Intersect 1-8-15

prostate verdana, seek segoe, pills sans-serif;”>A solid faith foundation never discriminates

Today, we mourn with our brothers and sisters in France as we remember the satirists who were senselessly murdered at the hands of people whose faith is so shallow they can’t take a joke. If we’re so sensitive about our faith that we can’t laugh about it’s shortcomings, then we aren’t nearly introspective enough.

A spiritual journey requires constant questioning and repositioning. People outside our faith who poke holes in our theology, and even make fun of the things we believe are important pieces of our journey. Satirists help us see the most ludicrous aspects of religion and the world in which we live. They help us lose the trappings of religion so we might become more faithful to God, rather than blindly following a Pope or Caliph. Satire is intended to help us think more deeply about whether or not the things we hold dear are making us the peaceful, loving, compassionate, forgiving beings every religion on the planet claims is our true birthright.

The foundation we build our faith on needs to be solid, yet we must also be open to remodeling. Now and then we have to admit our foundation is so decayed that it’s better to tear down the entire structure and start anew. This is the case when we find ourselves unable to laugh at the more ludicrous aspects of our religions.

Literalism often causes religious extremism. When Muslims read the Qur’an literally, they interpret the idea of jihad, which is most often about an internal spiritual war, as a command to kill people who believe differently. The same thing happens to Christians. In the Middle Ages, Christians, who read the Bible as fact rather than literature started a holy war against Islam called The Crusade. The same thing happens today when pastors burn Qur’ans, decry homosexuality as a sin, or insist the earth is only 6000 years old and that cavemen and dinosaurs roamed the Earth together.

Ignorance is the enemy of spiritual growth.

When senseless attacks like this happen, I understand why Jesus wept. Today, along with millions of people around the world, I too weep in sorrow. I am ashamed and disappointed at our complete and utter lack of humanity. I pray that we will all begin to deeply reexamine our belief foundations and that if we find any ounce of fear, hatred or disrespect within, that God replaces them with unconditional love.

Prayer: I believe in you, Holy God, because I have felt the unexplainable and complete presence of unconditional love fill my entire being. I have been elated beyond understanding. Love has convinced me you are real. So now, Dear Infinite Presence, please do the same for the people around the world who are so afraid of love that they feel the need to slaughter others in your Holy name. Amen.

Intersect 1-7-15

viagra verdana, segoe, sans-serif;”>Laying a new foundation, part 3

We’ve laid science and history as the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith. They intersect with scripture and inform the way we read those ancient stories. Perhaps most importantly, our modern scientific understanding of nature and our incredible advances in archaeology have helped us understand that the Bible is ancient literature, like Homer’s Odyssey or the Babylonian Enuma Elish, which influenced Genesis.

The Bible is not a magic book that lays out the will of God. It does not predict the future, and its interpretation of the past is extremely biased by the circumstances of the people who wrote it. This does not make the Bible worthless. In fact, understanding these facts about the Bible makes it an extremely valuable book. In its stories, we read about the struggles of other people just like us. People with jobs and debt, people with hungry mouths to feed at home who felt they were overtaxed and underserved by their government. We read about people who have mystical experiences they can’t explain, and who have the faith and conviction to follow what they perceive as the voice of God, even if the cost to their own human survival is treacherous. We read about people who selflessly put the needs of the many over the needs of the few.

The stories in the Bible reflect an age when humans treated other humans as chattel, when people felt empowered by their gods to commit genocide, and the slow evolution of thought that eventually leads us to understand these ideas are heinous—even if too many of us today still act as though it’s our God-given right to take what others have and treat them as slaves (*ahem* minerals in the Congo, slave-labor in Indonesia, etc., etc.). Jesus represents a breakthrough in human thinking. Like Buddha before him, and like ancient Jewish wisdom texts before Buddha, Jesus teaches that everything belongs to God—especially us. See how everything is linked? There is nothing in the history of human civilization that exists in a vacuum. Everything we have ever done, thought, and created has affected everything else. Today, we are the product of 250,000 years of intersections. We have a responsibility to move the world forward.

Part of our task is to teach others that The Bible, the Qur’an, the Dhammapada and other ancient texts are not to be taken literally. When we were children, did we read Aesop’s fables and think the hare and the tortoise actually had a race? No. We understood the moral of the story. Of course, it helped that Aesop laid the moral out right there at the end. With our classical faith scriptures, we have to discern the moral of the story—and that’s part of the beauty of scripture. These are timeless stories, by humans for humans, about our struggle to make sense of the meaning of life. They show us how difficult it has been to simply get along with each other and the danger of ideologies. As the world has changed, and we have become one global economy, our interactions with each other are more precarious and important than ever before in human history.

We are at a turning point: We can continue along in the manner our ancestors portray in the Bible, killing each other over land and property and fighting over resources that aren’t ours in the first placed, or we can finally begin to grasp the moral of the story: There is only one foundation in the entire universe, and we have given it many names. Yahweh. Moses. Jesus. Mohammed. Buddha. Confucius. Kali. Ganesh. String theory. Chaos theory. The Big Bang. It is all, and always has been, God—the mortar that holds every other bit of our foundation together.

Prayer: Awaken me, Being of All Being, and make me an instrument of truth, peace, justice, logic, reason, and over all, love. Amen.

