The H Word … March 26th, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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THE

Image result for gif letter h

WORD


“Go to Hell”

Even folks who are very particular about using profanity will often favor this pronouncement. Matter of fact, they believe it to be their Christian duty to warn lost sinners, deviants and the depraved that there is a “devil’s hell.” And if these unfortunate and misguided souls do not decide to comply to the common appeal of salvation, they will certainly spend all of eternity suffering within the confines of this dungeon of torture and despair.

Hell is a hell of an idea. What’s even more surprising is who ended up being one of the greater promoters of the location.

Yes—Jesus probably talked about hell more than any other religious teacher who ever walked the face of the Earth.

The Old Testament doesn’t have many references to such a place, and really relegates it to one single word: Sheol—meaning “grave.”

It was Jesus who came up with the lake of fire, outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, and the bizarre inclusion of this city ablaze being eternal.

Even if you are able to affix your mind on the possibility of there being an afterlife where those who are evil are sent to receive their retribution, it hardly seems likely that someone—even if they spent one hundred years on the planet, killing, maiming and leaving their puppy out in the cold in the winter—well, it just seems a bit bizarre to think that person, for a hundred years of evil, should receive an eternity of fire and brimstone.

Yet we kind of like the idea.

It’s not so much the notion that there is a hell, or that some people end up there, but rather, the advantage we gain in our self-righteousness, by imagining who we think should be there and how painfully they should be slapped around for mistreating us.

So I will tell you that even though hell is a promo that came from Jesus—and I am very fond of his work—I do choose to believe that this isolated concept was conjured during his “blue period,” and I do not favor it.

Is it not punishment aplenty for each one of us if we go through life without living?

Is it not agony to take this gift of time and sleepwalk through it without giving?

For that lack of tenderness, foresight and rebellion, there certainly will be a grave conclusion.

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The E Word … March 5th, 2019

THE

WORD

 

There are words that are so vile with violence and bedeviled by bigotry that they should never be written or spoken again. But there are also words, shrouded with sinister self-righteousness, which are equally poisoned.

Such is the case with our E word this week:

EXCEPTIONAL

From the Greeks feeling philosophically elevated to the Romans commanding allegiance through their powerful armies, to the Jews believing they were “the Chosen Ones,” to the touting of a Holy Roman Empire, there have always been cultures, races and faiths that have attempted to establish their dominance over fellow-humans.

I must be candid. My skin crawls whenever I hear my American brothers and sisters bolstering our national ego by referring to the United States as “exceptional.” It is the kind of blatant arrogance that made us pursue “manifest destiny,” stealing land from a native people, while simultaneously shipping in souls from Africa to become our slaves.

It is evil—not just because it is pompous and misrepresents reality, but because it works hand in hand with two other failing thoughts.

For you see, people who think they are exceptional eventually believe they are superior. And those who proclaim they are superior eventually insist they are supreme.

After World War I, the German people were devastated in morale and financially destitute. A little man came with a huge idea. He told the German people they didn’t need to be the doormat of the world. He raised the consciousness of their Germanic roots. He told them they were exceptional.

In doing so, he stirred the pride of the nation. They began to rebuild.

Once they contended that they were exceptional, the evil little fellow then told them that they were superior.

He gave them a common enemy. By the end of the 1930’s, nearly every German, in some capacity, believed that he or she was superior to a Jew.

But to go to war, the small man, who in the meantime had become their dictator, needed to convince them they were supreme—a Super Race. This became something worth dying for—at least tens of thousands of them believed so. Unfortunately, it was not a suicide mission, but also took the lives of hundreds of thousands of other people who had to break the hypnotic spell.

Yet I will tell you, preaching “exceptionalism” is not different just because it is hatched in America. The notion is already beginning to make us contend that certain individuals are superior to others, and if we’re not careful, we will start reacting as if we are supreme.

Exceptional is a word that not even God will use. The Good Book makes it clear that He is no “respecter of persons.” If God makes no distinctions among His creation, why in the hell do we think we can?

“Exceptional” is our E word—a misguided attempt to build patriotism or national pride by ignoring the beauty of commonality and the glory of “peace on Earth, good will toward men.”


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Good News and Better News… September 25th, 2017

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From my expression in the picture, you might think I’m sad. Not so.

