Who would you send to hell?

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In Sunday's New York Times magazine interview, Gore Vidal was asked about how he felt when he heard that William F. Buckley died this year. His response was:

I thought hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred.
Vidal's curmudgeonly reply was consistent with the tone of the rest of the interview, and I somehow doubt that he actually believes in hell--but then, neither do I. I think his response, though, does illustrate the way hell can serve as a metaphor, or at least as an outlet, for frustration over the fact that we live in a world where some people have spent their lives acting on behalf of things we object to in the most strenuous way imaginable, and, dammit, they got away with it. That is to say, they died before they could be held accountable for whatever it was that they did that got us riled.

Certainly, I think that God is better than our petty human foibles, including the desire for vengeance. But speculating on who would go to this hypothetical hell can serve as an entertaining imaginary exercise. Getting to play God in this way can be fun because it doesn't really mean anything; no one will actually go to hell because we pretend that they will. What dead criminal would you send to hell if you had the power to do so? Augusto Pinochet? Pol Pot? Henry Kissinger? (No, wait, scratch that, Kissinger is not dead yet.)

The thing is, though, justice is not mean spirited, and hell is not about justice, although it is often claimed to be. But if we assume that there is an afterlife--and that's a big if--it is not inconsistent to also believe that we are somehow held accountable for the evils we do. That doesn't mean eternal torture in a lake of fire; on the contrary, I would suggest that it would mean something quite different, because under a God of infinite love it would mean an opportunity for all of us, regardless of what terrible things we've done, to reconcile ourselves to God and to the divine will.

I am currently reading the book Rethinking Christianity by Keith Ward. He says this about the idea of hell:
The God disclosed in Jesus is not a punitive avenger. But it is possible for rational creatures to exclude themselves from love, and therefore from the divine life. In that state, they will be tormented by their desires and by the desires of those who are like them. They will set themselves on a path that leads to final destruction.

A God of love cannot leave them in that state. A God of unlimited love would go to any lengths to persuade them to return to the path of eternal life, and to help them on that path. So Jesus says, 'I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance' (Luke 5:32). And his death on the cross is, John says, to take away the sins of the world.
Because I am in sympathy with that point of view, I guess that makes me a universalist, or it would, except that I am an agnostic on the subject of an afterlife. Whether or not there is life after death, I think that our ideas of justice should not be restricted to what we think God does after we are all dead. Justice, I believe, should instead permeate what we make of the world in this life, the one life we know about. And by the same token, I also think there is nothing wrong with us feeling angry over the fact that we live in a world in which people who perpetrate justice seem to get away with it.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

Maybe the author of Ecclesiastes is right. Maybe it is all vanity. But then perhaps it is our task to break through the vanity of our short existence here on earth and make it as meaningful as we can anyway. This is true optimism. This is Albert Camus's Sisyphus, rolling the stone up the hill and creatively constructing meaning out of an apparently absurd existentialist universe. The concept of an afterlife where all is made right in the end might comfort us in some way, but it doesn't change the fact that the task we face here and now is in making the world a more just place. And regardless of what God does or doesn't do with us after we are dead, I think that God is calling us forward at each moment while we are alive, in this world, asking us to make a difference.

30 comments:

Cynthia said...

The last chapter of If Grace Is True by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland is about persistent grace that follows us even after we die. They write (unusually in the first person): My hope is that the more we live in this grace [that saves every person], the less sin can cling to our hearts. The more of us who know this grace, the less evil can do in our world.

Incidentally, the authors are Quaker.

Matthew said...

>>The concept of an afterlife where all is made right in the end might comfort us in some way, but it doesn't change the fact that the task we face here and now is in making the world a more just place.<<

Seeker, if justice is what God wants from us, what is the meaning of this passage? -

Mt. 5.38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'

39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Matthew

Mystical Seeker said...

Matthew, when I say "make the world a more just place", I am not referring to a retributive definition of justice. I am referring to making a world that treats all people with dignity and respect, which is to say establishing a fair and equitable society. I believe that this is what Tillich talks about when he refers to "distributive justice".

To me there is no contradiction between the morality that Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount and justice. Justice is not vengeance.

Mystical Seeker said...

Cynthia,

I've seen that book in bookstores and have been a little curious about it. Maybe I need to check it out further.

Matthew said...

>>I am not referring to a retributive definition of justice. I am referring to making a world that treats all people with dignity and respect, which is to say establishing a fair and equitable society.<<

Seeker, In the passage I quoted Jesus isn't promoting retribution or vengeance, either. The point is to not be concerned with what we want (how we think the world should be)...or what we believe we deserve; rather it's up to us to be compassionate, loving children of God-

Matthew 5.44 "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."

Where does Jesus teach us that we are to create a fair and equitable society?

Matthew

Frank said...

Where does Jesus teach us that we are to create a fair and equitable society?

He does so in the same text you quoted: Matthew 5.44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Individual acts of charity just cannot be seperated out of concern for larger societal issues.

Let's say your enemy lives next door to you and he is hungry. You can feed him, that is great. After a while, you discover that the reason he is hungry is because the government has re-routed a river for recreational purposes, leaving his farmland parched. The best way to feed him is not to just give him food, but to work against the governtment action that caused the problem in the first place.

If you build a dam to power a city and as a result of building that dam you end up flooding several villages and killing lots of people, then you are in effect responsible. The society you help create (or do not help create) is directly tied to your ability to live out this commandment. Every action we take in government, in business or as voters has these kinds of consequences.

In other words, you can't vote for war and then patch up the wounded later.

Mystical Seeker said...

In the passage I quoted Jesus isn't promoting retribution or vengeance, either.

Exactly.

The Kingdom of God is what the world would be like if God, instead of Caesar, were in charge of teh world. It is what happens when we treat others justly and equitably. Promoting a just and equitable world lies at the basic core of the what all the great Jewish prophets taught.

Matthew said...

Perhaps I've been unclear in my statements, because my point has been missed. It may seem subtle, but there is a clear difference between what we are saying.

Jesus is teaching Love and compassion in the passages I quoted; he's not trying to create a more 'just society'. Justice is up to God.

Seeker said, >>The Kingdom of God...is what happens (on earth) when we treat others justly and equitably. Promoting a just and equitable world lies at the basic core of the what all the great Jewish prophets taught.<<

Can we know what God will do? We can be just and equitable, but will God then initiate his kingdom on earth? Who knows...only God.

