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PaulS

Shades of Grey

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No, I am not talking about the variety of shades made famous by author EL James, but rather how I see life as countless shades of grey when it comes to virtues, values, knowledge, integrity, principles, ethics, morals, etc.

Mostly these shades appear in the most basic activities in the ebb and flow of my life (work, parenting, friendships, etc) and sometimes they cross over into less serious territory such as politics, law and order, religion, atheism, and sport. 

Grey makes the matter sound drab, depressing, ‘bad’ - but I see it as simply being what it is – decisions and viewpoints made on specific circumstances based on my perceptions of the matter. And these positions move and change regularly as new data comes to me (or how I perceive that data). Often only by minute degrees (a tweak here or a twerk there) but sometimes it may be a major shift in my position - but still there is wriggle room and acknowledgement that nothing is ever a one-size-fits-all. Nothing.

I see this in a positive light from the point of view that it is encouraging that we as humans continue to evolve into our capability to acknowledge our own shortcomings/misunderstandings/lack of knowledge (even when we think we know) , empathy (increasing on a world-wide scale with technology advances making us so more intimately aware of others), sympathy, compassion and better understandings of how people and things work.

For most things in life I would have to say that I don’t have a rock-solid, unchangeable position. What I may think is an unchangeable value applied in one circumstance often requires amending when faced with a similar yet slightly different circumstance.

For my first 18-19 years of my life this was not the idea sold to me by my family and Church community (for the record, the first 17 years of my life were strictly Churches of Christ - Australia, followed by a dabble with the Baptists and the Salvation Army, before abandoning the lot in my 19th year). In these environments, doubts about Christianity were discouraged and the answers were all there within the Church doctrines and of course the ‘correct’ interpretation/understanding of scripture.

I have discussed before how as a young police officer my worldview was severely challenged, both religiously and non-religiously (e.g. how laws are made out to be immutable but really they apply to all sorts of situations where ‘wriggle room’ is appropriate IMO), so I won’t go into depth again, but suffice to say it’s about then I started to see the world as shades of grey.

No doubt many people see the world like this and I see many like minds here. So I don’t know why I am writing this, but just thought I would. 

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Paul,

I personally can relate to what you have expressed so clearly. It seems to me that being programmed by our parents, church, peers and society in general for so long, it is difficult to get away from judgementalistic attitudes  and concepts of black and white such as good and bad, right and wrong, fair and unfair, etc.  In my view,  it is however freeing to rid oneself of such tendencies and be open to alternate ways of thinking or considerations which is a difficult journey at times...

Joseph

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Yes, a traditional Christian upbringing is a good foundation for more nuanced and wide-ranging views as an older adult.

 

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2 hours ago, Burl said:

Yes, a traditional Christian upbringing is a good foundation for more nuanced and wide-ranging views as an older adult.

 

Is that really what you took from what I was saying or are you being antagonistic?  Maybe you are using sarcastic humor?  I’m not sure.

I couldn’t disagree more about such an upbringing and I think it’s a shame that adults can’t see the harm they cause when indoctrinating children with their own personal beliefs around God and their own personal ‘certainties’ concerning religion and biblical interpretation.

If possibly by ‘traditional’ you mean some other sort of Christianity than what I was exposed to, I would disagree with your interpretation of traditional.

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I'm serious Paul.  You describe an upbringing which was somehow pathological, yet you seem to be well adjusted and have a active spiritual life.

Sure beats being raised by dingos in the bush.  

 

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My own upbringing would indeed seem pathological.  My Mormon mother caused a scene in a theater when I was ten years old, yelling out disgust about Jack Lemmon's "Under the Yum Yum Tree" All the other patrons applauded and laughed as we left the auditorium.  I was a Mormon missionary.  Later, l I read too many history books about Joseph Smith and became a Southern Baptist. Later I went to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. and then due to the Baptist Holy War, and faculty purge, a professor's influence took me to the UUA (Unitarian Universalitsts).

Here and now in the USA, the grey zone seems to be reducing radically, the black and white polarization due to Donald Trump.  My UCC pastor and friends send out so many posts on Facebook that express outrage.  Sometimes I would like to hit the "like" button but I do not, because then all my prior Southern Baptist and Mormon friends would be offended if they get notified.

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1 hour ago, Burl said:

I'm serious Paul.  You describe an upbringing which was somehow pathological, yet you seem to be well adjusted and have a active spiritual life.

Sure beats being raised by dingos in the bush.  

 

Thanks for clarifying (I think) Burl, but I wouldn’t credit anything of being relatively well-adjusted to traditional Christianity.

