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In secular Britain, a clash over public prayer
Prayer
Written by laika   
Sunday, 11 March 2012 19:02

At The Washington Post:

Bideford, England — Perhaps the locals should have anticipated sparks on a town council stocked not only with a practicing pagan, a staunch atheist and an agnostic former stripper but also two evangelical Christians and a Methodist church organist. But few could have predicted that one small town’s fight over the abolition of Christian prayers at public meetings would escalate into Britain’s own culture wars.

Even as the Republican primaries highlight America’s divide over the separation of church and state, Britain finds itself locked in a debate over religion that is entangling not just the British government but even Queen Elizabeth II. The move to ban public prayers in tiny Bideford — and potentially across all of England and Wales — has erupted into a national proxy fight over the question of whether Christianity should still hold a privileged place in a modern, diverse and now highly secular society.

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PineHall  - Living in the Past   |2012-03-12 10:36:24
People look back and say how good it was, and want to preserve the ways of the past. Unfortunately things have moved on. Britain needed to shore up its Christian Faith 50+ years ago. Now it is too late. Same in America. If the majority of people have left the Christian faith then the nation is no longer Christian no matter what is on the books.

We need to live in the present and share our stories about God's love in our lives, and not dream of past glories or fret about the future.
TheophileEscargot   |2012-03-13 05:06:27
National Secular Society:

http://www.secularism.org.uk/blog/2012/03/witho...
whitemice  - Tail End   |2012-03-13 06:20:45
"whether Christianity should still hold a privileged place in a modern, diverse and now highly secular society"

(a) I'd say that very statement answers itself.
(a.1.) I personally wonder about the "diverse" part that is always thrown in. The real change is to a "highly secular" over culture. The minorities groups really aren't anything new; just fewer of those in the over-culture self-identify with one of them.
(b) These type of "debates" indicate that the debate is over. These are not debates but just the death-gasps of the former mode. The same thing seen in the United States. When the over society felt differently [and this is very much about feelings of identity more than practice] these discussions where squelched, dismissed, often with a roll of the eyes. The intellectual arguments for an Open public space were no less rigorous or valid fifty years ago - but the intellectuals were not who the over society self-identified with. And the intellectuals really do bring a lot to the table, it just isn't going to work (or last very long, sadly, since I think a society that faces its internal diversity is a much more interesting place to live).
whitemice  - re: Living in the Past   |2012-03-15 07:24:54
PineHall wrote:
People look back and say how good it was, and want to preserve the ways of the past. Unfortunately things have moved on. Britain needed to ....


I find JRR Tolkien's concept of the "sin of the embalmer" instructive. Attempts to regain or preserve some 'gilded age' that is often counter-historical (or relies on a highly edited history) that inevitably results in at best the neglect of current real concerns or at worst the justification of the use of coercive force.
PineHall  - sin of the embalmer   |2012-03-15 09:58:44
whitemice wrote:
I find JRR Tolkien's concept of the "sin of the embalmer" instructive. Attempts to regain or preserve some 'gilded age' that is often counter-historical (or relies on a highly edited history) that inevitably results in at best the neglect of current real concerns or at worst the justification of the use of coercive force.

I had not heard that phrase, "sin of the embalmer", before but it is a great descriptive phrase. It describes well those who long for the past.
whitemice  - re: sin of the embalmer   |2012-03-15 13:22:42
PineHall wrote:
I had not heard that phrase, "sin of the embalmer", before but it is a great descriptive phrase. It describes well those who long for the past.


I found a rather extensive collection of his personal letters, many between himself and his son who was then serving in World War II. They were full of potent and prescient words; I distinctly remember reading his idea of "sin of the embalmer" and it has stuck with me. His predictions of what followed the world wars - the cold war - we're equally startaling. I'd thought of him as the author of beautiful fiction and never as an observer of the geo-political (which sadly is a magnification of the very human).

