Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival #1

Welcome to the first edition of the Christian Reconciliation Carnival. If you hope for reconciliation, if you pray for reconciliation, even if you don't expect to see it in your lifetime, please participate in the conversation.

Food for thought: most current estimates show the Christian church divided into 20,000 to 30,000 different groups. If each theological difference causes a split, and each distinct group has a unique combination of beliefs, that works out to only about 15 actual differences. (2 to the 15th being 32,768.) Beyond that, there are far fewer major groups (maybe a dozen). Unfortunately all 15 of the same issues are probably still in the picture with the dozen groups.

General Interest

The General Interest folks get a free pass from needing to disclose denominational affiliation, since if it's really general interest, everyone should be able to appreciate it.

Ales Rarus asks Have Christian Bloggers Lost the Plot? in this valuable vintage piece on humility over fault-finding from the Funky Dung archives.

Dr. Platypus considers open communion, closed communion, spiritual needs and spiritual witness in Landmarks, Lutherans, and the Liturgy. Being a staunch supporter of reconciliation, he also continues his Tuesdays with Mary series in Tuesdays with Mary: A Protestant "Hail Mary"?, and his examination of the general issue of fairness in our conversations with When Protestants Attack, which is in essence a plea: "Let’s just strive to behave Christianly—and intelligently—when we disagree, shall we?"

Henry Neufeld boldly steps into the Calvinist/Arminian divide with Decisive Verse, Decisive Choice, which ponders the debate from each side for a moment, comments on what we know for certain, probes where knowledge's limits lie and the extent to which peaceful coexistence is possible.

Mark Olson of Pseudo-Polymath writes on Race, Prejudice, and the Necessity or Urgency of the Ecumenical Movement, in which he makes and backs this claim: the ecumenical schisms of the modern church is a crisis of global proportions. I tend to agree. While denominational affiliation isn't asked for posts in this section, Mark did mention: he's Eastern Orthodox (OCA). And I was hoping we'd get Constantinople in on the conversation.

Alan of the Thinklings, after finding how few Calvinists and Arminians are willing to call each other heretics as opposed to simply mistaken, pushes the boundaries wider in So Who Is A Heretic?, which ends up being a nice reversal of the heretic-hunting mentality. This post was nominated rather than directly submitted by the author.

"I thought creationists were monsters, until I married one" is the leading line of Enemy Mine, a round-up submission written by Caleb of Connected Christianity, a new blog with real promise for those interested in re-connecting with our brothers and sisters in other denominations. The point, as with so many, is that we get nowhere by demonizing each other and much further when there is respect.

Question and Answer
Nobody submitted any questions. Questions can just be submitted by email and don't prevent you from submitting "real posts" to the Carnival. So I'll kick off the questions with a very low-key question: Can anybody think of a nifty graphic or logo for the Carnival?

Topic of the Month: Strawman Parade

For this month's suggested topic, each post explains common misrepresentations of their own group and what is the real truth of the matter.

Jeff "Japhy" Pinyan, in the first officially-submitted entry ever to the CRC, leads off with CRC: Do Catholics Worship Mary?. Japhy is Roman Catholic.

Codepoke, who admittedly avoids church membership, discusses why and the misrepresentations made of him as a Lone Ranger Christian. I'm really glad to see the Lone Rangers represented here; there are an awful lot of them. Let's call Codepoke's denomination "Lone Ranger".

Your hostess describes two straw men often seen in discussions about Scriptural interpretation: a common mischaracterization of Sola Scriptura and also the idea that a plain reading of Scripture renders it impossible to understand figures of speech.

Discussions and Debates

It's the very first Christian Reconciliation Carnival, announced barely a week ago. Nobody can possibly have had time to start a real discussion or debate yet. (Many of the potentially-interested parties likely haven't even heard of this Carnival yet because I'm terrible at promotion.) So here I offer two examples of discussions/debates that were conducted by people who really disagreed, but because they were patient and brotherly towards each other as well as passionate about the things of God, the end result was edifying. Debates between Christians that are more like honey than like fingernails on a chalkboard? Who would have imagined?

These posts are some examples of healthy debates I've noticed around the 'net myself.

Interchange #1: Was Bonhoeffer too legalistic? Between Rick Richie of Daylight and John H. of Confessing Evangelical. They're both Lutheran but differ on something they considered worth debate. For the earlier debates here, it's probably best if we don't try to tackle the biggest and nastiest problems first, without having met each other or mapped out the common ground and great divides.

Interchange #2: Charismatics and Cessationists, between Adrian Warnock for the charismatics and Dan Philips of Pyromaniacs for the cessationists.

Call for Hosts
If you are interested in hosting, please drop an email to the Carnival address along with a month that would work for you. Carnivals will take place at the very end of one month / very beginning of the next at the host's discretion.

Hosting guidelines are available; but long story short: make sure it stays civil, and make sure the discussion isn't hijacked or blogswarmed by any one group or topic. And if your blog's usual topic is "Why Everyone Else Is Wrong", I'd have to respectfully decline the hosting offer. Nobody who has contributed so far takes that line so I say this only to head off future trouble; this Carnival shouldn't be hosted at

Next Month
Next month's Carnival will be hosted by Dr. Platypus. Submissions are due by February 28th. Check Dr. P's blog for further announcements.

And thank you everybody for participating! I was encouraged to see how many people around the blogosphere are writing about Christian reconciliation.

Straw Men: Sola Scriptura; Conservatives and Wooden Readings

I have two straw men that I would really like to send to the straw man graveyard. I'm sure that like Freddie and Jason they'll both be back from the grave, but it would be nice to be rid of them for awhile. Both have to do with the interpretation of Scripture.

Protestants and Sola Scriptura
I have heard plenty of times that Protestants, in teaching Sola Scriptura, despise church tradition. I have met very few Protestants who despise church tradition; in my experience these are the exception to the rule.

It was fellow-Protestants who taught me to read the church fathers and built up my knowledge of patristics. Fellow-Protestants pointed me towards Athanasius and Irenaeus. Fellow-Protestants taught me to admire the heroes of the faith who had gone before. It was in Protestant churches that I learned of Ignatius and Polycarp, Cyril and Methodius, and of course Augustine. Protestants gave me copies of Thomas Merton and Vladimir Lossky.

