man has three babies

man has three babies cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

“Man Has Three Babies” (pen & pencil on paper, 8″x8″)

(Many original cartoon drawings and prints are available, including this one! Email me if interested. Original drawings are $100 and prints are $25 plus shipping.)

The stories of religions are interesting. I love reading them. World religions. Fascinating! Like, for instance, you know that these three religions… Judaism, Islam and Christianity… all have their roots in the Abraham story.

But they are not near as interesting to me as the story of religion. Now… that’s mind-blowing.

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.

  • Carol

    Yes, and of the three “people of the Book”, only Western Christianity values orthodoxy over orthopraxis.

    I recently realized that the Latin/Western Church(es)sublimate love to justice, even the *liberal* churches do this.

    Scripture reveals the Divine Essence as Love. God acts justly, because the minimum requirement, not the fulfillment, of Love is justice; but God’s essence is Unconditional Love which does not require justice in return as a condition for giving love.

    “God is not justice. Justice is in his nature, but love is predominant. People attach such importance to actions and their results. They do not know that above action and result is a law which can consume the fire of hell, which can dominate even if the whole world were being drowned in the flood of destruction; they do not know that the power of love is greater than any other.” –Hazrat Inayat Khan

  • bjvl

    Well, four, if you count the B’hai…

  • Carol

    I’ve browsed some B’hai websites. They appeared pretty *Christ-like* to me.

  • http://ChroniclesofaChristianHeretic.blogspot.com Sandra

    We’ve raised our children thoroughly secularly and homeschooled them until last year. The oldest now is in public high school and studying a unit on major world religions in her history class. She tells me she keeps getting Christianity, Judaism, and Islam confused because “they are so much the same”.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    That is such an interesting story Sandra. I’ve often wondered how a fresh mind would perceive these different religions… a beginner’s mind.

  • Kris

    That is really cool, Sandra. Maybe that is why they can’t get along hahahaha!

    It seems to be one of civilizations oldest rivalries.

  • http://www.prayerpunk.com PrayerPunk

    They may all have the same back story. Abraham was special because in a time when everyone believed in many gods, he believed that there was only one true God. He is without a doubt the father of monotheism, but they are three very different religions. Incarnation is the difference. The Jews couldn’t believe that Christ was God incarnate, and Islam is a step back in that they prefer law over incarnation. The idea that God became a human being is a very difficult concept for anyone to believe. I wonder how many Christians really believe it. Few act as though they do.

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

    Christians are persons who no longer seek their salvation, their deliverance, their justification in themselves, but in Jesus Christ alone. They know that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them guilty, even when they feel nothing of their own guilt, and that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces them free and righteous even when they feel nothing of their own righteousness…

    Because they daily hunger and thirst for righteousness, they long for the redeeming Word again and again. It can only come from the outside. In themselves they are destitute and dead. Help must come from the outside; and it has come and comes daily and anew in the Word of Jesus Christ, bringing us redemption, righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. But God put this Word into the mouth of human beings so that it may be passed on to others. When people are deeply affected by the Word, they tell it to other people. God has willed that we should seek and find God’s living Word in the testimony of other Christians, in the mouths of human beings. Therefore, Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened.

    + Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • Carol

    Brigitte, I don’t think we need God’s Word to pronounce us “guilty.” Plenty of people who are not Christians have uneasy consciences.

    I think that God’s Word in Jesus Christ pronounces us beloved, in spite of our faults and failings.

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.
    –Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself
    beloved on the earth.
    ~Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”

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

    I thought you loved Bonhoeffer, Carol. ? Without guilt, no forgiveness, without laying bare the deficiencies, no reconciliation and truth, without honesty only lies, without struggles, no sacrificial love, only saccharine niceties.

  • Jeff

    @prayerpunk- I feel that judgmental comments like the end of your statement define exactly what the truth is about those who preach tolerance are actually as intolerant of those they accuse. The idea that God came to as as a human being is only as hard to believe as one makes it.

  • Carol

    I do love Bonhoeffer, as I love Luther; but that does not mean that I agree with all of their theological beliefs. I am constantly amazed at how Protestants will denounce the doctrine of Papal infallibility, quite rightly, IMO, and then swallow whole the teaching of their sect’s founder or some other theologian.

    But as a Redemptorist priest once asked me, “Why do you think people are logical?” That’s when I realized that expecting people, or life itself, to be “logical” by the measure of human understanding was an Enlightenment heresy that had not only infected Western science and secular culture; but the Latin/Western Church as well.

    It is logical positivism that has led to dogmatic absolutism, the elevation of the relative to the absolute in human thinking and acting.

    Omniscience is a Divine, not a human attribute. There is always something that we do not know and that “missing piece” could change how we perceive the whole.

    There are absolutes; but they are transcendent. All human understanding and experience of them is relative.

    That is why Scripture tells us that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways are not our ways and cautions us to “look not to our own understanding.”

    We can know truly, but not exhaustively; so human understanding can only provide us with relative truth, knowledge with a lesser or greater degree of probability, not absolute certainty. The only certainty that faith can provide is unreserved trust in the goodness and mercy of God.

    The original sin was wanting to know as God knows, with absolute certainty. And the result of knowing as God knows, that was learning who we are no longer whole, complete, perfect in ourselves; made whole, complete, perfect only by Grace, the Divine Presence with us and in us. And the result was shame; not guilt, Adam and Eve hid from God because they were ashamed of believing the serpent instead of God. The trust relationship in God and his word to them was broken before the guilty act was committed. Shame is rooted our knowing ourselves as dependent on God, not autonomous, to realize our human potential to become free moral, not mere instinctually-driven creatures. Guilt is the result of the disordered ways we seek to recover our fullness of being apart from Grace.

    Dogmatic absolutism, whether theological, philosophical or scientific is the human person, once again, thinking s/he can know with absolute certainty and thus gain control over life by the power of godlike knowledge.

    Why is it that our popular established religions are so shaken in the face of the visible problems of our civilization: drugs, war, crime, social injustice, the breakdown of the family, the sexual revolution? Is it not because somewhere along the line belief took the place of faith for the majority of Jews and Christians? Faith cannot be shaken; it is the result of being shaken. And we can see in the writings of the early Fathers that the primary function of the monastic discipline was to shake man’s belief in his own powers and understanding. This was not done simply by visiting upon men situations they could not handle or which caused them pain. Such experiences by themselves are useless, and even dementing, unless they are met by an intention to profit from them in the coin of self-knowledge. MERE BELIEF THAT ONE HAS ALREADY FOUND THE WAY AND THE TRUTH IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF SUCH AN INTENTION AND WAS RECOGNIZED BY THE EARLY fATHERS AS A WEAPON OF THE DEVIL.
    ~Jacob Needleman, The New Religions

    You are not thinking. You are merely being logical. –Neils Bohr

  • Carol

    Jeff, the mystery of the Incarnation is perhaps the ultimate paradox. If you stop to actually “think” about it, it is logically impossible.

    God is infinite, we humans are finite. I know that I could never logically comprehend the mystery. I’m with Martin Luther, Simone Weil and the Eastern Church on this one:

    The mysteries of faith should be apprehended; not comprehended. ~Martin Luther

    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

    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 human intellect with its gift of reason, marvelous as it is, does have its limitations.

    “Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.” ~Thomas Merton

    “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.” – Thomas Merton

  • cass

    Carol Im curious how it is you conclude the West values orthodoxy more than the East? Anyone disputing the divinity of the Koran faces possible death? I’d say that is more extreme than what we live under.

    I have to say that I agree prob with much of what has been pointed out here and David’s viewpoints, but as Christ like as other religions seem, what is the fruit of their influence over a society or large group as a whole?

    The US, imperfect as it is, is founded on principles from the same parentage as other Western countries yet is distinct has one of the freest societies in the world as compared to Eastern countries, especially in terms of Women…so what dos that say of the beliefs a country is founded upon?