By traditional Christianity I am referring to believing and indoctrinating or trying to convince others that:

-people need to plead forgiveness to a God for basically, being born.  If they don’t, their life will always be lacking.

-the Bible is conveyed from God so God wants you to follow the Book. Varying degrees of calamity in ones life may result if not followed/interpreted usually in the way one’s Christianity community interprets it.

-evil in the world is caused by a real-life, opposing power to God (Satan)

-in short, your life cannot be good unless you are Christian

-that doubt and investigation outside of what you’ve been taught  is bad for you.

These are pretty traditional teachings which do nothing to assist young adults when their eyes are opened to the world outside of that upbringing/community.

My apparent well-adjusted state is more a result of the hard work put in to better understand just how wrong all those traditional teachings are and why.  

By the way, getting to that so called well-adjusted state meant years of agony, disconnect from family and friends, consideation of suicide to escape the pain of such, and generally plenty of time not being well-adjusted.

Tradional Christianity - run far away from it!

 

 

 

 

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37 minutes ago, Craig V. said:

My own upbringing would indeed seem pathological.  My Mormon mother caused a scene in a theater when I was ten years old, yelling out disgust about Jack Lemmon's "Under the Yum Yum Tree" All the other patrons applauded and laughed as we left the auditorium.  I was a Mormon missionary.  Later, l I read too many history books about Joseph Smith and became a Southern Baptist. Later I went to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. and then due to the Baptist Holy War, and faculty purge, a professor's influence took me to the UUA (Unitarian Universalitsts).

Here and now in the USA, the grey zone seems to be reducing radically, the black and white polarization due to Donald Trump.  My UCC pastor and friends send out so many posts on Facebook that express outrage.  Sometimes I would like to hit the "like" button but I do not, because then all my prior Southern Baptist and Mormon friends would be offended if they get notified.

As for pathological, whilst I’m not convinced yet that Burl isn’t being somewhat sarcastic, I don’t see my upbringing as pathological because it was facilitated by genuine, mentally-well people.  Your mother included too probably for that matter.  They just ascribed to a doctrine and set of beliefs passionately and couldn’t see an issue indoctrinating their children with the same.  That doesn’t make it right and I believe such an approach to life creates much damage, but I’m not sure it fits the definition of pathological (hence why I think Burl is actually having a dig).

Now pathological does certainly seem to apply to your President! :)

It appears from the outside that ‘The Donald’ isn’t plagued with ‘grey’.  His messages, even when perplexing or contradictory, usually have a tone of certainty which to many seem so pathetic.  Yet others are encouraged and embrace him.  I do see the US suffering strong division due to his presidency though.  

I hope for the U.S.’s sake (and others) some grey creeps into his thought processes and approaches to matters.

 

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4 hours ago, PaulS said:

Thanks for clarifying (I think) Burl, but I wouldn’t credit anything of being relatively well-adjusted to traditional Christianity.

By traditional Christianity I am referring to believing and indoctrinating or trying to convince others that:

-people need to plead forgiveness to a God for basically, being born.  If they don’t, their life will always be lacking.

-the Bible is conveyed from God so God wants you to follow the Book. Varying degrees of calamity in ones life may result if not followed/interpreted usually in the way one’s Christianity community interprets it.

-evil in the world is caused by a real-life, opposing power to God (Satan)

-in short, your life cannot be good unless you are Christian

-that doubt and investigation outside of what you’ve been taught  is bad for you.

These are pretty traditional teachings which do nothing to assist young adults when their eyes are opened to the world outside of that upbringing/community.

My apparent well-adjusted state is more a result of the hard work put in to better understand just how wrong all those traditional teachings are and why.  

By the way, getting to that so called well-adjusted state meant years of agony, disconnect from family and friends, consideation of suicide to escape the pain of such, and generally plenty of time not being well-adjusted.

Tradional Christianity - run far away from it!

 

 

 

 

A better definition of traditional Christianity is a denomination which affirms the Apostle's Creed (modifications allowed), has over 500k members or has existed for over a generation.  There are thousands of choices.  I would not join the church you describe, but I can't endorse such a bigoted attitude towards traditional Christianity based on one personal experience either.

If you would do a little church visiting you would find traditional Christianity is much broader than you imagine.

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Burl,

Australian Churches of Christ are part of the International Churches of Christ with an excess of 2 million members (>1.3m in the US) and which was formed out of the Restoration Movement in the 1700s, but not recognized until 1906 (how many generations that is, I’m not sure).

I also mentioned the Baptists - they formed in 1609 (obviously not their Australian branches) and have about 100 million members.

