Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

The Persecuted Church in India – Part 1

I found this news article at the British Broadcasting Company site:  “Arrests over India church attacks.”  Does this series of incidents send a chill up your spine?  What do you think about what is happening in India?

“Police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka have arrested over 60 people in connection with attacks on churches and clergymen over the weekend.  More than a dozen churches were ransacked by alleged activists of the radical Hindu group Bajrang Dal.  The Bajrang Dal claims that Hindus are being illegally converted to Christianity in the area.

“Last month, anti-Christian violence in the eastern Orissa state led to the deaths of at least 20 people.  The police in Karnataka say that churches were attacked by mobs in the districts of Udupi and Chikmagalur on Sunday.  Over 60 people have been detained after outraged Christian groups protested and called for a shutdown in the coastal city of Mangalore, which is the worst affected by the violence.  … More than 2,000 schools run by Christian organisations in Karnataka shut down for a dayin protest against the anti-Christian violence in Orissa.

“Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has close ties with the Bajrang Dal.  ‘The BJP is responsible for the attacks. It is creating social disharmony,’ the main opposition Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said.

“Meanwhile in Orissa two more people were killed and 12 injured when police opened fire on a rioting mob in Kandhamal district on Saturday.  The district has seen large scale violence since 24 August in which at least 20 people have been killed and dozens of churches and thousands of houses torched.  Saturday evening’s incident took place at Kurtamgarh village where a mob went on the rampage burning houses and prayer halls.  When security forces tried to disperse the crowd, somebody from the crowd shot and injured a policeman, the police said.  The police say they were forced to open fire, resulting in the deaths of two people.  On Friday night, six houses and a Christian prayer house were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, the police said.

“The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the violence in Orissa as a ‘national disgrace’.

“Correspondents say Hindu groups have long accused Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.  Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.”

[Story from BBC NEWS:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7616314.stm   Published: 2008/09/15 10:17:50 GMT;   © BBC MMVIII]

The Spiritual Journey 3 – Humility

Sheldon Vanauken wrote (in A Severe Mercy):  

“To believe with certainty, somebody said, one has to begin by doubting.” (p. 83)

“… there is nothing in Christianity which is so repugnant to me as humility – the bent knee.” (p. 91)

“… if we were a species that didn’t normally eat, weren’t designed to eat, would we feel hungry? … Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? … [and] Notice how we are perpetually surprised at Time.  (‘How time flies!  Fancy John being grown up and married!  I can hardly believe it!’)  In heaven’s name, why?  Unless, indeed, there is something in us which is not temporal.” (in a letter from C. S. Lewis to Sheldon Vanauken, p. 93)

Based on these quotes, I’d like to make a few observations.  First, if you’re going to believe that Christ is the Son of God, and therefore the Savior He claims to be, it is no fault to begin by doubting such a phenomenal claim.  

Doubting allows a person to begin with a clean sheet, so to speak.  A person that has been raised in the Church, had positive experiences in the Church, and is therefore open to indoctrination from early on, doesn’t wrestle with doubt on the same level as someone who (a) has been raised in the Church and had negative experiences or (b) not been exposed to either positive or negative Church experiences during their childhood and adolescence.  In speaking to those who doubt, I suggest:  that is a good place to start one’s spiritual journey, as did Vanauken.  Why?  Because of the “clean sheet.”  But to be truly clean, one’s “sheet” must have a valuable and necessary ingredient in its makeup or constitution, and that ingredient is HONESTY.  Not openness but honesty.  If it is discovered during one’s investigation of Christianity that there is a prejudice (a pre-judgement) based on anything – peer pressure, education or one’s educators, or the bias of unbelieving parents – and that prejudice is not addressed or challenged in one’s heart and mind, that person is not being honest.

Second, being honest comes from or springs from a general HUMILITY, and that humility is based upon an appreciation that NO ONE knows everything, and that there may be someone or something outside the existential confines of one’s reality and intellect that knows and understands more about the universe of ordered things.  Therefore, true humility must be allowed to and may result in “a bended knee” – acknowledgement that something is true when it would appear to the honest seeker, based upon the life-education-experience limitations mentioned above, that it “should” be false.  Humility requires the honest seeker of truth to allow for things to be true outside “the box” of one’s current thinking.  Again, this basic, this fundamental humility must be allowed to move toward a greater humility – a humility that would require a bended knee.

Third, it seems that if there is a hunger for something (say a belly for food, a fish for water, or the temporal for the metaphysical or, in this case, the sacred or mystical), that longed-for something may exist.  REPEAT:  The humble man will allow that something may be true that was, up ’til now, thought to be improbable, false, or impossible.

I would suggest, humbly, that mankind hungers for God because there is a God.  If one honestly doubts that supposition, help me understand the immaterial part of me – thought, love, joy, sadness, etc. – and why there is this debate about all things spiritual (and in this case, the idea that there is a God)?  How is it that the idea or possibility of God cannot be easily dismissed as some have dismissed the existence of the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or flying saucers?

Think about it.

