Category Archives: good vs. bad

Creation and… well, what?

Adam and Eve by Peter Paul Rubens

Adam and Eve by Peter Paul Rubens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not believe in Evolution. What I mean by that is, that I know evolution took place and therefore I don’t need to believe it. Whereas I believe that God created the universe. I believe that because there is no scientific proof that he has. There is a lot of scientific proof that evolution happened. But this post isn’t really supposed to be about evolution at all (maybe I’ll write more about that later but it will be less a post about what my faith tells me and more a post on science and knowledge), it is a question I ask myself whenever I start thinking about it. About what? The Fall. You know, when Adam and Eve supposedly ate the apple (or whatever fruit it might have been) and found out that they were naked and so on and so on. The Fall is almost the second thing that happens in the Bible (after everything is created and named and told its purpose) and without knowing what the Fall actually is, I find it difficult to understand almost anything else. Because everything in me tells me that creation is a good thing, that God is proud of it and that none of it is bad or evil. Yet, obviously, I cannot say that humans are good and everything they/we do is exactly as God wishes it to be. I have put quite a bit of emphasis on free will (see my posts on Invictus and what it means to me) and I honestly do believe that God gave it to us as a present. But! If it is such a good thing, why do we need rescuing from it? For me, Jesus dying on the cross feels weird if it was necessary to redeem humanity from the Fall. And what might the actual Fall be anyways? Is it when humans started to think abstractedly, develop a sense of self (animals have that), became creative? All of these together? And, since I believe (but don’t know the proof) that evolution was ultimately responsible for all of these, were they in God’s plan from the beginning and if so, why didn’t he change the plan again? As you can tell I am thoroughly confused. Please help me, tell me what you believe the Fall was/is and how it fits in with God’s plan. I will continue to ponder.

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Filed under good vs. bad, Old Testament

Doctor Who morals

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tard...

I was watching the TV series Damages the other day and something suddenly struck me. One of the baddies was obviously feeling guilty and decided to help one of the people he had wronged. That made me remember one of my favourite quotes from Doctor Who. He is talking to another baddie:

You let one of them go but that’s nothing new. Every now and then a little victim’s spared because she smiled, ’cause he’s got freckles. ‘Cause they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in awhile—on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction—you happen to be kind.

And isn’t this true for many, if not most, of us? We do the wrong thing all the time, knowingly do the wrong thing, but every now and then we muster up the strength to do what we believe is right in difficult circumstances – and that is how we live with ourselves. That is how we survive the knowledge that we are not always a good person. We remember the things we did right. We pat ourselves on the shoulder and say: See I am not all bad after all. And, as contradictory as this may sound; I think that is really important. To remember that we sometimes do have that strength. Because God does, too. Yes, he knows all our deeds, good or bad, but through his grace we are forgiven the bad ones. And we please him every time we get it right; every time we go beyond ourselves he jumps up and down with joy – and so should we. Of course we can’t be complacent about it but if we only focus on the bad things and those we got wrong – we’ll simply break. So I say: let’s use this very human feature for a good cause. Let’s use it to do more good deeds and less bad ones. Let’s use it as a carrot so we can forget the stick.

So, today, do something right, do something good, do something you wouldn’t normally do. and then tonight, when you go to sleep, remember it, remember the warm, fuzzy feeling of complete goodness and thank God for experiencing that grace. And then, tomorrow, do it again.

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Filed under Ethics, good vs. bad, Prayer, TV and Film

Blackmail

Taxes

Yesterday I read a story on the BBC that blew my mind. Apparently, the Catholic Church in Germany has decided to make people pay for their sacraments. To understand how this works you need to know some background details. Since the 19th century, when the State took away much of the Catholic Church’s property, the state has been collecting a so-called church tax in compensation. That means, when you register with the government (which you have to do whenever you move), you also register your religious affiliation and whether you register as Protestant, Catholic or Jewish, you will be required to pay a tax. This tax isn’t a lot; 8% of your income tax. That means, if you earn 100 000€ a year and you pay 10000 in income taxes (I simplified the math here), you will need to pay an additional 800€ in church tax. In the last few years (or decades), more and more people have de-registered their religious affiliation and it has long been in contention whether that means that they are also leaving their Religion. I think we can all agree, that this is not necessarily the same (and personally I think it is not the same at all). Well, now the German Catholic Bishop’s Conference has decided to make it so officially. That means that if you de-register with the State, you also automatically leave the Catholic Church and the consequence of that is that you will be denied all sacraments, except for the last rites. Even a church funeral might be denied you if the deceased was not registered.

