Saturday, February 25, 2023

The ONLY Way


Along southbound I-29, just beyond Exit 86 at Gardner, ND I noticed the billboard pictured on the left. This was not the first billboard of this genre to capture my attention. A simple search on the internet indicated the providers of these billboards {(83) FOR-TRUTH}is an organization called "Christian Aid Ministries." On their donation page the following is written: "we cannot buy our salvation or pay for the forgiveness of our sins with money. ONLY through the blood of Jesus can our sins be forgiven and only by believing in Him can we be saved from eternal damnation. We are not soliciting funds; however, if you would like to make a donation to help us put up more billboards across the USA, we are making it possible for you to do so."  While my belief system is placed under the heading "Christian", I do not endorse nor do I condemn the work of this organization. What peaked my interest was the word, "only."

Whenever someone uses a word which denotes exclusivity and superiority my rebellious nature rapidly surfaces. This has been a characteristic since childhood.  My father or an older brother would tell me the way something had to be done. I would comply in their presence. Once that person was gone I would attempt the get the same result in my own way. Imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and innovation are options which are contrary to "only."  When I hear the word or get the sense that someone or some group is stating there is only one way, which they possess, my immediate reaction is it means power, control, and protection.

I am nearing completion of a book entitled "Liberating The Gospels - Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes" by John Shelby Spong. I have found it to be insightful, irritating, thought provoking, and persuasive. On page 299, he writes, "We have nothing to lose by looking at new possibilities unless we yearn to hide inside the hysterical prison of self-deception. For some religious folk, that is exactly what they seek to do. They no longer believe in God in any real or genuine way, but they still are convinced that they believe in believing in God. Hence they seek to protect, not their God, but their believing in God behind a fortress-like barrier of significant emotional defenses. Such an irrational belief system cannot be discussed openly, and incredible anger becomes obvious when such believing is disturbed." This statement can easily be removed of a religious context and placed into politics, economics, lifestyle, and most any topic currently under the umbrella of culture wars. Objectively looking at the data, at science, and placing it into context seems rationally appropriate. However, our anger is more about protecting personal power,control, and ego than it is the specific issue. 

Northern Scotland

Where will the water flowing over the rocky terrain gather? Eventually it will enter a stream and make its way into the ocean. It will then go through the cycle of evaporation and condensation. The multiple descending flows provide significant beauty to what in fact is an ordinary process. I believe the creativity and innovation which provides beauty in our relationships is functionally impeded when we believe our perspective has to be defended at all costs. Life becomes focused on raising and reinforcing the bulwarks we believe will keep us safe.  

My ONLY desire is to be an incomplete work in progress.