Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Blogger Swap 2008: Therese in Heaven

When I signed up for the Great Blogger Swap of 2008, I thought it would be easy enough to participate in. I write posts all the time, after all. But then I thought that maybe writing about potty training, sex at parties, and vomit wouldn't be quite seemly on someone else's blog, so figured I should probably shape up a bit. Not an easy thing to do since I'm currently pre-occupied by my dissertation on prairie dog mating rituals.

So as I sit here eating a bowl of oatmeal, trying to ignore my annoying pet marsupial, Maxine, what I keep thinking about is just how unbelievably difficult it is to be a good Christian. Scratch that. A good person. Now, I know that the definition of a good person is widely up for debate, however I can't help but wonder if anyone lives up to their own definition. Somebody wise and holy (I can't for the life of me remember who) said something along the lines of: the proof that we didn't just make God up is in the fact that we assign to Him attributes like "All-powerful," "Supreme Judge," and "Knower of all things deep and private in our hearts, including those embarrassing thoughts about Eva Mendez." Why would we make up a God like that? Why would we invent a "Father Figure" who gives out a seemingly endless supply of "tough love" when we could have a grand-father figure, who gives us ice cream for breakfast and lets us stay up late, just because we ask that it be so? No, the God of the Judeo-Christian world is too terribly awesome for our infantile imaginations to dream up. We happen to like our ice cream.

I think that the reason we have so many notions about how we should be, how others should treat us, how we should act, when we know very well that neither ourselves nor anyone else will actually end up behaving that way, is because someone else, far better than any of us, wrote it somewhere inside our hearts that there is something more. Something better. We have a noble purpose in someone else's plan. This intuitive sense gets quite inconvenient when we very badly want to do something very attractive and selfish (like sleep with the pool boy or, what the heck, Eva Mendez), but its still there. That's why a person who fudges on his time card still feels wronged when the plumber tries to squeeze out more money than agreed on for additional "parts" and "labor." We know justice even when we don't live it.

So what is a person to do when we all have these internal standards that no matter what, we (and no one else in history) just can't seem to live up to? I think the writers Zmirak and Matychowiak* summed it up best when they said, "Believe it all, do what you can, admit that you're basically a bastard, and turn to the font of infinite Mercy** as humbly and as often as you can. If there's one thing that's incompatible with Christianity, it's pride, or what today would call 'healthy self-esteem' and a 'clear conscience.'" And on that note, I shall close my post and prepare to ask God for forgiveness. I need it too. I am just a bastard, after all.

Oh, and thank you, Aphron, for your hospitality.

*No, I didn't make them up, but I bet you can't say their names quickly five times.

**For you Catholics, that's time in the box.


aphron said...

I apologize for the formatting. It didn't work out like I thought it would.


Therese in Heaven said...

Hey, thanks! I think you cut off the beginning, though. Would you mind republishing it, please? :)

aphron said...


Desmond Jones said...

Hey, Therese, fancy bumpin' into you here!

This is a sharp post, even for a guest-post. One of the posts rumbling around in my head right now touches on the notion of hypocrisy - that we're all hypocrites, at least in the sense that our actions don't always match our own stated ideals. Human nature, and all that. . . As Chesterton said, of all the doctrines of Christianity, it would seem that none are so empirically obvious as Original Sin. . .

And your 'Argument from Conscience' here is also very sharp; or, perhaps it's more of an 'Argument from a Sense of Justice'. . . The 'Law Written on the Heart', however you want to parse it. . .

And listen, if you wanna talk about being a bastard, all I got to say is that, unlike you, I actually was one once upon a time. . . Which, come to think of it, probably explains a lot. . .

FTN said...

The very first chapter of NT Wright's fantastic "Simply Christian" leans heavily on the notions of justice, God, and "putting the world to rights." I heartily recommend it to all.

And I hope that link works as intended.

Anonymous said...

Quite the thought provoking post. Now I remember why I became a regular reader on Therese's blog. Looks like the guest post bar has been set pretty high.

Phyllis Renée said...

Dang, Therese, you never cease to amaze me. Great post!

Sailor said...

Great post, a lot that is so true, and so ignored much of the time.

I'm going to go try to be not-quite-such-a-bastard, but will continue to turn to the font, cuz I'm not very good at being good.

Lil Bit said...

Very nice & thought-provoking post here for the blog swap! Wow, making the cogs in my noggin' turn, lol...

Hmmm... I'm reluctant to debate religion (I don't do that on my blog), but I'm gonna question "the proof that we didn't just make God up is in the fact that we assign to Him attributes like 'All-powerful,'..." by asking what other attributes would a Supreme Being have BUT to be all-powerful?

Another very interesting read I may suggest here is "The God Part of the Brain" by Matthew Alper in which he suggests that "humans are innately hard-wired to perceive a spiritual reality".
( for more info)
I'm saying I necessarily agree with his assessment, but it's good food-for-thought.

I think each of us (well, except murderers, child molesters, and the like) struggles to be a good person whether religion is in our lives or not. Attending church, participating in religious events, prayer, and a belief in any specific religion does not (in my opinion) make one more apt to TRY to be a better person.
It's just basic human nature to struggle with our emotions & thoughts... as conflicting as they sometimes are. Religion doesn't really have anything to do with it.

I hope my thoughts do not offend, as that is the furthest from my intention... only sharing a diff POV.

And very nice to meet you, Therese.=)

Lil Bit said...

crap, correction: I'm NOT saying I agree w/Mr. Alper's assessment.

Jeez, ya miss 1 word while typing and the whole meaning changes. LOL

nope, not a Freudian slip either. ;)

Therese in Heaven said...

Aphron - Thank you so much for hosting me!

Desmond - Thank you very much. I really enjoyed writing it. Yes, you are right. We are all hypocrites in one sense or another. None of us always live up to what we believe. Hey, I thought you weren't going to be posting much! ;)

FTN - Thanks for the recommendation. The book looks very interesting.

Phyllis Why, thank you.

Silent Male - I suppose I should keep the "The" in your name. Then you're like a super-hero. The Incredible Hulk. The Six Million Dollar Man. The Silent Male.
glad you enjoyed my post!

Sailor - There sure are a lot of us, aren't there?

Lil Bit,
the question really is: Why do we believe in a "Supreme Being"? Nearly every culture has worshipped someone, or many someones. If our brains are hard-wired to perceive a spiritual reality, why would that be? That certainly would be a bizarre leap from an evolutionary perspective, since no other creature is hard-wired that way. If we weren't created by a God, that would seem like a cosmic short-circuit! :)

What you said about struggling to be good regardless of religion is pretty much my point. We are the only creatures on earth that worship, and the only creatures that "try to be good." A bee doesn't worry about whether he's being a good bee while making honey. He is responding to his nature by doing "bee things." And yet we humans, regardless of our beliefs, have a sense of goodness and our own failure (the struggle withour emotions and thoughts you mentioned) all throughout our lives. If its purely our "nature" to have internal conflict, then my question is "why?" A creature's nature serves a purpose: to help it survive. If our nature is to struggle internally, then there is a reason for that too. To me, the question of goodness only makes sense in the context of a God who put it there, who wants and expects something of us. Otherwise, the struggle for "goodness" however defined, is more of a problem than a necessity for our own good, and in that sense is most unnatural.

I've probably just read a bit too much philosophy (or maybe not enough!) but accepting things without looking to the "why?" question is tremendously unsatisfying to me. But that's just me. :)

Thank you very much for your comment and your thoughts. You are welcome on my blog at any time. I promise, we aren't always discussing religion. :)