We are Herod

December 31, 2006 | Struggles | 78 comments

Just came across this gripping post from another great blog I recently discovered, Heirs in Hope.

Often, we want to demand that God intervene -– just in this one instance. He should prevent, should somehow fix things so that children have an opportunity to grow up before being attacked by the horrors of this world. How can he possibly allow little children to be scandalized, to have their consciences offended, to suffer the sharp swords of Herod’’s soldiers? But all that is only distraction from the real question: Why doesn’t God protect little children from us?

We are Herod. We are his soldiers. We hurt children, abuse them, kill them. We ignore their cries, their pleas for help, their needs. We may harangue God, may insist he is callous and hateful, but our tirades only serve to distract us from the crimes we commit against babies, against children, against little helpless people who cannot understand the hells we make for them. [more]

As with many of her posts, it’s difficult to read about her experiences, but her perspective on it all and the insights she conveys are brilliant.

78 Comments

  1. Elena

    I don’tknow Jennifer. We aren’t all Herod. That’s a very very broad generalization that I can’t accept. I’ve seen too much goodness to accept that.

  2. Robert

    “Why does God allow all this suffering? Why doesn’t he DO something?”

    And of course, he does do something. He creates us, and expects us to take care of it.

  3. Tim

    I’m with Elena. That post was too one-sided. It’s good to reflect on our faults, but I don’t think she did her point justice by forcing a Christmas villain analogy.

  4. Jerret

    robert:
    “And of course, he does do something. He creates us, and expects us to take care of it.”

    Ridiculous. He creates us to both take care of the suffering and be the cause of it?

  5. Anonymous

    We aren’t all Herod all the time, but we’re all Herod sometimes, is the point. The statement “We are Herod” is actually a stylistic choice, not a blanket condemnation of every person.

    But, yes, we are all Herod, and some more than others — especially those who have a great deal of power over other people, and maybe even most especially those with spiritual/religious power over other people.

    Which is the entire point of why sin is bad. It’s all about the ripple effect…

    God doesn’t create us to take care of the suffering, nor to cause it (a really sadistic view of God, that…).

    He creates us with free will, and along with free will comes responsibility. We are free to choose how we behave, and sometimes the way we behave, whether it’s intentionally destructive or not, harms other people. Therefore we have a responsibility to fix what we broke.

  6. Anonymous

    > God doesn’t create us to take care of the suffering, nor to cause it (a really sadistic view of God, that…). < All right. I’ll allow that God didn’t create people to cause the suffering. But if He didn’t create us to take care of it, who is supposed to take care of it?

    P.S.- I grasp that the author used a stylistic method. I can’t say I care for it. Telling me that I am Herod, just doesn’t do anything for me. Telling me that I could be Herod, makes sense and causes me to be on the alert for Herod-like behavior.

  7. Anonymous

    Well, she didn’t say you are Herod…she said we are Herod. Big difference.

    God doesn’t create us to take care of suffering because he neither creates nor ever intended for suffering to occur.

    He did, however, create beings with free will. Free will goes hand-in-hand with responsibility, otherwise we’re essentially nothing but a bunch of psychopaths. With no conscience, no compassion, and, ultimately, no sense of responsibility for what we’ve done (or failed to do), what are we? What’s the point of free will?

    So it’s not that God created a universe in which suffering was an intended part of the plan and then created us to go around trying to alleviate it (like some kind of sado-bizarro SAT…what a truly odd, sick, creepy take on God…), it’s that our freely-chosen actions have caused suffering, either our own, or other people’s, and therefore we must take responsibility for it.

    As for the original linked post, I think it’s more than fair to point out the obvious — that it is part of human nature to be little Herods sometimes, and that instead of pointing fingers and accusing, we need to own up to the misery and suffering our own seemingly harmless/justified/whatever actions have caused and to make amends. Real amends. Not say pretty little prayers to God in some confessional box to make ourselves feel better, but to get down and dirty with the crap we’ve caused and to do something proactive about it.

    Who cares how ‘forgiven’ you feel if the mess you made is still creating ripple after ripple of misery and pain and destruction? Nice that you feel all full of the spirit, and all, but you’re still the one who made the mess, so clean it up already, ya know?

    The original blogger’s example is fairly extreme, but we all do it — a person says something cutting and demeaning about another, and the person who receives those words goes on to react in anger, and on and on and on it goes…

    After a while, you can just imagine God sitting up there like a frustrated parent at about four o’clock on a really crappy, rainy day when the kids have been off school and have been at each other all day…like he cares who started it, or who’s “right”, or what’s “fair”…all he cares about is who is going to stop it and who is going to make amends.

  8. Anonymous

    I am generally speaking with Drusilla on this, though with a bit of a caveat. I don’t think we are all Herod in what we do, but in what we fail to do.

    When we waste excessive time and money on Christmas toys for our kids who already have far more than they need (and on such things, I stand convicted as well), rather than channel those resources into actually rescuing kids like Drusilla’s foster brother, then yes, we are participating in not fixing things. We are indirectly responsible that evil continues, even when we are not responsible for having created it.

    Our sins are very often the sins of omission, of what we didn’t do but could have, rather than sins of commission.

    I’ll stand squarely with Chesterton on this. As usual, he offers the perfect words to capture my thoughts. When asked what was wrong with the world, his answer….

    ‘I am.’

    That’s my answer as well. I am Herod at least in as much as I don’t take the evil out there seriously enough to make more of an effort to help overcome it.

  9. Anonymous

    If I take Steve and Anon at face value, and if they really believe what they are saying, then they should be out doing what Mother Theresa did. Spending every waking moment giving all their life and strength to “cleaning up the mess”.

    But they aren’t doing that. They are arguing on the internet.

    Sorry folks, but I’ve said it before: One of the reasons I no longer can believe, is that the Church (i.e. the people that comprise it) does not believe (i.e. act according to) what it preaches.

  10. Jennifer F.

    The statement “We are Herod” is actually a stylistic choice, not a blanket condemnation of every person.

    That’s how I interpreted it as well.

    Anyway, what I took away from the post was this: when I first read it my gut reaction was something like, “What?! I’m not Herod. People like her abusive foster father are Herod. Not me.” But when I re-read the line where she asks the question, “Why doesn’t God protect little children from us?”, it hit me: when I ponder suffering in the world, I always perceive the causes of suffering to be external from myself. Why doesn’t God do something about THEM, about those bad people, about the others? Her post reminded me that suffering is not caused by “them,” it’s caused by “us”.

    I spend too much time asking God to make all those other people stop doing bad things, and too little time asking God to help me stop doing bad thing.

  11. Jennifer F.

    If I take Steve and Anon at face value, and if they really believe what they are saying, then they should be out doing what Mother Theresa did. Spending every waking moment giving all their life and strength to “cleaning up the mess”.

    Well, I don’t know much about Anon, but I’ve been reading Steve G.’s comments and thoughts (from when he had a blog and via email) for a year now, and my perception is that he is trying very hard to be as much like a saint as possible, to do his part to clean up the mess. Based on some of the stories he’s shared, my guess is that Steve G. is making *much* more progress towards making the world a better place since he’s started trying to live by Church teaching, spending more time pointing the finger at himself and less time pointing the finger at others. I can’t imagine that, totally on his own, he’d try as hard as he does to be a loving, forgiving, self-giving person.

    Or, to stop speaking for Steve G. and start speaking for myself, the world is definitely a better place since I’ve started attempting to better myself according to Church teaching — I used to be a major, selfish bitch. Now I’m just a sort of bitchy, pretty selfish person who’s at least willing to admit that I am part of the problem. 🙂

  12. Anonymous

    Oh, well

    I’ve been told I’m going to hell so many times, I’m pretty much resigned to it, so I’m out of the waste management business. /rolleyes

    And I’m not so sure we all need to go around cleaning up other people’s messes. There’s a lot of avoidance and denial in that, you know. It’s always easier to get all self-righteous and then all self-congratulatory because you’re pointing out other people’s messes and then making a big show of martyring yourself to cleaning them up. So much more ego-stroking than admitting to your own and then quietly making amends.

    But…you can say that about anything…I mean, YOU’RE on the internet doing this, too, so…whatevers.

  13. Anonymous

    Anon:
    You may not be familiar with all the characters here. I’m on my way out of any form of belief in any god/God. As such I don’t have a religious motivation to clean up the world.

    I don’t know your position though. I’m assuming that you are a believer (Catholic, Protestant, whatever). If I’m wrong, then my comments don’t apply to you at all.

