Confronted with an ongoing Covid-19 & DELTA pandemic, life-endangering anti-vaxxers, and far right agitators, many people today feel both confused and powerless. They find it much easier to look for someone to blame when they see no coherent meaning or divine purpose in the world. Perhaps it comes as no big surprise that the religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid pace. The big loser is institutional Christianity: Catholicism in first place but Protestantism as well. The basic explanation is lost credibility. In the church increasing numbers of people find less support and meaning.

Tucker Carlson of Fox News has led the anti-vaxxer charge among the right-wing set, ignoring the fact that 99.5% of those people who died of COVID-19 in the last six months were unvaccinated. Far too many disoriented people are reverting to the mythic “good old days” or, even worse, to racism, xenophobia, and white Christian nationalism. Consider QAnon, which has shifted from being an Internet message board hoax to becoming a quasi-religion. QAnon offers its followers convenient explanations for their social anxieties as well as evil villains to blame. Some QAnon cultists claim to be Evangelical followers of Christ. But QAnon beliefs and behavior are totally incompatible with healthy and authentic Christianity.

Patriotism has become divisive rather than inclusive. The spread of violence throughout society is frightening. In my favorite US city, Chicago, over the 2021 Fourth of July weekend, at least 100 people were shot, including five children age 13 and younger. 

Last week closer to my current home, dikes broke and raging rivers burst through their banks in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany: killing people, submerging towns, leaving all of us shellshocked at the intensity of the destruction. Now the big clean-up….Not far from my house a dike needs to be rebuilt.

In my US homeland last week, the northern Rocky Mountains were bracing for another heat wave, as wildfires spread across 12 states in the US American West. We seem neither prepared to slow down climate change, nor able to live with it. Too many people still say that climate change is a myth created by liberals. “Truth” often becomes unrelenting rhetoric.

Perhaps we need to teach and relearn the wisdom of life. We are now facing a crisis of meaning. Our world seems so complex. We seem so small. Historically, Modernism, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, believed that reality is ordered. Times changed. Postmodernism, in the mid-to-late 20th century, proclaimed there is no order at all. 

We are now moving into post-Postmodernism. People are searching for values and for authenticity. We are entering a new age. Living in a transitional age can be scary. It can lead to cynicism, anxiety, and pandemic violence. But it can also be a hopeful time. New avenues? New perspectives? The  writer Linda Kinstler asked in The New York Times this week: “Can Silicon Valley Find God?” Many people, actually, would like to find God.

As an older student of history, I am convinced that one of the greatest qualities we must bring to the present malaise is a sense of history. Extremes, good times, and bad times have been interwoven throughout history. During the best of times, they balanced each other. We are not in that balance today. The opposing players in our highly polarized society are incapable of self-criticism or appreciating the other players. Does humility still exist? Many people feel that the traditional institutions in our society are impotent and incapable of communicating believable patterns of wisdom and truth. 

A power and confidence vacuum has opened the doors for the far right to seize and exploit the language of religion. That is not a very good position from which to proclaim the Good News of Jesus the Christ. As a Catholic I often feel that the church tries to speak the Gospel but church structures have remained monarchical and unaccountable. Most often, when confronting serious problems like clerical sexual abuse, it still adheres to policies promoting secrecy and protecting the church’s reputation. No. I am not anti-Catholic; but I often have to remind people of that, because some find it so convenient to label and box me in. Ignorant arrogance. 

The church should first of all listen to the Gospel: “Put new wine in fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17). Authentic Christianity is not passive but active. It is not secretive but out in the open. It is energetic and alive, helping people move beyond despair, by providing credible and supportive help and guidance.

Time for rebuilding. We need new imagination and new configurations. We need to remember that Jesus spent much of his ministry trying to reform religion. It is still an ongoing process. Disorder is only a temporary stage calling for reconstruction. Sometimes I think that even though the church proclaims the Christ, it is, in fact, afraid of Christ. I call it self-protective institutional idolatry. 

As the Franciscan spiritual guide, Fr. Richard Rohr (b. 1943), stresses in his book The Wisdom Pattern, reconstruction — transformation — has to be based on a positive and fully human experience of God as a loving Presence. “When religion is punitive and acts as if it can lead someone to God through threat and coercion,” Richard stresses “this is junk religion.” Just like junk food, it only gratifies momentary desires but feeds neither the intellect nor the heart. And it contributes to more hatred and violence.

