LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

“They can’t all be true” April 16, 2015



OK. I don’t usually just post a link to another blog.
BUT, here’s an exception for a REALLY GOOD article by Roger Wolsey:


4no3

Perspective

 

 

Notes From (Over) The Edge November 21, 2014

notes
“Jesus basically did only two things – he showed up for life, and he lived authentically and true to his nature.
Guess what?
You can do that too!”

      “Notes From (Over) The Edge
      [Unmasking the truth to end your suffering]
      — Jim Palmer

OK.  First. the negative.
About a third of the way through the book, I almost stopped reading.
Why?
Redundancy.
There’s a lot of that here.  A lot of redundancy.
I’ve made that complaint about one or two other books.
For me, it’s a bit off-putting; the redundancy and all.
To be fair,  this is a book of “Notes,” and many times our thoughts have reoccurring patterns as we re-visit and clarify our own understanding.
FYI, I didn’t stop reading, and neither should you.

The second negative isn’t really a negative.  It’s more of a where-in-the-world-did-this-come-from thing.  There’s a particular idea that Mr. Palmer asserts (and repeats a number of times).  Of course, I’m not against believing something “just because I choose to believe it.” Which, bottom line, pretty much covers most, if not all, of our beliefs.
He does, also, advise the reader to “take everything written here loosely like a breeze or a whisper,” so he’s certainly not claiming to have things “nailed down.” That’s a big sign he’s worth listening to.
I considered mentioning the concept I’m referring to here, but I’ve decided to let you discover it for yourself.

And now, the positive:
“Everything else!”
This is a powerful book filled with powerful concepts.
If “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free,” then get ready for a boatload of freedom.
This is going to have to find somewhere to fit in my top 5 list of books, which means it will have to knock something else out.
This is not a “Christian” book (as if there were such a thing), though it is certainly about the life and teachings of Jesus. Nor is it exclusively for those of a Judeo-Christian background. If you’re a human, you can benefit from reading this book.

You should know that an “end to you suffering” is not synonymous with an end to pain, misfortune, or other troubles “life” may bring your way.  The suffering Jim is talking about is the kind caused by not accepting life on life’s terms.  It’s always been hard for me to “flow with it” without giving up hope.  There’s an old Steve Taylor song called “Since I Gave Up Hope I Feel A Lot Better.”  There is a lot of truth to that song, and for me, those were the two options:  Struggle with life, holding on to hopes and dreams, or just give up and say “The hell with it.”
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” helped me continue on a path I’d already started, where I can see another option.  An almost hidden (to me), yet painfully obvious option called “living.”
Something I didn’t see (or couldn’t admit) for most of the years I spent in institutional religion was all the baggage.
So much BS.
So much dung passed off as godliness.
So many yokes that were anything but easy.
So many burdens that cannot possibly be considered light.

Jim Palmer, too, was an active, educated, bible-preaching “believer,” who, in many ways like me, lived and taught much he now knows was not just less-than-helpful, but downright damaging.  Damning, if you will, to both the speaker and the hearer.
But we were where we were, and now we are where we are. And life is what life is. And “God and life,” Jim reminds us, are inseparable.

Jim’s understanding, as relayed in this book, seems to incorporate teachings I’ve learned from some Buddhist meditation classes that my wife and I recently attended (which have also been very beneficial to me).  It’s my belief that some other traditions (possibly Ancient Greek thought and/or Islam) are also represented here.  (Jim can correct me if I’m wrong.)
Of course, truth is truth, and all truth is God’s truth.
Truth, as Jim tells us, is simply “the way things really are.”  Much suffering is experienced when we, knowingly or not, fight that truth.

There’s no way I can “review” all the ground covered in this book, but one of the most important for those who have been involved in the Christian religion is section 3: “Christianity’s distortion of the person, message and truth of Jesus.”
I’ve said before, many/most people in Christianity (and the principle is probably similar in other religions) are read to from their scriptures, and at the same time, hand-fed a meaning said to be attached to those passages.
Once that is done, it can be nearly impossible to read those passages differently.  But, if you can detach what you’ve been taught something says from what is actually written, well, it’s like being born again.
“Notes From (Over) The Edge” can assist greatly with that rebirth.

And maybe a certain amount of redundancy isn’t all bad.
Maybe we need to hear truths over and over until they replace the lies in our own minds.
I can only hope more and more of us join Mr. Palmer in going over the edge.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– You must rethink your entire way of approaching the matter of Truth. Currently you have it framed in the idea of having “correct beliefs.” Correct beliefs are the Booby prize.
– Your mind creates a preference, makes an attachment, constructs an interpretation, offers a response, and each of those responses conditions your way of thinking, acting and being in the world. [But] you are not your mind. You are responsible for managing your mind. The mind doesn’t always get what it wants.
– The “son of man” or “son of Adam” means a human one in solidarity with all human ones.
– We exist within a sea of energy that connects all atoms. Everything we experience has a single interconnected source.
[Doesn’t that line up with the Christian concept of God being “in all and through all?”] – ed.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Repent is another term that is often misunderstood. [It’s not] being sorry for your past wrongs, turning from your wicked ways… “Repent” means a deep and profound shift in perception. It’s like the scales of ignorance fall from your eyes. [It] literally means “beyond the mind.”
– Jesus would have never signed off on the modern and made-up gospel of the Christian religion.
– People knew the reality of God long before there were sacred texts. Enoch “walked with God,” and yet there was no Bible or prescribed set of doctrines to govern his experience of God.
– One does not have to be able to read the Bible, the Koran, the Sutras, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tao Te Ching, etc. to be enlightened. You can be illiterate and one with God. There is something to learn from this.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Jesus did not launch into heady theological diatribes or pedantic teachings about God. Instead, he invited people to notice the birds of the air and lilies in a field, or told stories about a father and his sons or a hidden treasure.
Instead of accumulating more theological information in your head, return to your regularly scheduled life and start living it as each moment requires — nothing more, nothing less.
– Fundamentalism doesn’t just apply to ultra-conservative, fundy Christians. I’ve met progressive and liberal Christian fundamentalists, Atheist, Agnostic, and Humanistic fundamentalists, Buddhist, Muslim, and Jewish fundamentalists, and New Age fundamentalists. [They all think] someone has to be “right,” which means someone has to be “wrong.”
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The “will of God” is simply to be your Self, and to be in the present moment and respond as the situation requires. Just live your life. The fundamental way Jesus lived his life was that he simply did the next thing and responded to situations as they required.
– There was a historical Jesus before institutional Christianity got ahold of him and did their extreme makeover. He was a much better Jesus than the on Christianity produced.

Buy the book. Click HERE.
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Everything Must Change September 11, 2014

EMC

Everything Must Change
(When The World’s Biggest Problems and Jesus’ Good News Collide)
– Brian D. McLaren

This is not a quick and easy read. At least it wasn’t for me. But this is potentially one of the most important books you may ever read. The is one of 4 or 5 books I would like to see in everyone’s library.
More importantly, I’d like to see it in the hands of every “young” person between 18 and 30. I totally believe the future of the world as we know it depends on the issues addressed in this book.

