"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Who Is Your Neighbor?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Who Is Your Neighbor?

When you think of Jesus' admonition to "love your neighbor as yourself," who qualifies as a neighbor? If we are to use his life as an example, it would be "anyone." Full stop.

The insularity of the OALC (giving charity only to others within the church) bothered me so much growing up that when I was chosen to speak at high school graduation, I devoted my speech to "loving thy neighbor." (I wish I had saved a copy of it. Silly me, I thought I would always remember it, and gave my only copy to my first roommates' parents, liberal OALCer's who kept a copy of "As a Man Thinketh" on their coffee-table, and encouraged my friendship with their daughters, who were experiencing a wildly hedonistic rumspringa, but that is a different story.)

It turns out it wasn't just the OALC; religion in general doesn't make a dent in our tribalism. According to this study, being religious makes people more cooperative, but only when they are dealing with others of the same faith.
In one task people were given an imaginary sum of money and given the option of sending some to another participant.They were told that whatever they did not send they would be able to keep but also that the participant could chose to send some of it back – which would then be tripled.They had to judge how “generous” to be.Participants included Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and non-religious volunteers.The team noticed that there was little difference between levels of co-operation and generosity when people knew nothing of the other person’s beliefs and when they knew that they were of different persuasions.But when told that the other person shared their religion they were markedly more trusting and generous with the money.Dr Robert Hoffmann, an Associate Professor of Economics at Nottingham University Business School and co-author of the report, said: “One would imagine the charity inherent in many well-known articles of faith might have some impact on everyday behaviour.“But we discovered no evidence of that when we examined what happens when people who are religious knowingly interact with those of a different or no faith."
In other news, lawmakers in Arizona have introduced a bill that would require students to swear an oath of loyalty in order to receive a high school diploma. I can't imagine it will get very far.


32 comments:

  1. It's good, when considering who is our "neighbor," to recall that "neighbor" is a translation from the languages of the Bible, and looking at the translations current in other cultures is informative.
    For example, it is interesting that, in French, the expression that means "love thy neighbor" doesn't refer to neighbor in the sense of someone who lives in your neighborhood but refers to the perrson "next" to you, whoever that may be--"son prochain."
    Here is what a writer on the French Catholic web site La Croix says:
    "L’amour du prochain ne choisit pas qui aimer, il aime toute l’humanit√©."
    [The love of one's neighbor does not choose whom to love, it loves all humanity.]
    --Oven mitt

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  2. LLLreader shouts out: Hello Oven mitt, hello, hello. I have been absent from this site until just recently. So good to see a familiar name. I remember how you decided on that pseudonym--but bet one of the newbies will ask about it. Hope your life is just rolling along in a happy way. Mine is just about the best it's ever been!

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  3. Unfortunately, our mental picture of Jesus is skewed by the selective Bible reading of our childhood Christianity and popular culture. Yes, he broke bread with the outcasts of society and reached out to the hated Samaritans. (I am not convinced that he was a historical figure at all, though that’s another discussion entirely.) But he exhibited no shortage of in-group versus out-group behavior.

    Here are some examples that come to mind. A Canaanite woman was only granted a healing miracle, over Jesus’ objections that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, when she offered a clever rejoinder to his insulting comparison of her ethnic group as dogs (Matt. 15:22-28). Jesus lectured his inner circle about the meanings of his parables in secret (which makes him a liar if the account of his testimony before the high priest in John 18:20 is to be believed), and declined to make those teachings public because it was only given to the disciples to “know the mystery of the kingdom of God.” To the outsiders, “all these things are done in parables, that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them” (Mark 4:11-12). He urged recruits to abandon their families and follow him, calling them unworthy if they hesitated to leave loved ones for his sake.

    In an excellent textbook, Religious Fundamentalism, Peter Herriot describes the group cohesion of fundamentalist groups. Giving short shrift to outsiders, and even demonizing them as deluded, lost, blind, etc., are all part of the way the group is built up in importance, over everyone else. “Members withdraw from other commitments and relationships, and the competing social identities that these imply, and involve themselves ever more closely in the life of the group” (p. 148). I highly recommend this book to people seeking to better understand the fundamentalist religion of their upbringing or family. It's not cheap, around $50, but you can rent it for the Kindle for about $5.

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  4. Ed, I'm curious to know why you think Jesus was not (or at least, might not be) an historical figure.