Next week I would like to continue this reflection under the theme of “transformation.”

  • Jack

14 thoughts on “Order, Disorder, Reconfiguration

  1. Thank you for sharing with us your considerable wisdom and most-welcome guidance in this “time for rebuilding.” Yes, authentic Christianity is the essential antidote to so many of our problems. It’s a shame so few Americans can find this in today’s Church.

  2. Dear Jack,

    As usual, you have touched on the profound. These words of yours hit me particularly hard: “We are now facing a crisis of meaning. Our world seems so complex.” As a younger person, I always felt that “The Church” would always guide me through any crisis. Age and wisdom or foolishness (I can’t tell which!) have made me realize that the human part of our faith is as fragile as in any other institution. I am disillusioned when I see clerics spouting what I know to be bad advice. Yet, as you, I know that I follow a loving, caring God who has shown me a simple, yet daunting, path to follow: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole soul. And love your neighbor as yourself.” I am too small and weak to fix the big stuff but, when opportunity knocks, I CAN try to “be like Jesus” and just try to make my tiny little portion of the world a more peaceful, loving place.

    I can’t wait for your next message. Keep spreading good, Jack!

    Peace,
    Frank

  3. Thank you as always Jack! The disorder of the transitional age of Post-Postmodernism is the world into which my baby and toddler grandsons have been born. I love thinking that in the power and confidence vacuum we should focus on “new wine in fresh wineskins” searching out what is open, alive, credible, supportive and reconstructive, rather than clinging on to what is familiar, unchanging, unquestioning, threatening or coercive. Your comments about Jesus trying to reform religion make me smile. When faced with people who say “The Church’s Teachings come from God” I respond that Jesus was actually quite subversive, rocked the boat, and challenged those who clung to the fixtures and fittings rather than the underlying concepts of God’s message. I am looking forward to your next post on the theme of ‘transformation’. What springs into my mind and brings me hope in the disorder and enormity of the change and reconstruction required is what Greta Thunberg says: “No one is too small to make a difference”.

  4. Today’s column is spot on. Thanks.

    I have a document ready I believe I previously described to you. I cast in a “sense of history”. I thought I had your email address, but can’t find it.

    THE SEARCH FOR HOPE, TRUST AND CONTENTMENT
    for the NONES, DONES AND DISCOURAGED
    Increasingly people searching for hope, trust and contentment believe religion is not for them, irrelevant in the scientific age. I hope what I offer can produce a new understanding how Christianity became so out of date and how we can more faithfully interpret the Bible and faithfully live in the Way of Jesus—living in hope, trust and contentment.

    INVITATION
    MY OWN STORY – I was raised in a conservative household. Both of my parents graduated from a conservative, evangelical seminary. As I grew older, my feelings about conservative Christianity began to make less and less sense. The Christianity I had known reflected belief locked into dogmatic concrete by the Church about 1900 years ago. Ever since there have been mostly minor modifications of doctrine and dogma, even by protestant theologians.
    Clearly the Church could and did use the sword, if necessary, to prevent new thinking that endangered its hold on ecclesiastical power by declaring heresy and condemning heretics. Actually, that power included political power for centuries.
    How the Church and Christianity came to be as it is—way out of tune
    Many people do not know why Christianity arrived in the 21st century with rapidly diminishing significance in our daily lives. From my perspective, with plenty of documentation, only some of which is herein, I offer this line of thought on the church’s decline. It begins with the creation of the hierarchical/patriarchal Church in the fourth century.
    Roman Emperor Constantine began to adopt Christianity in 312 CE. By the time of his death, the impact of his totalitarian form of Christianity on the later Roman world was a continuation of a form of the political Pax Romana (the peace of Rome). Romans regarded peace, not as an absence of war, but the rare situation which existed when all opponents had been beaten down and lost the ability to resist. In the daily lives of those living in the Empire, this meant if you dare step out of line, you will be punished. The same approach was used in formation of official dogma of the Roman Church.
    Constantine changed the course of European history in ways that continue to have repercussions in the present day. Adopting those aspects of the religion that suited his purposes, he turned Rome on a course from the relatively open, tolerant and pluralistic civilization of the Hellenistic world, towards a culture that was based on the rule of fixed authority—political as well as Church and the Bible’s dogma and doctrine.
    Only a thousand years later, with the advent of the Renaissance and the emergence of modern science, did Europe begin to free itself from the effects of Constantine’s decision, yet the effects of his establishment of Christianity as a state religion remain with us, in many respects, today.
    • The major effect is many people continue to leave the church or don’t pay much attention to it. Many consider its doctrine and dogma irrelevant, especially young adults.
    • Much of churchy thinking came from the ancient world, i.e., the three-tier universe—the earth is flat, heaven is above the sky, hell is deep in the earth and God is a supernatural being.

