Sunday, January 10, 2016

So what is the basic definition of Christian, then?

Have you ever tried to have a really awkward conversation in a public place?

I do this on a semi-regular basis.

My friend Donna was raised on an Indian reservation in the mountains of New York. And, mind you, she is older. So all in all she comes from a rather different world. Sometimes things that are understood to be impolitic for general conversation don't strike her the same way.

And it's hard, on occasion, to convince her that maybe we should talk about these things at a later time. When we're not in a crowded theater waiting for a movie to start, for example.

Which is how I wind up trying to explain things quietly.

Today it was about Christianity.

Mind you, Donna was raised Episcopalian. She considers herself to be a Christian, though her education in such was basically - 'this is what we are, we do ABC'. *shrug*

The conversation started with her asking me what a Christian was. And I'm pretty sure that we've had a conversation about this before...actually I know that we have. There was a very long, late night discussion over why a person who believes that Jesus was the literal son of God (in the Greek/Roman gods sort of definition) couldn't be a Christian. The Trinity featured heavily in that one.

She was asking, this time, because of a plaque that she bought for decorating her apartment. When I was over there the other night we were talking about design ideas and she was showing me her fathers' fencing foils. Donna planned to mount them on her wall and I suggested that she get a family crest kind of thing to go beneath them to help complete the look.

Donna took my suggestion and found a coat of arms online that she purchased. It is, from her description, one that has a lion and a lamb on either side of a cross, with the banner reading 'Christian' over top. She bought that one because she is a Christian and while some of her family does originally come from England, they certainly don't have an actual familial coat of arms or crest. She was happy with her purchase until she saw an news story about the son of a gay couple who was denied access to a private school because his fathers are gay.

She was very upset that the school denied this boy due to the fact that the school was 'Christian' and she wanted to know if it was an actual Christian stance that homosexual couples are forbidden. Because if it was, she was going to have to un-declare herself a Christian.

Happily I could tell her that while it is the stance of a certain section of the Christian population there are plenty Christians who do not hold to this belief and so she can continue to be Christian without compromising her belief in marriage equality.

However, I'd have been even happier if we could have had this conversation almost literally anywhere else.

That, of course, is not the actual point. Just a side-note of 'my God, she's lucky I love her' kind of friendship angst. :)

Donna wanted to know what the definition of a Christian was, as I said before. And while I think we cleared up the actual heart of the issue, she still wanted to know what the definition actually was.

I told her the most basic definition is that of a 'follower of Christ', but that for the most part people accept as the base level of faith that a Christian is a person who believes that Christ was God (in some way) and that he was incarnated and sacrificed to expiate the sins of all of humanity.

Which, to me, is the most basic definition. I mean, okay, I know that there are a lot of different forms of Christianity and I'm sure somewhere out there there is a branch that doesn't believe some aspect of what I just said. But, honestly, to me? If you don't believe in the divinity of Jesus then...then you're not a Christian. You're not a bad person, by any means, and hey, call yourself what you like, but you don't meet the definition of Christian that I understand.

Mind you, I don't meet that definition of Christian, so throwing no stones here.

The conversation did make me wonder though, what is the most basic belief that a person would have to espouse in order to meet your definition of Christian?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I don't always post, but when I do it's randomly and about religion

I don't know if you all remember, but my Dad and I don't discuss religion. Mostly because he lacks the ability to have a conversation about religion and not let it get personal.

Or so it's gone in the past.

However, the other night over dinner we managed to have a conversation without anyone getting their feelings hurt.

It started out as a discussion about Mother Theresa being named a Saint. Oddly, my Dad was raised Catholic but his parents had a problem with the church and left to become Mennonites-lite. So he doesn't know a whole lot about the Catholic church or what they believe since he missed out on CCD classes and actually participating in the life of the church.

So we went over how Catholic Saints are recognized and why people pray 'to' the Saints. Somehow though we segued into a theological discussion about the nature of God.

To preface, my parents are both currently non-denominational Christians. And in my opinion their understanding of Christian theology is less comprehensive than it should be. But that's fine, not everyone enjoys theology and arguing about things that can never be proven or disproven.

I know, I don't get it either. What better fun is there?

Still, they read the Bible and they *believe*, even if trying to pin them down on certain positions is like herding cats. You get nowhere but frustrated super fast.

Back to the conversation. In the discussion about how Saints are people who are recognized by the church as being in Heaven, not *created* by the Catholic church, we wound up talking about the omni's of God. Omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent.

My Dad has no problem with the all powerful, being *everywhere* parts of this. His wrinkle comes at the all knowingness.

His stance is that he thinks God can set something into motion but not know how it's going to turn out. That otherwise God might get 'bored' with knowing everything. Which is…not a sustainable theological perspective in the Christian faith, as far as I know. I did tell him to ask his pastor because presumably the man has had more theological training than, say, me who has had none. I doubt he'll ask though.