    Most of what I've read indicates that while the influence and appeal of Jesus in his own time was grossly overstated (to put it mildly), most historians agree there was a Jesus of Nazareth who existed. Most even put his date of birth at 4 B.C., etc. So again I'm curious what evidence you've come across that leads you to this conclusion.

    As for tribalism: I won't defend it, but I certainly understand it. It's comforting to live amongst those who you are convinced share your values, reciprocate your love, etc. The trick is to convince the world that those outside your circle are not the enemy.

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  5. "Love thy Neighbor as your self"...has taken a new meaning to me, or perhaps just a different angle. I believe, we can only love others AS we love ourselves. If you are filled with low self worth and self esteem, you have very little if anything to give. It isn't a question of who is thy neighbor but who is thy self.

    In most of the religions that are talked about on this site, the self is a wretched and sinful body. And, I believe we see others the same way....until we can change the image of self.

    And, the only way the wretched ones can feel special is by making others be worse.

    Oh, and how did Oven Mitt come to be?

    Beth Jukuri

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  6. When my oldest daughter was confirmed at the IALC, and they went through the 10 Commandments, and they got to the 10 Commandments, I was very pleased that the confirmation teacher asked, "Who are your neighbors, just believers, or everyone?" The kids were a little stumped, but one young boy answered, "I think that means everyone." And then he reiterated that indeed, neighbors are the fellow church-goers, your colleagues at work, the people who live in the house next door, the people you set next to on the bus. Charitable giving is another thing. Some people give to charity, but I've actually heard others scoff and say its good works. My parents have always believed in charitable giving. My mother's sister, who is likely the wealthiest of all their dozen siblings, is the one I hear making the most fun of "givers." --Punahilkka

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  7. Freethinker, the New Testament provides no reliable historical witness of Jesus, just a few vague references by Paul and some accounts written by other devotees decades afterward that contain a great deal of copied material, significant contradictions, and mistakes about history, geography, and customs of the time. I discuss that in my book in §4.3.4, §7.1, and §7.4.

    The portrayal of Jesus expands in the decades over which the Gospels were written, beginning in Mark as a temperamental teacher and miracle worker with limited powers, no claims of divinity, and a great deal of angst about his execution. See §4.4.2 and §7.1.

    There are no Greek or Roman records of Jesus, not even a mention until the second century; the only Jewish records outside the New Testament are two passages written by Josephus around 90 A.D., the most descriptive of which is widely discredited as at least a partial forgery. See §4.4.2 and §7.4.

    The Gospels describe Jesus performing extraordinary miracles, sometimes before throngs of people, and say his fame spread through the land, yet none of the authors and observers of the day–Pliny the Elder, Josephus, the hundreds of anonymous writers whose personal letters and mundane records have been preserved, even Paul–had any of those events brought to their attention and thought them worth recording. See §4.4.2 and §7.1.

    In case you're wondering, yes, this material will be part (a small part) of an upcoming post in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

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  8. I recognize there is no reliable historical witness to Jesus; however, it seems more likely to me that he existed, had a very minor following in his own time, and the "mythology" exploded through Paul, the Council of Nicea, Constantine etc. It simply seems more plausible than the alternative scenario in which everything is fabricated whole cloth.

    But, you have done more research on the subject than I and most people on the planet, and I eagerly await (as I always do) your next contribution.

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  9. Very well said, and an excellent point. There was no shortage of guys walking around claiming to be miracle workers and prophets, and plenty of rebels hanging on Roman crosses. You can see the Jesus story grow in the telling right in the Gospels, from the human Jesus of Mark to the divine son of God the Father in the decades-later book of John.

    So maybe there was a Jesus, a sand grain of truth around which the pearl of myth was formed inside the oyster of religion. But the Jesus that is worshiped in churches every Sunday (far less than the "Mother" congregation in the LLC, it seems to me, or the elders of Lapland in the OALC) is not one I believe existed. Not even close.

    I really enjoy your comments, FreeThinker. We are definitely kindred spirits here. If you wish, I'd love to correspond with you directly. My email address is at the bottom of my book web page.

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    1. Ed, I don't know if you got it but I sent you a message to your Yahoo account.

