Archive for The world

Life is not a warm-up for heaven

imageThe whole idea of heaven, while hope inspiring, often corrodes and hollows out our everyday life. It is interesting to note that Jesus rarely spoke about heaven. To him, it seemed much more important and urgent to deal with life here and now. Heaven in the here and now.

“Repent, for the kingdom of god is at hand”

So what did he mean?

Turn around, because you are all about to die?

No, Jesus clearly instructs his followers that “the kingdom is not here or there so one can point at it, rather the kingdom of god is inside of you”. We also need to understand that the kingdom of god and the kingdom of heaven is the same thing, it is not a place we can move to but a reality we can wake up to.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there is nothing there after we die, there may very well be some elevated, transcendant reality after this life. All I am saying is that that is not the point. The point is that the kingdom is here and now and if we are completely focussed on then and there we will miss it!

Not only do our choices matter eternally they also matter right here, right now!

Another word used in the New Testament for the kingdom of god/heaven is life or eternal life (aionos zoe). This is primarily used by the author to John’s gospel, who hardly ever mentions the kingdom at all. Rather John’s Jesus offers life and life in abundance. This is the gospel, the good news, that we do not have to wait for pie in the sky when we die. We can have it now, it is accessible here.

“Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the holy spirit?”

You are the container, the channel of divine love into your community. You are the kingdom, the church, the body. You are it! Right here and right now.

“Above all guard your hearts, because from your heart flows all of life”

So if we are to understand this proverb in the light of John’s high Christology and immanent eschatology then we understand that the point of life is living it. When we simply live life, life flows from our hearts, or to substitute the term: Heaven flows from our hearts and encloses those that are around us. Life is not a warm up for heaven, beacuse, to quote the song “heaven is a place on earth”. This life is it, this life, right here right now, is where we find heaven or hell, where we live through divine bliss or diabolical misery. We just need to wake up and smell the coffee (or in my case, smell the Roibosh Paradise).

There is no dress rehersal, no trial run, no qualifying round; Whatever you are living right now is the main event, the real thing, your grand performance.

So today, on this unique beautiful day in all of eternity, let’s choose to love!

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.

All living things are my teacher

5415984_-039039-kosmos-039039--1In John 3.16 we read that god so loved the world (kosmos) that he gave his only begotten son…. And it seems to me that all through scripture we are reminded again and again that kosmos, that is all of creation, is longing for redemption.

When god creates the world, as we read in Gen 1, god looks upon creation and pronounces it good. There is an inbuilt original glory to creation that holds and proclaims the glory of god. Every piece of creation has this original glory and shows it off by being truly itself. A tree sings of this glory in the rustling of it’s leaves, a tiger whispers of this glory in it’s graceful but deadly prowl.

Yes there is brokeness to, all is not what it should be, but god did not break it, we did with our machines and pollution. However much be screw things up, we are not able to break god’s imputed goodness. It is still there, it sneaks through in waterfalls and sunsets, cats and seahorse, birch trees and mountain ranges, in kisses and caresses, in you and me.

We are all part of this kosmos, we are all made of the same stuff and so we all carry within us part of the glory and goodness that god drew out and still creatively draws out in this evolutionary process.

We are all part of this big living organism glued together by life and quantum mechanics and so whomever you meet whether human, animal or plant, celestial or spiritual phenomenon, there simply is no other, there is only being. As such we can learn, if we are open and willing, from all of god’s glorious creation. Every moment can be a learning moment, every place a Solomon’s porch, a temple of divine growth. Every person place or object holds something sacred and holy if we are willing to open our eyes, ears and minds to the voice of god luring us to greater beauty and complexity.

Every day is an adventure and: Life is my religionBeing alive is my daily spiritual practiceLove is my ruleHumankind is my familyAuthentic friendships is my churchThe kingdom of god runs through my veins.Jesus is my brotherBecoming and being all that I am is my callingHelping you become and be all that you are is my ministryMy deepest feelings is my guideAll living things are my teacher.

