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Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Psalms Passage: Praising the Lord with good sense and judgment . . . and wisdom

“Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful.” (Psalm 111:1 – 4)
I don’t want you to think beloved reader, just because I am extending a theme in the titles I chose that I believe this psalm to be any better (or any worse for that matter) at praising the Lord. The Divine is worthy and deserving of any and all positive attributes that we would ascribe to the Lord God.
“He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.” (Verses 5 – 8)
One strong reason that I do like this psalm passage is that it is based (so far) on the attributes of the Lord God apart from what the Divine might or might not do for any particular individual. It is praise that all peoples can get behind and join in, whatever their circumstance, situation and geographical and historical location.
“He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.” (Verses 9 – 10)
Lastly, it gives us all the opportunity to be wise. However you understand “the fear of the Lord” and however you understand and describe “wisdom” – this psalm has something that all worshipers and followers of the Divine can relate to.
“O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want.” (Psalm 34:9)
The other psalms passage for this week also under girds the pursuit of wisdom and understanding. This one being the passage that is paired to the description of wisdom calling out, and has the same sort of theme – the pursuit of wisdom, with a little more definition of what wisdom (according to the Divine) might be like.
“The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit.
Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Verses 10 – 14)
But it is definitely a themed wisdom for this world and not the world to come. We do not read here of the eternal life that the epistle and gospel passage highlight. Good living, wise living is for this world. How then should we branch wisdom shown in this world to the world to come? Can we? There is only brief mention of redemption in verse 9 of Psalms 111. It comes from the Lord as part of a covenant. Paul would tell us it is part of the old covenant, which in the light of Jesus Christ has been updated. Maybe that should be (and is) an important part of the praise refrain, that our surety for the world and life to come is not dependent on our merits but on the faithfulness of the Lord God. Praise on, beloved reader! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific


How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Own?

Another Way for week of August 10, 2018 How Many Pairs of Shoes Do You Own? I lost one of my favorite pairs of shoes while on vacation at the beach this summer. I hesitate to say they were stolen—that would even be okay because then someone else would still be enjoying them. But who […]
Syndicated from findingharmonyblog

Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Gospel Passage: “Eating” and “Drinking” with good sense and judgment

“I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” (John 6:51 – 52)
You know, beloved reader, it occurred to me that we have a unique view of this passage because we know what happens to Jesus. We know the story of the Last Supper. We know the motif that Jesus will fulfill at the end of his life. Here, as far as the disputing Jews are concerned Jesus is proposing something totally outside of their understanding, and extremely disdainful considering their dietary laws. Surely at some point the disputing Jesus must have figured out that Jesus was making a metaphor concerning full and total acceptance of what he was preaching.
“So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” (Verses 53 – 55)
So we pass from the disconcerting image of eating human flesh and blood to idea that what Jesus was preaching about had impact for life and death, and an existence beyond this world. And that Jesus was not just a mortal person but something beyond that.
“Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me.” (Verses 56 – 57)
Let us step back for a moment and consider this. Believing in what Jesus is saying is a choice. I find it interesting that the writer of the gospel of John says the Jews were disputing amongst themselves – it does not say disputing with Jesus. But amongst their own group. Can we take this to mean that some of them understood what Jesus was trying to explain to them? That perhaps some of the believed? I would like to hold out the possibility that some did understand the message that Jesus was giving them. That they understood in the same way that Ezekiel ate the scroll offered to him, that they taken in and absorb the ways and wisdom of Jesus.
It also occurs to me that it does not take the wisdom of Solomon to know enough to follow Jesus. As I alluded to before, Solomon offered sacrifices in the “high places” meaning the places where offering to other deities were done. Jesus, looking back over the ancestral Jews, commented that they made choices that did not give them eternal life. And that for the traditions and rituals that the Jews of Jesus’ time abided by would not save them at the last day. Jesus was offering them the only thing that would redeem them and make them acceptable to the Divine.
“This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” (Verse 58)
I said last time we talked, I am optimistic that the majority of people in the world are kind and caring, making choices that reflect concern and undertaking for others. Choices, and more over balanced choices, are they way to make our way through the world and come out at a place where there is eternal life and a world to come. What we choice to believe has consequences, as does how we live out our beliefs. Consider carefully, beloved reader, and make good choices. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Podcast: Why Was Satan Allowed Into the Garden to Begin With?

Greg considers why Satan was allowed into the Garden. 
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Dan: @thatdankent
Twitter: @reKnewOrg
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Prove It #8 – God is Love

Many people want to prove or disprove the existence of God by philosophical debate. The way the Bible mostly teaches us to give evidence for the reality of God is by how we follow Jesus' example of love and grace. The "proof" is in transformed lives. Join us this summer for a series that explores the book of 1 John and its invitation to "Prove It" through following Jesus, first and foremost.

