Alternate Reality: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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62 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    “I now believe that what is required is the recovery of that alternate reality of the Gospel and the Church.”

    An exceedingly tall order.

  2. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    That it is “an exceedingly tall order” should tell us all that we need to know…

  3. Jean says:

    Hi Duane,

    I think if we (or most of us) agree that it’s an exceedingly tall order, one thing that would inform us of is that currently many or most American Christians are far from “that alternate reality;” hence the tall order.

    What I think is not clear (or is unknown) to most Christians is how specifically to find their way to that alternate reality. I have to admit that I spent most of my life not knowing the way. The teaching of it is quite rare and not particularly “marketable.”

  4. Duane Arnold says:

    Jean

    As you know, I think that much of American Christianity is not far removed from “folk religion”. As to finding our way, I think it is a matter not so much of finding the Church, as it is about finding a church that expresses what we know to be true from the Gospels…

  5. Xenia says:

    I have often hoped that in our dealings with one another as Christians we could recover civility.<<<

    We can start right here on this blog. We can stop putting other Christians' worship practices in scare quotes and we can stop referring to other Christians' beliefs as hillbilly theology.

    For myself, while I believe Orthodoxy to be the truest expression of Christianity, my days of mocking other Christ-believers is over. I repent of it.

  6. Duane Arnold says:

    Civility does not preclude disagreement or critical examination in the light of Scripture, Tradition and Reason…

  7. Xenia says:

    This can be done in a respectful way.

    I disagree with many practices and beliefs that occur outside of Orthodoxy and I used to mock these things, as a perusal of decades of my blog posts will easily show. I now regret this attitude. I can disagree respectfully.

  8. Michael says:

    Xenia,

    You have a point…up to a point.
    When the content and trajectory of a group no longer has anything in common with historic, biblical, Christianity what are we to do?
    What are we to say?

  9. Xenia says:

    But you are exaggerating. If they preach the basic Gospel message, that Christ was true God of true God and was made man by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and lived a sinless life and was crucified for our sins and rose again and is now in Heaven with the Father and will come again; and if we believe that our duty is to love God and our neighbor, then they are practicing Christianity and I will be on their side. Do I think some of their practices and beliefs are mistaken? Sure I do, and if anyone wants a conversation about differences, we can chat or write an apologetic or whatever our talents permits.

    But I will no longer look at an evangelical church service and dismiss it as not worship. Worship is in the heart of the believer, and I would be fearful of dismissing a genuine Christian’s act of sincere worship because God might just find it acceptable. Likewise, what is being called folk religion/hillbilly religion. Some of the people who are in this disparaged group are some of the most devout Christians you’ll ever meet. Sure, some get wound up over side issues. So do the more erudite folk.

    I see all Christians as being on God’s side, which is also my side. We are in a great battle at the moment. Some of us are fighting with worldly methods but we all need to remember that it is a spiritual battle, and a spiritual battle, said the Lord, needs prayer and fasting.

    So pray, fast and go to church. Quit disdaining your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

    Again, I repent of my former behavior.

    -Xenia

  10. Duane Arnold says:

    I don’t believe that Michael is exaggerating in the least.

    For the record, I use the term “folk religion” in a specific sociological/theological manner. I have never used the term, “hillbilly religion”.

  11. Jean says:

    Xenia,

    In your statement of faith above, I think the rub is right here:

    “if we believe that our duty is to love God and our neighbor, then they are practicing Christianity”

  12. Xenia says:

    “hillbilly religion”.<<<

    But it has been used on several occasions on this blog, although not by you.

  13. Duane Arnold says:

    BTW, the term, “folk religion” is a normative category of both the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). My use of the term, and some degree of definition, may be seen here: https://phoenixpreacher.com/37386-2/

  14. Michael says:

    Jean @ 9:46,

    Exactly.
    I would also contend that the current politicized nature of “some” parts of evangelicalism are in grave idolatry wherein those of a different view are despised and condemned.
    This is idolatry.

  15. Jean says:

    If the church in America is threatened by secularism or what have you, one defense strategy could be to circle the wagons with all other Christian traditions as a bulwark against a common enemy.

