Friday, April 19, 2013

Talking to the television

Way back when, I remember somebody I knew commenting that her teenage daughter didn't like to watch TV with her because she was always talking back to the television. She had continued to say, when you have some life experience, you can't allow a one sided conversation with a television.

I guess I've gotten to a point in my own life where I feel the same way. My husband has said to me numerous times that I am an unusually open minded person, and I do try to consider other people's perspectives on things, or to look at things from different angles, I really do. But I've also gotten to a point in life, nearing middle age, where I feel I have some life experience, and like that mother so aptly said, it leads me to a lot of questions when I see television images or turn on the radio.

The other night I was tidying up the mudroom before bed. Geoff was upstairs working on school assignments so I just decided to try to get a few things done rather than disturb him. The late night news was on the radio and I heard a snippet of Oprah's talk. She was in town this week. I don't watch Oprah (or TV for that matter); I haven't seen her show in years. I know she's gone on to other things, but continues as an influential media figure. She was talking to her audience about each of them finding their calling, and I thought what? What calling? lol. Who's calling? From her authoritative tone and choice of words it struck me as an interesting blend of her black Baptist roots with...well you tell me what Oprah believes. I have no idea, but she sounded like a black Baptist preacher (and that's no insult to black Baptist preachers). Seriously, but I don't get the sense that she's teaching redemption through the blood of Jesus. All I'm asking, is what is she preaching? And most importantly, what is it grounded in, other than Oprah's opinion, some supposed secret, but maybe isn't anymore. lol. But may I just add, even in the bit of research I've done this morning, Oprah comes from humble beginnings and she's done a lot of good. At the end of the day whatever she believes is between her and God; I'm not meaning to pass judgment here.

So I don't want to attack Oprah, or anyone else here for that matter. I want to try to get beyond that below the belt stuff that we see so much of in our culture. I don't think she has bad intentions, in short. I'm just inclined to think that what she is saying lacks depth, and I am concerned that our traditionally Judeo-Christian culture is abandoning a rich spiritual and intellectual heritage in favor of  just about anything else on the horizon, but what are we running to? Where are we going as a culture? Who says that eastern or secular is better? If they are, then why are eastern people scrambling to move to the west (and I'm not just talking about money, I'm talking about human rights and quality of life). Or, why are we not scrambling to move to communist or formerly communist countries now? They tried the instituted secular thing for a while didn't they? How did that work out? But may I also ask, why is it that people ask such intensely difficult questions of what I believe, and yet when it comes to everything else, it's like they turn their brains off.

But maybe it doesn't matter what we believe, maybe all paths diverge and I'm a crank, but I do have my reasons for thinking as I do. Namely, for being concerned that Oprah (and the larger politically correct culture) may be teaching people to be a little too open minded and if you'll allow me, I'll explain why I think that. Here's where I'm coming from, so you'll understand my concern. See, I've been a Christian for twenty-five plus years. I don't come from a charismatic background. I come from more of a Catholic/ Baptist background, where the supernatural doesn't get talked about all that much. So, by the time I found my way into a charismatic denomination, where there is more of an emphasis on the supernatural, I was already experiencing things in prayer that I didn't understand and frankly I was bewildered by. So I didn't understand the things I was experiencing, but as time has gone by I've experienced many of the same things over and over again. In the last number of years, I've managed to put the pieces together, and in talking to people who've had more experience in Christian ministry, I've realized that the puzzle picture looks a lot like Christian theology has always told me it would. Namely, there is a supernatural realm. No one can convince me otherwise at this point, because I've experienced too much of it. There is good and a very real, very persistent evil in all of this, an ongoing battle beneath the surface of the material world. It's there, it's real, whether you choose to believe it's there or not- it's there. There's an old joke in ministry circles, if you don't believe in the devil, try opposing him.

So, I don't usually talk about this kind of thing, but If you want an accurate picture of the supernatural realm, Bob Dylan got it right in the seventies, "you gotta' serve someone."  That's how it is. We just pick our side, and any thought of trying to manipulate or have control in the spiritual realm outside of God...Well, let me put it like this, I think some people think they are the cat, and isn't this fun, dabbling in the occult, etc., but really they are the mouse, and I suspect many of them don't know it, but they are the one who's being toyed with. I had a friend (while you're all thinking I'm crazy here), a number of years back, who painfully recalled her experience growing up in a family where there had been generational involvement in the occult. It was very interesting for me to realize that she had come to many of the same conclusions as I had through prayer, as she had in seances. It was very affirming for me to talk to her actually, as I was trying to sort out what I was experiencing but was plagued by uncertainties, wondering myself if I was crazy. She knew what I knew, that it's real, good vs. evil, that we just pick our side, that people who dabble in the occult are playing with fire whether they realize it or not, and that Jesus was who he claimed to be. And it was the power that she had found in that name, that led her to Christ, and out of a very painful family background, which in some ways resembled my own.

But it was interesting how she said that we're not meant to play God in all this as human beings, and you see, that's what worries me about our culture. That on some level, both a denial of the spiritual altogether (when I know it's very real), and people believing that they themselves are divine, have a lot of work ahead of themselves in replacing God, and a lot of questions to answer, frankly. Those are big sandals to fill, and waking up this morning to the news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, I think this humanist ideal that some people just need to be better educated is lacking. It's overly optimistic and it fails to ask the hard questions. How do we account as human beings that some people are not above blowing people's legs off while they're crossing a finish line- in the prime of life? Is it just about good or bad choices? What makes those choices good or bad? Humanism lacks depth, in explaining the world as people experience it, good vs. evil, often up close and personal. And to anyone who thinks I'm crazy for seeing it, pick up a newspaper. My heart grieves for those families, who will be repairing their lives, if they're lucky enough to still be alive, for years to come.

Over the years I've been thankful to the friends who have challenged me. They made me ask questions, hard questions. And they made my faith stronger, given me more depth, in asking me those questions, as hard as it was at the time. But this is what I see, that while we live in a society with a rich tradition in critical thinking, people still demand answers from Christianity. But at the same time, while they're abandoning Christianity, they're turning to just about anything else they come across and often turning off their critical faculties in embracing eastern influenced spirituality or secular ideologies. So, here's a few hard questions from the dark side haha. Where are we going? Where is this culture taking us? What do we believe? Do we believe anything? What is that belief grounded in? Says who?  How do you know they're right? The eastern world believes in the supernatural, that we have in common, but they also believe that there is no right or wrong, no boundaries in the spiritual realm, at bottom no good or evil. Does that fit your experience? It doesn't fit mine.

So as much as I don't expect people to agree with me or even believe me when I talk about my personal, more mystical experiences in prayer, can you at least see why I would be concerned that people seem to be so willing to suspend their critical judgement, or jump into untested waters so readily? All I'm asking, dear friends, is don't stop asking questions. Never stop talking back to the television. It concerns me when people's big defense is to blame "western rationalism," and that our new goal should be to suspend our critical judgment. Now why would we want to do that? If you believe in the supernatural, as eastern philosophies largely would, what's going on when you're turning off and tuning in? What are you tuning in to?  Where's your map? Where's your compass?  Where's your flashlight?  Where's is your sword? I reserve the right to be wrong here, and I'm open to hearing different perspectives, but in my experience I've needed all of the above and more, the flashlight, the sword, the anchor, the armour, the helmet and the shield, and I know his name. My God is big enough to handle a few questions, and anyone or anything that can't or doesn't, isn't worth your time.

take care,


On Oprah's secret:

Article: Belief in the paranormal increases as belief in Christianity decreases.

And here's Bob Dylan: "Serve Somebody" -
(A funked up version).

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