The new arrogance?

I remember a time–because I am very old, and almost out of my twenties–when the word “arrogant” used to mean someone who behaved in a haughty manner, like, for example, Nellie Olsen on Little House on the Prairie.

Now, though, I have lived to see the day when arrogance has come to mean not only the above definition, but an entirely new definition as well: someone who is certain about something that is considered controversial, especially if that person holds an opposing viewpoint.  This has come to be seen, publicized, and popularized as the new arrogance.

Christians are accused of the new arrogance for believing there is one way to Heaven.

But, if this is true, Muslims and Jews must be arrogant, too, because they also believe there is only one way to Heaven.  And what about atheists?  Don’t they believe that there is no way to Heaven?  How is it less arrogant to believe there is no way than to believe there is one way?

And for that matter, how is it more arrogant to believe there is one way than to believe there are many ways?  Aren’t both claiming that they are the truth?  One claims truth is through one way, one claims truth is through many ways.  Both would seem to be equally arrogant in their claim.

If it is because Christianity (and other one-way religions) “bottleneck” at one point of entry, I don’t understand how that is any more arrogant than the bottleneck at the entrance to Silver Dollar City theme park.  It’s certainly true that you can make your way to the entry point from different starting points–you can come from St. Louis or Topeka or New Jersey–but it is also certainly true that you must come through the admission gate, and you must present a ticket or you will most certainly not get in.  I cannot present a ticket from Six Flags, Disneyland, or Schlitterbahn and expect to get into Silver Dollar City.  And no matter how many protects I cry of the arrogance of the park, I won’t be allowed in without a ticket to Silver Dollar City.

Maybe it is more arrogance for me to presume I can get in with another park’s ticket than it is for the park to expect me to have a ticket in their name.

Christians believe people have different starting points–you can be raised in a Christian household or an atheist household, for example–but anyone who wants to be saved must receive Christ as the only salvation and bow to Him as the only Lord.

The new arrogance . . isn’t arrogance.  It’s just being certain of what you believe.  The old arrogance is still around, and some people who are certain of what they believe (a.k.a., the new arrogance) do act arrogantly (a.k.a., the old arrogance) . . . but there’s something a little funny about that. . . . .

Isn’t it a little arrogant for me to point out the arrogance in others, if arrogance includes being certain of something?

–And if all ways lead to the same truth, then why should it matter whether I behave arrogantly or not?

I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. (John 10:9, ESV)

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Why are we here?

“I believe we are put here to feel our best and to find our truth.”

I heard this statement last summer on a television program.

The great irony of statements like this is that they only work if there is an absolute Truth, yet this is the very thing trying to be sidestepped.

If there isn’t an absolute Truth, there is no way anyone could find truth.  Truth is, by nature, something that is not wrong (we call that right).  But nothing can be “right” if there is no wrong–unless everything is right.

Is everything right?  That’s easy to prove wrong.  Think of one thing that is evil or, to be politically correct, “undesirable”, and you’ve got wrong.  Whether you go for God’s Word and say “evil”, or p.c. and say “undesirable”, you still end up with wrong.

Wrong is a hard thing to deal with if you don’t believe in right.  Because, if you don’t believe there is right, you can’t believe there is wrong.  And if you can’t believe in wrong, there is nothing you can say when a kid who is much bigger than you steps on the back of your shoes all the way down the hallway to your next class.

But if you have wrong, you have to have right.  That is, unless everything is wrong.  And that’s easy to prove wrong, too.  Think of one thing that is good or, to be politically correct, “desirable”, and you’ve got right.  You can see where this is going.

There can’t be any truth if there isn’t any right.

If you have right, you have wrong.

If you have right and wrong, you open the door to the Ten Commandments.

This is exactly what people aren’t wanting when they say things to make truth seem ambiguous and mystical.

But we can’t get around it any more than we can build a house out of air.  No right = no truth.  I can claim to build a house out of air, but no one wants to live inside during a thunderstorm.

The same is true for finding “our truth” and “our best”.  This sounds good until someone thinks they’ve found their personal truth in killing college students or beating women.  Then the claim to find your own truth is yanked out and replaced with growls, yells, and clenched fists.

