Todd Alcott is an amazing spoke word artist.
Enjoy his poem TELEVISION.
Todd Alcott is an amazing spoke word artist.
Todd Alcott is an amazing spoke word artist.
Enjoy his poem TELEVISION.
Today I’m writing about the institutional church’s emphasis on missions, evangelism and promotion/marketing the salvation of the soul. For too long I have heard that if we only believe in Jesus then we will be saved. But this is untrue a fallacy and deceit. Okay some readers may start quaking and shaking because I’m challenging one of the basic tenants of the what has been preached as “the faith”.
The problem arises when, in our challenged attention span, we fail to understand the scripture/teachings in the larger context and what it means for our lives. For example, Jesus said, (in the ever popular verse)
“For thus God loves the world, so that he gives his only-begotten son that everyone who is believing in him should not perish but have life eonian.” – John 3:16(Concordant Literal New Testament – CLNT)
Out of context this verse clearly suggests that belief alone will save. But wait! What is the larger context where this appears? To understand the context we must read the entire section where this verse appears – John 3:1-21 in addition to the larger context of Jesus overall teachings throughout the gospels. Jesus is having a conversation with one of the Pharisees named Nicodemus who was a chieftain. Briefly, Jesus talks about how the times have changed and are changing. Previous perceptions of heaven are re-evaluated. Throughout his ministry Jesus talks about Heaven being here and now. In this section of scripture he points out that the Pharisees were making distinctions between celestial and terrestrial existence/being. Jesus says in verse 13 that the only one who has gone to heaven (as the pharisees teach) is the one who has come from heaven. In short, Jesus brings heaven back down to earth. The “one” he speaks of is the only-begotten son of mankind. And the belief in what the only-begotten son of mankind has done (bringing heaven down to earth) is what saves mankind. He then goes on to say that our actions here on earth reflect what we believe. So it’s not the belief that saves us. IT IS our actions here and now that reflect what we believe that matters.
So it’s not so esoteric as a “soul” that is so often preached in churches. It has nothing to do with heaven as a separate place to escape from this existence or find as a reward for believing. Belief alone will not save; it is how our actions are determined by our belief. As is written in James 2:19-20
“…the demons are ALSO believing and shuddering. Now are you wanting to know, o empty man, that faith apart from works is dead?” (CLNT)
Many translations turn that question into a statement. But it is in fact a question and the writer goes on to say that actions are not separate from belief. Actions illustrate and are inseparably linked to belief. No wonder so many so-called Christians, church workers and religious people are accused of hypocrisy and bigotry; saying one thing while doing another. It’s our actions here and now in this existence that show what we truly believe. Our actions at work with our co-workers, customers, suppliers, investors shows what we truly believe. Our actions at home with family and neighbors shows what we truly believe. Our actions in our “play” or social activities show what we truly believe. Going to church or saying we are Christian doesn’t mean squat! Anyone can, and does, do that. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21 that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter heaven. He continues by saying that the people who experience heaven are those who do Gods will. In other words, not most who go to church or say their Christian will never experience heaven as Jesus taught. Only those whose actions are in line with what Christ taught will experience heaven on earth as he taught.
Enjoy this delightful satire
(fyi- this is a re-post from my previous blog in August, 2012.)
Scene from THE CROW “Victims, aren’t we all….”
I’ve been thinking about the things that put me “around the bend” regarding the institutions of the church. First of all I don’t believe the Church was ever meant to be an institution. It was just a label given to groups of people who got together from time to time.
The scene above from the excellent film, THE CROW, is a modern parable. A parable on the consequences of viewing ourselves, our churches, our religion, our culture as victims. When we view ourselves as victims we will only know violence, hatred and revenge. I’ve often told people, I am not and never will be a victim. That does not mean that others won’t try to make me a victim or victimize me in some way. But I choose to never see myself as a victim. That’s doesn’t mean my life is any easier. In fact, because of my choices, my life is at times more difficult than what it may need to be (I’ve been told more than once to just “play the game”).
This does not seem to be the case for the Church/institutional Christianity. It seems that the “church” everywhere is embracing victimization. For further proof one only needs to look at the elaborate security systems churches have in an effort to protect their investment. And that may be part of the problem. The investment for the church has become something other than the people who make up the church. Fund raising is used to prop up the institution. The Church has entered the realm of monument building. And it will do everything it can to defend and prop up it’s monuments. In short Churches have become “Like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27) Everywhere we turn the so-called Church is on the attack. Defending it’s turf, complaining about its circumstances, and seeking anti-christian (legal/political) means of resolving it’s conflicts has become habitual behavior. In this age when the media is filled with stories of hate-crimes against different religions it is easy fall into the trap of victimization.
