A Possible Gospel And New Testament

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gospel, Ch. 11: The Far Right is Way Wrong

Ever Since the First Century…

They say that Jesus came not to bring peace, but a sword, Mat 10:34. I say that Jesus came to bring peace; and that those who wrote about him offer us a sword of spiritual discernment through which we may hope to find it. For there is a Jesus to embrace; and a Jesus to disown, doubting the words that have been put into his mouth.

The Christ of Condemnation

“And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.” Luke 10:15. Here the same Jesus who rebukes James and John for wanting to bring fire down on those who would not receive him, and who saves an adulterous woman from stoning, is said to have condemned a city to hell for not accepting him.

“Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:18

“The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16

Jesus, allegedly addressing Jews who do not believe that he is the Savior: “Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn…” John 8:25-26.

Christ the Hate-Monger: Blinded by the Log in His Eye (Cf. Mat 7:1-5.)

He supposedly continues as follows: “You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” John 8:44- 45

Again: “It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God’, though you do not know him. But I know him; if I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you.” John 8:54-55.

Or, in other words: “Liar, liar, pants on fire…” A Messiah who lacks basic social skills? Truly it is to be doubted that Jesus ever said these things.

And again: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. It was to fulfill the word that is written in their law, “They hated me without a cause.” John 15:22-25.

A world of black and white, of good guys vs. fiendish evildoers who hate truth because it is true and goodness because it is good. Truly, Jesus was ahead of his time; for he was a George Bush Christian.

Christ the Crusader

Jesus allegedly to his disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” Mat 28:19-20.

Go therefore and establish perpetual tension and division between Christians and sincere adherents of all other traditions. Ignore the spiritual wisdom of indigenous peoples the world over, look down upon spiritual traditions East and West more ancient than your own, and revered by millions; and be at war forever with millions more who will belong to the Islamic faith that will arise five hundred years later, many of them just as certain as many Christians are that they own God’s truth because they have it in writing and bought the book.

All Bible verses are not equally inspired.

If the grounds for their respective beliefs that are offered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims are really compelling, then why aren’t all thoughtful and spiritual persons Jews; or Christians; or Muslims? Is it because two out of three of these groups are evildoers that perversely hate goodness and truth because goodness is good and truth is true?

Let us judge with right judgment (cf. John 7:24) and condemn condemnation. Let us stand with Jesus, and not with first century theologians and proselytizers who were willing to put words into his mouth that ring as shrill and hateful as the words of some today who profess Christianity or Islam, yet practice the religion of Us vs. them.

36 Comments:

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Pastor Doug Hoag said...

Jesus was warning the Jews that destruction was coming in the form of the Roman Army. The Jews were bent on rebellion because they were convinced that God was on their side, and he will protect them because God resides in the temple on Mount Zion. After all, if they were the "chosen", then God was obliged to defeat the enemy and glorify Israel.

Jesus' warnings were in the spirit of the prophets, who tried to get the people to reject rebellion and violence, else it comes down on your own head. Remember Assyria and Babylon!!

"Whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword."

Jesus' warnings and pleadings were done out of love and compassion for his fellow Jews. He was basically telling the Jews to get out of Dodge (Jerusalem), and get on with the mission of proclaiming that the God of Israel is the God of all nations. This God has no national favorites and does not recognize borders.

The command to make disciples of all nations was what Israel was supposed to do, but instead built their own power structures and hierarchies, and trusted armaments and fortresses in dealing with other nations instead of the Spirit of God. The apostles went out with the message that God-- a)cannot be contained in a building; and b)cannot be manipulated with sacrifices and sex; and c)is going to destroy Jerusalem as God had done in the past, so stop doing business with the giant abbatoir on Mount Zion.

When I read the Acts of the Apostles, I see no oppression or violence done by the apostles. In fact, quite the opposite. They really had a rough go of it all.

Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in 70 CE. Looks like Jesus was right and his followers who believed him were vindicated. God did exactly as Jesus said God would.

Having said all of that, I believe that the church down through the ages have taken the message of Jesus and Paul and turned it into another oppressive system designed to delineate between believers and unbelievers.

BTW-- I believe that the command to make disciples of all nations had already been accomplished by the apostles prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. The Great Commission does not apply today.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger Darius said...