    In his March 26, 2021, email post, “Our Christian Environment,” J.A. Dick wrote: “Changing the church environment, for all Christians, has to be a prophetic movement forward. Today, I suggest eight ways to change, improve, and move ahead.” Here I offer way #4:
    (4) We need to shift from self-protective bureaucratic hierarchies to communities of faith and courageous outreach networks.
    Christianity inherited and blessed some very bad elements of the power structures of the fourth century Constantinian Roman Empire. Thanks to Constantine, Christianity was both officially established and fatally compromised. The Constantinian church began to exercise power over people. Church leadership forgot that Jesus did not exercise power over people; but that he empowered people to take responsibility in living, learning, and caring for one another. Jesus did not control people through authoritarian decrees, laws, and sanctions.

    All the theologians, mostly bishops, who ministered under Roman rule did their best to be honest and faithful to Holy Scripture. They must have felt imperial pressure and fear to produce a product satisfactory to the emperor. It must have been their trust in the Lord that sustained them through the ordeal. I believe it was the authorities of the Roman Empire who initiated horrible reactions against those bishops who had different views than what the new creeds declared. These dissident bishops became treated as heretics and their writings destroyed. Many were excommunicated from the Church and some were exiled from the empire. What a loss it was to lose their writings that may have positively influenced later theologians.
    To be faithful to God and the Bible, many of us believe we should bring our best thinking and understanding of the world that includes science. In this paper, to the best of my ability, I propose a faithful understanding of the Bible stories and lessons with a 21st century worldview and ways we can walk in the Way of Jesus with hope, trust and contentment.
    Part 1
    A Different Understanding of God’s Presence
    God Within
    Yes, there is a better way. I believe it is faithful to the Bible to see it another way. Scripture is more than adequately clear where God is—where God resides. I begin with a common English word.
    The New Testament testifies over and over again the concept of “God within”. The English word “enthusiasm” is translated from the Greek, God within enthousiasmos “divine inspiration”; as well as enthousiazein “be inspired or possessed by a god.
    Here are four texts, of many, to make my point:
    1. Ephesians 3:20 – 20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine….
    2. Luke 24:32 – 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us (other ancient authorities lack within us) while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”
    3. John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
    4. 1 Corinthians 6:19 – “19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple (or sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
    With “God within,” one way we are created in God’s image is to be born with a conscience. A conscience that is not developed renders a person unable to distinguish right from wrong—moral decision making. Among others, a narcissistic psychopath has a conscience that may be no more developed and sensitive than it was at the person’s birth. Rather than thinking of the traditional image of the “heart,” God residing in our conscience is a concept that can help us understand what it means to be human, created in God’s image.
    Conscience vs. Heart: The primary “spiritual member” of the body
    • Conscience (Wikipedia)
    Conscience is a cognitive process that elicits emotion and rational associations based on an individual’s moral philosophy or value system. Conscience stands in contrast to elicited emotion or thought due to associations based on immediate sensory perceptions and reflexive responses, as in sympathetic central nervous system responses. In common terms, conscience is often described as leading to feelings of remorse when a person commits an act that conflicts with their moral values.
    Religious views of conscience usually see it as linked to a morality inherent in all humans, to a beneficent universe and/or to divinity [God within].… Common secular or scientific views regard the capacity for conscience as probably genetically determined, with its subject probably learned or imprinted as part of a culture.
    Commonly used metaphors for conscience include the “voice within”, the “inner light”, or even Socrates’ reliance on what the Greeks called his “daimōnic sign”, an averting (ἀποτρεπτικός apotreptikos) inner voice heard only when he was about to make a mistake. ….
    The Second Vatican Council (1962–65) describes: “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, tells him inwardly at the right movement: do this, shun that. …
    His conscience is the human’s most secret core and sanctuary [in which God resides]. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.” Thus, conscience is not like the will, nor a habit like prudence, but “the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with God, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.”
    • Heart The History of the Heart (stanford.edu)
    In his On the Circulation of the Blood (1628), the English physician William Harvey…did not challenge the metaphysical interpretation of the heart. The heart, as Master Nicolaus had aptly observed in the late twelfth century, was the primary “spiritual member” of the body. As such, it was the seat of all emotions. “If indeed from the heart alone rise anger or passion, fear, terror, and sadness; if from it alone spring shame, delight, and joy, why should I say more?” wrote Andreas de Laguna in 1535. Harvey metaphorically described the heart as the “king” or “sun” of the body to underscore its cosmological significance….
    As a 21st century viewpoint, I suggest the conscience better qualifies as “…‘the primary ‘spiritual member’ of the body”.
    Having more respect for and identification with your conscience will help you better understand what it means to be are created in God’s image.