The idea of the "embalmer" has, for me at least, facilitated compassion for people I admit to naturally holding in contempt. Not at first, since I was younger when I first read it, but it recent years. With age the "sin" becomes easier to understand - as relationships end, dear places are torn down, projects and endeavors are discarded, and perhaps also just the fading of the novelty of life - one comes to understand how the past can becon [I recall a scene in a movie I've forgotten the title of where a character describes "nostalgia" as a "disease", which seems like a related concept]. In a "just move on" 21st century society , with no space for sorrow or grief, those losses can be so smoothly sublimated into humiliation, into a sense of weakness. How else would someone who cannot cannot "move on", cannot "let go" feel; current pop-culture ghost stories write this concept large. The most obvious treatment to weakness and humiliation ... is power. How tempting avenues to power, however false, are to those who feel discarded / left behind / humiliated. At the extremes of the political and cultural screaming matches I have no doubt there who are truly just wicked - but they are in their towers gathering energy from many souls whose situations were made at first by real love and real appreciation of effort, elegance, and beauty.  Things those people have lost and been unable to replace. Which is both diabolical and crushingly sad.
emperorbma  - neurochemical salience   |2012-03-15 18:52:26
FWIW, part of it may be brain chemistry ascribing less salience to novel experience and more salience to memories. The youth tend to have the opposite issue in youthful recklessness.
laika  - re: neurochemical salience   |2012-03-15 22:44:46
Do we have a choice, or is this chemical change on a fixed trajectory?
emperorbma   |2012-03-16 01:40:45
Seems more than likely that it's a tendency related to the natural changes in cognition that occur as one ages, but can't really be considered completely deterministic.

Part of this is maturity. Put it this way: are older people more likely to take the same risks that a teenager would? Many of the traits that a teenager relies on aren't just naturally culled, but also intentionally culled as one ages. Part of it might also be social. There is a culture of aging that may bolster pre-existing tendencies.

However, there is some evidence that this is also helped along with internal changes to brain systems. Some of these changes either directly have an effect in this change or, at the very least, reflect and anticipate the changes closely. In general, it seems fairly safe to say that people tend to value novelty less than nostalgia as they age. But correlation is not causation.

Even if there is a tendency, it is possible that someone can intentionally or unwittingly bypass it. Basically, as a layperson on these matters, I'm not really comfortable cmaking a conclusive determination on the data.

In that vein, I say, make of these links what you will:
*NIH: Age differences in problem-solving style: ...
*NIH:Changes in Cognitive Function in Human Aging
*Attentional Capture and Aging: Increased Salience.
*The effects of aging on nostalgia in consumers'...
laika  - Novelty   |2012-03-15 22:46:50
whitemice wrote:
...and perhaps also just the fading of the novelty of life...


I've been cogitating on that very thing a lot lately (if I understand you correctly). I think a lot of people may be dying of boredom as they age.

whitemice wrote:
The most obvious treatment to weakness and humiliation ... is power. How tempting avenues to power, however false, are to those who feel discarded / left behind / humiliated. At the extremes of the political and cultural screaming matches I have no doubt there who are truly just wicked - but they are in their towers gathering energy from many souls whose situations were made at first by real love and real appreciation of effort, elegance, and beauty. Things those people have lost and been unable to replace. Which is both diabolical and crushingly sad.


Interesting!
holmegm   |2012-03-16 12:08:03
One can carry this trope too far.

There really were times when Christianity was a very vital force in the public lives of Britain and the United States.
laika   |2012-03-16 15:20:48
holmegm wrote:
There really were times when Christianity was a very vital force in the public lives of Britain and the United States.


No question there, but were those times really Golden Ages worthy of our nostalgia? Maybe for some, maybe not so much for others.
emperorbma   |2012-03-16 19:28:33
In any case, we live now and have to try to live the best way we can and hopefully, by God's grace, make tomorrow better than today.
laika   |2012-03-16 21:54:24
Most of us are in the most golden of ages now, anyway. That's worth remembering, even while following your advice.
holmegm  - re:   |2012-04-03 10:59:01
holmegm wrote:
There really were times when Christianity was a very vital force in the public lives of Britain and the United States.


laika wrote:

No question there, but were those times really Golden Ages worthy of our nostalgia? Maybe for some, maybe not so much for others.


