God in Therapy

god in therapy cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

I know this sentiment, being a father myself.


Let’s do something about it!

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  • There’s not much we can do about it. Pride-soaked human beings, bound in sin, will ALWAYS not get along in this world.

    Yes, we will have our good moments and spurts, interrupted by devastating wars.

    What this world needs, and what we need is a Good Savior.

  • Steve: This exactly points out the problem with your tidy theology: “There’s not much we can do about it.” Let’s call it R2-D2 theology.

  • Carol

    David, you are not the only one who longs for harmony.

    This blog post not only says what I think, it says what I feel:


    “Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” –Baruch Spinoza, Philosopher

  • It is our condition, David.

    We are self-obsessed sinners who put ourselves first and foremost.

    We have our moments, as I have said, but if you’re looking to human effort to solve this problem you will be sorely disappointed. Just look back at 7,000 years of recorded history.

    There’s no real hope for us, or this place, outside of our Savior.

    That’s the truth, Ruth.

  • Should we NOT try?

    Of course we should try. But we ought not be little, unrealistic utopians, either.

    Reality may not be all that pretty, but it is real.

  • Gary

    What is real Steve? And how do you know it is real?

  • This is real, Gary:

    (from my pastor’s blog a couple of days ago)

    As a child of the 1960’s I remember well the idealism that characterized much of that time. Words like ‘peace’ and ‘love’ were tossed around as if just saying them would bring them about. I remember tossing them around myself. But it didn’t work.The hollow fellowship of wishful thinking, adolescent impatience and naieve utopiansim broke on the rocks of a sterner and more enduring fellowship – the fellowship of sin.

    The world doesn’t speak like this, of course. It wants to locate the source of human dysfunction in all kinds of explanations that are more amenable to our generous view of ourselves. Sociological, economic, political, psychological, historical, genetic, and other assessments are put in the service of these efforts to identify, explain and address the chronic human tendency to subvert what is good, innocent, righteous and blessed. Some of these efforts to explain ourselves to ourselves can produce positive results. Anything that serves to restrain the worst in us or advance what is good is worthy of our attention and effort.

    At the same time the human being does not ultimately retain the right to let self-assessments be the last word. For we are not a law unto ourselves. The human creature draws its’ life and definition from the Living God. This should be so obvious to us that calling it second nature would be doing it an injustice. The fact that it is not only serves to illustrate in the most dramatic of terms how deeply disconnected we from God and how deeply connected we all are in the fellowship of sin. And given history’s ample witness to this fact, it appears that in spite of all our protests and dreaming we want to keep it this way. Or, at the very least, I want others to change. For they are the problem, not me.

    God has made His assessment of the human condition; “All have sinned and fallen short…”. Under these circumstances, faced with a creature that has stolen its’ existence, what would you or I have done with this tiny planet, so insignificant and fraught with problems? It is hardly a necessity in the vastness of the universe. Who would miss it? One diverted asteroid would make an end of the whole business.

    It is only against the backdrop of the enormity of this human dilemma, our willing bondage in this fractured fellowship, that the gift of God’s grace and mercy in Jesus Christ stands out in high relief. God has met our wilfullness with a will of His own, His determination to have mercy on us, declaring us righteous before Him as gift, for the sake of Christ. And the peace and love that God brings through the Gospel are not empty words. For God gives Himself there in the promises of the Gospel, sealing those promises in the Sacraments. In Jesus Christ God unites His people in an authentic fellowship of peace that passes all reason and a love that plants itself firmly in the heart, just as once it was nailed firmly to a bloody Cross.

  • Gary

    You did not answer my 2nd question. And of course your answer to the first is not really an answer from you at all.

    Again Steve…how do you know it is real?

  • Well Steve, your pastor is to be commended. You two are exactly the same! You share a theology of darkness. Here’s how it works: You work backward from the Lutheran emphasis on justification by faith alone… If God offers grace in Jesus, then we have to make ourselves out to be terrible in order to be potential recipients of it. This is why Luther served a purpose for a time. His theology is aging and no longer holds the authority it used to because people are getting wise to the fact that we don’t have to be miserable worms in order to be loved. We can be glorious and be loved too!

  • Darkness (us)…Jesus said as much about what is in the hearts of man….but light…in Him.

    We are actually ‘realists’.

    I find it quite refreshing to go to a place where I can hear the truth about the way things really are. And where I can hear the truth about what Somebody has done about the problem. And that solution is not about us and what we do. But in spite of what ‘we do’.

  • But Steve, as a friend (for we’ve been together for a long time)… let some light into the human race! Even if you believe in creation, let the light of “It is very good!” shine into your dark perception of people, including me, including you! We are glorious! We are full of wonder and amazement and light! Because we have been made so, and we are making ourselves so! Sure we goof up sometimes in profound ways. But we are not as dark and hopeless as your theology insists. Turn on the light. The switch is right by your own hand!

  • Carol

    Luther’s insight that *sin* is not “man turned down toward the earth rather than up toward heaven” as the Catholic scholasticss taught; but was “man curved in upon himself” was an insight that has been confirmed by contemporary psychology in its teaching on narcissistic egoism. It was a startling insight for Luther’s day. It is also suspected that Luther may have been bi-polar. There is much evidence that he suffered from bouts of deep depression. Unfortunately, Lutheranism fell under the influence of Calvinism, which is much more heretical than Luther, after Luther’s death, especially from the work of Melancthon.

    I am more of an Eastern than a Western Christian. The theology and spirituality is more positive, less rationalistic/legalistic that in the Western Churches.

    All religions, especially an explicitly incarnational religion like Christianity, will not be able to avoid cultural syncretism.

    Individual and collective social temperaments and biases will affect how a religious faith is understood and practiced.

    It has been said that Western people experience life primarily as a problem to be solved, while Eastern people experience life primarily as a gift to be enjoyed. The enjoyment of life, in spite of its many challenges and tragedies, is also an attitude that seems to set indigenous populations in the Second and Third Worlds apart from First World post-Enlightenment/Industrial Age people.

    Perhaps the Eastern Christian Tradition can provide a way to preserve the material blessings of Western technology and scientific insights without losing the intuitive spiritual wisdom gained earlier when Religious Traditions experienced Grace more deeply by their participation in the natural rhythms of life.

    Anthropological Emphasis in Eastern and Western Christianity

    Eastern Church Anthropology: Man as created in the image of God.

    Western Church Anthropology: Man as sinner.

    In Orthodox theology, the two words “image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue* and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.
    –Fr. George Nicozisin


    Spirituality in the Eastern Church is more focused on character formation than on rule-keeping and would probably understand the affect of Grace in terms of making man *virtuous* rather than *righteous*.

    To be redeemed is not merely to be absolved of guilt before God, it is also to live in Christ, to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, to be in Him a new creature, to live in the Spirit. ~Thomas Merton

    The word “Christianity” is already a misunderstanding – in reality there has been only one Christian, and he died on the Cross. –Friedrich Nietzsche

    The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.–Friedrich Nietzsche

    We argue that Nietzsche is embracing an ancient rather than a modern view of ethics, what has been called an “ethics of virtue” rather than an ethics of rules and principles, rather than an ethic that looks mainly to the spread of well-being and happiness (“utilitarianism”).—Professor Robert Solomon, The University of Texas at Austin

  • Gary

    Steve you still have not answered my simple question. I think it is a very important question because you keep claiming “truth” and “reality”. Therefore you must have some basis for believing that among this collection of people here on David’s blog, YOU are the one who knows truth and reality. You believe that YOUR understanding is “real” whereas ours is some sort of illusion/delusion.

    So I ask you my simple question again.

    How do you know it is real?

  • Carol

    Gary, you don’t really expect to get an answer, do you?

    “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” –Susan B. Anthony

  • Gary

    Of course I do Carol. Steve claims truth and reality. There must be some standard of belief which tells him that he alone among us can perceive this truth. I simply want to know what that standard is for him.

  • Richard

    It is not difficult for me to see that the universe is out of wack and so are all of us. Neither is it difficult for me to see that we can be salt and light in this world. What is difficult to comprehend is a God who created all of this and all of us and LOVED us enough to come here from out there and die for us here, then go back there and will come back here and straighten it all out.

  • Carol

    My guess, and it is only a guess, is that Steve has found a Church whose answers satisfy his existential questions.

    I suppose that has more to do with personality and temperament than with trust/faith in God.

