Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Senorita Invierno (Alison Winter) Weighs In...

Introducing Senorita Invierno (Miss Winter): Alison Winter can probably more properly introduce herself if you will visit her website: http://senoritainvierno.blogspot.com/

In a nutshell, Alison Winter is an Englishwoman presently working in Spain teaching English as a second language, which means (ta daaa!) she is fluently bilingual or she'd have a heckuva time doing what she's doing! Many Europeans know four or five different languages (I'll just bet Alison does too) so this isn't a surprise to me. The fact that I know one as well as I do (English) and a second one well enough to muddle through (Spanish) is an accomplishment I treasure.

Anyway, Alison is an actress (when she's not in Spain teaching) so she's a starving artist, and as such a soulmate! She came to me as a De fan and we're thick as thieves now. I value her fun and friendship and her views (as I value all views). I believe Alison classifies herself as a Taoist... so isn't it cool that we have Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, agnostics, atheists, and God only knows who else signing in to have a respectful look at the Christian religion to the degree that I can explain it or share it? (I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed so I hope what I share will lead you on to explore some of the GREAT minds in the faith, many of whom have been named in earlier blogs.)

Alison wrote me such a long email last night or this morning, and it was so insightful and interesting, I am publishing it here (with her kind permission):

OK. Main land Europe is drastically different to England, and England is quite different to other parts of the UK. I'm living in Spain which is very religious - both in spirit and in every day living. That's Europe, so that doesn't make sense.

I feel personally that England and America are too concerned with the pursuit of money and this is one of the reasons I moved away – to be somewhere where the life focus is different. It is very true that in Spain they have a better life with less money. That just suits me better. But you have to wonder how much of the mood and even faith in Spain can be attributed to external factors such a climate. Climate dramatically affects mood (highest suicide rate - Sweden, no light, do the math). I think England rushes around (the Midlands, the South East and London mainly) a good deal of the time because there’s not a lot else to do. It is the land of distraction, and away from many things. I cannot speak of America because I’m just not qualified but my impression is that it suffers from similar distractions which take people away from their core – their heart, and therefore their relationship with -- God, the Tao, the cosmos, however many ways to say this – I suppose "with themselves" is the plainest way to say it.

It is this distraction I seek to get away from. Certain places have become greedy and spoilt, in my opinion. So daily life has moved away from religious influence (I refer here to English Christianity, as England’s most religious are now most likely Muslim) but again this is separate to faith. Which is everywhere. If you listen to it.

In England we say that the Church is the richest institution in the land – meaning literally it has the most money. However, if you were going to build a place of worship you put everything you understood as valuable into it? These cathedrals and churches were built hundreds of years ago and I’m always so moved by the obvious passion that has gone into them. I personally prefer stone to metal, wood to gold, but hundreds of years ago precious stones and stained glass were considered beautiful and however apparently ‘ostentatious,’ I suppose it’s the thought that counts. People poured everything they could into these places of worship.

There is corruption in humanity, and therefore everywhere, including the Church, but we’re a way off from a global appreciation of modest means, if we should ever get there. All of these expressions of faith are from ourselves, however, and therefore limited to our understanding. Faith is like air and water and will go around it, over it and pour into everything however we choose to express it, so I would say ‘religion’ has its own destiny, will and life most definitely, because as Kris says we are the Church – it is within us.

When I was teaching a Catholic Major in the Spanish military, he said (of his peace mission to The Lebanon) that he wanted to help the people because their lives must be so empty without God. He wasn’t going as a missionary and had an admirable respect for diversity. However, I pointed out that when people lose material things, or people they love, they become aware of loss, and what you need or don’t need. I told him I thought their faith may be stronger than he expected, because they are living in ‘truth’, in as much as they are confronted by harsh reality and are coping on a day to day basis, surviving on their wits and God-given abilities. They are therefore (and obviously not all of them but this is my generalisation and theory) more in touch. They do not have the latest flashing gadget or drug (literal or metaphorical). Though to be fair they do have some drugs! But as the Major said, there are only good and bad people (though how he would define good and bad I’m not sure) and this is irrespective of religion.

A concern I have with saying that any problems are Satan’s fault, however, is that people won’t take responsibility for making the world a better place. That makes everything sound a bit futile. Kris, if Satan holds sway, does that mean we’re powerless or is it written that we can alter things? Excuse my ignorance but I’m having a book flow problem! This is one of the main blocks I have with Christianity. The concept of Satan - forgive my casualness but he sounds like a comic book villain and I’m sure I’m not the only person who has this impression. Again with the ignorance though – I have no sources for my concept except stupid films, which renders me seriously unqualified to take a stance and I feel a bit sheepish now….

Yours in need of education…

Senorita Invierno

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Satan is far, far from a comic book character but the fact that he is the prince of this world should not worry us too much. Nor does it take the onus off us who acknowledge his influence and seek to live a valuable life in service to God (masquerading perhaps as service to "goodness"). Like any other prince, Satan has influence, but he is not the chief executive (I don't usually even capitalize his "name" but am, here, so you don't think I'm ignorant of the rules of punctuation): the King is. We can agree to go his way -- we can even innocently enough walk in his footsteps without knowing it because he is so clever and attractive in many of his guises. The cathedrals were built by good religious folk and by bogus religious folk, as are most institutions, so Satan laid a few of those bricks and stones! That's possibly why God chose human beings as as His temple since the Incarnation, those of us who have laid claim to His claim on us.

