EVER-ADAPTING CHRISTIANITY

In the triad of world/flesh/devil

it is almost always the sins of the “flesh”

that are attacked by churches –

birth control/adultery/abortion/pornography

and seldom do sermons preach about the sins of the “world” –

the lust for wealth and prestige that the ego loves.

 

But the difference between the True Self

and the False Self is the difference between

“True Centering” (on God) and “Ego Centering” (on Self).

 

In fact, the True Self can include the False Self

because the way we become whole as humans

is by embracing every aspect of our existence –

our weakness/failures/mistakes

by humility/not taking ourselves too seriously –

we grow by wholeness not by absolute moral purity

which we never reach anyway.

 

Still, we consign to the unconscious

all fantasy, all psychic associations connected with

words/numbers/stones/plants/animals –

but for primitives all these things had numinous power.

 

Friedrich Nietzsche dismissed all primitives

and fancied himself to be a Rational Existentialist –

one who has the courage to stare into the abyss of non-being

and discover complete loneliness, complete aloneness

if God is dead.

 

There have been many Rational Christian responses

that have deconstructed the “death of God” movement

and people like Marcus Borg and Bishop John Shelby Spong

have also helped us deconstruct Bibical Fundamentalism

and there are many Postmodern Christian thinkers

like Brian McLaren with his book A Generous Orthodoxy

and others have developed The Postmodern Bible

and The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology.

 

As usual, Christianity has adapted to/learned from/gone beyond

whatever the world/the devil/the ego throws at us –

we always include and then transcend

all attempts to deconstruct the Truth.

FALSE PROPHETS, ATHEISTS, PEACE, AND WHOLENESS

 

Separation from the primal union with the mother,

the Garden of Eden, causes a lot of suffering, but is inevitable.

However, it is crucial to remember that there was

and there still is, a Garden.

 

The suffering of Jews/Blacks/Indigenous

has deepened them and elevated them

above the meaninglessness and triviality of the white man.

This is the secret spiritual heritage

of the United States of America and many other countries.

 

Between 1999 and 2009, the number of people

who identified as ‘religious only’ fell from 54% to 9%

and those who identified as ‘spiritual and religious’

grew from 6% to 48% – a ringing endorsement

of the value of spirituality.

 

Spiritual transformation normally results

in transformed relational virtues –

more honesty/compassion/forgiveness –

or it may mean you become a prophet.

Like any true reformer/prophet today

Jesus critiqued Judaism from inside Judaism

by Judaism’s own criteria and holy values.

 

Today, atheists who attack Christianity do so

based on Christian values, but they do not realize this

because western civilization has marinated in Christian values

for so long these values have become subconscious.

However, false prophets, unlike Jesus,

always attack from the outside – therefore

the Four Horsemen of the Atheist Apocalypse –

Dawkins/Dennett/Harris/Hitchens –

are false prophets – they have no real understanding

of the depths of the religion they attack.

 

In critiquing Judaism’s over-emphasis on Law/morality

Jesus helped us replace our one-sided emphasis on goodness –

we are good, you are evil –

with a healthier ethic of wholeness –

looking at both our own goodness and brokenness

and seeing both the goodness and brokenness in others.

When Christians do this – take the logjam out of their own eye –

they bring peace to the world.

 

 

IDEAS, RELIGIOUS ATHEISTS AND SUFFERING

For Paul Tillich every aspect of culture –

a new law/painting/political movement

is charged with religious meaning

because it is part of the dynamic energy of God.

 

Every culture subsists in ideas –

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris began as an idea

and Meister Eckhart knew what every true intellectual knows:

the importance of ideas for peoples’

freedom/courage/integrity

so, when he was shown Notre Dame he said

“I would trade it all for John Chrysostom’s manuscripts.”

 

However, there are narrow and broad ideas –

ideas can be limiting or fulfilling.

As Kierkegaard wrote: “the cultured despisers of religion”

“The New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, rightfully attack

immature fundamentalist claims of biblical literalism

but mature believers promote the idea

that knowledge born of faith, like poetry, music, theatre or any art

enables us to see reality more deeply than science can.

 

The Church may reject atheism, but does not reject atheists –

it takes them and their profound questions very seriously

and just like religion, atheism can be narrow or broad

limiting or fulfilling – Buddhism is essentially atheistic

or at least indifferent to the “God question.”

According to Theravada Buddhists, Buddha was an atheist

but manifested the highest humanity and helped multitudes –

his only concern was not God but eliminating suffering.

Anyone who eliminates suffering is a Buddhist.

Therefore, Jesus was a Buddhist. But Buddha was just human,

and when Jesus opened his heart at baptism in the Jordan River

the Holy Spirit descended on him like an eagle

and he manifested as not just human

but the Son of God called to redeem all suffering

through carrying his cross out of love for all humans.

Humans are God’s constant Cross.

