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"aren't We All Christians?"


Kath
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"Aren't we all Christians?" was the topic. I thought this deserved a thread of it's own.

 

I loved the story of how he was protected by the circle of gay men in one of the topics.

 

I wonder if some of those wonderful people did not really consider themselves Christians, or even believe in God, yet participated in the heroic act of protecting one who was being attacked.

 

My pont is that I believe there are many secular people who are Atheists, Agnostics, Hindus, and all sorts of other religious cultures who would also stand together for the same purpose.

 

Does it really matter whether or not people are believers in Jesus, or that he even existed? I believe in the concept and 'teachings' or philosophies of Jesus, but I really don't want to be referred to as a Christian because so many Christians don't really follow what Jesus was all about. I realize that's where 'progressive' Christians come in, but that's still based on the bible.

 

So many other cultures have the same values and principles as Jesus was reported to have.

 

So, I guess this means I'm not a progressive "Christian", per se, but rather a Christ philosophy follower. I'll think of a better name sometime later.

 

I hope this doesn't offend the progressive Christians here.

 

Kath

 

edited signature per Kath's instruction....JM

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It seems to me that no matter what label we use or what book seems connected to the label, there will always be a group that gives a religion a bad name or different meaning than we may hold. Perhaps one will through study find that individuals shortly after the time of Jesus were called Christians (Christ-like) and had no book or formalized church system or organization. In that respect, to me, it doesn't really matter what others see in their own minds in a label. Besides, in my view, a few vowels and consonants can never truly define a person though people are welcome to try. Personally, i see Christ in most all i meet so in that respect, yes, i believe we are all Christians yet whatever label pleases one is acceptable to me.

 

Just my own thoughts on the matter,

Joseph

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It seems to me that no matter what label we use or what book seems connected to the label, there will always be a group that gives a religion a bad name or different meaning than we may hold. Joseph

 

I think the various terms, Christian, Muslim or whatever, sometimes represents an ideal that is not often realized in real people.

 

As an example, when I lived in the Middle East, Muslim friends would say about extremists, "He isn't a real Muslim." Sometimes we say, "That wasn't very Christian of him or her." We also hear comments like, "She is a real Christian,' or "That was a real Christian act." These kind of statements suggest that we envision an ideal that has or has not been met.

 

I don't think, in the final analysis, that this ideal differs much from one religion to another.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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This is a question I've often asked of myself, Kath. I've always assumed the term 'Christian' was a label applied to those who subscribed to a common and clearly defined set of doctrines, and I guess that's one possible definition. However, the reference to Christ in the New Testament was not reference to Jesus's surname! It seems to be a reference to something eternal and, as far as I can discover, could be similar to that which is referred to as the Tao, the Atman or Self, Krishna, Buddha and maybe the Shekina. It seems as if Jesus was an embodiment of that eternal Christ and that Paul continually called his followers to be the same.

 

I'm coming to feel that it is that embodied experience that counts, not the doctrine. If I don't experience something in my body, but only in my mind (which I suppose is part of my body but you know what I mean), then it's not real to me. It's like knowing about the Arctic but never having been there. Once I've been there are experience -50, then I'm in an altogether different relatinship with the Arctic. Christian teaching is full of lessons in embodiment - baptism, the so called 'Lord's supper', good works etc. I can't have a disembodied experience of peace, love or joy, but I can experience faith and reason in a disembodied way.

 

So could a possible answer to the question 'are we all Christians' be, 'yes' inasmuch as we experience the embodiment of that which is referred to as Christ? If Paul is right and 'in him all things consist', are we an embodiment of Christ by default? Is the problem for us not acheiving it, but realising (making real) the a priori fact?

 

I do hope this raises more questions than it answers.

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Good question, Kath.

 

I was instructed not to call myself a Christian first by the leadership of the last church I attended because my thoughts weren't in line with orthodoxy. And, when I post to a website called Theology Web, which is run by Christians, I am not allowed to post in the "Christian only" threads.

 

So, if being a Christian means that I have to believe in mysticism, magical incantations, revivification of corpses and apocalypse, then; no.