    If God resides within us, how can we better understand how
    this relates to prayer and worship?
    For the record, I have sympathy for pantheism and panentheism (defined on the internet); but each is only the opening concept from which the thought can advance to a modern, scientifically and biblically consistent idea of a God within who relates with us in prayer.
    Praying in Self-Talk
    Wouldn’t praying to God within us be like talking to ourselves?
    There is that, for sure. I suggest a new understanding of God within may help bring talking to yourself to a divine level of human life at its fullest.
    This is NOT what I mean:
    Speed Bump by Dave Coverly for 2-16-08
    No, talking to one’s self is NOT always nutty. Kristin Wong offers a clue:
    In a New York Times column, Kristin Wong wrote: “The fairly common habit of talking aloud to yourself is what psychologists call external self-talk. And although self-talk is sometimes looked at as just an eccentric quirk, research has found that self-talk can influence behavior and cognition.
    “Language provides us with this tool to gain distance from our own experiences when we’re reflecting on our lives. And that’s really why it’s useful,” said Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
    “When we talk to ourselves, we’re trying to see things more objectively, Mr. Kross said, so it matters how you talk to yourself. The two types of self-talk you’re likely most familiar with are instructional self-talk, like talking yourself through a task, and motivational self-talk, like telling yourself, ‘I can do this.’”
    I suggest what can be included is our prayerful self-talk with God residing in our conscience, an inner feeling or voice from God, viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s thinking and behavior. Through prayer we discipline our intuition (the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning) to be more responsive to God’s will.
    In I Thessalonians 5:17, the Apostle Paul instructs us to “pray without ceasing.” For me, to pray without ceasing is to have an attitude of God-consciousness and God-surrender that we carry with us all the time. Every waking moment is to be lived in an awareness that God is within us and that the Lord God is actively involved and engaged in us, our prayerful self-talk, in our thoughts and actions. This attitude resides in the conscience.
    I suggest prayerful self-talk is the key to more fully understanding the claim that we humans are created in God’s image. In contemporary terms, we humans have within us that reality—a holy nature, where God resides.
    CONCEPTUALLY SPEAKING,
    WE PRAY TO GOD WITHIN AND NOT GOD IN HEAVEN.
    Prayerful self-talk is a valuable and efficacious act.