    The problem with that strategy is that the church is essentially fighting fire with fire, or to put it another way, it is waging a war with flesh and blood against flesh and blood. It betrays a certain lack of faith that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church, a certain lack of faith and trust in the power of God’s Word.

    The 2nd Commandment is very clear that the Lord’s name is not to be taken lightly, abused or used in vain. A church simply cannot in good conscience remain silent or, even worse, join in, the betrayal of the Gospel, IMO.

    A church which betrays the Gospel, while proclaiming the name of Christ, is in a certain respect worse than a totally different religion, which does not use the name of Christ at all.

  16. Xenia says:

    I know and have known many Christians of what might be termed (although not by me) a simple Christianity who love their neighbors, that is, the people in their actual neighborhood and town. For example, the lady up the street who goes to a type of church I know would be disdained by many here, but on the long side of her yard on the main road has cabinets, boxes, tables, gardens, you name it, full of free books for adults (wholesome books) and kids, free produce still on the vine, canned food, toilet paper- if it can be given away, she gives it away. I know her slightly and I want to get to know her better because this is a woman who loves her actual neighbors. She has a sign that says “Take what you need! No shame!” I don’t know what she thinks about border issues or the plight of the Muslims in China but I do know she is obeying Christ by loving her neighbors.

    The other Christians in the area are getting on board with her program and contributing to her inventory. She is an EXAMPLE of simple Christian love and humility and I see this woman as a mentor.

    I also know Christians (and I will not deny that they are Christians) who despise their actual neighbors. I have a co-coreligionist who has wished death on her loud neighbor.

    A person may have concern about a group that lives far, far away (and there should be concern) but can’t tolerate the actual people in their lives.

  17. Steve says:

    Folk religion or Hillbilly religion sounds almost harmless. However, is what we are really talking about Satanic influence of the church? It seems every denomination, church and group has got heresy to deal with and understanding we got a real enemy behind this and not just a mythological figure in folklore should wake us up to reality.

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    I’m sure that we all know people of both types…

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    But is it betraying the gospel because we have differing views on what it means to love your neighbor?

  20. Jean says:

    “But is it betraying the gospel because we have differing views on what it means to love your neighbor?”

    It might be. It might not be.

  21. Duane Arnold says:

    MLD

    When it comes to loving our neighbor, I think we are all “works in progress”…

  22. Xenia says:

    Easy to love the unborn baby in the next state; not so easy to love the crying baby in the next pew.

    Easy to love the homeless people in the park across town, not so easy to love the homeless person sitting next to you on the cross-town bus.

    Easy to declare a love for minimum wage workers, not so easy to love the waitress who gets your order all wrong.

    Easy to declare black lives matter (which they do) but not so easy to choose to live in a black neighborhood.

    Easy to love in abstract, not so easy to love in reality.

    But I think this is what Christ meant when he said to love our neighbor.

  23. Duane Arnold says:

    That’s part of the alternate reality of the Gospel and the Church… or it should be.

  24. Em says:

    IF you take hell seriously, you will love your neighbor – not like family, but love has many facets, does it not?

    Hillbilly evangelical here…. God loves His hillbillies, thankfully

  25. Xenia says:

    Living in an alternate reality is mysticism. But even mysticism has a hands-on component.

    It’s more than thinking correct thoughts about issues.

  26. Em says:

    Regarding reality… I have to ask, does anyone this side of heaven really know what eternal reality is? More dimensions than we see? Wouldn’t surprise me. Amaze maybe, not surprise, though.
    Now i will back quietly out …. 😻

  27. Duane Arnold says:

    Xenia

    “Living in an alternate reality is mysticism.”

    It can be, but it can also be simply living the Gospel.

  28. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I agree with Xenia’s 10:39 completely – and none of it hinges on or is affected by our politics or who we vote for.

  29. Duane Arnold says:

    Who we vote for is a matter of conscience, not a matter of faith…

  30. Xenia says:

    Well, skip the word “mystic” if it’s a stumbler. We use it a lot in my world but I know it has a negative connotation among others, although I know it’s not taboo for you, Duane, considering the title of your CD!