PASTOR DOUG H: I think I’d need some definitive sources – more to the point, some indication that there’s a real scholarly consensus - that there is a known historical context that would turn the verses I’ve cited into loving and compassionate pleadings. I’m not even sure that would do it. I mean, the words say what they say, short of the NRSV being badly translated.

What I’m trying to point to is that the New Testament doesn’t provide us with a clear, consistent picture of Jesus. This post contrasts sharply with the previous. And the tone and content of the verses in the present post is perfectly consistent with that of contemporary right-wingers, who are quick to proclaim the bad news that those who disagree with them are going to hell.

Certainly Christians, like probably every other group on the planet, have been persecuted at one time or another, so not my intention to suggest otherwise.

If by “The Great Commission” not applying today you mean that the directive to proselytize no longer applies, someone needs to tell this to the fundamentalists!

In the past two years I’ve had a total of six Jehovah’s Witnesses come to my door, and two random slight acquaintances inquire as to whether I’ve “accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior...”

 
At 4:07 PM, Blogger Nabeel said...

someone once said .. "if you want peace, prepare for war"

that quote is towards when you say that Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword.

 
At 4:08 PM, Blogger Nabeel said...

also I don't remember him fighting a war or holding a sword.

 
At 4:23 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, in reference to Matthew 10:34, here is how I understand it.

Jesus was not meaning that he had come to bring discord and contention (the sword). What he was meaning is that his coming would RESULT in discord and contention. His message was so revolutionary that it would even divide families.

Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. His law is love in a nutshell. Universal peace will follow once the law of love is followed. And guess what. Your Fundamentalists believe this too.

As to the other verses you cited about condemnation, I think you have to look for a deeper meaning and consider these verses in the context within which they were written.

 
At 6:24 PM, Blogger Darius said...

NABEEL: I’m not quite sure I’m following. Your two comments seem to be contradictory? That is, one seems to be suggesting Jesus was a kind of warrior and the other that he wasn’t…

SUSIEQ: Sounds like we agree on how we view Jesus. For example, his insight into the two greatest commandments – that’s something I’d like to hear all Christians stress. Where we disagree, sometimes, is on what the Bible says.

You’d like it to consistently present Jesus as the kind of figure we’d both admire. So would I, but I don’t think it does. Here are the verses immediately preceding Mat 10:34:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.”

Non believers don't go to heaven. They go to the other place. I’m not seeing deep meaning here. And that’s true – historically and right into the present day, religious belief has often resulted in discord and contention.

We have almost no historical information about Jesus. The books of the New Testament were written decades after his death by anonymous members of the early Christian church.

With that lack of historical information, my personal best guess is that he was indeed a peaceful and enlightened human being who, in major ways, was badly misunderstood by the church from its inception.

I find it hard to see love as a "law" in his eyes. For example, he appears to have kept doing things like breaking the Sabbath to do good works.

My best guess is that here was someone who truly experienced love of others and love of God. Fundamentalists may nominally believe in love, but often their threatened, angry rhetoric strongly suggests that they are lacking in actual experience of love and in assimilating that experience into their character.

Visiting fundamentalist blogs, I’ve often found myself attacked personally for my views, with the attack followed in closing with, “Peace,” “Blessings,” or saying they’ll pray for me. To me, a pretty clear signal of deeper meanings of the worst kind: hypocricy, false piety, holier-than-thou-ness.

Can’t imagine the real Jesus was anything like that. But it looks to me as though some of those who wrote about him and put words into his mouth were…

 
At 8:36 PM, Blogger Pastor Doug Hoag said...

>What I’m trying to point to is >that the New Testament doesn’t >provide us with a clear, >consistent picture of Jesus.

You're absolutely right! It really doesn't. There have been attempts in the early church to harmonize the Gospels. One particular document, called the Diatesseron, was rejected by the early church. It was felt that harmonization of the Gospels would obscure the writing styles of each evangelist.

The Gospels aren't consistent, and honestly, I wouldn't want it any other way. Given the way stories and traditions are orally transmitted in the Middle East, I would suspect a conspiracy if the Gospels all said exactly the same thing. Each of the evangelists, whoever they were, got their information from different Christian communities.

