"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A House Without Walls

As stated in my previous post, I will attempt to give an alternate understanding of John 14. Why John 14? This was another section of scripture that was quoted at the funeral I attended which is quoted at a lot funerals for people within the Christian tradition, particularly of the evangelical persuasion. If you are part of a community that values the prospect of everlasting life in paradise above all else, this section is what you are basing that belief on.

First off a disclaimer; I don't know shit. Maybe, everyone else is right and I'm wrong. Could be. And what I'm offering is only one possible explanation of many. But, it seems to me, given the context, it has some merit.

To understand where I am coming from I need to explain one of the fundamental goals of mysticism. All traditions, Christian and otherwise have their mystics; for Christians it's people like Augustine, Theresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, and even C.S. Lewis. Muslims have the Sufis like Rumi. Buddhist have ... well Buddha ... but others as well. etc. The thing to understand about all these mystics is that their ultimate goal - the reason they are called mystics - is that they are so in tune with God that there is no distinction between them and God. Here are a couple of Sufi quotes to give you the idea;

The Beloved gives us the water of life,
which cures every illness.
In the Beloved's rose garden of Oneness
no thorns survive.
I have heard it said that there is a window
between one heart to another.
But what supports the window
if walls have ceased to exist?

Remove me from myself ,
so that all that remains is you, Beloved.
Take my life so that I can stand in your Presence.
Let all that remains be you.

Nothing exists but you, Beloved.
You are my speech. You are the silence of my mind.
You sleep with me. You walk the path with me.
There is nowhere I can go where you are not.
I have disappeared. Only you remain.
Bulleh Shah

Back to John 14. The key section here is the one where Jesus says that in his father's house are many room, and he goes to prepare a place for [his disciples].
If you start reading this section at John 13 and keep reading to the end of John 17 you get a better idea of what this section is all about. There are two things that Jesus keeps harping about throughout these 4 chapters; One is that his disciples need to follow his example, and the other is that he and the Father are one; if you've seen Him you've seen the Father and vice versa. There are also some mentions of the Holy Spirit coming after he is gone so they know what to do when he's not there.

But it isn't about going to heaven.

To try and get a little clarity on John 14:2, I think you need to jump all the way to John 17:24-26

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.

In John 14:2, and throughout these 4 chapters, I think Jesus is speaking as a mystic. He is saying, in parabolic language, that as he and the Father are one, so the disciples are to be as well. That he wants them in the same place (relationally speaking) as he is where there is no distinction between God, or Jesus, or them. When he says to them; "In my father's house are many rooms ... I go to prepare a place for you" he is saying come live with me in complete union with the Beloved where you disappear and only the Father remains; where not only the windows between you and him disappear, but also the walls.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Solomon and Buddha

We went to a fundamentalist church yesterday for the first time in a long time. But, it was for a funeral. I was dreading the salvation message that typifies most funerals in fundy churches; fortunately I was spared the embarrassment of having to walk out (I don't think I actually would have, but in my mind I'm sure I would have walked).

Overall the sermon wasn't too bad. When I do go to church these days - any church - I have the habit of picking apart the sermon and reinterpreting any scripture readings (which I will get to in my next post). Part of his sermon was the famous section in Ecclesiastes were Solomon - the wisest man in the world - says there's a time for everything; a time to be born, a time to die; a time to sow, a time to reap etc. Think Bob Dylan. The point the Pastor was trying to make was that nothing is random: there's a purpose to everything. A very comforting thought at a funeral.

The trouble is he's missed the point, even if well intentioned.

Conveniently he's forgotten the statement at the end of Ecclesiastes where Solomon says that everything is meaningless. It's really too bad that this selective memory is all too common when people quote scripture. Although more prevalent in fundamentalist churches, it's not unique. In fact it's not unique to Christianity; Muslims do it too (think of the popular definition of Jihad - Holy war - as misread by a select few), as well as others.

