Loading...
Menu

Hodge Podge

p<>{color:#000;}.

Hodge Podge

By

Damion Boyd

Shakespir 2016

All rights reserved

A HOMELESS PIGEON MEETS SOCIAL SERVICES

Dirty, loose pigeons

often avoid the free breadcrumb parks

like so many noisy, soup kitchens

Instead, they choose to scatter among the cars

oblivious to the official pattern of big-named avenues

Where perched atop waxed taxis

or dodging polished, high-heeled shoes

they linger outside the rules of a crosswalk world

to sidestep rolling tires and look up, wide-eyed,

profoundly suspicious of little girls with outstretched fingers.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

A Mother’s Day Vignette

I looked at my speed—18 mph. I looked up. In the rearview mirror light swept violently across the sleepy houses sitting quietly in the night. “He’s made the turn. He’s following me” I thought. Then, suddenly, he was there, roaring around the bend, skidding to a stop inches from my back bumper. You could sense the anger as he hit the blue/red flashers on and pulled me over to the side of the road. A huge, black police officer came to my window and scowled. “You know how fast you were going?” pausing less than a moment to add “You were going 80!”

The truth was I was coming home from a long shift at work and had made the final turn onto my neighborhood street at less than 40 mph—maybe 15 mph over the posted speed limit. However, as I made the turn I saw a police cruiser cresting the oncoming hill—about a 1/4 a mile away. Thus, I had comically reduced my speed by the time he was behind me.

“Eighty?!” I replied, somewhat dazed, considering the huge fine he had arbitrarily dumped in my lap. Taking my ticket, the only thing I could think to say was “I’ll see you in court”—wrong answer. The officer shoved the door hard into my leg and body, causing me to groan as I plopped backwards into the driver’s seat once more. “Sit down! We’re not finished yet” he erupted. His eyes straining wide and jaw locked tight, his fingers prying at the holster release of his service revolver. He almost looked frightened. “Why you getting out of the car?!” he snorted. “Because I live here” I said, pointing across the road. Then, somewhat embarrassed, he began our 3 a.m. lecture on children playing in the street.

Of course, when the court day arrived, I was completely unprepared—just a teenage driver facing the Criminal Justice System with only my annoyed version of events. And, what is worse, I couldn’t afford the fine. If only I could get someone to believe what actually happened—but, how?

Now, my mom was one of the wisest people I have ever known. Many young people, some total strangers, would come from the surrounding area just to pour out their trouble and hear her words. This surprised me a bit because on the surface she looked like a beat-down, wrinkled, blind woman with ten children who had trusted God through some very serious trials over the years—and it showed in ugly lines about her face. Yet, they came to her. Young girls and housewives and guys out of prison all seemingly attracted to her gentle, positive glow. After she came to accept her blindness, she smiled a lot—sometimes at the oddest times.

I remember how strange it felt when kids my age would blurt out: “Your mom is really cool!” So, I mentioned the whole ticket injustice to her; he says he clocked me going 80 mph in a 25 mph zone over a ¼ of a mile. She listened patiently to my entire rant, especially about my leg getting crushed—which I thought was very important evidence. Then, she quietly smiled and gave me a winning defense.

But, as luck would have it, traffic court was overflowing with cases. So I was told to go upstairs to a Superior Court Judge. He asked me if I had a lawyer while an Assistant DA looked rather amused at my scraggly clothes and long, dirty-blond hair. All I had was my mom’s defense written out in a short statement on a scrap of paper, so the trial went by with haste. Did I have witnesses? Did I want to present evidence? Did I want to cross-examine the officer’s testimony…? (The officer had lied under oath saying he was parked on the street.) No, I just have something to read. They kept telling me you can read that at the end. Then, finally, they all looked at me and said “Now you can make a closing statement”.

I took out my mom’s paper and pointed out how clocking a car going 80 mph and then pulling them over within a ¼ of a mile required a police cruiser to go over 200 mph. The courtroom fell silent. The DA’s table was taken aback. The busy stenographer looked over with a bit of amazement creeping across her face. And the judge, with a pained expression, apologized to the police officer as he let me leave. He told him aloud “I’m sorry but I’m going to have to let him go.”

Lord God, on this Mother’s Day I thank you for the wisdom you gave—not only my mom but-- our Mother Mary. Doesn’t she also listen patiently to our rants, to children coming from every direction, and give wise and gentle advice?

