Q. Do you know who I am?
A. Do you ever listen to my answer to that question?
Q. Why have you summoned me?
A. I guess not. Well, I summoned you because I am disgruntled.
A. Is there an echo in here?
Q. Why are you disgruntled?
A. Cognitive dissonance.
A. I simultaneously hold to two conflicting systems of values.
A. As a Christian, I believe in forgiving those who have wronged me. As a guy who spent twelve years on the streets, I believe in rewarding loyalty and punishing betrayal.
Q. Can’t you forgive them and punish them at the same time?
A. (nods) The concept of chastening. I’m afraid only God has the rights on that one.
Q. But supposing your son or daughter had wronged you, wouldn’t you forgive them and still “chasten” them, as you say?
A. Sure I would. But these people are not my sons and daughters, nor am I their father. One of them is a 63 year old man. Another is 62.
Q. What about their own fathers?
A. Neither of them is alive. And if they were, I doubt they’d take my side.
Q. Then doesn’t that leaves the Father God to do the chastening?
A. But Father God might not be their father.
Q. How can that be? Is not God the father of all?
A. Not necessarily. According to Scripture, their father is either God the Father, or “their father the devil.” Look what Jesus said once:
You are of your father the devil,
and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning,
and does not stand in the truth
because there is no truth in him.
Whenever he speaks a lie,
he speaks from his own nature,
for he is a liar and the father of lies.
But because I speak the truth,
you do not believe Me.
“Which one of you convicts Me of sin?
If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?
He who is of God hears the words of God;
for this reason you do not hear them,
because you are not of God.”
— John 8:44-47
Q. Do you really think it’s all that black and white? Are there a bunch of liars that are children of the devil and another batch of truth-seekers that are, like, God’s kids?
A. (nods again) Black and white thinking. I don’t like the concept much either. But as the article I just linked to points out, a lot of times we engage those approximations because the language lacks wording that will sufficiently describe the “middle ground” or “gray area” without having to use too many words, thus impeding communication.
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. Well, take the word “God” for example. Any intelligent person engaged in the vaguest search for a definition of that word will first have to admit that “God” is only a word. Like all words, it has a meaning. Many meanings. Different meanings for different people, and so forth. So one person will say, “I don’t believe in God,” based solely on their preconceptions as to what that word means.
To one person, “God” is an old man with a long gray beard sitting in the clouds somewhere. Do I believe that meaning? No, I do not. But the same person who holds to that idea of “God” will often speak of a “force” or a “higher power” or even of the Universe. Who’s to say that those descriptives are not of God? And yet, they say they don’t “believe in God.” To me, it seems that they do believe in God. They just won’t use the word God, because it’s loaded down with stigmatic preconceptions.
Q. Then why do you keep using the word “God?”
A. Ease of use. It’s simply easier to say the single word “God” than to keep saying, “Spirit or Power of the Universe or whatever you want to call it.” I get tired of using too many words when one will suffice. I use too many words as it is already without having to add yet more words to the mix.
Q. But why does the single word have to be “God?” Why not use some other word, if “God” is so loaded down with stigma?
A. (frowns) I find they all fall short. The other words “Spirit” or “Universe’ somehow lack sufficient power or personality for me — or maybe command or authority — something like that. I don’t know exactly. But really, Questioner dear, aren’t we veering a bit astray of the subject?
Q. And what, pray tell, is the “subject?”
A. The subject is the black-and-white codification of humanity into a batch of Satan’s babies as contrasted with the real children of God. I believe the words of Jesus I quote run deeper than that.
Q. In what way?
A. In lots of ways. For one thing, I think we’re all born “children of the devil” in the sense that we’re too unsophisticated to grasp the concept of a loving Father God apart from our own earthly fathers — who, let’s face it, might not be all that loving. We’re innocent. We’re vulnerable. We’re easy to con, to manipulate. I learned that on the streets. The people who were pushovers seemed to be so faultless, yet in a very real sense they were the devil’s babies. The hustlers, the thieves — they had them over a barrel. In order to realize the authority of the True God, and to see yourself as His child, there has to be some kind of revelation, leading up to a transformation. One gets to the point where one refuses to be hustled any further. One says to oneself: “Screw these guys! I’m a child of God! I don’t have to put up with their garbage.”
Q. One says? Or you say?
A. Both – along with a lot of other people who have managed to escape all the trappings of street life. I’m a lot better off spiritually than I was earlier on. I was such a pushover I believed all those lies I heard from pretentious preacher’s pulpits. It’s like I always say, before the age of 51, I believed just about anybody who wore a badge.
Q. And now you don’t?
A. No, I don’t. And obviously, in the passage I quote, Jesus didn’t either. Those were Pharisees he was talking to — religious hypocrites very much like those who betrayed me. Like I said, there’s a lot of depth to what the Master is saying here. He speaks on many levels.
Q. Such as?
(The Answerer takes a very deep breath.)
A. There are people who are so caught up in the game that they can’t tell lies from truth. They lie so much and are lied to so often, they come to expect it from everyone. You would think that the truth would stand out like an orchid in a petunia patch with people like that. But somehow it doesn’t. They are so used to lies, that when someone speaks the truth like Jesus did, they don’t hear it. Their minds immediately begin to speculate and calculate.
Speculate – by which I mean they speculate as to just what kind of a scam the truthful person is trying to pull.
Calculate – meaning they calculate a response designed to trap the one who tells the truth, and get them to say something completely inconsistent, to prove them a liar.
Q. And you are not one of those people?
A. Sure I am – in a certain context. I test people all the time. But the testing is of a different nature, because it follows an inward process of trying to dredge out the lies within my own heart.
Q. Are you lying to me, Andy?
A. Verily, verily, I tell you no lie. But this is because I find myself lying to myself at times, and compelled to share that lie to others. And when I do, I stop to examine my motives. What am I trying to conceal? Who am I afraid of? Who am I trying to impress?
Q. Then what happens?
A. Then, when someone like that fellow who betrayed me lies to me, I don’t swallow his lies, because I see the same lies in my own self.
Q. So the streets have made you sharper?
A. Can’t speak for my sharpness. I’m an old guy, and my intellectual powers are naturally on the wane. But I’m a bit more discerning between falsehood and truth.
Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?
(Another deep breath is taken.)
Q. People seem to think that all those years on the streets are supposed to have crippled me to the point where I should have no higher goal than to sit in some meeting and raise my hand as an alcoholic or a drug addict, and then get down on my knees (and stay on my knees) and humble myself before every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the block. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I came off the streets realizing I no longer had to take crap from just anybody. I came off the streets seeing through all the Mainstream garbage that I swallowed so wholeheartedly before. I came off the streets discerning that all those money-chasing money-hoarding money-worshipers who look down on poor people are the liars — not me. They lie to their own selves, and yet they don’t stop to look within, to really see what’s inside them, to be able to discern with accuracy what’s going on around them.
So the bottom line is, I’m not going to get down on my knees before all those Mainstream robot clones, or to their “God,” whoever they think he is, or cow-tow to whatever they think it means to be a “Christian.” I know what I’m about – or beginning to find out anyway – and on my spiritual journey, I ain’t taking no shit from nobody.
Q. Do you want to know what I think?
The Questioner is silent.
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