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David

Answer To Norm

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Just to recap: I embrace the teaching of Jesus because of its intrinsic philosophical value; particularly as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount / Plain. I often seek to emulate that philosophy in my own life. I do not, however, believe in propitiation for sin, resurrection, virgin birth, miracles, etc.

 

Is I am or is I ain't - a Christian?

 

NORM

 

You have gotten to the heart of the matter Norm. I see that you saw that I said goodbye and asked me a question in my absence. Let me not leave without further speaking to your question.

 

I have suggested that people look to the history of UU and learn. There you will find a Christian history, which became a rejection of Christianity. However the organization retained Christian names. Imagine what we may have had today if this had not happened. We may have been able to develop Unitarian and Universalist groups that would provide a response to what I consider the greatest threats to Christianity: the Atonement and Selective Salvation. If this had happened I would argue that we would not even need what has become called Progressive Christianity. We would need an organization to fulfill the function now performed by UU. We would need a place for people to go who are spiritual but not religious. We would need places for those folks, humanists and all others to meet in an common space.

 

What is happening now I think is that the spiritual but not religious folks (and others) are taking progressive Christianity down the same well worn path taken by UU. I don’t see why that is necessary since we have UU doing a much better job performing that function. Why duplicate what UU is doing especially since TCPC organizationally is just not prepared to compete with UU?

 

So what if you wanted to know whether you were a Unitarian or a Universalist? You would not get very far going to a UU group. The people who control the names are no longer interested in the question. They think that they have “progressed” beyond any need to be involved with the question of what Unitarian or Universalists may be. Their mission is now is for the spiritual but not religious folks as well as to humanists and many other self-identifications.

 

I have suggested that self-identification is a complex process that involves the society/community and the individual self. When you are talking about self-identification as a Christian that means that you are talking about a self who is working that out within a community that calls itself Christian and ultimately cares about Christian context.

 

So who within progressive Christianity ultimately cares about Christian context? Probably the best suggestion that I have is that you read Funk’s chapter “Jesus for a new age” in his book “Honest to God” where he states “Contrary to some popular expectations, Jesus for a new age does not mean Jesus for crystals and channeling, for auras and chakras, meditation and yoga, astrology and harmonic convergences, or even holistic medicine, although Jesus may have some significance for some or all of those things. What I have in mind by a ‘new age’ is something quite different, though not entirely unrelated”. Funk then goes on to provide a vision for Christian context/community based upon the best of Biblical scholarship and progressive Christian theology. If you agree with Funk then I think there is a good indication that you would like to self-identify as a Christian but you really need a community to help you do that.

 

There are some communities who are trying to live out such a vision. For them the Christian context is a reflection of ultimate caring about what it means to be Christian. But for many and for most who post here there is either a lack of such concern or there are folks who live “in exile” as Spong puts it or there are those who reject the need for community. Those who reject the need for community I think are the least likely persons to be able to answer your question.

 

I am suggesting that your question about your self-identity as a Christian can only be answered within the context of a community who ultimately cares about the Christian context. The problem of course is that there is not now an abundance of that community trying to live out Funk/Spong/Borg’s vision. That is why it seems to me that so many people feel they have to answer your question on their own but I just don’t see that working real well. I am suggesting that perhaps you have come to the wrong place to ask your question.

 

So bottom line here is my response to your question. Without community I cannot really answer your question. I don’t find that community here and so I cannot answer your question here. To me it is like asking you what it means to be a Jew outside your Jewish community. We have ecumenical spaces to attempt that but it seems to me those chairs at the table are occupied by communities and not individuals. Of course we can all meet at your pub and have great discussions also. Those however usually don't last beyond a wonderful evening.

 

David

 

 

This thread was moved unchanged from Debate and Dialog area by JosephM( as Moderator) 5-13-2012

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Funk's book is called "Honest to Jesus", not "Honest to God". John A. T. Robinson was the author of the classic "Honest to God". My apologies to both Funk and Robinson.

Edited by David

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When you are talking about self-identification as a Christian that means that you are talking about a self who is working that out within a community that calls itself Christian and ultimately cares about Christian context.