Syndicated from PangeaCast - Pangea Church

An interesting book of divine violence

Ted Grimsrud—August 16, 2018
What follows is a review I have written responding to a recent book on the ways Christian theologians have responded to the issue of divine violence in the Old Testament. This book does little directly to help us know how to resolve the problem. But having an understanding of the history of Christian attempts to resolve it is important.
Christian Hofreiter. Making Sense of Old Testament Genocide: Christian Interpretations of Herem Passages. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.
One of the most vexing moral issues that has challenged Christians over the years has been the question of what to do with the teachings in the Bible that portray God as one who commands and empowers horrendous acts of violence. Despite continual attempts to find resolution, this issue remains as unresolved today as ever.
In this book, Christian Hofreiter’s revised Oxford University dissertation, we are certainly not given a quick and easy answer to the dilemma of divine violence. However, what we are given is a most helpful sketch of how various Christian theologians have, over the centuries, struggled with the issues.
Hofreiter frames his account as an exercise in “reception history,” the discipline that “consists of selecting and collating shards of that infinite wealth of reception material in accordance with the particular interests of the historian concerned, and giving them a narrative flavor” (p. 10). He limits his focus, as a rule, to Christiantheologians.
Even so, Hofreiter casts the net pretty widely, choosing more for a sense of comprehensiveness over depth of analysis of any particular thinker. Still, he does spend a bit more time on the two thinkers who provide what seem to be the two main historical options: Origen and Augustine.
The dilemma: Holding together five points
He helpfully summarizes the dilemma in terms of five points. The question is how many of these points are affirmed. (1) God is good. (2) The Bible is true. (3) Genocide is atrocious. (4) According to the Bible, God commanded and commended genocide. (5) A good being, let alone the supremely good Being, would never command or comment an atrocity.
Each one of these points, taken in isolation, would seem likely to be true, at least for what Hofreiter calls “a pious Christian.” Things become difficult, though, when they are combined. Can they allbe true? And, if not, which one(s) should be denied? What problems arise when one of the points is denied?
The texts that are at the heart of this discussion are what Hofreiter calls “genocidal texts,” especially texts that commonly use the Hebrew word herem(defined by the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament as the call, “in war, [to] consecrate a city and its inhabitants to destruction; [to] carry out this destruction; [to] totally annihilate a population in war,” pp. 1-2). In other words, Hofreiter suggests, herem meansto commit genocide.
Interestingly, the first Christians, at least as represented by the New Testament, do not seem to have been troubled much by the problems those genocidal texts raise. Nor, going farther back, do the writers of the Old Testament. Likewise, with the early generations following New Testament times.
The two key Christian alternatives
The first known major figure who addressed this issue as a dilemma was Marcion in the second century CE. He attempted to resolve it by essentially eliminating the problematic stories from the Bible. That resolution was rejected by church leaders and Marcion labeled a heretic.
Not long after Marcion, a non-Christian critic named Celcus challenged the truthfulness of Christianity in terms of its illogical affirmation that God is good andthe Bible is true. He argued that if the Bible is true then God must have commanded and commended genocide. But that would mean that God is not good. And if God is not good, then Christianity cannot be true.
The great early Christian defender of the faith, Origen, responded to Celsus with what became, in various forms, a classic answer to the dilemma. Origen affirms that God is good and that the Bible is true. However, affirming the truthfulness of the Bible does not require Christians to accept that God did, in history, command and commend genocide. For Origen, those difficult Old Testament texts could be spiritualized and read allegorically in light of Jesus’s message. When read this way, those texts have to do with eradicating sin in our lives, not historical acts of extreme violence.
A second major response came a few generations later in the thought of Augustine. Augustine accepted each of the five points of the dilemma except the third one. BecauseGod is good, the Bible is true, God commands genocide, and a good being could never command an atrocity, therefore a God-commanded genocide must not be an atrocity.
Most of the theologians Hofreiter mentions down to the present offer versions of either Origen’s or Augustine’s approach. In his too-brief Summary and Conclusion chapter, he points out that in our contemporary world, most people (including “pious Christians”) have a strong gut feeling that “it is wrong to bludgeon babies.” This leaves them with the challenge to “simultaneously affirm the goodness of God, the truthfulness of scripture and the atrociousness of genocide” (p. 250).
Helpful but limited
This is a helpful book that gives a good account of the history of wrestling with these difficult questions—a history very relevant for our necessary continued wrestling. Hofreiter does not discuss the importance of such wrestling for those who are not “pious Christians.” However, given the continued significance of religiously sanctioned violence in our world, it’s not hard to see how widely relevant this discussion is.
Hence, it is a bit disappointing that we are left with the dilemma so unresolved: “There is therefore, in my view, no simple solution to the challenge these texts pose” (p. 251). That may be true, but hasn’t the perceptive analysis of proposed solutions from the past 2,000 years provided us with at least some guidance?

Syndicated from Thinking Pacifism

Part 10 (of 15): Who Gets To Interpret The World?

