Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Am I Wry? No.

Time spent here in the hospital is making me an atheist.

Not in the classic "there is no God or gods just as there is no pink unicorns" sense but in the fact that I don't believe in religion. I read a lot of Robert Capon last summer and found this quote:

"Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all religions. ...If the cross is the sign of anything, it's the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all of the world's problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing" (The Mystery of Christ ... and Why We Don't Get It, p. 62)

I'm frustrated that more and more people i meet are lamenting "why did this happen to me? I'm a believer!" I don't think bullets, cars, or clogging arteries stop to ask whether one is Christian or not. It's a matter of physics, health and genetics, and spacial location, not a matter of theology. I believe in God and I believe in grace. I also believe in the incarnation of that God of Grace that is with us always... and esp. when we spread the "good news." But we'd sooner accept a God that we are fed to than a God we are fed by. The God presented by Jesus is one that feeds us. That is the God of Christianity. A God that doesn't punish, impeade our free-will, or one that doesn't shame us. I spend a lot of time talking with patients on these three subjects.

Now, sure there are religious elements to the Christian faith. There are some rituals and practices that help us in our daily decernments. They in no way change God, they are not some magic ritual to do when you want to get your way like some petulent child. You shouldn't pray for God to give you that Flatscreen TV, that Mac notebook, or ho-ho-ho, that video gaming system. God isn't your cosmic bellhop. Prayer changes the person who prays. it lets you know that you swim in grace, every second of every day. we are awash in something we can't fully see or comprehend... like fish in water. Like Jason recently stated, "Spirituality is intangible. Religion tries to make it tangible – the expression of the intangible."

So the 3,000 plus dividing Protestant denominations are false boundaries. They only demarcate a focus, an emphasis on social justice, or healing, or sacrament, or organ vs. folk vs praise music, whatever. We can't continue to let that divide us. I'm getting sick of those who do. I can't believe in a religion that divides people. so maybe I'm not an atheist, just really frustrated with people's crap. Really tired of hearing the "why me God?" because that's the wrong question to ask. God is always there, grace ever flowing. God doesn't fit our power-dynamic though. Love is more powerful than anything, it's much harder to do as you have to work at it, keep the relationships going and be honest. It's easier to lie and go to war.

I'm looking forward to 12-15. I've gotten a lot out of the CPE experience. I'm clearer now on how I operate as a pastor and how I think. I'm clear now that I need to serve a parish as I crave that long term relationship and ability to follow up. it's been a fantastic and practical experience. i'm just feeling overwhelmed here at the last few weeks. but i know i'll find the energy to carry on.

headline taken from this song by Mew:


Yael said...

Wow. We could not be more opposite if we tried, but that's OK! It's not that I would argue with you, I have a similar reaction to 'why me God', but just that you show only one side of ritual, one side of tangible/intangible, one definition of religion, when reality is there likely are many other ways of looking at these simple words.

You present the most basic view of ritual, whereas ritual can be viewed in any of several ways:
1. Ritual as Magic -
Vending machine mentality. I put my money in and what I want comes out. If I don't get what I want, it's because I did the ritual in the wrong way. If I don't perform the ritual at all, disaster will come my way

2. Ritual as Sacrament -
If I have the right inner beliefs when I perform this ritual then what I want to have happen will happen.

3. Ritual as Obedience to God -
Our sacred texts are the actual words of God so we know what God wants us to do. We perform rituals out of obedience to God and that is that.

4. Ritual as Symbolic Behavior -
Rituals have no effect on the world around us, just on us.
The rituals we perform are an expression of our community's religous myth. Shabbat and circumcision are referred to as symbols in Torah.

5. Ritual as Religious Folkway -
There is no personal God so ritual is just the way we do things in our community. We do those things which have meaning for us and ignore the rest.
(from Sacred Fragments by Neil Gillman)
(My ritual observance falls mostly in the 4th category, sometimes in the 5th.)

Yael said...

Next up: Religion. My definition of religion would go more along with Abraham Joshua Heschel's definition than with yours. Likely there are other definitions out there as well.