The proper reading of Ecclesiastes - all of it - is actually more in line with the concept of Impermanence, which is a cornerstone of Buddhism. To a Buddhist everything is impermanent, both good and bad. All relationships, possessions, and life situations will eventually go away. Nothing lasts forever. The point is to enjoy the good you have today and don't worry too much about the bad. It also ties in with another of their cornerstones which is Mindfulness; to be present in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future.

Who knew Solomon and Buddha were twins.

This is yet more proof that there is value in all religions. That we have more in common with our Muslim or Buddhist brother than we think. That any differences we might perceive to have may actually be due to our misinterpretation of scripture.

Scripture may well be inerrant - as the fundamentalists believe - but our interpretation of it, is far from it.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

A Robe of Words

Those who don't feel this love
pulling them like a river,
those who don't drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don't want to change,

let them sleep.

This love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy,
If you want to improve your mind that way,

sleep on.

I've given up on my brain.
I've torn the cloth to shreds
and thrown it away.

If you're not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you,

and sleep.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Donkeys and Pigs

There's a traditional Sufi saying: A donkey carrying a load of Holy books is still a donkey.

The modern version might be: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

The point of the Sufi saying, I believe, is that if there's no evidence that our spirituality has  transformed our outer lives, it's useless.

Let's live like we mean it.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sinning Without Guilt

Paul tells us in Romans 7:8 that "sin takes advantage of the law" to achieve it's own purposes. What does he mean by that? Our unconverted and natural egocenticity (sin) uses religion for the purposes of gaining self-respect. If you want to hate someone, want to be vicious or vengeful or cruel: Do it for religious reasons! Do it thinking you're obeying the law, thinking you're following some commandment or some verse from the bible. It works quite well. Your untouched egocentricity can and will use religion to feel superior and "right". It is a comon pattern.

... But because we have not taken Jesus' and Paul's teaching seriously, we have often created a religion of smugness - where people actually think they are not sinners and have obeyed the law. They have "saved" themselves, as it were, and have little need of mercy, compassion and the generosity of God. God is a good enforcer for them, but not the Saving Love revealed to Israel. They have achieved a certain level of good manners and self-control, but with no real need for divine union, surrender or trust in Anybody Else.
Fr. Richard Rohr
Things Hidden
Scripture as Spirituality

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Transcendent Bullshit

I must admit that prayer has confused me for some time now. I used to pray on a semi-regular basis, as any good evangelical would. If I was honest though, most of my prayer life surrounded asking for things like safety of loved ones, direction in life, good weather, or a hollandaise sauce that didn't suck. Oh, I'd add the requisite praise section so I didn't piss off God. And of course the, I'm-so-sorry-for-my-sins bit, just to make sure I ended up in heaven. After all I didn't want to end up like my neighbour who has blown my driveway every winter, all winter, for the past 23 years, but doesn't call himself a Christian. But, basically I was just asking God to do things for me. I didn't see anything wrong with this as most of the sermons, or books that I came across on prayer seemed to be about how to get God to do stuff for you.

Then I started down my current spiritual path that questioned everything, including prayer. I quickly became disgusted with my prayer life. How can I pray for safety, when others who pray just as hard are killed? How can I pray for food when others in the world are starving? Do I deserve it more? Or, more importantly, do they deserve it less? What about those that are riddled with cancer, did they not pray hard enough? I quickly stopped praying. I loved God too much to pray with such disrespect. Plus, any God that I could control with prayer wasn't worth worshiping.

There is so much discussion, controversy, and opinion about prayer - everyone seems to think they have the answer - that I'm starting to think that, like all things that have a lot of conflicting opinions, nobody's right. I wonder if we've missed the point entirely. What if prayer has nothing to do with the content of your prayer like praising God, or asking forgiveness, or manipulating? What if it doesn't matter if you're a health-and-wealth pentecostal, or an ascetic living in the desert? What if it does matter if you're speaking in tongues, or reciting the liturgy, because that's not the point.

