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Christianity In A Pluralistic World


mcarans
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Hi all,

 

I asked Dr. Dominic Crossan about identifying valid paths to God as you can see in the thread below. He answered some of my questions, but left me with open questions which are:

 

1. Assuming we can use something like distributive justice (from Dr. Crossan's mail) to identify good vs bad religions, when approaching atheists, why not pick something that unambiguously talks about distributive justice without all the difficulties of interpretation that the Bible presents? (And if such unambiguity does not yet exist, why not create such a religion afresh?)

 

2. I live in Denmark, a country often admired for its low level of income equality, egalitarianism, justice etc. But another attribute of the country is that it is one of the most secular in the world - religion plays next to no part in most Danes' lives. Hence, an argument can be made that lack of religion produces more distributive justice. How can we then make a persuasive argument that Christianity or any other religious path to God will bring about the justice that belongs to all people?

 

 

Thanks,
Mike
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On Monday, 7 September 2015, 8:04, John D Crossan wrote:


Hi Michael:
First, atheism is A/THEISM and as such is negative, derivative, and parasitical—in itself it exists as opposition to theism—and, as such, is often as correct as it is inadequate. For it to be of any value it should become something positive, powerful, and persuasive. (Can it?)
Second, the validity of all religions should be assessed on how they track with evolution because the arc of evolution, though long, bends towards justice (that is why empires have always eventually fallen). Here is the test: does and how does this or that religion create, foster,and enact a vision of distributive justice in a world that belongs to all its people.(The Bible would say: belongs to God for all God’s people).
With best wishes,
Dominic

 

On Sep 6, 2015, at 9:20 PM, Michael Rans wrote:

Dear Dr. Crossan,
I have been watching a YouTube video where you and the late Marcus Borg debate about Christianity with two conservative theologians and a topic touched on is Christianity in a pluralistic world. I have been wrestling with this and I hope you don't mind me asking you a few questions. If Christianity is not the only path to God, how do we know which paths are valid and which are not? Can atheism be a valid path? Why tell people about Christianity and not something much easier to understand like what Eckhart Tolle teaches in the Power of Now?
Thanks so much for your time.
Kind Regards,
Michael Rans

 

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Hi Mike,

 

It seems to me not a good idea to create another religion whether ambiguous or not. And by the way, in my view, the teachings of Eckhart Tolle are excellent but not necessarily easy for all to understand. Some just don't get it because they get hung up on words. I do like the way he uses the teachings of multiple religions to make points more familiar and presents a deeper interpretation and understanding.

 

Here are some of the ways i personally separate spirituality from a religious cult. I refrain from using the terms good religion versus bad religion. To me the journey is more spiritual than religious.

 

Terms that helps separate True Spirituality from Cults

 

Spirituality Cult

 

· Teaches God as one with all Creation Teaches God as separate

 

· Teaches Unconditional Love and Acceptance Has an ‘Us and ‘Them’

 

· Teaches Forgiveness, Kindness, and Mercy Is condemning of others

 

· Doesn’t need an organization Requires an organization

 

· Doesn’t need rules or controls Needs rules and controls

 

· Doesn’t force itself on anyone Requires Proselytizing

 

· Teaches God as within Teaches God as without and far away

 

· Teaches a God of Love and Peace Teaches a God of emotions subject

 

· to emotions such as jealousy,

 

· vengefulness, hate, anger

 

· and changing his mind

 

 

· Teaches Trust only in God Teaches trust in a book or

 

· individual

 

· Uses Love to attract Uses hate or fear to attract

 

· Is grateful Is prideful

 

· Takes responsibility Blames Others

 

· Is benign Takes positions

 

· Relinquishes opinions Very Opinionated

 

· Requires deprogramming Requires programming

 

Well , that's my 2 cents and welcome to the forum Mike.

 

Joseph

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Thank you Joseph for your welcome and response. I am a Christian struggling with the issues I have raised.

 

If we don't create another religion, but rather narrow down according to your criteria to a set of "spiritual" religions, then logically we should choose the simplest and least ambiguous one when encouraging others to explore their spirituality. That most likely would not be Christianity given the complexity, ambiguity and discrepancies of the Old and New Testaments. Would you agree?

 

Your answer covers my first question, but my second still remains. If a society like Denmark develops many positive qualities while being secular, then how can we make an argument that Christianity (or anything else) is worth exploring?

 

Thanks,

Mike

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Well Mike,

 

I think Christianity is worth exploring. While i agree with you that there are many discrepancies and i would add it is filled with dogma and doctrine that leads one astray on ones personal journey of discovery, it was exactly what i needed to arrive where i am today. I believe ones spiritual journey is an evolution. In my view, sometimes one must (because of prior conditioning) discover the false on ones own for the truth to appear. For me, Christianity provided teachings of forgiveness and non-judgement that was key to my walk and opening me up to that which is greater than religion. I found my approach through Christianity teachings of Jesus but my path eventually took me on a progressive journey of discovery that gave weigh to more than one religion. I identify with Progressive Christianity by choice but i am in no way limited by the doctrines and dogma of what many Christian churches identify as Christianity.

 

Here is an interesting thread by other members here on what Progressive Christianity is to them. While PC may not be the same for all who responded, it may provide some insight into why people here might feel that Christianity , among other religions is still worth exploring.

 

Joseph

 

PS. It seems to me having a belief system (as Tolle says - " a set of thoughts that you regard as the absolute truth" ) actually cuts you off from the spiritual dimension within yourself. A religious system can get you stuck at a level where you make your belief thoughts into your identity. As Tolle, i believe to a large extent, that our evolution or transformation of consciousness is arising outside the structure of existing institutional religions. Religion is a stepping stone to something greater for many.