    All I mean to say is living out the Gospel has a practical, hands-on component. It’s more than brain-work.

  31. Duane Arnold says:

    Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy…

  32. Jean says:

    I didn’t read Xenia’s 10:39 as saying that “none of it hinges on or is affected by our politics or who we vote for.”

    If you vote for someone who promulgates a law that says it is illegal to come to the aid of an undocumented immigrant with water in the heat of summer and you know about that candidate and you agree with that law, the gospel is compromised and betrayed.

    If your politics is segregation of schools, or racial profiling, you are betraying the gospel.

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean, what I said was I can agree totally with Xenia’s statement and my politics play no part.
    All politics do is me forcing you to love your neighbor through legislation and taxation.

    Me and my church can carry out Christ’s commands without forcing others to agree and comply.

  34. Jim says:

    MLD has just subtly given an example of two contrasting religions.

  35. Jean says:

    Actually you are reading me backwards. The Gospel compels the Christian to love the neighbor in spite of legislation and taxation.

    Many churches force compliance to various doctrines through access to the Sacrament.

  36. Jean says:

    Love by definition is not “forced”.

  37. MM says:

    MLD

    “But is it betraying the gospel because we have differing views on what it means to love your neighbor?”

    I think I agree.

    The question never was how one would love their neighbor. The question always is “who is my neighbor?”

  38. Duane Arnold says:

    “He who showed mercy on him.”

  39. MM says:

    As always, application is the most difficult part.

    Jean use the term “forced.”

    If I really know this person is my enemy, half breeds, and I see him or her dying or almost dead what do I do and what is mercy?

    In light of the riots and all the political vitriol comments, how do we show these people “mercy,” and I’ll include “loving kindness” and “justice?”

    Application is really tough and claiming “forced” as an excuse to not do something, to me at least, just doesn’t seem to ring true.

    I guess we could say, “I never knew or else I would have…”

  40. Michael says:

    I just taught on the passage of the Good Samaritan this week.

    It’s really simple…your neighbor is the one who needs your mercy…irregardless of ethnic, religious, or national identities…or any other boundary marker.

    The condemnation was for any religious view or action that impairs giving that mercy.

    I think it critical to remember the original question the lawyer asked…”what must I do to inherit eternal life”?…

  41. Michael says:

    “If I really know this person is my enemy, half breeds, and I see him or her dying or almost dead what do I do and what is mercy?”

    Read the passage…you do what is necessary to preserve and sustain life in acts of sacrificial love.

    “In light of the riots and all the political vitriol comments, how do we show these people “mercy,” and I’ll include “loving kindness” and “justice?””

    You respond from a place of the Spirit and not a place of political division.

    It takes practice…

  42. Jean says:

    Good point Michael. Matthew 28 is a similar theme.

    MM,

    My point is that love is not coerced. It can’t be and still be love. The law, however, is coercive. The law commands and threatens.

  43. Duane Arnold says:

    Michael

    “It’s really simple…your neighbor is the one who needs your mercy…irregardless of ethnic, religious, or national identities…or any other boundary marker.”

    That calls for a very different way of looking at the world and, unfortunately, it is outside the “comfort zone” of many…

  44. Michael says:

    “That calls for a very different way of looking at the world and, unfortunately, it is outside the “comfort zone” of many…”

    It’s outside of mine…everything about following Jesus is counter culture and counter intuitive.
    It is very clear, however…

  45. Duane Arnold says:

    Upside down and back to front…

  46. Jean says:

    I think we’re getting closer to the crux of the matter: “counter intuitive.”

    If Christianity was intuitive, people would not need the Holy Spirit’s calling or illumination. He wouldn’t have to lose his life for Christ’s sake to find it.

  47. Duane Arnold says:

    As my friend said, “a contradiction of social reality”.

  48. MM says:

    Michael

    Your point is well taken, but mine really was about “forced” or “coerced” actions and behaviors.

    I can really have bad feelings to the point of disgust about a person and yet still show him or her all those attributes and actions called love.

    If I love God/Jesus I will do these things because I love him. He loves my disgusting and horrible neighbor, therefore if I truly love Him I will show love for my neighbor, regardless of my personal feeling towards him or her.