The very same people who genuinely think everyone can come to their own truth pull back on their own claim when someone violates what they secretly or unconsciously held as the truth.  Their very protestations give them away.

If anything bothers you at all, you are making a claim to truth.

It’s inescapable.

No truth, no right and wrong.

And if something isn’t right or wrong, then it doesn’t matter.  I can just as easily be kicked as hugged.  There is no difference in that world, other than sensations and possible retaliation.  But if you can tie me up and then kick me, there is no more reason for you to not kick me than for you to hug me.  It doesn’t matter whether it hurts me or not–it’s not right or wrong.  My feelings don’t have any more value than your feelings; you feel happy kicking me, I feel sad.  But nothing bad has been done.

Que sera sera.

I find this whole approach less appealing than an eating an onion inside an athlete’s tennis shoe.  And I don’t know anybody else who really thinks this way either, unless they have no conscience at all and are in a position of power.

(By the way . . if there really isn’t any truth . . there would be no logic, and no reason for me writing anything at all.  I could just as easily write oiap98wfsdvdsfaowi as I could a decipherable sentence, because nothing would be meaningful–and I couldn’t even make that claim, because there isn’t any truth.  It would be a world without reason, where gravity only works sometimes and math is always changing.)

What the person on TV who said, “I believe we were put here to feel our best and to find our truth” really meant was, “I believe we are put here to feel our best and to find any truth other than the truths I don’t like.”

I don’t think she meant to lie, but what she didn’t understand was that, by going on TV to claim a lifestyle, she was really saying that other lifestyles are wrong.  She was a vegan.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with vegans.  But she was inconsistent with her own lifestyle.  Suppose she heard of a person who went around killing off endangered species or poisoning people’s pets.  I am pretty sure she would not have accepted that this person had found truth or personal best.

But here’s the problem . . how could she know that?

If all truth is subjective, and just these little rivers flowing hither and thither and yither and nowither, then how can you ever know it is better to eat tofu than to hunt down endangered elephants?  If all rivers just lead to the same lake, how can you ever disagree with anything anybody does?  We’re all going to the same place, by that logic, and there’s no worries!  Whether you get there by eating fruits and vegetables or by eating tiger meat would logically be of no difference.

Anyone who tries to say truth is subjective & everyone finds or makes their own truth always has to end up saying “I want you to find/make any truth other than the truths I don’t like.”

If they really did believe everyone finds (or makes) their own truth, then there should be nothing whatsoever offensive in someone saying,

“I found Truth.  There is only one Truth.  Jesus is that Truth.  There is no other Truth.”

If I believe that truth changes for every person, then who am I to get angry if someone tells me I am wrong in my truth?  If I believe in subjective truth, then by its very nature I should allow anyone to believe anything, including if they believe in absolute truth and that I am wrong!

The contradictions in this are a mess and, as I am trying to write this, remind me of a big bowl of spaghetti flopped over on my head.  It would be something like me saying,

“Anything goes.  –But don’t kick me.”

The two statements can’t coexist.

And neither can,

“Everyone makes up their own truth.  But there is no absolute truth.”

Believing that everyone makes up their own truth is, if you follow it through consistently, to believe that absolute truth can be a truth.

And if absolute truth can be a truth, then it is the only truth.

This reminds me of Aaron’s staff, which had turned into a snake by the power of God, and ate up the other snakes, which Pharaoh’s magicians had turned into snakes by the power of their own making.

My prayer is that anyone who believes all paths lead to truth will find the real Truth.  But for that to happen, they will have to give up their own path.  As did I.

By knowing the Truth, I am not placing myself on some lofty throne above others.  I only know the Truth because Jesus told me.  I have no claim to arrogance or superiority.  I am like a prisoner who had a Visitor tell me the escape route.

I want you to be free, too.  But you can only be free if you know the Truth.

