March 21, 2011

"The concept that God longs for the likes of me is so unbelievably sweet."

Wrote lawprof William Stuntz, taking comfort, when he was dying of cancer, in a line from the Book of Job: "You will call and I will answer. You will long for the creature your hands have made."

100 comments:

peter hoh said...

There's a lot of wisdom in Job.

Coketown said...

Job is a book that confounds most modern thinkers--secular or religious. It seems counter-intuitive that suffering is a necessary part of our existence. But as Peter said, there is so much wisdom in it. And not only when you're dying of cancer but in every day of your life. Another example is the guy who just underwent a full-face transplant.

PaulV said...

Some things are beyond your control.

Alex said...

I'll keep this in mind the next time I pass out during takeoff on a flight.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@alex

You won't be able to 'keep this in mind' if you are 'passed out'.

Sounds a bit like the old saw, 'If you break your leg, don't come running to me...'

Alex said...

lesson learned - don't eat Snickers right before a flight.

Bob_R said...

I used to hate the book of Job when I was young - the idea of God torturing his faithful servant on a bet. But as I've grown older the message of the whirlwind of the essential mystery of God has appealed to me - the idea that we can no more understand God than a dog can understand quantum mechanics. If you believe the whirlwind then the rest of the story is guaranteed to be wrong - a feeble and incomplete attempt to understand. This is not comforting to many people.

Pogo said...

"Mr. Stuntz wrote extensively about the chronic pain he suffered..."

I had some correspondence with him on this topic for 1-2 years before he was diagnosed with cancer; even reviewed a paper for him. His writings on that topic alone were an immense help for my patients.

He was a prince among men.

vbspurs said...

Quoting from the obit:

Justice Elena Kagan of the United States Supreme Court said in an interview Friday that Mr. Stuntz’s work was “impossible to pigeonhole,” despite his self-professed conservative inclinations.

“What was fascinating about him was that everybody read him and listened to him and took seriously what he said,” said Justice Kagan, who worked with Mr. Stuntz when she was dean of Harvard Law School. Scholars came to call his ideas “Stuntzian,” she said.


Despite these conservative leanings, the obit piece emphasised how Stuntz chided the Right for showing too little compassion in legal matters, and Christian evangelicals (of which he was one) for "poisoning" politics. I can't believe that even this once, at the hour of a man's death, they can't help themselves but to inject politics into this.

I wonder if when Dershowitz passes, if the NYT will highlight how he was appalled at how many liberals treated the State of Israel.

edutcher said...

There are people who would take that sentiment in an "I deserve it" sense (No, I'm not just talking about Lefties) without understanding that it's the love of a Father for His children.

Coketown said...

Job is a book that confounds most modern thinkers--secular or religious. It seems counter-intuitive that suffering is a necessary part of our existence.

You never appreciate the good times without suffering.

You also find out who your friends are.

MayBee said...

Beautiful faith.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@edutcher

"...without understanding that it's the love of a Father for His children."

Yes. His love is boundless. To claim understanding is folly. He has given us free will, and we must choose wisely if we wish to have life beyond this one.

"You never appreciate the good times without suffering."

I am forever astonished at how many people I have come across that do not understand this, seemingly simple concept.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@alex

"lesson learned - don't eat Snickers right before a flight."

Sounds kinda harmless Alex...diabetic?

I do not like to fly on an empty stomach - and usually pound coffee and water during...

Pogo said...

The really hard part is appreciating the suffering.

There are many lessons I am very grateful for, though I wish I had never had to learn them.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@pogo

"The really hard part is appreciating the suffering."

Yep - applied to the suffering/death of a loved one, little sense can be made...other than the opportunity to appreciate what is left.

phx said...

To me it's not that you find out who your friends are. You find out who you are.

The Crack Emcee said...

It seems counter-intuitive that suffering is a necessary part of our existence.

Not to this atheist. It's evil that confounds me.

Alex said...

Not diabetic, but probably should have eaten something more balanced. Anyways the fainting problem was due more to the plane taking off with higher-then-normal G because they wanted to get through a wind-storm faster. The snickers simply made me nauseous the rest of the flight. Oh and a good decision to ask for the sauce on the side for the chicken meal. Awful sauce.

Alex said...

Not to this atheist. It's evil that confounds me.

One person's evil is another's assertion of power. Sort of like when your ex killed several people. Power.

vbspurs said...

Don'tTread2012 wrote:

I am forever astonished at how many people I have come across that do not understand this, seemingly simple concept.

Perhaps because this simple concept accounts for the grisly suffering sometimes used as justification for character-building. You know, the kind that produced work houses for the poor, and made upper-classes bastions like Eton and Harrow into little more than academic prisons with sadistic Headmasters.