The big masturbation post

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Not so long ago I sat in a room with a group of young Christians, no longer teenagers but rather young adults. We where talking about the bible and Jesus. Was it possible that Jesus could have sinned and what does it mean that Jesus felt every human emotion, did he then lust? Masturbate?

The disgust that went through the room at this point was palpable and when I put my foot down and said “Masturbation is not a sin”, I was met with “Well then we may as well go of and masturbate and sleep with anyone we want!”

This immediate jump to the slippery slope argument (which in it self is a fallacy whenever used) prompted a further discussion that in turn prompted this post.

In Christian circles today it seems that masturbation, while both natural and a part of the teenagers discovery of his or her own body, is even more stigmatised than sex. It is somehow even more shameful to touch yourself than to have someone else do it. Why is this? Where does it come from? What does the bible say about masturbation and how does that sync with the churches traditional teaching on the subject? What does science and society say?

Let’s consider a few different voices on this issue.

It is beyond contestation that both psychology, anthropology and medical science say that masturbation is a healthy way for young persons to discover their bodies and come to terms with their sexuality. Furthermore, sex-councellors worldwide would advice men with longevity issues to learn control by practicing on their own.

Science also tells us that the resulting orgasm is beneficial for our health in many ways. Consider the following scientific findings as presented in the book Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan:

men who had ejaculated more than five times per week between the ages of twenty and fifty were one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

daily ejaculation dramatically reduced DNA damage to men’s sperm cells, thereby increasing male fertility—quite the opposite of the conventional wisdom.

Frequent orgasm is associated with better cardiac health as well. A study conducted at the University of Bristol and Queen’s University of Belfast found that men who have three or more orgasms per week are 50 percent less likely to die from coronary heart disease.

These are just a tidbit of information on what ejaculation and orgasm does for a man. For women there are a lot less research available (go figure) but here is one slightly off topic remark from the same book:

women who do not use condoms are less likely to suffer from depression than either women who do use condoms or who are not sexually active

So women who are sexually active are less likely to suffer from depression. On this note it is also interesting to recognise that one of the oldest documented pathologies is said to be female hysteria and the medical treatment was massage of the vulva, that is masturbation and orgasm. What may be even more shocking for some is that doctors around the world administered this treatment to women with an increased libido well into the 20th century and women lined up for the cure!

On a slightly less scholarly note, the book the 4 hour body has the following to say:

Nina emphasized, a woman has to be comfortable masturbating. “If she doesn’t masturbate regularly, she’ll be more trouble, baggage-wise, than it’s worth, unless you get off on being the fixer.”

While this sounds a bit of the cuff and misogynistic, science does tell us that body pleasure lowers aggression.

“deprivation of body pleasure throughout life—but particularly during the formative periods of infancy, childhood, and adolescence—is very closely related to the amount of warfare and interpersonal violence.” (also from Sex at Dawn)

Therefore we are told by the scientific corner to just chill out and not to be so uptight when it comes to these issues.

A reasonable relaxation of moralistic social codes making sexual satisfaction more easily available would also make it less problematic. (also from Sex at Dawn)

Hang on what about the Bible doesn’t the bible forbid masturbation? Well, thank you for asking, the short answer is no. The bible actually has no teaching on masturbation. The most cited passages are the story of Onan and a few remarks of Paul.

Let’s start with Onan. He married his dead brothers wife Tamar as the law instructed him but when the time came to consummate the marriage he practiced coitus interrupts (he pulled it out and spilled his seed on the ground) so that he would not give a child to his dead brothers wife that would not be considered his own, again according to Jewish law). Onan was then killed by god for not adhering to the Mosaic law. This story has nothing to do with masturbation and the fact that Onan’s name has become synonymous with masturbation in many languages in an attempt of controlling peoples sexuality is a serious abuse of scripture and power.

In Pauls first letter to Corinth there is a passage where Paul condemns a whole row of sexual deviations. Non of which are easily understood or translated the words used are porneo, malokos, and arsenokoites non of these words have anything to do with masturbation. Feel free to read my other commentary on these words here.

