This Christmas Season…

2015-12-11_11-32-59.pngI want to spend some time this Christmas season talking about Jesus. After all, as the old saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season” at least for us Chrisitans. I have said more than once on this blog that I am  spiritual but not currently aligned with any particular religious organization.  At the same time I try to be a faithful follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ.  That might be a dichotomy to some but  not to me. I just believe that religious organizations today are too mired down in their dogma and theology that is simply not focused on the words and teachings of their founder.

Many seem to at best give Jesus’ word only a tepid acknowledgement and at worst readily admit that to them his words are no more important than any other words in their bible. Those folks treat the Bible as their god instead of Jesus. That saddens me greatly and drives me away from their version of Christianity.

One of my favorite Christian authors is Philip Gulley and one of my favorite books by him is “If God Is Love”. Here are some of my favorite quotes from that book:

For many, religion is a means of controlling human behavior. Dualistic religion, with the threat of hell and the offer of heaven, is especially susceptible to this temptation…


Jesus turns controlling religion, with its inflexible laws and requirements, on its head. The point isn’t obeying the rules (an act of the will), but in producing good fruit (an overflow of the heart). Our hearts are changed only when we realize God’s unconditional love for us and embrace our responsibility to love others unconditionally.


This is why many have left the church, synagogue, and mosque. They aren’t atheists. They’ve simply found the courage to reject religious fear and control. They seek a spirituality consistent with what they sense to be true—there must be more to life than escaping hell and keeping the rules. They yearn for a way of life that is gentle, humble, open, and compassionate.


SOURCE: Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-10-13). If God Is Love (Kindle Locations 1318-1320). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

When I read the words above several years ago I had an epiphany. I finally accepted that God is about love and not eternal punishment for failing to follow rules. God is not about condemning the vast majority of us to an eternity of unimaginable agony but instead is showing us how to love.

I like to include myself in the quote above about rejecting religious fear and control and instead seeking spirituality consistent with my senses. Yes, I’m sure some of you can rush to your Bible to find a verse or two, especially in the Old Testament, about a vengeful god. But if you concentrate on Jesus’ words it should become obvious to you that God is a god of love.

This holiday season I choose to celebrate life as Jesus taught me…

 

Which Came First??

2015-11-14_08-20-08

“Which came first, the chicken or the egg??” has been the question of the day for as long as I remember. But I have a different version now. Which came first a ranting populace or radical right radio?? Lets look at that question some in this post.

I know that Rush Limbaugh has been around a long time now.  He has made millions of bucks ranting about almost everything. I also know that there is a faction within our population who simply adore him and listen to him constantly. He is without a doubt their hero.  He has been so popular that now there are look-a-likes everywhere you turn.

I also know that ranting in the comments section of most Internet new sites has been viral for quite some time. Are all these ranters simply screaming what Limbaugh taught them are is Limbaugh listening to them for his rants? That is the question.  But sadly we seem to be approaching a tipping point of these folks.

It seems that if the nation is to survive we progressives are going to have to save it. (oh I can hear the ranters scream with this one!!!)  It is going to be up to us to put some sanity back into our political processes. The GOP is simply getting way too out of hand to save themselves let alone our country.

I must admit I never gave President Reagan much credit for anything good that happened in the 1980s. He just seemed to be a B-class actor reading the script that people (read Rumsfeld and Chaney) put in front of him. But now I realize that he was much more of a forward thinker than I ever imagined. Little did I realize that when he went about about shutting down all the mental healthcare facilities in this country  he was actually  using those cast out to fill the base of the GOP in the 21st century.  Go figure…. 🙂

 

 

Inequality as a Religious Test

But if you believe that every human being is made in the image of God — imago dei; if you believe that every individual person represented in economic statistics is a child of God; if you believe that in nearly all religious traditions, loving your neighbor as you love yourself follows directly after loving God; and if you believe, regardless of your conception of God, that human beings are all brothers and sisters tied together, then income inequality is a spiritual issue, a moral issue, and a religious test of our belief.

Source: Inequality as a Religious Test | Sojourners

I totally align with the words above, income inequality should be a basic concern of all those who proclaim to be children of God. I simply can’t see how it could be otherwise.  So, why are the most visible “evangelicals” so against that concept? First things first, I think that the very term evangelical has been kidnapped by a very small slice of the children of God for their own agenda.

