Wednesday, February 14, 2007

There Is Only One Way

:Image:Religious syms.png bitmap traced (and h...Image via Wikipedia
I haven't written much lately.  There are a couple of reasons.  One, I've been way too busy with the business.  It's difficult to know when to put that down and attend to other things.  But, the main reason is I am going through a kind of dry spell when it comes to writing.  I don't know what to say and just to write for the sake of typing characters into the blog doesn't make a lot of sense.  The last couple of weeks I've spent just observing life, absorbing some teachings, trying to assimilate them and to assemble to them into something coherent.  Even today, it's a Saturday and I really didn't have any other commitments- so I started off the day thinking it's a good day to write. Yet, I've managed to piddle around and kill time until almost 2:30pm when I'm finally starting my post.  But, I think I have a couple of things to say, so I'll say them while I'm still in the mood.  Hopefully, I can put these thoughts together in a way that will make some sense.
I quit one of my email groups a couple of weeks ago.  I just got fed up with the bickering going among amongst us universalists.  It really gave me a good look at the ugly side of human nature (my own included).  I don't know if or when I'll rejoin the group.  But, the break has been nice.  As I said, I've been doing a lot of reading and listening over the last couple of weeks.  Not so much deep theological stuff.  But, more about basic humanity. What makes us tick?  Why can't we get along (on an individual or nationalistic level)?  Why are there so many competing religions if people are basically the same?  I've been studying Buddhism pretty heavily over the last couple of years.  By some definitions, I am a Buddhist.  I continue to marvel at how similar the teachings of the Buddha are to what Christ taught (much to the contrary of what my Sunday School teachers told me).  What I keep coming around to is all religions are basically the same, at their core.  I've been trying to develop a mental picture of how religions overlap and how they differ.  The picture that has come to me is a group of overlapping ovals.  Not circles.  But, ovals.  Here's why.

I think at the very core of all religious traditions is a desire to be one with each other and one with G-d (even though philosophies such as Buddhism don't explicitly talk about G-d).  But, while we share that common core, we also have a bunch of other stuff we've tacked on.  That's the part of the ovals that don't overlap.  Some of us have ovals that are so skewed that the end of our oval is to far from the of the other guys' that there are completely irreconcilable differences.   But, I think those are the exceptions.  Let's call those people the Christian Fundies, the Zionist Jews, the Angry Atheists and the Islamofacists.  I think most of us could come together on our core beliefs if we really tried.  But, we seem to spend most of our time and energy focused on the things that make us different.  Even within Christianity, where our tens of thousands of denominations have ovals that have over 90% overlap, we focus on the areas where we differ.  The whole time I was being indoctrinated into Christianity, every time another denomination was brought up, I'd hear something like "Well, they believe X and we believe Y."  We just had to make sure we differentiated ourselves. Rarely (never?) did you hear us talk about what we had in common with the Catholics or the Baptists, let alone the Buddhists or the Atheists.  This reminds me of when Yeshua spoke to the woman at the well and she talked about how the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem but the Samaritans worshiped on the mountaintop. Do you remember His response to her?  (In case you don't, it's in John Chapter 4).  The time is come for us to worship in spirit and in truth and to stop focusing on whether we're on the mountaintop or in the temple.  That's not just between all of our stupid denominations but across all mankind. We need  a spirituality that everybody can get on board with.

I purposely used the word spirituality above, instead of religion.  Religion is what divides us. Religion, which is supposed to bind us to the sacred, instead tears us- one from another.  Recognition of the human spirit in each of us, love for that spirit and respect for each other- in spite of our religious beliefs is what we need to heal our world.  Being raised a Christian, I was taught that every man has equal value because we are all created in G-d's image (in spite of the fact that G-d was going to send most men to Eternal Torment- but I digress).  I still believe that.  But, not everyone does.  And, frankly, most Christians don't act like they do- probably because they believe that their god discards people who don't worship him properly.  But, even an Atheist can acknowledge the human spirit, even while saying he doesn't know what the source of that spirit is.

A friend sent a really good article to me called Agapetheism.  In it, Kevin Beck proposes a new kind of theism- as opposed to monotheism or polytheism.  Instead of focusing on the number of god(s), we agree on the nature of god- that is that G-d is love (agape).  I recently read "Meditation Without Myth", where Daniel A. Helminiak proposes a new kind of spirituality that people of all religions (and the not religious) can agree on.  Neal Donald Walsch in "Tomorrow's God"puts forth the same idea.  I hope I'm not deluding myself.  But, I 'm sensing that people are finally starting to "get it". 

My best friend is Jewish.  He and I used to have religious arguments into the wee hours in the morning.  Which is more important, faith or action?  He'd argue he didn't care what a man's faith was as long as his actions were right.  I'd argue that one couldn't love G-d without believing in G-d and it takes faith to please G-d.  Looking back on it so many years later, we  were both wrong.

The thing I've been trying to figure out is what is at the core of the religions?  What is our hope?  What is the One Way?  The answer is soooooo simple, as my friend Master Mike would say.  The answer is right there in our Bibles.  Jesus told us two millenia ago and we've piled so much crap on top of the message that we've just about completely lost it.  "Love God and love your neighbor as you love yourself."  If you don't believe in G-d, I really don't think that She's all torn up about it.  Just love your neighbor as you love yourself.

People have claimed that Christianity is exclusive because it teaches there is only one way to heaven and all those who don't find it are damned to hell.  Well, if you take that literally, the way it's been taught for so long, it is extremely exclusive (and pretty ridiculous).  But, if you understand what the Kingdom Jesus spoke of really is about (and it was not some pie-in-the-sky place you go when you die), you'll begin to realize that there really is only one way to enter the Kingdom.  But, you don't have to wait until you die to get there, nor do you have to become a Christian.

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Dale Wilbanks said...

This is one beautiful way to look at the world. I embrace it.

Brian said...

Thanks, Dale.