What if the only point to prayer, no matter how you do it, is just to keep us connected to the divine? To make us realize that there's something other than ourselves out there. That there is something transcendent to aspire to? That there's more to life and living than just us? Maybe when you pray for something, and you get it (and I have, or so it seems), maybe it's just coincidence. Maybe it would have happened if you had prayed or not. Maybe that's why people pray for food and still starve to death, or pray for safety and still get killed, or pray for healing and still end up in a pine box. Maybe the tapestry illustration is just bullshit, but that's ok, because through it all we've remained connected to the transcendent - to something beyond ourselves.

There's a story about some famous guy - I forget his name - but, apparently he said, "I have so much to do today, I couldn't possibly get it all done without 3 hours of prayer". Perhaps he just wasted 3 hours of his day that could have been spent more productively. Or maybe, like a Buddhist, he spent 3 hours transcendently connected to the divine, and whatever happened that day would have happened anyway.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

The Magic of Good Friday

It was sunny when you first joined the line in the Outer Court, but you've finally made it inside the temple just as it clouded over.  The crowds, the noise, the heat, dodging the endless processions of criminals going to Golgotha has made for a very long day. You've come to offer your sacrifice to the priest, and on the far side of the room you see The Curtain. The curtain is there for your benefit, it shields you from the holiness of your God who lives on the other side - the God who has chosen you and your people, set you apart, protected you, guided you, provided for your every need. The God who will one day set you free, vindicating you before all nations, and declaring you righteous. Then ... a vibration, ever so slight at first, felt only in the soles of your feet. It continues to strengthen until you need to reach out for something, anything, to maintain your balance. The noise builds with it. The sound of falling stones offends your ears. Panic sets in. Then you hear it: A sound you can't quite place. It starts off softly, quickly intensifying, until your sure it's going to violate your very soul. It's close.

Very close.

You first catch sight of it out of the corner of your eye. The Curtain. The curtain is torn wide open - from top to bottom. Instinctively you look away. You've been told your whole life that if you could see behind the curtain you'd be blinded, if not killed. But you can't help yourself. You steal a quick look, hoping it's fast enough you don't get caught. Before you know it you're on your knees in debilitating disbelief, and your stomach is trying to leave your body through your mouth. What you see behind the curtain is ... nothing: No searing light, no chorus of angels, no heavenly presence on a throne - nothing but a slightly raised section of floor and an incense burner. Like a magician pulls the curtain aside to reveal the empty box where his beautiful assistant once stood, your god is gone.

Or was he ever there?

The traditional explanation for the curtain tearing says it's God's way of showing there's no longer any separation between God and man; we are free to approach God without a mediator. But Peter Rollins and Jay Bakker have another take. Jay explains it like this. What if the point of tearing the curtain in two was to expose the fact that there's nothing there, and never was: that any illusion we've created about God is just that - an illusion. Once faced with the fallacy of this god, the question then becomes, which god are we going to believe in. Maybe destroying the curtain was to show the god of the good parking space, the miraculous healing, the lid for every pot, the hedge of protection - the god we've so carefully created in our image - doesn't exist. But the God of self sacrificing love does. He's the one hanging on the cross.

He's the one to follow.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Les Mis

I had heard, more than once, how spiritual Les Miserables was, but the only version I had ever seen was the one with Liam Neeson in it. Although there were a couple of scenes that could be seen as spiritual, that was about it. But the latest version with Hugh Jackman is much different. I now understand.

We watched the Hugh Jackman version the other night. Unlike some people I don't hate musicals, in fact I actually like some. But I must admit there was a bit too much singing in this one; it all became tiresome quite quickly. But don't let that ringing endorsement turn you off to this movie.

This is a story of Legalism and Grace.

Jean Valjean is an ex-con who's paroled, but goes on the lam, with his arch nemesis Javert trying ever after to recapture him. Early on in the movie Valjean experiences unmerited, radical grace and it colours everything he does after that. At one point Valjean even extends this grace to Javert who is, ultimately, incapable of accepting it.