I don't really think it's a binary, yes/no question. I'm not sure how one can discuss it the way it is being posed here.

I think we (I'm going to use "we" for the broad, common western culture in 2012) are far too quick to dismiss our fathers as ignorant, backward fools, etc. At times they were, of course, but at time they weren't. 

It can be easier to learn from them sometimes than from our contemporaries, since we are removed in time from their shared cultural assumptions. And not, of course, removed in time from our own.

C.S. Lewis once wrote something to the effect that every civilization is supremely vigilant against that which it is in no danger of. (And not, of course, vigilant against that which we are in danger of.)

Our present civilization is in approximately zero danger of hagiographic nostalgia for a more Christian past. :)
whitemice  - re: Novelty   |2012-03-16 07:32:07
laika wrote:
[quote=whitemice]...and perhaps also just the fading of the novelty of life...

I've been cogitating on that very thing a lot lately (if I understand you correctly). I think a lot of people may be dying of boredom as they age.[/quote]

Yes, I think we are on the same page. One reaches 'middle age' with the job, the home, the family... and all those this are great, and I'm very thankful for them. But then... that's it. There are moments were it seems there is nowhere to go. Unless you want more money, more power, etc... Western 21st life, with all its toys, reveals itself as dreadfully pedestrian and trite.

Which loops back to the thoughts of a society with little range; it doesn't make room for grief or sorrow, it also doesn't make room for expressions of desires much beyond avarice. Our "liberal" society, at least to me, seems subtly but powerfully constrictive and narrow. I wonder if we don't actually have a vast class of 'the disappeared', only our disappeared weren't abducted, they were simply pushed out of the way and through either depression or exhaustion just gave in. Some of them are collected (or harvested?) into the screaming groups one sees on the TV and reads about in the papers.

I also ponder how the modern church and elements of the Protestant anti-aesthetic movement are implicated in this state of affairs.
whitemice  - re: neurochemical salience   |2012-03-16 07:44:57
emperorbma wrote:
FWIW, part of it may be brain chemistry ascribing less salience to novel experience and more salience to memories. The youth tend to have the opposite issue in youthful recklessness.


Perhaps. But I believe it is primarily experience (which diminishes novelty).

Even something as banal as a business meeting - when certain people enter the room and some subjects are discusses - one can also script it in advance.  I know the positions everyone will take, I could draw you what their body posture will be, I know the metaphors and turns-of-phrase that will be used.

Watch a political debate and only a few moments in one knows how it will play out, how each candidate will respond to specific questions,  the "clever" word tricks that will be used to evade real answers.

This repeats in many many circles of life.

It is simply boring.  Mostly it doesn't matter. But at least in certain circumstances it, at least for me, does take on a bit of an existential color. Things that at first made me laugh (they were so absurd!), then later on made me angry (we are still talking about this!), now just make me tired (yea, whatever).

Boredom is an under appreciated enemy.  How many much 'greater' sins were heralded by simple boredom.
PineHall  - Boredom   |2012-03-16 10:01:07
whitemice wrote:
Boredom is an under appreciated enemy. How many much 'greater' sins were heralded by simple boredom.

Very true! I believe boredom is a choice people make, and beneath the boredom is something like discontent or unwillingness.
emperorbma   |2012-03-16 12:26:23
Hmm, being prone to boredom myself, I suspect I'd need to think about how it squares with personal experience in the matter.
laika   |2012-03-16 15:17:09
whitemice wrote:
Boredom is an under appreciated enemy. How many much 'greater' sins were heralded by simple boredom.


Good question. Thank you for raising a very interesting issue. I've been lately thinking that boredom might be behind all manner of trouble. And I agree that it doesn't seem to be acknowledged as the enemy that it may be.
emperorbma   |2012-03-16 19:29:41
But... boredom is like that annoying friend who doesn't go away. Why would I want to lose that? :P
laika   |2012-03-16 21:51:00
Well, if you do lose it, I promise to annoy you online from time to time.
emperorbma   |2012-03-17 00:18:18
Heh...
whitemice  - re:   |2012-03-16 22:30:56
holmegm wrote:
One can carry this trope too far.