    Good for spiritual discipline:
     the way we are in communication with God.
     more prayer = closer to God.
     more prayer = conscience better tuned to God’s will
     more prayer = intuition enhanced and disciplined to more quickly and accurately discern God’s will
     Contemplative prayer = Prayer of Silence: Prayerful self-talk is a key to a vibrant and healthy spiritual life, yet not the only key. Some Christians find the practice of “prayer in silence” a deeper spiritual experience. Stop talking and listen with the heart and conscience. With a developed discipline, this can lead to better understanding ourselves and God within.
    Christ Prays in Us and through Us
    Here is a paragraph in a column by Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Roman Catholic priest, as well as an American author and spiritual writer. PBS (Public Broadcasting System) has called him “one of the most popular spirituality authors and speakers in the world.”
    ALTHOUGH most Sunday church services don’t foster it, the essential religious experience is that we are being “known through” more than knowing anything by ourselves. An authentic encounter with God will feel like true knowing, not just in our heads but in our hearts [DG: conscience] and bodies as well. I call this way of knowing contemplation, nondualistic thinking, or even “third-eye” seeing. It is quite unlike the intellectual “knowing” most of us have been taught to rely on. This kind of prayer and “seeing,” takes away our anxiety about figuring it all out fully for ourselves or needing to be right about our formulations. At this point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with us, and we are not afraid of making mistakes. – Feb 7, 2021
    Prayerful self-talk blesses the community: Mutual encouragement found in sharing the expression of love and compassion.
    Prayerful self-talk blesses those for whom a prayer is given: When one knows the community is praying for them, science indicates one is physiologically in better condition physiologically, including psychologically, for the body to be healed.
    Prayerful self-talk lives naturally in our conscience. Our conscience feeds our intuition. It can be nurtured and disciplined to empower us to live with agape love, compassion, empathy, righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, endurance and gentleness — those elements that reflect God’s image in the wholeness of Christ Jesus.
    Prayerful self-talk aids our cognition of the 24/7 presence of the divine (God). It is our holy nature to have a personal relationship with and the ability to objectively recognize the divine and the sacred, which lead us to pursue wholeness, as well as peace with justice—Amos 5:24: “but let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
    As Richard Rohr’s CAC faculty member Cynthia Bourgeault explores how developing this kind of “Christ-consciousness” is the key to understanding Jesus’s teaching on the “Kingdom of Heaven.”
    How do we put on the mind of Christ? How do we see through his eyes? How do we feel through his heart? How do we learn to respond to the world with that same wholeness and healing love? That’s what Christian orthodoxy really is all about. It’s not about right belief; it’s about right practice. . . .
    Jesus uses one particular phrase repeatedly: “the Kingdom of Heaven.” You can easily confirm this yourself by a quick browse through the gospels; the words jump out at you from everywhere. . . .
    So what do we take it to be? . . . [Jesus] says, “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” (that is, here) and “at hand” (that is, NOW). It’s not later, but lighter—some more subtle quality or dimension of experience accessible to you right in the moment. You don’t die into it; you awaken [DGarshaw: are transformed] into it. . . .
    The Kingdom of Heaven is really a metaphor for a state of consciousness; it is not a place you go to, but a place you come from. It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place. . . The hallmark of this awareness is that it sees no separation—not between God and humans, not between humans and other humans. And these are indeed Jesus’s two core teachings, underlying everything he says and does. . . .
    When Jesus talks about this Oneness . . . . what he has more in mind is a complete, mutual indwelling: I am in God, God is in you, you are in God, we are in each other. His most beautiful symbol for this is in the teaching in John 15 where he says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Abide in me as I in you” [see John 15:4–5]. A few verses later he says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love” [John 15:9]. . . . There is no separation between humans and God because of this mutual interabiding which expresses the indivisible reality of divine love. . . .
    THE PHOENIX AFFIRMATIONS Version 3.8 – http://www.darkwoodbrew.org/beliefs/
    • CHRISTIAN LOVE OF GOD INCLUDES:
    1. Walking fully in the Path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may provide for humanity.
    2. Listening for God’s Word, which comes through daily prayer and meditation, studying the ancient testimonies which we call Scripture, and attending to God’s present activity in the world.
    3. Celebrating the God whose Spirit pervades and whose glory is reflected in all of God’s Creation, including the earth and its ecosystems, the sacred and secular, the Christian and non-Christian, the human and non-human.
    4. Expressing our love in worship that is as sincere, vibrant, and artful as it is scriptural.
    • CHRISTIAN LOVE OF NEIGHBOR INCLUDES:
    5. Engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class.
    6. Standing, as Jesus does, with the outcast and oppressed, the denigrated and afflicted, seeking peace and justice with or without the support of others.
    7. Preserving religious freedom and the church’s ability to speak prophetically to government by resisting the commingling of church and state.
    8. Walking humbly with God, acknowledging our own shortcomings while honestly seeking to understand and call forth the best in others, including those who consider us their enemies.
    • CHRISTIAN LOVE OF SELF INCLUDES:
    9. Basing our lives on the faith that in Christ all things are made new and that we, and all people, are loved beyond our wildest imaginations—for eternity.
    10. Claiming the sacredness of both our minds and our hearts, and recognizing that faith and science, doubt and belief serve the pursuit of truth.
    11. Caring for our bodies and insisting on taking time to enjoy the benefits of prayer, reflection, worship, and recreation in addition to work.
    12. Acting on the faith that we are born with a meaning and purpose, a vocation and ministry that serve to strengthen and extend God’s realm of love.
    Worship and Liturgy
    • Maximizing opportunities for nurturing congregational community as well by nurturing the self
    • Inclusive language – not referring to God by any gender
    • No recitation of an ancient creed, doctrine or dogma
    • Among other ways to refer to God without using “heaven” is to speak of God within us. When “in our hearts” is used, something like “our conscience deep in our hearts.”
    IN GOD’S LOVE AND OUR LOVE OF GOD AND NEIGHBOR,
    WE CAN TRUST “ALL WILL BE WELL.”
    “What? How about when terrible things happen, like a loved one being killed in an auto accident?”