Kenneth Bailey has a fascinating study of this in an interview with Harry Wendt, called, "The Historical Jesus: A Middle Eastern View." Bailey talks about how information is transmitted and passed down in the rural areas of the Middle East.

One thing that I believe is crucial to keep in mind is that the world of the Bible was far and away different than our 21st century American world today. I have to agree with SusieQ and say that context, especially historical context, is key in understanding what the Bible says.

But it is apparent that fundamentalists tend to be drawn toward the harsh words of Jesus. The mistake they make is that they think these words are still applicable today. Those words of Jesus are already fulfilled and have no application after 70 CE.

I can't really site any scholarly consensus, except to say that my favorite Jesus scholars are N.T. Wright, Kenneth Bailey, and Tim King, and I'm sure that they would disagree with some of what I said.

I interpret Scripture with two basic principles:
1) Scripture interprets itself
2) Scripture was not written to us in the 21st century

So, I learn as much as I can about the first century, and read many of the writings that were formative to Jewish thought up until the time of Jesus. These were the things that Jesus dealt with in his ministry.

 
At 9:55 PM, Blogger SusieQ said...

Darius, yes, of course, I want the Bible to be consistent in the way it portrays Jesus. As to the deeper meanings I suspect exist in some of the scripture you mention, maybe Pastor Doug can help me come to a better understanding.

I do not think that God dictated to man every word that is in the Bible. Yet, the essentials are there as far as I can see. The inspiration was there. I look at the Bible as a whole like I would a forest of trees.

I am not ready to throw out these Bible verses you mention just in case there is meaning to them which presently escapes me. You seem to be taking these verses literally, but maybe they were not meant to be taken literally.

If you are bothered by my referring to love as a law, then feel free to dispense with the word law and use commandment in its place. To me law and commandment mean essentially the same thing in this case.

I am sorry you were personally attacked for your views on the Fundamentalist blogs. That is not appropriate. It is not nice. I am not a Fundamentalist by the way. In fact, some Christians would consider me a pagan (especially the Baptists, but I love the Baptists) and feel it their spiritual duty to pray for me. That's okay with me. I can use all the prayers I can get.

Let me say this about your bad blogging experience with the Fundamentalists. Christians seem to get picked on and ridiculed a lot these days especially the Fundamentalists. That is what I have been witnessing for several years now. I have seen it on many blogs and before that on the message boards when they were in style. The attackers can be downright vicious about it. They mock the Christians and call them names....and they don't end their mean, cutting comments with nice words such as "Peace" and "Blessings." This is bound to make some Christians defensive and super sensitive to somebody coming onto their turf, so to speak, and suggesting to them, even ever so politely, that they have it wrong. So, I don't know, Darius, maybe you should not put much stock in your experiences at these blogs.

John 7:24 (Amplified) reads: Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance -- superficially and by appearances; but judge fairly and righteously.

This was in reference to Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath.

Gee, I do like your blog, Darius!

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger crystal said...

Hi Darius.

I'm sorry I was so argumentative and grumpy in that last reply on my blog ... it's been a not so great last few days, with money and health problems, so I keep waking up on the wrong side of the bed :-)

It's hard not to notice the inconsistancies in the NT ... a Jesus who preaches love and forgiveness and peace ... a Jesus who preaches punishment and discord.

Once I asked my spiritual director about one of those passages that was threatening. He said "Can't you let Jesus be rhetroical?" and I said "No ... the NT is the only reference guide I have to what Jesus was like ... facts on him." He then said that the NT was more illustrative literature than facts, which didn't help either.

I think the writers of the gospels had some axes to grind, and so I tell myself the passages I don't like are those ax grinding episodes. But being a "cafeteria" christian is problematical and can work for both liberals and conservatives.

The spiritual director's final advice was to hold each passage up to one's religious experience of Jesus/God, and to trust experience over scripture.

 
At 11:50 PM, Blogger Keshi said...

heyy mate can u tell me one thing...who wrote the Bible?

Keshi.

 
At 5:10 AM, Blogger kevin said...

The Great Commission does not apply today...

huh! I never heard that... I will have to remember that next time someone tosses the jihad epithet at me again...