 

Those who are truly guided see this

and when tried/visited with affliction

they say “Surely to God we belong and to God we return”

and in temptation/trials/suffering they take comfort

in being “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3).

BEING ONE YET MANY

Christ’s fiery touch at Pentecost

brought our souls and the Church alive.

Christ’s touch separates us from others

and yet binds us to them

so that at the same time each Christian

is a hermit and the whole Church.

 

The challenge for us is to be one and many

as symbolized in the three-in-one Trinity:

Father/Son/Holy Spirit are all distinct yet one –

so we must be united to all and yet our self.

Nature can help us imagine this –

since it is a ‘process’ – a flowing whole movement

of interconnected organisms

not a series of independent mechanisms.

 

In Zen, spirit and matter are one not separate

and so it flumoxed Francis Xavier

that Zen Master Minsitshu

was not convinced he had a ‘soul’

as an object one can ‘have’ and ‘save.’

 

Xavier’s goal was to save Minsitshu

but we should have goals only for our self

not expectations for others, since this means

asking them to live up to our own self-centered ideals.

 

Being one yet many and having no goals/expectations

for others – loving them as they are

not as we want them to be – challenges us in relationships

particularly marriage, the most intimate of all relationships –

where we are called to be one with our partner yet our self.

 

Being one yet many also challenges us spiritually:

to be one with God yet not God –

wisdom has two basic tenets:

there is a God and

you are not God.

 

“Spiritual challenges can be overcome

by more prayer/meditation/self-examination/

penance/patience in desolation/

and humility in consolation.”

– Ignatius of Loyola

SOLIDARITY

 The modern-day Apostle Paul Tillich warned

that a culture dominated by religion

stagnates/becomes monolithic uniformity/

loses the dynamism of pluralism/

degenerates morally into legalistic conformity/

ironically loses its inner Spirit.

 

Most nation-states form their solidarity around a religion

but America has always been religiously pluralistic –

therefore, the Founding Fathers

wisely built solidarity not on religion

but on self-evident truths.

 

Humanists are always concerned

that belief in God limits human freedom

and creates apathy to life on Earth.

However, this is misguided thinking:

belief in God does not block freedom and dignity

because God is the Source

of freedom and dignity.

 

Also, believing in our future union with God

does not block our discharging present responsibilities –

God wants us rooted and perfected in God

which provides both stability and motivation to act now.

 

Theism naturally gives birth to the idea of resurrection

and a spiritualized and transcendent view of the self

which humanism completely misses

making humanists ironically unable to really help humans

since real humanness involves divinization –

being filled to overflowing with God and God’s love

so your love flows out to all sentient beings.

 

Mystics always find a God who does not

judge/compare/differentiate/compete – since all these block love.

Our minds are meant to be like God’s:

all-embracing, all-loving receptors and givers.

 

The Apostle John spoke of Jesus as the revelation

of our solidarity with God/ourselves/others on a local scale.

The Apostle Paul spoke of Christ revealing unity on a cosmic scale:

“Through Christ, God was pleased to reconcile all things

to God whether in Heaven or on Earth” (Colossians 1:20)

so that “God may be All in All” (I Corinthians 5:28).

SCIENCE AND THE TRUE SELF

The rise of science in the Renaissance and Enlightenment

freed people from religious authority. Science replaced God –

there was no need for the “God hypothesis”

to explain how things worked.

 

Today, theology and our everyday minds

continue to be challenged by a universe

in which every second millions of tons of matter

convert to light-energy, black holes

empty space bristles with dark matter and dark energy

about which we know nothing.

 

Meanwhile, Christianity back then and today

held that its Lord and Master, Jesus the Christ

is the focal point/key/goal of all human history

and even the history of the universe.

 

In early Christianity, mystical experience

was at the center of all theology –

prayer/theology/catechesis were all one.

But today people want spiritual experience

divorced from religion seen as dogma

because Christianity, challenged by science

focused on doctrine not on experience.

 

Unfortunately, Christianity throughout its history

has been far more interested in the Moral Self

as the measure of everything, and so has lost

the Absolute Measure of the True Self.

The False Self, the Ego, is happy

that believers in God usually deny

we all are already God’s beloved children

which gives the Ego nothing to strive for

and feel superior about

and so, even though God calls all of us

our Egos allow very few to be chosen.

 

A focus on the Moral Self means that

abnormal guilt has become a normal part of life –

fear of what others think drives us

we always want to be seen as pure – the good girl/boy

which is appropriate for childhood

but adults need to integrate their Shadow and stand against

their internalized shoulds/should nots as the voice of God

otherwise the True Self has no voice in our scientific age.

LEARNING TO TRULY SEE

Science sprang from the heart of the Christian west

not from Greek philosophy or eastern religion –

Judaism always maintained the world was orderly and rational

and patristic writers like Augustine

encouraged study of the natural world.

