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Sunday, December 23, 2012
Dennis On: "Birthing Skepticism"
skep·tic also scep·tic (skptk) n.
1. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions,
or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
2. One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
a. often Skeptic An adherent of a school of skepticism.
b. Skeptic A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism,
especially that of Pyrrho of Elis (360?-272? b.c.).
It is very easy to become skeptical of all the ideas, practices, claims and beliefs that human beings can come up with in the information age. If there ever was an accurate prophecy it would be that "knowledge shall be increased," and if ever a truer proverb, "much knowledge brings much grief." Yet, while easier on the stomach and brain, blissful ignorance is not the solution either.
Having been a church pastor, in this case for WCG though if not there , for me it would have been some other chosen denomination, I found that unlike other professions, it was not difficult to become even more skeptical of supposed established truths as time went on. Having soaked in religion, theology and the Bible 24/7 and seeing not only my/our own lives unfold but those of thousands of others, skepticism came to call. For years maybe I knew it was there but only looked at it out of the corner of my eye often pretending it wasn't really there.
With the recent tragic and mind numbing events in New town, Conn, skepticism will grow in many. Skepticism is becoming the new religion. Whether it is finance, religion or government, it is feeding and growing. Peace on earth this Xmas means little or nothing to most. Whether it is "good will towards men," or "to men of good will," it's rather a joke.
I and we all know what the Bible says about the chosen ones, the church, the child or the holy priesthood of believers being special, set apart and protected. We know those promises and verses. We also know they are rarely correct or at least true in the sense that it is obvious it is just not random chance or luck of the draw as we say.
I recall sitting in a festival site of thousands where the minister was waxing eloquent and sincere over God's obvious intervention in saving the life of a child in his congregation. Car wreck I believe. I cringed and in my head said, "please stop this and move on." He went on and on. I know he was trying to inspire thousands that we were all special and had nothing to fear. I also knew at least five which meant many more families in the audience were dying again inside as "in my house it was not so." They weren't inspired. They were recrushed and skepticism grew in that moment. I talked to the man at lunch and reminded him to please be careful in such a large audience as he had no clue how many were out there being destroyed by his encouragement.
Concerning children, I have stood besides the river as bodies of children and rescuers were brought up. I spent time asking a man to stop dismantling the tractor brakes looking for some flaw and reason it didn't turn and overturned on his son falling into another river killing him. I've been to the morgue dragged by the hand to go see beautiful dead teens killed in and by cars. I've stood by very fine church members as they mom said, "well, I was here when they were born, I will stay with them until you tell me they are dead." I've been hit as usually the mother screams "why!!!" and then hugged by the same woman who apologized and then said, "I know we don't pray as we should...." Wrong...but that's another story. Skepticism grew in these people and over time, 100% of them left the church finding either no relief or encouragement, or lame reasonings that did not help one bit.
In case you think the Bible has much to encourage grieving parents, you are wrong. "God will not give you more than you can bare" = "I can't bare this." "At least you have more children," = "I want that one back." "You will see them again in the Kingdom," = "I want to see them at the dinner table." "You need to get over it, it's been six months, " (Said by a minister to personal friends) = "Go to hell you bastard."
I've sat an listened to why one woman, who lost a child and was not helped by her church said she had concluded that Jesus death, in the story, was a mere weekend inconvenience and not a real death. God knew and Jesus knew he was coming back better than ever in a few days. Her daughter was still dead. Then she asked, "Shouldn't a sacrifice stay dead!" Nice question.....and skepticism is birthed forever more. I could not disagree with her and to this day have no better answer for her. Her minister told her, "Well, God lost his only child too you know," which set off her deeply thought out theological reaction. The minister did apologize when she screamed "no!" at him.
I've walked into homes where guns under pillows went off at night. I even helped not revive a teen who jokingly played Russian Roulette for the family and was dead before he hit the ground. I held a piece of his skull on the back of his head while we raced to the ER but everyone knew. I watched the doctor slam the door yelling "fucking waste of life," as he stormed out.
I had a church deacon's son , who found out it was me taking him to the hospital with two broken legs after a day of drinking and putting a trampoline together beg me not to tell his dad. lol. Lesson: If you drink too much beer, you jump too high showing the kids how it all works and when you come down....well never mind.
I think we all know that if the ministry lays hands on the sick, the sick shall be made well. Um....no. Or I must have been the Dr. Kevorkian of the ministry. One of my closer friends said to me once, "Ever notice how those with colds and flu that you lay hands on get better, but those with cancer die?" Ummm. Yes. I had my own skepticism about such matters even as I performed them. (Please don't say, "well there you go, you had no faith.")
