Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

The Silent Minority

October 18, 2012

I recently learned of a new religious movement in America.

No, nothing like Scientology, but another Christian movement. Rather than the Religious Right, this group is the Religious Left.

Whereas the Religious Right wants to control the direction of the politics in the country into their rather narrow interpretations of what they consider morally correct, the Religious Left is a little more lenient in their beliefs. They try to be less judgmental than their right-leaning associates and see nothing scripturally wrong with people of differing sexual orientations, marital needs, or even with abortion.

Of course a lot of the Right-leaners, considering that they are… well, right, comment on the website that homosexuality and abortion are damnable sins. The Left website removes those sort of negative comments. It seems that, like their co-religionists, they are also concerned with being right.

Another way they are like the Christian Right is that they are politically motivated, helping voters choose the candidates whose purposes align most closely with their ideals. They think that rather than choose where to be charitable, they should concentrate on the broken parts of the system that produce such problems.

So, like their Right-leaning cousins, they are politically motivated by what their interpretation of the scriptures means. And, it appears, they are just as judgmental, albeit more leniently than their cousins.

And the one part that still confounds me: where in scripture did Jesus say we should get out and get political? Where did he say we had to control the lives and thoughts of our fellows? Where did he say we should condemn others for their thoughts and actions?

Where, indeed, did He charge us with the task of judge to our fellow man? Wasn’t the point of the story about the stoning of the woman about us being unable to fairly judge people for sins when none of us is blameless?

And I thought He supped with the tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners to show us that none of that really matters. He was showing us that beyond the differences we assign to people, they are still the same as we.

The only judge we need answer to in that regard is the Almighty, and that won’t be until the final curtain call. And as for all the apparent need to do something political, do not delude yourself that you are doing it for God, or Jesus, or all the Saints and Angels in Heaven.

As Chuck Swindoll said, all of that is really nothing more than egotism, pure and simple. No matter how nicely you try to dress it up in scriptural references, it is really all about YOU trying to force other people to conform to what YOU think is correct.

But Jesus said that is really just between you and God, not any other Man.

And I liked that Chuck Swindoll also said the Greeks had a term for all this egotistical chest-beating.

He said the Greeks called it: hogwash!

I wonder what Jesus would have called it? I think He did speak Greek…

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a Little Clarity

May 10, 2012

Today, the newswires are abuzz with Obama’s changed stance on “gay marriage”. Mitt Romney is feeling pretty good about it and is confident that the die-hard religious right will now put him in the White House.

Oh, yes, let’s give it up for the religious fundamentalists in this country. Just like the religious fundamentalists of another major religion (i.e. Muslim, in case you did not make the connection), our home grown version would like to create a theocracy in America based on their narrow interpretations of Holy Writ.

They proclaim loudly that such abomination is spurned by the Almighty!

Sure, but didn’t He also say that He was the final judge and jury, not us. And didn’t someone else in scripture talk about casting the first stone? And wasn’t there a little message somewhere about not killing anyone? Sorry, I must be a little confused because I know how ardently the “religious right” supports our troops and reveled in the judicial murder of Osama Bin Laden.

Funny. I don’t see any form of Christian-ness in that mix.

This morning, I heard a couple of comments on the radio by Pastor Chuck Swindoll. He was talking about legalisms and how many people bandied such things about to somehow salve their own wounded egos. Legalities are a way to enforce our beliefs on others – quite the wrong venue for such things – and force them into what we expect people should be like.

Only in such a supposedly “Christian” nation would such a vast number of people try to force conformity on what God hath wrought.

Yes, He made each of us different.

And it was not so half the population could force the other half to conform to their concept of normality. Perhaps if we dig a little deeper we might begin to understand why we are each so very different.

And through such understanding we might actually learn to grow a little closer to the Creator.

Yes, just like Jesus told us to do.

Unworthy of Grace

February 9, 2012

There are many different religions who will tell you you’re not good enough.

