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Eternal Questions

I got a book from my Mom yesterday for Christmas. The book is called Ten Eternal Questions , Zoe Sallis is the author.

I was glancing thorough the introduction and came across a sentence, a thought that really made me think. The author put a simple phrase in the introduction " many people nowadays would agree with Socrates that discussing ideas is the mark of a civilized society?"

Think about that...

When is last time you discussed an idea? Not defend your stance, not argued that you were right and the person you were speaking with was wrong, but discussed an idea.

Pick any idea:

Environmental Issues.

When was the last time you entered into a conversation with an open mind that would let itself be changed if a more valid point than what you thought to be true was made to you.

When was the last time you watched a bunch of "Scholars" or "Analysts" sitting around a table on T.V. actually analyze anything?

When was the last time you watched a Republican and a Democrat "Discuss" something with the intention of both being smarter at the end of the conversation. Did they have any intentions of learning from the discussion, or were they both just telling the other "I am right and you are wrong!"

Do you sit and discuss with your kids or do you force them to always act like they believe your way is right.

What if the Atheist "Discussed" Faith with the Christian to attempt to at least get an understanding of why they believe. What if the Christian just discussed Faith with the Atheist to come closer to an understanding of why they don't believe. Wat if they just discussed with trying to persuade?

What if the Republican listened to the concerns of the Democrat and they both worked together with a goal of a better place, a happier medium, instead of just fighting to destroy each others ideas and credibility along party lines. (There is little to no "Intelligent discussion" in politics, from either side)

I have a very solid set of beliefs, morals and principles, but even more solid is my commitment to listening, to discussing, to learning. We have to get away from "I am right and you are wrong". We have to get back to "Discussing" ideas with a mission of understanding.

In the same breathe I want to say this, don't be wishy-washy, don't waffle on the things you know are right. I know this can sound contradictory. We were told as kids to be strong, stand up for ourselves be resilient in our beliefs. All that is sound advice, but it can all be done with an open mind.

I was raised a Missouri-Synod Lutheran. I am still a Missouri Synod Lutheran. I am firm in my Christian beliefs, but I am very open-minded about it. Does that make sense? Does it seem contradictory? It's not. I am 100% solid in what my Faith is, but... I will sit, listen and have an open mind about Faith and Religion with anyone who is willing to have a "Discussion" with me. You won't change my mind, because I am firm in my beliefs, but the information you present or the discussion we have could very well lead me to changing my own mind on certain details. And I will not attempt to force my Beliefs/opinions on you! Sound fair? I am convinced it is the fairest way to operate in this world. I am also convinced that if more folks operated that way, we would have a happier more progressive world.

I really think this book will lead to more blog posts... sorry if you think it's gibberish.



  1. Cody, Thanks for posting this. I for one am all on board with this topic. I personally feel that confidence in what you believe is what makes a person able to openly listen and learn from others without having to "defend" what they believe, or think, at every turn. If a person says they believe in Love then they should, at the very least, be willing to actually listen to what other people think, to learn where they are coming from. If we can't at least do that, we might as well say we believe in arrogance and/or ignorance. I too am a Christian and make every attempt to listen with the posture of a student to all whom I come in contact with. If we look at the lengths to which God went, to be able to completely relate with us, or at least help us understand his ability to relate with us, then shouldn't we be willing to do the same for Every other Human Being. We may just learn something we don't know and help each other. Good stuff Man.

    Love Wins, Jason Nather

  2. Great comment Jason...

    I love the concept of learning from things we don't know... inreality, isnt that the only way to ever learn... to admit we don't know everything??

  3. I'm not sure that I aspire to be civilized Cody but I do love the discussion of ideas. I always have.

    Which is one of the many reasons I married a guy who will talk about ideas for hours on end with me.

    It's also likely why we have a son who has long embraced the discussion of ideas, different philosophies, different viewpoints and why he's chosen psychology as his college major.

    It's also why I got an old favorite of mine on DVD for Christmas --the Kung Fu TV series.

    IMHO, more people embrace discussing ideas than you may realize and that as you talk to folks about it, you'll find they have a lot of input.

    Enjoy your book Grasshopper (from the Kung Fu series because your probably too young to remember it) and Merry Christmas.

