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Science is not secular

machinery-of-the-stars-2We live in a secular society, which for most people means separation of church and state. We have this idea that church simply should not be political or involve itself in matters of state. In the same way we have this notion that church has nothing to do with science and that science have nothing to do with church. Christians in most peoples minds are a backwards people not interested in or even working against science.

The word secular comes from latin seculare which means temporal as opposed to eternal. So originally secular means everything inside the time and space continuum, the Christian religion was supposed to deal with things eternal, that is, things outside time and space.

As above so below

What we are finding though, is that the temporal that which is bound to cycles of birth, ripening, wilting, dying and rebirthing is the way of the eternal. Jesus, who is our image of all things eternal, was born, matured, died and ressurected. So we are finding that this earthly or temporal cycle is the way of things eternal. We are finding as we are gazing into the heavens with better and better telescopes that what we see out there is the same thing we see in our better and better microspcopes. With the advent of quantum physics we are learning that the study of our world is the study of the eternal.

The theopoesis of science

The finer detail science tries to paint the more the language of the scientist starts to sound like the language of the theologian, it is riddled with metaphors and poetic language. This because language is not adequate to express the eternal, no language, not even mathematics.

FlammarionWoodcutScience, while studying things temporal has always uncovered things eternal, science has never been secular in the sense of separation (although many scientists have tried). Science was from the very beginning the art of discovering god through studying the creation. Since “the enlightenment” science has tried to break up with religion with varying degree of success. Like disgrunted lovers, science and religion have wrestled and fought, ignored each other, engaged in heated arguments only to fall back in each others arms. Because the study of god’s creation will always lead to the discovery of the immanent divine presence.

Science is not secular

So here we are, try as we might to make clear distinction between disciplines, the lines will always be blurred because you can never analyse a pice of art without at some point take into account the artist. You can never truly digest a poem without picking up the resonance of the poet. You may do so unknowingly, but the true scientist will never stop at unconscious knowing but will always relentlessly push deeper into truth, into reality and at the very core of reality at the very center of truth, there rests the divine source, the source of love.

We need to cuddle more!

Armandoa_TheEmbrace_webWe all know we need closeness, connection and human touch, here are ten reasons why we should intentionally introduce embracing, hugging and cuddling as a practice in our lives. After you read this post of why, think about how you will implement the art of long embraces and cuddles in your daily life and community.

This post is not written by me but happily pirated from This site

A Happier Life

We’ve all seen the self-help books and heard about the ways to make our lives a little happier, however the best thing for you is absolutely free. Cuddling, especially for an extended time lifts serotonin levels. An imbalance in serotonin levels may influence mood in a way that leads to depression so by raising these levels, you’ll also elevate mood and help create happiness.

Healing Touch

Cuddles and hugs can heal many ills, including the feelings of a broken heart. By holding your broken-hearted friend, you can actually help them to overcome their problems as an embrace can instantly boost Oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is known to affect feelings like anger, loneliness and grief, so next time your friend is at their low point, just being there really may be all they need.

To Give & Receive

Cuddling teaches us how to share and care for one another. Studies have shown that children who were cuddled more tend to be more selfless in their actions and with their possessions and are generally more friendly. It is believed to be attributed to the embrace, which teaches us how to receive love to share in equal measure.

Tension Reliever

Have a stressful day? Well, tonight would be a good time to cuddle with someone you love. Ever notice how you could have the worst possible day where you get laid off, have a fender bender, or learn sad news about a loved one, and just being in the arms of your honey can make all of the pain go away? Cuddling is a natural stress-reliever as it relaxes muscles, releases tension, increases overall circulation and even soothe your aches.

Boosts Self-Esteem

We all have those “ugly” days when we just don’t feel good about ourselves. The act of a simple hug can instantly boost self-esteem. As infants and children, we rely on our family’s touch to show us that we’re special to them and the associations of self-worth from those early years are embedded into our nervous system as adults.

Helps Rebuild Immunity

Our immune systems can be affected by some interesting factors but did you know something as simple as touch can make a difference? Cuddling actually helps to strengthen the immune system. The gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge stimulates the thymus gland (which regulates the body’s production of white blood cells) which affects our overall health. Cuddling those you love can help keep you both healthy and rebuild immunity after an illness.

Energy Exchange

Long hugs or leaning on someone’s shoulder can be as effective as cuddling. When people touch, there is an exchange of energy between the two. This is only amplified the more one is touched and the effects are more positive depending on the relationship between the individuals. So for couples in love, you can actually help revitalize your partner or a hug from a friend can refresh you both. That energy exchange acts as an investment between the two that can be drawn from later in literal and sensory memory.