    The idea of Law as a threat is not a universal doctrine at all. Of course unless those who hold such an idea think following the “Law” is a way to the next life. Faith in Him is always the only way and is then followed by obedience to His love for all.

    Yes Jean I full understand the Lutheran position on this. In the Christian faith there is never an excuse for not showing love to others.

  49. Jean says:

    “The idea of Law as a threat is not a universal doctrine at all.”

    MM,

    The reason the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle was destined for failure was because the law ceases to function without threats and punishment.

    I would argue strongly that law by definition must include the threat of punishment for disobedience.

    The kingdom of God is the only law-free zone and it can’t co-exist with sin.

  50. Xenia says:

    This is how the devil works. He provides two choices, both fraught, and has us squabbling and dividing over which good is the best good and which evil is the worst evil.

    Not today, Satan!

  51. Jean, don’t fall for the CHAZ CHOP crap. It’s just a bunch of blather. Seattle had/has/will have a significant number of mentally ill/homeless, and even a few riff raff. Get the local riff raff collected into one location, and they suddenly get called Anarchist. But dispersed again unto the next incident, and they get called people in a pedestrian friendly city.

    Capital Hill always has something going on. It’s why people move there in the first place. They prefer Capitol Hill, over living near their Conservative family in Nebraska.
    Prior to the Floyd murder, CHAZ/CHOP was just called litter and pissing in the alley. It’s just another Fox News red herring.

    However, the red herring works on Conservatives, especially Christians. Nobody wants to drive past the trash/tarps/rough sleepers, only to spot a guy off on the side, pants down. If the light turns red, Law and Order sounds especially good. But it’s still a manipulative message. What’s the alternative? Ban mental illness, piss and blue tarps? The only real option is to look straight ahead and wait for the green, and hope it’s only piss this time.

  52. Jean says:

    Thanks for the update Nathan.

    My position is that the USA has an urgent need for both law and order and reformation of our criminal justice system (both, neither dependent on the other). On the topic of law and order, I find a great similarity between the way the protest/riots have been handled and the way the pandemic has been handled.

    Leaders think that by appealing to people’s sense of moral or civic duty, they will get compliance with appeals, recommendations, pleas, and rules. But the reality of universal human sin informs us that left without the bit and bridle of the law humanity will quickly descend into violence, gross injustice, chaos and anarchy, or in the case of the pandemic, massive illnesses and deaths, loss of livelihoods and loss national wealth. Every day that we allow the pandemic to fester at the high level of infections that we’re seeing, we are seriously jeopardizing the long term future of our nation.

  53. filbertz says:

    Dr. D, thanks for another cogent, provocative, clearly stated reiteration of what the american church seems to find completely foreign. When we adopted a sibling group from foster care, our church, and largely our christian friends initially patted us on the backs, but when the hard work of parenting this tribe became reality…crickets. No one is excused from the dirty work of loving the neighbor just because it is not a communal effort. The original ‘good sam’ was a loner and each of us is called to love, individually. The american church seems to want to love justice & mercy by decree and committee in attention-grabbing, trendy manners instead of teaching and training that we all are called into the fray in our own spheres…and God will lead and empower us to do his will

  54. “Thanks for the update Nathan.”
    Jean. Always glad to help. I’ll be over here..if you need me..

    I do think you have a point. I don’t believe public policy can advance the Kingdom of God, but it can help a little to clean up the streets.

    A great example could have been Purdue Pharma. What a family. Selling all that Oxycontin to people that end up under a tarp, and pissing in the alley in Seattle and Portland. A bankrupt Purdue Pharma, and crimminal charges, are the sort of Law and Order I could root for. As for the blue tarp crowd, I think we will always have the poor with us.

    As for the pandemic, I have already expressed my concern that it is morphing into a culture war. A demographic war of attrition.

  55. Jean says:

    Nathan,

    “As for the pandemic, I have already expressed my concern that it is morphing into a culture war.”

    I think you are correct. And I think that’s intentional. When the pandemic first came to the US, it began in Blue states. That presented an opportunity for the President to make the pandemic a cultural issue and even tweeted against governors who were doing their level best to follow the Administrations own guidance.

