Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sidenote from our usual topics...

I had an amazing day at the UU Fellowship today. Everyone got to share how they had become a UU and it was so moving to hear everyone's story. At one point one of the ladies referred to her husband as a miracle who'd saved her and he just couldn't hold back his tears. It was so special and I feel so lucky to have been a part of it.

I myself don't really identify as a UU per se. I have recently decided that I'm "living without labels" so I'm not ready to adopt this one. If I were to adopt a religion though UU would be it. Where else can the Christian, pagan, atheiest, agnostic, and questioning seeker come together and find a loving community. I am in awe of the openess.

When it was my turn to share I told a bit about my past, what made me question the religious models of my youth, and the fact that I believe some questions are unanswerable but I still think it's important to search for those answers.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The bodily resurrection of Christ is the central tenant of modern Christianity. Much like the miracle of the virgin birth, I believe in the possibility of such a miracle but am not convicted of it's historical factuality. More importantly I'm not convicted of it's necessity.

I believe that the creation of the earth took place through the process of evolution for a purpose. The divine which I call God set things into motion billions of years ago with a method that provided us with perfect abilities for the plan of humanity. My personal philosophy is that He knew we needed death to appreciate life. He gave us higher order thinkng, insticts and even an inner voice to guide us. He gave us the ability to see and use these tools if we truly look for and try to understand them. So my burning question has been- if I believe He made the laws of the universe for the specific purpose of teaching us then why would He need to defy His own laws to teach us?

I decided that my truth had to let go of a literal interpration of the resurrection. I needed to look for deeper meaning from this story because I just simply can't accept that God would find it necessary to defy his own laws. But, just as I had to do with Christmas, I had to find a way to reconcile my new understanding with my feelings about my previous understanding. Does this mean that I no longer celebrate Easter as a religous holiday? I don't think so.

In The Last Week Borg and Crossman once again make the case for interpreting the gospel story of Easter as parable. The death of Jesus dying and rising again is symbolic of our own experience of laying to rest our old perceptions and having a new life in truth and enlightenment. This idea of being born again has been distorted by fundamentalist to mean something that is unique to a Christian accepting Christ as personal savior. But Jesus never said he wanted to be our personal savior. He was living an enlightened life and was offering us truth in place of misperception so we could do the same.

There is also an element of defiance in the resurrection story- a way of letting the Romans know that they may have won the day but that the Jewish people would prevail. Even in death.

That is my new truth about Easter.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Take up your cross and follow me...

For modern Christians the idea of taking up one's cross is synonymous with Christ's passion and a willingness to suffer in the name of God. But is this what the phrase meant in the context of Jesus' culture? According to Berg and Crossman, no.

Crucifixion was a punishment reserved by Romans for enemies of the state. "Only the empire crucified, and then only for one crime: denial of imperial authority." (The Last Week, p 29)So, if this is the case then Jesus wasn't calling people to suffer in his name as this verse is so often interpreted. He was calling people to stand up against their Roman oppressors and acknowledge that true authority belonged to God alone.

Again, the context changes so much of the meaning of the gospels. It seemed divine that Jesus would know he would be crucified before it happened; but was it divine insight or simply a realistic prediction to the outcome of his plans? If in fact the entrance into Jerusalem was a planned demonstration and Jesus knew of the Roman practice of crucifying political dissenters then he had to know the risk he was taking.

This also changes what it means to be a Christian, or follower of Christ. I had long believed that Jesus did not involve himself in political matters and instead chose to do things in spite of the political climate- as is evidenced in his statement to render unto Caesar. However now I'm seeing another possibility of what his goals were and why he died. I must admit that I'm drawn to this new possibility. But, more answers generally bring more questions so, I'm still seeking.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Jesus as peaceful protester...

I am slowly but surely reading The Last Week. It's interesting and enlightening but I'm forcing myself to slow down, take it all in so I'm still early in the week. The authors pose the theory that when Jesus entered Jerusalem on palm Sunday that he did so as a form of protest. His humble entrance on a meager donkey as opposed the grand and pompous entrance Pilate was making on the other side of the city. Pilate's entrance showcased his power, glory and wealth. Jesus' entrance showcased his humility and the kingdom of God.

They support this theory with the verses in the ninth chapter of Mark when Jesus instructs his disciples to go get the foal (donkey) that is tied up inside the city. This points not to divine insight of where the foal would be but instead to a planned demonstration. The authors don't make the direct comparison but I kept having visions of Gandhi while reading. A peaceful man who understood that love and compassion are the answer not war and hate. A man who knows that embracing peace isn't the same thing as giving up. Much like the people of India had toiled under British oppression the Jewish people had lived under the oppression of Rome for centuries and it was time to put an end to that.