    And for the record, I didn’t say you’re going to hell. I implied that you’re not living up to the comments you made. Again, that means nothing if you’re not a believer.

  14. Anonymous

    Jen:

    I’m hardly condemning Steve. He’s been a gentleman in every post I’ve seen from him. I’m just pointing at a perceived inconsistency. One that I lived with for years myself.

  15. Tim

    I still don’t get it. I don’t think the analogy works. Jen- I didn’t follow your responses. Are you saying that everyone, no matter what they are doing in life to help others, is Herod? Was Mother T Herod? Was Pope JP II Herod? And if it’s not everyone that she’s condemning, then who is on the not-Herod list? Is SteveG somehow not Herod because he is really making strides in his spiritual life? (no offense, Steve- I’m all for you – just trying to make a point).
    I guess if the point of the comparison with Herod was to say that suffering is in the world because of human sin, and that to whatever extent we are sinners, we have contributed to that suffering, then I would agree. And I would also agree that we all have an obligation to address/relieve that suffering. But to make the comparison to Herod – well it’s unbalanced. It doesn’t take into account the many people who are making great efforts to relieve suffering. There are many organizations out there helping those suffering. For example, Food for the Poor. FFTP doesn’t fund itself. There are people all over the place sending in donations. Are they Herod?

    Another problem I had with the comparison was the that Herod killed babies intentionally. He was an evil dude. If the point is that there is no distinction- that we are just as bad as a baby killer – then I don’t buy it. Please don’t misunderstand – I do agree that sins of omission are just that – sins. And we have an obligation to help others EVEN IF we weren’t the cause of the problem. But most of us aren’t killing babies- at least not intentionally like Herod.

    Like I said earlier, I’m all for taking a close look at our faults. I don’t have some huge ego or an “it ain’t my problem” attitude. And I am all for helping those who are suffering. I just don’t like the Herod comparison. It seemed to me like she was trying too hard to sound clever.

  16. Jennifer F.

    Mike J – No, I didn’t think you were condemning Steve at all. Coming at all of this from the opposite perspective from you (from atheism to Catholicism) it just seems pretty striking to me how much the Catholics I know who take their faith seriously really are out there trying to “[do] what Mother Theresa did…giving all their life and strength to ‘cleaning up the mess'”. Are they as good at it, as close to perfect selflessness as Mother Teresa? No. But they are trying, and there is a little bit less suffering in the world for that.

  17. Anonymous

    Tim:

    I agree with you, though I will allow that the author was using a hyperbolic style that is clearly not meant to be taken literally. Kind of like the canon of Saint Andrew, which I don’t like either. Ah well, hyperbole doesn’t work for everyone.

    Jen:

    Glad to know that you’re seeing some people out there fighting the good fight in earnest. I know of just a few myself. They’re pretty rare critters.

  18. Jennifer F.

    Tim – you’re probably confused by my response because you’re light-years ahead of me on Christianity 101 topics like free will and original sin. 🙂

    I hadn’t even heard an explanation of the concept of original sin until relatively late in life, and I always thought of cruelty, evil acts, causing suffering, etc. as something done by other people. I’d often wonder, “Why are people [i.e., everyone else] so bad, mean, hurtful, selfish, etc.?” I didn’t think I was perfect, but I did think of myself as totally, fundamentally different from those vaguely defined “bad people.” I could take comfort in knowing that I was no Hitler, I was no Herod, and while I might do bad things now and then, it was nothing like what *those* guys did. I think that thought process that can lead people down a very scary path, I know it did with me. I didn’t feel like I really had to be on my guard and examine my own actions all that much since I wasn’t one of the bad people.

    The line “we are Herod” struck me because I thought it was a loose but accurate encapsulation of the concept that we are all capable of doing some pretty bad stuff, especially if we rest on our laurels and assure ourselves that we are nothing like Herod (I’d imagine that Drusilla’s foster father told himself something like that, “It’s those *other* people who are out there causing suffering, I’m just trying to discipline my son.”)

    I think that one of the things that makes Mother Teresa, JPII, and others like them great is that they admit that they’re just a few self-congratulatory pats on the back away from being like Herod. Herod himself probably told himself that he was just ordering an unfortunate act to prevent unrest in his kingdom. He probably said, “Hey, I’m no Ahaz.”

    Anyway, I think that all of this is probably so glaringly obvious to people who were raised Christian that you don’t see why the analogy works. For me, the idea that everyone single one of us has a tendency toward committing evil acts, and we need to actively watch out for it, is a relatively new concept. 🙂

  19. Anonymous

    Mike, I’m not a Christian, I’m pretty anti-organized religion, and I know you never said I was going to hell…;~)

    I also believe that the Catholic Church is more guilty than Herod, Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein when it comes to deliberately causing horrific suffering in thousands of individuals’ lives for the shallowest of reasons.

    I just get the Herod analogy when it comes to the duality of human nature, is all.

    For those who don’t like the analogy, fine. It’s just a blog post, though, and I don’t think we need to hold it to the same standards of literary criticism as a properly published work.

    As for Mother Teresa…there’s quite a body of compelling evidence that she wasn’t nearly as selfless as some people would have it. It’s been pretty clearly documented that she allowed alleviable suffering to continue in order to promote herself and feed her publicity machine.

    And that’s REALLY evil. Herod, Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein…that’s easy crap to point out. Calling someone like Mother Teresa on her evil is a lot harder, and most people won’t hear it. And, of course, the refusal to hear a hard truth is yet another form of evil…

    And so it goes…

  20. Jennifer F.

    As for Mother Teresa…there’s quite a body of compelling evidence that she wasn’t nearly as selfless as some people would have it. It’s been pretty clearly documented that she allowed alleviable suffering to continue in order to promote herself and feed her publicity machine.

    I’d never heard that. I really don’t know much about her other than some quick bios I’ve read. I was planning on studying her life in more detail anyway since I think she’s an interesting person, so I’d be interested to hear the details behind those claims. Could you point me to some sources?

  21. Tim

    Jen- I get what you’re saying. Thanks.

    Anonymous- I take issue with your blanket statement: “the Catholic Church is more guilty than Herod, Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein when it comes to deliberately causing horrific suffering in thousands of individuals’ lives”

    No doubt the members of the Church, including Mother T and all the Popes and me, are sinful people. That’s the whole point of the Church – that we are a sinful people in need of a Savior, and we (members of the Church) collectively believe that Savior is Jesus.
    But the sinful members of the Church and “the Church” are two different things.
    I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say that “the Church” is MORE GUILTY than Hitler in causing suffering. (maybe it’s just hyperbole like the Herod post) Before I go further, could you explain what acts of the Church you are referring to that make it more guilty than Hitler?

  22. Anonymous

    I find suffering in the “natural” world to be very insightful to suffering amoung humans.

    It started because I own birds (two small parrots, a budgerigar and a cockateil). Reading about these birds, they typically live for 10-15 years (budgie) and 20-25 years (cockateil). In captivity. In the wild, like almost all birds, they have huge rates of chick mortality and those that make it to reproductive age live 1-2 years. Starvation, cold, disease, predation.

    Reading more about wild animals, this is pretty typical. Most animals die horrible deaths way before the end of their “natural” life span.

    I’m currently reading [i]Good Natured[/i] by Frans de Waal that explores what level of morality can be found in animals. Part of what I’m getting out of the book is how unique the human version of morality is.

    One of my objections to the God found in most organized religions is that he created a “natural” world with so much suffering. Animals are not said to have the “original sin” that supposedly is the root of human suffering. But this line of reflection does bring up the point that humans are uniquely able, of all creatures, to [i]relieve[/i] suffering.

  23. Anonymous

    “The Church” as an organized, very human institution. That’s how I define it.

    And I’ve already elaborated as much as I’m going to on a previous post.

    I know what I know what I know. And no amount of trying to cover it up changes what I know.

    Just because yours and Jen’s experiences with the Church have been personally rewarding doesn’t mean it’s been that way for everyone, or that it’s been that way through history.

    It’s extremely selfish to assume that just because “The Church” (however you’re defining it) is making you feel really good about yourself, that it can’t possibly ever have been guilty of seriously sick wrongdoing, the kind that completely spits on human life and destroys people’s lives forever.

    And I’ve already explained just how little respect I have for people who fall into that whiny, hand-wringing, pathetic, passive-aggressive, manipulative “oh, but that’s just some people, and we’re all just sinners, so it’s not really our fault” crap.

    It isn’t ever going to fly with me because I know how wrong you are.

