Theism: belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically a belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world. -Merriam Webster
“Any god who can be killed ought to be killed.”- Clifford Stanley, Episcopal Priest and Professor of Theology
I “got the message this morning, the one that was sent to me” [Bob Dylan] and although the topic of the conversation with the Editor of Salem-News.com was not on this topic, what Tim King wrote read like the voice of God speaking to me:
“Part of what is taking place is a simple realization of the power of creation that exists within.”
eileenfleming — May 28, 2010
Beyond Theism and On with Evolution: Part One in a Series
What I had been cogitating upon for weeks and what kept me wide-awake last night, were the messages I got while reading Bishop John Shelly Spong.
Way ahead of the masses he wrote in 1998, Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile.
It took him twenty years to write that book about his desire to worship the Mystery we call God as a citizen of the modern world who thinks!
God gave us all a brain that we should use it!
As there is so much heavy baggage attached to the name God, I propose a new name: Pure Being.
And I imagine that Paul Tillich would appreciate it.
Tillich was a refugee from Nazi Germany, a Christian existentialist and American theologian. Tillich philosophized that the existential questions of human existence centered on ontology: the study of the nature of being, existence and reality in general.
Before Tillich died in 1965, he proposed a 100-year moratorium on the use of the word God, because it had become so corrupted.
The concept of Being,
“appears in the present system in three places: in the doctrine of God, where God is called the being as being or the ground and the power of being; in the doctrine of man, where the distinction is carried through between man’s essential and his existential being; and finally, in the doctrine of the Christ, where he is called the manifestation of the New Being, the actualization of which is the work of the divine Spirit.” Tillich, Systematic Theology Vol. 2, p.10
For this Christian Anarchist-Buddhist with a dose of dervish, Jesus for me is my Brother and The Prince of Peace.
His last words to the community before his crucifixion-the Roman occupying forces standard method of capital punishment-was “To put down the sword.”
Among the last words the Prince of Peace uttered on the cross were: “Father, forgive them; they know not what they are doing.”
And not much has changed in 2,000 years!
The Prince of Peace also said that he came so that we would have life to the full; abundant life [John 10:10] and that takes deep thought and then taking action.
Two thousand years ago, there was lively debate about whom the Christ-the very first WIDE AWAKE man.
Until the Church got in bed with Emperor Constantine, all the churches were hot beds of individuality and not the institutions that have become big business today.
In 1994, Spong wrote, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? which faced the fact that viewing the resurrection of The Prince of Peace as PHYSICAL was a late developing tradition in early Christianity, which was called The Way until the days of Paul, in the third decade.
Paul as well as the gospel writers of Mark and Matthew made NO such claim that the burst of life, light and energy that accompanied the birth of Christianity was dependent on this orthodox theology or any dogma.
In 1996, Spong wrote,Liberating the Gospels, he contended that the writers of the synoptic gospels-Luke, Matthew and Mark- were NOT eye witnesses to the life and death of The Prince of Peace and these gospels/good news were not even based on eye witness memories.
Instead, they were liturgical works organized around the Jewish liturgical year and were NOT to be taken literally, but probed within the Jewish context.
The Prince of Peace/Jesus was never a Christian; but a social justice, radical revolutionary nonviolent Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.
What got The Prince of Peace crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces by teaching the subversive concept that God/Pure Being preferred the humble, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under a brutal Roman Occupation above the powerful, elite and arrogant.
Spong wrote: “There is no hope for the revival of worship as long as an idol lives undisturbed in the place preserved for a living God.”
And “My aim is to agitate & disturb people. I’m not selling bread, I’m selling yeast.”-Unamuno
No religion owns Pure Being and no church owns The Prince of Peace. Any god, church or religion that is threatened by new truth is already dead, so on with Evolution!
The Prince of Peace spoke about “being born again” and he never meant that to be a solitary experience, but a lifetime endeavor of waking up and seeing Pure Being within oneself, all others and in every situation.
Living in the past has got no soul and the future of Christianity will not be found in antiquity, but in our ability to re-IMAGINE those ancient stories, symbols and concepts with modern eyes.