I think I would also agree with pastor doug hoag's mention:interpret Scripture with two basic principles:
1) Scripture interprets itself
2) Scripture was not written to us in the 21st century


I would add emphasis that while scripture wasn't revealed to us, it was certainly revealed forus.

I think Darius you are on to something with acknowledging the conflicting nature of Jesus that the Bible presents us with, I think this is true for all of the people that have been presented to us as prophets or messengers, ect.

I think we have to acknowledge that once in a while God asks of us to fight, literally. It is very difficult to square this with the idea that religion, spirit, ect - should just be about peace.

If I may, I think one of Jesus's messeges, for me at least, is that peace is not something we will necessarily find in this world or life - there will always something trying to prevent us from worshipping God, and there will always be a need to struggle to maintain our capacity to love. This fight perhaps can take many shapes I imagine, real fighting, or simple self resolves..

 
At 6:26 AM, Blogger Homo Escapeons said...

I have always been amazed that you can find three different Christian churches in a small town.
Once I organised a film debut for the Billy Graham Org. I discovered othat there were over 400 churches in our city all professing to be followers of Jesus. Obviously some denominations have more in common with others but the response was underwhelming.
Protecting your piece of the pie was the main goal of the majority of these groups and I was very discouraged. If the message of us and them is to apply to believers and non-believers why is it so prevelent within the Christian community.

The far right edge of the Christian sword works hard at convincing it's followers that their interpretation is the correct and absolute and final word on the Word. It is self evident that from the getgo the turf war within the church has been preventing the message of peace from getting to every corner of the globe. It's always been more about Market Share than sharing. What a shame.

 
At 8:16 AM, Blogger eden said...

thanks for your words about the bible and Jesus ,i learned a lot again......


kind regards !and tnx for the visit ...

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Darius said...

PASTOR DOUG HOAG: Sounds like we’re both looked at similar material concerning what's known historically about the writing of the NT. My impression is that the other major contribution of studying history in relation to the NT is that knowledge of the area at that time gives us an idea of the setting for the narrative.

I would think, however, that it would get dicey trying to connect utterances of Jesus as presented in the NT with history – precisely because of what’s known about the nature of the document and its composition. The NT isn’t modern historiography. Although it contains historical allusions, its books are the faith documents of an early church. So, although, for example, we can be very sure that the early Christian church decided that Jesus was God and Savior, it is by no means an historical fact that this is what Jesus thought of himself. We only know what others decided he was after he had died. So when you suggest something as specific as Jesus successfully predicting the destruction of the temple, the fact that this prediction was attributed to him after he died strikes me as making it factually questionable, and falling more within the domain of religous beliefs about Jesus than history.

The inconsistencies of the NT interest me too. This forces people to read it with selective interest, attention, and emphasis. I like to say that if Christians are judged, perhaps it will be by how we choose our verses!

SUSIEQ: We want it to be consistent – but I don’t think it is! Read Matthew, for example, and compare the impression you get of Jesus with the impression you form of him from John…

Although much of the language in the Bible is clearly metaphorical or hyperbolic - not meant to be taken literally - there are also plenty of verses where it’s pretty clear the writer does mean to be taken literally. If we don’t like the literal meaning, we can turn it into symbolic meaning. For example, many Christians don’t like the idea of hell and eternal punishment, and turn hell into a metaphor. While hell may have metaphorical meaning as well, it's pretty clear that the Bible does present hell as a state of eternal punishment reserved for non believers.

The quotes I cite here strike me as unequivocal about this. If it’s possible to turn these words into wisdom, I’d need some help with that.

To me, there is something literal-minded in the very notion of “scripture.” If we start out with the assumption that the words of the Bible are in some unique sense the very words of God, then since of course God (for me, "Og...") knows everything, then every passage must be wise, profound, and true. But this clearly isn’t the case. A quick example: there’s that passage stating that believers can drink poison without any harm coming to them!

I do like "commandment" better than law. But I’d say that love is a commandment inscribed on our own hearts. The fact that it's so often ignored gets us all into a lot of trouble.

It's easy to see you’re not a fundamentalist – although I’m realizing I’m not sure I know how to define one. I’ve known many people with traditional beliefs who don’t seethe with anger when confronted with people who don’t share them. Maybe fundamentalism is just belief with a bad attitude!