Sometimes people get very angry with the "stupid ministry" of many and all churches when skepticism comes a calling. But it is still the Book, the Bible that produces its own skepticism by making promises that it does not keep and portraying God , Jesus and the Angels in ways that they do not act in reality. The angels may watch over the children, but they don't seem to move fast enough when needed. God, Jesus and Angels get cut some slack but not so much the church or the minister who also thought the Book meant what it said. "Whatever you ask you shall receive," and "if you have faith as a mustard see, you shall say to this mountain..." and so on. Never saw it and never met anyone that could do it. And so skepticism is birthed.
Skepticism is handled in several ways. When it actually shows up, some ignore it and bury its reality in "just have faith," or "trust and obey for there is no other way," and sometimes there is not. Some become aggressively skeptical or passive aggressively skeptical because anger is either ok or not ok depending on the person. Those that suffer the hard blows directly are never the same and no you don't "get over it." You put it somewhere in time and it scars up eventually but you don't get over it. I know two people that never dated again after their very young boyfriend or girlfriend or fiance were killed. It was too risky and too painful to trust that process again. Marriage doesn't work or relationships don't work because the last three failed. Church doesn't work because of last six.
I don't enjoy being skeptical. There have been several times that I have been inexplicably saved from death such as missing a plane that was hit by a fighter jet or not having the head on to this day I don't know how I didn't. I used to believe it was because I was supposed to be a teacher of truth and a minister in the true right sure fine church. Well I know how that went. Was I spared to be a massage therapist? Hope not! Was I spared to write about being skeptical? That makes no sense. Luck of the draw maybe.
If you live long enough, government, banks and religion will eat away at your hope, trust and beliefs. We either change them or we bury the doubts under a mask of fear and not knowing what to do. Some just change from the bad experience to the good one. The bad church to the good one or the bad job to the good one. And skepticism laughs waiting in the wings to birth it self again.
Perhaps without a healthy skepticism there can actually be no growth or progress in life. I believe this to be true. After all...what is walking but a controlled crash in motion. We catch ourselves just before we fall on our faces and we call that "walking." If we keep moving the upper half and don't move the lower, we fall on our faces.
I wish I did live in the La La land that some seem to have found or re found. I can't. I'm a skeptic. Bells in my world can't be unrung and experiences compared to scriptures and theological promises that don't ring true can't be made to mean something else to get the Book off the hook. After a lifetime of experiences that were promised and taught to be one way and seeing them not at all that way just does to most what it does. It makes one skeptical. It's lonely being skeptical. It can drive some people out of your life. It can make you do dumb ass things being penned up might not allow for. It is no fun on the stomach at times and certainly those niggly chest pains are no sign that all is well in Skeptic City. But it is what it is.
Healthy skepticism based on experience is what keeps knowledge flowing and going. Without it, we'd be in the Dark Ages still. Without it, we'd not grow in our grace either when we see that things just don't go along as easily or blossom as simply as some would have us believe.
It would be wonderful to see more of those stuck in their seats listening to the one man shows of Dave Pack, Gerald Flurry or a Ron Weinland get a little skeptical. God knows they have enough ammunition and reasons to be! But as I have said in the past, fear, guilt and shame are powerful glues that keep butts firmly attached to seats. In my years as minister, I did not find many that thought through the realities of what they were hearing or seeing. I didn't myself for sure, until I did. I have to credit finally getting fed up with Gerald Waterhouse speculations for putting me onto the skeptics track. How many times I sat there listening, sore butted and wanting to go home saying "this is bullshit," and acting like it wasn't. Argh! Never again. Like any seed, skepticism needs time to grow, but when it breaks the surface, you will know.
I'll take a skeptic over believer any day. Beliefs are just that. They often bear no resemblance to the truth of any matter. I can't tell you how many ministers I know who are skeptics but you will never know. I ask ministers pointed questions and often get the "I know, but if I say that, I will lose my job," far more often than "that is just not so!" Ministers around here do this year end dance around the Solstice not being Jesus birthday , of course, (news to most pew sitters) but still he was born on Xmas day. Hilarious doublespeak. They know. Bible errors....most know. Bible inconsistencies...they know. They have buried their own members, children and teens. They have seen those with the flu get well and those with cancer die. The mountains around Greenville have never moved an inch because Bob Jones University is up the street in all its righteousness and obedience and God, Jesus or Angels never really show up when you need them the most, as they promised.
Thus skepticism is birthed....and its OK. But I don't believe it is OK to see it, then teach and explain as if you didn't.
Dennis C. Diehl