I'm not certain what you are referring to as a "trope".

holmegm wrote:
There really were times when Christianity was a very vital force in the public lives of Britain and the United States.


I don't believe anyone here is or has disputed that.

The point of the embalmer is simply that the emphasis is on what is lost - the past (which is always lost to us). Debating what was or was not true in the past, or simply desiring the past and looking backwards, distracts from current concerns and needs. It always emphasizes the unreal - the past - which is for practical purposes less real than the now. All attempts to recreate the past will fail, it is gone. But the rhetoric of the 'gilded age' and the appeal of past ages can exert amazing power and appeal.

I do not doubt that Christianity is in fact a "vital force" today, now. There are certainly Christian leaders and theologians involved in the real living now-focused great debates of our time. Miroslav Volf is one such person who has achieved some recognition and who speaks in grounded real-world terms.
whitemice  - re: Boredom   |2012-03-16 22:41:13
PineHall wrote:
[quote=whitemice]Boredom is an under appreciated enemy. How many much 'greater' sins were heralded by simple boredom.

Very true! I believe boredom is a choice people make, and beneath the boredom is something like discontent or unwillingness.[/quote]

As for "boredom is a choice people make"... I think the same could be said of anything when in an uncharitable mood. I think the real situation is far more nuanced and potentially insidious.

"discontent" and "unwillingness" can often be laid on people who have simply have few options. A single parent, or someone at the low end of the economic scale, may be saddled with commitments and change may come at a high price. It may mean risking your income, your health insurance, potentially alienating friends or co-workers. A busy/harried life can be equally as devoid of vitality as it is full of frenzy; but leave little time or energy to focus on over-arching issues.

This also overlooks that there may be real issues of sorrow and grief over unresolved loss. Depression, loneliness, and boredom often ride each other's coat tails; and can forge an imposing triumvirate.
laika  - re: re: Boredom   |2012-03-16 23:42:31
whitemice wrote:
Depression, loneliness, and boredom often ride each other's coat tails; and can forge an imposing triumvirate.


Nicely put! This discussion is shaping into The Quotable Whitemice Week. And I agree that it's doubtful that anyone would choose boredom and its attendants.

whitemice wrote:
A busy/harried life can be equally as devoid of vitality as it is full of frenzy; but leave little time or energy to focus on over-arching issues.


Sometimes I almost suspect that this lifestyle serves some group's purposes. And oddly, most people take great pride in participating in it and make choices that keep it primed and running.
emperorbma   |2012-03-17 00:59:52
laika wrote:
Sometimes I almost suspect that this lifestyle serves some group's purposes. And oddly, most people take great pride in participating in it and make choices that keep it primed and running.


Some of it is probably a side-effect of seeing how often the happy people are oblivious to the downright obvious *headdesk* things this world likes to throw at people.  Accentuating the negative is the obvious response when chipper attitude is correlated strongly with willful ignorance and outright stupidity.

Not to impugn anyone with a genuinely cheerful attitude, mind you... but it's just a common tendency that I, at the very least, observed that some people abuse ignorance and distractions to make themselves cheerful. I know that the most common way of avoiding boredom is distraction, which sidetracks from thinking about the real problems.  The thing is there are maladaptive strategies on both sides of the fence: boredom and depression on the one and ignorance and false optimism on the other. The former tend to view themselves as martyrs for truth's sake and the latter tend to view the world through rose colored lenses.  Similarly, the former tend to be pensive and the latter tend to be woefully carefree.