 

So who within progressive Christianity ultimately cares about Christian context? Probably the best suggestion that I have is that you read Funk’s chapter “Jesus for a new age” in his book “Honest to God” where he states “Contrary to some popular expectations, Jesus for a new age does not mean Jesus for crystals and channeling, for auras and chakras, meditation and yoga, astrology and harmonic convergences, or even holistic medicine, although Jesus may have some significance for some or all of those things. What I have in mind by a ‘new age’ is something quite different, though not entirely unrelated”. Funk then goes on to provide a vision for Christian context/community based upon the best of Biblical scholarship and progressive Christian theology. If you agree with Funk then I think there is a good indication that you would like to self-identify as a Christian but you really need a community to help you do that.

 

There are some communities who are trying to live out such a vision. For them the Christian context is a reflection of ultimate caring about what it means to be Christian. But for many and for most who post here there is either a lack of such concern or there are folks who live “in exile” as Spong puts it or there are those who reject the need for community. Those who reject the need for community I think are the least likely persons to be able to answer your question.

 

I am suggesting that your question about your self-identity as a Christian can only be answered within the context of a community who ultimately cares about the Christian context. The problem of course is that there is not now an abundance of that community trying to live out Funk/Spong/Borg’s vision. That is why it seems to me that so many people feel they have to answer your question on their own but I just don’t see that working real well. I am suggesting that perhaps you have come to the wrong place to ask your question.

 

 

David

 

Norm,

If you agree in principle with the latest version of the 8 Points (or the previous version for that matter), then you are a Progressive Christian according to the TCPC, and very much a member of this community. But even they go a long way to making it clear that you don't need to worry too much about labels.

 

David,

I fail to see how you don't recognise this community as having a Christian context (or it would seem even actually being a community for that matter), or is it simply not Christian enough in your eyes? The first two of the 8 Points clearly identify the community as having a Christian context. This is explicitly stated. I would expect that if it was called Pregoressive Islam there might be a reference or two to Mohammed in the 8 Points - there is not, clearly.

 

To me it sounds like you have a view that to be a community there has to be some sort of strict guidleines which qualifies one as part of that community, otherwise you're 'out'. I don't think this community has that rigid structure, so it is easy for some to dismiss us as not being a community. But we are a community of people with a divers range of views who agree in principle with the 8 Points. That's why this coomunity is alive and functions as it does. If I wanted a more Christian community I would seek out one of those and go post there. Of course, I don't.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Paul,

 

I would not want to try to persuade you that this is not the place for you or for anyone else for that matter who has found comfort in this place. If you have read that into my post please forgive any part that I played in that. Please also do not assume that I require “strict guidelines”. If you have not been a part of the kind of Christian community that I am talking about then you may not be able to understand. Please understand a main point of mine is that it is the communities that we are a part of that help shape who we are as individuals. We obviously disagree about the nature of Christian community if you feel that it can be held together based upon only the eight points or that it can come close to being contained within a forum environment such as this. What I would hope for within a forum such as this would be signs pointing towards the nature of Christian community that I am talking about. I do not see that. Others may be able to see more than I do. Peace to all.

 

Cheers to you.

 

David

Edited by David

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David,

 

I must have misunderstood what you meant by "return to silence."

 

To continue to repeat the same arguments adds nothing to their validity. You have made your point multiple times and it is clear that this forum is not compatible with your point of view. So, why not find one that is or start one yourself?

 

George

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George,

 

I am sorry if my continued presence bothers you. Folks come and go as their spirit moves. I intend on coming back if Tillich again becomes a focus and I may see some specific thing I would like to talk about. But at present I do not intend on being active anymore.

 

I had a teacher who said that most folks have a few things that they say in many different ways. I think that if you look at different folks you will see common themes that they talk about in several different ways. If you agree with those themes it may not seem to you that those folks are repeating themselves.

 

David

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Paul,

 

I would not want to try to persuade you that this is not the place for you or for anyone else for that matter who has found comfort in this place. If you have read that into my post please forgive any part that I played in that. Please also do not assume that I require “strict guidelines”. If you have not been a part of the kind of Christian community that I am talking about then you may not be able to understand. Please understand a main point of mine is that it is the communities that we are a part of that help shape who we are as individuals. We obviously disagree about the nature of Christian community if you feel that it can be held together based upon only the eight points or that it can come close to being contained within a forum environment such as this. What I would hope for within a forum such as this would be signs pointing towards the nature of Christian community that I am talking about. I do not see that. Others may be able to see more than I do. Peace to all.

