Category Archives: Others’ stuff

What Love Is Not

I’ve often said that if what a Christian labels as ‘Love’ does not match in every respect the Love described by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13, then it is not Love. It’s certainly not God’s Love, at any rate.

It might be a cheap imitation, or it may even be a better kind of human love that more closely approaches that ideal, but it’s not God’s Love. Interesting therefore that it could be thought of that there are different ‘grades’ of love…

But what Love is not, is torturing billions of people for ever in a fiery furnace that Christians call ‘Hell’. “God is Love, but…” is a contradiction in terms. There’s no ‘but’ in God’s Love; there is indeed no ‘balance’ in God, and the idea that there needs to be is a man-made idea. God’s ‘Love’ is not ‘balanced’ by God’s ‘Justice’. Again, this is another man-made idea.

Putting this practically, take a look at this little meme. It goes a little bit further than I would (in that I still call myself Christian), but it says it really well:

Remember also the sickening Infernalist ideas about the Resurrection Body. Unless the Resurrection Body exists, how is God going to torture people forever in Hell? These people believe that everyone is resurrected into one of these amazing, glorious bodies, just like that of the Risen Christ, only for it to be used as an everlasting vessel in which they will endure endless agony.

You’d have to be a real sicko to believe that that’s what’s going to happen. Or, so deeply indoctrinated in the Infernalist viewpoint that it doesn’t appear that there’s anything amiss with the idea…

I realise that Dan Barker is an atheist. But sometimes it takes someone outside one’s familiar belief structure to cast a clear and clean light on just how foolish some of our beliefs are, and so I make no apology for including his ideas here.

Nope. Love is not torturing people forever; not in any way can this be a valid description of Love. No way.

Go figure.

Grace and Peace to you! 😀

 

10

Tapping the Christ Within

Here’s a great piece by Jeff Turner:


The God of Christianity does not actively send calamities our way, nor does he cause the world to batter us that he might better us. It is also the case, however, that God does not go out of his way to overprotect, not to “helicopter parent” us in order to ensure that we are never touched by difficulties or trying circumstances. The one who claims that God does such things is simply living in a fantasyland, and has no real contact with the world inhabited both by God and “men.”

So, why does God not magically shield us from the activities of the sometimes chaotic cosmos? I’ve thought about this for a very long time, and I’ve come to believe it is because he trusts his image in us. We are universes within a universe, and house within us that which the “heavens” which contain us cannot contain. We do not live as this is so, however, and tend to go about life gazing at our navels, and bemoaning our inability to change this circumstance or that. It is the chaos of the cosmos, however, that put a demand on Christ within us, and causes that which can bring about order to stand at attention in our souls.

Were God to never allow life to happen to us, we very well may never learn to trust in the reality of Christ in us, our only hope of glorification. We would remain in an infantile state, always trembling and looking for God to enter our situation from the outside in order to alter it. When life is allowed to be what it is, however, there is a blessed pressure put upon the limitless-ness of God in his people, and we find resurrection life coming from the inside out.

That said, if you’ve ever had the sneaking suspicion that God has sent terrible things your way, you can set that aside, knowing it is not the case. Life is allowed to run its course, but the good Father we have will not waste a single “happening,” but will redeem it, making it work in our favor by causing it to tap the endless ocean of Christ that we contain. You are being parented skilfully by a Father who trusts his image in you to come forth.

– Jeff Turner, used with his kind permission

10

How Jesus Interpreted Scripture

By Richard Rohr

Biblical messages often proceed from historical incidents, but the actual message does not depend upon communicating those events with perfect factual accuracy. Any good writer knows that! Spiritual writers are not primarily journalists. Hebrew rabbis and scholars sometimes used an approach called midrash in which they reflected on a story to communicate all of its underlying message.

Scripture can be understood on at least four levels: literal meaning, deep meaning, comparative meaning, and hidden meaning. Midrash allowed and encouraged each listener to grow with a text and not to settle for mere literalism, which of itself bears very little spiritual fruit. Some Christians do the same today with mature, reflective reading of Scripture (lectio divina), but Jesus and ancient Jewish teachers were much more honest and up front about this.

Whatever is received is received according to the manner of the receiver. This was drilled into me during my seminary education. People at different levels of development will interpret the same text (or homily) in different ways. There is no one right way to interpret sacred texts. Such a singular approach was a defensive posture that emerged more strongly after the fights of the Reformation and the attacks of the Enlightenment.

How you see is what you see; the who that you bring to your reading of the Scriptures matters. Is it a defensive who? An offensive who? A power-hungry who? A righteous who? Surely, this is why we need to pray before reading a sacred text!

More than telling us exactly what to see in the Scriptures, Jesus taught us how to see, what to emphasize, and also what could be de-emphasized or ignored. Jesus himself is our hermeneutic! He was in no way a fundamentalist or literalist. He was a man of the Spirit. Just watch how he does it. (To do so, you’ll need some knowledge and respect for the Hebrew culture and practices.)

Jesus consistently ignored or even denied exclusionary, punitive, and triumphalistic texts in his own inspired Hebrew Bible in favor of passages that emphasized inclusion, mercy, and honesty. He read the Scriptures in a spiritual and selective way. Jesus had a deeper and wider eye that knew which passages were creating a path for God and which passages were merely cultural, self-serving, and legalistic additions. That becomes self-evident once you know enough to see the “comparative meaning” of an incident or statement. [1]

When Christians pretend that every line in the Bible is of equal importance and inspiration, they are being very unlike Jesus. This is precisely why Jesus was accused of teaching “as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29, RSV), and why they hated him so much.