  4. Let me jump in here, after all I bought the book - ha! Our family has always been great about this, we can have discussions, learning experiences, enlightening times -whatever -without arguements or screaming matches - discussions! I love them and probably instigate them a little by buying "the little books" or bringing up "the little topices". Let's get it straight from the beginning, I'm not the intelligent one, but love listening and learning and feel I'm open minded but firm in my beliefs - just as Cody stated. I watched a documentary the other week that was amazing - several very intelligent, highly educated – It was so good and went on for over an hour - there were Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Theists (noun 1. the belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism ).
    2. belief in the existence of a god or gods (opposed to atheism ).
    individuals from all over the world that came together to discuss whether there really is a God with all the "evil" in this world.) - others that I can't remember - they brought up the Holocaust, the hurricanes, the droughts, diseases, had powerpoints, documents, - no one lost their cool, just intelligent discussion and great information. Now this did not budge me on my faith in God but I learned a great deal and enjoyed it tremendously,-I could do that daily! It might have swayed some folks. Anyway, some things, important things, things that involve millions of peoples lives could be resolved in this fashion - you cannot go in with a closed mind, unwilling to learn, to hear, to see that someone might have a little more experience or knowledge or a better way - no matter what color they are, what religion they are or what political stance they take! If they are wrong, speak up, but can it not be in an intelligent, kind, explaining manner - that they, too, might learn something - as a parent to a child should always be. Don't ever tell me you can't learn from your child - I've done it for 34 years - just by listening - but believe me, he's not always right.

  5. Pam,

    I've never doubted for a minute that you and your family have discussions of ideas and are constantly asking questions and learning. : )

    On a personal level, I've always been a fan of being civil (adhering to polite social norms) for a number of reasons. The first one and primary one is respect for others as individuals and as people.

    Socrates was a good guy who welcomed all ideas. What he said about a civilized society would have included all ideas.

    Outside of Socrates idealism though is the very pragmatic reality that many people embrace the "well-bred" and "refined" components as their personal extension of what it means to be civilized.

    Some folks use the word "civilized" to exclude the ideas of those they feel don't embody the refined aspects they prize on a personal level.

    I'm with Socrates but I can't say I aspire to exclude the ideas of others if don't come from a source that fits into pre-conditions.

    I went and read part of the linked blog about gay folks and the Bible.

    While I don't believe the Bible is ever evolving (sorry Cody), I do believe it was intended to be taken as a whole.

    It seems as if many people mistake a Biblical "definition" as something other than what it is. Somehow, man judging man gets all twisted up in some Biblical definitions.

    It's taken out of context of the whole ....Judgment is God's, not man's theme of the bible.

    I'm one of those Bible preservationists and advocate accepting it as a whole.

    A definition is a definition but Judgment is God's. Each person's individual journey to find God is exactly that...their individual journey.

    It's not for man to decide for other men.

  6. Of course discussing ideas is important...that is why a classic, liberal arts education is so critical...for everyone.. and it should continue past formal schooling.

    Unfortunately, in my experience, "open" discussions without clear parameters involving folks with differing viewpoints regarding faith/religion do NOT end well. I try to steer clear, although I am quite firm in my philosophical stances.

    And, for what it is worth, I think there have been some "intelligent discussions" about politics, here on this blog, no matter what Cody says.

  7. And if I may add for those interested...I have always enjoyed the Templeton Foundation's presentation of "Big Questions." They get a wide range of articulate viewpoints.

  8. Cody, what you describe has been going on more or less on your blog for the last year or so. You've had Republicans and Democrats, Athiests and Christians, Jolene and sane people talking about all kinds of things without it turning into a flame war. Right?

    Maybe it'd be good for you to write a post called "what I've learned from this blog". I'd be interested to know if the benefits of listening to others in an open-minded and civilized way has changed your mind (or softened your stance) about anything.

  9. Thanks for all the great comments. Jolene,
    I love what you are saying. I also love your ability to stand firm while having civilized discussions.

    One thing though...

    You said: "While I don't believe the Bible is ever evolving (sorry Cody), I do believe it was intended to be taken as a whole."