And even if Paul’s words had included masturbation, which they do not, I have to echo the sentiment of Marcus Borg in his fantastic novel “Putting Away Childish Things“: What if Paul was wrong? It sounds heretical, I know, but consider the fact that misinformation has been the norm on sexuality related facts throughout our known history. It was common to believe for example that masturbation caused both seizures, blindness and madness. Why is it that we assume that Paul to be an authority on every issue on the planet?

What we have left to consider is Jesus strong words on adultery: A man who looks upon a woman with lust in his heart has already committed adultery with her. If we assume that these are indeed the words of Jesus and that he recommends putting out our eyes to avoid it then every man I know should go blind immediately. For some men (I talk less about women simply because I have no experience in being one and do not presume to have an inkling on how female sexuality works) it may be that the act of masturbation preserves their fidelity and therefore their marriage.

It is interesting to note that hip youth ministers within the free churches will often be heard stating that masturbating together with your spouse can be a beautiful thing and part of a couples normal sex life. While this is a nice softening of the stigmatising view of masturbation it still leaves the ones in need of liberation, that is teenagers, sorely bound by shame and guilt.

Now let’s for a second consider how the bible supports and encourages sexuality and then maybe using the same inferring as the negative case is built on propose a more positive approach to sexuality and the topic at hand, masturbation.

First let’s again look at Adam and Eve or mythical hunter gatherer ancestors who lived in Eden, Naked and not ashamed. Right there is the first clue that sexuality understood correctly should not be a source of shame but rather a source of joy.

Moving on rapidly then to the song of songs (there are other more obvious examples in other OT narratives but it quickly gets oh so provocative and complicated to get into those) where unmarried sexuality is if not celebrated then simply a fact. The poetry in the Song is simply “not concerned” with the marital status of the young lovers.

From the song we can find a positive body image in regard to the young lovers genitalia and an exuberant celebration of their passionate sexuality. The following verses are from the CEB.

I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride!
I have gathered my myrrh and my spices.
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey;
I have drunk my wine and my milk.
Eat, dear friends!
Drink and get drunk on love!

Here the lover has come to his garden, this garden was of course earlier the womans garden dripping with myrrh and spices sweeter than honey. We must understand that every word in the song is dripping with double entendre and the metaphors switch quickly as to leave you dizzy, the Song is probably more to be inhaled and experienced than read and understood.

Keeping the images of a garden dripping with myrrh lets move to the young womans bed room a few verses later.

“I have taken off my tunic—
why should I put it on again?
I have bathed my feet—
why should I get them dirty?”
 My love put his hand in through the latch hole,
and my body ached for him.
 I rose; I went to open for my love,
and my hands dripped myrrh,
my fingers, liquid myrrh,
over the handles of the lock.

Why is she naked in bed? Why is her hands dripping with myrrh? And let’s not even try to decipher the image of the hand through the latch hole ….

It seems to me that the bible is as capable of creating a positive and healthy image of both sexuality and the exploring of the same as it is in creating a misogynistic damaging and controlling one.

Fr. Richard Rohr makes an interesting comment about women being saved through childbirth, where he states that in childbirth women get the upper hand on the men as they are forced into body knowledge and self discovery through childbirth he also suggests that this is why male initiation rites often include arduous challenges and painful quests that will force the young man to get to know his body.

There is a certain composure and authority to a human being that is completely comfortable in his or her own body. There is a self awareness and confidence that only comes to those who know the ins and outs and limits of their own bodies. I suggest that a healthy exploration of ones sexuality, where masturbation is a part of that exploration, may help grant such body knowledge.

In conclusion I must also add that the gnostic notion of separating spirit and body, where the spirit is good and the body evil is one of those unspoken meta-narratives that derive from greek (Plato) philosophy hat stand in our way of a more holistic and healthy view of our own bodies. Those who desperately cling to it may benefit from stepping out of the spiritual and getting their hands dirty or as the case may be oily.

Walking the walk.

As Christians we know how important it is to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Hanna has therefore bravely decided to help raise funds for breastcancer research through walk the walk. Hanna will, together with two other cadets in our session, do a Moonwalk, a late night walk through town in their bras.

