Archive for September, 2010
Work Boyfriend 1.0 and I were having a phone conversation the other day where he brought up again, as he does every few months or so, the question of whether or not I should date. The answer to this question is always no. Sometimes I think the answer should be yes, but then I am wrong. The answer is no.
The last time someone talked me into accepting a date, the outcome was predictably tragic. I met this guy in a bar called Canary Hut or Canary Roost. I don’t know. Canary Something. I was out with Katina. This is obviously when I was still drinking, but I wasn’t drunk at the time. It was December of 2008, and I hadn’t been on a date in five years, if you count my relationship with The Rat Bastard as dating.
Wisely, after The Rat Bastard, I had made the conscious decision not to ever accept another date again. I am simply not meant to date. It works out for other humans, but it never works out for me. What is the definition of insanity? Repeating the same actions and expecting a different outcome.
The outcome of me dating is always disappointment. Sometimes it’s mild disappointment, and at other times it’s profound disappointment but what all these experiences have in common is disappointment. I was an English major, and I began to sense a theme. At some point, I decided that I didn’t want to be insane anymore.
So, this guy at the Canary Something was supposedly instantly attracted to me. Why I couldn’t say. I had not taken any special care with my appearance, and I was at least one hundred pounds overweight at the time. Now the way he approaches me is original, because he doesn’t.
He sends his sister and her husband over to ask for him, like he’s in junior high and wants to ask me to go with him. The sister and her husband launch an all out campaign to convince me that I want to go out with her brother. They point him out at the bar. He waves.
He’s nothing special, but he’s also not repulsive. Supposedly, he is painfully shy. This isn’t surprising to me. Shy guys love me. I swear to God if there is a shy guy within a twenty-mile radius of me, he will eventually gravitate towards me even if he isn’t actually interested in me in that way. I attract them like magnets. The kind of guys who major in obscure and cerebral things that require them to interact with things or numbers and not humans – IT guys and math majors and engineers and architects – they love me for some inexplicable reason.
Now I finally meet this guy after his entire family has talked him up to me. And that’s no exaggeration. This is the family that parties together. Mom, stepdad, brother, sister, brother-in-law. He’s awkward, and, yep, shy. He also strikes me as not particularly bright. As in, he has the IQ of a root vegetable. Actually, that might be an insult to some of the more intelligent root vegetables, like the rutabaga and the jicama, for instance.
His whole family made a big point out of telling me how brilliant he is. Oh, he’s so smart! It doesn’t seem like it at first, but just wait until you get to know him. Hmmph. I am not so convinced. Mr. Brilliant is several years younger than me, in his late twenties, hasn’t started let alone finished college, and is currently working two or three delivery jobs.
But he’s nice enough. He seems to like me. My girlfriend is encouraging me to do this. I should go out. It’s healthy. I should make an effort. What could it hurt? Free dinner, yada, yada. And I recognize the logic in this argument. How am I going to find someone if I don’t go out? Do I want to spend the rest of my life alone? If nothing else, then it will be good practice.
Monday morning I describe the entire scenario to Work Boyfriend 1.0.
“So, you’re saying that you’re going out with this guy on a mercy date?”
“Well, if you’re going to put it that way, um, yeah, I guess.”
“Oh, my God. Don’t do us any favors.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? I thought you said that I should date.”
“You should. Someone you really like.”
“But no one I really like has asked me out. They aren’t exactly lining up outside my door. These are my choices: stay home or go out on the mercy date.”
A couple nights go by. Mr. Brilliant calls me. He hasn’t gotten any smarter. It’s late, and I’m already in for the night, and he wants me to meet him somewhere right now. Now I’m not a strict adherent to The Rules, but I’m not running like a puppy dog because this guy has called. I don’t play games. I tell him that I’d like to make plans in advance. I don’t tell him why this is, but the reason has to do with the fact that I’d like to think that a guy actually went to the effort and trouble of planning something in advance. I’d like to think that he cared enough to do that for me.
He says he’d like to meet me somewhere for dinner the next night. Tomorrow night. No place yet. No plans. But I figure this is a compromise because I at least have advance warning. I can make an effort and try to look nice, maybe wear some of that Chanel perfume that I never have a reason to wear. Tomorrow night. He’ll call. Cool.
So, tomorrow night comes. I make an effort and shower and dress nice and get ready to fly out the door to wherever it is that he’s decided that we’re going to meet. But the phone doesn’t ring. Strangely, the phone doesn’t ring all evening.
The phone does ring the next day, after he’s stood me up. It rings several times while I’m at work, and once I actually hang up on him without saying a word. Work Boyfriend 1.0 is appalled.
“You aren’t even going to give this guy a chance?”