Religion begins with the certainty that something is asked of us, that there are ends which are in need of us. Unlike all other values, moral and religious ends evoke in us a sense of obligation. they present themselves as tasks rather than as objects of perception. Thus, religious living consists in serving ends which are in need of us. (Wisdom of Heschel, p. 167)

Jewish religion: the awareness of God's interest in man, the awareness of a covenant, of a responsibility that lies on God as well as on us....God is in need of man for the attainment of God's ends, and religion, as Jewish tradition understands it, is a way of serving these ends, of which we are in need, even though we may not be aware of them; ends which we must learn to feel the need of. (Wisdom of Heschel, p. 171)

As far as tangible and intangible: Torah is all about bringing the intangible down to our level. One of my favorite stories from Torah starts out with the image of looking over the land and ends with the image of looking at our tzitzit. Rabbi pointed out how the same Hebrew word for looking is used in both of these instances. He said that this Hebrew word is not at all common; that the parallel here is striking. Why would these two images be tied together? Well, taking the land was more than we were capable of doing at that time, but wearing tzitzit we could, and can, do. Tzitzit are something we can hold on to, we can see.

That's one of the great things about Judaism, the tangible reminders. We don't to try to grasp something totally beyond us, instead we hold our tzitzit, we look at them, we wear our tefillin, we light out candles, we touch our mezuzot, and the list goes on. But, we don't just stop with the tangible. Our tzitzit are reminders, we look on them, we remember how we are to live so that perhaps we will then actually live how we are to live.

It's not that we think these tangible things are God, nor do most of us think they have magical powers, there are always a few of the magic lovers in every crowd. The tangible is there as a reminder, as one more way of bringing holiness to the mundain; it is there to reinforce learning. With learning the more senses that are involved the more likely we are to remember. Touch, taste, smell, sight, sound, the more the better.

If I were to use only your definitions of these things, I might have the same negative view you present. But, I look at these quite differently and therefore find them adding great value to my life and my connections to God and community.

Sorry this is long. I copied and pasted from a few different posts I've written over the years, but...thought you might enjoy a different take.

Anglican Gurl said...

Whoa, WHAT?! You an atheist? I know you explain it later, but I am just floored. Are you going to drop out?

Or are you lamenting how religion is used as a lucky charm or ward against evil?

I'm having trouble reading you and I think it is due to the shock I received at this post!

atimetorend said...

An a-religionist maybe?

It seems to me there are two kinds of Christianity, one that paints a certain picture and finds ways to make it true regardless of the evidence ("why did this happen to me? I'm a believer!"), and one that re-works its theology and doctrines in light of evidence (maybe, "Why did this happen to me? I guess my picture of God was wrong"). I imagine most traditional Christians think they are in the later category though, it just depends on what elements they decide to hold on "faith" with an absence of tangible evidence, or often in the face of contradictory evidence.

I don't think you are falling in either of those categories though? And I am not sure how that lines up with the bible, other than as a loose guide to spirituality and life. For example, "Prayer changes the person who prays.". I think that is true, but I don't know if that is what the bible teaches. Of course I am coming from a near fundamentalist reading of the bible in my past and I know that limits the way I look at it.

Is the theology you describe compatable with your UCC church?

Anyway, all that to say I liked your post.

Luke said...

@Yael: thanks for your replies! i really enjoyed reading them. however, I don't think i presented or defined either religion or ritual. i am happy you did though!

what i was trying to present was a religion that shames due to some magic not being performed. in Christainity, it's a big one cause we have this whole "belief" thing we get from Paul (who doesn't define HOW to believe... although Romans is helpful, it's not monolythic). i don't like religions that produce shame and guilt.

i do like those that provide framework and "adds great value to life and connections to God and community." to paraphrase you.

i'm just feeling worn here at the end of CPE. i still very much like the study of religion, but in my own practice, i found myself holding onto my frames less and less. all that is left is grace. that's my core. i used to be straight up #4 in your rituals, but now, i dunno. i just know i dont' like #1 and find #2 shady.

@AG: not dropping out, just venting. i'd go with the second assertion you proposed.

@atimetorend: i don't think i'm in either of those catagories, you're right. i'm more the second than the first, but yet not totally.

the question of "the power of prayer" has become much clearer to me during CPE. let me explain:

I don't believe in healing as portrayed by Benny Hinn and that ilk. Most of that i chalk up to peer pressure, the pacebo effect, and rampant emotionalism. If God makes cancer go into remission, what's up with amputee's? I've met 3 now and God has yet to regrow a limb. We have lists and lists of miraculous healings, but not one limb regenerated? Nothing says divine power and providence like that!