 

Actually, the greatest compliment anyone can give me is to call me a humanist. As a humanist, I am free to embrace all worthwhile human knowledge - even if it is found, however sparingly, in the Bible.

 

NORM

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Michel Foucault does a wonderful job of pointing out there is no such thing as a unproblematic definition. All definitions can (and will) be contested, and the institutionalization of a particular definition necessarily requires and engagement with power relations. Though medicine and social sciences were his chief targets, much of what he said is easily applicable to Christianity.

 

I think that's a particular issue for this website in a way that would not be present on, say, a specific denomination or theological position's website (I could name names, but I'm sure we all can). I think the value of a web forum such as this one is to help remind people of the sheer diversity within Christianity in all its forms. Pointing out that the definition of Christianity is contested and fluid becomes a mission statement, rather than a problem or challenge that must be defeated. To recognize that fluidity helps to keep us humble. As human beings, we do not have the ability to create perfect, universal, eternal definitions that are beyond reproach.

 

This doesn't mean we should give up on definitions of Christianity, of course, just as Foucault was not arguing for the dissolution of medical schools. We just need to know we're making nothing but provisional definitions, and spend some time trying to explain as best we can what those provisions are.

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We get to choose our own labels. Sometimes I choose a label that expands who I am. Sometimes, not.

 

So, if being a Christian means that I have to believe in mysticism, magical incantations, revivification of corpses and apocalypse, then; no.

Norm, I have to assume sarcasm since this is kind of a flat earth view of "Christian." I have been reading Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Biff claims to have invented sarcasm and, so, I think, that you owe him a royalty. At least he tried to collect once or twice in the book. :P

 

The reference to Christ in the New Testament seems to be a reference to something eternal and, as far as I can discover, could be similar to that which is referred to as the Tao, the Atman or Self, Krishna, Buddha and maybe the Shekina. It seems as if Jesus was an embodiment of that eternal Christ

Right now I am a "Find a quiet place" seeker and have no names, but Brian, I like this. More of an answer for me. I am not knowledgeable to discuss different type energies associated with these names but I did read a suggestion that, I think, the formulation of the Tao was in the context of intractable political corruption. Another thought: Maybe it is the effect of Western Culture but there seems to be more activity in Jesus as Christ incarnate than in what I think of the other names. I put that out there as a question.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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Michel Foucault does a wonderful job of pointing out there is no such thing as a unproblematic definition.

 

I find this to be true in my own life and journey also, Nick. The upside of labels is that they give us definitions, shorthand descriptions of who we are that can be immediately recognizable. The downside is that they draw boundaries, forming in-groups.

 

One of my "gentle critiques" of the Eight Points, as wonderful as they are, is that they, by definition, exclude non-Christians. Seven of the Points say "we are Christians", affirming Christianity and excluding other religions and/or philosophies. And they do this without defining what a Christian is, leaving the definition open to personal interpretation so as to, I suppose, include as many different kinds of Christians as possible. Only one of the Eight Points is inclusive.

 

IMO, the Eight Points have now become unchanging creed. This is, of course, the Center for Progressive Christianity, not for progressive humanism or progressive Islam, etc. So, this being the case, the focus here does come from and appeal to those with a Christian worldview. Again IMO, it comes down to what TCPC feels its intended audience and goal is. I suspect it sees its role as unifying Christians into a more progressive worldview (a worthy goal indeed) rather than as trying to be a wider umbrella to unify all peoples and philosophies under "Eight Points of Progressive Humanity." One can spread one's umbrella so wide as to lose all definition and I suspect that TCPC generally sees its role more as reformation "of the church" than as a spiritual philosophy that might appeal to all people everywhere.

 

I only interact on two internet forums, this one and the one at Positive Deism. The two venues are quite different. Here, I am a guest because though I was once a Christian, I no longer wear that label and am more of a deist. Though I agree with the religious/philosophical thrusts of the Eight Pionts, I cannot comfortably say "I am a Christian." On Positive Deism, I am, for lack of a better definition, a Christian deist because my background and much of my language is Christian. Their "points" are only two - believe in the existence of God and appeal to reason rather than to superstition to seek truth/reality.