I hear you both saying that it's up to us, that we have to 'make it happen on earth'. But what Jesus and I are saying is that it's up to GOD. God's kingdom is not something we create by being just and equitable. We can ENTER GOD'S kingdom, but we don't create it, or make it happen on earth, only he can do that.

We must allow God to lead. To make the changes...in his ways and time. I realize you probably don't like the sound of that. It's out of control, it needs helping along. That it's up to us to make things work on earth. I realize it's hard to see. It's hard to have faith in God and let go of how we want things to be...to allow them to be in God's hands.

Only God can make the changes you speak of in society. This is not complacency, it's being faithful. Jesus is teaching us our part. We need to reclaim our connection with God and live it. That means to be loving and compassionate, as Dad is. That's what we can do.

Again, Jesus isn't telling us to make society just...he knows that is up to God, and God's time. We do our part, and God does his. We mustn't overstep that boundary. We often want things to happen in our time, in our ways. Therein lies a great challenge to being faithful, and to living as a child of God.

Matthew

Frank said...

Matthew,

I am not sure how you are reading that into my comments. I understand that true spiritual living is going to be in dialogue and relationship with God--we can't superimpose it by sheer will without opening ourselves up to God. It is believing in love and not about control. But the idea that loving actions will have a larger societal manifestation is inevitable, and that is the point I was making. Loving the neighbor who is standing right next to you is not much different than loving the neighbor who is downstream and on the receiving end of your political and environmental actions.

Your arguments are very similar to Pope Benedict. He cautions against things like marxism, because it is a secular attempt to creat uptopia. His points are good ones, but in the end, to be a people of love means we have to be loving in our politics as well as to the people near us. If we're not active in our politics, then that means we are passive, which is not good either, and he and you both seem to know this as well.

Philip said...

I have been reading Marcus Borg and he says Jesus 'challenged the domination system of his day and its ruling elites, and affirmed an alternative social vision' (Jesus and Buddha, p.10). This 'social and political passion' is not found in the Buddha's teachings. I am not very political-minded - as it seems often to become hot-blooded hate-your-enemies kind of thing. But, on the other hand, we must stand up for what is true and kind.

Matthew said...

Frank,

In response to your comments-

>>I am not sure how you are reading that into my comments.<<

Your statements are 'flavored' with outcome. Ways of seeing that seem harmless, or accurate (based on a selection of data) have amazing ripple effects that can cause alienation from God...outcome is one of those paths.

>>I understand that true spiritual living is going to be in dialogue and relationship with God--we can't superimpose it by sheer will without opening ourselves up to God.<<

How can we know when we are living 'spiritually'? Is there a way to figure that out? When you delve into this matter you discover some very interesting things.

>>It is believing in love and not about control. But the idea that loving actions will have a larger societal manifestation is inevitable, and that is the point I was making.<<

Would it matter to you if that 'inevitable' outcome wasn't inevitable? Would you have less faith in God, or stop being an unconditionally loving person, because it isn't inevitable? We like to 'make things happen', but that goal tends to alienate us from God's will. No matter what we think, say or do we can't know what the outcome will be. Jesus didn't have it figured out. He was continually praying, going to 'that secret place' to pay attention to God. Listening (as Mother Teresa liked to say) for/to God.

God is always in charge, and as Jesus teaches, we need to allow ourselves to be led by him; no matter the outcome. Jesus claimed he learned everything from God; that he didn't do anything on his own accord. How wonderfully insightful. The results could be what we want least. It could be all wrong, according to what we believe. We follow, that's our part. Jesus followed to his death; that's commitment!

>>but in the end, to be a people of love means we have to be loving in our politics as well as to the people near us. If we're not active in our politics, then that means we are passive, which is not good either, and he and you both seem to know this as well.<<


I feel it's more important to keep ourselves on the path, rather than reaching out to make changes in others. Paul specifies that 'faith without works is dead', and there is a very important message in that; but if you force the works, try to make them happen (because you feel you need to do them), you often aren't following God's lead. We don't 'have to love'. Love 'flows' out of the fullness of our hearts. It comes unbidden...as if some 'power' supplies it in unending measure. When you're in this 'mode', it doesn't seem you can do any wrong, because 'you' aren't in charge.

People keep trying to make things happen. They want to know more, so they can make good choices...but how much information do you need to have faith? NONE! You don't need to know anything to follow God. Nothing at all. A complete moron can follow God...and it's such a beautiful (and elegant) process God has set into motion. Everything and everyone is welcome.

Come, the table is set, the party is ready...why don't you stop doing what keeps you distracted and in pain?! Come to the party, where you're loved and home!

Matthew

Frank said...

Matthew, as Ray Brown has said, I think you found the person you were hoping to find. In other words, for some reason you want to paint me a certain way to prove a point.

I never said anything about wanting to change others, and I openly stated the need to be in relationship with God and not forcing one's will to make something happen, so I guess I'm not seeing where you're going.

You are right, there is a fine line to walk between making something happen and letting God work through us. Faith without works is empty, but works without faith is empty, too. That is why dialogue and relationship are so critical--to be on the edge of your seat, in constant dialogue with God, in relationship. Its not something that is easy, we have to involve the whole of our being and continually work and pray at it and be open.

But again, I still don't see what you're saying in regards to politics. Do you think people should be apolitical? Or that our politics don't matter somehow? I think that's kind of silly. That's like voting for a war then spending all your time patching up the wounded. At some point, you start asking if maybe if there weren't a war in the first place there wouldn't be any wounded. I understand the need to be less outcome-oriented, but I don't see how you can go through life and be oblivious to the outcomes of our actions, either. Jesus came incarnate into this world, so total detachment is not always ideal. We have to think and work it out here.

You said its more important to keep ourselves on the path, but I think that is also a decision that it attached to an outcome, no different than any other decision we make.

Matthew said...

Frank,

I hadn't intended for these posts to be a soapbox for differences between Eastern and Western thought, so I apologize to Seeker for diverging from the main point of the post. I appreciate the space to try to clarify what we've been discussing!

>>as Ray Brown has said, I think you found the person you were hoping to find. In other words, for some reason you want to paint me a certain way to prove a point.<<

I know nothing of Ray Brown's writings. What does 'finding a person you were hoping to find' mean?

>>I never said anything about wanting to change others,...I understand the need to be less outcome-oriented, but I don't see how you can go through life and be oblivious to the outcomes of our actions, either.<<

Because you're used to outcome based thinking/behavior the 'non' version would be confusing. Being oblivious to outcomes is very different from detachment. You mention a 'concern' for the outcomes of others. This statement shows desire for specific outcomes (you'd have to fill in the details of what those may be). It may seem that you have 'good' intentions, but this motivation implies 'MY will be done'.