Well... anyway... God's power is counter to what we humans think of as power. The power to face a lost limb or a bad diagnosis or death... that's true power. Wanting an easy road until you die because you think a certain way is no way to live in my opinion and i think that way is wrought with peril and potentially faith shattering pitfalls. Not a whole lot of room for chaos in that model. loads of guilt though.

i find myself responding to and challenging a lot of people who come in and are just devestated by this type of belief system. They are shamed... and being shamed doesn't encourage healing or a positive attitude to face their troubles. i don't think this is the Christian faith as i understand it, it's moralism in theological drag. that may sound harsh... and it is.

i'm angry that certain types of religions do this to people (as evidenced by this post). But the cool thing is when I was first called to the ministry, it was to combat this... now anyone can be against something, that's WAAAAY too easy. Whatever stance the thing you're against takes, you do the opposite. Like if i were anti-Catholic and the Pope comes out and states that catfood is good for cats, i just have to say "no it isn't. here's why tuna is technically dolphin food AND it's the best thing for cats." not a whole lot of work or thought to do that.

but i've found i'm for people! I'm for people not being shamed, for healing themselves and their relationships, and for people growing up and taking responsibility for their actions. that fits with UCC largely because the emphasis is one finding out what you believe! 4 streams with not a lot of cross over combined to make this denomination.. so there is a lot of freedom to move.

anywho... *off soapbox* thanks for your question, ATR, hope that helps and thanks for visiting! you're more than welcome here!

Tit for Tat said...


If its any consolation, even Jesus whined a little when he was getting the smackdown. You'd think if he was God he would have been a little tougher. ;)


Interesting wisdom from Herschel, but Im curious, if youre not a Jew are you shit out of luck?

Tit for Tat said...

I almost forgot. Go VIKINGS. ;)

Yael said...

Judaism is for some, others have their own paths. We have our covenant, if we believe in such things, other people have their own covenants or whatever it is they hold to as giving them a connection to God. Of course there are a minority within Judaism who think only they have a connection to God, these types seem to be found everywhere, but Heschel was not one of them. His goal was for all of us to work together on social justice causes. I'm with him on that!

And that's as far as I can go on a public blog...I can say what I want to God but like King David I must fear falling into human hands! :)

Tit for Tat said...

His goal was for all of us to work together on social justice causes. I'm with him on that!(Yael)

Me too.Thanks for the insight.

Boz said...

"So the 3,000 plus dividing Protestant denominations are false boundaries. We can't continue to let that divide us."

We shouldn't let the boundary between theism and non-theism divide us either.

Yael said...

Sorry, I have been quite ill and sleep deprived so my response was more than a bit muddled. My comments on religion and ritual were in response to this statement:

"Not in the classic "there is no God or gods just as there is no pink unicorns" sense but in the fact that I don't believe in religion. I read a lot of Robert Capon last summer and found this quote:

"Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is the proclamation of the end of religion, not of a new religion, or even of the best of all religions. ...If the cross is the sign of anything, it's the sign that God has gone out of the religion business and solved all of the world's problems without requiring a single human being to do a single religious thing" (The Mystery of Christ ... and Why We Don't Get It, p. 62)"

No, you didn't define religion but I don't think there is any doubt that religion is presented here as a bad thing? And God going out of the religion business? Does that mean those of us who do follow religions are out of the God deal? My impression is that this isn't your view but then what does this mean to you, God going out of the religion business? Again not to argue, but just curious.

As far as ritual goes, I took that out of this comment as the not requiring us to do a single religious thing. Obviously I don't hold to the view of God commanding us anything, but instead read Torah as a people's understanding of how to interact with God, but also obviously I see value in ritual for other reasons. Now I could be misunderstanding the quote you gave here but my take is that ritual is being tossed out along with religion or perhaps being equated to religion, both being bad things we're better off without?

But anyway, you explained perhaps once more? your view on religion and ritual so I appreciate that.

