I suck

I know, I know... I said I would try to have my second marriage post up by the other evening. I just haven't had the time to write it all out yet. I will really try to post it tomorrow afternoon. 

In the meantime, I will share with you that Kristy and I bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner a little while ago. Those things are expensive. I thought her obsession with getting one was a little ridiculous. Why pay $600 for a vacuum cleaner when you can get one for $60 at Target? She swore that the Dyson was better. So, she did what does and started searching for the one she wanted and trying to find the best deal on it. My wife is a total "super-shopper" in that she is really good at researching the best products and then finding them at the best prices. She ended up finding a floor model of the "Animal" vacuum cleaner that is specifically designed to pick up pet hair (and when you have an Australian Shepherd, that is important) for sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for 40% off the original price. She then negotiated with the sales guy a little and got him to take another 10% off. By the way, you can negotiate prices just about anywhere. I have even haggled at Walmart and gotten the price I wanted.

So, now this vacuum cleaner is going to be $300 plus tax. She then, and I love this... probably because she got this from me, whipped out her 20% off coupon. So, we ended up buying a $600 vacuum cleaner for $258. I still thought that was expensive but she had done such a good job so I signed off on the purchase as well.  

The vacuum is TOTALLY worth it! It really is a superior machine. The carpet looks brand new after every time we run the vacuum. 

Anyway, I know I suck for not getting the 2nd marriage post up. Sorry.


Still Working

So, my car broke down and we are trying to figure out where to get it worked on. I am still working on marriage post #2. I will try to have it up tonight.


"Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday."

That quote is from the Princess Bride. I love that movie. Anywho...

So, I am sitting in class and we are discussing Hinduism yesterday and we get to the story of the Hindu god Krishna. He, in his youth, was known as a great lover. He would come down and seduce the milkmaids in the fields (and show them pleasures beyond pleasures... baw chika baw waw). As he matured, he fell deeply and passionately in love with Radha. It is tough to say whether this is a different god (or goddess) or just his female counterpart (balance is important in Hinduism) but she can be considered a separate entity. The interesting thing is, the other gods and goddesses (most at least) were married, Krishna and Radha were not because their love was to be the ideal form of love  to which all humans should aspire. The reasoning is that once a couple is married, the love leaves.

I am also studying Love, Sex and Marriage in the Middle Ages this semester. We are looking at the views of these during Medieval Times (my Prof. might fail me because of that link!) and it is interesting how many views support stereotypes that we have of the Middle Ages and how many throw those stereotypes out the window. 

There is a lot that the church has to say on the subject of marriage in those days because that is when marriage as we know it today (especially within Christianity and the Christian West) was truly defined. The arguments centered around when and how the actual sacrament (called this as early as Augustine and Jerome if not earlier) takes place. Is it at the moment of consent? Does it entail a sort of public pledge? Is it strictly a secular affair or does the church have involvement (the church maintained their control over marriage while the state saw marriage more as a contractual agreement)? Does consumation have any bearing on the validity of marriage? Can you marry a relative and, if so, how far removed do they have to be (this was an important question... especially to royalty)? Ultimately, the church began putting lots of restrictions on marriage as well as sex in marriage. There is a theology that marriage is fundamentally different after the Fall. In Eden, marriage was instituted by God, but sin corrupted marriage to the point that celibacy was the ideal life and marriage was only necessary to keep people from sinning because of their lust. Interesting way to view something known as a "sacrament" don't you think?

So, on the ecclesial side, we see sort of a prudish attitude towards marriage developing out of three things (in my opinion... I need to do more research on this but this is a preliminary statement): the church's teaching of the higher state of celibacy, the church's desire to extend more control into civil matters, and the church's attempt to define proper Christian behavior.

However, on the secular side we see something very different. We see a similar attitude to that of Hinduism. Unmarried love is far more passionate and true than anything we see in marriage. The Arthurian Romances repeat this theme over and over again, as do the Lais of Marie de France. Every example shows (of course only beautiful and noble... meaning upper class... people are the subjects of these stories) someone in an unhappy marriage finding the love of their life and entering into deep passionate physical behavior (wink wink, nudge nudge) with their new love. Often, these arrangements don't end well, but that furthers the theme that true love cannot last. In fact, that is something that is said repeatedly in the Princess Bride but the movie attempts to quell that thought. But, sometimes they work out for those lovers.  The example of failure in love is Lancelot and Guenivere. Tristan and Isolde offers a couple of scenarios... mostly bad but some end well (the story is so old that there are many different versions, but it is the quintessential love story as well as the oldest in Europe of the time... many other stories quote or refer to Tristan and Isolde).