>>Jesus came incarnate into this world, so total detachment is not always ideal. We have to think and work it out here.<<

I'm not sure why you're linking 'incarnation' with detachment.

Buddhism is not like Greek (Platonic) thought, or Zoroastrianism, in which the duality of 'Good' and 'Evil' are at odds with each other; manifesting themselves in battles between the physical and spiritual 'planes'.

In Buddhism a detached person is not 'uninvolved' (neither does there need to be a physical person to have detachment. A spirit can be attached, or detached), it's the opposite! A detached person is MORE SENSITIVE to everything. Detachment is about freedom from desire (which is thought of in selfish terms). Desire is similar to blinders. It keeps a person busy with preoccupations, so that person is oblivious to what's going on 'inside' and 'outside' them.

If a person lives Jesus' comment- 'not my will, but yours be done', that person has been well trained in detachment.

>>You said its more important to keep ourselves on the path, but I think that is also a decision that it attached to an outcome, no different than any other decision we make.<<

Most decisions people make are outcome based. I do this to get that. But 'having faith', or 'expressing love and compassion' have no specific goal. Whatever transpires is accepted. Goals are about getting some specific result. Having faith is much like being water in a river. Movement and rest...it participates in everything, so it has no specific end result. E. Tolle says this very nicely when he mentions 'saying yes' to what is.

I hope this helps clarify the points I was attempting to make.

Peace,
Matthew

Matthew said...

Frank,

An example from the NT may be the best way to make my point. During the interacting (see below) Peter is 'the caring man' who wants no harm to come to Jesus, who is a 'good' man. He's concerned about justice, and Jesus' well being. Jesus, recognizing Peter's outcome based thinking, calls him on that fault -

Mt. 16.21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

It doesn't matter that these passages are often read as 'proving' Jesus was, or knew he was the 'lamb of God', to be sacrificed for the sins of the world. The point is that Jesus follows God faithfully; specifically at his own expense, which tends to prove the point of his selflessness.

Jesus in not trying to make the world a place that treats all people with dignity and respect. He seems completely complacent when it comes to caring if the world is fair and equitable! That's Peter's role in the passages.

Matthew

Frank said...

Matthew,

I understand what you are saying about outcome-based living, and I don't totally disagree with you. But I can't imagine going through life without considering consequences. That is a violation of our nautral, human ability to consider consequences. This is what I meant by "incarnation". God works through us and through our humanity, and part of that is considering outcomes.

I think we all need to worry less about outcomes, especially those of us in shame-based, industrial America where a person's "value" is based on their work. A society like that can use a good eduation in just learning to just be.

But on the other extreme, I do not support a spirituality that reduces us some kind of brain-less life, either, where we blunder through life oblivious to the impact we are having on others.

Jesus called us to love one another. How do you see the manifestation of that? I can't imagine doing something like driving my car at 90 mph oblivious to anyone on the roads because I'm not worried about "outcomes." I wear a safety belt when I drive because I consider the possible "outcome." I don't pour my used motor oil into the nearby lake becuase I consider that the "outcome" could be lots of dead fish. These the kinds of outcomes I consider, and I would have a hard time seeing how it is unjustified to consider them.

OneSmallStep said...

Matthew,

You first quoted that if God wants a just society, how do we reconcile Matthew 5:38-42 with God wanting a just society from us.

Do you find that the two ideas are irreconcilable? I don't. To break it down:

** If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. **

This idea is a method of re-claiming justice. If the person is struck, they would've been struck with the backhand, which was a way of signifying that the person struck was inferior. Such as master to his slave, or a Roman to a Jew. If you turn the other cheek, the only way the person has to strike you is with the "front" of the hand, and thus the aggressor must treat you as an equal. The left cheek could not be struck at all, because that was a taboo.

This is Jesus telling people to non-aggressively fight back.

**And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. **

There were only two pieces of clothing owned at this time. If someone is in court being suied for a tunic, that means that the person being sued as already lost everything else. There's nothing left to take, and it's almost injust to then demand the tunic on top of everything else. To highlight that this is unjust, the person being sued hands over the cloak, which is the only piece of clothing left. The person is then naked, and that would've shamed the person who was instigating the lawsuit. It's another way of fighting back.

**If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. **

In those times, Romans had the right to demand that any Jew carry the Roman's pack for one mile, and one mile only. If the Roman made the Jew carry it longer than a mile, the Roman was punished. Therefore, if the Jew carries the pack for two miles, the Jew has fought back, and put the Roman in the position of begging for his pack back. Thus, another way of highlighting the injustice of a system.

Through those examples alone, I would say that Jesus is telling the crowd that they do deserve justice, and fairness, and equality, and he'd be mirroring many of the social prophets from the Tanakh, who say that God demands people help the poor, the widow, and the orphan. After all, according to Micah 6:8 "He has told you, o mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

The "to do justice" would've been referring to social justice.

Philip said...

I believe attacking Iraq in 2003 was an injustice. I voted against Bush in 2000 and 2004 and wrote letters to the editor of our local paper. But he was elected anyway.

I did what I could, but I am not God and there are many others besides me involved in this. I cannot force outcomes, so the best thing for me to do, I think, is to "let go and let God".

Matthew, Frank and OneSmallStep, you all have made excellent points. I have enjoyed the discussion. I wish you the best.

Matthew said...

frank, onesmallstep and philip,

I won't be able to respond today, but will try to do so tomorrow.

Thanks for your patience,
Matthew

Mystical Seeker said...

Philip, when you say "did what I could", I think that is all that God can ask of anyone.

I think that there are two ways of responding to injustice that I find to be flawed in their individual ways. One is to not respond at all, which is another way of being complicit with injustice. Another is to more or less expect that if one does one's best on behalf of something, that one should then get the results that one wants. There is a little bit of an authoritarianism that lies behind the latter point of view, because it expects the world to conform to our expectations.

The reality is that sometimes we try really hard to achieve something in the world at large, but the world doesn't go the way we expect it to. Accepting this can be hard. There ought to be a payoff if we work so hard for something. This is one of the ways that I find value in process theology, by the way, because process theology believes that even God cannot actually force events to happen by coercion. God tries to persuade and lure the world in a certain direction, but the world consists of free agents who often do what they want to do, not what God wants to do. If persuasion rather than coercion is seen as the highest virtue because it characterizes God's very nature, then perhaps it can free us of the intolerance for failure that can go on in our own efforts at making the world better.