Why is victimization a trap? As soon as someone sees themselves as a victim they have already decided to react by complaining about their situation, lashing out, placing blame, even attacking the perceived cause/source of victimization. It’s done in the name of defending themselves. This is a very unhealthy and unproductive mindset. Sadly this is especially true in America since 9/11. Gun sales have risen sharply since that time. Sadly many of these buyers claim to be Christian. I know of people who try their best to use different bible passages to justify taking up arms (always out of context for self-justification). I know of one Christian who recently bought a gun in the name of defending his family. He sees himself as a minister of the gospel. But I ask what precedent does this set for your children? What example does that give to others? How does this even coincide with Jesus’ teaching – which you claim to follow? In fear, we already see ourselves as victims. When we are afraid we make unhealthy choices not only for ourselves but also for those around us who we may claim to be protecting. We become slaves to that fear of victimization. The result is we victimize ourselves. Sadly this has permeated the so-called church. We have applied this mindset to our beliefs – in spite of the actual teachings of the Source of the faith.
When we claim that we, our church and/or our religion are victims we are in bondage. We are trapped by our thinking. We have stopped promoting a gospel of love and freedom. We create and defend a gospel of bondage. We have created our own chains. Is it any wonder that Christianity has such a bad name today? Is it any wonder that church institutional membership is declining? Who wants to be in bondage? Not me! Jesus came to set people free from the very things that the church is doing.
Where I grew up and where I live there’s a lot of talk about being a “slave to Christ”, “in bondage to Christ”. Now the church has taken some archaic language in the bible and twisted it to support its gospel of bondage. As is surrendering one’s rights to the church has something to do with being Christian. It doesn’t. First of all slavery should never be promoted. If a person chooses to enslave themselves that is their choice. When the Bible is talking about being a “slave to Christ” it is not talking literally but metaphorically. It is about aligning oneself to the teachings of Christ and making every effort to live them in daily life and not give up trying even though one fails. That’s different from giving in to institution demand and mindset to defend the faith – as if faith was something to defend. This has given rise to an increase in Christian Apologetics. Genuine faith cannot be defended – it can only be lived.
Now, I want to be clear – I’ve NEVER heard a church or Christian say, “We are victims”. But a person doesn’t need to say it in words. As I’ve suggested all along – it’s in our attitudes/mindsets and our actions. Look at the Christians (whether Orthodox, Evangelical, Protestant, Catholic, etc) who seek to punish those they perceive are criminals (criminals being; those that object to, criticize, ridicule, distort and slander a person’s faith or religion in word and/or action) And this they apply to the arts, politics, science, education, lifestyles and other religions/belief systems. What has happened is that the Church has come to see itself as separate from humanity and not a part of it. This separation has had dire consequences. It is “Us vs. Them”. The church does not promote unity, healing, love among humanity but is a source of division. It not only puts one on the defensive but it becomes justification to attack and is used as a reason to go out and proselytize others in an effort to “bring them into the fold.” Instead of Christianity’s institutional leaders directing the path taught by Christ, this thinking is supported and encouraged. It is even applied to the institutions themselves – thus the evolution of the Gospel of Bondage.
This is inappropriate and was NEVER supported by Jesus. And that’s part of the problem. Jesus is being taught as the Messiah, that Savior of Humanity that did a lot of cool things and told some cool stories. But by-and-large the Church has stopped investigating his teachings. People use other scriptures out of context to justify their actions, thoughts and lives without testing them against what Christ taught. But if it doesn’t align with what Christ taught it is anti-christian.
So how should we then live? If we are Christians we need to re-investigate Jesus actual teachings and seek every effort to apply them to our lives. Teachings like forgiveness, love, compassion, mercy, caring for ALL people (not just those of our own faith or those who agree with us). When we can do this for people who are against us we no longer see them as separate from but actually a part of the big picture – a part of God’s creation – a part of the human family. We need to understand what he taught about the kingdom of heaven and what it means for us today.
We each have our function and purpose on this earth. We are part of one existence. Part of the God-consciousness itself. Each of us may be a different part of the body (i.e. someone may be a hand, foot, eye etc) but we can’t survive without each other. In fact we need each other. But If we reject others for their beliefs, actions, etc we are actually rejecting a part of the body that we are a part of. When this happens we are slowly killing ourselves by self decapitation. Have you ever seen a decapitation that was a good thing? Decapitation is ALWAYS violent and ugly.