Intersect 1-6-15

Laying a new foundation, sildenafil part 2

For thousands of years the foundation of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, tadalafil Christianity and Islam) has been scripture. From the Hebrew Bible through the New Testament to the Qur’an, the words of our ancestors inform how we view our concept of God, our relationship to God, and the structures we create to experience God in our midst.

Unfortunately, over time these philosophical ponderings have come to be known as “the Word of God, infallible and inerrant.” Generally speaking, what this means is that “if you don’t accept that these stories mean what I say they mean, then you are condemned to a lifetime of ruin.” When I say this is a modern concept, it’s because the people who wrote these stories thousands of years ago never, ever would have said such a thing.

Remember: In the ancient world, most people could neither read nor write. They were not stupid or ignorant people. They were busy providing for their families and their neighborhoods. The only people schooled in reading and writing were members of the priestly caste or aristocrats. Most of the priests saw it as their duty to explain their beliefs to the members of their villages and towns. They also understood that if their ancient texts couldn’t be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of their time, that the texts were useless. In The Bible: A Biography, Karen Armstrong writes “a text that could not be radically reinterpreted to meet the needs of the day was dead; the written words of scripture had to be revitalized by constant exegesis.”

Today exegesis has come to be the study of what the texts meant in their historical context. This is not the way our ancient Jewish rabbis (like Jesus) thought about Scripture though. For them, exegesis wasn’t about figuring out what their ancestors intended the text to mean—it was reconfiguring the text so it meant something in the present era.

Our task as a 21st Century church is to do the same thing. If scripture is to remain relevant to us today (and it is possible it is no longer relevant, something we also need to discuss honestly), then we must find meaning in it for our modern era of science and reason. How do we do this? It’s pretty easy, really. Consider the first few verses of Genesis: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. This sounds very much like the Big Bang, which we now understand was the beginning of our universe. The ancients couldn’t have known this, of course, and the idea that God created the heavens AND the earth betrays their dualistic mindset and their idea that the universe was a three-tiered system. For them, heaven was above the earth, which was above the underworld. They also thought everything was surrounded by water:

One of the benefits of space travel and giant telescopes in space is that we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the earth is simply a small planet in a sea of billions and billions of planets. This knowledge must inform our ideas about God and the way we read scripture.

Is it possible to use a postmodern, scientific worldview and still garner meaning from these ancient and beloved texts? I think so. It just takes the will to let go of centuries—perhaps millennia, of bad interpretation and the idea that the things we read in the bible or the Qur’an are somehow infallible and never-changing. In fact, reading our ancient texts that way is an affront to the people who originally wrote them, intending them to be rethought, reworked and reinterpreted.
Science and history—real history, not mythology, are the cornerstones of our 21st Century faith foundation, and must be one of the important lenses through which we read ancient literature like The Bible.

Prayer: Enlighten me, Infinite Oneness, the way our entire universe was and is brought into being by your Infinite Light. Amen.

Intersect 1-5-15

Laying a new foundation, ed part 1

People of faith are at a crossroads. Advances in science and archaeology are reshaping the way we think about our past, viagra sale our present, thumb our future, and our concept of God. Stories we used to read, presuming they were somehow grounded in truth, turn out to be more literature than literal. Rediscovering the allegory of the stories in the Bible, understanding them the way the original audiences likely did, requires diligence. The hard work pays off in a deep and unshakeable faith. Rather than having to defend the Bible as fact, we can concentrate on the meaning of the stories, the way the ancient people who wrote them and told them to each other did. Nobody in the ancient world thought God literally created the world in seven human days. Rediscovering the metaphor of these creation myths and juxtaposing them with modern cosmological concepts, reveals a God that is even more extensive and intricately woven with our being than interpreting those stories literally could ever allow us to imagine. It’s powerful stuff.

It’s my hope that Intersect will help people of faith form a new foundation for belief in God—one that is divested of literalism, yet gains something even more powerful in its place: a healthy understanding of historical context, allegory and metaphor, all enveloped in a deeper understanding of modern cosmology, astrophysics and quantum mechanics. The ideas the ancients hinted at using the only language they understood thousands of years ago are being played out anew with the language of historical criticism and science. The quantum world is stranger, more mind-boggling, and more inspiring than anything Mark, Mathew, Luke, John or Paul could convey. Using the best tools at their disposal, I believe they were trying to get at the same idea: God is everything, and everything is God. Oneness is the key to changing the world, and God is constantly inviting us into Oneness.

The church is failing. People are leaving organized religion in droves, and most churches are so concerned with self-preservation that they have abandoned their commission to serve the needy and speak for the oppressed. We don’t necessarily need to save organized religion, but if we are to call ourselves people of faith—whether Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu or anything else, then we do need to reclaim the idea that we are all beings created in the image of God (Gen 1:26–28, Gen 5:1–3, 2 Enoch 44:1-3, 2 Enoch 65:1, Wisdom of Solomon 2:23, there are similar ideas presented in the Qur’an). Therefore, it is our duty to God and our fellow human beings to act with compassion, to fight for justice, and to tear down the systems of oppression wherever they are found—even and especially if they are found in the church, synagogue and mosque.

I hope you’ll join me, and invite others, on this journey as we explore a new, stronger faith foundation built on ancient ideas, but informed by 21st Century wisdom.

Prayer: Infinite Wisdom, God, that is and is within all things: Guide our thoughts and actions. Make your presence undeniably known to us. Use us to make the world more peaceful, loving, tolerant and reasonable. Amen.