 

But what I enjoy and value about TCPC and this forum is that we often talk about compassion and what we can do to make our world a better place. This has always been a deep concern of mine, even when I was a Christian. As long as we continue to do that here, I will gladly participate as the "odd-man-out." :)

Edited by sbnr1
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Labels are a feature of social identity which is a human universal. No one is without any identity. This does necessarily include associating oneself with some and distinguishing oneself from others. However, it doesn't necessarily entail intolerance, dislike or hatred of others. When it comes to religious identity, one can self-identify as ‘Christian’ without demeaning any other religion or religious identity.

 

Often, we hear the metaphor ‘melting pot’ referring to American society. This suggests that we all do -- or should -- blend together into one homogeneous culture. I prefer the ‘salad bowl’ metaphor in which there are distinguishable cultures mixed together in one larger context with each maintaining its special identity. We could, IMO, use this same metaphor with respect to religion.

 

I see nothing whatsoever wrong with someone saying, ‘I am a Muslim or Hindu or Jew or Atheist or whatever. So, why should I care if someone identifies as Christian? It seems to me the only logical basis to object would be if there is something inherently objectionable to being, or identifying, with Christianity.

 

George

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(snip)

IMO, the Eight Points have now become unchanging creed. This is, of course, the Center for Progressive Christianity, not for progressive humanism or progressive Islam, etc. So, this being the case, the focus here does come from and appeal to those with a Christian worldview. Again IMO, it comes down to what TCPC feels its intended audience and goal is. I suspect it sees its role as unifying Christians into a more progressive worldview (a worthy goal indeed) rather than as trying to be a wider umbrella to unify all peoples and philosophies under "Eight Points of Progressive Humanity." One can spread one's umbrella so wide as to lose all definition and I suspect that TCPC generally sees its role more as reformation "of the church" than as a spiritual philosophy that might appeal to all people everywhere.

 

(snip)

 

 

Just to clarify the goal/mission of TCPC to those not familiar with it since it is documented here;

From http://www.tcpc.org/about/mission.cfm

 

The mission of The Center for Progressive Christianity is:

 

» To reach out to those for whom organized religion has proved ineffectual, irrelevant, or repressive, as well as to those who have given up on or are unacquainted with it.

 

» To uphold evangelism as an agent of justice and peace.

 

» To give a strong voice both in the churches and the public arena to the advocates of progressive Christianity .

 

» To support those who embrace the search, not certainty.

 

To me, IMO, this doesn't seem to exclude those who do not consider themselves Christians

 

Joseph

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To me, IMO, this doesn't seem to exclude those who do not consider themselves Christians.

 

We will have to agree to disagree, Joseph. :D TCPC still self-identifies as "Christianity" and seven of the Eight Points insist that "we are Christians." What if, hypothetically, the organization called itself "The Center For Progressive Lutherans?" Would Baptists feel excluded? Would Episcopalians feel excluded? Would Pentecostals feel excluded? By default, in calling itself Christianity and Christians, it excludes those who are not, just as saying that it is progressive says something about not being too conservative.

 

All I am saying is that I hope that the day comes when TCPC (or another entity like it) says "we are seekers who..." or "we are people who..." Personally, and I know this is my opinion only, I don't think God cares if people are Christians or not. Christianity stands diametrically opposed to such a notion. But if Jesus was anywhere near right, God cares about whether or not we are compassionate, about how wide we can open our hearts and arms versus how narrowly we can define our religion. :)

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I prefer the ‘salad bowl’ metaphor in which there are distinguishable cultures mixed together in one larger context with each maintaining its special identity. We could, IMO, use this same metaphor with respect to religion.

 

I like this, George. Thanks.

 

bill

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Norm, I have to assume sarcasm since this is kind of a flat earth view of "Christian." I have been reading Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. Biff claims to have invented sarcasm and, so, I think, that you owe him a royalty. At least he tried to collect once or twice in the book. :P

 

 

 

Not sarcasm - just creative writing. All of what I said is orthodox with most Christian denominations:

 

1. Mysticism - If the Holy Trinity isn't mysticism, then I don't know what else is.

2. Magical Incantations - Apostle's Creed, for one. Sinner's Prayer for another.

3. Revivification of corpses - Christ's resurrection / walking dead in Jerusalem during crucifixion / Lazarus / Centurian's daughter.