Actually, I’m just thoughtful.

I am at a complete loss at knowing why God enjoys working with humans. I don’t get it. He favors us, He loves us, He trusts us to communicate His ideas. I, for one, would have selected talking raccoons–unusually clean and cute.

But not God. No–people.

Because that is the case, it is useless to ask Him to kill off our enemies. We become absolute jerks when we wish that tragedy or difficulty would befall those who stand against us. And certainly, we are fools in attempting to make some folks less valuable.

Since we’re not going to change God’s mind about His devotion for the human race, we all need to develop a plan. Otherwise we will literally find ourselves outside God’s will.

How can we trust people who are just as devious as we are if we actually admitted we were? What is the game plan going forward?

  • Bigotry has failed.
  • Culture is just another way of expressing bigotry.
  • Politics has created the “great divide.”
  • And religion fosters self-righteousness.

The truth of the matter is, if I can wrap my mind around being a “work in progress,” I might just be able to allow you to be one, too.

If I think that because Mommy and Daddy raised me and I bought a house and I pay my bills and stand up for the National Anthem, that there isn’t much for me to learn, then I will probably be a thorn in the side of my fellow-travelers.

Springing from that thoughtful expression came the following conclusions:

1. Start telling the truth.

Who knows? It might catch on. Make it a game. Every time you lie, deduct a dessert from your menu. And even if it doesn’t become a fad, at least you can tell yourself that you aren’t a liar.

2. Divide the world into two groups–people you know and people you don’t know yet.

Any further division is prejudice.

3. Don’t be afraid of what comes out of you.

Some of it will be crap. Some of it will be inspirational. If you’re willing to sift, question, converse and contemplate your feelings instead of embracing them as long-lost relatives, you have a chance of catching your own insanity before it races down the street naked, offending others.

The good news is that because you are a “people” you get included in the blessing that God loves the world.

The better news is, if you will just sit down and consider your life instead of shouting it through a bull horn, you might just end up justifying His faith in all of us.Donate Button

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Good News and Better News… June 19th, 2017

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Dislike–deciding to “diss” liking.

In the pursuit of what we call love, and even unconditional love, we’ve reached a point where we just don’t like each other anymore. We have the appearance of Atlas carrying the world on our shoulders because we feel compelled by our civilized natures to be as calm as possible.

We “diss” liking. We claim great affection for souls around us while privately rolling our eyes, communicating that they are annoying.

So when I arrived yesterday morning at the Ruskin United Methodist Church, I was looking for people who like each other. Because here’s the truth–a paraphrase of John the Apostle: I don’t think you can love God if you don’t like people.

It seems that God is really proud of His creation.

I know we portray an anxious deity, constantly perturbed over our sins, but since He gave us the ability and even the permission, I seriously doubt that He will be terribly upset when we occasionally go errant.

The greatest arrogance, the most self-righteousness, and perhaps the sin of all sins, is to believe that human beings are not worth liking.

  • It’s in our government.
  • It’s in our religious system.
  • It’s in our movies.

We are training ourselves to be suspicious, and failing to acquire great moments of human fellowship that just demand a little bit of mercy and grace.

I’m not one to advocate looking in the rear view mirror and assuming that the past was better than the present, but I will tell you, if there was any era when people were given the chance to excel without being pre-judged, then we might want to reach back into that span of time and regain some of that tenderness.

For the good news is, God likes people.

And the better news is, He loves those who like them, too.

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Jesonian: Reasonable (Part 5) Mercy … January 3rd. 2016

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Jesonian hands

Our greatest fear is having our weakness exposed to others. To avoid this horror, we pursue positive attitudes, lies, anger, defensiveness, deceit, prayer and self-righteousness.

Yes, the absence of candor is the open door to deception. And when we are dishonest about our true selves, we have the ugly by-product of prejudice, which robs us of our better nature.

Why do we become prejudiced? In order to keep the attention away from the beam sticking out of our own eye, we try to bring focus to the speck in our brother’s eye.

So I can tell you of a certainty, honesty has a little brother and its name is mercy.

Without honesty, we feel no need whatsoever to be merciful, but spend all of our time drafting plans to escape notice of our vice. And maybe it’s not even a vice–perhaps it’s just a piece of us that requires grace instead of criticism.

It is time to become reasonable.