    Then the pandemic moved to red states. But since it transmits most easily in dense populations, even in the red states the pandemic is concentrated in large cities who often are managed by Democrats. So, the culture war continues.

    What you rarely hear from the culture warriors, in fact almost never, is any concern for first line health care workers who serve the sick and dying of both parties.

  56. Duane Arnold says:

    filbertz

    You humble me by your devotion to Christ…

  57. Angel says:

    Living the true Christian walk is “Ultimate Reality,” not an “Alternative Reality. ”
    Nor are “Alternative Realities “…wholly speculative!”

  58. “However, the red herring works on Conservatives, especially Christians. Nobody wants to drive past the trash/tarps/rough sleepers, only to spot a guy off on the side, pants down. If the light turns red, Law and Order sounds especially good. But it’s still a manipulative message. What’s the alternative? Ban mental illness, piss and blue tarps? The only real option is to look straight ahead and wait for the green, and hope it’s only piss this time.”

    Tough call.

    I see a group of healthy looking young men who run the funeral donation scam at stoplights. I see people giving them money. I saw them for two years, even at another intersection 10 miles away in San Jose. Should I give them money for a obvious lie?

    Last week, someone on the Ring network posted a video of an obviously disturbed or drugged up young woman ringing and knocking on their door at 4 AM. The woman was muttering odd things and had a wild look in her eyes. They didn’t answer the door. A few days ago, I saw the same woman, wild look in her eyes, muttering and staring into space, on a blanket outside 7-11 as I stopped to get morning coffee. What should I have done? My street “spidey-sense” said “dangerous.”

    When I used to volunteer for homeless outreach, we had “law” in that no drugs or weapons were allowed inside the perimeter. Also, no one obviously violent (I only has to stop one possible fight, and it turned out ok, the aggressor was high and drunk and had earlier told me about his “children” that only he saw). One thanksgiving, we denied entry to a homeless group openly carrying knives, yet we later brought them lunch and they appreciated it. Law.

    When I did at risk youth mentoring, only youth who agreed to the rules and signed were allowed in the program. No colors were allowed and flashing can be as subtle as red or blue shoe laces or eye shading on the ladies. Law. Rules. Exclusionary. We chose to help those who wanted help and that was hard enough. One kid was tough and he even subtly threatened me once. I wasn’t scared, just surprised by this average 14 year old kid. Later in the year, he was gunned down by a rival gang. One of my mentee’s was his cousin and my mentee shut everyone out after that, sadly.

  59. filbertz says:

    TNV,
    there is no “correct” or orthodox way of working/helping/loving those folks and the “types” they represent. Love is inherently risky, and more so when dealing with strangers. I don’t think the words of Christ were specific (turn the cheek) as much as prescriptive–be willing to go beyond the demands of the individual and meet the real need. I don’t feel compelled to love someone in a manner that meets their drug addiction, mental illness, homeless state, etc., but to give them (un)common decency and respect perhaps, or greeting them as “normal,” things that others regularly withhold. When confronted with homeless individuals behind our cafe, I don’t call the police; instead I tell them we are opening soon and would appreciate they move on in a few minutes. They are used to being threatened, menaced, and treated very poorly, so they generally comply with a good attitude and sometimes thank me or wish me a good day. I haven’t made it my practice to feed them, though others might and do. I believe the Spirit of God will give us direction and wisdom in the moment.

  60. Duane Arnold says:

    While this speaks of contemplation, it could as easily refer to living out one’s faith in the world…

    “Contemplation has a context: it does not occur in a vacuum. Today’s context is that of the multinational corporations, the arms race, the strong state, the economic crisis, urban decay, the growing racism, and human loneliness. It is within this highly deranged culture that contemplatives explore the waste of their own being. It is in the midst of chaos and crisis that they pursue the vision of God and experience the conflict which is at the core of the contemplative search. They become part of that conflict and begin to see into the heart of things. The contemplative shares in the passion of Christ which is both an identification with the pain of the world and also the despoiling of the principalities and powers of the fallen world-order.”
    Kenneth Leech

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