    My daughter says that she “believes in God; but she doesn’t believe in the Church.” She has chosen to be “unchurched.”

    I agree with her “belief”; but I have a eucharistic spirituality; so I continue to attend and participate in the parish life(but not formally join)a local church.

    I do not seek a “church I can believe in.” That seems to me to be ecclesiolatry. Just like “believing in the Bible” seems to me to be bibliolatry. Means of grace should not become objects of faith and worship, IMO.

    I suppose what I would like to stumble upon is a Church within which I can believe. Everyone’s spiritual pilgrimage will be unique even though the we all seek the same destination. “There are many roads to Rome” or Jerusalem or Mecca or . . . .

  • Gary

    That’s fine Carol and I appreciate your reflection of your journey. But Steve is the one here claiming his view represents “truth”, and even more boldly, “reality”. Such a profound declaration should be able to withstand my simple question. Otherwise in the vacuum of his silence a tremendous lack of substance is revealed.

    So I ask it again.

    Steve, how do you know it is real?

  • Carol

    Gary, some of us can live with uncertainty and remain relatively functional. I love the questions more than the answers. Every time I get an answer, it just seems to raise more questions, which delights rather than frustrates and frightens me.

    I really prefer focus on the affects of other peoples’ beliefs rather than the sources. I guess that makes me more of a pragmatic visionary than a romantic idealist; but idealism seems to be the curse of a lot of religious fundamentalists and political ideologues.

    Me, I’m more comfortable with Wabi Sabi, a spirituality of imperfection.

    Takes all kinds. Unless someone is actually being abused, I try not to raise questions that push buttons.

    You and I both know that absolute certainty (modernist epistemology) and radical scepticism (post-modernist epistemology) are both extreme polar opposites. We can only rationally know anything meaningful with lesser or greater degrees of probability (post-post modernist epistemology).

    Steve and Sabio are examples of the two epistemological extremes and neither is going to change the way they view the world or think about life for God only knows what ever the reasons.

    The modernist age, of “one way, one truth, one city”, is dead and gone.
    The postmodernist age of “anything goes” is on the way out.
    Reason can take us a long way, but it has limits.
    Let us embrace post-postmodernism—and pray for a better name.
    ~Tom Turner, City as landscape: a post-postmodern view of design and planning

  • Gary

    I believe I am focusing on the effects of his belief Carol. The nature of his belief (his view alone is truth and reality) is that he is unable to engage in any type of critical thinking. Sabio is not as extreme as you think him to be. Though he and I have had some significant wars of words in the past, when I have had a real beef with him it has had much more to do with style than substance. He and I certainly have views that are not compatible. Yet I think we both would agree (in principle at least) with your statement that “We can only rationally know anything meaningful with lesser or greater degrees of probability”.

    So my question for Steve, my challenge if you will, is precisely due to the affect his beliefs have on him. Declarations of absolute truth that do not allow for the genuine questions of seekers only impede our progress towards understanding.

  • Gary

    So…How about it Steve?

    How do you know it is real?

  • Going back to the cartoon, I don’t think He is all that upset. Jesus said we are the salt, the leaven. The salt is not the meal, and the leaven is not the bread. It seems that He never realy expected the majority to really follow Him. Just a small group of radicaly transfigured men an women, a critcal mass of humanity that will save the world one generation at a time. (No I don’t think every one else is damned.) One more thing, When God ceated humanity He said we were good! The doctrine of Original Sin was meant to take away our guilt by saying it’s not your fault.

  • Carol

    Well, I’m surprised that the three of us, Sabio, you and I, share a common epistemological perspective. It’s probably the only perspective I share with Sabio since he seems completely intolerant of any sort of theistic belief.

    I guess you feel called to mix it up with Steve for the same reason I sometimes respond to Sabio. Steve is intolerant of any form of agnostic or atheistic belief.

    It’s not the belief or the lack of belief that is so distressing; it’s the intolerance of the “otherness” of others and lack of respect for their boundaries in matters of faith/belief or faith/unbelief. The existence of God can be neither proven nor disproven; so both belief and unbelief are positions of faith in one’s own presuppositions.

    There is a story of two prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp who were forced to watch the execution of a young prisoner for a minor infraction of the rules.
    The atheist prisoner turned to the believing prisoner and hissed, “Where is your God now?”
    The believer replied, “He is hanging on that gibbet!”

    Even as a believer I have no problem with empathizing with both prisoners. Both reactions make tragic sense to me.

  • Gary

    “The doctrine of Original Sin was meant to take away our guilt by saying it’s not your fault.”

    That is a very interesting (and refreshing I might add) perspective on that troubling doctrine. I am eager to reflect on the implications of this statement.

  • Carol

    It sounds like Prayer Punk might hold to the Eastern Church’s view on Original Sin:

    Roman Catholic and Orthodox differences on Original Sin
    9 February 2010 · by Fr. Ernesto Obregon 15 Comments
    In a couple of the last posts there has been an ongoing discussion of the differences in the concept of Original Sin between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. So, let me put a couple of citations from the Wikipedia that may help people to see the differences. Why from the Wikipedia? Well, because they are better at summarizing than theologians. I am aware that any summary always is insufficient, but sometimes we need summaries rather than details.
    Roman Catholic summary
    Augustine believed that the only definitive destinations of souls are heaven and hell. He concluded that unbaptized infants go to hell as a consequence of original sin. The Latin Church Fathers who followed Augustine adopted his position, which became a point of reference for Latin theologians in the Middle Ages. In the later mediaeval period, some theologians continued to hold Augustine’s view, others held that unbaptized infants suffered no pain at all: unaware of being deprived of the beatific vision, they enjoyed a state of natural, not supernatural happiness. Starting around 1300, unbaptized infants were often said to inhabit the “limbo of infants”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1261 declares: “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’ allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.” But the theory of Limbo, while it “never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium … remains … a possible theological hypothesis”.
    Augustine’s formulation of original sin was popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin . . .
    Eastern Orthodox summary
    In Eastern Orthodoxy, God created man perfect with free will and gave man a direction to follow. Man (Adam) and Woman (Eve) chose rather to disobey God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thus changing the “perfect” mode of existence of man to the “flawed” mode of existence of man. This flawed nature and all that has come from it is a result of that “original sin”. All humanity shares in the sin of Adam because like him, they are human. The union of humanity with divinity in Jesus Christ restored, in the Person of Christ, the mode of existence of humanity, so that those who are incorporated in him may participate in this mode of existence, be saved from sin and death, and be united to God in deification. Original sin is cleansed in humans through baptism or, in the case of the Theotokos, the moment Christ took form within her.
    This view differs from the Roman Catholic (Augustinian) doctrine of Original Sin in that man is not seen as inherently guilty of the sin of Adam. According to the Orthodox, humanity inherited the consequences of that sin, not the guilt. The difference stems from Augustine’s interpretation of a Latin translation of Romans 5:12 to mean that through Adam all men sinned, whereas the Orthodox reading in Greek interpret it as meaning that all of humanity sins as part of the inheritance of flawed nature from Adam. The Orthodox Church does not teach that all are born deserving to go to hell, and Protestant doctrines such as Predeterminism that derive from the Augustinian understanding of original sin are not a part of Orthodox belief.

  • Kris

    I like this cartoon a lot. Even within Christianity, we cannot get along. We claim one truth and those who do not claim it are not real Christians. We try to push for laws that reflect one narrow view instead of creating a society that provides all with the right to live our life.

    I can only imagine what God thinks when he sees how we are so split.

  • I will speak for myself. Just so we are clear, I am a Franciscan in the Roman Catholic Church. Without all the history and theology behind it, what the doctrine of original sin is basically saying is that because Adam and Eve were broke the rules, we all have the tendency to sin. So that part of you that keeps “doing what you hate,” as St. Paul put it, isn’t your fault. I’ve written more on it here: http://prayerpunk.com/2012/08/28/original-sin/

  • Helen

    Loving how today’s piccy pushed all the debate buttons – I like to hear these theological and philosoophical tangles (to a point). Frank Schaeffer has spoken of the eastern orthodoxy also, very interesting. Big yes to this, “we don’t have to be miserable worms in order to be loved”. We are made in God’s image !

  • Carol

    I was introduced to Franciscan spirituality by a Redemptorist priest. The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer is also a contemplative Order founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Franciscan spirituality is pretty much the baseline for all of the Western contemplative Orders, IMO. Fr. Richard Rohr is to contemporary Contemplatives what Thomas Merton was to my generation–I am 70 years old.