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  10. Beth asked about the origin of "Oven Mitt." People often pick pseudonyms that are clever or that suggest a characteristic or something intriguing about the person. I wanted to avoid that. I guess I was in the kitchen when the idea came to me; an oven mitt seemed like the most ordinary thing I could think of.
    --Oven Mitt

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    1. Oven Mitt almost then equals anonymous. Aren't names and identities interesting in what they tell and what they don't tell. And, how our lives come with our names....or stay away if you change your name.

      Just like Jesus comes in with tons of baggage, depending upon what we were taught. And, has been the subject and object of much of religions and wars.

      Who would he be with the name?
      Who are you without your name?


      Beth

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    2. It was to read, "Who would he be WITHOUT his name?" And who would he be without all the stories about him?

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  11. According to the OALC teachings your neighbor is everyone around u. Not only the church members. How can someone say its just the members or family when the bible tells u to love ur enemies?

    /Massoud

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    1. I'm not in the OALC (I'm LLC), but I'm guessing that the reason people can say "neighbors" are just the church members, regardless of what the Bible says, is the content of the Bible is not relevant for most Laestadians when it comes to culture and tradition, or day-to-day life.

      Culture and tradition, and the opinions of the leaders, trump the Bible every time.

      In the midst of a theological conversation, a devout Laestadian may actually follow the Bible's teachings in their statements, because many of the Bible teachings that are contrary to Laestadian "tradition and culture" are quite obvious - therefore hard to go against, especially for someone who professes faith based solely on strict interpretation of Biblical teachings.

      But in practice, and in non-theological casual conversations about faith, Biblical teaching does not matter when it comes to issues of culture and tradition. One person may say that everyone is their neighbor because this is what the Bible teaches, but then later refer to their unbelieving neighbors as not being "neighbors" because neighbors are only church members. And in practice: neighbors are never treated as neighbors if they are outside the church.

      In the LLC, its is taught and believed that everyone is our neighbor, as it is written in the Bible. We are different from the OALC on this issue (I've talked to OALCers about this).

      But in regards to all children being believers, the LLC is very hypocritical as a group. We say all children are believers, because its obvious that the Bible teaches this, but then we refer to all children who are not Laestadians as "unbeliever kids" and treat them accordingly. I've seen very cruel treatment of neighborhood kids, school friends, etc., that is done by LLC parents with absolutely no self-awareness of what they are doing. They treat "unbeliever kids" in ways that they would never treat "believer kids", and would actually feel very guilty if they treated believer kids that way. But there is no guilt whatsoever when it comes to unbeliever kids.

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    2. This is continued from above.


      So theologically an LLCer would say that all kids are believers because that is whats taught in the Bible. But in conversation (even about faith issues) they are called unbeliever kids, and in practice they are definitely not treated as "believers".

      In fact, LLC parents who do treat "unbeliever kids" as believers and are welcoming to them, are often ostracized or gossiped about for that very reason. Why? because it goes against the culture and tradition of the LLC. In this area, what the Bible says does not matter in the LLC.

      Now my fellow LLCers would say to get of your high horse and rebuke those who are that way, because that is what the Bible teaches that you are supposed to do. But like I said before, what the Bible says doesn't matter when it comes to culture and tradition. People who rebuke or regularly bring up issues that are contrary to the culture and tradition of the group, are marginalized quite quickly. I'd prefer not to be called self-righteous, or some of the other hurtful insults that I've heard in the past.

      So when your faith is based in culture and tradition, like the LLC and OALC, then it is possible to blatantly go against the Bible.

      I'm not indicting every member of the LLC individually, because as individuals, most are imperfect but yet still lovely people. But as a group, we seem to have gone down the path of worshiping culture and tradition and excusing our behavior by calling it the Congregation Mother. Its not very Christian like and I think Jesus would be very disappointed.

      Anyways, I love my fellow LLC brethern and I want to belong to this LLC group, so I will stay quiet at church and anonymous online.

      PS - There was an OALC member on here several years ago who was a prolific poster, and did a good job standing up for the OALC. If I remember correctly, in one post he made a strong argument about how people who were not OALC were not "neighbors", because they weren't believers in his view. I think his user name was RWB.

      -Staying Anonymous & Lurking Mostly

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  13. What people says and what is teached in the OALC is two different things. The preacher in OALC tells all children are christian and all people your neighbor. They teach that we shall love our enemies and love our school and work mates too. If someone do something bad against a unbeliever its NOT cause the doctrine. All people do bad things...

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  14. Sorry my bad english. Im from Egypt so...