Assessing Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life
by Greg Boyd
In my previous two posts (post 8 & post 9) I critically evaluated Peterson’s thinking on hierarchies, race and white privilege. In this post I’ll address three other aspects of Peterson’s thought that was outlined in post 5, post 6, and post 7.
On the Power of Women’s “No”
First, we’ve seen that Peterson claims that “[w]omen’s proclivity to say no [to men] more than any other force, has shaped our evolution into the creative, industrious, upright, large-brained (competitive, aggressive, domineering) creatures that we are” (41). Because females naturally want to mate with males who are as high up on the social scale as possible, finding the bottom half to be undesirable (41), they have been the central means by which advantageous genes got passed along while disadvantageous genes were selected out. Hence, the playing field on which men must compete for mating rites has been getting higher and higher throughout our biological and social evolution.
While I don’t dispute the research demonstrating that women are choosy maters, I’m not convinced women have always, or even usually, had the power to say “no” that Peterson ascribes to them. Indeed, at least since we became agricultural (c.12-10,000 B.C.E.), women have generally not had the power to say “no.” To the contrary, they more often than not have been considered men’s property, as they are in the Old Testament. And far from being picky about who they mated with, young women have most often been sold to the family that offered the largest bridal dowry (or offered other advantages to the woman’s family or clan), as still happens in many traditional cultures today.
The evidence is ambiguous on human mating customs prior to this, though there is a growing consensus among scholars that the old image of the caveman dragging a woman around by her hair is far from accurate. Instead, many are now arguing that humans were generally more egalitarian as hunter-gatherers than when we became farmers. This view is not beyond dispute, but even if we if we accept it, one would think that the competition among males for the most desired women would have played at least as great a role in sexual selection as whatever power women had to say “no.”
This point is significant in that Peterson argues that the power of women to say “no” is one of the reasons the feminine is symbolically associated with chaos. If I’m correct, we have one less reason to consider this association to be rooted in the very nature of things. (More on this below).
Is Slow Change Sometimes Unjust?
Second, we have seen Peterson make the case that cultural traditions should be honored and changed very cautiously and very slowly, if they need to be changed at all. And, as I said earlier, I think there is wisdom in Peterson’s call for a conservative and liberal impulse to be balanced. But I worry that Peterson’s strong resistance to speedy change could be used to justify the continuance of traditional practices in a society that are truly inhumane and that would justify speedy change.
My concern is not without historic precedent. In pre-abolition America, many people, both in the North and South, and as early as the eighteenth century, agreed that slavery should be abolished. They just insisted that it must be done slowly, to prevent the social upheaval that would result from its immediate abolishment. The same argument was used to maintain Jim Crow laws against the civil rights movement. In his famous “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” MLK addressed this argument, made in this case by a group of well-intended, predominately white, pastors. Against their encouragement to slow down so as not prevent social upheaval, King argued that “justice delayed is justice denied” (a quote which arguable goes back to William Penn’s statement, “a delayed justice is injustice”)?
A multitude of other examples could be given (e.g. Apartheid in South Africa), for the truth is that inhumane traditions are retained in the structure of a society only because enough people, or at least enough of the important and powerful people, benefit from them. Because of this, it’s always been in the interest of the benefactors of an inhumane tradition to delay its demise as long as possible (and usually only after attempts to completely silence those calling for its demise have failed).
My concern is that the logic of Peterson’s social conservatism – viz. that social change should always come about slowly and cautiously – would land all who embrace it on the side of the benefactors of injustice, which would have landed them on the wrong side of all of social revolutions that have brought about lasting improvements in society.
I want to be clear that, as a follower of Jesus, I deplore the violence that has all-too-often been involved in these revolutions. I believe that Jesus, as well as social revolutionaries like Ghandi and MLK, have demonstrated that dramatic and swift improvements can be brought about by non-violent means if sufficient numbers of people are committed to nonviolence and if these people are willing to suffer for their cause, rather than to make those who oppose them suffer.
But as nasty as social upheavals can sometimes be, there are times when the injustice being done by a tradition renders delaying its termination even more unjust.
The Past Is Written (Mostly) By Men
Finally, throughout 12 Rules of Life, Peterson appeals to the wisdom of ancient traditions, religion, and especially mythic stories, and I think he derives some interesting, legitimate insights from these sources. At the same time, what I find missing in Peterson’s assessment of ancient sources, at least in 12 Rules of Life, is an acknowledgement that all, or almost all, of these stories were originally passed along and written down by men. These stories thus consistently reflect the perspective and concerns of men, and I would think that acknowledging this point would significantly affect how we evaluate them.
For example, might the fact that ancient stories were passed along and eventually written down by men have something do with the fact that order, the realm of the “known,” is symbolically associated with masculinity, while chaos, the realm of the “unknown,” is symbolically associated with femininity? I largely agree with Peterson that there are genuine biological and psychological differences that tend to (it is a continuum) distinguish men and women, to the point that members of each group often experience members of the other group as deeply mysterious. But might not the fact that ancient stories were written by men go a long way in explaining why women are identified as the mysterious “unknown” in these stories? Had women instead been in charge of passing along and writing down these stories, might we not find men being associated with the mysterious “unknown”?
We need to wonder about the archetypal association of femininity with chaos on other grounds as well. After all, isn’t it fair to say that men, with their extra testosterone induced aggression, pride, and all-too-frequent fragile egos, have always tended to bring far more destructive forms of chaos into the world than women? Conversely, isn’t it true that the traditional roles that women have assumed throughout history have always centered on preserving and protecting order in their families and societies, all-too-often against the chaos that husbands and other males introduce into the family and society?
In this light, we’ve got to wonder why order is consistently symbolically depicted as a masculine quality in ancient stories while chaos is symbolically depicted as a feminine quality. To deny that this has something to do with the fact that these stories were written by men is to endorse the male perspective of these stories as being the true and timeless perspective, which is, to be frank, precisely what I see Peterson doing. And this is one of the reasons I have no trouble understanding why many women find his perspective to be irritating, if not dangerous.
Finally, we have to wonder why Peterson (following Jung) identifies consciousness with masculinity while arguing that “attentive wakefulness, clarity of vision, and tough-minded independence” are “masculine traits” (324)? Related to this, why should we believe ancient and modern stories such as Sleeping Beauty that depict women as needing to be “rescued” by a “Prince” (or by their own “masculine spirit”) whose kiss is needed for her to become conscious (324)?
I would have thought that the traditional roles of women to care for the needs of children and of society, while the men were away hunting or at war, would have required them to be as conscious, and to possess all of the above “masculine” qualities, in at least the same measure as men. So, how did these qualities get symbolically associated with masculinity in the first place?
Peterson simply claims that consciousness has been symbolically associated with masculinity “since the beginning of time.” Since I’m not an expert on ancient mythology, I’ll accept this as correct (though in a later post I’ll give reasons to be suspicious about some of Peterson’s interpretation of ancient stories). But even if true, how much weight should this fact carry when we know that these ancient stories have reflected the perspective of the men who created them “from the beginning of time”? If women had been the primary bearers of oral traditions and the primary authors of ancient texts, does Peterson believe they would have agreed that consciousness, or attentive wakefulness, clarity of vision, and tough-minded independence,” were distinctly “masculine traits”? I, for one, strongly suspect not.
Here is another point where I think deconstructionism makes a valid point, its many shortcomings as an overall philosophy notwithstanding. For it holds that whoever is empowered to interpret the world controls the world. Owing chiefly to their generally superior strength, and lacking the biological burdens that women have had to deal with up until the recent past (e.g. menstruation, childbearing), men have generally held the power to interpret the world (as reflected in ancient stories) and to therefore control the world. This is not to endorse the postmodern claim that men have tyrannized women throughout history. It is simply to say that men have usually controlled the narrative through which the world gets interpreted.
If we instead assume that the perspective reflected in these stories is rooted in the very nature of things, as Peterson does, we are simply ensuring that the male perspective of these stories will continue to control our interpretive narrative. And I, for one, think this would be tragic. In my estimation, we have evolved to the point that it’s time for the patriarchal dimension of our past to be eliminated, in my opinion. Given the technological and digital revolution, it is no longer either necessary or helpful. But eliminating this requires us to first acknowledge that the interpretation of the world in the past – including its association of masculinity with order and femininity with chaos – reflects the perspective of males and is not rooted in the very nature of things.
If I may close with a piece of speculation: Given how challenging it was for humans to simply survive up until the recent past, Peterson may be correct in arguing that it was advantageous to our species that males usually wielded more power than women. Their generally superior strength and higher testosterone levels, combined with the biological burdens that women have always borne, arguably rendered it inevitable, and possibly even necessary, for males to usually assume leadership roles in their tribes and cultures. However, I submit that the technological and digital revolutions have rendered men’s generally superior physical strength and women’s biological burdens largely irrelevant when it comes to playing leadership roles. Indeed, with the frightful advancement of military technology, these revolutions have arguably rendered the higher testosterone levels of men a liability.
In this light, I would argue that what the world needs now is to have more people in charge whose biology and role in traditional cultures has rendered them less skilled at hunting and war, and more skilled at relationship building and preserving order in the family and in society.
In short, I’m thoroughly convinced that our world now needs more women and less men calling the shots.
The post Part 10 (of 15): Who Gets To Interpret The World? appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