Modern Western man has therefore tried his level best to eradicate anything approaching suffering (and its family of emotions, such as embarrassment, guilt, humiliation) from our daily lives. Political correctness is nothing more than an extension of this desire to prevent suffering, since it stays the tongue of unfeeling people.

There is one conundrum about this otherwise laudable impulse.

As mentioned by others in this thread, suffering allows you to appreciate life better, leading to charity and wisdom.

Marius Petipa, the legendary choreographer, once counseled a ballerina who had been hurt deeply by an ex-lover, telling her to channel her emotions into her art.

"Great art is only possible after great suffering"

Perhaps this is the reason Western art today is so vapid.

Cheers,
Victoria

SteveR said...

“Hopelessness turns out to be surprisingly good medicine,” he wrote.

It seems I'm destined to make that my own experience. Acceptance is not the same a giving up.

The Crack Emcee said...

edutcher,

You never appreciate the good times without suffering.

You also find out who your friends are.


Exactly. As I wrote this morning, I had lots of "friends" when my life was good. I practically couldn't be alone, people started showing up so early. The vast majority, though, turned on me - viciously - when I did something as superficial as declare myself a Republican. (They already knew I was a conservative, so WTF?)

The things that make me smile are many, but I'm willing to let them come to me.

The Crack Emcee said...

Pogo,

The really hard part is appreciating the suffering.

There are many lessons I am very grateful for, though I wish I had never had to learn them.


O.K., this is becoming the smart guy's thread.

The Crack Emcee said...

Alex,

One person's evil is another's assertion of power. Sort of like when your ex killed several people. Power.

Yeah, I get that. But you had to know her - evil.

"She's so niiice."

Alex said...

Crack - Yeah I know, why do you and I have no desire to kill people but others like your ex do? How to explain that urge?

edutcher said...

Hey, Crack, you got friends here.

Don't Tread 2012 said...
@pogo

"The really hard part is appreciating the suffering."

Yep - applied to the suffering/death of a loved one, little sense can be made...other than the opportunity to appreciate what is left.


I've noted this before, but, when The Blonde lost her only son at 6 months, all that energy went into her nephews and nieces and, now, great-nephews and nieces. Every one of them has special memories of what she did for them.

They are really her surrogate children and she fills a lot of gaps the parents can't.

One of the sweetest things I ever saw was when she held her first great-nephew for the first time and said, "I'm your Great Aunt -, and I'm a great aunt". Nobody worries about and looks out for him, his sister, his cousin and his soon-to-be new brother the way she does.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Speaking as an ex-atheist, I've always come out of the crises in my life with clearer view of how I fit into this crazy picture. Part of that is being aware of God. I can't pretend to know what he is, and I think man-made religions are for the most part destructive, but I know he and I are in the picture together.

Oligonicella said...

Alex --

"How to explain that urge?"

Evil. You don't really need to dig deeper. What made them hypothetically 'snap'? Who cares when thousands if not millions of other people experience the same crap and don't.

Pogo said...

"Hey, Crack, you got friends here."

Echo that.

vbspurs said...

Tyrone Slothrop wrote:

I can't pretend to know what he is, and I think man-made religions are for the most part destructive, but I know he and I are in the picture together.

If that's all you can assimilate after having being an atheist, that's still a LOT.

Belkys said...

I used to hate the book of Job when I was young
Well , in that book the devil killed his only victims in the whole Bible.
After hearing his "friends" you understand Camus. "the hell are the others"( "The fall "a book about a lawyer, satan was one too)
Job carries the day. Job and the Ecclesiastes were not written by someone who believe in god.
Im agnostic and like those two books

traditionalguy said...

Job was the first anti religion scripture. His super religious friends told Job that the only rule was God always blesses the righteous and always punishes sinners. Job replied to them that their religious doctrines obviously were not true since in his case he was righteous. Job went on to demand an audience with God to get recognition of his righteousness. God granted Job an audience and explained to Job how massive a responsibility an all powerful God has to control evil forces and control all of created nature that relies daily upon God. God then admitted Job was right. God also reversed the works done to Job by Satan. Unfortunately, you and me don't get to act like Job did unless we are as righteous as Job was. The underlying hopeful theme of Job is that God is always aware of us and of our relationship with Him.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@vbspurs

Well said Victoria.

"Modern Western man has therefore tried his level best to eradicate anything approaching suffering (and its family of emotions, such as embarrassment, guilt, humiliation) from our daily lives. Political correctness is nothing more than an extension of this desire to prevent suffering, since it stays the tongue of unfeeling people."

Interesting point. I've often noted the leftist's desire for 'utopia'...is this what you mean? It sure seems to be a theme with them - 'not allowing failure' or 'dumbing down' comes to mind, all of this to avoid a level of suffering.

Maybe there is a relationship between having faith in a higher power, as I do, and the acceptance of things both good and bad.

Is it any wonder that it seems the left has few that believe in a higher power? And that the 'believers' tend to reside on more/less the 'right' side of the political spectrum?