Just out of curiosity, do you view giving sermons, singing songs in church, taking an offering, praying, standing sometimes and sitting at other times as rituals?

Hey, you might be pleased to know I picked up a couple books on interfaith dialogue and will soon be working my way through them. I'm hoping to pick up a few pointers along the way! I've been interacting with some Ortho-fundie Jews lately and think interfaith with rational people is probably more worthwhile!

Almost missed your comment about the Vikes! I've become hooked on football again this fall. No more studying for me! I've been a Gators fan for close to 30 years now so I've been watching them, but I also like other SEC teams so I've been watching them as well. That takes up Saturday. And then there's Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening, Monday night watching the Pros...It's been fun. I haven't been this fanatical since '98 when the Vikes let me down big time and I vowed never again. Good thing I renounced all vows on Kol Nidre...

I'm still religious though. When Baltimore missed that field goal at the end of the game and the Vikes won I stood up and told my kids, "There is a God and Thor is his name!" Go Vikings!!

Luke said...

"We shouldn't let the boundary between theism and non-theism divide us either." -Boz

YES!!! you're absolutely right!

Luke said...


i have always valued your curiosity and i'm happy to have you back... sleep deprived and all ;-)

i'll deal with your questions bit by bit.

"don't think there is any doubt that religion is presented here as a bad thing?"

there are aspects of it that i don't like... rituals do connect us with God, but religion is for US not for God. God survives without it. the typeof religion capon and i are frustrated with is the style that thinks it can box and control God.you know... all that idolatry stuff in the DTR tradition.

"And God going out of the religion business? Does that mean those of us who do follow religions are out of the God deal?"

i value religion. all religions. i am facinated by the different perspectives they present and various frameworks and rich traditions each one has. there is something to affirm in every religion. but when people start die'n, when they are divided on these lines and can't have a dialogue, that's problematic for me. i have my opinion about Jesus and the type of person he was and what he did.. you don't share that view but bring a whole nother viewpoint that is valuable. you present me with true aspects of reality that i would have missed if i held to my own religion too tightly.

religion isn't for God... it's for us. like Jay said, it's a framework, making the transcendent a little more material. but all we have are symbols and metaphor. i'm going to be like a pig in the mud and roll in as much as i can get :-) but realize that God is bigger than any system or ritual we can make up.

hope that helps. a little? and you can keep your Thor, i know that God is a packers fan because CHEESE is the most powerful thing on the planet ;-)

Anglican Gurl said...

@ Luke: Okay, I understand you now. I too get frustrated at religion but I also have to catch myself when I get to thinking this way too. I believe God, why do you send me this stuff?! Then I remember that we are not garenteed anything aside from grace and an eternal home. This of course, is also debated as to who gets this grace and what that home will look like. I'm buying what you're selling though, so keep typing away!

@Boz: Welcome! I think you'll find a good home here. All are welcome and can share their opinion regardless of belief or nonbelief! Take care!

Tit for Tat said...

"There is a God and Thor is his name!" Go Vikings!!(Yael)

Now there's a God I can get on board with. :)

I know what you mean about 98. Im still wondering how the hell anderson missed that field goal. I think John Elway must have had a vodoo doll with some pins in it. ;0

Sabio Lantz said...


Warning, I am going to rant a bit about your post. You know I love you brother, but what you wrote just struck me the natural outworkings of a mistaken view of life. so please don't take it as a personal attack. I look forward to your thoughts. BTW, good luck until 12/15.

You know, I have to be blunt. I am tired of hearing people say, "Christianity is not a religion." I have heard it for decades. I have heard Muslim and Jews say the same about their religion. Yeah, yeah, we outside your religion get it, you want to say how unique and different and above the common fumblings of normal humanity your faith is.

Luke, you say you believe in grace -- grace has an object. Your patients want grace too. They think God controls everything and can get them off the hook of suffering and pain. Hell, the Bible even says so. Why are you so surprised at their disappointment. They were told to believe in God and the promises of the Bible and now they are disappointed. For it ain't true.

Now come the caveats (the fine print):

* God's ways aren't our ways

* It all works out for the better in the long run and you may not understand until you are in heaven

* You suffering is serving some purpose as long as you love god

* Have faith

* God is not a puppet. He wont' give you the things you want unless they are in his will.