“Everything Must Change” is written by a Christian, predominately to a Christian audience (although many fundamentalists doubt this target audience is “Christian” to begin with). But, the issues and principles here apply to every human on the face of the planet.  And they effect every human and non-human on the face of the planet.

Some issues covered are:

* The Prosperity Crisis – Environmental breakdown caused by our unsustainable global economy.  One that does not respect environmental limits, while creating great wealth for about one third of the world’s population.

* The Equity Crisis – There’s a growing gap between the ultra-rich and the extremely poor, most of whom are growing in envy, resentment and hate of the rich.  The rich become fearful and angry as they seek to protect their wealth.

* The Security Crisis – The danger of war arising from resentment between the groups at opposite ends of the economic spectrum.

* The Spirituality Crisis – This is the failure of the world’s religions (especially Christianity and Islam) to provide a framing story that could bring healing or at least reduction to, the previous three crises.

This is another book that will help readers see how we’ve misconstrued so many of Jesus’ teachings.  Brian helps us to hear Jesus’ words more in alignment with how his first listeners heard them.  We see that we have a “framing story” that desperately needs changed.  So we revisit “the essential message of Jesus.”  In doing so, we re-examine metaphors like “The Kingdom of God.”  We consider our human situation in connection with the message and purpose of Jesus

In one section, Mr. Mclaren likens our past religious attempts at understanding to those of someone piecing together a puzzle.  We’re trying to fit it all together according to the picture on the lid.  The problem is, we have the wrong lid!

In chapter 4, a young man from Khayelitsha, South Africa, delivers a very weighty message to a group of pastors and evangelists from America.  It is a message every pastor and evangelist needs to hear.  If you’re a “missionary,” please read this chapter.  Even if you don’t want to buy the book, borrow it from the library.  Borrow it from me.  Just read this chapter.

It seems many people shy away from politics and religion.  As Brian states, “A lot of us are very happy to go through life knowing as little as possible about economics, politics, and ecology.”  The thing is, these are both the problem, and part of the solution.  For me personally, my politics are intrinsically tied to my faith in Christ.  Yes, we pray.  But then we help bring God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven” by taking action: Action that can help bring about equality, justice, and environmental responsibility.  I believe a proper look at the teachings of Jesus will reveal that very thing.

This was my 9th Brian McLaren book.  My “Comrades” and I are getting ready, as a group, to read Brian’s latest, “We Make The Road By Walking.”

If you’re someone who cares about the future of your children, your children’s children, and so on; I would suggest you read “Everything Must Change” and seriously consider the message it contains.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Quotes:

– Not only am I often unsatisfied with conventional answers, but even worst, I’ve consistently been unsatisfied with conventional questions.

– Part of what it means to be “a new kind of Christian” is to discover or rediscover what the essential message of Jesus is about.

– Many of our religious institutions have taught us to see no horizon for the message of Jesus beyond the soul of the individual.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The way of the kingdom of God calls people to a higher concern than self- or national interest: namely, concern for the common good.

– We can no longer deal with global problems as discrete unrelated issues.

– Jesus bursts on the scene with this scandalous message: The time has come!  Rethink everything!  A radically new kind of empire is available.

– Theocapitalists have tended to see the rich as morally good and the poor as morally culpable for their own poverty.
Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Many of our current eschatologies, intoxicated by dubious interpretations of John’s Apocalypse, are not only ignorant and wrong, but dangerous and immoral.

– We don’t have a violent “Second Coming” Jesus who finishes what the gentle “First Coming” Jesus failed to do, but we have a poetic description of the way the gentle First Coming Jesus powerfully overcomes through his nonviolent “weakness”, a prince of peace whose word of reconciliation is truly mightier than Caesar’s sword.
Buy the book. Click HERE.



 

 

The Great Emergence May 20, 2014

thegreatemergenceThe Great Emergence
– Phyllis Tickle

“Every five hundred years, the church cleans out its attic and has a giant rummage sale. Well, not exactly. But according to Phyllis Tickle, this is an accurate summary of the church’s massive transitions over time. According to the pattern, we are living in such a time of change right now.” [From the back cover.]

The subtitle is “How Christianity Is Changing and Why.”  This book originally came out in 2008, six years ago.  But, when you’re discussing events in time spans of 500 years, six years doesn’t mean the material is “dated.”  In fact, this book is extremely relevant.  I’ve seen the name Phyllis Tickle pop up again and again in other writer’s materials.  I’ve wanted to read something of hers for some time now.  I’m very glad I finally have.

Phyllis takes us back to 1st century Christianity, through The Dark Ages, The Great Schism, the time of Luther and The Great Reformation, and up to today.  She shows us the constant influence of religion on society, and society on religion.  We’re shown how the automobile radically changed community and consensual illusion.
We see the influence of Karl Marx, Einstein, Oriental Christianity, Darwinism, Gutenberg, Wycliffe, nanotechnology, family, the birth control pill, Buddhism, theology, orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthonomy, Alcoholics Anonymous and a whole lot more.
Chapter 5 may be my favorite, and it include a great section on “Rosie the Riveter.”

This book is, for one thing, a history of the Christian church.  When you hear someone espouse a particular belief and say “Christianity has always believed this,” please, check your facts!  Truth is, there are and have been many Christianities, and Phyllis helps us sort through much of Christianity’s evolutions.  There are some nice diagrams involving the quadrants of “Liturgicals,” “Social Justice Christians,” “Renewalists,” & “Conservatives.”

Central to the whole discussion here is the question “Where now is the authority?”  The change of the base of authority has repeatedly caused great acts of violence and horror from the religious powers that be.  At one time, religious authority was in the monasteries and convents.  Roman Catholicism placed the authority in the papal system.  Luther told us the authority was not the Pope, but in sola scriptura.  Pentecostalism and Charismatic renewal, while keeping scripture as it’s base, said the authority was the “Holy Spirit” (personal experience).
Many people I know freak out at the thought of realizing the Bible is not the “end-all” in understanding God, but the real fear, the one that is always there during one of these 500 year rummage sales, is “Where now is the authority?”

Ms. Tickle takes us far into the past, brings us to where we are today, and then looks at where we are likely headed.  “The Great Emergence” is informative, entertaining and truly a delight to read.

– df

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Some Quotes:

– Whenever there is so cataclysmic a break as is the rupture between modernity and postmodernity… there is inevitably a backlash.  Dramatic change is perceived as a threat to the status quo, primarily because it is.

– Every time the incrustations of an overly established Christianity have been broken open, the faith has spread.

– Pentecostalism’s demonstration of a Church of all classes and races and both genders became a kind of living proof text that first horrified, then unsettled, then convicted, and ultimately helped change congregational structure in the United Stats, regardless of denomination.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– No one of the member parts or connecting networks has the whole or entire “truth” of anything.

– Albert Einstein dominates every part of the twentieth century including, and more or less directly, religion.

– The question of “Where now is our authority?” is the fundamental or foundational question of all human existence.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– How can we live responsibly as devout and faithful adherents of one religion in a world of many religions? [Check out Brian McLaren’s “Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?“]

– One always picks up a bit of whatever it is that one opposes simply by virtue of wrestling with it.

– Thousands and thousands of godly and devout Christians fought for the practice of slavery as being biblically permitted and accepted.

– Life on the margins has always been the most difficult and, at the same time, the one most imaginatively lived.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– [Alcoholics Anonymous] opened the floodgates to spirituality by removing the confines of organized religion.

– Eventually free time will lead most of us to increasing awareness of our internal experience.

– The case had been clearly made that the journey of the spirit did not require the baggage of religion to be a worthy and rewarding trek.

– In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

The Square Root of God July 20, 2013

sqroot


…And now for something completely different.


The Square Root of God: Mathematical Metaphors and Spiritual Tangents
– Timothy Carson

OK.  Not completely different.  (There’s nothing new under the sun.)  I certainly found some similarities here with works like Bell’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About God,” Rollins’ “The Idolatry of God,”  and a few whispers of Dowd’s “Thank God For Evolution.”  Still, I’ve never read anything quite like this.

While these pages are assuredly from the perspective of a “Jesus person,” I believe most of what’s written here would be of interest to those of other faith traditions, as well.  We look at “God’s universal presence in all time and space,” against which backdrop “Jesus emerged.”

Mr. Carson starts by telling us that “Thinkers from every world civilization throughout history have somehow connected mystical spirituality and mathematics.”
Hmmm.  I did not know that, but reading of the connections is just amazing.

We look at intersubjectivity and objective reality, and that “what we observe is filtered in unusual ways by the worldview we already hold.”  We begin to see “the limits of any human endeavor to interpret the hidden nature of reality.”
Timothy takes us on a journey through quantum physics, religion, philosophy, music, art, time, space, pantheism vs. panentheism, and mathematical equations as they relate to and reveal that which we call “God.”

In the chapter titled “Number 1” we read from the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy, Genesis, and Exodus.  Here we find that “The essential metaphysical pronouncement  is that there is but one ultimate and seamless reality and it’s source.  There is one… irreducible, undivided unity… a singularity that is the simplicity within every complexity.”  “Even chaos has a hidden symmetry.”
It is from here we examine the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  We are led beyond both Unitarianism and Trinitarianism (I’ve been in those battles.  They’re not usually pretty!) to a mathematical metaphor that suggests that God can never be the product of addition. As it is expounded upon, our author’s proposal  would seem to satisfy Unitarians, at the same time retaining a sense of Son and Spirit in a way that would be palatable to many Trinitarians.  We delve deeper into the ways that “mathematics and theology inform one another.”
There are also discussions about Thomas Jefferson, Plato, prime numbers, Shema, the Nicene Creed, healing, prayer, spiritual centering, the medical arts, and genetics.

In “Circle Up,” we examine (you guessed it) the circle.  We’re reminded that every point on the circumference of a circle, although in different relationships to each other, are equal peers due to their identical relationship to the center.  “Circles are built into the structure of the universe in countless ways.  Circles are everywhere.”  “From planets to stars, galaxies to atoms, matter and it’s energy are oriented to and shaped by the centers that hold them.”
Some of the ramifications and spiritual applications may come immediately to your mind.  Others may surprise you.  The story of “The Prodigal Son,” metaphysical harmony, variation of relationship intensity, grace, Jews, Christians, Islam, Buddhism, the arrogance of exclusivism, and rainbows all add to this mind-expanding section.  We see how the “exclusivist, universalist, inclusivist and tolerance models” are all “found wanting.  What is needed is something else, something more.”

Next up is “A Piece of Pi.”  This chapter follows, of course, the discussion of the circle.  Here, Pi becomes a metaphor of Christ, each being a “key” to unlock, although not fully disclose, a mystery.  We look at “the anomaly in the web of time and space” that is the emergence of Jesus within history, and the related failings of classical theism.
We also survey the speed of light, sacred wisdom, parables, the Torah, the Gospel of John, and the two greatest commandments.  And, as some other books have done, we look at the total insanity (my words) of traditional penal substitution.

“Shape Beneath the Shape” focuses on geometry.  We inspect the “interplay of lines, circles, squares, triangles and multiple combinations thereof.”  We consider the “primary distinction between Newtonian and Quantum physics.”  Through the work of Picasso, we see that “the underlying truth of a thing disrupts how we are accustomed to seeing it.”  This principle has been a repeat offender in my continuing escape from religious fundamentalism.
There’s a good piece on the double entendres in the Gospel of John.  Plus, we see how the term “saved” has been grossly misunderstood as we talk about the nature of salvation.  Here’s a good quote from this chapter: “Faced with a choice between the God of classical theism or no God, people are choosing the latter, no God.  Fortunately, another pathway is available.”
Also included: Jacques Maritain, Freud, Jung, the Samaritan woman, Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, Process Theology, M.C. Escher, J.S. Bach, “The Matrix” (OK.  Who hasn’t used that one?!?!?), the Gospel of Thomas, Galileo, and “Inception.”

“Quest for Infinity”  starts us off by looking at “the medieval riddle of angels on the head of a pin.”  When I hear talk of medieval riddles, my mind instantly goes to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
“What…is the capital of Assyria?”
Pure comic genius.  I digress.
In this chapter we’re taken back to the 1800s and early 1900s as we learn that the concept of infinity “was not in favor among the children of the Enlightenment.”  Some mathematicians actually became mentally unstable as they tried to solve the mysteries of set theory without the “key” of infinity.  We look at the concept of “naming,” which “held infinite new possibilities for breakthroughs, a joint venture of religious consciousness and mathematical insight.”  The big bang, the book of Job, and the Revelation of John of Patmos are also considered as we regard “an incomprehensibly distant past [and an] indefinite future.”

In the Conclusion, we are not only given said conclusion, but a summary of sorts.  We close with the “simple but profound truth” that we’ve been elaborating on all along.

Yes, I very much enjoyed this book. When I was first approached about reviewing this work, I found the title intriguing.  However, the first thing I do concerning an author with whom I’m unfamiliar is check out the bio.  When I saw he was a pastor at a place called “Broadway Christian Church,” I… well… didn’t have high hopes for the material.
Yeah.  Snap judgement.
It just sounded too fundie.  But, like not judging a book by it’s cover, you can’t necessarily judge the book by the name of the institution the author attends.  🙂
As I implied at the beginning, there were times when I felt the book may be too Christcentric for those who do not consider themselves “Jesus people.”  Taken alone, some statements might even seem to convey the very religious arrogance that the author actually stands against.  But, taken in it’s entirety this book should be of benefit to anyone seriously investigating the Divine Reality that many of us refer to as “God.”

– df

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Quotes:

* As our island of knowledge grows, so does the shoreline of mystery.

* Every human system is approximate at best.

* God is in everything and everything is in God.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Concentric spiritual pathways circumnavigate the same center even as they perceive the other in separate space.

* There is always a God beyond our concept of God.

* The figure of Christ is taken to be a normative paradigm of what humanity can be, but at the same time a paradigm of what God is.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The navigator of the sacred realm discovers a God already there, immanent, yet not fully disclosed or revealed.

* Biblical language, like the language of other sacred scriptures, is destroyed by those who rush to literalize it.