———————————————————————————————————————————-

The weight of the world

“Cynicism is knowledge without wisdom”

By cell phone

Tripoli turns bloody,

teenage sex-slaves in Guam,

terror blast kills 7 some-bodies

just another day’s cacophony erupts

within your palm…

yet Mother still

picks up that dying son alone

in this Calcutta

where the weight of the world

is but 91 lbs of skin and bone

An Inquiry about the Beatific Vision and Virtues of Jesus

Dear Father,

You mentioned in your sermon that Jesus always enjoyed the beatific vision throughout His lifetime. When I questioned this, you pointed to Thomas Aquinas. No doubt, you and St Thomas and Holy Mother Church are far more educated than I. Yet, it seems quite clear to me on many levels that Jesus Christ did NOT allow Himself such a powerful aid—with, perhaps, the exception of the Transfiguration. Here are a few objections that St Thomas did not raise in his self examination of the issue.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Direct contrary evidence in Scripture

Luke 22:43—-Greek

ὤφθη δὲ αὐτῷ ἄγγελος ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἐνισχύων αὐτὸν. καὶ γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ ἐκτενέστερον προσηύχετο. ἐγένετο δὲ ὁ ἱδρὼς αὐτοῦ ὡσεὶ θρόμβοι αἵματος καταβαίνοντες ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν.

Translation (RSV)

And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.

[Almost every translation I’ve found implies that the appearance of an angel caused the strengthening. If Jesus did access the full glory of God…why would the appearance of a mere angel give any kind of solace? ]

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. And Jesus went up the mountain to pray…..Why? Scripture shows us that Jesus separated Himself from human activity to achieve a closer communion with the Father. The full Beatific vision would require no special action to enhance.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Jesus repeatedly taught the disciples to rely on Faith…..when Peter began to sink beneath the water, Jesus asked him “Why did you doubt?” This greatly implies that Jesus Himself was relying on Faith. “If you had Faith as big as a tiny mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree “Be uprooted and planted in the sea and it would obey you”. Constant access to the Beatific vision would make Jesus NO EXAMPLE of Faith or Hope.

#
p<>{color:#000;background:#fff;}. Scripture tells us that “all of us with unveiled faces will be transformed from glory unto glory” by the Beatific vision. In other words, the vision of God’s glory is an increasingly transformative rapture….yet we see the Suffering Servant pouring out everything……almost to the point of pouring out His humanity “I am a worm and no man”.

With respect and asking for your patience Father, may I please give one more kind of argument? This argument is based on kenosis:

The Bible often reminds us God is One—an interconnected Unity. Yet, it also reveals distinct Personalities within the Divinity. Similarly, all virtue is unified but differs greatly in type. For example, there are extroverted virtues like absolute Power, Justice and Authority. We also know of introverted or recessive virtues like Mercy, Humility, Trust and Compassion. Therefore, might a unified God be both extroverted and recessive? “He made them both male and female. In His own image He made them.” And, if so unified, might God have acted out all His virtues at once? “I only do what I see the Father do.” Thus, this Path of creation that we witness is only a tiny part of the perfect ACT of God’s every virtue being played out. Perhaps, the Divine expression went, from our perspective, in two directions at once.

Therefore, all of God’s extroverted virtues, like Justice and unrestrained Power, sought full expression “upward and outward”. Likewise, all His recessive virtues, like Humility, Trust and Patience sought complete expression “downward” toward the meek humanity of Jesus on the Cross. “There is no greater Love than this than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Apparently, this downward expression of God toward the physical Person of His Son—Jesus—brought everything “in-between” God and the physical into existence—which is a pretty broad spectrum. “Through Him all things came into being”.

The take home point is: the Wise path of creation is defined by the absolute mercy and humility of Jesus Who ends up in the lowest place by design. And, it is here that human beings stand at the end of a long funnel of spiritual creation as it blends into the non-spiritual and non-volitional. Yet, the Light of God came to us—the least spiritual, barely volitional animals. And, as a witness to His arrival at this least point of creation, Jesus describes Himself as the “Son of Man”. With a touch of Hebrew hyperbole, the suffering servant text further proclaims “I am a worm and no man”.