4. Apocalypse - Second coming of Christ (both the pre and post trib brands).

 

Although, I did write for a religious satire magazine for three or four years.

 

BTW, I read Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal a few years ago. It is a hilarious book. The scenes of Jesus reviving dead lizards is priceless. Have you gotten to Jesus' visit with the guru in India yet?

 

NORM

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All I am saying is that I hope that the day comes when TCPC (or another entity like it) says "we are seekers who..." or "we are people who..." Personally, and I know this is my opinion only, I don't think God cares if people are Christians or not. Christianity stands diametrically opposed to such a notion. But if Jesus was anywhere near right, God cares about whether or not we are compassionate, about how wide we can open our hearts and arms versus how narrowly we can define our religion. :)

 

Well said.

 

NORM

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Thanks for some great and thoughtful responses.

 

I'm a bottom line kinda gal, and no matter how I look at it, the foundation of this forum is Christian based. I knew this when I decided to participate since there are sections for threads aside from the 'eight points' Christian conversations, and all topics are very interesting to me.

 

In response to this comment:

 

"...So, why should I care if someone identifies as Christian? It seems to me the only logical basis to object would be if there is something inherently objectionable to being, or identifying, with Christianity...."

 

I'm hoping people can read my post clearly to understand that I certainly am not objecting to anything. Only asking the question which I think is a good one, since the title of this forum is, in fact, "the Center for Progressive CHRISTIANITY" and although the goals are exceptional within the Christian community, the label is still Christian.

 

Again, I'm not attempting to encourage change of the foundation and creed of this forum, which is moderated by an exceptional and spiritual man, but I tend to muse outloud when I have thoughts which I think make sense. I'd think it would get a wider audience and more participation with a different title, and therefore reach many people who are searching for answers, not necessarily from a Christian point of view, but this is only an opinion, and not a reason for anyone to become defensive. The participation in this forum speaks for itself.

 

As you were!

 

Kath

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Well, I just got through identifying myself as a "Jesusian," so maybe I'm not. On the other hand, I have been an active lay member of one Protestant congregation or another for almost 50 years, and my brothers and sisters mostly call themselves Christians. So if I didn't, I would feel that I'm not taking them or their convictions as seriously as I should.

 

And as I have said many times, "go figure."

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Often, we hear the metaphor ‘melting pot’ referring to American society. This suggests that we all do -- or should -- blend together into one homogeneous culture. I prefer the ‘salad bowl’ metaphor in which there are distinguishable cultures mixed together in one larger context with each maintaining its special identity. We could, IMO, use this same metaphor with respect to religion.

images of religious pluralism: jazz ensemble

 

In jazz,” [Diane L Eck] observes, “the playing is the writing.” The players must collaborate and invent while giving close attention to the music of every other instrument.

 

you gotten to Jesus' visit with the guru in India yet?

It is an LOL book. I keep it on the shelf so I can read it once in while. Question coincided with where i was in the book. They just finished packing up Vana, the elephant.

 

(Biff has just said goodbye to Kashmir, his art teacher and sex partner, affordable because Joshua had learned how to turn one grain of rice into many which Biff then sold in town. Joshua, on the other hand has lived the life of an ascetic, in a cliff.)

Joshua made as if to embrace the old man [Melchior], then instead just poked him in the shoulder. Once and only once, I saw Melchior smile. “But you haven’t taught me everything I need to know,” Josh said.

“You’re right, I have taught you nothing. I could teach you nothing. Everything that you needed to know was already there. You simply needed the word for it. Some need Kali and Shiva to destroy the world so they may see beyond illusion to divinity in them, others need Krishna to drive them to the place where they may perceive what is eternal in them. Others may perceive the Divine Spark in themselves only by realizing through enlightenment that the spark resides in all things, and in that they find kinship. But because the Divine Spark resides in all, does not mean that all will discover it. Your dharma is not to learn, Joshua, but to teach.”