What a picture of the religious community today. You have those who are either outside, or on the margins of religious acceptance. You have the unmerited, radical Grace of God practiced by a few. And you have the majority ready to defend their borders at all costs.

Which is better?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Eunuch

Lisa Salazar is a trans-gender Christian who was married for many years, but then made the agonizing choice to become the female she always felt she was. You can hear her story on the Drew Marshall archive from last week if you want. Drew had a one hour Round Table segment with 3 different guests; Lisa, Wendy Gritter from New Direction ministries, and Dr. Lawrence Brice author of "The Uncomfortable Church: Can Gays be Reconciled to the Body of Christ". After Lisa told most of her story Drew turned the mic over to Brice to explain what his book was all about. From that point forward the conversation was dominated by the Church's lack of acceptance when it comes to LGBTQ's.

Brice's book was, in a nutshell, the concept of "love the sinner, hate the sin". After hearing him talk I was left with the impression that if anyone could actually live out that concept it would be him. He says we do it all the time; we love certain people even though we don't agree with them: we love our family, people at work, people in our social groups, even though we may not agree with certain thoughts or aspects of their lives.

On the surface this makes a lot of sense; however, there's something visceral, even primal, when someone disagrees with our basic belief system - something that defines who we are - it's not like disagreeing with a cat person when you're a dog person. And from what I have seen, and experienced, 99.999% of people, especially the religious community, are incapable of truly loving someone whom they fundamentally disagree with.

While Lisa was very appreciative of Brice's attitude of acceptance, she felt it didn't go far enough. You see, in Brice's church, even though they foster an attitude of acceptance, they won't let an LGBTQ person serve in any capacity.

In Lisa's eyes, and I suspect in most LGBTQ's eyes, this isn't true acceptance. She told of a pivotal moment in her life when she read the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts. Most Christians think a eunuch is someone who has chosen a life of celibacy, but this isn't accurate. I saw a TV show awhile ago about India where there is quite a large population of eunuchs. Eunuchs are people born with ambiguous gender - they are basically trans-gender people. Lisa then went on to make several points.

She wondered why the story even mentioned the person in Acts was a eunuch if it wasn't of some importance. If the story was simply about someone being baptized, or someone who comes to a sudden realization of the transcendence of the new Christian movement, or someone from the royal court, then there's no reason to even bring up their sexuality. Obviously it was significant.

She then brought up the part where the eunuch asks Philip, "What prevents me from being baptized?" The answer - nothing. The eunuch was fully accepted into the family of God, based completely on faith. There was no, "first you have to say the prayer", no "first you have to give up your lifestyle" - just complete and total acceptance.


What became extremely obvious throughout the interview, bolstered by comments from Wendy Gritter who works with LGBTQ people, was that anything less than complete acceptance by the church equals rejection. While they appreciate anyone who is truly capable of "love the sinner, hate the sin" it doesn't go far enough. It's not the radical Grace exemplified by Jesus.

I deeply respect Dr. Brice and his views - it can't be easy putting forth even the limited view of LGBTQ acceptance that he has within the conservative Christian community. The problem is that he and his church still view LGBTQ's as a mission, a project, a person or group to be consumed.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Neat, with a Splash of Water

I received a News Letter today from an acquaintance of mine who, in the past, had been very involved in the home-school / private Christian school movement. He felt he needed to address the anti-bullying legislation that has been raging in the media lately.

Let's just say I'm beginning to think that substance abuse is a gift from God to those of us trying to separate ourselves from our fundamentalist past.

Now...where did I put that bottle of Scotch??

Monday, 18 March 2013

Life of Pi

We watched the movie "Life of Pi" the other night. I had heard of the book, but had no idea what it was about, so I had no real expectations for the movie. The only thing I knew was that it either won, or was nominated for several Academy awards, which is good enough for me. It turns out that it has a very strong spiritual element to it.

