Monday, July 19, 2010

Letting Go of Self

Went to church today (I still have to go because of my kids) and I continue to be amazed at how church is helping me in this spiritual revolution I'm having. It's hard to explain in just a few words but I will try. Part of what I'm going through is deconstructing much of what I've learned about Christianity. Yet at the same time, even though the deconstruction isn't complete, I'm starting the “rebuilding” simultaneously. I beginning to hear things through new ears, understand things from a different perspective. It's like, it's the same information but I'm getting it through a whole new prism. And I'm understanding it differently.

Today in church the pastor kept talking about getting our strength from God. You know, we don't have to "try so hard" but we have to depend on God. Let HIM do it, etc. And the pastor keeps pointing to the rafters.

And I'm struggling with this because I'm not sure that's the way it works. I'm not sure God is "some guy" up there in heaven. But then it dawns on me, I don't have to know or decide right now who or what God is, and neither do I have to understand if my pastor really got it right. Because what I do understand is that this is very much related to what Tolle is teaching (along with spiritual teachers throughout history) -- about letting go of the ego or the egoic mind, i.e. the SELF.

It's what Jesus taught and it's what the Buddha taught. And it's what my pastor is trying to teach, albeit all wrapped up in Christianese. It's about this lifelong journey of learning to not be so attached to the self -- or rather as Tolle explains, the "false self." The ego.

So I can sit and listen to my pastor teach about "letting go and letting God" and I can understand it to mean that my attachment to my self - what I think, what I feel, what I think I know - is not doing me any favors and that if I will only open up and ask, the universe will guide me and give me what I need.

I'm spouting what sounds like nonsense here. But in some way it makes sense to me; like I'm seeing all kinds of truth at once, and while it's a big jumbled mess in my mind, it also somehow makes sense.

At least it's allowing me to get something good out of being in church, and that's a real gift.

Another example: I have come to disbelieve in atonement theology. I no longer believe Christ came to die for us. I believe Christ came to teach us, and to connect us with God. Christianity teaches that Christ's purpose was to die but I reject that and believe that Christ's purpose was to live—and to teach us to live. To me, atonement theology minimizes Jesus's life on earth, as if it was all just incidental to the reason he really came—to die.

In addition, I cannot believe in a God who requires the torture and mutilation of an innocent individual to satisfy his need for justice. I just can’t believe in that God. To me, atonement theology says that God is/was not powerful enough to simply wipe the slate clean, extend grace and offer forgiveness just because he wants to. Why would a good God require the horrible death of a man in order to extend grace and forgiveness? That's a vengeful, bloodthirsty God if you ask me. I don't buy it. So, here I am, no longer believing in atonement theology. Which leaves me in a precarious position. Why did Jesus die such a horrid death, and what does it all mean?

Well, he died as a consequence of his teachings. What he was teaching was so impossible for the establishment to accept that they killed him for it. People were responsible for his death, not some cosmic plan of God.

But guess what? I can still say and believe that Jesus died for me and for all people. How can I say that? Because he believed his message of God's love and grace was so important, so powerful, so life-changing and world-changing, that he needed to share it, even though he knew he risked being killed. He died because he shared his message of love with the world!

And that means he shared it with me. And that means he was willing to go to his death so that I, and people all around the world, could understand that there is a God (a Divine Presence? a Force? a Universe?) that is good. So that we could understand that the way to live life—and the way to enlightenment—is through love and grace and forgiveness.

(Honestly, how did it ever make sense to anyone that love and grace and forgiveness could only be attained through violence and torture??? How could a God of love require such a thing? In my mind, there’s no possible way it could be true. You can’t have God being “good” and also being this violent and bloodthirsty being.)

So here I am rejecting atonement yet still being able to accept Jesus as somewhat of a savior for me, because it was his courageous teaching that literally changed the world. And it was so important, he was willing to die for it.

That is so cool. And those are just a couple examples of how my thinking is evolving.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Ripping . . . A Tearing Down

I'm starting to feel the effects of the recent seismic shift in my life. It feels like a ripping. I know I'm in a tearing-down phase that may continue for awhile before I begin to build back up some kind of belief system. Meanwhile I'm vulnerable and kind of lost.

I was thinking of starting a blog where I can write down some of the stuff I'm experiencing. Like I have the time for that.

But here I am.

