Saturday, May 29, 2010

Canyon of Faith: Part 1- We're All the Same

During my recent visits back to church I've been pondering the canyon which separates the faith I once had and the faith I have now. What really separates the me from 5 years ago from the me of today (other than 2 kids, a new house, and a degree)? Is it really as simple as belief in Jesus Christ or something more? How do views of ourselves and of others affect our interconnectedness with our fellow man? As always I'm not out to bash Christianity but to wrestle with the unasked questions themselves, and in wrestling I might find some enlightenment even though the question may defeat me.

When I hear pastors preach about the Christian life I'm always surprised how me-centered it all sounds more so than other-centered. It's all about my salvation, my soul, my personal relationship with Jesus. That's not to say that Christianity excludes other-centered language but for many believers it takes a backseat. Of course, this me-centered language is extremely helpful when witnessing to lost souls. All people yearn for love and acceptance, but I get a since that mainstream Christians believe that their love will be wrenched away from them the second they question their own beliefs. Their love from their in-group, their tribe, may be conditional but it doesn't have to be. Yet the conditions for acceptance into the group by default leaves others out while elevating the saved to a higher lofty position. Last week the pastor at the church I've been attending (I hesitate to say My pastor at My church) stated that "we're still sinners, but we are saved." I would imagine this would be very convincing language to the unsaved in the crowd, other than myself of course.

Yet, my question to the pastor, whenever I get the courage to ask, would be if we're all the same then why create an in group at all? If the divide between saved and unsaved is acceptance of life (illustrated and symbolized by the sacrificial Christ) how does this create an in group since I can't imagine anyone choosing death? We all choose life by living, we just don't choose to follow archaic tribal belief systems. This doesn't mean that the modern man of science who may want to do away with religion has done away with what religion points towards. Life is sacred, not the icons which represent life. The creative spirit of Man is sacred, not the myth which attempts to explain that creativity. We are sacred, not a select in-group or tribe, but even using the word sacred bears a sense of setting apart. I'm not trying to set anything apart but I'm trapped by language (and by my limited vocabulary) and experience. I can only experience separateness so I speak using words which define separateness. I would like to say we're all the same, we're all one, but language makes the phrase problematic. How can WE be the same, how can WE be one when we don't experience oneness? Yet this is how I would like to approach my fellow man: if I consider the stranger so deeply interconnected to myself that I begin to lose track of where they end and I begin how can I not be compassionate towards them?

But saying we're all one is not the same as saying we're all the same. The unity found in Pantheism/Panentheism (which I sympathize with but have not entirely embraced) is different from the unity most Christians would be comfortable with using their language and their set of symbols. Their goal is not to destroy the ego (if it were even possible) but to save the ego. We all start in the same place, within ourselves; we travel in the same manner by connecting with one another; and we have the same goal in mind yet we call it by different names. I believe that by saying we're saved (past tense) comes across to the outsider, the unsaved, as exclusive and demeaning to their spirituality. Being saved also sounds so final, as if we've reached a spiritual plateau while leaving the unsaved below (in the valley of death). I know the average Christian would seek to correct my understanding of the Christian faith (which I was a part of for the majority of my life) but this is how it may come across to non-Christians. We may be trapped by language but that doesn't justify forgetting our shared humanity. In my opinion, this is what happens when we enter into an IN group, we're so focused on ourselves that we forget that we're all the same. We forget we all share the same origin, we all experience suffering, and we're all in it together. We forget that we're part of the whole and the whole is a part of us.


captron52 said...

Once again you have submitted a very interesting and excellent entry. I have grappled with the same issues you talk about. The one thing I find to be true at least for me is that we as human beings can never fully understand the workings of the Powers that be. We are all trying to figure out things with a finite human mind while the answers we seek cannot be fathomed by that mind alone. Trying to unddrstand the infinite with a finite mind is about like trying to figure out how any of this ever got started in the first place. I hope you have a safe and fun filled weekend myfriend. Take care and keep up thegood work you are doing. And thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us!

Sabio Lantz said...

I agree -- the "me-ism" is so apparent in many flavors of spirituality.

We are so simple yet want to make ourselves so important.

Al said...

I had the opportunity to be in a conference yesterday where Brian McLaren was the speaker. He gave two definitions of how Christians could describe their faith/religion:
1. Our religion (denomination, etc.) provides exclusive religious goods and services so human souls can be saved from God. Or,
2. God is saving all creation from human evil by grace through faith in the way of wisdom, compassion and love inviting our participation.

I think the second definition comes closer to recognizing our common state, and common journey towards a better world. At least it is a better definition and concept than the first one (which is quite observable in some churches!).

You may have seen the old bumper sticker: 'I'm not perfect, just forgiven.' It usually raised a few eyebrows!

Sabio Lantz said...

@ Al

I think the second definition maybe closer to recognizing our common state if it said:

"Compassion and love given freely from one human to another is our only hope of saving creation."

Doug B said...

I have to say that I'm not a fan of faith, at least as popularly construed. As George Smith once said: "Faith does not erase contradictions and absurdities; it merely allows one to believe in spite of contradictions and absurdities." The reason most religions are divisive is because most religions are truth claims. The further spirituality is removed from the arena of faith, the better for us all.

Don said...

Nice article saying what
of your readers are thinking

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