My argument against his theological opinion basically runs as follows:

1. Christians accept the Bible as the inspired word of God. God, via angels for the most part, spoke on occasion to people directly but other than that He gave people the information that He wanted to get out and let them write it in their own fashion.

2. Even though it is inspired and therefore there are different writing styles, etc., the Christian belief is based on the fact that God would not allow the important parts to get messed up. So anything that God causes to be said about Himself must be what God meant to have said about Him.

3. God says, in several places, that He knows everything. There are references through the Old Testament and the New. So God knows everything, according to the Bible.

4. God also says that lying is a sin. That's pretty much up near the front, starts in the whole Ten Commandments thing.

5. Therefore, if God says that He is all-knowing, but is not actually all-knowing, then you have two options. Either the Bible can't be trusted to be accurate on what is said of God - and therefore the whole thing must be called into question - because there was no divine editorial board, or God lied about being all-knowing. And if God lied about being all-knowing, then God has sinned. And God cannot sin and be a *good* God.

This is all, of course, assuming Christianity, which assumes Judaism as the base.

Pagans don't, as far as I know, expect 100% honesty from the gods, depending on which god they happen to be dealing with. But I could be wrong. Paganism, aside from a brief foray into the beliefs of my ancestors, is not really a thing for me. There's a lot about it I don't know.

Not really sure how Muslims would feel about the whole thing. I still have trouble with the whole belief that God caused the people to believe that they were killing Jesus but really it was someone else. It still feels a lot like lying to me. Which doesn't sit with the concept of a good God.


I don't know, maybe there's some deeper theological theory that I'm unaware of that makes it possible for God to set something up where He doesn't know the outcome, but it doesn't feel right. It doesn't mesh with my understanding of theology and divinity as a whole.

Another question he had that came out of this was why would God bother to create humanity if He knew that we would screw it up in about the first five seconds.

I told him that most(many?) people believe that God created out of Love. Almost like a function of being Himself. He didn't create out of boredom or loneliness or a desire to see what would happen, but because the purest expression of the Love that He has was to create …. everything and humanity as well. Even knowing that people were going to muck it up.

What do you all think?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

No but really...

I'm going to a new doctor, after my last one told me that 'some people are just fat' and couldn't come up with any helpful ideas to help me keep losing weight. Which is an issue, okay? I feel like that is not the appropriate answer to someone who needs to lose weight and is looking for ways to supplement diet and exercise.

Anyway. There's always the first little interview, with the nurse, where they ask about family background, etc. and while I can give the information for my mother's side I have no information on my father's side of the family.

Which, while certainly not ideal, is hardly an unusual circumstance, though you would have thought so given how many times the nurse had to repeat 'unknown' to me.

Nurse: 'Father?'

Me: 'Unknown.'

Nurse: *puzzled look*

Me: 'As in, I do not know anything about him. Un. Known.'

Is that really such an unusual state of affairs, do you think?

The other thing that amused me was the doctors disbelief when I told her that I don't drink. She's put me on a medication that will make you sick if you drink alcohol while you're on it. She kept repeating that I couldn't drink *at all* while on this and I kept telling her it wasn't a problem, since I don't drink. At. All.

I know that people my age are expected to be...alcoholically active, lets call it. But there are plenty of people who don't drink for one reason or another.

Anyway, I left the appointment happy with the doctor but feeling like I might be a little weird. Which is okay since I suspected as much already.

And it all sort of reminded me of the interview that I had when I was converting to Catholicism. The deacon asked me why I was interested in Catholicism and I had an answer about how I was looking for the "original" version of Christianity and Catholicism seemed best.

He asked me if I was looking for the oldest, why not convert to Judaism.

I had a flippant response about how I didn't want to give up bacon. Because Bacon.

Years later and I wonder about the obsession with bacon and generally pork related foods in the South and maybe elsewhere? I don't know how prevalent Pork is King is elsewhere in the country. I mean pork is delicious, sure, but it's not all that good for you actually and why are we so obsessed with getting to eat pork?

Monday, September 7, 2015

So....that happened....

I got my DNA results from finally!

In spite of what my co-workers believed, it turns out that I'm not an alien. *Or* there's a huge conspiracy to cover up my alien origins and the Men in Black will be coming soon. One of those two things. :)

In the totally not a surprise category, I'm Super Super White. Super White. Like...IDK. White.

Filed under, kind of a surprise....there's a lot of Scandinavian in there. Which, to be fair, the Scandinavian DNA blob covers a chunk of Germany, as does the Eastern European DNA blob. And I know there's some Czech in the family on my Grandfather's side, so that all makes sense really.

