Friday, October 21, 2005

Christ has come to teach the people himself

Ok, Alice had a post about this


and I've been mulling it over a bit.

Somehow I'd never really thought about quakerism in terms of the second coming. It just has never been part of the equation for me (depsite having taken "Quakerism" in eighth grade at my quaker school, and having been a quaker for a long time, my quaker theology is a tad sketchy, I fear...)

So, the deal is, I'm pretty excited by this idea. That Christ (spirit) is alive and moving in the world. That we are part of the second coming (I wrote a bit about this in a previous post - the call to be the Messiah, rather than just to worship him.)

The problem is, "Jesus language" still kinda freaks me out. Many people who go by the name "christian" seem much more intent on forming "I'm in, you're out" sort of "clubs" and figuring and refiguring who's gonna burn for eternity for not toeing the line (or toeing it the right way). This is, to me, not only inconvenient and disturbing, but feels like what some would call Satan. - a worship of disunion and disparaging of love at its truest.

I know lots of Christians aren't like that, that's not (all of) it exactly....

I dont' believe that Jesus was the son of God in way that's fundamentally different from how I'm the child of God. I believe he said and did a lot of really good stuff, but I really have no basis (in my heart, in my spirit, in my historical understanding) to believe that he "achieved perfecction" or anything else, either.

I mean really, I know nothing about him. I never met him in person, and I don't really feel like I've met him in spirit. Am I doing something wrong? (or not?)

I am eager to learn, to join the movement, to take up my cross, leave behind my worldly goods, as called.

I am not eager to worship, to debase myself, to hand over my will to another being (listening to a voice within myself with a higher (more pure?) call than my two-year-old "I want it!" self is a totally different thing, I think, and I am eager to do that)

But do I have to worhsip the bearded white man on my Grandmother's wall? Do I need to believe in the magic of the virgin birth, or the resurrection? Do I need to "devote my life to Christ" rather than to truth, or spirit?

Do the names matter more than the attentiveness?

I don't know.


Legalfrugalbabe said...

Hi Pam! Saw your post on Alice's site and figured that this might be a better place to respond to your question. Boy do I wish I had an answer because I struggle with the exact same stuff.

It bums me out that there appears to be no avenue whatsoever in organized religion for questioning Jesus' "immaculate conception" (had to put that in quotation marks or I couldn't look at myself in the face in the morning) or his divine nature or designation as the son of God. I can't help but believe that those issues are entirely beside the point.

One of the members of my Meeting never understood the almost macabre obsession with Jesus' death, which seems to surpass by far the focus on his message. Take a look at traditional Catholic imagery, for instance, and you will see a whole lot more depictions of a bleeding and wounded man on a cross than you will of him preaching and spending time with his disciples.

"One of the scribes who had listened to them debating appreciated that Jesus had given a good answer and put a further question to him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied, 'This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31 (New Jerusalem).

Sorry for the long cite, but that gets lost in the muddle of the salvation brouhaha. I've come to think of salvation not as being saved because I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that he was the son of God and that my soul will rise at the end of days (none of which I believe), but being saved in that listening to his message and applying it will give meaning and satisfaction to my life. Why isn't anyone out there saying that? Something got lost in translation.

jez said...

legalfrugalbabe said...
why isn't anyone out there saying that?

I think Helen Steven in her book No extraordinary power (Swarthmore Lecture 2005) gets to some of these issues and is that someone out there saying that and more, especially in the later chapters.

earthfreak said...


I have to say that I'm not so much interested in questioning them as in completely ignoring them.

I mean, virgin birth and bodily resurrection (as well as being fully god and fully human) seem to me to be perhaps nifty tricks, but not something on which to build a spiritual foundation.

As you say, they are simply and entirely beside the point.

I would say that concepts like salvation and resurrection are, to me, almost metaphorical. Or simply deeper than our earthly understanding of them.

I find it almost humourous to believe in "fire and brimstone" hell, and "angelic chorus" heaven. I sometimes find it frightening that so many people believe in just that.

But I do find "salvation" in living honestly, and with an open heart. I can feel the difference in my soul. When I work from fear and hatred, my soul dies. When I can ground myself in love, it lives. I do not need anything "supernatural" and certainly no personified outside actor, to bring that about. It is more about the stae of my soul and it's place in the community of souls (or the one great soul, in my perception)

The thing is when I say stuff like that it sounds like I'm trying to found some new-age religion, and I'm not. it's just that words are so inadequate.

I do think that many quakers are talking about this stuff, along with many folks of other faiths. It's just not mainstream in christianity, and it may never be.

I have to say, I was surprised in college, after studying buddhism and other world religions that seemed so much "true-er" than my own christian heritage, I was shocked and disappointed to find that in countries where buddhism is practiced, there is a mundane, altar-focused, idolotrous form of the religion. Something easy, routine, and that does not require much of one spiritually (as I see it) I have come to believe that people will do this with any religion or philosophical truth. It is much easiser to designate a lamp as "holy" and create a ritual around it than it is to actively live in the light on a daily, moment-to-moment basis.

Legalfrugalbabe said...

Thanks j! I'll take a look.

Pam, it's so nice to feel I'm not the only one grappling with these questions. I like your idea of individual souls as part of a collective soul; it's something I often feel in Meeting - all our souls coming together.

About your statement on Buddhism and it being so ritualized it becomes rote, I often feel that way about more organized forms of Christianity. When I first attended my Inquirers' class at Friends Meeting of Washington, which was led by a terrific guy, he said that unprogrammed worship placed more responsibility on you than programmed worship because when you seek, you have to research and go down different avenues; no one is there to take your hand. I must admit I have so far failed to inform myself on Quakerism beyond Friends for 350 Years and a couple of books on Quaker simplicity; my goal once I finish law school is to become a more informed Quaker.

earthfreak said...

frugal babe-

I love the name

Anyway, that was sorta my point - that all religions have this sort of watered-down, 'easy' version.

I think many christian-raised college students tend to 'discover' buddhism (or other religions) and read more the original texts, the grounding ideas, and think "oh my god, this is so much more spiritually evolved than where I come from!" but really, I suspect that everyone's grounding texts are more spiritually evolved than the daily manifestation of religion where anyone is coming from.

All religions can be boxed up, their spirit killed, and "marekted" - it's more challenging, and more rewarding, to be engaged with the spirit.

It's much easier to think that if you make a certain motion, or repeat certain words, every so often, you will somehow retain god's favor, or reap blessings. But really, I suspect, the real blessings are in choosing every moment to live in love and be open to the workings of the spirit.

Contemplative Activist said...

This is an excellent post here!

I had to come and see the blog of the person who thinks my ipod looks like a condom for myself!!! :S Good grief, and I thought I had a bit of a kinky mind! ;)

I really enjoyed reading where you are coming from, especially as I come from a similar perspective myself on the whole Jesus thing! I'll definately be stopping by your blog again soon!