If I may point out just one more theological argument, wouldn’t you agree that God is the SOURCE of every virtue? So where did perfect Faith and Trust and Hope come from? May I submit that God is indeed the source every good. For example, we might use a crude dividing line when it comes to eternal virtues. We might say that the Father is the source of all EXPRESSIVE VIRTUES…i.e.…absolute physical power, Justice, etc…….while Jesus is the source of all RECESSIVE VIRTUES…i.e.….absolute Mercy, Patience, Humility…etc….yet the Holy Spirit is the source of all the consequent virtues= DIVINE RELATIONAL VIRTUES…..i.e.…Love, Obedience, Trust, Hope….etc.

Hence, God’s one, perfect Act expressed “upward” in the Father (Justice) and “downward” in the kenosis of the Son Jesus (Mercy) and is an ongoing expression through the Church via the Holy Spirit…where many sons are formed in the virtues….e.g….”to consider Wisdom is the perfection of prudence”. However, I would submit, we created beings ARE NOT THE SOURCE OF THE VIRTUES….but are rather clothed by Jesus’ Holy Spirit in these virtues by the gift of faith and “works”.

All of which begs the question, if Jesus perfected the virtues of Faith, Hope and Trust in this place, was God “perfect” before creation? I would submit that Jesus “played out” His eternally humble and perfect, virtuous Love here in the lowest place. Thus, creation itself is a vast part of God’s Perfect act or a “playing out” of every virtue or essence of God.

Now, I believe God is immutable and Triune from all eternity……However, if you posit that Jesus is not the expression of perfect Trust (because He always enjoyed the beatific vision of the Father while on Earth) then you have a serious theological quandary trying to explain where and how such virtues pre-existed created beings; and, of course, where are these Virtues perfectly expressed?.

Father, with honor and respect, these are just a few of my objections to the notion that the Suffering Servant always had “one eye” on the Beatific Vision—the source of all bliss.

—————————————————————————————————————————————

The Great Battle

Yesterday

near a crowded mall

a sun-bronzed youngster

(a woman really)

and a seagull

plundered the open dumpster.

The bird

clumsily pecked at a blown paper ball,

as if it were a crumb from heaven.

The woman

smiled a toothless smile at a broken radio,

tuning the dead dials, remembering home.

And some gathered

to take a long, harsh but reasonable,

business-people-look

from across the parking lot.

Seeing them, the bird took wing

and she stood up to proclaim some loud, personal thing

to unravel the crowd.

Then she sat back down and laughed,

having won the great battle of 8 rattling cans and a broken radio.

And that was enough

but that was

yesterday

The Secret to Life

If you really want to live, recognize with God how things operate. He suggest you live by faith. What is “faith”? Faith is a way of seeing into the layers of reality and acting upon it. The threshold of Faith is Wisdom and the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of Wisdom. It all starts with a cornerstone virtue known as “the fear of the Lord”—a primary recognition of how things operate. Now, the Bible mysteriously reveals to us that the Fear of the Lord is an eternal virtue. And this is odd indeed. Isn’t fear a weakness? Don’t many well-educated people express the opinion that fear is the underlying basis for almost every psychological malady? I’ve even heard preachers say that fear is the basis for all sin. How then could it be strength? How could it exist eternally amid the greatness of heavenly perfection?

Answer—the concept of the “fear” of the Lord is nearly lost in translation. It is actually a tremendous respect for how things are. And, yes, even God eternally respects how things are—what we call the “nature” of things. For example, God seems to have immense respect for human volition or “free choice”. Since volition is part of our nature, God has reverence for its law—His Law. In other words, to override the liberty of a free creature is to contradict its nature or purpose; and God, it seems, chooses not to distort His own perfect nature with such contradictions. Consequently, we might learn a couple of things from this: that God Himself seems to possess a free spirit, because this is implied in the very concept of the Fear of the Lord being eternal, and that such “fear” or respect begins with God.

This tremendous respect for the nature of things is indeed a virtue. The Bible tells us it is the primary virtue for anyone to achieve. Now, “virtue” comes from the Latin word “virtus” which [roughly translated] means power. I believe that God is an overflowing source of every power. And, this overflow is referred to as “glory”. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The analogy of God as virtue

We know from our own existence that God’s nature must comprise a vast list of powers or virtues that include such things as intelligence and mercy, in the sense that a highly, fine-tuned and enormous universe of terrible forces gently envelope humanity without the immediate destruction of our frailty. And, we sense God’s uncountable virtues are so great, durable and interconnected that we simply use the word “perfect” to describe it all.