A personal story:
I work in the Customer Service industry. No, not retail, not something that glamorous. I actually work the phones for a utility company. That means that I have the opportunity to be verbally attacked and even threatened – and it does happen from time to time. When I started this job (nearly 5 years ago) I literally had no idea what this would be like. Naturally at first I was on the defensive and it seemed that almost every call was a personal attack. And it’s hard not to feel that way when you are being verbally attacked or having your life or family threatened. Add to that we have a changing work-place environment based on the changing economy that adds challenges to the relationships I have with co-workers and supervisors. This all adds up to one stressful day. I tend to be more emotional anyway so dealing with these things are very difficult at times because it is my nature to react emotionally first and intellectually second. I am getting better at taking a moment (a breath, a pause, a heartbeat) to step back from the situation. But my growth and change has not been easy. I don’t think it’s supposed to be easy. But I view it as necessary. I keep a phrase by my computer that I look at quite often to remind me. It is simply, “Like water off a ducks back, let it roll over me.” The next step was to, as I’ve been talking about, viewing these people I deal with not just as “callers” or “co-worker’s” or “management” but as part of the human body – my body. It is a real game changer to think in this way. I can say that the outcome of my calls has been significantly different from when I started with this company. I still have a long way to go but I at least feel that I am on the right path. But again, it all comes down to the fact that at some point I decided NOT to be a victim or victimize others by being defensive.
We need to diminish our conflicts and differences not escalate them. It’s a choice. The choices we make now not only affect our actions but the actions of others both now and in the future. If we choose to perceive ourselves, our churches, our religion as victims we are making a very dangerous choice with dire consequences, both short-term and long-term. So don’t ever call me a victim. I am not and never will be a victim no matter what happens to me in this life. And it feels so good to say that. 🙂
Scene from DANGEROUS MINDS – “Choice”
Music today by Canadian musician Bruce Cockburn – GOSPEL OF BONDAGE
From the album ‘Big Circumstance’ (1989).
GOSPEL OF BONDAGE by BRUCE COCKBURN
Tabloids, bellowing raw delight
Hail the return of the Teutonic Knights
Inbred for purity and spoiling for a fight,
Another little puppet of the New Right
See-through dollars and mystery plagues
Varied detritus of Aquarian Age
Shutters on storefronts and shutters in the mind –
We kill ourselves to keep ourselves safe from crime.
That’s the gospel of bondage…
We’re so afraid of disorder we make it into a god
We can only placate with state security laws
Whose church consists of secret courts and wiretaps and shocks
Whose priests hold smoking guns, and whose sign is the double cross
But God must be on the side of the side that’s right
And not the right that justifies itself in terms of might –
Least of all a bunch of neo-nazis running hooded through the night
Which may be why He’s so conspicuously out of sight
Of the gospel of bondage…
You read the Bible in your special ways
You’re fond of quoting certain things it says –
Mouth full of righteousness and wrath from above
But when do we hear about forgiveness and love?
Sometimes you can hear the Spirit whispering to you,
But if God stays silent, what else can you do
Except listen to the silence? if you ever did you’d surely see
That God won’t be reduced to an ideology
Such as the gospel of bondage…
A very funny video by OSHO. A word that I hear every day. It’s interesting how the more uses a word may have – the more confusing it becomes and the less important it becomes.
10 Things that Christianity got WRONG:
10.) Thinking Heaven is about escaping life instead of living life.
9.) Emphasizing the divinity of Jesus and diminish his humanity.
8.) Choosing Duality instead of seeing Jesus as the ultimate non-duality.
7.) Missions; let’s face it, it’s proselytizing a sales pitch to try and get others to be part of the group.
6.) Reading the Bible literally – ’nuff said.
5.) Having a personal Jesus – teaching that Jesus came to change their world instead of helping THEM to change the world.
4.) 7-day church. It only promotes separation from the world not participation in the world.
3.) The “right” to bear arms against anyone we disagree with – to defend ourselves.
2.) 10 commandments/rules and regulations/rituals – [even though Jesus said that he was the end of the law]
1.) Exclusivity, being part of the “chosen”, us vs. them – [even though Jesus Christ was inclusive]
10 things Jesus NEVER saw coming:
10.) That he would have a religion named after him.
9.) A government which allowed him to be murdered would turn him into a state sponsored religion.
8.) People would actually pray to his mother.
7.) Temples/Churches would be built in his name that had nothing to do with what he taught. [And most of the people who attend those “temples” and read this still won’t “get it”.]
6.) That some worthless King(James) of England would make a political move and commission his own Bible that would be written with the intent to justify/legitimize his own English Church and that this would become the standard for “modern” Christianity even though it is inconsistent and full of errors in translation.
