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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I like Annihilation

The other day a couple of friends and I were talking about what happens after death. We were debating whether or not hell and the idea of eternal damnation were consistent with a just and loving God. This is a debate I have heard many times and my ideas have changed over the years I have read and listened to others and tried to understand the bible in the light of what others say and my own study. These are my conclusions:

We are born with an innate sense of justice and mercy. We understand that some crimes are more heinous than others and therefore deserve a greater form of punishment. The Mosaic law in Leviticus shows us that God himself gave us laws that showed asome crimes deserve greater punishments. With this in mind, it seems out of character with what I know of God through Scripture that he would then send all people who don't believe in him to a lake of fire where they would then be in torture for the rest of forever. Eternity. Always. That is one heck of a long time and seems a little extreme (except perhaps in cases of people like Hitler etc).

I have also noticed that one of the greatest fears in the world is that of death. People are terrified of getting old and dying. They don't know what lies beyond and that is scary. If it is hell then they ought to be scared. But even if it is not, the idea of dying and there be nothing, zip, nadda, and this life of approx. 60yrs has been for nothing is just as scary. People often get depressed thinking about the fact that this life could be pointless. Even in days gone this was a fear. The idea of dying without an heir to carry on your name was seen as the worst possible fate. That is why it was permissible to divorce barren women, because if your genes weren't passed on then really, what was the point? Life is pretty damn hard, the only point of it would be hope that something in the future gives it meaning. For Christians this is Christ. He offers life, life eternal, and so this life has meaning beyond our painful years here. It means that when we die there is something that we are living for. That is why we do not fear death, that is why death has lost it's sting. That is why death was defeated by Christ, it is no longer our enemy.

So if death is the enemy of all who don't believe in Christ, then it makes sense to me that those who chose not to follow him have a reason to fear it. Not because of torture or hell or anything like that, but because they will be dead. No more. Cease to be. All over red rover. The few years they spent carving out a niche in this world was pointless. Whether they spent it in luxury or in pain they all end up the same way. They will be worm food and their children will in turn die and they won't be remembered. Hell is knowing that your life had no purpose, no reason, was a waste of time. Everything you did was for nothing. The hopelessness of that scares the bejeezus out of me. But Christ brings life and hope.

So I am an annihilationist and proud of it. It seems consistent with what I know of God and Scripture and life. Maybe I am wrong, but, as I am in Christ, I don't really fear hell anyway :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

What to do with the Church

I have often found my self in the position of being asked hat I think about a particular church. It could be any church and anyone could be asking for any particular reason. Most of the time I can give them a run down on the doctrinal differences of one denomination to another, the structure of the church, and (if I know the church personally) will be able to tell them about the programmes and people within it. Sometimes I find myself in the particularly tricky situation of being asked my own personal belief on whether or not I agree with the gospel the church is preaching. A lot of the time I have no issue, but what do I do when I do?

I find it difficult to speak out against a church to people, which is odd for me because I usually have no trouble speaking out about anything! But it feels almost unchristian, almost traitorally to speak out about a church. For example, I have major issues with the prosperity doctrine that some churches preach. I find it antethical to the gospel and it offends me when I hear it preached. I know people who go to churches who do preach and people who believe in it and many, if not all, are good people and have a strong faith. But when asked what I think about the teaching I don't know how to respond.

I think this kind of stage fright when asked about churches is not just a problem that I have. I think christians all over are not sure if it is kosher to be anti a church, or if it appropriate to say so. I wonder why? Luther had no problem, though a lot of heart ache, at speaking out against what he saw to be false teaching that was against the gospel. He didn't want to speak out but felt it his christian duty to do so. So did his name sake Martin Luther King Jr. Pretty much every denomination started because somebody somewhere said something about how they didn't like the way the church is being run. Church splite became almost fashionable in some denominations over trivial issues in some cases. Jesus himself spent a lot of time telling the religious authorities of the day that they were doing things wrong, as did Paul.

So where does that leave me? If I am checking my intentions, speaking in love and with wisdom, is it alright for me to sppeak out against a church to whom I do not belong but with whom I hva emany issues? Am I allowed to encourage people not to go? Am I allowed to voice warnings out of concern for the faith of the poeple asking me? Am I allowed to challenge the leadership and question its authority? And can I do it on the grounds of them not preaching the gospel?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Monotony of Life?

I was having a discussion the other day with a friend about his fear of the monotony of life. He told me he was afraid of living a life that was a 9-5 work day, coming home, tv, sleep, repeat. His fear was that life would get boring, friends would get boring and, worst of all, that family would eventually get boring.

