Becoming Human (Inspired by being on HBO)

Becoming Human (Inspired by being on HBO) January 3, 2019

Editor’s Note: Wow! This Clergy Project member and two others – John Compere and Gretta Vosper – were recently on an HBO “Vice News” segment about non-believing clergy.  Please watch it.  It’s 7:41 minutes long, plus a short ad at the beginning. It’s great press for TCP and non-believing clergy in general. The interview also inspired this blog post by Fresh LA, which he gave me permission to repost from his own blog.

====================

By Fresh LA

Mic’ed up and with cameras recording, the interviewer, Alzo Slade, asked me point blank,

“Do you believe in God?”

Immediately, numerous responses flooded my mind, but quickly a question formed. As if I were having an out-of-body experience, I heard myself ask,

“Which God?”

There was a short pause and then the conversation continued. It meandered about in numerous directions, while my internal dialogue continued in the background. Eventually the mics and cameras were turned off, small talk ensued and finally warm goodbyes were exchanged. Then, as if nothing significant had occurred, life quickly returned to normal. However, in the background, my internal dialogue continued to ebb and flow. Why had I asked, “Which God?”

Loaded to the Hilt

When replying with a question, I wasn’t trying to be cheeky or snarky. I was sincerely searching for a context. Which one? Allah? Yahweh? Vishnu? Ganesh? Jesus? Apollo? Ra? The Universe? Ether? And we wouldn’t want to exclude women: Athena? Aphrodite? Sophia? The Holy Spirit?

In that moment, it would have been helpful if the question had been phrased,

“Do you believe in my God?”

After all, if this conversation had occurred centuries ago with the Jewish Patriarch Abraham, he undoubtedly would have asked,

“Do you believe in…MY GOD…the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?”

Obviously, the topic of “believing in God” is always personalized and often loaded to the hilt with emotion. As it concerns Allah, one has to establish which version is being inquired about. Sunni? Shia? Khumra? And we shouldn’t exclude the marginalized Sufis. Personally, I’m a big fan of their witty and humorous Persian poet, Hafiz.

When it comes to Greek or Norse gods, our modern day society has largely decided to retire them to a mythological status. However, they are experiencing somewhat of a big-screen revival thanks to CGI and millions of contribution$ from Marvel, DC and Warner Brothers. The scads of obscure island gods have yet to claim the same mass fame, largely remaining on small, local stages entertaining gawking tourists. However, I’m hoping Aquaman can open a door for a few of them.

Continental gods, such as those throughout South America, have largely died from starvation, due to a scarcity of young virgins and bleeding hearts. On a small scale, eastern gods have extended their lives by appealing to hippies and hipsters. In India, it seems no amount of deities have proven sufficient enough to provide an upper hand or leg up. And recently, the Judeo-Christian Jehovah has been stumbling a bit, first with the Holocaust and now with ceaseless conflict in the Middle East. However, he did manage to get a win in the 2016 Presidential Election. #MAGA

Cherry Picking

When it comes to Christianity, many assume the discussion would be obvious and understood. But with a disputed 30+ thousand sects active around the world, it’s proven to be quite the opposite. For those of us who’ve gone on short-term mission trips, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Located within blocks of one another, you’ll often find a dozen, maybe even twenty or more denominations competing for converts.

They all read from the same book and practice faith in similar ways. Though rarely, they are on speaking terms. Why? Financial support aside, their ideologies keep them far apart.

Orthodox? Catholic? Protestant? Baptist? Pentecostal? Charismatic? Methodist? Lutheran? Fundamentalist? Conservative? Liberal? Progressive? Prophetic? Apostolic? Non-denominational? Inter-denominational, Unitarian? Universal? Whew! I’m out of breath and I haven’t even gotten started! Obviously, the divide is massive. Maybe now’s a good time to admit:

We’ve been cherry picking sacred texts for a long time, crafting preferred versions of the Divine we either could defend, or stomach for a season.