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Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Epistle Passage: Showing good sense and judgment over the long haul

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15 – 16)
As part of my job today I spent time with a client who needed to go to the ER. I know from having worked with other clients, and from personal experience, being alone and unattended in an ER exam room can be one of the most disheartening experiences. So I am determined that no one under my care should go through that experience alone. What does that have to do with these two verses you ask, beloved reader? My point is – the days are evil only when a person chooses evil ways. When you put the care and well-being in the forefront of your thinking and planning, there is no chance of evil happening.
According to the commentators I read, the meaning of “because the days are evil” means there is so much temptation and opportunity to do evil and pursue unworthy things. Paul has a very dim view of creation and humanity. So many of the people I know pursue such worthwhile things. And while not perfect, their days are spent pursuing good and the good of others. It is for this reason hold (or try to hold) an optimistic and positive view of creation and humanity.
And I have to wonder, were the people in the time of Paul really as thoughtless, evil, and cruel as he seems to anticipate they will be? Was there a difference between the way people lived and interacted with others, and the way we treat our fellow brother/sister in humanity? Or am I just that naïve about the world around me?
“So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Verses 17 – 20)
Okay, I have to admit the rest of this passage does sound pretty unrealistic – I am pretty sure the people around me are not bursting out in praise and song to the Lord every few minutes. Maybe there is, and should be, a middle ground. Doing good and seeking to do good, but not going around as a Christian choir in a gospel worship service. Even the best of gospel worship service choirs sings their final “Amen” and puts down their sheet music. Life goes on.
What Paul does not seem to give allowance for is living a Christian life in the long run, generation after generation. Could Paul see that some two thousand years plus we would still be waiting for the return of Jesus? And then I wonder, did Paul live a life as he described – did Paul “sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs . . . . . singing and making melody to the Lord in [his] hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”?
We live in a real and ongoing world. If we veer too much to the side of personal indulgence and acting without care and compassion, then yes we live in evil days. But you can veer the other direction too much also, so focused on praise and worship that pragmatics of life and the daily reality of living are not given enough attention. If we are going to survive in the long haul, we need to have balance between living in this world and living for the sake of the world to come. And before you throw up your hands in despair thinking that balance is not possible, let me tell you, Jesus lived a balanced life. Yes, he was Divine. But he was also human, and appreciated the needs of a human life. He may have only lived on this earth until the human age of thirty-three, but the example he left us will carry us through the long haul. Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific

Podcast: What Does Life-to-the-Fullest Really Mean?

