Chronicles in Ordinary Time 165: HPtFtU [part 2]

Francis Spufford, in his wonderful book, Unapologetic, uses the term HPtFtU for the Human Tendency to F**k things Up. If you watch any legitimate news outlet today, you will see countless examples of HPtFtU on display; especially in Washington DC.
I’m going to quote, frequently, from Spufford in the coming weeks…but not quite yet.

A Facebook page I’m a member of had the question, “how can God and evolution both be true?’ I was tempted to write an answer, but I get tired of people commenting on my comment, who really haven’t given it much thought. So, I’ll do it here.
How can God and evolution both be true? Because a large portion of Scripture is metaphor:

A metaphor is a figure of speech that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another for rhetorical effect. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature is the “All the world’s a stage” monologue from As You Like It:
    All the world’s a stage,
    And all the men and women merely players;
    They have their exits and their entrances …
    —William Shakespeare, As You Like It, 2/7
This quotation expresses a metaphor because the world is not literally a stage. By asserting that the world is a stage, Shakespeare uses points of comparison between the world and a stage to convey an understanding about the mechanics of the world and the behavior of the people within it.

Yeshua [Latinized as Jesus] said that He was the living water, and those who drink from this water will never thirst. This is a metaphor. Water is not alive, unless one considers microbes—and the people of Yeshua’s time did not know about microbes. Followers of Yeshua get thirsty, particularly in the summer. The operative concept is “thirst.” Yeshua was addressing the ‘hunger’ and ‘thirst’ we feel when we try to understand ourselves; when we try to fill the emptiness we sometimes feel.

Creation of Adam [modified] by Michelangelo; stained glass by Michael Greer

This painting is a metaphor; Michelangelo did not travel back in time, to the “sixth day of Creation” and snap a photo. However, many Christians seem to accept the concept that God is somehow like us [more, next time]. Many/most Christians’ theology is a mixture of Bible verses, songs they like, sermons they’ve heard and Bible Study texts they’ve read.
Some Christians apparently have very thin Bibles—those who manage to completely ignore Isaiah 58, and all of the similar passages which clearly spell out the Creator’s expectations for ‘the followers of God’—the way we are supposed to treat people who are not like us. At present, America is rubbish at meeting this expectation. There are other readers of Scripture who manage to not comprehend the nature of the if/then, Conditional nature of Scripture—“if you do this, then you will be blessed’. They prefer to quote the ‘then’ portions of texts while ignoring the if. “If you do your homework, then you get dessert.”
Getting back to Michelangelo, he was not intending to teach for centuries, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, that God looks like a buff older man with a beard; surrounded by naked beings. If one looks at this portrayal of the Creator for too long, one can get all sorts of ideas about the Creator that are probably wrong. Michelangelo’s painting is a metaphor for Genesis 1:27; and Genesis 1:27 is a metaphor for the creation of human beings. One of the reasons that Genesis 2:7 differs from 1:27 [both are descriptions of the creation of humans on the sixth day of Creation] is that this is all metaphor: figures of speech, “providing clarity or identifying hidden similarities between two ideas”.

Does this mean that the words of Genesis aren’t true? No. It does mean that the words of Genesis should not be taken literally, as if it was a science text; nor as a history text. Scripture is the story of the Creator’s actions with human beings; and it tells the story of the beginning of the nation of Israel, and its downfall; and most importantly, Scripture tells how the Creator of the entire Universe entered human time and space in the form of a single cell implanted in the womb of a teenaged girl—basically the first “In vitro fertilization” (IVF).  

Scripture [meaning the Scripture of the Jewish, Christian and Islam faiths] does not teach about the Creator’s interactions with the human beings of the Western Hemisphere/ the Americas. These people ‘did not exist’ to those in the Mediterranean world. Scripture also leaves out Asia and most of Africa [except by inference]. Why? Because Scripture isn’t a World History text. There are ~400 years between the end of the Book of Micah and Yeshua’s entry into the world, where the Creator sent no prophets to guide Israel. The Creator was silent. Four centuries–most of American history, as a reference. The Temple, the seat of the Jewish faith, was destroyed in about 70 A.D. Consequently, the Hebrew Scriptures have very little to say about the modern state of Israel, and its creation after World War II. There are prophecies: again, metaphors. People who want Israel to be considered an act of the Creator, read the prophecies in the manner they want to read them.

It’s our HPtFtU that causes war, and violent death, and poverty, and shame. These four words create a circle of death.
It is my HPtFtU that causes me sleepless nights, and my FEARs [False Evidence Appearing Real—I am not omniscient]; it is very possibly the cause of the constant pain I deal with. None of my Neurologists have come up with better answers.
It is our HPtFtU that causes us to have broken relationships with other people who have their own version of HPtFtU; we are all broken, we are all in need of mending.

Finally, the quotation from Francis Spufford, from his wonderful book, Unapologetic. I could have written these words, but I lack the talent:

I’m a very this-worldly Christian. I am averagely afraid of dying, but I don’t believe because I expect, or want, to have an unlimited future, tweedling about with a harp while the stars of the Western Spiral Arm burn out one by one. I believe because I know I’ve got a past and a present in which the HPtFtU did and does its usual work, and I want a way of living which opens out more widely and honestly and lovingly than I can manage for myself, which widens rather than narrowing with each destructive decision. Like the Christian Aid slogan says, I believe in life before death. For me and for everyone else. I don’t care about heaven. I want, I need, the promise of mending.
Mended is not the same thing as never broken. We are not being promised that it will be as if the bad stuff never happened. It’s amnesty that’s being offered, not amnesia; hope, not pretense. The story of your life will still be the story of your life, permanently. It will still have the kinks and twists and corners you gave it. The consequences of your actions, for you and for other people, will roll inexorably on. God can’t take these away, or your life would not be your life, you would not be you, the world would not be the world. He can only take from us—take over for us—the guilt and the fear, so that we can start again free, in hope. So that we are freed to try again and fail again, better. He can only overwhelm the HPtFtU with Grace.
Which we can now define. Grace is forgiveness we can’t earn. Grace is the weeping father on the road. Grace is tragedy accepted with open arms, and somehow turned to good. Grace is what the wasteful death on Skull Hill did.

The one thing that I would add is that my encounters with the Spirit of the Creator, over 40+ years simply can’t be considered anything else. I’ve tried. Do I mistake ‘chance’ [something I don’t believe in] for the Spirit of the Creator? Probably; sometimes. I too have to address my own HPtFtU. I can’t convince you of what I’ve experienced; it’s something that one needs to experience themselves.

garden gethsemane rev2
Peter’s HPtFtU in The Garden of Gethsemane




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