Resurrection On Maui

maui-sunset-small.jpg Joy!

This morning I was in the ohana (a Hawaiian name for “family room”) getting a cup of coffee, this cozy and welcoming little room being located close to our condominium.   Every morning Rick – our host – makes Kona.  The smell of the coffee was wonderful, deep and rich.

A minute or two later I was returning to our place, walking past the pool, and just luxuriating in the warm, fragrant air, listening to the Mina birds chirping and turtle doves cooing.  The sun was just peeking over the West Maui mountains, causing the clouds to glow light yellows and oranges.  Almost heaven.

A man I had never met came up the path leading to the ohana, heading for the coffee pot I had just left, and he greeted me.  “Happy Easter.”  I replied, “He is risen!”

I’m back in our place, sitting on our lanai, and my son just pointed toward the ocean.  “Rainbow,” was all he said.

This joy that is welling up within me is so pleasurable, so intense.  And I wonder, “Why do we concentrate so much on the problem of pain, and never wrestle with the problem of pleasure?” 

Philip Yancey asks, “If atheists insist there is no God because of all the pain and suffering in this world, why aren’t they held accountable for the ‘problem of pleasure?’” 

“Should not atheists have an equal obligation to explain the origin of pleasure in a world of randomness and meaninglessness?” he writes, meaning that if Christians must defend the existence of God because there are so many painful experiences in life, shouldn’t atheists have to defend their beliefs because there are so many pleasurable experiences, too?

Why is sex fun?  “Reproduction surely doesn’t require pleasure,” Yancey goes on.  “Some animals simply split in half to reproduce … and … why is eating enjoyable?  Plants and animals manage to obtain their quota of nutrients without the luxury of taste buds.  Why are there colors?”  All good questions.

Back to Easter morning on Maui.  As I look around, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the earth itself puts God’s creative genius on display,” says David, the song writer of ancient Israel. (Psalm 19)  I get to enjoy all that I see and taste and feel because there is a God in heaven who created me to enjoy creation.

I’m a happy camper, and a joy-filled human being today!

Jesus is risen indeed.

Think about it.

(By the way, I took the picture above last night … looking out of the Pacific, toward Lanai.  Wow!)

The Spiritual Journey – Belief

Sheldon Vanauken wrote that when he and his wife were studying at Oxford they were rubbing shoulders with “nuclear physicists, historians, and able scholars in other fields.”  What struck them was that these fellow scholars “believed” in Christ, and for that reason “… we must, at least, weigh it (Christianity) very seriously.”  Both he and his wife had assumed that anyone who took Christianity as true must be ignorant, but these brilliant souls who had put their faith in Jesus were anything but ignorant.

Soon the Vanaukens arrived at this conclusion:  “Christianity was a faith.”

“By now,” Sheldon wrote,” we knew that it was important.  If true – and we admitted to each other the possibility that it was – it was, very simply, the only really important truth in the world.  And if untrue, it was false.  No halfway house.  First or nothing.  I wrote (to C. S. Lewis), ‘It is not possible to be “incidentally a Christian.”  The fact of Christianity must be overwhelmingly first or nothing.  This suggests a reason for the dislike of Christians by nominal or non-Christians:  their lives contain no overwhelming firsts but many balances.’”

Once someone believes that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, that belief must translate into a living faith – faith being the expression of belief in hard, practical terms.  The Bible says, “Faith without action is meaningless, or dead.”

True.  Faith is belief becoming actionable, and expressed through a changed life.

Think about it.

The Spiritual Journey – Rationale

One of my favorite books is A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken (New York:  HarperCollins Publishers, 1977).  This former atheist wrote:

“The best argument for Christianity is Christians:  their joy, their certainty, their completeness.  But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.  But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them.  Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity – and possibly nowhere else.  If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order.” (page 85)

I will put it another way.  The reason many people do not believe that Christianity is true is because so many Christians are false.  There are people in this world who claim to be Christians, and call themselves Christians because they attend church … or because they might pastor a church. 

I am in no position to say who is and who isn’t a Christian … that is, a true follower of Jesus Christ.  I don’t know what is in anyone’s heart … not even my own, at times.

But I would like to offer up for discussion what I believe a true Christ-follower looks and sounds like, hoping my thoughts will lend something positive to the current debate about the impact of religion in the marketplace of human ideas and human institutions.

At this time I will not offer up a defense for the existence of God.  And at this time I will pose that Jesus Christ was not a liar or a lunatic; that He was who He claimed to be.  That is my starting point.

For one thing, I think a Christ-follower is rational.  To follow anyone, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, blindly or carelessly or ignorantly is nothing short of ludicrous.  It is also dangerous.  That kind of followership invites cultist results.  God, the most supreme and extreme Intellect in the Universe, would not expect, much less demand, such a followership.  Committing intellectual suicide in order to “believe” in Him was never part of the deal.  In fact, Jesus Himself invited honest inquiry.  He entered into conversation with the intellectuals of His day, and challenged them with His claims.

Think about that.