Greg looks at John 10:10 and considers what life-to-the-fullest means. 
Send Questions To:
Dan: @thatdankent
Twitter: @reKnewOrg
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Interview: Christopher Heuertz, The Sacred Enneagram

Christopher Heuertz joins Steve on the podcast to discuss his book The Sacred Enneagram. The book is described as (via the Gravity Center page):

Move beyond type as mere caricature and learn how to work with the Enneagram for spiritual growth.
Christopher L. Heuertz was first introduced to the Enneagram in the slums of Cambodia. Since then he has trained under some of the great living Enneagram masters including Father Richard Rohr, Russ Hudson, Marion Gilbert, and Helen Palmer, and now teaches the Enneagram in workshops and retreats around the world. Chris is an International Enneagram Association Accredited Professional. He and his wife Phileena live in Omaha with their puppy Basil, and you can join him on Facebook and Twitter in his intentions to love on the margins.
Topics covered in this episode include:

Richard Rohr’s impact on Chris (1:17)
Introducing the theme of the book: finding your true self (5:00)
Introducing the Enneagram itself, not just another personality test to put you in a box (13:49)
Steve’s Enneagram type, Chris’ Enneagram type, and the centers of the Enneagram (24:17)
How to best find out your type, the dangers of typing others, and the ease of being mistyped (33:14)
Contemplative prayer and how that works together with the Enneagram (50:46) Apple Podcasts | Android | Email | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | TuneIn | RSS

