Wednesday, August 09, 2006

16,600 channels and nothing's on

I've been doing a lot of blog searches since I got my new computer and the cable modem. Wow, do the sites come up fast now. Sometimes I just save links to the most promising ones to look at later, when I'm feeling more reflective. When I'm processing so many sites, it's not reflection. It's instinct in response to so many flashes of sensation, a very different state, often caffeine-induced. I remember a Japanese site that came up - interesting pictures, funny looking language around a few bits of English. It's all I needed to know in that moment.

One of my most productive searches was about Marcus Borg's book The Heart of Christianity, about 16,600 hits said google. Many sorts of people commented on that in their blogs. There were some conservatives saying how wrong Borg was, but nowhere near as many as when I search for anything with the word "liberal" in it. Anything "liberal" generates all kinds of negative hits from conservatives saying how awful liberals are.

Hits about this book had a much greater variety. Some agreed with me on a couple of positive points, one that Borg wrote a great chapter saying faith and beliefs are not the same. There is also the central idea of the book that Christianity is about a transformation mediated by the Spirit, after which people should be much more Christ-like. Of course anyone is liable to argue about exactly what that should look like.

I had some negative reaction when I read it, too. Borg strangely considers only two possibilities for who and what God is, the traditional God, which he calls "supernaturalism", and a God closer to God being everything, which he calls "panentheism". Oh come on, there are more possibilities than that. This helped cement an observation I've had, that there is this brand of liberal Christianity that proposes some alternative to traditional theology by going just far enough away to eliminate an objection people have and declaring this to be true. I suppose I first noticed this by atonement through Jesus' example being the liberal alternative to the traditional substitutionary atonement. Why just that? Others have proposed atonement through the resurrection rather than through the death of Jesus. Others see atonement in the actions of people in the present. There are more than two possibilities.

As the overall title to this blog states, my liberalism rebels against such a duality between tradition and something more modern. If traditionalism is right, I want to believe that. If the truth is far different from what anyone has believed to date, then I want to be the first one to understand that. I don't want to be partisan for anything, just for God, because my hope is in Him, that there is a God who is love, with enough other good qualities to make Him my singular loyalty. I'm not sure how my faith became this. I think God put it in me, that plus my experiences that nothing else works, as many people have discovered.

I didn't find a blog where that comment fit into what anyone was saying. I also didn't get my comment in about Borg's approach to seeing the Bible as so metaphorical. Sometimes the Bible is not metaphorical. It's just wrong. There's a difference.

Still on the whole I like what is in this book quite a bit. I'm glad many people see the same thing. So what do they do with it?

The answer to that question has me discouraged. People went many different directions in their blogs after praising Borg. I didn't find many to like. I posted my comments pointing out how God is essential to living according to God, things like that. Can you believe that not one person said, "Thank you for pointing out my error"?

Yes, I can in fact believe that. Everyone thinks they're right. I do. I got used to being right in school. Then God came along and showed me I was wrong. Few people have been able to match Him in any way. Yet everyone thinks they can. It's something very natural. People think their beliefs are right, and many people have lots of beliefs. Even after his great chapter showing how faith is not beliefs, Marcus Borg spends the rest of his book writing about his beliefs. This is what people do.

This is what is on blogs, beliefs that mostly I can see flaws in, beliefs where people have not considered many possibilities at all, beliefs that people are sure are right beyond any reason to believe that. What is there to make of that?

It's human nature. I go to that a lot. People could share their feelings in words. That can be hard to find the right words and lonely if you do. People could share pictures and other visuals. Not many are creative that way, as I am not. So it's easiest to share beliefs as well as people wanting to do that. More than once I have tried to find a neutral way of asking, "Why should anyone care what you believe?" This is not to say, "You idiot!" It's to ask what is there about anyone's beliefs that make them worth sharing. Some see it democratically that every belief matters. I see it that everyone with beliefs will be dead in the future. I want to hear from something or someone beyond them.

That's one sort of feeling that I wish people would express more, their desires, uncolored by so many beliefs about why their desires aren't met or what course of action will meet them. Those beliefs may be right or wrong, but the desire is real either way. I can agree with many desires, but many of the beliefs that go along with them I cannot agree with.

Yet as in many things I am so small, and the world is so big. People will continue to blog about belief after belief, as is their democratic right to do. And I will look and shrug my shoulders. In many ways, this world is wasted on human beings. Will there ever be better human beings? Will there be better machines than human beings? I don't know. I'm sure I could do a blog search about it, and I still wouldn't know. Or I can ask God. God says there will be both, but it will take a long time. I suppose I could have started there, but then what a short piece this would have been.

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