The Appearance of Good Works

December 10, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

As I have mentioned a time or two before, I used to be Christian.  I wasn’t just Christian, I was a fundamentalist.  I spoke in tongues (“praying in the spirit” we called it), I attended services 4-5 times a week and sometimes entire weekends were spent in services.  I’ve helped paint the church, I’ve joined in food drives and done other “good works.”    My family is littered with fundamentalists, and we even have several pentacostal preachers amongst us.  All the preachers are men, of course, since women are not generally allowed to even speak to the congregation from the pulpit, even if are women speaking about the scriptures to an audience of all women.  This, despite that church members are mostly made up of women.

I believed that the King James Version of the bible, while not completely without a few errors in translation, was the revealed Word of God.  For a long while, I was a part of a sect that admitted that the original words of God were lost, but that the KJV, despite that it was not a direct translation but rather a version of a version or translation of a translation, was a good place to start and that we should learn Greek and Aramaic to get back as close to the original as we could.  I did in fact learn some Greek and used a Greek/English interlineal bible (where both languages are included by alternate lines).  I was taught that if there was an apparent inconsistency, then it had to be the result of either mistranslation or misunderstanding, because the original was made of words directly from God and written down by man at his direction.

Used to be… until many things happened, the biggest was seeing that, at least in my profession, the very worst abuses seem to be perpetrated by people professing to be Christian.  I think Muslims are dealing with that same issue right now.

I thought we were better than non-Christians, because we held ourselves to a higher standard.  I thought doing good works included being a “good steward” of the earth, and that God expected nothing less from us, and that  fundamentalists, at least those that were ‘in fellowship’ with God (church-speak for doing what we believed God wanted), all tried to do the same.  We were encouraged to help the less fortunate among us.  Looking back, clearly the help was directed either to those we might ‘save’ or those among us who were struggling, and we always expected some form of repayment.  Repayment might be a ‘recommitment to Jesus’ or ‘acceptance of salvation’ for the unbeliever.  At the very least, we could expect God would reward us with ‘stars in our crown’ once we got to heaven. 

I believe there are still lots of good people in Christian congregations, people who try to do good things and who don’t cheat or otherwise abuse others.  It does seem like there are an awful lot of batterers in church, both the kind that beat their wives and the kind that beat their children, but I’m sure that isn’t the majority.  I thought doing good things was not only an individual policy, but one supported by the institutions.  That isn’t the case, at least among some.

The National Association of Evangelicals, an organization of literally millions of Christians, (whose motto is “cooperation without compromise”) has had some problems recently, headlined by their top guy, Ted Haggert, who resigned in disgrace.  You’ll remember him, he condemned homosexuals from one side of his mouth while he used the other side for other purposes (guess he had a big mouth).   I can’t resist including a blog post I saw on that topic.  They nominated another guy, Joel Hunter of Florida.  Rev. Hunter wanted the organization to include reducing poverty and fighting global warming to their platform.  The evangelicals would have none of that, saying that they were afraid of being called liberals, so Hunter was not permitted to lead the organization. The Colbert Report had a great story, saying that “nothing is more Chrisitan than refusing to do good works so you won’t be called names.”

It was really all about appearance after all. 

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My life’s goal is to make a difference; to help those stuck in the mire of poverty and ignorance. I am an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether from ignorance, from lack of eloquence or simple lack of opportunity.

Comments (5)

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  1. Scholar says:

    Nice to hear that news. I just found a *sweet* link, its the first chapter of the current bestseller "The God Delusion" by Dawkins. Enjoy…I am thinking about buying it for my mom.

    http://richarddawkins.net/godDelusion#firstChapte

  2. Deb says:

    Thank you for the link. So many times I cannot express myself as I wish and then I find someone else has said it much better than I could. I love the Einstein quote included in the first chapter:

    "I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism."

    The more I read and think, the more I realize how little thinking I used to do.

  3. gatomjp says:

    Good post Deb.

    Could you elaborate on "speaking in tongues"? I have heard about it and seen it many times (on TV, not in person) but I'm never sure exactly what is happening. Can you relate your experience of it to me? Are you actually taken over by a force or is it a way of freeing the mind and meditating, like reciting a mantra?

    Thanks

  4. Deb says:

    It doesn't feel like being taken over at all, although some people have an extreme emotional response. I wouldn't say that the extreme responses are actually faked, necessarily, I'd call it more "conditioned." Sort of a placebo effect. I expect to be moved to tears, I'll get tears.

    I really don't know what it is. It is nearly effortless. You can do it in your mind and still listen to someone else speak. I've tested it, I can do it quietly under my breath (so it is clear that I'm not just THINKING I'm doing it) and then relate to you everything that was being said to me by another while I was doing it, within the bounds of normal memory of course. It seems to 'develop' meaning that the more you do it, it seems like the more sounds you can make without effort (the believers speak of that as your spirit getting stronger, or the holy spirit within you getting stronger). Whatever it is, it isn't done with your conscious mind. People can pretend to do it, we see comedians, etc., pretending to speak some other language, but then it tends to be monotonous, with only a few sounds being repeated. I do not believe that can be called speaking in tongues, it requires too much effort.

    I can sort of read while I do it, but not nearly so successfully as listening to speech. I think I'm actually going back and forth between reading the book and the glossphilia then.

    Interpretation of tongues, and prophecy (2 more of the nine 'fruits of the sprit" are also relevant. Most fundamentalists believe that if God moves a believer to speak in tongues in a congregation, then he moves another to interpret, although some groups believe the same person does the speaking and the interpreting. Interpretation and prophecy are done in the language of the congregation, so that is very interesting as well. You can't do other things when you interpret or prophecy. I liken it to extemporaneous speaking: if I am called upon to speak on a topic in which I am well-versed, I can say coherent things without a lot of planning. We've all had the experience of blurting out something, and we wonder "where did that come from?" (maybe like Kramer of Seinfeld fame recently).

    By the way, prophecy has nothing to do with future telling. We were taught that the prophet Amos, among others, never told the future (and that would be witchcraft).

    I think anyone can do it, you just start doing it. I still do it occasionally, particularly when I'm trying to fall asleep- the monotony tends to soothe me into sleep. Generally, though, I turn on a book on tape and while that drones on, I fall asleep. I guess that it might be like meditating, although I couldn't say since I've never meditated.

  5. gatomjp says:

    Thanks Deb.

    Very interesting and enlightening. I must say I'm still not sure what's actually going on, (psychologically/physiologically speaking) but there are many things in this world that defy explanation.

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