Part 9 (of 15): Peterson on White Privilege

Assessing Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life
by Greg Boyd
“The degree to which the terrible part of the world manifests itself in your life is proportionate to how insufficient you are….If you got your act together completely, maybe all the suffering would disappear from your life, or at least all the unbearable suffering.”
Jordan Peterson
Since our last post was focused on the issue of race, I thought it appropriate to follow it up with a reflection on Peterson’s well-known opposition to the concept of “white privilege,” despite the fact this topic was not addressed in 12 Rules of Life. I will instead evaluate the case Peterson makes against the concept of white privilege at the end of a much-viewed two-hour lecture on Identity Politics.
I first want to offer two preliminary words. First, I am a white person in America while Peterson is a white person in Canada. While there is significant overlap as it concerns race relationships in the histories of our two countries, there are also significant differences. As a result, there are significant differences in the relationship between whites and non-whites, which I think affects the meaning of “white privilege” in our differing contexts. Nuancing this difference lies outside the scope of this post as well as my expertise. For the purposes of this post, I will focus my attention on “white privilege” in America.
Second, because I am focusing on “white privilege” in America, and in order to avoid going down a number of potential rabbit trails, I am only going to speak about the history of race relations in America, and I’m going to restrict my discussion to the relationship between whites, on the one hand, and blacks and Native Americans, on the other. This is not because I think whites are only privileged over these two groups, but because it was these two groups who were most adversely affect when white Europeans conquered North America and established their white-favoring social hierarchy.
Third, and in the interest of full disclosure, I must confess that this was a difficult post for me to write. The topic of race, and especially of “white privilege,” is one that I have passionate convictions about, and as I shared in the previous post, it is very difficult to remain calm and open minded when discussing deeply held convictions with someone you disagree with. Simply put, the provocative video of Peterson that I’ll be reviewing in this post “triggered” me. I found I had to watch it numerous times to make sure I was hearing Peterson correctly (and I acknowledge that I still could be mistaken). And I will admit that I had to take a number of “timeouts” when writing this post to ensure I was reasoning with my frontal lobe rather than reacting with my Amygdala (and I acknowledge that I still could be influenced by my Amygdala). Readers must judge for themselves how successful or unsuccessful I was at this endeavor.
The Case Against White Privilege
In the video under review, Peterson first professes confusion as to “why the post-modernists have made the canonical distinctions they made: race, ethnicity, sexual proclivity [and] gender identity.” (I am unclear as to how Peterson differentiates between “race” and “ethnicity,” or “sexual proclivity” and “gender identity,” but for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter). Peterson grants that these are certainly “four dimensions along which people vary,” but, he notes, there are “an infinite number of dimensions along which people vary.” People vary in terms of intelligence, attractiveness, health, wealth, geography, education, height and weight, to name just a few. So, Peterson wonders, why do postmodernists privilege these four dimensions over all the others?
His answer is: “Because it sustains your bloody Marxist interpretation, that’s why!” It’s thus apparent that Peterson believes that the focus on race, as in the claim that white people are privileged, is arbitrary and ideologically driven. (The same holds true about “sexual proclivity” and “gender identity,” but these are outside the scope of this post).
After a few comical slams on the incoherence of post-modernism (with which I completely agree, by the way), Peterson goes on to review some of the alleged marks of white privilege, such as: “I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty sure that I will not be followed or harassed.” He then asks: “Is that white privilege, or… simply majority privilege?” Peterson insists it is the latter and that it is perfectly natural.
Isn’t that just part of living within your culture?….You live in your culture, you’re privileged as a member of that culture. Well obviously, that’s what the culture is for…. Why would you bother building the damn thing if it didn’t accrue benefits to you.
Peterson acknowledges that one of the consequences of majority privilege is that people who aren’t part of the majority “accrue fewer benefits.” But, Peterson argues, “you can’t immediately associate that with race. You can’t just do that and say its white privilege. There’s many things it could be. It certainly could be wealth,” for example.
Peterson then turns the table on those who, in the name of battling racism, contend that white people are privileged by arguing that this allegation is itself racist. “To attribute to the individuals of a community the attributes of that community on the basis of their racial identity is racism. There’s no other way to define it.”
After serving up several more diatribes against post-modernism and on the dangers of the Marxist ideology that Peterson believes is behind it, Peterson draws his lecture to a close by warning us that postmodernists are
…manipulating us with historical ignorance and philosophical sleight-of-hand to render us so God damned guilty about what our ancestors may or may not have done… that we allow our shame and our guilt to be used as tools to manipulate us into accepting a future that we don’t want to have.
There are seven points I’d like to make in response to Peterson’s case against white privilege.
(Deep slow breath).
1. Why Focus on Race?
Peterson is obviously correct that there are an (virtual) infinite number of ways people vary from one another, but I don’t think it’s at all fair to say that people who concern themselves with “race” or “ethnicity,” rather than with any of the other many ways people differ, are doing so because it fits their “bloody Marxist interpretation.”
It wasn’t Marxist-driven ideologues that decided to canonize race as the primary way of distinguishing people in America and (to a lesser degree) Canada. This was decided five hundred years ago when white Europeans enslaved and otherwise brutalized millions of Africans and massacred and betrayed untold numbers of Native Americans. These people didn’t carry out these brutal injustices on the basis of people’s wealth, or attractiveness, or height, or intelligence, or any of the other “infinite….dimensions along which people vary.” It was done on the basis of race. Indeed, the very concept of different races (as opposed to ethnicities) was created by white Europeans in large part to justify enslaving and massacring other ethnicities, which they deemed inferior.
The injustice that was involved in establishing the white hierarchical structure of America (and Canada) reverberates to this day. And in this light, Peterson’s professed confusion about why people (not just postmodernists) are focused on race seems historically naïve.
2. Is It Marxist to Focus on Race?
Related to this, Peterson’s claim that those who concern themselves with race, rather than with any of the many other “dimensions” in which people vary, are driven by “a Marxist ideology” is also off the mark. Yes, there are postmodernists whose concern for race is part of a larger philosophical and social agenda, but it seems to me that Peterson’s opposition to this group has blinded him to the possibility of people focusing on race issues simply because this is where many most of the injustices of western society have taken place in the past, and where many are yet taking place in the present.
For example, does one need to be driven by a Marxist ideology to be troubled by the fact that the so-called “War on Drugs” has been focused on predominantly black inner city neighborhoods and on crack (the “poor man’s cocaine”), despite the fact that numerous studies indicate that whites use illegal drugs at least as much as blacks, though they tend to use cocaine rather than crack?(1) And does one need to be driven by a Marxist ideology to be enraged over the fact that the mandatory sentencing guidelines for crack are literally a hundred times more severe than they are for cocaine, which is just one of the reasons the overwhelming majority of those who are incarcerated during this “War on Drugs” are black?(2)
I care deeply about these things, and yet I have no affinity for Marxist ideology and I believe I’m as opposed to the philosophy of radical postmodernism (deconstructionism) as Peterson is.
3. “White Privilege” is not “Majority Privilege”
I don’t doubt that it’s generally true (though unfortunate) that the people who build a culture and establish the social hierarchies of that culture generally enjoy more benefits than those who are not part of the dominant culture (though, I will argue in a later post that it should not be this way among Kingdom people). But here I think Peterson fails to see the forest through the trees.
It’s one thing for minority groups to “accrue less benefits” than the majority in the culture that the majority established, but quite another thing for a group to establish itself as a majority and establish its preferred culture by invading a land, massacring and stealing from its indigenous population, reducing them to a minority in their own land, and then getting centuries of free labor by importing and enslaving people from Africa! Whites benefited, and continue to benefit, in a multitude of ways from these foundational injustices, and blacks and Native Americans continue to suffer in a multitude of ways from these foundational injustices. For Peterson to treat this as just another example of typical majority privilege is to essentially normalize this racist past and the racist social hierarchy it established.
Peterson claims that “we can’t immediately associate” the privileging of white people “with race” by calling it “white privilege.” “You don’t just get to do that,” he argues, for “[t]here’s many things it could be,” like “wealth,” for example. Now, I agree that we should be open to the possibility that there are a number of factors other than race that might contribute to a comprehensive explanation of the statistically significant economic and social disparities between whites, on the one hand, and blacks and Native Americans, on the other. For example, from the mid-1960’s up to the present, there has been a steady erosion of traditional family values in black communities. The number of children being raised in single parent homes has tripled, and with this, the number of families living in poverty as well as the number of young adults committing crimes and ending up in prison has skyrocketed.
Obviously, this catastrophic shift can’t be explained by appealing to slavery, or to anything else prior to the mid-1960’s. While I would argue that the “War on Drugs” contributed significantly to the sharply increased prison population of blacks, some social scientists have argued that the most obvious explanation is the explosion of the welfare state that began in the mid-1960’s. I am not convinced of this thesis, but it is certainly a consideration to be taken seriously.