Satan and his minions are very real. They do not frighten me much, though (except to the degree that they can and do influence and impact loved ones who don't have the same strong sense of belonging to God that I do), because my King has control of MY life and fate. I gave my life into his hands. Nothing that happens to me, good or bad, will be attributable to Satan. Satan can only be in one place at one time, so the chance that he's after any of us individually (I'm speaking of those of us reading, responding to and/or considering the evidence and arguments in this blog) is slim to nil. He's after the power brokers of the planet -- one at a time, if he's personally involved. He was after Jesus big-time, but Jesus triumphed -- even on the cross, the last place you would ever expect a soul to triumph! Of course Satan has confederates who can also influence people, but they are weaker and less adept.

Read THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by CS Lewis and you will see Satan's strategy plain as day -- you will also enjoy it immensely! (Talk about a book to relish and recommend to others!) But the good news is that the Good News of Jesus' acts on earth and on the cross have given Satan a deadline. He's raising hell right now (here on earth in so many ways) because he knows this is his last crack at having any kind of say at all. He can't rule in hell if he can't get anyone to go along - so he's recruiting hourly... and people are enlisting because what he tells them is so freaking attractive (all lies, of course. He is the Father of Lies)!

Here's the deal: If you ask people who the opposite of Satan is, 98% will invariably respond, "God." Wrong answer! The opposite of Satan is someone like the Archangel Gabriel. God is supreme above all created things, including angels in his service and angels in the service of the devil.

All of this probably comes across sounding like one woman's studied (or cracked) opinion. That's why I hope everyone who hopes to share on a level playing field will read LEARN THE BIBLE IN 24 HOURS by Chuck Missler. I think he proves the God-breathed nature of the Holy Bible (both Old and New Testaments) not only beyond a reasonable doubt, but beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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The Inquisitor sent me a lovely email today, too:

I sense frustration, as Counselor Troi might say! (Aye, Captain!) Don't be. God made me to question, right? I'm not judging him so much as questioning the evolution of religion.

Again, you reached a very personal level, but without the historical thrust of religion, you may not have been exposed to it as you are now. That is why I look at it in a historical context.
(Response: My coming to Christ had very little to do with historical context except in the context that without evangelists through the past two millennia we would not even know about what Jesus did. I personally came to Christ as the result of a Personal Invitation by the Holy Spirit before I had any training in Who He Is! Since then I have learned Who it Is that invited me!)

But I have to call up one or two things first. You related a story earlier of how two missionaries in the 1940's stumbled upon a tribesman in Africa who spoke the King's English. This is a perfect instance of where Picard would say, "You should read more history, Number One." The fact that someone in the African bush spoke perfect English is not a surprise. The British Empire once covered about 2/3 of the globe. That is why English, to this day, is the most common language throughout the world. Quote:"What are the odds that an African bushman would know the King's English? He must have been an angel. The missionaries are convinced he was."

The odds are actually pretty good! So, I think the "angel" aspect of this story was maybe that the bushman appeared out of nowhere in a time of need, not that he spoke English! Just a matter of emphasis, that's all. (Point well taken. Same end result, however, as you noted.)

The other thing you said was that the planet "belongs to Satan right now." I'm not sure I could believe this even if I were a believer, simply because that would imply that God is losing, that evil is triumphant over good. (Not at all. See explanation above.) I may be cynical, but not that much!!

I believe there is evil around, sure. But I also think that evil is a term thrown around by many, understood by few. To many, evil is everyone not like them. (Not me!) And, sadly, what is evil to some is a religious martyr to someone in the middle east. That is truly a tragedy, but not what we are discussing here, I know.

Here comes Mr. Logic again: So, when God created the world, did he factor in evil as a component to his world, or was it a surprise to him when man became self aware in the garden of Eden? (I'm sure this question is discussed in one of the books you recommended!) (Yes, it is.)

I think I see my attitude towards God, or my idea of God, in the same way I would family or marital counseling: I would have to talk it out -- all aspects -- before I could ever begin to move on towards anything resembling a proper relationship. (But if skeptics reject counseling, as so many do -- in this regard I refer not only to marriage or family counselors but to Counselor God -- where does that get them? Sitting in a corner looking at the situation the way they always have. You can't experience a paradigm shift unless you are willing to commit to an experience of uneasiness as far as where your own personal paradigm stands at present.)

Will I ever seek that relationship? Honestly, I don't know. (Huh?! Then why does ANY of this "idea of God" intrigue you so, for so many years running? Your response utterly blows me away!) Who knows what the future holds for me, for this world? (I don't know what the future holds you or for me or for anyone, but I am well aware of Who holds the future -- and that's why I have such joy day in and day out! I've read the Book all the way to the end and God wins and takes a whole bunch of folks with Him!) What I do know is that missionaries spread the word, and they have been a function of the church almost from the beginning. So, there again, it's good to know not only what ails a single soul, but maybe even a nation or a continent.

Always good to talk...As ever,

CS Lewis wrote "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."(Mere Christianity)

Those who have tried everything the world has to offer and have always come up feeling somehow "shorted" or at least slightly "swindled" will recognize their own dilemma in Lewis' comment, looking heavenward as the only "logical solution" to their quandary...

This is simply not a wish fulfillment exercise -- it is a Promise from our Most High God.


Alison said...

I just ordered Learn the Bible in 24 Hours so I'll be able to argue with myself soon...

(I love this stuff!)

Kristine M Smith said...

I just located my copy again. I look forward to what you have to say after you have studied it for a couple weeks. (Yes, the title is LEARN THE BIBLE IN 24 HOURS, but I think if you read it that fast you will miss a lot, especially if you aren't already pretty fluent with the Bible itself. So I'll be patient while you take your to go through it and highlight and write comments in the margins and in general get to know it as well as you can in a couple weeks or so.