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  1. #1
    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Default Religious Testimonies & Authenticity

    Went to church today, where a 20-year-old girl (who will be baptized tonight at a special service with some other people) gave her short testimony.

    She's an ISxx of some type (don't know her well enough to go further) and I like her so far, she seems quite nice. But her testimony basically involved all "spiritualese" terminology.

    ("Went to Catholic church growing up but it never meant anything to me, then I started going to this church and I felt something i had not had before, but I was running away from the Lord into a life of sin, and then I was reading in my Bible and struggling and felt God knocking on the door of my heart and so I gave up living my own life and now I live for God, yada yada.")

    In the past, hearing testimonies similar to this really bugged me a great deal, because it all sounds so cookie-cutter and thus "inauthentic" -- like people just repeating the standard Christian testimony and not really describing anything personal or involved.

    Then, today, I was thinking about her, since she was so young, and trying to hear what was UNDER the surface... and realized that just because she's expressing herself in a fairly conventional way doesn't necessarily mean she did not experience something unique and personal. It could merely be an attempt to "communicate" with other like-minded people, using the language of Church-ese, sort of an Fe convention among Christians. People who aren't naturally communicators fall into the trap, anyway, of using cliche phrasing to describe what could easily be a deep and meaningful experience internally.

    So I'm thinking that, just because I didn't much like her delivery, it was no excuse for me to automatically dismiss her... and I wonder how much of the stuff from SJ types that I might have routinely dismissed is actually authentic... but just poorly articulated, or at least is articulated in a way that doesn't speak much to me but speaks a great deal of others who share that mindset.

    Ideas?
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  2. #2
    Wait, what? Varelse's Avatar
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    Interesting...I'm not sure if I usually dismiss it as inauthentic, but I generally wonder how much depth is actually behind the statements. I wonder if they understand why they are saying what they say in such areas, or if they are just on some sort of emotional high, or what.

    I guess I would require some evidence of thought about this on their part before allowing myself any certainty about their motives.
    We are not poets
    We have no right to make amendments

  3. #3
    Senior Member HilbertSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post

    So I'm thinking that, just because I didn't much like her delivery, it was no excuse for me to automatically dismiss her... and I wonder how much of the stuff from SJ types that I might have routinely dismissed is actually authentic... but just poorly articulated, or at least is articulated in a way that doesn't speak much to me but speaks a great deal of others who share that mindset.

    Ideas?
    I agree, but I think there might be another contributing factor. Her experience may be authentic, even unique, but it is going to be subjected to interpretation in the context of what she already knows, and slotted into the ideas and words that already make up her world view.

    So she might experience something, and think to herself "Ah, this is God knocking on the door of my heart." She's not merely using that as a shorthand way of communicating - it may be how she actually experienced it. It's even possible that her expectations colored her experiences, so that the event itself was re-interpreted through the lens of not only language but anticipation.

    I don't think, though, that any of this should be seen as grounds for dismissal. If anything, I think they lend additional color and depth - there can be whole frameworks underlying even the most hackneyed metaphors. The whole back-and-forth process of concepts informing experience which alters concepts alone is fascinating, but even more so when talking about the experiences of individuals who are attaching great meaning to their experiences.
    JBS Haldane's Four Stages of Scientific Theories:

    1. This is worthless nonsense.
    2. This is an interesting, but perverse, point of view.
    3. This is true, but quite unimportant.
    4. I always said so.

  4. #4
    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    So I'm thinking that, just because I didn't much like her delivery, it was no excuse for me to automatically dismiss her... and I wonder how much of the stuff from SJ types that I might have routinely dismissed is actually authentic... but just poorly articulated, or at least is articulated in a way that doesn't speak much to me but speaks a great deal of others who share that mindset.

    Ideas?
    This reminds me of a story.

    When I was a network administrator, we had "technical contact" who were users in the departments. Some of these contacts weren't very technical; others had strange communication skills. No matter--when the contacts needed help, they were supposed to call the network admins and we were supposed to assist.