    With matters of Faith, I completely respect that, but, with Social and civilization matters... do you not agree that we as a society have evolved and need to be able to use our evolved intelligence to realize that some of the Social and Community values represented in the Bible are from a different time?


    I agree Faith/Religion discussions can go bad. I believe that is because it often turns into "I am right and you are wrong". In matters of faith or beliefs... there is no right or wrong.
    If we discuss things in that manner... it is less likely to get heated. Obviously both sides have to be willing to discuss that way... or both will end up defensive.

    Statements like "your'e an idiot for believing in an imaginary spirit" or "Your'e an uncivilized heathen, bound for a fiery eternity for not having believing in God" aren't discussions, they are insults.

    Starting out a discussion with more of a "I choose to believe this because.... and it's cool if you don't" --- In my opinion, can lead to very cool in-depth discussions between folks with differing opinions.

    I kinda have Pride in your and I's friendship because I feel like we have great discussions (on this blog and elsewhere) even though the only thing we really agree on is how much the 92-93 Salthawk football team kicked ass!

    I also agree there has been some great political discussions on this site and give you a huge share of the credit for that.


    I agree with you as well and have some of the greatest discussions in my life with you and as I have matured, I have seen how great of a conversationalist you are. I don't know if my mind has opened a ton or if yours has (or both) in the last 2 decades, but its been alot of fun and very insightful.

    Thanks again guys... this blog is free therapy for me!! :)

  10. Nate,

    Great idea.

    I will do it!

    I am also officially inviting You, Dave, Jolene and Pam (my mom) to do the same.

    write a guestpost for codytalks titled "What I have learned from Reading Codytalks"

    Will any of you do it??

  11. What I've Learned from Reading Codytalks" - this is easy for me. I've learned that several different personalities can come together on various, hot topics and issues and express their opinions - very intelligently - I might say - and I, being the type of person I am, always am amazed at how they truly believe and live those ideas and beliefs and are able to prove that through their blogs. I know most of these bloggers and have for years and am proud that they don't constantly bow down and agree and pat each other on the back (they have not done this since they were friends in grade school) - but is that not truly friendship? That you can have "discussions" (Dave and Cody - keep your cool - you're mature now) and you both know and respect the intelligent level of each other - listen, respect, smile, but you'll never always agree, never - that's why there is chocolate and vanilla - the world needs both of you - I learn from both of you - do I always agree with both of you - no, but through the blog, it stretches each of your minds, challenges all of you, I find research is being done on different topics of interest and points are being made here - there may never be a "general agreement" but think of the information dug up and provided through the process - I love this and I'm an old grandma! Don't ever stop this stuff - it keeps your mind rolling, it keeps the world revolving and your friendships going! You are all great people and, Jolene, you are a blessing to this blog that we all are thankful for - there should definitely be a "get together" at some point! I learn constantly from this and I can't imagine that there aren't more out there doing the same!! Thanks to all of you!

  12. Jolene - I'm anxious for you to answer Cody's question "do you not agree that we as a society have evolved and need to be able to use our evolved intelligence to realize that some of the Social and Community values represented in the Bible are from a different time?" I have an opinion but "I'm a mother" - maybe I'm not sure what he is trying to say here.

  13. Cody,

    Only one thing....just teasing. : )


    I've missed reading your posts and talking to you. : )

    ...and before I get distracted, I'd love to write what I've learned on Cody's blog....but by the time I finish this post it'll be bedtime for me tonight. There's always tomorrow though.

    To answer Cody's question:

    For the past few years I've been following along with newspaper and magazine coverage of the controversy between the US Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Church/Community that it's a part of.

    It took me well over a year of reading about it before I came across a detail that absolutely floored me.

    The detail was that people in Africa (which has a very strong Anglican community) who had depended on the US Episcopalean churches for food for a long time were refusing the food because of how strongly they felt about the US church's decision.

    That bothered me for a long time.

    I know that for a lot of people the reaction would have been/would be, send the food to someone else. The good work will continue.

    Which bothered me even more.

    Not long after that I was at the public library one day and there, on the new book shelf was a book of the poorest US churches. Churches in ghettos. Some in neighborhoods where people would carry a kitchen chair or a folding chair from home every Sunday and they'd hold services and read scripture on a lot where a building had been bulldozed down and rubble remained.