...

“We [three wisemen] were seekers. You are that which is sought, Joshua. You are the source. The end is divinity, in the beginning is the word. You are the word.

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

Edited by glintofpewter
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We will have to agree to disagree, Joseph. biggrin.gif TCPC still self-identifies as "Christianity" and seven of the Eight Points insist that "we are Christians." What if, hypothetically, the organization called itself "The Center For Progressive Lutherans?" Would Baptists feel excluded? Would Episcopalians feel excluded? Would Pentecostals feel excluded? By default, in calling itself Christianity and Christians, it excludes those who are not, just as saying that it is progressive says something about not being too conservative.

 

All I am saying is that I hope that the day comes when TCPC (or another entity like it) says "we are seekers who..." or "we are people who..." Personally, and I know this is my opinion only, I don't think God cares if people are Christians or not. Christianity stands diametrically opposed to such a notion. But if Jesus was anywhere near right, God cares about whether or not we are compassionate, about how wide we can open our hearts and arms versus how narrowly we can define our religion. smile.gif

 

Sbnr1,

 

While it is indeed a fact that TCPC identifies at least in name as a Christian organization, its mission and goal as stated and the fact that a good number of the members here do not identify themselves as Christians, plus the acknowledgement in point 2 of the acceptance of others with different paths, and especially point 4 on inclusiveness, plus TCPC's dedication to religious pluralism make it exclusive neither of any denominations of Christianity nor any other religion regardless of name "without imposing upon them the necessity of becoming like us" (including Christian by name) (point 4). It seems to me one can't get much more inclusive than that in practice. Perhaps in words by using the words you suggested "seekers who" or "people who", some such as yourself might feel included in name here but then by your own reasoning, wouldn't it exclude others who wanted to identify differently? Wouldn't it be you who is then trying to 'impose upon another the necessity of becoming like you at least in word' ? Is the name label really all that important? It seems to me that your last sentence above answers all questions and agrees with the mission and goals of TCPC.

 

Just something to think about. Agreement as always is not sought nor required. biggrin.gif

 

Joseph

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and the fact that a good number of the members here do not identify themselves as Christians

 

You have a very good point. I do not call myself a Christian and I've only been censored once (just for a naughty word), so I think this is a good place. I am enjoying being able to actually discuss different things with Christians and non-Christians without all of the usual nonsense.

 

NORM

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Hi,

When I found TCPC initially, I was relieved. I had been in several situations where other people had told me I was not a Christian, and it was a shock, since I consider myself to be so inspired by Jesus. It was a relief to find a place where I could still be considered Christian and seek with others who do not necessarily believe in all the elements of orthodoxy but do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. TCPC has been a good stepping stone for people like me.

 

Eventually I may have some sort of epiphany and want to throw the Christian label out of my life completely, but for now I'm primarily led by teachings of Jesus and I feel the presence of His spirit in my life. I think having this forum be "Christian" allows us to narrow the scope a bit, and it lets people know that most of the spiritual discussions here will be within a framework of embracing some of the traditions of Christianity without making it exclusive. I like how the forum is structured, to encourage some areas of discussion that are open to anyone, no matter how they label themselves, while reserving some discussion for those who are more similarly-minded, so that everything is not an argument. However, I am sorry that some feel excluded when we put the label "Christian" on this forum. Obviously no discussion board will please everyone, but this one has been well-managed, and I have learned much from those who have cared to share their thoughts here.

 

My struggle has been trying to figure out how much time to devote to discussion versus other things God is calling me to do.

 

I appreciate all of you!

Janet

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. . . there seems to be more activity in Jesus as Christ incarnate than in what I think of the other names. I put that out there as a question.

 

I found a greater depth in my understanding of this through the Tao Teh Ching and the Upanishads than I got from my inititial reading of the Gospels. Coming back to Matthew 5 and the Gospel of John with a more thorough grounding in the TTC and Upanishads helped me to see that incarnation more clearly - not only in Jesus, but in me as well.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think I've posted these ideas here on another thread but I'm not sure exactly where. I think they are appropriate for this discussion so forgive me please for being redundant.