Heaven will close it’s doors to you and God himself will turn his colder shoulder in your direction.

You will be doomed to the pits of hell. Despair for all of time… yada yada yada.

Okay, that may be fine for some brands of religion. I mean, some people really relish the idea that they are going to get the “good stuff” while their obnoxious neighbor is going to spend eternity in the “bad place”.

What’s funny is the neighbor is probably thinking the same thing about them.

And that’s fine. Some people need that kind of boosting to feel good about themselves and their brand of thinking.

But can anyone actually be “unworthy” of Grace?

I am sure most people would say, “Hitler. No way he’s going to get into heaven!”

Really?

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

Here’s a loving Father, who’s sent the kids out into the world to try and make their way as best they can.

Some begin to doubt their affiliation with the Creator, some even doubting if the Almighty actually exists. All they can see around them is materialism, hatred, pain.

So, a few tend to go astray.

It happens… yes, even in the best of families.

But, one day… the kids come home. And the Father has not seen some of them or heard from some in many a day.

You see, this Father truly loves ALL His children. So, when one arrives at the pearly gates, slack-jawed, never really believing this day could come, ashamed of the legacy they left in their live… How does the Father react?

If you are a parent, you know there is only one way to act: opening your arms to them and forgiving.

Jesus did not base His teachings on revenge and petty judgments, it was all modeled after the Father. Forgiving.

Perhaps if we were all a little more like that, we could find a little heaven before we reach the pearly gates.

Whose Opinion is Correct?

February 6, 2012

In all things involving religion and philosophy, people have the either/or mind-set. Either something is right and everything else is wrong… or it is wrong itself.

I have a completely different view of the matter. Buddha himself found nirvana and told his followers that they could not get there using his path. Whereupon two millennia of Buddhist monks have sat in the lotus position meditating on the path, just as Buddha had done, each hoping to achieve nirvana.

Funny, they seem to have disregarded his instructions…

I believe that Jesus said much the same thing about us each coming to the Father in a different way.

Whatever faith works for you is correct, for you. I do not intend trying to change anyone’s mind to my way of thinking. I rejoice in the different points of view – and what we can learn from them.

If not everyone thinks that way, that’s okay.

I figure if God really wanted everyone to have the same thoughts He would have made us alike. And because He made us so unlike, there must be a fundamental reason: for both Him as well as us to delight in the variety, not by trying to homogenize our thinking.

There is no right or wrong in this matter. Whatever path takes you closer to God is the path you need to embrace. But don’t expect everyone else to trod the same track. Or expect anyone to consciously move along the track to the Almighty.

For a society, people think laws should be enacted to keep “others” in line, but where do you draw the line? How much control should others have over your life? You would probably think it was great place if all the laws reflected your own lifestyle, but if those laws forced you to change your beliefs, you’d probably leave.

So many in this “Christian society” feel comforted by the Christian-based laws passed here, but what if the nation were taken over by a theocracy you did not personally believe? Either a more conservative branch of Christianity or one far more liberal that the one you embrace. Any theocratic form of government cannot work for everyone.

There is no right or wrong, just opinion.

And this is mine.

Of the Essence

February 1, 2012

Years ago, there was a mighty schism in the Christian Church. Actually there was not one church at that time but many differing sects called Christianity. There was a Council at the city of Nicea to try and resolve the matter. From this conclave was born the “universal” church, the Catholic Church.

The main sticking point between the various branches of Christianity was whether Jesus was a man or God. There was a line that caused the problem: “Jesus was of the essence of God”. The Catholic-minded among the bishops wanted the first “of” removed, to change it to “Jesus was the essence of God”. This seems such a minor difference but it meant everything at the core of the matter.

Jesus either was created by God or He was God in the flesh. Essentially, the Catholic view was that God fathered Himself, but in the flesh.

Although the Council of Nicea took a vote (though there is much written about the vote, the legality thereof, and such but it was 1700 years ago – water under the bridge) and decided in favor of the Catholic view, most of the other bishops would not bow to that formula and continued to preach what the Catholics now termed “heresy”.

