August 03, 2021


Joe Pye Weed 08/07/3013 Oil Paint Rendered — Bass Lake, Blue Ridge Parkway, Blowing Rock, North Carolina
For forty years and six months
I talked to people about God
(I was a minister in the 
Presbyterian Church [USA]).
There was a problem.

Most of the people who paid me
to talk about God,
didn't want me to say anything
they hadn't already heard.

"Why don't you talk to us
about things we can understand?"
they said,
not realizing the paradox
they were proposing.

If I could explain to them
why I talked to them
about things they couldn't understand,
in a way that they could understand it,
there would not be a problem
with them understanding what I was saying.

However, not understanding applied to 
everything I said.

It isn't that I was speaking Babel.
It is that they were hearing Babel,
because what I was saying
was not what they were able to hear.

I cannot say anything to anyone 
who is not ready to hear what I'm talking about.
Who does not resonate with what I am saying,
and recognize the value of what they are hearing.
Our life cannot give us an adventure
we are not ready for.

The people have to be asking the questions
before the answers make sense.
I was giving them answers
to questions they were not asking.
And they were not interested in asking
the questions that needed to be asked.

For instance, "Who says so?"
That's the basic question.
Until we get "Who says so?" down,
we're wasting our time 
talking about God.
Or anything else.

The basics about God 
are "What does God want?"
("Who says so?")
"What is the point?"
("Who says so?")
"What is the place of the Bible
in getting us together with God?"
(Who says so?")
"What should we believe?"
(Who says so?")
"Who is the authority
in all matters pertaining to God?"
("Who says so?")

When we take "Who says so?" 
as the primary question to ask
of every statement about God/doctrine/the Bible/etc.,
and go through all of the answers,
asking "Who says that the people who say so
know what they are talking about?"
We get past the prophets and apostles,
the popes and the priests and the preachers,
all of Judaism and all of Christendom,
asking "Who says they know what they are talking about?"
to all of them,
we get down finally at the very end
to the declaration,
"I say so."
"I--I Am The One Who Says So!"

We say whomever we believe knows what they are talking about,
knows what they are talking about
because WE say so.

WE are the grounding authority
determining what is and is not the answer
to all of our questions.

WE are the ones who say so.

And we don't know.

Nobody knows.

If anyone knows what they are talking about.

The theology, doctrines, dogmas, catechisms, etc.,
are all held to be so
because of what somebody declares to be the authority,
but the authority is grounded upon
the people who say it is authoritative--
on the people saying it is authoritative,
because they (the people) say so.

The take it on faith.
And don't ask any more questions.
But, questions are the ground of being.

The people who advise taking it on faith 
because no one knows,
and not asking any questions,
do so because no one has the courage to say,
"We don't know."
"Nobody knows."
So they say, "We take it on faith,"
because that gets rid of the questions
and ignores the fact that no one knows
what's what about any of it.

People say "God said," but
how do we know they know
what they are talking about?
People saying, "God said,"
are just people saying, "God said."
But who knows?
All we know is what people say God said.

And, of course, they have the end-around to that.
They say, "Just believe and you will know
in your heart that it is so."

This is the ground of astrology, horoscopes,
fortune telling, superstition, voodoo, 
black magic, cons, frauds, and scams.

People believed witches into existence
and drowned them.
People believed heresy was demonic
and burned those they said were heretics
at the stake.

"Believe and you will know,"
is the heart of deception, trickery, 
falsehood and deceit. 

There is no ground to any of it.
That is what "Who says so?" reveals.

At that point, we are ready to throw
all theology/doctrine/dogma/etc.
into the burning barrel,
and look for what WE can say is valid,
real and true.

How does this strike you for that--
"It matters how we live our life."

"Who says so?"
Who would not say so?
It is obvious that how we live matters.
So, we don't sleep on railroad tracks,
and we don't jump off high buildings,
and we get the COVID 19 vaccines...
Because it makes a difference,
and it matters how we live!

Take "It matters how we live"
as the ground of true religion,
and ask, "How do we need to live?"
and we get, "In ways that are good for ourselves
one another, and the situation as a whole."

This is "Do unto others as you would
have them do unto you."

What is good for ourselves and others
is whatever needs to be done 
in each situation as it arises
in light of the true good 
of the situation as a whole.

Or, we could say, "In light of what is happening
and what is being called for in response,
here and now, in this moment!
What needs to happen?"

"Who says so?"
That would be each individual there, then.
How do they know?
"Only time will tell."
In the meantime,
we have to make our best guess.
And see where it goes.

If it goes badly, we will catch on to that,
and do what needs to be done
to correct things.

This is how it goes.
We decide what needs to be done
in each situation as it arises,
and we will either be right or wrong.

If we are right, fine.
if we are wrong,
we decide what needs to be done about it,
and do it.
We will either be right or wrong...

The situation is self-righting,
if we respond to it in good faith
seeking what needs to be done 
then and there and doing it.

Good faith is the heart of true religion,
and a good faith commitment
to seeing and doing what needs to be done,
when it needs to be done,
where it needs to be done,
how it needs to be done
because it needs to be done,
in each situation as it arises
is all the faith anyone needs,
and everyone needs that. 

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

2 thoughts on “August 03, 2021

  1. Dang, Jim. This one needs to be sent to the Washington Post or something. I sense a great summing up here, of things you’ve said before. Maybe like a true Manifesto… something is happening. You are very clear. And dear.βœŒπŸ™πŸ’•

    Liked by 1 person

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