I am outraged. I have joined the CoE a while ago but if I had not this would have the last nail in the coffin to make me automatically leave the Catholic Church of Germany. How dare they connect the giving of the sacraments with paying a tax? How dare they make people pay for spiritual anything! It is properly unbelievable.And why would the Bishops think that this would mean less people leaving the church? I think this is going to make more people de-register; out of anger. I would. I am so agnry at them, I could scream. This is not what being a church is about, it it is not about giving people a space and support to encounter God and Jesus and explore their faith. This is pure power play. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t let you go to communion. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t let you be a godmother. If you don’t pay taxes, we won’t give you a funeral. It’s blackmail.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Current Events, Ethics, good vs. bad

Susanna

flora and fauna of Mullum 019

Today I find myself grieving again. Almost 3 years ago a friend of mine was killed by her boyfriend and today I cannot stop thinking about her. So let me tell you about her. The funny thing is, I was never really close to her. She was the daughter in a family who were friends with my family, my mother is her sister’s godmother and so we kind of grew up together but also not. She was, after all, 7 years younger than me (18 when she died), and they also lived on the other side of the country; so we didn’t see each other very often. Yet, when she died, I was completely thrown. Maybe it was that she was so young (such a waste!), or maybe it was that I had always felt a kind of kinship with her because, like me, she seemed to stick out somehow from the rest of her family. I only really got to know her better through the stories about her that were told at the funeral and by her family since then. It was her death that threw me out of my complacent “God doesn’t have much to do with me” kind of mindset and it was seeing her family being comforted and reassured by their faith that made me enter a church for anything other than a Christmas service for the first time in about 5 or 6 years. That is why I call her my friend. She wasn’t, really, before she died but I feel that she has influenced me in my faith and my life ever since and I am deeply grateful for that. I wish though, that she didn’t have to die to become this influence. I feel guilty about not having gotten to know her better before she did.

Writing this has been good. The difficult days are rare by now and it feels good to indulge my grief now and then but now I can draw the line for today because I wrote it all down. Thank you all for listening.

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I am the Master of my fate

God, the Father watches us all everywhere.

God, the Father watches us all everywhere. (Photo credit: angelofsweetbitter2009)

This is one of the most compelling lines in poetry that I have ever read. And as much as I believe in a loving and personal God, I also believe that this is true; at the end of the day it is us who have to make the decisions and who have to do – something, anything. God helps us and strengthens us but it is left to us to finish the job. Sometimes I ask myself why that is so; as everyone who looks at the world can see, that we are continuously making the wrong decisions. So why would God let us, why would he let us ruin everything? The answer is complicated and faceted and, I guess, there is not one right answer to begin with. For me, at least, it comes down to this: If we don’t have the freedom to make mistakes, even if they are terrible and if we don’t have the freedom to have to live with the consequences of those mistakes – and I am talking about both societal and personal mistakes – then how exactly are we supposed to learn anything? How are we supposed to develop, to grow, to achieve any kind of progress – again, both on a personal and a societal level? So what God is actually doing, is that he, like any good parent, has decided to let us out of the children’s safe place into the adult world and now we have to cope with it. He is still there to help us, to guide us, to support us. But he also knows, if we are to achieve anything at all, he must leave us our space. And this is where we all, every single one of us and every nation or culture or religion, are the masters of our own fate.

Here is, how this doesn’t work at all: What happens, when someone else makes a bad decision, and I am the one being hurt or badly affected? Maybe that guy doesn’t even know what he is doing or it looks like he profits from the misery of others. Is that really helping either one to grow? I don’t know what to say to that. Any thoughts?