Paddy O said...

amen.

To the comments in the post and the comments in this thread.

Psalm 13
How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, LORD my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.

Smilin' Jack said...

What will you do, God, when I die?
When I, your pitcher, broken, lie?
When I, your drink, go stale or dry?
I am your garb, the trade you ply,
you lose your meaning, losing me.

Homeless without me, you will be
robbed of your welcome, warm and sweet.
I am your sandals: your tired feet
will wander bare for want of me.

Your mighty cloak will fall away.
Your glance that on my cheek was laid
and pillowed warm, will seek, dismayed,
the comforts that I offered once –
to lie, as sunset colors fade
in the cold lap of alien stones.

What will you do, God? I am afraid.


– Rainer Maria Rilke

Quayle said...

God also reversed the works done to Job by Satan.

I liked your post, but I can't go with this line.

Job never brings Satan into the picture, he's always focused on why God did this to him.

Some find solace in the thought that God didn't really do anything, he allowed something to be done.

I find no solace in that line of reasoning. The power to prevent is the implied power to cause.

If God could have prevented some painful thing that happened to me, and he didn't prevent it, on a personal level how is that different from God having done it Himself?

I believe God caused Job to suffer to teach Job about suffering, and thereby carve out space in Job's soul - to excavate Job's soul - to make room for more joy.

Job's friends want to make it about good/reward, evil/pain and suffering. Job doesn't agree.

If God is developing our souls, then the more developed people get the harder lessons.

As the batter improves, the pitches get faster.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Smiling Jack

Wow, read Rilke long ago...as I recall he proposed that suffering was an important component of life.

vbspurs said...

Don'tTread2012 wrote:

Interesting point. I've often noted the leftist's desire for 'utopia'...is this what you mean? It sure seems to be a theme with them - 'not allowing failure' or 'dumbing down' comes to mind, all of this to avoid a level of suffering.

That's exactly what I meant.

Perhaps a silly example, but it reminds me of hearing that dodgeball had been banned by a public school. Not only is it violent, but there are clear winners and losers, often nothing to do with the score (those who don't flinch are tougher, etc). Then there's the whole pre-game ritual of having to choose who's on "your team": just too psychologically scar-inducing for those wishing to spare little Johnny's or Mary's feelings.

How are the fragile snowflakes being raised today going to overcome the real traumas that will come to them, if they've rarely had to suffer?

Maybe there is a relationship between having faith in a higher power, as I do, and the acceptance of things both good and bad.

If one can say that good = idealistic, and bad = reality, it makes utter sense that liberals are idealists and conservatives are realists.

Cheers,
Victoria

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Quayle

Good stuff, your points are well taken. That said, I resist the urge to put God 'in a box' by trying to surmise what he is/was thinking.

Quayle said...

That said, I resist the urge to put God 'in a box' by trying to surmise what he is/was thinking."

Of course you are right - "My thoughts are not your thoughts...."

But, I feel I'm still on safe ground: "Every branch ... that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit."

traditionalguy said...

Quayle...I want to stay in slow pitch softball league, thank you very much. But what do you think about when Jesus tells Peter, " Oh by the way, satan has asked permission to sift you like wheat, but "I have stopped satan's plan against you". Nope , Jesus just says, " but I have prayed for you that your faith doesn't fail you" while satan does his worst to hurt you.

Chip Ahoy said...

Quayle, I had already written and was about to post that Job is among my least favorite books because it has God allowing Satan to have his way on someone so undeserving all to demonstrate a point. I have always rejected that premise and chalked up the book to Jewish literature in the 'what if?' category. But your paragraph up there about excavating has completely changed my view. I now see the book entirely differently.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@vbspurs

"If one can say that good = idealistic, and bad = reality, it makes utter sense that liberals are idealists and conservatives are realists."

I tend to agree, the caveat being we can't fully express concepts such as this in a blog without being insufficient in scope.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Quayle

"If God is developing our souls, then the more developed people get the harder lessons."

My limited understanding of the Bible tells me that this is right.

Life, I believe, is about trials, and how we deal with them, and help others deal with them. It is not intended to be a prideful journey, on the contrary, Christ teaches selflessness.

Being human and selfless is very hard!

Quayle said...

Trad-dude, I would go with Paul's "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

I'm thinking that Satan is always desirous to completely overcome everyone and destroy everything.

I'm guessing that some things God is holding back completely. Some God is letting portion through, and some He's letting the full brunt through because the recipient is strong enough to handle it on their own.

To my read, Peter was getting the final conditioning lessons before assuming the leadership position he was eventually given.

But before the position, one last test which the Lord had lined up.

Which Peter failed spectacularly.

But the failure seems to have been the lesson: stop standing on your sense of your own righteousness. Start standing on your love of me, which, despite your weakness, will be sufficient with my covering Grace.