The idea that Protestants as a whole have no respect for the church as a whole is really outlandish. Granted there are fringe groups that anyone can find who disrespect tradition; but what justice is there in finding someone who is not representative and using them as a representative of the whole? The original teaching of Sola Scriptura is that when a church teacher -- no matter how respected -- contradicts the Scripture, that such a dispute will be resolved in favor of Scripture. If Christ and the apostles teach something, it should not be overthrown; if another teaching is presented later than does not trace back to Christ and the apostles, that teaching's prominence can never reach the heights of the teachings that came directly from Christ. That is the point of Sola Scriptura: not that only Scripture be read, but that only Scripture is on that level. Many a church father's small or subtle errors have, over the centuries, shown what may happen as others compound an error that once was small. The church has Scripture to help it correct the errors of the theologians by a return to the source, Christ, and the apostles who taught us of him.

Conservatives and Wooden Readings of Scripture
I have heard a good few people say that conservative Christians -- "fundamentalists" that is, which is largely just a term of insult these days -- cannot possibly understand Scripture, or cannot really interpret Scripture according to such a plain reading as is claimed. I've heard that conservative Christians are obliged to believe that God has a mouth because there are places where it says, "God spoke" or "God said". I've heard that conservative Christians simply do not have either the mental ability or the interpretive framework to handle mere figures of speech. If all that were true, it's difficult to imagine how conservatives manage to watch a TV show or read a book, really, with such limited verbal skills as these outspoken opponents charge. In theory, conservatives shouldn't even understand children's books, shouldn't see why the children's book character Amelia Bedelia is funny when she dusts a house by putting more dust on everything.

The main pieces of evidence I've seen presented for the inexcusably wooden Scripture readings of conservatives are that conservative Christians are fairly likely to be either young earth or old earth creationists (with or without reference to the various ideas in the Intelligent Design movement) and that conservative Christians are fairly likely to believe homosexuality is immoral from a Christian moral framework. Interestingly, large numbers of Christians through many ages past also held similar opinions, and it didn't seem to have interfered with their ability to interpret Scripture or understand figures of speech. I think the whole charge that conservatives' interpretation cannot handle figures of speech is unjust; it's simply not an issue for anyone who can read the Sunday paper and understand it. Neither is the fact that the Sunday paper contains figures of speech seen as a reason why it cannot be read plainly.

Christian Reconciliation Carnival Hosting Guidelines

The host's job is to promote Christian unity first and foremost by making sure the Carnival stays civil and making sure the discussion isn't hijacked or blogswarmed by any one group or topic. The host retains the right to decline posts at his or her sole discretion, whether for the tone of the post or because too many submissions have been on the same topic for the same month. While it is expected that each host will have his or her own distinctive views, the host blog should be generally courteous to those of other views. That's to say, if your blog's usual topic is "Why Everyone Else Is Wrong", I'd have to respectfully decline the hosting offer. I say this only to head off future trouble; this Carnival shouldn't be hosted at

The host should announce the Carnival with a reminder announcement at least a week before the posting deadline. The announcement should include the deadline for submissions and the intended post date of the Carnival. If the host wants to promote a topic of the month, that should be announced also. The host has some discretion in setting dates, though generally the Carnival will take place around the turn of the month each month.

If you are interested in hosting, please drop an email to the Carnival address along with a month that would work for you, e.g. "end of March" or "end of April".

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Reminder: Christian Reconciliation Carnival entries due today

Reminder: Christian Reconciliation Carnival entries due today by midnight. I expect it will be tomorrow evening before it's up (work and all that).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Teenage Sunday School and the Psalms (Week 2)

Thinking about a Life-Time of Bible Study
Opening question: go around the room and have everyone name a movie they have watched more than once (more than twice ... well, ok, far too often). Ask them if, the later times, they had noticed anything in the movie that they had missed before. Everybody said yes. (The Star Wars fans tell me that in Star Wars III, E.T. makes a brief appearance in the council-hall scene ... I'll have to watch that again.)

Ask for a show of hands for how many people have figured out why that's the opening question. Several hands are raised. Yes, they figured it out correctly: when you re-read parts of the Bible you've read before, you notice things you didn't notice before.

Studying a Book of the Bible
Ask for a show of hands: Who knows who C.S. Lewis is? All the hands are up; everybody has read at least one of the Narnia books, two have read all the Narnia books, and all have seen the first of the Narnia movies.

Mention that C.S. Lewis wrote books for grown-ups also, and he's still a good writer on that level too. I've brought some samples: Reflection on the Psalms which is a Bible study book he wrote on the book of Psalms, and Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. I also showed them two study books on Psalms that our pastor keeps in his library and allows people to borrow. I just want them to be aware that, if they ever want to get into more in-depth studies on their own, there are some materials out there they might want to consider.

Selected Psalms
Split up the reading around the classroom and have them read the following Psalms.

Psalm 51: Ask who knows the back-story about David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. Most of them do, but we go over it to make sure the details are fresh: David had slept with another man's wife, gotten her pregnant, then killed her husband. You can't go too much lower. Ask for a show of hands who has ever done something they wish they could take back. Everybody's hands are up, some more slowly than others. We read Psalm 51. They recognized various parts of it, especially "Create in me a clean heart" which we sing fairly regularly in church. This is a psalm to read through and pray through when you've done something you're ashamed of doing.

Psalm 119:94-105: After this set of verses is read (and after I get them to stop singing that Amy Grant song based on verse 105), mention that I really admire the psalmist's dedication to God's word, and that this section is a prayer for when it feels like someone is out to get you, just won't leave you in peace. A few of them know what that's like by now.

Psalm 127: After this one is read, mention that the most-remembered and most-quoted part is how if God's not on our side, if we ever find ourselves working against God or ignoring God, it doesn't help us how clever and careful our plans are.

Psalm 22: After this one has been read, one of the students has picked up on this being a prophetic psalm already. Mention that this psalm works on a couple of levels. First, for our own use, it's good for times when we feel that life is horrible and God doesn't care. Ask for a show of hands who has been there. Most of the hands go up. Interestingly, one of the students who usually pretends things are fine comes clean first on this one. He recently had a grandfather die.

Next had the students stay on Psalm 22 while I read from Matthew 27 so they could see how it worked on a prophetic level.