 

Cheers to you.

 

David

 

David, be rest assured that you have not in any way persuaded me that this is not the place for me. I do not read that into your post, but what i do read into your post is that you desire to hold on to a type or definition of Christianity that works for you, or that you think Christianity deserves. I can understand if you are concerned that your idea of Progressive Christianity is being pushed in a direction you don't approve of. Frankly I don't know what you can do about that other than express your opinion and views, allow others to offer their opinions and views, and at the end of the day see if you're comfortable where it is heading or not.

 

To me you do seem to have strict guidelines, like the ones for you that define a community. Whilst I never said that this community can be held together on only the 8 Points (your words, not mine) I would disagree with you strongly that this is not a Christian community of sorts. Different communites offer different things to different people. Whilst I appreciate that there may be kind christian communities out there, there are similarly other types of kind & loving communities, such as this one. Maybe we don't get together very often for coffee and a chat, but it's still a community with many of the values I would expect from a community - respect for differences, care & consideration for others, preparedness to assist with a loving ear, etc. My sister lives in Mexico (and I in Australia) and I see her about once every two or three years - she's no less my sister.

 

You say "What I would hope for within a forum such as this would be signs pointing towards the nature of Christian community that I am talking about", which to me indicates quite clearly that you do apply struct guideliness to what you view as Christianity. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to say that you feel this forum doesn't point to those signs.

 

My whole point here is that the forum does point toward Jesus without a doubt. It just doesn't seem to be enough for your liking, or at least that is how it seems to me.

 

Cheers

Paul

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Paul,

I am not sure there is anything that I could say that would change your opinion about what I intended to say, so I won't. Maybe I have helped you in some way to confirm what you think. This forum can do that.

David

Edited by David

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Paul,

I am not sure there is anything that I could say that would change your opinion about what I intended to say, so I won't.

David

 

David,

 

I'm not sure if there is either, but I guess we'll never know.

 

Cheers

Paul

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David,

 

I appreciated your OP. It gave you time to present a complex issue. While there may be that kind of complex community online I know that this is not one nor do I think it aspires to be. Franciscan nun Ilio Delio's critique of such online communities is that they are not organic; you can turn them off whenever you want.

 

Dutch

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Christianity, for better or worse, is usually understood to be a system of beliefs. In our post-Enlightenment world, most religions (but not all) are defined by their truth statements, as truth is approached from a more conceptual approach than an experiencial one. This is why, if you go to most any "Christian" church, organization, website, or forum, usually the first thing you'll find is some sort of "What We Believe" or "Statement of Faith" that most people in that "Christian" group are supposed to give mental assent to. These lists of beliefs are meant to be snapshots of the concepts that that community holds to be truth.

 

In my opinion, that approach does not work well here at TCPC. TCPC is more about how we live than about a well-defined system of beliefs.

 

The other distinctive difference is that for most other "Christian" groups, these lists of beliefs generally center in defining, as much as possible, our sacred symbols such as God, Jesus, the Bible, the Church, even humanity. When beliefs are thought to be central, then defining those beliefs are clearly as possible is very important.

 

Again in my opinion, that approach does not work well here. TCPC is more about leaving the definition or interpretation of these religious symbols, or even embracing them, up to the individual. It relishes in giving people this freedom and/or responsibility. "Find your own path." You won't find that approach supported in most "Christian" groups. But, imo, that is one of the things that TCPC is about.

 

This is why calling this "Progressive Christianity" can be stupifying to some people. IF Christianity is thought to be a system of beliefs, then some people who come here want to know, "Okay, so what do progressive Christians believe?" And this question, while appropriate to other Christian groups, is, here, like asking, "Okay, so what color are flowers?" In my opinion, the 8 Points are more about "how people live" than about "what people believe" and this approach is, not wrong, but different from most Christian approaches. So this group is not, strictly speaking, a group of "progressive Christians." It is a group of people from all different backgrounds, some religious and some not, discussing Christianity and things somehow related to Christianity. In this sense, and this is not a criticism but an observation, this is not a "Christian" group. I wouldn't come here, in typical "Christian fashion" to find "a group of like-minded believers." I don't think that is what TCPC is about. It's more about discussing all the different colors of flowers and what we find beautiful about them.