And the Lord was pretty tough on Peter, and made Peter look him in the eyes and declare it three times when Peter probably wanted to crawl under a rock and die for what he had done.

That's my fallible read, anyway.

Quayle said...

a prideful journey

I agree.

I've stopped looking at life as a journey, and started looking at it as a bingo card.

My friend has the "child died" box covered, but I don't.

I have the "devastating trauma when 3 years old" box covered, but he doesn't.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Quayle

"I'm guessing that some things God is holding back completely. Some God is letting portion through, and some He's letting the full brunt through because the recipient is strong enough to handle it on their own."

The book of Daniel/Chapter 2 has some interesting things to say about what you allude to.

It really should help put your mind at ease when you factor in the events of our world, today.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Quayle

And anyone else that might be interested -

Below is a link to a video of our church pastor, Mr. Jerry Gillis, introducing and beginning to teach on our new series entitled 'The Next Fifty'. Pastor Gillis is a terrific communicator and a faithful follower of Christ. I can only hope to have a sliver of his faith, someday...Pastor Gillis talks about the events of our day and how it fits with God's plan.

The book of Daniel is front and center in this message.

http://theater.thechapel.com/play/?p=1560&title=In_Our_World

wdnelson93 said...

"To me it's not that you find out who your friends are. You find out who you are."

A year ago this past Saturday, in the early morning hours, friends had their home burn to the ground. There were people sleeping on three levels. They literally had less than two minutes to exit the house by the time they were aware of the emergency. All nine (parents, 5 kids and one set of in-laws) escaped with their lives and and whatever clothes they had on. In March, in Alaska, one person had one shoe on. Last night the Dad gave a presentation at church detailing the event, the reconstruction since, what they have learned and what they had to pass on to us re: disaster preparation - eg. dealing with the bank when you have no ID, getting your driver's license again, getting glasses/contacts for the 4 who couldn't see without them.

Yes, they found out both who they are and who their friends are. And that God is good - all the time.

Pogo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pogo said...

A major task of adult life is figuring out how to manage your suffering.

Suffering is often a protracted war within, a daily discussion on why people can be such bastards to each other, of pain medical or spiritual, of love lost or in trouble, of money absent or excessive.

And then you meet people like Stuntz, who seem to love being alive despite a burden several times mine, who people glom onto for their creative spark.

It makes me a bit ashamed of myself.

But 'Try again' says the voice.

The Crack Emcee said...

This is one of my favorite threads:

Lots of wisdom, no attacks pro-or-con God, and I know who my friends are.

Like I said, the smart guy/gal (Vic) thread.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

There's nothing particularly counter-intuitive or profound about a recognition that suffering is a necessary part of our existence. Everything that is part of our existence is necessary. Where religions go wrong is in the belief that the ultimate goal is to escape suffering, e.g., heaven, nirvana-- and that a religion can outline a means to achieve that goal.

Religions are anti-life affirming because each, in its own way, sees life as something from which we should escape.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Shotgun

"Religions are anti-life affirming because each, in its own way, sees life as something from which we should escape."

Which 'religions' do you refer to?

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Pogo

"And then you meet people like Stuntz, who seem to love being alive despite a burden several times mine, who people glom onto for their creative spark."

Bill Stuntz of Harvard?

What are you suffering from, Pogo?

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

@don't tread

I'm unaware of any exceptions. Care to try?

Pogo said...

"What are you suffering from, Pogo?"

In relative terms, nothing at all.

That's my point.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Shotgun

"I'm unaware of any exceptions. Care to try?"

Well, all I'll offer you is this - the message of Christ is for everlasting life.

What you refer to as 'religion' I believe I know as something, well, different.

"Where religions go wrong is in the belief that the ultimate goal is to escape suffering, e.g., heaven, nirvana-- and that a religion can outline a means to achieve that goal. "

Proverbs 3:5-6

wv - jerami

Heck, he DID make it onto the thread!!!

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Pogo

Point taken. Be well.

Alex said...

Anyone who is in relatively good health, can pay their bills, hasn't suffered the death of a child can't really complain about life.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

"The message of Christ?" I asked for an exception to what I asserted, and you gave me a prime example in support of my assertion. Thanks.

Pogo said...

Not really the post for it, Shotgun.

At least, I haven't the energy to devote to your claim that the desire to escape suffering is "where religions go wrong".

At a minimum I would ask why people keep going back to that well, when it is apparently dry?

That 'suffering' is even a word at all seems to argue against your point. It should not be remarked upon, unless humans see something amiss in it.

But how could anything be amiss if "everything that is part of our existence is necessary".

Yet, there it is, the complaint that all is not right, or that something needs to be put right.

Phil 3:14 said...

from Paul:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Paddy O said...

argh!! Why is it that my lazy, dumb unserious posts always get through, but my serious, on topic, deeper posts get swatted by Blogger?!