    Massoud

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  15. Massoud, how have you come to know people in the OALC? Very curious? I know a Palestinian man who has married an OALC woman from the USA. I think she converted to Islam now. Her family is NOT happy.

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  16. God showed me where the thrue light is. I went to 100s of churches before i found it. This site is for those who want to destroy the thrue light. Its written a lot in the bible about this kinds of destroyers..... good bye and hope u all will experience the same as i did some day. Listening with ur ears of the heart to the summer please.

    Massoud

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  17. I live in Arizona right now if u wonder...

    Massoud

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  18. I would ask Massoud which church did you finally find the true light?

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  19. OALC and I DONT say there is no other thrue one as the preacher teach us. Only god knows that. Welcome all to the elders meetings to the summer with ur questions. Here is no answer...
    Now Im out of this chat...
    Massoud

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    1. Massoud--

      Is there a church in Arizona? OALC? Is this your real name? I have not heard of somebody from Egypt becoming a member.

      Just curious :)

      -24

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  20. Honestly, if his real name is Massoud and he is REALLY from Egypt, I can absolutely see why the OALC would be a big draw for him. Even the most liberal forms of Islam are restrictive compared to the OALC. Islam is not as a peaceful faith as Christianity for the individual (collectively Christians are probably worse) and the OALC would probably seem sensible to an ex-Muslim. Covered heads, skirts and all. No alcohol. And if he is young and single, a bevy of beautiful blondes available for the courting. For Massoud, the OALC might be a perfect fit.

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    1. Good point. I feel like there has to be an ulterior motive for anybody joining, whether it's marriage or just the need to belong somewhere. There is a huge sense of family and community that I will sure miss.

      24

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    2. 24, there's no getting around it. You will suffer some loss of that sense of family and community. But you have a whole lifetime ahead to immerse yourself in the broader community of all people that has been denied you in the OALC. It's not quite the same; friends come and go, and can seem like acquaintances of convenience (work, school) more than the lifelong companions you grew up with. There is a price to be paid for acting with courage and integrity, as you have.

      In ten years, I predict you will be a successful, happy, well-adjusted 34-year old who can barely remember what it was like to be stuck in such a restrictive, mind-numbing environment.

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    3. EOP-

      Thanks for the encouragement. Today has sucked, to put it kindly :) Right now my life is ups and downs, I look forward to finding my new "normal," whatever that may be.

      24

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    4. And WHERE-ever that may be. Right now I'm tempted to pack up my car and drive fast, anywhere!!!

      24

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  21. Massoud, for the benefit of other seekers who have not found the "true light" as you put it. What did you find, how did it change your life? do you now consider yourself "born again" or what?

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  22. Since I am new here, I am working my way through old posts, and I have to comment on the generalizations made about Islam and Muslims
    Anonymous4/08/2013 05:39:00 AM
    I have had the wonderful privilege of working with refugees from the war in Iraq as well as Muslims from Albania. Islam, like Christianity is filled with many smaller groups, and groups within groups, and some are lunatics who blow things up (somewhat like the IRA and Provos in Ireland) but generally the terrorism, as well as the interpersonal and interfamilial violence that occurs is more related to the tribal culture than it is to the actual teachings of Islam. And relating this back to the original post, as I talk to a man whose family was killed by a stray American bomb, and whose business was bombed by Al Queda in Iraq, as he asks me in tears why people of his religion, who received help from the American government would set off bombs in Boston, I know, in my heart, that he is my neighbor...and my brother. That is what my belief, my faith tells me. When I sit with the old Albanian Muslim who saw his mother in law beheaded and her head used as a soccer ball by "Christians", who lost his home, and now lives in a strange country with little knowledge of the language and little ability to learn because of serious physical and mental health issues, in my heart I know he is my neighbor...or, as a more respectful term might be...grandfather. This is what my God and my Faith teach me. It teaches me to reach out to those around me who are suffering. This is not what I learned in the LLC. I learned there that while it was preached that we should love our neighbors, in practice neighbors within the church were scorned if they were a little different, and Lord help you if you were one of the town drunks, not part of the church. Scorn was heaped upon those hapless souls, those "no good drunks."
    If truth be told, the people I most have difficulty talking with is people from my past...an not necessarily because of their actions as much as the emotional hooks my past has. But they are also my brothers, sisters, neighbors, and I try my best to speak with love and not scorn.
    Brian

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