    And so does God.

    Make no mistake about that.

  24. Anonymous

    Jen, you can start with Christopher Hitchens and Donal MacIntyre (I think that’s how you spell his last name). A basic google search, too, will point you to a variety of articles and material exposing what really went on in her “hospices”, and how she turned away real help for these people so she could keep up her facade of selflessness.

  25. Anonymous

    Christopher Hitchens is not exactly a paragon of balance and moderation when writing on religion. He is the last person who can be expected to give an unbiased assesment of her work.

    And pointing out the obvious fact that a known, declared, anti-Catholic might not be the best person to give an accurate picture doesn’t mean that one can’t handle the truth. It’s just a suggestion that maybe a more balanced source for the criticism is in order.

  26. Tim

    Anon- I didn’t assume anything. It’s you who are making assumptions about me and anyone else who claims to be a Catholic.
    I asked you what you were referring to when you said the Church was more guilty than Hitler in causing suffering. That’s all. I didn’t intend to make you angry or upset. And I’m not trying to change your mind or convince you of anything. I see this blog as an exchange of ideas and opinions. It’s like a buffet where visitors can bring or take away what they want. I know I’ve learned a few things.
    And if you’ve made up your mind that you won’t take anything away from it, then you won’t. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  27. Anonymous

    Right back atcha, Tim. I’m not assuming. I know. And when I see you and Jen and other Catholics brush off the evil the Church has done, then I know that you are of the mindset that allowed that evil to occur.

    You can’t unknow what you know. You can’t undo some kinds of damage. You can’t sigh and go all flowery and say it was just some people, oops, they were wrong, but they were just sinners like everyone else, so it’s all peachy now and no problemo, and let’s all have a Coke and start weaving daisy chains and singing hymns.

    Shrugging and going all cutesy-poo and blithely claiming you’re just a sinner is NOT a free pass to be an idiot and to leave a trail of misery in your wake.

  28. Anonymous

    If you don’t like Hitchens, try MacIntyre’s documentary. And then read the newspaper articles out of Calcutta.

    Writing about the conditions in the facilities Mother Teresa ran, and reporting on documented evidence that she turned help for these people away because it would mean taking the spotlight off her is NOT anti-Catholic. It’s not even anti-religion.

    And you can always say that the sweetness-and-light bios written by pro-religion, pro-Catholics are just as biased.

    You can also turn off your mind and turn a blind eye. Which is why suffering exists. So we’re right back at the beginning once again.

  29. Anonymous

    proud to be atheist:

    I liked Ayn Rand’s novels, and she is one of several who do a good job of pointing out how self-interest is behind a lot of human behavior. But her philosophy doesn’t encompass or explain all of human behavior.

    In saying that everyone is selfish, you are stating a thought, or opinion, but you’re not stating a fact.

    Of course you can shoehorn anything into your theory if you’re sufficiently dedicated to it. Just like religious folk do, or just like behaviorists do, or…..
    But that don’t make it true.

    Of course I have a big problem with Rand’s philosophy. Rand was its foremost advocate; and she was not a person I would want to emulate. Soaringly arrogant, utterly self-centered, completely unable to even discuss the possibility of her being less than 100% correct. Overall a very unpleasant person to be around. [Yes. I do judge a philosophy by its founders or chief adherents.]

  30. Anonymous

    Anon:
    A few questions if you don’t mind.
    1-What is your religious/philosophical position? You sort of seem to defend a view of God, but I can’t seem to pin down what view it is. And you have some definite stances on morals, but again, I can’t quite figure out what it is. Maybe your beliefs don’t fit any “regular” category, but could you provide a loose frame for it? It might help me to grok your POV a bit better.

    2-You said that “the Catholic Church is more guilty than Herod, Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein when it comes to deliberately causing horrific suffering in thousands of individuals’ lives for the shallowest of reasons.” I don’t follow this. I’ll outline why, then you can clarify if you wish.
    -Hitler caused the most widespread, expensive war in history. The casualties on all sides amounted to something on the order of 60 million. And of course Hitler ordered millions of executions as well.
    -Stalin killed tens of millions in the name of his regime.
    -Hussein slaughtered his own people and was a “safe haven” for numerous terrorist groups. He also lived in luxury while keeping his country and people in a near third world status.

    So given those specifics, what specifics did the Catholic Church rack up to compare? [Note that I’m not saying the RCC didn’t; I’m just asking for specifics since I’m not aware of them. Of course the old Crusades might be one, but beyond that, I’m stuck.]

    3-Regarding the assertions against Mother Teresa: I looked at some of the writings. ‘Twas new to me. There’s something missing though. Just assuming the accusations are true, what was her motivation? You said, “to continue in order to promote herself and feed her publicity machine.” But what does that do for her? She still lived in poor conditions. If she did take in millions, she didn’t use it to eat good foods, or get nice clothes, or live in nice housing, or any of the other things one normally does with ill-gotten gains. So I can’t see the motivation.

    Enough for now.

  31. Jennifer F.

    Anon – OK, so you disagree that all people are sinners (or at least that all people shouldn’t use the fact that they are sinners to excuse their actions), and you think that the fact that there have been plenty of sinners in the Church is inexcusable.

    We’re familiar with your issues with the Church, but what I’d be interested to hear is what you do believe. I believe you’re the commentor who said you’re not an atheist, so what is your belief system? What do you make of all the evil in the world, the human tendency toward doing bad things?

  32. Tim

    Anon- I’m not brushing anything off – including any wrongdoing by the Church. I was just asking what specifically you were referring to when you compared the Church to Hitler. At least let me know what it is before you assume that I’m brushing it off.
    Tim

  33. Anonymous

    I believe in God. I don’t believe in the whole Christ-on-a-cross deal. I don’t believe in a God who is out there pitting people against each other in order to test them, or who thinks suffering is good, or (an even sicker take on suffering, thanks to the Catholics), that OTHER people’s suffering is beneficial to me and my precious little personal-holiness head trip (for whoever wanted to know what drove Mother Teresa, this is it — she even stated it. She believed suffering and poverty was a glorification of God and brought us all closer to him. It’s why she refused to allow pain meds in any of her facilities. It doesn’t get a whole lot more sadistic, selfish or evil than that).

    Personal moral standards? Just don’t whine and hide behind pathetic excuses and think that your belief system is a free pass to dehumanize others.

    Typical Catholic thinking…body counts…

    The Catholic Church has been spreading misery since day one. Maybe their body count isn’t as high as other tyrannical entities’, but the pain and suffering is monumental, and it exists among the living. The Catholic Church has used the name of God to destroy people. And you can destroy people without killing them.

    But if you want to get into the living in luxury while the poor go without deal, look no farther than the Vatican…

    I don’t disagree that all people are sinners, which I’ve already stated…I don’t put up with whiny excuses. So you’re a sinner. Big deal. So is everyone. Playing field is even. Now what are you going to do?

    Evil is caused by selfish people who think they’re superior to other people, and more often than not, they believe this because of some whacked out religious belief. Suffering is evil. It’s not a glorification of God, it doesn’t bring people closer to God, and no one deserves it. No one sure as hell has the right to impose it on others because they think it’s a good thing, or because they want to punish people for not believing as they do.

  34. Tim

    anon- If I understand you correctly, I think I agree with your position on poverty and suffering – at least to a certain degree. I’m speaking only of my opinion – I don’t see most suffering (sickness, poverty) as good. I will need to research your contention about Mother T and painkillers. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    However, the one kind of suffering that I do believe is “good” and which is pleasing to God is suffering in His name.
    Let’s say, for example, hypothetically, that every position that you’ve taken is precisely in line with God’s thinking. In other words, you’re right about everything and those who oppose you are wrong. Despite the opposition, you continue to argue and defend your position about God and right/wrong. And as a result of your steadfastness, you are ridiculed by many. Some scoff, others curse or belittle you. Perhaps you’re even threatened at some point. But nevertheless, you stand your ground on behalf of the God that you know. Being ridiculed, threatened, etc is a form of suffering, isn’t it? (it may not compare to AIDS or poverty, but suffering nonetheless) In my opinion, this kind of suffering – “persecution suffering” – has merit and is “good.” The persecutor may be engaging in “evil” but the persecuted one is engaging (in my opinion) in good by standing up for the truth despite negative consequences.

  35. Anonymous

    If “persecution suffering” in the USA in 2007 is the worst thing you ever have to deal with, you really don’t have a lot to complain about.