 

Not so long ago, I used to be against all creeds, statements of faith, lists of beliefs, etc. I'm not quite so sure I am anymore IF (big IF) they are used as shorthand ways to describe "how people live" or "what people believe" that helps them live in a certain way. But I am against using them as tests of orthodoxy that are often just ways to determine who is in and who is out. I don't mind them as descriptive snapshots, much as we might use a book's table of contents or backflap to see if the book would interest us in further exploration. In this sense, I still have a need to find "like-minded believers," self-confessing Christians who share a similar paradigm to my own. In fact, I get most of this through my local church. But TCPC is not a church and doesn't want to be. Like the Emerging movement, I think it sees itself as more of a conversation than anything else. So to try to determine who is a Christian and who is not here simply misses the Points. :)

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Bill,

 

The TCPC is what it is and cannot be precisely what every individual would like it to be. If someone is seeking something else, this is not the right place. There are other forums possibly available. If there aren't any that meet their specific needs, they are free to start one.

 

One is perfectly free to come here and express their opinion within limits of civility and without being dogmatic. However, none of us are free to come here and rearrange the furniture or redesign the kitchen to our own personal preferences. We can accept the architecture as it is or go somewhere else.

 

George

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I think this place is like "Cheers" Our conversation is different but we are just here to talk - in what is suppose to be a safe place. We're having a little problem with that now.

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Dutch,

 

Your post added to mine without necessarily agreeing with all I said. Thank you. The kind of community that I am talking about is organic. From those types of communities we are helped in learning who we are.

 

Bill,

 

I continue to appreciate your struggle with all of this. To me it is obviously a struggle and it makes me hurt inside sometimes. One thing I think that needs to be done is to take TCPC off of its pedestal. I’m not sure that anyone at TCPC tried to get on this pedestal and perhaps the pedestal is not real for many folks. TCPC is a very small group that has been given a very important name. However folks like Borg, Spong and Funk do not include the eight points in any of their books or writings that I can see. So when it comes to trying to figure out what progressive Christianity may be I would suggest that we not give too much weight to TCPC and certainly less weight to this forum as I have tried to point out with this post.

 

Although many churches are affiliates of TCPC I have not found evidence that many churches use the eight points in their mission statements or statements of belief (most often they seem to provide a link to the TCPC website on a list of favorite websites). So I think that some of your comments speak to that observation.

 

As far as visions from those who are ultimately concerned about Christian context I again would suggest Funk. I did not explain who Funk was. Robert (Bob) Funk was the founder of the Jesus Seminar. Without Funk there would be no public Spong or public Borg. I think his book “Honest to Jesus” (not Honest to God) is helpful. I think that for progressive Christians we need to look to Funk, Borg, Spong, Armstrong and ?

 

Bill, as you have noted we seem to be at a point of needing reconstruction and not deconstruction. I know you think that Borg is better at this. I am not so sure. I first met Borg when he was promoting his classic “Jesus, a New Vision”. I sat with him at lunch and asked him what difference his new vision of Jesus would make in how we would do Church. He replied that he had no idea. I think he is much better with Christian education versus worship.

 

The real heroes in my mind for progressive Christianity are those pastors out there is a daily struggle in those organic communities trying to make a difference. The fact that none of those pastors post here speaks volumes to me.

Edited by David
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David,

 

All your posts here since the Tillich thread have been more in the nature of a complaint than a meaningful discussion in alignment with the forums mission. We are not here in competition with any other church, UU or otherwise nor any other religion or forum. We do not seek to establish a church. We are a Progressive Christian internet community that have members that agree in principle to the 8 points as published, and those who may not but are welcomed regardless of their religious affiliation or none as long as their behavior and words are respectful of other members including the architecture here.

