Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

The Beginning and the End

June 15, 2018

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler to nurture the notion that mankind was innocent in some presumed condition of noble savagery—or to accept traditional religion that pronounces us guilty of offenses against Nature or against God.

If we are, or were, indeed, noble savages in our beginnings, why should we have taken on the disciplines and restrictions of religion—doctrines that judge us culpable of sin and thus in need of repair, salvation, or some kind of evolving perfection yet to be realized?

Hawaiians, for instance, who were alive here on the island of Kauai (I am wondering, as I write this on Kauai in 2018)—those Hawaiians who lived here in 1778 when Captain James Cook suddenly showed up with his fancy ship and his threatening weaponry, his magical gadgets, highly-trained crew, impressive use of language and documents, his tailored clothing and highly developed European culture—those relatively primitive people who first saw Capt. Cook’s two ships sail up to the mouth of the Waimea River . . .

CaptCook

Why should they have accepted his intrusion into their simple, primitive life?

To go with the flow, or to go against it—that was their question.

Would they go with the “arc of history” or resist it?

Did they eventually accept highly developed European culture to replace their traditional tribal existence? Did they accede to it out of submission, or out of necessity, or out of attraction to the new fancy stuff they saw? Were they conquered? Or were they taken by the hand and brought gently, Christian-like, into 18th-century civilization, and ultimately into 19th, 20th and 21st-century lifestyle?

Look around Hawaii today. What do you think?

They accepted it.

They went with the flow. One thing we know for sure about the so-called primitive Hawaiians of 1778: they knew how to go with the flow. They were here on this remote island in the middle of earth’s largest ocean, long before we technolified haoles were here, and they had arrived here at some earlier time because they knew how to make “the flow” of this life and the Pacific Ocean work for them.

So now, 2018, it is what it is. Hawaii, like every other place in our modern world, is what it is. Some may lament the demise of noble savagery that has been the result of Captain Cook’s intrusion into this paradisical (though deadly if you don’t know what you’re doing) island. Others may celebrate the entrance of the Hawaiians into modern life.

Some may come and some may go.

Captain Cook came. He left and came back again. The beginning of Captain James Cook’s Hawaii experience happened when his crew sailed their two ships to the mouth of the Waimea River— a river that flowed from mile-high Waialeale crater down to sea level at the southwest shore of Kauai.

Waimea1

He died in 1779, shot dead by an Hawaiian on the Big Island of Hawaii, at the other end of this island archipelago. His sudden demise came in the midst of dispute between some of his own crew members and the natives of Hawaii.

Many have lived and died since that time.

Two days ago, up on the other end of Kauai island, the northeast end, at a strand called Larsen’s Beach, we witnessed the life-end of another person, a contemporary. The man was a traveler from Pennsylvania. He had been snorkeling at a reef in unpredictable waters when the Ocean took hold of him.

A little while later, his flippers floated to shore. After we had witnessed a team of chance beach visitors (us), and then a couple of jet-skiing lifeguards from some other nearby beach, and then EMT guys flown in on a “bird,”—after we had witnessed all this collective noble attempt to coax life back into the snorkeler’s breathless lungs and heart, we saw his neon-green flippers float back to shore.

Flipper

Maybe he was going with the flow; maybe he was going against it; maybe he was fighting against the current, or maybe he was just going with that flow of life and death that eventually captures us all.

In my case, that flow will, in the long run, take me to death, and then resurrected life, as was demonstrated by Jesus.

Am I really going with the flow, you may ask, in joining the historical current of the Christian faith into which I was born?

Or am I going against the rational flow by subscribing to such an incredible prospect as life after death?

God only knows.

King of Soul

Conquest

March 13, 2011

Several thousand years ago, the people of Israel threw off a bondage of  Egyptian slavery.Then, in a 40-year odyssey toward freedom and their own identity, they wandered through desert areas until the people occupied  a new homeland where they would eventually set up a kingdom.

The establishment of that twelve-tribal homeland required some conquest of the native peoples. Jewish use of military might under the auspices of divine direction was, and is, a matter of perpetual dispute. Even today, the controversy intensifies, with each new generation, about whether or not the Jewish people are entitled to that narrow stretch of God’s earth between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

Their perseverance to build a kingdom secured in righteousness and prosperity reached its golden age of fulfillment under David and Solomon.  But it was a flash in the historical pan. After Solomon’s death, their progress as an identifiable entity among the kingdoms of this world took on a downhill devolution, until finally the descendants of Israel were overrun by  Assyrians,  Babylonians,  Seleucids, and the Romans.

Their collective push to establish a worldly kingdom actually reflect a rather typical pattern in the development of people groups and their respective nations. But one unique element of the Israel contribution to world culture is their legacy of prophetical writings, which have since achieved universal distribution through a myriad of spiritual apropriations, most notably the Bible. The core of that prophetic heritage is a call to righteousness, or living rightly: morality, the Ten Commandments, etc.

About a millenium and a half after the Jewish diaspora, from out of the Arabian desert came Mohammed. He also issued a powerful summons toward righteousness;  he set forth five pillars of right-living upon which the practice of Islam, and its ordained proliferation,  would be founded.
I am not a Muslim, so I cannot claim an authentic understanding of their traditions and intentions, but it seems to me that Mohammed pointed out to the world that  Jewish and subsequent Christian efforts to establish a correct teaching about God–the One true God–had failed. A ubiquitous presence of idolotry and immorality among the people of Arabia and  beyond were evidence that men/women still needed a new infusion of religion, and he, Mohammed, was going to provide it. So he wrote the Q’uran.

But understand this: Mohammend was a conqueror. After his treatise of corrective religious dogma had begun, he went out and conquered multitudes of people, just to teach the world a lesson or two about rigteousness. The conquest of infidels that Mohammed and his immediate successors imposed on surrounding lands was immense. Islam established, through  unprecedented levels of conquest, a religious dominion far beyond anything that Moses, Joshua, David or Solomon ever dreamed of.

In the middle of all this religion-spewing history came a gentle  man from Galilee. His input to the spiritual heritage of mankind was not an advocay of conquest over peoples and nations. Whereas Jewish religion had been founded upon conquest of the Promised Land, and Islamic religion would later require conquest of the Infidels, Jesus’ only advocacy of conquest was a conquest of self.

He counseled people to “take up your cross and follow me.” By allowing the strong-armed conquerers of this world to crucify him, he wielded the ace of eternal life, and demonstrated its authority to trump this world’s  conquestive trick-taking.

He set in motion a narrative of redemptive power that has reined in the depraved hearts of men and women for almost two thousand years now. Jesus’ resurrection out-performed the legalistic limitations of Mosaic and Shariah Law. What better way to assure miraculous spreading of the news than rising from dead.

We don’t need to conquer the world; we don’t need to save it. That’s already been done, in the individual hearts of all persons who are willing to receive that deliverance.

Go tell it on the mountain. Go tell the Israelis. Go tell the Islamists: Forget about your conquests. Instead, let God conquer yo’ bad self so that you can rise to the challenge of eternal life, and therby overcome this goddamned world.

Glass half-Full