Psalm 150: This one is for celebrating, and I wanted to end on a high note.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Unforgiven Wrongs: The Breeding Ground of Hatred

Every once in awhile I write a post where the title nearly says it all. It needs to be said, and there it is: unforgiven wrongs are the breeding ground of hatred. Hatred of other people is destructive and sinful. Unforgiven wrongs breed hatred more than my favorite bayou breeds mosquitoes. We live in an age of grievances. We all have grievances. And we live in an age where much work is done towards justifying and maintaining grievances. Why seek to justify a grievance rather than reconcile? It may be that the other person has not recognized right and wrong; but it may be that grievances are useful for getting concessions from other people. That often descends quickly into a kind of dishonest manipulation; the "victim" becomes interested in payback and using the injury as an unassailable position of strength from which to take advantage of the other.

When it comes to grievance-mongering, we should have long since asked: is it worth the price? What are the limits? There's something for us to ponder next time we pull the grievance card: how much are we ourselves the obstacle to better relationships, whether in the private or public realm?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Christian Reconciliation Carnival: Call for Submissions

Update 01/26/2007: Submitting a question for the Question and Answer section does not prevent you from also submitting a regular post the same month. Questions do not need to be submitted as a blog post and may be mailed directly to the Carnival at the submitter's option.

I have noticed something interesting in certain parts of the Christian blogosphere. I have seen debates that degenerated into people trying to understand each others' positions. I have seen Christians praising members of other groups, a growing body of recognized common ground, and people with crossover appeal beyond their own group. Of course, I've seen nastiness and divisiveness too, but the opponents of nastiness and divisiveness are becoming bolder, more outspoken.

To that end, I'm proposing a Christian Reconciliation Carnival. It's intended as a "Road to Reconciliation" Carnival, a place where we do not expect too much of ourselves except humility, and a Carnival that is a cease-fire zone.

I'd like for us to try a Christian Reconciliation Carnival on a monthly basis, the first one to be hosted here on January 31. Please send in your links by midnight on 01/30/2007.

Topic of the Month: If you would like to blog on the theme of the month, this month's theme is The Strawman, a false representation of your group's position that often gets attacked by opponents. Name one way in which your own group is commonly misrepresented, and what is the truth of the matter. The trick: doing it without returning insults. (On the off chance that I get multiple posts of the same problem, I'll reserve the right to post the first one received for that particular problem.) Other topics are welcome too.

Submission Content Guidelines
  • All submissions should tend towards unity, understanding, or common ground.
  • Attitude problems, when discussed, should be assumed to be sins which are common to all groups.
  • Pieces focusing on divisive sins should be based on the principle of taking the log out of our own eye first.
  • All submissions should speak the truth in love. This is to say that neither truth nor love can be omitted.
  • All submissions should seek to embody Christ's charge to do unto others -- particularly our estranged brothers and sisters -- as we would have them do unto us.
  • One-sided presentations of partisan issues are only allowed from pairs of bloggers who each represent opposing sides, who are on good terms, who treat each other with respect, and who have an ongoing exchange so that posts from each side of the disagreement are presented together. In this way the exchange between the two bloggers, taken as a whole, is not partisan but an exploration of both sides and an exercise in how to advocate and question without descending into hatred and hostility. The Carnival will link new posts in a continuing Discussion/Debate series from the same pair of bloggers, if they are still posting new material in the current month, for up to three consecutive Carnivals. The intent of the time limit is to discourage overworking any one topic and to encourage people starting discussions with other bloggers than their usual link-partners.

Submission Format Guidelines
Please send your submissions to Each submssion should contain:
  1. Your name or pseudonym
  2. Link and title of post
  3. Category of post, if applicable:
    • General interest: Any topic of general interest to people regardless of church affiliation
    • Question and Answer: Respectful questions only, for example "Can someone from (name the group) please explain why you believe (a certain thing)?", or a respectful answer to such a question from a previous Carnival if the question has not already been answered. No baiting-a-trap questions, only request-for-understanding questions.
      Update 01/26/2007: Submitting a question for the Question and Answer section does not prevent you from also submitting a regular post the same month. Questions do not need to be submitted as a blog post and may be mailed directly to the Carnival.
    • Reconciliation: Posts on obstacles to re-union, common ground for re-union, building a framework for re-union, acknowledging work being done in the field of mutual understanding, and other work directly related to reconciliation
    • Topic of the Month (announced in advance at host's option)
    • Discussions and Debates: Where two friendly bloggers from opposing camps seek to do justice to their own and each others' views.
  4. For any category of post besides general interest, please make note of the church affiliation of the person writing the post (or each post, in the case of Discussions and Debates).
For entries in the Discussions and Debates category, the debate team should send one notice to the Carnival containing the applicable information for one post from each blogger; the person sending the Carnival submission is responsible for obtaining the consent of the other blogger in advance of sending the submission.

Participant Guidelines
The participant guidelines are fairly broad, but are here limited to those who have some realistic hope of unity at some point in the future:
  • Participant must wish for re-unification of the church
  • Participant must accept one of the normally accepted canons of Scripture as the entirety of Scripture, whether the Roman Catholic, Protestant, Oriental Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox in any of its minor regional variations.
  • Participant must accept that the apostles of Christ faithfully passed on his teachings to at least the first generation of Christians, and that the necessary teachings of Christ and his apostles are still known (knowable) to us today
  • Participant believes that the church had not fallen into wholesale error before the Council of Nicea, so that Christian teachings up to and including the Council of Nicea can provide common ground.
I am aware that there are some who call themselves Christians who are outside of these guidelines, or who may wish to participate in a Christian carnival even though not themselves Christian. While I wish them well, the guidelines above reflect the intended scope and purpose of this Carnival; other entries will be respectfully declined.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Top Ten Reasons Why Christian Reconciliation is Required of Us

  1. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21)
  2. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me ... (John 17:23)
  3. If a house is divided against itself, then that house cannot stand. (Matthew 12:25, Mark 3:25, Luke 11:17)
  4. If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First, go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24)
  5. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:15)
  6. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of corrupt mind ... (I Timothy 6:4-5)
  7. If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselevs. (Philippians 2:1-3)
  8. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit -- just as you were called to one hope when you were called -- one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)
  9. One of you says, "I follow Paul", another, "I follow Apollos", another, "I follow Cephas (Peter)", still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? (I Corinthians 1:12-13)
  10. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable ... (I Corinthians 12:21)

Believe me, I'm aware of the obstacles to Christian unity. But it seems to me the spiritual obstacles are greater than the doctrinal obstacles, and the greatest obstacle of all may be despair, which defeats us by making us unwilling to try. The greatest of Christian virtues are faith, hope, and love. It will take all of them.