 

It is clear to us that you seem to think you can come here and use this forum and resources to infer, insinuate, and otherwise be publicly critical of leadership, TCPC and the present operation of this forum. You do this publicly in the discussion areas because it does not fit into the way you see things should be here but what you are really doing is complaining which is only allowed as you were told in the complaint area where you can have your say and then depart in peace. You have talked of concern , kindness and Christian caring yet you come into this community with the obvious and self admitted idea that TCPC "needs to be taken off its pedestal" (as if we are on one). You also say "The fact that none of those pastors (of organic communities) post here speaks volumes to me." as if we are somehow inferior You were suspended in 2009 for your continued complaining and failure to abide by the guidelines and administration instruction on this forum. I see you have not changed.

 

Frankly, your repeated comments and inferences about TCPC, and this community, in our opinion, are out of bounds. Obviously, You will not be allowed to continue to use our resources for posting as such because you add nothing to the unity we strive to keep. We try to maintain an envirorment for members to share and find their own way out of dogmatic and religious literalism through encouragement and acceptance of them at where they are presently and supporting them with encouragement as they continue their journey of discovery .I do not see you contributing to that mission with such comments. You are no longer welcome to use resources here to participate with such comments as you have continually ignored the prompting of moderators to stop your repeated complaining and move on if this community doesn't fit your needs.

 

For now, you are now placed on indefinite Moderator approval of posts .

Should you leave permanently, we wish you well on your journey.

 

JosephM (as Admin)

Edited by JosephM

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David,

 

I’ve appreciated many of your points also. I’d probably define where I am spiritually as more of a “seeking” than a struggle, as far as community goes. As I’ve written in my profile, I’m seeking a community that affirms both the reality of God and the centrality of Jesus’ teachings, and these two affirmations would be, to me, what would make such a community the kind of “Christianity” that I’m seeking. Many of the Christian forums that I’ve either browsed or participated in do affirm the reality of God (usually from a supernatural theist POV), but they make either the teachings of the apostle Paul or of the Church central, and that just doesn’t work for me. To the other end of the spectrum, there are a few more liberal Christian forums out there, but because they are not “evangelical” in nature, by which I mean calling for both personal and social transformation, there is little interaction on these forums. From what I can tell on these forums, people have probably found a path that works for them, but the paths are so individualistic that people don’t come together to do anything i.e. they don’t have a mission to the world.

 

I suspect that we need two things in our spiritual journey as far as community goes. Because we are social creatures, the first thing we need is a group of “like-minded” people who believe or act much as we do, not in order to control us, but to give us a sense of social identity and to let us know, constructively, if we are going off the rails or not. In other words, this group would share a sense of bonding brought about through similar experiences, beliefs, and affirmations. This kind of community would give us roots to grow deep. We have the comfort of being part of a tradition.

 

The second thing I think we need as far as community goes is, as has been stated here, “a safe place” in which to explore ideas, concepts, experiences, and worldviews outside of what the first group of “like-minded” people usually hold to. This group might share a sense of bonding brought about through shared questions, but not necessarily agreed-upon answers. This kind of community might give us branches to grow out. We find the challenge to explore.

 

For me, I need both. I need to grow both deep and out. Deeper into God and into the kind of life that Jesus portrayed. And I need to grow out from my own narrow-mindedness and self-centeredness. I find myself still part of the Christian tradition, but I also want to explore.

 

How much can these or should these two types of groups overlap? That, I don’t know. But, in my opinion, TCPC is more of a resource center for the second-type of group than it is a church or faith-community for the first-type group.

 

Thanks for the Bob Funk references. I will certainly look into his stuff.

 

Best wishes to you, David. If you know of any of the first-type groups that you think might appeal to me, please give me a heads-up via PM.

 

Sincerely,

Bill

Edited by Wayseeker

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What is happening now I think is that the spiritual but not religious folks (and others) are taking progressive Christianity down the same well worn path taken by UU. I don’t see why that is necessary since we have UU doing a much better job performing that function. Why duplicate what UU is doing especially since TCPC organizationally is just not prepared to compete with UU?

 

I don't see TCPC as symbiotic with Unitarian Universalism even though they may share a similar goal, namely; Spirituality without theism. Mysticism without magic.

