Who has the Answer?

Sunday Morning Musings:  One of different skills I would work on when playing hockey was that of deflecting the puck.  I didn’t have to control the puck just wait for my chance to help it change direction.  Over the years and not just in hockey, I have continued to use and watch others use this tactic.  Usually it is used when I find myself in a sticky situation.  Rather than confront the issue straight on, I like to deflect.

Some would call this tactic as being passive aggressive.  Others would see what I was attempting to do and not let me change the subject.  Either way the effort was made to control the outcome by manoeuvring around the issue rather than dealing with it head on.  I guess the gig is up!

At first I often felt that I did much the same when it came to faith issues, or other spiritual issues of life.  When asked a direct question like: Do you believe in the Bible? I would give a “direct” answer.  I am sure the questioner would have liked me to respond with a simple “yes” or “no”. If I did answer with such a straight forward response I would often conclude with some type of modification.  I might say that I did believe in the Bible but would ask a question of my own.  I might add that my answer is yes but only if it was not taken literally.

In time I began to ask myself whether or not I was responding in such a way as to deflect. To answer my own question I had to look at myself and my responses.  I might also try to understand the intent of the questioner, but then I found myself trying to read someone else’s mind, and that would lead to me making an assumption and we all know what it makes when we assume anything!

Instead, I tried to focus on my own mind and heart.  The first realization I had was that sometimes questions are asked with a hope of gaining insight.  Other times questions are asked when the real desire is to state an opinion and try to convince others I am correct.  Sometimes questions are a trap and the questioner is waiting to snap the door shut.

Over the years I have often used the skill of reversing the question.  Before I would answer I asked questions of clarification, or simply asked the same question of the person posing the question.  (Now, in Improv such a tactic results in what is called a “weak question” and could result in “expulsion”.)  On the other hand, it is totally appropriate if the intent is to get the person asking to question who truly may be seeking knowledge, to tell me what he or she thinks already.  I mentioned in my novella, Dying to Live (now how is that for a plug), about the young boy who wanted to know about God and asked what God looked like. Instead of answering the lad with my “version”, I asked him to draw what he understood. I was not surprised at all when he drew “an old man in the clouds”.  That is the concept held by many and I don’t mean just children.

Yet it wasn’t the picture the boy drew that revealed the real question and gave him his answer. Far from it. When he spoke of this “God” he revealed an understanding of kindness and acceptance.

It is important that we always continue to ask questions, but also remember that there is likely more to the answer than first appears.

Called to Care

Sunday Morning Musings:  Once again the unrest in our society has reared its ugly head in the form of racism and in some cases what I call false religiousism.  The white supremacy actions in Charlottesville and elsewhere including Canada, and the so-called ISIS supported attacks in Spain and Finland requires strong condemnation for these actions.  However, any response by the Canadian government and the Church has been slow.

I cannot speak for our government, but I can talk about the church.  The response from the so-called Christian church has been slow because there is no one that speaks for us all.  Pope Francis has spoken out but who really listens to him?  Even within the Roman Catholic Church there is a wide-range of beliefs and opinions on most matters, so why would one expect any difference when it comes to racism, sexism or any of the other “isms” that abound?  Personally, I believe any form of racism, sexism and the life all wrong.

Studies have revealed that less and less people are actually attending church (although many claim to still be spiritual – SBNR- which also often means something different to different people).  At one time the church was even found to be the blame for horrible events – slavery was supported by Biblical phrases; women were considered as property; LGBTQ folks were (are) considered an abomination before God.   One might think that such understandings of the Bible would feed into the conservative/fundamentalist points of view.  But studies reveal that just as many “right” wing believers are leaving the church as are others.  Sadly, their departure has not weakened the anti-views on most topics; rather it has served to strengthen them.   A report in the April 2017 issue of Atlantic Magazine states:

When conservatives disengage from organized religion, however, they don’t become more tolerant. They become intolerant in different ways. … they’re more hostile to African Americans, Latinos, and Muslims. In 2008, the University of Iowa’s Benjamin Knoll noted that among Catholics, mainline Protestants, and born-again Protestants, the less you attended church, the more anti-immigration you were.

From this statement one can but be in favour of church attendance, however, attendance is not the real issue.  What is it that is being taught and more importantly lived moment to moment?  The essence of any true religion is “hospitality” in all its fullness of meaning.  It does not speak of caring for only those like ourselves.  It lives caring for and showing compassion to anyone in need, making all of them my neighbour, regardless of skin colour, gender or beliefs.  To claim any kind of supremacy for one group is a false claim and needs to prohibited.  And of course, this is the role of government, especially any government that claims be representative of its people (all of its people).

As far as I am concerned any belief or action that does not encourage full acceptance and tolerance is not only anti-religious, it is anti-life.


Faith and The Bible

Sunday Morning Musings:  some of my thoughts this week have been centering on the topic of religion versus science.   My preference would be to use the word “and” rather than “versus” but that is what created much of the discussion.  It seemed to be an ‘either- or’.