Jesus even accused fervent and pious “teachers of the law” of largely missing the point. “Is not this why you are wrong, that you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” he asked them (Mark 12:24, RSV). We cannot make the same mistake all over again—and now in Jesus’ name.

30

What’s So Bad About Sin?

For some time now, I’ve been working on some sort of ‘definition’ of ‘sin’ (which is why I put ‘sin’ in inverted commas a lot in my writings, because I am not sure it really exists; I am not sure how I would describe it even if it does; I feel that Religious people have an unhealthy obsession with it; I consider that it has been defeated by Jesus at Golgotha; and even if the Religious people are right and it does exist and is a major problem, still they have never been able to define it accurately and consistently.

Anyway, I still haven’t ‘got’ that definition yet. It’s an ongoing process, but without being too unhealthy 😉

So, here’s a great post on the subject by Ryan Harbidge, a piece which goes a long way towards explaining things, and also offers some interesting and encouraging perspectives:


I was brought to the hospital’s emergency entrance with a gruesome and painful injury. My left shoulder had become completely dislocated. My arm hung uselessly with my shoulder totally out of the socket and the pain was building to an intensity that was almost unbearable.

The emergency doctor looked at me with anger and disgust yelling, “What the hell are you doing here looking like that?  That is absolutely disgusting!  What makes you think that all of us here need to see that?  Did you think of me?  Did you consider what seeing that is doing to my well being?  Besides, it is against the law to dislocate your shoulder.  You will be punished for this!!!”

They gathered around and beat me.  The doctors and nurses knocked me off of the gurney and punched and kicked at me for what seemed like an eternity.

Hopefully at this point you are wondering, “What kind of a sick and twisted hospital is that?”  After all, this is not how patients are treated at hospitals.  The story is partially correct.  I did in fact suffer such an injury.  The treatment that I received at the hospital, however, was nothing short excellent, with caring staff who had one thing in mind for me:  The restoration of my body.  Repairing my injuries in order to make things right again. I told the story of this unmerciful hospital to make a point.  If you have been a part of either the Roman Catholic or Protestant Christian religion, you have likely been taught that God sees sin as the merciless hospital sees injury.

Where do we get this idea that sin is a moral failure—a coming short of following God’s laws?  Looking back at the history of religious development from primitive to modern times, there seems to be a commonality of fear, superstition and anthropomorphism at the heart of every religion.  In primitive times, people recognized the obvious design of nature and from that, knew that there is either a force or a person who is in control of, or at least influences what happens around them.

Kind of like at a hockey game where your favourite team wins and you happen to be wearing a certain shirt, you may assume that if you wear that shirt again, your team will win.  It becomes your “lucky shirt” and you wear it every time your team plays in order to bring your team good luck and influence their victory. The same thing happens in the development of religion. For example, you have a good hunting season after you have had a feast on the night of a full moon.  The assumption is made that the feast on that point on the lunar cycle  was an influencer in your good hunting season.  Superstition is born.

You recognize that people who are more powerful than you need to be appeased in order for you to live in peace and safety and the assumption is made that whatever force or being (let’s call this “God” for the sake of reference) who made the world you live in must also be like this, anthropomorphism is born.

Sin, therefore becomes something of an infraction of the expectations that this deity expects in order for us to enjoy safety, food and health.  A religious system of rule keeping and ceremony is born out of fear of this God in order for Him to provide for your needs. It’s a transactional relationship and anyone in the tribe who breaks the laws is assumed to be putting the whole tribe in danger and is subsequently punished.

We see this in the Hebrew language of the Old Testament scriptures.  There are three main words for “sin.”

-chaţţâ’âh chaţţâ’th: (An offence caused by falling short of someone’s expectations of behaviour)

-chêţ: (A crime.) This is also a subjective term, for example, in Deuteronomy 23:21,23 (NASBS)

“When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it, for it would be sin in you, and the LORD your God will surely require it of you.  You shall be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the LORD your God, what you have promised.”

The person in question only had to pay whatever he promised God because he promised it.  If he doesn’t pay, it is a “sin”, however if he hadn’t promised it, it wouldn’t be a sin to not pay it.

-châţâ (to miss)

Interestingly enough, looking at the masoretic texts, there seems to be an evolution of thought as to what “sin” is at some point for the Hebrew people.  It is châţâ and its corresponding imagery for “sin” which seems to make it into the language and thinking of the New Testament.  In the Septuagint, which came from much older manuscripts than the masoretic texts, we see a consistency of thought in the wording pertaining to the nature of sin.

In the Koine Greek language of the New Testament (and the LXX), we find two main words for the word “sin”.

-Hamartia: (miss the mark) This word has no moral implications.  It carries the imagery of an archer shooting an arrow at a target, but coming short of hitting the “bullseye”.

Francois DuToit, who is a Greek scholar was kind enough to send this definition of “hamartia” to me:

“The word hamartia, from ha, negative and meros, portion or form, thus to be without your allotted portion or without form, pointing to a disorientated, distorted identity; the word meros, is the stem of morphe, as in 2 Corinthians 3:18 the word metamorphe, with form, is the opposite of hamartia – without form. Sin is to live out of context with the blueprint of one’s design; to behave out of tune with God’s original harmony. Hamartia suggests anything that could possibly distract from the awareness of our likeness. See Deuteronomy 32:18, “You have forgotten the Rock that begot you and have gotten out of step with the God who danced with you!” Hebrew, khul or kheel, to dance.”