Last (but not least) the Salvation Army - established in 1865 and membership over 1.5m.

They are all Churches that sit in the Protestant camp.

I think they pretty much qualify as traditional Christian Churches irrespective of your wishes.

But that is Christianity for you - everyone else thinks everyone else has got the Bible wrong! :)

I might just add to that by your criteria for 'traditional Christianity' , the leader of the pack would have to be the Roman Catholic Church.  All those points I outlined are very much supported by that church.  You might find some more progressive Catholics, but I know you will find many more who haven't moved to that end of the scale.  I know several people who would say their Catholic upbringing was similar too, if not worse than my 'pathological' one, as you say (which at first you said was a good thing, so go figure).

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Hi Paul

I agree that my own Catholic upbringing fits the points you've listed describing 'traditional Christianity', and I certainly wouldn't recommend this type of upbringing for those reasons.

But -

I also agree with Burl that there would be many others, particularly in the churches you listed, who would take exception to your denigration of 'traditional Christianity', because, while they identify with the term by their own definition (not yours), they weren't all raised with the same myopic attitude.

I think an open-minded upbringing within a traditional christian church environment can be a good grounding for progressive Christianity as the children approach adolescence.

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FWIW -

EL James actually handles the 'black and white' versus 'shades of grey' discussion you're referring to surprisingly well in her books, particularly in terms of power-play in relationships, good vs evil, strong vs weak, etc.

It's a trashy bodice ripper because the illustration works best this way - and it challenges our ideas of good and bad fiction, morality, etc. in the process.

Just saying.

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51 minutes ago, possibility said:

Hi Paul

I agree that my own Catholic upbringing fits the points you've listed describing 'traditional Christianity', and I certainly wouldn't recommend this type of upbringing for those reasons.

But -

I also agree with Burl that there would be many others, particularly in the churches you listed, who would take exception to your denigration of 'traditional Christianity', because, while they identify with the term by their own definition (not yours), they weren't all raised with the same myopic attitude.

I think an open-minded upbringing within a traditional christian church environment can be a good grounding for progressive Christianity as the children approach adolescence.

I think the point still stands that what is regarded as 'traditional' Christianity does include the 'pathological' model I experienced, whether some Christians feel offended by that or not.

Sure there is less harmful Christianity, but I don't think this has been the majority version throughout history.

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Did a very quick read of previous posts and, having been brought up Catholic, I would not categorize my experience as pathological. By I do recognize the pathology seemingly inherent in the experience of others, including some of those Catholics I grew up with. Perhaps it depended, in part, to what degree the Christianity pervaded one's everyday life. 

I think many 'ordinary' Christians, throughout history, might have had the less harmful version.

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Yes, it does include it, but to 'run far away' from traditional Christianity as a whole is to deny the positive influences it has had on your life, alongside the negative.

Perhaps this is an example of the 'black and white' thinking to which you were referring.

My own Catholic upbringing has been a factor in a lot of problems I've experienced: my relationships, feelings of shame and guilt, my sexuality and the narrow view I've had of the world for the first twenty or thirty years of my life. It's easy for me to focus on these negative influences, and dismiss traditional Christianity as 'bad'.

I did walk away from traditional Christianity from the age of 18-19, but I know now that it never left me because, like it or not, it's a fundamental part of who I am.

I came to realise that I am fifty shades of grey - no purest white or darkest black, but everything in between. Any attempts to deny a part of who I am, to label it as 'bad', hide it in the darkness or reject it as something outside of myself only contributed to the shame and guilt that plagued my life, and prevented me from truly understanding (and accepting) myself. 

Letting go of black and white thinking has enabled me to accept my traditional Christian upbringing as a factor in many aspects of who I have become - from the issues I've had to work on, through to the values I want to pass on to my own children.

My kids are now attending catholic school, were baptised and even decided for themselves to be confirmed in the church. With guidance from my own experiences and from my agnostic husband, they haven't been indoctrinated by any of the narrow-mindedness you've listed above, although they've certainly experienced it.

But I see the positive influence this 'traditional' foundation has on their developing worldview, as they draw from all the myths and legends of their childhood alongside their experiences and expanding knowledge of the universe. And I have no regrets.

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20 minutes ago, thormas said:

Did a very quick read of previous posts and, having been brought up Catholic, I would not categorize my experience as pathological. By I do recognize the pathology seemingly inherent in the experience of others, including some of those Catholics I grew up with. Perhaps it depended, in part, to what degree the Christianity pervaded one's everyday life. 

I think many 'ordinary' Christians, throughout history, might have had the less harmful version.