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Filed under good vs. bad, Philosophy

9/11

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people very likely remember where they were when they heard about the September 11 attacks for the first time. I was in school. In Canada. I had just started a year abroad as an exchange student in Medicine Hat, Alberta and it was my second week in school. My English was still, well, let’s call it tentative. I had not made any real friends yet (I always need a bit of time for that). I had just about gotten used to my new family (who were quite amazing) and was getting to the point where the newness of it all looses its power and homesickness starts to set in. I was about to get my first real culture shock. In the second period, our principal made an announcement and told everyone to turn on the radio. I couldn’t understand a word and had to ask my clearly horrified classmates what was going on. They explained and while I understood the gist of what had happened I did not understand at all what that involved. Everyone kept talking about it all through the day and I just didn’t get it. In the last period, our Social Studies teacher had a TV and video coverage of the what had happened during the morning. It suddenly struck me. I suddenly understood all the horror and when they showed the plane flying into the tower and people jumping off I started crying. So much that I couldn’t stop and the teacher made me leave the classroom. At that moment I just wanted to go home and be with my Mum. I realised, even though I was only 17 and didn’t know anyhting about anything yet, that the world had just changed and not for the better. Fear had come into my life. I spent the rest of the day and almost the whole week afterwards alternately glued to the TV or to the phone talking to my mother. Over and over again I watched the footage until my hostmother told me that it was enough and forbade me to watch the news more than half an hour a day. It was a good thing she did, I think I would have worked myself into a right frenzy otherwise. Thank you, Molly! It took me a long time to adjust to all these new things. I started to become interested in politics (I still am). The way that some people started talking about Muslims horrified me and I became an ardent believer in tolerance and defeating fear through learning about what we fear (I still am). They started the war in Afghanistan and in Iraq and I became a fierce though cynical pacifist (Istill am). 911 has shaped my life in many ways, like most of my generation. Today I remember all the men and women who died and I thank them for the good lessons they have taught me. Be brave. Stand up for what you believe. Don’t let others around you tell you what is right and wrong, discover it for yourself.

In case you were wondering: The culture shock was discovering that the only newspaper available in Medicine Hat had only one page dedicated to both national and international news. I started using the internet then and look where it got me!

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Uncomfortable conversation

Detail

Something happened today that made me really uncomfortable. I was with a group of people, some of which I didn’t know very well and we were talking about nothing and everything, being funny and hilarious. Then, one woman started talking about a situation she’d been in at her previous job. A colleague, who everyone knew to be on the autistic spectrum, had invited everyone to his birthday party and asked everyone to prepare some kind of activity. So far so good, but then she proceeded to make fun of the party and described various activities in the most ridiculous way possible.It did sound terrible but she had told us before that the poor guy wasn’t like everyone else and I felt really, really uncomfortable with the direction this was taking. First of all, shouldn’t she just have played along at the party (which apparently she didn’t) because, well, it’s what the guy liked and she did go for him after all. Secondly, why tell us about it in a way that became more and more mean (I felt) as she went on. And thirdly, no-one said a thing. I think I would have if I had been with friends but I didn’t want to be the killjoy. Now I feel guilty. Was it my responsibility to interfere? She wasn’t really hurting anyone. But making fun of someone with whatever-it-is-called just seems so very wrong to me. I’m not sure what to think. I hope I would have had the guts to stand up to her if there had been someone affected present. On the other hand I don’t know that there wasn’t; I didn’t really know the people all that well after all. In the situation I realised what was going on but I made the choice not to say anything because everyone else was laughing and didn’t seem to feel like there was anything wrong with it. Were they all thinking the same maybe? She isn’t a terrible person, I don’t think. But I feel a lot more cautious about her now. Maybe that is also not fair.

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A life can never be given back

English: Footprints from Westhaven. Looking ba...

