Ancient history revisited (Part One)…

On a separate blog, a very VERY long time ago, I posted this exploration into the foundation of Christianity and Jesus.

As I have no desire whatsoever to link this blog to that one, I will occasionally reproduce the content from one into the other.

Link to this? Dandy. Steal it? I will come after you. Ask questions? By all means. Rant? You can’t imagine how fast I will block you.

We begin…


January 7 & 8, 2006: I was just thinking about this…

In the middle of the funeral this morning (yes, I went, alone), I had an epiphany of my own, thanks to the references of the priest to the old testament and the Jewish thoughts on death.

How on earth did we go so far away from the original concept, that we had to be *led* by someone, deified or otherwise, to the right place? At what point did Hell get introduced and why? Is it a Greek thing? Roman? How odd… I’m open to discussion on this one.

Meanwhile, here’s the results of the latest quiz. I’m not shocked at all. And I’m actually looking forward to the visit to the UU congregation tomorrow. Spoke to another mother at my kid’s nursery school, and she’s been attending their services on and off for a while. Really likes them, too.

Anyway, I digress…

Mahavira
You two would probably really get along!
Founder of Jainism
“Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself. For
thereby one’s own self is saved from various kinds of sins and
resultant sufferings and is able to secure his own welfare.”
My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 38% on Intuitive
You scored higher than 66% on Structured
You scored higher than 84% on Mildness
You scored higher than 33% on Traditional
Link: The Religion Founder You Resemble Test written by Stinkbot

Major religion musings here. You’ve been warned…

The UU service was definitely the right choice.

I’ve already determined a couple of things: First, the minister seems to share my recent enlightenment in regards to the Bible. I could be wrong – it will likely take more than a single sermon to know for sure – but it is interesting that right after yesterday’s disturbing experience with the funeral (and right on the heels of the one I endured in November), I can finally put a solid finger on the disturbing elements of taking Jesus as a personal Savior.

I talked with DH about this last night on the way home from the party. It took me pretty much all night to unwind from the experience. I almost didn’t go – digestive system out of whack (and going to a real food party there was a real chance I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the feast), sleep way off, out of sorts and very shaky in emotional stability. The sheer volume of loss this last six months finally settled in. It wasn’t just Ms. M. It was: BG, KT, MW, LC’s mom, assorted loved pets, and…and… That isn’t all. Thursday, one of the moms I’ve been seeing at the bus stop told me her 38 year old brother was on life support because he let pneumonia get out of hand. I hope she got to Florida in time.

I always watch the memorial segment of the Oscars, too. We lost a bunch of people then as well.

But the key feature of the list above is that with the exception of BG and LC’s mom, none of the rest were older than 48, and all of them left with little or no warning at all.

And what bugged me ever so much at the funeral yesterday, which bothered me at the prior service, and at the one for DH’s “cousin” S, wasn’t just the whole hell thing. It’s this, and it’s a lot more inflammatory for those who believe in Christianity: Jesus, whether or not he intended to be, has become an undying cult leader. It wasn’t enough to think that last night, but I’m not the only one who thinks this is the case. It’s amazing. Well over a billion followers.

How presumptuous: Nobody can make it to heaven except by following Jesus – literally – he has taken the role of the leader from this world to the next. Believing in God isn’t enough.

Obviously I need to pick up a Bible. I’ve needed to read the old testament for a very long time, because it is literature and it’s important, since so many people are guided by it. But I need to figure out if I’m just imagining this or I really am seeing it. And then I need to figure out how to reconcile this so that the next time I have to go to a funeral at a Christian church, I can sit through the service and not simply steam in my own digestive juices.

Interestingly, I’m listening to the story the minister quoted, in a sermon discussing sacrifice, Eid, and Abraham. I know why they’re showing this on PBS – obviously it’s because of Eid on Tuesday. But what I didn’t realize was how closely tied Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith was. And how far the others have been controverted to the purposes of the Bible. And there is nothing more controverted than the conversion of the Jewish belief that there is simply a better place to go after one dies, then the belief that only through Jesus can one actually get there after death.

Yeah. I’m paraphrasing. I don’t have time to go to the book and look it up. (Errands to run and all that.) I want to get this idea out of my head and onto “paper” before I lose the thread. Some time soon, though, I think I’m going to add another actual essay to the “Writings” page on my site.

To those of my friends who have gotten this far, and who believe, I’ve determined that I am not agnostic. There is a description for what I believe, but there is no appropriate label for who I believe in. God is as close as it comes. And by setting anything in the way of God, as a mouthpiece or humanization of that “deep magic”, it somehow cheapens for me the value of the belief itself.

I’m going to spend more time on this over the next year. If this year is any indication, there are going to be a lot more of these ordeals to be survived in the coming years and I need to prepare myself for the onslaught.

Just saw the BE EMPOWERED commercial on PBS – the one about the fish who decides the bowl isn’t enough. It finds a way to swim with the salmon instead. I think that’s me.

Time for bookkeeping. More soon…

Comments:

DF:
You might look at some of the “mystical” Christian writings and the Sufis, who are the mystical sect of Islam. Mystical in this sense means seeking a direct experience with God. (Wikipedia article on Christian mysticism here) The Christians tend not to dwell on the whole “Christ as your personal savior” and “you must be SAVED” put focus on the “God in everyone” aspect, which is one of the central tenants of UU and Quakerism as well.

I tend to be more deist when you get right down to it. I believe that there is a higher power up there and he/she’s done a lot of cool things but we’re really cool too and shouldn’t use said higher power as a crutch. That and @#$! happens.