    As I looked at the pictures of those churches and the people holding services on a crumbled city lot, I realized that while the Bible was written for all of mankind, it was written in a time and place where life wasn't so great.

    God is the great equalizer for the poor, for the downtrodden, for those who struggle in ways I doubt I'll ever understand.

    Sure, it was easy for me, with my pampered life and God is love philosophy to nod along when people said, the Bible doesn't really apply to "us".

    I realized that what had bothered me so much about the folks in Africa who turned down food rather than to accept a change to their faith based on current US social mores is that their need for God to be the Great Equalizer outweighed their need for food.

    Those are some hungry folks.

    Honestly, I think if we were as evolved as current US social mores tell us we are, we wouldn't be so quick to think that the Bible was written in context of our own personal experiences.

    How many people do you think lost sleep when who the food was sent to overseas changed?

    Are we really so arrogant as Christians that we just move onto helping a different person if what someone says to us goes against what we've adopted as the new "right" of how things are?

    Do we see people or agenda?

    My answer is, I don't think we're nearly as evolved as we think we are and that was a very painful thing for me to acknowledge.

    I don't think we understand the implications of tampering with the Bible.

    Hitler had the same idea and did some social updating of his own with the Bible.

    Didn't we learn that lesson that hard way already?

    I have no problem with social charge Cody. I've had gay friends all of my adult life. The church my husband and son have long gone to is an open and affirming one. Probably half the congregation is gay.

    Folks are folks. But that extends past the scope of my limited view and experience of things.

    IMHO, social change does not necessitate changing the Bible.

    One of the main themes of the Bible is that man is not the Judge of other men.

    Can you honestly say that if that theme weren't embraced instead of the current idea of "changing the Bible" that the social changes wouldn't be more beneficial on a societal level all around?

    JMHO, of course. : )

  14. Jolene, I couldn't wait to get up this AM and read your answer, now the anticipation of hearing Cody's response is even greater! ha! You are awesome and I have missed you also - please don't forget the "what I have learned" blog also! I will "learn" from that also. Scripture is still the "way of life" for me - since I have retired, I have made it a challenge to study it more and research it - whether it is just me and the desire for it to be what I want it to be or if it is as it is, I am amazed how it pertains to my daily life, daily problems, daily blessings. Again, I go just go back to "faith".

  15. Jolene... what church do you go to? I'm dying to know what church has an inerrant view of the bible, and a population that is half gay.

  16. Pam,

    I'm sure that you've already discovered that leaving the paid workplace behind is only the beginning. : )

    I've always loved the scene in "Fiddler on the Roof" where Tevye sings of using the time that he lacks to sit in the synagogue and pray and how having the luxury to sit and talk about the Holy books would be the sweetest thing of all.

    In my personal experience, scripture can annoy the heck out of me. My impulses are as human as everyone else in the world. : )

    Past the impulse stage, I acknowledge that what I want and what I need are very often different things.

    I don't come from the school of folks who believe the Bible should affirm who they are. Rather I see the Bible as a reminder that each of us are flawed, human and constantly struggling to find the balance of what we want and what we truly need.

    On many levels, what a healthy society truly needs.

    That's a hard, hard balance and in my experience, a personal struggle.

    Eternal questions are tough.

  17. Nate,

    My husband and son go to a First Congregational Church. While they are part of the larger United Church of Christ, there is no central doctrine. They do share a common belief in social justice and believe they are doing God's work by embracing social justice.

    In the individual church that hubby and son go to, they believe this (I copied it from their church webpage):

    Welcome to First Congregational Church of Houston

    ...where a thoughtful exploration of progressive Christianity is nurtured and where

    * you feel at home, regardless of ethnicity, race, age, or sexual orientation
    * you are free to grow spiritually, while learning from others and sharing your own beliefs
    * children are nurtured in an engaging, spiritual environment
    * we are an open and affirming congregation and a member of the United Church of Christ
    * thinking is encouraged when interpreting the Holy Bible
    * people find support, have fun, and enjoy one another's company
    * there is a strong sense of mission and many opportunities to help others
    * no matter where you are on your life's journey, you are welcome here

    ...the Greater UCC webpage:

    My husband grew up going to a FCC church and they are a very long way from where they were 4 decades ago. So much so that his parents decided the church had changed too much from what they beieved and a few years ago they changed to a different denomination.