    I get tired of hearing only criticism towards our inheritance as a society as much as it is needed, there are def positives that I apreciate on a day to day. If I was in fear ofbeing burned live for being an adulterous women I probably wouldnt hav time to be reading naked pastor and pondering about life.

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Cass: the fact that you DO read nakedpastor might get you burned alive after all. at least some would think so. ;)

  • cass

    and as a personal opinion, if you dont know the extreme difference in the social consciouesness in terms of individual freedom between the west and east, you definitely haven;t lived in those countries as I have.

    To have an afghani girl crying out for the right to an education and an Israeli nation constantly at odds with its neighbors is something Im grateful I am not living in, and my question is how did their belief system directly influence the social consciousness? So as much as we are waxing poetic about our abrahamic roots, are they the same, not in philosophical conversation, but in their fruits?

  • cass

    that last sentence rhymes…

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Well Cass, couldn’t that be the intent of the cartoon… to point out that three different religions actually have one root and that perhaps they should take this more into consideration?

  • cass

    ha yeah david, oh ive already been burned……but atleast i live in a society which affords me the luxury to think for myself and still live.

  • Carol

    Many middle eastern *countries* are de facto tribal confederations more than nations. They are at about the same level of socioeconomic/political evolution as the ancient OT Israelite tribes. Does anyone really believe that God commanded them to dash the babies of the people they vanquished against the wall or any of the other barbaric practices that is claimed to have been commanded by God in the OT?

    One of Luther’s brilliant insights was that we are both saint and sinner simultaneously. We always hear two voices, the voice of our own survivalist instincts and the Voice of God. Discerning which is which is not an easy matter as the role played by religion in human history tragically reveals. As historian Will Durant points out, “The Institutional Church (ecclesia) has killed only two kinds of people: Those who do not believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ, and those who do.” The “teachings of Jesus Christ” were not exactly the guiding principles of Europe, either for much of its history.

    There have been Golden Ages for other civilizations and nations; but they have not proven sustainable:

    Great nations rise and fall.
    The people go from bondage to spiritual truth,
    from spiritual truth to great courage,
    from great courage to liberty,
    from liberty to abundance,
    from abundance to selfishness,
    from selfishness to complacency,
    from complacency to apathy,
    from apathy to dependence,
    and from dependence back again to bondage!
    –Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

    There are troubling signs that America may be falling into decline.

    In addition to the obvious moral decay as we have increasingly gone from being a stoic to a hedonistic people, there is our economy that gone from a capitalism where the consumer is king (Adam Smith) which advantages the greatest number of people since we are all consumers (although not to the same extent) to a mixed economy where the investor is advantaged at the expense of the other stakeholders in the economy (merchantilism/corporatism) represented by the right wing of the Republican Party and an enabling socialism which has created a permanent class of ungrateful poor represented by the left wing Democratics. Republican economic policies redistribute wealth upwards and Democratic policies redistribute wealth downwards which is why our middle class, where the strongest traditional values and productivity reside, has been shrinking to the point that America is looking more and more like a Third World country.

    This is an article that documents objective reasons for concern:

    http://knowledgetoday.wharton.upenn.edu/2012/12/is-the-u-s-losing-its-appeal-for-indians-as-an-academic-destination/

    This is a critical time in our Country’s history, so it is especially important not to confuse jingoistic nationalism with true patriotism or let our religion be hi-jacked for political purposes.

    “Patriotism is proud of a country’s virtues and eager to correct its deficiencies; it also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of other countries, with their own specific virtues. The pride of nationalism, however, trumpets its country’s virtues and denies its deficiencies, while it is contemptuous toward the virtues of other countries. It wants to be, and proclaims itself to be, “the greatest”, but greatness is not required of a country; only goodness is.”
    –Sydney J. Harris, journalist and author (1917-1986)

    “One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the great struggle for independence.” –Charles A. Beard, historian (1874-1948)

    “My bent is to say that, to the degree that a pastor, for the gospel’s sake, becomes political, he probably in the long run, blunts his gospel power to transform culture.”~John Piper

  • Carol

    Cass, BTW I lived in Liberia, West Africa for 18 months in the early 60′s when Africa was just beginning to throw off the reins of Western colonial power.

    I learned from the experience that human nature is human nature, that abject poverty drives people to become amoral survivalist, which is why abject poverty is so dehumanizing. Not many of us, especially when we are responsible for dependent children, can or even should choose “death before dishonor”; but even when justified by unjust circumstances compromising our God-given dignity/integrity is painfully degrading.

    Poverty can also turn social groups into aggressively predatory amoral survivalist packs.

    I was also impressed by the intuitive wisdom of the native Liberians, how much joy, once basic survial needs had been met, they had while possessing so little material wealth.

    We are the first civilisation to treat monetary accumulation as an absolute goal, and it has obscured the whole of our discourse about shared well-being, or the “common good.” ~Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury

    I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.
    –Mahatma Gandhi

    Neo-liberal economics (mercantilism) has created an economy where short-term profitability is aggressively pursued at the expense of long-term sustainability.

    “The problem is that money has no roots. A banana tree? Cut the fruit, it grows again. Money – once you use it, it’s gone.” JEAN-LOUIS SAINT THOMAS, a Haitian who received a payment after his farm was seized for a new industrial park.

    “Only after the last tree has been cut down…the last river has been poisoned… the last fish caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”  ~ Cree Indian Prophesy

    “For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money.” –Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

    “Beware of overconcern for money, or position, or glory. Someday you will meet a man who cares for none of these things. Then you will know how poor you are.” – Rudyard Kipling

  • Carol

    Cass, are you sure that your thoughts are your own?

    We imprint on more than just sensual experiences like food and music tastes. We accept, usually without realizing it, our religious and cultural presuppositions, also. At least until something happens that challenges our values-based judgements and worldview.

    “The majority of mankind think that they think; they acquiesce, and suppose that they argue; they flatter themselves that they are holding their own, when they have actually grown up to manhood, with scarcely a conviction that they can call their own. So it was, and so it ever shall be.” –Bullinger

    “In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.”
    – Mark Twain

    And now we have the “spinning” of “facts” by a very powerful private and corporate interests through the sophisticated technology of our mass media to factor in also.

    “Television is altering the meaning of “being informed” by creating a species of information that might properly be called disinformation. Disinformation does not mean false information. It means misleading information – misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information – information that creates the illusion of knowing something, but which in fact leads one away from knowing.” –Neil Postman

    “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
    Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.
    Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
    Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.” –Neil Postman

  • cass

    man that was long winded……but you missed my point entirely.
    You did not answer as to how you believe the west to place more importance on orthodoxy vr orthopraxis as compared to to other nations, and ofcourse nations rise and fall, and there is moral decline everywhere in the west often fueled exactly by dogma orthodoxy.

    I am talking about the difference between the consciousness of Western thought vrs Eastern thought as it influences nations as a whole.

    Ofcourse abject poverty creates tribalistic war mongering and civil chaos, but what created the poverty in the first place (by poverty I mean 80% of the nation is considered poor).

    What beliefs allowed for a better evolution to where we are today as opposed to the evolution of other nations, what beliefs fuel the concept of individul freedom, the value of the one life?

    Are you just going to blame abject povery in other nations on Wester Imperialism or does Social Psyche have anything to do with it s well?

    I think you make good points, I agree human nature is human nature. But what builds a freer society than another, even if it is temporary?

    And do the belief systems of other nations allow for the possible evolution of a freer society, is that where they are headed or is it the influence of Christian based beliefs that allow for that?