Now, one of the first things to know of God’s perfection is that He apparently does not violate his own nature—His own “virtuous interconnectedness”. I really don’t know how to explain it better. “Purity” is one of the words used throughout history. Anyway, God apparently safeguards His sanctity/purity with an eternal virtue of the “fear of the Lord”. And this “fear” begins with God’s own respect for how things are. In a very real sense, this is the One Rule which God mysteriously follows—whether by free choice or natural containment I did not really know. I suspect that God is utterly free but eternally wise in following this Divine Law. Could we really believe that God is “contained” by what He claims gives Him delight and pleasure and creative play?

Yes, God tells us in Scripture that He delights in Wisdom and that following the Law gives life and joy. Furthermore, the Bible assures us that God loves Wisdom and played with Her (in a place of unlimited, creative possibilities?) before ever a thing was made. Hence, God seems to freely enjoy following a kind of Law He refers to as Wisdom—which is, at the very least, an immense respect for His own nature and the nature of every possible thing.

The sea of possibilities

“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” Genesis

Now, just as you and I can imagine a seemingly endless amount of possibilities, whether viable or completely absurd, God knows of every possibility. He can see every potential thing that could possibly, if only temporarily, exist or happen. Thus, He knows ( or transcends) an immense variety of potentially weak and limited creatures, none of which can hold together for very long, because only God resides within the interconnected power of perfect Wisdom. Furthermore, it is only in Wisdom that He dares to transcend this sea of possibilities or “Knowledge”.

But what is the difference between Wisdom and Knowledge? Wisdom is the Divine Law while Knowledge can look into both the Law and contradictions of the Law. In other words, Wisdom is a kind of safe path of God’s interconnected power which leads to life, while Knowledge is a vast expanse of raw possibilities—much of which is too weak or contradictory and, thus, leads to death.

This is clearly illustrated in the Garden of Eden. There we see both the Tree of Life (the power of Wisdom) and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (the dangerous realm of possibilities). Imagine it this way: acts within the interconnected power of God—according to the nature of things—are life giving and “good”. Acts that contradict this Divine order—distortions that cannot hold shape—we could refer to as “evil” or “sin” leading to death.

Therefore, Knowledge includes both good and evil possibilities. And, Knowledge is like a vast sea of possibilities where God can encounter both “good” and “evil”. Apparently, God knowing the immense possibilities of acting outside the Law (evil), always chooses the interconnected good. Put another way, when God can Wisely or safely traverse the sometimes violent sea of possibility (Knowledge), it is through a primary ability He calls “Understanding”. Yes, this virtue of Understanding is closely wrapped up in the Fear of the Lord. Understanding means to discern the path of life in Wisdom—the interconnected, Divine Law—as one travels the dark realm of possibilities: Knowledge. In other words, the power of Understanding is needed to safely transcend Knowledge. Apparently Adam and Eve were very limited creatures: created “good” but very weak in Understanding. They foolishly ignored God (Who had balanced His wise advice with the serpent’s temptation—thus not overriding the freedom of free creatures) and explored the deadly realm of possibilities without the full power of Understanding.

Understanding our own pain

Now, you might ask: “If God is so full of virtue and understanding, then why did God create this sorry universe so full of suffering and pain and horrible acts of cruelty? If God is “good” then why does He allow what is obviously “bad” to happen? And, if God does not choose evil and death then where did it come from? Why does He allow it?” The answer seems counter-intuitive. But, the answer to why God chose to allow, out of all the vast possibilities, this place for creation is…Love.

The apostle John summarized all this up with a simple phrase: “God is Love”. Now, the first thing to understand about God’s love is that it is not only conforms to His interconnected virtue, it is an overflow! Love is glorious. Love is creative. Love accomplishes the seemingly impossible.

Here is the great mystery. Through Love and Understanding our perfect God found a miraculous Way to transcend the dark realm of imperfect possibilities and share His eternal stability (peace) and interconnected power with some of its weak and limited creatures. This Divine Path of creation/salvation, this glorious “Way of Love”, Christians refer to as “Jesus Christ”—the Son of God. (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”) “Through Him all things came to be.”

