----- Original Message -----
Subject: The moralistic Nature of Christianity
It would be interesting if you could give a very short comment to each of the points in my last "treatise." I am interested in your own thoughts.
I know what I said took off in a different direction than where we started. I had to go by "how it looks from here" because I don't have the same education you do and cannot back up my statements with scriptural references.
So...... to back up to the beginning, where I visited your website and read your platform statement....... I have to say I felt a bit disturbed by what I read. Your platform struck me as being radically conservative, deeply fundamentalist. It struck me as representing the position of a radical minority, who because of the shifting winds of history, is now enjoying a rapid rise in political power.
In the progress or the journey of human affairs, it is wise to engage in continuous "course correction." This is a natural part of life. We can see it in nature. Dynamic balance. When imbalances grow to a point, something changes and the system shifts to correct the imbalance. I believe this happens in society. Lao-Tzu wrote a famous series of observations on this point.
But it cannot work to say we must go back to an earlier time, we must get back the good ole days, we must follow the old code. Your platform struck me as being just as strained as a conservative Moslem platform. Both are attempting to revive and protect a pure way of life by applying a formula from the past. We cannot go back. We must go forward and correct our course as needed in a way that is appropriate for all concerned.
I think guidelines are a good thing. And I also think common sense is a good thing. Those who most lack common sense need the guidelines. I don't like the sticky vibration I feel around the concept of "morality." As I understand it, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam preach morality, where if you do good you will be rewarded and if you do bad you will be punished, and the difference between good and bad is not always clear. But one must tow the line or there will be hell to pay. There is a heavy vibration of judgment in this. The archetypal image of God the father with his white beard sitting on his golden throne in the sky fits into this.
As I understand it, Buddhism doesn't shake its finger at you. There are plenty of guidelines in Buddhism. And I suppose if you look closely, Buddhism does many of the same things that all the other religions do but in its own way. However, there is one important distinction. Unlike the followers of the "moralistic" religions, Buddhists do not engage in slaughter of their fellow human beings.
I believe the reason for this is that Buddhists clearly recognize the tendencies of the human mind. Their contribution is very valuable in this regard. Only a mis-guided human mind would intentionally inflict suffering and death on others.
People behave according to their image and concept of how their God behaves. I feel it would be both powerful and helpful if this was recognized in today's world.
Regarding your comments about the moralistic nature of Christianity, and how moralistic I sound in my platform. I'd like to try to express something that few seem to understand about me and my perspective. Christianity cannot be expressed as a set of laws. Christianity has laws in it inherently because laws give a description of the general structure of how God built the universe. But, law can never capture the full spirit of the God that made the universe. Any human expression of that Law will necessarily be truncated, a shadow, a narrow projection of the fullness of God's Will and Way.
I'm sure you agree with me to this point. But, the place where I am almost sure we will disagree is that there are laws that confront our sexuality, which are given by God, which if we trespass, we will suffer.
This particular area is a common dividing point between Christianity and humanism in all its forms. In particular, the common belief of the modern man is that things have changed, that we must be more modern. The moral rules regarding sexuality are considered by the “liberated modern man” to be a vestige of a mythology handed down by a superstitious people.
The only question is whether Christianity has truly captured God's Law, His heart, His intent for man's relationship in this regard. If it is True, then the scripture which carried that message is irrelevant. The proof of the validity of the scripture is a means to an end, a method by which we attempt to determine Truth. We attempt to validate the origin and fidelity of transmission of scripture so that we may judge whether the message of scripture has the marks of divine authority, and hence Truth. Note: I define Truth as, "that which God judges and has established as the way of spirit."
In other words, I advocate adherence to the leading of the Holy Spirit, but Law given by the God cannot be neglected. I believe the Spirit of God functions within the full depth of metaphor, history, command, teaching, wisdom, and example presented in the Judeo-Christian Bible. The Holy Scripture is the verbal framework which describes the skeleton of limitation and available action of the God's spirit.
It is with that perspective that I seek to "legislate morality". If in fact the Judeo-Christian Scripture is True (i.e. reflects the mind and Way of God), then as thinking/moral people we should use the Christian Scripture as the basis upon which we legislate behavior. The same would be true if absolute truth could be extracted from the writings of Buddhism, the sayings of Mohammed, or the sutras of Patanjali. Each religion believes that the sacred writings of that path are in fact true. Some religions believe that they are simply one of many paths to God. They believe their path is true, but that it is not the exclusive path to God. Christianity supports those who do not interfere with or oppose the Scripture, i.e. the good works and lawfulness that are the same as would be expected of a Christian. But, Jesus made it clear that His path was unique, there was no other path that was identical to the path that He was creating for the believer to follow. This exclusivity is one of the most difficult aspects of Christianity. But, I believe God has made sufficient provisions for every man’s soul, that each man will receive justice. I believe that within each of us is a standard that lives and guides our hearts. Some of us have blunted that voice with wrong teaching and anesthetized our guilt with drugs and other agents that bury the pain. Others have followed their own passions, pursued the siren song of self satisfaction, and made themselves and their desires the object of their worship. When we see the place we have been given in eternity as a result of our lives here on earth. no one will impugn God with the epithet, "You were unjust". I believe we already know the truth inside on some level, and we know the places where we will be found lacking. In other words, I believe the standard of perfection already exists in our present state.
But again, I believe the domain around which we experience the most tension about morality is around the issue of sexuality. But, there are many other issues that consume men's hearts such as power, money, esteem, liberty, privacy, equality, and pleasure.
