Category Archives: Love

Non-Inclusion On a Personal Level

On the way to visiting my buddy Paul Joseph in Brantford this past weekend, I was thinking of this issue of inclusion again. We talked about it while we did some running around to get some errands done while I was there.

There is a website called “Love Without Agenda” run by Jimmy Spencer Jr.
“Love Without Agenda” is inclusionary in their core set of values, and one of the team members, in his bio, speaks of it in a way one speaks of Jesus or the Gospel. Here is what he says:

“JACOB WENTZEL / DEVELOPMENT WRITING & FORMATION My name Jacob Wentzel and I am a 25-year old native of the Chicago area who now resides in Bucktown. Since graduating from Loyola University Chicago with bachelor’s degrees in English and French literature in 2012,1 have been working at an office job, acquiring a masters of liberal arts at the University of Chicago, and pulsing, patiently, to become part of something significant, here and now, for the welfare of humanity. At the core of our initiative is the message of unconditional inclusion and equality within the human experience, which has also become the core belief of my personal philosophy From the start, I was raised to get along with all types of people, and was even particularly attracted to the misfits who were excluded by the mainstream. Then, about 12 years ago, when Spencer became my youth pastor, I found out what happens when the message of inclusion is applied to the place from which is should most radiate, but which more often practices exclusion: the Christian Church. As Spencer took his message of inclusion beyond the Church and as his initiative evolved over the years, I did whatever I could to help, including editing articles and essays in exchange for chorizo burritos. Meanwhile, I also ingested the message of inclusion through my pursuit of the liberal arts, which taught me the beauty and truth of a polyphonic community in which no voice is excluded or even hushed. As one who is constantly reflecting upon my immediate community and looking to solve its problems, I am eager to combat the evil of exclusion and to give a voice to all walks of life.”

I’m going to chalk some of Wentzel’s enthusiasm to age (he seems to have a world/global vision for he speaks about the “welfare of humanity” and combatting exclusion for all walks of life) but you can see how much inclusion means to Wentzel. It’s as if it isn’t even questioned. He LOVES inclusion. It’s almost as if he is having an orgasm. It’s as if this is what he lives for. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!

It’s understandable that some would think this way as they believe that Jesus was all about the marginalized. But let’s face it. Jesus had some that were closest to him while excluding others. And ALL of us don’t include EVERYONE in our close circle and we do it for several reasons. Some because of differences of opinion, some because of culture, sex, age, interests, etc. As a matter of fact, it is physically and humanly impossible to include everyone in our lives. And it isn’t “sinful” to not do so for the reasons given.

The modern Christian belief is that in the consummation of the ages we will all be loving everybody in Christ. There will be no hate. Everyone will be included. Perfect love will abound. How we come to that point is another post but for now, let’s simply accept that that will be the case. So, in the mean time, in the “all-ready-not-yet that we now live in, we are supposed to work toward that vision. In other words, we are supposed to be loving towards others NOW, based upon a future eschatology.

But let’s think of many of those reasons mentioned above as to why we don’t include others. And let’s think of this on a very personal relational level between the sexes. Say a person, wants to date someone but that other person doesn’t find them attractive for various reasons. Let’s just go with looks as the surface reason. Question: The person who rejects someone on that basis–is their negativity toward said person sin? I mean, it certainly doesn’t fall within the eschatological vision of where we love everyone. Most of us would say it isn’t sin even though it is VERY exclusionary. They simply are not attracted to the other person on a physical level and it is that lack of attraction (negativity) that is my main concern here. There could be other reasons. Economic. One person is poor while the other is not. That makes cause for lack of attraction. Negativity again. Is it not sin to exclude for those reasons? Is not that lack of attraction sin? Again, on a personal level, not many of us would say it is sin. We just accept that this is the way the world works. That this is the way of the world. And that we simply want to get on with our lives and live our lives from day to day.