Then again, these strategies are both probably tied to internal justifications from the "left brain interpreter's" bag of tricks, for better or worse. Not that it's an inherently bad thing but the brain does have a place dedicated to creating "justifications" for behaviors that it really doesn't know why it does. In both hyper-optimism and hyper-pessimism there seems to be a kind of overreliance on the confabulation and memory self-reconciliation abilities but not enough emphasis on using the more straightforward intuitive analyses of the right-brain. Given the evidence, it seems to tie strongly to the particular intellectual acceptance/avoidance strategems being employed by the left brain. The confabulatory schemes might serve to rationalize and prevent more intuitive and holistic analyses that could avoid falling into a solely pessimistic or optimistic train of thought.

tl;dr. probably, pensive people see chipper people are usually ignorant and modify their perceptions of positive moods accordingly.

P.S. Also, pessimists tend to find optimists trying to change their perspectives somewhat demeaning on various levels, so the negative attitude is also probably part of a defensive mechanism.
P.P.S. 'nother thing to add to the prayer list: request a manual for the brain... :P
laika   |2012-03-18 22:17:46
emperorbma wrote:
Some of it is probably a side-effect of seeing how often the happy people are oblivious to the downright obvious *headdesk* things this world likes to throw at people. Accentuating the negative is the obvious response when chipper attitude is correlated strongly with willful ignorance and outright stupidity.


All true, but I was thinking more in terms of some group imposing the "busy/harried life" on others as a way to distract and control. Yes, very conspiratorial I know, but we live in a culture that talks a great deal about, say, valuing time for the family, for instance, but pursues a course that is the opposite. Of course it's possible that people just like to talk about values while fully participating in the opposite culture.

Not that your response to quoting me is unrelated or without value, mind you, but I was thinking in darker terms.
emperorbma  - continuing our "anglican split" topics?   |2012-03-19 02:32:26
Well, It seems to me "people not knowing what they really want" suffices as an explanation here. There is a lot of fondness for the old religious norms insofar as they provide stability and purpose, but there is a strong desire to repurpose them to ignore things that the Scriptures strongly rebuke, such as homosexuality. I also notice that there is a historical laxity about the inclusion of non-conformists in some parts of the Anglican Church. For example, Charles Darwin and his family were members of the Unitarians but also were officially considered within the Anglican church. (... and they turned their backs when the Nicene Creed was recited, et al.)

This high degree of tolerance for non-conformist beliefs, both historically and presently more than likely it stems from the "via media" approach taken by the Anglican Church regarding the Protestantism-Catholic divide, with the laxity bleeding into other instances of doctrinal concern. This seems to present an opportunity for those who wish to introduce counter-traditional beliefs like Spong. That issue seems, however, to be resulting in a split between the conformists and the non-conformist minded Anglicans which resulted in the "break away" fiasco we have been observing over the past decade.

I'd say Hanlon's razor is a pretty useful rubric here insofar as this summation is true. Many people are probably confused about what they should be believing or not. Those who are not confused are generally the most sincere of the believers. I can't rule out that someone might be capitalizing on the general confusion, however. The result may be that we might well end up with a more heterodox sect of "state Anglicans" as a result of this and the doctrinally normative Christians will leave the boat before it sinks. Only time can tell with these things.
PineHall  - Broken   |2012-03-17 11:40:03
whitemice wrote:
I think the real situation is far more nuanced and potentially insidious.

You are correct. It is our broken nature that is really at the core of this problem. It is quite insidious. It corrupts everything we do. We are self destructive.
whitemice  - re:   |2012-03-19 06:19:41
laika wrote:
All true, but I was thinking more in terms of some group imposing the "busy/harried life" on others as a way to distract and control. Yes, very conspiratorial I know, but we live in a culture that talks a great deal about, say, valuing time for the family, for instance, but pursues a course that is the opposite. Of course it's possible that people just like to talk about values while fully participating in the opposite culture.


I agree. And once the ball is set in motion it is hard to stop it; first start with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans... even once the person realizes how idiotic their choices have been it may take a decade or more to worm their way out. And they did everything that society recommended.

The push for radical "self responsibility" is also a thinly veiled push for subjugation. But it isn't that conspiratorial because it doesn't require much of a conspiracy; it appeals to a lot of people. It appeals to me (at the same time that I see it as bogus). It sounds simple and effective. It sounds right. It just won't work.

