Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Christianity

Hello,
I hope this message finds you doing well and enjoying life.

Religion in one of those subjects that I don’t broach lightly, due to the fact that some people tend to have such deep rooted beliefs that saying something to the contrary has a tendency to upset them. But I have had three encounters now with Christian promotional materials which has caused me to make some realizations about myself as well as religion in general.

Let me start by saying that I am one of those people who was turned off of Christianity a long time ago due primarily to my exposure to those who talked about eternal damnation for failing to follow certain rules. This idea of a vengeful and judgmental God has never really appealed to me, and, unfortunately, my idea of Christianity has suffered as a result. I suspect that I am not alone in this and that those who are condemning sinners to hell have actually been tarnishing the image of Christianity for a great number of people.

However, after two different eye catching pamphlets crossed my path in a week, both of which I read with an open-mind, and both of which had the same elements of “believe or burn,” I had a realization that made sense to me. I finally understood why “they” (the numerous authors, translators, editors, and promoters of the Bible) would make God out to be judgmental. “They” were/are trying to put the fear of God in people as an added incentive for people to follow the teachings of Jesus. This gave me a sense of relief because I realized “they” were only doing what they thought was best at the time (as I believe everyone is doing at all times).

However, I don’t think the best way to get people to become kind and caring people is by using fear tactics. I think that by projecting God to be judgmental, we ourselves become more judgmental. We are in effect justifying our own judgmental nature by making God in our image. This is where my third encounter with Christianity comes in to play.

I received a DVD in the mail, and was given it again later by a friend, entitled Jesus, which was sent by a consortium of churches in the area. Not being particularly well versed in the life of Jesus and being the open and eager to learn type of person I am, I watched the movie and took notes. I think the following quotes taken from the movie (which were supposed to be taken straight from the Bible) sum up the teachings of Jesus quite nicely:

“Love your enemies. Be good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone strikes you on the one cheek, let him hit you on the other one also. If someone takes away your coat, let him have your shirt as well. Give to everyone who begs from you. And if someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back again. Do for others as you would have others do for you.... Love your enemies and do good to them. And lend expecting nothing back. And then you will have a great reward.... Be merciful just as your father [God] is merciful. Judge not and you will not be judged. Condemn not and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.”

What a great message. It seems to me that if we could all live by these simple guidelines, which I hope represent the core essence of what it is to be a true Christian, then we would already be living in heaven. Another thing that fascinates me is that this message weaves throughout the Eastern religions as well. In fact, one of the main paths to enlightenment is paved by these same values. So, there must be something to it because I don’t think that many ancient sages be wrong.

After watching the movie, I can even empathize with those people who would try to spread the word by any means necessary. But the means affect how the message is received, so great care should be taken when delivering it. In my personal opinion, now that Christianity’s image has been tarnished in the minds of some, I think the only way to rectify the damage is to focus on embodying these core teachings.

In the end, I would not have even watched the movie a few short years ago, but I found it quite enlightening. I also felt like I had seen it once before a long time ago when I was too young to remember well. I was a bit turned off by the brief opening scene about Adam and Eve and “the Fall,” but we’ll get into that some other time.

Hope all is well with you and yours. Stay in touch, stay open minded, and love your enemies.
Take care,
Trey

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Trey, I enjoyed your e-mail on Christianity. I to have been guilty of judging the church, actually most established religion, for quite some time. Recently on the past few years my views have changed somewhat mostly due to the fact that Devin has been attracted to the church and is very spiritual. This has always been somewhat of a mystery to me because we have never encouraged any sort of spiritual standard for him. It made me begin to look harder at myself and my beliefs. I actually started going to church with my son and family because he wanted to go. He ha s since lost interest in the church itself but is still very spiritual. His wisdom astounds me for such a young person. He consistently says things that make me reconsider beliefs I have held nearly all my life. I have given him the nickname "Little Buddha" for this reason. I have to say that I still have my differences with the church and the bible but now I look at them as an opportunity to learn more about myself. A couple of years ago I finally took the time to read the bible because I felt I had no right to judge what I had not even read. This experience led me to the conclusion that the writers of the bible were men who relayed a story of God and Jesus the best they knew how at that time. It is my opinion that if the bible was written now it may be very different.

So, I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I appreciate your incites and I do read them even though I don't often respond.

--
Jason Colby

Anonymous said...

"The means affect how the message is received, so great care should be taken when delivering it."

...so true.

"...this message weaves throughout the Eastern religions as well."

-That's why I liked "The Power of Myth" by Joseph Campbell so much. It was originally a series of televised interviews with Campbell by Bill Moyer (I think), and was transcribed and published in book form. One of the main things he kept coming back to was that the higher concepts of any religion are indescribable. We can use words like "God," "enlightenment," "heaven,"...but words are finite, and what we're trying to describe is not.

So basically:

~Religions all use different words to describe the same indescribable thing.~

So it's no wonder we sometimes disagree, but it's important to understand we're not disagreeing on fundamental principles, but on syntax. One way Campbell describes it is like the many different computer word processing programs - They all ultimately help you to write a letter, but in program A you use the function keys to get around, whereas in program B you use a mouse. In each religion, the ultimate goals are to live a 'good life,' and to reach the 'ultimate reward,' but in religion A, you must go only through the one true god, and in religion B, you have a whole host of gods to help you get there.

Instead of fighting over "how many gods," why can't we just agree to "be good to one another"??

…and that's not even beginning to discuss languages and translations, oral traditions vs. written ones, or differing interpretations of existing texts….

J

Christy

Trey said...

Hey,
It's nice to hear from you. I was thinking of emailing you just today to thank you for turning me on to the books (Power of Myth and Peaceful Warrior). I am really enjoying both of them. Interestingly enough, I was reading about Campbell's analysis of "the Fall" right after watching that DVD. I wanted to dig into that and talk about the loss of innocence of being separate from God, etc., but I decided I should just tackle that in another email.

One thing you made me remember is something Tolle says in his book that you can experience it (oneness, enlightenment, etc.) but as soon as you try to put it into words, it just becomes words.

On another note, I think that there has been a lack of willingness for people to get along because they are hanging on to belief systems that no longer serve them. They are afraid to let go of the beliefs because they feel as though they define who they are, and they are attached to who they are.

However, I do think that there is great potential to make peace work if we can all strip it down to the foundational beliefs and start from there. For some die hards it may take setting a new standard of what it is to be a good Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc., and make that new standard based on the most fundamental teachings that started their respective religion. That would be in effect appealing to the ego, but eventually lead to its obsolescence if the path were followed.

Take care,
Trey