“You didn’t even want me to go out with him in the first place, and he stood me up.”
“You should at least listen to what he has to say.”
“Unless he’s in a hospital, I really don’t want to hear anything he has to say. And nope, not even then. They have phones in hospitals. You want to know why I don’t date? This. This right here is why I don’t date. It’s a perfect example.”
First, I’m wrong for having a no dating policy. It’s so isolated and closed off, and I’ll never meet someone that way. Then someone asks me out, and I agree to give him a shot, and I’m a horrible person for agreeing to go on the mercy date. Then he stands me up, and I’m a horrible person for not giving him a second chance. At what point is he the horrible person in this scenario? After he takes me out to an old deserted road and rapes me and leaves me for dead? Or will I still be the horrible person even then?
Mr. Brilliant calls again that night. His excuse is that he had to work. He works three jobs, after all, and one of the jobs asked him to work some overtime.
I tell him that I can appreciate that he has to work three jobs, and that if you have to work you have to work. I still would have appreciated a courtesy call.
His phone was dead or something. He’s sorry. Do I want to go out right now and meet him and his friends for a drink? No, I do not. I tell him he had his chance, and he blew it, and I don’t want to talk to him again. For someone who was supposedly so enamored of me, he doesn’t seem very broken hearted about it.
And THAT is why I don’t date. I suppose my standards are too high. Once, just once I’d like for the guy that I like to ask me out and not have to settle for letting the guy I’m not so crazy about try to convince me otherwise. But I give in on that. Every time. Because if I don’t, then I’ll be alone. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be courted. Then I compromise on the fact that I’d like to be treated with common courtesy and decency. And before I know it, I’m in another relationship with another Rat Bastard all because I’m scared of (Gulp!) being alone.
I won’t do it. I’m tired of doing it. And I’d rather be alone, thank you. If that makes me bitter or “judgemental”, then I guess I’m okay with that.
I just finished reading a book called The Faith Club, a book which I fully intend to review on some future post. The book is a collaboration written by a Muslim woman, a Christian woman, and a Jewish woman who met together for years following the September 11th tragedy, for interfaith discussions. The great thing about the book is that it, along with some other things I’ve recently read, has helped me to piece together more of my personal theology.
The Bible says that the only unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Just what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, is like so much of the Bible, up for debate. I believe that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the denial of the authority of God, the failure to deny Him His rightful place in your life as your Lord. Many might say that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the denial of God’s existence, and that would qualify as well. However, that’s a very limited definition, since even the devil worshippers believe in the existence of God, and yet I think that all believers can agree on the fact that Satanists will not qualify for acceptance into heaven.
Speaking of Satan, that brings us to the question of original sin. The story of the fall of Satan and the fall of man have in common one thing: the failure to relinquish control and authority to God, the pride that prevents both man and Satan from allowing the Lord to have dominion over our lives.
Let’s look at the story of Satan. Satan was the highest of all the angels in heaven. He wasn’t satisfied with this position and craved to be God himself, instead. Because of this sin of pride, God cast Satan and the angels who followed him out of heaven. The angels who followed him became demons.
Then God created man. And man lived naked and without shame in paradise until he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man’s sin was not only disobedience but pride. For before Eve ever takes a bite and then tempts her husband, she is tempted by the serpent with the promise that eating the fruit will make her like God, will give her the knowledge of God.
She tempts her husband Adam to eat also by repeating the serpent’s false promise. The fruit did indeed impart knowledge, but it did not impart the wisdom of God. No longer was man an innocent. He was now able to distinguish between light and dark; he was given a conscience, but he was not given the intellect of God. So, while people might now know the difference between good and bad, we do not have the knowledge to discern why the bad must happen.
The greatest hindrance to submission to God, beyond the pride that makes us want to control our own lives, is the question of why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It’s a subject of endless debate that harkens back to the time of the book of Job but has also been wrestled with by the likes of modern theologians like Rabbi Harold Kushner and Reverend Leslie Weatherhead, amongst others. And it’s a debate that often hinders human beings from belief in and submission to God, because they say that the ways of the world defy a belief in an ominiscient and omnipotent God who is also benevolent. And one can see their argument.
At the same time as I’ve been defining my concept of the one unforgivable sin, I’ve been thinking about just what that means for Christians and the Christian concept that belief in Jesus as the Son of God is required for admission into heaven. It’s a pretty big tenet of the faith for a lot of Christians, and Christians often justify this belief based on one Bible verse alone. That Bible verse is John 14:6, and it reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
Most Christians interpret this to mean that anyone who isn’t a Christian isn’t getting a ticket to Heaven. Not all Christians do, of course, anymore than all Catholics believe the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church that they are the one and only true church, and only members of the true church are going to Heaven. (To be fair, the Roman Catholics aren’t even close to being the only denomination that believes they are the only ones who are going to Heaven; they’re just the largest group of believers with that official theology.)