Edited by JosephM
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Mike, You are fortunate to live in such a progressive country. I don't feel any religion has a monopoly on good or bad and they all need to evolve just like we are evolving. I think people are attracted to a religion because it speaks to them where they are at in their personal journey and can be changed if we so desire.

 

The undetected energies inside and surrounding us has an effect on our being so needs to be comprehended and appreciated. We can do this by phasing in the awareness of our subconscious and unconscious minds in order to reflect on our belief system, our thoughts and the intuitive energies that influence our lives. One does not perceive, comprehend or control the soul, but mindfulness of it grows within like a mustard seed in the earth. Slowly but surely as we understand ourselves it is revealed that the consciousness of our soul is our advocate streaming through all the levels of existence even on the physical plane where changes are made. It does this by filling our hearts and minds with love and making life very simple. The soul is by description spiritual so enables us to live our lives wholly or holly above our nature what Christian mystics would call the Supernatural life. The Supernatural life is a spiritual journey leading to an association and relationship with God as we Christians relate or the Quantum Unified Field as others might relate. Every set of guidelines in all the holy scriptures in the world are attached to this experience and every practice of the church needs to be concerned with experiencing the Divinity within. The Bible said about Jesus, “ And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21) Therefore, any religion or no religion or a dab of each will do and can pave a way to this experience, which is different for everyone.

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Joseph, I enjoyed reading your post about how you understand the differences between spirituality and cult. I know your framework works well for you. Thank you for sharing it.

 

As you know, I have a somewhat different framework, and I'm not especially fond of the teachings of Eckhart Tolle (mostly because, although he seems very sincere in his quest, he has chosen to avoid questions about science and neuroscience in relation to the spiritual journey, so his teachings remind me too much of Ancient Near East Wisdom literature, which I'm no fan of for the same reason: too much Materialist cause and effect proclamation and pseudo-science, not enough non-Materialist quantum questioning).

 

I completely agree with you that teaching others about love, acceptance, forgiveness, kindness, and trusting God are central to the path of healing and peace. Thank you for always emphasizing this.

 

Blessings,

Jen

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Mike, welcome to TCPC. You've jumped in with some really interesting and important observations. The conversation between you and Dr. Crossan reminded me again that although it takes only a few short minutes to ask the questions and get started on the answers, it usually takes a whole lifetime (and many books) to fill in the gaps. I've recently been rereading the book Dr. Crossan co-wrote with Jonathan Reed called "In Search of Paul." Although, in the end, Dr. Crossan and I wouldn't agree on Paul's motives, I deeply admire Dr. Crossan's scholarship and his willingness to use all the tools available to us (not just religious texts, but also research evidence from archaeology, history, anthropology, and the like) to help us better understand not only the answers we're seeking but the questions we're asking!

 

I live in Canada, a country that's more like Denmark in some ways than it's like the U.S. There's a cultural emphasis on distributive justice (not that we always get it right, or even come close to getting it right) but I wouldn't say it's secular. Canadians, for the most part, are very private about their religious beliefs and practices. So although a person might be deeply committed to a journey of faith and healing, he or she probably won't talk about it in the workplace and won't bring it into major political campaigns (such as the federal election campaign we're in the midst of right now).

 

The most vocal religious people I've personally met are atheists. I do very much feel that militant atheism is an expression of religiosity (with the meaning of religiosity deriving from the root word "religiose," which has nothing to do with belief in God and everything to do with extreme reliance on ideology, whether it's political, cultural, scientific, or sports-related ideology). Of course, I'm referring here to militant atheists, not people who just aren't sure what they believe about God (agnostics) or people who are leaning towards the "I'm not sure there's a personal God but maybe there's a universal Source from whom we originate" belief system.

 

Myself, I'm a pure theist, but you'd pretty much expect me to be as a cataphatic mystic who talks every day with God the Mother, God the Father, and the persons-of-soul I have strong connections to, including the soul who once lived as Jesus son of Joseph.

 

Mike, you ask,"If Christianity is not the only path to God, how do we know which paths are valid and which are not?" This is an outstanding question, and I'll take a brief stab at starting to answer it.

 

I would say start with Dr. Crossan's insightful statement -- "the validity of all religions should be assessed on how they track with evolution because the arc of evolution, though long, bends towards justice (that is why empires have always eventually fallen)" -- and to his comments about distributive justice add this: "the validity of all religions should ALSO be assessed on how they track with the full and holistic functioning of the brain-soul nexus."

 

A religious belief system that preaches distributive justice while at the same time undermining the ability of individuals to hear, understand, and act on the inner wisdom of their own soul will not ultimately lead to the goal of Peace that Drs. Crossan and Reed point to in "The Search for Paul."

 

To get to the point in your life of feeling Peace -- which I'm going to define here as the state that Gospel writer Mark tried to depict in his Parable of the Idol Bread (Mark 6:1 - 9:8) -- you need more than just distributive justice; you need to feel whole deep within yourself in your relationship with God. But to feel whole deep inside, you need to nurture the circuits of your brain that deal in non-cognitive experiences and states such as empathy, trust, forgiveness, humbleness, wonder, and love. You can talk about justice till you're blue in the face (as many religious prophets have done, including Paul) but if you fail to give full accord to the scientific realities of the brain God gave you, and if you choose to engage in ideological practices that ultimately damage the circuits of the brain that deal in non-cognitive traits, you'll eventually hurt your own ability to hear, understand, and act on the inner wisdom of your own soul.

