Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Trap of Postmodernism

The Trap of Postmodernism

The physicist might contend that Quantum Dynamic Theory is sending us toward postmodernism by its affirmation that an observer must be present for events to occur.

The Story of Schroedinger's cat in quantum Physics and the implications thereto, illustrates why postmodernism and the "Me" generations seem overwhelmingly wrong to many classical thinkers in Theology.

On June 7 of 1935, Erwin Schroedinger wrote to Albert Einstein to congratulate him on what is now known as the EPR paper, a famous problem in the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Soon thereafter, he published what was to become one of the most celebrated paradoxes in quantum theory:

Schroedinger's Cat
A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays, and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box, the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and/or undecayed states. Thus, said Schroedinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states (dead/alive) before the observer opens the box, ``observes'' the cat, and thereby ``collapses'' it's wave function into the additional possibilities of being either dead or alive. This first state, the dead/alive state requires an observer to resolve the potential conflict.

Feline Wave Functions
                         Before opening the Box
                            Whole= Alive or
                            Decayed=Dead or

                         After opening the Box
                    Whole= Alive = buy Kitty litter
                    Decayed=Dead = R.I.P.
Until we open the box the cat is either alive, dead, or the state of  "Dead/Alive".

Quantum theory may be the chief reason physicists seem either drunk or crazy most of the time.

But the point remains that if we need an observer for things to occur in the world, we push mankind toward the center of the universe because until I, the human, observes the phenomena, the cat is in limbo. And the cat has no other place it can be regardless of how spiritual the cat is. In other words the Quantum Dynamicist is perfectly comfortable with the idea that if the tree falls in the forest with no one to hear it, it makes no sound.

The postmodernist finds this necessity for ME to observe at the center of his core of being. You might hear a postmodernist avow that "the whole of reality can never be perceived and understood by humans, only that some of it can, and the rest isn't worth talking about." In short, that which we cannot deal with through reason and empiric knowledge is of no or little value. If it cannot be "proved" it is worthless.

This position, Postmodernism, Subjectivism, Meism, call it by many names, is rampant in today's thinking. But it flies in the face of what humans can perceive spiritually. That something greater than we exists out there; that it is infinite and not understandable; that it contains something of worth.....what might be called "Spinoza's God", in the sense that Einstein knew God, as the UNIVERSE....very close to the Buddhist concept of the Deity, or lack thereof.

The last several centuries have taken the western world on a ride into an exclusively scientific explanation of the universe as opposed to one where feeling or sense perception, hysteria or mysticism rules the day. While this has many wonderful results such as Darwinism to explain evolution. It also has relegated mysticism/intuition to a closeted position sort of like ESP. The result is that we believe little that cannot be proved "scientifically", whereas for the ancients, many things could not be explained scientifically and had to be relegated to "God", demons, or some other spiritual explanation. This is chiefly the journey from ignorance to enlightenment, but like all journeys, one which often moves away from some valued touchstones. As Hume and Kant assumed, what we call reality is constructed by the mind and all human understanding is therefore interpretation rather than acquisition of accurate objective information. Truth is inherently ambiguous according to the post modernist. Any modern American politician or viewer of Fox News can attest to that fact.

The point being that, as Karen Armstrong tries to define in her book "The Case for God", God can exist in a postmodern world......but with great difficulty. The Italian postmodernist Gianni Vattimo avows that "Freedom no longer lies in the perfect knowledge of, and conformity to the necessary structure of reality, but in an appreciation of multiple discourses and historicity, contingency and finitude of all religious, ethical and political values including our own." He wants to bring down walls that separate theist and atheists/non-theists. One of the great benefits of postmodernism is that it validates so many realities and positions. It should be the ultimate position of integration for ideas among humankind, of diversity, but it has a much darker side as well....the prison of selfhood.