5.) That people would use him as an excuse to disengage from the world – except when they want donations.
4.) That his name [Jesus] would become a marketable commodity where trillions of dollars would change hands – even in church.
3.) The industrial revolution.
2.) The technological revolution.
1.) The internet and the information revolution.
10 things Jesus actually taught:
10.) That he would be the source of much misunderstanding and division turning, even, families against each other causing much suffering.
9.) Pray in a closet – not in public.
8.) Politics gets it wrong.
7.) Religion gets it wrong.
6.) You can have peace regardless how horrible your life circumstances may be.
5.) You’re a narcissist? – so what! love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.
4.) It’s your faith, what you believe, that heals you. Healing comes from within.
3.) Love your enemies – because when you do, you no longer see them as your enemy.
2.) The kingdom of Heaven is within you – here and now.
1.) Churches are like tombs filled with the bones of the dead.
Bonus – The thing Jesus’ life revealed – He is the Saint of Impossible Causes (like me).
And now for a little irreverent humor.
Holy Trinity – Larry, Curly & Moe
Three Stooges – Father, Son & Holy Ghost
It is important to laugh at one’s own religion. It is healthy. One sign of a healthy person is when they can laugh at themselves. Wouldn’t it also make sense that the sign of a spiritually healthy person is someone who can laugh at their religion? Again I write from the Christian perspective because that is my religious background. I’ve found humor in the Bible, things that made me chuckle like a great Joke is when Jesus tells his disciples that Peter was the rock he would build his church on. I’m sure the disciples had a big guffaw over that because Peter was so wishy-washy. He repeatedly said one thing and did another – for example, Peter says to Jesus, “I’ll follow you to the ends of the earth” then he denies he even knows the guy – 3 times.
So with today being dedicated to humor here are some great videos that I enjoy that look at Christianity very humorously. I hope it brings a smile your face and heart. Peace.
(fyi – this is a re-post from my previous blog in 2012)
What does it mean to be unsafe?
I think it means to be open, unlocked, unconditional and taking risks. Certainly easier said than done. In our culture these things are typically lauded but not encouraged. A strange paradox. I think that in terms of faith, especially the Christianity I live, the paradox is even more profound because the institutions encourage conformity yet the Savior it proclaims was the ultimate individualist, open, and risky person around.
In our culture we have let fear define safety. We close up our borders, we increase security by increasing surveillance and decreasing privacy, we cast the dark light of suspicion on anything we do not understand or are not familiar with. We use religion as a weapon. And I am ashamed to say that many; who claim to believe in Jesus Christ are just as guilty as those who don’t.
Let’s look again at just a couple of examples of what Jesus taught;
“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48)
“Do not resist an evil person” (Matthew 5:38-42)
“Do not act for the purpose of being seen or recognized by others” (Matthew 6:1-4)
“When you pray, go into your room, close the door…” (Matthew 6:5-15)
I could go on. I just want to encourage everyone to live a life of faith that is unsafe. Don’t be afraid to be open, to take a stand against “accepted” public opinion. Take the risk of fighting others by trying to understand them and accept them that they may see, in you a different way to live. Love “keeps no record of wrongs.”(I Corinthians 13:5) “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5:6) “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and work… so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12)
Well that’s all I have to say right now.
I declare myself “unsafe”; An urban explorer of the human soul.
Enjoy this video by Mike Stand and THE ALARM – UNSAFE BUILDING
We are creeping up on the Easter holiday season, many Christians will be planning their celebrations of death and resurrection. They will be recounting the last days of Jesus Christ on his way to the cross etc. There will be many annoying bath-robe pageants, easter sunrise services and the like. The bigger churches will have glitz and glamour, and high-tech installations. Oh my, I think I just made myself sick.
I want to re-visit one of Jesus last messages. The message not only highlights why he was murdered by politics and religion but talks about something that I’ve heard often repeated since my youth; he talks about what so many Christians have interpolated as the “end times” – as in, “it’s the end of the world, pack your backs for the rapture – we’re goin’ to heaven.”
Text will be from Luke 21 in the Concordant Literal New Testament translation. The context is a number of days before the Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest. Jesus is with his disciples at the temple. He notices people caught up in the temple service and they are making a big show of how much they are able to give. Even a poor widow who gives all that she owns. His disciples are caught up in the hoopla and talk about how beautiful and grand the temple is. In other words we are seeing a cultic temple-centric (not God centered) experience complete with hype. Religious practice has become a show (kinda like Christian churches in our own time).