Too many of the self-proclaimed evangelicals today are really political vultures who are mainly interested in themselves FIRST and foremost.  They have little interest in anyone outside of themselves and those who huddle together with them against the big bad world out there.  To them everyone who is poor or downtrodden are themselves to blame for their condition. They think that they just don’t have the initiative to help themselves. In other words they deserve what they got.  It seems these supposed evangelicals most avid fear is someone getting something that “they don’t deserve”!  How can this description be called evangelicals???

It doesn’t take much to claim a Christian label these days.  Almost a century ago the KKK self proclaimed they were Christian.  They even use a cross as their symbol.  The most critical problem with this scenario is that the true evangelicals timidly sit back and let the hate mongers claim their identity. Their lack of action taints and even destroys the “E” name for too many of us. Another thing that destroys the Christian label are those few who preach these words and thoughts from their pulpits!!  If the true evangelicals want to proclaim a war they couldn’t do much better than to fight against those who kidnapped their identity!

As the article above states being a Christian is all about caring for others, not yourself. It’s about time that we who are followers of Jesus Christ did more of that….

Life Flow …

2015-11-03_13-42-55This Sunday I want to flesh out a little more of what God means to me personally.  Theologians throughout the centuries have molded God into a being mainly of their own making.  If they can do it so can I, at least for my own purposes.

As I have said in the last two Sunday posts I see God as primarily the keeper of life.  There is something inside of us that makes us alive . Call it the spirit, soul, life blood or what ever you want but only God can make life. When you are born you are filled with life and consciousness. Part of consciousness is an underlying knowledge of right and wrong, of joy, empathy, and self-awareness and something greater than ourselves. Christians call this the “fruit of the Spirit”. All of this is part of life. When you die that spirit, which has everlasting life, leaves your body and rejoins the pool of life maintained by God.  The Bible here and there mentions Judgement day. It is treated as a one time event but I kind of think it is an ongoing thing upon the departure of each individual life. What is judged I will leave up to God to determine.

To me God controls life but not how that life is lived.  What that life becomes is a matter of circumstances sometimes within and sometimes beyond our control. Some of it is a result of our environment and particular culture. Some of it is due to our making the right decisions or the wrong decisions. Some of it is due to others who help or mistreat us to various degrees. It is up to each of us as to how we approach life.

Being the keeper of life he cares about all of us as we all come from him. I know that through the ages God has been viewed as sometimes a being very vengeful being who says “Say these words” or “Tow this line” and if we don’t he will send us to an eternity of agony beyond anything we can imagine. I simply don’t buy into a God who hates so much of his creation to do such a horrible thing! Now on to the last topic for today.

“Spiritual but not religious” has come to mean a very important difference to me.  I see a religion as a collective composition of previous thoughts from theologians about the spiritual realm. Various thinkers throughout time have come up with some very dramatically different views of God. Several of these views have gained millions of followers and then become a religion unto themselves.  In Christianity there are now over 35,000 different religious organizations who claim to be followers of Jesus and it seems each on says their version is right and everyone else is wrong to one degree or another.  I could, and have, belonged to different ones at various times in my life.  It is only recently that I have  decided not to even try to align with any of them. I refuse to pledge allegiance to any particular, and that is what most of them demand. So now I call myself spiritual but not religious…

Next Sunday I will discuss my thoughts about some of the current religious organizations and their followers and leaders. That should then close out this topic for me, at least for now.

