Saturday, November 28, 2009

Misplaced awe

This reflection and spiritual direction is particularly directed at the young people (hi there!) One reason is that I know you have many questions and have only gotten from the previous generations for the most part crap. The other reason is that while of course I hope the oldsters are reading what I blog too, and benefiting from it, so many of them are so brain damaged that I really wonder if they will ever get it and repent.

We have a problem. We have many problems but one of the fundamental problems with these modern times is misplaced awe. We (and I'm speaking in fellowship so you understand that I totally get the problem and the blockages people have) want to be awed and need to be awed. There's two types of legitimate awe. Well, really three, but let's look at the really solid forms of legitimate awe first. The top and ultimately only awe that one should feel is with God. One should totally be in awe of God, in totality, in awe with his All Knowingness, in awe of him as Creator, awe of him as the source of all that is truly Good, in awe of his mercy and his love, and in awe of his total power of Judgment and Reckoning. Being in awe of God is not only legit and understandable, but it is the smart thing to do because being in awe of God means that you are in touch with reality. If you are in awe of God and only God, in general that means you have a firm grasp on reality and how the cosmos is ordered and the place of humanity within it. This does not mean you are looking down on humans at all because genuine awe of God raises up humans due to God's awesome gifts (listed above), particularly as Creator and source of all Love and Mercy. Being reality based does not mean that you have to have self loathing of the human race and in fact that is part of the problem because self loathing of one's self or humanity is not reality based, since God did not create anything, including humans, that are inherently low and loathsome. Sin and unrighteousness and injustice are loathsome, not human beings.

The second form of legitimate awe is awe in God's creation. There is absolutely no problem and in fact it is Biblically founded (and alluded to in the Qur'an) as being scripturally correct. Before we go further here is the Big Caution. It is fine to be in awe of God's creation, but NOT to worship or attempt to sanctify any components of God's creation. In other words you can marvel and be in awe of a beautiful sunset, but must not worship the sun, as it is simply a creation of God's. You can marvel and be in awe of beautiful mountain ranges and love their mystery and perhaps even succumb to their challenge of being climbed, but you must not worship the mountains nor consider them a tool in achieving spirituality. That is idolatry. Again, one can have one's breath taken away in awesomeness by mountains and even feel a closeness to God in a symbolic way, but one absolutely must not have a relationship with the mountains that infuses them with any supposed power, for that is idolatry. You can be a scientist and marvel and be in awe as you study DNA and genetics, and admire God's creation, but you absolutely cannot be in awe of how you can play God and manipulate life. That is the path to hell that is guaranteed to take a lot of people with you.

You can fly in spaceships and photograph distant stars and wonder about as yet undiscovered planets and wonder, and this is the key, wonder if God created life on any other planets. All of the universe, seen and unseen, is God's creation, just as the Book of Genesis explains. One of my first career interests was astronomy (the science) not astrology (the occult practice), as a youngster, so I have spent many hours admiring and researching and just marveling about the cosmos... but any awe that I have is 1) rooted in the awe of God's creation, and not imagined powers or capacities of either material or energy beings and 2) dwarfed by the awe that I have of God, and that I never spend even one minute of my life being unaware of.

The third kind of awe that is OK, but a slippery slope, is to be in awe of the actions of a merciful and/or loving person. Every once in a while we read or hear about or even know someone who does something truly awesome. But only God knows the genuine circumstances and what is in the heart of that person, and so one can safely admire an awesome moment, but must stop short of being in awe of the total person. There are two reasons for this caution. The first is that unfortunately in this very ego centric and self conscious society, there are few genuinely real and awesome people but, rather, people who sculpt themselves to have a list of, well, "awesomeness" that is of the world and not of God. These are the people who just seem like, as their handlers put them, (and yes, of course, their genuine family members), "saints on earth" or "angels." Um, remember the Good Samaritan in the Bible? Notice when Jesus told the story to his disciples he did not say that the Good Samaritan was "like an angel," or "like a saint on earth," or "generous" or anything else. He was simply "good," and from Jesus that was the highest praise for it meant that the Samaritan naturally utilized God's, not his own, goodness. The best of "heroes" and other "awesome" people of today are infused with God, not a list of heroic talents and deeds. Just about everyone today is over produced and I must admit I know very few genuinely awesome people (I could probably count them on one or two hands). So the first reason to avoid placing a person on your "awe" list is that few people today are genuinely awe worthy (yep, those bubbles bursting everywhere) and second, awe directed at people inevitably becomes a stumbling block to your having genuine awe of God. If you have awe of God you can recognize the few people that do come along who do something awesome, but the reverse is NEVER true. If you are in awe of people you will never have genuine awe of God because you misdirect yourself as a result in your awe expectations.