Jesus does NOT get caught up in the hoopla. He steps back from the fray and declares,
“These which you are beholding – there will be coming days in which not a stone will be left here on a stone, which will not be demolished.” [v.6]
Is it any wonder he was murdered? He was talking about the end of the temple religion – a religion that had become the very core of Jewish identity. Today this would be called anti-Semitism. And if someone said the same of Christian churches there would be riots in the streets. How did Christianity get “end times” out of that incident? It makes NO sense. But the next section may give us a clue. Jesus’ disciples start by asking,
“Teacher, when, then, will these things be, and what is the sign whenever these things may be about to be occurring?” [v.7]
So even Jesus disciples can’t believe the words that came out of his mouth. Jesus then talks about what to expect. He describes how nations will war with each other and smaller political entities/governments will war with, and within, each other (think of the war between Republicans and Democrats in the US). In other words great division. he also mentions great quakes, famines and pestilences,… fearful sights and great events in the heavens (i.e. space, the solar system etc). Jesus continues to talk about not only the desolation of the temple but also the desolation of Jerusalem. Again if this kind of talk happened here in America it would be considered traitorous punishable by death penalty – so as I said earlier – is it any wonder that people hated Jesus and begged for his crucifixion? Jesus goes on, in detail, to talk about various signs that the desolation is near and at the time of this desolation he says,
“And then they shall be seeing the son of mankind coming in a cloud with power and much glory. Now at the beginning of these occurrences, unbend and lift up your heads, because your deliverance is drawing near.” [v.27]
Pretty fanciful and this is where Christians have interpolated this notion of rapture and end times because they read this as a literal event not a metaphor for living now. He is describing those who are able to rise above the fray. Again this has nothing to do with the end of life as we know it. Just the end of the temple and desolation of Jerusalem. Continuing, Jesus then tells one of his famous parables – this time the parable of the fig tree. And this is another thing that disturbs me because most of the parables are mis-understood and taken out of the context in which they happen. He illuminates and interprets the parable for his disciples by saying,
“Thus you also, whenever you may be perceiving these things occurring, know that near is the kingdom of God.” [v.31]
This is wonderfully consistent because through-out the period in his life when he was teaching Jesus refers to the kingdom of God/Heaven as near and even here now and “within you”. So in the midst of all this crap that’s happening in the world the kingdom of God and Heaven is near, so near that it’s here now within us. Now most Christians will not want to hear this because they want some great escape from the crap in this world. But it doesn’t happen that way. Of course the next question could be “Why are we stuck here, why can’t we escape?” I think it’s because we’re supposed to make a difference to help others work through the crap in their lives to make this heaven for everyone.
What happens next in the scripture is that Jesus gives us a map, a guideline of behavior and mindset, for surviving this life and it is loosely linked with the golden rule. Jesus tells us to beware for ourselves that we don’t get sucked into all that’s going on around us,
“Now take heed to yourselves, lest at some time your hearts should be burdened with crapulence and drunkenness and the worries of life’s affairs,….” [vs.34]
We need to protect our own mindset because if we don’t we can get bogged down by “crapulence” (literally skull-wrestle or mental distress), drunkenness if we give in and stressed by life’s affairs. He goes on to say that getting bogged down by this stuff is a trap. A hidden trap that will snap shut and victimize us. He does not want us to be trapped or victimized so he is warning us to beware of our own thinking and behavior. This is incredibly difficult to do in our technological environment where we are continuously blasted by news of all that is going on around us – it is easy to get caught up in events and not remain separate and guarded so that we can be of benefit to others. But this is exactly what he is talking about. In verse 36 Jesus comes to the end of this particular teaching and says,
“Now be vigilant, on every occasion beseeching that you may be prevailing to escape all these things which are about to occur, and to stand in front of the son of mankind.” [v.36]
Again he reiterates to beware at all times. And why? Not so that we can escape from this life but that we can escape from the harm of getting sucked into the vortex of all that is happening around thus rendering us ineffective. Is it the end times? Sure, because all the signs are there. Will there be a great escape for Christians? Nah, don’t think so. If Christians truly believed they were chosen then they would want to stick around to be a part of the healing and restoration fulfilling the teaching of Christ. I plan on sticking around. I’d rather be dancing in the mosh pit or some jazzy dive than in some grand disco in the sky.
So after reading Exodus 34 I’ve been rethinking this whole notion of God as punisher of those who do evil – which is a common Christian outlook. Exodus 34:3-7 recounts Moses acquisition of the second set of the “ten commandments”, and lists some of Gods attributes. I want to focus on just one of these – punishment/retribution. Like many things in the Bible there are two sides to this and neither is what it seems on the surface.
