Just another traveler on life’s highway hanging out in the slow lane. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful. Beyond the horizon is rest calling my name. Green pastures, still waters, my cup is overflowing.
I probably would not write about faith and recovery if I did not have an unyielding, nagging directive to dispute the abounding, fear-filled theology which controlled my life for many of my early, formative years. It is my sense that many others also suffered and continue to suffer an “ism” of hell fires and damnation. It is for them that I return to the memories of pain caused by delusional theology in order to propose another way, the Way proclaimed by Jesus, our Christ. I am the way, the truth, the life seems to be lost on a religion more concerned with retribution, payback and profit than restoring life abundantly to the world’s lost and dying. Mega churches, millionaire televangelists, a gospel of affluence are obviously missing the mark set by Jesus to minister to the poor and downtrodden, to seek heaven at the bottom of the social ladder rather than in the far reaches of the universe.
In the book of Mark, a man comes running to Jesus asking what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers that one must live by the commandments. To which the man said he had followed them all. Then,
“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross and follow me.” (1)
The man went away sad. We don’t know if he sold his possessions or if he cherished them more than a relationship with God. Soul sickness, however, does not discriminate between rich and poor. Selfishness and avarice are not limited to wealth and power.
Fortunately, through the recovery rooms of AA and the loving compassion of fellow trekkers, a restoration of soul for me was possible. The first step in this restoration was grasping the concept of “God as I understand God.” It is a foundational tenet of AA’s recovery program which has enabled millions of doubters like myself to find mental and spiritual health in a sea of unhealthy religious dogma.
God hates me, and God wants to burn me in hell’s fires. Imagine living with those thoughts for the first 33 years of your life? I tried to drink myself to death thinking I could drown with alcohol those haunting visions. I tried to wear the atheist armor and the agnostic unbelief to no avail. God still despised me and was waiting for me to commit the ultimate sin that would seal my fate in hell. In truth, during the years of alcoholism, I was already serving my sentence in his realm of fire and brimstone.
I don’t go there today because the God of my understanding does not take me there. Together we find green pastures and still waters. We are as One enjoying peace, solace, contentment, and treasures of the soul. It seems silly to me today that anyone who is seeking would choose a vengeful, wrathful, hateful old man as their God.
From Richard Rohr @ Center for Action and Contemplation:
In authoritarian and patriarchal cultures, most people were fully programmed to think this way” (the life of Jesus as a ransom to an angry, demanding God) – “working to appease an authority figure who was angry, punitive, and even violent in ‘his’ actions. Many people still operate this way, especially if they had an angry, demanding, or abusive parent. People respond to this kind of God, as sick as it is, because it fits their own story line.” (2)
(1) MARK 10:21