"Religion's task, like that of Art, is to help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there were no easy explanations and problems we could not solve; mortality, pain, grief, despair and outrage at the injustice and cruelty of life." says Karen Armstrong. Many of these "supernal" issues cannot be dealt with empirically no matter how hard the psychiatrist may try. Many traditions have dealt with the sacred and unknowable in different ways, But ALL traditions and cultures acknowledge the sacred and unknowable exists. The aboriginal "Dream Time", The American Indian Sweat Lodge, the drug induced states of many more primitive cultures, are all attempts earlier to get in touch with the "other", perhaps the Dead/Alive state of Schroedinger's Cat..

While post modernism puts an arrow through the heart of any doctrine that claims one must have a set of Beliefs or adherence to a "truth" that claims to be perfect or immutable, it also puts an arrow into the heart of the necessity to rise above ourselves.

The first part of this effect, the abandonment of a set of truth doctrines, Creeds or tenets; an intellectual assent to a set of Beliefs, is a wonderful breath of air into religion, particularly western Christian, which has fallen into that doctrinaire state wherein Faith is believing in a set of tenets. We MUST abandon the reliance on Creeds. To state "I, the human know the ultimate truth and this is it", is false, a priori. But where pre-modern religion humanized the sacred, post-modern religion sanctifies the human.

For a theist, objective truth, God's truth exists. And it exists beyond human ken. It cannot be approached through reason. It is mystical and illusory, but there none the less. If we abandon that "otherness" for doctrines which ONLY value human reason and perception, we lose an enormous part of our heritage.

John P. Middleton

Aug 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Failure and Death of Christianity Part 3

“Jesus message is political?” you ask. And I respond “absolutely.” It is a political message in that it calls for political and social transformation; A world view; a way of seeing. Not what we see but HOW we see. A lens of;

a. Assumptions

b. Beliefs

c. Images

d. Metaphors

e. Actions

that we construct and inherit from our family, society, peers, community and culture, but that results in "Love Action".

It asks us “Are we making “converts” to a gospel of evacuation to heaven after death …or are we making disciples to a gospel of reconciliation and transformation on earth, the husbanding of God’s creation?”

Matt 6:19-24 suggests you cannot be a citizen of The Kingdom Of God and bow your knee to an economic Caeser.

In the first part of Matt 6 he is inciting a rebellion against the tyrannical trinity of money, sex and power.

As an alternative to money, sex, and power this Kingdom of God asks us to REPLACE: (From Brian McLaren)

The Law of Progress through rapid growth with the Law of Good Deeds for the Common Good

The Law of Serenity through Possession and Consumption with the Law of Satisfaction through Gratitude and Sharing

The Law of Salvation through Competition alone with the Law of Salvation through seeking Justice

The Law of Freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporate greed with the Law of Freedom to prosper through building better communities.

Things not easily done in our culture I am sure. We have built an enormous wall of money sex and power in every aspect of our life and nation, our culture and our world. Changing it would not be easy, said Christ.

Our world is riddled with Social Injustice, Greed, Poverty , Sickness, Misery and Hunger. It got that way because western Christianity allowed it to get that way by ignoring Christianity in favor of bastardized Pauline justice and then bastardizing Pauline justice even further. Although I hesitate to put the onus on Paul because it is our churches’ INTERPRETATION of Paulinity that is primarily at fault. Nonetheless the Western world had the money, will and dominance for many centuries to effect Christianity as Christ intended and it failed.

If Jesus will not separate justice and mercy, how can we? In a financial scandal like Enron, what do you think of a justice system which first pays back the investors who can afford the greatest loss, then the creditors, mostly corporations, and last the employees, many of whom had their life savings and retirement accounts wiped out due to Enron’s insistence the retirement funds be invested only in the corporation, then lying to them about the state of that corporation. And many of whom had spent their entire lives or substantial portions of time with that company. Where is the justice with no mercy?

The current system of “justice” in the United States dictates the employees come last. Does that sound like Christian “justice/mercy” to you?

