Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Critical Difficulty

Blogger, which graciously provides the means of my producing (extruding? excreting?) this blog, has provided an arrangement whereby I get an automatic e-mail when anyone leaves a comment. Don't let that make you hesitant to comment -- your email address is not revealed thereby, nor are your phone number, Social Security number, major credit card number, name of your firstborn child, etc. But that's a handy thing for me. Once a post recedes very far into history -- like three or four posts ago -- I'm not apt to scroll down far enough to see that a comment's been left.

So, I got an email a couple of days ago indicating that TW left a comment on the Zarqawi / Goldstein post that I put up last Saturday. TW is a fellow-participant of mine on several message boards from a couple of years ago (message boards seem to be in decline these days, which is a pity in several ways). He's left the occasional comment here, although it had been a while ... hey, TW, how's it going with you? Glad you stopped by. Whatcha been up to? Posting anywhere?

I post this because TW's comment is lengthy, and probably no one will see it 'way down there, what with me being the only one who gets a heads-up email from Blogger about comments here and all. As has been typical over the years, his comment is in substantial disagreement with me, and I point it out here in the interest of some kind of rudimentary fairness, at least. I advise you to go and read it, and my advice is well-known to be worth every cent you pay for it. I also want to respond to some of it:
I have a hard time with some aspects of Christianity. If Matthew 5:38-48 in total context means to let your enemies saw your head off and/or the heads of your progeny and then go ahead and love them anyway....well, like I said.
Rather than talk about the meaning and "total context" of the turn-the-other-cheek passage from the Sermon on the Mount, I'd like to go somewhere else in Matthew: to chapter 19, verses 16 to 26.
And behold, one came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to Him, "All these things have I kept; what am I still lacking?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "then who can be saved?" And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
When TW says he has a hard time with some aspects of Christianity, I agree with him completely. Like anything that is both real and complex (I think I'm being redundant there), Christianity contains elements that are, at first, strange and disagreeable and alien. If I really believe that I am weak and sinful and mortal, then it shouldn't surprise me when God's thoughts are not my thoughts, and His ways are not mine, and it shouldn't surprise me when He doesn't affirm my natural inclinations as being good. Christianity is a matter of submission and surrender, and for every person, there's one thing that seems too precious to set aside or give up. For the rich man in the passage above, it was his wealth, and that was what Jesus demanded of him. It's not riches for everyone; for some, it may be revenge. It may be the imperative need to rejoice over the death of our enemy.

Whether I could forgive someone who had slaughtered my child, I cannot say. I've never been in that position, and I earnestly hope I never will be. But even if I'm convinced that I could never say what Michael Berg said, I still rejoice that he has been able to do so. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." This is often quoted as one of those icky-sweet "promises of God," but I think it can sometimes actually feel threatening. Not only do I think I cannot set aside my thirst for revenge -- truth to tell, I don't really want to, either. God's saying that He can make me able to do that isn't good news, when I don't particularly want to. Matthew 7:14 quotes Jesus as saying, "For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it." Like the rich young man, we all have something that seems too important to surrender, and most of us seemingly never do manage to relax our grip, open our hand, and let it go.

6 comments:

TW said...

Everythings going relatively well. I'm still having a hard time with certain aspects of Christianity. Your other verses in Matthew while informative still didn't make things perfectly clear. I'm not giving up though. I attend a nice Southern Baptist church every Sunday whether I need to or not.

I've been posting at http://disc.server.com/Indices/227735.html along with a number of others you are familiar with as well as a few that you are not.

Did you check out that blog I referenced or are you still in a rut? ;o)

Bartleby said...

I did, in fact, look at the blog you mentioned. In the very first post I saw, there was a big rant about "imperialist fascist Islam." I can get that crap anywhere. I think I'll stay with my rut.

I also followed the Mondo Fuego link. Saw many familiar names. Thanks!

TW said...