 

I am not a Christian by most standards people use today. My understanding of God is based on reason and my reason tells me that there is a universal, natural, immutable force governing all that exists, all that has ever happened and all that will happen. I call it the life force; a triune force of consciousness, truth and love.

 

This force permeates everything and guides evolution toward ultimate perfection. The force I describe is called God by most people but the force doesn't love any of us, it is love; it doesn't give consciousness, it is consciousness; it doesn't know truth, it is truth. The life force is in us all and all we need to do to be in harmony with it is accept it, and learn to understand it.

 

The bible stories about the character Jesus speak to me of his understanding of the life Force and how he understood himself as being one with it. He understood the truth of consciousness and love, the consciousness of truth and love and the love of truth and consciousness.

 

Before the sciences evolved as we know them today as natural laws which are provable and understandable there was philosophy. I think that there is reasonable evidence to deduce that a philosopher named Jesus lived and taught a following of likeminded disciples. I think the ideas he was teaching were politically incorrect and he was killed because of them. As with many legendary figures like Daniel Boon, Davy Crocket or Wyatt Earp, many fables were made up about him but there was a kernel of truth to his legend.

 

He knew he was no more a child of some anthropomorphic god than any of us, he referred to the life force as god or father and he understood that life force is in us all. He was a teacher and he used parables as teaching aids. Ignorant people took him literally and the more enlightened understood the metaphors he used.

 

He shared his knowledge with those who would listen to help bring them into harmony with the life force and each other. He understood that death to our life experience was equally as important as birth. Stories about him show us how to see death as a part of mortal life and how life force will leave our mortal bodies but will continue to exist universally.

 

His teachings are often misunderstood, politicized and they are used by men with an agenda to gain wealth and power. Christianity became an organized religion with teachings that bear some resemblance to the original meaning of the lessons. Christianity is a man made religion like other religions. It has been used as a political weapon to subdue entire civilizations of non-believers.

 

We don’t know where Jesus went to school or learned what he taught; it could have been Egypt, Babylon or another advanced civilization; perhaps even more advanced in understanding than we are today in some ways. We don’t know for sure if he existed but I suspect that some teacher fitting a similar description did and stories were told of his teaching and of the conflicts they caused.

 

He taught with parables. The gospels telling stories of his miracles are metaphors taken literally. Does anyone believe he really raised Lazarus from the dead or that he himself came back to life and floated up into the sky above the clouds? Many Christians say they believe and their whole belief system is based on literal translations of metaphors. They accept these stories because they trust the sources like children trust their parents and teachers.

 

The things we all share with each other are our humanity, the space we exist in and life force. In my understanding the Life Force is what others refer to as God. When I hear the parable of the greatest commandment and the Good Samaritan I think of the life force or God as being in us all and how all of us are one in spirit even though we are separate in physical body. I don’t often quote the bible but to make a point that Jesus understood the life force, God, as I do remember this verse:

 

“I pray that they all may be one; as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.”

 

Substitute the word "believe" with "understand" and the lesson here seems clear that we are all one in the life force and the life force is in all of us. The prayer was that we would all come to understand that oneness as an immutable fact. When we love God above all things and love our neighbor as ourselves it is because the truth is we are all one in the life force of love, truth and consciousness. We are all equal in the Life Force.

 

 

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Harry,

 

Yes, you certainly did.. Under the debate section, the opening post under "What is God and who was Jesus". And i must say it was most enjoyable reading this time as it was the first time. Thanks,

Joseph

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As we are into repetition, and inspired by Harry's words, a few words from Thomas Merton, spoken not long before his untimely death.....

 

True communication on the deepest level is more than a simple sharing of ideas, conceptual knowledge, or formulated truth...............And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless, it is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

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As we are into repetition, and inspired by Harry's words, a few words from Thomas Merton, spoken not long before his untimely death.....

 

True communication on the deepest level is more than a simple sharing of ideas, conceptual knowledge, or formulated truth...............And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless, it is beyond words, and it is beyond speech, and it is beyond concept. Not that we discover a new unity. We discover an older unity. My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.

 

Yes! Thomas Merton understood. Thanks for that quote.

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