“As for you, if you hold fast to my teaching, then you are truly my disciples; and you shall know the Truth, and the Truth will make you free.” (John 8:31b-32, WNT)

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, ‘Perform a miracle,’ then say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,’ and it will become a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers, and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. (Exodus 7:8-12, NIV)

Hope: A Marker in Time

This paper is a “marker” in time for me.  I thought it was very Christian at the time.  How I thought that when I wasn’t following Christ was something like how somebody thinks if they sleep on their algebra book they’ll be able to perform algorithms.

I wrote this paper for an English composition class on July 27, 2001 using Microsoft Works.  God blessed me, and WordPad would open it, scrambling the formatting but saving the text.

I have greatly abridged my paper so it would not put anyone into a Rip Van Winkle sleep (now maybe just a short nap).

I hadn’t reread this paper in a long time, though I remember thinking of it as one of the best witnessing tools I had ever used.  Imagine my surprise when I read back through it and realized I had one sentence even bringing up what I thought was my “Christian faith”!

This paper that was supposed to be on hope reminds me how hopeless I really was.

I wrote in a noncommittal, politically correct way because I was a noncommittal, politically correct person.  Revisiting this 10 years later, I wrote committed, politically incorrect commentary in italics.  🙂

A Simple Fable: hope for the flowers

Trina Paulus, author of hope for the flowers, summarizes her book as “the tale of a caterpillar who has trouble becoming what he really is” (Paulus n.p.).

How will the caterpillar know what he really is?  Will he find absolute truth or will he just be guessing?

Paulus ingeniously describes the growing-up process for a human through a “caterpillar’s” story.  As infants, food fulfills us.  As we are toddlers and children, exploration fulfills us.  Then, as we grow (the age this happens varies), we begin to wonder if there is an “arrow” to life, a purpose that points us in one direction . . . a destination we are meant to follow.

God has made it plain to me that there had to be an arrow to life.  I could write about it, but I still didn’t get it.

There comes an age when most humans want to become important, not just in the eyes of friends and family, but in the eyes of everyone.  “That,” we think, “would make me happy”. We try to do something better than anybody has ever done it before.

But the first time we simply can’t seem to do anything better than anybody else, discouragement sets in.  We develop hate at a very young age for the one who colors his or her pictures in the neatest or the one who beats the record for the most sit-ups. Unfortunately, we find there is just as little pleasure in trampling as there is in being trampled.

But a day can come when making a mark in the hall-of-fame of life become pointless, because we decide a “soulmate” will lead us to the “arrow” of life.  “Life” and “bliss” become interchangeable words–until time begins to fade the relationship.  So he or she was just like anybody else, after all.  Now where does the “arrow” of life point?

Often in life, we don’t know what the right decision is, but we do know it’s not available, that all the choices laid out before us are not really all the choices.  We know all the facts, and we’ve heard all the arguments, and we even have a vague notion of what we want to happen.  But we can’t, in all of our searching, find the truth.

I didn’t recognize it, but this paragraph summarized me in 2001.  I had an unlifting depression, nearly crippling panic attacks, and zero life purpose.  But these were symptoms, not the problem.  The problem was I knew all the choices I had laid out were not really all the choices, but I didn’t know where to find the Truth. 

I could say the right things, but that doesn’t mean I knew what I was talking about.  I would urge everyone to take a look not at their words—because my own words fooled me—and not to their accomplishments—because I fooled myself into thinking I was doing okay—but instead to look inside your heart.  It’s scary. 

This is often the stage in life where we go back to our first dreams, or wish we could go back to our first dreams.  We wonder if we were not on the right track the first time, if our ruthless ascent up the ladder of success would have eventually brought us the piece that fills the hole inside of us.  But in the end we must bitterly throw our dreams aside, feeling we will never reach our goal of perfect happiness.

Most people will agree that there seems to be no lasting joy in life.

Really?  Where did I get this from?  I’ll tell you where I got it from: I got it from my own life and extrapolated it to mean everybody else, too.

Paulus’ seems to believe from the research I did that we can gain happiness in death, after we have protected and restored the environment in life, by having our bodies buried in farm fields, as an excellent fertilizer to the earth.  I did not at first discover this theory anywhere in hope for the flowers.  After thought, I wondered if her hint was in the title itself.  Could she have actually meant that the soul is freed only after the soil is fed?