Since science started, many priests have made

significant scientific discoveries in biology/botany/cosmology.

 

This is because God is fundamentally relational in nature

and interacts with the Creation

as subject to subject

not subject to object.

 

Without God, humans remain a puzzle to themselves

particularly when life’s major events prompt self-questioning like

“Where did I come from?”/ “why am I here?”/ “where am I going?”

Only God can constitute a complete answer.

 

Bede Griffiths, a British priest and Benedictine monk

lived in ashrams he founded across South India

trying to bridge East and West

and integrate Hinduism and Christianity

thru prayer/dialogue/a shared life.

He was deeply influenced by Hindu ascetic practices

but never gave up on the centrality of Christ and the Church.

 

Any major or minor religion can be transformed

by the realization that ‘faith’

is about how we see not what we see

the religious process not the content is where Spirit abides –

so the fruits of the Spirit – joy/peace/love/wisdom

can be found in every sect/denomination/religion

worth its salt.

 

The blind may feel that if they could see

they would be in paradise.

But we who have good eyes are so used to the process of seeing

we take it for granted

and do not realize we are already in paradise –

we need to learn how to truly see.

BIRTHING HEAVEN AND EARTH

“From time immemorial

people have had ideas about a Supreme Being

and the Land of the Hereafter.

Only today do they think

they can do without such ideas.” – Carl Jung

“Sin is to believe the lie

that you are self-created/self-dependent/

self-sustained.” – Augustine

People are bound not free because they sacrifice

their personal integrity/spiritual liberty

for security/money/ambition/pleasure.

Global warming is a global warning

that this self-centeredness is not working –

people dying from flood/drought/fire

is the canary in the coalmine of human extinction.

According to legend, the Buddha’s father

provided his son with 40,000 dancing girls

and all pleasures that material/secular life can offer

but the gods disguised themselves

as an old/then sick/then dead man/

and as a happy monk

and so the Buddha-to-be retired from the world.

Mindfulness is the womb that produces the Buddha

so we are all potential Buddha-mothers.

If we take care through mindfulness

of the baby Buddha latent inside us

eventually Enlightenment will be born.

We all need to see today

in a more holistic/paradoxical/wise way

going beyond mere rational thought

to giving birth to God inside us

not as an external agent

and to Nature as sacred

not as a means to personal gain.

We all need unitive thinking to give birth

to a New Heaven/New Earth

within and without.

GETTING BEYOND FLATLAND

We must get beyond Flatland –

the loss of transcendence –

and build a civilization that integrates

consciousness/culture/nature

morals/art/science

personal values/collective wisdom/tech knowhow.

Science and technology on their own

are not accountable to anything

except their own ethic: expediency and efficiency.

If technology allows us to do something

we feel we must do it

even if we destroy whole civilizations

with chemical/biological/nuclear war.

Normal ethics do not apply

to these autonomous powers.

“Life is always a battleground between opposites:

birth/death, joy/pain, good/evil, science/religion.

If the opposites ceased, life would cease.”

– Carl Jung

If science alone rules, we are in deep trouble:

“Humanity should not be afraid of God,

we should be afraid of losing God.”

– Meister Eckhart

Every civilization is built on mythology

and the most common myth is the hero.

The mythic structure is always the same

whether ancient/medieval/modern

whether Far East/African/Incan:

miraculous birth/early displays  

of superhuman strength/then rise to power/

triumphant struggle with evil/

eventual fall due to pride or death.

Pope John Paul II noted also:

common mythic structures/elements/roots

in the many varieties of religion.

This pope was more on the side of

Vivekananda than Francis Xavier –

John Paul was a pope

who ironically transcended Christianity.

MYSTERY, MYSTICS, DARKNESS, LOVE

Meister Eckhart: the Divine Mind

is infinite and causeless.

The human mind is finite and caused

and therefore can never fully comprehend God.

Only God fully comprehends God.

Souls that want to grasp God

by intellect/vision/revelation alone

only partially succeed.

You must proceed

toward God by unknowing and in darkness.

God can only be known by love –

“Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God”

(I John 4:7). This includes atheists who love

peace and justice (which are what God is made of).

God is also mystery, the Church is mystery

and the universe is mystery:

there is 95% more universe out there

than humans can see:

25% dark matter and 70% dark energy.

But darkness precedes light –

Thomas Merton: “We often forget

that Christian faith is a principle

of questioning and struggle

before it becomes a principle

of certitude and peace.”

Vatican II portrayed the Church

as continuing the work of the Good Shepherd

but also as composed of frail and sinful humans

and thus in constant need of purification/renewal.

Mystics constantly try to renew the Church

but they are rare as hen’s teeth.

Still, loneliness drives mystics to God

and then from experiencing God’s Love

they want to love everyone as God does.

Everyone, everyone, who loves

is born of God.