Browsed by
Tag: judgment

Remedial Reading for So-called Christians

Remedial Reading for So-called Christians

I might be alone in my interpretation of the unforgivable sin, the sin against the spirit. I’ve always taken it to mean something like invoking God/spirit to authenticate and make authoritative a view or action that directly expresses everything of its opposite. My journey is still very much in process, but it does seem even to me as though some of the people claiming to be christians might really take a new name for themselves. I think “Pharisee” doesn’t even go far enough, since the Pharisees were authentically attempting to be righteous. “False prophets” gives them too much importance. The more authentic followers of Jesus must grieve to see it.

For the misled, some remedial reading. Can you continue in your present path and still honestly try to claim to be of the spirit, if you believe these to be sacred texts?

1 Corinthians 13:1-13: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Romans 12:9-17: Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” ‎

Matthew 25: 31-45: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’

Phillipians 2:1-7: So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Galatians 5: 22-26: ‎22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Col 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

P.S. For thinking through belief from a spirit-centered view, turn off the hate and start reading. Here is one attempt to talk about beliefs from a conservative Christian point of view, but not a hateful conservative Christian point of view. The difference is clear: http://www.facebook.com/ThruWayChristians (thanks to John Shore).

Hatred is not Religious

Hatred is not Religious

Peace be in you. Peace be through you.

I feel a great urge for peace today. I am thinking about some of the wise and kind people that I have met, and the way I felt when I was near them. There are people of the book(s). There are people of people, so to speak. There are people of the cosmos. Each have their strengths and blind spots, but they share some things in common.

Such people seem to leave sparkles of light wherever they go. And some of them don’t even know it.

Caring and love are much better than hatred and fear, creating a better world for everyone.

It seems so bizarre to me to feel the need to restate what I would think should be blindingly obvious: The lust for power (with all its accompanying hatred, violence, fear, and greed) is not a religious virtue.

There is a kind of mirroring between the radical pseudo-Christians of dominionism and the radical Islamicists. Both groups of hardline zealots appear – almost paradoxically – damaged, hurt and fearful. They don’t have the courage to accept others for what they are and let God be the judge. The very capacity for compassion and respectful relations with others seems stunted. Perhaps they fight to ward off fear, or in desperation, or simply from a lack of better models and leaders. Perhaps they are angry about real experiences, and perhaps some of them have valid complaints that should be discussed more openly in the public sphere.

But they claim God’s judgment for their own, and that is not a virtue in either Islam or Christianity.

Both political movements (let’s just admit that they are more political than religious, shall we?) seem very interested in earthly power, even to the point of murder and war. They have national interests. They seem very comfortable believing that they have an exclusive connection to God, and that they can speak with God’s authority.

They practice domination… and I think that pretty much explains why the big fight for the Christian (de-)”con”structionists (it can’t be “Reconstruction” if you think about it) is to display the ten commandments instead of, say, the sermon on the mount. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).

I’m not someone who relies on scriptural texts for my sense of ethics or for my relationship with God (there are many reasons for that, and perhaps I’ll explain my reasoning on another occasion).

Nonetheless, there are lots and lots and lots of people who feel that their sacred books are vitally, even supremely, important. These cousins – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – are collectively “the people of the book.”

So let’s review some points from some of their sacred texts.

Pick your own translation – and sure, your in-group’s interpretation if you know it – and chew on some of this.

The Qur’an (also known by the spelling Koran)

Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors.
(2:190)

Do not say to one who offers you peace, “You are not a believer,” seeking the spoils of this life. For God has abundant treasure. You used to be like them, after all, and then God blessed you.
(4:94)

Oh you who believe, stand up firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be against rich or poor; for God can best protect both. Do not follow any passion, lest you not be just. And if you distort or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that you do.’
(4:135)

If it had been thy Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Wilt thou then compel mankind, against their will, to believe!
(10:99)

Those who act kindly in this world will have kindness.
(39.10)

Goodness and evil are not equal. Repel evil with what is better. Then that person with whom there was hatred, may become your intimate friend! And no one will be granted such goodness
except those who exercise patience and self-restraint, none but people of the greatest good fortune.
(41:34-35)

It may be that God will grant love (and friendship) between you and those whom ye (now) hold as enemies. For God has power (over all things), and God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. God does not forbid you, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for God loves those who are just.
(60:7-8)

Our Lord! Perfect our light for us and forgive us our sins, for verily You have power over all things.
(66:8)

The Prophet once saw a funeral procession passing by a street in Madina. The Prophet was seated at that time. On seeing the funeral, the Prophet stood up in respect. At this one of his companions said: ‘O Prophet, it was the funeral of a Jew (not a Muslim).’ The Prophet replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’

Peace be upon you.