-Paraptoma:  This word gets rendered into either “transgress” or “trespass” in English. Personally, I like the imagery of “transgress” better.  The imagery seems to be more consistent with the Greek. It makes sense when you consider the words “progress” and “regress”. “Pro” means “forward motion” and of course “Re” is “backwards motion”.  The word “transgress” is a combination of the Latin words “trans” which means to “go across laterally” and “gradi” which is “to walk”.   Here’s the imagery that forms in my mind.  I think of a Canadian winter in which there is snow and ice covering the ground.  I am walking towards a goal.  I am “progressing” and am “on target”.  Suddenly, the terrain changes and I find myself walking along a side slope which is slippery.  I start sliding sideways, which takes me off course of my intended goal.  I have “transgressed”.

Now that we appear to have a completely different definition for what it means to “sin”, the big question becomes:  What is the mark we miss?  What is the goal that we slide away from?

I can no longer believe that sin has anything to do with falling short of Gods moral perfection. I have become convinced that it has everything to do with not recognizing our ontological worth and identity.

In the creation narrative of Genesis, we come away with one essential truth:  We as humans were created in the “image of God”.  We have divine origin.  We were declared by our maker to be “good”.  The Hebrew word used here is “ţôb” which means “complete, and as it should be”.

There is another interesting word in the Hebrew language and a corresponding word in Koine Greek which speak to human value. The Hebrew word is “kâbôd”.  Here is the imagery this word gives us:  Back before the invention of paper currency, if you wished to buy, say a cow for example, the worth of that animal would be equivalent to a certain weight of silver or gold.  Pretend for a moment that our economy still works this way. If you wish to purchase a live cow, in todays valuation, a cow would be worth approximately 1.8 Troy ounces of gold.  In other words, that cow has the kâbôd of 1.8 ounces of gold.

In Greek, we have similar imagery in the word “doxa”.  To understand this word, picture this:  You are at an auction.  A beige 1979 Plymouth Horizon comes up for bidding.  I know.  It’s unlikely that anyone would actually want to purchase this particular car and that there might even any of these in existence anymore, but work with me here.  The first bidder sees the chance of buying a cheap first car for his kid and offers $100.00. You see the car and it brings back a wave of nostalgia as you had a car just like this in high school. (True story for me unfortunately)  So, you offer $150.00. The bidding war is on!  Others, delusional with auction fever join in, suddenly determined to have this fine automobile.  At the end, the car is sold for an unbelievable $5000.00. Is the car worth that?  Yes.  Why?!?  Because someone was willing to pay that money for it.  Value is a very subjective thing.  Something has value because someone has demand and desire for it.  “Doxa” is the assessed value of something.

How are those two words, “kâbôd“ and “doxa” connected?  They are both translated into English as “glory”.

Read the words of Jesus high priestly prayer in John 17 with this imagery of “glory” in mind:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Note how Jesus says, pertaining to Himself: “you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.”  Who has God given Him?  All people of course.  Yes, He acknowledges the loss of one person, presumably Judas.  This does not imply  a static or irreversible state of being.  For being lost simply makes you eligible for being found.

Near the end of this beautiful prayer, He says, “The glory (assessed value) that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.“

In other words:  “The assessed value that You have given to me I have given to them.”  Jesus, I believe is the perfect manifestation of the eternal Christ (the enfleshment of God) and thus possesses the same value as God the Father.  He has given us the same value!  How awesome is that?  And why?  So that there may be a praxis of unity.

Have you ever been in a crowd of people who are incredibly rich, famous or successful in some way that you are not?  There is a hierarchical social structure that automatically forms.  If you are of a low place in society, you don’t feel like you can approach people of higher position as equals. There cannot be unity if there is a perceived difference in the value of people in a crowd. Jesus levels the playing field between us and our maker by giving us the same value…or perhaps by restoring the value we have always had.

At the national mint where currency is printed, a $100 bill is given the value (glory) of $100.  That is the objective value it has.  No more.  No less.  If that bill falls out of its owners pocket and is dropped into a mud puddle on the road, becoming soiled, if cars drive over that bill, damaging it and tearing it, is it still worth $100?  Of course it is.  Neither its poor appearance or its lostness has altered its value.  Should you be so fortunate to find that bill, it can still be traded for something of equal value.  If you trade this $100 bill for something that is only worth $5, you have “missed the mark” and have not treated it according to its true value.

Each of us as humans have been made in Gods image.  We are declared to be good—complete—as we should be.  This is the assessed value given to us by God Himself!  Throughout our lives however, we are told that we have lesser value.  People do this.  Organizational systems do this to us. The church does this.  Ever heard of the doctrine of “original sin”?  You see, it’s much easier to create a social or systemic structure to your advantage if you can convince other people that they are worth less than you.  This is what we call the “sin of the world”.

That’s right.  Things we do like: murder, theft, coveting, lying, etc., are not sin.  They are symptoms of sin.  The real sin is this:  When you either give to another person or receive from a person or system an assessment of value which is lower than what God has already given you.  This is sin.

When you have a cold, you get a runny nose and a cough. The snot, phlegm and noise of coughing is not the cold.  The rhinovirus is.  The gross stuff that is offensive to everyone around you is simply the symptoms of the virus.