 

God, The River Of Life…

2015-10-18_09-02-12This is a continuation of last Sunday’s Post on God and Life.  If you haven’t already read it you might want to do that now as this post won’t make much sense without that background. (God Is All About Life)  In that post I put forth the proposition that God is life. With this post  I will expand just what that means to me. I will repeat here that this concept is primarily for me to come to a personal understanding of God. I don’t expect, or even want, you to agree with me.  You need to do the work to come to your own conclusions on the very heady matter. Question everything…

Being the “keeper of life” and being the “controller of life” are two very different things that have been intertwined by too many  past theologians. Here are some of my personal inquiries on this topic:

  • Does God know every hair on our head? — He just might since all life flows through him.
  • Does he have a will for each of us? — Collectively I think he does.
  • Does he determine before our existence what we will do or accomplish in minute detail? — I don’t think that God is simply writing plays with known outcomes or is a puppet master. I think that concept is a man-made. I think God leaves it to us to determine our own fate. Sometimes random chance comes into the equation but definitely not everything that happens is ordained by God.
  • Did God ordain Paul to set up the rules for Christianity? — It seems most current Christian organizations take that as a yes but I differ.  I follow the Thomas Jefferson and Leo Tolstoy view that Paul took the simple messages of Jesus and made them complicated.

Too many of us shirk our personal responsibilities in life in favor of putting them on decisions already made by God. There is way too much rationalization around this subject. We say it is God’s will that this happened to me and that takes the pressure off of us to make a different fate.  To me God’s will is very simple, Love God the keeper of life and love each other. Jesus said it as simply as that. Everything else is just blah blah blah to me.

I’m sure some who might read my words here will call me at best an agnostic because I don’t believe in their version of God.  But I do very much believe in God’s presence in the world and in each of us. I also believe that Jesus was from God in one respect or another. It is the degree that I don’t know, but that is kind or irreverent to me.   I don’t  believe that everything in the Bible attributed to Jesus necessarily came from his lips.   But again the degree is what I’m not sure of.

For this post that sums it up for me…..

Next Sunday I will be talking more about  life flow and being “spiritual but not religious”.  Two very different categories but it sums these thoughts up for me.

God Is ….

God I really don’t know how it happened that God became this old guy with flowing white hair and beard laying on the clouds and watching everything we do and getting involved in every aspect of our lives. I don’t know if Michelangelo’s Sistene chapel was the first depiction of that persona or if he was just mirroring someone else. But it seemed to catch on and go from there.  For many God is now a father figure who looks out for our every need.

I was pretty deeply involved in theology for more than a decade devouring perhaps a hundred books on the subject. As a result I have come to some personal conclusions  about God (but who am I to even do that?).  Since this is the week that I start on my 7th decade on this earth it is about time I penned my feelings in this arena.  If not now when?

It is pretty clear that most  theologians who gave us the biblical text perceived God as not a person. To most of them he was a spirit. It is more like God is a presence that is all around us than an actual person somewhere above us.  The conceptual thing that makes the most sense to me is that he is life. In that vain he is not really a “he”or a she. Most of the messages attributed to God in the Christian Bible, and for that matter the Jewish Bible and the Koran, God’s messages are about getting along with one another and appreciating the life that God has given us. Don’t Kill, don’t be jealous, love God, don’t adore/love stuff, and the rest. They are all about setting the right priorities in your life and simply living in peace and love with everyone else in God’s creation.

God just seems to be all about life.

Personally I have come to see God as the keeper of life. In science we have progressed eons beyond where they were two-thousand years ago.  Almost everything that surrounds us today would have been considered a miracle in those times.  The past century alone has brought us out of the dark ages of medicine. We have now mapped DNA and that will probably bring even more knowledge beyond our current imagination in the coming years.

But one thing we have been unable to do is to create life where there was none before. To me, that is God’s domain. He is the keeper of life.  The Star Wars movies, of which I am a big fan called it the “force”. To me the force is the essence of life that comes only from God.

I don’t expect or even want any of you to agree with me on this.  I made this study and the resulting conclusions for my own benefit. I needed to more fully understand my perception and relationship with my creator. Did I get it right? I pretty much doubt it but I don’t think anyone else has it right to any degree either.  The concept of God is just too complex for our puny human minds.

Next Sunday I will delve into what I see being the keeper of life means…. and maybe more importantly what it doesn’t mean.

The Greatest Sin…

2015-09-25_11-56-55One of the most striking verses in the Christian bible for me was found in Mathew 12. I won’t quote the verse here but it basically says there is one sin that will NEVER be forgiven and that is “blasphemy against the Spirit”. Since I have come to understand that Christianity is all about forgiveness this verse was very loud to my ears. Let’s study the concept of blasphemy.