This conversation has stayed in my mind the last week or so and I have wondered about his fears at those times in the night when everything is silent except all the thoughts in your head. I have wondered if he is right, that life is a treadmill of monotony and then you die. I have wondered if people have always thought like this, and if not, where did it come from? I have wondered and asked myself and the night if I too fear life being boring?

I think that in a life bombarded by advertising telling us that our lives will not be truly happy til we buy a, b, or c then it is totally understandable that we are growing generations of people terrified of being boring, of being still, of things not constantly changing. We have bred an age of people who do not know how to live the same day in and day out. We must be buying something new, seeing something new, going somewhere new, dating someone new. If life is boring it is our fault, the problem is with us and we must do something to fix it, to make it exciting again. The age of irresbonsibility (cunningly disguised in the title 'adolesence') is getting older and older because people are afraid of being responsible, of being boring.

But if you really stop to consider a life without routine I think that that is a decidedly scarier thought. Imagine a life where you can't rely on your job being there in the morning, can't trust your partner/spouse/boy/girlfriend to be there for you and consistent in the way they are (hmmm, actually that sounds a lot like some people I know....). Imagine not being able to rely on a paycheck every week, food on the table, money in the bank (well, most of the world lives like that so maybe we should count our blessings...). Imagine that the day in day out 'boring' stuff of life changed at random any day in liked and tell me how much fun would it be living in a world like that? Would it be less stressful, happier, more exciting? Or would it become so unstable that people would be desperate for monotony? Is that in fact why we have such high rates of suicide and drug and alcohol problems, because people can't stay up to speed with this world that changes so fast? Perhaps it is the boring that makes the exciting exactly that.

I am getting married in just over two months and, I have to say, I am looking forward to waking up everyday to the same face, to seeing him and dinner time, to knowing he will be there for me, to having our house with our stuff and not having the nomadic life of a single. Call me boring, but I think all of that is exactly what I was made to enjoy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living Life Well?

For as long as I can remember I have been sick. Since age 12 I have suffered from one mental illness or another. Since 14 until recently I have had serious addiction problems. The repurcussions of those addictions have led to other bodily illnesses that I struggle with. All in all, I spend a lot of my life either very tired or very sick.

My family don't really get it. They have seen the amazing changes that God has done in my life and want the past to be the past; me being ill now either seems hyperchondriachial or too hard to deal with. So I don't tell them most times I am sick, especially when I end up in hospital. My ex-husband found it all too frustrating and hard and left emotionally and mentally long before I walked out the door. My future husband is supportive and loving but does find my constant anxiety and lethargy hard to understand and confusing as to how to deal with.

I get scared. I worry that he will leave as the first one did. I worry that it is actually all psychosymatic and I am just lazy. I worry that people think I am giving excuses. But most of all I worry that I will be this way for the rest of my life. That thought petrifies me.

It worries me because I don't know how to accept that I may never be able to live as a well person. I dont want to never be in full time work again, or to be taking medication for the rest of my life. I don't want to let these issues run my life and tell me what I can and cannot do. I don't want to get tired quickly and not handle big crowds. I don't want to have to avoid parties if there is alcohol (which is every one!). I don't want my husband-to-be to have to cope with me being in bed a lot or support me more that I him. I don't want any of this! It makes me angry to have to live my life having to make room for something that is so unwelcome and so painful! And I want people to understand. I want them to see how hard it is and not be afraid of it, or give me pat little christian answers, but to see it and love me for it and in spite of it.

How do you live life well when you are unwell? How do stand strong when you have no strength? How do you accept what is, and not despair? How do you embrace life when the world is telling you you arent strong enough, or fast enough, or able to cope enough? And how can I expect anyone else to be able to cope with all of this when I am unable to do so myself?

It is nights like these when I join with Christ as he cried out "why God, why?"

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Never Ending Battle

The gym. My foe and my friend. Recently, in light of my upcoming wedding, I have been working my ass off in that stinky little slice of hell....literally. the aim is to of course look better than all my tiny bridemaids (why do I have to have such small friends!!) and be happy with the wedding photos. It is not for my husband to be, in fact he swears black and blue that he finds me sexy and beautiful the way I am, and I believe him.

It's for me. Because I don't think I am good enough the way I am.

So I have become almost obsessed with counting the calorie I put in and what I burn. I have just spend three days in bed sick and have started to panic that i haven't been to the gym. I worry that I am getting a little to preoccupied with my weight but then wonder if it is healthy to be worried.

Is there are middle ground?

