Ten Hundred Word Pentecost

Holy SpiritBefore Mr Jesus went away into the sky to be with the Father, he promised that he would send the air-person-God to help his friends to know what to do. One story says that he also gave people the air-person-God before he went away, but that’s usually ignored.

When the air-person-God arrived, all the first God-liking people started to use different ways of speaking, so that people from all over the world could understand what they were saying. We don’t know whether the God-liking people understood their own words, and we don’t know what they said. I’d like to know whether they were saying the same thing in all those different ways of speaking, but it seems that no one was very interested in that.

The important thing was that speaking in these different ways was meant to show that the air-person-God was helping them to do it. If that was the idea, it could probably have worked better, seeing that some people thought they were drunk. As there were all these people from different places in the area, it would be very strange if no one was able to speak to them without the help of the air-person-God. And it makes me wonder how they knew what the other people were saying about it.

Then one of the God-liking people stood up and told everyone what was going on, and that they had to say sorry and go under the water. He seems to have said this in his own way of speaking, just to the people God liked anyway, so it’s not clear whether God wanted the other people in his group at this point. This is usually seen as the start of a new God-group, because lots of people did what they were told and the new God-group about Mr Jesus started to grow very fast.

Image courtesy of mazupan, used with permission

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About Recovering Agnostic

I'm Christian by upbringing, agnostic by belief, cynical by temperament, broadly scientific in approach, and looking for answers. My main interest at the moment is in turning my current disengaged shrug into at least a working hypothesis.

14 responses to “Ten Hundred Word Pentecost”

  1. Sabio Lantz says :

    Putting new jargon to old phrases can help reveal how silly the story is.
    Doing the same with god-stories from other cultures can help us see how silly our fixation on the one we left is.

    • Recovering Agnostic says :

      I’m not sure exactly what point you’re trying to make, but that seems a touch pointed, Sabio. Do you mind spelling it out more clearly?

      • Sabio Lantz says :

        Ah, sorry, I was in a hurry early in the morning.

        Your style of writing this made some of its ridiculous fable-nature stand out. When we read Greek myths and Hindu myths, just for instance, the ridiculous fable-nature stand out very easily because it is not our culture. When I have read the Bible to my children, they instantly think it is weird, because I did not raise them with a holy culture around those stories. But Hindu stories don’t sound so weird to Hindus as you’d imagine.

        Once we see through the blindness of the culture we buy into, our silliness seems seems blaring. But everyone does it.

        But people use the stories as flags, identity, moral signaling and more — those aren’t silly. It is only silly when they try to tell us that they are doing something else.

        Broadening our criticism and insight is easier when there is more than one arena of self-deception we have seen through.

        Is that any better?

      • Recovering Agnostic says :

        I think so. To be honest, this series is both a way of seeing through the stories and a way of seriously engaging with them. It’s not simply one or the other. It’s following the notion that you don’t fully understand something unless you can explain it in simple terms, as I realised that theology is simply full of jargon that only has a meaning and a definition within the confines of theology.

        I’d be very interested in doing the same in other contexts, but for now, these are the stories and concepts that I know, so they’re what I’m working with.

      • Sabio Lantz says :

        Engaging the way you do, helps break the hypnotic spell of jargon for sure.

    • Karin says :

      I’m not sure if you are showing disrespect for cultures other than your own, or suggesting we should respect things we don’t fully understand that others value.

      • Sabio Lantz says :

        Hey Karin,
        Thank you for your question, but I am not sure how to take your question. Here are 5 presuppositions within your question that make a simple reply difficult:

        (1) On Disrespect
        “Disrespect” is a loaded word — but then, that is exactly as it is intended.
        Calling the criticism of another faith, culture or person “disrespect” is essentially just saying, “I don’t like that you did that.”
        Evaluating the criticism to see if it is accurate or not is all I am interested in. Nothing is sacred to me: nothing beyond the domain of analysis, criticism, evaluation…

        (2) On Culture
        I have participated so fully in so many cultures, I no longer have something I would call “my culture”.

        (3) On Respect
        Again, like “disrespect”, a word loaded with emotional preference more that reasoning. But, I certainly think all systems, nonsense or not, can serve many valuable functions.

        (4) On Judgement before Understanding
        We understand NOTHING fully. All knowledge is extremely limited. Yet we must make decisions and we need not fear dialogue. I’d imagine that I can point this out in realms you are familiar with. You would not have to “fully understand”:
        (a) a serial killer before feeling free to have a sniper shoot him/her to prevent another kill.
        (b) Scientology before seeing its cultish dangerous aspects
        (c) North Korea, to judge some of its actions

        (5) On Parochialism
        I am far from parochial — I am an equal-opportunity critic. I am willing to criticize other cultures, my culture, other people, and myself.