The Irish thing is new. Though, looking at the blob, it covers Scotland which is where I was told my biological father's family is from. So that might just be a matter of genetic semantics, I guess. It thrilled my other coworker though because we've had this fun Ireland vs. Scotland thing going and now she says I have to come to her side since I'm Irish. Bah.

Jamie Fraser forever!!! LOL

I do find the Italy/Greece trace kind of interesting. I'm guessing that that's likely from my father's side as well, since my mother's side is all German/Easter European. And I keep remembering that little old lady at the Greek Orthodox church who insisted that I *had* to be Greek. Well, okay, maybe a little then. :)

The trace regions that are less than 1% I find more interesting, even though from what I read on the site they may turn up to mean nothing because they're such a low percentage. But if they *are* true genetic traces, how far back are they that they even show up at all?

All in all though, no real surprises.

The Vikings clearly Got Around though. :D

And now my Peruvian coworker (she who declared me an alien) has agreed that while I'm not an alien I must be a Viking vampire - since Romania is included in the Easter European DNA blob and Vlad Dracula is part of the little write up Ancestry does on the region.

I can work with that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Not Even All That Late Night Maunderings

You know I started a really long rant about how just believing in God doesn't necessarily mean anything but I'm not feeling it anymore so I deleted it.

My point, I think, was that it's not just enough to believe in God or gods or what have you. You can have an incredibly passive kind of faith in that way. After all, I believe in God but does that inform my life in any way?

I can tell you that at this point it really doesn't. It's not even as though it's an elephant in the room or something that I worry about very much. I know that I'm a better person when I believe, when I follow a religious path in my life. General *waves hands* belief doesn't do it for me in the long run. I actually forget about it and treat religion like an interesting though experiment. But it doesn't make me want to be better, for all it's inherent fascination when you're picking theology apart.

So for me, agnosticism (though what I've described really isn't agnosticism after all) doesn't really work. It leaves me *wanting*. I know that many people can live quite happily like this or without any faith at all and more power to them, right? But I need the framework of a religion in order to feel *correct*, I guess.

Then again, that brings me back to the always present issue....which one?

So far I've wavered mostly between Christianity and Islam. But neither feel right in the way I need them to in order to make a choice. Why not just choose the one that seems almost right? Well, but I did that when I converted to Catholicism and we see that I just eventually fell out again because I couldn't make it stick, mentally. I've no desire to do that again. And maybe I should take the 'feel' of things out of the equation, but what else are you supposed to go on when nothing seems factually more likely than anything else?

Arguments can be made for and against pretty much everything. When you choose a religion there must inherently be that leap of faith. Ha ha, see what I did there? LOL Okay it wasn't *that* punny. :P

Still, that leap has to be based on something, right? A feeling or the certain knowledge that what you're leaping to is correct. Lacking the knowledge of 'correctness' and the feeling of rightness, what am I supposed to do?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are?

Every so often I get an urge to really get into my genealogy. My great-grandfather did a family tree (back before you could do such things on the internet) and my grandmother and now my mother became the keepers of it. So I even have a pretty good place to start.

Well the bug has bitten again, only this time I mean to do something about it. I joined and they have this thing which I think is pretty neat where you can get your DNA tested and they'll tell you the genetic background of your family. As in, you're 50% Scottish, 10% German, 5% Native American, etc. etc.

I bought the kit for this, so now I'm just waiting for it to show up in the mail so I can spit in a tube and learn my past! Admittedly, on my mothers side there's not much mystery. We're German. So German. Much German. And some Czech. Maybe some Polish. But mostly German. So sayeth the Family Tree! And my grandmother, when she was alive, bless her So Very German soul.

But my father, for obvious reasons, is a mystery. I was always told his family was Scottish but his last name actually has an Irish...flavor to it, I guess? And honestly, who knows? Not me.

I'm actually kind of excited to find out where my genes come from, in broad strokes. And I'm working on the genealogy itself, as I get time. This coming weekend I'm going to dig out all the boxes of family stuff my mother has and lay claim to it for a while. The site is really interesting, even just knowing the couple of things I know off the top of my head I've found censuses from when my Grandmother was growing up and from my great-grandfather's childhood too. And they have a picture of my great-grandparents' headstone up in Ohio which I found pretty neat.

I'm not telling my mother about the DNA testing though. Couldn't tell you why, but I feel like I want to keep that private (as she posts about it on the internet for all and sundry to see). It'll be a couple of months anyway, between waiting to get the kit and then waiting for the results, but there you go. Aside from goggling at the idiotic kinds of books that get published and the people we have running for president, that's my new hobby.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

I want to write blogs (and fic) but I also want to continue mainlining Outlander....

So in lieu of a more in depth post, a question for any random wanderers in here.

Did Adam ever ask for God's forgiveness for the whole serpent/fruit debacle?

There's a thought process behind this question, I swear.
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