This isn't really a spoiler, as the end is self evident right at the beginning of the movie. A writer comes to Pi's house and asks him to tell his story of being shipwrecked. Basically the entire movie is taken up with him telling this story. At the end he is telling the writer that he told this story to investigators right after it had happened but they didn't believe him, so they asked him to tell them a more plausible version, which he did. The writer then asks him which version is true. He responds by saying that in each story he is shipwrecked, he losses his family, he survives, and the rest no one can prove. He then asks the writer which story he prefers. The writer says the first one. To which he says, "so it goes with God".

To my mind there are two possible meanings to this (and maybe a third), although I suspect one of them is probably the one that was meant.

The first one concerns stories in the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, such as the creation story and others. The Jews don't believe the creation story literally. To them it is a metaphorical myth they use to explain the origins of the earth and their people - more specifically how our relationship with God was disrupted. The important thing to them isn't whether or not it actually happened, but the lessons learned.

We have also been watching the mini series "The Bible" produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. The other week was the story of Jericho. You know the one where they march around the city each day for seven days and then on the seventh day they do it seven times, blow their horns, shout, and the walls come down. Lots of people religious people try to put a scientific spin on it, saying the constant marching somehow set up vibrations in the earth; that the trumpets and shouting created a harmonic resonance in the walls causing them to self destructed. However, this really doesn't explain why they had to go in and kill everyone.

Could it be that this story and others like it in the bible are also metaphorical? That their strength is not historical factuality, but in the personal - and perhaps corporate - lessons to be learned. Could it be that the lesson of Jericho is that God wants us to live in ways that, at the time, do not seem logical, but we need to do it anyway, because "his ways are not our ways"? That the walls are more symbolic of things in our life that are not in concert with God's ways? That once we see God's ways are righteous  we need to get rid of all vestiges of things in our life that are not in keeping with his ways? Is their constant march to the promised land really a march to the Kingdom of God as extolled in the New Testament?

The other possibility for Pi's statement has to do with the various religions in the world. Is it to say that in all religions the basic indisputable tenets are all the same, and the rest can't be proven anyway, so it's just a matter of which one you prefer? Tony Campolo says there are few non-negotiables in the Christian religion, and the rest is up for grabs. Is this similar?

Which one do you prefer?

Friday, 15 March 2013


I just started reading Daniel Taylor's book, "The Myth of Certainty". I was initially reluctant both to order it and to read it, because, quite frankly, I thought it would be a bit pedestrian. So I was pleasantly surprised after reading the first chapter to find it very intriguing. I hope the rest of the book is the same.

In the first chapter he talks about the phycology of belief: why we believe -  not as one might expect from such a book - what we believe. The other thing he talks about is what he calls the Reflective Christian.

Reflective Christians are those of us that wonder why we believe certain things, those that can see other points of view, those that think there's more than one way to skin a cat, those that probably - but not necessarily -  have a blog about such things ☺. It was good to read that chapter, because as a reflective christian you often feel like your crazy. You hear people talk and you have all these thoughts going through your head that don't agree with what everyone else is saying. You are often -  at least it feels that way - standing on the outside, looking in. Speaking of thoughts: it can also be exhausting, because your mind is constantly going, constantly analyzing the pros and cons of a particular concept or idea, constantly searching for answers. As mentioned in previous posts, it is probably why I watch too much TV sometimes; I just want something mindless to distract my brain for a bit to give it a rest. As discussed in the chapter, it's not that reflective people are more intelligent than others, it's just that some people are, and some aren't.
Why all this on the psychology of belief? Because it helps to discover that you may not be crazy. If you get out of step in a subculture you are often subtly made to feel if not crazy, then guilty, or stupid, or anything else that will pressure you back into the pack. And these feelings heighten if you assume that everyone else believes what they do for unimpeachable reasons, while your difficulties merely evidence your own weakness, recalcitrance, or bad manners. 
 Sometimes that may be the case, but often reflective people are out of step because they sense that something is not right. They may be confused themselves, but they should be listened to. God has often used those with troubled hearts to speak to their society and to call His people closer to himself.
So, whether you know yourself to be, or suspect you might be, or think you might have a bit of reflectiveness in you, this might be a good read.