 

If, on the other hand, you start with the idea that you have a brain-soul nexus that can be healed and developed and strengthened, then eventually you can start to rely on your own intuition when weighing the merits of any philosophical system, whether religious, political, cultural, or scientific. Intuition helps you sort the wheat from the chaff, helps you figure out which teachings you think are valid and which teachings are probably not.

 

I know this is a big topic and I've only mentioned a few ideas that might be relevant to your question. I hope I've been able to help somewhat.

 

God bless,

Jen

 

Edited for typos and clarity

Edited by Realspiritik
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Mike

One of the literal translations of religion is to reconnect

There are others but this seems to be the most commonly accepted from the Latin.

 

The question becomes reconnect to what? For the theistically minded to god? To the secularly minded to one another? to the scientifically minded to the universe.

 

I think this song nails it for me ... it is a little camp, but true for me.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGK84Poeynk

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Thank you all for your thoughtful responses.

 

 

Regarding "any religion or no religion or a dab of each will do and can pave a way to this experience, which is different for everyone" and "reconnect to what? For the theistically minded to god? To the secularly minded to one another? to the scientifically minded to the universe.", I can understand the point that the path is a very personal experience.

 

Jen, I am a little scared at the thought of relying "on your own intuition when weighing the merits of any philosophical system" as how do I know that I'm not leading myself astray? For example, a fundamentalist's intuition is to deny the validity of what everyone except his/her particular group think.

Faced with someone seeking spiritual direction, what can I say to help them? If I just say it's all personal experience, then I think they would be disappointed. If I say you have to find out for yourself, then again they will not be happy even if there is truth to both these statements.

 

I feel that I still am not quite there with my second question: how can we make an argument that Christianity (or anything else) is worth exploring?

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Hi Mike.

 

Again, more great questions. I appreciate the way you're thinking and challenging. You're absolutely right about the fundamentalist's belief that he is right and everybody else is wrong. I agree the fundamentalist believes he's using his intuition. From a neuroscience point of view, though, he's not using his intuition or his conscience (both of which depend heavily on the "default network" of the brain). He's instead misusing the default network and relying heavily on a limbic system network called the temporo-amygdala-orbitofrontal network. He may even, if he's not careful, slip into the state of empathy-free choices that we call psychopathy. (You check out these networks at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/fans/sackler-group/Publications/20131/Arevisedlimbicsystemmodelformemory,emotionandbehaviour.pdf.)

 

Since the neuroscience is important, but not very useful in a discussion with others about spiritual direction, I've pasted in a piece I posted 3 years ago. It's long, so I hope Joseph will indulge me. (Sorry, Joseph :).) I own the copyright, but I'm not the author. This piece arose from my ongoing work as a mystic and it's called "Walking on Water." I hope it will help trigger some more questions and insights for you.

 

Thanks for asking, thanks for listening.

 

God bless,

Jen

 

__________________________________________________________

 

Walking on Water

 

Jen has reminded me I haven’t written a solo post here, so I’m going to do that today. I’m going to talk about what it feels like to walk on water.

 

I don’t mean that I or any human being has ever been able to literally walk on water. When my great-nephew wrote about “walking on water” in the Gospel of Mark, he didn’t mean it literally. He meant it metaphorically. He was trying to describe what it feels like when a person has entered into the Kingdom state of fullness of heart.

 

He chose the image of water carefully. In Second Temple Judaism, water was a powerful and frequent symbol in Jewish texts. Often it meant blessings from God. In an arid region, rainfall is a blessing, and most of ancient Judea was arid. But there was a parallel understanding of water, too, as the primal force of chaos, the place where uncontrollable monsters lived. Where female monsters lived.

 

The Book of Genesis starts out with the assumption that water has to be pushed back by God and held in place before the Garden of Eden can be planted. The sea is seen as a dangerous place. An unpredictable place. A deep place which is formless and dark, with no knowledge in it. God fixes this problem by first bringing light (knowledge of order and symmetry) onto the scene. He calls the light Day and the darkness Night, but he hasn’t created the Sun or the Moon yet, so the light he brings to Planet Earth isn’t sunlight. It’s the light of knowledge.

 

The men who wrote the Book of Genesis emphasize again and again that you should want to have order in your life. Order is good. Chaos is bad. There’s knowledge, and God saw that it was good. There’s careful separation of all major “elements” into their proper places, and God saw that it was good. There’s careful naming of all creations, large and small, and God saw that it was good. The earth itself (adam in Hebrew) is separated into two aspects — male and female — and given the breath of life. The resulting creations, man and woman, who are made in the image of God, are God’s representatives on Earth and through them God can impose the law of hierarchy upon all other kingdoms in creation (kingdoms in a biological sense, that is). And God saw that it was good. By the seventh “day,” God has put a big, fat leash on all that watery chaos stuff and firmly imposed the Law of Cause and Effect upon Planet Earth, and it’s so darned good that God calls for a day of rest to honour his accomplishments.

 

And what is Elohim’s greatest accomplishment? The greatest accomplishment of Elohim (“the gods” in Hebrew) is to whip that dark, watery, feminine principle into shape and force it to obey the male principles of order, knowledge, law, and hierarchy. When Elohim creates humankind — adam — he creates adam entirely out of strong, orderly, procreative, male earth. No water in sight. Elohim adds the breath of life (by inference from Gen. 1:30) to his new creations, but he’s very careful not to include any of that chaotic water stuff in his perfect new creations. Water’s okay when it’s in its proper place, but let it loose, and there’s no describing the destruction that will occur.