There is the Unitarian Universalist tradition of inclusiveness, but they always seemed so wishy washy to me, as if they didn’t really know exactly what they believed. From the outside, it seemed like they were all over the map. The Unitarians I knew seemed to apply just as much significance to New Age philosophy as to belief in Jesus. And yet, there is something appealing to me in the concept of the kind God that I know God to be, allowing admission to Heaven by people of different faiths.
It does seem cruel for a loving God to assign people to Hell for all eternity just because they’re not Christians. What about people who aren’t exposed to the Gospel? Evangelicals, of course, always point to The Great Commission [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=matthew%2028:16-28:20&version=NIV] as proof of God’s benevolence. They say that all Christians are charged with the duty of making disciples for Christ because it is literally a matter of life and death.
Failure to proselytize and convert the masses means many untouched souls writhing in Hell for all eternity. They fervently believe this, and this explains the urgency of their attempts to witness to non-believers. As offensive, insulting and poorly rendered as their attempts to convert are, they are sincerely well intentioned. However, their arrogance achieves the opposite of their goals. The lack of respect that they show towards the recipients of their evangelism is evidence of a lack of love for their fellow man.
Of course, as I’ve previously mentioned, I faithfully read the blog of John Shore. One day I came across a great post about this very issue. You can read it here:
John overheard a conversation between an atheist and an evangelical Christian who was attempting to witness to the atheist. There was a subsequent blog post in which an atheist questioned the assertion that John 14:6 means that all non-Christians are destined to go to Hell. His interpretation of the scripture was that Jesus gets to decide who gets admission to Heaven. And I thought, well, why not? It doesn’t actually say that you have to be a Christian to get admission to Heaven. It just says that no one gets to go to Heaven who doesn’t go through Jesus.
Now don’t get me wrong; I still believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe that He died to save us from our sins. But I don’t believe that Christianity is the only path to God. I just can’t believe that God would condemn those who never heard the Gospel to an eternity in Hell. I can’t believe that God would condemn those of us who are too young or too mentally feeble to grasp the concept of salvation to an eternity in Hell. And let’s not forget that Jesus wasn’t a Christian himself; he was a Jew.
All human beings are created with a natural curiosity to explore our origins and our purpose in the universe, and this natural curiosity is our yearning to be in communion with God. I believe that there are many paths by which this communion might be accomplished. God wishes for us to acknowledge his authority and his presence in our lives. There are many paths through which that goal might be accomplished. The only judge who can ascertain whether or not a human being has the quality of relationship with God that is required is Jesus. I’m okay with that.
So, to summarize:
- I believe that there is only one unpardonable sin. That is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
- I believe that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the failure to respond to the call of a loving God to be in relationship with us and to submit to his will for our lives. It is not just the denial of God but the active rejection of God.
- I believe that the Original Sin is pride. The pride that keeps atheists and agnostics from being open to God’s message is the very same pride that keeps some Christians believing that they have the only pipeline to God or that they can determine who will be saved on the day of judgement.
- I believe that Jesus is the only person qualified to judge who is being received into the kingdom of God. That is not for me to determine or decide.
- I believe that it is important for me to spread the message of the Gospel so that others might be saved, but I do not believe that their salvation is dependent upon me. The most effective witness that I can bear for Christ is to live The Great Commandment. [http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+22%3A36-40&version=NIV] That means showing respect for all human beings, even the ones whose beliefs conflict with mine. After all, we all have our own personal beliefs regarding God, but none of us knows with absolute intellectual certainty what will greet us at our death. To assert differently is akin to saying that we have the wisdom and knowlege of God Himself, which we most certainly do not.
- I believe that there are many paths to God, including some that aren’t organized and have no name. God sees into the human heart and desires to be in relationship with any human heart that is open to His call.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is the story of Mortenson, a young mountain climber and hippie who impulsively decided to build a school for the children of a poor mountain village in Pakistan. In the early 1990s, Mortenson, whose younger sister had just died, came down from a failed attempt to climb K2. The climb was supposed to be his memorial to his sister, Christa. He was lucky to have escaped from the climb with his life. His guide had lost him, and the guide had Mortenson’s pack with all his food, drink and survival gear with him.
The people of a mountain village were kind enough to offer him shelter and help him to recuperate. The name of the town was Korphe, and when Greg saw the children of this town on a hillside, trying to practice writing and arithmetic with sticks in the sand, he asked them why they weren’t at school. He learned that they didn’t have a school. Pakistan has government funded education, but this is available in larger towns and cities only. Greg Mortenson was so impressed with the children of Korphe and his experience there that he promised to build them a school.