The real problem, then, to me, is not in failing, but in not trying at all. We try, we do the best we can, but we don't always succeed.

Matthew said...

frank- >>But on the other extreme, I do not support a spirituality that reduces us some kind of brain-less life, either, where we blunder through life oblivious to the impact we are having on others.

Jesus called us to love one another. How do you see the manifestation of that? I can't imagine doing something like driving my car at 90 mph oblivious to anyone on the roads because I'm not worried about "outcomes."<<

I agree with you about being called to love one another. We don't want to be oblivious to others, or blunder through life. Unconditional love is tremendously challenging, since it often doesn't fit our judgmental expectations. We need to be willing to let go of our idea of 'good' in order to follow God's will (which is often inscrutable.) The challenge to reason is in using it as it should be used- as a servant of a loving heart. Jesus mentions the heart often.

Results based actions are questionable, because they tend to come directly from reason and planning, not love. It's in the way love challenges selfish motives (pushing us beyond 'tribal' limits), that it directs reason towards what we could call 'good'. In it's selfless focus, love reaches beyond reason's ability to 'grasp' and lay down paths of action. We seem to need to 'recharge' love in our hearts and keep it in the guidance position. Going to our 'secret place', to refocus our attention on God, helps us keep love active and the main focus. Jesus reconnects often with God, and I find it noteworthy that someone as obviously 'connected' as he was needs to do so as often as he did. 'The world' keeps pulling us back into 'self' and reason, so to keep from falling away from God's will, we need to 'recharge' our hearts with the power of God's love.


onesmallstep- >>** If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. **

This idea is a method of re-claiming justice. If the person is struck, they would've been struck with the backhand, which was a way of signifying that the person struck was inferior. Such as master to his slave, or a Roman to a Jew. If you turn the other cheek, the only way the person has to strike you is with the "front" of the hand, and thus the aggressor must treat you as an equal. The left cheek could not be struck at all, because that was a taboo.

This is Jesus telling people to non-aggressively fight back.

Through those examples alone, I would say that Jesus is telling the crowd that they do deserve justice, and fairness, and equality,<<

Your examples have become popular as people seek rationally satisfying reasons to accept Jesus' radical teachings. I won't deny the cleverness with which Jesus subverts conventions, but I'm convinced he was teaching something more profound. In this example I see Jesus focusing less on social justice, and more on guiding people to follow God (who would then be allowed to do his will to effect social change; if that's his intent). How? A person must relinquish his/her own will in order to follow God's. Turning one's cheek defy's one's sense of personal control and judgements of justice (do not judge), which effectively allows the person to discover (and follow, if they so choose) God's will. Since society is composed of people, as people change society follows. What do you make of, 'Give to one who asks', and 'Do not turn away a borrower', and especially, 'Do not reist an evil person'? These passages don't seem to have any bearing on 'fighting back' or social justice.

Jesus is promoting compassion. He's challenging more than the system and justice, he's guiding people to repent (radical self change) and a return to God's ways...which come from the heart, not the head (the head will follow).


seeker- >>There ought to be a payoff if we work so hard for something.<<

Perhaps the payoff will often be recognition that we've overstepped our bounds and need to allow God to do his part.

>>This is one of the ways that I find value in process theology, by the way, because process theology believes that even God cannot actually force events to happen by coercion. God tries to persuade and lure the world in a certain direction, but the world consists of free agents who often do what they want to do, not what God wants to do. If persuasion rather than coercion is seen as the highest virtue because it characterizes God's very nature, then perhaps it can free us of the intolerance for failure that can go on in our own efforts at making the world better.<<

Doesn't the idea of a God who 'persuades' imply teleology and an anthropomorphic God? If God were otherwise, such as 'that in which we live and move and have our being' is 'persuade' meaningful? If Teleological outcome requires selection, how is it personal? I wonder because the selection processes we see seems more directed by the 'laws of nature' (impersonal) than by a loving God.

Instead of a 'persuading' God, perhaps Jesus' image of a loving father works better? A loving God, without bias, supports diversity. Everything is loved, so nothing is left out. The reason we don't receive payoffs for many of our efforts is precisely because they DON'T promote diversity. We want it the way we want it; we judge and discard the 'undesirable'. If 'the good' doesn't match our idea of 'good' we don't acknowledge it as good. Jesus was chastised for hanging out with sinners, but his example is noteworthy in it's expansiveness.

Matthew

OneSmallStep said...

Matthew,

**This is Jesus telling people to non-aggressively fight back.**
Why can't you reclaim justice by non-aggressively fighting back?

**Your examples have become popular as people seek rationally satisfying reasons to accept Jesus' radical teachings.**

I'm not sure what you mean by popular here, as I pulled from what scholars say is historical data. It's not something that was just "made up," but rather the social context of the time. In each of those examples, Jesus is calling upon people to reclaim their worth in non-aggressive ways, and essentially turn the system back upon itself.

**Turning one's cheek defy's one's sense of personal control and judgements of justice (do not judge), which effectively allows the person to discover (and follow, if they so choose) God's will.**

But if you turn the other cheek, you have still maintained control of the situation in a non-aggressive way. And how is it not maintaining justice to not simply be a doormat, but actively fight back?

**What do you make of, 'Give to one who asks', and 'Do not turn away a borrower', and especially, 'Do not reist an evil person'? These passages don't seem to have any bearing on 'fighting back' or social justice.**

I'm not sure how these quotes would disprove the other ones, in terms of establishing justice. (which verse is "Do not resist an evil person?").

After all, we also have quotes that can be translated as "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice." (Matthew 5:6)

Frank said...

Results based actions are questionable, because they tend to come directly from reason and planning, not love.

In some contexts, sure. When it becomes a matter of control, such as when people rely only on themselves and are not in relationship with God. But you can't seperate the real or likely consequences when you preform an action.

You put a seatbelt on your young child not because you are in total control of the universe, but because you are not. There are plenty of things that can harm your child, and driving down the road at 90 mph with no seatbelt on is not a sign of love. If you don't consider the outcomes, you might be led to the conclusion that reckless driving is perfectly fine since you're living by love and not worrying about outcomes.

Matthew, if you take your ideas to the extreme, you would have us walking around all day in a psychadelic haze, oblivious to the world as it flutters by and soaking up God's love like a sunflower. That's a fine exercise to do--but not a total lifestyle.

I don't see how you can love someone without considering the possible outcomes of your actions, whether they be small actions to the people in your immediate area, or people who you can influence in larger, systematic ways such as through voting.