Verses 6 & 7 read,
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed: “The Lord! the Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.” [JPS translation]
First the good news. The good attributes such as “slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness…” covers a thousand generations. It goes on and on. So-called punishment is only for up to 4 generations.
First I want to question the word “punishment” – which is a common translation. And I’ve always questioned this notion of God punishing children for their parents misdeeds. But if we read it literally that is what it seems to talk about. Let’s think about this. Punishment is something unpleasant imposed by authority on someone or some group for wrong action. In other words punishment is a consequence of wrong action. So let’s get away from the notion of punishment as a whip, hanging, or imprisonment. Lets think about consequence.
Now let’s think about what this consequence is in these verses. We learn that God does not bring the consequences himself. The consequences of wrong actions by parents and society are passed on to their children and even their children’s children [i.e. future generations]…. Now I know you’re probably tempted to say, “but wait” and revisit my previous comment about God punishing children for parents mistakes – BUT STOP!
We are talking about consequences. Cause and effect. Let’s think of the bigger picture here. I’ve always loved the Native American quote from the Iroquois Nation. To paraphrase their Great Law,
“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.”
We have become a very temporal minded society, living for the moment and not thinking ahead to the consequences of our actions for our children and future generations. Another consequence of our temporal society is that we’ve become more reactive than proactive. Me must find a way to think about this. Parents must consider how they teach & discipline, their children. Parents must consider how children learn from their beliefs and behaviors (emotional and physical action). As a society we must consider how our actions in environmental issues, urban planning, government etc will impact future generations. Because our wrong or right actions now WILL HAVE CONSEQUENCES on our children and children’s children for at least the next 3 or 4 generations (according to the Bible). God doesn’t punish our children for our mistakes – we do. If you don’t want your children to suffer from your wrong actions – carefully consider your actions to begin with; in every situation.
Does this mean we don’t or won’t make mistakes? No, we will still make mistakes but if we are mindful and aware, considering our actions we will be able to correct the mistake much sooner. There will still be strong debate over what constitutes right actions in a larger public arena.
I was reading Exodus chapter 33 this morning. And something really stood out for me. A major contradiction between verses 11 and 20-23.
Verse 11 states,
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. And he would then return to the camp….”
Then in verse 20-23,
… He (God) said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and Live.” And the Lord said, “See there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”
Talk about a major contradiction. First we read that Moses regularly speaks FACE TO FACE with God, just like you and I would talk to each other, then we read that God says that no man may see him and live. This is exactly the kind of contradiction that Atheists throw out to prove that God does not exist. I read an interesting side note in the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of this text which stated that the two verses came from different sources. Basically the Talmud was hobbled together from multiple sources which explains the contradictions. But are these contradictions a reason to stop believing?
I got to thinking, Is it that God does not exist because of these different and conflicting versions of events; or is it possible that God exists in both sides of the contradiction? Maybe God is IN the contradiction. I think that in our “modern” age people have forgotten about the beauty of paradox, mystery and contradiction. But if God is the God of ALL then he is also the God of paradox, mystery AND contradiction. I’m very interested in mysticism and exploring other religions. It seems to me that even though the religions of men try to exclude others that God is actually present in ALL religions in one form or another revealing “Himself” to humanity in different ways according to each ones ability to understand and comprehend.
Could it be that God is bigger than the contradiction? Could it be that God is both sides of the contradiction – the unifying force of a contradictions two sides? An ultimate non-duality. Maybe another way to put it is to say that when we view these contradictions in our religions, politics and events of our lives we should not think they disprove the existence of God but that God is in each position and point-of-view.
So what do we do with this? I’m not sure we DO anything with it. I don’t think we should try to remove the contradiction from our “sacred” texts. Contradiction is a part of life. A part of human experience. Why shouldn’t it be a part of our spiritual experience? Let it be. Understand that it’s okay to try to do good but shit will still happen. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. That’s life! Contradiction is okay.
Here’s a great song that talks about contradiction.
Believe that you are more than any given circumstances you find yourself in.
Rise up and live the “more” that is you within the circumstances.
The power is in living and realizing that “more” is not only knowing but
Being and acting on that being.
THE PART YOU THREW AWAY
I want to start by saying, I love Atheists. Even though I’m a Christian I love how Atheism continues to ask the hard questions. My personal experience with Atheism is that in America it seems to be primarily a backlash against Institutional Christianity and how Christianity is preached and practiced. I would add that I think there is good reason to agree with some of the arguments Atheists make. A favorite story I recently came across was this one by magician Penn Jillette who talks about why he is an Atheist – and it generally expresses what I’ve heard from all who are Atheists.