An example of very minor suffering...

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

You are confusing what is "not right" with what is unpleasant. Unpleasantness is morally neutral, just as is the universe. It is, presumably, unpleasant to a colony of prairie dogs to be flooded by a heavy rain. But there is not anything that is "not right" about it.

"Not right" is something you see when looking though the tinted lenses of morality. It adds a false hue.

Paddy O said...

Shotgun, Christian theology is what I know so I'll speak to that. And I'll try it again (though the first, now lost, attempt will no doubt be the better one...)

While some popular expressions may emphasize an "escape" from history or reward only in the after life, the core teaching of Christianity is not that we follow a religion in order to get our goodies later.

Rather, the core teaching is that in aligning ourselves with Christ, we become transformed even in the present. Indeed our past is transformed as well so that what once destroyed us becomes, in grace, a way of instruction.

In Christian theology we do not wait for the future, but become--as the over used phrase goes--born again, being freed from all the anger, fears, frustrations, an other ego-induced attempts to build an identity on our own, and thus become free to live life anew, with hope in the present, with joy in the midst of struggle, with peace in the midst of terrors. That's what's exemplified in Stuntz's comment.

It is about our present being transformed, taking up with it our pasts, and entering into a new reality which extends into eternity.

Any theology that is not life-affirming is not Christian. The vivifying power of the Spirit enlivens us to live in increasingly renewed ways, reforming us to be more true to who God intends us to be in this present life, because life is what God all about.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Phil 3:14

Timely.

@shotgun

I reject your assertion that the goal of 'religion' is to 'escape suffering'.

Everlasting life, IMHO, is not the same as escaping suffering. Life, as we know it, is imperfect, for reasons too numerous to list here.

If you believe that the purpose of Christianity is to 'escape suffering', perhaps you have missed something.

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Paddy O

It seems your first attempt was lost for Go(o)d reason ;)

Your second attempt is quite excellent, thank you for your expression of faith.

Life is good!

Paddy O said...

Don't Tread, thanks (though I still like that first one better... :-D

Here's a quote from one of the most important theologians of the last 50 years, Wolfhart Pannenberg:

"Important is the fact that by the continued creative activity of his Spirit, God constantly rescues his creatures from the entanglement in self-centeredness that comes as result of their anxieties and desires. In spite of sin and its ramifications, then, we may again and again know the original joy in life, joy in the richness, breadth, and beauty of creation and in each new day, joy in the illuminations of the life of the spirit, power for action within the order of community life, and a turning to others and participation in their joys and sorrows.”

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@Paddy O

Outstanding!

Just printed the quote to share with the family.

Thanks!!!

Smilin' Jack said...

The Talmud specifies a certain blessing a man says when he sees a person deformed from birth. All the Talmudic blessings begin "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who . . .". The blessing for this occasion, upon seeing a hunchback or a midget or anyone else deformed from birth, is "Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, WHO CHANGES THE CREATURES."

A chromosome crosses or a segment snaps, in the egg or the sperm, and all sorts of people result. You cannot turn a page in Smith's Recognizable Patterns of Human Malformation [[ital]] without your heart pounding from simple terror. You cannot brace yourself. Will this peculiar baby live? What do you hope? The writer calls the paragraph describing each defect's effects, treatment, and prognosis "Natural History." Here is a little girl about two years old. She is wearing a dress with a polka-dot collar. The two sides of her face do not meet normally. Her eyes are far apart, and under each one is a nostril. She has no nose at all, only a no-man's-land of featureless flesh and skin, an inch or two wide, that roughly bridges her face's halves. You pray that this grotesque-looking child is mentally deficient as well. But she is not. "Normal intelligence," the text says.

-Annie Dillard, "For the Time Being".


Well, good, she can take consolation from the Book of Job, then. Just another of our loving God's soul-improving little tests.

Paddy O said...

And one from theologian Jurgen Moltmann:

“Theology is for me a suffering from God and a passion for God’s kingdom. For me this is a messianic passion, because it is possessed and moved by presence of the crucified Christ.

For me theology springs from a divine passion–it is the open wound of God in one’s own life and in the tormented men, women, and children of this world; from the accusation Job threw at God; from Christ’s cry of forsakenness on the cross.

We are not theologians because we are particularly religious; we are theologians because in the face of this world we miss God. We are crying out for his righteousness and justice, and are not prepared to come to terms with mass death on earth.

But for me theology also springs from God’s love for life–the love for life that we experience in the presence of the life-giving Spirit and that enables us to move beyond our resignation and begin to love life here and now.

These are also Christ’s two experiences of God, the kingdom of God and the cross, and because of that they are the foundations of Christian theology, as well: God’s delight and God’s pain. It is out of the tension between these two that hope is born for the kingdom in which God is wholly in the world and the world is wholly in God. “Seek first the Kingdom of God…”

cold pizza said...