The Bible: The Christian Scriptures (under the new law of the Christ)

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
(John 15:12,17)

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
(Matthew 7:1)

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and the disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those
who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’
(Matthew 9:10-13)

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
(Matthew 25:31-46)

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. Ad if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(Luke 6:32-36)

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.’
(Luke 9:46-48)

And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’ But Jesus turned and rebuked them, And he said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went to another village.
(Luke 9:54-56)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!’
(John 2.13-16)

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.’
(Luke 16:10-14)

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:21)

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:14-22)

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(James 1:26-27)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:8-9)

Peace be with you.

The Bible: The Hebrew Scriptures (under the law of the Convenant)

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.
(Deuteronomy 10:17-18)

May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
(Numbers 6:26)

My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.
(Ezekiel 33:31)

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
(Psalm 145:8-9)

My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood,
let us wantonly ambush the innocent;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive
and whole, like those who go down to the Pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with spoil;
throw in your lot among us,
we will all have one purse”–
my son, do not walk in the way with them,
hold back your foot from their paths;
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
(Proverbs 1.10-16)

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.’
(Numbers 6:24-26)

He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken. All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
(Micah 4:3-5)

Shalom.

Intolerance lies at the core of evil.
Not the intolerance that results from any threat or danger.
But intolerance of another being who dares to exist.
Intolerance without cause. It is so deep within us,
because every human being secretly desires
the entire universe to himself.
Our only way out is to learn
compassion without cause. To care for each other
simple because that ‘other’ exists.
– Rabbi Menachem Mendle

Peace be in you. Peace be through you.

Blogging Against Theocracy

Blogging Against Theocracy

Even if George W. Bush has succeeded in drastically expanding the power of the executive branch, there is no anointed king here in America. No president has claimed to be a god, and senators are not priests.

In the United States, claims to divine authority tend to be somewhat more subterranean and implicit, if no less powerful. The religiously-tinged ideas of “manifest destiny” and “American exceptionalism” have served as covers for territorial acquisitions, genocidal violence, exploitation, and domination here and around the world. Domestically, I hope every American is aware of the costs to native tribal communities. Slavery was also rationalized under the banner of religion. The Massachusetts Bay Colony was dominated by Puritan ideology, and there were scattered theocracies across the colonies until they agreed to freedom of religion.

The pledge of allegiance, already a creepy nationalistic ritual, has claimed since 1954 the status of the nation as existing under (the protection of? guidance of? stamp of approval of?) God.

The literal meaning of theocracy is “rule by God or gods.” Theocratic governments can be formed of any significant mixture of claims to divine authority, the wielding of secular power by religious groups or figures, or a melding of the state with religion such that religious freedom is not possible. While there are subsets of society – intentional religious communities – that could be considered theocracies, these are protected under freedom of religion in the United States. We are in danger of – already in the the process of – forming a governmental theocracy here in the land of the free, and that is an entirely separate issue.

The specific theocratic threat to our nation right now is the erosion of the separation of the powers of church and state under an attempted coup by a very specific kind of christian ideology – dominionism.

Dominionism – a trans-denominational movement composed of radical fundamentalist, charismatic, and pentacostal protestants – openly seeks to establish totalitarian control over the nation and its people. To further their stated goals of secular domination, they have called for their followers to exert whatever influence they can – at any and every level and aspect of society – in order to bring our society into conformity with their beliefs.

Several years ago, these radical extremists found common purpose with the Republican party, which needed to expand its base (an interesting mirroring – al Qaeda: translation “the base”). Politics entered the congregations, and the congregations infused the party. Despite the uneasy nature of this unholy communion, the agendas of dominionists and their followers are now an established force in American politics. Their version of God’s requirements was very convenient.

Please remember that not all christians are dominionists. Many still understand that the kingdom of God is within, and that humility is a christian virtue. Some christians still remember and advocate forgiveness, compassion and kindness.

Dominionists, on the other hand, seem very comfortable with throwing the first stone (and any further stones that may be required). Instead of freedom and justice for all, they seek conformity to their warped (and very selective) biblical interpretations. Some do so because they honestly believe that it is ordained by God and destiny; others do so for even more unsavory reasons. All this under a paranoid fantasy of persecution, and in the name of a special – even exclusive – relationship with the divine.

In many ways, dominionism is an anti-christian movement. “Christian Reconstruction looks more like straightforward destruction of the Christian message and its values. Setting a christian example? Their version looks like a dance of hatred. I will never believe that power-hungry control freaks speak for God, or represent the teachings or example of Jesus, or stand for any profound religious insight at all. They do not help to bring people into a relationship with the divine, but instead appeal to the darker aspects of their followers while appearing to shine as angels of light. I believe that the beliefs and actions of such extremists are in profound contradiction with deeper spiritual truths.