* The images of God that once carried the sacred freight [have] ceased to work and [have become] impediments to faith.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “Where is God?”

* Unity and diversity, singularity and multiplicity are included in a seamless divine field.

* The square root of God = … (Buy the book.  Click HERE).

Visit “The Square Root of God” website: http://thesquarerootofgod.com/about/

To visit Timothy’s blog, Click HERE.


– – – Dr. Timothy Carson is a pastor and writer who lives in Columbia, Missouri. The author of four previous books, Tim builds bridges of understanding between historic forms of faith and contemporary thought.
When he is not writing about culturally relevant spirituality he is reading, taking in the arts, playing with raptors, traveling and otherwise contemplating the mysteries of the universe. – – –


 

Faith, Doubt, and Other Lines I’ve Crossed July 7, 2013

faith_doubt

FAITH, DOUBT, AND OTHER LINES I’VE CROSSED:
        WALKING WITH THE UNKNOWN GOD
– Jay Bakker with Andy Meisenheimer

———

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book.  Very readable.  Both thoughtful, and thought-provoking.

This is my second read from Jay Bakker, my first being “Fall to Grace.”  (You can read that review by clicking Here.

This new book, written with Andy Meisenheimer, is such a huge encouragement.  It’s what I’d call a very “real” writing.  And for me, it’s easily relatable on so many counts.
There’s a lot discussed here; doubt, God, the Bible, heaven and hell, atonement, love, grace, relationships, society, church, theology.
We look at faith vs. certainty, reading the Bible differently, getting a new take on dying and rising with Christ, recasting eternity, rediscovering grace, standing for the oppressed, a self-centered view of God, and so much more. This is one of those books that, if taken seriously, has life-changing potential.

One of my favorite parts is in chapter one where we read about Paul in the book of Acts.  This is when he’s in Athens, and finds an alter with the inscription, “To an unknown god.”  Paul goes on to tell them that this unknown god is the God that Jesus came to tell us about.  Many Christians are familiar with this story, and the kinds of expositions usually given.  Here, our minds are expanded to a new possible understanding of this incident.  In part 12 (each chapter has numbered parts) we’re hit with what I found to be a beautiful revelation.  I won’t spoil it here.
Also in this chapter, I’m reminded of the times when what we read in our scriptures are quotes from other sources, as is the case with “in God we live and move and have out being.”  Here, Paul was quoting a Cretan philosopher named Epimenides.

In chapter two, we look at “Doubting Faith.”  Paul Tillich “believes that fanaticism and pharisaism are the symptoms of repressed doubt,” and that “doubt is overcome not by repression, but by the courage to embrace it.”  Jay says, as have I many times, “The more you find out, the less you know.”  “They don’t prepare you for this when you’re a Christian kid.”

The 3rd chapter is about reading the Bible.  It brings me memories of “Velvet Elvis,” and “A New Kind of Christianity.”  We read that “when we turn the Bible into an answer book, we miss out on the real story, the depth of all that the Bible has to offer.”  There’s a good bit on the writings of Paul, some material by Peter Rollins, and some quotes from Rob Bell.  We see that, for many, an “illiterate reading of scripture becomes God’s truth.”

Part of what we discover in chapter four is “Jesus’ version of fulfilling the law, in practice.”  Often, he “fulfilled the law by breaking it.”  There’s more insights into the “torn curtain” of the temple, during the crucifixion.  This is really good!
We also look at atonement theories, somewhat in the vein of Wm. P. Young, and some quotes from Sharon Baker’s book “Razing Hell.”  When we look at some of the teachings we grew up with, we have to ask “Does God practice what Jesus teaches?”  If so, we’ve gotten a lot of things wrong.

Chapter 5 is about eternity, and it opens with a Pete Rollins quote.  We also hear from Martin Luther King Jr., as well as James, Paul and Jesus.  In this chapter, concerning his alcoholism, Mr. Bakker says, “That’s when I finally got sober.  After I found out that I was accepted.”
I can so relate to that statement.  It was in the middle of a drug-induced stupor, when I was dangerously sexually promiscuous, possibly at the most irresponsible point I’ve ever been in my life, when I somehow realized that right there, right then, with or without any change in my life, I was totally accepted by God.  That doesn’t mean my actions were approved, but I, as I was, was both loved AND accepted by God.  No fear of rejection by God. Not even fear of death! THAT’S when things in my life started to turn around.
Yes, Jay Bakker, I really do get it.
Admittedly, there certainly was fear of the mortal consequences of my actions, here in this life. But I realized that would not be God “punishing” me. It would just be “sowing and reaping.” I thank the Lord that karma isn’t always the bitch she’s made out to be. 🙂
It’s truly a miracle (or multiple miracles) that I’m not dead or back in prison.
[And now, back to our review.]
There’s also some interesting material about when Jesus was reading Isaiah’s “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” scripture.  What Jesus doesn’t say speaks volumes.

In chapter six we look at grace:  Wild, outrageous, vulgar grace.  We see how “we cheapen grace when we make it temporary, a ticket to an afterlife.”   “When we really understand it, we will always find grace offensive.”

The seventh chapter has us “Speaking Up for the Marginalized.”  We see, as many are painfully aware, how the “church” has so often been on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of civil liberties, and the wrong side of… well, just the wrong side all around.  We’re told that it wasn’t until 1967 that a non-white person could marry a white person in every state.  Much of “christianity” believed, as Bob Jones preached, that “segregation was preserving God’s plan for the different races according to the Bible.”  We look to the Bible to see how the church in Antioch was treating the “minority,” and how one believer (Paul) had to confront another believer (Peter) over his two-faced hypocrisy.
Here’s a good quote from this chapter:
“Separate but equal.  Remaining a pure people.  Not mixing seeds.  We look back now and think, That’s crazy.  Who could support that?  Who could possible think the Bible could be used to justify a ban on interracial dating?
The answer is – we did.
Christians.
Are we doing the same thing now?”
So, yes, we discuss LGBTQ equality in this chapter.

We re-discover some of the Bible’s parables in chapter 8.  The lost coin.  The lost sheep.  The lost son. Here again, of course, we step back and see things from a new perspective.  This is good stuff, people!

In the ninth chapter we look at what we call “the church service.”  Jay purposes that this is “an unnatural experience of God, just like the art gallery is an unnatural experience of art.”  “It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch if you’re always in a Bible study and everybody’s always talking about Jesus and Christianity.  When we hear mega-church preachers say something that seems out of touch with reality, we have to understand that they don’t live in the real world.  Christians live in a false world, one without the people that Jesus cared about.”

M. Night Shyamalan offers up some great food for thought in chapter 10.  We also learn from the example of Alcoholics Anonymous, as well as the 18th chapter of Matthew.

Chapter 11 addresses, among other things, death, suffering, grief, hope and hopelessness.  I think of all the cliches and platitudes that are frequently offered to those experiencing grief.  I know people may be trying to be helpful, but  “Death is a tragedy.  It’s important to walk through that grief without being bombarded with assurances that everything is okay.”  It’s important to say “This is horrible and awful.  It wasn’t God’s plan or God’s opportunity to make something good.  It was simply a tragedy.”