Do we dare to hope for Christian unity?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Protestant/Catholic Polemics: In Search of a Cease-Fire

After reading a biography of G.K. Chesterton recently, one thought has stayed with me most strongly, and it is this: I wish that Roman Catholics and Protestants would stop making such unjustified and uncharitable attacks on each other. I consider that we have enough to keep us busy if we stick to discussing actual theological differences, without compounding the problem with personal attacks, unjust charges, or general hostility.

Below I'll review divisive and unfair argumentation of types that are fairly common from both sides, first from the Chesterton biography and then from a zealous anti-Roman Catholic letter. I know that reading divisive material (as shown below) can be upsetting, even when offered as examples of what we want to avoid. I have to trust to the maturity of my readers not to rise to the bait shown in these examples, but to consider instead how each side baits the other, how this approach incites further division and confirms each side in its worst opinions about the other. My hope in posting such material is not to inflame the two sides against each other, but to show that the inflammatory remarks about the differences are themselves a very real part of the problem.

The Theft of Church Property?
The particular biography which I was reading, Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton, is by Dale Ahlquist and was published by Ignatius Press. Comments against Protestants range from the substantively unfair but mildly voiced:
Both the strength and weakness of Protestantism is that it has borrowed its truths from the Catholic Church, but not the whole truth. (pp. 196-197)
to those completely abandoning any pretense at fairness or brotherhood:
Chesterton also shows how those who attack the Catholic Faith steal from it at the same time. This is true not only of Protestantism, but also of the rest of the world. (p. 205)
From a Protestant view, of course, we haven't "borrowed" anything from Roman Catholicism, much less stolen from it; we simply share the same heritage up to a certain point in history. We consider that the heritage of the united church is as much our own as that of our estranged brothers and sisters; it is the common ground on which we ought to rebuild. Athanasius and Augustine belong to the whole of Christianity, not only to the church of Rome. Just from the standpoint of Mr. Ahlquist's arguments, it's interesting that, when the question comes up whether Rome has done any borrowing or stealing as some have accused, Ahlquist says that Rome neither borrowed nor stole from others such as pagans, but is so broad-minded as to incorporate and preserve whatever was good. It's disappointing that Ahlquist's generous spirit of interpretation was not also applied to Protestants in a similar situation.

But my main concern is not Ahlquist's personal animosity towards Protestants -- or Ignatius Press disseminating it. Not only do we have the same heritage up to a certain point, but even since the breach, as estranged brothers and sisters hoping for a reunion, we have something like a "creative commons" license for materials each side has produced since. What if Protestants could not quote Chesterton or Tolkien or listen to Mozart without being accused of theft, or Roman Catholics couldn't quote C.S. Lewis or Charles Dickens or listen to Bach without being subjected to similar divisive bullying? In practice in the divided church, our own actions acknowledge that not only do we strive for unity, but that we all recognize various people who have nearly enough achieved it on a small scale.

Ahlquist provides a few more examples of the divisive and polemical approach. Here he raises a criticism that can be leveled legitimately at certain individuals and applies it over-broadly as a group smear:
The bad memory of Protestants applies to their own history as well. (p. 204)
It's irksome, as a non-Roman Catholic, to know that whatever our approach to anything in the ancient or medieval church, it will be criticized mercilessly by some in Rome. When things from the united church still speak to us and we still admire and preserve these things, we're accused of "borrowing" (as if we did not share a heritage) or "stealing" (as if we had no right at all to our common history); but for those things that do not speak to us we're collectively smeared with the charge of "bad memory" (others would charge ignorance or selectivity). Ahlquist in particular criticizes on both of these two opposite fronts, so that regardless of whether or not we believe that some medieval teaching has passed the test of time, either way we can be sure of criticism from the spirit of partisanship.

What does it mean when a critic criticizes a thing on inconsistent grounds? When Ahlquist reviews the inconsistent criticisms lodged against his own church in Rome, he takes these inconsistencies as proof of her truth, her breadth, and her vitality, and in some measure as proof of the opposition mentality of the critics. It is again disappointing that Ahlquist does not apply the same type of reasoning when the group in question is Protestant rather than Roman Catholic.

Here is one final example from Ahlquist of a common misrepresentation of facts:
The Medieval Age was a time of united and devout faith. (p. 136)
"United" faith in the Medieval Age? Ahlquist is not alone in arguing as if Protestants are completely unaware of the schisms -- and continuing divisions in the church -- that began long before Martin Luther was born. I'm not sure that we could say in good faith that the whole church had been united since the days of Chalcedon back in the 400's, and certainly not since the break with the Eastern Orthodox some centuries before Luther. Ahlquist accuses Protestants of being historically ignorant -- but then himself offers arguments that do not stand up to historical scrutiny. The sad truth is that persistent, unhealed divisions in the church have been a fact of life since at least the 400's, not merely since the 1500's. I wonder very much how the Copts, Eastern Orthodox, etc. view Alhquist's and others' practice of speaking as if they did not exist. Myself, I am tired of the Roman Catholics charging that Protestants have the entire and unique fault of splitting the church when it's a demonstrable historical fact that the church had not been united for centuries before that.

Pride, hatred, arrogance, greed, impatience, injustice, indifference, wilfull foolishness -- these are the things that have ruined the church. If the church were to become the strong and united body of Christ that we could together make it, in keeping with Christ's teachings, then people could nail debating points and reform suggestions to church doors all day long without causing a schism. Those who have read Luther's writings know that he never set out to cause a schism; it never entered his mind that the church was such a fragile thing that something he could do could break it. And still the divided church, such as it is, produces a steady stream of universal figures that all sides admire: Bach, Beethoven, Rembrandt, Chesterton, Lewis, Tolkien, Bonhoeffer, Barth -- these have shown that the church is not entirely broken, even as we are. Our friends to the east might mention Stravinsky and Dostoevsky and Nabokov ...

