not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. (Excerpts from Romans chapter 14)

It is that last line that reminds me I am fully justified in shining a light on the pastors that I have and the attitudes among many Christians that I have, when I take issue with common attitudes among Christians. Or non-Christians for that matter.

I am not judging people. I am looking at actions and calling to mind the very real possibility that those actions are going to lead people astray. Encourage them to do things that aren’t right. Lead them down paths of false doctrine that Jesus would have cringed to hear.

It’s entirely possible I’ve been guilty of the very same thing at time. I hope not, but if I have been, I hope someone will open my eyes to that and I hope that if it’s true, I will correct myself.

I cannot judge the people I rail about, but I can say that at times, they seem to be clearly doing wrong, and in that they are hurting others, and they need to be called on it.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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