Yes, these were Christian, worshiping God and His son, Jesus, but they were declared blasphemers and put to the sword. An awful scene that was to be repeated time and again for the next dozen centuries.

Though it was outlawed, this heresy kept raising its ugly head for centuries. Pelagianism, Catharists, and many more groups were attacked by the Catholics and murdered in the name of the Prince of Peace. All this because of one word and the meaning behind it.

It seems to me that the real essence of this stupidity was the one thing Jesus was teaching us to avoid: ego, and its attendant pride. As well as quite a bit of greed.

If Martin Luther, and he wasn’t any saint, had not posted his complaints on the door at the Council of Worms, we would probably still be under the fearful heel of the “Universal” Church and being hunted by their Inquisitors and Torquemada-like zealots keeping the population growth at manageable levels.

Fortunately, the world was ready for a change. Luther led to Zwengli, Calvin, Huss, and their like until today we have plenty of choice.

It is not to say that the Catholic Church is bad or evil (see my early entry about the number of the beast, “Conundrum III”), it is just that the old saying is probably true: power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Church has done wonderful work over the centuries – and keeping alive during the Roman purges was not an easy task – but their absolute rule over Europe for centuries perverted their ruling hierarchy. The local parish priest, for the most part, were doing God’s work as best they could and tending to the needs of their flock.

It matters not to the message of Jesus whether he was “the essence” or “of the essence”. The Church leaders seem to have forgotten that it was His message that held the most importance and not the status of the messenger. Perhaps being God gives more forcefulness to the message…

But the manner of delivery by the Catholic Church was one of the greatest sins doled out to humanity for many years.

Thank God that theocracy is over.

Let’s keep it that way.

What’s Wrong With Religion?

January 25, 2012

I have often heard people – believers as well as atheists – moan about what is wrong with religion, whether one specific one or merely religion in general. Having spent a lot of time involved in a wide variety of religions I think I have the answer to that question.

There is nothing wrong with religion.

Each religion, each cult, each philosophy answers a need in someone. And as we were all created different, we have different needs. Hence the plethora of religions. Many people have converted from the religion they were raised in to join another that more closely answers their individual needs. Thank goodness we have religious freedom!

The only difficulty arises when one person belonging to one of them thinks it is so wonderful that everyone should get involved. Starry-eyed evangelism can be very annoying to many.

Still, we should take it in the spirit it is given. People love to share the joy they found with others. They want others to find the same joy. That the joy they have found will not resonate the same with everyone else does not occur to them. Many people don’t seem to know this, fully expecting it to mean as much to everyone. Their exuberance can rub people the wrong way.

Still that does not mean there is anything wrong with the religion. Or the adherents.

So rather than get annoyed and try to change or shut up the person spouting their faith at us perhaps we could simply alter our own feelings of annoyance. It is far easier to change yourself than others, after all. Allow them to proselytize without lashing out at them, revel with them in their joy, and move on with your life.

I believe that is the sort of thing Jesus was teaching.

the Miracles of Jesus

January 15, 2012

Many authors have tried to explain the how and why of the miracles performed by Jesus. And by that I mean, translating them into “believable” scientific explanations… as if “miracles” require any sort of basis in our sciences.

Laurence Gardner explains the walking on water as nothing more than a plank they normally used to baptize people on; when Peter walked on it later he did not know its course and slipped off it. Funny, that someone would not already be familiar with such a local custom, if such it was, and slip off the darned thing.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was nothing more than an initiation into some sort of Mithraic cult (raised on the third day like JC was later, mirroring the cult thing… although why JC would need such initiating is never explained). True there was a strong following of this cult throughout the Roman Empire at the time and later and perhaps its inclusion somehow resonated with the Roman audience, but I really don’t see how the Cult of Mithras would get conflated with this story.

