Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Best Things in Life are Free. Really.

We have been taught well and profoundly imprinted by a "pay to play", transactional system, which almost always requires a price of admission.  There is, we are told, a price to pay in this world, even when it comes to union with God.    We have bought into religion's idea that there was a debt to be paid with our Father, the accountants of heaven were tabulating what humanity owed and someone had to pay. Seems logical and reasonable. But these are our ideas about God, not his ideas and not the truth. 

Union with God is free and his greatest challenge has always been to give God away.  The whole of history is to convince man that there is no longer a price of admission, no wall of separation and definitely a non-transactional relationship between the Father, the Son and humanity.  History shows us that when God has sought to give himself away freely, the mind of man can not process this and has rejected this free expression and gift putting a price on it.   The price paid is connected to sacrifice, blood, violence and involves a legal mentality that tends to twist what justice actually is.
 
Twisted atonement theories about blood and debts, eternal punishment in hell, holiness, purity codes and moral contests have abounded in our human history, all of them seek to sew up the veil, put it back in place and get man back in business with God, but only on our terms.  But with God there is no veil and certainly no business to be done.

Mankind sought to give their first-born,  their possessions and their very lives to God to somehow convince God that we can pay the price of admission into union with God? We tend not to like ourselves. So, how could God like us.  

Our sacrifices have always been viewed by God as unwanted. When we've tried to kill our children in sacrifice, God says "No, don't sacrifice your children in detestable sacrifice"  (Jer. 32:35)  When we couldn't sacrifice our children, and instead moved to sacrificing our animals, God's response?  "I want you to show mercy for your fellow man as I do, I don't want sacrifice of blood." (Matt. 9::13)
How we've struggled to see ourselves as God sees us. The darker psychopathy is that because we believed God could never love us as we are, blood would need to be shed, usually someone or something perceived as innocent. 

The blood poured out of the temple when Jesus arrived and it was disgusting display of mankind's dark nightmare of disunion with our Father.  This is what we wanted and God met us where we were. At our worst, we still love "an eye for an eye" and we still want blood to be shed, though most of us can't see the mimetic violence we are culpable to when we refuse to unconditionally love our enemies.  But that is another issue.

Consider this from Rohr. "By the time of Jesus 90 percent of the economy of Jerusalem was tied up in the hauling, penning, feeding and killing of holocaust victims(animals), and the hauling of the dead carcasses back out of the temple.  On the great feast days, tens of thousands of goats and bullocks and heifers were killed in the temple(see, for example 1 Kings 8:63).   We never showed this in any detail in our anesthetized Bible-history books because it was too unbelievable. But to be a priest or Levite was also to be butcher. A demanding or distant God always needs to be placated with blood, it seems, which unfortunately led to our very limited understanding of what we later called "atonement theories. "
 
Suffice it to say here that we probably could not even imagine or picture God loving us without the spilling of blood on God's part. We made the Crucifixion a tit-for-tat thing instead of a revelation of the eternal nature of the  heart of God flowing toward us as water and blood.

When Jesus comes into the temple and throws out all those tables he, in effect is undercutting the whole system of sacrificial religion(see Heb. 10). Jesus is "once and for all" saying blood sacrifice is over."

I would say that Jesus, because he destabilized the local religion and economy, which happened to be a union that was seamless, would have been called, not only a rebel and a threat, but a loser.  After all, who would not want to participate in the local economic system and get ahead? I think Jesus' plan was actually to get behind. Disciples know this, they know the cost is reputation, worldly possessions, the abundant life as interpreted by Western religion and prosperity thinking and being pushed to the margins of society where misunderstanding will be our breath.  Jesus refused to continue promoting any system that required transactions, shed blood, exploited the weak and the poor and so misrepresented his father as an unstable psychopath who needed to see blood to know we were serious about our sins.  These ideas about Jesus then,  say alot about our present economy and our participation in it and the cost of being a disciple.  Like Jesus, I have no intentions of getting ahead in this system and it's clear I'm already behind.  I don't really care what people think about socio-economic standing, whether I am "blessed", if I am respected for my ideas or doctrinal positions or whether or not I am winning any moral contests.  This said, violence and overthrow is not the answer, but flowing in the sovereignty of God and His unfolding of Christ, this is the answer. Sometimes this can seem ambiguous and there are no tangible answers of "how" to live, but sitting in the tension of Mystery and abandoning certitudes are part of all this.

Rohr continues. "As we go back in history of religion we find that most every continent, until the time of Abraham, had human sacrifice. On every continent people felt God could not possible love us unless we gave God our best and our brightest, our eldest son or our virgin daughters. Somebody had to be given to God because God basically was not see as being on our side. Unless we know this, we will not see how Jesus turned around the entire history of religion. The symbol, of course, is God spilling his blood to get to us, after millenia of humanity spilling it's blood to get to God! Jesus reversed the whole scary process."  Rohr - Things Hidden

What do the scriptures say.

