Tuesday, June 20, 2006

I went to Church on Sunday

Primarily because my children were involved in a program, I needed to get out of the house, and it was a lovely Sunday Father’s Day.

I am always curious as to what my own reaction will be. At one time, I was desperate for answers. I looked forward to church, simply to interact with people with questions I was having. Inevitably, I left with more frustration, as the answers given were so standard fair. Nothing I hadn’t thought of countless times before.

I reached a point where I became irritated at church. I wanted to ask questions, and knew that those about me were not interested in those questions. They wanted the standard response that with a God everything will be all right, and all one has to do is believe, and just have faith. So I became completely silent in church. That was not good either.

I went through a stage of detached interest. Where I would listen for a bit, scream inside my head at the simplicity of the information, tune out, and through boredom, re-tune back in to see if anything had changed. It hadn’t.

I became resentful toward the church. Why couldn’t it address my questions? Why couldn’t I manage to have more than one conversation in a row with the same pastor/teacher/elder/deacon? It seemed that after just one “session” I was written off as too hard of a sell. Too hard of a package.

I became frustrated with the church. Here I was, anxious to be actively involved in some way, and they were turning me away! There was no place for me to fit. I could not teach, I would not be allowed to help; I could not attend anything remotely suited toward my interests. There was nothing for me to do, but be a lump in the pew and keep my mouth shut.

I haven’t attended a church since December or so. Therefore, I was curious as to what my reaction would be after six months.

After seeing the program, the singing started. Same songs I was familiar with. I looked inside. Was I angry? Nope. Was I frustrated? Nope. Was I interested, bored, anything? Nope, nope, nope. What I found, to my complete surprise, was that I wasn’t feeling anything at all.

I looked at the people about me and thought for a moment how odd it was to be so self-convinced of something that was totally made up in the human mind. But it was with a quick thought of “how odd” and nothing more.

The preaching started with the customary verse-reading, slide-presentation, same-old interpretation that the audience wanted to hear. I found I could listen and not tear my hair out because….I didn’t care.

I listened, reflected on what the pastor said, and didn’t resonate in any way. He may was well have been giving a lecture on interest-rate fluctuation.

I am very lucky to live in the age of the internet. Although I do not say it enough, I enjoy and appreciate the interaction with theists that take time to respond, and answer, and reflect with me. That interaction, I realize, has made me apathetic to attending church.

Oh, I miss the friends, the socialization, the camaraderie found in a church—sure! But what I am engaged in, the church is unprepared. It is here that I have found the theists that are my “church.”

So, to any theist that has responded with any degree of civility to me, both here and on the forums, I owe you a cup of coffee, or a beer, your preference.

It is this interaction that has kept my interest far more than 1000 sermons could ever do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Make Sure your Contractor is Insured

Sorry for the break, but I have been too busy to sneeze.

I have been working on building an additional deck on our house. I have never built a deck before, so I am half looking forward to it, half scared of it and half too busy to be either.

I find myself in the same pattern as most such projects I contemplate. First I get numerous books on the subject and pour over them. I want to read all the short-cuts, the mistakes to avoid, and look ahead so that I can see the big picture as to what each step will entail, and why it is important.

Then I start to put together a plan. I tend to plan/build at the same time on projects, allowing for additional complications, and constant corrections of the last step’s mistakes. When I start off, I fully intend to be absolutely level, every corner true, every angle perfect, every nail sunk correctly. As I move along, with my personality, I find myself saying, “Close enough” and moving on.

There are those that take hours and create the perfect item, and others that take no time at all and slop together whatever works for the moment. Although I strive to be the former, I am more in the middle, if I was to be honest. Not quite a slopper, but not quite a perfectionist, either.

Unfortunately, what I most certainly am is obsessive about a project. It becomes all-consuming. I am thinking decks as I drive, thinking decks as I get home and look the situation over; I am waking up at 3:00 a.m. with an “A-ha! That is how I can frame that together.” When I come home each night I work on the deck ‘till dark.