To be more specific about some things the religion side of the discussion was talking Christianity, but other world religions could be included. From a Christian point of view much of the religion I was hearing was also coming from The Bible.  Even the Bible was a ‘pre-science’ book there are still some people that take the writings quite literally.  After all God or God’s Spirit guided or directed the mind and hands of the writers.  It didn’t seem to matter that many of the stories were not meant to be taken literally but as a metaphor.

According to timelines established by Biblical genealogies the first humans (Adam and Eve) were created only 6000 or 7000 years ago.  The scientist argued that carbon dating of fossils found buried in the earth that scientifically tells is millions of years old.  Such discussion reminded me of the story reported by Anthony de Mello entitled The Golden Egg.   De Mello writes:

A reading from the scriptures:  This is what the Lord says: There was once a goose that laid a golden egg each day.  And the farmer’s wife, who owned the goose, delighted in the riches that those eggs brought her. She was an avaricious woman, however, and could not wait patiently form day to day for her daily egg.  She decided to kill the goose and get the eggs all at once.

De Mello then writes: 

Thus far the Word of God!   An atheist heard that text from the scriptures and scoffed: you call that the word of God? A goose that lays golden eggs! It just goes to show the absurdity of your scriptures.    When a religious scholar read that text, he reacted thus: The Lord clearly tells us that there was a goose that laid golden eggs.  If the Lord says this, then it must be true, no matter how absurd it appears to our poor human minds.  (Anthony deMello, The Song of the Bird, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1982, p. 115.)

From my perspective I can agree with neither the “atheist” nor the “religious scholar”.  Scripture may be called The Word of God, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t written by human hands. When we continue to discuss religion and The Bible as the end all and be all, we get nowhere fast.  For me the issue is about faith not belief in writings that are over 2000 years old.

The bible tells the stories of journeys – starting with the Adam and Eve story, and Moses, and Abraham and Sarah- they all tells us about our journey of faith.  We are all on a journey with its ups and downs, moments of elation and moments of defeat.  Yet the Bible is also a story of God’s presence with us in all these times.  Not a God who is there to fix things for us (Deus ex machine – excuse my Latin.) Nor is God present and doing nothing, but as love that shows us how to be loving and caring and accepting in the best and worst life throws at us.  In difficult times even when we claim the need to be alone, we can be but the truth is that a compassionate listener is ready and waiting for us to realize that when we are most vulnerable we are never totally alone.

Mystery is Okay

Sunday Morning Musings:  For entertainment this week I have been reading Roy MacGregor’s book, Northern Light.  Certainly he has written different books but this one does a great job of holding the mystery that is Tom Thomson.  I live in the town of Huntsville and there is no shortage of the Thomson legacy that is both appreciated and questioned which, for me, on adds to the unknown.  In July, Grant Nickalls adapted the work of MacGregor and Stina Nyquist and enhanced another element of Thomson through highlighting Thomson’s relationship with Winnie Trainor. Quite well-done, Nickalls left the mystery in the mind of the audience.  And like, all good mysteries, the answer is left just there where it should be.

As a result the mystery leaves itself open to speculation – did they or didn’t they?  Was she or wasn’t she expecting?  That is what makes mystery so wonderful and so acceptable (and sadly, open to gossip).  The problem lies not with the mystery itself but with those minds that don’t like mystery; with those minds that need the answers.  But like life itself, mysteries will always remain.  Questions will be left unanswered.

However, the fact that mystery abounds also leads to misunderstandings or more precisely miscommunication.  What I say or attempt to communicate is not always what the other party hears or receives.  The more frequent use of emogicons is supposed to help when the communication is not “face to face” rather uses various modes of technology that allow us to communicate “feelings” with each other. But sometimes even the use of “pictures” or “images” do not always tell us exactly what the speaker or writer is hoping to communicate.

The use of abbreviations in messaging can also pose problems.  For example, I emailed an individual once asking if it was okay to do something differently.  The response I got was “np”.  Being new to texting and having a snippet of Hebrew training which originally was written without vowels, I heard “nope”.  In reality, the answer meant “no problem”.  My thinking and the other person’s thinking were exact opposites.  I wonder how often this happens in our lives, especially when we don’t check out the meaning.   I was offended to the “np” answer.  The answer was not only what I didn’t want to hear, but to be so brief, almost made it seem impertinent.  How dare I be spoken to in this manner?  Fortunately, the opportunity for understanding and clarification was taken and all was well.

Yet such miscommunication abounds and in time no amount of proof can convince another party of the intention, especially when the other party doesn’t want to “hear” something different.  I was always taught that in the Bible Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah who was “less desirable” than her sister Rachel.   Later, I discovered that the word used to describe Leah meant something totally different.  Now, this may not mean much by itself, but it made me wonder how often the writer of a particular passage may word something to meet a specific need or even tone?

As important as communication is, we will never have all the answers.  There is always room for miscommunication and as a result misunderstanding.  In the end however, I found that I am left with a mystery.  More importantly, I have learned that it is okay to be live with the unknown.  Until next time plkprdg.