If you have been told and believe that you are ontologically flawed from the get-go, that you are worth nothing and are utterly sinful, that is how you will behave.  Your perceived, assessed value will ultimately be reflected in your behaviour. From your lowered sense of worth, comes “sinful” actions.  It is impossible to consistently live a life that reflects a value higher than what you think you are worth.  Ever wonder why so many religious people tend to fall and fall hard into a lifestyle of “sin”?  They live a disingenuous life with the belief that they are sinful, but hold themselves to a higher sense of morality, because that’s what they believe God expects of them.  It’s the same transactional mindset of primitive religion.  The problem is, that you cannot keep up the facade.  You will ultimately fail in your quest for a “moral” life. It doesn’t matter if you are a high profile preacher or just an average person.  The only difference is that the high profile guy gets noticed more.

The gospel has nothing to do with a prayer you must pray, a set of beliefs you must hold to and behaviour you must keep in order for God to be pleased enough with you that He will let you into heaven one day.  The gospel is the announcement that you have never lost your value. You are worth the same as God Himself.  You are as you should be. You are good.  The gospel is that we don’t have to live from a low valuation of self.

The words of Jesus in Luke 10:26-28 (NASBS):

“And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered, ‘You SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’  And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.’”

Jesus is not telling this inquisitive lawyer how to act in order to please God.  He is telling him how you act naturally when you behave from a knowledge of what you are already worth!  He is describing how to live as one who is fully and beautifully human!  Whenever you treat someone with kindness, whenever you refuse to respond to violence with violence, whenever you put the needs of someone else ahead of yourself, you are behaving in the most natural, truly human way. You are behaving from who you are. This is what pleases God. When we engage in relationship with Him, we participate in the healing of the world.

In the first chapter of the gospel of John, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him and announces, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  That is indeed what Jesus started, but did not complete.  You see, it was important for God to become enfleshed as one of us, to bring back dignity to humanity and to restore our “glory” as humanity had completely lost sight of our value.  Jesus gives us permission to believe that we are good.  And because we are good, we can behave in a way that reflects who we are.  I believe that “taking away the sin of the world” is a task that needs to continue.  It is a job that each of us is called to. Each of us needs to communicate to other people that we come into contact with everyday that they too are priceless.  They too are created in the image of God and are complete and good as they are.  We need to participate with God in taking away the devaluation of humanity and restore proper worth revealing every person as equal.  It seems like a big job, but it really comes naturally when you live from your true self.

Once more…and if it seems like I am repeating myself, I am.  You are NOT morally depraved.  You do NOT have a sin nature.

You ARE good.  You ARE created in the image of God and share His value.  Your nature is love and you can only thrive when you participate in what is natural for you.

Repeat this to yourself every day. Change your mind about who you are and watch how your behaviour naturally shifts as you understand who you have always been!

– Ryan Harbidge, used here with his kind permission


Here is the link to the original article20

A Spiritual Smorgasbord

Smorgasbord
noun

– a buffet meal of various hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, salads, casserole dishes, meats, cheeses, etc.

– an extensive array or variety


“[When exhorted to] “read scripture as though my life depends on it”, [let me say that] my life does not depend on scripture … Scripture didn’t create me, die for me, redeem or restore me, Scripture doesn’t love me, or work all things for my good. Jesus, on a cross, reconciling and restoring all creation, not counting our sins against us, is my salvation, my friend, my redemption and lover of my soul.
– Jason Clark

“I got to the point of realizing that the divine plan is for us to eventually want goodness as if NO supreme being/force exists simultaneously knowing that they do. Otherwise, we are coerced and insincere as a result”
– Mike Liao

“…because purpose became more holistic than adding people to the total number of Christians…”
– Tom Boulton

It’s okay to ask questions. The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.
– Diana

A fool will continue to validate why they are thought a fool to begin with, yet never understand themselves why they are thought of thus.
– Anon

Don’t search Scriptures to find life in Jesus.
Instead, search Jesus to find life in Scriptures.
– Anon

But yes, she is entitled to her opinion, just as I am entitled to reject it, using the same rights she has to assert it, and round and round we go 😉 The minute I take away someone else’s right to hold an opinion, I take away my own right to hold a different opinion.
– Me

ALL Religions come from a presupposition that God doesn’t like you
– Rex Gaskey

Sin doesn’t really exist; The only way sin exists is when you look at the world through the lens of good and evil
– Jamal Jivanjee

Prayer is simply a way to bring one’s being into an awareness of the presence of a God it is never separated from. Pray or don’t pray. Your proximity to God will not change one iota, but your perception of said proximity will.
– Jeff Turner

If Grace means that God is for me, regardless of my faults, then it also means that He is for the other guy too, regardless of his faults. It can be no other way
– Me

The God in Exodus was a reflection of Moses. Nothing more and nothing less.
– Richard Maggio

Revenge is a confession of fear
– Jedi proverb

Next time you’re inclined to label someone a certain way and sum up their substance or lack of it based on a tiny snapshot of their life, stop yourself and remember you haven’t a clue where that person has been before you and they came into contact
– Anon

 10

White Feather

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Faith, Calling, Action and Judgement

My last two articles have been about ideas on keeping our good deeds between ourselves and God; not having to be accountable to others about our good deeds or our motivations; about the judgmentalism of others; and about the depth of the true motivations behind our actions.

Rarely, though, in these times of online presence and social media, do we really have to pay the penalty for our silence and our refusal to be judged by others. Usually, we can simply hit the ‘Block’ button, and that’s the end of it. But in times past, in fact even up until very recent times, it wasn’t like that, because most interactions were face-to-face and so there was often no escape.

Today, I would like to give what is for me a deeply moving real-life example of a person who modestly chose to conceal his true self, his personal convictions and his motivations from his critics. He did this at the expense of being unjustly labelled as a coward in what was, at the time, the most humiliating way possible. And this despite his being one of the bravest men I have ever read about.

