About Rev. Don

Don is the pastor at New Life Church in Bellevue, a suburb of Pittsburgh

July 2012 Newsletter

As far as I am concerned there is one way to eat a Swiss Cake Roll. It needs to be frozen, peel the chocolate off and eat it, unroll the cake and break off strips, it takes two strips to get to the center. Each strip should be eaten as it is broken off, and the middle, with the now maximized cream to cake ratio, is saved for last, the dessert portion of the snack cake meal if you will. In a pinch it can be eaten without freezing, but this should be saved for emergency situations.

 

Nutter Bars need to be separated into individual wafer layers, top layer eaten first (it has the least peanut butter), bottom layer eaten last as it then has the optimum peanut butter/chocolate/wafer ratio.

 

Little Debbie’s are superior to Hostess products and the less said on that matter the better.

 

If you aren’t making your own mayo, then Hellman’s is they only acceptable form, and Ketchup needs to be Heinz, we aren’t barbarians you know.

 

You are of course free to disagree, but we probably shouldn’t discuss these matters in polite company.

 

Now does any of this really matter? Absolutely not. Do you have different opinions? Hopefully so. (Except on the mayo issue. And if you feel differently about catsup, please don’t tell Kim.) Who really cares and what difference does it make in the grand scheme of things? We probably feel the way we do because it is how we were raised, our parent’s preferences becoming our own, our own opinions becoming subconsciously ingrained until they are unwritten laws. And heaven forbid someone break one of our unwritten laws, even if they don’t know they are laws we do and our inner sheriff is ready to write them up. If we stop to think we will usually realize that it doesn’t matter. One way of doing things may be a little more efficient or a little cleaner, but that doesn’t make it “right” to the exclusion of everything else. Unless of course our pride tells us otherwise.

 

But put a religious twist on it, and all the sudden it is life and death. How old should someone be when they are baptized? How much water? How do we do communion? What should the bread be made out of? Grape juice, wine, juice boxes?!

 

Our emotional reactions to these issues are just that, emotional, and not spiritual. God does not give clear guidance, yet these are the issues we let divide us and over which we get worked up. (Truth be told, we get the most emotional when we are in fact departing from Biblical instruction. No where does the Bible ever have an infant being baptized, communion is never done with grape juice, and it is never passed around in pre-poured portions in brass tray. But these are the things we are comfortable with, and they are the things we react to without thought, only emotion.)

 

I am reading a book about why people think differently, The Righteous Mind, and the author, Jonathan Haidt, puts forth the very researched and tested hypothesis that our responses to situations are based on our emotional reactions from which we try to create “reasons” that justify our reactions*. We don’t examine how we feel about the situation, we judge the situation according to our feelings, and when someone disagrees with us because of their feelings, it becomes hard to discuss since everyone is basing their reactions not in logic or reason or even reality, but in their emotional responses. And of course an emotion response is deeply tied to our own identity, thus a disagreement becomes one not of reason but of personal affront and attack. Our rational side does not see it this way, because it is creating a defense for our emotional response.

 

So getting worked up about which brand of mayo is really about stirring up an emotional response. And getting worked up about communion is often more about emotional response than Biblical guidance.

 

It is when we can step back from our emotions and ask why we are feeling so strongly that we can examine the situation according to some common standard. We might also call it letting go of our pride and need to be right and to listen to what someone else is actually saying. Or, “do not consider yourself more highly than you ought, but in accordance with the measure of faith which God has given you.”

 

And then, when the Bible speaks clearly we can act clearly. When the Bible gives guiderails we can operate within those boundaries and not demonize one another. And when the Bible is not definitive we can discuss the matter rationally with respect to each others emotions, not based in emotions.

 

This is supposed to be cutting edge research, and it is creating waves, especially in the liberal media, but Paul knew about it. But he called it being a stumbling block. He suggested that when someone got upset about eating food offered to idols, it was better not to get in a fight with them, just don’t eat it around them. They were not making decisions based in their new life in Christ, but emotional responses out of an old model of spirituality. But you can’t reason with emotion, so just don’t make a big deal of it. And of course Jesus knew just what he was doing healing on the Sabbath or telling someone their sins were forgiven. He was pulling the emotional chain of the established religious leaders to try and get them to examine what he was saying, not the day he was doing it on.

 

Friends, there is nothing new under the sun, but every day is new under the Son. Listen to each other, and examine your faith.                                 – Don



* There are at least six mental ‘modules’ that go into moral and poltical decisions, they are: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression.