Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christianity and I

I have been reading Dr. Raven's last blog entry and thinking about how what he's talking about applies to myself.

In my last entry, I commented on how I got side-tracked from the message of love I had wanted to write about, and include the Tannhauser piece with, by ranting about Paul and what a fucking asshole he could be. Or whoever it was that is claiming to be Paul in the letters. There's some contention that Paul himself may have been a Gnostic teacher, and that the Pauline letters are attributed to him to cover up his past as a Gnostic. I have no idea if those ideas have any veracity or not, I'm simply aware of them.

But – it becomes hard for me to sort my loathing for the poison that I was introduced to as a child and teenager, with the actual message of Christ: which, ultimately, is a message of love. It also becomes hard for me – especially if I've become emotional about the subject – to express the distinction between Christ's message, and that of some his followers. And, when I really become riled up and ranting, I forget about all the people out there who actually have spiritual uplifting experiences as a Christian.

And that the ideas which are spread around today, might not exist (as an edifice of the church) in a hundred, or a thousand years.

And when that happens, I pretty much treat the entire history of Christianity as a thing of dogshit and horror. Which is, honestly, wrong.

The real fact of the matter is that cultures and civilizations, and the religions within them, play against one another constantly. They dance with one another, in a sense. And this dance includes Christianity, Islam, classical cultures, and everything else around us. We are – as humans – social creatures. Discounting the religious significance of Christianity is wrong.

That doesn't mean that I don't think I can have objections about various matters, which I do. But when I get caught up in my loathing toward things I was exposed to in the past, I do further injustice to the matter by passing on my hate to others.

My hope is that in the future, when writing such things, I will better maintain my awareness of my emotional state and how it dictates what flows out of my keyboard. I doubt that I'll always succeed, but henceforth I'm going to talk less about what I loathe in Christianity, and more about what I like (when the moment dawns).


Jason Miller, said...

Any good Christian would forgive you :-)

If you ever get the yen to check out some of the truly great modern work being done in Christianity, see Richard Rohr, mrian McLaren, Carl McColeman, and others of the Contemplative or Emerging Church movements. Not to mention the good old Episcopalians.

Rufus Opus said...

And he totally was not in the least talking about you personally.

I'm think he was talking about Moloch personally.

Rufus Opus said...

I'm think... sigh.

Jason Miller, said...

OOOH I remembered after I went to bed. If you absolutely hate Paul, check out Swedenborgianism. Pauls writings are not Canon in Swedenborgianism.

Bonus: If you get to the east coat I will take you on a tour of the Swedenborgian Cathedral, which is a building so strange that its like something out of a lovecraft book.

Jack Faust said...

@R.O.: Even if he is not talking about me, that is a problem I have. I didn't feel attacked or anything. Just reflective.

@Jason: I'll look into the followers of Swedenborg. Hehe.

Rufus Opus said...

Dude, you know Johnny Appleseed? Hew wandered the country planting the apple trees, right, but no one ever mentions that he was wandering the country because he was an evangelist. For the Swedenborgian Church.

A couple weeks ago, I learned I was related to Johnny Appleseed through my grandfather's side of the family. He's a distant cousin. I also found out I'm related to a guy who toured europe with Barnum and Bailey's Circus as a sideshow attraction because he had no legs.

Sideshow freaks and Illuminated Evangelists are in the blood.

Suddenly the world makes more sense now.

Harold Roth said...

I guess as an outsider, I do not see love as being a primary characteristic of Christianity. Instead, I see it being distinguished as generally an internal (beliefs) rather than external (actions) system. So you can just believe in it but not act on it and still be okay if you repent in the end. Judaism isn't like that, and I don't think Islam is either. You have to DO things all the time, not just believe in things. So to me, this is the fundamental difference.

It took me many years before I could stand to read anything about Christianity at all, much less listen to Christians talk about it. I have known some people who were devout Christians who were not in any way contaminated by the triumphalism ("my god is bigger than your god") that often characterizes Christianity (or perhaps any religion that is dominant in a society), but I've had many bad experiences with self-identified devout Christians who displayed an enormous amout of disrespect and ignorance in their behavior towards others ("different faith is wrong faith"). And Christianity has been dominant and intolerant in our society for a long time. When I began grade school, we were required to say the Christian Lord's Prayer every day at the beginning of class, right after the Pledge of Allegiance. That alone is pretty much enough to cast doubt on the love message.

Something that has interested me about Christianity are things like people who have decided to abide by Noachide law. Or Christians who are taking Nazarite vows. Folks are even learning Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, and some are engaging in hermitism (not sure if that's the right word). I like that these folks are carving out their own path instead of just accepting what most churches offer, but more, they are not just believing; they are acting. They are changing their daily life to accomodate their beliefs. I respect that totally.

I think that your desire to disentangle your feelings, caused by past injury, from your interaction with Christianity is a good one. But I certainly understand how it is a difficult road.

ConjureMan Ali said...

I certainly was not referring to you in my post. In fact, I must say that what you describe is slightly different from what I take issue with.

There are things that we all loathe and sometimes our emotions get the best of us. However the fact that you strive to overcome this and that you seek to let the emotive rule you less is admirable and should be commended. What you have done in this blog is exactly the type of spiritual introspection and reflection that we all could use.

My issue with those (and there isn't any one person) who adopt a completely dismissive and derisive attitude towards anything that they view as "inferior" to their own spiritual path. This in my opinion stands in direct contradiction to the spirit of what we are all trying to do in the occult.

Jason Miller, said...

@ Harold,

First I wanted to say that none of what I write below is meant to indicate that you shouldnt feel as you do or that Christianity is some kind of blameless institution: far from it. Enough has been done in Jesus name to justify anyone not trusting the institution.

That said, I do have two things I wanted to comment on.

The first is that because there are so many loud mouth fundamentalists out there, it is tough to keep in mind that they are still a minority in Christianity as a whole. Most Christians are actually people who dont think all that much about it: they get baptized, confirmed, go to chuch, and live their lives. Of the more dedicated, there are definately a lot of fundamentalists, but there are also a lot of liberal Christians, progressive Christians, Emerging Chuch Christians and a growing contemplative movement.

The other thing I wanted to note was about not needing to do anything to be saved.

First is its not quite that simple. Catholics and Orthodox have a different view about works and faith than protestants do. It is worth remembering that there are more Catholics and Orthodox are the two largest Christian groups, dwarfing ALL protestants put togtether by vast numbers.

Second it is true that Christianity is about radical forgiveness. The reason behind this is really the recognition that no matter heinous your temporal deeds in this life they are not worthy of eternal punishment. People coming from differing background, with differing genetic dispositions, and different cultures WILL be pushed in different directions all the time. The idea that all of eternity would hang on decisions you make while being largely ruled by this meat suit and flawed brain would be evil inthe extreme.

In other words, my problem is not that somke Christians believe all you need for salvation is faith. My problem is that some Christians believe you need a specific faith to avoid eternal damnation.

If there was a God or Jesus that would send Ann Frank to hell for not believing in Christianity, I would want no part of that God.

There is more to it than idots rambling in a megachurch would have you believe.

That said, if there is no calling to find out what that is, than it is not worth your time. There are other paths and ways.

Be Well and may the next Christians you meet be genuine ones.

Harold Roth said...

Jason, after I posted that comment, I recalled that I had met more mainstream Christians whom I admired for their commitment to religious principles. When I was involved in the radical movement in the late sixties/early seventies, for example, I came across many Quakers who were willing to put themselves on the line for peace out of religious conviction, and of course they also helped conscientious objectors evade the draft, which was a right thing to do, IMO, but certainly dangerous then.

I have also met Liberationist theology Catholics who were involved with working for the people in Latin America--forgot about them too. Most of the Catholics I have known and loved have been very lapsed, though.

You are certainly right that Catholics are a way bigger chunk of Christians than Protestants are. I have met some Russian Orthodox, but few ever discussed their religion with me. I did read some about Russian Orthodox mysticism as part of being in Slavics and being interested in M.M. Bakhtin, who wrote some about it.

I guess I was just so struck by an Episcopalian who asked me, years ago, how I would explain to God after I died why I should be allowed into heaven. I said well, I would say that I had tried to live a just life, to follow the commandments or at least not break them too badly, and to give charity. She said none of that mattered. Only believing in Jesus. It was shocking to me. What kind of world would result if everyone thought that way? Way more of a hell than we have now, I'd wager. It just seemed like such a mean and selfish approach to living.

Not that Christians have a corner on meanness and selfishness. Jews have that plenty. But despite New World Order websites, we don't run things. Christians do. So fringy Christian beliefs like Dominionism, which IMO if carried out would be just plain evil, can actually affect my life in a way that some wacko Jewish sect will never affect a Christian's life--at least, not in this country. Israel is another story in terms of the influence of wacko Jewish sects on others, not only Christians and Muslims but regular Jews, but again, that's because there the wacko Jewish sects have a lot of power, just like the holders of wacko Protestant ideas have significant power here.

You do make a good point that Catholics at least on the whole reject this kind of meanness--nowadays, anyhow. :)

Jason Miller, said...

It is sad and unfortunate that an Episcopalean gave you that answer. I myself go to an Episcopal church because they are by far the most liberal mainstream denomination out there.

For a better view on episcopaleans google Father Matthew and watch some fo his videos. Most are entertaining and he certain gives a better view of the faith than this person did.

Again, peace be with you. Your path seems to be treating you quite well and I for one would not suggest otherwise.

Personally I read the word Jesus as love. If you reject love you are in trouble. Christ never once quizzed anyone on their beliefs or what club they belonged to. It was a about the heart.