But you sure are right that there are also non-believers with bad attitudes. Basically, the bad-attitude believers call non-believers immoral, and the bad-attitude non-believers call believers stupid. None of this name calling does any good, and of course it’s obviously contradicted by – reality…

CRYSTAL: Oh-oh, thanks for warning me! I should have a chance to look later today. Or you can change it before I do, and I’ll go, “What’s so grumpy about this?” Also thanks for putting up with me so patiently. To me, on the one hand we're very similar in feelings and attitudes; but at some points our thinking is very different.

What you’re saying here makes a lot of sense to me. In many passages it’s pretty clear that you have an author trying to “make his case.” I think, for example, of the lines about doubting Thomas – blessed are those who believe without evidence (without “seeing”). Usually, believing without evidence results in making wrong turns. But if you tell people that they’ll be blessed, maybe this will persuade them. Likewise, if you keep saying, “Believe or you’re going to hell,” this might overcome a lot of objections…

You’re spiritual director’s final advice sounds just right on to me.

KESHI: Good question. The April 24 post is a summary of who wrote the Bible -

KEVIN: Maybe the fairest view is that Christians like Pastor DH, and many others, have decommissioned themselves, so to speak; but The Great Commission still very much applies to right-wing, politically mobilized Christianity. There’s a book out called, “The Kingdom Coming” by Michelle Goldberg on this which I wish I had the chance to read…

As far as God asking us to fight goes, I feel that God mainly asks us to overcome ourselves. And the fact that too few of us are seriously engaged in that struggle results in fighting of the other kind…

HOMO ESCAPEONS: Good point. The Us vs. them mentality often operates within the church too.

 
At 8:33 AM, Blogger Darius said...

EDEN, thanks for stopping by -

 
At 10:00 AM, Blogger defiant goddess said...

I greatly admire and appreciate your ability to distance yourself from dogma and analyze your religion, even when your opinions differ from what is commonly accepted as gospel.

That is a beautiful and rare quality to have.

 
At 10:14 AM, Blogger kathy said...

Great post!

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger Darius said...

ABNORMAL: Thank you for that-

NEUROTIC: Thanks for stopping by.

But if the next comment is from "PHOBIC" or "SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDERED," I will suspect a conspiracy...

 
At 8:00 PM, Blogger Within Without said...

Darius, you are so wise and intuitive.

This, more than anything else, humbly, is at the heart of where the planet's problems lie.

The insistence by the Christians and the Far Right (or any religious zealots involved with any religion) that the Bible or whatever book of the soul/spirit is the be-all, end-all, that it's either that doctrine or death.

I agree entirely that any true Son of God would not act in the spirit or say the things that the Bible proclaims, material that a bunch of mostly unknown old farts wrote years after his death --if he existed at all.

And how can "we" be so sure that Christianity is the one and only? Why do we feel so threatened and insecure as to insist that our belief is the only belief?

From your last 2 paras:

"If the grounds for their respective beliefs that are offered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims are really compelling, then why aren’t all thoughtful and spiritual persons Jews; or Christians; or Muslims?"

You're right, it's all about US vs. THEM. We all speak different languages...why can't we all have different faiths?

I can just see the one Supreme Being that oversees all of us up there or down there or wherever, shaking its head or comparable body part or whatever, saying: What a bunch of boneheads.

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger centuri0n said...

Darius:

I suggest to you that you don't know the history of the 4 Gospels very well.

Let's check that hypothesis: can you name three sources from the second century AD that validate your skepticism about the context of the NT?

 
At 11:51 PM, Blogger Aidan said...

In terms of christ the crusader. I think it is best put in a book called the Life of Pi. If there is only one nation of heaven, then all passports are valid.

Christ of condemnation. Illustrated within the Divine commedy, you see the first layer of hell packed with those who were born before christ. I have a issue with this in terms of a "fair" and even handed god.

Most of the bible however in my humble opion was chosen to represent The late and great JC in a super human role. The gospels dehumanise Jesus, as god the son. It would be a lot easier for us to relate to such a being if we could see that true human frailty.