God always chooses the good

Now, God says He knew you before the foundations of the world. How? Apparently in that vast, shapeless place of unrealized possibilities, He saw a Way of eternally choosing the imperfect weakness of you without violating His own perfection. In other words, God mysteriously found a Way to choose the good (of Jesus) while rescuing the bad (of us). Our Father of Wisdom and Life found a Way to rescue us from death. But how?

Much of this Way is clearly revealed to us in Scripture. There we see God is an interconnected Unity. The ancient text tell us repeatedly that God is One. Yet, the Bible also reveals distinct personalities within that Divinity. This is an age-old mystery but here is an insight. Just as all virtues are interconnected in power but separate in kind, so God is united but distinct. For example, there are virtues which are naturally extroverted like Justice, Courage and the expression of Supreme Power and Authority. There are also virtues that are introverted or recessive in nature like Temperance, Mercy, Compassion, Humility and Patience. (“He made them male and female. In His own image He made them.”) Yet, every virtue is one within the Godhead.

Now, might God’s Way have been accomplished through a creative and perfect act of God’s recessive virtues in submission to His expressive virtues—something akin to God the “Son” of Mercy, Patience, Compassion, Humility showing Loving Obedience to the “Father” of Justice and Authority? Could God have, thus, acted out all His Virtues at once? In other words, God’s wise plan seemingly involved the Son completely and, therefore, perfectly laying down His powers in Loving submission. In an act of perfect Trust, the Son turned everything over in Love to the Father. (After the resurrection, Jesus tells us that the Father has, in turn, given everything over to the Son.)

Yes, the Son went so far as to take on the lowest possible place within this last, dark realm of possibilities—where free spirits blend into unreasonable animals. Jesus literally took the least place when He took on our skin and bone. And, here in this dark corner the Christ suffered the supreme Humiliation of our murdering Him—the Lord of Life. Yet, it was on Calvary, the Son of God also acted with perfect Patience, Courage, Obedience, Compassion, Self-restraint and every other virtue. Indeed, the cross of Christ is actually a shocking act of Divine power, where we get only the slightest glimpse into the interconnected beauty of Wisdom and the heart-wrenching depth of the Son’s glorious love of the Father.

Wisdom

saw it through

and She delighted

in the thought of you

before ever a thing came to be—

before God allowed

the scraping sound of birthing worlds

before the great swirling whirls of possibility

burst forth like a storm tossed sea

before the proud waves were held back

or the fountains of the deep restrained

Before wild confusion receded and stability appeared like dry land

Before He saw that it was good and

the Nothing-horrors cast that first envious look….

Wisdom breathed

Moving playfully over the face of the deep

knowing the end from the beginning

She saw the whole, wondrous sea

(like knowledge and possibility)

churn out in violent waves

birthing you and me

Yes, before this limited place

played out all its natural limits

and the broad sea became a little lake of eternal fire

Ever receding, ever fleeing

the Face of God…

They delighted in the thought of you

And laid down a humble yet courageous plan of rescue

A wise but dangerous path

Jesus—the Way

For only He could transcend those waters!

Only He who longs for her,

The Eternal, Creative Song of the Father.

Only He, that terrible Name,

Who knows whence She came

And where She is going

The nutty fundie

Try this sometime. Go on a public, internet message board or chat room and make a few positive comments about the Bible. It should not take long for someone to call you a Fundie. I have heard the expression used as a gentle inquiry: “Are you a Fundie?” More often, I’ve seen it used with derision and hatred. Either way, our modern culture seems to be on the alert for the “nutty fundie”. What is a fundie, you may ask? Originally used by Isaac Asimov in his 1941 novel “I, Robot”, the term “fundie” is a modern day abbreviation of the word “fundamentalist”: that is, someone trying to live by and conserve the fundamentals of their faith tradition. I heard one Bible scholar, Hank Hanagraff, refer to the fundamentals as “the main and plain things in Scripture that even a child could understand”. The world, of course, needs fundamentalists. Without them social focus would simply drift apart. Without a constant return to the fundamentals, for example, a game like baseball might eventually be played with a tennis racket and water balloons. No social structure or institution would hold meaning or shape for very long. However, the popular idea of a “fundie” today is far from a benefit to society. It is more of a closed-minded Christian who is rather backward and judgmental.

