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October 12th, 2006


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02:34 pm - Musings on Sin and Holiness
With a long analogy. You have been warned. :-)

Cut for the uninterested.


“Ring a round a roses,
Pocket full of posies,
Atichoo, atichoo,
We all fall down.”

I’ve read that this children’s rhyme may refer to the Black Plague (that bit of lit. history is debatable, but it’s a good intro here). The reference to “a pocket full of posies” would seem to back this up. It may be referring to one of the precautions taken in that era in an attempt to prevent contagion.

Some thought that the smell of the diseased person was the source of the illness. People wore or carried garlic or other strongly-scented herbs as protection: if you couldn’t smell it, it couldn’t get you. Of course, if you ran away from the sick people, that worked even better.

These days, after Louis Pasteur and the discovery of bacteria and viruses, this sort of thinking seems (while close, in some ways) quite off the mark. Certainly, carrying those scented items around did nothing to ward off plague. And since the germs were carried by the fleas on rats, even absenting yourself from those already ill was no guarantee of safety.

Many Christians treat sin and holiness in a similar way.

If you stay away from sinners, you won’t sin. Or, if you make everything around you look holy, avoiding even the appearance or thought of something wrong, then you won’t be tempted.

Hide, and be superstitious, and sequester oneself from the world lest you be contaminated!

That seems to be their idea of holiness.

To a point, they’re right. Avoiding temptation is good, an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Being around people who can build your faith and help you learn to live it is extremely important. And the Bible does say to “avoid even the appearance of evil.”

But on the other hand, evil is in the heart. And unless your heart belongs to Christ, is so full of Him and His love that nothing else can grow there, even all that avoidance will not be enough to keep you “holy.”

As for surrounding yourself with only “Christian” books, music, films, or what have you--how is that going to be honoring to God unless the works themselves are excellent? There is a trend in the evangelical Christian communities, that a basis in faith excuses shoddy craftsmanship. Anyway, just because you only listen to “God music,” doesn’t mean your life automatically reflects Christ.

Stopping a bacteria like the plague needs antibiotics, needs a healthy immune system.

Stopping the sin and evil that so readily find our hearts and lives requires the living Spirit of God inside us, and love being extended to our human brothers and sisters.

Holiness, far from being simply the absence of evil, is actually the powerful presence of good, of love, of God. The Christian life is not about what should not be (or at least, not solely that), it’s about what should be.

“We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.” --Angel

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (my emphasis)

"When [the priests] go out into the outer court where the people are, they are to take off the clothes they have been ministering in and are to leave them in the sacred rooms, and put on other clothes, so that they do not consecrate the people by means of their garments." Ezekiel 44:19


Or, to bring this back to our shared fannish bonds: It's like in that Doctor Who episode, "New Earth."
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(25 lit candles | Light a candle)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:October 12th, 2006 09:46 pm (UTC)
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I think we may have missed a good deal of this.

-JD
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 12th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
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Some bad HTML. Is it fixed now?
From:wychwood
Date:October 12th, 2006 10:09 pm (UTC)
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Yup. And interesting post! Thank you.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 12th, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC)
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Oh, you're welcome. :-)

Say, way off topic here, but I downloaded two of those vids you rec'd and my computer will not play them. Rather, it will play the music, but not the video, which is strange--especially since the Properties of both files label them as video clips.

Any thoughts?
From:wychwood
Date:October 13th, 2006 02:34 pm (UTC)
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Ah. That sounds as though you don't have all the codecs you need installed. Which two were they? Some of the sites had links for codecs you might require, but if you can give me details of what programme you used and the vids involved, I may be able to point you in the right directions.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 13th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
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"Ophelia" and "5 Years" (it's been sooo long since I watched B5 vids--I was all ready to get nostalgic, too!). And my media player is Windows Media Player...should I be using something else?
From:wychwood
Date:October 15th, 2006 07:20 pm (UTC)
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WMP should be fine.

If you go to this page:
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/316992

You can scroll down to the "avi" format. I suspect what you need is the DivX codec, so try that one first. There's a link to the DivX website, and you should be able to download from there. If there's any problems, let me know :)
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:October 12th, 2006 10:54 pm (UTC)
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Holiness, far from being simply the absence of evil, is actually the powerful presence of good, of love, of God. The Christian life is not about what should not be (or at least, not solely that), it’s about what should be.

Oh yes. Just last night, in our Biblestudy, we were looking at Isaiah chapter 29, and got to the bit about "they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob" and the question arose: "But how do you do that?"