I like this idea of Jesus in this role and I feel myself coming to a greater understanding of Jesus the man. Part of me is ready to accept this view; after all in this new role he is still a man I admire greatly and whose teachings I gladly study and follow. But I feel his place as savior slipping. I find myself simultaneously believing he was special but not all that special. Special because he was enlightened but not so much because he's not the only to ever do so. So, why choose him as guru over any other enlightened person out there.

I think the simple answer is because I do. We all have to find the guru to guide us whom we feel most connected with and I do feel that connection. However I don't know yet if this is a knee-jerk reaction to change that I should let go of or if it's my instincts telling me not to let go. I need time to sort that one out. So, I'm still seeking.

Friday, April 9, 2010


I've finished The Last Christmas by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. This book not only lived up to my expectations, it surpassed them. That being said, I must admit that I didn't read it all. It was set up in a way that I could read the sections that applied and leave the rest. I did skim some of the other sections but when they proved to be exactly what I'd thought they would be I moved on.

The day after I decided I'd finished the book the next book I'd ordered came in the mail. The Last Week by the same authors focuses on Holy Week; the week from Palm Sunday when Jesus was welcomed and adored upon entering Jerusalem through his trial, execution, and stories of his resurrection. I haven't finished it yet but am already gleaning insights surrounding the source of many of the gospel stories- the prophecies of a coming Messiah in the old testement. Where did these stories come from? What was their relevance within the context of the time they were first told? What does that mean for me today?

During the time of King David the tribes of Israel were united and powerful. They didn't need to fear their neighbors because no one would dare challenge such a great nation. Half a century later things began to unravel. The tribes were split and the Jewish people began to face oppression they had never before imagined. When people are oppressed and can't see a way out they need hope. The hope of the children of Israel came in the form of stories of rekindling the time of David. A 'son of David' would rise in the future and overthrow these oppressors. When this savior came the Jewish people would be vindicated and resume their rightful place of power. I am saddened and inspired by the image of a downtrodden people refusing to give up hope. It brings to mind stories of the spiritual voices rising up in the cotton fields as some of the most oppressed people in our nation's short history also clung to the hope that one day they would overcome.

In this context I have a new, richer understanding of the prophets. They weren't men with supernatural visions as fundamentalists would have us believe but I also don't think they were con artists or crazy as some opponents of organized religion would have us believe. Instead I think they were people with hope. I doubt they ever had delusions of grandeur that their spiritual insights were more important than anyone else's, much less would be studied and debated for thousands of years. Instead they were people trying to make sense of what was happening in the world around them and their thoughts and musings happened to be written down in a time when not much else was. I too am writing out my spiritual truths but because it is so very easy for anyone and everyone to do this during my lifetime it doesn't hold as much importantance. Not so in the time of Isaiah; when someone wrote something down their thoughts would have the unique advantage of being studied by future generations. With so few writings they seemed to impart a found truth instead of what they actually were- a search for truth.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


We are told that biblical teachings are timeless, as relevant today as the day they were written (a day no scholar can seem to agree upon but I digress). However nothing is timeless. Context matters. Culture matters.

The stories that have been passed down, the ones which deify Jesus, were told in a time when it was commonly believed that people who do great service for the world become divine. In his culture this belief was not special to Jesus. This is even more interesting when paired with the belief held by many scholars that the birth story of at least one of the gospels (actually the FIRST gospel to be written) was added later, after the rest had been written and perhaps even by a different author. There is science to back up this finding but I don't really remember it- just that it existed in peer reviewed journals that specialize in ancient texts. So, if in fact people deified Jesus because of his great service to the world it would make sense that someone would then go back and add a birth story. A story that would set him apart from other deified humans because he didn't BECOME divine in this story, he was BORN divine.

Even more intriguing to me is that during the time of Jesus' life some royalty was referred to as the Son of God, Savior of the World, Bringer of Peace, and even Lord. This context changes everything for me. In my transition I have come to regard Jesus as my spiritual teacher, someone who achieved enlightenment and was trying to teach those who followed them how to do the same. I wanted to be his follower without having to attach belief to his divinity- again not something I disbelieved but not something I necessarily believed either. I wanted to study his teachings and learn from them. I wanted to be a student of his life instead of a worshiper of his death.