The 3 main things that annoy pop culture about fundies is when they forward literal interpretations of the Bible that are silly, (second) when they put God’s loving, mysterious and obviously variable salvation plan into an exclusively tight formula and (third) when their thirst for justice and the ultimate resolution of good and evil seems to turn inhumane and heartless. For example, when fundamentalist take the Bible as so absolutely true in every phrase that they propose Noah took all 350 million species (x 2) on board the floating arc, it actually discredits religion. Now, I completely believe there was a Noah and an arc but I will not suspend my God-given, rational thought to image it was a global event. Besides, phrases in scripture that mention “the waters covered the whole earth” obviously didn’t refer to “planet Earth”: such concepts are modern interpretations of “the whole earth”. When a fundie tries to defend a silly, literal interpretation of the Bible by saying something even more foolish like “There are sea shells at the tops of mountains that prove the planet was once covered in water”, then they end up driving rational people from genuine, religious inquiry.

Perhaps, even more damaging is when fundies advance a tight formula for salvation like “calling on the name of Jesus and accepting baptism”. As a Christian, I am all for calling on His Holy Name. I am for baptism too. But, it is a terrible scandal to go about with a smiling “I’m saved” attitude of exclusion. Our God is a big God who has said in the Bible, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”. Therefore, we probably shouldn’t write-off anyone. My grandmother, for example, was scandalized very early in her life. She witnessed a phony, faith healer handing out crutches to healthy people behind a “Christian revival” tent in the 1930s. It deeply affected her. She refused to consider God or religion seriously after that day. Do I think she is now burning in Hell fire? Hell no. She devoted her life to helping children with learning disorders. She earned the title “Woman of the Year” for founding such schools in the San Diego area in the 1960’s. She was gentle and loving and taught me how to read; but I can still remember my mom crying over grandma’s stubborn refusal to be baptized on her deathbed. (Mom later admitted to me she thought God let grandma go to heaven anyway.) When fundies seem to dismiss Gandhi and an enormous list of decent human beings, like my grandma, as “lost”, it reveals a kind of shortsighted view of reality that often attracts the scorn of rational people.

What draws the most criticism, however, is when the “nutty fundie” goes on the offensive. When an abortion clinic explodes or a 9-11 occurs in the name of a “return to the fundamentals”, religion seems to cross the line of public toleration. There has developed a popular, unwritten rule today that I don’t entirely disagree with. It is, “believe what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt others”. Perhaps, the worst thing a religious fundie could do is to stop trying to transform a wayward society with truth and goodness for the lazy device of smashing evil people. There is, of course, a time and place for smashing evil acts and trends like Nazism; but, a crowd of fundies can be viewed as quite inhumane and coldhearted to actually cheer for “the destruction of the homosexual community by fire” as preachers like Benny Hinn rant from the pulpit. Yes, everyone has a deep need for conflict resolution but impatience with the merciful delay of God’s ultimate justice is a big scandal. Consequently, when people become obsessed with the “End Times” it is often just a thinly veiled impatience with their own inner suffering. It is also a sign of an underdeveloped intellectual and spiritual maturity. Later chapters will explore the clash between society and religion further. Here I will just say, society needs decent fundies but can sometimes group all fundamentalist with the fringe of immature, nutty fundies. And, society may, as Rosie O’Donnel unfairly did in 2006, lump all religious fundamentalist together as equally dangerous.

The Historical Fundamentalist

The history of fundamentalism within Judeo-Christianity can be traced as far back as the prophets and judges who called the people back to a true relationship with the one God of Israel—Yahweh. (The word “religion” itself refers to this “binding back” of the people with their Creator.) The most important highlights in this long history would include the great prophets like Elijah and John the Baptist, the life and teachings of Jesus, St. Paul and his writings, the Church councils and Doctors like Augustine and Aquinas, great Popes like Gregory, the Protestant reformation and the 4 Great Awakenings which include a modern movement nicknamed “The Religious Right”.

The First Great Awakening started in about 1730 with a call to Christians of Great Britain and early America to turn from sin, own a Bible and experience the Lord personally. The sermons of the time were called “fire and brimstone” for the emphasis was to contrast the eternal pain of Hell with the joy of Salvation. One of the most famous sermons of the era was “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” given by Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts in 1741. One interesting aspect of the era was that preachers used a newer, more emotional style in their sermons. They were called “new lights”.