    And you can be persecuted for any belief – religious, political, social, whatever. You can be persecuted because of the way you look, the way you dress, the way you speak, you socioeconomic status, etc.

    I think it’s pleasing to God for him to witness people who are strong enough and have enough integrity to rise above even the pettiest kinds of persecution.

    Now, for the people who suffer REAL persecution — like being put to death, or being tortured — for their beliefs, it’s not pleasing to God that it happens. It’s pleasing to God that the people don’t capitulate…maybe

    I only add the caveat because I think, sometimes, there’s more value in living to fight another day rather than going out in a blaze of glory, but every situation is different.

    There are also those who kinda get off on the notion that they’re being “persecuted”. I mean, just because you’re a Christian doesn’t mean you can’t be an asshole, so if someone calls you an asshole, you can’t go crying about how you’re being persecuted for being a Christian. There’s a lot of that going around, especially on the internet.

    For example, if you sit down on a crowded airplane in a post-9/11 world and whip out your Bible and start proselytizing the person next to you, and they ask you to stop, and when you don’t, they call security, you’re not being persectued because you’re a Christian. You’re being rightfully penalized for seriously inappropriate behavior.

    The other troublesome part of the whole persecution mentality is that it can so easily be used by Satan (and, yeah, I do believe Satan is very real, exists, and walks among us) can use this very nicely to his advantage. There’s a lot of this going around in Christian circles, too. When a Christian misbehaves, and gets called on it, all his or her little Christian buddies start telling them how it’s only Satan working against them and God tests those who have real faith more, blahblahblah, turning it all into a really sick little ego-trip for the supposedly persecuted.

    So…

    Is it pleasing to God that people suffer “in his name”, assuming it’s genuine persecution? No. It’s pleasing to God that people take it like a man (so to speak) and stand up for what they believe, but I’m pretty sure he’d much prefer the situation never arose in the first place.

    And that’s where this glorification of suffering gets dicey. People start to work backwards with it. If responding to suffering appropriately is good, then the suffering must be good, and then, next thing you know, we’re either perpetuating alleviable suffering (a la Mother Teresa and her ilk), or we’re actively causing others to suffer…all in God’s name.

  36. Potamiaena

    Very interesting reading. Well said, MikeJ! I learn so much from the comment section. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  37. Anonymous

    I just wanted to add this, because it’s one of the more bizarre twists I’ve seen on the whole martyrdom/persecution theme that is so particularly Catholic, and which, ultimately, at it’s heart, is pretty messed up when you think about it…

    I once read on some Catholic blog — one of those blogs where the author is completely in love with herself and her “personal holiness” (a phrase even more revolting than “Jesus Christ is my personal Lord and Savior” — when did Christianity become about putting yourself at the center of the universe, anyway…?) — that the author in question’s ultimate goal was to be persecuted/martyred for God.

    See? This is what happens.

    It’s gotten so twisted that you now have Catholics/Christians actively wishing for someone else to be so evil as to grant them the opportunity to showcase their icky old “personal holiness”.

    That’s where this glorification and worship of suffering and misery becomes an evil in itself. To hope, to pray, that another human being removes him or her self so far from God that they would commit evil so that you may have a chance to do something that will be perceived by God as good — just how seriously, seriously messed up is that?

    To wish others become evil so that you may earn brownie points with God…yeah…that’s workin’…/rolleyes.

    The ultimate ridiculousness of it all is that it assumes a brain-dead, dumbass god that can’t see through your selfish little desires.

    But, to put a different twist on Chesterton, if you believe in religion, you’ll believe anything…

  38. Anonymous

    Anon:

    Thanks for the response. I see your point about Mother Theresa’s possible motivation. I’d quite forgotten about the “pool of merit” idea. ‘Tis certainly a belief I never could see as other than mad. At any rate it makes sense that MT could be motivated in that way. Whether it’s correct or not, I’ll likely never know.

    One more probe about your belief: Do you derive your beliefs from any source in particular or just by what makes sense or seems right to you? I ask because what you say certainly doesn’t derive from any source I know of. Oh, and if I may add to that: Why believe in a God at all? (I mean from your POV,)

    I still can’t agree with your assessment of the RCC. I’ve no doubt that they’ve done their share of wrong, but to place them in a class with, or above/below, history’s most famous monsters… I just can’t see it. You needn’t elaborate. Just my POV.

    Lastly, thanks for the new quote that I’m going to swipe:
    “So you’re a sinner. Big deal. So is everyone. Playing field is even. Now what are you going to do?”

    Heh heh. Love it.

  39. Anonymous

    Do you derive your beliefs from any source in particular or just by what makes sense or seems right to you?

    Well, I’m a huge John D. MacDonald fan…;~)

    Which isn’t nearly as facetious an answer as the usual suspects will suppose. I’m a fair individualist, I suppose, and I believe that good citizenship and good stewardship are really at the heart of all moral behavior.

    As for God, well, try as I might to avoid him, he won’t leave me alone. We’ve struck a truce of sorts these days, I guess, which is why still the God stuff.

    Glad you enjoyed the quote. 🙂

  40. Jennifer F.

    I once read on some Catholic blog…that the author in question’s ultimate goal was to be persecuted/martyred for God…It’s gotten so twisted that you now have Catholics/Christians actively wishing for someone else to be so evil as to grant them the opportunity to showcase their icky old “personal holiness”.

    That’s where this glorification and worship of suffering and misery becomes an evil in itself. To hope, to pray, that another human being removes him or her self so far from God that they would commit evil so that you may have a chance to do something that will be perceived by God as good — just how seriously, seriously messed up is that?

    Anon – this is really a good point. Very interesting. I’d never thought about that particular perspective but, truly, wishing that someone would do something bad to you (and therefore separate himself from God) so that you may suffer to show God how devoted you are or whatever is misguided and evil.

    I’m glad you brought this up, because it’s all something we need to watch out for if we’re embracing suffering — to make sure that we’re not selfishly hoping that some new evil act happens in the world so that we can meet our suffering quota.

    I don’t know about the particular blog post you read, but what some people (maybe not that particular blogger) are probably thinking when they ask for suffering is for God to put them in a situation where evil has already occurred or is going to occur anyway and use them for good, even if it involves suffering on their part, e.g. the great peril and horrible conditions that the relief workers in Darfur endure. The aid volunteers probably weren’t hoping that genocide would break out in western Sudan so that they may suffer, but they will enduring suffering if they can help people.

    But, to your point, it’s important not to let a willingness to suffer degenerate into a self-centered martyr complex.

  41. Tim

    I didn’t know we had a suffering quota. No one told me. 🙂

    I don’t know about you all, but I am not into suffering. I spend a large part of my prayer time asking God to take away suffering in my life, not asking Him for more. “God, please heal this, or fix that . . .” If you go to mass, that’s what the bulk of the petitions are about – asking God to remove suffering. So I don’t get the “offer it up” mentality when it comes to most suffering. I don’t embrace most suffering. I don’t like it one bit, and I ask God to take it away. And I don’t think (and all of this is simply my opinion) that God much cares for suffering either. If you look at the life of Jesus, that was what His whole ministry was about – removing suffering. Healing EVERY sick person he encountered (unless they didn’t believe in Him). And of course offering up His life in exchange for our salvation from sin – removing the suffering of eternal separation. (Anon- I know you don’t buy the Jesus stuff, but it’s where I’m at, so I hope you’ll indulge me.)

    If suffering is so great, then why do we go to doctors? Why not just sit home in our miserable state and thank God for the privilege of being sick? No, I don’t get it, and if anyone out there is doing what Anon suggests – hoping that someone will be evil so that they can “demonstrate their holiness,” then they don’t get it at all.

    The one kind of suffering that makes sense to me is persecution suffering for the sake of a righteous cause – in my case, as a Christian, that cause is to spread the Good News. It’s the kind of suffering that the Apostles endured in Act Chap. 5. They didn’t go looking for a beating. All they wanted to do was share what they knew with the people in the Temple. And apparently the people in the Temple wanted to hear it too. So it was a teaching to which both parties consented (unlike the Bible thumper Anon described). But the Sanhedrin didn’t want the Apostles to teach the people, so they had them flogged as a warning. And strangely enough, the reaction of the Apostles to being harshly whipped was to rejoice “that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name [of Jesus].” They weren’t rejoicing because someone was evil enough to beat them. They were rejoicing that they had stood up boldly for the Gospel. Peter had a history of denying Jesus when times got tough. Imagine how good he must have felt to be able to say “I didn’t deny Him. Even when they threatened to beat me, I didn’t deny Him.” In taking that stand, the Apostles were doing God’s will, fulfilling His mission, and that is good.
    Were they excited that the Sanhedrin rejected the message? NO. They would have preferred the Sanhedrin leave them alone to teach, or better yet, accept the message.