    More on Eastern Christian anthropology:

    All religions, especially an explicitly incarnational religion like Christianity, will not be able to avoid cultural syncretism.

    Individual and collective social temperaments and biases will affect how a religious faith is understood and practiced.

    It has been said that Western people experience life primarily as a problem to be solved, while Eastern people experience life primarily as a gift to be enjoyed. The enjoyment of life, in spite of its many challenges and tragedies, is also an attitude that seems to set indigenous populations in the Second and Third Worlds apart from First World post-Enlightenment/Industrial Age people.

    Perhaps the Eastern Christian Tradition can provide a way to preserve the material blessings of Western technology and scientific insights without losing the intuitive spiritual wisdom gained earlier when Religious Traditions experienced Grace more deeply by their participation in the natural rhythms of life.

    Anthropological Emphasis in Eastern and Western Christianity

    Eastern Church Anthropology: Man as created in the image of God.

    Western Church Anthropology: Man as sinner.

    In Orthodox theology, the two words “image” and “likeness” are not used interchangeably as they are for Roman Catholics and Protestants. For Orthodox Christians, “image” denotes the powers and faculties with which every human being is endowed by God from the first moment of his existence. “Likeness” is the assimilation, the growth process to God through virtue* and grace. We call this growth process “theosis.” For Western theology, man was created perfect in the absolute sense and therefore, when he fell, he fell completely away from God. For Orthodox theology, man was created perfect in the potential sense.
    –Fr. George Nicozisin

    Spirituality in the Eastern Church is more focused on character formation than on rule-keeping and would probably understand the affect of Grace in terms of making man *virtuous* rather than *righteous*.

    To be redeemed is not merely to be absolved of guilt before God, it is also to live in Christ, to be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, to be in Him a new creature, to live in the Spirit. ~Thomas Merton

    The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.–Friedrich Nietzsche

    We argue that Nietzsche is embracing an ancient rather than a modern view of ethics, what has been called an “ethics of virtue” rather than an ethics of rules and principles, rather than an ethic that looks mainly to the spread of well-being and happiness (“utilitarianism”).—Professor Robert Solomon, The University of Texas at Austin


  • “The boldness is needed. It has never been easy to be a proclaimer. If the Word is rightly proclaimed, then it will also awaken offense. All men have made for themselves some picture of god. There is also a revelation outside the word, in nature and conscience. It is fragmentary and unclear, but it gives to man a diffuse belief in a god and a common morality. When the gospel is proclaimed, saying that this does not count, men often become indignant. With complete naivete they answer that that part of the revelation that they have encountered up till now is self-evident and reasonable, but the revelation in Christ that now touches them is narrow-minded and uncertain.
    The pastor could adapt himself to preaching just that what he knows is now current religious truth. Such a proclamation will not awaken any opposition, but neither does it awaken anyone from spiritual slumber. It neither exposes nor comforts. It is neither hot nor cold. It is not God’s Word, and so it does not create faith.” (p. 19,20) — “Then Fell the Fire”, by Bo Giertz, just translated by Bror Erickson (Magdeburg Press)

    The word may fall out of favor. People may wish to be neither confronted nor comforted in a substantial way, but it does not change what it is Real, Gary.

  • Carol

    Brigitte, it has been my experience that the message of the Cross is as much an “offense” in the ecclesiastical sub-culture than it is in the secular world; perhaps even more with the Church encouraging the egoistic tendencies of dogmatic absolutism, self-righteous judgmenalism and sectarian triumphalism. In the world “sex sells.” In the Church narcissism sells.

    Christian fundamentalism: the doctrine that there is an absolutely powerful, infinitely knowledgeable, universe spanning entity that is deeply and personally concerned about my sex life. ~Andrew Lias

    There are three religious truths: 1) Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah. 2) Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith. 3) Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or at Hooters. ~Author Unknown

  • Gary

    OK Brigitte you claim to know what is real. How do you know? Why are you so certain your particular flavor of faith is the “real” one?

  • @ Gary. That question you ask… to me… is a rather easy one. I believe merely and simply from a unexplainable, mysterious, magnificent, totally life changing in heart, spirit, and mind spiritual experience as it is called. That is my truth, my Damascus Road experience, turning this once atheist into a sound believer in something called God, or higher power.

    It wasn’t from being a good guy, anything I was doing, from being a saint, pretending to be, from no prayer or want from… me. Totally came from left field out of the blue. An absolutely beautiful, indescribable thing until I went out into society and into the new realm of the religious, the ‘spiritual’ and the anti-religious did it become dreadfully difficult and negative in countless ways.

    I was by myself. No sort of church-like or emotional antagonism or psychological ploys or from cultism. It wasn’t from any so-called ‘gifted’ evangelist. It just was. It could have been written about by William James in his book about spiritual and religious experiences or by Carl Jung. And of course the many questions and eons old mysteries will remain. So so human claiming, some preacher claiming, that they hold all truth or absolute truth is funny to me. Especially as we look around and notice all the various beliefs and of course… each and all wanting to dictate truth to all others, or demanding we all live according to their expectations. I also have my own expectations and beliefs that rub others the wrong way but I don’t demand or expect others to do as I say. I also on the flip-side don’t want to play according to others rules and demand either, like by political correctness, dismissing some real facts and truth, or being told by what I call liberal fascist and others how I should think, live, eat, read, or believe.

    @ David. I love reading all the various mind-sets and beliefs out here. However, I once read about you and your history claiming to have had what some call a “baptism in spirit or the Holy Ghost” previously. Was that real or not. Brought on by a collective of church going caught up in the moment emotionalism or something? Or do you now denounce such a thing? Got me somewhat confused here.

    I have seen plenty of people who have claimed to have had such an event but I seen no real change in them or their actions or heart. Very unlike my own experience and what I was like … and like now.

    I have seen people who claimed to be ‘in the spirit’ or talking through spirit and was the most self-serving and hateful people on Earth. And very demanding. Again, no real change in their lives and remained very materialistic and self-absorbed, and self-promoting claiming to – hold all truth and answers. Hell, I can’t say that and I had the real thing. Not even close. And I do have to fight myself to do what “God” through those living waters spoke to me to do. Like “love another.” Tough one man, hard to do especially with some people and special interest groups. Or those wanting to rule the world.

    So David? What do ya think?

    Deep subject folks.

    I really do enjoy you all.

  • Gary

    Assuming that there is a God,

    Assuming that of all the religions of the world Christianity is the only true religion,

    Assuming that within Christianity, Protestants are the true followers,

    Assuming that among protestants Lutheranism is the true doctrine, (Not Calvinism or Arminianism)

    Assuming that among Lutheranism, only Confessional Lutherans following the 1580 Book of Concord are true followers,

    Assuming that among Confessional Lutherans only men are fit for ordination,

    …Then the words of Bo Giertz would indeed carry great value.

    However, for anyone not subscribing to each and every one of those conditions, they are simply the ramblings of a fundamentalist attempting to prop up his particular version of “reality”.

    So again I ask you Brigitte (and Steve)…

    How do you know it is real?

  • Gary

    I should tell you as you probably don’t know from my present line of questioning, that I am a believer and a follower of Christ. I appreciate your story, and especially your understanding that your beliefs are yours and you have your own set of very personal reasons for them.

    The reason for my present line of questioning with Steve and Brigitte is due their repeated claims of “truth” and “reality” being in alignment with their particular brand of beliefs. In fact I have personally come to reject the notion of a vengeful god who will torture the majority of humanity for all eternity. I have a host of reasons for this belief that draw upon scripture, enlightenment, reasoning, church history, and I believe by my own internal moral compass given to me by my creator.

    But these are my reasons. They represent my personal experiences and my journey. I do not and will not claim that what I believe is “truth” or “reality” and what others believe is not. I know this type of thinking is very dangerous to the cause of fundamentalism no matter what belief system it is in. But the fact remains no claim of absolute authority for one’s beliefs can stand up to scrutiny.

  • Read the entire sermon on the mount, Gary. Does it not tell you what is real about yourself and others?

  • Gary

    Come on Brigitte…that is a complete cop out.

    For the record…I have the “entire sermon on the mount” committed to memory.