The "Whore of Babylon" Again?
Now that we've seen some examples of injustice and provocation from someone on Rome's side, here are some examples from the Protestant side, culled from an email I recently saw in a public discussion group. Like the other, it is simply the most recent example I have seen. Obviously, a letter does not have the same length or selection as a book. This one has no respected author behind it, but has all the marks of a personal rant. Still, it contains some memorable examples of petty partisanship.

The letter had the look of something often-forwarded, and contained a list of supposedly scandalous heresies and human traditions adopted and perpetuated by the Roman Catholic Church in the last 1600 years. After calling Rome "the Whore of Babylon", it started its list of outrages with this less-than-stunning man-made tradition:
Wax candles introduced in church.
Wax candles? The first supporting reason for calling a group the "Whore of Babylon" is wax candles? It is mind-boggling. No reason is given why wax candles are bad, or what exactly the early Christians were supposed to have used for light that would have been acceptable until the lightbulb came along, or why exactly some other form of light would be preferable to wax candles. But while this leading complaint -- candles, of all things -- strikes my funny bone, I do want to figure out what the original author's objection was to candles.

If I were to guess as to the problem with candles, I'd guess that the brief ritual of lighting and extinguishing them at the begin and end of the worship service might be seen as a needless ritual, a tradition of human origin rather than divine origin. But if candles are going to be used as a source of light -- and I don't see how candles in themselves could be a problem -- then how many choices are there for how to light them? There are only a few choices for how to do anything: carelessly, or according to a set pattern, or according to modern tastes, or according to individual preferences. If candles are going to be used at all, using a pre-set pattern of lighting and extinguishing seems like a reasonable option. Lighting them with respect shown at the altar easily becomes a ritual handed down by tradition. If Christians have freedom in worship so long as certain limits aren't passed, why not freedom to light candles with respect? I can't see a problem so long as we don't make the mistake of thinking that our own internally-developed show of respect is actually a God-given command. Following that human tradition, then, becomes more a matter of fellowship and community. Teachings initiated by man and handed down across generations are not evil of themselves; they become a problem only when they compete with or take the place of teachings initiated by God and handed down across generations, when they set aside or interfere with or claim equal status with the things of God.

The same list of shocking, stunning, horrific things perpetuated by Rome contains entries such as
The Mass, as a daily celebration, adopted.
Confession of sin to the priest at least once a year.
To be sure, the list does contain a few mentions of things that Protestants in general hope Rome would re-consider, but they are lost in a sea of misguided fault-finding and vague criticisms of practices such as daily mass. Then there's the general tone of the letter. Besides being called "the whore of Babylon", Rome is also called heretical, idolatrous and pagan. With lists like these floating around where the doctrinal points are sometimes triflingly silly but the rhetoric is hateful and abrasive, it will be nearly impossible to get to any discussion of real issues.

The Ministry of Reconciliation
So long as we treat each other in ways calculated to create raw nerves, things can only get worse. Here's one thing the Roman Catholics and the Protestants have in common: both are home to some partisan spirits who would gleefully exacerbate the differences and widen the divide. In our willingness to tolerate spite, our own side suffers as well as the other. The Chesterton biography would have done Chesterton a better service without the occasionally bitter anti-Protestant rhetoric. The letter's list of doctrinal points of disagreement with Rome might conceivably have been a helpful list for discussion, if only it were ever intended as such. Instead, the author trotted out every imaginable complaint against Rome, with a result that seemed more damaging to its author than to Rome.

So long as we each allow our own side to treat the other badly, each side loses from its own hatred, and both sides lose some measure of brotherhood with each other. More importantly still, Christ himself is made to look bad by the horrid behavior of his ambassadors.
He gave us the ministry of reconciliation. ... He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. (I Cor 5:18-20)
When we cannnot even reconcile amongst ourselves, we have damaged our own credibility and effectiveness with the message of reconciliation. As Paul says, Christ gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

Related Reading: They're My Fathers Too.

More on inter-Christian rivalries and reconciliation coming soon.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Teenage Sunday School Starts the Psalms

Bible: Information or Life-Line?
Start by mentioning to the class that there are different ways to read the Bible and different reasons to read the Bible, and that we're going to talk about a couple of those today. Divide the board into two sections; title the left side "Information" and the right side "Life-line".

Call out the following examples and ask the class whether each uses the Bible for information or as a life-line.
  1. You want to find out how old Melchizedek lived to be. What kind of use of the Bible is that? Information.
  2. Everything has been going really horribly in your life lately and you want to know if there is any reason to hope. What kind of use of the Bible is that? Lifeline
  3. You want to know the names of the tribes of Israel. Information
  4. You've done something awful and you can't believe you've done it. You aren't sure if God can ever forgive you, or whether things can ever be right again. Lifeline

Basic Introduction to Psalms
Psalms is more of a life-line book, not an information book. It has prayers for all kinds of occasions and situations.

Psalms is one of the easiest books in the Bible to find. If you open your Bible to the exact middle, you'll usually open it to Psalms. Everyone tries it. Most get Psalms on the first try, everyone had it by the second try.

The books of Psalms was like our hymnals or song-books. Have various people open to the following Psalms and read not the Psalm itself but the note below the title.
  • Psalm 5: For the director of music. For flutes. A psalm of David.
  • Psalm 22: For the director of music. To the tune of "The Doe of the Morning." A psalm of David.
  • Psalm 30: A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
  • Psalm 45: For the director of music. To the tune of "Lilies." Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song.
  • Psalm 56: For the director of music. To the tune of "A Dove on Distant Oaks." Of David. A miktam. When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.
  • Psalm 57: For the director of music. To the tune of "Do Not Destroy." Of David. A miktam. When he had fled from Saul into the cave.

Questions from the class:

Do we know the tunes? No, the tunes have been lost. Some of these are 3,000 years old; the tunes have been forgotten. All we have left are the words.
Did they rhyme? No, the Hebrews weren't into rhyming poetry. They liked parallelism and imagery as their main poetic devices.