    That kind of suffering makes sense to me as a Christian. And it would make just as much sense to me if I were one of a more general faith in God. If I love Him, then I will do what I can to stand by Him and to do what pleases Him. It pleases Him that ALL His children know how much He loves them, so I am asked to convey that as best I can to others who don’t know Him. If I’m rejected, the act of doing His will, despite uncomfortable or painful consequences, is good.

    Sometimes I meander as I write, so my apologies if my thoughts are somewhat scattered.

    One last thing about the personal relationship with Jesus. I know that can sound self-centered, and perhaps for some people they are being self-centered. But many are not. The point of a personal relationship with Jesus isn’t that “it’s all about me.” It’s that Jesus is specifically concerned with the details of every person’s life. He isn’t too busy. He isn’t too overwhelmed. He isn’t too high up. If anything, He is the one who wants to speak with us. If a friend came to you and said “You know, I’d just like to go get some coffee and spend some time with you and talk about what is going on in your life” would you be selfish to accept? Not if the person is truly sincere in that they want to know. So that’s how I see it. Not as something selfish, but in fact as responding to an invitation to spend personal time with Jesus. Because He loves each one of us, both as a body of believers, and as individual bros/sistas.

    what a long rant . . . sorry.

    Tim

  42. Anonymous

    Putting aside the issues of persecution for a moment, and agreeing wholeheartedly that ‘seeking’ suffering is basically perverse, I think something is being badly missed here.

    Regardless of whether we seek it out or not, suffering will find us. We all encounter it to differing extents. That’s a fact.

    The question then becomes how will we handle it? What shall we do with it? Shall we ’embrace’ it; offer it up as our sacrifice…as a prayer, try at least to bring something good out of it even as we struggle to rid ourselves of it? Or shall we become embittered by it, angry, resentful?

    Mr. Teresa is taking some hits here, but to understand what she was saying, one must understand what the Church says. That God does not bring about evil, but that he can bring good even out of evil.

    While Jesus’ mission surely was about alleviating suffering, about healing, restoring, etc., to miss that the most essential part of the gospel revolves around a profoundly evil act, and immense suffering is to miss the point. The point that out of and despite that evil and suffering, something profoundly beautiful is revealed…the resurrection.

    Jesus most certainly embraces, offers up, or whatever catch phrase we choose, his suffering. There is no way around it. But he did so that the greater good might be accomplished. That death might be conquered and our fear and cowardice at giving up our selfishness (sacrificing our selfish desires) might be overcome.

    One of the horrible things about pain and suffering is that the natural reaction is to allow it to consume us, to turn ourselves inward and become self-centered. And that’s normal, and from a purely human perspective it’s even something that one can hardly be faulted for.

    But if we can but lift our gaze from our pain, we might see the path forward. That it need not consume us, that even poverty need not make us bitter, angry or resentful. That was what Mr. Teresa preached. That is what the church does and always has proclaimed. That even in a fallen, seemingly irredeemable world, that redemption does exist, that redemption is possible.

  43. Tim

    I didn’t know Mother Teresa was married. Somehow, through all her celebrity, Mr. Teresa managed to keep out of sight and away from the cameras. What a scandal. 🙂

    Seriously, I don’t think the suffering that Jesus went through is comparable to sickness suffering. Jesus was persecuted for who He was. He was killed for who He claimed to be. People imposed this suffering on him – it’s a form of persecution.

    Sickness suffering, on the other hand, is not imposed by anyone (unless you get into failing to provide AIDS vaccines in poor countries). If my friend gets cancer, there is no persecutor. It is a disease. There is no good in it. Jesus endures persecution and crucifixion so that, among other reasons, He can rise and conquer death for all of us. My friend can’t say that about cancer. It just eats him away. And if cancer or other sickness suffering is to be embraced, then why did Jesus always heal people with sickness. Why didn’t He say to the leper “Go, my son, embrace this disease. You must learn that good will come from your suffering and your willingness to endure it.” No, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) “Come here. I will touch you when everyone else declares you unclean. I want to heal you and make you well. See, I have rid you of this evil disease, and now you are clean and no longer have to live in isolation.”

    The idea of embracing sickness suffering as something good or of redeeming value doesn’t make any sense to me. It is not at all the same as the suffering that Jesus embraced.

  44. Anonymous

    Jesus endures persecution and crucifixion – the suffering and crucifixion that Jesus endured was not significantly different from that of many other Roman prisoners. Literally thousands of people were crucified by the Romans, and captors throughout history (including, sadly now, even modern Americans) have demonstrated their potential for sadistic persecution.

    why did Jesus always heal people with sickness – he didn’t. As you pointed out in your previous post, he didn’t heal people who didn’t believe in him.

    Which brings up the doctor’s moral dilemma – doctors come to the profession because they like to heal people. What happens when there is no one to heal? They may be tempted to create illness, so that they can have the satisfaction of healing it. Perhaps the proliferation of cosmetic dentistry and plastic surgery in developed countries is a symptom of this. People aren’t physically ill? Make them think the shape of their body is an illness!

    While it certainly can (and is) directed in positive ways, the fundamental nature of problem-solving to human nature is a big reason I don’t believe in heaven. A place with no problems? So there’s never the satisfaction of having accomplished anything? That’s just inhuman.

  45. Anonymous

    Ah…and here’s why I don’t buy into the Jesus story. Jesus only healed people who believed in him? If you didn’t, too bad for you? Dude shows up, acts like a complete nutter, starts rejecting traditions and doctrine that are a huge part of people’s lives – good people’s lives, at that – and if you didn’t believe in him, you don’t get healed?

    Come on.

    Who’d worship a class A wanker like that?

    And one of the reasons suffering will always be with us is because of the entire suffer-die-save-humanity theme of the story.

    Suffering becomes good. It becomes a goal unto itself. And the next logical leap is that it’s okay to allow others to suffer or perhaps even cause them to suffer.

    If the Jesus story is true, it’s been used to such horrible ends, I can’t imagine God is too happy about it. I can’t imagine anyone who claims they believe in Jesus (and who’s actually concentrated on what Jesus says in the Bible, and not this ‘saint’ or that ‘saint’), and who would still believe it’s okay to gloat over someone else’s pain because you think it earns you something.

    Natural pain and suffering happens to everyone, it’s usually physical, it’s often short-lived, and as humans we can understand that and deal with it. Thanks to science we can almost eliminate most physical pain, and we can even help people deal with the mental stress of being in chronic pain.

    How anyone can justify refusing basic care to people because (in Mother Teresa’s words) suffering is beautiful is beyond me. There’s something seriously wrong with a person who has the means to help another who is in pain and who willingly turns away from them.

    Lyrl brings up a good point – what if there were no suffering anymore? What if the world really was a perfect place to live in – a place with no hatred or bigotry, no poverty, no war…whatever would the Christians do?

    So the suffering theme becomes a self-perpetuating problem. Christians need suffering to prove themselves, or to “join Christ”, or to find themselves a big old shiny, sparkly cross they can lug around and show off. And they always need someone else to suffer worse than they do so they can play “good Christian”. It’s a very, very weird mentality, and pretty sadistic and selfish, when you get right down to it.

    And you can’t blame people for being bitter, angry and resentful when you refuse to help them when you can, telling them that their suffering is good and to offer it up and that their suffering means Jesus loves them.

    If your child were lying on a stretcher in terrible pain, and the nurse told you she wouldn’t give them pain meds, that the child’s suffering was beautiful and brought us all closer to God, would you sing Hallelujah, or would you punch her fatuous face out, get a real doctor, take your child taken care of, and then call your lawyer?

    It’s always easy to call someone else’s legitimate anger ‘bitter and resentful’, but when it’s you, somehow it’s all different, right?

    Funny thing is, none of these people who get off on the pain and suffering of other human beings would sit by and watch their dog or cat suffer, yet it’s perfectly okay to claim human suffering is good. Very, very weird. And very, very destructive.

  46. Tim

    “Who’d worship a class A wanker like that?”

    Well, to start, the people who watched him heal the blind, turn water into wine, raise a dead man to life, and all the other miracles. We’re not talking about allergies going away. A guy can’t see one minute (and is forced to be beg by the roadside), and the next minute he can see and is going nuts with joy. If you saw it personally, you might be convinced that this guy was special. And many witnesses, including most of the apostles were so convinced by what they saw, not to mention the wisdom they heard, that they died rather than deny He was the Messiah.

