It is not the principle of the thing

If you don't like posts about religion, just skip this one.

If you don't like popular culture, you might want to skip this one too. If phrases like "Christian World View" and "separated from the world" mean something to you, pass by without perusal. Really. You won't like this much. If you're "separated" or if you don't like to do, watch, or listen to "worldly things," give up on me. Your principles are going to make you very unhappy with me.

See, lately I've been watching the HBO series Big Love, which is about a fictional polygamous family in Mormonland ... and it's about their mainstream, non-polygamous Mormon neighbors and friends, and it's about their Catholic school teachers in a school far enough away so that the dad can be the public dad and the second wife can be the public wife to their son who attends the school. It's a TV drama, to be sure, but the questions it asks about the meaning of words like "family" and "loyalty" and "sacrifice" and "Jesus" and "patriotism" ... well, it asks some good questions, and mostly by just posing them in the first place in such a surreal way - surreal especially for one such as I.

After my own Lutheran beginnings, once our family had become more fundamentalist (but not like they are in the south - and not like they are in Mormonland), I heard certain ways of talking about the Bible and talking about Jesus and Christianity and God and "doctrine." These ways often included various ways of using the word "principle." We learned to live by "Biblical principles." We learned to have a Biblical worldview. We learned to find the scriptural principles for living our lives.

Is any of this making your flesh crawl? Does in make you squirm?

I have just now realized that I do have these reactions to the whole notion of the "Christian principle," and it's the series Big Love that made me finally hear what I was hearing. See, in Mormonland, "living the principle" means living in polygamy. For them, the principle is the principle that God meant for people to live in family kingdoms, and in these kingdoms there is a priesthood holder - the man - without whom the women and children will never go to heaven. For them to be living the principle, they need a "testimony" from God, telling them they're called to get on with it, and find some more sister wives for the husbands and their first wives to be married to.

And it sounds so strange to outsiders. Sick even. Illegal, certainly. But they don't mind the illegal part of it. They love each other, they know for sure God has told them to do this, and they know all the Bible verses about persecution in this world so that we can get into the next.

Did you hear it? God wants them to. They know it. They have God's own Holy Spirit testimony in their hearts for it. What can anyone say if God Himself is talking - there - in the heart - where no one else can hear?


Nobody else can say anything at all to that.

...unless the person making the answer first rejects the very notion of living by a "principle" of things given to the individual heart directly by God. That's the problem. The key is this whole idea of a secret and silent notion of God's communication. It's the ancient mistake of Gnosticism - a secret knowledge - a code - a key to the kingdom - the stuff you have to "know" in order to know God. And it's wrong. It's deadly, deadly wrong.

There is no more basis for what the Biblical separation people talk about than there is for the Mormonland Gnostic heresy. It's all the same thing. God didn't give us guiding principles, and He doesn't give us individual knowledge or revelation or interpretation skills. God gave us something we could see and touch and taste and smell and hear. God gave us ten really clear commandments, and He gave us the Sacraments.

Just today I figured this out.

I just realized that in the last dozen years or so, I have learned not to look for the Biblical "principles." I don't try to figure out the Biblical world view - don't try to find the all-inclusive safety net that will help me by showing me "God's will" for dinner or a parking space or whether or not to have another child. I just obey the actual commandments, and try every day to love God better and my neighbor as myself.

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

Love, and do what you will.

I BELIEVE in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried: He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead: He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost: The holy Catholic Church; The Communion of Saints: The Forgiveness of sins: The Resurrection of the body: And the Life everlasting. Amen.

And I don't believe in finding the Principle of the thing. Amen again.

1 comment:

Gina said...

Stephanie, I'm not deeply religious, although I do greatly enjoy when others can talk about their religion without making me feel inferior or as if I need to be converted. I would only say that all of the various religious principles are not bad things; it is how Man interprets them and uses them against others is what becomes problematic. Having looked at various religions, I have learned that the words of that religion's god are typically simple and straightforward until Man and Society start layering on various notions. Great post!