Overview of some more poetic devices
  • Turn to Psalm 136. This one has a line repeated over and over. That's called a ... Refrain
  • Ask if their teachers in school have ever given them assignments where they have to write sentences or poems where the first line starts with A, the next line starts with B, the next with C, and so forth through the alphabet. They had all had assignments like that. That kind of poem is called an "acrostic", where there's a special pattern in the first letter. Have them turn to Psalm 119. Point out the sections labeled Aleph, Beth, Gimel, and so forth. These are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Originally this psalm was an acrostic, the first letter of each section was each letter of the Hebrew alphabet in turn.

First Sample Psalm
I know most of the students are probably tired of Psalm 23 by now, so I want to start them with something good that they haven't heard before. Turn to Psalm 19 and split up the verses so the class takes turns reading it.

We'll go into some of the other well-known psalms next week.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Defeating Hatred in the Culture War

When hatred becomes an industry, a money-making institution, an organized and deliberate force, how do we respond? The hatred industry often revolves around the culture war; both sides have mobilized in a war of bitter words and growing grudges. It's really not so different in principle from when there is enmity on an individual level. There has ever only been one solution to hatred. It's love. Hatred despises love and insults it, considers it useless, holds it in mockery and contempt; but hatred does that with everything, and it gets tiresome. Here is the time for Christians to be an organized and deliberate force that insists on loving its enemies.

The teachings of Christ are as applicable and as workable as ever. They call for sacrifice: sacrificing our own hatred, our own anger, our own bitterness, our own wish for repay evil with evil.

Love your enemies. That includes the most strident, abusive, and abrasive anti-everything-we-care-about hate-monger that exists. He or she is still in the image of God, and we still hope for redemption.

Pray for those who persecute you. So we all have "the enemy" on our personal prayer lists, right? And in the prayers of the church? Not snarky sinful prayers, but real ones that lay our bitterness and grievances at Christ's feet and pray for reconciliation. We need to pray for healing in our land.

Bless those who curse you, return good for evil. There are a good few public figures cursing Christians these days, and plenty of ones who do the same in private lives. We need a good few public Christians returning good for evil, and plenty of ones who do the same in private lives.

Even in political situation, in the midst of a culture war, we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Back to the charts. On the left side below are common injustices that everyone knows their own side has suffered in the culture war. On the right, some ideas on how to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, how to bless those who curse us and return good for evil.

Common injustice in the culture warAs we would have them do to us
Finding the most insane, extreme, or dangerous person on the other side and pretending that is the general case with people on the other side; refusing to notice the sane and reasonable voices among the opposition.Finding the most sane and reasonable person on the other side and considering them carefully.
Insisting that mistakes were not only deliberate, but also done out of stupidity or malice.Realizing that mistakes are part of human nature, and showing mercy instead of vindictiveness in finding and correcting them.
Refusing to imagine that the people on the other side are capable of human decency, or could act from intelligence and kindness.Assuming that the people on the other side or capable of human decency and are acting from intelligence and kindness.
Giving a biased, inaccurate representation of facts, leaving out whatever does not suit our own side.Being conscientiously truthful; refusing to distort facts; refusing to skip items that do not suit our point but instead giving them fair consideration.
Overlooking every decent thing done by the enemy, and every decent point made.Acknowledging when the other side has a point -- not in an exaggerated way, but just avoiding the petty and ungenerous spirit that can result in our behaving unfairly and failing to notice decency in the other side.
Using ridicule and mockery, trying to belittle and dehumanize the opposition.Using gentleness and respect, thereby humanizing both us and them.
Making no effort to accurately understand the points raised by the other side.Making every effort to accurately understand the points raised by the other side.
Not restraining the more hostile or hateful folks on their own side.Restraining the hostile or hateful folks within our own camp.
Interpreting everything in the unkindest way possible, not even troubling to ask why.Reconsidering whether we truly understand; being willing to ask why and listen to the answer.
Being willing to stoop to viciousness.Being completely unwilling to stoop to viciousness; treating even those who mistreat us with gentleness and respect, not because they deserve it, but because of the image of God in them, because we hope for their redemption.
Misrepresenting the other side's point and motives. Making no effort to give a just and honest representation of the other sideAccurately representing the other side's point and motives. Making every effort to give a just and honest representation of the other side.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Hatred Industry

Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, by Al Franken.

Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right, by Ann Coulter

There are plenty more books like that -- and magazines, blogs, talk shows, editorial columns, chat rooms. Hatred is entertaining. The entertainment industry wants something provocative. "Provocative" is often a euphemism for "wildly unfair" or "deliberately malicious". Whether the technical points made are accurate or not, the aim is to inflame because it sells.

Christians have long noticed that the mass media spews way too much sex, that TV and mainstream movies often approach the level of soft porn. Christians are routinely advised to use discretion in what they watch and read and browse on the 'net so that they don't put themselves in the way of temptation. Sex sells; therefore sex is big business.

But lust isn't the only temptation in the world. Hatred is another. And hatred, too, sells; hatred has become big business. Publishers have developed authors who can reliably incite hatred using mockery and scorn as standard tools of the trade, radio and television have their own set of media stars who push our hot-button issues with the practiced ease of a teenager playing video games. The media stars themselves may often be earnest in their beliefs; at some point above them in the decision-tree is someone who is consciously making a dollar from promoting hatred. They're manipulating people just as surely as the sex-porn industry, and this hate-porn is likewise unhealthy. The constant stream of wild accusation and counter-accusation work to put real dialog out of reach. If doing something that damages your country is unpatriotic, then is hate-mongering unpatriotic? Does hating your brother still make you a murderer whose soul is at risk (1 John 3:15)?

The Democrats and Republicans are at risk of becoming the modern Hatfields and McCoys, locked in an increasingly bitter feud with increasingly higher stakes as each side justifies its next strike as retaliation for the other side's previous strike.

The stakes on the political level are whether our country can cooperate enough to succeed in the daily decisions of government, or whether certain profiteers will turn politics into an entertainment franchise like boxing. The stakes on the personal level are whether we succumb to hatred. And somewhere are some very rich industry leaders making sure they fan the flames of discord and anger because it's profitable. I wouldn't be too surprised to find a profiteer with both a Conservative player and a Liberal player in the ring.

Tempted to be angry and hateful about the hatred industry? We're well-trained, aren't we?