  • cass

    My question is, does it make any difference that a country’s belief system be Christian, as opposed to Muslim or Buddhist at this moment in time?It is obvious history is fraught with heretical (deviations of truth) interpretations of beliefs and religions, so yes, history is lined up with power, greed and hate driven agendas in the name of a belief system but… How does one Christian based nation measure up against another in terms of:

    Economic stability and evolution
    Individual rights
    Safety
    Order
    Social Equality
    Socially accepted corruption
    Freedom based Morality as opposed to enforced morality
    Womens rights

  • cass

    the cartoon makes a great point David, you could take it even further and say we all came from adam and eve so we are all brothers and sisters. My question is not that we dont have common roots or past, it is only asking, did Christianity further evolve and clarify the previous two and is there a correlation to be made between Christian Beleif based societies vrs others, as much as Christian based societies have bastardized Jesus’ teachings to the empphhh degree.

    I am only saying I am very grateful to be living where I am (US) as I have lived in Africa and the Middle East(I am middle eastern) and the quality of life is astoundingly better, the hope of having a future, of not being limited y an economic ceiling, and my question is, how did this come to be? IT IS my exprience that this is NONEXISTANT IN NON WESTERN Nations, it is simply NOT pat of the social psyche.

  • cass

    I have seen to many people raise empassionately believe Hey lets all love each other, accept each other, there is no one better than another, and altho this is the gospel, I dont believe that in doing so you eschew wisdom in pointing out what is a more evolved approach than another (can we ascertain that philosophically? no, can we ascrtain that absolutely? no, but can we have some idea of by their fruits we will know them.) Although I agree with Carol on her points of logic vrs intuition, reason vrs imagination, there is still a place for logic given that the material universe does work on cause and effect.

  • cass

    anyway I guess I was long winded too. I apologize, its something I am passionate about this. Carol I appreciate you thoughts, I think you can come off as slightly preachy, but maybe its just me. and david I see wht you are doing, its great. goodbye

  • Carol

    Cass, I understand a little better where you are coming from, Eastern and Western though are complementary in many respects.

    The uniqueness of the individual is often overlooked in the holistic, Big Picture thinking of the East. Eastern thought can’t see the trees for the forest and Western thought can’t see the forest for the trees.

    However, Eastern thought transcends the dualism intrinsic to paradox, holding the two “sides” in a dynamic creative tension instead of simply emphasizing the half-truth that speaks to one’s own limited experience or temperamental comfort zone. The human spirit resonates to truth, so there is no lie worst than a half-truth which results in unbalanced thinking.

    I do not believe that there is such a thing as a “Christian” nation. I believe that there are only Christian individuals, who tend to bond with other Christian individuals to for Christian communities. The problem is that not all of the offspring of the original members become Christian in a transformational sense and then the community becomes outwardly or culturally “Christian” having the form without the substance.

    Here is one woman’s insights on “The Church Beneath the Church:

    http://www.cta-usa.org/Reprint200412/Estes200412.html

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

    Thanks for making your points passionately, Cass. Some things are not politically correct to say nowadays, and this box of political correctness is ironically supporting what it wants to expunge: oppression of women, limits on the freedom of expression.

    In Egypt, for example, we see people plucking up their courage to fight for freedoms, but what a turmoil it is.

  • cass

    Thankyou Carol as I said I do appreciate your thoughts. Having had the tendency myself to “graduate from the school and then burn it down” I agree fully of a Western society having the form, lacking the substance and that there are no Christian societies only individuals with the kingdom within…and that eastern and western thought are two sides of the same coin can be traced back to the tree of knowledge of evil and good. All I wanted to point out was that I am grateful to live in a society whose base values allows me a much deeper degree of freedom (what is it? freedom and the pursuit of happiness) as opposed to a society that dictates what I should believe and places profounf limits on my external potential as a human being. I believe the gospel demonstrates that no matter what is outside (cirumstancial) there are no “real” limits to our inner life in Christ and our potential, that said….I am still deeply grateful for those liberties. alright, thankyou for all your thoughts and thanks to David for opening up a freer line of thinking. all the best to everyone. goodbye

  • cass

    ps. cannot tell you how grateful I am to be able to open a bible and not fear losing my life.

  • Carol

    Yes, there are many places in this world where Christians face, not just the possibility of a “white” martyrdom; but the real threat of a “red” martyrdom. Of course, that is what keeps the church faithful. Not many cultural Christians in a church facing that sort of persecution.

    Cultural Christians love opening up their bibles, too; especially when they find grounds their for rebuking others. However, they won’t open up their mouths at work when they see unethical practices if it means the possiblity of losing a promotion.

    Reminds me of Germany during the Third Reich. They thought they were free, too. And they were, free to follow the Party line.

    Nietzsche got a bad rap when the Nazis used his stuff to justify their ethnic cleansing in much the same way that Darwin’s theory has been used for sociopolitical purposes. Nietzsche was no anti-Semitic. In fact he broke off his friendship with Wagner because of Wagner’s anti-Semitism. Nietzsche was an HSP. He had a complete psychological meltdown over seeing a man beating a horse.

    Nietzsche criticized the Church for two things:
    1) a “herd mentality”
    2) a “slave mentality”

    Nietzche was right the *Dogma* God is dead. Fortunately, the *Pneuma* God is alive and well and very active in the world. A bit less active in the Church, though; but still there, just waiting for the kairos, the right time to do a new thing. This side of the fullness of Eternity, timing is everything as the Bible reveals.

    Sometimes it is very hard to wait on a God to whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day; but faith gives us hope and, if it is mature enough, prevents us from trusting more in a dysfunctional political process than in Grace to “fix” what’s wrong in the world.

    The Conservative American churches have replaced the Gospel call to action with a 50′s political ideology and the Liberal churches have substituted a 60′s political ideology. To put your faith in the transforming power of Grace is to be accused of being “impractical” in the Church as well as the world. The Church becomes a circular firing squad of conservative and and liberal “christians” every election year.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/09/dear-christian-if-the-thought-of-either-romney-or-obama-getting-elected-makes-you-fearful-angry-or-depressed-you-have-what-we-call-a-theological-problem/

    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/guest-post-america-needs-community-not-collectivism

    http://commonwealmagazine.org/plutocracy-or-democracy

  • Carol

    Sometimes we hear the Gospel so often in our own Tradition that it becomes “background music” instead of the Lord’s Song that we dance through life to.

    Just as the American Evangelical Churches are experiencing an Awakening that has the potential to become a Reformation, there is also a renewal movement taking place within American Judaism.

    In many ways, the two sectarian movements are hearing the same message from God, which is a “confirmation” of sorts, even though, like all humanly understood messages from God, still leaves the “movement” with a few *bugs* to be worked out.

    I am going to be inwardly celebrating Chanukah this year as well as Advent and Christmas. The message is the same; but I experience a freshness in hearing it anew in another Abrahamic Tradition:

    How to Do Chanukah, 2012
    By Rabbi Michael Lerner

    Chanukah is the holiday celebrating the triumph of hope over fear, light over darkness, the powerless over the powerful. It begins this Saturday night, Dec. 8th and end at dark on Sunday, December 16th. If you happen to be in the Bay Area, you are invited to Beyt Tikkun synagogue-without-walls’ Chanukah celebration on Saturday night, December 15th (the eight night) at the southwest corner of Cedar and Bonita from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Details at http://www.beyttikkun.org. You don’t have to be Jewish to participate.

    So tell the story that way. It is a more powerful way then the current Americanization of Chanukah: “They oppressed us; we beat them, now let’s show how much we can spend on gift and lets eat latkes.” No. Recognize that Chanukah is about understanding that when we connect with the transformative power of the universe, the Force of Healing and Transformation, YHVH, we become aware that the powerless can become powerful, that oppression of any sort is in contradiction to the fundamental nature of human beings as loving, kind, generous, free, creatjve, intelligent, attuned to beauty, caring for and needing each other beings created in the image of God. When that energy and awareness permeates our consciousness, no ruling elite and no system of exploitation can possibly last for very long.

