Imago Dei Revisited

Leave a comment

I affirm that I am a sinner.

Where I perhaps differ from other Christians in making this statement is that my affirmation of being a sinner is a reference to separation; my statement could otherwise be read as, “I affirm that I am separated from God.” 

Here, I depart, in some ways, from so-called “normative” Christian theology in that I do not see sin specifically in terms of moral failings. 

Restated, I do not see sin as being a matter of breaking arbitrary rules that have been set. The argument that the rules exist on a Divine level and somehow make sense there is unsuitable, and I reject it. 

In many ways, but not in every way, I also reject the concept of concupiscence as it states that humans are naturally disposed toward sinfulness or making moral failings. 

I do not deny that I fail, morally speaking, perhaps even on a daily basis, nor do I deny that I fall short of ideals and high standards I even set for myself.

These matters, in and of themselves, do not speak directly to separation from God. Rather, they are a by-product, an indirect consequence of separation from Holy Trinity. 

Direct consequences of the Great Separation are firstly the broken images, of which I will speak, and secondly the pain that arises from the broken images.

Two images of reality are broken in our separation from Holy Trinity: first, the Imago Dei itself. It is no wonderful that our modern Evangelical Protestant notion of God (and oftentimes, the older Catholic notion of God) appears as a war-like, angry father figure, what I term rather derisively as the “socially-sanctioned crystallized patriarchal archetype” of God. No wonder we have so many images of God that exist throughout time, all of them imperfect in some way, all of them symbolic in some way; light, when broken down, produces color, and while the color is beautiful, each individual ray does not tell the full story. 

So, we see in the glass darkly because our image of God is smashed, a broken mirror of the perfect Holy Trinity. 

But this is not the only issue; so, too, because we cannot clearly see the Imago Dei in its perfection, we cannot see the image of man clearly. Our image of ourselves is distorted in the same way.

I touched on this idea some time ago when I had a crying and laughing spell at an inner realization of God being man’s secret and man being God’s secret. Here we arrive at it again: we are deprived of two great secrets, one of which is God’s image, and one of which is man’s image, both damaged, though not permanently and irrevocably. 

So our Separation, for reasons that are not totally discernible, perhaps because we chose to leave, perhaps because we were forced to leave, perhaps because something malevolent forced us to leave, shattered both images of God and Man, and the pain of the continued brokenness is what forces us to seek a remedy for the pain. 

And this is where moral failing arrives: if we were to affirm the notion of concupiscence, let it be affirmed that it is only a poorly executed attempt to find relief from the Deep and Terrible Pain from which few have escaped save in the arms of Saint Death herself. We break rules thinking we are breaking the veils that keep us from Holy Trinity. 

And yet even our attempts to see Holy Trinity are misguided in so many ways; God is kept distant from us, God is kept in a broken image, several broken images, kept in a labyrinth of shattered mirrors that we might ever see our reflection and His reflection distorted and in our face, and what happens but that we bump into the glass and cut ourselves again and again. 

There is no greater oppression than to be separated from God. With God, all things are possible; God is our rest, our fullness, our peace, the fulfillment of every desire. 

I’m tired at this point in the mystic’s journey. I’m at a standstill in many ways. The pain of separation is too great. To carry on is to find the heaviness in my heart so great that it stops; to cease is to find the heaviness in my heart so great that it stops. 

And this pain brings to the light the evil within; pain begets evil. The more pain we feel, the more we cry out, the more we lash out, the more we lose control, desperately seeking something that will STOP the pain. 

If the death of me as an ego is the death of this pain, then I am ready. I am ready to die. 

Stevo

Advertisements

Open Communion, Rant 1

Leave a comment

So, now here’s talk in the Episcopal Church about opening up the receiving of the Holy Eucharist to anyone, whether they’ve received Holy Baptism or not. Once

So, now here’s talk in the Episcopal Church about opening up the receiving of the Holy Eucharist to anyone, whether they’ve received Holy Baptism or not.

 

Once again, people are up in arms, and anytime the Church does something to widen her arms, people begin screaming about how she’s been taken over by secular leftists and so on. It’s a pathetic and un-Christian attitude, let’s face it.

 

I have some of the snidest, unloving attitudes thrown at the Episcopal Church, both by her members and by members of other denominations. Somehow, people seem to have forgotten that one’s faith must also spring from love in order for it to be salvific.

 

But I won’t go down that road just now.

 

Now, this blog is obviously not an Easter blog going on about the significance of the Resurrection and all that jazz; a Red State Mystic and any number of other bloggers instead can take that role, as they’re typically more informed on the traditions than I am. You can go see for yourself, in fact, as I’m sure any number of good Episcopalians are furiously typing away at their MacBooks the virtues of this High Holy Day.

 

Now, of course, I should also point out that the folks who were getting their panties in a wad about Open Communion were Online Christians. Online Christians really do number in such a way that 90% of them are fanatical idiots and 10% of them are actually decent. There’s 1% of the decent people that are actually ultra-awesome, including my friends Andy, Justin, Richard, Carlo, and probably some more I can’t think of right now. (I’m focusing on the more orthodox-minded people.)

 

Anyway, the real manner of discussing Open Communion should deal with supplying the theological reasons for and against instead of claiming the that the Church has just been hijacked by secular leftists.

 

And if we’re going to play the game of cultural leanings and the Church, I would say that if you look at the past 2000 years of Holy Mother Church’s history, it’s been largely Her being bent over backwards, tied to a sawhorse, and gang-raped in every possible orifice by a bunch of secular “rightists” while then having an abortion forcibly performed on Her anytime She’s about to produce something good out of their stodgy old evil.

You can take that to the bank and cash it.

My take on it is that Christianity’s initiatory process used to be an intimate, private thing done upon pain of death from the then-government. The catechism was underground and dangerous; it had the vestiges of Mystery Religions, and had to be treated as such.

 

Now, theology is at our fingertips. Anyone can go online, do research, watch Youtube videos, and see that it’s possible for any person to develop their own complex theology; theological matters are not strictly in the hands of the Church.

 

That doesn’t mean that people do a good job of it, but oh, well. It’s not like the Church always does, either.

 

Anyway, part of my own perspective is that, Christ offered Himself for everyone. God loves everyone. God loves us all. Don’t you think there would be more Roman Catholics and Easter Orthodox if they had an Open Communion? I mean when you put the burden on people by saying, “If you don’t agree with us, we’re not giving you salvation,” it kind of makes you out to look like, I don’t know, an asshole.

 

On the other hand, I can understand that having a proficient understanding of the Faith should be necessary to receive Communion- no one seems to understand just how incredibly Holy and Powerful it ACTUALLY is.

 

But that brings me back to how I feel about most people as it is; most people in any religion are ridiculously ignorant of their own tradition. Any given religion almost universally has a horrible Public Relations department where the story of the religion is not quite what happened in a historical way. Sometimes, this is far more than a “not quite,” but we won’t go there.

 

I’ve watched enough priests in Youtube videos and on TV to know that a good number of them have no clue what they’re doing or no idea of the depth of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist. I’m not saying they’re deliberately shamming people, though I’m sure many of them are; I’m saying they just don’t get it, and I’m thankful that the Sacraments work ex opere operato.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough here. Christos Anesti!

 

Beaux

Wicca, Christianity, Rituals, Thoughts

2 Comments

Good grief, I know, I make a bad habit of constantly repeating myself on this blog, but right now, I have a few excuses, namely one: I’m sick, and I’ve been drinking Hot Toddies, so I’m in a position to not be completely in my head.

When I first left fundamentalist/evangelical Christianity and entered into the world of religious exploration, the religions to which I finally came after all was said and done were Wicca and Buddhism. For years, I held these two, and they stayed in conflict theologically. I could never make up my mind which I was, and I simply had to say that I was both Wiccan and Buddhist- a concept that not many people could grasp.

This same cycle repeated itself in recent years with Christianity and Sufism.

The content came down to this: one system would articulate the need for inner transformation and offer Nirvana, and the other system would offer a set of rituals and an external beauty; one religion focused on the inner world, and another the outer world.

More hurtful is the process of trying to explain to others that I don’t actually change my religion, I only change the “language” in which I speak that religion. It has been a long and difficult road, and it’s difficult for me to guess that someone could pick a religion, agree with everything in it, and then go on in life with, “Well, that’s that.”

Yet I do envy those people on one level.

Anyway, the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that perhaps it was not Wicca and Buddhism that were in conflict but rather my idea of what each represented to me: one represented power in this world, one represented liberation from everything.

In other words, one represented a catering to the ego, the other represented its destruction and dissolution.

Now, of course, we also have huge problems with Wicca for other reasons. The system is admirable, to be sure, in its most idealized form- it is, in my opinion, a stripping down of Western religion and an iteration of it through generalized symbols for the archetypes and the Divine. The original form of Wicca with which we are acquainted, from the mid-1900s, actually has several laws and by-laws and so on.

Modern day Wicca isn’t quite the same. Instead, it’s become a Pop Witchcraft phenomenon; there are infinite numbers of cheesy Wicca 101 books to be found in every bookstore, and though some of them have tons of information, they almost invariably miss the point or don’t go deep enough.

Some would say that about 99% of religion, but I’m not here to address that.

Some would also say that I could’ve simply taken the Buddhist deities and inserted them into the Wiccan pantheon and gone from there.

This brings us to one of the most irritating aspects of Wicca: when people, who don’t understand what it is, who haven’t studied it, who have no idea that there is something to be said for organization and tradition, say the damnable words, “It’s whatever you want it to be.”

No. No, the fuck it isn’t. It’s never been “whatever you want it to be” and it never will be. If you want a religion that’s “whatever you want it to be,” go call yourself an Eclecto-Religio-Practice-Person or something, don’t call yourself Wiccan.

Back to the Buddhist pantheon. First, I understood that, while there may be Buddhist deities who cater to the various spheres of life, Wicca, too, was a Western, not an Eastern, thing. Randomly inserting Eastern traditions into the Western mindset would upset some kind of balance I saw in the whole process, and besides, the Buddhists don’t necessarily work with the deities in the way that a Wiccan would, so the process is culturally and theoretically removed.

This, too, was the beginning of trying to make things all fit together, of trying to have the so-called elusive “seamless garment.”

Wicca, on the whole, has turned into a kind of Protestantism. Not Protestant Christianity, but Protestant OF Christianity. The few individuals who would dare take Christ entities and insert them into the Wicca system are immediately dubbed “Christo-Pagans” and ridiculed.

But in a way, that ridicule is understandable; somewhere, hidden in the depths of Wicca, IS the Protestantism FROM Christianity; it’s part of its heritage, its lifeblood, complete with the mythology of the “burning times” and blaming Christianity for everything bad that ever happened, not unlike the dimwitted Modern Atheists™.

A good example of this I read recently was on a series of articles I once praised on witchvox.com. The author did a good job (or so I had thought) in going through Wicca, doing research, and separating what can be traced to ancient religions and cultures and what was most likely an invention of Gardner.

Then I saw a statement about the Cakes and Ale. Now, recently, Michael and I had a conversation about how the Wiccan communion is related to the Holy Eucharist; indeed, this much is obvious, because it maintains a certain thematic integrity.

But the author of this article said that the Eucharist was based on the Celtic ritual of blessing grains and alcohol, and that the Roman Church “borrowed” the ritual, and then Gardner “borrowed” it back.

That’s an example of shitty scholarship, folks.

 

Now, I’m not going to try to convince anyone, including myself, that the Holy Eucharist is entirely something related to the Passover meal and Jesus’s words and so on, but let’s not forget that DID happen. Pagans and Jews alike pretty much ate bread and drank alcohol, so saying the Celts blessed grain and alcohol (AKA, prayed over food) and that somehow the Catholics stole this idea of blessing food and inserted Jesus into the mix just doesn’t make any sense.

But then, there are the Wiccans who say that the Christians stole all things ritual from them, and then there are the Christians who agree with the Wiccans that the Eucharistic traditions did just that; neither group checks into the rituals written of in the Hebrew Bible, apparently, where there are candles, incense, bread, wine, and prayers everywhere.

Oh, yeah, and there’s that part in Genesis about the High Priest Melchizedek offering bread and wine to God Most High.

So the idea of bread and wine being offered to the Divine is a pretty ancient idea, just saying.

And also, I should point out, I’m not here to defend Christianity or discuss the atrocities committed in Christ’s Name or anything along those lines; Christianity will have a great deal to answer for in the hereafter, even as it has a great deal to answer for in the here and now.

Nor am I here to blast sincere, seeking Wiccans. Wicca has a good theory underlying it, and it’s potentially empowering for the individual. The mysticism in it is underdeveloped, but as it stands, so is the mysticism in modern-day Christianity. We mystics must, in fact, dip rather deep to find it a good deal of the time.

Erik and I discussed these things, and I told him a very true point: after all is said and done, I would MUCH rather be a Pop Wiccan than a Pop Christian. What I mean to say by this is that the “Pop Christian” books by individuals such as Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen are just awful. The worldview through which they operate, the American Evangelical perspective, is just terrible. I would rather be a Pop Wiccan and do my little rituals and wave my little knife any day of the year.

A good thing about Wicca is that it made me feel like life has meaning; it made me feel as though Nature truly was holy, powerful, and a good thing. I could appreciate the changing of the seasons as part of the Great Happening of reality.
But then, I was always more focused on casting spells than I was on actually practicing a religion, so I mean, yeah.

Gnosticism did offer me a great deal of comfort, as it seems, in many respects, to be the meeting ground of Christianity, Wicca, and Buddhism. So three primary religions influencing me in my life ended up being rolled into one.

Jordan Stratford jokingly says that Gnostics are Catholic on the outside and Buddhist on the inside, and I think this wouldn’t necessarily be far off; I would edit that to say that Gnostics are more like Buddhists wearing Christian vestments or something.

But that doesn’t devalue the more orthodox Christian mysticism, either- Christianity is replete with symbols that have a lot to offer us.
Then again, so is Wicca, and you see how often that devolves into crap.

I think Wicca does have a problem with not being defined enough. It’s the double-edged sword; one is free to do whatever, but one doesn’t necessarily know WHAT to do.

If Wicca had specific symbols associated with the Wheel of the Year, I think it would make it easier. Perhaps there ARE definite symbols, signs, and underlying meaning present in the Wheel, and I’ve just failed to recognize. It wouldn’t be the first time.

When more thoughts come, I’ll write more. I’ve been so into writing lately, all these thoughts pouring through me, even though I’m sick, I can’t help but continue to write down my concepts.
Also, I should point out that in Wicca, the God is associated with Day and the Goddess with Night. I actually encountered the Divine in the opposite way- Sky/Day Mother, Earth/Night Father. It’s very strange that my actual experience would be in contrast to what is constantly repeated in Wicca, and that seems to be a huge problem- people repeating beliefs, repeating ideas, with NO experience to back them up.

One person, in fact, told me when, I spoke about the Earth Father Archetype, that he thinks of the Earth as both masculine and feminine; he missed the entire point and threw some theoretical, all-inclusive bullshit at me. Then again, if he were to speak of experiencing the Earth as both, that would be a different story.

The point is, this was an experience, an encounter, a real-time happening, not a mental concept that someone wrote about that I said, “Oh, that sounds good.” This was actual.

I can understand the feminine associations with the Earth, but it’s strange that the Earth would appear to me as masculine- and as Christ, no less.

Oh, the games archetypes play with us!

Pax Vobiscum.

Beaux

 

 

 

Terribly Funny but Terribly Terrible: Ramblings

2 Comments


Kudos to the author of this picture!

The Episcopal Church had rapidly gained attention in the USA for being liberal. Sometimes we see extremely liberal and rationalistic theologians who take out all the major tenets of Christianity, and so the more conservative Christians tend to deride the Episcopal Church because of this.

Even though I’m not (officially) Episcopalian and identify more with the Anglo-Catholic elements thereof, I think a hallmark of the Anglicanism is that there is a variety of opinions that people have theologically, both public and private, and the major difference between people in the Episcopal Church and other denominations is that they’re encourage to vocalize those theological opinions.

Now, I think people in the Roman Catholic Church would be surprised to find out that there’s a huge difference between 1) what the hierarchy teaches and 2) what a lot of individual Catholics believe. Roman Catholics who “pick and choose” what to believe out of the Church’s teachings are accused of being “cafeteria Catholics,” something frequently levied against the Episcopal Church as well.

The Episcopal Church, and certainly the Anglo-Catholic movement if I understand anything about it, is much more geared towards the solidity of the Sacraments and the Liturgy; this is known as orthopraxy. That isn’t to deny that there is the role of both the Bible and human Reason (as per the three-legged stool model) to inform Anglicanism.

I think in many cases (including my own), people who are drawn to the Episcopal Church are those who don’t care for the fundamentalist conservatives trying to propose ignorance and outright stupidity as the One, Sole Truth but also don’t care to be burdened down with the equally cumbersome obsession with rules and regulations on theology that you find in the Roman Church. And yes, I just said “the Roman Church,” so those of you who may take offense can just get over yourselves.

Oddly enough, I’m extremely conservative liturgically. The more smells and bells at Mass, the more I like it. I even refer to the service as “Mass.” Typically the Episcopal Church lists the Mass as being called the “Holy Eucharist,” but that’s also because the ritual itself is referred to as such, and Mass is an equally acceptable term.

I cross myself. I cross myself at Mass, I cross myself at home, I cross myself before I go to sleep at night and when I wake up in the morning, and I kneel in prayer. Let me say that if you have never kneeled on a wooden floor to pray, then you don’t know the meaning of kneeling.

Anyway, I read a number of articles and views on Catholicism and Anglicanism online- blogs, forums, what have you. I’m always irked to see the level of ignorance that exists on all sides of issues. Contrary to how many well-meaning individuals like to list the differences between the Eucharistic theology of the Catholics and Episcopalians, I think they’re incorrect- a good number of Episcopalians would defend the Holy Eucharist as being transubstantiation, and the 39 articles that so many like to refer to about the Holy Eucharist is more of a historical document than a guaranteed, everybody believes it, defining aspect of the Episcopal Church.

The problem with defining things such as “transubstantiation” and “consubstantiation” has do with the actual philosophical meaning of the change in substance and such- it’s a very subtle thing, but if you actually read through the Eucharistic philosophy, transubstantiation can appeal to the reasonable faculties as well.

The OFFICIAL position (and Lord knows there aren’t many of those) of Anglicanism is this: “The bread and wine truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ- but how, and in what sense, is a Mystery.” This is known as the Mystery of the Real Presence, and making this as the official position is probably the wisest thing anyone has ever done with regards to Eucharistic theology.

There are Episcopalians who would say that the Eucharist is merely a symbol. They are few in number, I’m pretty sure.

But that isn’t to say that their opinion doesn’t matter or isn’t wrong- a number of Protestant denominations hold that the Holy Eucharist is, indeed, a mere symbol.

My feelings on the idea that the Holy Eucharist is a mere symbol is that it devalues it as a Sacrament and devalues the Sacramental system as a whole, and it also makes Christianity not make as much sense. What’s the point of going to a church just to listen to a man in a suit preach a sermon? There isn’t really any point in that, at least not for me.

In the Catholic Traditions, the sermon is a commentary, most often on the daily Scripture readings or on the particular Feast of that day. It relates somehow to the present moment, and it isn’t the main reason you’re there. You’re there to take the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of your living GOD.

That’s another odd thing. People freak out at the notion of being cannibalistic vampires who worship a zombie sorcerer as their God. They say things like that as though they’re disparaging- but tell a teenager that’s what your religion is, and see how fast they convert. It’s the making of a great novel and movie, and it’s exactly what Christianity is.

I naturally have far more reverence than that. I’m not pulling a “holier than thou” card here, but I am under the impression that I take my spirituality incredibly serious and have the utmost devotion to God. So when I talk about how interesting it sounds when someone makes disparaging comments like those mentioned above, I really am impressed with them.

At the time of this writing, I haven’t been to Mass in four Sundays or so. So much for my devotion, but the weather’s been just terrible, on top of my erratic sleeping habits.

Many people who worship liturgically have the same impressions that I do- the religion becomes something more. You use your whole body in the religion, not just one mental faculty of think this, think that, believe this, believe that. Christianity comes to life. The mytho-poetry of the Bible is something that we bring into every moment of our life. Crossing myself isn’t a superstition- it’s an act of devotion, an act infused with meaningfulness and holiness, an act which completes me as a person, reminds me of the Sacrifice and Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, and reminds me to love as He loves, to seek to be One with Him even as He is One with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Wow, that sounded so nice, I think I’ll end my blog there.

Beaux

One of the Biggest Mistakes of Christianity

Leave a comment

My often scatter-brained but many times super-wise friend Courtney once remarked that it is difficult to investigate one’s own personality because to contemplate one’s self is to play a game with fishhooks or monkeys-in-a-barrel. To pull up one issue is to pull up several others attached to it, some of which you may not be ready to face.

My thought process works like this often, and I find it difficult to express, concisely and coherently, exactly what it is that I want to express.

In other words, try to bear with me. My thoughts here may not necessarily be so clear.

Christianity puts many people off in the modern era. This much is true. This much is undeniable. If you think otherwise, go ask someone who isn’t particularly religious how they feel about Christianity, and you’re likely to get a negative response.

Only a few years ago, I felt something quite similar in this regard. The transition blog (Memoirs of My Religion…4 or so) has yet to be posted, but we’ll get there. The point is, though, that I really had a bad taste in my mouth when I thought of Christianity.

Naturally, I had a particular image in my mind of what Christianity was, thanks to my fundamentalist/evangelical/lowest-of-the-low-church days.