I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Time for a Change

I think it might be time for me to change. Between this quote from Richard Rohr;
In the spiritual life, there aren’t too many absolutes I can make, but this is certainly one. On the spiritual journey, the message is always to you. The message s always telling you to change.
Now, what most people do is they use religion to try to change other people. It’s always someone else that needs changing. No. Stop it. Once and for all. Whatever happens to you in your life is a message to you
Oh the ego wants to avoid that. So we look for something out there to change–somebody not like me is always the problem.
And Paul Knitter's book "Without Buddha I Could not be a Christian" I'm starting to see that my caustic, sarcastic ways might not be appropriate. A lot of fun. But not appropriate.

The trouble is; how to do it? I've been doing this all my life. Hell, I've even justified it by telling myself that Jesus was the most critical of those who should have known better, so why not take a few shots at the fundamentalist. I realize it's like shooting fish in a barrel, but it needs to be done. Right?

Baby steps.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Driving God to Drink

The camera slowly pans the auditorium from left to right. It's jammed with people. The voice-over tells us it holds 900 people, and the crowd has even spilled over into another room. It then starts to cut in closer and we see there are nests of people in the chairs -  six to eight - some hunched over with their elbows on their knees. They seem to be examining the floor like it's going to start talking to them. Others are sitting upright with their arms outstretched slightly, their palms facing up ready to catch a baby being tossed from a burning tenement house. It looks like their eyeballs would escape if it weren't for their lids being closed so tight. Their lips move, but we can't hear what they're saying. The little groups are everywhere. All doing the same thing.

It turns out this is a school auditorium. The voice-over tells us this school is located in a small city known for it's plethora of car dealerships - and it's religious conservatism. And they are praying. But what has happened? Has there been another senseless slaying of innocent children? A hurricane swept through town leaving hundreds dead? An ax murderer from Hawaii prowling the streets looking for wayward fruit?

No. They are fervently petitioning the Almighty because of anti-bullying legislation. The government has said that if you are a public school, or a private one that gets money from them, you have to have certain anti-bullying policies in place. And what, exactly, are they so upset about? Two things. They have to allow anyone who wants to set up a group such as a gay-straight alliance to do so, and they think the definition of bullying is too broad.

What is a gay-straight alliance you ask? Here's a definition from Wiki.
Gay–straight alliances (GSAs) are student-led organizations, found primarily in North American high schools and universities, that are intended to provide a safe and supportive environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their straight allies.
Sounds horrible! How can you possibly expect people who worship a God that defines himself as Love to be so accepting? Impossible, I say. Next you'll be expecting them to love their neighbour as themself. Not gonna happen my friend.

And what about this broad definition? The issue is that the legislation includes a statement that defines one of the symptoms of bullying as hurting someone's feelings. Now, I admit, this one could go sideways.

What it says is, any behavior
"intended to cause, or should be known to cause, fear, intimidation, humiliation, distress or other forms of harm to another person’s body, feelings, self-esteem, reputation or property.”
 I'm not exactly sure how you remove the word "feelings" from that statement and still have anything worthwhile left over to work with.

Are we seriously fighting over the protection of vulnerable people because we don't want our religious sensibilities offended? Is this what conservative fundamentalism has come to? Besides, do you honestly expect someone who attends one of these conservative private schools to put up their hand in class and announce they are gay - even if there is a gay-straight alliance? This is why people send their children to a private christian school in the first place: so they won't be sullied by the world; so they won't have to deal with what the rest of us call... life. You'd be better off wandering into the polar bear pit at the zoo with your pockets full of hamburger. It would be worse than hell. You'd have half of them ostracizing you, and the other half trying to convert you. I don't know which would be worse. Maybe the bureaucrats in these private schools are actually doing the gay community a favour by classifying them as sub-human.  Now I realize there are other people that are bullied, but by far the largest group is the LGBTQ's, and the religious community has made it quite clear that these people are the problem.