  • Carol

    Perhaps the Mystery of the Incarnation can best be understood as God’s way of showing how we should live as divine-image bearers dependent on Grace instead of human effort to realize the possibility of godlikeness rather than God’s way of fulfilling the demands of the Law.

    Why some might prefer to think of themselves as a POS than as an image-bearer of God, with the potential to realize godlikeness:

    JEWISH RENEWAL

    A PATH TO HEALING AND TRANSFORMATION

    Rabbi Michael Lerner

    Excerpt (pp. 72-75)

    OUR INNER RESISTANCE TO THE MESSAGE

    Other religions share with Judaism the notion that the universe legitimately generates awe, wonder, and radical amazement. But our awe is a response not only to the grandeur and magnificence of the universe, but also the overwhelming recognition that we humans, created in God’s image, are charged with healing the world, and have the possibility of transforming toward a moral order. In encountering God they had recognized that this possibility is built into the very foundation of the universe.

    This God of freedom and possibility is the good news that Moses brings back to Egypt. Not surprisingly, the Israelite slaves do not quite “get” it. It does not fit into their categories, their experience as slaves in imperial Egypt. Although the leaders of the people are ready to believe the message as conveyed to them by Aaron, Moses’ brother, who translates the message in a way that the people can hear, they become understandably despondent when Pharaoh increases their burden in response to Moses’ first appeal for freedom. The Israelites are impatient, and the increased bondage imposed by Pharaoh in response to their willingness to listen to Moses seems to convince them that nothing is really possible, that the dream of freedom is really just a delusion that will only increase their pain. The first response of the enslaved is cynical realism.

    So it is with all of us. Part of the reason we cannot take seriously Torah’s message of transcendence and transformation is that we are fearful that it is merely an illusion, and if we act in the world as though things could really be different, we will merely increase our own pain and discomfort, antagonize those with power who will make things worse for us. These fears make the Israelites resist Moses’ message.

    Every one of us knows how reassuring some connections—or common interests—with the powerful can be, and how terrifying it is to find ourselves heading in a direction at odds with them. Whether we have few material comforts or many, we know that if we decide to challenge the way things are, we will be in considerably worse shape. Our job security will disappear; our friends will feel that they are taking a big risk by remaining our friends; we will be made fun of, not only by those who have power, but by those who are aspiring to power. Some will say that we are crazy; others that we are merely misguided, others that we ourselves are power-crazy. And when we really start to seem like a threat, when we become successful enough so that ruling elites start to worry; we will face overt repression, physical assault, imprisonment, expulsion, torture, or death.

    Jews, like anyone who has ever contemplated becoming a union activist, social-change organizer, or critic of the established order, ask whether the risk is worth taking, whether enough can be accomplished to make it worth the personal pain. Sure, things are not good the way they are, but to challenge them might be t do nothing more than to bring down upon ourselves the personal ire of the powerful. Judaism is trying to tell us that it’s worth the risk!

    This was what faced every Israelite a each asked him/herself, “Should I join this group of people who are going to the wilderness as the means to escape slavery? After all, they have no plan, no sure way of finding economic security or food, no place to go. Do I become one of the homeless and landless to follow an ideal? Do I risk the fleshpots of Egypt for the uncertainties of a life of commitment to a principle and a vision that may not be actualized in my lifetime?” When put this way, it’s no wonder that it’s not always so easy to take seriously the message of transformation and transcendence inherent in the belief in YHVH.

    There’s another dimension to why this is so overwhelming. The Biblical conception of God works to undo the sense of safety derived from our daily routines. It suggests that the physical world is infused with transformative possibilities and operates according to spiritual and not just material concerns. Yir’at ha’Shem, the fear of God, is really a recognition of the fact that we are surrounded by and enmeshed in a set of spiritual realities that far transcend our capacities to understand.

    The seeming fixity and predictability of the world may be an illusion. To the extent that we have drawn our security from seeing the world as predictable and potentially under our control, the notion of a God that allows for and require transformation seems threatening. That instability may seem even greater when we recognize that every fiber of our being is permeated with this God energy, that at the innermost being of every cell in or bodies is pulsating not to the rhythm of fixed regularity but to the song of divine freedom and transcendence. Contemplate the consequence: that our health as individual beings may be intrinsically linked to the health of the total human enterprise and the degree to which it has become a true embodiment of divine energy (i.e., the degree to which we have succeeded in becoming partners with God in healing and transforming the world).

    It’s clear why this message should be horrifying to ruling elites whose ability to dominate has been sustained in part by their ability to convince us that existing systems of oppression are inevitable and unchangeable. But why should it scare the rest of us? Because most of us have adopted a strategy for coping with our own experience of alienation and frustration of our highest spiritual capacities that involves accepting this frustration as a natural part of reality. Nevertheless, the alienation and mutual nonrecognition continue to cause us pain. So our solution has been to recast ourselves in our own minds and in our own experiences as separate beings who really can exist without mutual recognition and without fulfilling our own needs for spirituality and loving connection. Thus, our emergence as isolated individuals, able to stand on our own, seeking our own ful fillment, imagining that we can develop rigid boundaries that will both separate and protect us from others (but actually function to contain and repress our own awareness of our need for others). In a world in which we have given up on the possibility of healing the pain of others, or significantly relating our lives to their fates, or participating with them in the kind of mutual recognition for which we hunger, the best self-protection is to deny the need and imagine ourselves to be self-contained, well-boundaried, and delimited beings who can achieve fulfillment and salvation on our own and without regard to what is happening to anyone else. In this mode, we become fearful of anything that might threaten those boundaries or essentially link us to others, since we have come to believe that it is precisely in our detached and self-contained selves that we have a chance to achieve a personal salvation, whereas we have long ago given up on the possibility of collective or so cial salvation.

    Now enter Judaism, with a fluid and progressive account of the world, an insistence on the fundamental interdependence of all human beings, and an account of the fundamental unity of all Being. Just when we have gotten the world into neat and contained categories in order to reconcile ourselves to its alienation, Judaism proclaims a oneness that is permeated by a transformative (divine) energy that moves us to transcend our alienated separateness and to become partners with God in transforming reality. The false solidarity we had constructed as part of our strategy for dealing with alienated reality suddenly is in danger of melting beneath our feet.

    No wonder, then, that God appears to Moses not as a mountain but as a voice coming from the fire, a bush that is not consumed but burns with intensity and overwhelming power. No wonder that Jewish religious experience seems to be entering into the dangerous and uncontrolled to people who have made their peace with a world of alienation and who are intent on finding a personal solution within such a world.

    To think of ourselves as made in the image of God who is the Force that makes for transformation and possibility is to destabilize not only the world, but even any fixed conception of ourselves. At the core of our being lies possibility, and the core of human nature is the possibility of human nature in any historical period being radically transformed. Judaism forces us to confront the falsity of all those notions that attempt to reify human reality and hence provide a degree of predictability so that we can shape our lives to fit the contours of a world dominated by alienation and oppression. Judaism dissolves the false security some people seek in religion. Instead we stand trembling before the revelation of God. This is not a God that makes the world totally orderly and predictable. It is not a God tamed and made safe by Enlightenment rationality—it is the God that is experienced through the thunder and lightening of that incredible moment at Sinai when an entire people was confronted by a revelation that shook it to the core.

    “Core moral concepts, such as freedom, conscience, obedience, and fidelity, can have very different meanings and importance. These differing meanings depend on if our concern is with conformity, fulfilling norms, and subordination, or instead if our focus is radical thinking infused with the spirit of God blowing as it wills and marked by grown-up, freely affirmed responsibility.” –Bernard Haering, The Virtues of an Authentic Life (1997), p. 53.

