Sunday, May 12, 2013

(#3) A heretic's guide to the universe

What if, just what if....we have got it all wrong, upside down, in our perception of both evil and human beings, as God sees it?
What if evil is both a gift of God and man is more than capable of loving his fellow creatures, if and when he is loved from the beginning?
What if it is the human limiting of man's capacity to create, to love, to forgive, to form community, in order to somehow please an almighty God who must find us beastly given the mess we are making?
What if Augustine was wrong in berating himself for having loved his mistress and in urging his mother to  help him resist such temptation in the future?
What if the apple (pomegranate?) was not a misleading and tempting crossing of the line of disobedience and "Eve" in conjunction with the serpent, was not the seductress who led "Adam" astray?
What if God, in both his/her wisdom and his/her mercy, is still waiting for humans to see 'the light' differently, having spent the last two millenia in a darkness of their own making?
Surely, killing others, "in God's name" is hardly what He would have wanted!
Surely, telling aboriginal people, living in harmony with the land, that they were evil savages, and stripping them of their dignity, and their authentic spirituality, in God's name, is not what he would have wanted!
Surely, telling members of different faiths, or of no faith at all, that Christians have the "true and only faith" is not what He would have wanted!
Surely, even converting a political empire to "christianity" in order to enhance and sustain the power of the Emperor, is not what He would have wanted!
Surely, turning the institutions in which He is supposed to be worshipped into corporations, looking for growing numbers of both adherents and dollars, and then using those measuring sticks as legitimate benchmarks for the "successful" and politically correct establishment churches would never have been what He intended!
Surely developing the largest, most lethal and most ubiquitous military machine, by a country that calls itself Christian, and then deploying it when and wherever it deems a threat is developing is not what He would have dreamt as his fate for humankind, especially if they really are 'created in his own image'!
Could it be that we have failed to love ourselves, not in a narcissistic and self-indulgent manner, but in a self-respecting, and a self-authenticating and in a supportive manner, and are thereby "normally" acting out of fear, neurosis, even psychosis and some kind of perverted attempt to please a deity who has already loved, sacrificed for and forgiven us for our self-loathing?
Could it be that "converting" others to a list of dogmatic rules and regulations, thereby reducing the manifestation of our practice of faith, as salesmen and women ramp up their quotas, is the last thing that God would have wanted?
Could it be that marrying both capitalism and evangelism into a profit-driven faith journey is, in fact, as well as in symbol, a complete perversion of anything that Jesus, as Son of God, would have wanted?
Could it be that all attempts to claim the authority of the "right" interpretation of the books in the Bible, both in their uniqueness individually and in their collective wisdom and insight, are suspect, simply because they claim to be "right"...given our human capacity to misread, and to see from eyes that have been clouded by our anxieties and our over-compensating of those anxieties, in our hubristic pursuit of "getting it right"?
Could it be that, as faux disciples of Jesus Christ, we have so perverted the faith, that it has become, in our hands a metaphoric 'thalidomide' child, warped and twisted into a form that no one, not even God, could recognize and respect?
Could it be that, as self-absorbed, self-indulgent and spiritually misled characters, we have deigned to write prescriptions for human illness that is at its root, our mis-reading of our relationship, both collectively and individually, to a deity?
What kind of deity worthy of worship would want us to interpret everything around us as our "enemy" and then to create a "defence" system both politically and psychologically, that armours us against the kind of agape love and spiritual intimacy from which community can only grow and develop?
What kind of deity would have us pitched into a universe bounded on the one side by a firey pit, for those who have done wrong, and a city of golden streets and perfect bliss as the afterlife for those who have "done it right" as those who have taken it upon themselves to decide "what is right" have written?
What kind of world has been generated by those of us honoured and privileged to be alive, that can only be characterized as blind to reality, drunk on self-indulgence, and running from the provoked vengeance of others who are equally blind, drunk and running from the wrath of their enemies? Certainly it is not a world where any legitimate deity would want to be responsible for the acts and beliefs and attitudes of the people who worship that deity!
Let's take as given that there is a God, who truly loves and cherishes and supports every individual on the planet, in whatever circumstance that individual finds himself.