 

Oh wait! There is a description! Let me see now . . . of yes, that would be the Great Flood story. The Great Flood story reminds you (just in case you need reminding) what happens when bits and pieces of the Divine Order fall out of their proper places and start to misbehave (Gen. 6:1-7) and why God’s creation of order and hierarchy is a good thing! A good thing you really, really want!

 

Still, even the bad behaviour of the Nephilim was nothing compared to the fall of the Feminine Principle. When the Feminine Principle fell out of her proper place in the heavens and coalesced into the dark, formless, watery depths that existed before God came to rescue her with his light of knowledge an’ all . . . well, that was a real mess. A mess that still needs fixing. Occasionally, if things get really bad on Earth, God unleashes her and lets the monsters out, which is exactly why you need to put a Molten Sea in front of your big temple (1 Kings 7:23-26). You need to remind your people that God has given you power over the forces of chaos by proxy.

 

This power by proxy comes in the form of ritual bathing in water that has been tamed. Fresh water — including rainfall — is water that has been properly tamed by God. Restored to its true state of purity. Immersion in purified water allows you to share in God’s purification process. (It also happens to make you cleaner, and therefore healthier and happier, but this is a separate question.)

 

Mark, a trained scholar, had all these traditions about water in mind when he chose to show me “walking on water” in the middle of his Parable of the Idol Bread (Mark 6:47-51). He’s turned the traditional meaning of water on its head. It’s a new relationship with water. Nobody commands the waters of Lake Tiberias to part so Jesus can walk across on dry land. Nobody immerses themselves in the waters in baptism. Nobody puts the waters in big jars or little jars or cauldrons or ritual baths. The lake is the lake, the way it’s always been the lake. And Jesus is Jesus, the way he’s always been Jesus. And the lake and Jesus seem to be getting along! No fighting with the lake, no thrashing with monsters in the lake, no prayer rituals to calm the lake. Jesus starts walking towards his companions (who are struggling with questions of understanding and true faith) and the lake suddenly calms down as if maybe the waters (the Feminine Principle) and Jesus are working together and aren’t in conflict with each other. As if maybe the waters are comfortable supporting Jesus because he has already “taken heart and stopped being afraid.” As if maybe the waters are not and never have been the problem.

 

The problem is written down in black and white as plain as you can get in Chapter 7 of Mark. The problem is not what you touch on the outside of your body. The problem is not the water itself or what you do with the water. The problem is what you choose to do on the inside of your body. The problem is what you choose to do with your own free will.

 

The journey to know your own free will, as I said last time in conversation with Jen, is very much a journey that resembles the stages of grief. All people must wrestle with what it means to have free will. They must question it, be confused by it, be angry at it, reject it, and finally come to terms with it. As the character Job once did. As I did as Jesus son of Joseph two millennia ago.

 

There’s a reason for this, a reason that has nothing to do with sin or salvation or sacraments or separation from God. The reason for this painful journey is that God trusts you.

 

Human beings often wonder why they’re here and why it has to hurt so much. Many reasons have been offered over the centuries by different religious leaders. In the tradition of Occam’s razor, I offer this: you are here to learn how God the Mother and God the Father discovered together how to walk on water. You’re here so you can experience firsthand what it means to use your free will in every permutation possible in the service of Divine Love.

 

Put that way, it sounds simple, doesn’t it? But it’s not. You know that and I know that. It’s damned hard to work your way through the stages of knowing what free will means. Not what you, as a human being, think it means, but what God the Mother and God the Father think it means.

 

To live from a place of pure free will is, as you may imagine, the very opposite of living in a world of pure cause and effect. But once, long ago, long before the event called the Big Bang took place, the universe was not as we know it today, and the laws of cause and effect held much more sway than they do today. This is hard — beyond hard — for most angels to understand, so some of us decide to incarnate here to see what this kind of existence must have felt like. Our Divine Parents let us do this because they trust us.

 

When souls decide to incarnate here as human beings, they know it’s going to be hard, but when they get here they find out it’s even harder than they could have imagined. They do it anyway, though, because they’re experiencing something important, something that’s part of their history, their past. They want to understand their relationships with everyone at a much deeper level, and this crazy journey called “life as a human being” helps them do it.

 

Not every soul chooses to do this. But the ones who do, do so voluntarily. These are the souls who are primarily kinesthetic learners at a deep soul level. They learn best by experiencing something firsthand, by walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes so they really “get” what it feels like.

 

If you’re reading this, it means you wanted to come to Planet Earth for a while so you can walk in your Divine Parents’ shoes and see for yourself what it felt like for them to work together to overturn the rule of “cause and effect” and replace it with something infinitely more powerful and mysterious: Divine Love (a.k.a. quantum physics).

 

The human brain (unlike other mammalian brains) has an annoying habit of trying to shed its own emotions and slip into the unloving habits of cause and effect. (As your cats and dogs like to remind you.) So the human brain is ideally suited to this particular journey of discovery. It has both a great potential for learning and a great potential for unlearning. So to state your brain gives you the option to explore every possible nook and cranny of free will would be an understatement.

 

I know you can think of a thousand examples of people who didn’t use their free will in loving and trusting ways. But what about the people who have come to terms with their own free will? Who are they and what do their lives look like? More important, are these people “special,” or can anyone on Planet Earth find this experience of redemption?

 

We’ve often used the term “redemption” [on the website] in contradistinction to religious salvation, and I’d like to talk about this a bit more. Any human being — regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, culture, time, place, or religion — who has worked through the grief stages of free will is a person who has experienced redemption in the way that I experienced it. Redemption is the emotional insight that fills up a person’s entire heart and mind with the knowledge that it’s okay to never fear the Truth.