        So, in light of those 5 points, you can see how I just can’t simply answer your question unless I know what our common ground it. And I would guess from your comment prior, that establishing some common ground would be critical to having meaningful dialogue.

    • Karin says :

      Disrespect and respect are far more than dislike and liking. You can enjoy eating meat without thinking it’s silly to not eat meat and so respect the ethical reasons people have for being vegetarian or vegan.

      Faith and religion can be fundamental to how people understand themselves and the way they relate to the world, so it is important that we respect people’s beliefs.

      We can have dialogue and even question someone’s beliefs while remaining respectful. If a person’s beliefs are harmful to them or someone else it is still best to remain respectful in order to be able to continue dialogue.

      To show disrespect for what someone believes can often be taken as disrespect for the person. This can shut down dialogue, build barriers and cause all sorts of problems.

      The disprespectful attitude of some Westerners towards Islam, for instance, doesn’t encourage good relationships with Muslims and we can see the consequences of that.

      When we don’t understand it is very dangerous to judge.

      I’m not aware that I mentioned parochialism.

      Everyone has cultural influences whether few or many, and a way of understanding the world based on those, whether embraced or rejected.

      • Sabio Lantz says :

        “Disrespect” and “Respect” are not objectively evaluative words.

        I can indeed eat meat and think it is silly not to eat meat. (or the opposite). Just like I can not take homeopathic remedies while I think it is silly to take homeopathic medicine.

        I can think both of those actions/choices are silly, and still have a good relationship to the person that does them. BTW, I have been both a vegetarian and a homeopath and now think both are silly. I think I was silly. But that is OK.

        Muslims who view nonbelievers as infidels and being worthy of being treated as no better than animals may use that as how they “understand themselves and the way they relate to the world”, but it certainly is no reason to “respect [their] beliefs”.

        I hope am being clear with how I see you trying to use this word.

        Sure, when I show how I vehemently disagree with abortion protestors who are blocking women from entering an abortion clinic, they could take that as disrespect and that would “shut down dialogue, build barriers and all sorts of problems.” And I have no problem with that.

        Did you see the most recent survey of done by the Pew Foundation on Islam where >80% of Palestinians and Egyptians, just for instance, say that they believe that anyone who leaves Islam should be executed. Are you saying I should respect that so as to encourage dialogue. I will not.

        Not acting until fully understanding can also be deadly.

        So, it seems we may not reach agreement.
        But I think our worlds, our temperaments and our experiences are very different, so our intuitions about what makes sense and how to use words
        may be difficult to reconcile.

        In off-line life, I am very gentle with believers who believe things very different than myself (be they vegetarians, Scientologists, Muslims, Marxists, Christians or Rationalists), well, until they get in my face, threaten my way-of-life, belittle my children, support harm to women, gays, children, or others…. Then being ‘disrespectful’ may be a very necessary and useful tool.

        I taught my kids to be respectful of other faiths. Then when my kid was 9 years old, I found him sitting alone tearful. It took me a half-an-hour for him to tell me it was because Christians at school were making fun of him and telling him he was going to hell. I told him it is time to stop respecting. And he did.

        4 years later, my son is know as one of the few Atheists (his choice) at school and has tons of friends. The ones who could not handle either his Atheism or his disrespect for their dangerous ideas disappeared and the ones who felt who he was, was more important than their bigotry and sensitivity to disrespect have stayed and are now very close to him.

        Perhaps that story, along with the above shows how we may be talkin’ past each other.

    • Karin says :

      It seems that in your son’s case respect for others’ beliefs stopped him from respecting himself fully, and that identifying as an Atheist gave him confidence he had previously been lacking. However, to identify as an Atheist does not necessarily mean a person has to lack respect for those with different beliefs.

      Those who believe in hell, and especially that God will send to hell anyone who has different beliefs from them hold misguided and harmful views. To try to help them see that they are harmful and misguided a person would have to be able to have a respectful dialogue with them. Of course some people would not listen if you told them that the Bible says nothing of the sort and might still refuse to change their minds if you sat with them and showed them how any Bible verse they think supports their belief says something different.

      As we are all human and there may come a point when we lose patience before someone starts to see things more from our point of view, or at least understands and respects our way of seeing things.

      It is easy to feel many negative things towards such people, including disrespect. In my experience it seems that the more confident we are of ourselves and our own beliefs etc, the easier it is for us to respect others.