 

Just as there are many variations on the theme of theistic Christianity, why shouldn't there be a corresponding number of iterations on progressive Christianity? I've been to Unitarian Universalist churches on numerous occasions, and it is of a decidedly different timbre than TCPC. In many ways, Unitarianism - for me - focuses too much on mysticism and developing modern interpretations of ancient ritual and tradition.

 

 

If you agree with Funk then I think there is a good indication that you would like to self-identify as a Christian but you really need a community to help you do that.

 

Actually, my question was rhetorical, as I've already made a decision to NOT self-identify as Christian. My faith philosophy is more in line with Judaism than Christianity. My study of the Jesus of the Bible leads me to the conclusion that he was actually a follower of Hillel, who was somewhat of a progressive himself within the Jewish community of his day (Hilllel, I mean).

 

I am quite happy to join an occasional minyan in the local Jewish community.

 

There are some communities who are trying to live out such a vision. For them the Christian context is a reflection of ultimate caring about what it means to be Christian. But for many and for most who post here there is either a lack of such concern or there are folks who live “in exile” as Spong puts it or there are those who reject the need for community. Those who reject the need for community I think are the least likely persons to be able to answer your question.

 

I am suggesting that your question about your self-identity as a Christian can only be answered within the context of a community who ultimately cares about the Christian context. The problem of course is that there is not now an abundance of that community trying to live out Funk/Spong/Borg’s vision. That is why it seems to me that so many people feel they have to answer your question on their own but I just don’t see that working real well. I am suggesting that perhaps you have come to the wrong place to ask your question.

 

I appreciate your concerncs, but I just don't share your assessment of this particular group. Sure, you can find one or two that match your characterizations, but they are the exception and not the rule. And here I am speaking of regular posters, not the drive-bys.

 

So bottom line here is my response to your question. Without community I cannot really answer your question. I don’t find that community here and so I cannot answer your question here. To me it is like asking you what it means to be a Jew outside your Jewish community. We have ecumenical spaces to attempt that but it seems to me those chairs at the table are occupied by communities and not individuals. Of course we can all meet at your pub and have great discussions also. Those however usually don't last beyond a wonderful evening.

 

I think that you expect too much of an on-line forum. For the limitations inherent within the medium, this forum is just fine. Too bad we can't share libations through the Ethernet.

 

NORM

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Too bad we can't share libations through the Ethernet.

NORM

 

I'll drink to that!

 

Cheers

Paul

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Norm,

If you agree in principle with the latest version of the 8 Points (or the previous version for that matter), then you are a Progressive Christian according to the TCPC, and very much a member of this community. But even they go a long way to making it clear that you don't need to worry too much about labels.

 

Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your vote of confidence.

 

Truthfully, I view myself more a Humanist than a Christian. I derive equal measure of inspiration from the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Alexander Dumas and George Santayana as I do from Jesus, Mohammed and Hillel.

 

I am happy to participate in this community as long as I am welcome. And, I do feel welcome! I appreciate the diversity of ideas and perspective.

 

NORM

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Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your vote of confidence.

 

Truthfully, I view myself more a Humanist than a Christian. I derive equal measure of inspiration from the likes of Kurt Vonnegut, Alexander Dumas and George Santayana as I do from Jesus, Mohammed and Hillel.

 

I am happy to participate in this community as long as I am welcome. And, I do feel welcome! I appreciate the diversity of ideas and perspective.

 

NORM

 

I typically don't identify myself with the 'C' word either, Norm. However in the context of this forum, I agree in principle with the 8 points and have no issue with those those who view Jesus as the way to God (who knows - they may even be right :) ), as I have no issue with those who identify as Jewish, Muslim, Biddhists, you name it.

 

I guess I take the approach sung by Ben Harper in his song, 'Burn One Down' -

 

My choice is what I choose to do

And if I'm causing no harm

It shouldn't bother you

Your choice is who you choose to be

And if your causin' no harm

Then you're alright with me

 

Of course, he's referring to smokin' some good ol' weed, but I metaphorically transfer it to 'life'.

 

Like you, whilst I continue to feel welcome here I will enjoy, and feel thankful there is such a place.

 

Cheers

Paul

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