the angry Christian

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.

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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)

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(1) MARK 10:21

(2) CAC.ORG

Helen Lemmel

CANDLE

I encounter a number of people who do not want to hear “Jesus” in the conversation.  It’s as if a brain wave has a fart and immediately odorizes the thought patterns.  I understand their reaction and I can’t take offense because they often equate Jesus with religion and the Christian Church.  But, consider this.  Does Christianity need Jesus to validate its existence?  Yes, of course.  The theology is thick with the virgin birth, the man/God, the divinity, the crucifixion, and the resurrection.  Without those elements , it would be just another minor, extremist sect.

Does the living Jesus need Christianity?  Absolutely not.  Leave theology out of the Christian walk and what remains is the man who has eternally been a voice for tolerance, love, and compassion; he remains a champion of the world’s disenfranchised and oppressed.  Unfortunately, as in Jesus’ earth life, the dogma and doctrines of some of today’s hypocritical religious institutions are crucifying that unifying voice.  They have disguised the power of the universal almighty Sovereign and one of its messengers, Jesus of Nazareth, and have defined that power as a vindictive, intolerant code of laws.

The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth has been studied, argued, and disputed by scholars who have devoted a lifetime to this undertaking.  Some reference the writings of a Jewish historian, Josephus, who mentions Jesus, a worker of incredible acts and a teacher.  Other scholars dispute this paragraph in the writing of Josephus saying it was inserted at a later time.  Some scholars note that the time span of the writings later defined as the Gospels by Christianity point to historical accuracy.  More recently the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi scriptures give further credence to the belief that Jesus was a  historical fact.  It doesn’t matter if the man called Jesus was a living being in ancient Israel.  The legacy he created, the legacy attributed to him is sufficient to lead me through the valleys of darkness and despair and the lion pits of life.  It is more than sufficient to set me on the highest mountain and soar with the eagles.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and I have been to the mountain top; we have seen the promised land.

The bottom line is that none of us knows with certainty whether the Christian Church has nailed the truth with its theology.  Karl Marx called religion….”the sigh of the oppressed creature….the heart of a heartless world.”  He also named religion as the opioid of the masses.  karl marx

In a world overrun with physical and psychological brokenness, is there anything wrong with a spiritual opioid?  Perhaps not.  “The heart of a heartless world” strikes a chord within me.  I have experienced the joy of communal worship, the escape from a heartless world afforded by my religious tradition.  As in the realm of pharmaceuticals, a spiritual opioid used as intended can be a tremendous pain reliever.  Used indiscreetly, it can become a vicious master and enslaver intent on destruction.

I need a doctor in my life to fix my brokenness, a physician who can prescribe a faith walk which will enhance my solidarity with all mankind, not just the ones who look, think, talk, smell, and worship like me.  I need a shepherd who will lead me into pastures of inclusiveness and tolerance, not thorn-filled fields with noxious weeds.  I need Jesus in my life, not to make me more religious, but to create me in a new image, a transformed version of the old Larry.

Here’s a verse from Helen Lemmel’s song which has renewed my spirit innumerable times when I feared being swamped  by a heartless world:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace. 

Helen Lemmel 1863-1961

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Jesus freak?

CANDLE

Yeah, amongst many other terms, this one has been leveled at me by a world that is turned off by the rhetoric of  self-proclaimed religious experts who preach from financial, personal, and political agendas.  For me, being called a ‘Jesus freak’ is confirmation that I am finally doing something right.  It is not taken as it was intended, a term of derision.  No, ‘Jesus freak’ is a badge of commitment.  I’m not here to cast judgement, yea or nay, on anyone.  The fruits of our works shall reveal our hearts.

Several years ago WWJD was an often used acronym, “What Would Jesus Do?”  In order to understand the significance of WWJD one needs to become familiar with the character of Jesus of Nazareth as presented by the writers of New Testament scriptures.  I am not involving myself in the arguments some believers will throw at the previous statement.  Whether I believe that the divinity of Jesus, the Christ, as presented by the Roman Church fathers of the 3rd and 4th centuries is the truth or I believe that the man who lived as a vagabond and beggar with a troop of like-minded men and was crucified for his insurrection against the Romans, I must accept that this Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable character and his teachings were eternal tenets of wisdom given in a dialog which the common man could understand when viewed in a spiritual realm.  He is accorded the words,  “I am the Way: the truth and the light.”

Whether I believe that Jesus was saying he was the only way to a heavenly God, or I internalize the teachings of Jesus into my personal code of conduct, the Way does lead to the truth and it is light, a personal kingdom of the Lord which dwells within.

But, I have to know those teachings.  I have to process the words given in scriptures with my own powers of discernment, not the interpretations sent forth from the pulpits and  theological doctrine.  Ultimately I cannot trust the “isms” until those tenets strike truth within me.  If this is not one of life’s lessons why would a Creator install in me the qualities of reason and logic?  I cannot deny the wondrous works of the human crafter by negating any part of that crafter’s creation.  I am made a miracle of genetic engineering;  I come complete with a conscience; I am made to appreciate the world’s beauty; I am made with an intelligence which surpasses that of any other earthly species;  I am made in the crafter’s image.

Those assessments of me are confirmed by the teachings of Jesus.  Whenever I conceive a thought, contemplate an action, speak a word, or move onward, the utmost consideration should be “WWJD?”

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