    There is much to be explained here, but this is an introduction to a life of hope, trust and contentment. Looking in the healthy direction, I suggest three things—the first is a reminder:
    1 Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:44-45: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your (Lord God); for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”
    2 To better understand this trust in God, I take the liberty to add onto 23d Psalm (my addition in italics):
    Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me, even when I know I may walk around the next bend and be murdered by a stalking robber….
    3 That’s life! All will be well!! God calls me to live in trust that releases me from fear and envelops me in contentment.
    Part 2
    The Journey Is the Destination!
    GOOD NEWS!!
    1. Beginning with the Enlightenment, Christian theology faced new challenges. What we learned from science opened a new worldview and it does not match the traditional way of thinking about God in a three-tier universe. It turns out: bad science equals bad theology.
    2. In addition, so many people have fallen prey to reading scripture literally that blocks any thinking about the science involved. As Karen Armstrong writes:
    “Our English word ‘Scripture’ implies a written text, but most Scriptures began as texts that were composed and transmitted orally. Indeed, in some traditions, the sound of the inspired words would always be more important than their semantic meaning. Scripture was usually sung, chanted or declaimed in a way that separated it from mundane speech, so that words — a product of the brain’s left hemisphere — were fused with the more indefinable emotions of the right.”
    In other words, if we literalize “indefinable emotions”, we easily misconstrue the meaning, in addition to not recognizing most Bible language is in the form of metaphor and myth.
    3. There is no original sin that infects the human race, as human sin is part of the human condition of having free will while being ego centric (self-centered).
    4. The creation of original sin was of considerable importance, as the Christian doctrine of redemption rested upon the assumption that humanity is required to be liberated from bondage of original sin. The doctrine of redemption, “God’s self-sacrifice” to redeem humanity, required Jesus to be a part of the God-head…fully divine as well as fully human.
    5. The question of original sin, therefore, comes in only incidentally. From his oral instructions, Apostle Paul supposes the idea that the faithful have it and he speaks of it to make them understand the work of Redemption. This explains the brevity of the development and the obscurity of some verses. Now without original sin, there would be no need for a Savior.
    6. If no original sin, no need for redemption, as we humans need only the grace of forgiveness and transformation of spirit to love and serve as Jesus did.
    7. Jesus died because of human sin. He faithfully refused to betray God and his followers by running away from the cross and go into hiding.
    From “The Saving Power of the Cross” by Richard Rohr, April 2, 2021
    What is revealed is our human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying to ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “a substitute for us” but “in solidarity with” the suffering of all humanity since the beginning of time! The first is merely a heavenly transaction of sorts; the second is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history.
    Jesus did not die for our sins nor was he the vehicle of human redemption. Since God doesn’t “make no junk,” humans were made in God’s image, which God called good, and need no redemption.
    8. Without the need for redemption, there is no need for Jesus to be thought of as completely human and, at the same time, completely divine. Therefore, under historical Christology, there is no need for the doctrine of the Trinity.
    NOTE: Is the Trinity totally outmoded? Not according to Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. He affirms the Christ invites humans to share his divinity, to be part of the Trinity ourselves, not a different substance from which humans are made, i.e., Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” Jesus introduced the Kingdom of God, not one of the several Messianic Expectations that hoped for a Messiah who would be a king and who would restore the Davidic dynasty.
    9. Jesus represents the best of the holy and faithful living within the will of God.
    10. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said nothing about what we are to believe, but what we are to do. The church emphasized what we are to believe and little on what we are to do. The primary source of this perverted relationship between believing and doing was the powerful men, inside and outside the church, who encouraged people not to mix the spiritual and the political (too risky—might upset someone who has something to lose—hmmm, like the power structure?)
    “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of the victim beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel of injustice itself.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who was hanged by the Nazis in 1945
    11. We can be faithful to God by leaving the creation of the universe, evolution, et al., to science and Mother Nature. The God of Christ Jesus is understood in what we know as the Spirit, the Spirit of God and what we do in response to the love of God.
    12. Our divinity mirrors that of Jesus. I believe I am being transformed into a new creature by the sacrificial love of Jesus. I know of no other Way. We seek peace with justice.
    TRANSFORMATION IS ONE’S SALVATION
    13. Salvation, as we have known it, was not a part of the Jesus message, but his message was the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven) is NOW (“The kingdom IS like a treasure hidden….”-Matt. 13:44a) and through Jesus we can be transformed into new creatures able to faithfully live and resist the temptation of being conformed to the world.
    As Father Richard Rohr writes in his closing of “Living in Heaven Now,”
    We don’t go to heaven; we learn how to live in heaven NOW. And no one lives in heaven alone. Either we learn how to live in communion with other people and with all that God has created, or, quite simply, we’re not ready for heaven. If we want to live an isolated life, trying to prove that we’re better than everybody else or believing we’re worse than everybody else, we are already in hell. We have been invited—even now, even today, even this moment—to live consciously in the communion of saints, in the Presence, in the Body, in the Life of the eternal and eternally Risen Christ. This must be an almost perfect way to describe salvation itself.
    The same message comes from Amos: “Seek the Living Presence and you shall live. . . . Seek [God] who made the Pleiades and Orion and turns the deep darkness into morning and makes the day darken into night. . . . Seek good and not evil, that you may live. . . . Hate the evil and love the good and establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:6, 8, 14, 15).
    14. There is no heaven or hell, except what we may experience in this life. There is no afterlife. The Kingdom now is the fullness of life to which the Christ calls us.

