dragoness_e: Raven on the wing (Raven on the wing)
I just finished reading Karen Armstrong's "The Great Transformation", a fascinating book about the development of religious and philosophical thought during the Axial Age, that led eventually to the great religions of the world. It was, for me, an Enlightening book. I learned that the same great principles are at the core of all the world's major religions, from Judaism to Confucianism, from Islam to Buddhism, from Christianity to Hinduism:

"That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others." "Love others as yourself." "Harm none." and (paraphrased) "Don't be self-centered and covetous."

The differences are primarily in recommended "best practices" to achieve this behavior and state of mind. Ironically, (or diabolically), throughout time and space, people have taken disagreement over the different ways to those core principles as reason to ignore the core messages. There are none so blind as those who will not see...

I've shed a lot of poisonous certainties masquerading as doubts thanks to this revelation. I have long suspected that much of so-called "Christian" morality and values were so much obscuring fluff atop the basic rule ("Love God and love your neighbor and don't weasel about who really is your neighbor"), and, in my own religion had the testimony of the Gospels and the Letters of Paul that that was so. In the ancestral religion of Jesus, there is the commentary of the great Hillel: "“That which is hateful to you, do not unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — go and study.”

I had not wholly escaped the messages my religious culture has instilled in me from early childhood: women having sex are sinful; sex in general is sinful; sinners are less worthy than non-sinners and are contemptible; enjoying yourself doing anything that isn't Church- or God-oriented is morally questionable; non-Christians are doomed sinners (though we can hope God is merciful); doing anything wrong makes you a sinner and deserving of misery; looking for a church with a less oppressive doctrine makes you a contemptible "cafeteria Christian" wanting to pick and choose what beliefs are convenient and thus lacking real faith; questioning doctrine means Doubt and Doubt endangers your Salvation... all the many poisonous beliefs and attitudes that are conveyed by traditional Christian culture, though few of them are actually supported by Scripture or doctrine.

Certainty is the enemy of spiritual growth. If you are certain you know all the answers, you will never seek further. Faith is not certainty; faith is the trust that there is something worth seeking for. Doubt is handmaiden of enlightenment; it drives you to seek further on.

I'm now trying to pin down the poisonous messages that inform many an unexamined belief, and discard them. It's a great relief to finally get that I don't HAVE to believe in the doctrinal fluff; it's just fluff. The medium is not the message, the fluff is not the message, the doctrine is not the message. Fighting over fluff totally, definitively misses the point of the message. I think I understand the core messages now, and look forward to learning to put them into practice. I hear that can take a lifetime.

Love & kisses, Merry Christmas, Good Yuletide to all!
dragoness_e: (Default)
In this essay I struggle to express my thoughts on what God most requires of us, through the lens of Christianity. I know that not everyone who reads this is Christian; I am also not so arrogant as to believe that Yahweh is the only name and aspect of God. I do believe that no matter what name He or She is called by, love is still the greatest of commandments.

The Great Commandment )
dragoness_e: Me in the pink straw cowboy hat (Pink Hat)
I've been commuting to work lately, and as a result listening to the local gospel station, as it has the fewest commercials and no sports-talk, and actually has something interesting on, usually.

Things I've noticed: whoever manages station programming seems to farm out air-time to anyone that fits their demographic, with no consistent theology: we get everything from Health & Wealth preachers to Joyce Meyers, with some guy pitching "natural foods" and herbal medicine in between. What "natural" medicines have to do with gospel radio I'm not certain.

There's a couple of radio evangelists I enjoy, because they get seriously into the text of the Bible and preach lessons around them: Rev David Paul, Rev David Jeremiah and Joyce Meyers, among others. There's a few that make me scream and switch to the nearest classic rock station when they come on--the health & wealth "evangelist", who I find utterly offensive, Bob & George's little phone-in show, because they never actually address their callers' spiritual issues seriously but just regurgitate the same pap for the last 20 years (Do you guys actually listen to your callers, or do you just use keywords in their call to launch off into a pet lecture?), and the local preacher who is seriously of the "hellfire & brimstone" variety.

There's also the other local preacher I can't take seriously because he ends every single sentence with "yes, yes," and makes me think of Beast Wars Megatron. BW Megatron preaching gospel is just not the right mental imagery taking a preacher seriously, no....

So in all this I finally notice that a lot of evangelists talk about "the Gospel", and tell us how important it is that we receive the Gospel, and that we preach the Gospel to others, and so on and so forth... but they never actually tell us what the Gospel IS. They talk about how important it is to believe in Jesus, and through Jesus you are saved, but they don't mention what Jesus said. The ones that are preaching from the Bible (rather than generic anti-non-Christian ranting) are preaching on Old Testament lessons.

If my local "gospel" station is typical of the smaller, evangelistic Protestant denominations, something is seriously missing from the picture. Also, where do the mainstream denominations hide their radio programs? I don't catch anything Lutheran or Catholic or Orthodox on this station during my commuting hours.

This curiousity sent me back to the New Testament looking for what Jesus actually preached. What was "the Gospel"?

So far, I've discovered that the Gospel of Matthew and Mark aren't redundant; Mark talks about Jesus' preaching and discipleship, but he doesn't say what Jesus preached. Matthew, however, is a gold mine: he repeats many of the sermons of Jesus. I'm looking forward to re-reading Luke and John, and then the Apostolic letters, with an eye toward re-discovering the Gospel.

I'll have more to say later on.
dragoness_e: (Default)
On re-reading the Chronicles of Narnia last year, I realized that my childhood understanding of Christianity--the one that stayed with me for life--was shaped by C. S. Lewis. Not my childhood Catholic Sunday school classes, or my Catholic elementary school religion classes. They taught me the rituals, the traditions, the things to be afraid of--but C. S. Lewis and Narnia taught me what it was really all about.

Thank you, C.S. Lewis.

There's another man who summed up the whole relationship between God and man for me in just a few short lyrics:

Now you got yourself two good hands
And when your brother is troubled you've gotta
reach out your hand for him 'cause that's what it's there for

And when your heart is troubled you've gotta reach out
your other hand, reach it out to the Man up there
'Cause that's what He's there for

-- Neil Diamond, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show"

April 2019

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