The point is, what is marriage? Is it possible for passion to remain? Is marriage even supposed to be based on love or is it simply to relieve the burden of sin or to align families in civil contract? Why do we base our feelings of love today on pure passion (as the medieval romances seem to do) when we also seem to think that passion ALWAYS dies within the context of marriage (as Krishna and Radha's example seems to say)? 

Tomorrow, I will further explore marriage today and discuss, based on some of the history of marriage in the church as well as secular, whether our views on marriage and who can and should be allowed to marry are actually faulty. Yes, gay marriage will be talked about, but so will the concepts of pre-marital counseling, the sacramental nature, marriage roles, etc. 



So, I felt that I needed to put a disclaimer up here. I posted about war a few weeks ago (I actually tried to post it way before I talked about baptism, but I did it from youtube and it didn't post until much later... and it posted like 5 times... I erased the extra ones). That seems to be the single most read post of my blogging career and it sparked a lot of good and challenging comments (I was challenged on some of my thinking which is always a good thing). One sort of pet peeve is when folks don't comment under their own names or profiles because it is tough to engage in dialogue when that occurs, but I made a decision when I started this blog that I would welcome any and all comments. I promised myself that I wouldn't censor anyone's words, even if they were negative and/or insulting, they were their words and what they wanted to say. If I am going to hang or fly by my words, so should all of us.

That being said, I felt the need to clarify some of the intent behind my posts. I am writing about things they way (in my view of the world, history, scripture, etc.) they ought to be. I fully understand the way things are but I am attempting to call for something better. I am by no means the first to do this. There are people of great spirituality and intellect that have influenced (and continue to influence) me. I, as all of us, have been shaped by those around me. I hope (and in many cases know... as much as it is possible to know) that they have been iron and that I have been also so that the iron is sharpening iron as scripture says. I am trying to communicate the way things were meant to be AND could be again. I am doing this by suggesting some radical shifts in thought (at least radical for me) and behavior. 

BUT, understand this... some of what I say is extreme and I know this. I do speak in hyperbole sometimes. For example, by suggesting that there is no such thing as evil (as I did in the war post) I very much meant that evil is not an entity in and of itself, but I did not mean that there are not actions we can describe as evil. My point was that evil is not a noun, but it can be an adjective. The way I worded it all, however, was very harsh and hyperbolic. 

I say all of this so that anyone who reads my thoughts here (which I guess I still don't understand why folks read them... but I guess I read other people's thoughts and that we can all challenge each other) understands that, while I might not give much power to the way things are, I very much understand them. I am simply trying to show that all of this was intended to be unbelievably different. I am also trying to show that it was not meant to be inconceivably different. When Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, I am convinced (as much as one can be convinced yet remain open to the idea they may be wrong) that He was speaking of the Kingdom He was restarting and that He was leaving it to His followers to see this Kingdom realized "on earth as it is in heaven." So, while I do include some hyperbole in these posts, it is intentional. 

Oh, and the most awesomenest, topest, amazingly amazing book I am reading now is Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright. I highly recommend it for it deals with realizing the Kingdom here and now. I am also enjoying Jesus for President as well. It is from this book that I want to quote as an ending to this post. The authors are quoting the early church father Origen (who some condemn as a universalist although I think that is a bit of a mischaracterization because he seemed to teach that Jesus was the only way, truth, and light... he just seemed to believe that all of creation and every human ever would one day acknowledge that fact... he never really said, as far as I can tell, that that meant they would all live in the Kingdom of God for eternity, but that could be inferred and perhaps was his point... one that I don't necessarily disagree with but am still working out) who is quoting a critic of Christianity named Celsus and then responding to the quote. Notice Origen's conclusion:

Celsus: "If you set aside this maxim (that of serving in the military and accepting government offices), you will deservedly suffer for it at the hands of the king. For if all were to do the same as you, there would be nothing to prevent his being left in utter solitude and desertion, and the affairs of the earth would fall into the hands of the wildest and most lawless barbarians."

Origen: "... would that all were to follow my example in rejecting the maxim..., maintaining the divine origin of the kingdom (rejecting that Rome has any claim to divine Origen... much as I reject the U.S. having any such claim as well), and observing the precept to honour the king! In these circumstances the king will not "be left in utter solitude and desertion," neither will "the affairs of the world fall into the hands of the most impious and wild barbarians." For if, in the words of Celsus, "they do as I do," then it is evident that even the barbarians, when they yield obedience to the word of God, will become most obedient to the law, and most humane; and every form of worship will be destroyed except the religion of Christ (destroyed by love and conversion rather than the sword), which will alone prevail. And indeed it will one day triumph, as its principles take possession of the minds of men (and women) more and more every day.

Even Origen spoke in terms of what was possible and spoke of the radical means by which the unbelievable yet conceivable (I know... paradoxical ain't it) can come about. Origen knew the dangers in the world... he knew that people would lose their lives in this process. But he also knew that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.