    Jesus is the source of transformation and contentment, not redemption and salvation.
    Again Fr Richard Rohr lifts the message: Jesus died not a substitute for us, but in solidarity with us,
    April 2, 2021
    Today the primary human problem is both revealed and resolved. It is indeed a “good” Friday. What is revealed is our human inclination to kill others, in any multitude of ways, instead of dying to ourselves—to our own illusions, pretenses, narcissism, and self-defeating behaviors. Jesus dies “for” us not in the sense of “a substitute for us” but “in solidarity with” the suffering of all humanity since the beginning of time! The first is merely a heavenly transaction of sorts; the second is a transformation of our very soul and the trajectory of history. My dear friend James Alison is a brilliant theologian and a primary teacher of the work of René Girard. Here he writes about the true power of the cross:
    [Jesus] went to death as a victim. . . . And the reason that this is important is that it catches us at our worst, as it were. The space of the victim is the kind of place none of us at all ever wants to occupy, and if we find ourselves occupying it, it is kicking and screaming. More to the point, we spend a great deal of time pointing fingers and making sure that other people get to occupy that space, not us.
    Now by Jesus going into, and occupying that space [of the victim], deliberately, without any attraction to it, he is not only proving that we needn’t be afraid of death, but we needn’t be afraid of shame, disgrace, or of the fact that we have treated others to shame and disgrace.
    15. Being a gross misinterpretation of Scripture, the concept of salvation has caused more harm to the people of the world than just about any other human construct.
    • The fear of not being saved
    • The church’s control over people using this fear
    • Anger and sometimes violence, even murder, against those “not saved.”
    16. Transformation through the Christ is not the only way to experience the holy and the sacred. Other religions have their own approach, e.g., Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, et al. I might add that I believe the Spirit of the Universal Christ abides in all loving religions. God bless interfaith understandings and fellowship.

