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The Nature of God

Coexist Foundation

October 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-10-02_14-25-24Coexist was founded in 2006 in the United Kingdom. The organization formed as a direct response to heightening tensions between religious and cultural groups across the world, as evidenced by a 2002 Gallup Poll of the Islamic world. As a result of the poll, Elgawhary says, “people got to see what opinions the Muslim world had of the outside world and the West, and also what people in Western countries thought of the Muslim world. There was a glaring disconnect of understanding and perceptions between the two.”

SOURCE:  Coexist Foundation – National Geographic Education.

The one thing that saddens me more than anything else is all the killing around the world that is done in the name of God. Not only do people get stuck in their current view of God but they are ready to kill those who have a different view. I have become totally convinced that absolutely none of us have a lock on God. We all cling to our own religious documents as proof that we worship the only true god. When others disagree with us it far too often leads to conflict and death.

I have become very aligned with the ideas of the Coexist foundation. If only all of us could agree to disagree about spiritual things we would make the world much closer to what God probably wants.  But that won’t happen within the hierarchies of our existing religious institutions. They are simply too engrained in their own rhetoric to be open to the possibility that they might not have it totally right about everything.  The idea of coexisting with other religious beliefs must happen at the grass roots level. It must be a ground swell that simply overwhelms our ever present religious establishment biases.

Religions to me are more about their self convinced truths than they are about God.  Surely deep in our hearts none of us really believe that God will utterly reject for eternity the vast majority of his human creation in favor of our very narrowly focused beliefs of him? Because of all this inter-religious strife I am currently very spiritual but not very religious and I think there are many others out there with the same mentality as me. As a matter of fact I believe that this is the primary reason that so many are currently leaving many church organization today or not even joining them in the first place.

When we die we just might come to learn that God loves all of us. Let’s all pledge to simply coexist with each other and wait for God to tell us his truths if he ever cares to do that….

If the old guard on the partisan Christian right envisions itself to be crumbling, there’s nothing more apt than a forceful restatement of terms, preferably with a fresh face. But if it’s crumbling, it’s because the foundations are weak, and illustrating that inadvertently isn’t going to make its last gasps any more graceful. Far from being the death knell for the American Christian left, Vicari’s book might be little more than a signal that this is the Christian left’s moment to rise.

SOURCE: Christian conservatives have a terrifying new bogeyman: The Christian leftist – The Week.

Another interesting article from my new friends over at The Week.  I think I have made it pretty clear here that I am a “Christian left” as described in this article and yes I do very much tire of seeing the Christian right bemoaning the condition of the world today, particularly the Christian version.  The church which I was once a member had its members that had strong opinions in this area. The major problem in those cases is when the pastor/leader of the church is also in that mode.

I continue trying to learn a lesson from my blogger friend Stephen Mattson that Christ is perfect but his church on earth is far from that state.  It distresses me when I hear my fellow Christians put down the Christian left for seemingly caring too much for others, particularly when those others are not of the same religious beliefs. I now thoroughly believe that God loves all his children equally; there is no one outside his favor. More on that topic next Sunday.

It troubles me when the Christian right adamantly oppose our government having programs to help the poor and disadvantaged. They say that is not the government’s job but since the church on earth as a whole  gets a D- in this area someone has to take over that responsibility?

I kind of think that the quote above is the reason for all this moaning among the Christian right.  The foundations of their narrowly focused beliefs are weak and that is the problem. At least I hope that is the case….

2014-08-26_17-21-49This is going to be one of those posts that jerks at my soul.

I remember hearing the title phrase pretty frequently when I was growing up. It usually meant that the speaker was surprised at what I had done and usually disapproved of it.

Today it seems so many people are doing things, abominable things, in the name of God. Almost every war in my lifetime has been in the name of God. So much hatred is spewed in his name. If God is really paying attention to all of us puny human beings I wonder if he is also say the same thing. “What are you doing in my name???”

They say that Mother Teresa often had doubts about the existence of God. Here is a quote from her about that from Wikipedia

“Where is my faith? Even deep down there is nothing but emptiness and darkness. If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.”

I am certainly no Mother Teresa but I too have doubts on occasion whether God is really there and involved in our personal lives as they say he is. At times he seems very remote to me. With all this evil going on in the name of God why doesn’t he set us straight and tell us to quit killing each other in his name?  Why does he allow so many radically different beliefs about him to even exist? If there is a God it seems he would put a stop to all this idiotic garbage!