“Losing Belief, Finding Faith” is the title of chapter 12.  Here we compare and contrast faith and belief.  We discuss the “appeal of certainty.”  It’s easy to see why so many fall for fundamentalism.  But “certainty helps us cover up our brokenness and fears.”  It “allows God to become our alibi for hate and judgement.”  It causes “theologians and pastors [to] become lawyers, arguing nuances and loopholes that the original writers would never have imagined.”
“The freedom to have faith instead of beliefs is, to me, one of the most beautiful things about following Christ.”
We also look at the dangerous idea of “all or nothing.”  This is an idea that I’ve found destructive in most areas of life. (Check out “Do One Green Thing,” by Mindy Pennybacker.)

In the conclusion, we read the familiar story of Mary and Martha, again gaining a fresh perspective.  We take another look at bibliolatry, and the anti-Christ damage it continues to cause.
Then Jay wraps up this outing by looking at that which is of “infinite, ultimate concern,” and how our lives can truly be transformed.

In these pages, we walk with Jay as he discovers “something deeper and more lasting than the evangelical framework [he] inherited from [his] family and church.”  The story is both universal, and quite personal.  We touch on his relationship with his famous parents, including the deep pain of losing his mother at the end of her 11-year battle with cancer.

This really is an amazing read.  Interesting stories, and life-giving perceptions.
Don’t pass on this one.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

—————–

Seriously, you should read this book, wherever you are on the spectrum of belief or unbelief. Give it to friends and family. Start conversations around it. Then, tell Jay how much you love it. As a real shepherd of real people, Jay needs our encouragement.
– Rob Davis: an atheist’s review of Jay Bakker’s new book

—————–

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Doubt keeps me from thinking I’ve got a handle on God.

* I’ve found peace in the mystery.

* That any of us act like moral giants is pretty insane. We all add to suffering, and we ignore it. We know that our chocolate is picked by child laborers, diamonds are mined for slave wages, iPhones are assembled in inhumane working conditions. We can ignore all that, but we freak out when someone sleeps with their secretary.

* You would think that relationships would be more important than theology.

* The only difference between you and me and the “scandalous outsider” is nothing more than the labels we use to separate us from them.

* The type of inclusion Jesus practiced gets you in trouble.  This type of inclusion gets you killed.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* “I-think-my-God-is-the-God” idolatry.  This is true idolatry.

* Somewhere along the way, we got focused on who does what with their genitals and forgot about love.

* I didn’t want theology to ever become more important than people.

* Our rejection of those who don’t fit without our clear-cut worldview is destroying people. Jesus said we would be known by our love, but when it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are known by our uncomfortable silence, our fight against their civil right to marry, our moral outrage, our discrimination, and our stereotyping.

* When you don’t know what to say [to a grieving person], cliches are the first things that come to your mind.  It’s our way of saying, “Holy shit, I don’t know what just happened.”

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* Rather than being humbled and baffled by grace, we draw lines around who is in and who is out. [If we’re going to get angry], let’s get angry at how undiscriminating grace is.

* Jesus talked with all sorts of people without confronting them about their sin and demanding repentance.

* I can see the appeal of certainty. It promises that you’ll never have to rethink things or be confronted with a reality that you can’t understand. With God, you don’t get certainty.

* I’m going to work to free people from hell on earth.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

* The idea of heaven didn’t work for me when my mom died.  I felt certain she was in heaven… but all I could think about was never being able to see her, call her, talk to her, for the rest of my life.

* “Hope that is seen is not hope,” Paul says.  Hope comes from a place of doubt.

* We need to give people permission to embrace death, tragedy, the meaninglessness of life.

* I am no longer concerned with an afterlife, though I am concerned with eternity.

* I’m not trying to save anyone from hell or win people to Jesus.  I’m just trying to follow Jesus myself, and help people find grace and peace and acceptance in their lives.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

Also check out www.JAYBAKKER.com, and www.REVOLUTIONnyc.com

 

The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything May 30, 2013

sacred cover

The Sacredness of Questioning Everything
– David Dark


         “This book is for everyone who quietly suspects that God is
         a whole lot bigger than the church would have us believe.”
         – Jana Riess


This is a powerful read.  Just powerful.
I’m often challenged.  I’m often stretched.  This book did both, but it did something else as well.  It “convicted” me.  I don’t much care for that word in the religious sense, but I can’t think of a better way to put it.  It made me more deeply consider the ramifications of some of my actions and attitudes.  That’s pretty much always a good thing.

So, yes, this is a book about questions.  It’s a book of questions.  Mostly, it’s a book about the very act of questioning.  We know that, according to the New Testament Gospels, Jesus very frequently answered a question with a question.  He could have always given simple, straight-forward answers, but he knew that “words in tablets of stone” (the preferred method of Pharisees) was not the way to go.  He knew the question itself, was sacred.

David Dark takes us on a wonderful journey as we sacredly question things that many would consider unquestionable.

In chapter one, we dive right into the thick of it with “Questioning God.”
We start with a fictional story of “a tiny town with a tight-knit community,” as we’re introduced to a patriarch, of sorts, named “Uncle Ben.”  Everyone talks about how wonderful Uncle Ben is, but beyond their words, something is definitely off-kilter.
Of course, what we’re really questioning in this chapter is our perception of God, and how that affects everything in our lives.  We see that “any God who is nervous, defensive, or angry in the face of questions is a false god.”  “We mus resist, in word and deed, this God (Nobodaddy) who is no God at all.”

From questioning God, we move to questioning religion.  We gain information from a variety of sources, including REM, C.S. Lewis, Michael Scott, and the children of South Park.  Chapter two helps us understand that “when religion won’t tolerate questions, objections, or differences of opinion and all it can do is threaten excommunication, violence, and hellfire, it has an unfortunate habit of producing some of the most hateful people to ever walk the earth.”

Chapter three questions our offendedness.
Thomas Aquinas, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Stephen Colbert are some of the voices adding to this section.
I remember “back in the day” as they say, how we would frequently use verses from I Corinthians 8, and Romans 14 “against” each other. “You shouldn’t do that, because that offends me!”  Talk about a misuse of scripture.  Of course, we’d give a passing glance to the passages telling us NOT to be easily offended.  But the focus was on controlling the behavior of others.  “If you’re more opposed, for instance, to what we take to be ‘bad language’ and nude scenes and films about gay people than we are to people being blown up, starved to death, deprived of life-saving medicine, or tortured, our offendedness is out of whack.  We have yet to understand the nature of real perversion.”

Questioning our passions in chapter 4, there’s talk of wasting our emotions, and how our affections can become “merely theoretical.”  We look at what real perversion is, and how most of us engage in it.  There’s a nice section on “Antichrist Television Blues,” that tackles “Christian” TV, and “the bad news that sells itself as the good news of escaping the weakness of the failure of your fellow humans by believing the right things and grabbing your copy of hell insurance.”  And we get some advise on how to “discern the difference between the voice in my head and the voice of God.”

Chico Marx helps kick off “Questioning Media” in chapter 5.  The author speaks of “manufactured realities,” and how, “fundamentally, you control the media.”  Very interesting.