What is blasphemy? Here is a common definition:

blas⋅phe⋅my /blæsfəmi:/   — noun

expressing disrespect for God or for something sacred

That is a pretty plain one but I believe gets to the heart of the matter. The question is disrespect but whose version of God and just what is disrespect?

Blasphemy has come to have hundreds of different interpretations over the centuries.

  • Some believe that just saying the words “God D**m” is blasphemy and anyone saying those words can never get into heaven. If that is the case then only a very small minority of us will see the pearly gates.  I don’t curse as a regular thing but I do have my rare outbursts as most everyone does. But I personally don’t believe that God will damn us to an eternity of agony just for using a cuss word.
  • Some believe it is accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. I think this one is pretty much related to the times and not so much today.
  • Some  today  believe that blasphemy would be attributing a miracle of a redeemed person’s changed life to Satan’s power rather than to the effects of the indwelling Holy Spirit. I surprisingly have been personally exposed to this one in that when I said I believed the Holy Spirit reached me, the first thing a clergy said was “How do you know it wasn’t the devil”.  I was utterly dumbstruck by those words.
  • Others say just not believing in Jesus is blasphemy.

Since these biblical words are so vague there are hundreds of different interpretations starting from the early Christians all the way up to the current day theologians. Einstein was quoting Occam’s Razor when he said the simplest answer if usually the correct answer.  I recently came across an Amish interpretation and that is blasphemy against the Spirit that seems to be as simple as it can get.  This particular Amish person said

“blasphemy is speaking for God”.

In my mind that means putting words in God’s mouth that were never there in the first place. Could it really be that simple? Could God be saying he wants his presence to be individually felt by each of us by looking into our own hearts and not just listening to others opinions about him.

It doesn’t take a serious theologian to understand that speaking for God is how the majority of current religious doctrine has been formed. One person expanding/explaining what he thinks God means.  I don’t know the simple answer to what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit means so I will kind of discount these particular words as not being a major part of my personal belief system.  To me God will remain all about of  hope and forgiveness…

Indoctrination and God…

2015-08-11_08-49-14WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  I did a survey of 1,000 nonreligious parents to find out exactly that. And the top reason cited was, people weren’t sure how to talk about religion without indoctrinating their kids into what they believed themselves. That was a hard line.

The other one was interacting with religious family members and keeping the peace in families. When you’re raising a child who is in a secular household, how do you bridge the gap between the older generations who may be more rigidly religious?

JEFFREY BROWN: This word indoctrinating is an important one, because it comes up time and time again here. What’s the difference between indoctrinating and guiding children, right?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL: Right.

Indoctrination, I see, as almost the antithesis of critical thinking. Of course it’s fine to guide your children, but I see indoctrination as sort of this middle ground between full-on brainwashing and guidance. it’s stronger than — it’s stronger than just merely guidance.

I see indoctrination as telling children that there is only one way to believe, and that all other ways and people who believe all other things are less worthy of our respect, less intelligent, less moral. It’s that — that’s the crucial issue, because I think that, when you do that, you set up your child to be bigoted against those who don’t believe the way that you do. You know, we are — it’s not a black-and-white world

Source: The secular parent’s guide to teaching kids about faith.

Although not important to the purposes of this post, the interview above is about a book Wendy Thomas Russell wrote about how to discuss the topic of God with your children.  I know for the very religious fundamentalists among us the idea that we indoctrinate or brainwash our kids into believing what we believe is tantamount to heresy. But to the secular or even those of us who are spiritual but not particularly religious it seems to be a viable statement.

As mentioned several times on this blog I did a very serious ten year study over at RedLetterLiving on the topic of beliefs and religion. During that time I learned just how diverse the beliefs in God are. There are currently over 35,000 different versions of Christianity and each one believes they are the ones who have it right.  From personal experiences I learned this truth the hard way in being told I didn’t tow the line close enough and informed I was no longer welcomed.

“Telling children that there is only one way to believe, and that all other ways and people who believe all other things are less worthy of our respect, less intelligent, less moral” as the article mentions is the primary reason there is so much violence in the world today.  90% of the violence in the hotbed Middle East is muslims fighting each other. The other ten percent is their hate for the U.S.