You talk to patients about:

(1) how God does not punish. He certainly does -- you've read your bible? or is this the god of Luke? Look, you patients have read the bible or had it read or preached at them. They know God helps the good and punishes the Bad -- it is all over the Old Testament. Anniais get'snuffed by the Holy Spirit in acts .....

(2) God does not impede our free-will. God stops people right in their tracks all the time in the Bible -- see #1. God heals people. Jesus promises that all his followers have to do is ask. Oh yeah, don't worry, I rememeber all the caveats. But this is not what your patients remember in these bad times of theirs. Preachers get people into the pews with hopes that if they live the good life, go to church, pray, believe the right thing then their life will be safer, their children will be better. And guess what, it don't work. And when the shit hits the fan, they throw out the caveats. They tricked their flock and they have every right to dispair.

Church and the false teachings of Christianity all sound great until the shit hits the fan. The same is true with Islam and other religions that promise God will take care of his choosen people. They are wrong.

Love is powerful, love gives deep meaning. But there is no love outside the love of people. There is not floating love in the sky to help you when you have suffering and inevitable death.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Luke
I just read the comments.
You said,

"but i've found i'm for people! I'm for people not being shamed, for healing themselves and their relationships, and for people growing up and taking responsibility for their actions. that fits with UCC largely because the emphasis is one finding out what you believe!"

It is clear to me you are making a new Christianity. It ain't the Christianity that embraces the old testament, it is a highly whittled down new testament. You came back to Christianity because it was most familiar -- you also realized it would allow you to work in your part of Pennsylvania with the personality and goals and loves you have. And now you are struggle to work with your compromise between truth and desires. As long as everyone buys into your new religion you won't get frustrated.

I can't imagine you at a real church as a pastor without you leading them to be something almost unrecognizable for orthodoxy (and as you know I think that would be fantastic and I think you are just the person for that job -- but damn it sounds tough). The other scenario I see is that you slowly redefine yourself to resolve this cognitive dissonance and you become more orthodox and sell off your insights. I hope that does not happen.

The other option is you go into something where you are not paid for being a religious professional -- if I had my bets, I wager that is you in 5 years.

I agree wholeheartedly with Boz, who you also agreed with emphatically !

All of us here love your honesty dude and even though you are just words on paper (though I loved the videos of you with your baby girl), your kindness and broad heart come through clearly.


Kate (the wife) said...

Sabio wrote: "The other option is you go into something where you are not paid for being a religious professional -- if I had my bets, I wager that is you in 5 years."

I hope not! We didn't move to PA for nothin'. Luke embraces some of the orthodoxy, so I think he can strike a good balance.

Sabio Lantz said...

Hey Kate-the-wife !
Was your note to me or as a gentle reminder to your impetuous husband?

Anonymous said...

So, you and I need to have a chat (after CPE and once you get a great big break) about the difference between a ritual and a practice (if there is one?-- I don't know-- is there one?) Cause you actually like some church practices my dear friend (like education)-- I'm with you totally on the religion point, but want to talk to you about practices and experiences some time. And hey-- this is what I do when I take a break from panicking about teaching and worship planning and LN retreats...I stalk you and read theology blogs... wow... I need to find other hobbies...Jacq

Anonymous said...

PS- in your denomination-- your theology fits, particularly with a lot of us who have a new vision for "church".... you could be a pastor for a long time to come... in fact... i know many good pastors just like you. And there are congregations in other states (and a few in PA too) that would treasure you as their pastor. Really.... I've seen you pastor our LN people, and you are very good at it.-- Jacq

Luke said...


i think you miss me. there are some things you hit on, others you completely miss me.

"you want to say how unique and different and above the common fumblings of normal humanity your faith is."

nope! it is my fumblings that show me that i need faith. it makes me humble and want to serve my brothers and sisters and be thankful that we share this brief existence together.. it could be otherwise. i am happy we met and we're talking over this distance! how cool is that?!?! in what other time period could we have communicated as such?