 

There’s Truth in the universe and there’s Divine Love. They’re not the same thing. Truth exists in the absence of consciousness. Divine Love is the choice of consciousness to never hide from the Truth, to always be transparent to the Truth, to fully embrace whatever is true about another being without losing the truth of oneself. What does this mean? It means that Divine Love always respects the right of another person to be another person and not a mere extension of one vast cloud of self.

 

A human being who understands that free will holds the key to Divine Love, forgiveness, passionate creativity, and committed relationships (devotion) is a human being who has found redemption.

 

Such a person can be found anywhere. And, indeed, such individuals are found in all cultures. They are the people who simply won’t back down from the idea that all beings are worthy of respect, fair treatment, compassion, kindness, and encouragement. They are the people who believe in social justice and due process, in democracies rather than republics or empires, in transparency in government and accountability for intentional harms. They are the people who treat women with as much respect as men, who treat the planet with as much respect as they treat other human beings. They are the people who treat their children as souls in need of education, guidance, mentorship, and respect instead of as property to be bartered for status or personal gratification. They are the people who don’t whine and complain and blame God for all the travails they’ve chosen themselves. Most of all, they’re the people who have the courage to see their neighbours as worthy human beings, not as objects of hatred, contempt, and violence.

 

When you really “get it” — when you understand that your ability to choose your path does not make you separate from the rest of Creation but is in the fact the very glue that holds God’s family together as a loving, trusting group — the world no longer feels to you like a place where good is fighting evil or light is fighting dark or order is fighting chaos. It doesn’t feel like a fight any longer, but neither does it feel like mere acceptance of the way things are (which is often just resignation in disguise). It’s not obedience. It’s not piety. It’s not subjugation. It’s not anomie. It’s not cynicism. It’s not apathy. It’s not depression. It’s not escapism. It’s just . . . honesty. The heart’s honesty. The heart’s willingness to see things as they really are and, despite that, to dig deeper, ever deeper — or maybe higher, ever higher — into empathy for another person’s Truth.

 

There is no adequate word for this emotion in English. “Trust” would come closest.

 

When you have this sense of trust, it feels as if you’re holding God’s hand and God is guiding you through the storms and worries of daily life.

It feels as if you’re walking on water.

 

Blessings to all,

 

Love Jesus

September 19, 2012

 

 

Edited for spacing problems.

Edited by Realspiritik
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(snip).

 

I feel that I still am not quite there with my second question: how can we make an argument that Christianity (or anything else) is worth exploring?

 

Mike,

 

To me, no argument is necessary. We are drawn to exploring when we are ready (something within draws us). I need say nothing but i am always open to sharing my own experience and encouraging them to look for themselves. While they might be looking for more than that and be disappointed, it seems to me that is all i have to effectively offer with words.

 

Joseph

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"I feel that I still am not quite there with my second question: how can we make an argument that Christianity (or anything else) is worth exploring?"

 

I feel as a Christian if we experience the Divinity within we can't and don't need to talk about it because it will radiate out through our actions. I think we do more harm talking about Christianity as a substitute to living it.

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Faced with someone seeking spiritual direction, what can I say to help them? If I just say it's all personal experience, then I think they would be disappointed. If I say you have to find out for yourself, then again they will not be happy even if there is truth to both these statements.

 

Ultimately we will walk our own paths.

 

Sometimes we walk in opposite directions to others, At times we walk together, We cross paths that others have blazed, Sometimes we can hear people on parallel paths.

 

Sometimes we are just alone,

 

It is OK,

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Hi Mike.

 

Again, more great questions. I appreciate the way you're thinking and challenging. You're absolutely right about the fundamentalist's belief that he is right and everybody else is wrong. I agree the fundamentalist believes he's using his intuition. From a neuroscience point of view, though, he's not using his intuition or his conscience (both of which depend heavily on the "default network" of the brain). He's instead misusing the default network and relying heavily on a limbic system network called the temporo-amygdala-orbitofrontal network. He may even, if he's not careful, slip into the state of empathy-free choices that we call psychopathy. (You check out these networks at http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/fans/sackler-group/Publications/20131/Arevisedlimbicsystemmodelformemory,emotionandbehaviour.pdf.)

 

Since the neuroscience is important, but not very useful in a discussion with others about spiritual direction, I've pasted in a piece I posted 3 years ago. It's long, so I hope Joseph will indulge me. (Sorry, Joseph :).) I own the copyright, but I'm not the author. This piece arose from my ongoing work as a mystic and it's called "Walking on Water." I hope it will help trigger some more questions and insights for you.

 

Thanks for asking, thanks for listening.

 

God bless,

Jen

 

__________________________________________________________

 

Walking on Water

 

Jen has reminded me I havent written a solo post here, so Im going to do that today. Im going to talk about what it feels like to walk on water.

 

I dont mean that I or any human being has ever been able to literally walk on water. When my great-nephew wrote about walking on water in the Gospel of Mark, he didnt mean it literally. He meant it metaphorically. He was trying to describe what it feels like when a person has entered into the Kingdom state of fullness of heart.

 

He chose the image of water carefully. In Second Temple Judaism, water was a powerful and frequent symbol in Jewish texts. Often it meant blessings from God. In an arid region, rainfall is a blessing, and most of ancient Judea was arid. But there was a parallel understanding of water, too, as the primal force of chaos, the place where uncontrollable monsters lived. Where female monsters lived.