His name was Arnold Ridley.

Many of my readers (especially ones of my age or older!) will remember the legendary 1960s/70s wartime sitcom ‘Dad’s Army’. And so you’ll also remember Arnold as the actor who played the lovable old duffer ‘Private Godfrey’.  Yep, that’s the same Arnold Ridley.

Arnold Ridley as Pvt. Charles Godfrey

In one episode of Dad’s Army, ‘Branded‘, Godfrey declares that he wishes to resign from the Home Guard platoon because he realises that he could never bring himself to kill another person. He also reveals that he had been a Conscientious Objector (that is, someone who refused to fight for reasons of conscience) during the First World War, and because of this he is ostracised by some of the other members of the platoon. This is because Conscientious Objectors were thought to be ‘cowards’ by the rest of society, and so the platoon treat him as one; he is therefore effectively given the ‘white feather’ – the symbol of cowardice – by his platoon mates. Of course, some Conscientious Objectors may well have been ‘cowards’, but many if not most were simply people of high principles who stood firm on their personal beliefs, despite incredible outward pressure to conform. That takes courage at a level not often found in your average ‘coward’ 😉

Later in the episode, and at the risk of his own life, Godfrey bravely rescues his Commanding Officer, Captain Mainwaring, from being suffocated in a smoke-filled hut, and so the platoon visit Godfrey as he is recuperating in his bed at home.

Above the bed is a photo of Godfrey in uniform, and Capt. Mainwaring notices that, in the photo, Godfrey is wearing the Military Medal, a decoration for bravery in battle on land. Godfrey’s sister reveals that, during the First World War, he had volunteered to join the Medical Corps, and that he’d served as an unarmed stretcher bearer at the Battle of the Somme, and had recovered wounded men from no-man’s land under heavy fire. He tries to downplay the story and make light of his heroism, but his sister insists on telling his platoon mates the story as it was. He felt that wearing the medal would have ‘seemed rather ostentatious’ and so no-one ever knew about his courage*. ‘It does show, sir, that you can’t always go by appearances…’ are his words that close the episode.

That was Pvt Godfrey’s story.

What many don’t know is the very similar story of the man who played Godfrey, our aforementioned Arnold Ridley himself.

Arnold volunteered for the British Army on the outbreak of World War I in 1914, at the age of sixteen. Although, for medical reasons, he was not at first accepted, the following year he volunteered again and this time he was accepted.

He joined the Somerset Light Infantry, and fought at the Battle of the Somme in 1916. During the battle, he was severely wounded in the legs, head, back, groin and hand; he also suffered from severe shell-shock, and it is unsurprising that he was invalided home with a medical discharge.

Back in England, while out and about one day, Arnold was given a white feather – actually given a real, physical white feather – by a woman in the street who was obviously judging him for not being on the Western Front (or any other front for that matter) and participating in the fighting. He took the feather without comment, later explaining that, “I wasn’t wearing my soldier’s discharge badge. I didn’t want to advertise the fact I was a wounded soldier and I used to carry it in my pocket”. Not once did he try to justify himself, explain himself, or counter that woman’s action in any way.

My goodness. Words can’t describe that kind of courage.

And later, as if that wasn’t enough, when the Second World War began, Arnold selflessly volunteered again, and went to France in 1939 as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). I understand that Arnold almost immediately began to suffer a relapse of his shell-shock, and that if anything his experiences in France in 1939-40 were worse than those at the Somme. He was evacuated on the last ship out of Boulogne in May, 1940, having seen the catastrophic collapse of the BEF as the Nazis’ Blitzkrieg swept across France. He was demobilised from the Army on his return; however, he joined the (real!) Home Guard and also ENSA,** in which he helped to entertain the troops.

Do I really need to comment? People often ask if our modern soldiers would have the same sense of duty, modesty, honour and all those other things so characteristic of that generation; I would assume that they would, of course, but that’s not what I’m writing about today.

I’d say my main point is that it takes huge courage to not try to defend oneself against unjustified criticism. Courage that, in Arnold’s case, he’d already shown he had, and then some. Here is a very brave man who was thought to be a coward, but was actually a courageous war hero who just happened to be so modest that he didn’t let anyone know about his heroism.

It demonstrates very strongly to me that no-one has any right what. so. ever. to judge someone else. Especially to judge them for what actions the person judges them as having, or not having, carried out to the judger’s satisfaction. Arnold is a case in point; he was willing to suffer others’ negative judgements because he didn’t want to ‘blow his own trumpet; that sort of thing just wasn’t done back then. But at the same time he also had his own inner security of knowing what he really was. He preferred for his heroism to remain anonymous even at the price of being given the white feather. Now that’s real heroism.

What is is with humans judging each other all. the. time? It seems, as I said in my previous essay, that some people exist only to judge others. Well, no-one has the right to judge anyone, under any guise whatsoever. In my previous posts, I’ve been through the theology; this time it’s all about reasonable, decent standards of behaviour and common sense 😀

So, I’m going to adopt the practice of not doing my judges the honour of responding to their judgmentalism and criticism. I have only a set number of heartbeats to spend on this earth; buggered if I’m going to waste them on people who really have neither a clue, nor the right, to impose on the ‘real me’ their own impressions of what they think I am. And you too can choose to adopt that point of view, should you so wish.

No, I’m going to follow the example of the amazing Arnold Ridley, and not even answer my critics. Not out of pride, you understand, but just that nothing of my life is any of their business, and I am secure in who I am, because I know myself 😀

But what a brave guy Arnold Ridley was. You’d never have guessed it, would you? And you know what, I am absolutely sure that that is exactly the way he would have wanted it.