If the Gospel of Jesus does not afford us the humanity to confess our faults one to another, then it merely is a temporary pain-killer, or worse, a dangerous diversion.

Here’s a beautiful process–maybe better phrased, a way of thinking that actually produces thought:

  1. I have a weakness.
  2. You have a weakness.
  3. We have weaknesses.
  4. Therefore, we choose mercy.

If I do not believe I have a weakness, I certainly will not tolerate your peccadilloes. And if I discover that you are weak and I am unwilling to admit my weakness, then I will focus on yours and attack you for having it.

Thus, mercy is avoided, ignored and cast aside.

A world without mercy is always a lie, ready to be prosecuted.

For it will only take you a few moments after you meet me to discover that I have weaknesses, whether I confess them or not. It will not take me any longer to uncover yours.

So the only advantage we have is to get in front of these revelations by admitting that we have weaknesses, encouraging others to make the same confession, and then humbly allowing mercy to do its healing work through understanding and the passage of time.

Nothing happens until we realize how weak we are.

Strength is not owned; it is given by humbly admitting weakness.

 

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Ask Jonathots… October 8th, 2015

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I’m in a group of co-workers who play sports together–a great bunch of guys. Here’s the problem: one of the guys in the group lies to our boss at work all the time. He lies about being sick. He lies about relatives being sick. He lies to take unwarranted credit for work. He thinks that because we have this “sports connection” that no one would ever turn him in. So far no one has. I’m going to confront him about this. Suggestions on the best way to do it?

Here’s my suggestion on the best way to do it: don’t.

Any form of self-righteousness is actually doomed to failure, and truthfully, will prolong the evil you are trying to expose.

Built into the natural order is a system which protects us from destruction by unveiling the stupidity and mistakes of those who dare to ignore honest relationship.

In other words, it’s against the laws of nature to be a jerk.

Sometimes it takes a week for these individuals to be caught in their error, sometimes a year. But you will never successfully turn in a traitor or an offender and be considered anything less than a pious baby.

Here’s what I would suggest you do:

1. Make it clear to everyone, including him, that you are not party to deception.

2. Tell your friend that you will not judge him for his actions, but you will also not cover his butt if he gets caught.

3. Make sure that you are never at the scene of the crime.

In other words, proximity to his lies may actually convict you as a participant. When you know he is starting something ridiculous, step away.

4. Quietly leave a trail of sincerity and honesty at the feet of your boss so that if push comes to shove there will be no doubt as to your veracity.

Human beings make two major mistakes: they either give in to temptation and absorb the iniquity around them, or they foolishly think it’s their job to clean up the planet by pointing out all the sinfulness.

Don’t do either.

Believe me when I say that arrogance, indifference and deceit always get caught … and always get punished.

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Jesonian: Easy Does It … August 23rd, 2015

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corn in hand

Into a world filled with self-righteousness, power struggles and idiotic inclinations, Jesus of Nazareth walked on the scene with a simple message.

Easy does it and lighten up.

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

Leadership hated him for it.

Making truth accessible to the masses and suggesting that it is not that difficult to attain does not endear you to those who make a living out of turning every situation into a quandary.

No mortal receives benefit when we demand divine effort.

Interestingly enough, right after he shared these thoughts of “easy does it” and “lighten up,” he was confronted by a situation which embodied the whole dilemma.

You see, his disciples were walking through a field of corn and they were hungry. Common sense said not to stand around and bitch, but rather, to pick some of the nourishment.

Logical enough, right?

But posted nearby were those religious leaders who made a living from “straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel.” They criticized the disciples and Jesus for the action, citing that the Law of God demanded that the Sabbath be honored by declining to take care of human needs.

Jesus’ answer is a spiritual classic.

He explained that throughout history, whenever noble men and women of mission found themselves without provision, rather than standing on ceremony, they used what was available instead of complaining to the heavens about their lack.

He said that King David even ate the holy bread from the Temple and gave it to his soldiers when there was a gnawing at their innards.

But Jesus didn’t leave it there. He told the Pharisees that everything revolves around one principle: God will have mercy, not sacrifice.

Because if you find yourself feeling sacrificial, restricted, bound and intimidated by religious fervor, very soon … you will end up condemning the guiltless folks who walk amongst you.

 

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