    “Alas for the blood of Jesus Christ, despised and trampled underfoot by Christians, nay by priests under the pretense of re-establishing the purity of doctrine and fervor of Apostolic times!”–St. Alphonsus Liguori on the Jansenists

    As I understand the Christian religion, it was, and is, a revelation. But how has it happened that millions of fables, tales, legends, have been blended with both Jewish and Christian revelation that have made them the most bloody religion that ever existed? — John Adams, letter to FA Van der Kamp, December 27, 1816

    I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.~John Adams, Letter to Thomas Jefferson (3 September 1816), published in Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams (UNC Press, 1988), p. 488.

    A NEW COSMOLOGY

    In the Old Cosmology, salvation largely became a kind of heavenly transaction that took place by your moral behavior, by belonging to the right group, and by having the right rituals. It wasn’t really relational. You didn’t have to connect with God; you just had to pay dues to God. You didn’t have to really love God at all. You just had to obey His commandments.

    And God was totally a He in this worldview, which preferred a description of reality as not connection, but domination, despite Jesus. Our word for that is “patriarchy.”

    In fact, we took an amazing amount of ammunition from one single line in Genesis that told us our job was to “dominate the earth.” (See Genesis 1:28.) Of course, if we’d recognized that we were created in the image of God and our job was to dominate the way God dominates, then it would be much more like nurturance and protection.~Richard Rohr, Adapted from The New Cosmology: Nature as the first Bible

    Men don’t change easily. Men don’t like to change; and because men are actually programmed not to change, but to solidify their opinions and their identities, it often leads to men killing others in one form or another. In fact, men are rewarded, admired, and elected for not changing! Unfortunately, this feels like most of human history. Stalin said, “One death is a tragedy. But when 150,000 people die, it’s a ‘statistic.’” Too often, we men are able to live in this detached world of statistics instead of inside of our own sacred humanity. No wonder Jesus’ first preached word was “change” (Matthew 3:2, Mark 1:15)!

    In the wars of the 20th century, most countries involved claimed to be Christian—filled with people who claimed to base their lives on Jesus and his teachings. This is what happens when religion does not really change people, but is just the group to which you happen to belong. ~Richard Rohr, Adapted from How Men Change: A Thin Time

    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

    Love is not a matter of getting what you want. Quite the contrary. The insistence on always having what you want, on always being satisfied, on always being fulfilled, makes love impossible. To love you have to climb out of the cradle, where everything is “getting,” and grow up to the maturity of giving, without concern for getting anything special in return. . . . Love is a positive force, a transcendent spiritual power. It is, in fact, the deepest creative power in human nature. ~Merton, Thomas. Love and Living. Naomi Burton Stone and Brother Patrick Hart, editors.

    Love demands a complete inner transformation, for without this we cannot possibly come to identify ourselves with our brother. We have to become, in some sense, the person we love. And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self. No matter how hard we try, we resist this death: we fight back with anger, with recriminations, with demands, with ultimatums. We seek any convenient excuse to break off and give up the difficult task.–Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert

    The typical moralist sees grace as a means to fulfill a commandment. He puts the commandment in the first place and sees the difference of Old and New Testaments in the observance of the Decalogue. In the Old Testament they did not have the grace to keep the commandments; now in the New Testament they have sufficient grace if they use all the means, the sacraments, and so on. This is an anthropocentric, moralistic approach which makes the grace of Christ and finally Christ Himself only the means for the law, for the commandments . But primacy is not the law, the commandments “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”; the primacy is our Lord, who in his grace, his tremendous love, comes to encounter us. –Bernard Haering, C.Ss.R., Redemptorist Moral Theologian

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    And did you get what

    you wanted from this life, even so?

    I did.

    And what did you want?

    To call myself beloved, to feel myself

    beloved on the earth.

    ~Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”

    When we use the word “love,” what exactly are we talking about? Are we referring merely to our unique tastes and preferences? Are we referring to our experience of deep personal bonds and attachments? Or are we referring to our connection to a higher spiritual Truth? When we have an experience of revelation or what is traditionally called enlightenment, we directly taste for ourselves a kind of love that is of a different order altogether. It is a love that is truly eternal and liberating, unchanging, a love beside which all other forms of love pale in comparison. Once we have tasted its liberating and all-encompassing depth, our understanding of what love is and what it means changes forever. ~Andrew Cohen

    There is only one true flight from the world; it is not an escape from conflict, anguish and suffering, but the flight from disunity and separation, to unity and peace in the love of other men.~Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    If we can love the men we cannot trust (without trusting them foolishly) and if we can to some extent share the burden of their sin by identifying ourselves with them, then perhaps there is some hope of a kind of peace on earth, based not on the wisdom and manipulations of men but on the inscrutable mercy of God. ~Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    The point of the spiritual life is not our personal private holiness but rather opening our selves so that the life of God can pour out on the community. ~ Maggie Ross

    An Adequate Faith

    “If I, as a Christian, believe that my first duty is to love and respect my fellow in his personal frailty and perplexity, in his own unique hazard and need for trust, then I think that the refusal to let him alone, to entrust him to God and his conscience, and the insistence on rejecting them as persons until they agree with me, is simply a sign that my own faith is inadequate.

    My own peculiar task in my Church and in my world has been that of the solitary explorer who, instead of jumping on all the latest bandwagons at once, is bound to search the existential depths of faith in its silences, its ambiguities, and in those certainties which lie deeper than the bottom of anxiety. In these depths there are no easy answers, no pat solutions to anything. It is a kind of submarine life in which faith sometimes mysteriously takes on the aspect of doubt, when, in fact, one has to doubt and reject conventional and superstitious surrogates that have taken the place of faith. On this level, the division between believer and unbeliever ceases to be so crystal clear. It is not that some are all right and others are all wrong: all are bound to seek in honest perplexity. Everybody is an unbeliever more or less.” ~ From “Apologies to an Unbeliever” by Thomas Merton

    Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.–Gilbert K. Chesterton

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

  • lamia

    mmm……I have to say Carol…..dont know how your history and philosphical statements would stand in the face of persecution. I am not christian and come from a muslim background but as a woman concerned about her cousins in Egypt (female cousins) let me ask you something carol:

    If you were for some reason walking back home very late at night, it was dark out and you were in a lonely alley and 30 meters behind you was a group of men walking behind you what would make you feel the safest:

    if they were a group of muslim men coming form imam meeting
    a group of evangelical men coming form bible study
    or just a group of men.

    to say bahai are christlike makes me wondr by what are you measuring that carol? that argument seems very hollow. every religion has good in common with all others, that does not mean they are all the same in the day to day life of people.
    to point out flaws in religion is one thing and peoples view of belief, but to say all beliefsa re the same? are they? (refer back to my bible study and dark alley story pls)

    and David, are you still a christian? you talk about the z theory and incarnation but I dont believe Ive heard your thoughts on resurrection? incarnation ok I get it, but isnt resurrection just as important to christian belief?

    and yI would also correct you on your assessment of the middle east, you mayhave visited and lived but its cler you dont understand the belief systems behind.

  • lamia

    Im sorry carol, you sound like someone who is buried in books and not in real life, even though your arguments sound good and this website actually sounds more bahai that Christian yet excuses its stance by saying the Bible has no authority…mmmm……I dont know….sounds like in trying to make a point you have lost the anchor

  • lamia

    yes to exposing condemnation, conditional love, religious behaviors, shaming and condemnation…yes universally yes…but to say all belief systems point to the same thing? no….dont think so. Ive read the bible and we muslims already consider it corrupt, no new news there….but you accuse Jesus’ followers direct apostles of misinterpreting him by way too much if the resurrection is not important. what is that? so Jesus death doesnt matter…then heck yes we muslims and xtians have more in common. this is the one thing I have wrestled with, his resurrection, so is it an imp factor or not?

  • Carol

    I never said that I believe all formal religious belief systems to be equal any more than I would claim that all political power systems are equal.

