Good Goats

HEALING: A Simple Way To Change Our Image Of God by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 26, 2017

From: Good Goats Perhaps the easiest way to change our image of God is to try something that takes only a minute. Get in touch with the love of God in  your heart. Put a smile on your face that matches that love. Smile at a person who loves you and allow that person to smile back at you. Taking in the smile of someone who loves us is such a simple thing.  Yet, it can be one of the most healing things in life.  A friend’s smile can heal us if we know that God loves us, just for a start, at least as much as the people who love us the [...]

HEALING: We Are All Good Goats by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 19, 2017

From: Good Goats A few years ago, we presented some of the ideas in this book to a group of elderly retired Roman Catholic nuns.  One sister raised her hand and said, “But what about the story of the sheep and the goats?  It says right there that the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell.” Dennis responded by asking the whole group, “How many of you, even once in your life, have done what Jesus asks at the beginning of that passage and fed a hungry person, clothed a naked person, or visited a person in prison?”  All the sisters raised their hands.  Dennis said, “That’s wonderful!  You’re all sheep.”  Then Dennis asked, “How many of you, even once in your life, have walked by [...]

HEALING: Punishment Never Heals, Only Love Can Heal by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 12, 2017

From: Good Goats When we speak of how our recovery depends so much on knowing God as merciful and loving, the most frequent question we are asked is this: “If God is so merciful and loving, then why be good?” I (Dennis) understand this question since I did many good things because I feared a vengeful, punishing God.  For example, I read Matthew 25 about the sheep and the goats.  I interpreted this passage literally and thought that since the sheep go to Heaven and the goats go to hell, I wanted to  make sure I was a sheep.  So, out of fear and as a good sheep, I did many good things such as visiting the sick and feeding the hungry.  Yet, when my image of God changed, I did even more good things and did them with more [...]

HEALING: Why Is It So Important To Change Our Image Of God? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

October 5, 2017

From: Good Goats Why is it so important to heal our image of God?  It is not so we’ll know what afterlife is like.  Rather, it is because we become like the God we adore.  Studies show this is true in many aspects of our lives.  In marriage, for example, the more a couple experiences God as a lover, the more likely they are to enjoy a wholesome, loving marriage.  Andrew Greeley found that this wholesomeness extends to all aspects of marriage, including sexual fulfillment.  So, too, in David Nygren and Miriam Ukeritis’s study of who are the most caring and least caring among those who choose celibate religious life, the most caring were four times more likely to image God as a caring healer than their less caring peers.  [...]

HEALING: “God Is A Father; More Than That, God Is A Mother” (John Paul 1) by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 28, 2017

From: Good Goats At times I (Dennis) resisted changing my image of God from that of child abuser to child lover.  At first I thought that my resistance was to changing my theology.  But I discovered that my real resistance was to changing my personality. First, to stop reading scripture so literally and to begin to appreciate its images and symbols, I needed to rely less on my ability to think and more on my underdeveloped feeling side.  Secondly, to appreciate how God loves the unrepentant sinner, how grace is not earned but given as a free gift, I had to become more at home with receiving from others rather than always compulsively doing things for them.  In summary, I needed to integrate feminine values into my deeply skewed male [...]

HEALING: What About Free Will? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 14, 2017

From: Good Goats Does Jesus’s descent into hell to be with those who seem to have rejected God violate free will?  Or, could it be that by his loving and healing presence to those in hell, Jesus restores free will?  Free will has often been defined as the capacity to say, “Yes,” or, “No,” to God.  However, Karl Rahner and other theologians suggest that free will is the capacity to choose in a God-like way.  Thus a truly free person paradoxically, like God, can only choose the good.  Saying, “No,” to God is not a sign of free will but rather of how a person still needs healing in order to become free.  Once healed and truly free, that person, like Jesus, can only say, “Yes,” to [...]

HEALING: Jesus Comes To Be With Us In Hell by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

September 7, 2017

From: Good Goats What if it appears that some people, such as Hitler or the Nazis who hung the innocent child before Elie Wiesel’s eyes, have closed the door of their heart from the inside, and chosen hell?  Is there anything God can do?  By descending into hell, God can come to heal us even there.  The common understanding of Jesus’s descent into hell, (1 Peter 3:19), is that Jesus goes to preach the good news only to the just souls awaiting redemption.  However, according to the New Jerusalem Bible, this understanding overlooks that Jesus goes also to the chained demons mentioned in the Book of Enoch and those in Noah’s time who were punished by the flood because they “refused to believe.” Theologian [...]