There is a theory put forth by Victor Turner that the bonds of community are formed through liminality. This means that by beginning in one state, entering into and experiencing a common in-between state (one that is not permanent but is also separate from the beginning state and the ending state), and then finishing in an entirely new state that can only be reached through the liminal state, people form into a community.

An example of this liminal state would be bootcamp. Presently I have two friends who have joined the marines and are going through their 12 weeks of bootcamp. Before they left, they were private citizens just like the rest of us. However, once they climbed aboard that bus they were no longer private citizens... but they were also not fully marines. These next 12 weeks are going to be grueling and taxing but they are by no means going to last forever, they are only 12 weeks. But, at the end of this process, they will be marines. No longer will they be merely private citizens (even after their service has ended they are always known as "veterans" rather than just "citizens"), but they will be full-fledged marines. Other marines will see them as brothers. The uniform, the haircut, the look in their eyes, and sometimes the tattoos will make them fairly recognizable to others who have also passed through the liminal state of bootcamp. A community exists and the initiation into it (marking the permanent "citizenship" in it) was the bootcamp experience.

Religions function much the same way. Since I am a Christian, I will only talk about that experience here. One of the liminal states in Christianity (and perhaps one of the most important) is the conversion experience. Whether you are someone who can point to an exact moment when your heart turned to God or you went through more of a process, there was a time where you (to use the imagery of Jacob) wrestled with God. You had heard something or experienced something that challenged the ideas/beliefs/goals of your present community and you went through a time of reflection on those things. That time of reflection was liminal. It would not be (nor is it meant to be) permanent. People either eventually decide to move to the other side or they go back where they were and never completely pass through the liminal state. Anyone who calls themselves Christian (and actually understands what that means in a spiritual way rather than a cultural way... although cultural Christians are a community with an initiation as well) has experienced this liminality. That is why we call each other "sisters" and "brothers" because true community is really the same as a family bond.

I think this community is reinforced by entering into liminal states together regularly. These shared moments of limbo strengthen our family bond. Worship does this. In worship, we are not completely in this world... we are glimpsing into a world that is beyond (not to be too neo-platonic). We consciously enter this state and should come out changed (together) on the other side. Does worship do this for you? Does it do this for me? It should. We should not be able to enter into the presence of God together and come out the other side exactly the same as we went in. If that is happening, I would suggest that either you (and I) are not truly entering into worship or that our community as a whole is not.

There are many other liminal states within Christianity that further bind our hearts together. Service, suffering, miracles, etc. all serve this purpose. Mission trips, camp trips, a conversation... none of these are permanent but they should leave us changed and should strengthen our bonds of friendship... or better yet our family. If we don't enter into these states (they are scary if you think about entering into something that is inherently volatile since it is not permanent and it will enact change in your life) then we will never get to experience the community. 


Welcome Back!

So, I have not been blogging as regularly as I would like, and that situation is ending now. I went on vacation (it was great, thanks for asking) and school started back up immediately after we got home.

My class schedule this semester is not as grueling as this summer, but it is tough. I am taking 5 classes on campus and doing an independent study... so 6 classes in total. 

One class, the professor herself (whom I've taken before) told me I could almost sleep through it and get an A (always nice to hear from your professor... but it is a required class for my minor so I'll suffer through an easy A). I am taking a class on Ancient Greece from a guy who studied at Oxford and is notoriously nit-picky. I am going to have to work hard in that one. Medieval Britain is a class that I think I will do well in but I am still trying to figure out the professor so I know how to write for her. My class on the Politics of Britain and Ireland (Murph I'm sure is proud that I am learning about his homeland) seems like it won't be difficult but it will be time consuming with readings and studying for the exams. Plus, the professor in that class is extremely strict and has the toughest grading scale I've ever experienced (96-100=A, 91-95=A-, 86-90=B, etc.). My class on Love and Romance in the Middle Ages is interesting and enjoyable... plus I have already read most of the books in other classes and the theological stuff is familiar to me as well. My independent study is with a professor that I've gotten to know as a friend. He is unbelievably intelligent (7 Master's Degrees and he will get his Doctorate this year despite going blind in the past 2 years), and he is also an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. We agree on many things theologically (although we do differ on some things as well), and he has agreed to teach me Biblical Greek this semester and next.

The great thing about the independent study is that it will put me ahead when I head off to seminary next year. It will allow me to pursue further study in Greek while in seminary and to take more difficult classes in more specific areas as well. Plus we get to move at our own pace (which, thankfully, is faster than a typical class of 30 or 40 students).

Overall, this semester will be challenging but good. I see no reason I can't succeed in all of my classes, but one of the lessons I am beginning to grasp in my life is that I must always work as hard as possible. Why do something if you aren't going to do it the whole way?