At 19, I hit a tree while driving 65+ MPH. I was not wearing a seatbelt, I had not been drinking, and yet I was able to walk away from the accident. Every day since then has been a gift. -CP

wv: ospig: Win7

William said...

I read the Book of Job a long time ago. I remember that in order to try Job's faith, God allowed his children to die. I always wondered about that. The drama is about Job's struggle to overcome his religious doubts, and his kids are Rosencranz and Guildenstern. I picked up on this because a great deal of my own suffering has been because I was a bit player in other characters' drama. Do the kids get bonus points and go to heaven immediately? At any rate, they don't have to stuggle to find the meaning of suffering or understand God's will. They're dead and learn nothing and know nothing. OK, some suffering does result in personal growth and ever stronger faith, but there is no upside to the burial experience.

vbspurs said...

I echo (and kindly thank) Crack:

Lovely thread, just lovely.

Michael said...

Philo of Alexandia said something like this: Be kind for they too are engaged in a great struggle.

vbspurs said...

This is one my favourite videos on suffering and the role faith plays in helping you to bear it.

Here's one lady who knew a thing or two about suffering, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy.

"And then, of course, I think I've had great tragedies and I think of the Blessed Mother, before when she watched her son being crucified and reviled, and still she trusted in God. And she bore everything patiently, and I thought of her so often, at the crucifixion, when I saw Jack in Washington...in the Rotunda...and Bobby again in New York. And I'm not going to be vanquished either."

There's something about how her high-pitched North End lilt stops and starts as she remembers the unbearable, then becomes a soft tremolo as she pauses recalling her son's catafalque lying in the Rotunda -- that kills you, just kills you. And in the next moment, she lights up with that toothy Kennedy grin, because that's what true faith does to you. No matter how horrible the tragedy, it lights up your soul.

Cheers,
Victoria

B14 said...

A year ago Harvard Law held a two-day symposium on Stuntz's work, while he was still well enough to fully participate. Summary, and video of the conference, here:

http://www.law.harvard.edu/news/spotlight/criminal-law/william-stuntz-celebration.html

PDF of symposium here:
http://legalhistoryblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/symposium-march-26-27-honoring-william.html

Henry said...

There are many psalms that speak to suffering. This one verse on suffering unfolds a great expanse of meaning:

Psalm 60:3 "Thou has shewed thy people hard things: thou has made us drink the wine of astonishment."

Steve Koch said...

Faith in a higher power is comforting to most people but how do they explain how they might have any inkling about the nature or existence of the higher power?

Prosecutorial Indiscretion said...

Bill Stuntz was a genius and an extraordinarily decent and humble man. I was lucky enough to take several classes from him, and I am a much better person and lawyer as a result.

Paddy O said...

"We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request."

------

Steve, basically it comes down to testimony and experience. For Christianity, for instance, it's about whether you believe Jesus was who he said he was, did what they said he did, and then rose from the dead. At that point, his teachings and those of his immediate followers who learned directly from him take on more authority. You pass this sort of testimony down generations, and each generations examines it for its own, sometimes tweaking unclear teachings in light of other teachings, so as to keep the overall theology coherent.

Add to this not only words of philosophy but generations of people who testify to there being really something to it all. Then to our generation where, for some reason or another, a person is convinced this stuff is true, and in being convinced puts themselves in the tradition of the teachings that have been handed down.

More directly put, the coherence of a theology can be examined in light of Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (at least that's one way of putting it).

It all basically boils down to how we trust various witnesses, how we experience this reality in our own lives, and then using this information to organize it in a coherent way that makes sense to both its own comprehensive teaching and to lived experiences.

I don't know Stuntz's story more than I have read here, but my guess is that for him, his faith was both something he learned from others but also implemented in his own life, and in a time of great challenge it seemed that the teaching resonated with him, and others, in a way that brought wisdom and peace. We're all confronted with this particular testimony and do with it what we want.

Quayle said...

"...but how do they explain how they might have any inkling about the nature or existence of the higher power?"

I'll give another perspective with the many you'll get here.

The Mormon view is that it can only come through revelation.

To me, the most compelling of Joseph Smith's claims was not that he saw God and Jesus, or saw an angel and had some gold plates.

The most compelling was his claim that everyone can and should have the same kinds of revaluations as he had.

In Joseph's theology, revelation was religion and religion was revelation.

The Crack Emcee said...

Don't Tread 2012,

@Paddy O

Outstanding!

Just printed the quote to share with the family.

Paddy O,

Basically it comes down to testimony and experience. For Christianity, for instance, it's about whether you believe Jesus was who he said he was, did what they said he did, and then rose from the dead. At that point, his teachings and those of his immediate followers who learned directly from him take on more authority. You pass this sort of testimony down generations, and each generations examines it for its own, sometimes tweaking unclear teachings in light of other teachings, so as to keep the overall theology coherent.