"The same is true with Islam and other religions that promise God will take care of his choosen people. They are wrong."

you're right, but not for the reasons you think. God takes care of ALL PEOPLE as all are Gods regardless of creed or faith or what have you.

religion/belief/whatever is just a framework.. we all have them. we have to! we have to find some way to make sense of what happens to us on a daily basis. i guess i'm suffering from compassion fatigue and need a month or so off as i'm tired of fixing broken frames.

"But there is no love outside the love of people."

says the man who actually saw his mother walking in the garden how many years after death? there are weird moments, some call it coincidence, others something else. there is something out there. i call it God and believe in grace as presented through Christ.

"a new Christianity"

the funny thing is.. it isn't new. it's actually quite old. Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, Ireanaus, Aquinas, and then found and remodeled by the likes of Otterbien, Nevin, Schaff, Moltmonn, Schleiermacher, and now with the emergent movement, (bell, tickle, mclaren) hell! things are looking up for me! That's because i'm outside of Catholic and conservative circles. Liberal Christianity has a strong and rich heritage and we ain't all Unitarians. (did you know they broke off from the UCC.. well congregationalists?)

i'll post a review of my theology written by a prof that i think will help you find where i'm coming from. from reading your stuff, i think it's well outside of your experience.

Luke said...


stalk away! i need perspective here! esp. yours. so i find that helpful and thanks for the support.

unlike Sabio, i give myself 7 years ;-)

Tit for Tat said...


Sometimes we want to paint it all with the same brush. I like the colours that you bring to "faith".
Paint away brother.

Sabio Lantz said...


Of course I mischaracterize you -- my only glimpses of you are typed words. So if any of of what I wrote accidentally meant anything, I am glad.

You said, "God takes care of ALL PEOPLE ..."

So tell me, what would the hospital's suffering clients look like if there was not a God taking care of them? Worse? That is the best a caring God can do? That is just what life looks like. That simple.

Your sweet words sounds nice, but are they true?

Isn't that why your patients are upset? Everyone has told them that someone is taking care of them, but it is false. And now they know it is false. You get burned out quicker when you try to maintain a lie.

Before you cement your theology, I believe a Monkey God image may be a bit more accurate to your real theology.

Moments of insight like "fatique" your are experiencing are precious. You call it "compassion fatique", but I say if you are not careful you will be dismissing something valuable. You can listen to those telling you: "ah, it is all cool, don't worry Luke, ignore the discomfort, it will all turn out just fine, you are on the right path, you are a great guy." But I think doing so would be a great waste. Embrace the pain.

I look forward to your Theology post. I didn't understand when you said, "we ain't all Unitarian". Yes, I am familiar that Pilgrims (an ugly group actually) became congregationalists, then split over Unitarian issues. And BANG! UCC. Meanwhile I posted on my weird mystical experience to add stories like my dead Mom story to spice things up.
Thought it would help you further un-understand me.

Anglican Boy said...

@ Sabio: I am unsure if you heard of something Luke alluded to briefly. He stated "i guess i'm suffering from compassion fatigue and need a month or so off as i'm tired of fixing broken frames." I'm not sure if you have heard of this, but it is a real symptom and I speak to doctors, nurses, and chaplains that suffer from this:


Judging by your posts you've linked to and the comments you leave here, I can almost picture you hopping up and down thinking that another person is coming to the "logical" conclusion of atheism. I don't think that is helpful. Doctors who have no faith to speak of also have compassion fatigue as they get tired of fixing broken humans. Maybe I'm reading too much into your comments but after you talk of "natural outworkings of a mistaken view of life" practically YELL that this is exactly what you are doing.

I figure that you know that there is some mind/body/spirit connection and that to have all things working makes for the faster recovery rate. An ancient Eastern concept that we here in the west are just now picking up on. I see Luke going beyond "sweet and nice words" and actually seeing people. That is very exhausting and that's why many care givers and first responders become numb to their job and to others.

Yael said...

I think you'll find your place in ministry and hang in there for, oh, about 50 years! I just don't think you'll be able to do anything else, not because you peddle lies, but because you actually care about people, even when they wear you down.

Too bad you're so deluded about God though...Packers? Man, Thor is going to get you one day for that one! Just you wait.

