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May 24, 2007

If Quakers want to proselytize

perhaps they should look into holding more weddings. Many of the responses Angelika and I got after our wedding last Saturday were from non-Quakers who thought that was a great way to have a wedding.

Weddings are a great time to bring in non-Quakers in a happy environment, and people can see - and fairly easily participate in - a rather active though still worshipful meeting. The reasoning behind everyone as minister shines brightly on these occasions, and perhaps the contrast with other services will make people think about services generally.

Some friends have posted pictures here and here.

May 3, 2007

God as (not) government

Angelika (my fiancée, aka Presbyterian Girlfriend) and I were talking yesterday about the demanding views people have about God. For example:

  • If God is so great and loving, why doesn't He fix all the poverty and suffering in the world?

  • If God is so understanding, why does He set up all of these difficult rules that humans can't obey?

  • God encourages us to be humble while demanding sacrifice and praise for himself. Who is this crazy egotist?

All of these seem like good questions - if we're thinking of God as an all-knowing all-powerful ruler: a very strong government. These questions assume that God's morality is our morality, that God's reason is our reason.

I used to ask all of these questions when I was on the outside of religion looking in, wondering how it was possible for people to give up their expectations of what was right and just in order to accomodate a powerful God who didn't seem to do much for His followers.

On top of that, a lot of what the Christian right pushes seems to encourage these kinds of questions. Insisting that the Ten Commandments appear everywhere possible that someone might make government decisions does tend to conflate government and religion, for example.

From the inside looking out, none of these questions quite make sense. God isn't a fascist regime or a democracy, a monarchy or an oligarchy. God is God, accessible but not comprehensible. Looking at these questions again, it seems that they might better be asked:

  • Why did God grant humans the privilege of making our own choices with or without help? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? And how can I encourage others to make better choices?

  • How can I learn from God to live a better life?

  • How could someone have a relationship with God and not want to worship?

Those are still difficult questions, but very very different.