As a product of the foster care system, and though all the foster homes I have been in were Christian, that passing of the generations thing didn't stick. Add in my experience with my wife's "spirituality" (which included a lot of church-going) and there's not one iota of a chance for it. But I understand. I really do. Here's the thing:

Today I had a great experience. A friend from boot camp, 32 years ago, found me on Facebook and we had lunch. When I asked how he happened to look me up, he said I was his first black friend and he's never forgotten me. I asked if our 2 month friendship had helped him later in life, with other blacks, and he said definitely. I didn't let on, besides saying thank you, but that floored me. I kind of walked on a cloud for a while.

When I got home, one of my god sons in France had contacted me, wanting to talk by Instant Message. He said he missed me, and was upset that my divorce had disrupted the glorious relationship we had known since his birth. he told me of people I love who had died, crushing me in ways he couldn't know - a sense of loss I wouldn't let him in on. And anger. Anger about how I'd been so cruelly snatched out of the loop of family - a family I had made by accepting these boys as my god sons, and their family as my own. (Except for "kisses" he said his mother sent, the adults don't talk to me. My god son said my wife is in France - something I didn't know - and he said any mention of me causes "problems" for the adults.)

I can't get past the cult thing, you guys, so I'll never have a "come to Jesus" moment. But I also can't go on with my anger. I want my life back - I want "me" back - but honestly, without being in the music business again, I don't know how to get there. I'm too upset by how it's all gone down, how society condones and rewards it and makes it possible (through "no fault" divorce) and how easily I can be sucked back into my anger when blindsided by the many elements of cultism in our society. I need a way out, but - since I'm dealing with spiritual/religious/philisophical questions - there is no way out.

It's just me and this odd future.

Any suggestions?

And just so you know, I'm serious, I'm not just trying to get you to click links.

Is there anything this thoughtful, intelligent, group of people can point me to, to cope with the rest of my life?

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

@ Don't tread

You said "Life, as we know it, is imperfect, for reasons too numerous to list here."

Thank you again, you hit the nail on the head and made my point, unwittingly, yet again.

And that is exactly my point. The common thread is that this life is flawed-- and that the solution comes from beyond. That is a denial of life, not an affirmation. Christianity, and other religions hate THIS life and yearn for another.

Here is our difference in approach: You are devoted to that which makes you feel good. While I am devoted to cold uncaring truth. If you lack the courage to attack your own convictions, then my advice-- to not launch that attack-- is superfluous. Because you won't.

The Crack Emcee said...

A "Shotgun" Gold,

"Not really the post for it, Shotgun."

As an atheist, I agree with you. On the other hand, can't you see this thread is as much philosophical as theological and let it go?

Nobody's picking fights here - we're talking about how to endure.

exhelodrvr1 said...

The Crack Emcee,

"I can't get past the cult thing, you guys, so I'll never have a "come to Jesus" moment. But I also can't go on with my anger. I want my life back - I want "me" back - but honestly, without being in the music business again, I don't know how to get there"

Open yourself to God's help. I wish I could say it more eloquently; maybe some of the others here can. But that's it.

Alex said...

Open yourself to God's help. I wish I could say it more eloquently; maybe some of the others here can. But that's it.

Explain why it MUST be Jesus Christ and not Vishnu, Allah or my cat's anus.

Quayle said...

Crack, here's what I do when I'm felling jacked or jacked with.

1. Focus only on what I own and control.

I own and control:
My motives
My desires
My objectives
My efforts

I don't own or control:
My reputation with others
My wealth
My office or position

I got step 2 if you want. It seems to work for me.

Chip S. said...

Crack Emcee,

You have the great gift that is the ability to create music. To me it's mysterious and (strict sense) awesome to be able to communicate something deeply personal, wordlessly, to multitudes.

I think of Beethoven, losing what would have seemed to be the most indispensable ability of a composer, pushing on to create what, to me, is the greatest piece of music ever written.

There is a mystical power in music that is not the false mysticism of New Agers but the real thing. The ability to tap into that power is the ability to create something transcendent. Celebrate your gift.

miller said...

Dear Mr. Emcee -

I wrote a longer message that blogger ate.

I'll summarize it as this:

I hope you can find some people in real life and perhaps through this blog who will be your friends before they try to be your teachers.

I would wish that if I ever met you in real life that we'd take the time for a beer and just let the conversation go where it will.

You are truly one of the most interesting and witty people I've ever had the pleasure to know on the internet; I wish it were possible for you to find the human contact we all need to make us feel that we are alive and seen.

I wish you all the best, and I hope in spite of my weak words you find happiness and peace, because - well, because I value you and respect you, and I think you are a good man.

exhelodrvr1 said...

Alex,
Peace.

vbspurs said...

Crack Emcee wrote:

Is there anything this thoughtful, intelligent, group of people can point me to, to cope with the rest of my life?