  • Oh cool, this is still going on! This is the best conversation I have found in awhile.
    No human can be sure what the absolute truth is. Like God told Job, we weren’t there, and He is bigger than our little minds can grasp. People who claim to know it all scare me. The pride involved with that sort of certainty is scary. It is possible that their belief system is more more important to them than their actual relationship. It gives them a sense of belonging.
    Faith is not knowing. Faith is walking through the darkness following only the tiny whispering voice of God in your heart, never being sure of where it is leading you.

  • Gary, thank you for the clarification. Then we are much the same spirit/belief. I did not meet a vengeful God or a being that would send people to a hell for eternity or to be tortured for an eternity. Probably not even those who I think really deserve it and irks me to think that someone evil or mean kind of .. got by with it.

    With what I have been through I think hell is here in the material world. lol
    And so funny.. where evil, corruption, and horrors run rampant.

    My journey has left me to be somewhat of the hermit and after years comfortable in my own skin/spirit, and somewhat content being free from ridicule, hate, judgements, and the many negatives I have encountered. Especially from so-called believers and the many kinds of ministers of the many faiths I’ve run with or encountered. I don’t have to put myself through ‘hell’ to fit in or try to be accepted by others. Even though after many friends, most family, and other close acquaintances have passed on. Actually being near totally alone continually to near constantly can really suck at times. I gave up trying to meet and make new..real friends…in this crazy society full of facade, shallowness, and users. So here I sit waiting for God’s next move with me. I know I won’t find it in a church or surrounded by sheep, the brain-washed, and narcissist.

    Then normally I’m teased or asked when someone next to me dies, ‘bring them back to life or heal them if you met God.” I think they watch too much Hollywood. Well, what was given me was not a healing touch. I went through some healing and renewal though. Was shown things, told things. But never given answers to the mysteries of life, nor was I given absolute truths and etc. for all. Wish I was given some kind of special power like to fly (lol) or heal the world, diseases, and people, cause I prayed over my fiance, girl friends, many friends, family, those I volunteer to help with, and hundreds of others and they all still passed on. Offered myself up on many occasions to please take their place. Nope, didn’t work. Of course leaving me bewildered cause I thought I would be the first to die off being the wild child, or believed that we all would live to a ripe old age together. We never know whats in the cards or how they are played.

    You all take care and hope you are having a nice day.

  • PrayerPunk, true. Our small minds are not his mind. Not even close.

    There are moments I long for the times of the past where I enjoyed the ‘bliss of ignorance.’ That includes the times of non-belief cause life was more simple and there was no intense desires to ‘seek,” learn, or try to find some kind of secret knowledge others have over-looked or dismissed.

    I think, there is absolutely no way for the human mind with it’s present capacities to even scratch the surface of what we call the mind of God, or the mysteries that surrounds any part of the subject. Modern man destroying information from the ancients down through the ages, and from other cultures sure don’t help matters.

  • Carol

    There has definitely been a *shift* in consciousness. Many people have regained that “sense of mystery” without which our reason becomes disordered, simplistic.

    To my way of thinking Einstein is a great saint even though he was not even a practicing Jew.

    “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery — even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man… I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvelous structure of existence — as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny
    portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.” — Albert Einstein (The World as I See It)

    The scientist is activated by a wonder and awe before the mysterious comprehensibility of the universe which is yet finally beyond his grasp. In its profoundest depths it is inaccessible to man. ~Albert Einstein

    ‘The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.’ –A. Einstein

    Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. –Albert Einstein, “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium”, 1941

    We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
    — Albert Einstein

    The most important human endeavor is striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depends on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to our lives. — Albert Einstein

    A human being is a part of the whole, called by us Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest–a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.~Albert Einstein

    The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives. — Albert Einstein

    “All religious reality begins with what the Biblical religion calls the “Fear of God.” It comes when our existence between birth and death becomes incomprehensible and uncanny, when all security is shattered through the mystery. This is not the relative mystery of that which is inaccessible only to the present state of human knowledge and is hence in principle discoverable. It is the essential mystery, the inscrutableness of which belongs to its very nature; it is the unknowable. Through this dark gate (which is only a gate and not, as some theologians assert, a dwelling) the believing man steps forth into the everyday which is henceforth hallowed as the place in which he has to live with the mystery.” — Martin Buber (Eclipse of God)

    ‘[The world] has reached a major watershed in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will demand from us a spiritual effort; we shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life, where our physical nature will not be cursed, as in the Middle Ages, but even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon, as in the Modern Era.’ –Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ‘A World Split Apart

    The spiritual challenge of our time is to realize our sacred humanness,
    that there need not be a conflict between the natural and the supernatural,
    between the finite and the infinite, between time and eternity,
    between practicality and mysticism, between social justice and contemplation,
    between sexuality and spirituality, between our human fulfillment and our spiritual realization, between what is most human and what is most sacred.–Kabir Helminski, The Knowing Heart: A Sufi Path of Transformation

    There is a theology to gardening that few of us consider, but to understand this theology means relinquishing much control – our arsenal of books, techniques, tools, chemicals, fertilizers, fancy hybrids, and expectations. Yet, that is exactly what we must do if we are to fully embrace a more spiritual form of gardening. As a part of Nature we must learn to enter our garden as if it were truly sacred, we must learn to enter with humility. – Christopher and Tricia McDowell, The Sanctuary Garden, 1998, p. 17

    “I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We’re here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don’t have time to carry grudges; you don’t have time to cling to the need to be right. — Anne Lamott in a recent interview. (Source: The Washington Times)”

  • Carol

    Tell, my maternal grandmother was a nurse and my mother cared for my father’s mother in our home when she was dying from cancer. I guess I have always lived with a consciousness of my own mortality. Even before coming to faith, it was that consciousness that shaped many of my priorities and moral choices in life.

    Dying makes us vulnerable, not weak; but our strengths and weaknesses are exposed by how we cope with the ultimate loss control over our temporal fate. I have done hospice and, it has been my experience to see that those who have lived well, not selfishly by pursuing their own self-interests or indulging their desires at the expense of others, seem to die well.

    I cannot understand how so many of my generation, people in their 70’s, have still not begun to wrestle with the reality of their own temporal mortality, still focused on the acquisition of materian goods and social status based on wealth and accomplishments that set them above others with “lesser” talents.

    I interpret the Genesis story of our exile from the Garden where there was access to the Tree of Life (temporal immortality) not as punishment; but as placing a limit on temporal existence to keep us focused on Eternal values. That strategy doesn’t have much affect on our death-denying culture. It’s more than a little ironic that the more we deny death, the less we appreciate life and become a culture of death.

    “After the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box.” –Italian Proverb

  • Carol

    I received this message in my email this morning and thought it might be of interest to some subscribers to this blog:

    Happy Eid Al Ahda– congratulations to all our Muslim members and to all our Muslim sisters and brothers around the world!

    Eid Al Ahda, which takes place at the end of the Hajj (the annual pilgramage to Mecca to which every Muslim is required to participate at least once in his/her lifetime, and which this year brought over six million Muslims to Mecca) is commemorated by Muslims around the world, in part to commemorate the event in which Abraham, to prove his faith in God, brought his son to be sacrificed.

    The Koran’s version of the story differs from the Torah’s version in several different aspects, one of which is that the Koran has Abraham bring Ishmael to the sacrifice whereas the Torah has Abraham bring Isaac. Some variants of Christian theology see the crucifixion as an even more intense verion of these two stories, because in it God brings His only son to be sacrificed, and whereas the Jewish and Muslim version have God stopping the sacrifice at the last moment, in the Christian version God lets Jesus be sacrificed.

    In my book Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation, I point out that in the original Hebrew version the word for “the Lord” that calls Abraham to sacrifice his son is very different than the word for the angel of God (YHVH) who tells Abraham to NOT GO THROUGH WITH IT, and that the reason we Jews celebrate Abraham as the father of our people is NOT because of his faith in being willing to carry out this violent and bloody act, but rather because he was able to hear the voice of God as a voice that allowed him (and through him all subsequent Jewish and Muslim believers) to NOT FOLLOW THE VOICE OF CRUETLY AS SOMEHOW THE VOICE OF GOD.