Now! Now!...Ignore the Islamo facism and other stuff you can't abide. It's the stuff more philosophical (God) and scientific (a lot of Physics related stuff) in nature that I was referring to in your case. You know? To get out of that political anti-war anti-Bush rut. Although, I myself do tend to like the political stuff as well. Go on! Expand your horizons a bit. Afterall, I come here and read your stuff and your referenced material fairly regularly. ;o)

Read her May Archive @ http://aussiethule.blogspot.com/2006_05_01_
aussiethule_archive.html

Here's but a small sample of one of the less political pieces:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

There's a lack of faith in modern culture

By Aussiegirl

Oh, my, my my -- where to begin? I could write reams on this topic -- for here indeed is the very nub of the problem facing Western man -- the loss of faith, not only in a transformative and transcendant spiritual belief that involves a higher purpose to life and the sense of connection to mankind as well as all of creation -- but also a loss of faith in our own civilization, that cradle that birthed the greatest explosion of art, music, science, reason, technology and advancements in human rights and the rights of man to live a free and productive life. A crisis of confidence, a crisis of faith, a crisis of belief. It is not only in art that faith has lost its place, but also in the culture at large, and as we shall see, the popular entertainment that passes for art in modern times is not only soulless, it drains the soul from the culture it should be serving.

How many recent articles that we have featured on UT fit into this template? The recent article by Lee Harris, for instance, who wrote that the reason socialism continues to have an emotional appeal is because it provides the sense of myth and connection to a greater cause that is lacking in contemporary Western culture. We have seen it in Tracinski's article in which he traces many of Europe's woes to an adoption of fascist ideas through the adherence to the theories of deconstruction. And we have seen it in the Front Page Magazine article written by Andrew Bostom, in which he talks of the Muslim concept of freedom as "perfect slavery".

Indeed, the entire zeitgeist of the age is less one of war and conflict (although that is certainly a big and dangerous part of the equation), than one of a crisis of belief and a clash of faiths. Or to be more precise, the clash between one encroaching ideology that has at its core a fanatical and zealous emotional myth that satisfies the urge in man to believe in something and to dedicate himself to a higher cause that joins him in unity with others like him -- and the complete sense of loss of purpose and belief that currently prevails in the West, a kind of suicidal, beyond-caring ennui masquerading as enlightened intellectualism.

TW said...

No comment Mr. Bartleby?

Bartleby said...

Sorry, TW -- I read the above, but once the thread disappeared from the displayed pag of the blog, I pretty much forgot about it.

I will make a comment to you here, although it's not something that I'd leave at the UT blog. This girl's a careless writer. I think she'd be well advised to strive less for an air of profundity, and pay more attention to keeping the loose ends tied up. For example:

"... the loss of faith, not only in a transformative and transcendant spiritual belief that involves a higher purpose to life and the sense of connection to mankind as well as all of creation -- but also a loss of faith in our own civilization, that cradle ..."

She says she's lamenting the loss of faith in a belief; then it's faith in our own civilization. Can't agree with her that either one is bad. Faith is properly directed toward God; directed elsewhere, it's idolatry. (But in any case, she should make up her mind.)

"We have seen it in Tracinski's article in which he traces many of Europe's woes to an adoption of fascist ideas through the adherence to the theories of deconstruction. And we have seen it in the Front Page Magazine article written by Andrew Bostom, in which he talks of the Muslim concept of freedom as 'perfect slavery'."

What's the "it" that we're seeing everywhere? The text above this passage provides no referent. As for this alleged Muslim concept, I of course have no actual knowledge of Islam, other than the observation that Muslims aren't hard to live with unless you use Muslim lands for colonies and bombing practice ranges, in which case they do get a little pissed (as I trust both you and I would do, were the situation reversed). In any case, though, I do know a little something about FrontPage, and I wouldn't trust it for anything except the absolute crudest raghead-hating propaganda.

"... the entire zeitgeist of the age is ..."

"Zeitgeist" is a German word, meaning "spirit of the age" (well, "spirit of the time," literally). So, the "zeitgeist of the age" is the spirit of the age of the age, I guess. See what I mean about the writing? I wonder if this girl ever goes into an eatery and asks what the soup du jour of the day is?

Anyway, I do thank you for the link, and I have it bookmarked. I'll look in there on slow news days, anyway.

Go out there and make it a good week. And ... "be careful out there."

TW said...

I agree with some of your points and I see what you mean about her tying up loose ends. I guess I didn't read it with as critical an eye as you did. I read a lot of stuff out here on the internet pretty fast because there's so much interesting stuff to read.

Her statement that "the popular entertainment that passes for art in modern times is not only soulless, it drains the soul from the culture it should be serving" struck a chord with me. And so did "the complete sense of loss of purpose and belief that currently prevails in the West, a kind of suicidal, beyond-caring ennui masquerading as enlightened intellectualism". That last statement reminds me of Malcolm Muggeridge's quote "We have educated ourselves into imbecility."

I actually responded earlier in the week, but somehow this thing hiccupped and lost the post when I was looking it over. I just now got around to rewriting my response.

Have a good weekend!