Family values and individualism is much the same as talking about the virtues of healthy eating and exercise. Then I look down at what the reading on the scale is. :)  It isn't that those things aren't sincerely *believed*, but we *love* something else more.  Fitness is good, but the last thing I really want is to empower someone to come between me and that donut (bavarian creme filled long johns... mmmmmm)
laika   |2012-03-20 22:48:49
whitemice wrote:
Family values and individualism is much the same as talking about the virtues of healthy eating and exercise. Then I look down at what the reading on the scale is. :) It isn't that those things aren't sincerely *believed*, but we *love* something else more. Fitness is good, but the last thing I really want is to empower someone to come between me and that donut (bavarian creme filled long johns... mmmmmm)


Hmmm... So, maybe it would be more constructive to think of those who only talk the talk of family values and suchlike less as liars and hypocrites and more as fellow overeaters with good intentions? God knows I never turn away from a doughnut...

Maybe the expectation of some higher level of consistence in others (and in oneself?) gets in the way of proper relations? Hmmm, again. One is recalled to the esteemed Steve's recommendation of a while back:
Quote:
I say instead: be easy on yourself. Be easy on your neighbor. Stop pretending to be better than you are. This is why the gospel that all men are sinners in need of a redemption they cannot earn by the cultivation of their own virtues is indeed good news.
whitemice  - re:   |2012-03-22 21:09:39
laika wrote:
[quote=whitemice]Family values and individualism is much the same as talking about the virtues of healthy eating and exercise. Then I look down at what the reading on the scale is. :) It isn't that those things aren't sincerely *believed*, but we *love* something else more. Fitness is good, but the last thing I really want is to empower someone to come between me and that donut (bavarian creme filled long johns... mmmmmm)


Hmmm... So, maybe it would be more constructive to think of those who only talk the talk of family values and suchlike less as liars and hypocrites and more as fellow overeaters with good intentions? God knows I never turn away from a doughnut...[/quote]

It is certainly always helpful to remember that everyone is a liar and an hypocrite. Judging a message by the messenger is always misguided; and I'm tempted to use the term "juvenile" since it seem to be an error particularly of the young. I was certainly guilty of that not infrequently - it is so convenient to dismiss someone's claim by pointing out some personal flaw (or just that they are unpopular or that you don't like them). It isn't hard to watch the media and see people excusing the flaws and failures of their friends while railing and condeming the failures of those they don't agree with. That sort of closes the hyprocrisy loop.

A distinction can often be made however (made by disciplined minds) between those who are just flawed or make mistakes, like us and every one else, and those who are flagrantly beating a drum just to rouse support. While such a distinction can be made I still doubt if it is really all that helpful. If ideas are discussed on their merits the genuineness of the proponents becomes much less significant - not that it is at all easy to keep a discussion within such civil grounds. I sadly doubt that it is possible in a mass-media culture and situation. As C.S. Lewis once said: beneficial conversations can be had about the theology of things like baptism and free-will ... so long as those discussions are conducted behind closed doors.

laika wrote:
Maybe the expectation of some higher level of consistence in others (and in oneself?) gets in the way of proper relations? Hmmm, again. One is recalled to the esteemed Steve's recommendation of a while back:
Quote:
I say instead: be easy on yourself. Be easy on your neighbor. Stop pretending to be better than you are. This is why the gospel that all men are sinners in need of a redemption they cannot earn by the cultivation of their own virtues is indeed good news.


I read that conversation but choose to opt out.  I agree with much of the underlying intent. But on the practical matter I disagree strongly.