    What I am saying is that there are people of God in all Religious Traditions and that sectarian religious identities do not tell you which members are merely professing faith with their tongues and which are confessing faith with their lives.

    BTW, if I were a gay male, I would not feel very safe if I were being followed by either a group of muslim men, a group of evangelical men or just a group of men.

    Scapegoating is a human not a muslim, christian or secular tendency that can only be *cured* by the transforming power of Grace, not theological beliefs or civil laws; although these things do tend to influence who becomes the targeted scapegoats.

    I do believe that the Christian moral teaching has raised the bar higher than the other Religious Traditions because Jesus taught a positive version of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you” instead of the negaative version shared by the other Religious Traditions: “Don’t do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.”

    The Christian Gospel ethic recognizes that there are “sins of omission” as well as “sins of commission.” In other words, Jesus taught that we are responsible for providing for the basic reasonable (not disordered) survival needs–material and emotional–of others before we indulge our individual wants and desires.

    “When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her.
    It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed.”
    –Mother Teresa

    Unfortunately, the superior moral teaching of the Christian Tradition is no guarantee that individual Christians will be morally superior.

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it’s not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.” –Mahatma Gandhi

    “Being a Methodist, a Catholic, or a Baptist does not make one a disciple, it only makes him a Methodist, a Catholic, or a Baptist, who may or may not be a daily follower of Jesus Christ.” ~Michael Phillips

    “Plenty of kind, decent, caring people have no religious beliefs, and they act out of the goodness of their hearts. Conversely, plenty of people who profess to be religious, even those who worship regularly, show no particular interest in the world beyond themselves.”
    -John Danforth, priest, ambassador, senator (b. 1936)

  • lamia

    do believe that the Christian moral teaching has raised the bar higher than the other Religious Traditions because Jesus taught a positive version of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others that which you would have them do unto you” instead of the negaative version shared by the other Religious Traditions: “Don’t do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.”

    I am glad you understood my point, there is a difference.

  • lamia

    and it was the lack of pointing that difference out in the name of inclusivity that I disagree with and consider hollow. All the eloquent paragraphs can be over complicated ways of just saying where you stand….. we all are guilty of scapegoating, but there are significantly different levels and scopes of doing it, therefore as much as grace is the only transforming power, even the law as applied to society (and here I agree with what I think Cass was tryng to say) still is different.

  • lamia

    and I think we can show some gratitude and recognition for that otherwise move form the comfort you may enjoy in a more peaceful socity and move elsewhere.

  • lamia

    and by the way, to say a gay male would not feel any safer with a group of evangelical christian men than with muslims is also incorrect, he may get hatred from christians but with muslims he will get downright killed in a nation with a governemtn that wouldnt very much care and would turn a blind eye, in america if it came to a hate crime it would create an uproar.

  • lamia

    “Don’t do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.”
    If you know anything about muslim belief, this is not true. It goes even further “an eye for an eye” do unto others worse than what they did to you.

    The Prophet himself spoke of this.

  • lamia

    this is why I disagree with this notion of lets all love and accept each other….because what does that mean? What does love and accept each other mean? it means different things to different people. To one indigenous group throwing a baby girl into the woods in order to feed the boys is loving the family by providing greater security. If you disagree with this, then Oh my God you cannot be inclusive with this belief, and if you believe that little baby’s life is valuable, where do you get that belief from? wher did you borrow your morality from? cass you said something interesting, graduate and burn down the school, I think I understand. It means you are rejecting the flaws you see in your belief or moral inheritance by using a filter you inherited that made you recognize those flaws.

  • Carol

    There is a difference between true religion and tribalism. Sectarian religion is tribalism disguised as religion.

    “Christians” have killed homosexuals, also blacks, Jews and women (the big three in the history of scapegoating).

    It is not Christianity that keeps us safer in America, it is secular humanism. Fundamentalists are always confusing hedonistic materialism with secular humanism. Humanistic values are humanistic values whether they are Christian, Jewish, Islamic, etc.

    Unlike under theocratic forms of governance, overt violence becomes rare when there is a SECULAR government that imposes a high price, like imprisonment or even the death penalty, as consequences for such behaviors. Freedom of religion does not include the practice of violent behavior toward your enemies (anyone who does not conform to your tribal beliefs or customs) in a secular State.

    However, the Law–whether Mosaic, Sharia or secular only restrains evil by fear. It does not have the transforming power of Grace, so it is always only a temporary fix, not a final solution for human evil.

    Unfortunately, SECULAR humanism is the justice without the love, which just isn’t quite enough to heal and provide meaning to the human spirit.

    “Humanism was not wrong in thinking that truth, beauty, liberty, and equality are of infinite value, but in thinking that man can get them for himself without grace.” –Simone Weil

    BTW, I am very much attracted to Sufism, as I am to the mystical traditions in all Religions:

    “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

    Mystics are spiritual erotics. The mystical traditions are where Love transcends good and evil to become Unconditional.

    Unfortunately, mysticism is as much about the brain’s neurological wiring and chemistry as it is a form of human spirituality and evil is the absence or a disordering of goodness. An untransformed or immature mystic can be very *dark.* Rasputin the “Mad Monk” was a mystic. As was Jim Jones, David Koresh and probably Charles Manson.

    Life is always much more complicated that it seems at first glance. For every problem there is always a simple answer–and it’s wrong!

  • Carol

    lamia, I also have a high view of Scripture; but I value it as a means of Grace; not essentially a moral manual or a metaphysical treatise; although the Bible certainly does provide us with a revelation of God and moral guidance, which, when unaided by Grace, the human intellect often distorts.

    There is a distinction between the Written Word of Scripture and the Christ Jesus, the Living Word. When the Bible becomes an object of faith rather than a means of Grace we have bibliolatry, not respect for the Sacred Text. Bibliolatry among the Abrahamic religions seems most common within Protestant Evangelicalism and Islam.

    Ecclesiolatry, confusing the institutional Church with the Kingdom of God is more common within Catholicism. When a lesser “good” becomes absolutized, we fall into the sin of idolatry. Unfortunately, the “good” has a tendency to become the enemy of the “best” since attaining the “best” usually requires more self-discipline than attaining a lesser “good.”

    Lovers always want the best for their beloved; which explains why there is so much conflict between our human wills and the Will of God. God wants us to be “holy” and love each other with a perfect/unconditional love and we would prefer to settle for merely being polite as our witness in a rude society.

  • Carol

    lamia, legitimate spiritual authority comes with a conscience clause and does not demand internal submission to any human authority even though it may place boundaries on external behaviors within the faith community. Legitimate spiritual authority does not dictate which sinners/sins we may forgive and accept and which sinners/sins we must hate and from whom we may withhold our compassionate love.

    Authoritarianism is only one form of spiritual abuse, this link provides access to information about most forms:

    http://www.watchman.org/profile/abusepro.htm
    Spiritual Abuse
    by David Henke
    Founding Date: Spiritual abuse is as old as false religion itself. While the practice is old, the term “spiritual abuse” may have been coined first by Jeff VanVonderen.
    Organizational Structure: Can occur under virtually any organizational structure, but “top down” hierarchical structures are especially well suited to systemic spiritual abuse.
    DEFINED
    Spiritual abuse is the misuse of a position of power, leadership, or influence to further the selfish interests of someone other than the individual who needs help. Sometimes abuse arises out of a doctrinal position. At other times it occurs because of legitimate personal needs of a leader that are being met by illegitimate means. Spiritually abusive religious systems are sometimes described as legalistic, mind controlling, religiously addictive, and authoritarian.
    COMMON CHARACTERISTICS
    #1) Authoritarian
    The most distinctive characteristic of a spiritually abusive religious system, or leader, is the over-emphasis on authority. Because a group claims to have been established by God Himself the leaders in this system claim the right to command their followers.
    This authority supposedly comes from the position they occupy. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus said the Scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat,” a position of spiritual authority. Many names are used but in the abusive system this is a position of power, not moral authority. The assumption is that God operates among His people through a hierarchy, or “chain of command.” In this abusive system unconditional submission is often called a “covering,” or “umbrella of protection” which will provide some spiritual blessing to those who fully submit. Followers may be told that God will bless their submission even if the leadship is wrong. It is not their place to judge or correct the leadership – God will see to that.