If we are all ONE at some future point then I would suspect that whatever negativity that one has for excluding someone on a personal relational level ie., why they can’t be lovers, or included in their inner circle would not be the case at that point. ALL of that should be erased. Yet we accept that “negativity” now for personal reasons but not for thinking generally about Christian love and ethics for and towards all humankind as is the case in Wentzel’s spiel (to be exclusionary is the epitome of evil!).

The whole inclusionary vision, based as it is on what I think is a over-realized eschatology doesn’t work in the real world–the here and now. It doesn’t work between groups and it certainly doesn’t work on the personal level.

Maybe it is the case that the so-called “negativity” is not negative. Maybe that is the way we are wired and so we might want to tweak what we mean by inclusion and Christian love a little. That is, when we think of inclusion, maybe it should be viewed as all peoples, ethnicities, races, groups, etc, are simply included in the beatific vision. Either way, right now, it IS the case that we discriminate and don’t included on MANY levels.


Inclusiveness On Steroids

The whole inclusiveness ideology that many Christians tout today is based on a particular understanding of God’s love and Jesus’ mission in the world (Christ came to save everybody)–the whole, “he came to seek out the marginalized and we’re supposed to love everybody” thingy.

In saying this, many Christians don’t really have a problem with how their faith (and this particular theo/politico outlook) would play out with regard to public justice or individual justice. Essentially, for them, government was and is doing a good and just thing to end discrimination, ie., school integration and civil rights legislation, acceptance of LGBT folk, etc.

Interestingly, the whole top down approach to rid society of discrimination has not only been a failure historically but it really doesn’t make philosophical sense because it ignores that the attempt to eradicate “racism” (ie., attitudes) is much like the attempt to eradicate stupidity as well as it ends up creating a homogenized and uniformed society. That is, it “flattens” society. (James Kalb, “Against Inclusiveness”).

But there’s something else as well. Inclusiveness ignores human nature and how relationships work. What I mean is that you can’t like or “love” (in that sentimental sense) EVERYBODY. Does love (in this sentimental way) mean, for example, that a pastor will get along with everyone in his flock who is under his care? How exactly would a pastor “love” everyone in his congragation? Would he get along with EVERYBODY?Would he not have differences with parishoners? Would he not find some relationships like sandpaper–gritty that go against the grain? Does this not ignore how relationships work in real life situations? For example, most of these same inclusive Christians would have no problem with a couple who divorce for they realize the situation–that that couple are ultimately not reflecting the Triune love of the Godhead in their relationship. In other words, there is a less than perfect love there. As a matter of fact the best that a couple might be able to do is to reflect that love by not talk to each other and in this way seek out as much peace as POSSIBLE. In other words “as possible” means there is less than perfect love there. But maybe it has nothing to do with “less than perfect love.” Let’s say, said couple have different interests and are not compatible on other levels? Does it have to be a question that there is LESS THAN perfect love? Or does this not reflect the normality of the way that relationships work and are INTENDED to work?

So, if this happens on a personal level, why MUST we push the idea of inclusiveness on such a grand public scale? If the idea of a divorced Christian couple as not “inclusive” (of each other) is OK, why do we not allow for this on a societal/sociological scale? Let’s face it. People choose to hang with and befriend certain other people for various reasons. People clash with personalities. People don’t always feel comfortable in other groups. So what would be problematic with a pastor who chooses not to associate with certain people in his congregation ie., trust, personality issues, cultural differences, etc? Granted, some of this “lack of reconciliation” is due to sinful tendencies and impulses but some if not most of it isn’t. And it would certainly be hard to differentiate between the various reasons, as if there are hard and fast boundaries.

One may say, “Well we should TRY to be loving (which means inclusive) because ultimately in the new age to come we will be love each other.” This is inclusiveness from the other end of the spectrum–the eschatological end. But why must “loving” in this instance mean getting along, making-friends-with, everybody? Why can’t loving mean simply serving–without the sentimentalism? Why couldn’t a pastor serve those in his congregation by helping them connect with others whom are like minded (you know, birds of a feather flock together idea?) or connect them with those who can be loving in the way that these folk need to be loved? Would that not be loving even though the pastor doesn’t have the interior resources to love in that way? It seems to me that inclusiveness in the Christian community is an inclusiveness on steroids that does damage to the way relationships work and are intended to work.


