Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What I believe, Part III

Though on a scale of "one to ten," with "ten" being at the high end, my writing on this topic is about "one" in importance, and as a sinner on a mammoth scale, I probably have little or no right to put my religious belief system and practice in type. I also have no illusion as to the numbers of persons who will read about those beliefs in a blog-world that now numbers in the millions, all of us throwing tons of mindless waste out into the Cyber-void Sea. Never the less, on January 16th I had begun working through the Apostles Creed, line by line, and was down to the line, “From whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.” Today I shall start from there.

Will we be judged? Certainly, but not on any of the ridiculous things so many Christians believe. If I thought for a moment that I would be judged based on my homosexuality as a sinner and consigned to an eternal life In hell, I would not have anything to do with God. But such a belief is ridiculous! Why would God, who is perfect, create me “in his own image” as a homosexual man, and then turn around and say that his own creation was inadequate and send it to hell? That would be foolish and hateful, the opposite of good and loving. Remember - “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should have ever lasting life.”

Instead, I believe that judgment will be based on the good one does. I believe that any of the hate that people do to one another will cause them to be sent directly to hell (whatever that is – more on that later). In other words, the Reverend Fred Phelps will go to hell, Saddam Hussein is in hell, George W. Bush will go to Hell unless he should repent and beg forgiveness for causing all those deaths, both here at home and the hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq. Osama bin Laden will certainly go to hell. It doesn’t matter that both Osama bin Laden and George W. Bush invoked the name of their God before declaring war on others. Any person or persons who are responsible for the deaths of other human beings, much less the other creatures of this world will go to hell. Instead, Mother Theresa is with God, and Matthew Shepard is there also. Now, do I mean that Matthew is there physically with God? Absolutely not! Matthew’s physical remains are here on earth. But, Matthew’s spirit /soul is with God. And what is the spirit / soul of a man? It is that innocence with which we are born into this world. We bring God’s creative love with us when we are born, and that is the part of us that returns to God at the end. It is that innocence and love, as well as the doing good while here that is in God’s image, and we each carry that with us, we just have to dig down beneath all the cultural structuring that has occurred over a lifetime to find it. And, What is Hell? Hell is being isolated - lost to God. That is what I believe.

At the same time, this conviction of mine challenges other culturally inculcated beliefs the most important of which is the idea fostered by the Christian Church that after Jesus’ death it, THE CHURCH, automatically became the divine representative of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit here on earth. Why should that be so? It is not rational. First off, the church didn’t even exist after Jesus Christ died on the cross. The church was created over time by generations of disciples and their followers that disseminated the teachings of Jesus to others, who passed the teaching on to still more people. And, if we could go back in time and visit, say the church at the time of Saint Paul, it would not be recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church or any of the Protestant denominations that exist in the Twenty-first Century after Jesus’ death. Thus, the church has changed so much over time that as an institution it would not be recognizable to those who first practiced the Christian religion. Secondly, if Jesus Christ birth is not virginal, as the church has maintained, why should I believe the church’s assertion that it is God’s representative here on earth. * Once the virgin birth is removed as a church created article of faith, the entire structure of church dogma must be reexamined.

Oh my, this thing about thinking through my faith gets increasingly frightening. I know why the church would claim me as blasphemer, and possessed by the devil. It is precisely because I think through my faith that I am no longer of the church. And, if every member of any of the various Christian denominations was suddenly given the command to think through his or her faith intellectually, each and every one would end up with a slightly different version of his or her own faith, and the Christian church as it stands today would cease to exist. Anarchy! Sedition! Terror!

I suppose the question I need to ask is the following. Are we, humankind, mature enough to handle such diversity? If so, a new institution, one that is able to tolerate change, and otherness is possible. Or do such institutions exist already? Are the Unitarian Universalists, large segments of the Moravian, Methodist, and Episcopalian Churches the future of Christianity? Certainly most of Islam believes in their Koran when it tells them to fight for inner peace, and to fight others only in self-protection. The Islamic terrorist is out on a rotten brittle limb of the massive tree of his religion. But enough of that, instead I will go back to the Apostles Creed when next I write.

Notes and Permissions

∆ This is a non copyrighted image taken from Wikipedia, public domain, originally from "http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/blake/ancient.jpg"

* See my entry from January 16, 2009 for the discussion of the virgin birth.

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