Grace and Peace to you


*Courage, to me, means being absolutely terrified about doing something, but going ahead and doing it anyway.

**Entertainments National Service Association, an organisation that provided entertainment for British armed forces personnel in World War II.


Useful Links

(All links will open in new tabs/windows)

Arnold Ridley’s page on Wikipedia

Arnold Ridley’s page on IMDB (Internet Movie Database)

Article about Arnold Ridley in the Daily Mail, featuring an interview with his son, Nicholas. Some of my material for this piece was obtained from that article, which is why I have written above that ‘I understand that…’ because the only thing I really trust about the Daily Mail is the date on the front 😉

Some of the material in this piece was gleaned from an article published in the Herald Express, February 12th 2020, written by Guy Henderson, and used here with his kind permission.

 

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Too Good to be True?

My readers are probably fed up by now with the way in which I keep reiterating that there are Christians who seem to determined to wring every bit of Bad News that they can out of the Good News. Examples of such articles are here and here. I didn’t mean to rant, honest! 😀

Anyway, my dear friend Mo Thomas looks at this phenomenon in some detail in this post, where he explains some of it with refererence to identifying how he himself used to believe. And he’s right in his thinking.

Responding to Mo’s piece, I wrote a short prose filling out a few other points, which he liked. Together, I believe these two pieces make for some instructive reading, which I think goes to the heart of the pessimistic outlook of those Christians, from two different angles. That’s why I thought I’d share it here with you. It has certainly helped me to see things from their perspective!

Mo first:

Over-Exaggerating God’s Goodness

Why is there such massive pushback in our churches, perhaps even outrage, against an unconditionally loving and merciful God, whom we hope will eventually rescue and save all people? Do people just not want a successful Savior?!?

Well… it’s more complicated than that.

Many that fall into this category are simply trying to honor God by taking the scriptures seriously and literally. They aren’t purposely painting God as a genocidal murderer and cruel torturer and giver of death and disease… instead, they sincerely believe these are unfair and grossly inaccurate labels that atheists tend to hurl as accusations and caricatures. They categorically believe the Bible says what the Bible plainly says, which means that God can and does do whatever He pleases – even if this includes behavior that we would, without hesitation, know is evil.

This was me for most of my life.

Here were a few points of my previous, seriously literal, Biblical logic:

1. God is filled with both love AND wrath, and without the darkness of “violent OT” [Old Testament – Ed] God and “overseer of hell” God, Jesus’ radical love in the Gospels is diminished and perhaps even meaningless without the contrast.

2. The Gospel by definition is centered on a CHOICE that REQUIRES some are in, and some MUST BE out, or else why did Jesus die at all?? In this case, “out” means you will be banished to a place of endless horrifying torture, the just requirement of an infinitely holy God.

3. There was a certain security and even (unspoken) pride in knowing I was heading to heaven’s bliss because of something I had done or believed. It also provides a sense of belonging to be in the “in” group with all the “in” benefits, in STARK contrast with those currently excluded.

4. The parable of the vineyard highlights how furious the “early arrival” workers became when learning the Master paid the “late arrival” workers the exact same amount. It seems so very unfair to say that EVERYTHING depended on the character of the Master, REGARDLESS of how long or how hard or how sincerely anyone worked. I guess I really wanted, in some sense, for God to place a great deal of weight on my life-long diligence, knowledge, choices, and hard work when it came to receiving His benefits.

My unraveling began as the nameless, faceless people, in the stories I read and the sermons I heard, started to become humanized in my heart. These were real flesh and blood image-bearers who, according to the narrative, suffer at the hands of God, in gratuitously violent and soul-sickening ways that I simply could NOT reconcile with the character of Abba as revealed by Jesus.

I also saw that my theology had been mainly propped up on MY beliefs and MY works, rather than on Christ – Their beliefs and Their works and Their loving acceptance of me into Their heart long before my birth.

So I started asking questions, and I encountered the Holy Fire of Their Love that unveiled the terrifying and utterly beautiful nature of raw, unfiltered Grace.

(By the By… it’s IMPOSSIBLE to over-
exaggerate the Goodness of God…
you will be forgiven for trying)

 – Mo Thomas, used here with his kind and indeed enthusiastic permission

Of course, that post got me thinking. And, as so often happens when I read others’ posts, it helped me to crystallise my own thinking from over the last few months or so.

Here’s what I put:

I agree that they are trying to honour the ‘whole counsel of Scripture’, but of course even that depends on interpretation and on being able to see the whole arc of the story. For example, treating the OT Scriptures as if Jesus never came is a mistake that is all too common. We cannot give the same weight to OT Scriptures where they are superseded by the revelation of God in Christ.

Something else is that in our lives we are conditioned to believe that if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Maybe that hesitancy to believe that the incredible, [insert superlatives of choice] Good News really is as good as we claim, is based on that reluctance to believe that things can really be that good. Especially when we combine it with being told that God is Good, and holding that up against the crap that happens in the world. Evidence from civilisation suggests that God is not good, or at least if He is, then He’s not doing much about the bad stuff that happens.

For those who have experienced first-hand the goodness of God, there is no other way of seeing things except that God is indeed Good – and yes, that’s ‘all the time’ 🙂 But a combination of our fear of being let down (again), nature being red in tooth and claw, and shit being allowed to happen unchecked, and things being too good to be true, I suppose it’s no wonder that we fall short of allowing ourselves to bask in the fulness of the knowledge of just how Good the Good News really is.