    And then of course there’s the millions of suckers (myself included) over the last 2000 years who have worshipped Him without having seen anything personally – just based on testimony and faith.

    “Lyrl brings up a good point – what if there were no suffering anymore? What if the world really was a perfect place to live in – a place with no hatred or bigotry, no poverty, no war…whatever would the Christians do?”

    You just described Heaven.

    “If your child were lying on a stretcher in terrible pain, and the nurse told you she wouldn’t give them pain meds, that the child’s suffering was beautiful and brought us all closer to God, would you sing Hallelujah, or would you punch her fatuous face out, get a real doctor, take your child taken care of, and then call your lawyer?”

    I agree. I don’t see any good in sickness suffering. I don’t think it’s beautiful at all.

  47. Jerret

    Tim:

    Millions of people believing in a lie from ages ago doesn’t make it the truth.

    Not saying it was, just saying that’s not a valid defense.

  48. Anonymous

    Let’s look at Jesus’ miracles…

    Okay, he supposedly makes some random blind man see…he turns some water into wine…he raises a man from the dead…

    Cute. And completely pointless.

    To randomly pick a handful of individuals to “cure”, or to perform a party trick or two, while nothing really changes in the big picture is meaningless.

    The miracle stories are just that – stories. Actually, as stories, they are more meaningful and make a better point than they do if we’re to accept them as cold, hard fact.

    The stories – all of which deal with encounter – illuminate how we are to act when we encounter one who suffers, either physically or emotionally. We’re to be kind, to be compassionate, and to provide material help in any way we can.

    They’re parables, stories, fables, they have a point, they’re meant to teach, but did they really happen? I don’t think so. I even think focussing on whether they’re fact or fiction weakens their value.

    It’s easier, I think, at least for me, to “believe” if I understand the NT stories as plain old story-telling. They don’t even make sense as fact. Here you’ve got Jesus, in some stories, telling us all how we’re to lay aside differences (Good Samaritan) and help on a human-to-human level, and then Jesus curing only the people who believed in him, or re-vivifying his friends’ brother, but not other people’s lost loved ones. Pretty self-servingly selective, eh? So which is it?

  49. Anonymous

    Tim,
    Embracing suffering, or offering it up is not meant to be the same as accepting it. It means, as I said, that even as we fight to overcome it, we still try to make some good come out of it. That doesn’t make suffering good, but it can help us not be consumed by its evil.

    It’s not that we should put an imbecilic smile on our face and pretend we don’t hurt. It’s that we should try, even if we suffer to make meaning out of it and produce life from it.

    A woman giving birth has always been the most profound example of this for me. She is going to suffer to some extent no matter what (even despite all of modern medicines help). She can just become bitter, angry, and hardened by the experience, or she can see the child at the end of the ordeal and use it to help her make meaning of her suffering (again even if and as she uses modern means to reduce it-nothing wrong with that).

    The meaning is not always so obvious to see, and the good that can come might not be so proximate to the suffering, but that’s the model I am referring to. The friend who has cancer has the same type of choice. They can let the suffering consume them, or they can try, as limited as they are, to find a way to bring good about through it, even as they literally fight for their life.

    As for the distinction between why suffering occurs, persecution vs. natural, I suppose it has some interesting components to it, but when it comes down to brass tacks, pain is pain is pain. Jesus suffered the same physical effect as someone who get’s a spike driven through their feet for non persecuted reasons.

    And even in the gospels While Jesus makes the point regarding fortitude and persecution in some places, in doing so he doesn’t reject the fact that his suffering can also be paralleled to natural suffering. He even foreshadowed his own death and resurrection by analogy to a woman in labor I mention above.

    John 16:21: When a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she is delivered of the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a child is born into the world.

  50. Anonymous

    I don’t know that labor and delivery is the best example. A) it’s not that bad, b) it has a calculable beginning and end, c) it’s a chosen event, and d) you’re having a baby!

    Suffering tends to include the emotional burden of not fully understanding why you’re suffering, if/when it’s going to end, etc.

    Actually, physical pain, certainly to middle-class or better westerners such as ourselves, really isn’t that big a deal anymore. As you say, we’re all one phone call away from a bucket of Vicodin.

    Emotional suffering is probably worse than physical pain. In general. We understand the mechanics of physical pain and we can treat it. Emotional pain, not so much.

  51. Anonymous

    Lyrl, Tim, or anyone:

    When did Jesus ever not heal someone who came to him? I recall that one time he “did not do many miracles there, because of their lack of faith” but I can’t think of a time when he did not heal someone who asked.

    Lyrl:
    > I don’t believe in heaven. A place with no problems? So there’s never the satisfaction of having accomplished anything? That’s just inhuman. < Oddly that’s never been an issue to me. I can easily see heaven (if it exists) as a place where you can have endless revelations of things that will really blow your mind. Like those “Aha!” moments when you suddenly grasp a concept, or solve a tough problem, or discover something. An infinite God would be able to provide that forever. Just an old thought that’s been rattling in my head for years.

  52. Anonymous

    Anon:
    > There’s something seriously wrong with a person who has the means to help another who is in pain and who willingly turns away from them. < You mean someone like.. oh.. I dunno.. maybe… God? Who has the power to heal anything and doesn’t no matter how loud even the most devoted follower cries? And I agree that suffering is not beautiful. It’s ugly and unpleasant. The only beautiful thing I see in it is when we can turn it into something beautiful. Like when someone who has chronic pain, puts on a smile and reaches out to help others despite his pain. Or when someone who has lost a child goes to another person who is losing a loved one and is able to comfort them because of having been through it.

  53. Anonymous

    Tim:
    In response to Anon’s query, “Who’d worship a class A wanker like that?” you said:

    > the people who watched him heal the blind, turn water into wine, raise a dead man to life, and all the other miracles. We’re not talking about allergies going away. A guy can’t see one minute (and is forced to be beg by the roadside), and the next minute he can see and is going nuts with joy. If you saw it personally, you might be convinced that this guy was special. And many witnesses, including most of the apostles were so convinced by what they saw,< Wasn’t there just a long discussion about how miracles don’t convince people and if we saw one we’d just explain it away and so on????? Now I’m hearing that miracles are why a lot of people believed and persevered???? And here I thought that I was the only one who believed that would work.

  54. Anonymous

    When I was in France last year I visited Lisieux last year, and saw various places associated with St Therese. But I never “got it”. I read a book about St Therese, and it seemed like welcoming / wishing for suffering she could offer up was a big part of her theology. It is a part of Catholicism I cannot understand.
    KiwiNomad 2006 (Can’t comment on old blogger at present if I sign in.)

  55. Jennifer F.

    Kiwi Nomad –

    Good to hear from you.

    I’ve heard of saints, members of religious orders and others who actively wished for suffering. Actually, I just saw a documentary about some seventh-century monks off the coast of Ireland who intentionally lived in abysmal conditions on an island that was basically just a big, steep rock. It made me feel cold and hungry just looking at it.

    My guess is that what those people are getting at is trying not to get too attached to this world. Looking at the conditions those monks lived in, I’d imagine they were able to put a whole lot of focus on God since everything here on earth pretty much sucked for them. 🙂

  56. Anonymous

    Actually I saw a place like that when I was in Ireland… maybe the same place. It seemed incredible that people could manage to live there. From memory, they had also found traces of an older pre-monastic settlement on the same piece of rock.
    Kiwi Nomad 2006

  57. Anonymous

    Mike…

    God’s not a person.

    Besides, AFAIC, God sort of set it all in motion, handed us the reins, and backed off. Which is, when you think about it, extremely respectful and trusting. And that’s a good thing. A God that plays with us like pieces on a board game is not a good thing.

    I don’t see the value in ascetism. I’m more of a proactive person. It’s more productive to work towards good, towards ending suffering, than to remove yourself from this world. Besides, what’s so awful about this world – besides the suffering we ourselves have created? I always thought that attitude was sort of like telling God that this world wasn’t good enough for them. You know, you’re here now. Make something of it, otherwise it’s a colossal waste of time.