When Adam and Eve fell out of union with God because the serpent planted suspicion, did God plant a doubt in their favor saying "who told you that you were naked."

When Cain killed Abel and Cain cried out to God that anyone who found him, the first murderer, would certainly kill him, God protected him.  Yes, God protected a murderer and went far beyond "an eye for eye" mindset that mankind requires. Few alive at that time were able to understand God's mercy or grace.  There was still a long ways to go.

When Jonah refused to preach to Ninevah and begged God to kill him because he knew God would save them all (Jonah 4) and told God he would rather die than live in a world where God actually loved all and would save all , did not God say "Jonah, do you expect me to not be concerned for the 120,000 people and animals there."  God was saying "Jonah, your ways are NOT my ways."

When Jesus' disciples watched a region reject Jesus the Savior of the world and they said to Jesus "can we call fire down on them for rejecting you as Elijah did," Jesus rebuked them and told them they had no clue what "spirit they were of, " which was basically telling the disciples "we don't hurt our enemies but love them until they become our friends."

It'll be costly to change your mind about God because our default setting is retribution and pay-back.   And God's vengeance? It's not what you think. It's love of his enemies.  God heaps burning coals of love upon them which drives them crazy.  Martyrs tell their murderers "we love you" and "do what you gotta do."  I think Jesus told this to Judas, who I'm sure thought Jesus would fight back when the soldiers came and overthrow the empire, but Jesus the Lamb of God, just surrendered to the flow of God's sovereignty and let the power of the empire show itself as inferior.

(I really do believe this stuff works btw but it'll cost a lot to believe it and it may not "work" in my lifetime)

 And what about Peter?  Peter cut-off the soldiers ear to start the overthrow of the empire, the perceived enemy, and displayed our violence, but Jesus healed the enemy by restoring it. Jesus showed us the way and told Peter to put his sword away.

When are we going to realize he best things in life are free.  There is no transaction with God, no cost, no pay to play and nothing we have to do to gain union with the Father.

God is here. Now. We will all eventually realize this and Christ Jesus will wake up in us and "every knee will bow, every tongue confess."  Not by force, but by love.  The family will be back together again. All of us. And we'll finally realize the best things were free, especially God's love and union with us. Really.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Christendom: "Crumble and Fail"

Quote sent from a friend:

"We seem to become pretty fixated on some false correlation between our faithfulness and the lifespan of our churches and denominations. We know we're doing God's work if our churches are full, budgets are met and we can hand off a healthy institutional legacy to those who come after us. But Jesus preached the destruction of the temple not just to freak people out; he was warning them not to cling to tightly to all the trappings of religion around them that would inevitably crumble and fail."  - Sojourners Magazine

My email response:

"Brilliant and yet poignant quote. This quote becomes obvious when you're living life outside the walls of religion.  At first it seems to be a radical lifestyle and stance because of how deeply entrenched our minds have been in the religious system.  I believe Revelation reveals Armageddon to be this battle in the mind when Christ reveals himself NOT as the Jesus of religion.  Linda says Armageddon is "the six inch battlefield of the mind."

We also gain confirmation of the Inner Witness. Paul talks about this to the Romans and says we are given witness that we are children of God. In my pastoring stints inside the walls, and in my own "Christian experience" prior to coming to Christ outside the camp, there is, in retrospect, a perceived and tangible doubt and uncertainty that exists in the hearts and minds of most "believers."  It's a double-mindedness that is becomes quite evident once you leave. 

I have found that Father connects you with only a few of these radicals who have left, but the connection is profoundly intimate and sincere.  It goes far deeper than the "fellowship" of your former life in the church, which usually does not extend beyond the church doors on Sunday AM, PM and Wednesday services. You begin to realize what it means to come to Christ outside the camp of religion, as the Hebrews writer states.  It's still hard to grasp sometimes that the masses are trapped in there. They believe they are doing service to God by persecuting or thinking badly of those who have left, not knowing they are Saul of Tarsus of their day.   

Rohr has probably identified this departure the best of anyone in his "first and second-half of life" description, which he details in Falling Upward His is a mystics revelation and unearthing in our time that was buried for centuries beneath the gigantic religious machine, which is now apostate, broken and beyond repair, and is being disassembled and taken to the scrapheap.  This can't come fast enough as the corporate consciousness is so heavily influenced by religious thinking. We are literally battling with a farce field of the Adamic mind.

Was watching a mainstream interview with someone, just the other night. The interviewer talked to a religious leader about "going to hell" as if it were a fact and a literal geographical place.  Such thinking on hell, and the tired rewards and punishment narrative,  is the substratum of Western collective consciousness , along with fear of Abba as the "Punisher God," though out of the other side of their mouths God is proclaimed to be unconditional love.

I know of no other way to counteract this than for the entire system, and it's leaders to be displayed as ridiculous and counterfeit representatives of the Father of Jesus.  I can't see any other way for mankind to go forward.  And so, we'll continue to see popular religious men and movements exposed ans self-entitled dominators,  and their movements humiliated. It is the embodiment of the ego after all.

I close with what one of the Proverbs tells us about leaders,  "least among us will lead us."   And,  the high place is "slippery." 

I think I'll just avoid leadership in this realm and stay down, too.

Desacralizing Christianity

"the entirety of the Gospel narrative is invested in desacralizing our religio-cultural viewpoint regarding the sacred, by helping us see our propensity for sacred violence: the invocation of deity in our human acts of destruction, immolation, sacrifice and war."

One of the things that I stressed in The Jesus Driven Life was that Jesus deconstructed the three pillars of second Temple Judaism: Land, Temple and Torah. Jesus did not share in the views of his contemporaries that certain tracts of land were ‘holy’ (see John 4), nor were certain religious establishments ‘holy’ (see his criticism of the Temple in Mark 13 and his prophetic action in the Temple in Mark 11) and like the prophets before him (Jeremiah, Amos etc) Jesus also critiqued the Torah, arguing against it, modifying it, using it against itself etc.
Jesus desacralized everything he came into contact for in Jesus’ view only One was Holy and that was God. Holiness had little to do, in Jesus’ teaching, with codes of ritual purity or social separation. In the JDL I took a cue from Marcus Borg that Jesus replaced his contemporaries’ emphasis on ‘holiness’ with ‘mercy.’
I bring this up because Christianity, in the minds of many, is a sacred religion. Some forms of Christianity have sacralized space (altars with the bones of ‘holy’ persons buried beneath them) or entire cities (the Vatican). Some forms of Christianity have sacralized the Bible, the ‘holy book’ complete with doctrines of inerrancy and inspiration.
It seems to me that one of the greatest things Christians can do is to follow Jesus in the desacralization of space, time, place and texts. In other words, nothing is sacred, everything is profane. Some may balk at this and say “No. Everything is sacred” but they are then using a different definition of the word than I am giving it. Until someone is able to demonstrate otherwise, it seems to me the most appropriate working definition of the term ‘sacred’ is that it stems from violence, so much so that the terms ‘sacred’ and violence can be conjoined (as in Violence and the Sacred) or are even synonyms. Girard’s theory of religion, namely that all that humans call sacred, the gods, sacred places, sacred texts, sacred rituals, etc, all stem from the process of ritual sacrificial practices against random scapegoats. In other words, the sacred is bloody.
Now it seems to me that  If Girard is correct (and I believe he is), then any theory of religion must take into account this critical juxtaposition of Violence and the Sacred. To fail to do so is to begin to ‘mythologize’ the Gospel, the very story whose entire project and point is to desacralize our humanly constructed religious worldviews.
In this light if we are going to be proper Christians this means we will examine our own tradition and begin to desacralize it just as Jesus did to the religion in which he was born. Modern Christianity has not replaced ancient Judaism, it is just another form of archaic religion, the kind of archaic religion into Jesus found himself and from which he would extricate all of us by once for all divesting the sacred of violence, taking all violence upon himself and constructively deconstructing the ideologies produced by sacred violence by a) being vindicated by God in the resurrection, b) proffering forgiveness instead of vengeance and c) by showing us, in his life and in his death, how we may model his desacralization process (otherwise known as ‘discipleship’).
In this sense any form of Christianity which ‘sacralizes’ something, that is, devotes it to God, has committed the very sin which the Gospel forgives. Holiness is not the solution but the problem. We have turned the problem into the solution and thus, as a religion, have a long history of making victims and claiming divine authority or justification for so doing.
Adherents of sacred violence will always decry those who follow ‘the slippery slope’ of desacralization for they are correct: once the church or the Bible becomes desacralized, it becomes profane, or part of the common world or the common public. And this is exactly what has happened in Protestantism for the past 350 years or more. This is why Fundamentalists and Evangelicals are so terrified at losing their ‘Holy Book’ for they know once that happens they will no longer be able to call upon their ‘Holy God’ in order to justify their ‘Holy Mythology’ of violence. They somehow intuit that the desacralization of the Book leads to the profanation of the planet where all life would be considered precious. They somehow sense that without their ‘Holy Book’ the marks of differentiation which allow them to parade their ‘rightness’ and also allow them to justify theologies that differentiate (Christian/Pagan, Heaven/Hell, saint/sinner) also fall by the wayside. Well, Hallelujah, it is the Gospel that is breaking down these humanly constructed sacred walls (Eph 2, Gal 3:28ff).
It is not the desire to live ‘unholy’ lives that is bringing about the desacralization of the Christian faith; nor is it some alleged desire for people to run amok in moral chaos. No. It is the cross of Christ which is doing all this damage to Christianity as a religion, for the Gospel was never meant to form a religion. It is the one message that destructures, invalidates and critiques all religion and it begins first and foremost with that religion which claims the Gospel for itself, Christianity.
If you are looking for someone to blame for the desacralization of Christianity, don’t blame the gays or the academics or the liberals or the commies or the Muslims or the atheists. Blame God. For it was God who was in Christ reconciling the world to God’s self, it was Jesus who was crucified outside the city in the profane space. It is by the Spirit of God that we are finally able to get past all of our religious superstition and come to terms with the reality that all life is profane before the Cross; and thus if we are going to reinvest space, time , place and history with ‘sacredness’ it will be a sacredness of nonviolence, of peacemaking, of love. This alone is the ‘true’ sacred.

- Michael Hardin

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Love Became Flesh

I sought for years to prepare for your departure, but I found myself thrown into improvisation the night you left. I was playing my part in this symphonic unfolding, and then the sheet music was pulled from in front of me. The music stopped.  I flailed to play my part but grief, suffering and silence became my  new song. I descended into depths of sorrow beneath the depths of sorrow I didn't think were possible to endure.  
What an illusory struggle there is in the soul when a man thinks he loses Love like you.  Yes, illusory because Love can never be lost because Love is all there is. Humanity is swimming in the oceans of of Love, though it seems we are mired in anything but.
It is with grave and solemn caution that I spout certainties after all of the mystery life has thrown at me, but I believe you were a portion of the divine imprinted upon my heart. Love visited me. Love held my hand and Love was my friend and lover.  I now know Love.  Love became flesh and walked in and out of my field.  Love stands in front of all of us and sings to us through the many lives we experience.   Love smiles at me and cries with me.   Love is life and Love comes to us as our life.  Love is all there is.  
I am not ashamed that my world was deconstructed because of your appearance and disappearance.  I know this is a temporary blindness that, even now, the blindfold is being untied.  You really were a crucial stitch that held together the garments of this family for those years.  All of us are changed because of you. We live on, we carry you within and heal a little more each day because of who you are and the hope we have because of Love. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Were Within

     You were within, but I was without. You were with me,
      but I was not with you. So you called, you shouted, 
      you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed
      and banished my blindness, you lavished your 
      fragrance, and I gasped.

                                             - Augustine
I gasp in these early spring mornings
When long nights of separation surround my soul
I awake into a fiery sunrise
I gasp when the realization of your sovereignty beckons me to rest and to peace.
I am beckoned?  Me? Are you sure? 
Yes, I know I am in desperate need to remove the stage mask and let the world see who I really am.
The separation consciousness that so stifles my True Self
Such entertaining of false notions that I am someone other than naked before you.
Unadorned. Simple. Childlike.

And, yet, these vaporous notions of persona float on the waves of this sea. We think we are someone other than who you see us as.  I am not citizen, father,worker, taxpayer, this or that.

I am a wave and part of this greater ocean. Does the ocean ever say to any of it's waves "you are not me." And so we are. Because we are soul that has been birthed from Soul.

We are light bent
Notes strummed
Sometimes plucked by the Divine Finger
From only one string, so many harmonies
This glorious symphony
That we are

We are waves in this grand sea of Christ
Hidden in Christ
Christ hidden in God
We are particles of the Particle
bone of Bone
flesh of Flesh
And what we are
You are
And what you are
We are
EveryOne(of us)

In moments of desperation
We weep for the tragedy that is our incarnation
But the shades of our prison cell have been drawn
Yet we're all standing on these precipices of silent delight
Awaiting the shades to be pulled up
Knowing something deeper about ourselves
But unable to articulate this incalculable origin
Knowing we are already
Re-turning to that origin
I can't claim who I am in you
It was you
Within 
My path is your path
Our path
Holding my hand through all of this hell
Peering through these eyes
When heaven descends
We are our own garden of glory
Our own universe
And yet we are not the only one that
This all turns around
I've let go of needing to be at the centre
I've died a thousand deaths
To bring me to this surrender
On the margins of a world on fire
I am alone
I am free

I gasp that it took all of this complexity and pain
This searching of the infinite spaces of the outer
To bring me back to this heavenly simplicity within
You were within all along.

My God, you were within.