Capital Punishment and the Christian Faith

So Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sentenced to death for the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing and for killing a police officer. After reading, “Religion and the Death Penalty: A Call For Reckoning” I’m convinced that there is no real tension between the Christian faith and the death penalty. Having a little discussion on facebook with one of my friends, Keith Pavilschek I made mention of what Gilbert Meilaender said:

“Evidently Christian sensibilities about forgiveness do not actually require forgiveness, since something called “punishment” is still permitted.”

Apparently some Christians (and yes, I’ve seen them in the media) believe that forgiveness requires no death penalty. But for some reason, it would require punishment. Hmmmm…thinking there is a contradiction there when forgiveness is your bottomline. Keith pointed out that,

“if the death penalty is ‘state sanctioned murder’ as some abolitionists insist, is imprisonment ‘state sanctioned kidnapping’?

and I pointed out

“And how about the ’emotional abuse’ one ‘suffers’ when one is stuck in a prison for the rest of their days”


On Racism

My buddy Tom Belt wrote an interesting piece on racism that you can view here.

I do have a couple of things to say about this though.

A. Dwayne and Tom see systemic racism to be a failure to truly love someone because of self-perception. I really don’t know if I would identify this as the “systemic” portion of racism. Of course, one could say the same thing about blacks against whites. One could also say the same thing about sexism. The list could go on and on. Not trying to say this is not true. As a matter of fact I do see this as a pretty plausible explanation. But an explanation that seems to have to fit into a wider view of justice.
B. Some Christians are fond of saying that Christian morality should not be forced on to others. Something like, “You can’t force non-Christians to love” through law. So, if this is a Christian understanding of racism, I would like to know how this could ever be reflected in law. Should such a view be encoded in law? COULD it be reflected in law? Sure, a non-Christian may not be able to love the way they should if the Spirit was guiding them, but I tend to think that the Spirit is still at work in unbelievers as well as I tend to think that if a view such as this was encoded in law, it may be able to be done without the Christian trappings. In other words, how could we all perceive ourselves as “one?” Forget law. Just put it in policing policies.
C. I do think that this explanation is helpful with regard to responding to the question that was actually proposed to me on Facebook: “Do you think the police want to kill others?”

I don’t think these question are irrelevant. I think the questions Tom raises is one side of the coin while my thoughts are the other side. Theirs is theoritical. Mine is trying to see this as an outworking in law and policing policy. I’ve been guided by a saying that goes something like this:

“Justice fulfills what love cannot.” You can start out with love–looking at what the problem is or what you think the problem is. You can come up with solutions, ie., deal with the self-perception issue, ., ie, we’re all one. But it also needs to have a practical outworking–justice.


Assisted Suicide: The Ultimate Solution From An Ultimate Philosophy

We first heard about Brittany Maynard this past month when she first drew national attention to talk about having help to kill herself because of an incurable brain tumor. I’m SURE that was the precursor to the event in which her life will be taken with the help of a doctor and with her husband and family by her side. It seemed to me to be at the time a “gauging of the winds” to see what public sentiment is going to be like.

Interestingly, many modern issues like this have to do with “freedom from” some restraint or another. Some authority or another. We see it with sexuality and in this case we see it with regard to the ultimate act–the ending of one’s life. Surprisingly, many Christians have bought into the highly autonomous individualistic culture which is what (assisted) suicide is the ULTIMATE result of.

I know I will probably hear sentiments in which people will say I’m being heartless. I mean, speaking on some philosophical level about “highly autonomous individuals” seems pretty cold and callous compared to the pain of dying and losing love ones. But it is my hope to expand on why this is really not the case (that talking about highly autonomous individuals is not the really cold and callous) because assisted suicide is not only about the person who is facing it, but also about the wider community. It is not only about those of us who are faced with the question of dying “taking control” of our destinies, but also about our own messianic tendencies to alleviate others of pain and suffering. And if we are called to love God and our fellow human beings, then love will be expanded to include both the individual and the community.