  5. Thanks, Jack, “Put new wine in fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17). An especially apt image for our times! I too have loved the church for several reasons; However, new wine is being made so we need new wine skins. It’s actually exciting to be part of the effort in making new wine. As we are each faithful to the Spirit within us and speak truth in love new wine is in the making. I take comfort in believing God leads us step by step. We may not always have the path laid out clearly for us, but if we walk in truth and love and rejoicing in God’s presence, we will end up in the right place.

  6. Dr. Jack, “Salve et bene dictum” for your latest, a boon against the baleful events we have wrought upon this fragile Earth our island home. You fired my inflamed nerves, running to theodicy, absurdity, & episcopal errancy.

    As for the errancy of the ordinaries of dioceses in the USA, let the bishops “foother-through-their-days” (as one of my Paca St. seminary philosophy profs used to say), they are not the living church: the living church is livid= with them. I can’t be sure, but they as a cadre would be afraid of Jesus of Nazareth, as you said, if they believe that they believe. As for myself I confess that I quaver to put my faith in the church as a corporation, much like Frank Skeltis’s comment. How cannot I not defer only to the Son of Man, the Man for others to the last drop and an everlasting breath? Credere di credere, to quote Gianni Vattimo, “I believe that I believe,” but that means something different in the historical institution that Constantine sanctioned, not Jesus, as you have pointed out many times.

    As for theodicy, if the people whom I know and love are doing good for others in harm’s way, for those in need, acting out all those beatitudes including the ones Pope Francis added early in his tenure, as in Camus’ La Peste, who am I to judge the implicit or explicit faith of those with whom I work, shoulder to shoulder, against evils natural and moral? The good for others is working within us, in the work. The balm of human kindness, especially for those in extremis (and, who is not?), is often the most and best we can do, in combat, in crises, in catastrophes.

    As for the absurd, this is warfare, contingencies abound, because “the poor are always left behind, and they are all around us.” That Lucan saying, paraphrased as you intimated, is a stiletto in the gut where conscience sometimes churns. The work Jesus began among the poor is only begun in us, the also-poor. Yes I do look to churches for architecture and music, among other things, but what I see often is disproportionate to what happens in the soup kitchens and shelters for the “unhoused.” “Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum meum…”
    Likewise the saying about wineskins cuts many ways: the skins are made of flesh, internal organs even, of butchered animals, transport for the living spirits of wine made by and for humans. So what becomes of the old wineskins? Are they to be repurposed? Maybe composted, mulched to provide cover and dark nurture for seedlings yet to sprout… just as I am, in the end, soon enough.
    Your train of thought goes also to reconstruction and hope. I hear “radical hope” behind your words, how to be an ethical human at least, in the face of cultural devastation yet to appear in the wake of this pandemic. Radical hope must find a home in the heart in Jesus and in the way he lived out his incarnation. The discipline of our tradition in this our fleshy-now expects that he would uphold us in living through the DEconstruction of Christianism, even unto an implicate order that maintains — by hand and by intent— the enfolding of “differance.” Linguistically the word absurdly contrasts the way that Jesus the Word contrasts his deeds and attitude to ours, such that we grapple and dwell not merely over differences and divisions, but also in the freedom of life in the transitional gaps where commonalities reside, open spaces for pearls sought at great risk and offered as gifts to be “paid forward,” never really owned or possessed by us, but related and deferred to others along the way. Is that not absurd, by our usual, ordinary and customary ways? Yes, but that is the field of discussion and even percussion, of combat, because history is not fate or destiny, it is what we make when our work is open, weak and defenseless in conversation and action in– dare I say it?– solidarity. I think Gabrielle would agree? There we take a stand because we can do no other. Sisyphean in effort with shoulder to the boulder, Lazarean in outlook at the edge of his tomb, we can see the world differently.

    When I do good, that good is implicate in a universe that was created naturally good, and in an ethical culture of binaries that weighs, values, or favors one term over the other for clarity’s sake. (Clarity=order). Apparently I think that way because I speak in those terms, but that kind of thinking and speech is a thorn among the blossoms, a fly in the ointment, a flaw in the system because it is exclusionary, not complex enough, with insufficient regard to bridging gaps where clarity is thin, complicity thick.

    More often what drives me to action is meaning tempered in memory, some of it still searing, of how needless suffering leads to heedless death for hopeless losers. Collateral damage is systemitized by legal rectitude with upgrades and revised protocols for the good of the party and national security jobs. How is that not absurd, hushed up? Name the demon, call it out.

    I believe that I believe this: The church is in this wide old world, in the fleshy-now. In fact human science implicates good and evil as coexisting in an increasingly complex universe, polyform as it might be. Likewise good and evil happen in religious life, everywhere, always, with abandon. Christianity doesn’t have a corner on beauty, good, truth or integrity, but the good done goes forward into the world in a rejuvenant way, driven more by life and love than by law or logic.

    Perhaps that is the stiletto in the resurrection story of Magdalene in the garden, with the command “Noli me tangere,” Stop clinging to ME, cling to one another.” Not a bad starting point for deconstruction, “Let go and get going… Ite, missa est.”

Leave a Reply to J. A. Dick Cancel reply