The process was slow going at first. Mortenson learned that he could build a good, solid school building in Pakistan for only $12,000. Astounding, huh? The only problem was that he didn’t have $12,000, and the $12,000 didn’t include his round trip fare to Pakistan. Mortenson was an emergency room nurse. He lived as frugally as possible in order to save his money. He was essentially homeless. He slept in his bedroll on the floor of a friend’s apartment or in his car. Still, it seemed to take forever to save the money he needed.
Mortenson’s mother was the principal of an elementary school. The students at her school saved pennies in jars. They called the project Pennies for Peace, and when the project was done for the year, they had saved over $600 in pennies. The mountain climbing community embraced Greg’s vision for a school, and they let him give talks at a lot of their seminars.
At one of these seminars Greg was introduced to Jean Hoerni, an eccentric engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur who had a hand in the creation of Teledyne, Union Carbide, and Intel. Hoerni was a very wealthy mountain climber who had been moved by the poverty of the people in the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan, where Mortenson wanted to build his school. Hoerni gave Greg a check for $12,000.
There were many, many stumbling blocks on the road to that school in Korphe. There was a man Greg trusted with the storage of his building materials only to come back and find that he used or sold a great deal of them. There was graft and religious leaders looking for bribes. There were people from other villages who were intent on diverting Greg from Korphe to build a school in their villages, or to build a school for porters instead. But there were also lots and lots more good people who helped him along the way: trusted advisors, a bodyguard willing to lay down his life for Greg, a religious leader who was willing to put his reputation on the line and to petition the highest Shia authority in Iran to approve of Greg’s schools and the education of Pakistani girls, in particular.
Once the first school was built, Jean Hoerni gave the money to start a non-profit with an endowment of one million dollars. Greg started the Central Asia Institute. The Central Asia Institute now has many, many schools for boys and girls in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Along the way, Mortenson met his wife and started his family. Both the Central Asia Institute and Pennies for Peace are currently thriving.
And why, might you ask, is this important for you to know about? Well, what Greg is doing is important because education is important, period, and because we should be concerned about those people who are less fortunate than us, whether they live next door or in the tiniest town in Afghanistan. And also: educating boys and girls in Pakistan does more to combat terrorism and the extremists of Islam than bombs and guns ever will. Bombs and guns make terrorists. Those children who are given a well-rounded basic education by Mortenson’s schools are the benefits of knowledge. That knowledge will help them to make better decisions about what to do with their lives and how to view their fellow citizens of the world.
The alternative for many of these children is either no education at all or an education of hatred provided by the Saudi funded madrassas. Wealthy Saudi Arabians fund madrassas in poverty-ridden countries. These madrassas do not provide education to girls, and they often do not provide the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. There is a lot of range in the quality of madrassas. Instead, what they never fail to teach is the rhetoric of fundamentalist Muslims. They teach the Koran to boys who cannot read it for themselves. Sometimes the teachers can’t, either.
The purpose of these schools is to recruit future soldiers for the Al Quaeda and the Taliban and other such organizations that propagate violence. And, much like in America, the wealthy fund the military while the poor become its foot soldiers. The Saudis don’t send their sons to “war.” Instead, they recruit the young men in Pakistan and Afghanistan who don’t have the opportunities that Saudi oil wealth provides.
Three Cups of Tea is an important book, and anyone seeking to further understand the politics of the Middle East and the people of Islam would be well served in taking the time to read it. There is no religious message in the book. The book is about people and cultures and working to find our commonalities rather than our differences. Mortenson grew up in Africa, the son of Lutheran missionaries, but he himself is not a particularly religious man. He learns to pray like both a Sunni and a Shia Muslim in order to fit in, and he adopts the culture and learns the languages of his second home. When in Rome…
I thought it might be fun, with the recent “news” event of Lindsay Lohan’s Tweet about her drug test failure, to make a list of famous people who suffer from alcoholism and addiction issues. Just because someone has substance abuse problems doesn’t mean that society should kick them to the wayside or that they are destined to be bums on a street corner. Some of these names you’ll already know about, and some you might actually be surprised to discover on the list. Some have gotten sober, some have attempted, and some have died not trying. At any rate, it’s interesting to see such a long list of accomplished people.
Ulysses S. Grant
Michael J. Fox
Hunter S. Thompson
Alexander the Great
Edgar Allen Poe
Mary Tyler Moore
Dick Van Dyke
Anna Nicole Smith
Eddie Van Halen
F. Scott Fitzgerald
William S. Burroughs
Samuel L. Jackson
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Tommy Lee Jones