Thursday, June 09, 2005

"This world was not created by God"

I had a dream about Ellen Degeneris last night. I am not sure how we got there, but there we were sitting around my parents breakfast nook chatting about life. She shared with me that she has a strong faith in God and that she is not sure why she was created to be gay. I thought for a moment and then a strange answer came out of my mouth. I said, "Ellen, this world was not created by God."

As soon as I said it, I knew I had some explaining to do. Not just to Ellen but to myself. But the thought is definitely an interesting one. We grow up as Christians being taught, "God created the world and everything in it." We learn about this in Sunday school and never doubt for a second that its true.

Then we move on to adolescence where we start to ask questions about how God created and whether "creationism" or "evolution" is the way to go. We may even progress further into college and seminary and learn that we are missing the point of Genesis altogether when we focus on "how" God created rather than focusing on "who" created and "why."

But all of this is a bit of a tangent to my original point, which is that God did not create this world. Let me say that again with some different words emphasized: God did not create this world. By "world" I mean our societies as much as the environment. And by "this world" I mean the world of sin, pain and death that we live in. I can say this because I am not a Calvinist.

It seems that we are the creators of the sin and pain in the world. And so while there is good in the world that has been created by God, I believe I get the credit as a co-creator for the messed up stuff all around us. I do believe God is re-creating the world around me through His many acts of redemption. Hopefully I can be a co-creator in that process as well.

I guess my point to Ellen in my dream was that I didn't want her to get the wrong idea with all of us Christians running around saying, "God created the world and everything in it." Not true. Not everything. Especially not now. But we used to be able to say that and our hope is that one day we will be able to say it again.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tin Man on a flag pole

I have seen a pattern over the course of my life that I started noticing in high school. This pattern has continued to this day and I am not exactly sure why. For some reason, people in my life feel complete freedom to verbally assault me whenever they feel that I need to learn a lesson. Its strange, really, but true.

Now normally these people are kind individuals who are generally gracious and good natured toward the average person. But like the Tin Man standing on a flag pole in the middle of a thunderstorm, I attract all kinds of verbal lightening. Now before you accuse me of a pity party, let me give you some examples.

A girl that I haven't talked to in 8 years emailed me two months ago. Her opening email was about two pages long single spaced. She managed to gently remind me about how "arrogant" I am. Not how "arrogant" I was or used to be. She somehow mustered the nerve to call me "presently" arrogant even though she hasn't seen me in years. Normally, she wouldn't say an unkind word to those around her. But she wrote this with the ease of a soldier writing home to his family.

I have had other such instances in college where various expletives would fly out of people's mouths who rarely, if ever, have a negative word towards another soul. But toward me, it seems, they feel a special freedom to "let'er rip!"

Now you must be assuming that I am a royal jerk in order for these unfortunate occurrences to happen to me. And I will be honest, I can be a real ass sometimes. But those who know me best are the least likely to have these fits of verbal diarrhea. The two characteristics that seem to be consistent over the years are that these people are girls who I am friends with but not extremely close with.

One such instance happened a few days ago. Apparently my sarcasm is deadly and deeply offends people. Because of this, I was kindly reminded that I was not good at loving people and need to work on that. This verbal attack continued for some time and just happened to be in front of 4 other leaders in our church.

Now, normally this person attacking my character and general ability to love has nothing but kind things to say to people. She is generally outgoing and pleasant with the world around her. But for some reason, the lighting came and it came with force. I make it a point not to attack back when this happens. Not because I am some holy saint of a person. More because when a verbal lashing happens in public, the person lashing out usually ends up looking like a fool. If I return the favor, I become the fool as well. And since I am already being degraded at the moment, I figure I don't need to add to people's poor impression of who I am.

I can say that I generally would not have the audacity to publicly assault someone verbally. I can't say that I would ever feel comfortable outright calling someone arrogant that I haven't seen for 8 years. I definitely wouldn't cuss someone out, at least not out loud, especially if they were a friend of mine. So why have these things happened to me on a consistent basis?

Does anyone else deal with this? Do people in your life feel like they can unload insults on you even though you don't return fire? It could just be me.

Monday, June 06, 2005

verbal emissions

Once again my car has me thinking. A dangerous thing for sure. I took her in for emissions inspection today. She passed with flying colors. She was far, far below the percentage that she needed to be below in order to pass. I think that has to do with the fact that she is a pretty environmentally sound car being a Nissan sedan. I also think it helps that I only fill her up with 93 octane gasoline. Or, at least I like to think I am helping the environment that way.

I wonder what grade we would all get if we did a yearly "verbal emissions" test. We would be strapped up to a machine that would download from our brain all the stuff that has spewed out of our mouth in the last year. Every hurtful comment. Every obnoxious joke. Every compliment and encouraging word. I wonder if they would consider our verbal emissions "toxic pollution."

It would be interesting if they balanced the good with the bad and gave you a percentage. If you were below a certain percent of negativity, you pass. But if not, you are deemed generally toxic to humanity and especially to the Kingdom of God. The penalty would be that you couldn't speak for the next 3 months. I wonder what a quiet world we might live in. I might need to find a new job. After all, being a "pastor-type-person" does require a certain amount of talking and preaching. I am sure my toxicity would far surpass the yearly allowance.

Well, the good news is that it is only our cars that are tested. And my car did so well that it doesn't have to come back for a two years. I wish I could say the same of my mouth.