how to be spiritual in the universe

I’m working on a list of discernments that one needs to embrace in order to be spiritual in the universe. I am a Christian, so my idea obviously emerges out of a Christian perspective. But it is inclusive of all walks, including religious, agnostic and atheist.

My concern is that as we are being dragged into a more universal understanding of our religions and spiritualities, the adverse reaction is to particularize, polarize and propagandize.

Here are the first three discernments that we must embrace:

  1. A literalist-historical interpretation of the bible undermines its value. The bible is a sign pointing to a sign. We can understand when children believe that the biblical stories are literal. But at some point these beliefs are inappropriate and even damaging to spiritual health.
  2. Christianity is a manifestation of Truth. If you have read anything of my z theory, you will know that I claim that Christianity is the Timeless revealed in Time. It is the unhistorical substantiated in history. The humble condescension of the All-Powerful to weakness and flesh.
  3. We are the Spirit. The Spirit isn’t “out there” separate from us. It is not only about us or within us or moving us. It IS us. It is the incarnational condescension of the All into the all, manifesting itself in unity and harmony, love and compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, which is in actuality the Spirit. It is really the Spirit. Love in action is the manifestation of the Spirit.

Without these discernments we would remain ghettoized and sink further into self destruction.

This is important to me and I plan to write more.

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About David Hayward

David Hayward runs the blog nakedpastor as a graffiti artist on the walls of religion where he critiques religion… specifically Christianity and the church. He also runs the online community The Lasting Supper where people can help themselves discover, explore and live in spiritual freedom.

  • David Waters

    OMG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Somebody finally sees and feels exactly what I do!!!!!!!!! Praise God and please never assign gender to a spirit!

  • fishon

    A literalist-historical interpretation of the bible undermines its value.
    ——-HOW?
    IT MAY TO YOU BUT NOT TO MILLIONS OF US WHO ARE….

    BUT I AM REALLY INTERESTED IN “HOW” IT UNDERMINES ITS VALUE. GIVE ME SOMETHING CONCRETE.

    We are the Spirit. The Spirit isn’t “out there” separate from us.
    ——-ARE YOU TALKING MAN’S SPIRIT AND THE HOLY SPIRIT?

  • Diana A.

    I don’t necessarily consider a literalist reading of the Bible (or any other holy book) to be a bad thing as long as it doesn’t lead to hurting others. What I would love to see more of when it comes to all beliefs, religious and otherwise, is a little more willingness to cut other people some slack. Bullying someone isn’t going to change someone else’s mind and even if it did, it’s not a good change. Just allow other people the dignity of living their own lives and making their own decisions. If they ask what you think, tell them, but don’t get all mad when they disagree. Mercy and grace will win out over their opposites in the long run. That’s what I believe.

  • http://dcsloan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/reclaiming-scripture/ Doug Sloan

    Many (all?) of the Psalms and various Hymns scattered througout the Bible were written as poetry. This means they were written to be understood metaphorically. To read them literally/historically is wrong, disrespectful, and guaranteed to yield a distorted interpretation.

    All the pre-Abraham stories in Genesis are mythical and metaphorical.

    Since the 2nd century, the Gospel according to John has been known to be metaphorical.

    Not only is Revelation a metaphorical coded message, it was written in the grandiose fantastical style of a Greco-Roman theatrical entertainment.