Many of us would love to give you that one piece of advice that will change your life, in fact, I wracked my brain to say something meaningful in my reply to such a heartfelt reaching out by you, Crack. I am embarrassed to say that I can only think of one thing: be honest with yourself. What do you want out of life? Companionship, or to be alone?

If you want a more religious reply, Christianity is the only religion where love is its foundation. Try to open up that gentle, but damaged heart of yours, and do your best to love others again.

It really, really makes all the difference in the world, my dearest Crack.

Cheers,
Victoria

Don't Tread 2012 said...

@shotgun

"Thank you again, you hit the nail on the head and made my point, unwittingly, yet again.

And that is exactly my point. The common thread is that this life is flawed-- and that the solution comes from beyond. That is a denial of life, not an affirmation. Christianity, and other religions hate THIS life and yearn for another.

Here is our difference in approach: You are devoted to that which makes you feel good. While I am devoted to cold uncaring truth. If you lack the courage to attack your own convictions, then my advice-- to not launch that attack-- is superfluous. Because you won't."

Shotgun, when I post I really try to avoid making too many assumptions about others, that's my thing. Allow me this - what you assume about me is strictly your construct, and not necessarily the truth.

FYI, Christians dislike the use of the word hate, so we attempt to avoid its use. And, to say Christians hate this 'life' is simply not true. Again, as I pointed out before, I believe you are missing something.

In your quest to uncover the 'cold uncaring truth', it is necessary to be open to what you do not understand. I do not accept what I believe easily, for I too have questioned the very existence of God in my life.

I appreciate you engaging this conversation, but its unproductive to have to overcome assumptions from someone that ostensibly cares about truth. Making assumptions and caring about the truth seem to be incompatible!

Largo said...

Another marvelous comment thread... and a marvelous post (of course) to get it started.

Siblings and friends, goodnight all.

Robert said...

Bill was my Criminal Procedure professor at UVA. Not a hint of hubris in the man, a solid teacher who welcomed debate and ideas. A true teacher that didn't impose his views on the class, nor expect them regurgitated by the gunners. At the time, I had no idea he was "conservative" or evangelical. He was a true loss for Virginia when he fled to Harvard. God bless him. R.I.P.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

@ Don't Tread

You said "Shotgun, when I post I really try to avoid making too many assumptions about others, that's my thing. Allow me this - what you assume about me is strictly your construct, and not necessarily the truth.

FYI, Christians dislike the use of the word hate, so we attempt to avoid its use. And, to say Christians hate this 'life' is simply not true. Again, as I pointed out before, I believe you are missing something."

I made no assumption about you, or any individual. I've made conclusions about a set of beliefs. You can avoid the use of the word "hate" all you want, just as a member of the KKK can avoid that word or the word "racist." But that doesn't change the underlying "philosophy."

You've said nothing to dispute my primary thesis-- that religions are based upon a views that are anti-life. Instead, you've merely confirmed my thesis with your statement that "life is imperfect." How can such a viewpoint be considered anything but antithetical to life? It is not a life-affirming statement, it is a rejection of this life.

WoW Lawbringer said...

How can such a viewpoint be considered anything but antithetical to life? It is not a life-affirming statement, it is a rejection of this life.

It may be hard to believe, but the fundamental message of Christianity is not "Believe this and get into Heaven." In fact, the only Biblical mention of Christians in Heaven is in Revelation, in which the saints and martyrs are under the altar begging for Christ to return.

Even passages about an "afterlife" foresee it being not about angels or spirits in Heaven but a bodily existence. "This corruptible shall have put on incorruption." 1Co 15: 54. Souls will not escape a foul physical world; the world itself will be made into a paradise on Earth.

Instead, Christianity is about having a new bodily life and trying to live as a perfected person on Earth. (My denomination's main focus is trying to help bring about this "Zion.")

Yes, life is imperfect, but Christianity (I won't speak for other religions) is about making the most of that imperfect life.

wv: goeveri. A restatement of the Great Commission: Goeveri where to preach the Gospel.

Timotheus said...

Several years ago a graduate student asked me to teach a Bible study on the book of Job. I declined, saying I didn't have the necessary experience. After undergoing high-dose chemotherapy and two stem-cell transplants for advanced lymphoma, and seeing my wife die from advanced colon cancer, I went back to the fellow and told him that I felt I could teach it now.

A "Shotgun" Gold said...

"but Christianity (I won't speak for other religions) is about making the most of that imperfect life."

Highly debatable. I view it more as a disingenuous attempt to make the most out of weakness, and to turn the natural order of things upside down. In many ways it's similar to a bacteria that develops antibiotic-resistant strains in order to survive. In either case stronger medicine is needed to cure the illness.

But I will concede that they make the most that they can out of the lie that life is imperfect or flawed-- a concept probably based upon wishful thinking.