Christianity came into existence in a world radically different than ours. The ancients believed the Universe consisted of three tiers; the earth at the center was flat, and the judging, all knowing deity was up in the sky and hell was the place below.
The ancients ascribed to a tribal, male supernatural being who validated warfare as a noble and divine enterprise and his foreign policy was pro-Jewish.
The Christian god “evolved’ from tribal roots and the power of the Church to control knowledge and public opinion in an invasive deity dominated civilization for 1,600 years until a new concept dawned.
Copernicus and his disciple Galileo concluded that the sun did not rotate around the earth but that the earth rotated around the sun. This revolutionary evolution in consciousness began the shift from a god who was not so involved in the daily affairs of humans.
Galileo was condemned a heretic and not until December 28, 1991, did the Vatican officially admit he was right and the Church and Bible had been wrong about the universe and humankind’s place in it.
The god on his throne out there had died.
When Freud exposed the childish neurotic elements in religion he was vilified and demonized by Christian leaders.
Carl Jung offered a bridge of reconciliation when he recognized the historic process necessary in the development of Consciousness; which is the quality or state of being aware of something within oneself.
Albert Einstein introduced relativity as present in all things including “eternal and unchanging truth.”
Astrophysicists raised awareness of the emptiness in the heavens above and that hit at the heart of human loneliness.
“In the West there is loneliness, which I call the leprosy of the West. In many ways it is worse than our poor in Calcutta.” – Mother Teresa, Commonweal, Dec 19, 1997.
The theistic concepts of a supernatural big daddy in the sky, an errand boy just waiting to fill our desires, and a deity that will punish us and thus motivates behavior is a god that must at least be fired, if not killed.
Among the forward thinking founding father’s of America was Thomas Jefferson, who weeded out the miracle stories from the gospels and clarified the teachings and ethics of Christ in:
THE LIFE AND MORALS of JESUS of NAZARETH
1. Be just: justice comes from virtue, which comes from the heart.
2. Treat people the way we want to be treated.
3. Always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
4. Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
5. Do not judge others.
6. Do not bear grudges.
7. Be modest and unpretentious.
8. Give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.
9. Being true to one’s self in more important than being loyal to one’s family…those who think they know the most are the most ignorant…
The most ignored of our founding fathers was Thomas Paine, who wrote:
A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.
It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes.
Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be true.
Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.
Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities.
Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.
Soon after I had published the pamphlet “Common Sense” [on Feb. 14, 1776] in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion… The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.
Mother Teresa said she was just “a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who was sending a love letter to the world.”
In this ongoing series I hope to be a little pencil too, for “HOPE has two children. The first is ANGER at the way things are. The second is COURAGE to DO SOMETHING about it.”-St. Augustine
Mother Teresa also knew that, “In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
But, “Christ, you know it ain’t easy. You know how hard it can be. The way things are going. They’re gonna crucify me.”-John Lennon
Amen and amen means so be it!
The Stages of the Soul and How Fundamentalism is Holding up Evolution
eileenfleming — February 19, 2010
Part One in the GREATER AWAKENING SERIES:
Have you heard the true tale of the Bedouin named Mohammed Ali?
I begin this true story at its beginning in 1945, in Egypt, in the land just above the bend of the Nile, north of the Valley of the Kings, across the river from the city of Nag´ Hammâdi, near the hamlet of al-Qasr, under a cliff called Jabal al-Tarif.
An Egyptian Bedouin named Mohammed Ali was out gathering sabakh, a nitrate-rich fertilizer for the crops that he grew in the small hamlet of al-Qasr.
He was aghast to stumble upon a skeleton as he dug, and bewildered when he uncovered a two-foot high earthenware jar. A bowl had been placed over the top, and it was sealed with bitumen.
At first, the Bedouin thought an evil genie was within, but when he shook the heavy jar, he heard things moving and thought it might be gold.
He smashed the jar open and out fluttered pieces of gold particles that he tried to catch, but they disappeared. When he peered into the jar, he was dismayed to find twelve leather-bound books.
Mohammed Ali was illiterate, so he placed no great value on books, but was confident he could sell them and make something for his troubles. So he carried the jar filled with books back to the homestead.
Now, Mohammed Ali also happened to be a fugitive from the law, for he had wielded the weapon that spilled the blood of a patriarch during a violent incident in a generation-long family feud, not so very long before.
After a few days of mulling over possibilities, he decided to give his find to the local Coptic priest for safekeeping. You see, he feared the authorities soon would be lurking about and would confiscate his possession before he could receive any money for it.
His mother ripped out many pages to keep the home fire going, and I grieve and wonder what ancient treasures she burned.
Anyway, the priest passed it on to his brother-in-law, a traveling tutor, who brought the books to the Coptic museum in Cairo on October 4, 1946.
What was found were ancient compositions, written in Coptic that had been translated from ancient Greek. The volumes were leather-bound pages of papyrus, and no doubt the gold dust that Mohammed Ali witnessed was from papyrus fragments that had broken off.
Under the leadership of UNESCO, Egypt, and the American scholar James Robinson, these anthologies and collections of texts with titles like the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene have now been translated into many languages.
I contend that when USA Christians fall in love with the Mystery of God; we will begin the world again.
These ancient texts offer NO new answers; but they do provide us with a glimpse of Christianity at its very roots, and it was most diverse indeed.
The most likely source for these books that have become known as the Nag Hamadi Library, was the Pachomius Monastery, which thrived for centuries just three miles from the burial site.
Scholars agree that most likely a monk from there buried these books in the wilderness under the cliff of Jabl al-Tarif for safe-keeping.
These texts had been deemed heretical by those who were gaining power through the political arena; the Proto-orthodox.
In the 4th century, Emperor Constantine, a pagan warrior became the first Christian ruler, but waited until he was on his deathbed before being baptized.
I contend that the most decisive event in the history of Christendom occurred when Emperor Constantine accepted the Christian faith, for those who had once been persecuted were now protected by an earthly king.
Both a patriarchal monarchical state and church were formed at the same time.
Power struggles and debates were common among the early Christians.
Individual churches determined which texts were read, and they all had their favorites.
Constantine sought to unite his empire, and uniting the church was a savvy political move.
He announced he would pay for fifty illuminated copies of scripture to be bound, and thus the biblical canon was established and sealed.
There was fierce debate among the bishops about what should be included and what left out.
The proto-orthodox, who had now become the dominant voice, determined what was heretical for everyone.
The proto-orthodox demanded much-loved scripture to be burned, usually because it did not fit their understanding of God.
Many of these texts were considered Gnostic.
Gnosis is defined as knowledge discerned intuitively.
Gnostic texts offer deep mystery that is discerned via intuition, not rational thought.
This is not the way for fundamentalists.
A Gnostic is open to receiving intuitive knowledge of deep spiritual truth.
For students of the New Testament, this is a much greater find than the Dead Sea Scrolls. Forty of the texts had previously been unknown to modern scholars.
Thirty-five scholars worked diligently on these translations, and all agreed that the bound books themselves date back to the fourth century and were written in Coptic translated from Greek and Aramaic-which is what Jesus spoke!
The Gospel of Thomas is a collection of the sayings of Jesus, words of wisdom, proverbs, parables, and some very confounding mysteries.
About 35 of the 114 sayings have no counterpart in the New Testament, while at least 20 are almost identical, and 54 have similarities.
Many scholars concur that the sayings were originally written in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, the language of Jesus and his followers.
It is very possible the sayings are closer to the words Jesus actually spoke than what is found in the canonical gospels.
Two thousand years ago, there was lively debate about who Jesus was, and why he came.
The proto-orthodox, who were the majority, considered these gnostic texts anathema and thus deemed them heretical for many reasons.
The main reason is that they did not fit neatly into the evolving dogma.
Gnostic texts offer us mystery, not answers.
Jesus said he came that we would have life to the full; abundant life [John 10:10] and that takes deep thought.
Falling in love with the Mystery of the Universe is a great place to start.