 

The Book of Genesis starts out with the assumption that water has to be pushed back by God and held in place before the Garden of Eden can be planted. The sea is seen as a dangerous place. An unpredictable place. A deep place which is formless and dark, with no knowledge in it. God fixes this problem by first bringing light (knowledge of order and symmetry) onto the scene. He calls the light Day and the darkness Night, but he hasnt created the Sun or the Moon yet, so the light he brings to Planet Earth isnt sunlight. Its the light of knowledge.

 

The men who wrote the Book of Genesis emphasize again and again that you should want to have order in your life. Order is good. Chaos is bad. Theres knowledge, and God saw that it was good. Theres careful separation of all major elements into their proper places, and God saw that it was good. Theres careful naming of all creations, large and small, and God saw that it was good. The earth itself (adam in Hebrew) is separated into two aspects male and female and given the breath of life. The resulting creations, man and woman, who are made in the image of God, are Gods representatives on Earth and through them God can impose the law of hierarchy upon all other kingdoms in creation (kingdoms in a biological sense, that is). And God saw that it was good. By the seventh day, God has put a big, fat leash on all that watery chaos stuff and firmly imposed the Law of Cause and Effect upon Planet Earth, and its so darned good that God calls for a day of rest to honour his accomplishments.

 

And what is Elohims greatest accomplishment? The greatest accomplishment of Elohim (the gods in Hebrew) is to whip that dark, watery, feminine principle into shape and force it to obey the male principles of order, knowledge, law, and hierarchy. When Elohim creates humankind adam he creates adam entirely out of strong, orderly, procreative, male earth. No water in sight. Elohim adds the breath of life (by inference from Gen. 1:30) to his new creations, but hes very careful not to include any of that chaotic water stuff in his perfect new creations. Waters okay when its in its proper place, but let it loose, and theres no describing the destruction that will occur.

 

Oh wait! There is a description! Let me see now . . . of yes, that would be the Great Flood story. The Great Flood story reminds you (just in case you need reminding) what happens when bits and pieces of the Divine Order fall out of their proper places and start to misbehave (Gen. 6:1-7) and why Gods creation of order and hierarchy is a good thing! A good thing you really, really want!

 

Still, even the bad behaviour of the Nephilim was nothing compared to the fall of the Feminine Principle. When the Feminine Principle fell out of her proper place in the heavens and coalesced into the dark, formless, watery depths that existed before God came to rescue her with his light of knowledge an all . . . well, that was a real mess. A mess that still needs fixing. Occasionally, if things get really bad on Earth, God unleashes her and lets the monsters out, which is exactly why you need to put a Molten Sea in front of your big temple (1 Kings 7:23-26). You need to remind your people that God has given you power over the forces of chaos by proxy.

 

This power by proxy comes in the form of ritual bathing in water that has been tamed. Fresh water including rainfall is water that has been properly tamed by God. Restored to its true state of purity. Immersion in purified water allows you to share in Gods purification process. (It also happens to make you cleaner, and therefore healthier and happier, but this is a separate question.)

 

Mark, a trained scholar, had all these traditions about water in mind when he chose to show me walking on water in the middle of his Parable of the Idol Bread (Mark 6:47-51). Hes turned the traditional meaning of water on its head. Its a new relationship with water. Nobody commands the waters of Lake Tiberias to part so Jesus can walk across on dry land. Nobody immerses themselves in the waters in baptism. Nobody puts the waters in big jars or little jars or cauldrons or ritual baths. The lake is the lake, the way its always been the lake. And Jesus is Jesus, the way hes always been Jesus. And the lake and Jesus seem to be getting along! No fighting with the lake, no thrashing with monsters in the lake, no prayer rituals to calm the lake. Jesus starts walking towards his companions (who are struggling with questions of understanding and true faith) and the lake suddenly calms down as if maybe the waters (the Feminine Principle) and Jesus are working together and arent in conflict with each other. As if maybe the waters are comfortable supporting Jesus because he has already taken heart and stopped being afraid. As if maybe the waters are not and never have been the problem.

 

The problem is written down in black and white as plain as you can get in Chapter 7 of Mark. The problem is not what you touch on the outside of your body. The problem is not the water itself or what you do with the water. The problem is what you choose to do on the inside of your body. The problem is what you choose to do with your own free will.

 

The journey to know your own free will, as I said last time in conversation with Jen, is very much a journey that resembles the stages of grief. All people must wrestle with what it means to have free will. They must question it, be confused by it, be angry at it, reject it, and finally come to terms with it. As the character Job once did. As I did as Jesus son of Joseph two millennia ago.

 

Theres a reason for this, a reason that has nothing to do with sin or salvation or sacraments or separation from God. The reason for this painful journey is that God trusts you.

 

Human beings often wonder why theyre here and why it has to hurt so much. Many reasons have been offered over the centuries by different religious leaders. In the tradition of Occams razor, I offer this: you are here to learn how God the Mother and God the Father discovered together how to walk on water. Youre here so you can experience firsthand what it means to use your free will in every permutation possible in the service of Divine Love.

 

Put that way, it sounds simple, doesnt it? But its not. You know that and I know that. Its damned hard to work your way through the stages of knowing what free will means. Not what you, as a human being, think it means, but what God the Mother and God the Father think it means.

 

To live from a place of pure free will is, as you may imagine, the very opposite of living in a world of pure cause and effect. But once, long ago, long before the event called the Big Bang took place, the universe was not as we know it today, and the laws of cause and effect held much more sway than they do today. This is hard beyond hard for most angels to understand, so some of us decide to incarnate here to see what this kind of existence must have felt like. Our Divine Parents let us do this because they trust us.

