Holly Collins recorded my song "Reveal Yourself." Linda and I sing backup vocals, and I do the guitar work.
This song is from the book of Amos.
|(Trees in my backyard)|
|(Lady bug, in my house)|
|(Teaching in Eldoret, Kenya)|
|(Free-range squirrel, on my back porch)|
(These are some Wittgensteinian aphorisms on the limits of stories that I wrote during my praying time today. Perhaps to be further developed.)
Every person has a unique life story. If the goal is to understand a person, then we must listen to them as they tell their stories, or their sub-stories (stories within their life story).
Uniqueness has nothing to do with truth. A story might be interesting, but "interesting" does not cause the listener to say, "Aha! That's so interesting. Therefore it is true."
The details of their story might not be accurate. For example, there may be exaggeration.
The hearer of the story must interpret it. (Unless the interpreter is a postmodernist, à la Jacques Derrida. According to Derrida, no one can interpret a text, at least in terms of authorial intention. Which means, Derrida expected no one to interpret his texts, thus proving his point, in a self-contradictory way.)
A story is something we listen to, for the sake of understanding.
A person's story is not something to be "affirmed." For example, if the person is a pedophile. If they applaud pedophilia, we can listen to their story (e.g., if we are a psychologist). We may discover how they came to affirm pedophilia. They may say "true" to this statement: Pedophilia is a moral good. But, hopefully, the psychologist does not affirm the statement Pedophilia is a moral good. That statement is false.
A story may be the bearer of truth, or the bearer of falsity. We may ask, "What is the moral of the story?" But the expression of the moral of the story (in a statement) is extrinsic to the story itself.
Imagine I am sitting in your kitchen. It's just you and me. I pull out an assault rifle. While fondling its trigger, I share my story. Of how I grew to love shooting people with assault rifles. After hearing it, you are probably not going to reply with, "I affirm your story."
Stories, whether factive or fictive, can carry emotional weight and transformative power. Stories can move us, in certain ways. That may be good. But from all this emotion, this does not follow:
1) This story makes me emotional.
2) Therefore, I must affirm it as true.
The emotional weight of a story is not equivalent to the truth of its underlying moral point. A story may point us in a truth-bearing direction. Once that direction is identified, we dismount that horse to use reason (logic) to evaluate the truth or falsity of whatever moral point has been made.
|(Kitty Hawk, NC)|
I became a youth pastor in 1971. I've been pastoring ever since - for fifty-one years.
A major part of a pastor's job description involves being with grieving people. We are caregivers and comfort bringers to suffering people.
A pastor enters into the grief of others. We have been trained to do this. Many pastors do this with excellence.
Not a week goes by without one or more grief-stricken people contacting Linda and I for help. In this, we are not exceptional. Every pastor does this.
Here are some of the ways I have done this, over five decades. I present this to you as non-exceptional pastoral ministry. Every pastor who views their calling as a shepherd to others knows about this. Every shepherd-pastor has a list like mine.
We do funerals.
We meet and pray with people who have lost loved ones.
We weep with those who weep.
We comfort parents who have lost children.
We comfort young people whose siblings overdosed and died.
We are with families and friends who have lost someone to suicide.
We respond in the middle of the night to crisis phone calls.
We meet with victims of murder.
We meet with murderers.
We visit people in prison.
We care for the suffering and dying.
We have been with people as they took their last breath.
We spend a portion of our time with the hospitalized.
We counsel adulterers and their survivors.
We rescue marriages and families.
We cry with the victimized.
We help the helpless.
We bring hope to the hopeless.
We have time to talk with hurting people.
We pray with people.
We befriend outcasts.
We agonize over the sufferings of others.
We counsel those grieving their moral failures.
Sometimes we are just there, with grieving people, saying little, or nothing.
We do none of this perfectly.
Every pastor I know does these things, and more.
|(Our dog So-Fee, and me)|
Colby Martin is a self-proclaimed "progressive Christian." I read his book - The Shift: Surviving and Thriving After Moving from Conservative to Progressive Christianity.
In this book Martin states his beliefs about Christianity. One of his beliefs is that "believing" is toxic. He writes:
“There does not exist one single way to be a progressive Christian; therefore the following pages won’t tell you what you need to do (or worse, what you need to believe) in order to become one.”
Note that in this logically incoherent sentence Martin states this belief: There does not exist one single way to be a progressive Christian. (Call this Belief 1.)
Apparently, to be a progressive Christian one must, or should, or ought to, believe in Martin's belief.
But, according to Martin, that's horrific ("worse"), since Martin is giving us a singular belief, about what we need to believe, in order to become a progressive Christian. ("Thou must believe there are many beliefs, and this is one you ought to believe.")
If someone does not believe in Martin's dogmatic belief, then it seems the unbeliever believes this: There does exist one single way to be a progressive Christian. (Call this Belief 2.)
But no true progressive Christian believes in Belief 2. Meaning that, to become a progressive Christian one must (or eventually will) believe in Belief 1. Which leads to Belief 3: There is no single way to become a progressive Christian, and to become a progressive Christian one must (or eventually will) believe this.
Beliefs are unavoidable.
Progressive Christianity has its own dogmatic beliefs. (On this, see theologian Michael Kruger, The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity.)
(Note: This is why atheists Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker abhor postmodern illogic. See Pinker, Rationality: What It Is. Why It Seems Scarce. Why It Matters.)