    This then leaves open an important question to Christian theologians: is it really the God that they believe in who voluntarily sacrificed his only son in order to bring salvation to the world? What kind of a cruel God would require such a sacrifice? That, at least, is the jumping off point for a very intense questioning of the role of the Cross in Christianity that takes place in the Fall issue of Tikkun magazine, which should be received at your home this week if you are a suscriber (and if not, you could subscribe now on line at http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/purchase-or-renew-a-subscription-to-tikkun). You could then read the whole debate about whether the Cross is really the best way to convey the liberation and love consciousness that many Christians today wish to see as central to their religious beliefs (read the debate–its fascinating).

    But of course this same objection could be put to Jews and Muslims. Jews read this passage on Rosh Hashanah, Muslims on Eid Al Ahda–and some in both communities wonder whether it isn’t time to become more modern and avoid this discussion of child sacrifice. Some anti-religious voices point to this as proof of the cruelty that once existed and which only at the last moment God allowed to be overcome.

    But before allowing the anti-religious to get on their high horse, we might point out that war, the greatest contemporary living embodiment of the way that parental generation sends their children to be sacrificed, along with pious statements about how sad it is for them to put their children “in harm’s way,” has been a central vehicle for contemporary a-religious, atheistic, and also pro-religious societies to unite in their unconscious desire to act out violence against their children, often on the flimsiest of all possible excuses (what were we doing in Vietnam or Iraq, really?) In fact, we might see Eid Al Ahda and Rosh Hashanah as far more advanced than the rest of the world precisely because these holidays call to consciousness this repressed but real tendency to pass on the pain that was done to us onto our children, and to remind us that the great spiritual leader Abraham was able to NOT DO IT, thereby giving us the message that we too need not sacrifice our children either actually by supporting the war machine or symbolically by passing onto them various other forms of hurt, oppression and cruelty.


    Sincerely, Rabbi Michael Lerner RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com

  • Carol

    A more reflective reading of the Gospels makes it very clear that it was not the Father God who demanded the death of Jesus; but the Religious and Political elites whose power was being challenged by the Gospel message that Jesus was preaching to the common people.

    “Plato told Aristotle no one should make more than five times the pay of the lowest member of society. J.P. Morgan said 20 times.  Jesus advocated a negative differential – that’s why they killed him.” ~Graef Crystal, former executive pay consultant, 1998

    This is a theological/biblical paper comparing Anselm’s legalistic Satisfation Theory of the Atonement to an older Patristic Christus Victor Theory of the Atonement. I have posted the Introduction with the link:

    Penal Substitution vs. Christus Victor


    Understanding the Cross from the perspective of grace rather than legalism


    As a Christian I had always understood the cross on a heart level – I understood deep down in my guts that the cross screamed out how much God loved me. It was something beautiful that spoke of how valued I was in the eyes of God as expressed in the simple and profound statement “Jesus died for me”. Moreover, I experienced in the depths of who I am the power of the cross working in my life – the love of God opened up to me, bringing life into the dark and broken places. Yet while I knew this saving power and reality of the cross as an experiential reality in my life, at the same time I didn’t understand in my head how it worked. I was unable to communicate to others the radical love that I saw and experienced there at the foot of the cross, and found myself dissatisfied with the legalistic explanations I heard. Why did God need the cross to save us? How does it make anything better? These were the questions I asked myself.

    For many with a hurtful understanding of Christianity this is vitally important. For them the cross is something terrible. It shows them a cruel God who accuses and condemns us for something we cannot help and then murders his own son to appease this bloodlust. They do not see love in the cross; they see something cruel, they see a God who frightens them. How can they open their hearts to the one who is Life, who is Love, with this hurtful and false image of God blocking them? Understanding how the cross shows us the radical love of God is crucial here because it affects how we can trust and open our lives to God’s love. In this paper I would like to communicate what I see in the cross, so we can come to a fuller deeper understanding of its beauty and radicality. So those with a hurtful understanding of the cross can replace it with a life-giving understanding, and as we understand better with our heads, we can worship God better in our lives.

    Why did God need the cross to save us? How does it make anything better? These were the questions I asked myself.
    This hurtful image of God is largely based on a way of understanding the cross that is known as “Vicarious Atonement”, “Penal Substitution”, or “Satisfaction-Doctrine”. Satisfaction-Doctrine is the most wide spread view of the cross. In fact it is so common that many people think this is the only view of the cross, or that this is simply “what the Bible teaches”. Indeed, one can find passages that seem to support this view. One finds the words “atonement” or “sacrifice” and assumes that they are to be understood in the context of the Satisfaction-Doctrine. Instinctively we take this view we have been taught and project it onto the biblical passages rather then letting Scripture speak for itself in its own context. I would like to show this is simply not “what the Bible teaches” but is far more something rooted in man-made doctrines heavily influenced by western Medieval philosophy. There are better ways to understand the cross that fit with who we know Jesus to be in the inward experience of our relationship with God and with the witness of Scripture. So in Part One we will be looking at Satisfaction-Doctrine and what is wrong with it. In Part Two we will take an in-depth look at the biblical concepts of the temple, sacrifice and the law in order to understand them in their biblical context. Finally in
    Part Three we will explore some alternate ways to understand the cross, endeavoring to recover the radical life-giving witness of the early church and scriptures.

    A note on the Scriptural references: Because this paper deals with our understanding of Scripture and challenges the traditionally held position and doctrines, I have made an effort to give biblical references where appropriate. This is not done as a “proof text” but rather to allow the reader to investigate further on their own. Each reference unless explicitly quoted contains a link to the full text. In my experience the people who most benefit from this are people with a negative experience of Christianity who find the message of grace attractive, but claim that seeing God from a perspective of grace is “not biblical”. So these references are there to encourage the reader to challenge what they have been taught and to investigate on their own what Scripture really does say.

  • Gary

    So how about it Brigitte or Steve. How do you know your brand of faith is the real one?

  • Carol

    Gary, beliefs based on faith are intuitively apprehended before they are intellectually comprehended. Faith, which is trust in God without reservation not belief without proof, then seeks understanding (which is quite different from proof) through theological inquiry. St. Anselm formally defined theology as “faith seeking understanding”. Theology is not infallible religious dogma. Unfortunately, in the Western Church, after the substitution of “right beliefs” for “works” or “fruits of the Spirit” as the sign of authentic faith by in classical Protestantism and the Enlightenment’s emphasis on a reductionistic understanding of reason based solely on empirical logic, faith became confused with orthodox theological beliefs.

    The mature believer does not base his or her faith on a theological belief system; but on the experience of a transformed life that has resulted from taking a leap of trust/faith in God. The prototype for Old Testament faith is Job, who declared from the depths of the pain from utter loss, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” The prototype of the New Testament believer is Mary who did not understand how she could be the Mother of the promised Messiah while still a Virgin, exclaimed, “Be it unto me according to Your will.” Of course, in her culture, Mary, too, knew that death was a real possibility should she become pregnant without having lain with Joseph. We have seen the tribal practice of honor killing of females suspected of sexual transgression in modern tribal societies, even when they have been the victims of rape. That is because the atoning for the male shame of not being able to protect a female socially under his care takes precedence over seeking justice for the victim. We see the same mentality in the tendency to blame the female rape victim in our own “advanced” society, where dressing provocatively justifies rape.
    But I digress, the point is that biblical faith=trust; not theological infallibility.
    Faith deepens as we step out of our theological comfort zones and experience the transformative Presence of Grace in our lives. Sometimes there is a great price to pay for acting out of empathy and love for others. The mature believer knows that the Gospel promises an Eternal deliverance from the pain and grief of living in a less-than-perfect world. Temporal deliverances are a sometimes thing. The Book of Job, Jesus’ teaching that the Tower of Siloam did not fall on people because they were worse sinners than others and the text of Hebrews 11, great faith chapter, makes that quite explicit. Faith may be free; but it is not cheap. If accepted, it will, over time cost the believer everything that the narcissitic ego, called the Old Adam by St. Paul or the false self by many contemporary spiritual teachers today. Christianity in America has become a civil religion. God, Church and Country have replaced the Trinitarian Mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the civic virtues of the Protestant work ethic have been substituted for the theological virtues of faith, hope and love. The theology of the Cross has been replaced by the health-and-wealth Prosperity Gospel.

    Those who do test their faith in the crucible of human experience do become certain that the witness of the Scriptures, rightly interpreted, is true and the God that Jesus proclaims as Loving Father, not the Cosmic Bully proclaimed by the Pharisees, is the True God.