So, there we are. Lots to think about there, and hopefully some understanding has been gained too.

Too Good to be True? Well, I think it was Kurt and Katy Adkins that said, “…if it is not too good to be true, then it is not the Gospel”

I think I’d agree with that 😀10

No Going Back

Here’s a great thought from my friend Phil Drysdale:There is nothing wrong with engaging with spirituality at that level. For many that is all they need and want.

But know that for those of us that have moved forward we are unlikely to start moving backwards again. That’s not the trajectory of our path. Your plea for us to return to your absolutes is not likely to do much more than cause you more frustration and pain. And I can say with all honesty that is the last thing we want for you.

If certainty is what you seek, enjoy your certainty. There are even many out there seeking certainty and they may be all ears to your answers. But we are not those people.

– Phil Drysdale, used with his kind permission00

Universal Freedom

I have titled this piece as I have because I see a common theme of freedom all around the world: ordinary believers from all faiths, denominations and cultures are realising that God is simply available to all who call on Him, and He releases them into the freedom to serve Him as He calls them, and not according to the whims, doctrines and dogmas of other humans.

I wrote, in an article I published a few weeks ago, about how I am ministering in a group for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses. On the back of that article, then, I present here an extract from the book Crisis of Conscience, by Raymond Franz, a man who for sixty years was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and who for the final nine years of that time was one of the Governing Body (the ‘GB’), the supreme council of that religion.

In his book, Ray Franz describes in detail much of the way in which the GB works, and he also describes the ‘witch-hunt’ and inquisition that led to his dismissal from the GB, and eventually his ‘disfellowshipping’ from the Jehovah’s Witnesses entirely. I mention this in order to give context, because what Mr. Franz speaks of here describes perfectly the freedom one feels when one emerges from under the domination of man-made religion and the need to please men in accordance with their doctrines. In my previous article, I  talked about people I had met in the ex-Jehovah’s Witness community who are now living free in the Spirit. I would say that in fact complete freedom in the Spirit is not really possible until one has shaken off that need to please men; this shedding of the need to follow the ‘doctrines of men’ (Mt 15:9) is what my friends in that group have progressed to, and this is what this extract speaks of.  Note also the parallels with dealing with Religious antagonists of any persuasion – especially the ‘judging adversely one’s standing with God’. Heaven’s gatekeepers at work again!

Over to Ray Franz:


The mind which renounces, once and forever, a futile hope, has its compensation in ever growing calm. I have found that saying true in my own case. I know that it has proved true in the case of many others.

Whatever the initial distress— a distress that sometimes follows the demeaning experience of being interrogated by men who, in effect, strip one of human dignity, make the weight of their authority felt, and presume to judge adversely one’s standing with God— however torn one may feel inside, afterward there does come a distinct feeling of relief, of peace.

It is not just knowing that one is finally outside the reach of such men, no longer subject to their ecclesiastical scrutiny and pressure. Truth, and the refusal to compromise truth, brings freedom in other fine and wonderful ways. The more responsibly one makes use of that freedom, the finer the benefits. The greatest freedom enjoyed is that of being able to serve God and his Son— as well as serve for the good of all persons— untrammelled by the dictates of imperfect men. There is freedom to serve according to the dictates of one’s own conscience, according to the motivation of one’s own heart. The sense of having a great burden lifted off, the lightening of a heavy load, comes with that freedom.

If genuinely appreciated, this gives one the desire to do, not less, but more in service to the Ones giving that freedom.

– Franz, Raymond. Crisis of Conscience: The story of the struggle between loyalty to God and loyalty to one’s religion. (pp. 453-454). NuLife Press. Kindle Edition.


I think that’s absolutely brilliant and, like I said, people from all faith walks are finding this freedom today all over the world. It makes no difference whether they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Evangelicals, whatever; God is doing this.

What’s even more remarkable is that Ray Franz had this epiphany some decades ago. God was moving in the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses even back then.

Wow.

Ponder and digest, for there is great freedom in this.

Grace and Peace 🙂00

“Deep Calls Out To Deep”

I read a comment recently by one of my online friends, Ken Nichols, whose insight I have shared before on my blog (just one example is here). This passage expresses my own walk so closely, although of course there are differences. But it’s interested to see how the Spirit has brought us both to a similar place, completely independently, because She is the One Who orchestrates all that kind of thing so perfectly.

Ken is a writer who can clearly express his thoughts and communicate them effectively. I wish I could express myself like this! In this piece, Ken explains how the foundation of his faith moved successfully from dependence on the Bible to dependence on Jesus. In a way, this piece follows on from my own essay that I published last time, giving a real-life example of how the emphasis changes as we mature in the faith.

Over to Ken:


The following is a comment I wrote in a conversation I am having in a religious FB group. The person I am addressing has actually been very kind and open (though not necessarily receptive) to hearing my “heretical” ideas. We’ve been discussing now for going on a week. Here I present the basic “reason” why I now believe as I do. I think it’s a good summary and so I decided to post it here. If you have or are experiencing a similar path, I hope this helps you to know you are not alone.

“The fundamental problem that keeps us at odds is how we determine what truth is. You prefer a very concrete OBJECTIVE view of truth that you can point to as an authority, which gives you a feeling a stability (certainty?), at least on the basic tenets of your faith.