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Anglican Boy
I am a bit of an odd character. I typically don't offer folks the generic class of benefits that come in normal relationships. I actually like Luke a lot and that is why I write. I view Luke (and all of us) as having many different selves and as being very fluid. I am talking to certain sides of Luke. I do it hoping I have trust from the other sides. I am not doing it expecting a certain result, I am doing it to help his different voices have their best impact. I see Luke as very complex -- I am excited about his development. I don't see his case as generic compassion fatigue -- trust me, I how people use that phrase and it is very people dependent. If Luke runs a church, I will be an excited visitor someday. If he changes his faith, I know it won't be like mine, nor should it be. I think he is in constant flux even now. Luke is reflexive, responsive complex individual -- they change a lot.
Sorry if I come across as negative, but it is my hope that my response is genuine enough to have some value and not just be another quickly forgotten platitude.
-- Sabio

Anonymous said...

28 comments already and then I finally weigh in (lol) - I missed the boat by a few days.

"If the cross is the sign of anything, it's the sign that God has gone out of the religion business"

Can someone please, and I am begging now, please tell the church this? lol

"I'm frustrated that more and more people i meet are lamenting "why did this happen to me? I'm a believer!"" (Luke)

I have been thinking about this for a few days actually - and was going to blog on it - but that blog will start here.

Humans don't like ambiguity. And I mean this in the way of 'vagueness or uncertainty of meaning' (online dictionary). We humans want defintions for everything - purpose to be set out when we begin the endeavors we end up in...we desire some certainty, promise, guarantee.

Life is not so kind to oblige.

In an ideal world that functioned by rules and mores for every situation - we'd be loved by parents and siblings, treated kind by everyone, accepted as we are not for what we can do, would never get ill, would avoid any accident or tragedy, marry and have a great home-life, have a great and meaningful job, retire and live out our dreams (write a book, make a movie, lead a movement, etc), pass on our wisdom to the youth, and then pass away into eternal life in heaven.

I don't know about you - I am holding out hope for heaven yet. LOL!

Life offers us challenges and ambigious situations where we are tested to the very core of our being - some make it - some will not. Humans are idealists though - and should never suffer any ill fated thing...and I agree with them...doesn't make it reality though. Doesn't make God any less real in my opinion either. Just makes human life what we though it was (once we grew up) - a challenge.

I grew up in some very dark places and around some very dark people. If anything, I should rail against a God that allowed this stuff to happen to me and scores of others in my community - since God must be to blame. But that's a cop-out of the Nth degree (there is no end to that excuse being used - in every and all situations that suck for us).

Word to the wise - life ain't easy and ambiguity is part of the equation. No one ever promised life was going to be easy - not even the bible (and if anyone wnats to debate on that - I am game!).

I also read Sabio's stuff about what the bible says to the people in the hospital - and how you seem to be reading it according to the interpretation of Luke. I'd say he's a tad off.

I'll address one simple easy point - about asking. It is true the NT does address this concern and in that whatever you ask 'believe the Father will give you'. I think that is fine - however - we need to define one simple thing...what can be asked for and what can't be asked for?

Now although that definition don't exist - James sheds some light on it in his letter 'ask for wisdom'. Why would James go there - to the intangible? It seems these might be the kinds of ideas God looks into?

Also we have the idea of God's will versus us asking? Now although we cannot know God's will in any specific situation - we might be slightly surprised by it and we should not rule anything out.

In the end, life happens - and I don't think getting here was chance (read up on a sperm's journey)...we need to accept reality and the sooner we do - the more life we have to face it in an honest and kind way.

Anglican Boy said...


Thank you for writing. That helps me hold your comments in a new way. I too see Luke as complex. I would love if he found a church here in the St. Louis area but I doubt he will. I will keep following him because he has some really neat stuff to say and really isn't afraid to go places where "platitudes" fail. I see you are at the same place and it has been fun, although a bit hair-raising watching you and Luke talk.

I think compassion fatigue could be what Luke is experiencing but I don't have the full story. I know with a new child, the demands of seminary, as well as the taxing yet enlighting experience of CPE maybe a lot to handle all at once. Could be, but you're right, I could be wrong.

atimetorend said...

"I would love if he found a church here in the St. Louis area but I doubt he will."

I'm hoping for an hour or so east...

Luke said...

Sabio: "Your sweet words sounds nice, but are they true? Isn't that why your patients are upset?... burn out quicker maintaining a lie.."