    There is no way to become convinced of that without taking a leap of faith; knowing that, yes, there may be dire temporal consequences. The Cross of Christ certainly makes that explicitly clear. Tragic natural disasters, the consequences of human preditory selfishness and injustice will be experienced by both believers and unbelievers; but whether those experiences make us bitter and cynical or empathetic and compassionate will depend a lot on whether the inevitable suffering that comes to all will depend a lot on whether we believe our flawed existence to be essentially good, though disordered or essentially evil in spite of its few “good” moments. Temperament plays a role in how we interpret our faith experience. The optimist will always tend to see the glass half-full and the pessimist see the glass half-empty; but the mature believer will be more inclined to chose the Cross rather than pursue his or her self-interest through unjust means or indulge disordered passions at the expense of others. Of course, we all have our weaknesses as well as our strengths whether we have faith or not. That is why “forgiveness” rather than attaining immediate “perfection” is at the heart of the believer in the Pilgrim Church on earth. The practice of forgiveness is a truly heroic act. It is hard enough paying for our own stupid-assed mistakes; but paying for the mistakes of others is a real crucifixion. Revenge or mercy is always the choice we face when we become the victim of injustice and revenge always multiplies grief for the victim as well as the aggressor. Tough love demands the pursuit of justice; but justice without mercy becomes revenge. The Law kills; the Spirit gives life; but this is known only by faith. The sad spectacle this Election cycle of professing Christians who believe more in the power of a dysfunctional political process to solve our socioeconomic problems than in the transforming power of Grace witnesses to the lack of mature faith in the American Church(es).

    The Mysteries of faith are like the sun, we cannot gaze directly into them; but they illuminate all else. -Orthodox Churches of the East, Apophatic Tradition

    The mysteries of faith are degraded if they are made into an object of affirmation and negation, when in reality they should be an object of contemplation. –Simone Weil

    Revelation can never find a place in reason, but reason finds a place in revelation.
    –Emil Brunner

    A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage “Tell me then, how would you describe it?” The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying “This is very sweet. Try eating it!” –Hindu Teaching

    When you come to the edge of all the light you have, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly. ~ Patrick Overton ~

    Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return. –Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Gary

    Sorry Carol but I won’t be attempting to wade through your post. I quit reading your epics of quotes some time ago. And this one really does nothing to respond to the heart of my question which is not about faith in general but rather what makes one declare THEIR particular faith is the “truth” and/or the “reality” where all other beliefs are illusion or denial or whatever else they rationalize them away as.

  • Carol

    Gary, life is a journey. It begins as a completely unknown journey. In fact it can’t be known until our brains develop to the point that we can process our sensory experience beyond feelings of pleasure or pain.

    Some people never do evolve much further than that even though they become more cunning in the ways of experiencing pleasure and avoiding pain. We call these people hedonists and, if they pursue their interests and desires at the expense of others, sociopaths.

    Security gives some people pleasure; but the price of security is always loss of freedom. The vast majority of us fall somewhere along the spectrum between the two poles of desiring absolute security and absolute freedom. Life is not just a journey, it’s a balancing act. Moving too close to the freedom side can be psychologically unbalancing for some people and moving too close to the security side has the same effect on others.

    Beliefs belong to the security side. Faith belongs to the freedom side. I believe that we are all born with an intuitive faith in the goodness of life. Beliefs are not logical in an abstract sense; but they are logical when we place them in the context of an individual’s life experience.

    I would consider anyone to be a person of faith who still believes in the goodness of life in spite of all the pain and suffering that s/he has either witnessed or personally experienced.

    Our beliefs empower us to cope with the more challenging and/or painful experiences of life. They are more psychological than theological although those of us who are spiritual erotics will tend to fram our beliefs in theological terms.

    Who really knows what God is like? We don’t even understand ourselves much of the time. People of mature faith are not dogmatic literalists. They know that religous sectarian myths explain and give meaning to their lives and that life is not all about them, that there is a bigger story and that the whole purpose of the journey is to find our place in that Big Story.

    Asking people to justify their beliefs on the basis of logic is like stripping away another person’s psychological defenses. I cannot explain why believing in the Trinitarian and Christological Mysteries makes sense and gives life a transcendent purpose to me; but it does.

    All mature people need to find a meaning for their lives that goes beyond the survivalist minimalism of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. I’ve known a few people whose god is their belly. They are not necessarily “evil”; but they sure are boring as hell!

    Secular humanists don’t need a theological belief system to live a meaningful life. They find fulfillment in a life of service to others. I wish more religious people would find that sort of fulfillment. Theological beliefs that do not make us more empathetic, more compassionate and more willing to sacrifice to the extent that our personal strengths, weaknesses and circumstances of life permit do nothing to broaden and deepen the believer’s faith. In fact, they become an impediment rather than an inducement to faith in others when they lead to nihilism instead of a love for the gift of life.

    We see the same phenomenon in our politics. The conflict between those who value security over freedom and choose a fear-driven rather than hope-filled approach to governance. It is no mere coincidence that religious fundamentalists are drawn to authoritarian political leaders and policies.

  • Gary

    So how about it Brigitte or Steve. How do you know your brand of faith is the real one?

  • Tell

    I can not so easily add to this question too. Your question Gary is what I have asked countless preachers to bible school professors and to countless hundreds of various people of various faiths. All claiming to know the mind of God, or to have the true faith (while the church on the next block was going to hell), or have certain relics to metaphysical knowledge hidden in their libraries… that we lay people, lesser ones, or the un-initiated are not allowed to see let alone read. I can baffle and piss off mystics too since they claim to be so limited with their gifts.

    Though difficult to put into words and the way it was communicated is beyond the normal I will try again. And hopefully not laughed off this board.

    When I was what some may call ‘in the spirit’ or during the spiritual experience I had a brief time to converse with the mystery creator. One of my questions from somewhere in my mind and spirit was..” Lord, who do I follow, what church do I go to, who teaches the truth.” The reply through something like what I call “living waters” rippling through me was..”None teach the true gospel, none can.” He told me, and I guess it was just for me to…”not follow the traditions of man.” He said .. “all (all), have been led astray.” He said ” to tell them to love one another and that there were many mansions in his fathers house.” “Tell them not to harden their hearts, but to love one another.” He said “nothing shall be kept secret.” The loving but very firm voice told me to tell all others “there should be no division but to love one another.” “Not to harden their hearts.” He said “to tell others to repent and to make straight the path of the Lord, that he is coming soon.” He said to tell all that he loves them oh so much, beyond our comprehension. All this during seeing my life and events on what I have to say is like watching movies on many screens while I tried to keep up with all the information and things being seen.

    Now just from this short clip you can probably imagine the hell I went through when asking the same questions you do. Some answers I got shocked me at first like some saying.. “they believe in their own heart they have the truth and know the mind of God.” Or some would say they have the true religion and should rule the planet and all others since some think they are so special.

    I finally stopped asking the question because it was fruitless and kept getting the same responses with… much ego, self-serving blended in. Plus all the negativity, judgement, questions, expectations, ridicule, demands, hate, and many times being expected to change my story to fit some others belief system, or to suit their “truths.” I would not. I also upset many by not denying or denouncing what we call the “Holy Spirit.” Which I think is the greatest sin of all. And when that spirit moves in us to speak for it, or them, or whatever.

    The other funny thing about this is my real name is “Tell.” And I’m supposed to ‘tell’ people about this. Strange. I don’t ‘tell’ so much today. lol

    Time stood still for me but this was way back in Nov. 20th 1989. 9:00am, when time froze for me and I was between like two worlds.. and both are very real.

    Afterwards I had the compulsion to read the bible and discovered some things matched, other stuff did not. Some things said where the same words used in the bible.

    I had that spiritual high for about one year. Seems the more time I spent in public and around negativity the more of that ‘spiritual high’ I lost.

    Oh and yes, I’ve had myself thoroughly checked by both secular and religious ‘mental health experts.’ Some ratified my experience, some led me to others who have had similar things happen like those with NDEs (near death experiences) and of course those of the secular side that think anyone believing in the spiritual or claiming such things need to be on meds and in therapy and to totally denounce such happenings, or to claim them to be a chemical imbalance in our brains. What a trip this has been, and I’m ready for the final reward.

  • Carol

    I wish we would stop arguing about beliefs and start focusing on behavior.

    Beliefs are private; behavior is public.

    Most of us are so wrapped up in our own needs, desires and agendas (ADD?) that we don’t even notice the hurtful affects our self-centered behavior has on others until they react with anger and rejection. Our excessively individualistic, aggressive culture makes this natural tendency even worse.