And several writers have mentioned that the feeding of the multitude (or multitudes, if you include the second such event) was nothing more than feeding them intellectually, filling them spiritually. It had nothing to do with fishes or loaves. (Although why would they be able to pick up more after the event than the original fishes and loaves?)

Okay, whatever.

Perhaps some of the miracles could have been metaphor or even sleight-of-hand in a way to get people’s attention or the use as a learning aid.

Maybe.

But, if such was the case, why would He bother saying “These things I can do, you can do and greater”? [John 14:12] If He had engaged in nothing more than semantic posing, ancient sleight-of-hand, and metaphorical mind-games, what were we supposed to be able to do “greater than”… nothing!?

So, what we have boils down to this: if they were actual miracles, as the book says, then they do not require any “scientific” explanation whatsoever. If you think they do require some sort of verifiability from an outside source, then you are probably not ready for taking the “leap of faith”.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, God created atheists as well. And I don’t think He created them so the religious would have someone to argue with or try to convert. His ways may be mysterious but some of His actions are very transparent, and that is one of them.

And, of course, I will touch on the subject of atheism again. It is territory I am completely familiar with.

If Jesus Came Today…

January 12, 2012

Of course, if He came riding on the clouds with the angels trumpeting around Him, we would all know for certain who it was.

But, if He came quietly, talking to small groups, spreading His Word quietly, slowly, ministering to small earnest groups in meed of such, would it appear to the rest of us that He had really returned?

Some of the scriptures tell us that His Second Coming will be with the fanfare and trappings of a mighty conqueror. That image of the Prince of Peace is a little hard for me to summon after reading the quiet peacefulness of His Ministry.

So, what if He came more quietly, like some itinerant preacher quietly spreading His message of hope and forgiveness? Would any recognize it was He?

I doubt it.

There is one preacher today who, in my opinion, is preaching a message that is very similar to that of Jesus. He rarely mentions scriptural verses, rarely mentions the sacrifice of Jesus, and spends most of his time talking about your personal relationship with the Almighty. And – Hey! – isn’t that what Jesus did as well?

I am not trying to say that this one preacher IS the Second Coming, only that if Jesus did come again, would we even recognize His teachings?

Unfortunately, most of the “mainstream” religious organizations think very poorly of this preacher and his message. And that says very little for them, I believe. Their “brand” of salvation has become too formulaic, too sterile, a little too closed. In fact, they themselves sit in judgment on a preacher who refuses to be so judgmental.

As Casting Crowns said in one of their songs, “Jesus paid much too high a price for us to pick and choose who should come”.

Perhaps their brand of Christianity allows them to sit in judgment on others with a calling such as theirs.

Perhaps they simply cannot stomach the very positive and uplifting message of this one preacher.

Perhaps they feel somehow superior because they have had divinity school and this other fellow has not.

Or perhaps they are simply jealous of his success.

Either way, Joel Osteen does not seem to pay much heed to his detractors.

In much the same manner as Jesus.

What You Don’t Know About Atheists

January 11, 2012

Most people think atheists are simply people who do not believe in God.

They are not people who don’t believe in one god or another, as most people in one religion look down upon the gods in other religions… sort of a “our god is better than your god” attitude.

No, atheists no not believe in any deity whatsoever. They believe that the world is nothing more than the mechanical, physical existence we see around us. To them, there is no more. What they see is what they got.

But, as in any other sort of theism, there are shades and degrees of atheists.

No foolin’!

My father called himself an atheist for years, then changed it to “agnostic”, and finally called himself a Buddhist before he left this Earthly realm.

I wavered between agnostic and atheist for years. My eldest son went from Gnostic to atheist to pagan to shamanic back to atheist. My youngest son wavers between deist and atheist.

A recent study was done and found that “atheists” knew more about the Bible than Christians. The radio host who announced this little tidbit added that it was because the atheists knew more so they could argue the points with the Christians.

Ah, if the answer we only that simple, that self-gratifying to the Christian thinkers. Unfortunately, as usual, it is not all about them.

