I met a whole bunch of people yesterday. In the evening, I had drinks with Bertus! (from Saligerus) and two of his friends — someone from Kletskerk, and another blogger blogging from within the Dutch Reformed church. (I’m intentionally keeping the details vague. If I’m talking about you, and you would like yourself named, by all means, say so!)
And before that, around lunch time, I met Bad Ben. That adds three to the number of people I have met in person, that have read my blog, on occasion at least. I love real life meetings. Actually, Ben and I had met before, back in 2003. He’s a really nice guy, and he’s keen for constructive input. In addition, he is apparently a big fan of Brian McLaren. Yay! He is looking for neutral, unbiased feedback about Shofar. I’m hoping we can build a good relationship, built largely on what we agree on, even if we have big differences elsewhere.
It seems Fred May has actually seen my blog. He has read at least one post. Sias le Roux and Morné Bosch recognise my face, and are highly likely able to put my name to it. I have very good reasons to believe Sias already recognises me as someone that “thinks too much”. He may remember me from the creationism seminar last year. All in all, I’m sure at least some members of Shofar’s leadership are wondering what on earth I’m up to, what my views are, etc. So let me try to give a little more context.
We all know that many people in Stellenbosch have gripes with Shofar. Shofar is highly controversial. But yes, most people do mud flinging, because they feel there’s not much else they can do. And mud flinging is pointless, it gets us nowhere. So… here I am, I’m attending Shofar again every now and then, when I have the opportunity. I’m keen on constructive and open dialogue, and very keen on cooperation.
There are a number of points on which I disagree with Shofar. Let’s get the empirical one out of the way: I love science. We cannot live without it. Or at least, without it, the majority of humanity will die or suffer greatly. We have already over-populated the world many times over, if we were to live science-less. But apart from adverse consequences, I love inquisitiveness, I love exploration, I love looking at this mysterious universe, all of creation, and marvelling at its intricate complexity. In Meh terms, I love it’s beauty. And science is the tool with which we read this great big book of the universe. If you swing that way, the great big book that is (more directly?) written by the creator’s hand. (Or, in poetic Genesis terms, the great big poet in the sky spoke this great piece of poetry into existence.) You will have to forgive me if I have some serious gripes with “anti-science” sentiments. I’m afraid that, right now, young-earth beliefs classify as “anti-science” in my books. I’d like this blog to discuss science eventually, but that would require research time I don’t have right now.
Hand-in-hand with science goes critical thinking. I believe it is an important skill in this day and age, and I’m concerned about any kind of suppression of that skill. I don’t know how much that happens in Shofar itself, I just know that I didn’t see much critical thinking at the creationism seminar last year. I will soon continue my analysis of the seminar, in an attempt to demonstrate what I mean by “informed critical thinking”.
Furthermore, the rumours I hear with regards to the behaviour of Shofarians in science lectures has me appalled. I’d prefer not to hear or see any irrefutable evidence, I prefer to have the opportunity to believe these are only rumours… In fact, please tell me they are only rumours? Self-deception is a wonderful self-preservation mechanism.
Enough with science et al, and onto theology. I naturally also disagree on a significant number of doctrinal positions. Clearly I’m not a “literalist”. In propaganda terms, Shofar would say I’m not a “Bible believer”. Meh. I love the Bible. This blog will hopefully be taking a deeper look at it later. I also disagree with the idea that “Jesus came to raise the bar”. I believe Jesus challenged oppressive regimes and rejected oppressively-legalistic purity codes in favour of a value-driven way of life, based on compassion and love. And more. We will eventually get around to having some discussions around that.
Shofar’s afterlife-centred doctrines also have me worried. I believe this misses Jesus’ message. Sometimes people live in such fear of hell-after-life, that they end up living a hell-in-life. I care much more about the hell and heaven that exists right here, right now, on this earth. I believe Jesus’ primary message was “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. The Kingdom of Heaven is a place on earth. A place within each of us. I would love to see more emphasis on “Kingdom-centric” living. Maybe if I continue looking, I will see it.
I would love more cooperation across the board. The other churches are getting together and building relationships. From what I hear, it sounds as though Fred May is not interested? Are these just rumours? More cooperation with everyone. This means no more “othering”. My dream has religious people and secular humanists working together to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth (as it is in Heaven, Meh).
Lastly, I do also disagree with Shofar’s stance on homosexuality, that is no secret. I doubt discussion on this topic will bear much fruit though, and there are bigger fish to fry, as long as Shofar doesn’t ruin people’s lives by loading them with guilt towards their own nature. I’ve heard rumours of support groups for homosexuals in other churches. I’d encourage Christian homosexuals to join these support groups. (Rumours. I don’t know how many, maybe only one for all I know. I hope there’s more.) Alternatively, there’s also Lesbigay, with their closet support program “Close-Up” (I think), which incidentally has helped some ex-Shofarians.
So, that’s about that.
Oh, and people like Ben (Bad/Sad Ben) demonstrate to me that there is hope. Honest, inquisitive, eager to learn, eager to improve, eager to follow Jesus, humble… Given the right soil, a mustard seed can move mountains. I pray we can walk a path together. Ben, or whoever, please keep an eye on me, and inform me when I stray onto a path of destruction. I believe in a God of creation, not destruction, as hard as that God’s commands may be to follow. May the soil of my mind be fertile ground for fruit-bearing trees.