The sixth chapter has up questioning language.  “Words fail to do justice to the irreducible complexity of whatever it is we think we’re talking about.”  “There’s nothing that you can say that will mean the same thing once it’s repeated.”

Close on the heals of Questioning Language, is Questioning Interpretations.  “I want to break through the mind-forged manacles that render us incapable of seeing truthfully for fear we might let in the wrong information.”  If someone can’t admit that everything(?) they see, read, hear, etc. is automatically interpreted by them, there’s not much chance of having a real, fruitful conversation.  “Jesus often refused what was in his time the reigning interpretation of scripture.”

Chapter 8: Questioning History.  I’m amazed at how much our history was “sanitized” and “Americanized” when I went to school.  I’ve heard it said that history is written by the winners.  That, itself, helps explain much of the perspective in the Old Testament.  In this chapter we read about, among other things, “Crimes against humanity undertaken in the name of Christ and Manifest Destiny.”  It truly is overwhelming “to try to want to know what I don’t want to know,” rather than being “blissfully ignorant.”  This, of course, isn’t just true of Christians.  It’s true of the “Islamic, Buddhist, Native American, African or Confucian.”

As we, in chapter 9, question governments we discuss faith, violence, civil disobedience, infinite justice, self-justification, war, bloodshed, illegals, enemy combatants, and power structures.  Jesus, Leonard Cohen, Ziggy Marley, Ghandhi, Tolstoy, MLK, and U2 help us open our eyes to the realities of our “allegiance.”  I really like the quote, “Iraqi Christians… publicly pray that American Christians might consider more deeply their understanding of the body of Christ.”

Finally, we question the future.  We look at patriotism, Shakespeare, “No Country for Old Men,” Bono, and (obligatorily) the Biblical book of Revelation.
We come full-circle and again consider the one referred to early in the book as “Nobodaddy.”  “The false god who authorized and underwrites environmental devastation, antipersonnel weapons, and cutthroat economies.

“The Sacredness of Questioning Everything” is packed solid, cover to cover, with valid and, dare I say, vital information.  There’s a lot to think about here.  Not in a scratch-your-head, stare-into-space, let me figure this out kind of way that a book by, oh… say Peter Rollins has.  (A comparison like that is really an “apples to oranges” kind of thing anyway.)  David Dark’s work here is more of a “stare-into-your-own-heart” thing.  This book will help put you on a track deep into your own soul.
All aboard!

– df

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– People sometimes try to make the Bible seem like a book full of easy answers, but it isn’t.  It’s a bunch of voices from the past that ask us a lot of questions.

– What the pundits call wishy-washiness, the Bible calls repentance.

– We’re mad to think we’ve got hold of truth like nobody else or that we want it more or that our relationship to the Almighty trumps everyone else’s.

– Proclaiming the kingdom of God does not include shouting down anyone who finds your proclamation unconvincing.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.

– When we think of a person primarily as a problem… we’re reducing them to the tiny sphere of our stunted attention span.  There’s always more to a person than we know.”

– Of absolute truth, none of us are knowers.  And we often aren’t especially good with the truth we do know.

– God is not made angry and insecure by an archaeological dig, a scientific discovery, an ancient manuscript, or a good film about homosexual cowboys.

– To label entire populations — or even sections of the globe — as “enemy” is bad theology, and no government that does so can claim to be operating in any mindful way “under” God.

– Your eschatology is what you’re waiting for and where you’re headed or think you’re headed. It cuts to the heart of politics, your religion, your sense of what matters.

– The word of the living God is never less than an ethical summons, a call to take care, to gather up and strengthen the life that remains, to reorder, redeem and remember.

Buy The Book. Click HERE.



 

What We Talk About When We Talk About God April 10, 2013

what we talk about

“There’s something in the air, we’re in the midst of a massive rethink. A moment in history is in the making. An entire mode of understanding and talking about God [is] dying as something new is being birthed.”
– Rob Bell


This is a book by Rob Bell.”
OK.
That’s probably all I really need to say.  (But I’ll go on.)


By now, everyone who actually reads books about Christianity and/or Spirituality has heard of Rob Bell.
Many who don’t read such books have still heard of Rob Bell.
For the most part, people either really, really like his work, or they think he’s a heretic.
They think of him as a prophet, or a demon.

In case you don’t already know,
I really,
really
like
his
work.

This particular book is my favorite of Rob’s since the potentially life-changing “Velvet Elvis.”  Mr. Bell is one of the handful of authors that have forever changed my life.

In this new work, Rob incorporates bits and pieces from some of his other works (both written and video).  That makes this book a great read for those who have not read his previous writings.  It can be a quick read, or a very slow one.  As someone else has said, Rob’s writings are as simple or as deep as you want them to be.
“With,” “Ahead,” “Open,” and “For” are just some of the chapter titles.

Mr. Bell has us look at our language.  At how it both helps and hinders us.  We see very easily that, even within Christianity, people can be using the same word, “God,” and be talking about radically different things.  (We also saw this on Jeff Chu’s cross-country journeys in “Does Jesus Really Love Me“.).  Of course, how we think about our God directly affects everything else in our lives, not the least of which is the way we deal with and treat others and our environment.

The chapter “Open” is filled with scientific musings.  There’s talk of the universe, the big-bang, neutron stars, the elasticity of time, matter, energy, atoms, sub-atomic particles, bosons, leptons, quarks and quantum theory (which “is responsible for everything from X-rays and MRI machines, to fiber optics and transistors).   We consider that “the line between matter and spirit may not be a line at all.”

As is often the case, talking about what it is we talk about when we talk about God leads to looking at “the church,” and the Bible.  Here we get more of a Rob Bell standard I so much enjoy:  Looking at scripture in the cultural and historical context in which it was written.  We examine “the arc, the story” of this wonderful library of holy writ.  We begin to understand how “radically progressive” the books of the Bible were; that they were “ahead of their time.”  Unfortunately, “it’s possible to take something that was a step forward at one point and still be clinging to it later on in the story, to the point where it becomes a step backward.”

“What We Talk About When We Talk About God” moves us, drawing us to (and into) the very Divine that we’re talking about.
We look at a God that is with us, for us, and calling us ahead.
What are the consequences of our talk of God?
What does it mean in the real flesh-and-blood world we live in?
How does my “faith” interact with others and with all of creation?

These and other issues are wonderfully explored within the pages of this very thought-provoking book.

At the end, after the “Acknowledgements” and the rest of the “End Notes,” Rob Bell does something that is just so,
so Rob Bell that when I told my wife, we both laughed out loud.
When you’re reading a Bell book, never stop at “The End.”

– df


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

QUOTES:

– First, I’m a Christian, and so Jesus is how I understand God.

How you believe and what you believe are two different things.

– What I experienced, over a long period of time, was a gradual awakening to new perspectives on God — specifically, the God Jesus talked about.  [Yeah.  Me, too. – df]

– We are waking up in new ways to the God who’s been here the whole time.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Words and images point us to God; they help us understand the divine, but they are not God.

– Imagine that — religious people quoting the Bible to defend actions that were the exact opposite of the intent and purpose of those very same scriptures. [e.g. “an eye for an eye.”]

