Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Destiny

It's strange sometimes the way my personal philosophy gets shaped and defined. I was brought up attending Protestant churches, the local Congregational church and the Methodist church. By my mid-teens, though, I had pretty much made up my mind that all this God talk made no sense. Religion and science seemed to be on divergent paths and I intended to walk with science. My dad and an older half-brother of mine became involved in a "fundamentalist" church in a neighboring town but I didn't see any point in that. I was an atheist when I finished high school and joined the Air Force.
In my early 20s I had a few drug experiences that changed my mind about God. Those experiences showed me that "reality" can melt before your eyes. Reality as experienced by a human being is a graphic model existing in the mind and is based on a highly filtered system of perception. It has only fleeting resemblance to what is really "out there," to the actual existence of things. It's no wonder there are so many conflicting realities in politics, religion, and life.
I became a "born again Christian" a year or two after leaving the military. I was looking for answers to my drug experiences and this evangelical, Bible-believing Christianity promised to provide those answers. It took years for me to finally conclude that I was being duped by this religion. I kept blaming it on myself, that there was something wrong with me, something weak about my faith, that my doubts were blocking my spiritual experience. But at the same time I kept running into situations where these right-wing "fundamentalist" Christians kept insisting that any real spiritual experience was evil if it couldn't be traced directly to the text of the Bible. It kept coming up and being reinforced that real spiritual experience comes after a "saved" person dies. While here in the body on earth, the deceiver is the one in control and our only hope of spirituality is that we be saved by God and go to Heaven when we die.
As ignorant as that theology is, it's also quite simple. It places virtually no demands on you, the person. All you need to do is yield to the power of God and then use the Bible as a check and balance to ensure that your beliefs are really from God and not from the deceiver.
My doubts won out in the end. The hypocrisy of fundamentalist Christianity was overwhelming for me. I had to get out and I did.
But having been in there, I am now faced with needing to understand what this power was that had me in its grips. It's not that I went back to not believing in God. It's obvious to me that there is an intelligence far exceeding human intelligence and that everything in this universe and beyond is awash in this intelligence. What had me in its grips was a theology and all theology is based in fallacy. There is no one correct theology capable of calling all the rest false. All theology is false. The reason it is false is because it comes from intellectual thought, not from actual spiritual experience.
Fundamentalist Christianity claimed to get around this because it was based on the Bible, writings that were gathered by an act of God into a canonized collection containing all of God's writings to mankind. God wrote the Bible by miraculously inspiring human authors. Furthermore, the inspired truth of the Bible somehow managed to survive the English translation process. God was at work even there. Anyone who seriously doubted this in the fundamentalist church was suspect - suspect of what, nobody was really saying, but suspect just the same.
But the problem is that it always seemed to me like someone had come along in the fundamentalist church and established theologies that weren't really being exposed in the presentation of the Bible. Someone long ago used the Bible to intellectually concoct theories of what the truth really is and those theories were what was actually being taught in church. It's not like anyone was hiding from me the fact that theology existed. I heard about Calvin and Luther and Scofield. But no pastor in my experience ever actually referenced these theologians. They presented the theology but they didn't reference the source. Instead, they made it appear that the source was the Bible. Church leaders made it appear that the source of their theology was the Bible and that it was fact, not theory.
Now, years after leaving all this behind, I am just beginning to understand the power that theology had over the teachings of these fundamentalist churches. And I am just now coming to realize that probably the most influential of all theologies was and remains Calvinism.
I am puzzled about how Alberto Gonzales could have felt righteous about what he did, even after his resignation.
I am puzzled about how Tom DeLay can claim his innocence even in the light of all he did to corrupt government and make it serve him.
I am puzzled how Senator Stevens can call himself innocent in light of his seven felony convictions especially considering his own knowledge and recorded phone calls showing his understanding of what he was involved in.
And I am puzzled by Sarah Palin's professed innocence of virtually every claim made against her. It's as if she has never told a lie and never been found out to be less than what she wants her image to suggest she is.
In all of these cases, the culprits claim to be in service to God. How can that be? How can you deceive and corrupt and mislead in service to God? How can such clearly self-serving behavior be God's work?
Well the key is the belief in destiny.
Sarah Palin had something interesting to say this week after her and John McCain's defeat in the election. She was reflecting on Obama's victory as a minority candidate and on the rise of the Black race in America and according to a FOX News article she said, “America is going to reach her destiny.” Maybe that shouldn't have struck me as odd but it did. Why? Because as I see it, America isn't on a road to destiny. America is, if anything, a destiny in itself. America is where the people of the world look when they want to see freedom and independence and constitutional protection of those values in action. It isn't that some day in the future we will reach that destiny and the Obama victory is a big step in that direction. In my mind it is that the Obama victory attests to the fact that America already is the place where this is not just possible but happening. It has been happening all along and it will continue to happen as long as America defends its Constitution.
So what possible "destiny" could Sarah Palin be referring to?
I'm not going to go putting words in her mouth or claiming she believes things I don't know that she believes, but I know she is the kind of Christian that we have seen in action in the Republican Party over the past decade. She is the DeLay/Gonzales/Stevens kind of Christian Republican. Everything she does serves herself first and in the name of God.
But why is this getting to be such a common thing and why does the idea of destiny keep coming up?
If destiny has to do with Christianity and it has to do with popular theology, chances are it has to do with Calvinism. And that's where I'm at in my study. I want to understand what Calvinism is and what effect this theology is having as it is applied in America's right-wing churches. I know what the world's destiny is thought to be under Calvin theology, but to what extent do Republicans want to see this destiny fulfilled and what are they doing to help God do it?

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