Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rational versus irrational

Okay, once again Law and Order has shown religious people as being irrational. I swear you can always tell who the baddie is in these episodes. If it's a religious person who reads his Bible he's got to be the villain. And Law and Order is not the only television show that's guilty of this.

Why do they think Bible readers are irrational?

The Bible is the best book in the world. And folks who judge Bible readers really should consider many things if they want to say the Bible stifles critical thinking.

Movies always behave as if Bible believers are an uneducated bunch. True, many Bible lovers are uneducated. But others are quite educated.

Look at me. I totally believe the Bible is the word of God. Totally. My house has about 2000 Bible study books. Hey, I'm a lit major. I love studying. I learned how to do reading comprehension. I learned how to deal with writers like the Bible prophets who spoke symbolically and who digressed then returned to a point. I learned to link things together. I'm educated. Somewhat.

But many Christians -- black and white-- were taught by sweet little old ladies who had a dream of stopping crime or of preventing girls from becoming pregnant. They did well -- wonderful and noble deeds. In fact, their place in our community as teachers was often all the respect they had. And wanting to read the Bible was one of the reasons they learned to read. Although I don't know why so many of them think they actually fully comprehend Elizabethan English. Many a weird cult has begun because someone didn't understand Shakespearean English.

So yeah, some folks just don't understand reading comprehension, some don't research, some don't aim to improve their knowledge. Human pride, what can I say? Just because they are Christians doesn't mean they are immune to vanity or idiocy. They don't want to realize that they might need to know more. Does that mean uneducated people can't think? Or that the Bible has stopped their brains? Or that everyone who reads the Bible is an idiot? No.

The Bible for one has taught me a kind of divine cynicism. It shows us how humans fool each other and themselves. It teaches us to distrust humans and culture. Always a good thing. And it teaches us to study. The Bible isn't anti-reason. It simply demands that we distrust our fellow man and trust God's view of things.

What's wrong with a little authority about spiritual things? Doing without Sriptural authority is like remaking the wheel. If everyone started on their own wisdom path from scratch without looking to the works of their spiritual ancestors, we would all be starting out as cavemen. Why not say: "It is written that such and such a course is not good to take." Why not believe what other people have said? If the Bible tells us for instance that women should really be married before sleeping with men, why not believe it? God knows men are selfish, will abandon women, women will be raising children in povery. Why not trust it?

Anyone learning to read the Bible learns how to compare word to word, thought to thought, verse to verse. Even uneducated poor black grandmas and little kids learn to do this. We see a verse about sexual purity here. Then we see a verse which says a divorced man is like someone wearing the coat of a bloodshed victim (Malachi). Then we read a place where God says we must be satisfied with the breasts of the wife of our youth. Or that young men should avoide strange women. Or that when a woman is raped it is akin to murder. And all these little old ladies --including myself-- study those verses and come up with a general meaning.

Rational vs rational

Something else has to be clarified here:

The word "Rational" (as used by most people) has two distinct meanings.

A) It could refer to a thought pattern that does not operate in a logical manner.
B) It could refer to a conclusion arrived at that does not fit in with the listener's worldview.

The first meaning -- having to do with manner and pattern of a person's way of thinking-- can be useful for judging the Bible reader. But it doesn't really judge the Bible. There are many logical thinkers who read and believe the Bible. And there are many illogical thinkers who read and believer the Bible. Also, there are many logical thinkers who do not believe the Bible and many illogical thinkers who believe the Bible.

In the second case where "rational" refers to the conclusion -- whether logically or illogically arrived at-- then personal prejudices and worldview issues often come into play.

Stephen Hawking for instance may not believe in the Bible but he is a theist. Carl Sagan -- just as logical and perhaps not as smart-- is not a theist and simply did not believe in any kind of God. In a situation where someone is judging someone's rationality all sorts of questions can come up. Is the person thinking irrationally because he is insane? Because he has a different path to follow? Because he is "misinterpreting" some of the evidence/clues he sees?

Many Americans think Christians are irrational because they think the Christian is thinking in an unworldly way. But in Africa where the average person (Christian or otherwise) believes in the spirit world much more than the average American (Christian or otherwise) there wouldn't be a question about irrational thinking just because someone believes something that doesn't jibe with the scientific model of worldview -- closed universe and all that.

I've done many a thing that seems irrational and yet God and the Universe have continually shown me that I'm quite right. Indeed, I suspect that many a little Christian old lady (educated or not) has had the same experience and that's why they trust and love Jesus so much.

