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Because thou art lukewarm I will spew thee out of my mouth

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 at 1:59 pm
by Borg

When I was 13 I was singing in the village church choir and would happily deliver the most obscure Christian lyrics with the same plastered smile. But I remember this one line that at first I did not understand at all, and that then made me choke as I learnt what it meant. It was taken from the Book of Revelation 3:16 and said that “God would spew the lukewarm out of his mouth.” The choir leader explained to me that lukewarm meant “neither hot, nor cold”, that’s to say neither with God or Us nor with the Devil or Them, and spew really meant that God would vomit such a person out of his mouth.

God

Art thou lukewarm?

This image made a horrific and lasting impression on me, not primarily because it depicted a most vulgar vomiting God which did not coincide with the glorified image of the divine I had in my head, but more so because it did not make any sense. Had God gone bonkers? Even with a 13 year old’s logic I understood that there was something truly fishy about this. Why would God prefer someone outright evil to someone unsettled or in doubt? Why would God prefer a definitive liar to an honest doubter? If he was “the truth, the way and the life” then surely any honest searcher would eventually get it right and fall into the right faith like a snail into a water well. The only situation in which God would win anything from this vomiting business was if he was hiding something. For all the talk about how OK it was to doubt and question, here it was in black and white: If you seriously doubted God you would become God vomit. There was of course the paradox that if God didn’t exist then he could not spew either, but that was the kind of insight you were not supposed to have. More with my guts then with my bedazzled indoctrinated mind did I realize that a liar stood to benefit most from people not asking any more questions. If there was a truth then jumping to conclusions would only stall the process of finding it out. Why would God be in a rush? It’s not as if it was his time that was running out!

Thinking about it now, God seems not just a little bit neurotic here. The God of the old testament has often been called jealous and angry, but this is at the end of the new testament. If he cannot deal with the undecided why not just do something else?! It’s not like he doesn’t have the rest of the Universe to attend to. Prozac perhaps? A spliff? Maybe he just had a bad day and needs a massage.

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator

It was with the same gut feeling I listened to the US ex-president saying “either you are with us or you are with the terrorists” when going to war on Iraq. What about the undecided? What about the ones feeling they lack sufficient information to make such a choice? Even if one agreed that destructive belief systems were dangerous and called for action, how could anyone imagine that you could bomb them away without creating even more enemies? Does not wanting to fight fire with fire make you a terrorist? No, but causing 1,288,426 of Iraqi deaths does.

Dichotomization and forced choice is something most totalitarian organisations have in common, and while that may serve the purpose of domination they do not lead to truth about the world nor a clear conscience.

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12 Responses to “Because thou art lukewarm I will spew thee out of my mouth”

  1. Guy Says:

    I agree with you if what is meant is a kind of 'you're either with us against us' mentality, but playing Devil's advocate for God's messenger boys: possibly it means 'get off the fence and make your mind up'- i.e. don't try to please everyone and use the excuse that you haven't decided yet- a typical wishy-washy modern liberal position to take- the use of agnosticism to endlessly postpone the moment of decision that one either believes or doesn't. As you point out, a human life is temporally finite so possibly this god wants us to believe sooner rather than later for OUR own good rather than his.

    Having said that I personally think that all beliefs which are relied on as 'the explanation to everything' are deeply suspect- I remember my buddhist meditation teacher at college telling me that he didn't believe in god or the afterlife or anything else… which was quite a shock to me at the time.

  2. Nils Borg Says:

    Yes, there is that pragmatic question, how do you make a choice with insufficient information? It's tricky. The favourite thing anyone ever told me came from a wise drunk Spaniard in a dark old bar in Sevilla some 8 years ago:"La duda es el Dios del estudiante y el Diablo del actor". (The doubt is the God to the student and the Devil to the actor)

    But I think there is a confusion about what life demands of us. Life does demand action. Life does not demand certainty. (Fuck only knows what God demands). So the forced choice this type of religious people impose on us is only aimed at ridding themselves of the uncomfort of doubt. It doesn't benefit the action, just helps to rationalise the choice.

    As for wishy-washy liberal fence sitting I rather let J.S. Mill defend himself against the same criticism in On Liberty: "Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion, is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right.

    In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt, that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind.

    This is the amount of certainty attainable by a fallible being, and this the sole way of attaining it."

    http://www.utilitarianism.com/ol/two.html

  3. Guy Says:

    Yes Mr Mill has it right there I think- unfortunately people like that are all too rare- we are so attached to MY opinions that it feels like a personal attack if anyone disagrees.

    But look at anyone who is really excellent at what they do and they will probably have listened more to the negative comments than the positive ones (discounting personal attacks only intended to hurt).

    About that quote from the Spaniard- did he mean that if you really want to learn you need to doubt but if you only want to pretend then doubt is your enemy?

  4. Nils Borg Says:

    I understand it to mean that you can only learn if you doubt. Not doubting would imply already knowing, so how did you ever get to the "knowing" without going through the doorway of doubt?

    "El actor" in Spanish I think has more meanings then the English "actor", which is why it doesn't just mean "to pretend" but to act. In English you can say the Wallstreet players for instance, and I think you would translate that to "los actores de Wall-e-street" :-)

    It just highlights the double edged sword that is skepticism and suspicion. You learn from it, but it makes action so much harder. But that acting under uncertainty is emotionally more stressful doesn't make it something you can shirk from, cause it is the only way you can get it as right as possible. Bush wanted only information to support his decision and the death toll is still rising.

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