And the first answer given was, basically, "don't do bad things" (in other words, don't sin). But that isn't the answer. That falls so much short of the answer.

Maybe it's just a reflection of the complete corruptness of human nature that we can't grasp what holiness really is, we can only get one fingertip on the edge of the answer, because only God is holy.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 13th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC)
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And the first answer given was, basically, "don't do bad things" (in other words, don't sin). But that isn't the answer. That falls so much short of the answer.

This is something I've wondered about and thought over for a long time, and I may never stop. But it's become second nature to me, when I encounter something that is "wrong" and the reasons why: I turn around and ask, "So if that's wrong, what's right? It's got to have an opposite; there's something I *should* being doing, isn't there?"

Even if it's as simple as making an active mental choice to forgive the drivers who put me danger on a daily basis, instead of holding little grudges and telling near-miss stories with anger.

Maybe it's just a reflection of the complete corruptness of human nature that we can't grasp what holiness really is, we can only get one fingertip on the edge of the answer, because only God is holy.

The crazy thing is that the more I read the New Testement, the more I realize that He keeps saying that He has made/is making us holy. Holy like Him. Now there's a tough concept to grasp. Yeah, our own corruption probably makes it hard to really understand...but I love that He doesn't leave us there. I love that He wants us whole and holy ("holy" = "set apart, sacred").

And what I can understand of that, and grasp of it, and live of it, I want. I want it so much.

[User Picture]
From:feliciakw
Date:October 18th, 2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
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The crazy thing is that the more I read the New Testement, the more I realize that He keeps saying that He has made/is making us holy. Holy like Him.

I finished reading Just Like Jesus, by Max Lucado, several weeks ago. The continuing refrain in the book went something like:

God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you there. He wants you to be just like Jesus.

It's a good read.
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:October 12th, 2006 11:08 pm (UTC)
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In a nutshell...the best defense is a good offense. :-)

-JD
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 12th, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC)
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YES. :-)
[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:October 13th, 2006 12:22 am (UTC)
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The Christian life is not about what should not be (or at least, not solely that), it’s about what should be.

Yes, yes! What you focus on is what you manifest. Which, I believe, is why it says in Philippians: Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.

Mind you, I don't think that means to avoid anything that's not 100% pure; there's not much like that in this world. I do think it means to concentrate on the good within things. Even a very dark story can illuminate what it means to be human, our desire to be united with God, our need for a Savior.
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 13th, 2006 12:39 am (UTC)
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What you said. I almost included that very verse, because some of the darkest things I have read or seen have moved me the most towards His Light, and it drives me bonkers that some of my Christian brothers and sisters don't get that.

Also, "good report," "worthy of praise," "true," and "lovely" are not necessarily what the Christian-publishing censors produce. *sigh*

[Which doesn't mean everything is just fine to watch, for me anyway; I'm very sorry I watched half a season of nip/tuck. And while there is much that is honest, good and lovely in Medium and Supernatural, I can't watch them regularly because they creep me out like whoa.]

What you focus on is what you manifest.

An excellent way of putting it. I'm going to have to post again when I'm at home, because I really want to quote Bujold's book The Curse of Chalion right now.
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:October 13th, 2006 02:15 am (UTC)
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Psalm 119:37 is always a fine principle.

"Make my eyes pass on from seeing what is worthless; Preserve me alive in your own way."

-JD
[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:October 13th, 2006 08:23 am (UTC)
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I agree about not watching everything. I do think it's more in how you receive it than in what the content is, because different people have different weaknesses. I just gave up watching a show that I found clever and touching in the first season but which had become unredeemably raunchy in the second. I'm sorry I kept giving it a chance as long as I did.

I didn't get past two episodes of Supernatural, just from lack of appeal. I do watch Medium, because the characters and the storytelling style are so good. It neither creeps nor tempts me, but I can see how many people might have a problem with it. Sometimes there is an episode of one of the CSIs or L&Os that bother me, but thankfully they are relatively few.
From:wychwood
Date:October 13th, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
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I agree with that. I don't read Piers Anthony's Xanth books, or pretty much anything by Robert Heinlein, any more - not because I think they are Irredeemably Evil or anything, but because they make me profoundly uncomfortable to read, and I'm not willing to push my instincts on that. But there are other things that have, for instance, more sexual content, but don't bother me in the same way. I think it's like Paul said, you know? Eating food sacrificed to idols may be ok for one person but not another. You have to be cautious what example you set, and what you expose other people to, but if you're careful to be honest with yourself, and to think about what you're consuming, I think you can get a long way by trusting your instincts.