I’ve got a couple books on Christian mystics and Sufis if you want to borrow them sometime.

Me:
Yeah, maybe… When I have some more time and I’ve done the thing I really need to do – which is read the book itself, so I have a formal footing for my heresy… 😎

SC:
I’ve determined that I am not agnostic. There is a description for what I believe, but there is no appropriate label for who I believe in. God is as close as it comes.

Surely you’ve heard heard of “deism”?

Me:
Nope. Still too formal.

Checked Google under “define: deism”, and got this back (amongst others):

“Deism is a belief in God as revealed by nature and reason, not scripture and faith. Deism is a free-thought philosophy, much like Agnosticism, Atheism or Pantheism in that it rejects the dogmas and superstitions of religion in favor of individual reason and empirical observation of the universe. The Deist sees an order and architecture to the universe that indicates an Intelligent Creator or First Cause. …”

Like I said, God is the wrong term. Deep magic is closer, but still not right. I don’t think any”one” set about making the universe happen, but that force which makes things happen (perpetual motion, lifeforce, whatever) has to have some sort of name in my head, and for that I suppose God is a useful term. Might as well be Doll or Foo or Whatever, except that folks have a clue about the meaning of the word God in relation to the universe.

Just my muddled interpretation. Like I said, I need to think a little more about this before I write something profoundly stupid…

MB:
Donning my Skunk Suit for this Garden Party…
As Alan Moore so succinctly put it:

“Existance[sic] is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them nor destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us.”

Me:
Re: Donning my Skunk Suit for this Garden Party…
Thank you for that stunning visual of the reality that is what we ourselves do in the name of right.

And lest someone mistake my meaning, I agree with you on this.

Like I said, it isn’t called God. I’m a firm believer in conservation of energy, but that’s tough to describe in the metaphysical sense, when determining how we came to be. That we choose to do what we do with what we have is another, often sadder (though not always), story. And that some people need to be led like sheep is, in a way, sort of sad in and of itself.

I suppose it’s a search for ways to cope with existence, and why I’m ever so much less likely than someone who buys the whole “better place to be” thing to take my own life (or anyone else’s). It’s what we have here and now that matters most, not what’s coming afterwards. There’s a lot of folks who would do well to remember that in their daily lives.

SK:
Interestingly enough, there are even some Pentacostals who are having this aspect to their faith – reinterpreting, or perhaps interpreting for the first time, the idea of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Would a loving God consign anyone who did not accept Jesus in that way as damned? Not all Christians think so.

Now I do believe in Christ as personal savior – but then, if I do that, I must accept that Christ will have different ways for each person. That’s the “personal” part.

Me:
Would a loving God consign anyone who did not accept Jesus in that way as damned? Not all Christians think so.

Interestingly enough, that’s almost an exact quote from the Reverend, and she came to roughly the same conclusion.

She, by the was, was Methodist before switching to UU.

JH:
the belief that only through Jesus can one actually get there after death.

I am very irked by the accepted translation of this. When Jesus was alive he (reportedly) said, “No one gets to the father except by me.” He then did this thing which supposedly allows sinners to go to Heaven. You’ll note by the weasel words that I don’t actually believe this, BUT…according to this story it sounds to me like what he meant was “I’m going to open that door” not “you have to follow me in order to get through it.” But I’m a baptist-raised ex-pagan Poohist, so what do I know :).

Me:
Ah-yup. All of which just goes to show that this stuff is WAY TOO open to interpretation to be taken as absolute *as written* in the book. Which I think is my biggest beef on the subject (and has been since high school, at least).

CS:
Yes. not only open to interpretation, but some interpretation is unavoidable. If the book says “blue” you may think of the sky on a clear, winter day and I may think of the ocean just before dawn. And we could both be wrong.

In my experience kindred spirits can be found in all faith traditions. One of the things I look for is a kind of openness. Open people admit that there is a lot they don’t know, much they can learn from others. Which leads to a tolerance for diversity.

Fanatics, of any belief system, have an answer for everything. And just one answer, at that.

But here’s a bit of antidote to that my-way-or-the-highway mentality:

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

That’s St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. Can’t stand by everything the old coot said, but this one can help encourage tolerance.

Hope you find a good place to rest.

LS:
Random thoughts
Lots of thoughts. In the opening words at our service, we say,

“Love is the doctrine of this church; the quest of truth is its sacrament,and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve humankind in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the Divine. This is our great Covenant, one with another, and with our god.”

When I get caught up in god or goddess or no god or whatever, I really feel those words “the Divine.” Broad enough to be whatever I need it to be, and personal enough to carry me.

Someone else quoted the part about Jesus talking about being the way into his father’s house. I believe (and I’m not going to look it up, I’m too lazy to get off the couch) that right after this, Jesus also says something to the effect that there are many rooms in his father’s house.

There’s a fabulous book written by a UU minister called “Finding Your Religion.” The guy’s name is Scotty McLennan; he was the model for Rev. Scott Sloan in Doonesbury, and is just about as cool as the cartoon character. Rev. Scotty battled with just that question about whether you *have to* accept Jesus as your personal avatar before being saved; the minister with whom he was having a series of soul-searching debates at a crucial time in his life finally, in exasperation, told him, basically, you sound as looney as a UU–why don’t you go check them out? It’s a fun read and I highly recommend it for the soul-searching person. You can get it through amazon or through uua.org’s bookstore.

Glad your UU church worked out for you. Hope it continues to do so.

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