How can one be happy with how they look and be trying to change it? How do I let myself be me and be happy with it and yet spend hours in the gym trying to look completely different? And when does it stop? Will I ever be ok with how I look if I start down this road? Or should I stop and make a stand and start waving "big is beautiful" banners?

It is doing my head in trying to figure out if I am being healthy in my mind by trying to be healthy in my body. I want to lose weight but I want to love myself while doing it. Yet that seems to be an oxymoron and I haven't learnt how to do that yet. So I have days where I want to spend hours in the gym and then days when I wonder if I am doing the right thing by trying to fit into the 'pretty' category. Maybe I would be doing a better thing for teenage girls and women I know if I stay the way I am because I am happy that way. But am I really happy?

There are times I just want to rebel, to scream at this world that lives and dies on its advertizing, its messages telling people they aren't good enough. If I just flipped the proverbial bird at the billboards and adverts, the oh-too-skinny models and the makeup companies, then mabe I would see what really matters. Maybe then I would look in the eyes of the man who already makes me feel beautiful and skinny and see what he sees. Maybe then I wouldn't be so quick to laugh when he calls me sexy. And maybe, when I read that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator that I love above all else, I would believe it.

Tomorrow I will go to the gym and ponder these questions as I feel my thighs burn and the blisters on my feet grow, and maybe, just maybe, I will be happy with the wedding photos after all.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My current Haunting Question ('the Perfect Woman part III')

I have been thinking a lot recently about the role and expectations on women in life and in the church (see previous posts) and there has been something bugging me. It has often been said in the church that Jesus understands every temptation and struggle/suffering that we can endure as humans. Now correct me if I am wrong but Jesus was a dude. He had a penis and not a vagina so therefore he has never experienced child birth or period pain (both real suffering by all accounts). He has never felt what it was like to be the voiceless of his generation or the sexually promiscuous of ours. He has neverr been in fear being raped on a date or even struggled with heart ache in the same manner as a woman does. He would never have been tempted by the hot boy on the basketball team or felt the intensity of love for a child (or the intensity of pain if that child is lost). In short, we can only safely say that Jesus understands and relates to half the population of this planet past and present.

So where does this leave the believing woman? How can such a large proportion of the planet follow a God and a Saviour who, really, has never had to bear their burdens? Granted God talks a lot about being like a mother to wayward children, but in reality the best female understandings of God we get are metaphorical in nature. The only physical representation we have of God is in Christ and that has the potential to alienate half the globe. What would it feel like for men if they were walking into a church every week that celebrated a female incarnation of God and how would they be able to relate to that? How are we to reconcile Christ with womanhood?

It has also become apparent to me in thi how much I would have preferred being a man, something which I beliee has been subvertly taught to me. There are very few strong female role models, and an awful lot of bimbo ones. Our lives are shaped by how we look, our bodies, our faces and our clothing. We are judged on our appearances more often than our brains, not to mention the monthly cycles that are such a hassle and cost so freaking much!! The joy of bringing life into the world is overshadowed by the pain of it. And all of this in contast to how easy it would be to be male, how many strong men their are out there who are applauded for their strength (yet on the flip side there are many missing fathers too.....).

I am frustrated (you may be able to tell haha) and have no idea how to teach a new generation of women how to be strong leaders without falling into the trap of sounding like a man hating, bra burning, lesbian feminist. I don't want to sound like that at all! Yet how do e point out the flaws in how are women are treated and portrayed in the world in a way that is intelligent, passionate and yet loving and focused on growth?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Perfect Woman (part II)

You would think that Christian males would have a different expectation from women than the world does (see previous post). Even though the Proverbs 31 woman would never exist (or, if she did would burn out within the year with all the things she has to manage!!) The interesting thing about her is that she is fundamentallya wise business woman and a loving wife. So I would expect Christian men to want women who are wise, are business women, can look after themselves and are devout Christians and loving wives. In fact, now I think about it, most of the Christian women I know are like this!

But alas this seems not to be the case. When was the last time you heard a guy talking about what he wants in a wife and saying "I would love to marry a CEO of a company, a really wise business woman"? Or "I would love to marry someone who was really good with finances and could bring in money too"? No, it is more likely that you would hear dreams of ladies on the street and freaks in the bed, or someone who will stay home with the kids, or even someone who is submissive to the head of the household. I have even been told in a church that I am far too outspoken to ever be a good wife. I grew up with a mother and father who would tell me to have my hair done and makeup on and dinner ready for my husband when he got home so that he wouldn't 'wander' (I kid you not).

So do Christian men really have a good understanding of what a woman should be or have they too be blinded by the media and pornography?