Hatred and discord have been on my mind lately because it seems so prevalent. The intent of looking at the ugliness, as with last time, is to move forward through it and past it. More on that soon ...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Teenage Sunday School: The Law of Moses and Gentile Christians

Start the class by getting the 10 Commandments on the board using any needed combination of memory and referring to Exodus 20.
Starting with Exodus 20, have the class flip through the next few chapters and review the types of laws recorded. If needed, point out a few: how to handle thefts, how to handle accidental injuries, how to handle property damage.

Question: What is the most important commandment in the Law?

I expected this one to be a no-brainer, but somehow these young folks had gotten to be teenagers in the church without knowing the answer to that by heart. So after they had pondered that awhile, we flipped over and read ...

The Greatest Commandments

Read Matthew 22:34-40

  1. Name the two most important commandments.
  2. What do they have in common?
  3. Jesus said (v.40) that all of the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. If you loved God with all your heart and loved your neighbor as yourself, would it be possible to break the 10 Commandments? They agreed that loving God wholly and loving our neighbors as ourselves would prevent any wrongdoing. (If they had wanted to discuss the Sabbath in more depth, Matthew 12:1-14 is suitable; but there were no detailed questions on the Sabbath.)
Read Romans 13:9-10.

It's fairly obvious how it connects, it simply reinforces the point. If there is need for more emphasis, James 2:8 also makes the same point.

Read Galatians 5:14-23.

  1. Looking at verses 19-21: Are the actions condemned by the Law of Moses still considered wrong?
  2. If someone loves God and neighbor, will he do those things?
  3. Looking at verses 22-23, there is a focus not on bad things to avoid, but on good things that come God's Spirit, which shows itself in love of God and neighbor. When a person acts in that way, are they breaking God's law?

The Gentile Christians and the Law of Moses

The Law of Moses contained many other commands about ceremonies and special observances which the nation of Israel had observed for many hundreds of years. While all the early Christians were Jews, Christ sent his followers to all nations (not just Israel) and soon there were non-Jews mixed in with the Jews in the church. One of the earliest controversies in the church was whether the non-Jews had to observe the Jewish rituals and festivals in addition to love of God and neighbor. The discussion is summarized in Acts 15. In the end, they sent the following letter to the non-Jewish ("Gentile") Christians.

Read Acts 15:23-29

  1. Are we required to observe the rituals and ceremonies described by Moses?
  2. What kinds of things are required?
  3. What is the greatest commandment? This is just to make sure that talking about other things hasn't made them forget where we started the lesson.

Teenage Sunday School: The Temple and how it was rebuilt in three days

Read 2 Chronicles 5:1-14 (whole chapter)
We're starting a list on the board of things that are in the Temple or things that happen in the Temple. So far we have:
  • the covenant is kept here
  • the most holy place is here
  • the presence of God is here

Read 2 Chronicles 6:18-21
More things in the Temple or things that happen in the Temple
  • God hears prayers directed here
  • Believers direct their prayers here
  • God's Name dwells here
  • God forgives sins here

Read 2 Chronicles 7:1
More things in the Temple or things that happen in the Temple
  • God receives sacrifices here

Review from previous weeks:
The Israelites were commanded to "appear before the LORD" at certain festivals each year. To fulfill the command to "appear before the LORD", where did they go?
More things in the Temple or things that happen in the Temple
  • Coming here is coming before the LORD

Read John 2:19-21
When Jesus speaks of the Temple here, what does everyone think he's talking about?
The building.
What was Jesus really speaking about?

There are all kinds of ways to prophesy being destroyed and returning on the third day. Here he is also transferring the title of "Temple" away from a building in Jerusalem and taking that title for himself. Looking back at the board here, which of the items that we've listed about the Temple can be said about Jesus?

  • the covenant is kept here
  • the most holy place is here
  • the presence of God is here
  • God hears prayers directed here
  • God's Name dwells here
  • God forgives sins here
  • Believers direct their prayers here
  • Coming here is coming before the LORD

Teenage Sunday School: The Tabernacle and the Shadow of Heaven

I'm catching up on Sunday school lesson blogging. This is from several weeks ago. We had been studying the law of Moses and the uses of the law. Now we're turning to the bigger picture. Part of this lesson is to let the description of the Tabernacle do its job of whetting the appetite for the holy and beautiful, building desire for heaven, building the Christian desire to show some part of heaven on earth. Part of it is for enough background that they can understand the main theme of the letter to the Hebrews.
Read Exodus 25:31-40
1. Can you picture what is being described?
The lampstand for the tabernacle looked like a tree of gold with blossoms of flame. Let them think about how it looked for awhile until it's impressed on their mind. Got some comments about how lame and pathetic our church looks in comparison. Under the circumstances that's a welcome comment. Mention that we've been trying to encourage some of the artists in the church to contribute paintings or stained glasswork. Got some more comments -- a fairly savvy bunch of teenagers here -- about how our church was built by contractors for money and not by members for any better reason. I'm trying to lead them along towards considering how their talents are useful in service to God in the real world.

2. We've just talked about how beautiful it looked. Why was it built like this? Where did the idea come from?
The class is still learning that the answer to the questions is often found right in the text. I have them go re-read verse 40. This is made after a pattern shown to Moses by God.

3. If this is a pattern God showed Moses, then what does it look like, and what's it supposed to remind us of?
Heaven. (A few more gripes about how our church looks like a barn.

Read Exodus 26:30-37. Have them look for similarities between this and what was just read.
They picked up that beauty is in there again, and the pattern shown by God is there again.

Question: Some people say that the Bible is against artwork because of the Ten Commandments. Is God against artwork?
They pick up quickly that God is not against all artwork since some is commanded here, but that he is against making idols.

Read Exodus 30:22-38.
They were starting to appreciate that beauty and holiness are things to desire, things to want, things that are good. When we got to the part in 30:29 about whatever touches it would be made holy, one of the teenagers commented that he wanted some.

Read Hebrews 8:5-7, Hebrews 9:11-12, Hebrews 9:23-24, Hebrews 10:1-2
Spent the remainder of the available time reviewing how the Tabernacle and furnishings and ceremonies of the Law of Moses were a shadow of the realities to come, of Christ, the true fulfillment. This theme will be picked up in fuller strength in the next lesson on the Temple.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Return good for evil: Forgiveness struggles #2

Last post, I took stock of bitterness and resentment taking root in my life. I asked you all to bear with me, that there was a good purpose to this.

