Sunday, August 24, 2008

Evil and The Devil

The Devil has been coming up in different conversations recently and caused me to do some thinking about what I think the Devil is. Humans have always had impulses they have a hard time controlling. Humans will want to do one thing but do another and later feel guilty about making the wrong choice. Before there was the language of psychology and neuroscience humans needed some way to talk about the impulses they had that they found difficult to control. In ancient times they used the language of the Devil and demons. When I hear people talking such a way at church or on TV I usually try to translate it into something that is personally meaningful for me. Probably my favorite way of talking about evil and the Devil is the Jungian idea of the shadow.

I like the idea of the shadow because it allows people to own their own "evilness" without the threat of being squashed by God. It also allows  people to realize their "evilness" is coming from somewhere within and  if they "own" it they can diffuse its power. I think people that are  busy externalizing evilness and sin and condemning it are people that  have not owned their own evilness - i.e. Ted Haggard. (Not that  homosexuality is evil. Ted thought his desires were evil and was not  able to own them so they got the better of him).

I like the idea of the external personification of evil (Devil with  horns and pitchfork) because it allows people to disassociate their  "evilness" if it is to threatening to own it. It also just helps to externalize  things and blame them on something to be honest. The most important thing is for people to begin a dialogue about the evil they see within themselves. The can begin this dialogue just with themselves personally or with someone else. If externalizing evil to a literal sentient Devil is what they need to do to begin thinking about it then I say it is a good idea.

For example if  someone is really self-condemning or just hard on themselves you can  suggest that it is the Devil telling them these things because they  are really meant for great things and when the Devil tells them they  are lazy/ugly/whatever they should tell themselves what a lie that is  and immediately tell themselves the opposite - that they're worthwhile/beautiful/etc.

What are your thoughts on the Devil? Is he a literal sentient being? Has the idea of the Devil outlived its usefulness and is more destructive than anything?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Oranges and Mangos

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Living Buddha, Living Christ".
“It is good that an orange is an orange and a mango is a mango. The color, the smells, and the tastes are different, but... we see that they are both authentic fruits.
If religions are authentic, they contain the same elements of stability, joy, peace, understanding, and love. The similarities as well as the differences are there. They differ only in terms of emphasis”.

I think this is a very good analogy and understanding of Religious Pluralism.

However, this understanding runs into a direct problem, a direct confrontation with Jesus. No, strike that. The problem isn't with Jesus. The confrontation and problem is with mainstream Christian theology, Doctrine, and ideology.

I think the following statement from Pope John Paul II's book, “The Threshold of Hope”, summons up the collective voice of Christendom's concern best:

“Christ is absolutely original and absolutely unique”.

answers Thich Nhat Hanh, "But who is not unique? Socrates, Muhammed, the Buddha, you, and I are all unique. The idea behind the statement, however, is the notion that Christianity provides the only way of salvation and all other religious traditions are of no use. This attitude excludes dialogue and fosters religious intolerance and discrimination.”Thich Nhat Hanh, "Living Buddha, Living Christ".
Of course Christ is unique."

Christianity will tell you that this position not only denies the divinity of Christ, but denies Christ Himself...
... but I'm not convinced that it does.

I have come to the conclusion that the New Testament as we have it today was shaped by the 1st-Century Church and not the other way around. The 1st-Century Church was not a product of the New Testament.

The four canonized gospels were written significantly after the rest of the New Testament books. Is there any way of knowing whether they were written as a supplement to the Pauline Epistles and possibly influenced or tainted by them? Are the four canonized gospels historically accurate or are they a rewritten and reinterpreted history?

I am at a point where I believe the evidence is inconclusive. Although I believe Jesus is the Truth, I no longer believe he is ‘accessible’ through the bible. It is because of the canonized bible that he has become isolated in a hidden and inaccessible part of history.

I believe the eternal and divine "Cosmic Christ" (Logos?) is a projection (and undeterminately a construct) of the church and also (emperically) inaccessible.

The real issue comes down to one's understanding of what the Incarnation is.

John Hick, "The Metaphor of God Incarnate"
"...the idea of divine incarnation,... in which both genuine humanity and genuine deity are insisted upon, has never been given a satisfactory literal sense; but that on the other hand it makes excellent metaphorical sense. When, for example, Gandhi, asked what his message was, said that his life itself was his message, he was saying that his message was embodied, incarnated, made visible, in his life. For a human life can 'incarnate', or live out, truths and values".

Thich Nhat Hanh, "Living Buddha, Living Christ".
"It is a natural tendency of man to personify qualities like love, freedom, understanding, and also the ultimate... The true body of Jesus is His teaching. The teaching of Jesus is His living body, and this living body of Christ manifests itself whenever and wherever His teaching is practiced".

I can say with all honesty and a clear conscious, that I believe Jesus was a perfectly accurate reflection of the divine; a metaphor of God at least/for certain. I can also honestly say I believe the Jewish Rabbi Yeshua of Nazareth was fully, wholly, and completely human.

But was he literally God incarnate? I had struggled with this quesiton for in excess of 8 years.

Must he be literally God incarnate?
I've stopped asking this question. I think the answer to that question hinges soley on choice, is inconclusive, but damningly divisive and destructive. I have come to leave it unanswered.

Many will tell me this means I cannot be a Christain. It isn't a title I've proclaimed nor treasure anyway.

Others will begin launching biblical verses at me, demanding that I account for their meaning while in actual fact, only attempting to defend their personal positions.

Well, what is the most important thing a Christian believes in?
The Bible? A man? His teachings? Or what He represents?

When we force the question of, "Was Jesus literally God" to be answered, we begin a journey down a path that cannot end in any other way but intolerance, discrimination, suffering, and a counterfeit religion. It ceases to be authentic – and some might argue – even valid.

"Worship me or burn" is not the core message.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not denying your Christian God. I am simply not willing to force a belief into a fact.

I'm through with posing, or pretending, or allowing others to think I'm something I may, or may not be.

This is who I am and where I find myself today. I am not forcing it upon you. You can take it or leave it. You can accept me or reject me for who I truly am. But I am what I am and I'm extending to you the open honesty I usually reserve for God alone.

Am I fearful of the possible consequenses? Yes. But I refuse to wear this mask any longer