    One of these contacts was a fellow who had to relate every single detail of what he was experiencing and every scrap of information about why I should listen to him. He was so detailed and explicit in his stories that a simple request usually ended up being a several minute phone call. Most of the other admins just gave him the "yes, dear" treatment and dismissed him.

    I usually listened to him, though. Under his long, winding descriptions, there was often something that needed to be addressed. If nothing else, he needed to get some validation and, as he was a representative of the user community, treating him well was a good customer service move.

    One of the things I learned from him is that it's human nature to dismiss people who don't use the right words. He would describe legitimate problems, from his perspective, but because his words didn't immediately mean anything to the other admins, his comments got rejected.
    Who rises in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, "I think I will do something stupid today?" -- James Hollis
    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Whaling is illegal in Oklahoma.

  5. #5
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    When I was a teenager in a fundamentalist church there was a LOT of pressure to "testify" something profound. You got all kinds of strokes for testifying and it was always presented to me as a "when" rather than an "if." It felt awful to me. I don't know if it's that way in other places, but where I was, if you just weren't feelin' it you could expect to be shunned.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rivercrow View Post
    One of the things I learned from him is that it's human nature to dismiss people who don't use the right words. He would describe legitimate problems, from his perspective, but because his words didn't immediately mean anything to the other admins, his comments got rejected.
    Hmmm. I could even expand that to include some of the posters on INTPc and MBTIc. Their delivery can sometimes turn people off (e.g., some people use vocabulary that is just opaque, or sprawling paragraphs of detail that doesn't cut to the point), but I really try to make it through and see if there are any ideas underlying it all that are of value. Because often even the person who seems to be "off" can be basing their ideas off a nugget of truth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    When I was a teenager in a fundamentalist church there was a LOT of pressure to "testify" something profound. You got all kinds of strokes for testifying and it was always presented to me as a "when" rather than an "if." It felt awful to me. I don't know if it's that way in other places, but where I was, if you just weren't feelin' it you could expect to be shunned.
    Yeah, I've seen that as well, and/or experienced environments where that was promoted. Our church is not like that, there's no actual pressure to give a testimony nor judgment if you don't, and anyone is allowed to say whatever they'd like. But I would feel awful in that sort of environment, which seems to direct people to almost fabricate things or "dress up" their stories in order to be more impressive. There was that whole situation with the former "Satanist" / Christian comedian Mike Warnke a number of years back, who was discovered to have fabricated the majority of the testimony he was using to drive his ministry.

    Quote Originally Posted by HilbertSpace View Post
    I agree, but I think there might be another contributing factor. Her experience may be authentic, even unique, but it is going to be subjected to interpretation in the context of what she already knows, and slotted into the ideas and words that already make up her world view. So she might experience something, and think to herself "Ah, this is God knocking on the door of my heart." She's not merely using that as a shorthand way of communicating - it may be how she actually experienced it. It's even possible that her expectations colored her experiences, so that the event itself was re-interpreted through the lens of not only language but anticipation.
    That's a good point. In a sense, it's like "language" in general. The words we know actually impact our ability to think certain thoughts, and a very limited language restrains nuance of thought or perhaps even prohibits certain "types" of thoughts from occurring. We just don't think in certain directions.

    This is fascinating stuff to consider... but very perplexing as well. I will never figure out this "God" stuff. *sigh* I wish there was a way to get an intellectual handle on what is occurring, but God seems to be outside of that, in terms of being "provable" or totally definable. I guess it frustrates me because it's hard for me to believe in something wholeheartedly if I cannot understand it or articulate it, and I'm a bit envious of those who have a faith that allows them to act and speak with boldness. I don't feel as effective as a person, always being in such a gray area.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  7. #7
    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Hmmm. I could even expand that to include some of the posters on INTPc and MBTIc. Their delivery can sometimes turn people off (e.g., some people use vocabulary that is just opaque, or sprawling paragraphs of detail that doesn't cut to the point), but I really try to make it through and see if there are any ideas underlying it all that are of value. Because often even the person who seems to be "off" can be basing their ideas off a nugget of truth.
    On the other hand, there is the law of diminishing returns.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wm Blake
    He who has suffered you to impose on him knows you.
    Who rises in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, "I think I will do something stupid today?" -- James Hollis
    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Whaling is illegal in Oklahoma.