Our health care debate in the United States this year is almost exclusively focused on its cost. Rarely do you hear “equity”, “justice with mercy”, or other compassion concepts without reference to the cost. It is the control of cost which we see as “just”, not the solutions to the problem of a healthcare system without mercy.

How many times has a preacher told you that God WANTS you to be prosperous and wealthy. Where does that appear in Christ’s kingdom of God- The kingdom of compassion. I have even seen an ordained minister of one denomination tell us publicly that God wanted us to own a firearm. Presumanbly to support our constitutional amendment of the right to bear arms. What unbelievable and colossal drivel!

The kingdom of God requires we pour all things in our life into an umbrella under that dome.

Consider the following concept

             Dwelling in Jesus Kingdom of God Compassion and Justice with Mercy
                                                 in all aspects of life


                     Politics, Religion, Ethics, Humanism, Business, War, Government,
                                                 all fall under this ubrella

In this graph no matter what endeavor we engage in we must first subject it to the ethical commandments of the Kingdom of God. The improbability of that sea change of thinking is disconcerting to say the least as it not only leads ultimately to the death of Christianity, but also the probable death of our earthly species.

In place of the six line narrative mentioned in my earlier essay, as follows:

1.We start in Eden

2. The Fall

3. Today's human decisions

4. Salvation/being born again

5. Results in going to heaven

6. Failure results in going to hell

We need to substitute a different narrative, which calls for personal transformation, a rebirth of the spirit through acceptance of grace, then an action plan where each individual spreads the KOG concept to the local community and subsequently to the world. This is the means and method of the political and social change Christ wanted .

We have little time left to rescue the Christian Religion. While there are the Emerging Church movement and some more sensitive churches coming forth, they are still riddled with problems and uncertainty and lack of direction. They sense the need for “spirituality”, the sense of union with God through behavior and belief and action. But they are few in number and under great criticism.

Sadly, the modern church does not seem to understand Jesus' Kingdom of God at all. We should weep for the future of Christianity.

John P. Middleton

Nov. 2009-Aug 2010

The Death of Christianity, Part 3

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Failure and Death of Christianity

The Failure and Death of Christianity

John P. Middleton- Nov. 2009-Aug 2010

One doesn’t have to search very far to discover the depth of people’s dissatisfaction with the Christian Religion. If you ask, you will be answered by a blithering array of reasons why not to go to “church” or what is wrong with “church” if you do go. And most of the offered reasons have a degree of validity.

“They always want my money”.

“The people there are petty.”

“I don’t want to be told every week how bad I am.”

“Religion doesn’t work for me.”-

-and a host of other objections of varying degrees of dissatisfaction. The one that always makes me sad is the claim that religion or “church” does not add to spirituality. Sadly, the claim is often true.

How did this happen in the western Christian church?

There are all sorts of answers and ideas, but the simple fact is that youth and young adults are not going to church and seem to abhor traditional Christian religion resulting in increasingly lower attendance numbers in most traditional or mainstream denominations.

What happened?

Christianity v. Popular Paulinity:

There are two gospels embedded in the western Christian tradition. The Gospel of Purity, from the “Popular Pauline” tradition, chiefly concerned with sin management, which is currently practiced in many American denominations and the Gospel of Compassion advocated by Jesus Christ, chiefly concerned with love of fellow human. The polarization of these polarized traditions has become so pronounced that they are almost incompatible in western Christianity.

Good little boys and girls go to heaven and bad little boys and girls go to hell. That is about the sum of the Popular Pauline tradition in too many churches.

Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the Emerging Christian Church movement, characterizes this view of Christianity as the “Six Line Narrative” outlined below:

1.We start in EDEN
2. We FALL from Grace

3. We stumble to find TRUTH

4. Some of us are transformed/BORN AGAIN

5. Those that are go to HEAVEN

6. Those that don't go to HELL
These lines represents the entire concept of Christianity as seen in many churches today.

As Mclaren states:

“Our contemporary gospel is primarily




with a large footnote about increasing your personal happiness and success through God.

with a small footnote about character development

with a smaller footnote about spiritual experience

with an even smaller footnote about social/global transformation.”