I am very much a follower of Jesus Christ but not so much what his church, or any religion for that matter, has become.  If we ever want to see peace come to this earth we have got to get over thinking that when it comes to God our way is the only way. We Christians just need stop saying our particular brand of religion is the only “true” one.

The Thing Is…..

I am bringing over a series of posts for my Sunday entries from my now inactive blog over at RedLetterLiving. This six-part series from about a year ago was what I discovered about the Bible after ten strenuous years of study. I want to say up front so there is no misunderstanding that no, I did not get any personal revelations from God on this topic other than his possible guidance through my study. After ten years I finally understand what millions of other have realized before me…. It’s about Jesus, not the Bible…

Red Letter Living

CB064037What About The Bible… ? (Chapter 1)

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately thinking about the Bible and my experiences with it over the last decade or so. Around 2003 I decided to take up a serious study of theology and in particularly those around the words of Jesus. I naively thought I could get some clear directions for my spiritual life if I just understood why the Bible seems to mean so many different things to so many people. What I have discovered over this period of time awakened me. I did not get the concrete answers I was looking for but I did glean some surprising discoveries.

So, for the next several  weeks I will be spending Mondays {Sundays on the re-blog} on posts about that journey into the Bible. I have always been a little hesitant to voice my discoveries because if they…

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If God is Love Where Does Hate Come From?

My wife and I watched a DVR copy of the recent TV movie entitled “Amish Grace” last night. This is the movie about the man who shot ten girls in an Amish school house a few years back and then took his own life. Six of the girls died. The main theme of the movie was about forgiveness and not letting hate overpower you. The Amish community in Pennsylvania where it happened quickly forgave the man who committed the act and even helped the family of the murderer cope with the tragedy. As I have mentioned in the past the commitment to God that the Amish have totally impresses me. Fortunately the movie did not focus on the brutal act itself but instead on the forgiveness. It would have been very easy for most people who experienced this kind of tragedy to be filled with hate for the perpetrator.

This movie got me to thinking about just where hate comes from. Many discount the works of Satan in this world. They say that he is not a real being but instead just a concept. But I do believe that Satan exists and that hate is his primary tool for ensnaring his victims. It seems that there is much hate in the U.S. today so I guess I would say that Satan might be getting a strangle hold on us as a society. Being a U.S. history buff I am well aware that political partisanship has been a constant in one degree or another throughout our history. But I believe that it is morphing into something much more dreadful in very recent years among some of us. This is evidenced by the recent decision of several well respected people in congress who have decided to not run for re-election this year. Most often one of the primary reasons for not running is the tainted atmosphere in Washington today.

On a recent trip to Kansas I visited the high school that has been turned into a memorial to the Brown vs. the Board of Education lawsuit that started racial integration in the 1960’s. One picture on a wall is of a young girl, probably in the late teens, that is screaming at one of the black kids entering the segregated high school in Little Rock. I had seen this picture several times before but for some reason this time the pure hatred on the face of the girl totally struck me. I included a photo of it at the top of this post and as you can see it was a very scary thing. I often wonder about that young girl and how her life might be today. I have even said prayers for her even though I don’t know her. But that was not the last time I have seen that same look. It was also evident on several faces in the recent Tea Party rally in Washington that was protesting the healthcare reform law that recently passed. Their very antagonistic placards were also evidence of that hatred. Now I am not saying that all people in that rally were hateful but the ones shown in those pictures definitely were filled with hate. It was obvious from their faces and their signs. It was again a scary reminder of Satan’s presence in the world today.

“Filled with hate” is a very appropriate term. Hate starts out grabbing a small corner of our minds but if we don’t let it go it then, much like an aggressive cancer, it quickly overtakes much of the person’s total being. That is why there are numerous places in the bible where God tells us to fill ourselves with love, even for our enemies. He wants us to never allow hate even start within us. If we allow hate into our minds we are giving Satan a grip into our very souls. I know, given some circumstance such as the Amish incident I started the post out with, it is very difficult to not hate someone or something. But we, especially us Christians, must be very aware of the deadly effects of hate and fight it back when it crops up in our minds. We can disagree with someone but still love them. Hate simply does not have any place in a Christian’s life.

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