I'd rewrite it signficantly - "be easy on yourself. Be easy on your neighbor. Stop pretending to be better than you are" - 
becomes:

(a) "be hard on yourself" - I really don't see any practicum resulting from "be easy on yourself" other than a frivilous attitude towards sin. Christ doesn't accept me as I am, he accepts me in spite of what I am. And the Holy Spirit means I am not condemned to remain as I am. The inability to decouple "earning salvation" and "spiritual discpline" baffles me. Or the notion that if I recognize my own sin that I must be miserable or filled with self-loating.  Recognition of my own sin is a step of humility.  And without that recognition, as a practical fact, then salvation has no meaning.
(b) "be charitable to your neighbor" - I much prefer "charitable" to "be easy on". I'm really unsure what "be easy on" means.  Being "charitable" seems more of a description of a pragmatic attitude and action.
(c) "Stop pretending to be better than you are" - I guess I'm not really sure who this applies to. There seems to be a belief that there is a herd of fire-n-brimstone pastors out their leading flocks with an attitude of moral superiority. In all my years I don't think I've heard, in person, a single sermon I'd consider fire-n-brimstone. I've heard a few on the radio.  But they don't seem common to me. As for the "morally superior parishoner"; I haven't noticed any correlation between moral superiority and church attendance. I've no shortage of "liberal" or "modern" aquaintances who are almost unbearably smug. On the other hand I've met many beautiful, kind, genuine, humble, and charitable people - many of whom made significant investments in my own life and well being. So this statement is aimed at either a straw man or a man who is only going to read it and automatically assume it applies to his enemies.

Note: I've sat through sermons that some of my acquiantances considered fire-n-brimstone.  So possibly my bar is too high. I generally just thought those sermons were being honest. If a sermon mentions "sin" a large cross-section of people automatically file it into the f-n-b folder regardless of whatever else it contained.
PineHall  - Law and Gospel   |2012-03-23 10:25:13
whitemice wrote:

Quote:
I say instead: be easy on yourself. Be easy on your neighbor. Stop pretending to be better than you are.


I'd rewrite it signficantly - "be easy on yourself. Be easy on your neighbor. Stop pretending to be better than you are" - 
becomes:

(a) "be hard on yourself" ...
(b) "be charitable to your neighbor" ...
(c) "Stop pretending to be better than you are" ...

I like your rewrite, but I also liked the original. I think it somewhat depends on the context. Your version stresses our brokenness and Steve's version stresses indirectly God's love for us. Roughly, I would use Steve's version for someone already broken, needing to hear about God's law and your version for someone who needs to be broken because he is feeling that he has it all together. You both have Law and Gospel in statements but what is stressed is different.

To break out of Steve's mold, my version would be something like:
a) I am a broken sinful human being, but God still loves me.
b) When dealing with other people, remember that God loves them too.
PineHall  - ARGG!   |2012-03-23 10:29:03
Wrong word used! Replace law with grace.
"Roughly, I would use Steve's version for someone already broken, needing to hear about God's law..."
Roughly, I would use Steve's version for someone already broken, needing to hear about God's grace...
emperorbma   |2012-03-23 13:07:28
I agree. I, too, did not feel these descriptions as an either/or proposition.
laika  - re: Law and Gospel   |2012-03-23 19:27:59
PineHall wrote:
To break out of Steve's mold, my version would be something like:
a) I am a broken sinful human being, but God still loves me.
b) When dealing with other people, remember that God loves them too.


Yes!
laika  - re:   |2012-03-23 19:26:03
whitemice wrote:
(c) "Stop pretending to be better than you are" - I guess I'm not really sure who this applies to.


Well, I guess I should be embarrassed to say that it really spoke to me. I get angry and disappointed at what I see as people around me participating too much in the dominant culture, and that really flies too close to walking around in judgement - as if I, who fall far short of anything remotely resembling righteousness, have any right to judge.

SG's little sermon really called me up short and gave me lots to think about. Regarding that part you took exception to, it said this to me:
(1) "be easy on yourself" - realize that no one appointed me judge of the world and I get to drop some of that burden of anger, irritation and disappointment with my neighbors.
(2)"Be easy on your neighbor" - Stop all that judgement and self-righteousness! Quit expecting perfection from my fellow fallens. Try to approach them with the humility and patience of the equally flawed and afflicted individual that I am.
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