    The heavy metaphorical nature of John and Revelation contributed greatly to their late inclusion in the biblical canon.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Fishon: an uncompromising or undiscriminating literalist “take” on the bible can be said to generate ongoing confusion over the temporal (historical) and eternal (a-historical) divided aspects of our experience, between what is humanly rational & logical (measurable, count-able) and what is beyond (irrational and illogical(if those terms can be used descriptively, not pejorative)–but can only be represented in physical images. Idolatdry: when the representation blocks what-it-is that’s being represented.
    When the kid asks his Sunday School class: “Can an omnipotent God make a rock too big for Him to lift”–thinking he has logically confounded their beliefs, he is demonstrating this literalist/non-literalist confusion and if he causes enough commotion he is likely to end up a refugee from the whole tradition, wonderfully proud of his atheism and logical positivism. Either that or a wounded victim hungry for understanding.
    But I know we won’t agree here. The ghetto-ization that David would overcome is individual: each of us sealed-in and naturally antagonistic at base (fundament).
    Original Sin (I.E. es, esse: “essence,” “Being”), an ongoing (descriptive) given, the human predicament (we’ll agree on that).

    So..what? (Prescription) That’s where all the fragmentation occurs. And should. An ongoing work of art–us: a sustained if not always sustainging argument. Got to love it. Let no thing you dismay.

  • http://triangulations.wordpress.com Sabio Lantz

    @ David Hayward:

    Having just started reading your stuff, flipping back through z-theory posts helped me catch up on your theology wonderings. That is fun stuff.

    We all fumble with images (recognized or not) that we use to touch our world. Cartoons can get there much better than words at times. But the words are inevitable. Your words are fun to read.

    I think your ‘discernment’ effort is valuable. And I get that they are from your Christian framework — especially as you use them to speak to fellow Christians. Heck, they will even works speaking to other theists. But atheists, agnostics and many Buddhists don’t use images of ‘spirit’, and argue among themselves about what to think of religion as a whole.

    I, personally, belong to the camp that thinks religion can be used well (Naked Pastor a case in point). But I have to reinterpret statements you religious folks make to help me see deeper principles you are pointing to. I call this process “generous translations“. So I made an attempt to generously translate this post so as to better understand it using even *more* universal ideas than your universalist Christian principles.

    Since “being Spiritual” doesn’t work as an image for me, I can imagine rephrasing your title and 3 points as follows:

    How to be Kind in the Universe“:

    1. Realize that fundamentalist, literalist, parochial thinking undermines our society.

    2. Realize we are all fumbling with reality

    3. Realize that what deeply matters is how we relate to each other.

    If people need to call that “spiritual”, fine, but I call it being kindly human. The problem is, this is exactly what the fundamentalists don’t want. And they have already start yelling on this thread. They are probably saying: “My goodness, letting other religions in is bad enough, but atheists? Get serious!”

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Prior to discernment, and generosity (which maybe precedes discernment)might be the basic “given” which is human nature: the deep grammar of what it is to be human–a “one,” individual, unique (describing here) and situated in particular non-replicable places in time and space. Don’t mean to sound cosmic. Improve my terms. Wonder if we can agree on the basic and fundamental character of our human-ness? Historically. Currently. We could google it, cite the scholars: or simply trade experience as to what might be the base, constituting the symptoms we live in, contribute to–and how it is we might Just Get Along, or not seeing how interesting it is, if not difficult, to get on the same page, paragraph, sentence, just on the NP blog and threads. Fundamental: the nature of human nature. I, for one, am antagonistic, protective, resistant, fear & anxiety motivated and more & less deny it and cover it simply to fit in somewhere. Somewhat generous. Somewhat discerning. Fundamentally: a homeland security agent: sealed in & solipsistic. I tell myself acknowledging this is somewhat redemptive but then: what kind of fool am I?

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    sam: why do you feel responsible for keeping things in play on my blog?

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    It’s a presumption, I know, but I try to keep things in play, best I can, wherever they strike me as not-in-play (illudic: illusion, delusion – “out of it”: “not in game”)

    Your blog addresses ultimate issues. I’m drawn to it like a bug to a porch lamp. Me: moving around in great darkness.

    (I confess: it’s also my need for attention, natural born antagonism, yearning, desire, see-me, hear-me, feed-me, touch-me, like-if-not- love/hate-me: fundamental human=nature characteristics that I think need to be factored-in to these xtian, theism, agnostic, atheism discussions:

    You know–the naked truth of getting naked as it were, in manners of speaking: exposing the roots, as you have described it. Got to be playful, it seems to me because otherwise too serious and defense/offensive generating.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    don’t you think it is a little weird to come into someone else’s house to try to improve the service your host is offering?

