Sunday, January 15, 2012

One Big Ball of Wax – The Bible, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus

Last week’s message [How Many Commandments Are There – Really?] discussed the relationship between the Ten Commandments and Jesus’ Three Commandments. I asked the question, ”What is the role of the Ten Commandments for Christians, and where do Jesus' Three Commandments fit in?” [A refresher: Jesus’ Three Commandments are 1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind; 2. Love your neighbor as yourself; 3. Love each other as I have loved and served you]
I think Christian congregations venerate the Ten Commandments (a) because they are simple and easy to depict, and (b) because it verifies, for them, the central importance of the Bible. This allows someone to use any verse(s) in the Bible in conjunction with any other verse(s) indiscriminately. Convenient? Yes! Misleading or Inappropriate? Absolutely!
It appears to me that many biblical literalists have identified the Bible, the reality of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as all the same thing. I’ve heard biblical literalists claim that Jesus really wrote the entire Bible. They say this because they believe the Holy Spirit and Jesus (and the scriptures they presumably wrote) are all of equal weight, equal validity, equal importance. They are the same thing.
This certainly provides some comfort for their fears. Find some verse in the Bible that makes sense to you, regardless of its appropriate context and meaning, and voila! One has God’s Truth to bolster them. Neat, quick, easy, and very, very dangerous.
Of course, providing comfort for fear applies to more than the Bible. I’ve seen people use the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous in much the same way. Many of us in the fellowship of AA refer to these members as “Big Book Nazis.” There are those that do the same with the text of A Course in Miracles – there is only one “right” way to interpret whatever section everyone’s reading. There are those that do the same thing with the faith-based secular religion of American capitalism which has been so virtually married with fundamentalist Christianity that you would think that Jesus’ swaddling clothes were red, white and blue. After all, doesn’t the Bible say “God helps those who help themselves?” No, it doesn’t. That quote is from Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard Almanac – presumably copied from earlier European pamphlets.
Obviously, this whole discussion of using the Ten Commandments and worshipping the Bible has to do with fear, which AA describes as Future Events Appearing Real, and how to alleviate it.
Fear is an awful emotion. It is the opposite of faith, acceptance, and love. It is the absolute primal emotion of the self-absorbed Ego. It is pervasive, insidious and produces death in all its forms – physical death, financial death, or social embarrassment, just to name a few obvious forms. The more insidious forms, however, are the ones that concern me.
“Like what?” you may be thinking. Well, here’s a couple for starters:
Anxiety or fear of being “found out” – about anything! It’s whatever it is I’m currently pretending to be for you or around you that I don’t want you to know about. Whenever I work to maintain a pretense that I’m richer, smarter, calmer, more serene, less controlling or possessing more self-control, more spiritual, or funnier, I have this sinking feeling in my gut – “The me you think you are talking to or listening to isn’t the real me.”
A flip side to this same anxiety is my attempt to avoid making a mistake or my attempt to minimize the consequences of a mistake. This kind of anxiety is equally insidious for me. It implies there is some form of a perfect answer, a perfect conclusion, a perfect response, a perfect plan, or a perfect analysis. All I need to do is find it. To make a mistake is a failure. It is being “found out” as a flawed fraud. I can never be “good” enough, correct enough, right enough, smart enough, sensitive enough, observant enough.
It is a very sick place for me to be.
When I’m in that sick place, it is the most “natural” thing in the world for me to trust the reality of my perceptions. My perceptions – in this sick state – are tailored to my “story:” I’m a well-educated, sensitive, politically progressive, sober, creative, overall nice guy with a sense of humor and moving on a strong spiritual path. You know, I still like the way that sounds. And it’s all true – in the universe that exists between my ears – but it has nothing to do with reality.
In November 2011 [Penn State, The Church, and my Ego – Part 2] I wrote:
“… what I learned is the critical importance of always trying to use 2 little words: "…for me." I came to understand that my thoughts of ‘right, normal, accepted, and Christian’ were influenced more by my cultural/racial/educational/economic sense of identity than by dogma or some form of religiosity. I found if I could simply add the prepositional phrase "for me" to the end of most sentences, truth would begin to penetrate all the way to my True Self.  For example, rather than saying, ‘The Bible is the source of truth in spiritual issues,’ I began saying the ‘Bible is my source of truth in spiritual issues because that makes sense for me.’"
Now, when I’m in my sick little place, I try to pause, take a deep breath, and recognize that someone using the Bible in a literal, worshipful, idolatrous way to alleviate his/her fear is no different than I am. We simply use different literal, worshipful, idolatrous tools.
·      Conservatives may be using the Bible, simplistic fundamentalist dogma, Fox News commentators, Republican Party talking points, an over-blown ideal of American capitalism, or die-hard patriotism as their tools to alleviate fear, doubt, anxiety.
·      Liberals may be using Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Unity, A Course in Miracles, a 12-Step Program, Democratic Party talking points, MSNBC commentators, Bill Moyers, or Paul Krugman as their tools.
All of us, however, are forgetting that the realities of this world are real only if we perceive ourselves as a human body having a soul/spirit rather than perceiving ourselves as an already loved eternal spirit currently having a human experience.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states that what we do is based on how we perceive the events and people around us. In short, what we do showcases what we really believe. The actual quote is “You respond to what you perceive, and as you perceive so shall you behave.” (Text: Chapter 1, III.6)
So, if you look at what you actually do, think and say, what might someone conclude about your actual beliefs? I’ll let you answer that for yourselves.
Thanks for listening and, as always, it's okay to forward this, if you choose.
#3 January, 2012

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