Is that a Veggie Tales icon? *g* It certainly looks... interesting.
[User Picture]
From:mistraltoes
Date:October 14th, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC)
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You have to be cautious what example you set, and what you expose other people to, but if you're careful to be honest with yourself, and to think about what you're consuming, I think you can get a long way by trusting your instincts.

Yes; particularly the bit about 'think about what you're consuming'. We shouldn't be passive, mindless consumers of anything. Art is meant to be thought about, analyzed, discussed, engaged with. Most of the problems occur when art is approached as 'mindless entertainment'.

Is that a Veggie Tales icon?

Yes! Mr. Lund as The Fair Ophelia, from 'Omelet'. :)
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 13th, 2006 04:46 pm (UTC)
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I do think it's more in how you receive it than in what the content is, because different people have different weaknesses.

Word. I recommend Buffy to very few people, but it's done me a world of good. :-)

I didn't get past two episodes of Supernatural, just from lack of appeal. I do watch Medium, because the characters and the storytelling style are so good. It neither creeps nor tempts me, but I can see how many people might have a problem with it.

Supernatural has a lot of "family drama" appeal for me, but yeah, it's not appealing enough to make me watch all the time. Medium I am finding myself watching more and more in reruns, because I didn't realize how good it really was. The same reasons I love Numb3rs: realistic, functional family dynamic. (Also, I really want a Mr. DuBois of my own, he is fantastic.) I think my issue with Medium, initially, was that the first few episodes I saw had really creepy eewwww dreams in them.

And SVU I've had to cut back on watching, because the cases just stay with me too much. Makes me very uncomfortable.
[User Picture]
From:reveilles
Date:October 13th, 2006 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Hear hear!

Regarding the bubonic plague, I read somewhere that the buboes often could show up on the skin in a ring-like pattern. Wikipedia says this: "In septicemic plague there is bleeding into the skin and other organs, which creates black patches on the skin. There are bite-like bumps on the skin, commonly red and sometimes white in the center."

Also, I learned the children's song with these lyrics:

Ring around the rosy,
Pockets full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
We all fall down!

Which certainly sounds a lot more chilling and death-like than I ever realized as a young child. We always sang it while dancing in a circle holding hands, and then we'd all fall down on the floor and giggle.

When I heard about its possible origins later, I never wanted to sing the song again.
[User Picture]
From:jd3000
Date:October 13th, 2006 04:10 pm (UTC)
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Feel free to again sing it while dancing in a circle, it's got nothing to do with plague, Black, Bubonic or otherwise.

Snopes Article

-JD
[User Picture]
From:reveilles
Date:October 13th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC)
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oooh, Snopes! I hadn't thought to check them out!

Snopes is providing a Great Service for Mankind, as do massage schools, where you can get an hour-long massage for $25.
[User Picture]
From:kerravonsen
Date:October 13th, 2006 09:59 pm (UTC)
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That's fascinating.
[User Picture]
From:aitchmark
Date:October 13th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC)
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Nice work. Thanks for posting.

The best--and possibly easiest--way to avoid vice is to fill up your life with things that promote the virtues. It's like Lent-- you can give something up, of course, but it is better to take something on, and let that crowd something less worthy out of your life. The problem is matching time, temperament, talent, and developmental level with what's available in the world and the community for that purpose.

This one way to live in the world without being of it, to paraphrase Paul. And as we apply ourselves over the years, the holiness begins to show through more and more because we do less to veil it.

On your disease metaphor...the way to immunize someone against a disease is to expose them to a weakened killed version of the pathogen. It strikes me that one of the great challenges for evangelists and apologists in this time and place is getting both the theoretical and the practical truths of Christian life and belief past the immunities built up by people who have been exposed to empty, angry, or stereotyped Christianity.

The way to draw the world--and ourselves--away from the tawdry and temporary satisfactions of sin is by providing the real thing--that water that alleviates thirst forever, and the bread that never leaves us hungry.

"Let your light so shine..."
[User Picture]
From:izhilzha
Date:October 13th, 2006 06:24 pm (UTC)
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The best--and possibly easiest--way to avoid vice is to fill up your life with things that promote the virtues. It's like Lent-- you can give something up, of course, but it is better to take something on, and let that crowd something less worthy out of your life.

*nods* Indeed. I'm really annoyed that I loaned out my copy of The Curse of Chalion, because it has a lovely quote about virtue. Paraphrased from memory: "It's not so much that you remove vices, as that they are increasingly replaced with an addiction to the god."

The more we know and seek and follow Christ, the less we will either need or want the old vices that kept us enslaved.

"You are not under law, but under grace."

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