The answer lies--and you mention this as well--in relationship with God. Regular prayer, regular discussion, debating, deliberating, trying this, trying that. There is not one set formula to follow, but a more difficult path of navigating between active involvement and letting go. We have to nurture both.

Matthew said...

onesmallstep

>>Why can't you reclaim justice by non-aggressively fighting back?<<

I'm not saying non-aggressively fighting back can't be effective (Gandhi used 'non-violent non-participation very effectively), but there's no guarantee it will work; and people often tend to become aggressive. When someone is 'wronged' emotions surface quickly and 'love your enemy' gets completely lost.

**Your examples have become popular as people seek rationally satisfying reasons to accept Jesus' radical teachings.**

>>I'm not sure what you mean by popular here, as I pulled from what scholars say is historical data. It's not something that was just "made up," but rather the social context of the time.<<

I said 'become popular', not because I think the concepts were 'made up', but because they have been quoted by quite a few pastors and authors in recent times.

People find Jesus' statements puzzling, and they should, since he's trying to break through people's dependence on 'worldly wisdom'. Jesus' wanted people to be 'reborn' (from the Spirit); he wasn't trying to make them feel good about what he asked them to do.

The system only needs change if God isn't directing it. There's no reason to try to 'turn the system back upon itself', because any system not supported by God will cease to exist when people stop creating and supporting them.

Jesus says, "Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven." He doesn't say, 'Help us to make our kingdom like yours.'

>>But if you turn the other cheek, you have still maintained control of the situation in a non-aggressive way.<<

Why should 'maintaining control' be always so important. If we follow God, does it matter that we feel out of control? Isn't this the challenge of true faith? Trying to find rational reasons to have faith usually fails. It's like requiring a sign to have faith. Jesus certainly was disappointed that people always wanted to see signs to prove that his message was from God.

>> And how is it not maintaining justice to not simply be a doormat, but actively fight back?<<

Each situation requires listening and obeying (God). People want pat answers, they want to have rules to follow, so they can just do them. Telling someone to 'be just' will confuse them.

We often don't know how things will work out, but we can have faith that God is in charge. The important part is to truly be following God, not our idea of God.

>>**What do you make of, 'Give to one who asks', and 'Do not turn away a borrower', and especially, 'Do not reist an evil person'? These passages don't seem to have any bearing on 'fighting back' or social justice.**

I'm not sure how these quotes would disprove the other ones, in terms of establishing justice.<<

Disprove- no, but they don't seem to have any bearing on it. Jesus wanted people to turn away from their wills, in order to see and follow God's will. I believe when people think about social justice they do so from their limited perspective. They don't take the time to listen to God and follow his ways. This is probably why we never seem to have social justice, and we've been searching for that for a very long time! What we get is attempts to overhaul our systems, always working from assumptions that we now 'know better' and have learned from the past. But it never works.


>>(which verse is "Do not resist an evil person?").<<

Mt. 5.39 "But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also."

'Do not resist an evil person' initiates the list of responses. Perhaps what follows should be considered with that always in mind?

Matthew

OneSmallStep said...

Matthew,

**but because they have been quoted by quite a few pastors and authors in recent times. **
Why is that a bad thing? Isn't it important to understand the words as the audience of that time would have, to understand the words in their historical context?

**There's no reason to try to 'turn the system back upon itself', because any system not supported by God will cease to exist when people stop creating and supporting them.**
I do not think we can support this based on history. Systems tend to cease to exist only when challenged by others. I think we could all say that slavery and the oppression of women wasn't supported by God, and yet neither of those changed until people acted *to* change them. So, yes, we do need to turn the system on itself, because some can often to blind to the harm the unjust systems cause.

**Jesus says, "Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven." He doesn't say, 'Help us to make our kingdom like yours.' **
But Jesus also says that God's will is to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Wouldn't we say that the idea of heaven would establish a sense of social justice, in no more evil or oppression or poverty, or any of that?

**Why should 'maintaining control' be always so important. If we follow God, does it matter that we feel out of control? Isn't this the challenge of true faith? **
Because those quotes are also tied to regaining a sense of worth, or displaying a sense of worth. It helps you to not be overwhelmed by evil (and thus not be controlled by it), but rather fight back.

**Jesus certainly was disappointed that people always wanted to see signs to prove that his message was from God.**
And he also said to believe on him based on the works he was doing, as that proved his mission.

**Telling someone to 'be just' will confuse them. **
By that argument, can't we say that the prophets in the Tanakh confused people by their calls to justice? For helping the widows and orphans and the poor? Or even Jesus telling people that if they pursued justice, they'd be blessed?

**What we get is attempts to overhaul our systems, always working from assumptions that we now 'know better' and have learned from the past. But it never works.**
I also think this is untrue based on a historical perspective. No, we aren't perfect now, but we've fought against slavery, and we've given rights to women and we've established child labor laws. Those three things alone put us years ahead of the past.

**'Do not resist an evil person' initiates the list of responses. Perhaps what follows should be considered with that always in mind? **
Actually, what initiates this is Jesus saying don't return an eye for an eye -- in that case, don't hit the person who hit you. I would say it's telling you to not resist as an evil person would.

If you give when someone asks, or allow someone to borrow, that can also tie into a sense of justice. What if a poor person asks you for help? Or food? What if another person asks you to help against oppression?

Matthew said...

frank and onesmallstep, here are responses to your comments. Please let me know if they are unclear. -

frank-

>>You put a seatbelt on your young child not because you are in total control of the universe, but because you are not. There are plenty of things that can harm your child, and driving down the road at 90 mph with no seatbelt on is not a sign of love. If you don't consider the outcomes, you might be led to the conclusion that reckless driving is perfectly fine since you're living by love and not worrying about outcomes.<<

I understand your point about putting a seatbelt on a child- hoping it provides safety. When did I recommend taking more risks? From you comments it seems that's what you think I've said. Could you clarify why you think that's what I've said?

>>Matthew, if you take your ideas to the extreme, you would have us walking around all day in a psychadelic haze, oblivious to the world as it flutters by and soaking up God's love like a sunflower. That's a fine exercise to do--but not a total lifestyle.<<

Again I don't think you've understood my point. I'm recommending that people be MORE AWARE, not less. I'm curious to know what I wrote that makes you think I'm recommending obliviousness.

>>I don't see how you can love someone without considering the possible outcomes of your actions, whether they be small actions to the people in your immediate area, or people who you can influence in larger, systematic ways such as through voting.<<

What I understand you saying, from your arguments about outcomes, is that love is dependant on considering outcomes, and on people's physical safety. This seems too limited a view, so I'm guessing you don't intend this to be your central meaning of what love is. Unfortunately all your arguments have stressed this point. Wouldyou please tell me what you do mean by love. Do you thinnk it is dependant of outcomes? If so, how does it work? What is love?

