Saturday, December 15, 2007

Introduction

I have struggled with how exactly to introduce my intent behind this blog-site, Burlap. It really is a simple idea in itself. However, such a simple idea is in no way simple to put forward. Whether we like it or not, we live in a religiously pluralistic world. The question we are faced with is, how do we deal with that?

We will either look outwards to our neighbours and become tolerant of religious pluralism, or we will retreat from the world and become insular, exclusive, and intolerant. This is Fundamentalism and any fundamental movement is a desperate attempt to force a movement back to the truth. The argument being if we have in our possession, the entire and whole truth and the facility to comprehend it, why would we seek to move away from that?

We must define for ourselves which of the following we are and will choose to do. But if we do have in our possession the entire and whole truth and if we also have the facility to comprehend it, then why do we have as many denominations and numerous faiths?

There are only 3 conclusions:
1) We do not have the entire and whole truth in our possession. Which means holy scripture are not completely the truth nor is it entire.
2) We do not have the facilities to comprehend fully the whole and complete truth.
3) All the above; we lack both the truth and the facility to comprehend it, in which case, no decision of ours will make any difference anyway.

So, my conclusion is

1) Only God fully understands the truth of anything.
2) Only God can punish non-believers because only God truly knows what non-belief is.

The distinction and segregation of true believers and non-believers is so outside of my “jurisdiction” that I must never ask that question. They are all simply my neighbours. The focus must be elsewhere.

Only God fully understands the truth of anything. Only God can punish non-believers because only God truly knows what non-belief is.

These two statements of belief transcend boundaries that have caused more pain, misery, grief, and human suffering in all of human history; namely, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Atheism.

Tribalism, Legalism, Religiosity, Licentiousness, Fundamentalism, and soteric criteria all fly in the face of love thy neighbour as yourself.

I wholeheartedly believe that ideas have consequences; real consequences! And because of that I also believe that Doctrine is critically important. Allow me to repeat myself for emphasis: Doctrine (singular, not plural) is critically important.

“Love your neighbour as yourself”

If your belief necessitates more than that, if your theology needs footnotes and endnotes on that statement, then your theology is wrong, your religion is in error, and your belief is crippled.

That is my core belief.
However, my core belief also makes me a hypocrite. The sad fact of the matter is, I don’t love my neighbour. I usually despise, badmouth, hate, am intolerant, or often indifferent, to my neighbour … and indifference makes all the difference in the world.

I guess, ultimately, I don’t fully understand my core Doctrine yet. I have a lot to learn. I have a long road ahead of me.

I am in need of teachers and students; mentors and proteges. I am in need of traveling companions on this path, on this journey, and it is for this reason I sincerely hope you can become a voice within this piece of Burlap.

Where in the past the world was a very large place, if we so chose, we could live an insular life. However, the world is no longer big but very small and being insular is no longer an option (outside of blatant denial). We live in a pluralistic society and we are aware of the pluralistic nature of the world. The model Christianity uses no longer works or fits. The older Christian model, or traditional-paradigm, no longer works and no longer matches what we see.

A paradigm is more than just the lense we view the world through. It is the Model we use to filter our perceptions through. When a paradigm outlives its use, we discard it and attempt to find another model.

When the Ptolemaic view of the solar system could no longer be maintained (that the Earth was its center), the model – the paradigm – was discarded and replaced with a new paradigm; a new model (Copernicus') .

The idea that the Religion of Christianity is the one only True Religion has become difficult to support. The first shift was to add an 'epicycle' and claim that no religion is the One True Religion, and that Christianity isn't a religion. This is still functioning within the Ptolemaic-paradigm, but only adding a footnote, an 'epicycle'.

It isn't that all religions lead to God, but that no religion leads to God.

Those strict dogmatic-types who insist that their religion and only their religion leads to God and/or salvation, we'll call the “Dogmatic”.

On the other end of the spectrum are those that believe all religions lead to God. It could be said they believe in a sort of “Sacrament of Religion”. Out of a lack of a better name, I'll call them “Universal-Pluralists”.

There are those who say that no religion lead to God.

And finally there are those who will claim that no religion leads to God by redefining their belief as a non-religion. But what they are really saying is that their “faith” (substitute any word for 'religion') is the only way. This is really the above mentioned Dogmatic but disguised. They still believe in a singular True Religion and that their belief is it. We'll call these types “Disguised Dogmatics”.

If we are honestly willing to say that no religion leads to God (or salvation), and if we are honestly willing to acknowledge that there does indeed exist a religion called Christianity, and if we are willing to accept that this Religion of Christianity cannot lead to God/salvation, then we must be willing to explore or ask ourselves the question, “What parts of our religion are we willing to give up?”; because if we're not willing to give up any part of our religion, then what we really are is a “Disguised Dogmatic”.

November of 2006 was the first manifestation of this exploration for me with a (lengthy) piece entitled The Nature of Grace. To someone clearly in the first camp (Dogmatic) it must seem in the first few paragraphs that I am not only denying Christianity, but denying even being a Christian. (and to a certain degree, I was).

In Abbaian I had visited the distinction between believing all were legitimate vs. none were legitimate.

The next 'milestone' in my journey was a piece called Postdenominationalism, which really focused exclusively on the more extreme lot in the first camp (the Extreme Dogmatic). As I look back on it now, it was quite narrow in scope, focusing only on denominations (or denominationalism) within Christianity (the unspoken assumption being nevertheless only through Christianity or Christendom).

The latest (and most controversial) piece was Three Syntheses, which took the 'religiosity' out of Postdenominationalism and seriously ask the question, "What part of my religion am I willing to give up?"

The next step is a discussion, a conversation, inviting people not only of other denominations, but of other faiths. These questions and issues are not unique to Christianity.

We must be dedicated to seek the truth wherever it may be found.
We must be willing to take risks and ask questions, because that is how faith evolves. A spiritual journey is one of perpetual change and growth. Stagnation is spiritual death.
Tribalism cannot be the truth.
We must insist on being educated rather than indoctrinated.
Our loyalty should never to be a people or a culture or a dogma, but to ideas and ideals and God himself.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, or questioning our own idols; identifying what we consider sacred and untouchable, and then discovering whether it truly hold that value

If the concept being put forward is really true then it should be manifest not just within Christendom, but outside of it as well. I find it encouraging that we are beginning to see signs of this.

The Ptolemaic Christian-paradigm has outlived its use and what we are doing is attempting to find a more appropriate one. This is in no way my idea. I am only one voice in this endeavor. And I am inviting others to be that voice with me.

This is a voyage that I am in no way capable of traveling alone.

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