On the one hand, I can sympathize with those who want to kill themselves–the idea being that we should not accept pain and suffering as good. But this means we should care for those who are suffering (what the Christian tradition has usually been about). On the other hand, we must never pretend that we can eliminate suffering completely from human existence or that it has no point or purpose in our lives. An “any and every means possible” to achieve a certain good end is not always justifiable. We human beings, ESPECIALLY in this area of medicine, need to remind ourselves that we are not saviors. Could it not also be the case that many Christians have bought into a radical individualism such that it has a veneer of Christianity to it but is anything but? In other words, it has the robe of Christ on it, but underneath is the devil? A wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Part of the teaching of the incarnation is not only that Christ dwells along side of us and identifies with us in our pain and suffering but that WE do the same with others. That, in itself, should say something about our persistent need to eliminate pain and suffering as our highest priority or ultimate goal. In the incarnation we can see that there can be a purpose to our pain and suffering. In thinking that we should eliminate pain and suffering in this final act, we essentially are saying that pain and suffering and the negative destructive powers of the universe are ultimately victorious in our lives. And this is a different eschatological vision then that of the Bible.


Does God Love Satan?

My buddy Tom Belt has brought up this question once again that we discussed on the old Open Theism Discussion Boards. Really, I wince every time I see pictures or quotes or hear songs of this dual between Lucifer and Jesus where Lucifer is depicted as being “defeated” in some sense that leaves us saying, “Yeah! Go Jesus! Screw you Satan!” (remember Stryper’s “To Hell With The Devil?” Or Carmen’s “The Champion?”). Well, these are the sorts of questions that my Bible school did not ask nor equip me to answer. I am so thankful for guys like Tom Belt and my friend Dwayne Polk and my acquaintance Greg Boyd. They’ve asked these questions taking us to the logical end of such questions I think. And of course, that is what good theology does. There is certainly nothing wrong with coming up with different models and “concluding” which one you think fits the criteria better and makes the most “sense” (of course there are different ways to understand this ie., something may make logical sense but may be morally askew.

So does God love Satan? Well, yes, I believe God does love Satan and the reasons why, as we discussed are:

A. The theological injunction to love our enemies.
B. God is still sustaining Satan and God loves what he/she sustains. Which is also to say that there is something left TO love. It isn’t as if Satan is totally hopeless in an ontological sense where there is not a shed of anything good in him ie., not pure evil through and through.
C. Satan, as a creature of God, comes from God in a metaphysical sense, thus, as with all creation, will return back to God and that metaphysical aspect, I think, in large part, is what is meant by there being good in Satan.


All Fall Short

So. Then there’s this: WATCH: Family Has Horrifying, Violent Reaction To Son’s Coming Out As Gay (GRAPHIC CONTENT)

My buddy went so far as to say the parents were not Christian in large part because they were violent and verbally abusive to the young man. Now, there ARE these folks on the Right who declare the spiritual status of people over others when it comes to their hot button issues ie., that doctor performing abortions CERTAINLY CAN’T be a Christian. But Christians on the Left do the same ie., Fred Phelps CERTAINLY CAN’T be a Christian. Pick ANY left/right issue. One side will declare that the other side is on the outs. And really, it looks like some family feud. The stinging vitriolic towards each other at times makes you feel as if you are standing in the middle of a battle field sometimes.

Now here’s the thing. Both sides have a hold on the truth on their respective issues while the other side may not be in complete error on the issue itself. Let me give an example of what I mean. Using one of the examples above, lets look at the gay debate to see more clearly what I’m saying.

As it stands, there are a WHOLE swath of Christians whom feel/think that:

A. Homosexuality is not God’s ideal for human sexuality. That THAT along with other inclinations are not ideal for human sexuality ie., premarital inclinations and behavior, lustful obsessions, etc. They may fall more along the lines of what Stanley Grenz pointed out some years ago in which they are “welcoming but not affirming” (to speak in rather general terms). They believe there should be some things that are inappropriate in terms of our sexuality and so they don’t affirm those particular thoughts and behaviors. Though they may not except those whom do them.