>>The answer lies--and you mention this as well--in relationship with God. Regular prayer, regular discussion, debating, deliberating, trying this, trying that. There is not one set formula to follow, but a more difficult path of navigating between active involvement and letting go. We have to nurture both.<<

I do think there is a simple path to navigate, but most people are unwilling to do so. The 'narrow way' Jesus mentions is that path. It's also the path that Buddha taught. That path requires no thinking, or deliberating, trying this or that. A 'lost' person may need to explore those things in order to discover this path for themselves, but once the path is found and recognized those efforts are not needed. 'The truth will set you free' is the same in Buddhism as it is in Christianity. The problem for most people is that they don't believe that path exists...or are so biased against the path, as they understand it, that they won't try it to see if it works. We don't create truth, we discover it...it's always available inside and outside us.


onesmallstep-

**but because they have been quoted by quite a few pastors and authors in recent times. **
>>Why is that a bad thing? Isn't it important to understand the words as the audience of that time would have, to understand the words in their historical context?<<

I didn't say it was a bad thing, but it is incomplete. Historical details aren't really important. Those are bits of information for historians to debate. We're talking about 'timeless' teachings...the reason what Jesus' said is considered sacred.

**There's no reason to try to 'turn the system back upon itself', because any system not supported by God will cease to exist when people stop creating and supporting them.**
I do not think we can support this based on history. Systems tend to cease to exist only when challenged by others. I think we could all say that slavery and the oppression of women wasn't supported by God, and yet neither of those changed until people acted *to* change them. So, yes, we do need to turn the system on itself, because some can often to blind to the harm the unjust systems cause.

Let's take a closer look at an example- that of women being oppressed in a society. Remember, I said if God didn't support it, and people stopped creating and supporting particular ways they would disappear. If a society oppresses women where does that oppression come from? People, right? And if no people oppress others, will it continue? How could it? We don't understand God to support oppression of women. Does oppression exist on it's own, apart from the support people give it? I don't see how. Without supporters it vanishes, like a mirage when the heat dissipates. Only if it existed on it's own, apart from people and God would we need to fight it. Its the WRONGFUL CAUSE, created by ignorance, that is the reason it exists. Drop the ignorance and the cause vanishes. What do you think? I realize there will be people who don't want to give up their ignorance, and will hold onto their oppressive ways. They are afraid. They can't be reached. How will you fight this fear, this ignorance? They don't understand what they are doing is 'wrong'. Jesus sets a great example for this when, on the cross, he says, 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

**Jesus says, "Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven." He doesn't say, 'Help us to make our kingdom like yours.' **
But Jesus also says that God's will is to be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Wouldn't we say that the idea of heaven would establish a sense of social justice, in no more evil or oppression or poverty, or any of that?

Do you know what heaven is like? How does justice play out in heaven? If you know how heaven works, then I suppose we could write up directives for people to follow; how they should behave and treat one another. I'm guessing this isn't really where you want to go with this, but that's what would have to be done to follow through on what you're saying. Heaven might be very different from what you expect. We often find our expectations don't match how reality plays out! ;) If I said there might be 'bad' things in heaven, but people wouldn't suffer because of them, what would you make of that?

**Why should 'maintaining control' be always so important. If we follow God, does it matter that we feel out of control? Isn't this the challenge of true faith? **
Because those quotes are also tied to regaining a sense of worth, or displaying a sense of worth. It helps you to not be overwhelmed by evil (and thus not be controlled by it), but rather fight back.

Does Jesus tell people they need to- 'regain a sense of self worth', or 'display a sense of self worth?' I'd be curious to know if you find those sayings from him, because I don't believe he ever mentions those qualities. We don't get overwhelmed by 'evil' because we are strong and can fight it. We don't get overwhelmed by evil because, if we choose to follow God, he protects us. Nothing can stand against God. NOTHING! This is not speculation, it is reality. It may be hard to understand, but it is true. And God bless us all for his help ;)

**Jesus certainly was disappointed that people always wanted to see signs to prove that his message was from God.**
And he also said to believe on him based on the works he was doing, as that proved his mission.

Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think the main reason Jesus pointed to the works he did was to support his claim to be doing God's will. Not as proof that we should believe in Jesus. Jesus always claimed to know nothing, except what God showed (taught) him. He always pointed away from himself, towards God. Jn. 5.30 "By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me. 31"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid." It was because the Pharisees were trying to make him look bad to the people, claiming he had the power given to him from Beelzebul, that he then had to respond with 'a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand', etc.

**What we get is attempts to overhaul our systems, always working from assumptions that we now 'know better' and have learned from the past. But it never works.**
I also think this is untrue based on a historical perspective. No, we aren't perfect now, but we've fought against slavery, and we've given rights to women and we've established child labor laws. Those three things alone put us years ahead of the past.

The examples you mention fit the context of my comments about oppression of women (see above.) We live approximately 2000 years after Jesus taught. He gave us great teachings, and he thought those who followed him would do greater things than he. Do you really believe that history proves that we're 'years ahead of the past'?!

**'Do not resist an evil person' initiates the list of responses. Perhaps what follows should be considered with that always in mind? **
Actually, what initiates this is Jesus saying don't return an eye for an eye -- in that case, don't hit the person who hit you. I would say it's telling you to not resist as an evil person would.

The line- 'don't return an eye for an eye' isn't part of Jesus' teaching. It's what he mentions is from the past, or 'you have heard that it was said', which came from the OT. As such, it isn't his teaching, but he contrasts 'you have heard that it was said' with his teaching. When we continue to the line after 'an eye for an eye', we find his first teaching, which reads, 'Do not resist an evil person'. This is the 'flavor' of what is to come, and I believe all the other comments are to be seen as examples of this 'stance' towards evil. Your second comment- '...it's telling you to not resist as an evil person would', uses the same words Jesus uses, but has a completely different meaning. He doesn't talk about what an evil person would, or wouldn't do, he comments about what not to do WHEN EVIL OCCURS.

Matthew

OneSmallStep said...

Matthew,

**We're talking about 'timeless' teachings...the reason what Jesus' said is considered sacred. **
I'm sorry, but historical details aren't important? We would need those details in order to get the fullest context of what Jesus is saying, to put it in the right framework. That is how his audience would have understood what he was saying. That is why they would've found it to be a valuable teaching, and "sacred." The "timeless" nature of those teachings wouldn't include simply being passive, or turning the other cheek. The passiveness doesn't work in the original context.