It's at times like this that I imagine God walking to the front of his mansion, drawing the blinds, locking the front door, going up stairs and packing a small bag. He then sneaks out the back door for an extended vacation in the eastern Uzbekistan so the reporters can't find him. Perhaps drinking himself into a stupor on the flight over.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel... ...you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing."

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Vacuums, Sex, and the Christian Life

As most readers of this blog will know, I listen to Drew Marshall on a regular basis. In fact, I get email updates on what's coming up for the next Saturdays broadcast. The other week nothing really interested me other than the regular segment called God Blogger. Every week he interviews someone who blogs on spiritual matters. I like to see who's out there in case there's someone interesting to follow. So far I haven't really come across many. Even some that seemed interesting on the show turn out to be ho-hum: probably like most people think of my blog. The other day at work things were quite slow, so I looked up the God Blogger for the next Saturday. He seemed more fundamentalist than I was prepared to invest any energy into, but one thing led to another and I ended up looking at material that was actually about one of the other guests that Saturday.

The other guest was a couple who had written a book on marriage. The particular article I was reading contained the 8 tips to a better marriage in their book. It turns out that the guy had been the pastor of a fairly successful church, but then he had an affair which ended his ministry, and just about ended his marriage.

The whole thing got me thinking about a time many years ago when the Promise Keepers phenomena was just starting. I went to a couple of events including a very large one in Minneapolis. There were lots of very dynamic speakers there, but truth be told, I don't remember very much other than, for some reason, that there were several on marriage. Most of the marriage topics went along the lines of, “Once I was an asshole, but I'm not anymore - let me tell you about it”. Which, if you are an asshole, should be very enlightening, and maybe even life changing.

For example, one of the speakers told the story about the time his wife was out of the house and it suddenly occurred to him to actually pick up the vacuum cleaner and start helping out around the house. Apparently when his wife came home she was so shocked and appreciative that they made out right there on the living room next to the vacuum cleaner. Obviously the only natural response to this kind of revelation is to go on a national speaking tour, and maybe write a book - it's all perfectly understandable.

You may have picked on the vibe that I don't care for programs like Promise Keepers, or Forty Days of Purpose, or, even books like the one that was written by Drew's guests, and the reason is very simple.

They're all missing the point of Christianity.

With all the talk, and teaching from the pulpit, of Jesus being our Saviour so that we can go to heaven when we die, we've forgotten the point of Christianity. As Peter Rollins says, the point of Christianity is not about having a life after death, but a life before death. It's about becoming fully human in the way that we were originally designed to be. It's about becoming the new people of God whose purpose is to be a blessing to the world. It's about following Jesus into a life of self sacrificing love. If you lack purpose in your life, I would suggest, you haven't come to know the one true God as incarnated in Christ. The life of Jesus has given all of us more purpose than any of us can possibly fulfill in a lifetime. If you call yourself a Christian and you're having trouble keeping your promises, maybe you need to reevaluate if you actually believe all that stuff you say you believe. As Gandhi said, if Christians were to act like Christians the whole world would be saved in a matter of years.

We don't need Promise Keepers to show us how to keep promises - we just need to believe that Jesus is actually Lord. We don't need Forty Days of Purpose to give us purpose - we just need to do what Jesus told us to. We don't need books on marriage that tell us how not to be an asshole, that should be a given if we call ourselves Christians.

If we are the Christians we claim to be, it's time to start acting like it, or stop calling ourselves Christians. If we don't, we are denying Christ, the Resurrection, and trivializing his crucifixion.