 

When souls decide to incarnate here as human beings, they know its going to be hard, but when they get here they find out its even harder than they could have imagined. They do it anyway, though, because theyre experiencing something important, something thats part of their history, their past. They want to understand their relationships with everyone at a much deeper level, and this crazy journey called life as a human being helps them do it.

 

Not every soul chooses to do this. But the ones who do, do so voluntarily. These are the souls who are primarily kinesthetic learners at a deep soul level. They learn best by experiencing something firsthand, by walking a mile in somebody elses shoes so they really get what it feels like.

 

If youre reading this, it means you wanted to come to Planet Earth for a while so you can walk in your Divine Parents shoes and see for yourself what it felt like for them to work together to overturn the rule of cause and effect and replace it with something infinitely more powerful and mysterious: Divine Love (a.k.a. quantum physics).

 

The human brain (unlike other mammalian brains) has an annoying habit of trying to shed its own emotions and slip into the unloving habits of cause and effect. (As your cats and dogs like to remind you.) So the human brain is ideally suited to this particular journey of discovery. It has both a great potential for learning and a great potential for unlearning. So to state your brain gives you the option to explore every possible nook and cranny of free will would be an understatement.

 

I know you can think of a thousand examples of people who didnt use their free will in loving and trusting ways. But what about the people who have come to terms with their own free will? Who are they and what do their lives look like? More important, are these people special, or can anyone on Planet Earth find this experience of redemption?

 

Weve often used the term redemption [on the website] in contradistinction to religious salvation, and Id like to talk about this a bit more. Any human being regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age, culture, time, place, or religion who has worked through the grief stages of free will is a person who has experienced redemption in the way that I experienced it. Redemption is the emotional insight that fills up a persons entire heart and mind with the knowledge that its okay to never fear the Truth.

 

Theres Truth in the universe and theres Divine Love. Theyre not the same thing. Truth exists in the absence of consciousness. Divine Love is the choice of consciousness to never hide from the Truth, to always be transparent to the Truth, to fully embrace whatever is true about another being without losing the truth of oneself. What does this mean? It means that Divine Love always respects the right of another person to be another person and not a mere extension of one vast cloud of self.

 

A human being who understands that free will holds the key to Divine Love, forgiveness, passionate creativity, and committed relationships (devotion) is a human being who has found redemption.

 

Such a person can be found anywhere. And, indeed, such individuals are found in all cultures. They are the people who simply wont back down from the idea that all beings are worthy of respect, fair treatment, compassion, kindness, and encouragement. They are the people who believe in social justice and due process, in democracies rather than republics or empires, in transparency in government and accountability for intentional harms. They are the people who treat women with as much respect as men, who treat the planet with as much respect as they treat other human beings. They are the people who treat their children as souls in need of education, guidance, mentorship, and respect instead of as property to be bartered for status or personal gratification. They are the people who dont whine and complain and blame God for all the travails theyve chosen themselves. Most of all, theyre the people who have the courage to see their neighbours as worthy human beings, not as objects of hatred, contempt, and violence.

 

When you really get it when you understand that your ability to choose your path does not make you separate from the rest of Creation but is in the fact the very glue that holds Gods family together as a loving, trusting group the world no longer feels to you like a place where good is fighting evil or light is fighting dark or order is fighting chaos. It doesnt feel like a fight any longer, but neither does it feel like mere acceptance of the way things are (which is often just resignation in disguise). Its not obedience. Its not piety. Its not subjugation. Its not anomie. Its not cynicism. Its not apathy. Its not depression. Its not escapism. Its just . . . honesty. The hearts honesty. The hearts willingness to see things as they really are and, despite that, to dig deeper, ever deeper or maybe higher, ever higher into empathy for another persons Truth.

 

There is no adequate word for this emotion in English. Trust would come closest.

 

When you have this sense of trust, it feels as if youre holding Gods hand and God is guiding you through the storms and worries of daily life.

It feels as if youre walking on water.

 

Blessings to all,

 

Love Jesus

September 19, 2012

 

 

Edited for spacing problems.

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To J and J. I could spend a few weeks with you guys on this remarkable discourse,but it's late. I just wanted to acknowledge you, say thanks. I think a lot about the importance of free will in humanity. I like to imagine that our presence on earth is God's desire to have love in relationship with a species that can know him. Love cannot exist in us without free will, without the ability to choose other than love. It's part of the answer to the Theodacy question for me. Blessings J and J

Edited by fatherman
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"I feel that I still am not quite there with my second question: how can we make an argument that Christianity (or anything else) is worth exploring?"

 

I feel as a Christian if we experience the Divinity within we can't and don't need to talk about it because it will radiate out through our actions. I think we do more harm talking about Christianity as a substitute to living it.

 

God the Mother and God the Father in their infinite wisdom have given shape and form and voice and gift to a vast number of different children in their Creation. Some children are large, some are small, some soar high, some burrow deep, some sing loudly from the peaks, and others whisper quietly in cool, dark places. I don't think God minds very much that some of their children are quite chatty. Indeed, I think God would be very sad if the children born chatty were silenced. At the same time, I think God does everything possible to bring comforting silence to those who need it most.

 

The Fourth Gospel reminds us that Logos has always been a part of Christianity. Understanding how to hear, understand, and act on Logos with loving kindness instead of boasting, demeaning, separating, and hating is the challenge to us as children of God and as Christians.

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Wow. This is a great topic. I'm going to boil this down a little. If a secular society is doing a better job with Jesus's economic principles then why introduce Christianity to that society? Moreover, why not invent a new religion based on the success of that country?