 
At 2:32 AM, Blogger christabelle said...

darius, r u a christian, well if u r, u'll understd that u hv to accept many things by faith, I'm nt saying that we shldnt try 2 figure things out, bt take 4 instance, u believe there is a God, then who made this God? or dnt u belive theres a God, then who made the unverse? one cnt take all that scientific crab, it just doesnt add up.

so u c, by FAITH pal, yes by faith.

I tink Pastor Doug has said all I wld hv loved 2.

 
At 5:19 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Bearing Another's Cross
By Don Iannone

I saw him
naked
standing atop the hill.
He walked toward me
bearing his own cross.
I wasn't supposed to see his smile,
but I did.
As he disappeared over the hill,
his words glowed inside me:
Don't follow me
for this is mine to bear.
Get down from yours
and carry your brother's
that he may get down from his
and carry another brother's cross.
And once all the crucified are free,
the light of all shall be joined,
And then, Heaven shall appear.

 
At 8:40 AM, Blogger Darius said...

WITHIN, WITHOUT: Yes - if all believers made the idea that there are multiple approaches to God one of their tenets, it sure would be an improvement - even though religion will continue to have severe limits as a unifying force in the world for as long as it's identified with beliefs rather than experience. There’s no possibility of a “unified field theory” for religious belief systems. For example, either Jesus is Savior or he’s not. But at least maybe people would stop disrespecting each other over their beliefs if they were to share that inclusiveness tenet.

CENTURION: Please see my April 24 post. No need to take my word for it. Check in with any of the nations leading divinity schools – Harvard, Yale, U. of Chicago… A good source for a summary and overview of the basics of what’s known about the writing of the gospels is the annotated RSV. (Revised Standard Version of the Bible.)

No need for two laypersons to try to ask each other tricky questions that will ultimately demonstrate that we're just two laypersons trying to ask each other tricky questions. Best to take a look at the consensus in the field of serious, non-parochial biblical scholarship. I won't pretend to be a researcher in the field.

AIDAN: I agree with you very much on this point. Although the church nominally professes to believe Jesus was fully human as well as fully God, the presentation of him in the New Testament and certainly by the church, strikes me more as God wearing a human-costume, so to speak. When you know everything that’s going to happen ahead of time, perform miracles as part of your daily activities, claim that you’ve come to pass judgment on the living and the dead, and enjoy being worshipped, you don’t exactly come across as “one of us…”

CHRISTABELLE: I’m not sure what you mean by science not adding up? While science certainly doesn’t know or pretend to know everything, the fact that we’re communicating by computer, have working electricity, can send objects into space, can unfortunately make nuclear bombs, all suggest pretty strongly that science does add up. Technology is based on science, demonstrating that it’s a valid approach to understanding how the physical world works.

My heritage is Christian, and that has had a stronger influence on me spiritually than any other external factor. But where it has influenced me is with its representations of spiritual experience: for example, Jesus’ citation of the two greatest commandments as love of others and love of God. And as you say, “faith, pal” – that’s another biggie. Love, faith, and, over time, losing our lives to find them, coming into an identity greater than our paltry egos – this, to me, is the crux of religion.

As to Christian theology – its belief system – I wanted to believe it for years, but in all honesty with myself I could not. I went on to find, speaking personally, that meaning in life has nothing to do with accepting any religious belief system. I learned that I already had everything I needed as a granted, a given. I think we all do. But I also appreciate that the church teaches that belief is central to being religious, and for most of those who are able to believe, it plays an important role in their lives.

My views on God vs. what I call “Og” – Other-God, or Objectified-God – were presented in earlier posts, but in brief: to parphrase St. Paul, I see God as the One in whom we live and move and have our being. That is: reality or existence itself, including all that we know of it but also all that we do not know. (“Where were we when the foundations of the world were laid?” to paraphrase from the Book of Job.) Reality, existence, or being itself is a God of direct experience. Og is the God we are taught to believe in – an Entity existing apart from being itself.

DON I: I love it. I think we need to get Christ off that cross and let him walk around a bit… In our shoes.

 
At 9:46 AM, Blogger Gangadhar said...

Darius,
I know a blogger Paul whose posts were so great..But he's not posting right now...That vaccum's being filled by you,i feel...
nice post here..

 
At 11:04 AM, Blogger Don Iannone said...