Global transformation is relegated to the cause of our missionaries and giving money to their ministry....... problem solved.

But this six line narrative about getting to heaven after we die and the lack of concern for social and global transformation leaves us with a feeling of emptiness and often despair. And it does that for a very specific reason………….it is NOT the message of Christ and it does little to effect change in the world. It is instead, a message from an interpretation from the Popular Pauline tradition (including Timothy and others) and some of the Judaic tradition, both of which emphasized living within the “Law” and “purity” as a means of transformation. While we must admit Paul goes all the way to reliance on Faith/Grace, it is the misinterpretation of his Gospel that creates the "Popular Pauline" tradition that permeates many churches. It is not my point in this essay to analyze Paul's writings to explain my allegations further, but simply to point out the dichotomy embedded in a Theology that emphasizes Purity as opposed to one that emphasizes Service.

As stated before, in the Purity tradition, good little boys and girls go to heaven and bad little boys and girls go to hell.

This tradition of Purity sends us in a direction that says only THIS person/group is worthy in God’s eyes, which creates such animosity toward gay and lesbian believers or women in the pulpit and allows many other disenfranchising beliefs. The Purity ethic requires us to search the scripture for texts that exclude persons/groups from further consideration. It requires us to EXCERPT pieces of scripture to support our claims.

So we turn to the Book of Leviticus or the Old Testament, and say “See it says it right here, that if a man lies with another man it is an abomination to the Lord.” And, of course it does say that. It says that and also says that it is permissible to own slaves from a neighboring country, for example. I would venture to guess the idea of Canadian slaves would be abhorrent to most westerners….maybe not. It also goes to great lengths on issues of women’s “cleanliness” and other instructions that simply don’t make sense in a modern world. They were more valid to the ancients, but to any thinking human would be abhorrent today.

However, suggesting the scripture be read METAPHORICALLY, rather than literally, causes many Christians to gasp. They want their scripture to be literally interpreted.

How many Books?

There was no “official” specific list or accounting of all the books that made up the Bible until the commission of the official canon by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th Century AD. The books that make up the Authorized King James Bible were chosen by men, not divine forces between approximately 312 and 450 AD.

In the Catholic Church the version used is the Douay-Rheims Bible consisting of 73 books. In the Protestant church only the 66 books approved by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1885, which today is known as the Authorized King James Bible, are used. No other books, neither the Apocrypha books, which were included in the original 80 book King James Bible of 1609-11, nor the 14-22 books, now missing but originally mentioned or quoted, in the King James Bible, are considered inspired.

In short, men voted to discount and eliminate 14 of the 80 books of the only “acceptable-revealed word of God” version of the bible in 1895. How can a literal interpreter deal with these facts?

There are many other enormous issues in biblical history scholarship, not the least of which is translation. From Greek to Latin to English alone would create many problems, but the actual translation issues went far beyond those. Much disagreement and interpretation occurred WITHIN specific languages. If one were to study Martin Luther’s Tower Experience one would see that the text which caused Luther to formulate the concept of justification/salvation through Grace/Faith, has been changed in the King James version, created some 90 years later. The word “judgment” in Romans, which so inspired Luther, was changed to “righteousness” by the KJV writers. A modern reader would be unable to duplicate Luther’s epiphany due to the language change.

Literal v. Metaphorical Interpretation

If you ask literal interpretationists why scripture must be interpreted literally, they will point to several “facts”; including the fact of God’s authorship or divine intervention, the fact of “revealed Word”, the fact of the “Red Letter” bible and many other support positions, all of which are subjective.

The simple fact is that the first actual fragment copy of a New Testament scripture we have dates from about 150 AD around 120 years after the crucifixion. For that intervening 120 years Christianity was, either virtually or actually, an outlawed religion which if one were discovered practicing would frequently result in the death penalty. So the typical early Christian meetings often consisted of either simple preaching, rumor or oral tradition, including copying of alleged gospel document fragments by those attending the secret meeting. We simply do not know what was in those copied documents. We do know there were many spurious documents floating around and, by the second to fourth Century when the scripture is initially codified, many “competing” and Gnostic gospels were abounding.

We also know that the literacy rate in those first century days was abominable and any “copying”, then copying again the next week and then again the following week, would have likely been fraught with errors and erroneous interpretations and possibly, personal editing. One can, of course, claim that God guided all the hands during all interpretations so that the original was preserved. However, that argument flies directly in the face of both reason and common sense. The proof of this point is in the many inconsistencies such as those surrounding who was at the tomb on Easter morning. The gospels disagree.

Here we have the crux of the literalists problem. They must fly in the face of reason and common sense.

The world must have been created in a literal seven days….mankind cannot be more than about 15,000 years old….. we cannot have a common ancestor with apes nor engage evolution at any scientific level.

In short, the literalist must be at war with science, mathematics, archeology, anthropology, geology, and common sense among others. One might suggest this position is not only untenable but also diametrically opposed to seeing God’s creation as harmonious and integrated. The literalist is faced with viewing Natural Law and God at war with one another.

I would allege, as a theist, how can God be at war with that which He created? Did he err in the creation? Scripture is not at war with science when read metaphorically or when literalism defers to common sense.

The theologian Marcus Borg, says it best when he states, “Scripture is the lens through which we see God. We ought not worship the lens.”

There are then two forces at work in dividing the faith, the Purityv. compassion ethic and the Literal v. metaphorical interpretation ethic.

All of this foregoing data, however interesting, points out an inescapable fact. Much of the arguments, divisiveness and denominationalism in the church today is clearly the purview of Mankind, not God, and is related more to the PURITY ethic of Popular Paulinity than the COMPASSION ethic of Christ.

Why the emphasis on Purity?

George Lakoff, Professor of Cognitive Science at Berkeley, has written several texts and essays about why humans think “conservatively” or “liberally”. Some of his conclusions in Chapter 4 of “Thinking Points” and from his book “Moral Politics” follow:

Thinking Points Discussion of Chapter 4 - Part 2: Conservative Morality Created by joe at Rockridge (Rockridge Institute staff member) on Monday, April 23, 2007 12:18 PM

“Key differences between conservative and progressive morality arise that shape how we differ in our responses to political (and religious) issues.

"We now explore the family experience common in many American homes that informs conservative politics. The idealized representation we use is the Strict Father Family.

The Strict Father (or conservative)Family is:

A traditional family with two heterosexual parents - a father and a mother

The father is the head of the household

The mother supports and upholds the authority of the father

A hierarchy exists that is never to be questioned - children do not question their father's authority

Children are naturally weak and lack self-control

Parents know what is best for their children and must teach them right from wrong

Children learn right from wrong when punished for wrong-doing

When children become self-disciplined, respect valid authority, and learn right from wrong they are strong enough to succeed in the competitive world

The primary experience growing up in a strict home presumes that children are inherently weak and that parental respect is maintained by consistently disciplining the child. There is emphasis on the maintenance of authority and self-control. Children who grow up in a disciplined manner will know right from wrong and will be hard-working and successful in life.

The experience of living in a strict home provides an intuitive model for morality. By exploring the concepts involved in thinking about the Strict Father Family, we discover the following values:

Core Conservative Values:

Authority: assumed to be morally good and used to exert legitimate control (therefore it is imperative that authority is never questioned)

Discipline: self-control learned through punishment when one does wrong (it is understood that failure of authority to punish for wrong doing is a moral failure)

Additional Values that Arise When Engaging in Acts of Strictness:

Strength (necessary to be self-disciplined)

Order (arises when people know their place and obey authority)

Ownership (by working hard to earn something you should be able to use it as you see fit)

Hierarchy (those above you have worked harder and proven their worth while those below you are not as disciplined as you)

Duty (each person is obligated to submit to valid authority)

Purity (absolute right and wrong must exist in order to have knowledge of them)

Physical Security (authority figures must provide physical protection from bodily or material harm)

Equity (higher positions are earned through merit)

These values, when organized via the Strict Father Family, constitute a moral worldview that is the foundation of conservative morality. They are all entailed in the body of knowledge that arises through the experience of living in a strict home.

Progressives acknowledge the existence of valid authority expressed through nurturance. A fully nurturant person deserves to be listened to. The standards for legitimacy are quite different. Here are a few examples of valid progressive authority figures (Moral Politics, pg. 134):

People who are empathetic

People who successfully help others

People who solve problems effectively

People who are fair

People who listen to others and communicate effectively

People who nurture social ties successfully

Conservative Morality Expresses Key Principles

When the Strict Father Family is applied to the Nation as Family conceptual metaphor, we get conservative political morality. This deep frame shapes conservative understanding of politics and entails several principles that arise from conservative values.

The Free Market Principle

The free market promotes efficiency, creates wealth, is natural and moral, and rewards individual discipline. Since wealth promotes many kinds of freedom, the market is believed to be a pathway for freedom to be expressed. Government interference of the market is considered to be immoral because it opposes this freedom.

The Bootstrap Principle

With enough self-discipline everyone can pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps. This is a version of the Myth of the American Dream and is sometimes referred to as climbing the corporate ladder in the context of the corporate business world. The government has no responsibility to help those who fall behind.

These principles inform the moral sensibilities of conservatives. Progressives often experience considerable dissonance when they hear them because they run contrary to our understanding of the world.

Conservatives Only Recognize Direct Causation

A person who understands the world through the experience of living in a strict environment will see direct relationships between cause and effect. When they see another person causing harm - such as a burglar shooting a cashier - they will interpret the situation in terms of simple cause-effect relationships: The burglar stole money because s/he hasn't learned the self-discipline necessary to work hard and earn money. The burglar made purely conscious decisions to steal and to shoot the other person. It was a deliberate action shaped solely by the persons lack of respect for authority and inherent moral weakness.

Progressives Recognize Greater Complexity

The experience of living in a nurturant home emphasizes indirect forms of causation. In order to empathize with others in a social environment, it is necessary to recognize subtle contributions to the perspective of others in order to both understand where they are coming from and to communicate effectively with them. “ –George Lakoff"

This lengthy excerpt was necessary to attempt to show a difference in basic thinking that has enormous negative results in the “Popular Pauline” church today. Do we require PURITY, that is certain standards of behavior favored by conservatives, or do we nurture COMPASSION, favored by progressives? We can make a fairly compelling case, although not a total one, that Christ favored the latter, while the Popular Pauline tradition favored the former.

But the church is torn. So much so that the recent schism in the Episcopal church is a direct result of a Purity v. Compassion conflict.

We need to review our concepts of Christianity again and soon . What was so astounding to the first century Romans was how these Christians “loved “ one another, how their compassion for their fellows abounded and how their love extended to all mankind. We have largely lost that tradition. We are now too often “Paulinists” not Christians.

“Purity” as Christ seems to have advocated it was involved more with living within the “Kingdom of God” in all that we do. A condition that did not require us to be sin free but rather good people engaging the failures of our fellow human with love and understanding. The requirement of the Gospel of Mark’s “perfection” is so misunderstood due to language difficulties. The Greek word for perfection “telios” does not mean the same as the English word “perfect” A rose missing two petals is still telios/"perfect" in the Greek as it has lived up to its highest expectation. Mark’s Greek may have required us to live up to God’s expectation of compassion as much as we are able rather than exhorting us to “perfection”, but the King James authors disagreed and prevailed. Here we have another example of translation issues as meaningful and detrimental.

So where are we today? Can we come together on any basis?

Not without opening our hearts to each other. A closed heart according to Marcus Borg,

“-Affects the mind and the reasoning process itself.

A closed heart and bondage go together.

A closed heart lacks gratitude.

A closed heart is insensitive to wonder and awe.

A closed heart forgets or rejects God.

A closed heart and exile go together.

A closed heart lacks compassion.

A closed heart is insensitive to injustice.” (Heart of Christianity P.152-153)

A closed heart is a striking image for the state of much of “Poular Paulinity” with which people are so dissatisfied today.

Christianity requires something else……………………..compassion. We had better quit bickering and start practicing it soon.

John P. Middleton

Nov 2009

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An open letter to Christians everywhere.

In recent months we have seen a number of events that test our mettle as Christians. Floods, famines, immigration, Haiti, there seems to be no end to the carnage. Then comes the circuit court's review of prop 108 and the gay marriage issue, and then the possibility of a Mosque within three blocks of the World Trade Center disaster, both of which provoked a response so divided and so deep that no amount of rhetoric can be salving.

As I have said in many previous essays the problem is that we are really not Christians in this country, we are Paulinists, separating justice and mercy; worshipping Jesus but not following His teaching; creating doctrines rather than witnessing for love. For Paul, a big issue is who is worthy and who is not and what are we to do about it. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." (Rom 1:18) Paul goes on to say all sorts of things about salvation through "Faith". Those in the modern church seem to have taken him to heart in that they seem to believe "if I have faith in Jesus, I don't have to go out of my way to love anybody."

When people ask "have you accepted Jesus as your personal savior?", our skin begins to itch because of the implications in the question. The questioner is really asking whether or not we have accepted a set of doctrines and creeds, a belief structure, rather than questioning whether we love our neighbor and what we are doing about his misery.

What is called "Christianity" has become just that..... a belief structure. Being a Christian means accepting certain tenets and constructs. There are no options for acceptance of virgin births, sun "standing still" in the sky, biblical literalness and inerrancy, judgment of the "wicked", the eschatology of Revelations or the Blood Atonement for the sins of the world. Adam and Eve are real people and the devil is incarnate. And the whole shlamoozal is 15 thousand years old. If you don't believe it you cannot call yourself a Christian.

Contrast that concept with the earliest followers of Jesus who were known as practitioners of "The Way". "The Way being a euphemism for the unbelievable love they showed one another; so profound that the Romans were amazed. "Who are these people, they really LOVE one another", they exclaimed.

Their faith was simply to follow Jesus teaching as there was not yet a set of Biblical or church concepts other than the old testament to hang one's hat upon. Jesus teaching, his greatest commandments, had to do with Love of God and one another and dwelling in the "Kingdom of God". This latter was identified in parables and can only be defined as reiterating the greatest commandments through action. So, these early Christians tried to Love "Everybody" including Samaritans (read Muslims) and Gentiles, Jews and pagans, Romans and everyone else to the point of distraction. They shared their food, their possessions, their money, their time and their love.

As I have often said, "scripture is the lens through which we see God and we ought not worship the lens." But to even vaguely suggest that the Bible is not an object of worship in this modern Christian Church is to beg for something akin to vegetable pelting at the least. We will not abandon our cherished icons and idols but we have no problem judging and vilifying others. No regard is given for inconsistency in scripture, or simple scientific truth.

You will hear believers say, If God wanted the sun to stand still in the sky, he simply willed it and it occurred. We must suspend all belief in Natural Law. We must first avow it is the Sun moving in orbit and not the earth. We must then believe God suspended the effects of gravity or lack thereof to achieve this desired result. In short we must believe God interferes in Natural Law when it suits Him. No question is asked of why he interferes to help the woman lift the Buick with the child trapped underneath, but does not help the millions of starving African children? Is one child more privileged than another? Was Calvin right and some of us are elect and others not? How can we seriously believe God interferes in Natural Law but still permits suffering. Is he evil? When we conclude God cannot interfere in Natural Law without violating his own creation, where does our belief structure then go?

If we continue to insist on a dichotomy between God and Science we are lost. There can be no conflict or God's creation is at fault. How can God make a world where science is wrong? If He created Natural Law how can it be wrong? If science is wrong Natural Law is wrong. Science IS the study of Natural Laws. If we need to claim all scientists are in error because the Bible says so, we are idiots who need to re-read some passages.

This is not some Liberal v. Conservative or Republican v. Democrat issue. This is an issue of a faith gone awry, wherein Christians do not act toward others with love, but hate. They use scripture to defend a set of un-Jesus beliefs that fit an agenda.

Gays and Lesbians are not welcome in this church because.......No Mosque may be built near Ground Zero ....but a Cathedral would be OK............We worship Christ and go to church every Sunday but won't lift a finger to help Haiti or our neighbor in New Orleans......

We have become a sad group of quasi-Paulinists. To call ourselves Christians is disgusting. It perverts the teaching of Jesus in both Spirit and Law. In order to believe this modern dogma one needs to first believe in hell. But not just any old hell. No, the hell of eternal burning punishment for misbehavior and unacceptance of dogma entitled "Belief". Will a good Jew or Muslim go to heaven? Hell no, he doesn't accept the same principles I do, so God will punish him. God's principle is Love and brotherhood for all. But our Christian principle sure as hell isn't. Ours is all about retribution, punishment, sin payment and finite evil in an infinite universe. Our version of Christianity has God's wrath more powerful than his love, God's divine and infinite vengeance against little old finite man with his finite sin. His love doesn't overcome. His wrath overcomes.

Even the cross has become a place for vampire Christians who want Jesus only for his blood. Without the blood sacrifice Jesus becomes nothing. Just human. We see Jesus as suffering and dying for us but never see Him as living for us. The exuberance of his love is lost in the misery of his death. It is a backward set of worship standards. All his teachings, all his words, all his love disappear in the passion play. All that is left is the misery and suffering and none of the joy.

We ignore his admonishment to the good thief even as he hangs there. There is no room for love, only for judgment. His blood sacrifice is what we remember, not his words of love.

Even as Jesus says, He that believeth in me...becomes corrupted to " He that worships me but loves no one but himself and those who think like him."

For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:39 NIV. What does belief in Jesus mean? Is it intellectual assent to his deity? Or is it emulation of his actions and his words? The two are sometimes not harmonious. Even if we acknowledge his deity, are we done? Are we great Christians who say "Here is what I believe" but I will do nothing to help our neighbor because he is .........................(fill in the blanks...Muslim...illegal bad or looks and acts differently)?

We cannot have a Mosque near ground zero because we hate Muslims, pure and simple. It has nothing to do with what a few radical Muslims did to us or what they may still be trying to do with us, or else all of Jesus teachings about "who is my brother" and turning cheeks goes directly in the shitter. You cannot claim to be Christian while you hate.

This last few decades have perverted Christianity to the point that we must suffer the Abundant Life nonsense that Jesus wants you to be wealthy. I have even heard a pastor extol why Jesus wants you to have a gun! Pure and simple garbage!

To support this kind of belief structure one needs only a few well chosen scripture verses, and boy! They are sure in there. Leviticus teaches us God not only hates homosexuals, but it is ok to own slaves from a neighboring country.

Lev 25:44-46 44 "'Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly. NIV

But these are God's words inerrant and complete aren't they? Canada here we come in the name of God!

We must stop this!

We must Stop! In the name of God! We must Stop!

There is no hope for the future if we hate. No hope for ourselves. Every time we say "I got mine now you get yours."; every moment we waste in failing to help those in need; every day we sit at home and ponder our devotion to God, how holy we wasted. It is wasted in pride and hate and sloth and envy and all of the things Jesus warned us of.

We as a Christian nation have embraced the pagan truths totally and utterly. We are lost if we go on this way.

The First Century Christian