  • lamia

    so why do nations under christian beleifs develop sectarian humanism, (because even the christian law based belief allows for more evolution than others) and nations under sharia, taoism or hinduism remain either tribalistic or non -egalitarian?
    can you please asnwer this?

    carol over and over again you do not undrstand my point, perhaaps the internet makes that difficult nothing that you said is new. the only thing I targeted here is the notion that all religions are the same. they are not. and the notion that it does not matter what you believe, because we all truly believe the same thing.
    we all have the same root, we all have the same needs, that is true. but we do not have the right to determine wht truth is only to align to it,to explore it with safety and joy and hopefully have the freedom it takes to discover it within and without us.

    and by the way I am sufi and come from a long line of sufis so dont lecture me on the mystic tradition.My grandfather can be traced back to Sha’haddi.

    islam “you take my turkey, I take your horse. You take my horse I kill your son.”

    Taosim “if your enemies attack you, do not worry because they are not real. Evil and good are both within God and God is beyond, so you must transcend.”

    Xtianity: if your enemies attack you, you are still called to love them. God does not approve of wht they do for there is no evil in Him, but He still values them even beyond their actions.

    Judaism “we are the chosen people so unless other people believe as we do, God will vanquish them”

    tell me…..is there a difference?

  • lamia

    it seems to me that in gaining a prophetic voic of pulling the plank out in the eyes of religion, a blindspot has developped and that blindspot is that anyone who suggests the posibility og exclusiveness must never have questioned their beliefs ( or as you put it caarol “are your beliefs your own). and anyone who re-appropriates a traditional view once having lost the lens of dogma, much surely be dogmatic.

    stages of development

    dogma or fundamentalism(modernism) fear driven

    a complete rejection of dogma or fundamntalism including rejection of anything exlusivist (post modernism) hurt driven

    and undestanding that the filtr (dogma) is not truth but truth alo has boundaries withint the manifestations in the world of physics, as our spirits are embodied and curently bound. (alignment) love driven

  • lamia

    anyhow i am done jesting. i believe ive attempted to make the point that all religions and belief systems have things in common but are not the same nd societies bsed on them have evolved to reflect them. that only a personal transformation with god (th beloved) can bring his truth to a human sphere. that as much as i gain from this website, pride and us vrs them ( we the enlightened free ones vrs the dogma driven blind ones) is evidence the disease is still there) and tht ultimately even though we do not know fully WE DO KNOW SOME THINGS. regards.

  • cass

    lamia, yes you did understand my point on “burning the school”…mmm and carol…at some point you mention the plight of the crucible when the israelites faced the choice of leaving egypt for the wilderness. The wilderness is the crucible that eventually leads to the promised land. I worry you glorify the crucible as the place to stay even though it is the next step. The wilderness signifies the unkowing among many other things or the concept of we must just Love. Jesus had perfect love, had authority and very much was exclusive (didn’t like dogma, materialism, pettyness, and sin.) He was all loving yet stood up for what is “right”.

    lamia is this what you meant when you mentioned stages of development?

    Would the middle one represent the wilderness?

  • http://nakedpastor.com nakedpastor

    Well Lamia… I agree with much of what you have said here. You must understand that the comments on my posts do not necessarily reflect my thoughts. What you have to say is engaging and, in my opinion, healthy for the discussion at hand. Your cultural views of religion are right on.

  • Carol

    cass, the humanity of Jesus was unique in that it was not wounded by sin. He was a lot better at discerning what is “right” than we are.

    I recognize two moral absolutes Love and justice. Justice is love in action; but I also realize that self-interest and disordered desires can blind us to justice. I do not hesitate to voice my opinion of what is “right”, as I see it; but I also realize that my discernment is clouded by my interests and cultural conditioning. I can speak with authority of my personal experience of God; but I cannot speak with absolute authority FOR God.

    I am much better at discerning the obvious violations of the Law of Love, than I am at how to put it into practice in my relationships with others. “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and it is often those who love us the most who hurt us the most by trying to force us into choices that they think and feel are in our own best interests.

    Yes, I have considered the possibility that temporal life is mostly a “wandering in the wilderness” or a purgatorial experience; but I also remember that an angel came to minister to Jesus after as he recovered from being tested. I, too, have had many “angels” in my life for whom I am deeply grateful. Perhaps that is our most important calling, to be angels of comfort to our fellow pilgrims as we travel to the Promised Land. I worked for a priest who saw his pastoral ministry as one of “bucking up” those who needed encouragement and helping them to ask the right questions for themselves, not one of telling them how to solve their own problems–not that there aren’t many lay persons who would not prefer an enabling pastor to an empowering pastor. Abuses of authority are not always entirely the fault of the ordained clergy.

  • Carol

    lamia, you can’t judge a religious Tradition by the behavior of its professed adherents.

    Not all American Christians “allow for more evolution” than other Relgious Traditions. That is one of the theological issues that is presently dividing the Protestant Evangelical Churches.

    I wasn’t lecturing you on Sufism, I was merely saying that I found much wisdom in that Tradition. I have no doubt that there are Sufis, like there are Christian mystics who are, well, to put it bluntly, aggressive, arrogant assholes.

    I don’t know where you got your impression of Taoism; but what I found there is superior by far to the Augustinian Christian “Just War Theory”:

    Weapons are the tools of violence;
    all decent men detest them.
    Weapons are the tools of fear;
    a decent man will avoid them
    except in the direst necessity
    and, if compelled, will use them
    only with the utmost restraint.

    Peace is his highest value.
    If the peace has been shattered,
    how can he be content?

    His enemies are not demons,
    but human beings like himself.
    He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
    Nor does he rejoice in victory.
    How could he rejoice in victory
    and delight in the slaughter of men?

    He enters a battle gravely,
    with sorrow and with great compassion,
    as if he were attending a funeral.”
    –Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

    My father, an agnostic (not an atheist) used to say, “You can prove anything from the Bible” and he was right. Same is true for the Koran and any other Religious Tradition’s sacred Scriptures. I believe that Sacred Scriptures are authoritative, not authoritarian.

    The Scriptures are a Revelation of God’s attempts to teach us who we truly are, made in the Divine Image with the potential of becoming godlike, if only we, by Grace, recover that Image. The Scriptures are also a Revelation of how we have consistently failed to “get it”, drowning out the Voice of God with the voices of our own daemonic survivalist instincts and disordered desires. That is why we can justify “collateral damage”, the latest euphemism for civilian casualties, in war by citing OT Scriptures where the ancient Israelites claimed that God told them to kill everyone in the towns that they conquered, women and children as well as the men who were potential warriors. Should I believe that God ordered the heads of the babies of the Israelites enemies to be “dashed against the wall, just because the Bible says that is true? Should I believe that God sent a hurrican to destroy New Orleans because of its sins because some fundamentalist can cite biblical texts supporting his prophetic ranting? Is that what a christian is expected do to prove that s/he holds biblical Revelation to be true?

    All I am trying to say is that no Religious Tradition has the whole Truth or is completely free from error in either belief or practice. Of course, all Religions are not equal in either their depth of theological insight or degree of evil in their practice. The point that I am trying to make is that the lesser of two or more evils is still an evil. Sectarian triumphalism, dogmatic absolutism and self-righteous judgmentalism have been responsible for a lot of cruelty and suffering throughout human history and Christendom has not exactly been free of these evils.