B. On the other side is the more welcoming AND affirming crowd. As a matter of fact some would in all probability say that the other side is not welcoming if they are not affirming. Thus, they see gay orientation as immutable as the skin pigmentation or the shape of an say an Asian person for an example. For them, the gay person, in this sense, is the “Samaritan” or the “marginalized.”

For myself, I don’t think those in category “A” are mistaken (at least theologically). After all, they have a LONG history of Christian sexual ethics that they are standing on. But the Fred Phelps types and the folk in the video link above would fall into THAT category. Where they ARE mistaken is in their dysfunction in HOW they relate with those who are gay in their midst ie., they could learn from their gay brothers and sisters and see their own struggles, even seeing them AS fellow strugglers on a journey to a final destination where they struggle no more.

The other side, where I think they are mistaken, is not even seeing sexual orientation, identity, etc, as something to be struggled with. However, where they are NOT mistaken is seeing those as different as marginalized and to some extent relating properly to gay folk, ie., meeting them where they are at.

Now, if such is the case, how can anyone on either side declare those on the opposite side AS NOT Christian? Aren’t both sides lacking in love to some extent or another? Lacking in love in different capacities? Let’s face it. If love is supposed to be what we are shooting for ie., being “perfected in love” (towards God and our fellow humans) then to the extent that we lack loving in the way we should we are also not perfected. What I’m saying is this. When it comes to love? ALL of us SUCK at it. Let me give an example from Alexander Pruss’ book, “One Body.”

“One way love is humble is that the actions of love are not focused on agapé itself (we shall discuss a different aspect of love‘s humility in section 5 below). There would be something odd about a parent explaining why he stayed up the night with a sick child by saying: “I love my son.“ Surely the better justification would be the simpler: “He is my son.“ The latter justification puts the parent in a less grammatically prominent spot (“my” instead of “l”), and shows that the focus is on the son. Most importantly, however, the use of “I love my son“ as a justification would suggest that if one did not love him, the main reason to stay up the night would be missing. But the main reason to stay up the night is that he is one‘s son. That he is one’s son is also a reason to love him as one’s son, and that one loves him may provide one with a further reason to stay up with him. However, the main reason for staying up is not that one loves him; rather, the love, expressed in the staying up, is a response to a reason that one would have independently of the love. Thus, in an important sense, the parent acts lovingly—acts in a way that is at least partly constitutive of love—without acting on account of love. Love’s actions are not focused on love but on the beloved as seen in the context of a particular relationship. However, to explain why we made some sacrifice for someone to whom we had no blood ties, we might well say, “I love him.” Nonetheless, I suggest, this may be an imperfection—it may be a case of seeking one’s own. Why not instead act on account of the value of the other person in the context of the relationship? It is true that love maybe a central part of that relationship, but I want to suggest that love is not the part of the relationship that actually does the work of justifying the sacrifice. For suppose that I stopped loving my friend. Would that in itself take away my obligation to stand by him in his time of need? Certainly not. The commitment I had implicitly or explicitly undertaken while loving him, a commitment that made it appropriate for him to expect help from me, is sufficient for the justification. If I need to advert to my own love, then something has gone wrong.”

If Pruss is right here, then the case may be made that there are a lot of Christians, both of whom fall in categories “A” & “B” that are loving for “one’s own” (benefit). They are loving out of dysfunction. And if such is the case that all of us suck at love (loving) because we love out of dysfunction then how can we REALLY declare who’s on the inside and who’s on the outside? And that’s my point. Even when we THINK we are loving as we ought (“I’m loving but you guys over there aren’t”). We very well may not be as Pruss shows.

So for me, those in both categories “A” and “B” are loving in their respective ways. They ALSO LACK in love in their respective ways. Thus, no one should declare the other side on the outs.