The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships 18

For my write-up today on The Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships, I will quote something that Sean Barron says on pages 255-256:

“My myopic view of the conversational highway kicked into overdrive when it came to dating.  Even into my late thirties, I interpreted a woman initiating a conversation with me as a sign of her romantic interest and failed to see the many other possible meanings.  I didn’t understand a most obvious unwritten social rule between men and women: friendliness is not necessarily a sign of romantic interest.  As a result, my emotions with women fluctuated wildly between euphoria and heartbreak—-without taking a break at any points in between.  Being so absorbed in loneliness, despair and desperation made it impossible for me to see things objectively.  It didn’t occur to me, for example, that the female clerk in the store treated me in a friendly manner because that was part of her job.  Or that a waitress might stop and chat for a few moments because she had a gregarious personality.  I didn’t stop to reason that women I met might have full lives of their own, and I had yet to learn that when I approach a woman I should look to see if she has an engagement or wedding ring on her finger.  The unwritten social rule that you look for signs that a woman is married before you ask her out on a date, wasn’t yet part of my natural social functioning.”

The context of this is the rule that not everybody who is nice to me is my friend, for people can have an ulterior motive to exploit me, or people may be nice to me because that’s their job, or they simply have a gregarious personality.  I identify with a lot of what Sean says—-especially the part about realizing that women I may have a crush on have lives of their own.  Regarding the rule that “friendliness is not necessarily a sign of romantic interest”, yeah, he’s probably right on that.  But I think that it can be a sign of romantic interest, especially when the friendliness leads to actual conversation.  But I’m sensitive to the possibility of being shot down if I ask a woman out, which is why I identify with some of what Sean is saying.

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 4:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

A No-Strings-Attached Friendship

Under Rachel Held Evans’ post, Better conversations between churched and un-churched Christians, Lynn makes an excellent comment:

“There was a time when I wouldn’t have believed it wasn’t possible for people on either side of this divide to avoid hurting each other, but then I met this family at the last church I went to. For almost a year, they patiently let me ask honest and definitely heretical questions in the small group they ran. And when I decided that I needed to leave because I just didn’t believe what the church and its denomination believed, they didn’t beat down my door and demand I come back. After a while, I just started getting e-mails – ‘We haven’t seen you around, and we miss you. How about coffee this week?’ ‘Do you have dinner plans for Friday?’ ‘So we’re having a family movie night. Interested?’

“And the crazy thing is that they actually just wanted to get together – without questioning my theology or my decision to stop attending church. They’ve never used it as an excuse to ask me how my ‘walk with the Lord’ is going.

“I still think this kind of friendship is very rare, but it’s good to be reminded that other Christians can totally surprise you. Little by little, it chips away at my cynicism.”

I agree with Lynn that this kind of no-strings-attached friendship is rare (including in terms of how I live my own life), but it’s beautiful when it does happen.  I also appreciate Lynn’s comment because it reminds me of how many Christians handle a person who leaves the church or who has not shown up to church or a small group for a while.  They either ignore the person altogether and don’t call or write, as if the person doesn’t exist or matter, or they pressure the person to come back, whether that person wants to do so or not.  But I think that Lynn did well to present a third way: offer a no-strings-attached friendship.  

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Contract with the Earth 18

For my write-up today of A Contract with the Earth, by Newt Gingrich and Terry Maple, I’ll highlight a passage from page 167:

“Sustained environmental protection and new, safe, and clean environmental technologies will require commitments that cross hardened political boundaries.  We face funding shortfalls in energy research, which has plunged to nearly half the levels established a decade earlier.  Because venture capitalists tend to fund ideas that are nearly ready for the marketplace, the type of arduous research that produces real breakthroughs can only be funded by astute governments.  America used to be that kind of government, but our commitments have wavered in recent years so government incentives for energy research will be issues in future political campaigns.”

The impression that I’ve gotten from much of the book is that the private sector is eager to do the pro-environment thing because it is right and also profitable.  Newt and Maple appear to prefer letting the private sector do its magic rather than relying on top down, one-size-fits-all government regulations.  In the above passage, however, they acknowledge that doing the right thing is not necessarily profitable in an immediate sense, and so the government should play a key role in getting energy research off the ground.

Newt and Maple argue for strong leadership.  Could Newt be that strong leader, though?  I respect that he has thought a lot about environmental issues, for he has been an environmental studies professor.  At the same time, his support for “drill, baby, drill” and his attacks on his opponents during his Presidential candidacy make me wonder if he can be a unifying leader on the issue of the environment.  Moreover, it has been argued that Newt is good at coming up with ideas, but not so much at seeing those ideas through.   Granted, Newt got the Contract with America on the table when he was Speaker, but my hunch is that he’s come up with far more ideas than he’s made into policy.