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    If that’s your metaphor of choice: yes. Rude, really, not just weird. I apologize and appreciate your tolerance all these months (You invited me in, initially, on Facebook. Like a virus,now, I guess you are thinking.)

    But, aside from the your-house metaphor: aren’t you also from the start wanting to set up dialog which you found not available and unappreciative in your former experience in church as pastor?

    I’ve been consistently (if tediously)on task here. Push & Push Back – part of the critical and satirical agenda that you model.

    Isn’t every critical comment your blog inspires an effort to improve the terms? (Not the service: I appreciate the service.)

    Sustained argument, for me, can work toward working-out of differences especially when there is a shared sense that the overall issue is held in common (theist/atheist/agnostic and all the varieties of the religious and un-religious experience?) How to be spiritual or genial in the universe.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    what is more important to me is community. what’s more important to you is antagonism. they are not compatible. you are aggravating and it doesn’t make for friendship.

  • http://dcsloan.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/reclaiming-scripture/ Doug Sloan

    Sam,

    Even more important than questions (and questions are very important) is relationships and your general treatment of people.

    Asking hard questions or pointed questions is much more effective when they arise out of a relationship of trust and affection.

    Work on your relationships first. Let your relationships embrace the questions and not the other way around.

    “I bring you Good News of great Joy!”

    Peace,
    Doug

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    This has no longer anything to do with abuses in what goes in American style fundamentalism. It is simply an attack on the historicity and truth of the Christian message. I have a hard time discerning what all the different versions of metaphorical, metaphysical, mythical, poetic, even incarnation and spiritual… are (are we spirit or spirit incarnated?…) Somehow, it seems to me that unity will not be achieved with those terms, seeing how many interpretations are available now and the bottom line of our selfishness not addressed in any way, shape or form, other than to try to be “nicer”. What we see, however, is a different kind of mud-slinging and those who disagree with some individual’s (any’s) interpretation, will be branded as “unkind”. Simple as that.

    Though we have someone priding himself on his graffiti art over other people’s edifices, and I am not denying him his rights, we also get the image of the defiling of his house. (Ironic? Yes? No?) If you actually kept it to your actual house, (physical, real, historical, literal) it would be a different story. People are supposed to be let themselves be branded and not speak up. Unfair? Yes? No?

    If you are going to deny the content of the historical confession of the Christian church, as you have done repeatedly on this blog, and now on the eve of the day on which the church commemorates the “incarnation of the word”, God with us, Emmanuel, not an insignificant percentage of said church under persecution, hardship and threatening circumstances trying to worship, I would consider it more forthright, if you called yourself something other than “Christian” because that really does imply a historic confession.

    This group can than be know for its extraordinary niceness and inclusiveness. Let its works speak for themselves.

  • fishon

    David, I am serious about my questions.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Doug, I agree. And David–too. I’m an antagonist.

    I was about to claim that antagonism is complementary with Community–but that would be like saying HOT is complementary with Temperature.

    Antagonism is not compatible with Protagonism: they are complementary and their effectiveness depends on their incompatibility.

    Community, (like temperature) is an always emerging dynamic phenomenon: rising up out of the back & forth of opposition. Which is why I like to try and cast IT as PLAY

    I would expect you to take issue with this thesis–and Fishon, too. Sabio, for sure. That’s how community is built. Thesis and antitheis and always the possibility of synthesis.

    Because what’s going on is either the building of a community (a dynamic process) OR the constant block and prevention of community. Either way: there is the same dynamic process
    of opposition and challenge.

    The trust emerges? Builds up. Edification?