To try to resolve my conflict I spent thousands of hours over a ten-year period studying theological things. I approached the study with a somewhat open mind given the religious baggage I carried into it.  One thing I gleaned from this journey is just how close-minded most are when it come to beliefs. Once we latch onto their favorite religious system we tend to shut down any openness to anything else. Most will never study or give any credence to another possibility. We, for the most part, are convinced that we have it right and everyone else is just plain wrong. This fact is true of every religious brand out there.  Christianity alone has over 40,000 different versions of faith!  Who can figure it out?

There have been millions savagely killed in the name of God. Realizing this fact has caused me periods of depression. I found that the only way I could effectively deal with that was to simply walk away from the conflicting views.  I know that I am no one but I have concluded  that we are all seeking the same God and that eventually all of us will be reconciled with the true image of God. Due to our stubbornness, it won’t likely happen in this life for many, perhaps most, of us but I believe it will happen. If God truly loves us all, and I believe he does, he will eventually bring everyone back to him. This belief changes my view of many things including fortifying the belief that we are ALL God’s children and are meant to love each other as He taught us. It is sad that we can’t seem to do just that….

 

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.

–Thomas Jefferson’s Letter, 10 Aug. 1787

I am going to combine my usual Sunday post on things inspiring/spiritual with my usual Thursday quotes. Thomas Jefferson, like most of the founding fathers was a Deist. That is he believed in a God who was in control of the universe but not so much into our daily lives. His quote above is very contrary to many religious communities today.

Questioning the existence of God is a no-no to many.  They say you must believe everything in their religious documents and question nothing. If you do dare to question you may quickly be deemed a heretic. I know because I have some personal experience in this matter.

But I very much believe in the quote above. If there is a God, and I certainly do believe that there is, then he must approve of the homage of reason. He does not fear our questions or certainly doesn’t condemn us to utter agony if we dare to ask them. I simply don’t believe that God wants us to be in a blind-folded fear of him. He told us to love him and that is just not possible if we think that he holds a hammer over our head just waiting for us to say the wrong words, believe the wrong things, or ask the wrong questions…

I thoroughly denounce the idea that God expects us to check our “God-given” intelligence at the door on Sunday mornings and to believe things that go against any level of reason….

Before Becoming A Christian…

September 21, 2014

2014-09-20_08-08-101) Christ is perfect but “Christianity” is not. Don’t mistake Christian Culture as God, they aren’t the same thing. Churches, pastors, theologians, and other believers will inevitably fail you, but Jesus never will.

2) It’s OK to change your beliefs. You’ll never have Christianity fully figured out. You won’t have an answer for everything. Theology is a journey, a Pilgrim’s Progress. Life, relationships, and experiences form, shape, and change the way you see, experience, and understand God. The disciples didn’t understand God much of the time, and you probably won’t either.

3) Christianity Isn’t Easy. It doesn’t magically fix things, make you more popular, wealthy, or healthier. In reality, it’s not a form of escapism but a lifelong process of dedication, service, sacrifice, and humbly loving others. It’s very, very, very hard, and not for the faint of heart.

4) Christianity Is Complex. Nobody believes the same thing. There are hundreds of denominations. Doctrines, practices, and traditions are as varied as the people that represent them. This diversity of faith should be appreciated and celebrated. The goal of Christianity isn’t conformity, but an honest and intimate relationship with God.

5) Christianity is ultimately about loving God and loving others. It should never be co-opted by a political movement, a religious institution, gaining power, obtaining control, spreading influence, enforcing laws, or becoming rich and famous. It’s about a relationship with God—never let anything supersede this

5 Things You Should Know Before Becoming A Christian.

I am going to do something here that I don’t often do and that is to reblog an entire post from a blogging friend. This one’s name is Stephen Mattson. He is near the top of my blog reading list as he seems to have just the right words to express what I am feeling about so many issues. He is a trained and practicing theologian but I won’t hold that against him. :)

My big complaint is that too many people try to make Christianity a sit back and wait religion but Christ told us he was about anything but that. This list should be read and practiced by all of us who are just approaching it or have been in it for a while.  At times in my life I have almost succumbed to number one.  I took a serious look at Christianity as it seems to be practiced today and found it to be anything but perfect.  That almost turned me away but as Stephen says the institution of Christianity might seem to fail you but Jesus and his words won’t.  That is what keeps me coming back to the well.