Creating Balance

Cuddling may not seem necessary but it is one of the best ways to help balance out the nervous system. Our skin responds to being embraced or embracing others. The effect is believed to put our skin in a more balanced state and do the same with the entire nervous system. This is part of the reason infants respond well to being cuddled and held closely, it affects us positively from the time we are born.

It Builds Trust

Having an issue with open communication in your relationship? Many couples struggle with this over time. You may have also noticed that there has been less physical contact. The two go hand-in-hand as an intimate touch can result from good communication, but did you know cuddling can help create good communication? More than anything, cuddling builds trust. The more you touch, the easier it becomes to trust each other. The nurturing feeling of cuddling helps to build a sense of safety and happiness.

Connecting in the Moment

Cuddling teaches us to connect with one another in the moment. It disrupts our usual thinking long enough to connect feelings, touch and even breathing pattern. This creates intimacy and helps to encourage our sensory memory in a favorable way towards the person being cuddled. Similar to meditation, cuddling encourages us to flow with the natural connections of life, most of which are made on the spot but can be maintained though sensory memory.

The charism of the founder

Faces - BoothI have been asked over and over again why I joined TSA (the Salvation Army) and why I insist on remaining in TSA.

I remember sitting at WBC (William Booth College in London) at a lecture given by the leader of the methodists of England, he said that the only thing that gives a religious movement it’s right of existence is the “charism of the founder”. In other words, whatever it was that god gave William Booth that was different, that is the reason for TSA continued existence.

As I reflect on the question why TSA? I find myself reflecting on all those great things that was part of the early army.

100% Passion

William Booth had a calling, a vision to proclaim the kingdom of God. He did so not in a measured or controlled way, but he went all out, he held nothing back. I think this is at least one of the reasons the movement became so successful, Booths unrelenting, unbridled passion.

Pragmatism

The early army had a very anything goes and whatever works attitude. They where willing to try anything to make the good news heard. The importance here was not political correctness, doctrinal adherence or even dignity. Undignified, loud and raucous, TSA marched on not caring what anybody else thought. No, whatever allowed the good news of gods love to be heard was employed to get the job done.

This influenced every early decision in TSA from the wearing of uniforms to our sacramental view.

There is even an account of an officer to be who came to the founder and said “I wan’t to serve the army in america, but I have a problem with one of the points in the covenant”, to which Booth replied: Which one? And then promptly crossed it out and sent the newly commissioned officer over seas.

The same view was employed in the choice of music and informed the famous “Why should the devil have all the good music?” quote.

This pragmatism also allowed Booth to put unprecedented faith in young people both America and Australia was opened by officers under eighteen. The early army was an unstoppable messy youth movement and could be so by not being hindered by bureaucracy or sticking to any given ruleset.

 

This pragmatism was of course fuelled by Booths passion for and deep love of god and people.

Hearts to god and hands to men

Because of Booths grounding on earth and the here and now it was never a philosofical or intellectual faith but the dirty messy faith of going into the darkest most neglected places to spread light and love.

In Sweden today we have a slogan that goes “Faith is only half of the truth” and lines up neatly with William Booths “heart to god and hands to men”. We may have our hearts set on god and godly things (treasures in heaven) but our bodies remain here and here we will build gods kingdom for god to return to!

Radical inclusion

“Go for souls and go for the least”, everyone and anyone was welcome in TSA, and this really hits home. At Christmas the various churches in London would go out on the highways and byways to claim their own. The methodist would welcome all methodist, the anglicans would welcome all anglicans, and TSA would welcome all who had nowhere else to go.

The statement that “whosoever will may be saved” means just that! TSA is all about the whosoever and the other. The ones that no one else would touch even with a remote control (sorry, bit of an inside joke).

This is my army 

I know that there are other things that where part of the early army, but these are my points that I love about the early movement and the movement we could be! I see a vision of a new Salvation Army that has rekindled this passionate and radical way of life!

 

The truth of the slippery slope

During the last couple of years many friends and people I do not yet know have told me to beware the slippery slope. They have in no uncertain terms let me know that if I start questioning the tradition bound given truths of the church that I would eventually loose my faith.

Today having wandered, slid, fallen, tumbled, run, surfed down this slippery slope I can say that it was all true.