– Fundamentalism shouldn’t surprise us.  Certainty is easier, faster, [and] awesome for fundraising.

– Choosing to trust that this life matters and we’re all connected and this is all headed somewhere has made my life way, way better.

Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.

– When we talk about God, we often find ourselves in the middle of one paradox after another.

– What we say about God always rests within the larger reality of what we can’t say.


Buy the book.  Click HERE.

– Like a mirror, God appears to be more and more a reflection of whoever it is that happens to be talking about God at the moment.

– Love and care and compassion shown to others is love for [God].

– It’s one thing to stand there in a lab coat with a clipboard, recording data about lips.  It’s another thing to be kissed.

– the ruach of God.

– the reverence humming in us.

– the entire ball of God wax

Buy the book.  Click HERE.


Here’s the video promo.




.

 

Does Jesus Really Love Me? March 19, 2013

CHU
Does Jesus Really Love Me?
A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America
– Jeff Chu

This book is an incredible achievement.
It may be Jeff’s pilgrimage, but the stories come from many. At this time in history, this book is über-relevant, and much needed.

In his rather brave journeys, Jeff Chu has talked with/interviewed people across the nation, from various walks of life, with vastly, vastly differing opinions on the subjects of Christian faith and sexual orientation.  From Justin Lee (Gay Christian Network), to Fred Phelps (Westboro Baptist Church), to everyday people who are just trying to figure out life.
His pilgrimage was also to help him understand how people can read the same Bible, and come to such dramatically different conclusions.

Mr. Chu not only shares his story and the stories of others, but he occasionally “steps aside” and just lets people, including John Smid and Ted Haggard, tell their own stories.
Some stories are uplifting.  Some are heartbreaking. Some are damn maddening.

One of the most unusual things for me was Jeff describing the people of WBC as friendly and warm.   Jeff actually went on a protest with them!
Still, they would use words like “fag” and “whore” with the comfort and ease of saying “tall” or “brunet.”
Sounds like they have some major cognitive dissonance going on. But we also see that, except for their trademark acts of extremism, their beliefs are quite similar to most fundamentalist churches.

Of course, there are stories of being rejected by family and friends.  Of being designated as hell-bound abominations by those who should be the ones most loving and supportive.  (How anyone can think that that kind of religiously-induced hatred has anything whatsoever to do with God is beyond me.)
There’s discussion of so-called “ex-gay” organizations. We look at the difference between “hate-based” and “fear-based” anti-gay sentiments.
We learn, too, that in Nashville Tennessee (the “Protestant Vatican”), “You can’t do anything without involving the church.”
We look at mixed-orientation marriages (Chapter 7 is awesome). And we discover the special challenges of being gay in an African-American church.

I was very glad to see a chapter on the Gay Christian Network, as well as an interview with my facebook friend  Michael Bussee. Oh, and Jennifer Knapp. She’s here.

This book isn’t just for straight Christians to understand those of other orientations.  It’s for all of us to understand ourselves. It is also (and I have found this essential) for people of varying orientations to understand each other.  Even though “christianists” have honed it to an art-form, being judgmental isn’t something on which they’ve cornered the market.  I, as a so-called “spousosexual” think Jeff’s book has the potential for helping all of us to better understand the “other.”  Just because people may share the common bond of not being straight doesn’t mean they inherently share much else.  Sometimes we talk about “both sides,” as if there are only two views.  Mr. Chu’s chronicle helps us see otherwise.

Some very misinformed people see LGBT persons as inherently uninterested in the Bible, or issues of faith.  Not true.  Some are, and some are not. I don’t believe that institutional religion is usually a good thing.  So it bothers me, somewhat, that people struggle so hard to be accepted by organizations that I don’t think should exist in the first place.
Still, I understand.
Tradition and religious structure are very important to some.
Wanting love and acceptance is universal.

If I have one disagreement with the author, it’s that America is a Christian nation. I know many people think it is. Many want it to be one. I, as a “Jesus lover,” do not. I get his point, though, when he states that “Christianequse civil religion prevails in America.”

So, “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” To what conclusions did this pilgrimage lead?
Well, I have to say Jeff through me a curve. I really didn’t see some of his comments coming. I’ll just say that I smiled alot during the final chapter.

– df

I had the honor of reading and reviewing this book before it’s release.
Mega-thanks to HarperCollins AND to Jeff Chu.
Buy The Book.  Click HERE
.

Some quotes:

– This issue is about sons and daughters, friends and lovers, our neighbors, ourselves. It is also about our freedom, our faith, perhaps our salvation.
– I doubt. A lot. And yet I can’t not believe in God.
– Christian maturity is partly about living in the tension of not knowing, and it’s okay not to be sure.
– [Here’s one from Andrae Gonzalo that many of us can identify with.] I got saved every night before I went to bed.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Nearly every relationship I had in the church community virtually stopped overnight. It was like I ceased to exist. [John Hauenstein, on coming out to his church “family.”]
– The term Christian means radically different things to different people.
– [Important!] While the anger among those who have suffered because of organizations such as Exodus makes sense, to channel it as they [often] do… helps nothing, heals nothing, and draws nobody closer to God.
– Humans are expert box builders. It’s what we do to make sense of the world.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Christian leaders have a responsibility to do image management and damage control, and that leads them to a natural tendency toward Phariseeism. [Ted Haggard]
– I stopped praying, “God make me straight,” and I started praying, “God, show me what you want me to do.” [Justin Lee]
– …Those moments…when the light is so pure, so clear. It’s as if you’d never seen the world with these eyes before, and once you do, nothing can be the same.
– I run into people all the time who say, “The Bible Says…” They never say “…as it has been translated and interpreted.” There’s no hermeneutical awareness, and you shouldn’t be able to get away with that. We are all interpreting.” [Mark Tidd]
– I searched dozens of congregations in a host of denominations. What I never found was _________. (You’ll have to Buy The Book to finish that quote.)

At the highest level, I want to live a life that pleases God.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

———————

Afterthought:
I must say, I’m not fond of the title.  Yes, ultimately it’s an important question, but it’s too “Sunday school” for the complexity of Jeff’s work here.  And the sub-title…
well, nevermind.
I just think this is a great book, and the title doesn’t come close to conveying that.

———————

Really. Buy this book!

 

The Idolatry of God February 14, 2013



“There is a fire inside the building.
Please remain calm and step inside.”
idolatry


The Idolatry Of God
– Peter Rollins




– The Apocalypse isn’t Coming, It has Already Arrived. –
          Thus the adventure begins.


They say that (especially for those of us who are “youth-challenged”) one of the best ways to help prevent the decline of mental capacities is to actively use the brain by learning new things.
Simply put: THINK.  And think new thoughts.
In that context, a Rollins book is just what the doctor ordered.   Reading  “The Idolatry of God” is spiritual LASIK.  Here, however, the surgery is never finished.  Even if we don’t see everything the way Peter does, the adjustment continues to change the very nature of our spiritual vision.

