Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Until they give up, it's pointless

I read a piece on Church of the Churchless today that is so transparent. The author, Brian Hines, related how it made his day for the check-out clerk to go one more sentence than is the norm to inquire about what made his day nice. So he told her how it was that there was one more Self-Realization Fellowship calendar left that his wife had requested as a Christmas gift. Then he said something about guardian angels looking after procrastinators, something he apparently doesn’t believe. No, it was the conversation he found to be a joy, not that he was lucky or blessed, depending on one’s point of view.

I have no problem with valuing existential joy. I value all sorts of existential joy, from as meaningless as winning at Free Cell on my computer, especially when I have a moment when I need some little thing I can control, to as meaningful as helping people. In between are joys about sex or food some might describe or beauty in nature or the joy of self-expression. There are a lot of things that make life worth living.

But Hines is someone who believes that’s all there is:

“A hypothetical God or ultimate reality doesn’t make for a nice day. Real nice moments make for a nice day. There’s no need to bring God into them. The guardian angels I brought into my check-out line conversation were totally extraneous.”

Oh, that’s not very informed. I find no conflict between finding joy in little things or big things around me and finding joy in the Holy Spirit who is my constant companion. I’m sure many believers don’t feel the Holy Spirit. Maybe they would act better if they did. Maybe atheists are right and what I feel as the Holy Spirit is something very different. It is a joy nevertheless, one that Brian Hines seems to know nothing about. So I would tell him, as I try to tell a lot of people.

How? Now, there’s the problem. I can tell all kinds of stories, as I’ve told on this blog, and most people would still have no idea what it’s like to be me. It’s not that my spiritual experiences are unique. I read something like Roman 8:9, where Paul writes, “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Knowing everything Paul writes about his spiritual experiences, I suspect he is describing an almost tangible presence of God, not something at all hypothetical.

It’s hard to know how many Christians experience that. I guess it’s few or there wouldn’t be so many hypocrites among Christians, but those few do talk about it a lot and talk about the joy of living in the Spirit and having the Spirit within them. I’m not sure I would pick out one such person as perfectly trustworthy, but I have my own experiences that make me think I know what they mean. Is that the only way? Either you feel the joy of the Spirit or you only believe in a hypothetical God or some God that is purely an intellectual construct, as may be the case with most traditionalists?

Beats me, I know my life. I know it’s better than what Brian Hines described. I would tell everyone that, but I bet you can imagine what kind of dust that stirs up.

I asked God, as I always do when I’m lacking direction. God said it was pointless for me to comment on the Church of the Churchless. There’s no way to get across briefly where I’m coming from. Here, there’s plenty of background if anyone cares to know. More importantly all these people who fight over religion, from atheists to traditionalists with everyone in between never will learn anything until they’re ready to give up on the way they live, a way they justify with their words.

I gave up in my thirties, when I admitted defeat in my marriage and career and started praying. That road-to-Damascus experience came quickly with that, but since then it’s been much more slowly how the presence of God has built up, first in my prayers, then sporadically in my life, then constantly, as the Spirit living in me. I don’t know if that can happen to anyone. Maybe there are biological, cultural and spiritual factors that matter. But it’s real, and it’s better than just the existential joy anyone comes across in life, the joy that the Spirit only makes better.

Until they give up, people call me liar or fool. Some even call me a tool of the devil, as the Spirit I experience knows those aren’t His words in the Bible, but the words of men. God is whoever and whatever God is, not what men say God is. That seems inescapable to me, and yet another reason why God needs to be real, not just an idea.

I bet most people would just ignore me until they give up, no matter how vocal I tried to be. People have a choice, right up until they die, and then their body gives up. Is there anything left then that will still resist? I don’t know, but I know that biological, cultural, and spiritual evolution all take many years. Many generations have to go through life before much changes. It’s not magic words that matter. It’s who and what God really is. That Brian Hines finds God to be hypothetical explains why he can’t find more than existential joy to honor. Maybe he’s right. Then I have to find a different name for what I experience. No, I think he’s wrong. So does God. He didn’t want you to think it’s just me, so He said to add that part. What a complex feeling comes with that, joy, awe, and a little something negative anticipating those who can’t believe God said that to me. It is what it is. How it affects people depends on them.

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