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    @.~*virinaĉo*~.@ Totenkindly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rivercrow View Post
    On the other hand, there is the law of diminishing returns.
    Yeah, I was aware of that but avoiding going there, out of kindness.
    "Hey Capa -- We're only stardust." ~ "Sunshine"

    “Pleasure to me is wonder—the unexplored, the unexpected, the thing that is hidden and the changeless thing that lurks behind superficial mutability. To trace the remote in the immediate; the eternal in the ephemeral; the past in the present; the infinite in the finite; these are to me the springs of delight and beauty.” ~ H.P. Lovecraft

  9. #9
    shoshaku jushaku rivercrow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Yeah, I was aware of that but avoiding going there, out of kindness.
    I guess I expended all my kindness for the week Friday night.

    The God thing is very simple. First, you have an NDE at 3, then it's all down hill from there.
    Who rises in the morning, looks in the mirror and says, "I think I will do something stupid today?" -- James Hollis
    If people never did silly things nothing intelligent would ever get done. -- Ludwig Wittgenstein
    Whaling is illegal in Oklahoma.

  10. #10
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    Aw, look. My first post here has to deal with Christianity. Who'd guessed?!

    This kinda reminds me of NBC's coverage of the Olympics. They want to artificially attach an emotional tie to the competing athletes. Well, at least the American ones. They will go out of their way to make it seem like each competitor has overcome such a huge mountain of adversity. True there's a tremendous amount of sacrifice to get to where they are but not every tale should be its own made-for-TV movie. Like in '94. It was all Nancy Kerrigan. Or, Tonya vs. Nancy. Or Tonya being presumed guilty not innocent without a trial and then Oksana Baiul comes in and takes the gold and it was such a shock to everybody because "poor, poor Nancy had to go through so much." Then it starts to come out that Oksana didn't see her dad past age two. Her grandparents she lived with died when she was 10. Her mom died from ovarian cancer that she may've gotten as a result of Chernobyl when she was 13 and then has to go to live in the West when she doesn't speak English. Then it was almost disgusting to here those same people talk about "Oh yeah, she deserves to win." Urgh!

    Anyway, this kinda relates to something I've thought about from time to time, The Great Commission of "preaching the Gospel to all creation..." A few months ago I was flicking through radio stations on the way to church and caught a bit of a sermon about Jesus healing some paraplegic. He was going pretty deep into some otherwise innocuous verses, like Jesus saying "Take up your bed and walk," was telling the guy that his bed was his testimony. It was a very interesting lesson but, and I'm definitely not complaining, I can't top that.

    I wonder what was Jesus' intent for testifying. Are Christians to go around like a bunch of Herbelife salesmen? "Hey, do you know about Jesus?" "Let me tell you about my Lord and Savior..." "Did you know Jesus died for your sins?" "Uhhh...I was just looking for some cough drops. Can you tell me what aisle they'll be on?"

    There's the adage of "confession being good for the soul," which, unlike many adages attributed to religion actually has biblical support. I think there's part of testimony/confession that is to benefit the one doing it, not it just being something that's for the person listening. But, I'm not sure what it is. I've been at a bus stop or mall or fast food joint and gotten some flyer or pamphlet or card about Jesus or the road to salvation and I wonder how effective is that.

    I personally don't know if I have a "testimony." I'm thankful for a lot of things. Believe God has answered many prayers and changed me for good but to stand up before an auditorium or even talking to a small group of people, I don't know how convincing I would be. It's funny because over the years I've had several agnostic people say to me about various politicians, "I don't think s/he's really a Christian." I'd ask what they'd mean and they'd say something about that person not really being able to talk much about it.

    There probably is an over emphasis on the miraculous and not enough of the day-to-day stuff. There's really not a how-to guide to testimony in the New Testament. The cookie cutter effect could be a good reason why.

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