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Serendipity is not what you think it is

You and your talk of serendipity. Do you know that it means nothing? Just that something good happened to you by chance–that’s what the dictionary says. What you really seem to mean is that you think the gods are on your side because of your humble, open, goodness-motivated choices. Admit it. Or else say, “Something good happened to me.Your odds are probably worse because of that–sorry, but good luck. May the odds ever be in your favor too.”

It’s faith talk under a different name.  Like “It’s a God thing,” or God is “taking care of us” or “placing certain people in my life.” I used to be able to swallow all this, when my nice, positive-thinking friends and relatives put it out there. I’d actually feel guilty that I wasn’t thinking that myself all the time about my good life and many blessings, and resolve to get into a more “Christian” mindset. It always made me feel better to do that. But if I have to take such faith-based medicine, then shouldn’t everyone? Oh yeah, says the victim–he hits me and starves the children, but I know it’s all for the best, and God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s all in his control. Some faith perspective that is.

But wait, isn’t that the Hebrew Bible perspective? God hardens Pharoah’s heart, requires a father to keep his vow even to sacrifice his daughter. No excuses. Allows faithful Lot to send his daughters out into the street to be raped, so as not to break holy laws of hospitality. later, allowed the Jews to experience holocaust after holocaust after holocaust. Why, O Lord, why? How long, O Lord? The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. We suffer, and ask God why, but always yield and regard all suffering as due to our sins as a people. That’s what I call faith. And I understand why so many faithful Jews are atheists even so–seems more honest to God.

Individualistic faith is different. It’s awkward to teach that you and I are suffering because of our individual sins. So we thank God for the blessings, and try to huddle together and avoid most of the suffering, while we reach out to those who suffer because of their sins, or the sins of those secular people, or the sins of the parents, or just don’t think about why at all. Not that there isn’t any meaning in it–nothing is random and God is in control, right? But I’m too humble to say openly why others suffer. There but for the grace… I got the grace, for some reason. Not some random reason, but… To teach us all a lesson, except we can’t know why. Or judge… Now we see through a glass dimly, but then we shall see face to face.

Is it just something so mysterious, so, so utterly beyond our ken, that really God is in control, and it’s only our paltry attempt to simplify that makes this seem inconsistent with his goodness?

Back to the woods for me. There I get it, a little. Beauty, grandeur, loftiness, death, birth, decay, intimacy, order, chaos, sensuality, mystery, grace, tenderness, terror. He is hiding, but I heard him cough.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Beautiful Earth, Religion & Spirituality

 

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Do some of us simply lack the genetic predisposition to simple faith?

Do some of us simply lack the genetic predisposition to simple faith?

Have you ever admired, and wished you could be more like those with a never-wavering “blessed assurance”? While I’m mostly thankful for my philosophical critical thinking bent, sometimes I wish…

In Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad describes a kind of courage exemplified in the main character. An ambivalent description, to be sure (emphasis added):

“I don’t mean military courage, or civil courage, or any special kind of courage. I mean just that inborn ability to look temptation straight in the face–a readiness unintellectual enough, goodness knows, but without pose–a power of resistance, don’t you see, ungracious if you like, but priceless–an unthinking and blessed stiffness before the outward and inward terrors, before the might of nature, and the seductive corruption of men–backed by a faith invulnerable to the strength of facts, to the contagion of example, to the solicitation of ideas. Hang ideas! They are tramps, vagabonds, knocking at the back-door of our mind, each taking a little of your substance, each carrying away some crumb of that belief in a few simple notions you must cling to if you want to live decently and would like to die easy!”

 

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