Three examples:

I once went into a GNC at the mall. A man walked past me. I heard "in my spirit" a voice that said: "This is so-and-so. He's the general manager of such-and-such a radio station." The name of there person and his title and his workplace. I walked over to the man and quite irrationally said, "Hi, are you so and so?" He said, "I am." I did not behave irrationally, mind you. I didn't go over and tell him that the holy spirit had told me who he was. So I had some sense. But still, it is kind of irrational to believe some weird bit of information one hears in one's spirit.

Another time, I was working on my novel Wind Follower (to be published in June). I decided on a whim to make the main character an epileptic and needed a name to call the illness. I decided on "the falling sickness." Wrote a scene. Got up from my computer. On a lark I turned on the TV and flipped through the channel. I saw some guys in togas. Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar. As I listened I heard one character say, "well you know Ceasar has the falling sickness."

Another time, I finished writing a scene where a character tells another character he should change his name from Stevie to Steve because Stevie sounds so childish. I went upstairs and although I NEVER turn the radio on at night, turned it on for some strange reasons. A guy was calling in to the DJ. He said, "My girlfriend thinks I should quit calling myself Stevie because it's too childish." Kid you not.

I once had a dream in which two teenaged boys from up the road were beating my young 3 year old with iron pipes. Terrified I woke up. Around mid-day those two boys from up the road visited. They held up a little piece of yarn. "We want to play with Logan. We're playing cowboys and Indians." They let the yarn flow along my hand. "See it doesn't hurt. We won't hurt him." Needless to say although my son wanted to go out and play with them cause he was a lonely kid, I didn't. God had warned me.

I remember one day about nine months after my older son was born. I was sitting in my room watching my son playing with blocks. I heard --in the way one hears these things-- in my spirit the clear words "rest." It was so clear that I looked around. I walked over to my son and he had taken the letters R E S T and placed them in perfect order forming the word rest. He was only nine months. I should have learned to rest. I didn't and not resting after childbirth proved to be very harmful to my health for about 20 years.

I remember once I got some money and I was wondering who to give my tithe to. I said a prayer, "Lord, who should I give this tithe to?"

Immediately the name of a friend across the country was impressed upon me. It was so strange to hear that name in my heart that I suddenly stood still. I thought, "that was weird!" Generally, guidance didn't come so quickly and the name had come so suddenly and so clearly after the prayer...I found myself thinking that the idea had come from my own mind. And yet, it was so weird to suddenly get this girl's name in my head. I decided to tithe the money to her.

Then, I said...I could send her a check...but I had bounced checks recently and I was bounce-wary. All I needed was to pay $50 to my bank for bouncing a check written as a gift to a friend, and then my friend's bank would also charge her for the bounce. So a gift check for $50 would cost $150 by the time everything was said and done. (Okay, I get nervous and like I said I was very nervous about bouncing a check.)

Then I thought I would send the money as cash. But then I got nervous about that. Cash might get lost in the mail. Then I thought about a money order. But I didn't want to go to the bank or the post office to write a money order. Hey, it's cold in winter in NY and I didn't want to deal with it.

I decided on pay-pal. But I had to wait until the check I had received cleared and went into my paypal account.

Anyway, one night about four days after this quandary and decision, I went online to check if my money was in paypal. It wasn't. Later that night, instead of going to bed, I went downstairs again and for some weird reason (thank you, God) turned on the computer and went online to paypal. The money was there!

I transferred the money from my paypal account to my friend's paypal account.

The next morning my friend emailed me. It seems that the night before -- the night i felt the need to as transfer the money to my friend's account -- my friend was driving home from the hospital with her sick husband. She was miles away from home. Maybe 40 miles. And had run out of gas. She had no money left in her checking account and on a whim (thank you, God) decided to check her paypal account. Voila, the money I had sent her was in it. She hadn't even expected it. But that money got her gas and got her home from the hospital.

I love when God does stuff like that. It makes me feel that yes I do hear from God. It makes my friend know that God is aware of her. It makes us both know that God is aware of the future and provides for the future in the present. Isn't our God good? IT just makes me so happy when stuff like this happens. And they happen all the time. Doesn't it just make you roll your eyes when some atheist says that only idiots think that God exists? Hey, if this kind of lovely stuff is what happens to idiots, may I be an idiot forever!

Thank you Jesus.

I cannot tell you the amount of times my life and my family's life have been saved or my children's life by trusting the irrational.

We Christians call that kind of thing "God winks." It the situation is death-defying, we call them "testimonies of God's protection." These events are odd and a Christian's trust in them is utterly irrational. But it gives us a feeling of being loved. And while everyone has some odd thing happen to them once in a while, these things tend to happen incredibly frequently to Bible-believers..

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