Let's also take as given that, for us to comprehend, not merely in a cognitive way, but in a literal and a metaphoric and a spiritual way, the truth and the magnitude of that reality.
That gap itself, if nothing else were added to the given's, would generate a kind of cognitive dissonance that would render the Grand Canyon a mere pothole in the land.
Why then are we so unwilling, incapable, resistant, and rejecting of a God who truly loves and cherishes and supports every single person? Is it because we consider ourselves unworthy of such love? Is it because God could only love those that the world deems unloveable, like the lepers and the criminals, and the starving and the destitute and the helpless cripples and the mentally challenged and only for those people is God's love available, directed and accepted fully, because for those people there is no other hope?
Is it because we know the secrets of our own lives, having lived under the judgements of other humans who are equally blind and resistant to God's love, that we could not possibly open our hearts to receive that love of God, because we are "too evil" as we have been raised, both in the family and in the church?
Is it because there have been churches founded on the notion that without those buildings and their hierarchies and their seminaries and their faith canons, and without a full submission to the authority of those "legal and brick and mortar structures" and the monitoring and disciplining 'courts' to provide the sanctions against those who have gone "rogue" on the discipline, as the church hierarchies see it?
And is it also because we can and will listen only to those historic and monstrous institutions' "truths" because of their size, their power, their wealth and their capacity to evict those who display behaviours and attitudes and beliefs that do not "fit" within the boundaries set by those institutions?
There is something wrong with putting those large institutions, their scholars and their presumptions and assumptions, their dogmatic declarations and their capacity to exclude those who fail to conform and comply to those assumptions, presumptions dogmatic declarations between the human spirit and its capacity to relate to a God of love, forgiveness and compassion, since they have, as institutions, morphed into spiritual, as well as legal, financial and political fossils, at least in the eyes of this writer.
And that fossilizing process has not resulted from the utterings of one person, or one generation of persons charged with the leadership of those institutions. It is the culmination of literally centuries of misplaced trust, misread theology and misapplied psychological diagnostics.
One small example of how our 'christian' society has lost its way: the most recent DSM-5, defines as mental illness, and thereby warranting treatment, the depression that follows the loss of a loved one, should it continue "too long"....While no one is or can be certain whether the writers of that document have a 'christian' theology behind their accomplishments as psychiatrists, we can be certain that the motivation of such a definition is "to provide care and healing" through treatment. That goal would and likely does have a 'christian' motivation, given the role model of Jesus healing those he encountered.
However, such a definition of depression goes beyond the normal limits of grief, possibly for the legitimate extension of the profession's purview, and the some 7000 additional patients for whom that profession could legitimately offer care, in a country whose health care system is driven by patient visits that generate fees for those same professionals.
We need human circles, possibly church communities, taking the responsibility for such compassion.
And in order to accomplish that role for those church communities, we need a theology that accepts human loss and pain and tragedy and grief as an integral component of our lives.
We not only deny death's inevitability and its unpredictable and untimely nature; we also seek to medicate the pain that comes when death knocks. And we call the United States a 'christian country'.
Go knows, and we can accept, however much difficulty that acceptance requires, that we are capable of being loved, worthy of being loved, and potentially open to the love of our families, our parents and siblings, our grandparents and uncles and aunts....and later our teachers and our neighbours, not only in times of crisis, but in normal times. And God's love is neither of a different metal (platinum and not iron, for example) nor of a different kind and degree that that coming from our parents. Nor is our worthiness of God's love to be determined by our assessment of our loveability.
That is to play God, in our own lives, and we can and do commit such hubris, simply by how we talk to ourselves and we can do that without any other human being knowing how we are perverting and precluding God's love for our person, our life and our dreams and ambitions.
And we do not need some magnificent cathedral or some theatrical liturgy, or some highly inspiring and intellectual homily to start talking "truth" to our somewhat wizened spirit whose capacity for new life continues until we stop breathing.

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