• All About Pain: The Toughness Fallacy

    I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but it’s cold, rainy and windy here by me so I’ll use that as my excuse for being a Debbie Downer here. Cuz we’re going to talk about pain today. Then again, if you are the sort of person who only wants to read about unicorns making skittles droppings, you probably aren’t reading my blog. So just another day here in The Upside Down World.

    It seems to me that when Christians talk about pain they talk about it either very existentially, “why does God allow suffering?”, or we talk about it very personally, “let me tell you my story about being in pain”. We start from the assumption that pain is a valid, important topic, but even our most sincere efforts to address pain from either an existential or personal perspective tend to fall short. When they do, we almost always turn to attempting to minimize or dismiss other people’s pain. And let’s not even talk about the nonsense that comes out of our mouths when we try to moralize about pain or the behavior of people in pain!

    In order to do better, we need a better understanding of what pain is, how it works, why it matters. Which includes getting rid of several dangerous misconceptions about pain. Even people who are personally familiar with suffering tend to believe a lot of false, unhelpful things about pain. Nearly all of us internalize our culture’s prejudices, erroneous assumption and ignorance about suffering and when life goes south, these internalized ideas just make things worse.

    Obviously, this is a subject which could be a book, but you’ll just have to make do with a few blog posts. And I’m not even going to put them in the right order, so nya!

    Anyhow, I wanted to start today by addressing probably the most common misconception about pain. That is once you’ve been in serious pain, additional pain will not affect you as much. You will have gotten used to it. Continue reading

  • What We’ve Accomplished

    I meant to include a link to this video in my last post, but I forgot it. I did fix that. But the video is something I had been meaning to bring to your attention anyways. It’s a Ted talk by Hans Rosling, a statistician and researcher on international health. The Ted site describes it this way (which barely begins to do it justice):

    You’ve never seen data presented like this. With the drama and urgency of a sportscaster, statistics guru Hans Rosling debunks myths about the so-called “developing world.”

    It’s internet old, meaning it’s been floating around since 2006, so some of you may have already seen it. I’d love to see a follow-up looking at what’s happened since the 2008 financial crash. Unfortunately, I don’t think our progress is going to be able to outpace the destructive forces we’ve unleashed. But it is remarkable what humanity has been able to do just in the last century.

    Anyhow, here’s that video:

     

  • Fighting God

    If you are a Christian who takes the bible seriously, there will often come a point where you feel hamstrung by the bible. You may be inclined to, say, allow women into ministry or accept gay marriage or get a tattoo. But there are those bible verses which clearly speak against them. So, out of obedience to God, you accept that God works in mysterious ways, his ways are always good and some things are just beyond us.

    In response to your faithfulness, other people get mad at you and call you sexist or homophobic or legalistic or whatever. And depending on how well you know Jesus, you either humbly take it in stride or you fight back. (You have to know Jesus really, really well to be capable of taking it all in stride, btw.) After a while you can end up feeling like you’re standing on the razor’s edge between being faithful and being a loving, decent person.

    But Jesus said that the truth would set us free and standing on a razor’s edge doesn’t leave much room for freedom, does it? Somehow, simply being faithful to scripture has left you standing on one spot, unable to move, exposed to the world’s wrath and struggling against your own weaknesses. It doesn’t feel much like freedom.

    The problem is a problem which God has been dealing with since time immemorial. The problem is with us and lies at the very heart of our relationship with God, self and other.

    You see, God loves humanity. He’s on our side. We, however, struggle to love ourselves and each other. And the only way we can comprehend God’s love for humanity is if it is foreign and strange. If God loves humanity, he must not love the same way that we love, because there’s no way God can look at us with all our sin and failure and be happy with us. So we’re not too surprised when God tells us to do things which don’t make sense; we’re really not capable of understanding God’s love, after all.

    Great, you say. That may well be true, but what does that have to do with the uncomfortable position Christians often find themselves in when following the bible? Well, let I explain. Continue reading

  • Why the Cross Pleased God

    So, I got a comment today on my engagingly titled post “Did God Really Demand the Death of His Son as a Sacrifice for Sin?” I was going to answer it in a comment, but I realized that most of y’all would never see it there. And sometimes the best conversations take place in the comments section. Especially when there’s a question from someone who thinks I’m wrong.

    My blog posts purposely distill a lot of background information into a hopefully interesting, informative and sometimes challenging post. So I can’t cover everything, but I promise that if you have a question, I have an answer. It may not always be the right answer. But I do have an answer. I have been called Hermoine Granger more than a few times over the years. (I am very grateful to the Harry Potter books for giving us a nicer way to call someone a bossy know-it-all, btw.)

    So here’s the comment:

    I loved reading your article and it does make a lot of sense. However, Isa 53:10 says, But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If he would render himself as a guilt offering..(NAS)

    So, I think that the theological stand point that is argued against in your article is actually derived from the Word of God. This has been a point of inner controversy to me as well?? Why would a loving God send His Son to be beaten to a pulp in order to satisfy justice for the sins of humanity, if the sinner will just believe in Jesus? That would be like punishing the good kid in the class in front of everyone to justify the rest of the bad kids who acted up in class and then telling them, if they only believe that the good kid got punished for their misbehavior; their deeds would be forgiven?
    Believe me when I tell you how I have struggled with this as a Christian..

    For those following along at home, Isaiah 10:53 says:

    But the LORD was pleased
                To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
                If He would render Himself as a guilt offering

    We can easily read this as saying that God was pleased to allow these things to happen because through the work of the cross, his children (us) would be returned to him. Continue reading