  58. Anonymous

    Anon:
    > God’s not a person.< Nah. He’s three persons. ….. 🙂 Somebody wanna give me a rim shot? > I don’t see the value in ascetism. < There’s value to it. I’m not so sure about the extreme forms but in reasonable doses it can teach you discipline, and to get along without things, or without food. Learning to get along without things can benefit your pocketbook and make you a less self-centered person. Learning to get along without food could even give you a better chance for survival in certain circumstances. Personally I have benefitted from measured asceticism. By learning how to fast I managed to get a handle on my lifelong hypoglycemia. Now I can get through a day without a meal and not have bad shakes and headaches. Anyway, I think limited asceticism can have real benefits. > It’s more productive to work towards good, towards ending suffering, than to remove yourself from this world. < You just nailed my objection to monasticism. At least to those who go into cloisters and never come back out to help others. > Besides, what’s so awful about this world – besides the suffering we ourselves have created? I always thought that attitude was sort of like telling God that this world wasn’t good enough for them.< Yeppers.

  59. Anonymous

    Hey, I’m not the trinitarian here…:~) He’s one…god-dude-guy to me. If god even has gender.

    You’re talking about ascetism for personal gain, though, not ascetisim to, I don’t know, be holier? Which is personal gain, too, I guess, but not tangible gain like physical discipline or healthcare.

    I’m a marathon runner, so I get the physical discipline thing, but I’d be the first to tell you it’s no hardship on my part. I love doing it, even when it hurts. So it’s all about the gain, not the sacrifice.

    Some of the monks make cheese. That’s good, I guess. And some make wine, which is better. Do any make beer, because that’s really productive and definitely makes the world a better place…;~). There’s one order that trains dogs. A little strange, but, hey, at least it’s something!

    When we were kids, our family had a big old house up in Vermont, and we used to go to the Weston Priory before it was all commercial and stuff, and they literally said Mass in the barn because their chapel wasn’t big enough for everyone. But they ran a serious farm, and raised sheep and had a pottery, and all. Which can get a wee tad precious, but it was a nice break from home and the horrible, dour, depressing, negative Masses we had at our home parish in NYC. The sheep were cute, and sometimes there were still late spring lambs around, which was sweet. And they had the nicest dogs, and a burro. I actually liked it.

    But the severe, you-can-never-be-too-miserable kind of ascetism is just completely useless and unappealing. But whatever. It takes all kinds I suppose.

  60. Tim

    “Millions of people believing in a lie from ages ago doesn’t make it the truth.”

    Jerret- I don’t agree it’s a lie, but I agree people believing it doesn’t make it the truth. I was just responding to anon’s question “Who’d worship a class A wanker like that?”

    I was only saying that millions of people have and continue to worship Jesus as the Messiah, including some of the brightest minds in history. Does that make it so? Nope.

  61. Tim

    Steve- I couldn’t disagree with you more on the suffering thing. I know you’re taking the Church stance, but it just doesn’t match up with scripture in my opinion. Jesus’s persecution suffering was sacrificial – for all of our sins. My friend’s sickness suffering isn’t sacrificial. It’s evil. Here’s an excerpt from Luke Chap 13:
    ——
    “He was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath. And a woman was there who for eighteen years had been crippled by a spirit; she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect. When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said, “Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.” He laid his hands on her, and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
    But the leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath, said to the crowd in reply, “There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.” The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites! Does not each one of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his ass from the manger and lead it out for watering? This daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now, ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day from this bondage?”
    When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated; and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.”
    —–

    Whom Satan had bound. Christians are supposed to fight Satan, not accept or embrace what he brings.
    I won’t embrace it. I will fight it with medicine, and I will fight it with prayer. No embracing.

    Now, how my friend reacts to his suffering may be good. In my opinion, the way to respond is the same way the sick reacted when Jesus walked by – cry out to Him in faith for healing. He still has the power to heal. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

  62. Tim

    Mike- the one and only recorded time when Jesus wasn’t able to heal is the time you refer to – when the people of his hometown didn’t have faith in Him. Note He wanted to heal them. He couldn’t.

    He always healed those who came to Him in faith, and sometimes before they showed any faith. But He also was limited by their rejection. Scripture doesn’t explicitly explain the reason why lack of faith results in no healing, but I suspect it’s connected to the gift of free will. If a sick person wishes to reject who Jesus is, then how can they expect Him to heal him/her? He doesn’t impose himself on anyone. He didn’t walk around villages saying, “I don’t give a rip if you believe I’m the Messiah – receive your sight.” No, He let them come to Him – which is a sign of acting on their free will. They have chosen to believe in Him. He’s not a healing bully forcing his power on everyone. He’s a gentle servant, inviting us to let Him help. So when people came to Him, He healed them. When, as in His hometown, they rejected Him, He could not heal anyone.

    Anon- where is your support for the contention that the healings are fictional?
    Scripture records many miracles, not simply a party trick here and there. We only get a sampling of the miracles He performed recorded in Scripture. And there are examples of Jesus healing everyone in sight, not just one person. For example, Matthew Chap. 4: “He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.”

    Emphasis on the word “EVERY”

  63. Anonymous

    > I’m a marathon runner, < And I’m impressed. I’ve never been able to get much past 6 miles. Now days it’s more like 3-4 miles ’cause I slacked off the running to concentrate on other sports. > so I get the physical discipline thing, but I’d be the first to tell you it’s no hardship on my part. I love doing it, even when it hurts. So it’s all about the gain, not the sacrifice.< Oui, d’accord. > Some of the monks make cheese. That’s good, I guess. And some make wine, which is better. Do any make beer, because that’s really productive and definitely makes the world a better place…;~). < Yes, they do. In fact the monks of St. Sixtus in Belgium make some of the finest in the world. I also found a book on Amazon called “Brew Like a Monk”. Hey, I’ll bet patience and discipline are part of good brewing.
    BTW one of the priests at the church I go to does home brewing.

  64. Tim

    Anon- I almost forgot. I also went to Weston Priory when I was a kid. My parents would take me and my brothers camping, and then they would drag us to the Priory whenever they could. I didn’t like it much. But my bros and I made the best of it. There was a big old pond on the property where we caught tons of frogs. Hey, it was something to do. I had no interest in the spiritual happenings at that place, but I did like the music. The main music-writer-monk’s name escapes me now, but he was excellent. They would play Weston songs at our home church sometimes, and I would remember how I heard them sung in person at the Priory. Pretty cool. I heard that monk left the Priory and married.

    As for monks and their various ways of earning a living, even raising dogs – why not? Heck, St. Paul was a tent maker. Of all things. huh.

  65. Anonymous

    I know you used to be able to purchase recordings of the music, and since the Priory is still there and a much bigger enterprise now, you probably still can. They also now have a proper church, although it’s still small, and they still do open-air Masses in a sort of out door, roofed area, complete with a speaker system and everything – and sitting in front a breathtaking view.

    Yep. Remember the pond. You’d drive up and park on the side of the road. The pond was on your left. And my brothers were quite adept at frog-catching.

    It’s a beautiful location. Not crazy about snow, but it’s lovely in the summer and probably gorgeous in the fall.

  66. Anonymous

    Oops, forgot…

    I don’t need any kind of support for my take on the NT stories. It’s just what I believe. There is no factual source that proves they indeed happened as they’re outlined in the Bible. The Bible can’t prove the Bible.

  67. Tim

    yup, pond was on the right. And I remember going to mass in the big old barn. As I recall, the monks would all process in together and sit in a big circle or semi-circle. I was never there in winter, but I remember seeing winter pictures on one of their album covers. Pretty cool place, even if I was dragged there.

    You’re right – you can choose to not believe the Bible accounts of what Jesus did. But they are presented as eye-witness accounts (in large part). Isn’t it possible that they are just that? And I suppose early Christians could have chosen to be martyred for a fictional story, but I’m thinking many of them were strong enough to face death rather than deny their belief in Jesus because they actually saw something. Like you say: It’s just what I believe.

  68. Anonymous

    Hey, people are weird. And, back then, people were superstitious and extreme, and less educated, and religion was huge — a much bigger deal than it is now.

    The guys who took the planes down on 9/11 are considered martyrs by Islamic fundamentalists. They really believed the whole bevy’o’virgins deal. We think they’re nuts, yet they believe on a level most Christians can’t even understand these days.

    But why does it matter? I never really understood this entire faith/salvation thing hinging on whether or not you bought into the Jesus story. Even if you believe it’s true, part of what you believe is that God knows it’s impossible for a variety of reasons for everyone to believe this story, or that the story would be twisted and used by ill-intentioned Christians to hurt people. And that brings us back to a Machiavellian God, and I refuse to buy that. Either God is good, or there is no God. I can’t believe in a God I can’t respect, and a God that would penalize people by eternally damning them for not believing in one set of stories, even if they’re essentially better people than the “believers”, is not a God I want any truck with.