With such an admission, I know I’m asking a lot. After all, confession is rarely easy. For me, it took a few years of self-searching and de-cluttering. In the beginning, it seemed heroic to dismiss and ignore all the divine decrees regarding diet, menstruation, fashion dos & don’ts, polygamy, celibacy, justified violence and slavery. As a matter of fact, I was often praised for doing so, and encouraged to continue.

Later, when I was willing to relinquish the pro-misogamy references, I experienced my first serious pushback. But the heat really got turned up when I did the same with anti-LGBTQ references. All I can say about that is, “WOW!” Nonetheless, each experience caused me to dig deeper. Eventually, I could no longer ignore the countless contradictions, both within the Bible and within myself.

Becoming Human

In the end, I was left holding onto a very thin sliver of what some still considered sufficient for faith. It was largely a collection of metaphors, a bit of sacred poetry and a few words of wisdom. I lovingly held it close for a season, until one day I had an epiphany: My relationship with supernaturalism was over, and I would survive. Heck, I might even thrive! So, with the same veracity of commitment and moral devotion of my religious past, I decided to pursue simply being human and all it entails.

It wasn’t long until I discovered that many people considered my humanistic endeavor to be heretical and foolhardy. In some faith circles, simply being human is actually tantamount to committing a crime. Nonetheless, I’m undeterred. After all, everybody is a heretic to somebody. In my defense, I like to point to the fact that most religions share a similar narrative: at one time or another, many of the gods (including “God”) pursued the same thing—becoming human.

Postscript

I’m not so naive to think that this article will answer all my critics, or for that matter please every one of my supporters. What about NDE’s? The afterlife? Eternal punishment & reward? OI VEH! For now, I suggest we stay on point with what it means to be human. Personally, I feel this topic is far from being exhausted. Here’s a few links to get things started:

Ze Frank: Are You Human?

Daniel Wendler: What Being Autistic Taught Me About Being Human

Erwin Raphael McManus: What Makes Us Uniquely Human?

Sonia Sanchez: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Bob McDonald: What If Everything You Know Is Wrong?

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Bio: “Fresh LA” is a child of the 70s who grew up northeast of St. Louis, MO. His life journey involved a two-century old family farm, a mid-west bible college, almost 30 years of church planting in the northeast and responsibilities as a professional evangelical adviser, nationally and abroad. These days, he’s content to work as a project manager by day, and at night, blog about his past and present experiences as a human, nothing more and nothing less. To learn more, visit http://www.freshLA.me.

>>>Photo Credits: By GTVM92 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50817921; By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57916546

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8689867

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_September_3_2015.jpg#/media/File:Donald_Trump_September_3_2015.jpg ; https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Gutenberg_Bible.jpg

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  • See Noevo

    What a surprise.

    Not.

    “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;
    and from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”

    [Acts 20:29-30]

    • mason lane

      Speaking of the flock … seems like they were bamboozled by this political promise … “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:28 And my question for you, our favorite RD troll See Noevo is … MYTHOLOGICAL MORALITY QUESTION: The Old Testament Hebrew God Jehovah is blatantly an immoral-deplorable and religiously genocidal God. Is the New Testament Jesus God morally responsible for all the heinous atrocities? “I and the Father are one.” John 10:30
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/47be76afba248f895dcda25c1b268d2201551765b04c61d4eb5cf506d848076b.jpg

  • mason lane

    Loved how you responded with “Which God.” It’s certainly the most appropriate reply. Regarding religious discussion the more specific we are the more clarity can be achieved. If some one tells me they are a Christian, my response is always, “Which kind (or which brand),” … there are so many varieties today.

  • Scott Stahlecker

    Fresh LA- Your article reminded me of one of the many reasons I offer to those who ask me why I left Christianity. That reason being, I wanted to rejoin the human race. Many religions and certain philosophies teach that human nature is evil, and the ultimate goal of salvation or enlightenment is to purge oneself of the very qualities that make us uniquely human. One result of this way of thinking is a failure to fully enjoy the human experience. “Becoming human” as I see it, is learning to accept our own humanity.