The Second Great Awakening (1800-1830’s) marks the beginning of the early Social Gospel movement. The period consisted of calls to personal, spiritual renewal based on the fundamentals of the Bible and large, emotional, outdoor revival meetings where there could be dancing and shouting for several days. What resulted was a kind of social activism that spawned various reform movements like the Temperance movement, woman’s suffrage and the Abolition of slavery. A new emphasis on uniting to change the evils of society, coming to the rescue of the anawim (like the mentally disabled) and the importance of religious feelings came to the forefront.

The Third Great Awakening was the full-blown Social Gospel movement itself. The preachers of the era had to address serious religious and social concerns that crossed multi-denominational lines. People of all faiths and no faith were affected by the horrors of rapid urbanization and predatory industrialization. Therefore, the Social Gospel preachers were inclusive in 2 ways. They crafted their message to bring about spiritual salvation by an emphasis on morality but primarily by unified social reforms that would include people of all religions; while, at the same time, they began to accept many of the tenets of the Enlightenment including criticism of the veracity of the Bible as well as acceptance of Darwin and even Freud’s new theories.

Historians explain how the Fundamentalist movement was originally a widespread reaction to the Enlightenment and the resulting criticism of the Bible. A deep call to return to Sola Scriptura also followed the popular uprising of Darwinian evolution. But when the Social Gospel preachers began to craft their message to fit not only a multi-denominational workforce but also began to buy into popular trends in philosophy and to compromise basic Christian ideals regarding the authority of the Bible, the Fall of Man and salvation, it provoked a strong reaction. 64 British and American theologians composed a publication of 94 essays entitled “The Fundamentals: a Testimony to the Truth”. Nearly 3 million copies of these writings were passed around by 1915. Some of the Christian basics were:

—The inerrancy of the Scriptures

—The virgin birth and Deity of Jesus

—Jesus atoned for our sins so that we could be saved by God’s grace through faith

—The bodily resurrection of Jesus

One of the earliest clashes of Fundamentalism with a secular branch of the compromised Social Gospel movement was the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. The Social Gospelers were more and more accepting of social science theories and evolution. There was even a move away from religious idealism. There grew up a huge anti-idealist movement (pacifist movement) within the Social Gospel before World War I. One such movement was the American Union Against Militarism (AUAM) that emphasized world socialist solutions rather than biblical morality and idealism. The AUAM eventually became the thoroughly secular ACLU. The Scopes Trial, orchestrated by the ACLU, pitted the Fundamentalist movement of biblical creationism against the teaching of macro-evolutionary theory in public schools. In a wider sense it was the first great battle of what is now known as the “Culture Wars” and the Fundies lost.

Fundamentalism has since fought many such “battles” in Europe and America and the outcomes were similar. Hence, the Fundie movement started to dull and scatter. However, when a series of hugely secular spasms hit the world in the 1960’s-1980’s, the Fundies realized a 4th Great Awakening. This Fourth Awakening is most certainly a reaction to the rapid displacement of Judeo-Christian ideals in the legal and political structure of Western civilization by philosophical naturalist “structures”. In plain English, the rejection of our ability to know “truth” during the Enlightenment had led eventually to a rejection of Judeo-Christianity which had been the basis for our laws and social structures. As the laws changed gradually and social structures weakened over 100 years it was often hidden from the common man but when the courts struck down prayer and bible readings in the public schools in 1962, it outraged many millions of Christians. By the time of the Supreme Court ruling of Roe v Wade in 1973 to legalize abortion, a mass counter-movement had begun. There were, in America, calls to return not only to the fundamentals of the Bible but also to “our founding principles”. This new revival was overtly political and refused to be marginalized. It was nicknamed “The Christian Right”, “The Moral Majority” and, more recently, the “Religious Right”.

However, orthodox Jews and Muslims and Theists of every stripe have their own versions of fundamentalism. To the Jews fundamentalism would entail a return to a more orthodox interpretation of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible). To a Muslim fundamentalism might involve a return to the basic moral teachings of Mohammed in the Koran. To a Theist it would be simply a foundational belief in a Creator and the existence of Truth and a moral order. My definition of the fundamentals would be closer to this last group because it incorporates all the others and reflects what I believe is most people’s baseline for salvation.