Yes, I agree Darius. My sentiments as well. It started with an image and by golly it turned into a poem of all things. Can you imagine?

 
At 8:26 PM, Anonymous grumble said...

howdy, darius:
i admit, i love watching these threads evolving. you do have a truly singular cast of commenters,
unique in their civility and diversity.
i wanted to remark on the applicability (or, perceived lack
thereof) of the scriptures to our contemporary societies. i say that
(at least, metaphorically) there is
no counterpart for the simple
parables and examples found there-
even when one allows for artistic excesses of its authors, prevailing
cultural norms of behaviour, biases
toward or away from existing religions, etc, etc. with the progressive stages of technological
advancement, virtually everything
else EXCEPT universal wisdom and
morality, have gotten progressively
more powerful and complex. Our
endless quest for loopholes, trap
doors, and contradictions have made
the lessons appear irrelevant, even
in the face of endless causalities.
If anything, we've simply learned
that the ends can be made to match
any philosophical means, regardless
of consequences. Rather than thinking of our known universe as a
solid, interlocking set of dependencies, it might be thought of as a complex ball of strings, with a consistently odd number of
loose ends- logically impossible,
given that any number of strings will each have two ends - whetting
our intellectual curiousities, but
doing little to advance our wisdom.
In this sense, a simple uncomplicated parable, understood
by everyone, makes much more sense
than, say, designing Nukuler(sic)
weapons, then musing, "Jeepers, I
hope we wise up, before somebody decides to use these things..."
We rely instead on deterrence through intimidation (mutual, it
seems) of our various cohabitants,
many of whom have felt the loss of
sovereignty, unfair exploitation,
or other, more tenuous affronts.
We still haven't completed the
entrance exams for first grade, as
social interactions go, but we're
given the tools for grad school to
express ourselves (sure hope the manuals are available in comic book format). Now, we see the inevitable approaching- other nations, with their own ideas of
a NWO, have decided that the engineering for these is a rational
alternative to the development and
deployment of conventional armies
and navies. I'm tempted to say,
"now's the time to come to Jesus,
(or Allah, or Buddha, or ???)" but
what spiritual polestar has led us to this situation? And, if we did
not involve spiritual wisdom as a
prerequisite to our actions, what
does that say about our likelihood
of thinking things through, in the future? We may well see wars in
times to come, involving fewer dead
combatants than the battle of Ninevah, simply because we'll have
found different ways to sort out
our differences, involving fewer
fighters. Whether this involves a
dramatic improvement in diplomacy,
the proliferation of people who feel they have nothing to lose (but
who have WMDs), or both, is left as
an exercise to the intelligent. The
book says, the meek shall inherit the Earth, or words to that effect,
but doesn't identify the meek as
any race or religion- or species, if memory serves. I sure hope that
other religions pass this wisdom
along better in their teachings,
because there seems to be some confusion. No self-respecting megalomaniac wants their power to
be usurped by an arthropod, do
they?
Sorry for the histrionics. All
I'm trying to say is, try stripping
away the historical trappings, and
allow that there may be some degree
of similarity between the social and civil conflicts then, and what
we are facing now, in the scriptures. Sheer intellect isn't
going to cut it, and it's less and
less certain that mankind will
develop self-restraint. If there is
good news in this, it is that we
won't have to listen to tired, half
baked rationalizations or prevarications, from our leaders, or anyone else'.
There is another, perhaps more
pragmatic reason for paying closer
attention to the bible: regardless
of which chapters one prefers to
study, the writings themselves were
from an age during which the main
branches of the Islamic, Jewish and
Christian faiths (as they evolved)
can all admit to being in the same
boat, experientially speaking. It may be that the key to acceptance
and respect lies in recovering the
lost commonalities from that age.

 
At 2:27 AM, Blogger kathy said...

LOL @ Darius

what you said was hilarous! hey it's me kathy from Bamboo Shade! sorry i deleted my blog without saying goodbye or anything. I found myself in a nasty depressed low-down rut and i hit my blog delete button. after i recovered i regretted that. to make a long story even longer I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaaack.

missed ya!

 
At 6:07 AM, Blogger HillsboroughHeretic said...

You should look into writing for CrossLeft's Think Tank, The Institute for Progressive Christianity. (instituteforprogressivechristianity.org) They are looking for material just like this. I would really recommend you look into it.