Many interpret these passages to essentially mean to be passive in the face of evil, and that's the opposite of what Jesus is calling for.

**Remember, I said if God didn't support it, and people stopped creating and supporting particular ways they would disappear.**
And you also said that there is no reason to turn the system back on itself, if God didn't support it. I'm disagreeing with that, for the reasons I listed. For a very long time, many thought that the oppression of women was God-ordained. That doesn't make it right or excusable, but such ignorance does have to be fought, or we're not going to better society. We're not going to improve conditions for people. You still have to fight against the ignorance, and those who support it. Even if they don't understand what they do is wrong, it still needs to be challenged, so that others aren't oppressed. What makes the people stop supporting the system? Either they can no longer gain power for the system, or they see the system itself is unjust.

If you're going to say that there's no reason to turn the system against itself, I will interpret that as there's no reason to fight against that system, and we should all essentially just "wait" until God destroys the system, or the afterlife.

**Do you know what heaven is like? How does justice play out in heaven?**

I would say we can make a reasonable assumption based on how justice is defined in the Bible, and based on the justice God calls for people to do while on Earth.

**If I said there might be 'bad' things in heaven, but people wouldn't suffer because of them, what would you make of that?**

I think this would be hard to support, if we hold to the idea that God is good alone.

**Does Jesus tell people they need to- 'regain a sense of self worth', or 'display a sense of self worth?'**

Ah, but you're adding a word here. Self-worth is not the same as basic worth. If you go with the idea that we are all given worth by God, then we do have a right to claim that worth, which is exactly what I see in those teachings. He's encouraging people to demonstrate that in turning the other cheek, or walking the extra mile. It's making those who are oppressing see the other person as having worth.

**We don't get overwhelmed by evil because, if we choose to follow God, he protects us.**
Except there are specific mentions of "Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good." Or Jesus giving his disciples power over sickness and death, and such. It's not a passive matter, but the person is to take an active role in fighting that evil.

**Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think the main reason Jesus pointed to the works he did was to support his claim to be doing God's will.**

This quote (you may already know this), was from John 10:38, and he says that those deeds/works are his proof that he's the Messiah (which is often what he was asked about -- proof that he was the Messiah). He was also using the works to prove that he was working the Father's will, yes.

**It was because the Pharisees were trying to make him look bad to the people, claiming he had the power given to him from Beelzebul, that he then had to respond with 'a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand', etc.**

Well, this is in a completely different section, though, and it's still kind of drifting towards "proof," because he's claiming that everyone is witnessing the power of God, when Jesus casts out the demons and heals the sick.

**Do you really believe that history proves that we're 'years ahead of the past'?!**
In many areas, yes. You don't think women are better off today? Or children? Or minorities? That in many areas, we have more equality today then we did in the past?

**The line- 'don't return an eye for an eye' isn't part of Jesus' teaching. It's what he mentions is from the past, or 'you have heard that it was said', which came from the OT.**

It is part of his teaching, if he's contrasting it to his other statements. He's teaching us that we should not return an eye for an eye.

**He doesn't talk about what an evil person would, or wouldn't do, he comments about what not to do WHEN EVIL OCCURS.**
But he's saying don't resist an evil person, and then going on to say what an "evil" person would do, or what a person who wrongs you would do. He's providing situations to show people how not to return an eye for an eye.

Frank said...

I understand your point about putting a seatbelt on a child- hoping it provides safety. When did I recommend taking more risks? From you comments it seems that's what you think I've said. Could you clarify why you think that's what I've said?

Sure. You do it in your most recent post when you say "That path requires no thinking, or deliberating, trying this or that." You also make that same point when you say that we are not to be concerned with outcomes or with any efforts to build a just society. The point I've been trying to make in this whole conversation with you is that command of Jesus to love one another involves considering outcomes and working to build a just society--whether we're the ones who actually build this society or whether that just society is the same as the kingdom of God, or whether its just good deeds we do I don't know. I'm not sure it matters, because the way I see it, I can't claim to love someone if my actions are willfully and knowingly likely to have a negative consequence to them. That doesn't mean I'm "outcome oriented" or trying to force my way on the universe or whatever else you're claiming for me.

What I understand you saying, from your arguments about outcomes, is that love is dependant on considering outcomes, and on people's physical safety. This seems too limited a view, so I'm guessing you don't intend this to be your central meaning of what love is. Unfortunately all your arguments have stressed this point. Wouldyou please tell me what you do mean by love. Do you thinnk it is dependant of outcomes? If so, how does it work? What is love?

Matthew, it is only fair that if you want me to answer your questions that you start answering some of mine. The reason my arguments have stressed certain points is that those are the points we are debating. Do you or do you not think that love involves involves actions we take and the intentions (ie anticipated consequences) with which we preform those actions? Is love just a feeling for you, or is it action?

Matthew said...

frank-

>>Do you or do you not think that love involves involves actions we take and the intentions (ie anticipated consequences) with which we preform those actions? Is love just a feeling for you, or is it action?<<

Defining love is challenging, but here's my attempt:

Let me start with what I think love IS NOT- Love is not a feeling or thoughts or actions.

It's not feelings, because feelings are very often reactions to satisfied or defeated desires. We see this often in marriages, and their failures. Feelings are very transient, shifting often, which isn't how love is. We have a component of feelings that we talk about as love, and it can have similar 'fruits' to love- in it's caring for people and things in general.

Love is not thoughts, because they are calculating and judging. Thoughts are very dependent of experiential outcomes, especially those that fulfill other mental creations, such as theories, or expectations. I suppose irrational, or fantasy thoughts aren't as I described 'thought', but they aren't love either.

Actions are much to physically based, tending towards legalism, not love. Your example of seat-belting a child in a car points towards legalism. It looks as the physical health of the person. If the person is healthy and protected from physical harm it proves you love the person, and vice versa, you don't love them if they are harmed.

Perhaps many people believe this view of love, and they probably struggle with God's love for us, because they can't understand how 'bad things happen to good people' if a loving God is omnipotent. What do you expect?! The confusion is derived from the simplistic assumptions!

Here's how I 'point' towards love. Rough descriptions of what it is-

Love is that which brings into being and supports what is. It's unconditionally supportive and caring. It is the 'building block' (though not physical as an atom is supposed to be) behind everything. It binds and soothes, irritates and destroys. Without love we wouldn't see the diversity there is in the universe, but without it there wouldn't be anything at all!