Here are some of the things they told me about the slippery slope:
- You will loose your faith in the bible as absolute truth and authority
- You will loose your high view of Jesus
- You will loose your confidence in the church
- You will open your self up to the influence of other religions
- You will no longer be able to pray like you used to
- You will no longer be a christian

It is all true!

However what they didn’t tell me, and what I found was this:
- I have found a new and deeper love for the scriptures
- I have a new understanding of Jesus that is refreshing, renewing and transformative
- I have a newfound respect and love for authentic spiritual community
- I have found the light of truth and transformation in the most unlikely places
- I have found a new urgency, understanding and love for prayer
- I may no longer be a christian according certain criteria, but I have never followed Christ more closely.

on top of this I have also found:
- A sense of belonging and connectedness
- immense peace
- unparalleled freedom
- unconditional love
- scandalous grace
- deep joy

I have also found a love for myself and my neighbour I did not think possible. All in all, while the warnings of the slope have proven true the rewards have been literally out of this world!

Where do we go from here?

this_way_that_way_street_sign_greeting_cards-r828a28ae213b4790bf40526fd5b27725_xvuat_8byvr_512So, here we are. Many words have been written and countless comments have been made on and off site. Many topics have been discussed and now I find myself a bit lost. where do we go from here?

So dear reader, what do you think. If you read this blog, what would you like to read about? What subjects should we delve into now? What would interest you? Please comment below!

Before you “come out” as a LGBTQ ally in church…

wpid-Photo-5-feb-2012-2359.jpgI am watching a fellow Salvationist lament on the LGBTQ oppressive teaching they are getting at a Salvation Army event. I grieve with here and cringe inwardly at the damage being done in yet another Bible study where no consideration is being given to the possibility of HBTQ people in the room.

At the same time I remember the cost and the pain of “coming out” as a LGBTQ ally in the Swedish part of the Salvation Army. To that end I have a short list detailing a few things to consider before “coming out”.

  • Are you willing to risk your friendships over this issue?
  • Are you willing to risk your livelihood over this issue?
  • Have you wrestled with the scriptures and found a secure place to stand?
  • Have you wrestled with your own sexuality and are you confident in where you stand?
  • Have you spoken with your closest colleagues, friends and family that might also be impacted by your stand?
  • Do you have a support network of people around you to ride out the storm with?

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for speaking up and taking a stand, but I urge you to find secure footing first, to find support and most importantly to truly reflect on the consequences to your faith, theology, relationships and work situation. In other words: count the cost before “coming out” so that when you to, you are ready.

Lastly, when you do, know that you are not alone!

Sexuality and the Song of Songs – part 1: Background

0596_song_of_songs_pThe Song of songs is a much debated and unique book in the Old Testament. It is near impossible to find consensus on any statement about the book except that it is unique. The book has no parallel in the rest of the Jewish or Christian Canon. It becomes difficult to assert anything about authorship, dating or even context with such a divided collegium of scholars to refer to. This essay will, however, try to avoid these debates and engage in the main debate of what if anything can the Song teach us about human sexuality and how does the Song stand in the dialogue, that is what does it have to say to other Old testament texts, to New Testament text and what does it have to say to the church of today about human sexuality and spirituality.

The Song of Songs is the first of the five scrolls called the Megilloth in the Hebrew Bible and it has been suggested that it was part of the last addition to the Jewish canon (Hess, 2005: 20). While many scholars have asked how the Song came to be canonised it seems that it has been settled into the canon with no room left for uncertainty by Rabbi Aquiba who stated that “all the ages are not worth the day on which Song of Songs was given to Israel, for all the writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies” (Hess, 2005: 20f). With this the Song was accepted into the Jewish canon (Hess, 2005: 21). Due to the inclusion into the Jewish canon it was also accepted as canon by the early Christians (Estes, 2005: 395) and Eusebius includes Song of Songs as Christian canon, in his Ecclesiastical History, as early as the second-century AD (Hess, 2005:21).

It seems that the general message of the Old Testament on the subject of sexuality is a negative and undermining, and especially, regarding feminine sexuality (Murphy et al. 1999: 242). This is especially evident in the Levitical law that regulates sexual conduct but does so only by that which it condemns and never with any positive statement. It also becomes very clear that as the Levitical law condemns specific sexual practices it also emphasises the uncleanness of women and judges women more harshly than men when it comes to sexual misconduct. The prophets also pas harsh judgement on human sexuality by condemning bad practice and never condoning positive examples.