At the same time, while I agree that other factors need to be considered, for Peterson to suggest that white/majority privilege might have nothing to do with race strikes me, once again, as historically naïve. You can’t enslave and massacre a race of people for four centuries and then, a century and a half later, claim that the on-going struggles of this people have nothing to do with race! Yes, blacks and whites are finally equal in terms of the law, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement. But the repercussions of slavery in the past as well as the systemic racism that continues to this today are about so much more than laws.
The bottom line is that Peterson and I don’t just benefit because we are part of the majority. We benefit because we are white and we are the indirect beneficiaries of all the injustices our white ancestors perpetrated against others.
I acknowledge this doesn’t mean that white people today should feel personal “shame” and “guilt” for what our ancestors did, as Peterson seems to assume. But it does mean that, as the benefactors of our ancestors’ racial injustices, whites who care about justice should acknowledge their privilege and seek to use it to create opportunities for all who were disadvantaged by the same injustices we benefited from.
Peterson’s view that white privilege is simply an example of normal majority pretends that whiteness is devoid of racial significance. But he doesn’t just get to do that. The racist history that privileges whites over blacks, Native Americans, and others can’t be undone. Nor should it ever be normalized or (what comes to the same thing) swept under the rug by disassociating privilege from whiteness.
4. Misunderstanding White Privilege
I believe Peterson is missing the point when he argues that the concept of “white privilege” is a racist concept. If “white privilege” meant that all individual white people were guilty of racism, then it would indeed be a racist concept. For in this case, the concept would “attribute to the individuals of a community the attributes of that community on the basis of their racial identity.” In reality, however, “white privilege” simply describes the obvious reality that white people tend to enjoy privileges in North America that are not afforded to blacks and some other minority groups. And it acknowledges that this is, to one degree or another, associated with the fact that whites established themselves as the majority in this land and established their white-favoring culture in this land at the expense of African slaves and Native Americans.
In short, “white privilege” is a statement of fact, not a judgment on individuals. And as a statement of fact, I frankly struggle to see how anyone can deny it.
5. A Disturbing Closing Statement
So, we must wonder, why is Peterson so opposed to acknowledging this? The answer, I believe, is found in his closing statement. As we’ve seen, he is convinced that the charge of white privilege is part of an attempt of post-modernists to “render us so God damned guilty about what our ancestors may or may not have done…that we allow our shame and our guilt to be used as tools to manipulate us into accepting a future that we don’t want to have.”
I frankly find this statement to be puzzling, and a bit disturbing, for three reasons.
First, who are these post-modernists who are trying to get us white people to accept a future we don’t want by making us feel guilty for what our ancestors “may or may not have done”? I’ve read and dialogued with numerous thoroughly postmodern people, and I’ve honestly never come across anything resembling the sinister agenda Peterson ascribes to them.
Second, I found it curious that when Peterson railed against white privilege, his language became distinctly parochial. He alleges that the postmodernists are trying to “render us so God damned guilty …that we allow our shame and our guilt…to manipulate us into accepting a future that we don’t want to have.” Who is being referenced by these first-person plural pronouns? White people, obviously.
I will resist the temptation to psychologize why Peterson suddenly talks this way. Instead, I will simply point out the curious fact that Peterson is here identifying himself with, and speaking on behalf of, a social group (white people) that he clearly believes is facing persecution. When representatives of minority groups talk this way, Peterson accuses them of playing identity politics. It’s not clear to me how what Peterson is doing here is any different from that.
Along the same lines, Peterson frequently points out how wrong it is for any member of a group to assume they can speak on behalf of an entire group, as if the group was homogenous. Yet, here Peterson is talking about how postmodernists are trying to make “us” whites feel so “God damned guilty” that we will allow ourselves to be manipulated into “accepting a future we don’t want to have.” I will just note that there are multitudes of white people who would adamantly disagree with this representation of what white people experience and want.
And third, what exactly is the “future” that we [white people] allegedly “don’t want” but that we are supposedly being manipulated into accepting? Whatever else this undesirable future may be, it seems clear that for Peterson, it’s a future in which whites either no longer enjoy special privileges, or a future in which we feel shame and guilt if we do. Which means that the future we white people apparently want, according to Peterson, is a future in which we can feel guiltless as we continue to enjoy our white privilege.
Here again I will just note that there are multitudes of white people who would adamantly disagree with Peterson’s representation of the future that we white people want.
6. Questioning the History of White Racism
I’m also disturbed by Peterson’s reference in his closing statement to “what our [white] ancestors may or may not have done.” What is the point of this qualification? Peterson tips his hand just enough to let us know that he clearly thinks there is some room to doubt some reports of “our [white] ancestors” using, abusing, and killing non-whites, but he leaves the question wide open. His qualification cracks the door just enough that one could easily entertain the possibility that the behavior of our white ancestors toward non-whites was perhaps not nearly as bad as has been reported.
Peterson is perhaps concerned that some postmodernists are exaggerating the horrors that whites inflicted on blacks and Native Americans in the past. I’m personally not aware of any such exaggerations, but let’s assume this is happening. In light of all the horrors that whites inflicted on blacks and Native Americans that are beyond dispute, and in light of the fact that this racist past has usually been minimized in the past and continues to be minimized by right-wing zealots in the present, should Peterson really be all that concerned if someone exaggerated this wrongdoing — so concerned that he would introduce, at the close of a public lecture in which he’s talking about white privilege, an open-ended question about the over-all historical veracity of white racism?
At the very least, this strikes me as unwise and insensitive. Imagine for a moment that you are Jewish and had relatives who endured Nazi concentration camps, with many of them perishing. How would you feel if a highly respected German speaker ended a talk defending the normal “majority privilege” of Germans in Germany by saying he will not be made to feel guilty about things the Third Reich “may or may not have done”? Precisely because the qualification is indeterminate, this speaker just legitimized the perspective of those who deny that the Holocaust, which your ancestors endured, ever happened.
7. Acknowledging the Meaning of Whiteness
I’ll end with an observation. Peterson embraces a radically individualistic perspective in which every individual is “a minority of one.” He resists any group identification that would lessen the uniqueness of each individual, which is one of the reasons he is so opposed to identity politics, why he hates group generalizations, why he is wary of anyone claiming to represent a people group, and why he doesn’t approve of “white privilege.” To this same end, both in 12 Rules of Life and in lectures and interviews, Peterson delights in showing how frequently people are mistaken when they make assumptions about individuals based on the group they belong to.
I think Peterson’s individualist perspective and pushback on group identifications yields many insights. And, I should in fairness add, his strong stance against all forms of “collectivist thinking” distances him from the Alt-Right and especially from White Supremacy groups. But I also suspect Peterson’s strongly individualistic perspective prevents him from seeing, or at least from fully appreciating, the reality and significance of the larger inter-human wholes each individual is a part of.
While every individual is utterly unique, it is also true that they are who they are by virtue of things they have in common with others. To one degree or another, they are who they are because they belong to a particular race, have a particular gender (or not), belong to a particular family, are part of a particular history, and participate in a particular culture. And while the shared features that identify a person as belonging to a particular group should never cause us to minimize their individual uniqueness, I believe we also need to be concerned that we not allow their individual uniqueness to minimize the significance of the features they have in common with others.
Jordan Peterson is radically unique, but he shares the trait of being white with other white people, past and present, including those who conquered North America and established the white-favoring social hierarchy. This is part of who Jordan Peterson is, as it is part of who I am, and whether Peterson acknowledges it or not, it has a great deal of cultural significance. But if there is anything I took away from the video I’ve been discussing, it’s that Peterson doesn’t see this. For example, I can’t see how any white person could see this and yet go on to argue that “white privilege” is simply normal “majority privilege.”
I suspect Peterson fails to see the significance of his whiteness in part because his radically individualistic perspective blinds him to it. But I’m virtually certain Peterson fails to see this because of his own white privilege. For if Peterson was black or brown, pretending that his race didn’t mean anything probably wouldn’t be a viable option. At least for most black and brown people in America, they encounter the meaning of blackness and brownness on a daily basis.
Among other things, it means you don’t get to go shopping alone and not have to worry about being followed or harassed.
White people in America have the luxury of not being reminded on a regular basis what it means to be white. Our whiteness allows most of us to float above the harsh realities that regularly remind blacks, Native Americans, and others what their race means. In fact, most white people don’t even think about themselves as white. And this, I suspect, is why it is easy for Peterson to overlook the cultural significance of his whiteness.
The thing is, none of us get to decide the meaning that our skin color and ethnicity has in our particular social and historical context, let alone whether or not it has any meaning. We inherit this, the same way we inherit the meaning of words in the language we use. And if we are concerned with working for justice and with improving race relations in our land, we have to acknowledge this meaning and grapple with it.
As Peterson frequently says, you have to honestly face reality before you can understand how to improve it (203-30).
___ ___ ___
(1) See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (New York: New Press, 2012). 49-52.
(2) Alexander, The New Jim Crow, 109.
The post Part 9 (of 15): Peterson on White Privilege appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.