    I don't go to their church and what I've typed is my experience and my beliefs, not theirs.

    On a personal level, what I've found when I've gone to the church they go too is that there's too much talk of how other churches are "wrong" and too little personal introspection and desire for a connection with God.

    Still, my husband finds comfort singing in the choir there and loves raising his voice to God. He accepts that all people are flawed and that extends to the people and the places where they gather.

    Our son will decide his faith for himself and the church they go to provides a good basis for comparison. In the last couple of years, he's become a favorite of the congregation to deliver church sermons during services. He has a natural ability to see conceptual Christianity in ideas he comes across and to deliver an unusual and unexpected story to the congregation in a way that makes them think without being offensive.

    The nature of humans seems to be a universal part of Christianity.

    Demographically speaking, I think their particular church has a higher level of folks who have done the full study and are ordained ministers among the congregation members than any other chruch I've been around. When you sit in Bible study, the personal stories often include what they learned at this class or that class at Harvard. The liberal arts education is very prevalent among this group of folks. Houston is a big town and has a diverse population, much of it wealthy. Their church is just one of many and other FCC churches in Houston don't even have English as the primary language of those that attend them. One race churches - such as the UCC church that Barack Obama went to for years - are common. Their practice and expression are as individual as the practice and expression at the FCC church my husband and son go to are.

    The roots of the US Congregational Church rose from the nonconformist movement during the Puritan reformation in England.

    Harvard University was founded by Congregationalists and became a center of Unitarian training. The Unitarians and Congregationalists split in the first quarter of the 19th century.

    Yale, Dartmouth, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Amherst were also universities founded by the Congregationalists.

  18. This is gonna get long and arduous but be incredible.


    IMHO the folks that wouldn't receive the aid from the US where the ones judging. They are the ones who are not willing accept people.

    I don't think anyone should change the Bible. I don't think anyone should change any book of History. I truly believe the Bible has History in it and we shouldn't tamper with it. I do however think that we should study History and learn from it. The Bible talks of 'The proper way to handle your slaves'(paraphrase) 'who should and should not be stoned' (paraphrase) 'Animal sacrifices' (paraphrase), Abraham (a highly revered man in the Bible) was on the verge of sacrificing his son and when stopped by an Angel was then presented a Ram to take the place of his son. Do you not believe we have grown, evolved as a society to understand that God doesn't want us to actually continue those practices? I am not contending we should "Change the Bible" I am contending we should continue to learn from it and grow. I am contending that the study of it and the study (introspection, discussion) of any and all beliefs, just makes us smarter and more in touch with what we actually do believe.

    I kinda dislike the Hitler reference... I believe Hitler was trying to take the bible TOO LITERALLY" not that he was in fact changing it.

    Don't get me wrong Jolene I am a Christian and have read/studied the Bible (I know Mom not enough!!) but thats what I have done, studied it as something that I want to learn from and grow, not just regurgitate and memorize.

    The study of History is for the purpose of bettering the present/future, I think! Its not to memorize facts or win trivia contests. If we don't learn from History and try to repeat successes and not repeat mistakes, why the heck study it. (Unless you have a goal of winning Jeopardy)

    Thats my view of the Bible, a History book inspired by a God that wanted it to be studied and not just read for the rest of time.

    To go back to the beginning of my comment...

    If one of the Main themes of the Bible is that Man is not the Judge of other men...?

    How can some hungry folks in Africa use the Bible to Judge that US Aid is not good enough for them??

    Seems to just drip Hypocrisy to me.

  19. None of this is my bailiwick, but if you type "biblical criticism" or "criticism of the bible" into Wikipedia, you will see that you aren't the first to have engage in this debate, so I do not expect a resolution.

    And if you pardon me for a moment, this all reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons, when Bart poignantly stated: "Don't you get it? It's all Christianity, people! The little stupid differences are nothing next to the big stupid similarities!"

  20. Cody,

    If we're bettering the future doesn't that include hearing what others in the world are saying?