HEALING: What About The Hell Of Suffering? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 31, 2017

From: Good Goats If God is so willing to spend eternity loving and healing us, where is God when we suffer now?  If God abandons us to the hell of suffering in this world, how can we believe God won’t abandon us to hell in the next?  Where is God in natural disasters, wars, tragic accidents, concentration camps?  Job, after losing his health, home, and family, concluded that suffering was a mystery in which we cannot know the role of God, (Job 42:1-6).  Elie Wiesel, watching the Nazis hang an innocent child in the hell of the holocaust, came to a different conclusion: Total silence throughout the camp.  On the horizon, the sun was setting.  “Bare your heads!” yelled the head of the camp.  His voice was raucous.  [...]

HEALING: Does God Send Anyone To Hell? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 24, 2017

From: Good Goats Our Roman Catholic tradition and many other Christian traditions share two beliefs about afterlife.  The first belief is that Heaven exists and people are there.  (By “Heaven” we don’t mean a specific geographical place “up there,” but rather a state of loving union with God.)  We all have loved ones – grandparents, parents, friends – who we are confident are in Heaven.  Secondly, hell exists as a possibility, but we don’t know if anyone is there.  (By “hell” we mean a state of supreme alienation.)  If anyone is in hell, it is not because God sent that person there, but because he or she chose it.  C. S. Lewis used the image of hell as a room with the door closed [...]

HEALING: How Being Loved And Forgiven, As An Unrepentant Sinner, Healed Me by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 17, 2017

From: Good Goats Being loved as an unrepentant sinner, as Paul was, has often been a healing and life-changing experience for me.  For example, years ago my German self-righteousness got set off by the U. S. border patrol.  One day, while we were in California a mile from the Mexican border, I was writing outside with Sheila.  We saw the border guards catch five Mexicans on the beach.  We wanted to reach out to the Mexicans in some way, so we went inside the house, gathered up enough granola bars for them, and went out to the beach.  When we arrived, the five Mexicans had their hands up in the air and were being searched.  We had just been in Mexico, where we felt overwhelmed by meeting so many jobless people unable to provide [...]

HEALING: Is God A Prosecuting Attorney Or A Defense Attorney? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 10, 2017

From: Good Goats The theology of Anselm leaves out some very important “good news” because it ignores other traditional and more compassionate understandings of the New Testament accounts.  For example, parakletos, or the “Spirit of Jesus that judges us” could best be translated as “our defense attorney who justifies us,” (John 14:15; 15:26).  Spanish conveys this well, since in many Biblical translations and church prayers it describes the Spirit of Jesus which judges as nuestro abogado, meaning “our defense attorney.” The New Testament has many stories of Jesus as defense attorney.  Two such stories are those of Saint Paul, (Acts 9:1-22), and of the adulterous woman, (John 8:2-12).  In [...]

HEALING: God’s Twenty-Thousand-Year Pout by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

August 3, 2017

From: Good Goats My tendency to read the vengeful punishment language in scripture literally came in part from a common understanding of the teaching of Saint Anselm (1033–1109).  In Redemptive Intimacy, Dick Westley quotes theologian Walter Imbiorski who describes how Anselm’s thinking has often been caricatured by popular Christian teaching: You see, part of the difficulty is that most of us are caught up emotionally in what I would call Anselmian Salvation Theology, which goes something like this.  God created the world.  Adam and Eve sinned.  God got pretty damn sore, goes into a 10,000 year pout, slams the gates of Heaven and throws the scoundrels out.  So he’s up there pouting and about 5,000 years ago by and the [...]

HEALING: Reading Vengeful Punishment Passages Literally Can Drive Us Crazy by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 27, 2017

From: Good Goats The time when I understood most clearly the dangers of reading the vengeful punishment passages in the Bible literally was when I was called to a mental hospital to see my friend, Bill Wilson.  Guards ushered me into his room.  Bill’s hands were chained to his bed and he had a bandage over the right side of his face.  That morning he had tried to gouge out his right eye.  When I asked him why, he quoted to me Matthew 5:29: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your member than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Everyone knew Bill was crazy for taking the first part of that passage, “If your right eye causes you to sin, [...]