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Supersessionism; A More Ethical Acts 15:20

I started Brad Young’s Paul the Jewish Theologian.  I have two items:

1.  On page 3, Young quotes Abraham Joshua Heschel, who talks about Christian supersessionism:

“The Christian message, which in its origins intended to be an affirmation and culmination of Judaism, became very early diverted into a repudiation and negation of Judaism; obsolescence and abrogation of Jewish faith became conviction and doctrine; the new covenant was conceived not as a new phase or disclosure but as abolition and replacement of the ancient one; theological thinking fashioned its terms in a spirit of antithesis to Judaism.  Contrast and contradiction rather than acknowledgement of roots relatedness and indebtedness, became the perspective.  Judaism a religion of law, Christianity a religion of grace; Judaism teaches a God of wrath, Christianity a God of love; Judaism a religion of slavish obedience, Christianity the conviction of free men; Judaism is particularism, Christianity is universalism; Judaism seeks works-righteousness, Christianity preaches faith-righteousness.  The teaching of the old covenant a religion of fear, the gospel of the new covenant a religion of love…”

I thought of this passage when I read John Mayer’s comments on Psalm 78:43-51 in Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David:

Moses wrought wonders destructive, Christ wonders preservative: he turned water into blood, Christ water into wine; he brought flies and frogs and locusts and caterpillars, destroying the fruits of the earth, and annoying it; Christ increased a little of these fruits, five loaves and a few fishes, by blessing them, so that he herewith fed five thousand men: Moses smote both men and cattle with hail, and thunder and lightning, that they died, Christ made some alive that were dead, and saved from death the diseased and sick; Moses was an instrument to bring all manner of wrath and evil angels amongst them, Christ cast out devils and did all manner of good, giving sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, limbs to the lame, and cleansing to the leper, and when the sea was tempestuous appeasing it; Moses slew their firstborn, thus causing an horrible cry in all the land of Egypt; Christ saveth all the firstborn, or by saving makes them so; for thus they are called, Hebrews 12:23 .”

Young disagrees with the sentiment that Christianity is better than Judaism or the Old Covenant, at least in the way that Heschel says Christianity has conceptualized the issue.  According to Young, we cannot say that the God of the Hebrew Bible is a God of wrath, whereas the God of the New Testament is a God of love and grace, for there are times when the God of the Hebrew Bible is loving and gracious, and there is a prominent theme of God’s wrath in the New Testament.  I would add that Judaism and the Hebrew Bible contain such concepts as universalism (God’s love for all people), faith, and obeying God out of love (although there is also a strong particularist streak as well as an emphasis on ritual observances).  Young also contends that the New Testament does not promote a lawless sort of faith, for, like elements of Second Temple Judaism, it holds that good works are an expression of faith.

I agree with Young on these points, but I also believe that the New Testament contains the roots for the Christian supersessionism that he criticizes.  Paul, after all, associates the law with wrath and condemnation, while he holds that Jesus Christ has brought in a new age of grace.  John 1:17 says that the law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  I don’t think that Paul and John are like Marcion, who maintained that the God of the Old Testament was cruel whereas the God of the New Testament was loving.  Paul and John probably felt that God had good reason to run things as he did during the old dispensation—-to convict people of sin so that they’d recognize their need for Christ, to regulate their behavior and provide discipline until Christ came, etc.  But now it’s a new dispensation.

2.  Young talks about the Codex Bezae manuscript.  You can read about that here.  This Codex dates to the fifth century, but Young believes that it may contain a more original version of the Jerusalem conference’s decree in Acts 15.  In Acts 15:20, the church decides that the only requirements for Gentile Christians will be for them to refrain from sexual immorality, not to eat meat offered to idols and animals that have been strangled, and to abstain from blood.  The Codex Bexae, however, says “to abstain from pollutions of idols, from fornication, from blood[shed] and whatsoever you would that men should do to you do not to another.”

I happen to like the Codex Bezae’s version.  A problem with the requirements for Gentiles in Acts 15:20 is that so many things are left out.  As Desmond Ford has asked, does Acts 15:20 mean that Gentiles don’t have to honor their parents, since “Honor your father and mother” is not one of the requirements for Gentiles?  It makes more sense, therefore, for the church to have required Gentiles to obey some form of the Golden Rule.

At the same time, I’m not sure if Young is correct that the Codex Bezae has an earlier and more authentic version of the Jerusalem Conference’s decision.  I can understand why a manuscript would give the decision a more ethical orientation, which is what we see in the Codex Bezae.  But why would one take an ethical decision and remove ethical pieces from it, such as the Golden Rule?  It makes more sense to me that the former happened, not the latter.

Another point that I’d like to make is that Young, in his discussion of the Jerusalem Conference, believes that there was some diversity within the New Testament church.  On page 39, Young states:

“Paul would probably view these legal requirements [in the Codex Bezae of Acts 15:20] as a maximum for the non-Jews to observe.  Peter, on the other hand, would tend to view these laws as a minimum.  He would hope that the new believers from pagan backgrounds would adopt more of the Jewish religious observance.”

Published in: on April 18, 2012 at 3:24 pm  Comments (1)  
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