Now let me say what love is, by way of how God loves-

God loves everything...even 'evil'! Strange, don't you think?! Remember, I didn't say God desires evil, or that God wants evil, far from it. I think most people's understanding of 'evil' is much too limited. As I mentioned above, this is the reason people struggle with 'bad things happening to good people' concept, and it's their limited view of evil that causes the problem. Perhaps this comment will soothe your irritation...God loves evil, and uses it for 'the good', if you will.

We usually think of evil as harmful and destructive, but without destruction there can be no creation! The universe is like a gigantic 'recycling machine' bringing into being (creating) and breaking apart (destroying). God's love allows evil to exist. It's necessary. Nothing exists unless God loves and supports it. God loves us, yet people always die.

onesmallstep-

I'm sorry, I wish I had the ability to describe my line of reasoning otherwise, to make them clearer to you, but you seem to be following a very specific line of reasoning that doesn't 'hear' the point I'm trying to make.

Here's an example of the problem-

>>And you also said that there is no reason to turn the system back on itself, if God didn't support it. I'm disagreeing with that, for the reasons I listed. For a very long time, many thought that the oppression of women was God-ordained. That doesn't make it right or excusable, but such ignorance does have to be fought, or we're not going to better society.<<

To repeat...if people didn't support, or as you mentioned, "THOUGHT (my emphasis) that oppression of women was God-ordained", those conventions would vanish. No fight is needed, we only need to discover how our 'thoughts' come from ignorance, and the conventions will disappear.

Fighting something implies you are somehow 'buying into' it's 'truth', or 'power'. You are essentially 'joining the club', then rebelling, but you're still in it's 'power'. You haven't been released to freedom.

Peace,
Matthew

OneSmallStep said...

Matthew,

I do agree I'm confused. You mention to Frank that God's love allows evil to exist, and nothing exists without God to support it. And yet you also feel that the oppression of women wasn't God-ordained, even though it existed?

**No fight is needed, we only need to discover how our 'thoughts' come from ignorance, and the conventions will disappear.**

What I haven't seen an answer to, though, is how you think the ignorance goes away -- there is a reason why so many improvements in society required a struggle, or a battle. But fighting doesn't imply you are buying into its truth. If I fight against racism, part of my fight is that racism is wrong, unjust, and ultimately not a "truth."

Matthew said...

onesmallstep-

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I do agree I'm confused. You mention to Frank that God's love allows evil to exist, and nothing exists without God to support it. And yet you also feel that the oppression of women wasn't God-ordained, even though it existed?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Love seems to be the 'energy' with which things come into being and are supported. If love is withheld, or withdrawn, things become fragmented and distorted, alienated from the way they were created to be. Jesus' focus, other than repentance for entrance into God's kingdom, was love (but love seems necessary to enter God's kingdom). His descriptions of God are as a loving father and the way Jesus showed us how to love unconditionally broke through conventional ways of understanding God and love.

Jesus says that love is the central theme in ALL the Law and Prophets-

Mt. 22.36 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
37 Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

I think the reason we find so much 'evil' in the world is because there isn't enough unconditional love. Love can 'fight' the battles, although fight is a strange word to describes it's way of transforming things. We 'confront or fight evil' instead of sharing love. We can only let it do it's work.

Love is recognized as a great power by religions other than Christianity. Here's a verse from the Dhammapada (Buddhism)-

For never does hatred cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases by love. This is an eternal law. (Dhammapada, Ch. 1 v.5 From the 'Twin verses')

Can you imagine someone perpetrating 'evil' if their hearts were overflowing with love? Would it be possible to oppress anyone (women in your example) if you loved them with all your heart, mind and soul? When we love unconditionally we can't know how things will work out. We've got to trust that God's will will be done and stay focused on our job as loving servants. Calculated efforts often don't come from love, since they have a very specific goals which must see things in limited ways in order for us to control them. That isn't to say we can't use reason as a servant of love. Many people don't believe love has any power, that it is too 'nice', too gentle to be effective in the real world.

Here's a quote from Anthony DeMello, from his book 'THE WAY TO LOVE', Chapter entitled- 'Be Awake'-

"Therefore the first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking, a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person's need or your own? So the first ingredient of love is to really see the other.

The second ingredient is equally important to see yourself, to ruthlessly flash the light of awareness on your motives, your emotions, your needs, your dishonesty, your self-seeking, your tendency to control and manipulate. This means calling things by their name, no matter how painful the discovery and the consequences. If you achieve this kind of awareness of the other and yourself, you will know what love is. For you will have attained a mind and a heart that is alert, vigilant, clear, sensitive, a clarity of perception, as sensitivity that will draw out of you an accurate, appropriate response to every situation at every moment.Sometimes you will be irresistibly impelled into action, at others you will be held back and restrained. You will sometimes be made to ignore others, and sometimes give them the attention they seek. At times you will be gentle and yielding, and at others hard, uncompromising, assertive, even violent. For the love that is born of sensitivity takes many unexpected forms and it responds not to prefabricated guidelines and principles, but to present, concrete reality. When you first experience this kind of sensitivity you are likely to experience terror. For all your defenses will be torn down, your dishonesty exposed, the protected walls around you burned.""


Following God's will isn't easy, and it's very often beyond our intellectual grasp. If we can be unconditionally loving (towards everything), I think we'll find dramatic changes can occur, and evil will cease to prosper. (I have not idea what will become of it.) Fighting will only make us participants in the evil, not the way we think it is, but the way we don't think it is (the way others probably think it is).



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**No fight is needed, we only need to discover how our 'thoughts' come from ignorance, and the conventions will disappear.**

What I haven't seen an answer to, though, is how you think the ignorance goes away -- there is a reason why so many improvements in society required a struggle, or a battle. But fighting doesn't imply you are buying into its truth. If I fight against racism, part of my fight is that racism is wrong, unjust, and ultimately not a "truth."

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Ignorance seems to come from not looking at what is- reality. Reality is not limited by our views of it. Most people only see a small part of reality. They believe that who they are is dependent on those views, beliefs about themselves and their world. Without that way of seeing reality they believe they will cease to exist. It becomes a 'fight to the death' concept...but this is illusory. Something WILL die, but the untrue will die, not the true. Truth is like light (another term Jesus liked to use) which when held up high, shines far to 'dissolve' shadowy untruths. It shows untruths for what they are, it doesn't fight them. Untruth can't pose as truth in the light of truth. Fighting usually is done in the dark and substitutes one untruth for another.

Peace,
Matthew