 
At 6:15 AM, Blogger Darius said...

GANGADHAR: Thanks Gangadhar, I appreciate that you’ve been checking in. Please don’t ever hesitate to share your own perspective on any of this stuff if you're inclined. I'd certainly be interested -

DON I: Oh, do you mean you just wrote it? Cool. I was thinking you must have taken something you already happened to have done that was especially appropriate to the post…

GRUMBLE: “Nukuler…” It’s funny, I was just trying to figure out with my sister how our Fearless Leader pronounces that word and we couldn’t get it – but that’s it!

I guess when I look at the Bible, talking especially about the NT, with which I’m most familiar, I see two major kinds of material: wisdom literature and theology (belief-system). The parables are a big part of the former, and it’s this aspect of Christianity that I seem to "have ears to hear". The latter I personally find to be an impediment.

Finding some common basis in the world for spiritual and moral life strikes me as more and more important too. I don’t think this can arise through any shared religious belief system since they make incompatible and non-verifiable Truth claims. I do think it could be found if religion turned its attention toward shared religious experiences – noticing just what they are, and how they may be put into practice - without trying to fit these experiences into the boxes, bright packaging, and ribbons of theology. All the world’s religions use boxes of different dimensions and have different gift wrapping traditions. We need, badly, to start opening the boxes and using what’s inside instead of remaining down on our knees admiring the packages. It's long past Christmas morning...

Love is one of the experiences that are in those boxes that we ought to unpack and start using. Like Saint Paul says – the “greatest gift…”

KATHY: You’re laughing AT me? But my mom always said people were laughing WITH me… In any case, glad you’re back, I was wondering. Had been thinking of sending an email, but then thought, well, if somebody wants to disappear from blogdom, they might not appreciate that.

So you really lost all your past postings or did you save them somehow? Maybe I’ll see when I look at your blog…

HILLSBOROUGHHERETIC: Thanks for the link, I'll take a look. Crossleft is a good site and I've been checking in there from time to time.

 
At 12:17 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

I just read this article on another blog. Thought you might be interested in it, Darius:

Congressional Hopeful Blames Troubles On The Devil

SALT LAKE CITY Republican congressional hopeful John Jacob believes the devil is impeding his efforts to unseat five-term Representative Chris Cannon.

He says there's another force that wants to keep him from going to Washington and the devil is what it is.


The devil won't let him do it.

 
At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

In other news, religious fundamentalists from various traditions around the globe try to hasten the end times. For example, evangelical ministers plan to use the internet to fulfill the Great Commission:

'End Times' Religious Groups Want Apocalypse Soon

'End times' religious groups want apocalypse sooner than later, and they're relying on high tech -- and red heifers -- to hasten its arrival.

For thousands of years, prophets have predicted the end of the world. Today, various religious groups, using the latest technology, are trying to hasten it.

Their endgame is to speed the promised arrival of a messiah.

For some Christians this means laying the groundwork for Armageddon.

With that goal in mind, mega-church pastors recently met in Inglewood to polish strategies for using global communications and aircraft to transport missionaries to fulfill the Great Commission: to make every person on Earth aware of Jesus' message. Doing so, they believe, will bring about the end, perhaps within two decades.


File this under, Some Things I Wish Weren't True.

 
At 7:54 PM, Blogger Darius said...

RACHEL: That Devil. You just never know what he'll decide to occupy his time with.

Looking at your second link, I hope when the Guy gets here he survives the landing. Sounds like whoever comes riding in on the clouds is going to have to deal with an expectant mob of Christians, and Muslims, and Jews. He'd better be holding up a sign written in a number of languages clarifying his identity!

 
At 11:30 AM, Blogger Nabeel said...

one should always hold the middle ground in everything .. well is most of the things :)

 
At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the b & w oversimplifing is going on more than ever. Media encourge it.

 
At 5:32 PM, Blogger Darius said...

NABEEL: Not sure I'm exactly following, but if you mean there's middle ground in Bible verses - some that might not come across as so inspired, but not so bad either... I'd expect that's true.

ANONYMOUS: Seems to me also that the way in which the media covers issues often oversimplifies things.

 

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