 

This speaks to my belief that they will know we are Christians by our fruits. As an American, I believe that church and state should not be mixed. It sounds like you are saying that if they did mix in Denmark, which would mean a state religion, then it would be worse off.

 

In America, we definitely would be worse off given that the Christian power brokers would seek to take away human rights from it's citizens and instantiate economic policies that are in fact antithetical to Christian economics.

 

But let's say that the closest economic policy to Jesus' is something akin to Denmark's system. That would mean that the Christian way would be meeting the goals of distributive justice!

 

So why then should people become Christians in Denmark? Well there is far more to the faith than economics. Having a faith community based on caring and social justice, having a personal God to help you with your burdens, salvation however you understand that, and all the known benefits of a spiritual life just to name a few.

 

So the need to start a new religion implies that Christianity is broken. I think there's some truth to that, but that has been the case since the 3rd century. This is what the progressive Christian movement seeks to address. We want to get back to the true teachings of Jesus as we know him. Rather than rejectin and becoming atheists.

 

 

It is a movement that is gaining traction!

Edited by fatherman
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Christianity is not broken, I think the problem is we are not living it. We are concerned with atheist and other religions, but we are not concerned with ourself, our soul, spirit and relation to the whole, God. We need to apply our Christian principles to our life if we are Christian and stop hasseling everyone else. Our Christian actions speak louder than our words. We have a lot to learn from other religions and atheist who can teach us humanitarian values without threats from a God. We have a live example in the US at this time, with Pope Francise living and speaking about Christian values encouraging people to think and help others, and the Republican leaders attacking him in defense of their policcal stance using their Christian values.

 

Upon hearing what the Pope wrote,Ted Cruz a senator said: “He clearly doesn’t understand the true meaning of Christianity. I’m not sure what kind of socialist upbringing he’s had, but true Christian principles are found in taking from the poor — not giving to them. How will the poor ever better themselves if we don’t make them work for it, at a very low paying wage? We can’t continue to let Obamacare corrupt the Pope, which it clearly has.”

 

Read more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/leading-republicans-bash-pope-francis-claim-he-doesnt-know-anything-about-christianity/

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Note: I had intended to leave out my last line of my last post, but I can no longer edit it.

 

The reason I changed my mind is that there are Christian atheists, and there are atheists who have sort of stake in the direction of Christianity.

 

 

They are a part of our family.

Edited by fatherman
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I think diversity is good because it makes us question our principles, mind and way of life. Diversity does not destroy the Christianity we are familiar with; the rituals, the symbols, or the history because it is only helping us approach the ultimate truth of life and increase the scope of awe in our religion.

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I think diversity is good because it makes us question our principles, mind and way of life. Diversity does not destroy the Christianity we are familiar with; the rituals, the symbols, or the history because it is only helping us approach the ultimate truth of life and increase the scope of awe in our religion.

 

Yes. Very true.

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I hope I don't derail this excellent conversation, and I hope I don't get myself side-tracked into past "problems-with-labels" that I have had here before (my problem, no one else's).

 

From my point-of-view, Jesus didn't teach "Christianity" or tell anyone to be a "Christian." He did call people to become his disciples, to learn from him, to even live as he lived. He seemed to seek followers who would learn his Way. Orthodox Christianity tends to define itself based upon the Christian Creeds which mention hardly any of Jesus' teachings in favor of focusing upon his death and resurrection and future return. For orthodox Christianity, becoming a Christian is usually centered on dealing with one's sin problem and one's eternal destination. I'll say no more about that because I'm sure we all know this paradigm.

 

However, if we look at, say, the parable of the Great Judgment in Matthew 25, the crux of the matter is not what people believe about Jesus' death and resurrection, but how they treat one another (feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting prisoners, slaking the thirsty, etc.). In this sense, Jesus' followers are not so much known by their faith, but by their fruits.

 

If this has any relevance, then I, personally, would not be so concerned about making Christians out of anybody. But I would encourage people to consider Jesus, his teachings, his way of life, and ask if following him would make us better people, both personally and socially. So I'm not very supportive of "Christianizing" a nation, which has often been imperialism under the guise of religion. But I would be supportive of sharing the teachings of this wisdom teach from Galilee with people and asking them if he and his Way might still be relevant to us and our world today. People of another nation that are already living out Jesus' teachings without really knowing anything about him might be the "sheep of another fold." Who is to say?

PS - My post is not intended to offend those who wear the name Christian, simply to suggest that there is a broad range of definitions for the term and what it might mean in our culture and world.

 

Edited for clarification

Edited by BillM
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Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to write such thoughtful replies to my questions. I appreciate the time you have spent.


Sometimes I like to think in terms of possible real life cases, as that can separate dogma from practicality. The cases I have in mind now are:


  1. You are mentor to a young person who has had a difficult life and has many bad influences around him or her. He/she is easily lead astray. You fear he/she is at risk of being radicalised.
  2. A close relative has started attending Scientology seminars and seems fascinated by it. He/she tells you that he/she will join soon.

You could take the view that for both, it is their own spiritual journey and it's not for anyone to give guidance. You could decide that talking about Christianity is wrong but then you offer no alternative to the path onto which these individuals have stumbled and in my opinion, you leave them open to people who will take advantage of them.


You could try just pointing out the negatives of the path they are choosing, but I think that without presenting a positive and specific alternative, they will likely continue down unfortunate dead ends out of which they might not have the chance to escape. How do we combat the certainties and absolutes that these people will undoubtedly be offered (as these are often more attractive than generalities unfortunately)?


These are perhaps extreme cases I've suggested but I think that the same logic could apply in other cases.


I would be interested in all your thoughts on this.
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