Please know I was only using the word 'pathological' in the sense that Burl introduced it.  My later point was simply refuting Burl's interpretation of 'traditional' Christianity as being only the 'friendly' version so to speak.  Without a doubt many Christians were exposed to less harmful versions of Christianity (you are an example).  And even those that were exposed to a more harmful interpretation of Christianity might not suffer any harm if they remain with the flock and hold the faith. 

As for what is deemed 'ordinary' Christianity, i would suggest the numbers are on the side of the fundamentalists, the 'burn in hell if you don't believe' flavour, indeed many of those faiths who meet Burl's definition of 'traditional' (i.e. "affrims the Apostle's Creed (modifications allowed), has over 500k members or has existed for over a generation").  But there are clearly thousands of versions of Christianity and each of those probably truly believes they have THE correct understanding of Christianity.

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44 minutes ago, possibility said:

Yes, it does include it, but to 'run far away' from traditional Christianity as a whole is to deny the positive influences it has had on your life, alongside the negative.

Perhaps this is an example of the 'black and white' thinking to which you were referring.

My own Catholic upbringing has been a factor in a lot of problems I've experienced: my relationships, feelings of shame and guilt, my sexuality and the narrow view I've had of the world for the first twenty or thirty years of my life. It's easy for me to focus on these negative influences, and dismiss traditional Christianity as 'bad'.

I did walk away from traditional Christianity from the age of 18-19, but I know now that it never left me because, like it or not, it's a fundamental part of who I am.

I came to realise that I am fifty shades of grey - no purest white or darkest black, but everything in between. Any attempts to deny a part of who I am, to label it as 'bad', hide it in the darkness or reject it as something outside of myself only contributed to the shame and guilt that plagued my life, and prevented me from truly understanding (and accepting) myself. 

Letting go of black and white thinking has enabled me to accept my traditional Christian upbringing as a factor in many aspects of who I have become - from the issues I've had to work on, through to the values I want to pass on to my own children.

My kids are now attending catholic school, were baptised and even decided for themselves to be confirmed in the church. With guidance from my own experiences and from my agnostic husband, they haven't been indoctrinated by any of the narrow-mindedness you've listed above, although they've certainly experienced it.

But I see the positive influence this 'traditional' foundation has on their developing worldview, as they draw from all the myths and legends of their childhood alongside their experiences and expanding knowledge of the universe. And I have no regrets.

No argument from an educative point of view.  Indeed my own children attend both a Catholic High School and an Anglican Primary School. 

I am suggesting run far away from the harmful teachings of traditional Christianity such as one not being worthy if they don't 'accept the Lord', that one is destined for eternal harm if they don't 'believe', that a human is born evil, etc etc.  I don't think one has to experience that sort of indoctrination to then come out the other side with a more balanced view.

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Thanks for clarifying, Paul.

It seems like your definition of 'traditional' differs a little from Burl: it can mean regularcommon or usual as well as conservativeorthodox or old-fashioned. This only points out that such sweeping generalisations as 'traditional Christianity' aren't doing either of you any favours.

Personally I see the points you made as traditionalist teachings within Christianity, because these types of teachings also occur across other faiths, and undermine interfaith discussions as much as they damage progress within a particular religion.

What we try to do with religion is to make the spiritual or eternal appear concrete and tangible - it seems to be the only way some people will accept it as real, because we have learned to distrust our subjective experience. Then we begin to define it, perhaps kind of manipulate it, even try to control it...

But it's like trying to keep pure white smoke in a gilded cage. Eventually you're going to have to decide which is more important - the smoke or the cage?

I like to keep the cage handy because it reminds me about the smoke when I have trouble seeing it. It also makes a handy talking point. But I'm focused very much on the smoke these days. I know the cage can't confine it - all I have is my subjective experience to share with others.

Traditionalist teachings will insist:

- that the smoke is only inside the cage;

- that the cage makes the smoke precious; or 

- that the cage is the smoke.

But all you really possess in the end is an empty cage.

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Here's my take Paul. 

There is only one reality "out" there. It's like the metaphor of blindfolded monks feeling an elephant. But it is even more complex than that. The blindfolded monks and elephant are one. 

So it is a little bit like a mathematical set that contains itself. Could be problematic. It's not so much that reality has shades of grey, it is more that any model (religion, dogma, law whatever) we use to describe that reality does not quite fit; so we can end up taking a nuanced approach to the model we are imposing on the universe or we can say are model is carved in stone and take a black and white stance.

And even this model I am proposing might have holes in it. Hence the debate and dialogue forum ... we can test our ideas models from different viewpoints etc.

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