It is a sad day when I hear christian women talking about having to give up their political advocacy when they get married because hubby probably won't like it. When they are taught a very mixed and confusing message about what it means for the man to be the 'head'. Or when you hear them lamenting the fact that they probably won't find a pure christian man as most of them have been addicted to porn at some point or another and how they worry about how this will affect the males view of what they should look like or do in the bedroom.

When I read the Bible I find a God who honours strong and courageous women. A God that gives them dignity and respect. A God who values the sanctity of sex and marriage and abhors the use of women for sexual gratification. The examples given to us of women in the scriptures are all very strong and working to the best of their ability in an environment that would tear them down. Is it a coincidence that the first person to be included into the elect that left Egypt was a woman, a gentile and a prostitute? God does not advocate for women to be weak and spineless and to fit a mold of what she should look like. And frankly, if God likes strong, opinionated, brave women, is that not what his male followers should want as their partner?

It is hard being a woman sometimes, hard trying to fit in the world and hard trying to fit into a church whose saviour understands men well but never came as a woman.....but maybe that is a topic for another post

The Perfect Woman (part I)

Have you ever watched tv ads for men and women's fragrances? on the one's for men they will have an ordinary looking guy spraying on some body spray or another and women will literally flock to him for his smell. guy+spray=hot women.
on the one's for women the already skinny, pretty, perfect woman will spray on something expensive in order to catch one particularly hot male. woman+goodlooking+skinny+rich=one man.

You will never see an ad with an ugly or normal looking woman (what ugly or normal means is open to interpretation too). you will never see her with many men, as opposed to the men who have hundreds of women running to them for their smell. you will never see her in dowdy clothes, hair not done, in a bad mood or makeup not on. You will never see the man running to anyone less than a super model.

Or take chick flicks for example (the female version of porn yet far more subtle). the woman is always beautiful or is transformed into a beautiful, graceful woman. the jackass always ends up being a misunderstood male who just needed her help to find his way. She is always demure and more often than not, if she is in a high powered job, comes across as a bitch who needs the man to show herr some fun in order to loosen her up. she saves the man and he saves her. any arguments are brushed over with the man forcefully taking her in his arms and kissing her because all she needs is a man who will take control.

The perfect woman is therefore: skinny but a great cook, earns her own money but is never tired or grumpy, always has high heels on and never has sore feet, wakes up ith her make up on, is strong yet demure, is high powered yet has leisure time, dotes on her man and can put up with his crap with no complaint.

She basically doesn't exist.

And yet this is what we, as women, are being fed. And it is what men are bein fed to believe about women. I often have talks with my male collegues about the underlying sexism that is still apparent in our society and I either get a response that makes me out to be a raging feminist or one that tries to explain that its not really what men want either.

So which one is it? Am I being overly sensitive toward this issue? Or am I voicing what many people want to say and yet don't know how? And if I am, how on earth do we stop the trend?

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Which is the Question

I was told today that I should start a blog. Maybe it is due to the numerous questions I have running around in my brain, or maybe the person just didn't want me talking to them about them, but I have decided that this is an excellent idea. So here we are. I have called this blog 'the sober times' due to me a) being a recovering alcoholic and b) having a certified melancholic streak that causes me to regard the world very soberly. I plan to voice questions and musings here and to leave them open for discussion and debate so feel free to join in at any time.

I was contemplating the idea of dying for ones beliefs the other day (as one does in their spare time) and I was struck by the inherent stupidity of the idea. I mean does God really want us to die simply because we are too stubborn to lie? God would surely forgive us for lying in the face of death. Upon further reflection I realised that I probably could not reject my faith in the face of danger because I would be unable to live with myself after the fact if I did. To die or not to die, perhaps that is the real question.

And then it struck me; what did any of this hypothetical conviction mean if it has no bearing on today? What I mean is, could I not tell by the way I lived in this moment whether or not I would lay down my life for the sake of the gospel? Am I prepared to die daily as it were? Though I would love to answer that with a resounding 'yes! My life is the model of self sacrificial piety' I think the truth is a little different. In Matt 6:8-9 Jesus tell his disciples to take nothing for their journey and to set out empty handed to preach the gospel. Now I am not saying that this is a statement meant to be taken literally for us (Paul for example had a job to support himself in his preaching ministry) but it bodes the question - if God said 'go' would I go? Or to put it another way, if God said 'die' would I die? Does my life reflect the passion and faith of Moses climbing the mountain with Isaac, or am I more of a Hebrew wandering the desert finding mouldy manna after I tried to collect too much out of my lack of faith?

Maybe the more pertinent question is not 'to die for Christ or not to die?' but rather 'to live for the gospel or not to live?'