What I’ve come to learn, thankfully, is that the particular image of Christianity I had was only one image and not a summation of the entire faith and all the varieties of denominations.

Christianity, as a whole, makes many mistakes as far as religions go. Some are theological, and some are attitudinal, which in turn affects the theology.

One of the biggest mistakes of Christianity is the attempt to the culture of “there and then” and insist that we abide by said culture in the “here and now.” Many Christians try to look at the world 2000 years ago and suggest that this is the way the world really is supposed to be and we should thus live our lives in that manner.

Such is the mistake of, and I can say this in no kinder way, simple-minded people.

Somewhere along the line, the reality that Christianity is a Living Tradition in the Here and Now was discarded in favor of a Golden-Era-Truth-in-the-Past-to-Which-We-Ought-to-Return. Further distorting reality, people began to suggest that this said Golden Era was described perfectly in the Bible.

Uh…perhaps something like the first two chapters of Genesis, sure. But have you read the rest of the Bible? It’s pretty much filled with people not listening to God and not being in tune with God.

There is a certain world view held by the characters in the Bible- they lived in a particular culture, spoke a particular language, had particular scientific understandings of things, particular prejudices, and so on and so forth. The same holds true for us as well.

But we don’t live in that culture. Your average Evangelical Protestant will quote from the Bible and make all kinds of commentary on it as a historical model without having the proper knowledge of the cultural context in which said things are happening- and that is to say nothing of them missing the entire point of what’s being said, the entire message being carried.

People are quite quick to whip out Jesus in this day and age to back up their point of view on something. You especially hear the self-styled “conservative” camps in the United States quoting Bible verses to back up their views on things, but they might surprised that self-described “liberal” camps, too, can back up “liberal” views using the Scriptures.

Anyway, the point: we cannot go back to the past, we cannot go back to the cultures of old, and no, contrary to what some people seem to think, things will not all be all right if we would just subjugate women, beat our children, execute gays, and enslave the blacks, and allow men to be in charge of everything, just like in the Good Old Days in the Bible.

I’ll close this entry with a quote from Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, which is rather a good summary of how I feel about Christianity at times:

From the Crusades to the Inquisition to American politics, the name “Jesus” had been hijacked as an ally in all kinds of power struggles. Since the beginning of time, the ignorant had always screamed the loudest, herding the unsuspecting masses and forcing them to do their bidding. They defended their worldly desires by citing Scriptures they did not understand. They celebrated their intolerance as proof of their convictions. Now, after all these years, mankind had finally managed to utterly erode everything that had once been so beautiful about Jesus.

Beaux


Memoirs of My Religion II

6 Comments

Increasingly I found myself dissatisfied with Christianity and the exclusivist attitude that it had. For a long time, and I’m not sure exactly how long, I had this dire sense of unease growing inside of my that something about the way we approached the religion, something that was very, very important, was being overlooked.

In time, this urgency grew inside of me, and the smug attitude of Christians and the superiority complex mixed with the needless victim complex began to overwhelm and disgust me.

The original theological break with Christianity began one day when I sat in my 8th grade class and asked my Bible teacher a question.

“What happens to all the people of another religion, say, the Buddhists, who haven’t heard the Gospel or haven’t had a chance to hear the Gospel?”

Her response?

Said with a smile on her face: “They go to Hell.”

I argued, “But that isn’t fair; they have no chance, they don’t know about Jesus!”

To this she said, “God is not a FAIR God, God is a JUST God, so he gives them what they deserve. If Buddha had begun praying and said, ‘Hello, I know there’s a God out there,’ God would have revealed Himself to him.”

This was the first time I openly and blatantly disagreed with the teacher on the matter, the first time I had challenged Christian doctrine and teaching in any sort of way and began to search for myself the reality on the matter.

Until this time, I had begrudgingly accepted that this was simply the way that it was, but no more; that statement by my Bible teacher created the first true break that existed inside of me with Christianity.

Now, it is here, and everyone can see it as exactly how it happened.

Being trapped in an evangelical worldview, I had to search through the Scriptures desperately to try to understand salvation for people who would otherwise be considered so-called “unbelievers.” (We’ll address the presuppositions of worldviews in a later blog.)

This led me to read 1 John, which speaks of God’s love for us and essentially states that whoever had known Love has known God.

My theological perspective shifted to the notion that if someone has loved, experienced loved, and loved another person, then they have indeed experienced salvation, because otherwise, they would be unable to love.

Another influencing factor at this time, though not quite as large, was that my interest in Japan had essentially begun around this time. Japan’s religious affiliation is mostly in two religions- Shinto and Buddhism. The concept that the Japanese people as a whole, with their vivid culture and language, were somehow destined for an eternity in Hell did not set well with me.

At age 15, I began branching out. With access to the internet, I was able to read more and learn more about religion, Bible, and God.

A former friend recommended me to a few different sites, including web pages that spoke about astrotheology (the concept that our religions are ultimate based off of worship of the stars and planets; this is oversimplified but with suffice for now) along with sites on comparative religion, which show how the names of various deities and entities that have been worshiped in all ancient cultures etymologically overlap.

In addition, we ourselves argued; he was an atheist, I was a devout evangelical Christian. I suppose in this matter, he ended up winning out. Still, he was neurotic and disturbed in his own right, and I was an impressionable teenager looking for guidance from someone who did not assume the evangelical Christian worldview.

One such theological breakthrough came when I was told that miracles have happened in other religions. If miracles and accounts of healing can happen in other religions, it was, by my own reasoning, none other than the Holy Spirit who caused such miracles to happen; thus, if the Holy Spirit was able to act and function accordingly in other religions, then were they really wrong?

Naturally the first argument that someone would bring up is that these miracles happened by means of demons; yet the same accusation is made of Jesus according to the Scriptures, in which the Pharisees accuse Him of casting out devils in the name of the prince of devils.

Jesus’s response? A house divided against itself cannot stand.

For a while, I adopted the position that Jesus was another mere mythological figure and never actually existed. In time, this perspective has been amended, and I understand that the there is both a historical Christ and a mythological Christ.

My interests turned mainly to Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Eastern religions. So, too, did I take interest in Wicca and Neo-Paganism. A new conflict arose in the midst of these, but we’ll get to that in a future blog.

I was unaware of exactly how cult-like the behavior of evangelical Christians were until I tested the waters for myself and saw the backlash. Suddenly in church I was questioning things, pointing out parallels in other religions, and one day, while going over the lesson of “Other Religions and How They’re All Wrong,” I had enough when the Sunday school teacher said, “Every other religion except Christianity a cult.”

That did it for me! I was outraged, furious, that such a narrow-minded, ego-centric accusation would be thrust on other religions by a person who was acting as cult-like as any cultist.

When I expressed my opinions and pointed out parallels in terms of prophecies that exist in other religions written down way before Christianity, I was told to shut up, and that if I was going to go that church, I had to believe what that church believed.

…and every other religion except that one is a cult?!

Please.

That’s sufficient for the moment. Happy reading, and don’t worry about getting too passionate in reading my blogs; I get passionate writing these! We’ll continue with the happy memoirs in the next series of blogs. And please remember, this is just skimming over the top of things.

Beaux


Memoirs of My Religion I

7 Comments

For the first five years of my life, I was raised Southern Baptist. The peculiarities of Baptist theology were not necessarily present at this time in my young mind; that is, the differences between Baptist theology and older Christian philosophies and positions did not stand out.

The theological view on things that I had was rather infantile. The basic idea is that if you were good, you would go to heaven, and if you were bad, you would go to hell. God, Jesus, and the Devil all existed, along with some mentioning of angels and less often, demons. Jesus was the Son of God, and that was about the extent of it.

The order of events at church wasn’t too intense. We went to the children’s Sunday school, then we went to Children’s Church, where we did some kind of craft and had juice and cookies.

At around age 5, we stopped going to church. That was actually quite fine with me- I had a Nintendo, and that meant more free time for me to play it.

Around age 6, the so-called Bible Story Ladies started coming to my Elementary School. This is where we were told stories about God and then we were compelled to ask Jesus into our heart, if we hadn’t already done so.

Think about that: at the age of 6, I was asking Jesus into my heart to save me from the eternal damnation that these women were telling me about.

I felt that believing in God was enough at this point, and that was what we were taught. I certainly didn’t believe that one had to attend church; that was inconsequential.

Around age 10, I started going to another church with some family members. This was an Assembly of God, a highly Pentecostal, fire-and-brimstone, fundamentalist, literalistic Christian church. The worship service was highly informal, and I never really cared for it.

My interests lay in studying the Bible and learning about theology. Always inquisitive (like my grandfather), always wanting to learn the abstractions of things, I asked questions, some of them a lot more challenging than the people at the church seemed to be used to. Thus, I often received answers, though many times they were not fulfilling and didn’t actually answer my question.

