"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, 13 July 2014

The Third Way

What do you call a Jew who also follows the teachings of Buddha? .... A Jewbu ... and no, this isn't a joke. Apparently this mix and match of religions has been going on for some time now; however, most recently people have been putting little names to it, such as Jewbu. These days the most common ones to combine seem to be Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, but I'm sure there are others. The possibilities are endless.

What about Atheist and Christian?

A couple of years ago I ordered a video series called Living the Questions for our small group to go through. I ordered it from an organization called the Canadian Centre for Progressive Christianity. If you're a former fundamentalist, such as myself, this is an excellent series to go through as it forces you to think of possibilities you never considered before. Since I ordered it from this organization, they were nice enough to place me on the mailing list for their journal called Progressions which comes out 3 or 4 times a year.

Initially I read the journals from cover to cover, but the more I read the more confused I became; I couldn't figure out where they were coming from. They would write on topics of Christianity, liberally quoting from the bible, and yet at the same time they seemed to deny any form of deity, all the while calling themselves Christians. This behavior seemed to afflict all the contributing writers, but especially the founder Gretta Vosper. Eventually I started reading less and less. I always had good intentions of reading at least some of the articles, but sometimes I just didn't get around to it and, when I did, the articles still had this same dynamic to them. In the past year I have seriously considered writing an open letter to the organization asking the question, "At what point do you stop calling yourself a Christian?", not as an accusation; I really wanted to know. After all, if it walks like a duck and sounds like a duck and looks like a duck, then it's probably a duck.

But, if it does none of those things, can you still call it a duck?

I got the most recent edition a couple of weeks ago. There was a clarification of the title from the previous edition - which I hadn't read - called Breaking Faith by Vosper, and some feedback on that same article from one of the readers. Apparently I had missed something important. So I looked up the article online as I no longer had my hard copy.

It turns out that Vosper - a UCC minister - basically comes out as an Atheist, but not in the way you'd think. It was a very interesting article and I will try to summarize part of what she said, as best I understand it, without doing her a disservice. I admire her honesty, openness and concern. You can read the full article here

Vosper doesn't believe in an interventionist god; at least not as most people would define god. As an Atheist, Vosper doesn't believe in any supernatural deity, Christian or not. But, she does believe in the bible. In fact, she believes the bible to be essential to the long term sustainability of humanity. She even criticizes those who have left the church who say that they don't need church to be a good Christian as breeding "a frightening biblical and ethical ignorance". So, how does one believe in the bible, but not in the god of that bible (as commonly understood)? She believes the bible and everything in it to be metaphorical - metaphors worthy of basing your life on. And, she believes that god is not some supernatural interventionist deity, but a concept and metaphor.

Although I have come a long way since my fundamentalist roots, I'm not sure I'm willing to go as far as Vosper. After all, if the bible is so influential and wise, where did this wisdom come from? I don't know that I'm willing to base my life on any wisdom of man-made origin when it has proven so fallible in the past. But, if I had to choose between the interventionist god of the fundamentalists and the metaphorical god of Vosper, I would choose Vosper's god. It seems to me that belief in the interventionist god hasn't created the fruits of the spirit spoken of in the bible - in fact it has created the exact opposite a lot of the time.

But, do I have to choose?

E.F. Schumacher says that when there are divergent views such as this, it is this very divergence that causes us to seek God. That causes us to seek the third way. To find, and hold, the tension of the two views in the love and compassion and understanding that is God.

At least for anyone honestly seeking truth.