    Fishon: I thought I at least gave an example of how an undiluted LITERALISM blocks and obscures the always larger spirit of understanding in the same way an idol does. The concreteness of the literalism occludes the larger–beyond literal–significances. Like a dog watching his master finger and ignoring the partridge in a pear tree which is being indicated.

    Don’t expect you to agree. Building community here maybe? Peace on earth? Only if, like community and temperature it embraces the opposites and opposition that generates it.

  • http://samscoville.blogspot.com/ sam scoville

    Brigitte:

    “Somehow, it seems to me that unity will not be achieved with those terms, seeing how many interpretations are available now and the bottom line of our selfishness not addressed in any way, shape or form, other than to try to be “nicer”.

    What we see, however, is a different kind of mud-slinging and those who disagree with some individual’s (any’s) interpretation, will be branded as “unkind”. Simple as that.

    Fundamental: the bottom line (IE bhudh–bottom, fundament) of our selfishness. Call it original sin or original spin or original self-interest, ego preservation ( I like to call it my homeland insecurity agency)–the more terms for it the better if not always the merrier. Everything else we worry about, shake a stick at, scold in dismay is symptomatic to our fundamental nature. Just agreeing with you here and turning it up.

  • fishon

    sam scoville
    December 24, 2011 | 2:32 pm
    Antagonism is not compatible with Protagonism: they are complementary and their effectiveness depends on their incompatibility.

    Community, (like temperature) is an always emerging dynamic phenomenon: rising up out of the back & forth of opposition. I would expect you to take issue with this thesis–and Fishon, too. Sabio, for sure. That’s how community is built. Thesis and antitheis and always the possibility of synthesis.
    ——-Oh no, I agree.

    Fishon: I thought I at least gave an example of how an undiluted LITERALISM blocks and obscures the always larger spirit of understanding in the same way an idol does. The concreteness of the literalism occludes the larger–beyond literal–significances. Like a dog watching his master finger and ignoring the partridge in a pear tree which is being indicated.
    ——-I hesitate to respond to that as my ignorance will show greatly. But no matter. If your example was the ‘rock to big and the questioner’ it just doesn’t work for me. I guess because the answer seems obvious to me.

    YOU: The concreteness of the literalism occludes the larger–beyond literal–significances.
    —Not necessarily

    Like a dog watching his master finger and ignoring the partridge in a pear tree which is being indicated.
    —–However, there are some dogs that do see the bird.

    And I might also point out–there is a difference between dogs and humans, literally.

    Building a community is never a completed effort. Members come and go; members live and die and are replaced. In a real community [whatever that is] there will always be the rogue, the misguided, the mischevious, the givers and the takers.

    Depending on the leader[s] and how sanitary a community they invision, create, and maintain, well that is the question? David has a vision that this site become a community. And in this community, he is the big dog. He decides and dictates the amount of freedom we can exercise. Kind of like the church and its leaders he so passionately rails against. He gets to dictate, not what I think, but what I say about what I think; again, just like those he rails against. And just like church leaders, there are questions he refuses to give and answer to. At the end of the day, David is just like those who lead church communities that he protests against. The only difference between he and me is the line we place that can not be crossed with consequences. That is community.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    sam: it is wrong to purposefully make yourself an antagonist in a relationship. it is okay to be that on occasion as the need arises naturally and spontaneously. like the other day when someone started following me on twitter. he said that he is going to follow me in order to critique me. that was going to be his role. i didn’t follow him back. who needs that kind of promise? i feel that is arrogant and counter-productive.

    brigette: i believe i am more orthodox than you are and that if you understood what i mean you would agree.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    why did you come back again fishon?

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    I am trying to consider it, NP.

  • Rhonda Sayers

    NP, I would like to vote Sam off the island. I have often wondered why you allowed him to grandstand or hijack your blog. He is often the first commenter and often is out in left field with his remarks. I personally have learned to quickly scroll past him, but am concerned that new readers may think you support him by allowing him to have such a prominent voice.


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