      As for Muslims, the sort who believe in killing infidels are probably also the sort for whom honour is of great importance, so showing a lack of respect to them could be rather dangerous!

      Hearing someone like Mona Sadiqi speak helps me realise that there is good in Islam.

      • Sabio Lantz says :

        @ Karin,

        You don’t understand my son’s and the religion thing but that is OK.

        But I understand that you have your own flavor of Christianity and think that people that don’t have your view are “misguided”. You have a very nice, sweet Christian where God is love and would not send people to Hell. You have your own view of how to view the Bible that allows you to do that and probably equally feel that those that don’t have your view are “misguided”.

        You are very “confident in yourself” and thus can dismiss all the other forms of Christianity, of course without any disrespect.

        You may continue being respectful to Muslims who believe in killing infidels because you are afraid of what they may do to you. We’ll just have to leave it to others to speak out against such thing so you can continue to live in your safe world.

    • Karin says :

      My ‘flavour’ of Christianity is not entirely my own. It is not mainstream, especially by American standards, but I cannot claim it as my own original work.

      Christianity has developed over a long period of time and there has always been more than one way of understanding the Bible, although often only one way has been deemed to be the official ‘right’ way.

      Today the ‘right’ way isn’t always based on the most accurate translation of the Bible or the most up to date research. As far as I can, I like to find out more about the way the Bible is translated and what light modern studies, whether textual, archaeological or any other relevant studies, can throw on our understanding of the Bible, such as the people who wrote it, the customs they observed and the way they viewed the world etc.

      I consider people to be misguided if they follow teaching that has no real foundation, such as the concept of hell, which is not really mentioned in the Bible. Whether everything in the Bible is fact or not is another matter, but those who believe in hell will probably tell you their belief is based on what the Bible says, which shows just how little they know their Bible. Some older translations do use the word ‘hell’, but this is not now seen as an accurate translation. Sheol and Hades were deemed to be places people went to when they died whatever they did right or wrong by Jews and Greeks respectively . Only Satan and his angels are to be thrown into the ‘pit’ in Revelations and that book of the Bible was not written to be taken literally.

      I consider people who hold different views from me to be people who hold different views from me, perhaps because they see things differently, perhaps because they have had different experiences or for a number of other reasons. Sometimes they are right, sometimes I am wrong, sometimes there is more than one correct way to see something, or we are both partly right and/or partly wrong.

      I don’t think the Christianity I believe in is ‘sweet’. It is quite demanding and I sometimes wonder if I’m up to the challenge. I’m pretty sure God isn’t ‘sweet’. I think it’s best not to define God too precisely because she is bound to surprise us and it might not be in a good way. My idea of Christianity is far more about the here and now than about the after life and it doesn’t put too high a value on just going to church on Sunday and singing hymns, especially if the hymns are bland and meaningless. Jesus seemed much more concerned with how people live now, in treating people justly, in bringing about God’s kingdom where compassion for others is the guiding principle.

      I don’t dismiss all other forms of Christianity. Time has enabled me to see that some, perhaps all, forms of Christianity have something to offer, but they are all human constructs and as such flawed, just as my own ideas must be.

      I have much more confidence in what I believe these days and that does help me be less angry and more respectful of those with other beliefs, whether Christian or non-Christian, but that’s not the same as being a very confident person.

      Living in a place with few Muslims I do not fear them nor would I be afraid to speak out against things some Muslims do that are basically crimes, but I believe strongly that it is important to respect others’ beliefs if there is to be any chance of a more peaceful world.

      You seem to be using ‘respect’ in the sense of a feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard or esteem.

      My use of ‘respect’ is in the sense of to treat courteously or considerately and not violate a person’s sense of honour or self-respect, in other words to value other people as individuals. This is not to say that I don’t sometimes struggle to feel respect towards some people.

      It’s amazing how two people can seem to be speaking the same language, yet be saying very different things.

  2. Karin says :

    Did things happen exactly as described in Acts? Possibly not.

    Is there a good point to the story? Quite probably.

    Holy Spirit is God’s spirit.

    Everyone has a spirit. You could think of it as like the essence of a person.

    For those of many faiths there is a sense that our spirit can connect us with each other, or even that our spirit is what connects us to each other and possibly to the rest of the natural creation.

    So Pentecost is about Jesus’ followers having a strong and empowering sense of God’s spirit, which enabled them to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with people who spoke different languages from their own.

    – The rest is commentary, to coin a phrase.

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