I used to seek for truth in that fashion myself. I’ve combed through scripture verse by verse for MANY years. That’s how I was taught to do it. It would take my pastor MONTHS just to get through ONE book of the Bible. Detailed exposition and hermeneutics were what I cut my teeth on as a young man. I considered myself an amateur apologist, and would defend the Bible at every turn. At one point when “bulletin boards” were the primary online communications tool, I took up the challenge of an atheist who put out a list of 100 biblical contradictions and inaccuracies. I answered EVERY SINGLE ONE. I know all the things we do to “prove” the Bible is a unified whole, written by one author, scientifically sound, etc., etc, etc. I was God’s warrior on the front lines. After I got a family I didn’t do quite so much of that, but the Bible was still certainly MY source of truth, and I considered that very few people, including some other pastors I sat under, knew as much as I did about it.

But, and I won’t go into detail here, eventually that whole system stopped working for me. I came to a point in my life about ten years ago when I honestly asked God “Is this all there is?” (in regards to being a Christian). That’s when things began to shift.

Now I no longer hold to the idea of objective, provable truth as the most important, or even necessary thing, when it comes to my faith. Our “objective” truth seeking is really a search for CERTAINTY, which I have learned is actually the ANTITHESIS of true faith. Faith doesn’t KNOW, it HOPES.. Faith doesn’t PROVE, it TRUSTS. I now follow what everyone else REALLY follows, but most don’t admit it: subjective truth.

So, I can never PROVE to you that what I believe is “authoritatively” correct. It isn’t. And I can’t even tell you, honestly, that you SHOULD believe as I do. I think what I have found has freed me in ways I haven’t even learned to express and brought me to a place of love and peace in my life that I had not previously known, but that’s all MY experience. I can’t tell you what YOUR journey is going to be, or even SHOULD be. I can only share what I have found. That’s why I expressed shock that some of the “conclusions” I have come to are the same as some learned theologians whom I had never read (well, maybe a quote here and there). Does that prove I’m right? No. But it does show me I’m not the only one who has walked this path.

So, I don’t believe that God is love MERELY because it’s written in a book, but because I have EXPERIENCED God’s love for me. The Bible is a nice CONFIRMATION of what I have experienced, but it does not provide the PROOF of it. There IS no proof.

I know, I know, deceptive spirits and the fluidity of emotions and blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum. In the west we have been taught to put aside our feelings and gut instincts and only seek OBJECTIVE (i.e. BOOK) truth. But, guess what? Jesus was a mystic prophet, and He didn’t live by the scriptures, but by the Spirit’s leading. He invites us to live AS He lived, not just read about it and believe it. But to LIVE it out. You can see how in His life, Jesus had moments of doubt about whether He could really go through with what He knew was coming. He was following the Spirit in TRUST (putting His life — even that He knew would end —in His Father’s hands), knowing that whatever would happen would ultimately be for the good, because the Father is good.

I’m doing the same.

You warned me that I should be careful as these things inform my “eternal destiny”. Ultimately, that is an argument based in fear. Fear of “getting it wrong” is a strong deterrent from ever straying from the pre-programmed path that our religion (Christianity) expects us to take. “Be careful. You don’t want to end up in the bad place.” is, in the end, the ultimate roadblock for anyone seeking for MORE SPIRIT in their spiritual lives. It keeps us “safely” within the bonds of certainty while denying us the ability to actually GROW spiritually (“At least I know I’m going to heaven, even if I feel like crap about my faith here on earth.”).

I’m no longer concerned with my “eternal destiny” because I believe that God isn’t leaving that ultimately up to us. That He’s not expecting US to “figure it out” when it comes to how to move safely into the next phase of existence. In other words, I believe that “God’s got this”. There’s PLENTY of evidence of such to be found in scripture. But, ultimately, it’s since taking this on board (a period of deconstruction that took several years), that I have such peace now. I’m no longer afraid of being wrong. And I couldn’t go back to worrying about that now even if i wanted to (and who would?). I’m NOT my own “savior” (decider of my destiny). I’ve found what I REALLY needed to know was that I didn’t NEED to “do something” to be right with God. That He’s just waiting for us to “come to our senses” like the prodigal and come to Him and take a chance on His mercy, only to discover that “everything I have is yours”. Always has been. And that continues on into whatever comes next.

So, bottom line, my faith (no, trust, I prefer that word) in a good God that I have EXPERIENCED, is my “standard” for truth. I find SO much confirmation of this truth in scripture (in many verses I thought I knew EXACTLY what they meant — having been taught and teaching them myself for many years). It’s like reading a brand new book now. I have become, as Jesus was, a mystic who’s faith was INTERNAL, not external to Him.

We here in the West are honestly afraid of that way of living. But I can only tell you that it is the most freeing and wonderful way of “being” that I have experienced in my time here on earth. I pray that someday the Spirit takes you on a similar journey, and not so your “eternal destiny” is secure, but because I want you to live the best life ever (as I believe I am). But your journey is your own. Nobody could have “convinced” me to take what I believe now on board. It had to come “ORGANICALLY”. At the beginning I even FOUGHT against it with all my apologetic Bible knowledge at hand. But eventually I had to give in to the Spirit because deep in my heart I “woke up” to how right this felt. “Deep calls out to deep” is not just a pretty verse. It’s true. When you know it, you know it, and nobody can change that. But as I said, it was more like it happened TO me then that I did anything.

The only thing I did was to ask God if there was more and in that asking, admit maybe I didn’t know all that I thought I did. I became open to being taught again, and not just about the minutiae of the faith, but the “big picture”. I became “uncertain” and I am so glad I did, because it has completely transformed my life.”

– Ken Nichols, shared here with his kind permission

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