Saturday, January 01, 2011

A sermon, a quest, and a book . . .

Last Sunday our pastor preached a good end-of-year/beginning-of-year sermon. He asked us seriously to consider four questions:
  • What do [I] need to Celebrate?
  • What do [I] need to Change?
  • What do [I] need to Conclude [or End/Terminate]?
  • What [am I] Contending for?
At each point during the sermon, he paused and gave us time to write down answers to the questions.

What do I need to Celebrate?

I found myself filled with fear when he paused for the first question. It was as if my mind was completely blank. It wasn't that I was thinking there was nothing to celebrate; rather, my memory completely failed me. Last year was a complete blank in my mind. I was afraid he would begin speaking again before I could remember a single thing.

Happily, eventually I remembered a couple of things for which I am grateful:
  • My Passport to India. That was a very exciting program!
  • A general sense that I am gaining new purpose and direction in my life.
  • Related to the previous item (and very much freeing me to move in new directions!): A greater and greater confidence that staff members at Sonlight/InquisiCorp are fully competent to take on and complete more and more of the tasks that I used to do.

"What do I need to Change?"

Oh boy! Deep in my heart I have been anguishing over a number of intellectual and spiritual issues that I have been unable to put aside . . . for years.

[If you have been following this blog for the last couple of years, you may remember that I promised--back in July of 2009!--to "note some places where I think Lamoureux probably failed, adequately, to do all his homework. Or, if he did his homework, he failed, adequately, to express what I believe he should have." "Let me do that in another post," I said. But I have never returned to the subject. Because I have been afraid to confront the issues. I know a lot of what I need to confront; but it scares me to do so. It scares me even to ask the questions . . . because, I'm afraid, even to ask the questions will, for many people, brand me a heretic. I am afraid that if I ask the questions--or if I admit, even, to reading the books written by certain people--those actions on my part, in themselves, will open me to being branded a heretic. And so I have shied away from raising the issues or asking the questions or--to be most forthright about it--seeking the answers! (I have direct, personal, and very costly experience that has helped create the fear within me. And I have no doubt I will soon tell the story of that experience. But as I write this post, that is for the future.)

The fear of which I speak is not unfounded, I think.

It is as if you were an intellectually open person in the 1950s. Wanting to listen thoughtfully, analytically--maybe even skeptically and disdainfully! (but with care and concern for honesty and justice)--to the heartfelt concerns of leading Socialists and Communists, you purchased or borrowed books written by well spoken advocates for those positions. But, for your troubles, you suddenly find yourself hauled before HUAC--the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In a free society, especially in a self-described Christian society--one in which, I would expect, members are dedicated to honesty, care, love and respect for their fellow human beings! --It seems to me that intellectually rigorous and honest and compassionate concern for the truth and for those who may be of a different opinion or who may be held under sway of a different worldview . . . It seems to me that such behavior should be honored and valued rather than held in disdain or abhorrence.]
. . . Well, I determined on Sunday that I need to put an end to my anguish; I need to stop holding back on confronting the issues; I need to write the book that I've been figuring, for the last several years, at least, that I need to write.

I wrote in my sermon notes: "Write on blog each day?" [I figured that, by writing a blog post each day, I would eventually get my thoughts out of my head and could then, eventually, form them into a unified whole called a book.]

And then Pastor Peter asked his next question:

"What do you need to Conclude?"

Well, I said to myself, I guess I am moving in the right direction!

But I wrote under this item that I need to finish or complete editing on two books written by friends of mine (who often read my blog and so shall go nameless!). I very much want to do those projects for them; I think that they are valuable. But I need to get them out of the way so I can attend more fully to my own project.

And then, finally,

For what are you Contending?

I thought that was an interesting question. Pastor Peter illustrated his meaning by reference to a former assistant pastor in our church who has always had a sensitive spot in his heart for immigrants. "In any room, in any meeting, with any group of people, and he was always on the lookout for the person from another culture," Pastor Peter said.

In essence, he said (at least, this was the meaning that I took away!), "For whose interests are you looking out?"

I found that question rather easy to answer. Especially in the context of what I had written in answer to the previous two questions. I believe I am and always have been most sensitive to and concerned about those who struggle intellectually with issues of faith (or "the" faith). --And, of course (if you know me), that means people who struggle with issues related to Christian faith.

It feels to me as if Christians are "not allowed" to ask the deepest questions. Those who don't struggle find the questions of those of us who do impertinent, bothersome, offensive, demonstrating a fundamental disrespect or disdain for the things of God.

And while I can understand that . . . feeling . . . And while I am sure there are many atheists about whom such comments might be made in truth, I believe that those who assume anyone who asks such questions must be coming from a position of disrespect and disdain are, themselves, demonstrating a fundamental disrespect and disdain for the person who has legitimate and innocent reasons for asking such questions! Indeed, the (non-questioning) people who level such charges are exhibiting an immaturity and fear that ought to have no place in a church or community that claims to be filled with the Spirit, power and wisdom of an almighty and all-knowing God!

But backing off from the sociology or context of question-asking and returning to my conclusions from last Sunday's sermon (!!!), I decided my best course of action at this time is to start a new blog--something separate from John's Corner of the World--to pursue these issues head-on.

If you would like to join me in that particular area of interest, I invite you to visit (the first of) what may become a series of "Forbidden Questions" blogs: Forbidden Questions: Bible & Faith.

[I should probably also note: I am thinking I may create another blog or two--one to deal with health issues and, possibly, a second one to deal with matters related to food. But however much I might enjoy writing those other blogs, creation of the Forbidden Questions blog, I believe, is a responsibility from which I cannot escape. (See my excursus on calling from a few weeks ago.)]
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