Quote for the Day

Contemplating a loving God strengthens portions of our brain — particularly the frontal lobes and the anterior cingulate — where empathy and reason reside. Contemplating a wrathful God empowers the limbic system, which is ‘filled with aggression and fear.’ It is a sobering concept: The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not.”

— Michael Gerson, quoted by Brian McLaren in A New Kind of Christianity
(original source: The Washington Post)

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  • zoecarnate

    Wow wow WOW. Powerful.

    mewithoutYou has a song singing ‘God is love and love is REAL’ – I’ve been thinking of this lately, re: James & Paul’s similar statements on the ‘royal law of love’ – that love is the reliable pathway over judgement, that these two choices are archetypally present in Genesis in the two Trees. Ancestrally we moved from oceanic consciousness to self-reflexive (egoic) consciousness, choosing to eat the verboten Tree of Knowledge, when we shifted from hunter-gatherer and simple agrarian economies to complex agrarian and early urban life. (This, it is argued by Steve Taylor in The Fall, was itself catalyzed by mass desertification 6,000-10,000 years ago as our ecosystem underwent a massive shift)

    Even so, we don’t have to fatalistically accept this arrangement. By contemplating the God of love, people everywhere – and we Christians, in the face of Jesus – is our ever-present Tree of Life, not returning us to oceanic consciousness per se, but allowing us the best facets of it and self-reflexive consciousness, including but transcending these.

    Brian’s exegesis of I Corinthians in his ‘What Do We Do About The Church’ chapter of A New Kind of Christianity helped me see that this is essentially what Paul is putting before the gathering at Corinth as their option – be puffed up by knowledge that is the hurtful antithesis of love, or surrender to and receive love, which prepares them for the gifts of the Holy Spirit which include true wisdom and knowledge.

    To me, this understanding subverts the age-old tension between more orthodox-inclined Christians, who see the events in Genesis as a tragic fall from innocence, and Gnostic folk (in their overtly-religious as well as secular literary-criticism flavors) who see God as offering humanity a raw deal in the Eden story, with Lucifer and the Tree of Knowledge being the only savvy and sensible route over and against a God who wished to keep humanity in perpetual childhood!

    Perhaps Brian is evoking a via media by framing this as a coming-of-age story, wherein yes, there are tragic consequences to humanity’s ‘dietary’ choice, but that’s not the last word – we continue to grow, and are receptive to the Gospel, which can be framed as ‘Eat now of the Tree of Life,’ that is, contemplate a God of love and cease your endless efforts of moral and religious and political judgement – ‘Cease striving (be still) and know that I am God.’ The point of this lifestyle shift (metanoia, or repentance), is not to be lifelong simpletons drooling before the Throne of Heaven, but to grow up in God’s own way and time, preparing the soil of our lives for Sarayu (the Paraclete in The Shack) to sew genuine, guileless, conciliatory wisdom and knowledge – thus fulfilling Jesus’ exhortation to be wise as serpents but innocent as doves.

    Okay, I’ll quit preaching now…thanks for the inspirational quote!

    (Who’s mewithoutYou? Only some of the greatest living mystics of our day, cleverly disguised as a 30-something post-punk band. :) )

  • zoecarnate

    My second paragraph should read

    “Even so, we don’t have to fatalistically accept this arrangement. By contemplating the God of love, people everywhere – and we Christians, in the face of Jesus – have access to an ever-present Tree of Life…”

  • http://www.virushed.net/vhrandom Heidi

    That was the perfect quotation for me today – thank you. I’ve had a lot of difficulty reconciling some of the fanatical and often hate/fear-based behavior of some self-identified christians with my sense of communion, kindness, and caring.

    This also reminds me of the Dune mantra – “Fear is the mind-killer.”

  • Al Jordan

    What an interesting piece of knowledge. Reminds me of Deuteronomy 30:15: “I have set before you today life and death….”

    Even the chemicals in our brain operate according to a divine intelligence and for a purpose.

  • http://creativeliberty.wordpress.com Liz @ Creative Liberty

    Wonderful quote–a great touchstone. The entire WaPo article about the researcher and his book was very informative.

  • http://viereckschanze.blogspot.com trev

    Powerful. These Emergent Christians are my kind of people.

  • http://acatholicwomansplace.blogspot.com claire

    “The God we choose to love changes us into his image, whether he exists or not.”

    Wow… So, by looking at people’s behavior we might indeed be able to know the image they love…

    I like this one. Thanks.

  • Infinite Warrior

    the image they love

    As our finest iconoclasts never cease to remind us (and Jesus of Nazareth was one of the “finest”, imho), the images human beings tend to create and venerate are invariably aspects of human beings (or being human) which are rather unlovingly projected upon the Ineffable. As I understand it, the process of “unknowing” is designed to shatter such images.

    “Whether he exists or not” is reminiscent of the acerbic and utterly unnecessary “debates” taking place between “militant” atheists and “faithiests” as they are termed in this excerpt from a new novel titled 36 Arguments for the Existence of God. I haven’t read the novel, which was recently reviewed in the NY Times, but if the main character “writes a book that shows ‘how irrelevant the belief in God can be to religious experience’”, I may add it to my wishlist.

    Call me crazy, but I never have an issue in my spiritual life until someone tells me I must (or do) believe this or that or something else about God that I most certainly will not (and/or don’t). Nothing ever comes between me and YHWH otherwise.

    Among the many things I find appealing about Buddhism is the simple fact that there are no images or concepts of God in the Way, though images of the Buddha (or how to become the Buddha when one already is “the Buddha”) often seem to block the Buddhist path. The Taoist philosophy doesn’t seem to have such issues, either, until and unless the veneration of one its teachers gets in the Way.

    Oh, those ubiquitous images! I’m reminded again of Blake’s There is no natural religion.

    He who sees the In-
    -finite in all things
    sees God. He who
    sees the Ratio only
    sees himself only

    I’ve been urged in the past that we are intended to “reflect” God’s image in our lives and to meditate on such “reflections”, but what I prefer about the eternally blossoming lotus symbol is the simple fact that its petals are not “reflective” of each other. They just are.


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