What is a true “Fundie”

There is an age-old question that children sometimes ask aloud: “What is the LEAST I can do and still go to heaven?” Adults usually dress up the same question with a nobler sounding “What are the fundamentals for salvation?” It would seem that we are not expected to know everything in this world because none of us has the capacity. It would also seem to be obvious that few of us have the capacity to understand complex religious doctrines and dogmas. Therefore, it follows that a fair and just God would not have our salvation based on fundamentals that are inaccessible to most every human mind and heart. I believe, however, that there is a fundamental basis for salvation. There is not only a baseline, but there are actually 3 baselines revealed within the biblical texts.

Without getting too technical, the 3 ways to be “saved” are God simply applies the grace of salvation to you. This is the ultimate baseline—God acts with unilateral mercy as He told Moses “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”—Roman 9:15. The real “fundamentals” for salvation is, therefore, entirely up to God.

Liberal theology tends to rely on this broad mercy of God while the more Conservative position doesn’t presume this special grace. As a Christian, I hold to the conservative position yet I have a very basic idea of salvation: that all souls are saved by the applied grace of Jesus. For example, that means a decent, little Hindu girl can live without a clue as to who Jesus is and still go to heaven…by the applied grace of His sacrifice for her sins. That also means that decent men and women throughout history could have recognized a Creator, lived according to God’s law which is written in our hearts and been “saved”. I would call this second type of baseline: God’s practical baseline of salvation. The “fundamentals” for salvation, in such a case, are based on what seems practical and rational.

However, liberal you may consider my views, I still believe every person is accountable to God for the amount of “light” (knowledge) they receive within the circumstances of their life. So I also ascribe to a 3rd type of baseline for salvation: the relative baseline. I believe there is an entire spectrum of the faithful in heaven. There are those who respond well to God with what seems to be the most minimal knowledge of Creation. And, there are those in heaven who rigorously obeyed a greater intimacy with the Divine. Therefore, I do not worry much about remote villages where the Gospel has yet to have been preached. I trust that God is there before me and that He is both just and merciful. Nor do I worry about the good and decent Muslim or Jew. I share the light I have but trust in God. I worry more for the person who is highly educated in the Divinity of Jesus and the biblical texts who then rejects everything for a wild life and a presumption of the applied grace of God. Such a person is not a decent fundie. Decent Fundies, as I see it, are those who respond to the light they receive and cling to it: be they Muslim, Jew or whatever.

An illustration of 2 of these fundamental baselines of salvation, and my view of fundies, can be found in the Biblical tale of Jonah. Here we find an intimate friend of God, a Jew named Jonah, who is directed to warn the capital city of Assyria (Nineveh) of God’s impending judgment. Jonah seems to utterly despise the sins of these pagan people and he longs for the simple resolution of God’s wrath wiping them out and restoring order. (Please note: Jonah almost defines the “nutty fundie” yet God shows him great kindness.) There is, indeed, a natural drive within the human soul to seek direct resolutions of conflict. The inner conflict Jonah revealed was that he knew a whole series of natural, Divine and biblical laws that the people of Nineveh were violating and it bothered him that God didn’t immediately whack them for it. As a personal friend of God, Jonah had clearly defined fundamentals for salvation that required a more personal responsibility of him that he assumed were required of everybody. Therefore, when Jonah finally went to Nineveh, preached the cold message of God’s destruction and the people turned from their sins and proclaimed a fast, it bothered him. The inner pain and conflict of Jonah’s idea of “fundamentalism” with God’s actual, merciful basis was so great that he asked God to let him die. What follows is one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible where God says to Jonah:

And should I not be concerned over Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot distinguish their right hand from their left, not to mention the many cattle?”

The tender kindness of God shines bright in this account. The God of the anawim—the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger—shows He also has compassion on the ignorant and confused. And, that is a hopeful thought for our own time.

The New Left

As a child, you squirmed a lot

with impatient desire

empowered by a new box

of multi-colored crayons

and enough blank pages

to narrate any tale you could inspire

but chose instead

to scribble violent swirls of red and black

death.

Now, we hang your gory,

little drawings

from every corner of culture

like an embarrassing

refrigerator story.


Hodge Podge

Hodge Podge is a mix of poems and writings on various spiritual topics and movements in our time. There is a section on Fundies and poems about homelessness. There is a section on God's wise path of creation and on why we live in a messed up world. Deep insights echo throughout this Hodge Podge of thought.

  • ISBN: 9781370560400
  • Author: Damion Boyd
  • Published: 2016-11-12 15:35:09
  • Words: 7018
Hodge Podge Hodge Podge