Monday, July 14, 2008

Neither Cold Nor Hot Am I.

I can't say that I am a particularly-informed student of the Bible. Like many other dispassionate readers, I've always had trouble following through in my intentions to read the thing cover-to-cover. I guess it's a bit of a cliché to have been stymied by the "Jehosaphat begat Jeremiah and Jeremiah begat Titus and Titus begat Lulu and Lulu begat Lil' Kim... and on and on, ad infinitum"-chapter that seems to have been created merely to test the faith of anyone seeking to encounter the Holy Word firsthand. But in my case, it is honest-to-God true. I realize that section's role in helping the faithful determine the actual age of the Earth, but I do think it lacks spice. How is it that the original author (ostensibly the Great Father) never familiarized himself with the concept of footnotes?

You see, if you end up getting stuck in that genealogical no man's land, it's easy to believe that the Great Book is as lively as a driver's training manual. However, that's not the case at all. In my limited experience I have found there to be a bounty of provocative and perplexing nuggets hidden within the Holy Scriptures. I have to admit that I became aware of the bulk of them by passing the countless pre-fab evangelical houses of worship that dot the landscape and advertise daunting Biblical quotes on letter boards. Like anyone else, I have collected my personal favorites. They are particularly interesting in their state of being presented completely without context, like Zen koans.

One little passage that has endeared itself to me is Revelations 3:15-16. It reads, "3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. " Don't get distracted by the outdated spellings and syntax. Indeed these words hold an inordinate amount of relevance in our modern age. Aside from the understandable reservations one might have about being placed in Jehovah's mouth, the expressed sentiment should give one pause. What exactly is being suggested? Again, I am by no means a Biblical scholar, but it is reasonable to draw certain elementary conclusions.

A brief internet search led me to this site that attempts to explain Revelations 3:15-16. It basically says that God prefers to eat his followers and deniers at extreme temperatures. Obviously He prefers that adherents be hot with passion for him. Those with fervid zeal are the most beloved. True disciples must burn with devotion. On the other hand, those who are cold freely acknowledge their lack of faith. Everyone knows where they stand- for they represent the "them"... the non-believers and secularists. They are especially convenient for the missionaries, as they make it clear where their efforts are most needed, and where the fires need to be lit. They will either be baked to the Lord's taste, or await the eternal scaldings of Hell.

And that leaves us with the "lukewarm". In God's eyes these are the double-dealers, capable of tepid support or overt treason. They have dared to form a nuanced version of belief that threatens to call into question the blind loyalty of the converted. In this view, it is better to embrace overt denial and declare yourself an enemy than to question divine authority. The "lukewarm" are the bane of fundamentalist existence. As I mentioned previously, this is an especially timely concept. Try to engage a "true believer", whether in the realm of politics, economics, or religion, and you'll see the obvious parallels. This is a black-and-white society that abhors shades of gray. God help those who refuse to take sides.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another philisophical hatchet job. Obviously for a rational person, the criteria for being a true believer are the facts of reality itself.

A math teacher who truely believes that two plus two is four cannot be compared to a religious person who believes things because the bible told them so.

It's rather interesting to trace the recent history of post modernism. During the early years of the 20th century, there was a great belief in scientific absolutes, progress and absolute truth. A large chunk of experts were sure that capitalism was dying and a perfect new world would be created through socialism.

Then as the facts of reality asserted themselves and most collectivist states began to collapse-- in comes the new fall back story that truth doesn't exist and that the obvious failures in China, Cuba, Yugoslavia,Cambodia, Albania, Ethiopia,Bulgaria, Poland, Vietnam, and dozens of other places were not indications of any underlying truths but the fault of particular circumstances, sanctions, bad people, and traitors.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Y'know anonymouse...

I really think you have some sort of template for comments that communicates a perspective attempting to process any philosophical belief or idea into a collectivist vs. individualist dichotomy.

You are a true believer. That's fine. But I don't understand why you think your response addresses anything in this post. There are absolutists on both sides of your imagined conflict... just don't misapprehend me as one of them.

2:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I would say most of your posts do demonstrate an absolute commitment to making no commitments. Even though many of them show a definite political point of view.

But this in itself is almost a religion for you. A serious plan to never attempt to connect the dots.

I do find it very offensive when you "accidently" mix religious and rational reasoning which are absolute opposites. A person who is commited to truth, of course acknowledges the limits of their knowledge, but not the means to knowledge, which is thought and they should always be ready to test their views against the facts and change them if they don't add up.

This kind of rationality can in no way be compared to people who consider non rational feelings or faith as a means to knowledge.

By your reasoning, I guess teachers who "fanatically believe" in evolution should give equal time to creationists, regardless of the massive base of proof behind their beliefs.

8:51 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

No. I just don't lose any sleep over the fact that not everybody subscribes to my belief system.

I have political views... but I don't hold myself to any circumscribed set. I think that people that don't recognize their own hypocrisies are lost. I'm sure there are many contradictions in my thoughts and behaviors.

I think that there is some validity to your worldview, yet you seem to want to impose it categorically on my opinions and views. Has it occurred to you that not everyone sets the same terms and definitions as you do?

I believe that meaning is fluid... you can call that postmodernism, or the death of "absolute truth", or put whatever label you choose to that. But that's not going to change my experience of the world.

1:19 PM  

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