The reality is that it is so much easier for some people, seeking truth on a level they can understand, to simply announce themselves as “atheists” so they cannot be corralled into a single way of thinking. They are still looking for the answer. That is why so many are well versed in the Bible: they are still searching.

Christians are already comfortable with what they have found and feel no need to study the Bible. Some read it, as a matter of course, but most are familiar with the stories and tales they get from Sunday School or the weekly sermon. They already “get” it and do not have to try and understand the scriptures… or the lines between the lines of scripture.

The majority of atheists I have met are in this transient phase of atheism. Many will stay there perhaps for the rest of their lives, still seeking an answer. Many more will find an answer that satisfies and will move from the ranks of the godless.

So, when you encounter someone who calls themselves an “atheist”, please remember that for most it is a temporary address only. Allow them the time to find God in their own way, in a manner that answers their own particular needs.

Trying to sell your particular brand of faith is not something they will be able to respond to very well. As with most searchers, they probably know infinitely more about the facts and figures of your religion than you.

Simply allow them their search and allow them the means to come to God in their own way, their own time, if such should happen, as they say, in God’s own time.

After all, the Almighty created us different. And do you think He did that as an oversight or as some horrible mistake? Or a cruel joke allowing some to easily find faith and others who would struggle with the concept?

No, I believe it is a lesson for each of us to learn. There is more than one way to skin a cat and more than one path to finding God.

To the faithful, it is an easy answer: faith. To the ones who question everything, the path is harder to find – all the paths in our religious world seem to be marked for those who can find the faith so easily. Perhaps if we opened a method for the other sort of people to understand the Divine, their journey would be easier as well.

But that would require the faithful to stretch themselves a little.

To those who have had such an easy journey, perhaps you could do some of the work rather than simply lament over the lost sheep or by calling them names? If God created atheists – or people prone to that sort of thing – it might have been put there as a problem to solve for those who so easily grasp faith.

Something to solve, rather than gripe about. You could simply call them those “shallow-minded” people as one popular Christian song labels them, or you could put your mind to doing some charitable works instead, and something that might actually stretch you.

I’m not trying to be judgmental on this topic but it seems name-calling and turning your back is not the solution to the question.

Is that what Jesus would have done?

the Shape of Forgiveness

September 11, 2011

9/11

Ten years on and we still prefer to wallow in the pain than to move past it.

Bumper stickers and license plates proclaim “We Will Never Forget”, annual media coverage of the memorial services at ground zero keep the memory alive, and the building of a monument to herald our pain to the world keeps the incident fresh.

A Christian Nation would not behave in such a manner. A Christian Nation would, in fact, forgive and forget as instructed in scripture. Yet the most highly “Christian” of our people rabidly support the military adventures in the Middle East and prayed for the day when the evil mastermind behind the event could be brought to pay some retribution for his crime.

Well, he has paid the price. Our leaders, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, have waged a war against this one man and his associates, and it continues still.

The vivid recreation of the Old Testament adage of an eye for an eye, the murder of Osama bin Laden, should have been the salve to bring healing to the wound at last. But the killing continues, the revisiting the pain continues, and the hatred – yes, even throughout this supposedly Christian Nation – continues still.

Is there none who understand what forgiveness is?

Fortunately, there are some who do. The Amish schoolhouse massacre showed us what compassion and forgiveness really look like.

Had the incident been answered by the Federal Government, there would have been investigations, suspicions, fear and trembling, annual marches to the monument set up over the schoolhouse to keep the horror alive.

The Amish, quiet conscientious objectors to all violence, razed the school and turned the area into productive farmland. There is no marker commemorating the tragedy.

Even the wife of the killer was welcomed into the community, knowing she, too, had been a victim of the violence.

How different the Christian response from the American response.

Perhaps, one day, we can learn to forgive. And not just the terrorists who crippled our nation, but our leaders as well who have turned a tragedy into a worldwide bloodbath, in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Who taught us to turn the other cheek.