    We cannot control what others or life’s circumstances do to us; but we can control how we respond to them.

    Power is neither good nor evil, it is neutral. We can chose to use our power to either heal or harm, build up or diminish others.

    Let people believe whatever they want to believe. Let’s reflect on how our behaviors and the behaviors of others either encourage or harm others and share those insights instead of this endless bickering over who has Truth and who hasn’t.

    I believe that there is Absolute Reality/Truth. I also believe that all human understanding and experience of it is relative.

  • Gary

    My question to Steve and Brigitte really seems to disturb you Carol. I wonder why that is?

    So how about it Steve and/or Brigitte? How do you know that your particular brand of faith is truth and reality? How do you know that my belief that “Love Wins” is a deception?

  • Carol

    Yes, it does bother me.

    I believe that hassling people about their beliefs is a boundary invasion. Our beliefs reflect our attempts to make sense and give meaning to our experiences. Our experiences differ; so to expect our beliefs to conform is naive. That is one of my biggest problems with organized religion. I hate cookie cutter Christianity or should it be called *Churchianity*?

    How are you being different from Steve and Brigette by questioning their beliefs?

    We should be concerned with behavior, not beliefs. Who among us lives up to his or her ideals? There should be zero tolerance for predatory or abusive behavior; but, even then, we should never forget that there is always more to the person than the worst thing s/he has ever done.

    Of all the people of The Book–Jews, Christians and Islamists, only Western Christians consider Othodoxy more important than Orthopraxis.

    Most Protestants are only aware of the 16th century schism; but there was an earlier schism, the Great Schism, which was a long time coming; but became official in 1054.

    The Catholic Church teaches that it is the Easter Churches that are the schismatics; but there are five ancient Patriarches (actually 7 at one time, but two did not survive: the Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch and Rome. Four in the East, one in the West. The Eastern Churches have their family squabbles and have had minor schisms; but are still formally united in belief and practice, so which Church do you think is propably the schismatic?

    The Eastern Churches criticize the Western Churches for being too rationalistic and too legalistic. Seems to me that’s right on!

    Schismatic movements usually occur over one or more points of doctrine which becomes a prominent belief that often overshadows what should be core beliefs.

    I sincerely believe that, while people belonging to Western Christian spiritual communities may be sincere and deeply committed to God, the spiritual and theological formation that they receive tragically often reflects the Roman Empire’s creed that Law is King (lex rex) rather than the Biblical Revelation that Christ is King. There is more to being a Christian than becoming a good citizen who does not place him or herself above the Law. The Law can support a stable society based on reciprocal altruism; but it cannot transform self-interested moralism into self-sacrificial love.

    American Christianity has become a civil religion, the worst thing that can happen to transformational spiritual movement.

    The civic vitues of the Protestant work ethic; not the theological virtues of faith, hope and love have become the basis for moral guidance in the American Church(es).

    American *Christianity* has always been a bit heretical with its emphasis on law over love; but with the advent of the Moral Majority/Religous Right many Christians have become more like the Pharisees than like the disciples who followed Jesus. I suppose they believe that by giving God credit for their *righteousness* they are giving Him glory; but the Pharisee in the parable gave God the credit for his “righteousness” when he prayed, *Lord, I thank thee that I am not as other men, especially that publican over there.*

    It beats me how people cannot read their bibles so “religiously” and not realize that Christians have been given a ministry of reconciliation, not condemnation.

    The Holy Spirit is called Advocate, Comforer and Counselor. Scripture also identifies an Accuser (hint: his name starts with *S* and ends with *N*). So whose work are the Moral Majority really doing?

  • Gary

    And I believe that you are harassing me and directly invading my boundary since my question has repeatedly NOT been directed at you.

    The question of why someone claims absolute knowledge regarding “truth” and “reality” is paramount to the type of discussions we often have here. In fact it is this type of false claim of authority that most of us have chosen to leave behind. The fact that challenging such declarations makes you uncomfortable is your problem…not mine.

    Further you have repeatedly demonstrated that you totally miss my point entirely. I am not challenging Steve’s faith, but rather the assertion that he KNOWS his beliefs are “truth” and “reality” and that those of us who disagree with him are wrong.

  • Gary

    In fact when you make statements like these…

    “Our experiences differ; so to expect our beliefs to conform is naive. That is one of my biggest problems with organized religion. I hate cookie cutter Christianity or should it be called *Churchianity*?”

    It is apparent to me that you don’t have a clue as to what I am asking and why.

  • Carol

    Gary, Steve is entitled to his own beliefs, he is not entitled to have them taken seriously.

    Your initial challenge to him to justify his beliefs was entirely reasonable. Scripture calls to to “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us.” Confidence in one’s own understanding is not sufficient reason, which is probably why you received no response. At that point your point was made. You won.

    It is your persistence in challenging Steve and Brigitte that makes me uncomfortable.

    You are correct that you were addressing them, not me; but this blog is a commons, not a private conversation.

    I am really not disturbed that other people don’t share my beliefs. What I am sick of is the way religious people (and political activists), instead of cooperating where they do agree to make this world a kinder, gentler place, seem more interested in engaging in theological/political pissing contests.

    Rather than demanding that others “prove” their beliefs, it might be more informative to ask them *why* they hold such beliefs.

    I believe in the Loving God that Jesus called Abba/”Daddy”, not Calvin’s Cosmic Bully.

    I had the good fortune to be born to parents who not only loved me and my brother; but truly loved each other. It was unthinkable in my family to get one’s interests served or desires met at each others’ expense.

    I can certainly understand how someone raised in a dysfunctional family with an authoritarian abusive father may not have the same concept of God as I do.

    That is why I think we should be less concerned with one another’s beliefs, leaving the renewing of our minds to the Holy Spirit, and more concerned with how we can cooperate in service to others without compromising our own integrity or violating their dignity.

    It is not easy to “truth one another with love”; but that is the Gospel challenge to all of us. Truth apart from love does not fulfill what the Gospel asks of us.

    I am so tired of these endless theological controversies. If I wanted to be exposed to that sort of thing I would just go to a fundamentalist church where it has become something of a psychological blood sport.

  • Gary

    Carol I’m going to try to be as nice as possible in my response to you.

    I neither need your permission nor ask for it.

    You seem to have no concept for the way Steve continuously declares his views in absolute terms while challenging and correcting many others in their perspectives and/or points of view. In fact he represents the very essence of the closed minded fundamentalist who goes around confronting others and attempting to correct them. The fact that he insists on doing so in THIS blog, where the purpose to explore and challenge the dogma of religion so often present in the church is openly embraced, is only further proof of the dogma he embraces. When he enters into such a forum as this and continues to declare, in absolute terms, HIS FAITH is the “truth” and the “reality” he is open to challenge. I believe in fact he should be challenged since it is he who continues to come here and challenge so many. As of yet he has not responded with any type of answer as to WHY we should accept (or even why he believes) that HIS BELIEFS are “truth” and “reality”.

    Frankly I no longer care that you find this challenge distasteful. As you already pointed out, “this blog is a commons, not a private conversation”, and unless I am mistaken, you have not been granted the role of hall monitor.

  • Carol

    Gary, once again, Steve and Brigitte are entitled to their beliefs. They are are entitled to express their beliefs. They are not entitled to have their beliefs taken seriously. Your were quite right to challenge them as you did. The ball was in their court. They chose not to respond to the challenge. You won by default. Game over.

    Steve and Brigitte are minority members on this board; but they are participating members, as is Sabio, whose minority opinion and snarky personal attacks you seem to have little or no problem with. I don’t understand why you are not treating Steve and Brigitte with the same tolerance and respect that you extend to Sabio our out-spoken resident atheist.

    I have no problem with challenging minority beliefs. I have a problem with stalking them after they have backed off.

    We have both been minority members in Churches that claim to be spiritual communities; but were, if fact, religious collectives. We have been shunned and/or stalked because we did not drink the Koolaid or keep our opinions to ourselves. On this board, those of us who are religious progressives are the majority. Steve and Brigitte are the minority. Do you not see that you are treating them the way we were treated?

    I see this all of the time–skin for skin, damaged people damaging other people. Someone has to break the cycle. I believe that is our primary Christian calling, to bring reconciliation into this warring world.