“What we get told about the Bible is a lot of picking and choosing…. When someone’s trying to interpret something for you they always have an agenda.”
And I think that this is important and offers a clue why institutional Christianity has gotten so out-of-whack. When I started reading the Bible for myself and stopped depending on what others told me about what I believe and why – I found so much more. I found stories, concerns and issues that, in my 50+ years of existence have never been taught. Now reading the “source material” has not led me to Atheism like Penn Jillette but it has made me see what has happened to my spiritual tradition over the last 1700 years.
Now about the text I really wanted to talk about. And yes I have an agenda but it’s not to reinforce institutional tradition and understanding; I want to offer up some questioning, discussion and exploration. My text today is from Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians. First chapter. In this letter he comes out swinging. In verse 7 he writes,
“Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
He then goes on to say later in verse 9,
“If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Now I could focus on Paul’s strong combative language but that would miss the point of what Paul is saying. I could also say that we need to support our religious institutions – but again, that would be missing the whole point of what Paul is saying. It’s not about defending ones position or traditions. I want to focus on what Paul refers to as “the gospel of Christ” – notice, he says gospel OF christ which suggests the content and subject of Christ teachings and revelations. He does NOT say the Gospel ABOUT Christ.
I’ve written before and would like to refresh here that sometimes the archaic language is problematic for contemporary readers. The word “gospel” literally means “good news” straight-forward and simple. And Paul says that the message we should cling to is the same good news that Jesus taught. As I’ve said before, in another post, the good news that Jesus taught was that the kingdom of heaven is within you (near and here now), you are forgiven, and you are loved without exception. But ever since Christianity was adopted by Rome (312 AD, under Constantine) as the state religion the message has been the good news ABOUT Jesus Christ, the person. It’s a subtle prepositional change from “of” to “about” but it is significant. Even a popular Bible dictionary defines the word “Gospel” saying it’s about
“all that God has done, is doing, and will do in his risen Son, Jesus Christ.”
Never once does this dictionary define the “good news” as Jesus defined it. Never once!. The message was changed from what Christ actually taught, and how he lived out his teachings, to WHO he was. This is where the problem starts. It’s like Jesus was the envelope for the message and the message (or letter) in the envelope was the good news for humanity – ALL of humanity. But when the focus changed from the good news that Jesus taught to the man himself it was akin to saving the envelope and discarding the message that was in the envelope. Or maybe a better analogy in these technological times is – It’s like being thrilled that you got an email and moved it to a special folder but never opened the email or read it. And Paul also addresses the issue of letting others tell you what the bible means. It’s like letting someone read the letter you got in the mail, picking out and telling you the parts they think are important and/or acceptable then discarding the rest. Meanwhile you have no real clue as to what the entire letter said. And when one person, priest, pastor etc does this for a whole group of people – this is how the message becomes institutionalized. This individual is gone. One person is now telling other what the experience looks like and the individual has no say if they want to continue to be a part of that group. I think this is what Paul was talking about when he said that the Galatians had allowed someone to tell them what the good news was about and they lived according to that message as opposed to based on their own individual experience.
The institutionalized church has treated the word of God like SPAM long enough. The only way to get around that is for each person to read the source material for themselves (as Penn Jillette would encourage). Understand the context in which it was written and then make your decision. Understand the flow of history and how the ideas have changed. One thing that Apostle Paul points out in this letter specifically is that he discovered this stuff on his own. After his conversion he did not associate with the other Apostles or become indoctrinated by them. He specifically says,
“I did not consult any man.” (vs.16)
In his own life Paul was so overcome by the good news that Jesus taught that he went immediately into Arabia and only later returned. In fact it was 3 years before he went back to Jerusalem to meet Peter. (vs.17-18) So Paul had 3 years of just getting acquainted with Jesus teaching on his own. No seminary, no school. Just life and living. In fact if anyone could have disputed the whole thing it would’ve been Paul because he came out of the institutionalized Jewish tradition. When he met Peter, Paul only stayed with him 15 days and then he left again and didn’t return for another 14 years to meet the other Apostles. There is not a single institution that would allow this today. The faith of Paul was incredibly personal and he had a connection to God that allowed him to develop on his own to practice and reveal the good news in a way that was unique to his life experience. Today you would be sent to classes (“sunday school” for the lay person) or seminary (for those who want to make money doing this) for further indoctrination. I know I’m questioning authority here but I believe it is necessary. We MUST question authority that is both political and religious. This attitude toward individualism is echoed in the book of the Bible known as I John, where the author says,
“…you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about all things, and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.”