In this regard, you bring up the issue of war as a tool for enforcing one's will or morality upon other people. This is not a Christian concept. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were given the authority to wipe out the pagans completely (in fact they were commanded to do so), because the pagans would be a yeast that would ferment and pollute the Children of Israel. But, the Israelites did not obey God, and instead intermarried. They were warned that if they took foreign wives that they would be seduced into the worship of the pagan idols and foreign gods. That warning was correct, and they suffered terribly because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness to the True God.
But, the command to exterminate the infidels is no longer a relevant command in modern times. Jesus came and fulfilled the law, which was your original question, regarding change. He gave a new law, to love your neighbor as yourself, and love the lord your God with all your heart mind and strength. Then He stated that this is not a new law, because He declared that the entirety of the Law and Prophets (the Old Testament) was included in this one phrase.
The question we have to ask when we talk about going to war is, what is the purpose of going to war? Are we doing it to subjugate a people, to put them under domination of the American rule? Are we warring against a religion to exterminate them, or to put them under the domination of Christianity? If this is the case, then we are not acting as Christians, we are acting as imperialists. In such a case to criticize the actions of people who were so motivated, as though they were the actions of a Christian, is imprecise. Such people are pretending to be Christians; they are acting as though they have the authority of God behind their actions. In reality they are simply cloaking their motives is spiritual arraignment, and engaging in the same passions that have driven men through the ages.
A war that protects family, property, and life is a just war. It is what we would do to love neighbor as self. I do not know the motivation of the Bush Administration in terms of their Christianity, or their knowledge, of WMD's, the al Quaeda connection, or their intent to use the 9/11 as a pretext for an imperialistic authorization. I do know that they have claimed to have acted on good faith. I have decided to trust that they have. But, if in fact they have misused the trust and good faith that America placed in them to instead further a worldwide pax americana, simply to satisfy the dogs of passion in the human breast to conquer and control, then they are no better than the Huns or Moguls. As I said, Christianity is not in the name, but in the spirit. Either one acts it out, in which case the behavior is perfect, or one follows the multiple temptations of the human heart and shrouds one's passions in the appearance or name of Christianity.
I do not believe declaring the nation to be a Christian nation will be effective, nor will establishing a creed of Christian conduct that all must abide will produce the results of a national brotherhood or a true nation of peace and prosperity. But, a wonderful world will arise when the people choose of their own accord to be led by the spirit of perfection, the Spirit of Christ Jesus.
In a Christian nation, men debate over the legislation that they choose to impose upon themselves. Each man should speak truthfully as he is led by the spirit to speak about the morality and righteousness of the various legislative solutions. Again, the point of their debate is to craft legislation that reflects the mind of God. I believe the Bible has within it all the patterns that reflect the structure of life as God Created it.
The legislators should be knowlegable about the patterns of life and scriptural righteousness. They should be able to consider the caveats brought to the debate by the humanists and doubters. When the spiritual truth and metaphor is tempered with the considerations of realistic circumstances, the most excellent legislative patterns arise.
Christianity is not a religion about Laws, but about a relationship with the God of the Universe. The Christian God incarnated as a man, experienced the pain and tempations of life, and overcame death. God followed this path because the rules he established to make the universe required this level of involvement. The cause and effect consequences of spiritual error and rebellion require death. This law is as solid as any other natural energy and force relationship between particles of matter. Sin produces/requires death. It was for this reason that Jesus submitted to the torture and death of the cross. The pathway through Jesus to the father is not optional, there is no other way. Christianity is a living religion. The Bible is not a book that captures all of God, or restricts God’s largeness. Nevertheless, it provides a doorway, a keyhole, a passage, a metaphor to accurately introduce us to an intangible God with tangible words.
If God created the universe, then God's structure of the universe reflects His Mind, and His Way. The desire of man to update morality to modern standards is appropriate if our laws are simply reflections of evolutionary standards generated by pressures associated with survival of the fittest, power, hierarchy, mating strategy, and class dominance. But, if scripture actually reflects God's heart for relationship, life, and happiness then the laws in the Bible are best followed for optimizing the human experience.
I have no problem with Buddhism. It is a practical religion. I applaud anyone who strives to live peacefully and lovingly with his fellow man. I do not know the sexual ethics prescribed by Buddhism. I assume it is basically a prescription for a non violent harmony. I believe all the world's great religions probably support a similar ethic regarding life and relationship. But the perfect religion must include an honoring of the actual spirit who created the universe, established its laws, and who was sufficiently invested in His creation to die into it. The remarkable part of this journey is that He was powerful enough to actually break free of the bonds of death.
And of course, the difficult question is, “How one is to be sure or know which religion to follow?” Each person essentially follows the religion of his youth. Thus, if a person was not born into the correct religion, and no one came into his life to correct him, this error of birth would condemn his to and eternity damned in hell for not finding the true religion prior to his death.
That contradiction with common sense drove me to search through 15 or more different world religions, cults, and paths in my attempt to find a religion that satisfied my mind and heart. I was raised with Christianity, and did not understand why Jesus had to die for my sins. I left Christianity for many years, and by God's grace I was given enough insight to satisfy me need to understand how and why God constructed the universe in this way. Eventually I was able to see dimly whyc Jesus' sacrifice was necessary. This level of understanding was necessary for my own personal sense of spiritual integrity, to be able to say, "I am a Christian." Other people find such analysis tedious and distracting from the awe of God's miraculous plan. Regardless of what it takes, God desires that man establish a relationship with him.
Thanks for the conversation.
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