    I seriously would choose hell over that, because it would be hell to part of that. There isn’t a personal reward you could dangle in front of me to be party to randomly and wantonly damning innocent people for matters out of their control.

  69. Tim

    I don’t think it’s God damning anyone for not believing in a set of stories. It’s the idea that the sacrifice Jesus made opens the door to Heaven. No sin in Heaven. We are all in sin to some degree (no matter how many good acts we do). Somehow we have to be transformed, cleaned up, whatever you want to call it, in order to enter, to exist in that perfect setting.

    Is God damning people that don’t believe in Jesus? I don’t know. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach that any particular person is going to Hell. Who could possibly fathom the depths of God’s mercy?

    But nevertheless, Jesus made it clear that belief in Him was key to eternal life. I don’t know how He deals with people who act consistent with His teachings about love, but deny He is the Messiah. I honestly don’t know. I can’t possibly put myself in His position.
    Perhaps people who live out His teachings, but profess to not believe in Him, are in a way professing a belief in Him nonetheless by their actions. It’s a bit analogous to the story of the 2 sons. The father tells the first son to go do something, and the son says “sure, no problem.” But he never does it. The father tells his second son the same thing, and the son tells him to go jump in a lake. But later on, the second son goes out and does as his father asked. People who say “I refuse to believe in Jesus,” but then go out and do exactly what He taught about love of neighbor, could be like the second son. Christians who won’t shut up about Jesus, but when it comes to acting it out are self-centered, petty, and materialistic, are more like the first son.
    Anyway, aside from the testimony of the apostles, I’m convinced by the testimony of my own spirit. When I read the miracle “stories” and teachings of Jesus, they pierce my spirit. They go right through me and something inside me says “Truth.” It’s very personal to me. Explaining it to someone is almost impossible, which is frustrating and encouraging at the same time. Frustrating because I’d like to be able to explain it to someone in hopes they might grow in their faith. But also encouraging because it tells me that it’s probably a personal message just meant for me. And to think that the God who made the oceans and the mighty redwoods is interested enough in me to speak to me in a way that no one else would understand is pretty cool.

    It’s not that He is speaking only to me. Of course not. He cares equally for all of us. It’s that what He’s speaking to me is often just for me. Not sure if I’m explaining it well. Then again, maybe I’m not supposed to explain it.

  70. Anonymous

    So all the people who lived before Jesus supposedly lived are royally screwed?

    They have to depend on God’s “mercy” to forgive them for not knowing something it was clearly impossible for them to know?

    The reason you can’t explain it is because It. Does. Not. Make. Sense. as fact. But you need to accept it as fact because you believe that you’ll go to hell if you don’t. Which is a pretty awful reason to believe anything.

    If something is true, you wouldn’t have to threaten people to get them to believe it. Only tyrants do that.

    And you wouldn’t create human beings and then only come up with the key to their salvation after gazillions of them had already lived and died without having access to that key.

    I just don’t get how people can believe something that includes eternal damnation for innocent people. There’s something mentally wrong with that. There’s something wrong with a person who accepts a belief that ultimately destroys and tortures innocent people. What drives a person to believe such a thing? The notion that they’ll get some big shiny prize? That if they’re a ‘believer’, they’re special, more loved by God, superior in some way?

    Ain’t my thing. Just can’t get into that much empty, shallow, self-serving hatred of my fellowman. And it is hate. It’s the ultimate form of hate. And complete narcissism, to boot.

    You can’t on the one hand claim something is Truth and then claim that it’s incomprehensible and can’t be explained.

    The nature of Truth is that it makes sense and can be comprehended and explained.

    If it can’t, that might be your first clue that it’s all a load of horse manure.

    Any religion that has, as it’s key doctrine, the concept that innocents will be eternally damned by an all-knowing God who knew this before he created them is a very hateful religion. It’s a religion based on the slaughter of innocents, if you will, just to keep this topical.

    You can’t whine about Herod and then say you believe in a God who would damn innocents. That’s lunacy, pure and simple.

    And that’s also the problem with having fallback excuses like, “oh, we’re not perfect”, “we’re all sinners”, “we don’t really understand”, “God is too big to fathom completely”, and on and on and on.

    If you can’t understand or explain it, stop shoving it at other people as truth, especially when you’re also telling them that they have to believe it in order to be saved.

    This God of yours sounds like one evil bastard.

    This God of yours is not my God.

    This God of yours sounds like Satan.

  71. Anonymous

    I also just want to add that I’ve known people — Catholics — big, huge, loudmouth Catholics — who claim utterly and absolutely that there are definitely people in hell, that the Church teaches there are people in hell right this minute, and that they know without a shadow of a doubt that people are in hell right now.

    Frankly, if I ever met an actual Catholic who was even mildly acquainted with what the Church teaches, I’d probably fall over in shock, but that’s beside the point.

    The point is that this is the picture of God THEY are painting. A God who allows other humans to judge and condemn, a God who creates people with the knowledge that he will damn them for no logical reason, a God who threatens and a God who sort of gets off on the knowledge that there are people in hell.

    Now, I’m pretty sure the Church still teaches that we cannot claim with any certainty that anyone is in hell, and that we are absolutely not to sit around, as humans, and point to this person or that person and guess which one is going to end up in hell. Last time I checked, that was considered a pretty serious sin, actually. But never tell one of those know-it-all, holier-than-thous what the Church actually teaches. Their heads might explode. And given the size of some of their heads, that would be a very bad thing for anyone living within a 50 mile radius.

    I’m goin’ with the God who doesn’t condemn innocents. I’ve experienced what the Church does to people in the name of God, and I can’t believe the Catholic Church has the slightest notion of who or what God is. They’ve just so obviously missed the boat. God does not hate, does not destroy, is not petty, and is infinitely bigger than all the small, pathetic, God-in-our-image versions we’ve all had shoved down our throats by these mean-spirited, selfish, cruel, cold-hearted, icy-cold people.

    Any person who delights in the knowledge that others are in hell, or, worse, who, on some sick, demented level, needs for there to be people in hell in order to feel all special and shit, is a seriously evil, sick, disturbed person. Seriously. Totally insane. On a level I don’t think it’s humanly possible to diagnose.

  72. Anonymous

    You know, Jen, you can play Elena’s game, and delete what you want.

    The reality is, Elena is using you to be her usual bitchy self.

    That you permit her to selectively edit and post snippets of my commentary on a discussion she has publicly claimed she refuses to be a part of BECAUSE I’m commenting only goes to show just how much y’all are lacking in any sense of decency and integrity.

    If Elena can’t discuss this because I’m here, I find it appallingly, yet not surprisingly, dishonest of her to drag MY comments to her tacky little blog, take them completely out of context, and then invite you and others to join the typical Catholic gang-bang.

    And, ya know, I’m not really all that surprised that you allow it, actually.

    You Catholics are good at the mindless, herd-animal game, and joining forces to engage in shitty behavior is probably what you do best.

    Go ahead and delete this.

    I’m not reading or commenting here anymore.

    You’ve proven what you are.

    You’re Elena, just a few years younger and, one hopes, a few pounds lighter.

    Enjoy the hate-fest.

    You all prove to me what you are every time you turn around.

    And that’s a lovely inbox you’ve got goin’ there, too.

    Like I said, Catholics are the most evil people on the planet, and you’re on your way to being a fine Catholic.

    Have a lovely life spreading the hate and misery.

  73. Jennifer F.

    I deleted the comment just because it contained too much profanity: c**t, f**k, etc. Just too over-the-top, Anon. Also, FYI, it violates Comcast’s Terms of Service.

  74. Elena

    That you permit her to selectively edit and post snippets of my commentary on a discussion she has publicly claimed she refuses to be a part of BECAUSE I’m commenting only goes to show just how much y’all are lacking in any sense of decency and integrity.

    In Jennifer’s defense, I do not need her permission to comment on discussions on her blog. How could she possibly allow or disallow it? That’s what bloggers do (NMH you created and deleted several blogs just for that purpose!) they comment on issues and events on the internet including other blogs.

    I gave full credit with links back so the readers can see for themselves and read the entire discussion in context if they want to.

  75. Mike J

    Ya know Anon, sometimes you’ve come up with some good stuff. But telling folks how hateful they are, when the hate pouring out of you is so glaring…… It won’t wash. As someone once said (I think it’s attributed to Buddha), “Are you looking for the evil in the world? Look in the mirror.”

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