Bear in mind: this was before the days of the internet as we know it today. The kind of information on theology, etymology, liturgy, mysticism, and so forth that we have today was largely inaccessible in those days unless you had access to a good library, and being in a small town, that wasn’t going to happen.

One of the earliest and biggest intellectual hurdles I had when with Christianity was the doctrine (dogma?) of the Holy Trinity: for those of you who are not familiar with this particular central tenet of Christianity, the Holy Trinity entails that God exists as ONE GOD in THREE PERSONS: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. That is, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all ONE GOD but exist in THREE PERSONS. They are each consubstantial with one another but are not the same person.

I wrestled with this idea for years, because it was introduced to me later on, probably after I started going to church.

The image that had been presented to me as a child was much closer to the Jehovah’s Witness theology, believe it or not, and I’ve had other people say the same thing: God was our heavenly Father, Jesus was the Son of God (but not God Himself), and the Holy Spirit was the active presence of God’s Spirit on Earth. Not difficult.

Oh, but no. Suddenly that was not the case.

So one day when I innocently asked the question of why Jesus prayed to Himself in the Garden of Gethsamene, I was told, “He didn’t…He prayed to the Father.” I challenged this at some point because I was told that He and the Father were the same Person.

This is when a new bit of theology was thrown at me: I had already become comfortable with the illogical doctrine of the Trinity, only to suddenly be told that God the Father is still GOD, and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are like Gods, but not God Himself because of how in tune with the Father they are.

Good…grief.

Also around this time, the local school took a trip to Washington, D.C., where one of our stops was the National Cathedral. I remember being completely in awe of the blue window with the rock from the moon in it, as well as seeing the nuns and the entire High Church set up. I swore for a long time that this was a Catholic church but came to realize it later on that it was an Episcopal/Anglican church.

The mistake came because I thought when we inquired about the pillows on the back of the pews that the nun told us that there was a lot of kneeling in Catholicism, but she had actually said, “There’s a lot of kneeling in Anglicanism.” Now I get it.

But most of all, I was curious about the altar- why was it behind railing? What was the altar used for? Was it merely a symbol? I don’t recall anyone ever answering the question at that time. I do remember I bought something called the Comic Book Bible from the store. I also remember going into the side chapels and how rude the nuns were- except our tour guide nun, who was quite friendly and helpful.

At age 12, I started attending Emmanuel Christian School, a highly evangelical private school in the local area. It was here that I learned huge chunks of evangelical theology and essentially became a fanatical, brain-washed, fundamentalist Christian myself.

I managed to drive most of the people around me crazy with my insane rantings and fanatical positions on Christianity. What few people realized was that my own compassion drove me to be crazy- I was deathly afraid that my family members and friends would not accept Jesus and consequently would burn in Hell. It wasn’t about me being right- it was about me making sure people that I loved didn’t go to Hell for all eternity.

Catholics, of course, were frowned upon. The only thing I can remember really hearing of them was that they “Pray to Mary,” and that we’re only supposedly to actually pray to God. These words had some kind of strange, Puritanical influence that I sensed even at an early age.

My mother also defended Catholics as much as she made the above statement; she said that she couldn’t believe that someone who was faithful and went to Mass everyday would end up in Hell, that it just didn’t make any sense, and I agreed.

One of my friends at church had a Catholic friend who said that they didn’t pray to Mary, and we told my Sunday school teacher that. She simply, “Well, all of them but your friend do.”

I think I misunderstood what they were implying when they said these things: I understood them to mean that there were prayers addressed to Mary, but never did I understand it to mean they exclusively addressed Mary, which is what they were actually saying.

In 7th Grade or so, I learned about the Catholic Sacraments in my Christian school. Naturally, we were taught how the Good and Noble Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli liberated the Holy Bible from those nasty Catholics and freed the Gospel for all people from their clutches. But at the same time, the Sacraments caught my attention.

Specifically, the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist- that the Bread and Wine become the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, caught my attention. Something snapped in my head at that age, and something pushed inside of me to want to become Catholic.

At my podunk, backwoods church, I was ridiculed for saying this. I remember one person saying that the Catholics let you do anything- “You can get drunk, whatever. You saved!”

Ignorance is not pretty.

My mom’s advice? “You can’t just go become Catholic- you have to go to confirmation classes and such.”

I really wish I had pushed the issue at the time, but I didn’t.

Things changed heavily for me around age 14-15, and we’ll get into that in the next entry: there’s a lot of ground to cover.

Beaux