Now “anointing” is another archaic word. It simply means to pour or rub oil or ointment on a person or thing and that’s how it was used in the Old Testament. But its meaning changed in the New Testament to signify a divine appointment as a result of a relationship between the physical and metaphysical (or man and God). Through this one-on-one relationship a person learns directly from the Bible through their own individual reading and is responsible for applying principles to their life. The choice is always ours. This anointing, this relationship, is free and available to everyone regardless of their beliefs. This openness in the Christian belief system is rarely (if ever) taught these days as institutions try to keep their people “on point” or “on message” always trying “bring it back home” when they feel it starts to get too individualistic.
So, I’ll put this in plain English – Don’t let anyone tell you what the bible should mean for you. Read the Bible for yourself. Ask questions of the source material. The answers are there. They may not be revealed all at once. And because it uses some archaic language it may take some time to understand it. Don’t get sidetracked by the envelope or package the message came in but read the message for your self. Peace.
What happens when we let other pick and choose what we read and comprehend? I think the overall tune is forgotten like dropped notes teh melody eventually fades. Tom Waits say’s in his tragic song, “You’ll soon forget the tune that you play, ’cause that is the part you throw away.”
Tom Waits – THE PART YOU THROW AWAY
Yep, you read right. For Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” which is great for those who love romantic sweetness mixed up with chaos theory. I’m more of a practical realist. I think life is like a box of rocks. They are interesting and fun to throw. But when we play with them we and/or someone else will get bruised and hurt. Hurt is unavoidable in this life. Pain and suffering are unavoidable. The trick is trying not to hurt others especially when tossing rocks. Always easier said than done. Kinda like using a rock to hit a window without breaking the glass – possible, but sure-as-hell, isn’t easy to do. Rocks are fun to play with by and, like most things, we choose whether to keep them as objects of play and fascination or weapons of destruction, pain and suffering. There is a fine line between play and war and the tipping point varies from person to person. So take care, play hard and don’t blame others.
BOX OF ROCKS
There is much talk in the futurist community about the coming singularity. A time when technology eclipses humanity as an intelligent life form. A time when humans will eventually be remade and become the products of the technology they created. While many suggest that we are still a long way off or that it is complete science fiction I would argue that it is already begun. I suspect that it will not be a flash moment in time when this change occurs but is actually happening now. Think about how attached people are to the technology now. Here is a great video that highlights all the human parts that can currently be replaced.
Rex, the worlds first Bionic Man.
This bionic man highlighted in the above video is still a long way off from being a complete, artificial being with a self-identity because the most crucial replacement part has not evolved yet – the brain.
So what is this Singularity?
Like the video says, now is the time to start asking those questions about what we are doing and whether we should continue down this path? Isn’t technology making it a condition that just because it is beneficial it MUST be accepted and adapted? Isn’t technology making non-replacement unacceptable? And isn’t technology, as a result, saying that bio-forms must be replaced? And to say that we “should not” pursue this does this mean we seek to keep control of technology or are anti-technology? How are all these promises going to be affected by cultural differences? What will happen when things that happen with technology start happening without technology? Will it be possible for humans to evolve in their current bio-forms to compete with their technological counterparts? Will we even have the choice and opportunity to say “no”?
I’m wondering if we need a Bio-Form Support Group or, maybe more accurately, a BIO-FORM DEFENSE LEAGUE.
I have worked in the service industry all of my adult life – that totals 35 working years. Here in the United States there is a phrase that has been tossed around the service industry so much that it has become and is perceived as a behavioral truism to be honored, revered, respected and upheld at ALL costs.
That phrase is:
The customer is ALWAYS right!
This type of “truism” has served no one – not even the customer. It has made businesses make concessions where none should be made just to avoid bad press. It has made some customers abusively use the perceived truism as a weapon to get what they want. Worst of all I believe it to be wrong, incorrect and without benefit for individuals and society.
It would be better to say, “The customer is sometimes right and sometimes wrong.” But people will reject that because no one wants to take responsibility for being right or wrong – or, take responsibility for determining who is right or wrong. According to the business satisfaction model currently in use – it’s better to just pay the customer off and give them what they demand.
What’s the cost?
IS there a cost?
How does this behavior affect the economy?
Does this behavior encourage more greediness and entitlement?
Or, does it simply uphold the golden rule by being willing to “take a hit”?
Does this behavior ultimately hurt?
Who does it really hurt?
How is the person who feels entitled and determined to get what they feel they deserve hurting themselves?
What do you think?