Friday, January 23, 2009

Palmer's 23 Rejects

There's Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Max Lucado, Eugene Peterson and other great spiritual writers out there. There's only one writer, however, who's managed to push me to the edge of sobbing more times than I bothered to keep track of, and that's Jim Palmer.

His book, Divine Nobodies, is the perfect blade for the heart frozen (and thus shrunken) in metaphysical theology, Christian 'systems' and relationally problematic ideas of God. The stories are totally fresh (because they're true) and the mapping to theological ideas is sublime. Best of all, they leave you holding back the tears - or just letting them flow.

His second book, Wide Open Spaces, was less touching but introduces radical theology minus any scholarly snobbishness or must-read-thrice paragraphs.

1. Whatever it is you believe, it must pass the mind’s test of logic and reason.

2. Don’t trust or follow what you feel deep inside.

3. Don’t try this apart from institutional structures and programs.

4. If it has anything to do with God, ultimate reality, and the deepest longings of your soul, count on it being near impossible for someone like you to figure it out.

5. Don’t fraternize with non-believers or people of different religious or spiritual beliefs.

6. Just assume that what others say the Bible says is actually what the Bible says, especially if the person saying it is someone who is supposed to know that sort of thing.

7. That deep feeling of love, peace, freedom, joy and contentment can’t be God. Instead, you should probably start feeling guilty about where you are falling short with God.

8. Reduce your life only to those things that you can fit into the “God” category. If necessary, justify other things by creatively establishing some remote correlation.

9. When you become progressive or more enlightened, look down your nose (in compassion of course) upon those poor souls who have yet to reach your level.

10. Assume that everything you’ve been told or currently know is all there is to truth and anything refuting it must be wrong. In other words, you’ve arrived with virtually nothing left to learn except for trying harder with what you already know.

11. If you keep applying the same formula or beliefs and it doesn’t produce the result it promised, assume the problem is you.

12. Don’t waste your time with the small stuff, do something big or join something big.

13. Have a social justice persona. Remember that the image can suffice even if you don’t really have the time or inclination to respond to people in need along the everyday paths of life.

14. Make sure a majority if not all of your conversations are overtly connected somehow to “God.” Unless the word is actually used or some closely associated word, the conversation doesn’t really count in terms of eternal value.

15. Be at least slightly skeptical and conflicted about truly enjoying very ordinary moments in your life…feeling of the warm sunshine on your face, playing a board game with your daughter, walking your dog, taking photographs, enjoying the quiet, lounging around with your family - that kind of meaningless stuff.

16. Proceed as if figuring out truth is a matter of your intellect.

17. Make sure at all times there is some burning question you have to answer or some enlightening understanding you must attain before you can rest.

18. Don’t take personal responsibility for the insanity of your beliefs and practices that were damaging and destructive. Blame and resent others.

19. Measure and judge others based on where you are. Just assume if it’s a place where you currently are, everyone else should be there. If it’s something you now believe, everyone else should believe it. If it works for you, it should work for everyone.

20. Draw your conclusions from the data gathered through your physical senses. For example, come to a determination about others based on their appearance, attitude, and actions.

21. Just accept at the outset that your humanity is your enemy.

22. Equate God’s blessing with improved circumstances or existing in a constant state of “good feelings.”

23. Don’t ever let yourself fully give into love and freedom.

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