It is into this negative view of sexuality that the Song speaks. Whatever interpretation is chosen, literal or allegorical, clearly the Song speaks in a positive and affirming way about sexuality generally, and especially about female sexuality as more than half of the verses in the Song are attributed to the woman. The woman is also portrayed as the initiating party as well as in clear ownership of her own sexuality (Song 8.12) which stands in stark contrast with the view of women in most biblical texts.

Steve Chalke breaks the silence

Steve Chalke, theologian, author and leader of Oasis Church has decided to break the silence and believe out loud. It is encouraging to see that more and more evangelical leaders are stepping up to the plate, ready to take a stand for christlike inclusion and justice. If you want to read the longer (and annotated with full references) version you can do so on the Oasis church website.

As more and more people and organisations are picking up the conversation I thought I should post all the links to my posts on the subject here:

LGBTQ and the Church 

This series was originally posted on my Swedish blog and suffers from some blemishes due to hasty translation (edited google translate) Please do not be put of by the (sometimes) stumbling language but listen to the heart and spirit of the message.

 

We believe …

The conversation goes on and on, and we toss around words that are loaded with presuppositions, the verb “to believe” is not the least of them. I have written extensively about this, but it seems it’s a topic worth another go.

What does it mean to believe, to have faith and to be faithful?

I have in earlier posts quoted Marcus Borg who writes that:

Believe did not originally mean believing a set of doctrines or teachings; in both Greek and Latin its roots mean “to give one’s heart to.”The “heart” is the self at its deepest level. Believing, therefore, does not consist of giving one’s mental assent to something, but involves a much deeper level of one’s self. Believing in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him. Rather, it means to give one’s heart, one’s self at its deepest level, to the post-Easter Jesus who is the living Lord, the side of God turned toward us, the face of God, the Lord who is also the Spirit. (Meeting Jesus again for the first time, 1994)

If we are to work with this definition of belief, as Marcus Borg properly renames it, to belove, then to have faith in Jesus is not so much to believe certain things about Jesus but to trust in whom Jesus is and what Jesus does. Put simply: to love Jesus.

If this is the case then belief and faith becomes relational terms rather than propositional or factual terms. This means that belief does not come from the intellect but rather emanates out of my life (or in Borg’s terms, the heart: From which our life springs (prov 4.23)). It is not what I say about Jesus or what facts about Jesus I have given intellectual assent to, but rather how does loving, trusting Jesus transform my daily living? This also means that denial of Jesus is not to state what he is or is not (merely human or son of god) but denying Jesus becomes evident when we live out our lives as practical agnostics or when we support social structures of oppression and slavery. Like Peter Rollins gives voice to so powerfully in this little clip from the Poets, Prophets and Preachers conference:

I Deny the Resurrection from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

If having faith in Jesus is trusting/loving Jesus and if affirming Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus is to live true to Jesus. In other words: to be faithful is to be true. True to Jesus, true to his life, true to where Jesus leads and true to whom God created you to be. Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher (yes there is such a thing) states that we as human beings are hardwired for connection, but true connection only happens when we dare to show up as ourselves. Connection can only happen when we shed the masks, the armors and the ego structures that we use to hide who we really are and to show up as ourselves, broken, imperfect but gloriously created in god’s image with divine purpose.

Interestingly enough, this is also the only way to grow, as we only grow in the meeting with the other and we never truly meet until we have met as our true selves. In the end this means that my repentance (rethinking who I am and where my life is going and choosing a new direction), and my salvation (being transformed by god’s love and grace, becoming whom I am created to become, my true self), is only possible through faith, that is, trusting that I am unconditionally loved, so that I may dare greatly and show up as I really am and by that allowing the transformation of becoming whom I already am, my true self, created in god’s image.

 

In god’s queer image …

A dear friend and mentor wrote:

You ask whether your post will make you an outcast from the Christian community. I hope it does not because we could do with a dose of clear thinking, careful theological reflection, and honesty on this subject, and others.

Of course, the Christian community cannot bear such questions because, if we could answer the question honestly, we might discover that we’re just as queer as each other, in one way or another. However, that corporate testimony would lead to a serious theological question: What kind of a god would allow his creatures to be so screwed up? And it has to be God who shoulders that level of responsibility, because Adam and Eve are in no way big enough to do so. So, we keep our queernesses in the cupboard, because we cannot bear to encounter a God who, for all we know, has made us in his own queer image.
This comment is so on the money. We are afraid and in our fear we paint the other as the monster because we are afraid anyone will discover the monster in us.
This will of course lead to the other implication: this god, in who’s image we are created, what kind of wild and dangerous god is this?
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