I name you and yours false prophets
because you do define the phrase,
You lead the would-be faithful
always far and further astray.
Placing demon masks
on the faces of our kin,
undoing all the fragile good
that lets us breathe again.

More compassion-based religious people should continue to engage in debates and discussions about the issues – spiritual, ethical, even biblical – raised by dominionists, as well as the questionable interpretations that they rely upon. A wealth of credible biblical scholarship is available, and it is time for it to become more widely known. Contextual ethics needs to re-enter the public sphere as well.

No American should be forced to comply with (or participate in) any particular religious ideology, and this is especially the case for one that has such destructive repercussions on American life and liberty, and which seems to represent a fairly hateful infantile sort of God-character. In addition, let’s remember that freedom of religion also implies freedom from religion and its organizations.

I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, and I have seen some of the costs of pseudo-religious authoritarian control in terms of the real human lives it affects.

Jehovah’s Witnesses describe themselves as a theocracy. In their case God lives in Brooklyn, so to speak. God’s power, spirit and guidance are believed to be directed through the members of God’s channel (a group of men known as the Governing Body) and transmitted through the Watchtower magazine and other publications. Their somewhat anonymous leaders and authors claim to be a few of the 144,000 “slave class” who they believe are intended to rule with Christ over the post-apocalyptic paradise earth. Ever “faithful and discreet,” this slave class has created a very lucrative publishing empire with an unpaid sales force – the “great crowd.” The great crowd are second-class citizens, although they do not recognize themselves as such since most of them would rather live in Paradise than in Heaven. Still, they are unworthy of even partaking of the wine and bread at their yearly memorial of the last supper. In addition to their publications, the Watchtower corporations control their followers with circuit overseers, district overseers, local uneducated elders, multiple weekly meetings of repetitive pseudo-bible study, family and congregational peer pressure, and the threat of shunning. Their followers live in expectation of God’s immanent (and loving) slaughter of most of humanity at the hands of the Prince of Peace. Their judgment of society is just as rigid as the dominionists, with many of the same hatreds and prejudices, but their reaction is to separate their people from “worldly influences.” They don’t vote or salute the flag. They don’t fight in worldly wars. They don’t run for office, or join the boy scouts, or celebrate “pagan” holidays like Christmas, or even accept the blood of others to save their children’s lives.

From my perspective, dominionists are something like an example of “When Jehovah’s Witnesses Attack.”

America’s contract with its citizens is to be (or at least try to be?) a land of freedom, with liberty and justice for all. The rise of religion in America is directly associated with the national experiment of religious freedom. Without the separation of religion and the government, and the accompanying protection of religious freedom, religious groups could never have thrived as they do in this country. We have an amazingly diverse religious population, and this is because every American is free to choose the path of his or her own religious journey.

This weekend, many Americans are celebrating the risen Christ – whether with or without the traditional elements of spring fertility signified by the Easter bunny, bright clothing, and the hunt for colorful eggs filled with candy treats. Other Americans are observing the traditions of Passover. Others celebrate something else, or nothing at all.

Whatever your religious tradition or inclination, I would ask you – please – to take a moment or two to reflect upon the nuggets of spiritual insight that you may have collected and found to be valuable and wise. Consider whether any of them involve hatred, domination, or control over others.

It is an insecure (and I think inauthentic) kind of faith that cannot stand on its own merits and inspire others with its goodness. It is pure spiritual arrogance – hubris, really – to believe that anyone has the whole truth about God, or that they must impose it on everyone else. We are human. To target fellow humans simply because they do not subscribe to one fallible interpretation of what God may want of humanity is profoundly anti-religious. To do so at the level of government is anti-American. And to do so under the mantle of a claim of divine authority may be the closest thing I know of to blasphemy.

Is this not a sin against the spirit of love? Does this not take God’s name in vain?

There is no authentic spirituality based on fear and hatred of others or on the endless quest for power.

“There is no disguise that can for long conceal love where it exists or simulate it where it does not.” – Francois de La Rochefoucauld

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you.” – The character of Jedi master Yoda, in Episode I of the Star Wars films

Be sure to check out the other blog posts on the Blog Against Theocracy swarm. The logo was designed by Tengrain of Mock, Paper, Scissors.

A big thank you to Jolly Roger at Reconstitution for the invitation to join in. Thanks for thinking of me (smile).

First Freedom First: Sign the Petition Now!

Recent Posts: