Tag Archives: Religion

Christian-ish

“I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, “Eat, Pray, Love”

“Make your own Bible. Select and collect all the words
and sentences that in all your readings have been to you like the blast of a trumpet.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a colleague who self-identifies as “Christian-ish.” I’ve never pressed them for a formal explanation of the term; but based on what I know of this person, I have a pretty good idea of what it could mean. My colleague loves the teachings of Jesus, and at the same time they find beauty and wisdom in the teachings and practices of other religions. In other words, they take whatever works from wherever they can find it so they can keep moving toward the light.

And if we were honest, I think most of us would admit we do the same thing.

Consider this. Religious conservatives who oppose marriage equality often point to the “sanctity” of marriage, and insist that allowing LGBT people to legally wed would somehow destroy that sanctity. At the same time, a January 21st article in the Religious News Service points out that divorce rates tend to be higher among conservative Protestants than their more religiously liberal counterparts. This, despite the teaching of Jesus in Mark chapter 10 that basically forbids divorce. In Matthew chapter 19 Jesus allows a loophole for “immorality”–but only for the guys.

In the Old Testament, religious conservatives point to a verse in the “Holiness Code” of Leviticus, and they misinterpret the story of Sodom and Gomorrah to “prove” how unhappy God is with homosexuality. Yet, when presented with all the other prohibitions in that same Holiness Code, some of these folks are quick to reply that the dietary and other prohibitions were part of the Ceremonial Law and the arrival of Jesus negated those laws. But that verse about a man lying with a man as with a woman? Oh, no! That law is part of the Moral Law and the Moral Law is forever.

Of course, those of us who identify as religious liberals do the same thing. For example, we love Jesus’ teachings about peace and turning the other cheek–until someone actually slaps us, that is. We like quoting the bible’s teachings about our responsibility to care for “the least of these” in the world. Yet the story of Jesus and the Rich Young Man (Matthew chapter 19 and Mark chapter 10) where Jesus instructs the young man to sell all his possessions, give the money to the poor and then follow Jesus causes religious conservatives and liberals to jump through all kinds of interpretive hoops. And that story in Acts 2 where the earliest communities held everything in common? Nice story; at the same time, just how do you think that would work in the 21st century? After all, we religious liberals do tend to like having our own stuff and “space” as much as any religious conservative.

So let’s be honest, OK? None of us–liberal or conservative–really believe and follow everything to the letter that’s written in the bible. As a matter of fact, some of those stories are horribly offensive–at least to me. So what do we do?

I think Ralph Waldo Emerson has a great idea. Why not consider making our own “bibles”? Why not take the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions, humanism and science–wisdom and practices that help us move forward toward the light of love and peace and that deepen our connection to the Universal Presence many of us call “God?”

Or better yet, why not strive to make our lives “living bibles”–reflections of the best the world’s religions, humanism and science have to offer?

Just something to consider…

Blessings on your journeys!

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Exile as Freedom

First things first. Welcome to Losing My Religion and Keeping Faith: Musings of a Believer in Exile. This is my first blog; so I ask for your patience while I learn my way around all the particularities of design, navigating the dashboard, etc. I also hope the posts I share encourage fruitful discussion and wisdom sharing on a variety of topics related to religions, spiritualities, and life in communities of faith.

With all that said…

I owe a portion of the subtitle of this page, “Musings of a Believer in Exile” to retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong. His book, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die: A Bishop Speaks to Believers in Exile” was one of the first books I read as I began to question much of what I was taught–and was then preaching and teaching others–about God, Jesus, and Christianity. This book, as well as Spong’s “Jesus for the Non-Religious,” “Eternal Life: A New Vision – Beyond Religion, Beyond Theism, Beyond Heaven and Hell,” John Dominic Crossan’s “Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography,” and Robin R. Meyers’ “Saving Jesus From The Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus,” made me feel less alone in my then-closeted questioning.

It would be nice if I could say I calmly read each of these books, reflected, journaled, prayed, etc., and then arrived at a comfortable decision regarding my spiritual path as it stands today.  It would be nice, and it would be dishonest. In his own way, each author encouraged me to question everything I have ever believed, professed, preached and taught about God, Jesus, the Bible, the afterlife, the Holy Spirit, and Christianity itself.

As a result of my reading, reflecting, private conversations with trusted colleagues (Christian and not Christian)–and yes, even through my spiritual and theological hand-wringing, at times–I can now say that, at this time on my spiritual path, I hold a non-theist view of God (Paul Tillich’s God as Ground of Being, for example); I affirm the unity of the nature of Jesus (human, not divine in the Trinitarian sense of the word); and I believe everything (and everyone) eventually returns to its Source through death. I also agree with Robin Meyers’ view of the bible as a conversation–not the literal word of God.

Even though I’ve reached this place on my journey through study, reflection and conversations, the statements above are my beliefs. I have no empirical proof for any of them–and I’m fine with that. I also know these beliefs may change over time–and I’m fine with that, too. Some people might say I’ve become a heretic. Some people might say I’ve deserted God and Jesus–or at least Christianity. Some people might say I’ve lost my religion (which may not be such a bad thing, after all). Spong might say I’ve entered the exile.

Exile is usually considered a bad thing–a punishment of some type. And it can be quite the painful experience, too. While this particular exile has had its painful moments, in the end, I don’t consider it a punishment at all. As a matter of fact, I am beginning to feel spiritually freer than I have in a long time.

And the best news is, I know I’m in some amazing company.