Today I was listening to a lecture on Christian ethics, originally to try out whether I liked the speaker or not. Then I realised he was talking about the death penalty and what the Bible says about it and I couldn’t stop listening. This is something very important to me, not least because a friend of mine was murdered a few years ago. Now, you might think that I would want the killer to die, maybe even, that I should want him to die but actually I don’t. In fact, when I first thought about it (being from Germany where the death penalty is not an option, it didn’t cross my mind until someone asked me) I realised that I felt quite the opposite. This man had taken my friend’s life and I wanted him to realise what he had done (he never showed remorse or apologised to her family or anyone else as far I know) and then live with it. Because wouldn’t that be so much worse than just dying? I feel terrible whenever I do something to hurt anyone else and while I realise that not everyone feels the same, I hope that killing your girlfriend would result in that. I think if the guy was killed because of the society I am a member of I would actually feel guilty (and I agree that that would go a bit far and not be a reasonable reaction at all). There are a lot of reasons for and against the death penalty and I cannot possibly list them all here but if you are interested here is an extensive list of all the arguments. The lecturer, I was listening to, made some arguments for and against it  and finally came to the conclusion that the Bible allows the death penalty if it is applied justly and fairly. This is a big if of course and he also concluded after giving a few examples that the process cannot ever be completely just and fair. While I agree with the latter I don’t agree with the former. His arguments were compelling but mainly based on the Old Testament and I choose to believe that God told us in much more detail about himself in the New Testament. Even as early as Deuteronomy we are told that revenge belongs to God and Paul explains it to us in Romans: Do not take revenge my friend… on the contrary if your enemy is hungry feed him… Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. Also, using my moral sense it just feels very wrong. Like I said, it would be too easy for the killer and he would never have the chance to repent and try to atone his crime. I believe, and maybe this is a little wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, that everyone can give something to society and that every single person plays a role in the greater scheme of life. Letting somebody live, even if it is just in prison, gives him (or her) the chance to give something back. Even if it is writing a book and becoming rich or just sowing footballs (or whatever it is they do in prisons these days). I am just a normal person who likes to hold a grudge as well as anyone, so don’t think I am some angelic weirdo. In the beginning I was so furious (and so very sad!) and as I found out more details about her Footprints in sand. Marinha Grande, Portugal.death I became angrier and angrier. For a while all those feelings took over my life. When the trial was finally over, after almost a year, I was so glad that his terrible crime was acknowledged by awarding him the maximum sentence possible (15 years, if you are not considered a menace to society in Germany). As I write these lines and remember it all, the tears come back into my eyes.  I am very glad I was asked about my friend’s killer because it helped me to find out, in a moment of amazing grace, that I had started to forgive him.  I realised that I didn’t want him to suffer in prison and that I hope when he leaves, he has used the time in prison to get an education and make something of his life. Enough lives have already been destroyed because of his actions. I don’t think I will ever stop being sad but I am eternally grateful that I have stopped being furious. Sometimes I am still angry but it passes quicker every time.

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Filed under Bible, Ethics, good vs. bad, New Testament, Philosophy, Prayer

Life after death

Both my grandmothers have been diagnosed with cancer in the last few months and while they are both doing fine and will likely live for quite some time yet; I have been thinking more and more about what happens after we die. There are so many questions and as many answers. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t believe that we will be divided into “good” people and “bad” people, and go to to heaven or hell and that’s it. I also don’t believe in purgatory, although I kind of like the idea that really bad people have to suffer and pay a price for what they did. But, as satisfying as that sounds, there are so many instances in the Bible where God clearly says that he is all-forgiving and all-loving that I just can’t picture him doing that. But what does happen, when we die?  I think, the likeliest thing is that our bodies and all material that makes us is returned into the cycle of matter (we are just stardust after all) and that everything spiritual that makes us (i.e. our souls) will go to what we call heaven, which is outside of our material experience. I don’t think we can fathom what that is going to be like and here is the thing that is probably going to make lots of you shake your heads: I don’t think we’ll come back. I do not believe that at the end of time Jesus is going to come back from the dead and everyone righteous will get back their bodies and live in peace ever after. First of all, it sounds terribly boring to live in peace ever after, much like the Stepford wives and secondly, what would be the point? I think the “end of time” for us is when we die,  and Jesus comes and takes us to heaven and that is all the resurrection we are going to get. For my part: It’s all I need.

 

 

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Filed under body and soul, good vs. bad, Life after Death, Resurrection