    IMO, it would be a mistake to put your faith in another Religious Tradition simply because it is not quite as abusive as the one you were born into; but that is only my opinion and you are certainly under no obligation to take it seriously.

  • cass

    thankyou carol I believe in these last two messages you put your mask down (the go story you tell yourself) and the real carol came through, a carol I can relate to. My story? my father is half palestinian (of the maronite christian tradition) half jewish, born in bethlehem if you would believe it. My mother is persian and muslim and her father is sufi, and of all the grandchildren two salomon and myself are in the sufi tradition. My mentor, very well known in the US actually, has dedicated his life to the teachings of Lao Tsu, is a qigong master and Chi student. I have many conversations with him. I askd him to boil it all down, a he speaks profoundly on unconditional love and that is clos to how he stated it, quoting endless taoist sciptures…so I could argue that but will not…what for?

    You said “lamia, you can’t judge a religious Tradition by the behavior of its professed adherents.” ahh Jesus did say if anything (not by right sounding arguments ) by by their fruit yu will know them, as by your fruit in your life and mine we can assess ourselves, even though that assessment if clouded.

    I have never disagreed with any of these last points you made….I reiterate that to say that every belief leads to the same place is something I paid for dearly in my life. I broke the chains of dogma and religion and faced those bitter consequence and thn followed the Bahai line of thinking and paid another price…….there is a middle way. Finally when I stopped to listen to my heart I returned to my core Sufism…..but the incarnation of the man Jesus and even more improtantly hisdeath (crucible-wilderness) and resurrection (promised land) means that if this man did do what the bible speaks he did, it cannot be swept under a rug of post modernism nor can it be appropriated by the very ones he condemnd as religious leaders. and Carol i am very well aware of the pitfalls of american psychosocial and virgin whore complex dogma and how it has been directly influenced by religious thinking….or the application of morality without love. alright I really must be going…sincrely thankyou for the conversatin.

    anyhow…..no easy to speak when english is not my study and philosophy language…but as I said Carol……what are the ego stories we tell ourselves even to survive a religious divorce. yes cass that is a way of seeing what I meant.

  • Carol

    Cass, you have a very diverse spiritual pedigree!

    I think that we are living through the end of sectarian religion. Many of us have come to realize that “all truth is God’s Truth” wherever we may find it. The substance is more important than the Religious source since God is the only Source that truly matters.

    My own belief is that if a Religious Tradition has survived for a millenia or more, there must be something of value there or it would never have spoken to so many hearts for so long.

    As with Religious Traditions, so with the people of God who follow them (and also those who don’t follow them): underneath the pathology is pure gold; it’s just that sometimes you have to dig so deep . . . .

  • Carol

    I usually experience life as a tragicomedy; but there is no comedy here, just an almost unimaginable tragedy:

    In a message dated 12/10/12 03:35:06 Eastern Standard Time, daily@delanceyplace.com writes:
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    In today’s selection — in 1982, Michael Jackson triumphed with the release of his
    album Thriller under the auspices of CBS Records and its president Walter Yetnikoff.
    Here Yetnikoff relates stories of his conversations with Michael during that period:

    ‘When I threw a black-tie party for him at the Museum of Nat­ural History in New
    York, there were more security guards than guests. Donald Trump was Michael’s new
    best friend. The Guinness Book of Records announced that Thriller, with 25 million
    copies sold, was the best-selling album ever. I introduced him as the “greatest
    artist ever.” Only my Jew­ish roots kept me from comparing him to Jesus. The President
    and Mrs. Reagan sent a telegram. When I saw [CBS founder William] Paley, I said,
    “Now you know who Michael Jackson is.” At the high point, at the very moment I
    was about to intro duce Michael to the glittering crowd, he whispered in my ear,
    “I have to tinkle. Can you take me to the potty?”

    ‘A few days after the party, I was on my way to California when Michael called.

    “I’m not happy,” he said.

    “How can you not be happy? You own the world.”

    “My brothers want me to tour with them, and I don’t want to.”

    “Then don’t.”

    “But my mother says I should.”

    “Do you always listen to your mother?”

    “I try to.”

    “Then tour.”

    “She’s working with Don King.”

    “You’re working with [his manager] Tookie. It’s an even match.”

    “My brothers are broke. That’s the only reason they want to tour with me.”

    “That’s a pretty good reason.”

    “When I was a kid, they never stopped teasing me.”

    “So you’re angry.”

    “Very.”

    “I don’t blame you.”

    “But I don’t want my mother angry at me.”

    “You’ve got a problem, Michael. Ever think about therap y?”

    “I could never tell these things to a stranger.”

    “Then flip a coin. Heads you tour, tails you don’t.”

    “You flip.”

    “Alright… I just did. It came out heads.”

    ‘In a few months, the Victory Tour, starring Michael and his broth­ers, hit the
    road.

    Before that came the [1984] Grammys. …

    Michael [called].

    “I think I’m going to win a lot of Grammys.”

    “I think you’re right.”

    “But everyone says Quincy is going to win some, too. And I don’t want him to. Quincy
    didn’t really produce the record, I did. Quincy has enough Grammys. He doesn’t need
    any more. Tell them not to give him any Grammys for Thriller.

    “I can’t tell them anything, Michael. The Grammys are run by NARAS. I have no influence
    over the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.”

    “You have influence over everyone.”

    “Except God, NARAS and Michael Jackson.”

    “You can call Quincy and t ell him to withdraw.”

    “No one withdraws.”

    “If he doesn’t, I won’t let him produce my next record.”

    “That’d be foolish.”

    “People will think he’s the one who did it, not me.”

    “Quincy doesn’t sing or dance. Quincy isn’t in any of the videos. Quincy sits behind
    the board and produces.”

    “I was the producer.”

    “Michael, I was in the studio myself. I saw Quincy producing.”

    “All he did was help out.”

    “Fine. If you want to complain to NARAS, complain to NARAS.”

    “That won’t look good. You have to complain.”

    “Get Tookie to complain.”

    “He said to get you.”

    “And I say this is a crock of s**t. Go to the g*****n Grammys, Michael, and act
    like you’re happy.”

    He did.

    Between Michael and Quincy, Thriller won a dozen Grammys. Michael acted like he
    loved Quincy more than life itself.’

    Author: Walter Yetnikoff with David Ritz
    Title: Howling at the Moon Publisher: Broadway Books
    Date: Copyright 2004 by Walter Yetnikoff
    Pages: 157-159

    For money you can have everything it is said. No, that is not true. You can buy food, but not appetite; medicine, but not health; soft beds, but not sleep; knowledge but not intelligence; glitter, but not comfort; fun, but not pleasure; acquaintances, but not friendship; servants, but not faithfulness; grey hair, but not honor; quiet days, but not peace. The shell of all things you can get for money. But not the kernel. That cannot be had for money. –Arne Garborg, writer (1851-1924)

    We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty. –Mother Theresa

    “The greatest disease is the lack of love.”– Mother Teresa

    “America is a land that is starving for love.”–Mother Teresa

    “The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved”.–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation

    The man who has reverence will not think it his duty to ‘mould’ the young. He feels in all that lives, but especially in human beings, and most of all in children, something sacred, indefinable, unlimited, something individual and strangely precious, the growing principle of life, an embodied fragment of the dumb striving of the world. . . . All this gives him a longing to help the child in its own battle; he would equip and strengthen it, not for some outside end proposed by the State or by any other impersonal authority, but for the ends which the child’s own spirit is obscurely seeking. The man who feels this can wield the authority of an educator without infringing the principle of liberty. – Bertrand Russell

    And did you get what

    you wanted from this life, even so?

    I did.

    And what did you want?

    To call myself beloved, to feel myself

    beloved on the earth.

    ~Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”


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