Please help support Hanna here

Here is an excerpt from the walk the walk website:

This will be the night that Bollywood meets Rock n Roll… the night when 15,000 women and men will pound the streets of London in their decorated bras… and it could be the night that you take your first step to better health, fitness and making a difference! In 2007 we raised in excess of £8.5 million to be granted to vital breast cancer causes… with your help we could make an even greater difference in 2008 …

Walk the Walk is the grant making, health charity behind the famous MoonWalk events in London and Edinburgh and the SunWalk in Bristol. To date the charity has raised in excess of £35 million for vital breast cancer causes, with the 2007 Playtex MoonWalk raising almost £5 million to date.

Walk the Walk is dedicated not only to promoting power walking for fitness, but raising awareness of breast cancer and encouraging people to adopt a healthy and holistic preventative lifestyle.

Please help support Hanna here

Thoughts on the Swedish Bible battle

There has been a media storm the last month ofer Scandic hotels decision to remove the gideonite bibles from all the hotel rooms after one complaint from a swedish humanist.

Several swedish bloggers like Emanuel Karlsten have taken actions to reverse this decision by gently asking scandic “What where you thinking?” How can you remove the bible from the hotel room and leave the porn…. I am also thrilled to see Mackan Andersons reply to the humanist movement with the humanist kit (a blind fold and a pair of earplugs, so they won’t have to get offended by what they hear and see)

After my letter to scandic I got a standardised reply saying they where happy to hear my thoughts, I don’t think they where and I don’t think they did.

So I’ll post them here because I think these thoughts should be shared even now after Scandic backed down and decided to keep the bibles in the hotel rooms.

The Bibles in the hotel rooms won’t help us Christians, we allready have our bibles with us, we always travel with them. No the bibles in the hotel rooms are for people who are not Christian who might be lonely or scared in the night need ing some sort of comfort, then God is there to comfort them and one way for God to speak to them is through the bible.

To move the bible down to the reception where you have to ask for it will deny the person this momentary comfort. I want to leave you with this thought Scandic….

Would you have moved the porn down to the reception so that a customer had to walk down to the reception and ask for porn?

Reclaiming Eros

Reading through the encyclical letter of Benedictus PP XVI that was Brought to my attention by my good friend Björn. It is very long and deep and I will probably come back to this letter in later posts, it takes more than one read for a simple man like me.

I do however agree with most things being said and while I find it curious that a Catholic Pope would talk about Eros and Sex having had no experience with the good side of Eros himself (and due to his vows if he does indeed have the experience it would not be the pure form of Eros that he is talking about), I do agree and find I must recant parts of my last post on Love.

As I read my last post I see that I almost imply that Eros is the lowest form of Love and a sinful one at that. I do not mean that and I agree with the Pope on this. There is a pure form of Eros, a Divinly inspired, holy form of Eros that is created by God to be enjoyed by a married man and woman.

I also agree that it has been the sin of the church to make Sex and by that Eros look like a bad thing. We need to reclaim sex. We need to reclaim the sanctity and purity of Eros!

Adventures in Kingston town.

Hanna and I went to Kingston with Frank and Elsebeth Jakshoj to relax after a very demanding weekend. We visited the Disney store to Angelinas delight. After that we had a delicious mocha at Starbucks and then we went to get some takeout at a nearby japanese restaurant.

As I am placing our order I here screams right outside, I come out to see two girls kicking a third girl on the floor in the head, without thinking I go straight in and pull the one girl of. Hanna come in right after me and take the second girl.  The girl whois being attacked is screaming for somebody to help her. She is bleeding and we later see that she wet herself during the attack. As we are intervening them there are more than six people standing by the side watching.  Nobody does anything not even calling the police.

The girl who’s face is being kicked in gets up and  yells for people to call the police just before getting jumped again by the second girl who managed to sneak around Hannas back. As we go in the second time to separate them I see the security guards arriving and I think that finally they will take charge of the situation and detain these violent girls.