Syndicated from Greg Boyd – ReKnew

Season After Pentecost (Proper 15[20]) – The Old Testament Passage: Showing good sense and judgment

When David slept with his ancestors, his son Solomon rose to power. King Solomon was known for his wisdom; however he chose to worship in some less that traditional places. Verse three says, “Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places.” It was not counted against him as it was for some of his descendants. But my point is not that. I want to focus on wisdom.
“Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.” (I Kings 3:9 – 12)
And focus not just Solomon’s wisdom but wisdom in general.
“Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant girls, she calls from the highest places in the town,” (Proverbs 9:1-3)
Some have thought it Solomon’s father wrote many or most of the psalms; and some think it was Solomon who wrote Proverbs, or contributed to the collection of wisdom that is contained in the book or Proverbs. And this would make sense considering that Solomon had wisdom like not other. But wisdom is not just an attribute but a living force. It is said that Wisdom, Sophia, was at the beginning of creation. And that as a muse, she is a continuing force in the lives of humanity. And, beloved reader, do not miss the fact that she calls from the highest places in the town.
“You that are simple, turn in here!” To those without sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (Verses 4 – 6)
Simple and immature. Yes, that is one way of describing people who do not seem to have wisdom and/or common sense. So maybe wisdom is not “book learning” but an awareness of what it means to live well. An insight into people and that way the world works; how to get along with people and discern the best course of action. Now, the Old Testament tells us that God said no one has been wise in the way Solomon was before or after. If we look at the kings who came before Solomon, that might be very true. And if we look at the kings who came after Solomon, that might be very true as well. But I suggest to you beloved reader that beyond the vision of this Old Testament writer, there may be people who have wisdom as Solomon did. Furthermore, since the Old Testament writer was probably only familiar with the more well-known biblical characters, there might have been those just as wise. This all to say, beloved reader, that you might have the wisdom of Solomon and not be known for it. I might too!
The salient point is that Solomon showed wisdom in what he asked for from the Divine. We can be just as wise in asking things of our Heavenly Lord. I hope and pray you do so! Selah!

Syndicated from Pondering From the Pacific


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