    I don’t see defending those who are vulnerable, as all minorities are, as being a “hall monitor.” I believe in a God who is always on the side of the marginalized, even when they don’t have their theological ducts or social behavior in order.

    Just as money is power, there is strength in numbers. I believe that power confers responsibility, not privilege. On this board those of us who are spiritual progressives have the power. We should use it to challenge, not humiliate, those whose theological beliefs are more traditional than ours. We’ve been on the receiving end of the intolerant tyranny of the majority. We should treat those with whom we disagree theologically as we wish we had been treated; not act as they did when they had the majority power.

    I embrace the Franciscan spiritual tradition: “Always be prepared to preach the Gospel, when necessary, use words.” There is another anonymous tradition: “Only speak words that make souls stronger.” They may be words of comfort or they may be words of fraternal correction; but they must be words that are spoken with love not in anger or they will be wounding, not healing. If we can’t heal, at least we should not add to the wounding in our world.

    Respect all; trust no one, not even ourselves, to always be on the right side.

  • Gary

    Carol…let it go. I am not even reading your long winded diatribes. My question is right and I would pose it to anyone who makes claims of such absolute knowledge. And your belief that I somehow tolerate Sabio’s bad behavior only further illustrates how out of touch you really are. LOL

    Seriously Carol…grow up and let it go.

  • Gary

    So how about it Steve. Why do you believe your particular beliefs represent “truth” and “reality” as you have repeatedly claimed?

    My question has nothing to do with your beliefs themselves. You know we have differing opinions (beliefs) on many things. This difference is not the point. But the question itself strikes at the heart of the issues that divides us all. There is none who can defend the claim of absolute knowledge no matter how boldly they declare it. The question is not abusive no matter how many times Carol naively declares it to be so.

    Each one of us works from a limited knowledge set. Each one of us would do well to ask this question of ourselves. Most of us recognize this truth and allow our understanding to change and grow as we move through this life. But a few cling to the belief that absolute knowledge is not only possible but necessary. I don’t think I need to go into the horrors committed on humanity such religious fervor has and continues to cause.

    The question is not an attack. It is simply a question of why? I think it is sad that a simple “How do you know?” is seen as an attack rather than honest dialogue.

  • Carol

    Asking “why do you believe. . .?” is quite different from asking someone to “prove” what they believe. The first is a respectful query, the second a threatening challenge. Style may not be as important as substance; but it is important.

    My mother taught me that “how you say it is as important as what you say.”

    I reject dogmatic absolutism and the certainty it implies because certainty requires omniscience which is a Divine, not a human, attribute.

    I also reject the radical scepticism of many atheists. It is possible to “know” with a high degree of probablity. However, spiritual matters, which are not subject to empirical testing (there is no way to physically measure love) should be tested in the crucible of human experience and present statistical evidence by consensual (that is consensus, not consent) validation before being granted the status of a universal principle or dogma.

    Even then there will always be mitigating circumstances which compromise the usefulness of a dogmatic, set in concrete, approach to understanding and actually living, not merely reflecting on, life.

  • Carol

    Every good thing seems to have a disordered or “dark” side to it.

    Another thought on dogmatic absolutism and the epistemological certainty that it fosters:

    Spiritual certitude and theological certainty are not the same thing.

    Spiritual certitude is trust/faith in God, the faith that Job expressed when he declared, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” It is faith in the goodness and mercy of God apart from and often in spite of any immediate experience of life’s blessings. It faith based on eschatological hope; not explicit proofs.

    It is faith that cries from the depths; not the mountaintops:

    Psalm 130
    King James Version (KJV)

    Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.

    Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

    If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

    But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

    I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

    My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

    Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.

    And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

    Theological certainty is faith in one’s own understanding of the mysteries of faith, which is expressly forbidden in Scripture:

    Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

    *Faith* that rests on the correctness of the believer’s theological understanding is not biblical faith. It is gnostic heresy. Jesus experienced theological agnosticism when he cried in anguish from the Cross, “My God, my God why have you abandoned me?” And yet he was still in intimate communion with God as his dying words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” reveal.

    Scripture states very explicitly what God requires from believers and it isn’t theological certainty:

    He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

    It is impossible for the person who thinks s/he has infallible knowledge of God’s thoughts and ways to walk humbly with God or anyone else for that matter.

    And, Gary, you will be glad to know that this will be my last word on this subject.

  • Gary

    Carol I have never asked him to “prove” anything.

    Seriously…piss off!!

  • Carol

    Another question and long-winded post, but on a matter that I think we should all think about:

    Suppose it was shame and not guilt that man incurred through the fall from Grace in the Garden. Does that call the Latin/Western Church’s emphasis on guilt and justification rather than shame and psychological/spiritual healing into question?

    Genesis 2:25 The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

    Genesis 3:7 At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.

    Toxic Shame
    Leo Booth/John Bradshaw

    Abuse creates toxic shame – the feeling of being flawed and diminished and never measuring up. Toxic shame feels much worse than guilt. With guilt, you’ve done something wrong; but you can repair that – you can do something about it. With toxic shame there’s something wrong with you and there’s nothing you can do about it; you are inadequate and defective. Toxic shame is the core of the wounded child. This meditation sums up the ways that the wonderful child got wounded. The loss of your I AMness is spiritual bankruptcy. The wonder child is abandoned and all alone.

    My Name Is Toxic Shame
    I was there at your conception
    In the epinephrine of your mother’s shame
    You felt me in the fluid of your mother’s womb
    I came upon you before you could speak
    Before you understood
    Before you had any way of knowing
    I came upon you when you were learning to walk
    When you were unprotected and exposed
    When you were vulnerable and needy
    Before you had any boundaries
    I came upon you when you were magical
    Before you could know I was there
    I severed your soul
    I pierced you to the core
    I brought you feelings of being flawed and defective
    I brought you feelings of distrust, ugliness, stupidity, doubt

    worthlessness, inferiority, and unworthiness
    I made you feel different
    I told you there was something wrong with you
    I soiled your Godlikeness
    I existed before conscience
    Before guilt
    Before morality
    I am the master emotion
    I am the internal voice that whispers words of condemnation
    I am the internal shudder that courses through you without any

    mental preparation
    I live in secrecy
    In the deep moist banks of darkness

    depression and despair
    Always I sneak up on you I catch you off guard I come through

    the back door
    Uninvited unwanted
    The first to arrive
    I was there at the beginning of time
    With Father Adam, Mother Eve
    Brother Cain
    I was at the Tower of Babel the Slaughter of the Innocents
    I come from “shameless” caretakers, abandonment, ridicule,

    abuse, neglect – perfectionistic systems
    I am empowered by the shocking intensity of a parent’s rage
    The cruel remarks of siblings
    The jeering humiliation of other children
    The awkward reflection in the mirrors
    The touch that feels icky and frightening
    The slap, the pinch, the jerk that ruptures trust
    I am intensified by
    A racist, sexist culture
    The righteous condemnation of religious bigots
    The fears and pressures of schooling
    The hypocrisy of politicians
    The multigenerational shame of dysfunctional

    family systems
    I can transform a woman person, a Jewish person, a black

    person, a gay person, an oriental person, a precious child into
    A bitch, a kike, a nigger, a bull dyke, a faggot, a chink, a selfish

    little bastard
    I bring pain that is chronic
    A pain that will not go away
    I am the hunter that stalks you night and day
    Every day everywhere
    I have no boundaries
    You try to hide from me
    But you cannot
    Because I live inside of you
    I make you feel hopeless
    Like there is no way out
    My pain is so unbearable that you must pass me on to others

    through control, perfectionism, contempt, criticism, blame,

    envy, judgment, power, and rage
    My pain is so intense
    You must cover me up with addictions, rigid roles, reenactment,

    and unconscious ego defenses.
    My pain is so intense
    That you must numb out and no longer feel me.
    I convinced you that I am gone – that I do not exist –

    you experience absence and emptiness.
    I am the core of co-dependency
    I am spiritual bankruptcy
    The logic of absurdity
    The repetition compulsion
    I am crime, violence, incest, rape
    I am the voracious hole that fuels all addictions
    I am instability and lust
    I am Ahaverus the Wandering Jew, Wagner’s Flying Dutchman,

    Dostoyevski’s underground man, Kierkegaard’s seducer,

    Goethe’s Faust
    I twist who you are into what you do and have
    I murder your soul and you pass me on for generations

  • Gary

    Still waiting for a simple answer Steve to a very valid question.