WORDS

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 overflows.

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For all its inspiration, for all the lives it has changed, the Bible is undeniably problematic. Put in the hands of egocentric, unloving, or power-hungry people or those who have never learned how to read spiritually inspired literature, it is almost always a disaster. History has demonstrated this, century after century, so this is not an unwarranted, disrespectful, or biased conclusion. The burning of heretics, the Crusades, slavery, apartheid, homophobia, and the genocide and oppression of native peoples were all justified through the selective use of Scripture quotes. Richard Rohr – cac.org

From my daily reading habit, this from Fr. Richard Rohr jumped off the page this morning.  A wise old man shared with me many years ago his take on Bible-reading.  If what you read does not promote in your heart tolerance, love and compassion, then you are reading with blinders.  Go to your quiet place and talk with God about it.

My grandfather suffered miserably during his last years with lung cancer and COPD.  I have fond memories of him sitting in his chair by the front window, Bible open on his lap, looking out to the highway 100 feet away.

“What are you looking for?”  I would ask.

“The undertaker just drove by.  I was wondering if he was stopping here.”

At that time in my life I was a ‘wannabe’ atheist and dismissed his reading habit as foolishness.  Today, looking back, I can see that the verses and stories he cherished from the Bible were his strength in his end-of-life travail.  Grandpa was a kindly, gentle man who had not a shred of egotism or hatred in his soul.  Grandpa lived his life by, and drew his comfort from, the words of the ultimate Comforter.

Those words are powerful.  Taken in the wrong context readers have justified vicious attacks on differing creeds, races, and lifestyles.  In the hands of misguided, opportunist men of religion and politics, the love and compassion demanded by Scriptures have been translated into a doctrine of intolerance and oppression.  Prominent church leaders have recently declared that Jesus and his teachings applied only to those of the Christian persuasion, that Christians do not need to honor the legacy of Jesus, the Christ,  when interacting with those who are not “like us.”  The government and leaders of a nation, which they declare to be a “Christian nation”, do not need to apply principles of Christianity to its dealings with other people and other nations. WP interview – Jerry Falwell, Jr.

Matthew 25:33-46…”as you have done unto the least of these, my brothers” – NLT…leaves no room for interpretations supporting one’s errant theology or political persuasion.  It is perfectly clear what followers of Jesus must do to be acceptable to God.  Beware of the wolves dressing in sheep’s clothing quoting scriptures to support agendas of violence and oppression.  They have bastardized a verse which is absolutely explicit in its instruction.

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just as I am

 

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A beggar and wanderer in life’s trek reaching beyond the horizon’s mysteries.  Take me, consume me, I no longer fear your infinite wisdom.

As a young man I was indoctrinated into the belief that Christianity alone held the answers to the mysteries of life and the hereafter.  I did not see it as a nefarious attempt to control my thinking nor kidnap my soul.  It was merely the traditional theology handed down generation after generation from father to son, mother to daughter because they truly believed this was the only path to goodness and eternal life.  My first taste of religious intolerance occurred within my closely knit community, when an upstanding Catholic parent thought he was worthy of a seat on the school board, but was met with vehement opposition from the “true” Christian community fathers.  I became familiar with the words, “We love you as Christians, but you don’t qualify”.

That screaming “but you don’t qualify” became the signature arguing point in my withdrawal and subsequent denial of anything religious.  Unfortunately, it also enabled the demon of alcoholism to replace all that had been taught to me as a young lad.  I recognize today, as a sober man, that not everything of those early learning years was errant and repressive.  When reading familiar scriptures, I can now agree and reflect on the truth contained in many of those verses.  But I also recognize that the tradition of my Christ-centered faith is not exclusive.  It is not the only way.  AA’s concept of a “God of my understanding” led me to find sober salvation along with millions of others who could not swallow a narrow, wrathful and vengeful entity sitting upon his throne breathing fire and damnation.

Today I hold to the thought that a truly loving and compassionate God does not have the capacity to hate or deny God’s love based on man’s theological interpretation.  Period.  God is love, love is God.  It is impossible for God to not love. That is cemented by none other than Jesus, the Christ.

If therefore the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed.”  John 8:36

Believing in Jesus, not as the man nor as the divinity, but as the way to a lifestyle free of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not”, as a path to unconditional acceptance and compassion for all of God’s humanity regardless of race, creed, sexuality or ethnicity – that is the freedom expressed by every one of the world’s major religions and especially in John 8:36.  I can realize a life which is  no longer bound by the shackles of judgement or hatred or intolerance.  Free indeed!

Bottom line for me is that this freedom is a choice I make every day.  Do I bow to the God of my understanding or do I submit unquestioningly to the God of my tradition?  Ironically, they are the same God, but do I follow the narrow interpretations of theologians or do I live my life according to a God understood by me?  Today I know that God is God is God, the One and the same universal entity referenced by Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but never intending to be exclusive to any one faith walk.  Man has encouraged that exclusivity.  Man has kidnapped, pigeon-holed, and taught lies about God which are contrary to the core tenet of each of the 5 great traditions.

In Exodus 3:14, the writer reports that when Moses asked, “Whom shall I tell the people you are,” the vision he was seeing replied, “I am that I AM.”

I AM is the same supernatural power which mankind from the beginning of time has searched within himself for the answers to these questions: 1)who am I?  2)why am I here?  3)what am I supposed to do here?  The cave man in his natural questioning painted pictures on the cave walls to express his connection to nature, the world’s first mystics knew they were one with the universal power to which they chanted, the shepherd boys in the hills marveled at the star-lit night ushering  the arrival of a new messenger to show THE WAY to a lost tribe.   I AM has always been with us and in us throughout eternity.  I AM does not belong to any man’s theology or doctrine.  I AM cannot be humanly defined, cannot be humanly described.  I AM simply is.

“Just as the same lump of clay can take on infinite form and remain itself unchanged, so God takes on infinite form while never being other than God.” – Rami Shapiro, Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent: Sacred Teachings—Annotated & Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2013), 66.