Good words and considerations my friend. I would like to send you some stories via email if that would be cool. It's hard on here to give you a full picture on how i'm responding in these situations. I don't think i'm maintaining a lie, i think i'm saying that life sucks but it's how we deal with it that matters. there is a source and a tradition that helps so we don't have to reinvent the wheel.

when it comes down to it, i'm a pomo structuralist. i know it's great to have structure and frames of reference, but i also know that they all have limits and fail in given situations. i like to be conscious of which ones are used given the situation.

@AB: could be compassion fatigue, i just think it's the stress at the end of the semester. lotsa big papers and stuff due. i'm sad to see CPE ending and to be parting with these people on the team. i really enjoyed my time there.

@Yael: thanks for the support! i feel seen and heard.

thanks y'all! its a complex thing we're attempting to do on a limited forum. RAWK!

Anonymous said...

Luke, i think you let sabio off way too easy. i know you and you're one of the most radical people at seminary. you rage against the machine and strike down lies left and right. dude must not have been reading your stuff all that long cause i see he has no idea who he's talking to. you get back to the core of the gospel and example of christ, theo-centric, no-bullshit, inclusive tradition where all are welcome regardless of race, creed, or whatever else. hearing you speak about your cpe time, i know you could just level this dude.. i wonder why didn't you. i think that's a testament to your passion for inclusion, so as much as i want you to, i see why you didn't.

Sabio Lantz said...

"you could just level this dude"

Boy, ya gotta love that !

@ Luke: sure, send me an e-mail

@ "Anonymous": I work in medicine where I see people have to face the false hope that a god will cure sickness. I see the disillusioned parents and patients themselves when tremendous suffering hits.

Sure, the promises of "God will help you." or "God answers prayers." gives people hope but when there is clearly no hope, then all that remains is despair.

When those platitudes are sold, they are never sold honestly. The average believer does not read all the fine print. The average believer does not have the metaphors to retranslate, to use POMO ideology -- they take it for what it normally means.

So I am perhaps a bit oversensitive when I hear any hint of such "health & happiness" gospel. Yeah, I know that Luke is more complex than that. But I said what I did to confront any verbal or even real vestiges of such thinking in Luke. To rid itself of such vestiges, someone's Christianity would have to be extremely radical because I think many of the writers of the NT believed such stuff. And certainly the Church has preached it for thousands of years. I was simply encouraging Luke to continue his exorcism of the notion that a god is out there (outside of you and outside of your friends) to care for your personal needs. Yeah maybe I spoke too harshly, my apologies if so. And go ahead and lay one on my chin, I will not strike back.

Anonymous said...

Luke. Sorry to have been absent for a time. I'm back. I love the line that says God is out of the religion business. That's awesome. Had a good discussion with my retired Nazarene pastor father recently in which we talked about how people start placing more importance on the framework behind their belief than they actually do on God. It's a constant battle to beat that mindset back. Congrats on the graduation thing.

Luke said...

@ Anon,

whoever you are, i wish you'd give me the priviledge of knowing who you are. esp. if you're a classmate!

anywho... i do rage against the machine and i find a kindred spirit in Sabio. i am most welcome of Sabio's responses as he tells it like it is and it's my job to suck up my shattered ego and explain myself.

you say you can see why i didn't "level" Sabio... but i really doubt that you do.


"So I am perhaps a bit oversensitive when I hear any hint of such "health & happiness" gospel." yeah man... in CPE we're taught to resist it as well. it's toxic. sometimes there is no hope and to say that there is would only be comfort to us.. not the dying. i should post about the time i had to pray for an atheist on his death bed and his super-fundie family that was hope'n for a conversion experience. i think that would shed even more light on the subject. i'll also send you another document that will help out.

@Doug: welcome back man! looking forward to what you have to say. you've been missed but i figured you had better things to do. speaking of which.. i better go attend to mine!

Yael said...

All of us could go about crushing each other is we chose to do so, but what would be the point?

I started up a blog again where I plan to write about trying to come to a better understanding of the whole interfaith deal. Hope you stop by to visit now and then.

My oldest son gave the sermon at shul today and I'll be giving one on the 9th of January. Looking forward to getting back in the swing of things.

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