When I wrote this paper, I was crushed by the research I did.  I had always thought “hope for the flowers” was a very spiritual book.  It was.  What it wasn’t was a book about following Christ. 

If my hope is that I will someday become flower food . . . oh man.  That rots.

Even if Paulus intended to convey some of her “unusual” opinions in this story, she managed to write a very generic but cleverly tailored fable that can be interpreted many different ways.

Here I go into the meaningless maze of “interpretation”.

Are you who you tell yourself you are?  That doesn’t matter a bit.  What does God think about you?  That matters eternally.

An atheist, a Jew, an agnostic, a Muslim, and any number of other religiously-concerned groups could have this book as a favorite, as well as a Libertarian, Republican, Democrat, or any number of other politically-concerned groups . . . but for altogether distinct reasons.

Did I really mean “We can all make our own interpretations”?  What if someone’s interpretation had been to go out and kill people to bury in fields for fertilizer?  Of course I would have said this interpretation was wrong, as would have the author! 

But you know what, I had no ground to stand on to say any particular interpretation was more or less right.  What I was doing was trying to twist truth into interpretation so it would fit into “politically correct land”, but it didn’t work.

While it is true we can all make our own interpretations, this is irrelevant.  What I really should have said was, “We can all make our own truth”, because then my statement could have and would have been invalidated.  For example, then we could say, “The truth is, it is wrong to slaughter neighbors to use for plant food.” 

But by using the word “interpretation” instead of the word “truth”, I sneaked around the issue.  But who cares about interpretation??????  What I want to know about is truth, which sets the standards for right and wrong!

Are you who you tell yourself you are (interpretation)?  That doesn’t matter a bit.  What does God think about you (Truth)?  That matters eternally.

Being a Christian, I can hardly believe hope for the flowers wasn’t written by a Christian.

This is my one sentence about Christianity—and that’s just it: it was about Christianity, not within Christianity.

Perhaps the reason this book became an unexpected best seller is because Paulus succeeded in creating a book that everyone can claim for themselves (and their own interpretation).  So, no matter what her full intent for the book was (with all the environmental undertones), it has become a book loved by anyone who has found their niche in life, and a source of inspiration for those who haven’t.

You know, ten years later . . . I can’t claim the book (or my paper!) for myself. 

Intent does matter. 

But one thing I was right about—I had found my niche in life: a bottomless black pit.

It’s frightening to me, but I’m reminded of who I was in this verse:

Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  (2 Peter 2:2, NIV)

When we open ourselves up to “all ways”, Satan will always choose our path for us.

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. (Proverbs 14:12, NLT)

But God, in His outpouring of grace, had a different path in mind for me.

Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  This demonstrates God’s love for us. (Romans 5:8, GW)

I didn’t need hope for flowers.  I needed hope in Jesus Christ, who promises:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jesus, quoted in John 14:6, ESV)

Another way to say

except through me

is

if not through me (YLT)

There is only one Truth.  There is only one Way.

In him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:4, NIV)

God has a different path in mind for you, too.

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jesus, John 6:40, NIV)

Will you take it?

Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me.   The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.  I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. (Jesus, quoted in John 12:44-46, NIV)

Works Cited:

Paulus, Trina. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972.

Paulus, Trina. Acknowledgments. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972. N.p.

Paulus, Trina. Dedication. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972. N.p.

Paulus, Trina. Foreword. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972. N.p.

Paulus, Trina. Front Cover. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972.

Paulus, Trina. Back Cover. hope for the flowers. New York or Paramus: Paulist Press, 1972.

Paulus, Trina. “Cornucopia NETWORK OF NEW JERSEY NEWSLETTER ESTABLISHED 1984”. Cornucopia. 1997. 27 July 2001 <http://www.hopefortheflowers.com/&gt;.

Paulus, Trina. “Hope Was Born”. How “Hope” Came to Be. 1997. Cornucopia and The Grail. 27 July 2001 <http://www.hopefortheflowers.com/html/history.html&gt;.

Paulus, Trina. “Grailville:”. The Grail. September 1997. 27 July 2001 <http://www.hopefortheflowers.com/html/grailville.html&gt;.

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