NOT! The security guards stand by the side and watch us struggle to keep these wild girls of each other. When we finally get the aggressors of  the poor girl they idly watch the two girls who mugged and assaulted someone while they where watching walk out of the mall.

Thankfully Frank and Elsebeth took care of Angelina and Anja and managed to shield them from the overt violence, even so Angelina seemed to be a bit shaken when we came back to the restaurant to pick up our food.

Frank and Elsebeth looked at us and said, well it’s certanly never booring when you are around.

In retrospect I regret not making a citizens arrest and assuming that the security guards would do their job but at the same time it was good to see that both Hanna and I still got it and that we still work perfectly together in a tight spot.

One night in Malmö

It has been a hysterical weekend as it always is when I am with my brother Hampi. We where supposed to take it easy and have a relaxing saturday evening, watching the Swedish eurovision contest and eat some snacks.

The night started well as we crammed into the sofa in front of the schlager fest on TV. As we started nibbling our schlager chips and schlager drinks (Sprite for me, beer for the rest) it suddenly became interactive TV as the The ARK placed a video conference call to my brother to show of their glamourous looks before strutting their stuff on National TV. Are you nervous? Yes I am very nervous my brother replied as he nervously stuffed more chips into his mouth.

[gv data="http://www.youtube.com/v/6oKXIAqwujo"][/gv]

The Ark obviously won the contest as they where supposed to and we did our bit as loyal friends (well most of us friends and some of us brothers to friends, me, if you have to ask) we voted for The Ark and trashed everyone else.

After the crushing victory it was time to tour the town, or rather the towns clubs and pubs. starting out at Zaratustra and then ending up at KB via Inkonst I was paraded through the nightlife of what used to be my town.

It is no longer my town, I used to not be able to walk one block in Malmö without meeting friends, now I made it a whole night out and about without encountering anyone I knew (or anyone my own age, gasp!) I had fun though, I made new friends and danced like it was 2007.

It struck me how empty the whole clubbing concept is, while some people are actually enjoyng the moment most of them seem to be lost in the mists of varying degrees of drunkedness, swaying uncontrollably to thye beat of the non descript pounding techno music. The sadder group however are the once who are not even enjoying the now but chasing after some future moment that might or might not come to pass. Looking for that right girl or right guy, willing to do anything just to be near someone who will acknowledge their existance. Ande when these people are then ignored by the object of their search they plummet into an alcohol induced depression that knows no limits.

It is so sad to see how people get robbed of the joy they are looking for by the very tools they think they need to find it. I wish that we could reclaim the clubs and make them houses where Joy abounds and people truly come to relax laugh and to dance like david danced on the mountain!

Places where life is celebrated and joy will rule.

I’d die for my colors!

This was the cry of a young hispanic male in the movie “blood in blood out” making a grim portrait about gang life in LA. It is interesting to note that these young gangbangers are willing to do anything to defend the honor of their colors (wich is a gang tatoo, and a bandana of various colors depending on the gang). While we as Christians sometimes seem ashamed of even telling others that we belong to a church.

The gang culture offers a familly for kids coming from broken homes, protection for kids who are bullied, identity for kids who are lost, and confidence for kids who lack. And the symbol of all this that they cling to is their colors, the small piece of clothing or the tatoo that proves that they are indeed part of a bigger picture, that they matter to someone!

When we in our middle class corpse discuss the SA uniform it seems we are forgetting whom we are called to reach. The fatherless and the lost the ones lost without identity and self respect. These teenagers need the outward sign of the inward conviction, they need to be recognized by others as members of something larger, something better, something worth dying for and perhaps in most cases something worth living for!’

The Guardian Angel uniform (Se previous post) spoke to young people who would have joined a gang, instead they joined ours. A gang that would give them positive skills, like defusing anger, mediating conflict, self respect and self control. Are we not called as the SA to reach these young people are we not required to use every trick of the book and every tool we have to appeal to them?

The uniform will give them the mark of approval, the outward sign of their inner conviction, the identity of belonging to an army that will change the world. It will be a constant reminder that every day they are part of a bigger picture, they belong to a familly, someone cares what happens to them. It will be something to die for, Something to live for!

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