Don’t get me wrong—I enjoy it. I envision the perfect deck, with boards perfectly in place, and each item correctly held together, and I enjoy working toward that end. I find myself constantly limited by time and energy. I only have so much time to input and being only one person, I can only do so much.

What if God would build my deck for me?

He had all the time in the world to plan a deck. If I want to complete this project by July, at some point I have to put hammer to nail, and begin putting it together with what I have. God, on the other hand, had literally infinity to plan. More than the phrase, “all the time in the world.” More than billions and billions of years, God could be planning the deck down to the slightest sliver and grain of dirt, and do it all over again another million times!

I have to eye my measurements. As good as I can be, I still have to look and place a mark as close as I can. God can see down to the very atoms themselves, and see what is one too many, or one too few atoms. His boards would be cut to the perfect measurement every time.

God created the idea of mathematics, the concept of a right angle, the wood itself, the chemical composition of cement and steel, even the contour of the land. He would know his shovel was to hit a rock before sending it into the dirt.

Have you ever held up a long board, with a level on it, and try to nail it onto another board? One hand to hold the board, one hand to hold the nail, one hand to hammer and one hand to hold the level. Too many items. So one pre-sets the nail, holds the board up by squishing it against the other board with an arm/chest/knee/foot, balancing the level carefully on top and wildly swing the hammer in the direction of the nail hoping it will strike at the precise moment when the board has pendulumed between too far, and not enough.

At which time, one’s child says, “DAD! Watcha doing?” Sending the whole mess in a cascade of hammer, level, board and person.

God would have no need of that. He has power. He CAN hold a board, level, nail, and hammer, and get it all perfectly right, at just the right time. Right down to the very minute depth the nail needs to be.

I find myself dragging a bit on Monday. After a long weekend, with little rest, and sun burnt shoulders, and tired arms, legs and back, I am thankful I have a break from physical labor. God could work all day and all night with nary a break.

You would think that God could build a perfect deck, right?

But then I look at the world about me. Even theists acknowledge it is far from perfect, and devise masterful reasons as to its lack of perfection. Either it is humans’ fault, or for some strange reason, it is how God intended it. It may be karma, or free will, or the fall, or the “ends justify the means” or to glorify himself, or any other of numerous reasons.

I saw an exchange a long time ago in a discussion where a theist says, “Do YOU think you could do better than God in how He made this world?” I have not forgotten the reply: “Sure, all I have to do is make the exact same world, and today feed one starving child, and the world is better.”

Think about it. The same wars occur, the same atrocities, the same murders, and genocides, and terrorist acts, and one child fed on one day, and this is a better world than what God could come up with.

If one contemplates this long enough, an awful truth emerges. The best God could do is have that child starve. The best God can do is all about us. Marriages must include abusive husbands who eventually, foreseeably, kill their submissive spouses. AIDS must ravage the African continent. Countless sons and daughters must be subjected to sexual abuse by relatives, which is passively dismissed by other relatives.

Every bone broken, every finger crushed, every sickness uncured until the next decade is all necessary in God’s “best” world.

God had billions and billions and billions of years to plan, improve, modify, discard, and change how this universe was to be fashioned, and after all that time, could not resolve how to keep that one child from starving to death today. That was too much for him. It would not have fit in his plan.

And God, with all his power, could not prevent polio from crippling millions of people. That was much too much for him to tackle. It took humans to resolve that problem.

Theists use these reasons to justify why this is the best God can do. “Humans need free will”—so all those animals had to become extinct? “It all works toward a Good end”—God needs a teenager to die in a car crash, or else the “good end” will fall apart? “Humans did it with the fall”—and for Billions and Billions and Billions of years before that, God didn’t see it coming?

I am told that God must be so much smarter than I am, and therefore must have a good reason for doing this. (Although one does not necessarily follow from the other.) I am told to “wait and see, wait and see” and maybe someday (after it is too late) I will understand why this super-smart, super-powerful, super-planner of a God must have a reason for Alzheimer’s disease.

A theist has to say that this world, with all its problems, is either the Best that a God can do, or God didn’t give it his Best.

Either way, I think I will build my own deck. I have seen what people claim is God’s work, and it needs some improvement.