As far as rooting out this kind of spiritual poison, Jesus taught some things that, the more I work with them, the more I realize just how practical they are.

The first thing is to pray for those who mistreat us. The list of people who get on my nerves is a prayer list. I should pray for them particularly for God's goodness and blessing. I should give thanks for any good in them in particular. I should pray that I have patience and God's Spirit towards them in particular. This probably does more to change my attitude towards them than anything else. Left to my own devices, my "solution" is to grit my teeth at injustice and to hope they see the good in me. Meanwhile I do not see the good in them, and resentment, self-righteousness, and hard-heartedness grow freely. Prayer is the place to start.

The second thing is to do for them what I wish they would do for me. It is sometimes difficult to imagine what nice thing I should do for someone who is wronging me -- until I ask myself, "How do I wish they were treating me?" I can easily tell you how I wish they were treating me; that is what I should do for them. That is how to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" for this situation, and how to return good for evil.

So below I run through each of the things that are bothering me and try to see how to repay good for evil, and make it my goal to do these things for the people in question.
What's bothering meAs I would have them do to me
  • For pouncing on every mistake I make, no matter how small, and overlooking anything I do right, no matter how large or difficult
  • For regularly refusing to be more than coldly polite
  • For often refusing to be even coldly polite
  • Although we need to work with each other to get through the day, being pointedly uncooperative and seeming to delight in making things difficult
  • In sum, for treating me unjustly and with seeming hatred no matter what I do
  • Make sure to notice when they do something right, and if any mistakes must be noticed, notice them with gentleness
  • Be genuinely warm
  • Be cooperative and delight in making things easier
  • In sum, treat her justly and with kindness no matter what she does
  • For keeping me at arm's length even though we are family
  • For believing every story told about me without checking whether it is accurate
  • For making all Christian holidays unpleasant by pointed, hostile "indifference"
  • Be welcoming and open
  • Be slow to believe the worst and quick to believe better
  • Make sure never to treat with indifference, instead making a point of appreciating
  • For avoiding family occasions
  • For rehearsing stories of every wrong thing I've done even back to elementary school, and in front of other people who do not know first-hand whether the stories as retold are fair or accurate; in effect training certain other people to dislike me and getting in low shots when I am unaware and unable to speak in my own defense
  • Seek out chances to break the ice
  • Rehearse stories of every good thing they've ever done, back as far as I can remember, and in front of other people
  • For treating a friend of mine as worthless
  • For encouraging this friend to stay unemployed so that she would be justified in ignoring his thoughts on finances and treating him as worthless
  • For putting him in a no-win situation and then blaming him for losing
It's actually more difficult for me to figure out the reversal when it's not me being wronged.
  • Make sure she knows her worth and find ways to acknowledge her worth in front of her
  • Encourage her to do her best as a show of faith that she has something to offer
  • Try to put her in a situation where she can win; avoid harsh blaming and instead build up shared regret over the bad situation
  • For belittling me, treating me with contempt, and constantly holding over my head the threat of rejection and abandonment
  • For abandoning me in a hundred little ways before finally and officially abandoning me
  • Treat with respect
  • Set aside coldness and indifference during times we see each other (e.g. exchanging the kids)
  • Be willing to listen and encourage as needed, setting aside bitterness, not returning hostility for abandonment but instead showing steadfastness and kindness without any thought to whether it is deserved (it rarely is) or whether it is appropriate (it is more appropriate than the alternatives)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Getting on my nerves: Forgiveness struggles #1

Struggles with bitterness and resentment aren't really something we Christians talk about very openly. Speaking for myself, I'm embarrassed to have these struggles and these ugly spots in my heart. All the same, every so often I find myself struggling against resentment and bitterness, especially when dealing with various people who have treated me badly. In keeping with Paul's instructions "Get rid of all bitterness" (etc.) I'd originally planned a spiritual Spring Cleaning for Lent. I have now decided that I'd rather not wait for Lent. Bitterness and anger work against love, and are often temptations to hatred. The sooner I address it, the better.

I'll have to ask you all to bear with me on this post. It's awfully forthright. It does not exactly show me in the best light, but I decided to post it in the hopes that other people might recognize their own struggles. The list below is not meant to justify my anger; it is simply meant to locate the problem. The next post on the subject will be more edifying, but this one has to come first: tracing down the various roots of bitterness and resentment, and being forthright with myself about the things that I need to address.

I'd originally made this list for my own private use by name of each person who has been getting on my nerves. I'm omitting the names in this published version. At first I hesitated to even acknowledge the various resentments that were growing inside me because I wasn't sure what good it would accomplish. I'll show the advantage of making such a list in my next post. It turns out to have been a real help to be specific about not only who was getting on my nerves, but also what, exactly, was bothering me.

For now, I just identify resentments: where I struggle with forgiveness and love.
Who's bothering meWhat's bothering me
Anonmyous #1
  • For pouncing on every mistake I make, no matter how small, and overlooking anything I do right, no matter how large or difficult
  • For regularly refusing to be more than coldly polite
  • For often refusing to be even coldly polite
  • Although we need to work with each other to get through the day, being pointedly uncooperative and seeming to delight in making things difficult
  • In sum, for treating me unjustly and with seeming hatred no matter what I do
Anonmyous #2
  • For keeping me at arm's length even though we are family
  • For believing every story told about me without checking whether it is accurate
  • For making all Christian holidays unpleasant by pointed, hostile "indifference"
Anonmyous #3
  • For avoiding family occasions
  • For rehearsing stories of every wrong thing I've done even back to elementary school, and in front of other people who do not know first-hand whether the stories as retold are fair or accurate; in effect training certain other people to dislike me and getting in low shots when I am unaware and unable to speak in my own defense
Anonmyous #4
  • For treating a friend of mine as worthless
  • For encouraging this friend to stay unemployed so that she would be justified in ignoring his thoughts on finances and treating him as worthless
  • For putting him in a no-win situation and then blaming him for losing
And just for good measure,
Anonmyous #5 -- some older stuff that still bothers me sometimes
  • For belittling me, treating me with contempt, and constantly holding over my head the threat of rejection and abandonment
  • For abandoning me in a hundred little ways before finally and officially abandoning me
In the next post: what good can possibly come from opening that can of worms.