The sub-title to this book is “Breaking Our Addiction To Certainty and Satisfaction.” I think it could also have been sub-titled, “Insurrection: Part Deux.” A number of the ideas expounded upon here were initially raised in “Insurrection.” While each book stands on it’s own merit, thy make a lovely couple.
🙂

It may be hard for some to conceive as to how one can “idolize” God.  Nevertheless, this book declares that’s predominantly just what “Christianity” has done.
“We have turned God into just another product to provide for our personal satisfaction.  A cosmic vending machine that promises answers and an escape from eternal suffering.”
The truth is, no matter what our vision of God is, that vision is never God.

There are three sections to “The Idolatry Of God:”
The Old Creation, The New Creation, and The New Collective.

Section One.

Early on, we read about how infants undergo two births.  The second of these is where “the infant begins to identify as existing in separation from her surroundings and slowly begins to experience herself as an individual.”
This information becomes important in the discussion of our sense of separation, and in turn, our feelings of being incomplete.

I love how Peter finds truth wherever truth can be found. He references works like “Austin Powers,” “Mission Impossible III,” and “The Walking Dead.”  In chapter one Mr. Rollins discusses a phrase made popular by Alfred Hitchcock: The “MacGuffin“.   A MacGuffin can be anything, and the point is not what it is, but that it has some assigned value, and it is wanted and desired, even if what it is is not known. OK, that may not make much sense on it’s own, but within the pages of this book, it initiates some amazing thought processes.

This leads to a discussion of “Original Sin.”
Finally, after 58 years, I’ve read an approach to Original sin that makes sense.  The church often says “sin simply means separation from God,” but then turns to endless discussions of “sins” instead of “sin.”  The focus is on what is and isn’t a “sin.”  This, of course, would vary from person to person, church to church, decade to decade. It all became an issue of what one could or couldn’t do, and still “remain” a Christian. I now find all of that laughably ridiculous, and simultaneously quite sad.  The end result is a “sin management” system, and any meaningful concept of Original sin is lost.

Chapter two has a visual recreation of the standard line drawing used in many evangelical tracts.  It’s the one with the stick figure on one side of a chasm, and GOD on the other.  You’ll know it when you see it.  We see why this entire approach to understanding our reality misses the point entirely.  “Instead of seeing Christ as the apocalyptic destruction of this whole approach…these diagrams obscure the truth by calling the Idol ‘God.'”

Chapter three reaps wisdom from the 23rd chapter of Matthew, and from “Miami Vice.”  We expand on a concept introduced in “Insurrection:”   I wear a mask that looks like me.  We look at the masks we “are,” and the mythologies (political, cultural, religious) that create and feed our life stories.  The church, in large part, does not confront these mythologies, but rather blesses them.

Chapter four brings us the “Zombie Apocalypse,” the “radical message of the cross,” and great insight into the Temple curtain being torn during the Crucifixion.  I loved the revelation of “what’s behind the curtain.” This is good stuff!

Section Two.

One of my favorite parts was chapter 5, “Trash of the World.”

We explore how a Christian “identity” is actually the setting aside of all identities.
We look at divisions that were thought to be a “natural” part of the world during Paul’s life:
Religious identity (Jew/Gentile),
Political identity (slave/free), and
Biological identity (male/female).
We then look at how the “sword” Christ says he brings divides those who may, in fact, believe the same things, while bringing unity to those who’s beliefs may be markedly different. A person’s enemies are now those of their own tribe.  The graphics in the book help clarify the new division of non-division.

Chapter Six covers material like “renewing of your mind,” “freedom from the obsessive drive for that which we (falsely) believe will make us complete,” “Christ as Fully God,” and more insights into the Crucifixion.

Section Three.

Chapters Seven through Nine.

We’re shown some new ways of being church.   Ways of facing our addiction to certainty.  Ways of interacting with the “other.”  And, of great importance, seeing ourselves the way others see us.
There are some really good ideas here. These ideas are not just theory, but ones that have been put into practice by the author and/or people he knows.
I would participate in these practices, but I don’t know that I would initiate them.  Whether or not you use these ideas, they can spur you on to come up with your own ideas. These certainly are some unique methods of encounter.

We also look at how, sadly, the existing “church” does not confront or challenge the Idolatry spoken of in these pages. Rather, the church reinforces the Idolatry.  Actually, it thrives on it.  The modern church would, to a great degree, not exist without it.  Not in it’s current form.
(I like the title of Chapter Eight:  “Destroying Christianity and other Christian Acts.”)

Oh.  Also in chapter 7, Peter critiques the “Confessional” scene in “Blue Like Jazz.”  I understand him, and for the most part agree with his criticism.  However, I still believe the realizations made through that type of process are powerful, and for many (most?) Christians, a necessary point at which to arrive before being able to move on.  It’s like not being able to get from A to H without going through E.  (And personally, I still love the movie.  Not everyone will.)

I tell ya, one sure-fire way to know that a book, author, singer, poet, etc. has something the church probably needs to hear is if those who claim to speak for the church call it heresy. [Challenge power, and power pushes back.]
This book is no exception. Peter (like Rob, Brian, Anne, Spencer, Phyllis, and others) is, in my estimation, a modern day prophet. Not in some weird, supernatural concept of the word, but in a real-life, get-back-to-basics, kind of way.
A way that calls us out of the Babylon of Christianity, and back to the way of Christ.

– df

—————



Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

Also read: “Insurrection,” and
The Orthodox Heretic.”

Quotes:

– What if Christ does not fill the empty cup we bring to him but rather smashes it to pieces, bringing freedom, not from our darkness and dissatisfaction, but freedom from our felt need to escape them?

– All our religious narratives are but ash before the all-consuming fire of divine mystery.

– [Holing on to the] Idolatrous form of faith, [you] will be tempted to embrace that huge industry dedicated to conferences, worship concerts, and traveling apologists.

– The Good News of Christianity: You can’t be fulfilled; you can’t be made whole; you can’t find satisfaction.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

–  Instead of God being that which fills the gap at the core of our being, the God testified to in Christianity exposes the gap for what it is, obliterates it, and invites us to participate in an utterly different form of life, one that brings us beyond slavery to the Idol.

– [Paul] understood that the prohibition of the law does not cause one to renounce an object, but rather fuels a self-destructive drive for it.

– People tend to think that the Law and sin existed on opposite ends of a spectrum… they actually are intertwined and exist on the same side.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– All the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have a fictional quality.

– Religious leaders are actually lying, first and foremost, to themselves.

– We are all tempted to fall into the same trap as these religious teachers whom Jesus chastised.

– Love fulfills the law…by raising us into a different register where we live beyond the prohibition.
… while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible.
[This revelation to me, long before reading this book, was a wonderful breakthrough.  I am no longer obsessed with what things are “sins,” and what are not.  I now ask myself, “Is this the smart thing to do?  Is this the best path to travel?  Is this beneficial?”  So the writing here, as so often seems to happen, confirmed a work already being accomplished within me.]

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

– Original Sin and the Law are obliterated and the Idol they create dissolves into thin air.

– [This is very good.]  More often than not, the reasons we reject another arise after the actual rejection.

– Christianity is not a singular, monolithic, unchanging belief system but a fluid tradition that is always interrogating itself.

– Love is the crazy, mad, and perhaps ridiculous gesture of saying yes to life.

Buy The Book.  Click HERE.

 

 
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