HEALING: Jesus’s Response to Vengeful Punishment by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 20, 2017

From: Good Goats Changing our image of God from child abuser to child lover was the core of Jesus’s mission.  Jesus was always trying to change people’s vengeful image of God.  Often Jesus tried to heal on the sabbath, or touch a leper, or forgive someone.  But the priests, scribes, and Pharisees would forbid Jesus to do these things because they interpreted literally the vengeful punishment passages of their Bibles which spelled out the consequences of such “illegal” actions. For example, in the story of the adulterous woman (John 8:5), the scribes and Pharisees want to stone her to death.  They justify themselves by telling Jesus, “Moses has ordered us in the law to condemn women like this to death by [...]

HEALING: What About Vengeful Punishment In Scripture? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 13, 2017

From: Good Goats At first I found it hard to believe in Hilda’s loving God.  I had grown up reading Matthew 25, about what God would do to goats, and other seemingly vengeful punishment passages in scripture.  For example, Matthew 5:29 says that if your right eye is a temptation, it would be better to pluck it out than to have God throw you into the fires of hell.  Such passages made God seem to be a child abuser, much like Good Old Uncle George. Assuming that what I had learned from Hilda might be true, I began asking myself, how do those who love us the most use vengeful punishment language?  Then I began to notice that those who love the most – grandparents, parents, lovers – often use the same words of vengeful punishment [...]

HEALING: God Loves Us At Least As Much As The Person Who Loves Us The Most by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

July 6, 2017

From: Good Goats I was stunned.  What Hilda taught me in those few minutes is the bottom line of healthy Christian spirituality: God loves us at least as much as the person who loves us the most.  God loves us at least as much as Hilda loves her son or at least as much as Sheila and Matt love me. When Sheila and Matt most love me, they are not going to say, “Dennis, we love you unconditionally, much more than you can ever imagine.  But you really blew it.  So, to hell with you, but remember how much we love you.”  And even though Sheila has a mighty big purse, she does not lug around an account book to mark down my sins and what punishment I merit.  And if Sheila and Matt don’t do these things, could it be that God [...]

HEALING: How My Image Of God Changed by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 29, 2017

From: Good Goats One day Hilda came to me crying because her son had tried to commit suicide for the fourth time.  She told me that he was involved in prostitution, drug dealing, and murder.  She ended her list of her son’s “big sins” with, “What bothers me most is that my son says he wants nothing to do with God.  What will happen to my son if he commits suicide without repenting and wanting nothing to do with God?” Since at the time my image of God was like Good Old Uncle George, I thought, “God will probably send your son to hell.”  But I didn’t want to tell Hilda that.  I was glad that my many years of theological training had taught me what to do when I don’t know how to [...]

HEALING: We Become Like The God We Adore by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 22, 2017

From: Good Goats I changed when my image of God changed.  Most of us recognize that we become like our parents whom from early on we adore, even with all their faults.  We may not realize that we also become like the God we adore. Unfortunately, the God I grew up adoring was German.  My God was a self-righteous German who sat on his (at the time my God was all male) judgment throne.  Being a self-righteous German, my God could see all the mistakes and errors in everyone else.  If my self-righteous God did not like what he saw in others, he could even separate himself form them by sending them into hell.  And if my God could be a self-righteous German then no matter how many healing prayers I prayed, I would probably never change.  I [...]

HEALING: Why Wasn’t I Healed? by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 15, 2017

From: Good Goats For many years the three of us have prayed for healing of life’s crippling hurts.  We have experienced profound healing in our own lives and in the lives of others.  But I (Dennis) finally came up against a problem in my life where healing prayer didn’t work.  Why not? I am half German.  Although I don’t want to stereotype all Germans, like many of my ancestors I was born a self-righteous German.  Like self-righteous “Good Old Uncle George,” who threw into the blazing fire anyone who did not act in a way he approved, I, too, saw all the mistakes and errors in everyone but myself. For years I tried every kind of healing prayer in order to be rid of my self-righteousness.  Although these [...]

HEALING: Good Old Uncle George by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn

June 8, 2017

From: Good Goats I (Dennis) grew up with an image of God that resembled Good Old Uncle George, as described by Gerard Hughes. God was a family relative, much admired by Mum and Dad, who described him as very loving, a great friend of the family, very powerful and interested in all of us.  Eventually we are taken to visit “Good Old Uncle George.”  He lives in a formidable mansion, is bearded, gruff, and threatening.  We cannot share our parents’ professed admiration for this jewel in the family.  At the end of the visit, Uncle George addressed us.  “Now listen, dear,” he begins, looking very severe, “I want to see you here once a week, and if you fail to come, let me just show you what will happen to [...]