 

 

Having All The Answers….

September 14, 2014

This Sunday post is going to take a personal drift.  Some of my antagonists over the years say that I have a smug attitude about Christianity and that I proclaim to be the only one who has all the answers. I hope these views are an exception rather than a rule for most who read my Sunday posts. But just in case I want to tell you what I think about that view of my words.

First of all it hurts me that anyone would take that as my message about being a follower of Christ. If you are one to have that opinion I would encourage you to look at my 5+ years worth of posts over at RedLetterLiving.  It should be clear from those posts that I don’t think I have all the answers. As a matter of fact I’m not even sure I have any answers but just have many unanswered questions that just don’t seem to be answerable by current day religious establishments.

I approach my spirituality with my intellect fully in-tact. That is I don’t just take what some say is the truth as the truth. I check out other opinions. I am not seminary trained but only self-educated. In some ways that is an advantage but in other I probably don’t know what I don’t know about many theological issues.

When I talk about spiritual issues here I am not trying to convince anyone that I am correct and I certainly not trying to convince anyone they are wrong.  We all are seeking the same thing via our spiritual search. Some take different paths and that is OK. I am not trying to force anyone down my path. I am just offering my current view on spiritual matters and yes that view has evolved over the years.

I was a serious student of theology for about a dozen years and at the end of that period I became convinced that for the most part “Theology is a crock”. Most of the theologians of our time don’t have anymore of an idea of these things than any of us do. They either parrot what they have been told or go off on a tangent, but not too much of a tangent for fear of being called a heretic. I know no more than anyone else about the true image of God. I can, only like them, speculate what I imagine it to be.

But because I often speculate in a different mode than many I sometimes raise eyebrows. I don’t want anyone who reads my Sunday posts to think that I am trying to convince you that I got it figured out because I am sure that like everyone else I don’t. During my studies I have found three authors that I am most aligned with. They shape many of my feelings about these issues. They are Philip Gulley, Shane Claiborne, and Greg Boyd.  If you feel like it check them out. While I don’t try to convince others that I have it right I do try to convince everyone to take it upon themselves to learn as much about God as they can. If you do I pray that you will then love him as I do. And that is why I post here on Sundays.

2014-09-04_19-56-10“Now, just suppose, for a change they preach to you about the Lord and not about the other fellow’s church, for every religion is good. There is none of it bad.  We are all trying to arrive at the same place according to our own conscience and teachings. It don’t matter which road you take.” – Will Rogers March 11, 1923

Since Will Rogers is a hero of mine, of course I get a daily dose of his Facebook page. Here is one that strikes me as typical of his wisdom. Will was not particularly a religious person, his mom wanted him to be a Methodist minister but as he said he slipped and became an entertainer instead. He wasn’t much of a church goer but he didn’t put down except maybe on a few rare slips those who were.

Religious establishments, or at least the ones I know much about,  seem to go to an extreme to pronounce that the god of Allah is not the same as the Christian god. Each different group of religious people seems to insist that their god is the true one and everyone else is praying to a pagan one. After ten years of theological self-study I kind of think that Will got it about right almost a hundred years ago. Of course the religious pundits of today say otherwise.

We all latch onto one version of God and therefore proclaim that one the true god. Then we proceed to fashion words based on what we want from our particular god. For many Muslims that includes going to prayer five times a day and always praying toward Mecca. It is also about praising Allah and keeping others away from him.  For Some Jews it is about obeying thousands of different rules and eating only very strictly prepared foods. They think that is what their god demands of them.  Many of us Christians believe in a something-for-nothing god who only thinks of us a poor miserable human beings but will take us to heaven anyway provided we say the right words and believe what we are told. For them nothing else is required. And then there are other Christians who believe the exact opposite.  Got to love us Christians as we are all over the map on just what God wants from us.

We all spend way too much time convincing ourselves that “our “version of God is the only true one. We pick and choose various words from our particular religious documents to back up that feeling while ignoring everything else that doesn’t align with our chosen beliefs. We ALL do this to one level or another.

But in the end there has to be only one God in the universe and I kind of think she is almost laughing at our absurd efforts to split her into so many different parts. But she is probably also crying because of the same thing. As Will says all religions are good at some level but they all got it wrong at others. The sooner we all realize that the sooner we can quit fighting and killing each other to defend our version of God against their version.

