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Friday, December 6, 2019

It has to be said

This post will make some people unhappy. That's okay, just don't bother commenting what a heretic I am. To quote Thomas Merton, today's heresy is tomorrow's doctrine. We might get a little theological here, so forgive me.

God, properly understood, is not an old white guy sitting on the throne beyond, or upon, the clouds. In fact, God has neither body, nor gender, nor any physical form that we can discern at present. You might say that God is reality itself, or existence itself, or the water in which we swim and the air which we breathe. In fact, most of our conceptions of God amount to what people in biblical times would have called thrones or principalities, lesser gods who run errands for the high God.

My question for you is, how does this non-corporeal God have a biological child? Through the Holy Spirit, which is also non-corporeal (hence its name)? I think not. There is, quite simply, no way that you can say that Jesus is the child of God any more than you and I are children of God, or assert biological divinity for Jesus. Metaphorical divinity may be something for which we can build a case, as is divinity conferred at a later time. In fact, the latter is a biblical concept that not many people want to talk about. That is a pretty good indication that we should talk about it!

This of course causes problem for Trinity. If by Trinity what you mean is that God exists in community, I have no problem with that - just say what you mean. If by Trinity you want to argue for some literal understanding of a birth narrative that was never intended to be literal and was only contorted into seeming literal status within the last two hundred years in the west, I will need to take a pass and refer you to the flat earth society. You might want to work with them on a project to make sure the four pillars that hold up that flat earth aren't in need of repair after all these years.

I really can't go to bat for Jesus as God any longer. It's fine if you want to try. The idea creates more problems than it solves, especially with relationships between the three Religions of the Book. I'll stick with Jesus as Prophet right now, and if you want to say that he is Divine in an Eastern sort of way, I can deal with that, too. Just don't try to sell me the born of a virgin, biological son of God stuff. That belief has done more damage than good, especially to women, and I am over it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Watching the Super Bowl

Have you ever watched a sporting contest in which you have no vested interest in either of the teams? I'm not talking about doing the impossible, like supporting the New England Patriots, but a game involving two teams in whom you have no emotional attachment - for or against. People who watch such a game watch because they appreciate the game itself. They don't need an emotional investment to appreciate the details of the contest. They may very well have a home team they wish was playing in the game, but the fact that they aren't doesn't stop them from enjoying the contest. These people appreciate the good plays and the talents of the players - which team they play for is a secondary concern. They may wonder why their team let one of the players they are watching do very well get away, but those questions don't prevent them from enjoying the contest. These fans enjoy the sport as much as they enjoy local team. They are criticized as disloyal or as wasting their time by the folks I am about to describe below, but that criticism isn't accurate.

Other people are only interested in the home team, so much so that if the home team isn't playing they don't watch. Whether it's the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup, the World Series, or the NBA playoffs, once their team is out, so are they. Of course, this means they may never watch the penultimate contest in any sport. They may never get to witness the most talented players competing against one another, because they are only interested in the local team. These are tribal sports fans, and there isn't anything wrong with being a tribal fan except that it is quite limiting. Imagine voluntarily never watching the best of the best, simply because you live in a city in which they don't play. Imagine if people brought that attitude to health care!

What does all of this have to do with spirituality? It has quite a lot to do with spirituality! The second group of folks are extremely loyal followers of their own tradition. Perhaps they were born Lutheran and so they truly believe that only Lutherans have anything to teach them. They don't want to hear what Methodists have to say, and they sure don't want to know what Buddhists have to say. In their extreme form, these people even seek to silence all other traditions. They are the people who believe that "America is a Christian nation!" kind of nonsense, and seek to outlaw or restrict other traditions.

The first group are Interspiritual. They have a solid grounding in their own tradition, but have also come to see that other traditions also have truths to offer. They aren't blinded by loyalty to the "home team," but can appreciate the search for truth and meaning wherever it exists. They don't see their own path as better than any other path, but they do find it to be richer. They also understand that not everyone is ready to tackle the questions and challenges of Interspirituality, and recognize that some will never be interested in it. That is as it should be because different people will inevitably be drawn to different paths. They also know that others will criticize them as somehow disloyal or as seeking an easy path. They strive to recognize such criticism as irrelevant, and have compassion on those who feel moved to speak it.

Imagine what might happen if we all just followed the tradition or traditions that spoke to us and allowed others to do the same? Imagine if we all matured to the point where we could allow others to follow their own conscience as we followed ours, and let each person accept responsibility for their own outcome? How many wars could be avoided, how much hatred, how much persecution, and how many seemingly isolated acts of violence could be stopped before they began? There is no downside to this view, unless of course you are in the business of perpetuating your source of truth at the expense of all others. The question one must ask then is, what sort of divinity would espouse such a narrow position?