With this in mind I decided that I would simply read his teachings in the bible without all of the interpretation and input from the authors- only the red letter text. ;-) (And yes, I'm aware we can't verify that he actually said all of those things but we can't verify that Aristotle said all of those things either- it doesn't make what was said less important.) The problem I kept running into was that he referred to himself as the Son of Man, Son of God, and inferred all of the things I had convinced myself only other people had said about him. But he said it too- at least some of it.

But with this new information about the context of the culture in which he was living I understand. He was trying to establish his way in contrast with the ways of the Romans. Spiritual leaders of today do this- they use the jargon of politics in order to drive a point home. I now believe this is perhaps what Jesus was doing when he referred to himself with the same jargon being used by Roman aristocracy.

Time for me to re-read that red letter text with this fresh insight.

Monday, April 5, 2010


An alternative title for this blog might have been 'Seeking My Truth about Jesus'. This is really what keeps me up at night, wondering. My entire life I have believed that Christ Jesus is God incarnate, come down from heaven above to rectify my soul and wipe my sins away so that I might be worthy to stand before God. A bodily resurrection was the living proof that Jesus had conquered sin and through him even I could be saved. And I was comforted by this.

So now that I'm coming to believe in a God that is all loving I no longer believe I need to be saved from eternal damnation. But I still need to be comforted. At first this wasn't really a problem. I still saw Jesus as the Light, or the enLIGHTened one who was my perfect role model. The one I strive to emulate in all that I do but not someone I must accept OR ELSE. I was okay with this new view, felt pretty good about it actually. Until Christmas.

It really struck me that things were different when I was driving alone one evening and "Silent Night" came on the radio. When it got to the 'round yon virgin' part I had to pull over because I was crying, wondering where my new beliefs fit in with my old traditions. That was a difficult night and to be honest a difficult Christmas. I enjoyed the secular parts of the holiday but found myself walling off all of the religious aspects of it- I was feeling deflated and defeated and it was simply easier to pretend it didn't matter so that's what I did. I put many of those feelings aside after Christmas, unsure of how to resolve them or what to do with them but Easter has brought it all screaming forward again. I realize now that I can't keep ignoring this. I have to sort through the myth and the man and find a way to figure out what I believe about him.

I've started the journey with Marcus Borg's The First Christmas. For now I'm just trying to be open as I read it, let the words wash over me without trying to analyze just yet. I can already feel something shifting.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


It's Easter Sunday and I am still in between. I am coming to terms with what I believe about Christ and what I want to hold onto from my youth. It isn't easy.

I know that a physical resurrection is essential to mainstream Christian teachings but I've already concluded that I don't believe in the physical resurrection of people so why would I believe this to be necessary of Christ?

I don't necessarily disbelieve either though. I recently read a wonderful book where the author stated that she believed in the possibility of everything but the conviction of nothing. That sums up pretty well where I stand right now. I believe that God, Divinity, or whatever you wish to call that which is greater than ourselves absolutely has the power to bring forth a virgin birth and a bodily resurrection but that just because He could doesn't mean He did. And in order to feel good on these holidays I have to figure out what meaning I'm going to take from these things.

I've already done a great deal of research into the historical data. It's inconclusive at best. It seems that everyone who writes on this topic has an agenda. Either they believe and their research is skewed in that direction or they don't believe and they are skewed that way instead. I think I may have found an author who attempts to strike a balance though. So, I've ordered Marcus Borg's The Last Week and The First Christmas. The reviews of these books seem to indicate that he reaches conclusions independently of historical fact, looking for the deeper meaning of the biblical stories instead. This is very exciting for me because I've found myself longing to pick up my bible but once I do unable to shake the feeling that it doesn't hold the same meaning for me that it once did. Hopefully these books are going to open up a new meaning for me that will satisfy my longing for old comforts while holding true to new beliefs.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What I've already figured out...

Not much to be honest.

I know I don't believe in hell.

I do believe in evolution (which is almost odd to say because you don't believe in facts, they just are.

But I also believe that it was set in motion by a creator.

I don't believe the bible is the infallible word of God.

I do believe it can still be a useful tool to learn what some other people have figured out to be their truth and decide how I can incorporate or dismiss those things as part of my truth.

I don't believe in an angry God.

I do believe that God is love.

I believe in the golden rule.

I believe I am more spirit than ego.

I believe in life after bodily death.

I am not so arrogant to believe I can possibly imagine what that life entails.

I'm still trying to figure out what I believe about Jesus.

I don't believe in forcing my beliefs onto others.

But mostly I believe that if you don't know you should try to find out and that's what I'm doing here.