    How will we ever win the war on terrorism if we don't progress past bullets and blood and reach out past flipping the finger (or a more polite version of the same thing) when confronted by the weapon of Americans choose social mores over the Bible?

    IMHO, a theological discussion is way past due.

    Years ago after we first went into Afghanistan, I read an article in American Legion magazine about the theological basis for Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. It sprang from Muslims who came to the US and were educated at Harvard. The contrast between American society and their own led to an extremist movement that, after time, resulted in the 9/11 attacks.

    Americans aren't going to give up their freedoms, their beliefs or their social mores. I don't believe we ever should.

    But instead of repeating the defensive stance of don't-you-judge-me (or us)-we'll-do-what-we-want again and again, it sure wouldn't hurt to also express that we believe that free choice, with all it's stumbling and detours, is how flawed humans find their way to God.

    Islamic fundamentalism teaches that you must do all things a certain way or man will punish you in the name of Allah.

    But as long as the back and forth is ...We know what God wants against We know what Allah don't progress past bullets and blood.

    Do we really want to ignore what the folks in Africa are saying when it is yet another growing terrorist state?

    If we're so evolved and have learned so much from history, why aren't we able to put forward why we believe that freedom itself gives people the choice and the path to God?

    Why are we debating who has the better vision instead of talking about our path to God and our hope (because faith is based on hope) that others will find both God and joy in God by having the freedom to choose Him?

    Do we not trust God to reveal Himself?

    The folks in Africa who wouldn't accept the food were saying, IMHO, mankind is flawed and has been flawed throughout history. My guess is they see evidence of that on a regular basis.

    IMHO, they were saying man should not put himself above God. That God is the Judge, as the Bible says.

    They could say something entirely different though. They could say, it must be true, those folks in the US have abandoned God and maybe they do need to be brought closer to Him by other men.

    That's not an option I prefer.

    JMHO, of course.

  21. It occurs to me that I don't know how to write a guest blog on Cody Talks so I'll just answer "What I have learned by reading CodyTalks" here.

    First and foremost, I've learned that you can go home again.

    It's been a very long time since I lived in Hutch. We have, of course, been back to visit time and time again and I talk to my mom and sister in Hutch all the time. I wouldn't give that up for anything.

    I found WUH and CodyTalks not so long after my dad passed and I was feeling that loss and feeling the separation of time and space along with it.

    The conversations I had with the folks on this blog made that loss less poignant. It wasn't really gone, it has just changed it face.

    There is a connection to where you've once been, especially if you still have family there even when you love your life and the people in it.

    Then, of course, the conversation is always interesting.

    I like that Cody is part warrior, part peacemaker.

    I like that Pam and I both come from small towns and similiar backgrounds.

    I like that Dave is passionate about what he does and make a difference in the world.

    I like that Nate is both practical and pragmatic - both qualities that bring so much to what he does.

    There are other folks of course and each one of them has something I like about them.

    Which brings me to my third point of what I've learned by reading this blog. While there are often differences of opinion, each person who posts here regularly has respect for others.

    This blog truly is a community. In many ways, modeled about the small town community I grew up in. Transferred to a new medium.

  22. Sometimes it pisses me off that Jolene puts out such well thought out responses, makes me think too hard. Makes my comments seem so unintelligent.
    (Just kidding Jolene! :) thanks for the great comment and for making our little conversation her lively)
    This blog really is great therapy for me.

  23. Cody,

    We both know that if I were intelligent, I'd be making a more popular point instead of standing outside the majority of popular opinions.

    New laws headline on Comcast this morning include the following:

    In New Hampshire, a new gay marriage law will replace a law that allows civil unions, which already provided gay couples with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage.

    Starting Friday, a gay couple in a civil union can get a marriage license and have a new ceremony, if they choose. They also can convert their civil union into marriage without going through another ceremony. Couples who do nothing will have their civil unions automatically converted to marriages in 2011. Conservatives are seeking to repeal the law.

    In Wisconsin, both same-sex and unwed opposite-sex domestic partners who work for the state and University of Wisconsin can sign up to receive health insurance benefits. A law that allowed same-sex partners to sign a registry to receive other benefits similar to what married couples get took effect in August.

    Link for full article:

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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