This is why I, like most of you, probably roll your eyes when you hear someone described as a "Good Christian." There was a time when that meant a very good thing, which was when it denoted, as I described above, a person who was naturally infused with awe of God and thus lived their life accordingly. But now the "Good Christian" seal of approval is passed around from self praising Christian to other self praising Christian because they attend the right congregation and they follow all the right rules. God may or may not have anything to do with that person supposedly being a "Good Christian." You know what it is like? It's like when being a "lady" or a "gentleman" meant something genuine, and then it became a class thing, a matter of wealth, or even of irony. Perfectly good labels of admiration become something foolish in modern context. Being a "Good Christian" has become a foolish label, because a truly godly person does not seek or need that label as he or she is focused only on God, in awe of him and sanctifying themselves to his will.

Now I am not the spoiler of the party, young people, so don't worry, I'm not saying to drop using "awesome" in slang, as I do it myself! I am speaking of the genuine feeling of awe here :-)

Here is how I can explain to you the collective societal problem that has developed due to misplaced awe. People have fallen into idolatry by being "awe junkies" and "awe seekers." And the reason they do so is that they avoid having awe for God because deep down inside they do not want to obey God and stop sinning, stop being warlike, stop being violence junkies, stop abusing substance, stop being evil, stop being unjust and stop being dishonorable and stop being unrighteous. People think if they tear down and criticize the institutions of God that they have an excuse for not being awed at God himself. Wrong. Oh, how deadly wrong that is.

If anything one must only be in increased awe of God at his forbearance and giving of many (but not infinite) second chances. You could destroy every church, mosque, or synagogue that you feel is too "orthodox" off the face of the earth, and kill or humiliate every person who is genuinely a servant of God and you would not diminish God's awesomeness one speck. It only underscores how God will, at the end of each person's life, and at the Final Judgment, hold each person accountable and there will be nothing anyone can say in their defense, since as we know, God is awesome in his All Knowingness, and knows all that happened, what would have happened, and was in each person's heart. God knows when you deny him his due as the only one to be in awe of, to worship, and the only Deity to exist because you want to keep on having some sort of sin or presumed power/control over others in your life. No matter how much you tear down the religious edifices, no matter what their presumed "quality" in your mind, where you think you can critique how others worship in orthodox settings, God is always God and he knows not only what you do but your motivations at all times.

So, young people, this is what I most worry about for you, which is that the sinful generations who have raised and taught you desire to keep sinning, lying, being unjust, being vicious, being on power trips and lost in a fantasy world, is that they have dangled so much of the real or the imaginary world and universe in front of you as being "awesome," while trying to diminish God and thus they blind you to the truth and hide it from you. Awesome robots and "aliens" might exist, every day in cartoons and other entertainment, but a mention of the legit awesomeness of God is not only lacking but forbidden. Parents and teachers and the whoremongers of commerce fear that if you, oh consumers and spenders of dollars, realize how awesome God is and how pale everything else is in comparison, that they will lose their presumed power over you, over earthly events (such as politics) and most of all through commerce and the almighty buck.

How do you steer through this mess? By recognizing misplaced awe and putting it where it should be instead, as I described above. It's fine to call something awesome (like a great room styling) or even a person awesome (like if they did a really fabulous good deed) and to be in awe of sunsets or tornado chasing or mountain climbing K2, or the beauty of outer space, wondering what's in those other galaxies over there IF one reserves genuine AWE for God. If you remember that God not only created all that exists but remains and always will be in control of it, you can marvel alongside of God at the beauty of life and of the material world while never being in danger of idolizing it and putting pieces of it over God in your priorities. You can call it "guilt free awe," ha. If you reserve genuine awe for God by remembering God as he really is at all times (as I listed in the beginning of this), you need not fear being swept away into sin and neglect because people dangle inappropriate awe in front of you. Who wants to work on world peace if they secretly think there are imaginary forces more powerful than God and that "they" "control" them? Earth has become like an abandoned house full of neglect and ruin with grass that is unmowed and vagrants that sit around waiting for something to happen instead of maintaining their residence. They want to be "awed" by something other than God and they want to watch cartoons of themselves with their presumable "step in" "awesome" powers rather than be in awe of the one true God AND be able to enjoy the awesomeness of his creation.

I hope that you understand what I am saying. Until next time, remember, seek only God and all else will fall into place and be given to you that is good for you.