Friday, January 16, 2009

What I Believe: Part II

To summarize my last entry in one sentence – Jesus Christ existed on this earth, and I believe was the Son of God, born of Mary, who was not a virgin in the sense that the institutionalized Church professes. A-r-g-h!

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, died, and was buried;
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
He ascended into heaven,
To be seated at the right hand of the Father,
From whence he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy Catholic Church,
The communion of saints,
The forgiveness of sins,
The resurrection of the body,
And the life everlasting. AMEN.

We were taught to say the Apostles Creed. We said it every Sunday in church. I memorized it by accident, mouthing the words without thought. The statements contained therein were to be taken as articles of faith, literally. As I continue to examine the Christian beliefs given to me by church and parents, these statements come to mind, rewritten. However, I do know that Jesus was one among several brothers and a sister (?), at least one of whom was older than he. If such were the case, Mary could not possibly have been a a life-long virgin. Additionally, the other siblings are mentioned in the Gospels.

*Mark 6:3 "Is not this the carpenter, the Son of Mary, the Brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him."

As I examine my conviction that the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a Church grown belief, I have actually been encouraged because this idea makes Jesus more like us - a real live person, born of a man and woman. He lived and died as a human being, not a semi-divine part of God. Jesus Christ was a man who preached his knowledge about his heavenly Father, to his neighbors, the people of ancient Judea, and through shear force of personality pulled together a group of men and women who were to pass his teaching on after he died. These folk were a diverse group, and included some that would be outcast even in today’s church. He was tried, punished and died under Pontius Pilot because he could not possibly be completely of this earth, though in every physical sense a human being. Seen this way, Jesus Christ becomes more heroic, not less so. The tragedy of his crucifixion, and the wonder of his visitations with friends and disciples three days after that death are made all the more poignant and miraculous. Was his body reanimated after three days lying dead? I doubt that a rotting body can come back to life. How disgusting! But I don’t doubt that Jesus’ spirit visited his loved ones.

That “Jesus ascended into heaven and sat at the right side of the Father” is metaphoric. First off, the statement totally anthropomorphizes God in terms of the culture of the church. Does God really have a throne, and is there a chair on the right side of that throne just for Jesus’ human form to sit upon next to God? And, does God look just like man, a creature evolved on an out of the way planet in a mediocre galaxy in a vast universe?


God is not a man pure and simple. I personally don’t know what God looks like, what sex he / she / it is, or that it is possible to discern a form in an all knowing all powerful God who encompasses all things. No, we do not look like God! However, God has given us the ability to think, to love, to be brave, to be caring toward one another, and all the other good and wonderful things that make us human. The Plane crash in the Hudson River yesterday is a perfect example of God's love working through the pilot, crew and the men and women passengers on the boats that rescued all 150 airplane passengers from the floating wings and frigid waters of the River. These are the things that make us most like God. It is in this way that we have been made in God’s image. And, I’m sure that the spirit / soul of Jesus has returned to God. However, I doubt that the two of them are sitting on golden throne and chair together, two men, one ancient and wizened, both with flowing white beards, dressed in white robes somewhere in that ethereal space we call heaven - that empyreal place which we have totally anthropomorphized, so that God, heaven, Jesus, the angels, cupids, harps, gates, and all else are part of a brobdingnagian heavenly city, a glowing white paradise floating above a huge glittering staircase in the clouds.

I will end it there, leaving the rest of the Creed, and more blasphemy to my next entry.

* Painted 19th century Tibetan mandala of the Naropa tradition, Vajrayogini stands in the center of two crossed red triangles, Rubin Museum of Art. I found this image in Wikimedia Commons,,_Vajrayogini_stands_in_the_center_of_two_crossed_red_triangles,_Rubin_Museum_of_Art.jpg. Viewed Friday, January 15, 2009 at 7:08 EDT.
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