Enough said…

2014-08-05_08-53-25

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” – Mark Driscoll

Being that I am now a big fan of streaming video I get advertisements such as the picture above on a regular basis. When I first looked at the picture the resemblance between the person in the picture and the traditional western depiction of Jesus slammed me. Then I thought of the quote I used earlier from Mark Driscoll (also above).

Here is a little bit of what Wikipedia says about Mr. Driscoll and his congregation.

Mark A. Driscoll (born October 11, 1970) is an evangelical Christian pastor and author, and current preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle, Washington. In 1996, Driscoll co-founded Mars Hill Church, which as of 2014 has grown to 14,000 members in five states and fifteen locations…

On March 29, 2014, four former Mars Hill elders including Kyle Firstenberg, Dave Kraft, and co-founder Lief Moi created a blog titled “Repentant Pastor” and posted online “confessions and apologies” related to their leadership roles in Mars Hill. In a joint statement, they wrote, “we recognize and confess that Mars Hill has hurt many people within the Mars Hill community, as well as those outside the community….” Salon summarized the statements, writing that the former leaders emphasized their failures to “rein Driscoll in” and their complicity with Driscoll’s “autocratic” management style. Firstenberg wrote that while the church appeared to flourish, employees lived in constant stress, and “success was to be attained regardless of human and moral cost.” Lief Moi described his own behavior at Mars Hill as “driven by narcissism and anti-social tendencies.”

SOURCE: Mark Driscoll pastor – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

It seems that Mr. Driscoll is in trouble with the leaders of his church for some crude things he has been saying and doing.  To me it appears that he is simply a case of a guy with too much testosterone even for an American which is a lot.

For Too Many….

August 24, 2014

NYC - Wrapup (6)

For far too many of us the image of being religious is the above.  This picture was taken on a busy Saturday night in Times Square NYC recently. Too many look at religion as some grim-faced old man telling us that we need to quit having any fun and get ready for the wrath of God. They didn’t take this old guy seriously anymore than take most current religious establishments seriously.

In some ways religion has earned this moniker. Too many  spend too much time worrying about God’s wrath rather than focusing on his love. Too many worry about the afterlife than they do living out God’s command to be our brother’s keeper.  Too many young people are just turned off by the religion of past generations.  They think their lives here on earth are what matter. In some ways I agree with them but in other ways not.  As is typical of many things moderation is the best choice. A little of everything on your plate gives you the most fruitful life.

The guy in the image above and so many like him are doing more harm than good by showing an image of God that is primarily man-made and for the most part disgusting. If God so loved the world why would he condemn most of us to an eternal agony as this grumpy old man preaches?

Are You Brave Enough???

August 17, 2014

Instead of helping the poor, feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, sheltering the homeless, fighting injustice, speaking for the voiceless, sacrificially giving, and wholeheartedly loving our neighbors and enemies, churches have become co-opted by secular values and empty content.

Emulating Christ is not for the faint of heart, and following his commands will probably mean becoming a church that embraces conflict, discomfort, work, pain, suffering, and truth. This is the messiness of Christianity — following God through the Pilgrim’s Progress of life, forsaking the riches of this world for the treasure of a Divine relationship. Are we brave enough to embrace this?

SOURCE:  Have Churches Become Too Shallow? | Stephen Mattson.

I make no pretenses about my admiration for Red Letter Christians blogger Stephen Mattson. He inspires me to ramp up my following of Jesus Christ and to point out to others where they can do the same. He has the words that I often lack to fully express my feelings about my spirituality. The words above are about how some churches have become too shallow in their practices. They make church more like a country club than a place to help us in our spiritual lives.

Of course all churches and all Christians including me to one degree or another have been co-opted by secular values. Just placing our country’s flag behind the altar is a beginning stage. We need to remember that Jesus was not an American but a middle eastern Jew. He doesn’t value an American over other people in the world. We need to understand that to be a follower of Jesus we need to be a citizen of the world and all the people living in it.

The one thing that many of the bloggers over at RedLetterChristians see churches shying away from is conflict. They want everyone to love them so they play down the hard message of Jesus in favor of a supposedly blessed life. It takes guts to walk in Jesus’ sandals. He did things that made many first century citizens very uncomfortable. He took head on the religious establishment of his day to try to lovingly show them a better path. We need to do the same thing today not out of a sense of superiority but of one of servitude. Are we brave enough to embrace this?