The ripping. I think that happens when the seismic shift starts to move out of the "safe" place of the mind and into the everyday life. When you're trying to apply the as-yet-undefined new ideas (that you know will be ultimately beneficial to your world) to a very well-tread reality that is kind of going "huh?"

This vulnerability is a necessary evil of change, I'm afraid. So is this feeling of lostness. I don't think those two things ever fully disappear for someone who is desirous of real truth and growth. They come in waves along with that tearing down (and usually at the least opportune times), but on the other side I hope I get to a place where I, not stronger, but "more." I don't know any other way to say it.

I'm reading so much lately. Atheist stuff, Buddhist stuff, lots and lots of blogs! Discovering other people's words helps me to feel like I'm not alone. But I might be in the place where I’m experiencing the solitary aspects of it - the uniqueness of my journey. That's why I feel lost (I think).

I feel so untethered much of the time, and it's uncomfortable. My untethered moments are evidence of just how important this journey is to me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Who Am I Praying To . . . and Why?

It's hard to pray now. I've given up the genie-in-the-sky concept of God and am uncomfortable even referring to God in a personified way ("He"), I'm not exactly sure who I'm praying to or why.

Yet I know there is a powerful purpose in prayer. Mankind throughout the ages has always found comfort, peace and answers by asking and by submitting to a higher power. I just don't know how to conceptualize He-She-It. The "Divine."

I'm sure this is why we have this male-person-image of God in the first place. It's much easier that way.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A True Spiritual Experience?

I have recently heard it said that Christians or others who are devoutly religious are the most likely to miss out on a true spiritual experience. They are the most disconnected from a sense of the Divine or the mystery.

I'm in a place where I'm not even sure if there is a Divine. I know there's mystery and I'm becoming more comfortable living in it - not needing all the answers.

Is there such a thing as a "spiritual" experience, or is this part of the big "story" that we've made up?

The fact that I'm even asking this question is somewhat alarming to me.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Evolving Faith

I wish I had all the time in the world to write my thoughts on my evolving faith and theology. It's practically all I think about now. I'm finally free to go  with what my gut is telling me.

I believe the individual's experience is very powerful. While theology and doctrine can be debated (and always will be), a person's experience is just what it is, and you can't talk someone out of it. I've realized that my faith in God has been part of me since I was very young, apart from any understanding of religion. I've experienced what I think is a divine and transcendent presence. I spent many years trying to explain and understand it. Now I'm coming to accept that the Divine will always be mostly mystery and can't be understood.

It has always seemed to me that all religions - all their doctrines, stories, and beliefs - are simply man's attempts to explain and understand God, the universe, and the meaning of life. The stories are mythology that try to make sense of things. I'm more convinced than ever of this. And Christianity is no exception.

This doesn't mean I invalidate Christianity or any faith. Being a Christian has been the best way for me to connect with God and my spiritual self. I think I'm moving into a phase of trying to go deeper into that as I nurture my spirituality and connection to the divine.

But I'm no longer tied to any necessity to "believe" certain doctrine in order to have "salvation." And even more exciting and freeing, I'm no longer compelled to judge or reject other faith traditions, or pity all my non-Christian friends & family because they're not "saved." I can honor and respect all faiths in that they're attempts to understand all that is not understandable in this life.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Philip Gulley - If Grace is True

 Here are some of my favorite quotes from this book:

Is a God who only forgives after an innocent man is tortured and killed a god worthy of praise? Atonement theology... refuses to allow God the freedom to cancel the debt. It contends that unless blood is shed, God is powerless to forgive. [p. 134]

(This seems to me such an obviously HUMAN view of things. How can people not see through this to realize people MADE IT UP according to their own, very human, sense of justice?)

Jesus wasn't born to die. He came to teach us how to live. Jesus didn't die to appease an angry God. He came to proclaim a God of love. [p. 135]

(And didn't he die to appease angry PEOPLE?)

Salvation is turning away from self-absorbed lives. It is trusting our acceptance by God. It is allowing the knowledge of God's love to transform our opinion of ourselves and others. Salvation is my journey from estrangement from God and others toward divine and human communion. [p. 156]

(Salvation is NOT "acceptance into heaven.")

After reading If Grace is True, I deeply understood that a true spiritual path is not about "believing" something. It's about following a way modeled by someone, Jesus even. A way of grace, forgiveness, and love. Accepting that we are loved by God. Living a life dedicated to reaching out to even the most unlovable.