It [the Protestant Christian Bible] teaches collective salvation - first of the Jewish state, then of the Christian body, then of the world as a whole. It teaches
- when one member of a church is in “sin”, the whole church needs to come together.
- when one member of a church lacks resources, the whole church pools resources together.
- when one member of a church is sick, the whole church needs to come together.
- when practicing rituals like communion, we’re told to make sure no ill will sits between the individual members of the church or the whole church will suffer.
- when heading to worship, the church invites more to the table afterwards to eat and drink and be in community.
We don’t live lives alone and our choices impact the entire body of Christ/humanity. For those that aren’t part of Christianity, you may already understand this and you may wonder at the failure of the Christian church to recognize this truth. Our choices impact the lives of those around us. We are all connected in some wonderful, unexplainable way.
You, dear church member or eclectic spiritualist, do not have an individual path. You are not able to make up your own beliefs and live your own life apart from input from others. You take what works for you, sure, but that taking is only possible by first learning the language of the community and then learning what the community believes. You may do things in your own way, you may take your own steps, but the only path humanity is on is a collective path towards becoming more.
This is the other part of the disease, the gangrene now begging for large portions of the church to be cut away. The Christian bible is clear that the body and the spirit are one. The body cannot live without the spirit and the spirit cannot exist apart from the body*(but by the power and grace of God-and even then only for a short period of time for resurrection)*. When a pastor preaches too much on the humanity of a person, they miss the spiritual. When they preach too much on the spiritual, they miss the humanity. This is a delicate balance.
Conservative churches seem to focus on the body and the mind. Don’t get involved with the things of the spiritual realm because you will be taken in by the devil. Make sure you have an answer to every question because mystery will lead you astray. This is the kind of thing you learn in a conservative church.
Liberal churches seem to focus on the spirit. I don’t need stories of how people met Jesus, tell me about how you met The Divine. I don’t want a formula. I don’t want a system or a theology. I don’t need to know the debates or be tied down to one belief. This is the kind of thing you learn in liberal churches.
By denying the body or by denying the spirit the church creates a fake idea of spiritualism that isn’t modeled in the Christian bible or in the concept of Jesus as the Cosmic Christ.
Thoughts and Conclusion
While in India in 2016, I met some of the most loving, faith-filled Christians I will probably ever meet. They were all children. When a group of them prayed, they all prayed together, out loud and in unison, but each saying something different. It was chaotic to my ears at first, especially so because it was not in English. But then I fell in love with the sound. It was music in spoken word. It melted my heart and it helped me see what we are missing in Western cultures and in the church.
We are missing community, oneness, and the knowledge that we were created to be social, communal creatures.
People want to have faith in something. In this age it’s impossible to believe in almost anything.
We don’t trust our critics, our scholars, our scientists, our politicians, our neighbors, our news media, or our clergy.
We’ve become so polarized in faith, in politics, in family matters, the list goes on and on. We want, we need, something to unite us. I believe that something is hope and faith. Hope in a better tomorrow for all people and faith in The Divine or a in savior that can lead us there.
I think many people understand this to be true. They long for saviors to come along for all sorts of reasons. Without getting too political, it’s why Obama was elected. It’s why Trump was elected. Certain groups of people rallied around a candidate because they believed this candidate would save them from perceived threats. Obama was given a Nobel Peace Prize the first year he was in office because people all over the world wanted to believe he could bring stability to their chaos. In the same way millions of Americans voted for a man with many horrible flaws because they believed he could make America “great again”.
It’s the same in religion with the Pope, with Jesus, and with other religious leaders. People look to them to save them.
I want a better way to live and I think I see the seeds of that in the Bible.
Here are two examples.
Pentecost is a mostly Christian holiday celebrated 50 days after Easter. (And 40 days after Jesus went up to heaven.) Acts 2 has a story in it that says the disciples of Jesus were waiting and praying when the spirit of the Lord came down as tongues of fire above their heads. Suddenly the disciples could speak in the languages of the people visiting Jerusalem at the time. 3000 people became believers (were “saved”) that day.
This story is almost completely lost on us in 21st Century. Three main things are going on.
- It is alluding to the time when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in the book of Exodus. The people waited 40 days for Moses to come back down the mountain with the law of the Lord. During that time they made a golden calf to worship it as the representation of God. When Moses came down he was furious and in his (and the Lord’s) anger 3000 people died.
- This story is also alluding to a prophecy in the book of Jeremiah where God says no more will people need to read the law on a set of stone tablets but he will write the law on their hearts. Acts 2 says that happens when the Spirit of the Lord comes to live within us.
- Finally, in 1 Enoch, a book not included in most Bibles but written about 100 years or so before Acts, has a story where Enoch goes to heaven and in heaven he comes to the temple of the Lord. The temple is made of tongues of fire. Inside the temple is the presence of the Lord.
The author of Acts (Acts was written after the 2nd Temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in 70 CE.) is saying we don’t need the temple to experience the presence and power of The Divine anymore because each person is part of a new, glorious, living temple here on Earth. The Divine resides in all people as proof that we are that temple.
Want proof? In a story a mere 10 chapters later, Peter sees that this temple is for all people. The previously mentioned “waiting for 40” days is condensed into 4 days and on that 4th day these non-Jews experience the same tongues of fire as the Jews did in Acts 2.
The point of Pentecost is this: The Divine has chosen all of humanity to be its people. As children of The Divine, and as important parts of its temple, we must treat each other as holy. We miss all of this when we don’t understand the context of the stories. What a wonderful, powerful message! If only we could get all people to share that vision.
After God created Adam in Genesis 2, he placed him in the garden of Eden. Adam was promised eternal life if he obeyed God’s commands. Adam disobeyed and was kicked out of the garden TO THE EAST.
Eve created life: Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and was forced to move TO THE EAST.
This idea, TO THE EAST, repeats itself all through the Old Testament until finally the Jews, who were placed in Canaan (a land described as paradise), rebelled against God and were exiled into Babylon, a land TO THE EAST.
Isaiah “prophesied” (that is a whole other topic) that a savior will come FROM THE EAST to restore the Jews and their temple. This was fulfilled by King Cyrus when Persia defeated Babylon. But the authors of the New Testament saw King Cyrus as a shadow of someone greater still to come.
The authors of “The Gospels” tell us Jesus visited Jerusalem during His last Passover FROM THE EAST. Then he went into the second temple*(the first had been destroyed in the exile)*. After he left the temple he went up to the Mount of Olives and prayed. (This story is alluding to the book of Lamentations where the Spirit of the Lord leaves the temple and goes to the mountain to watch.)
As mentioned in the first example, the second temple was destroyed in 70 CE, but The Divine now resides in all people. The Divine didn’t restore a man-made temple with another man-made temple. It restored the temple with a living temple made of people instead of wood, brinks, and stones. And The Divine didn’t restore the land to the Jews. It restored all the land on Earth as being holy for all people.
The main point is this: some people get caught up in a Creation vs evolution fight when they read the Bible. But the Bible doesn’t care about that. It’s trying to tell a much grander story about redemption for all people. Almost none of this is taught in churches anymore but it’s all there and easy to understand if one understands first century Jewish thought.
I don’t know what you think about all of this (and I’d love to answer questions as best as I can) but at the very least I hope you catch just a piece of my vision. I want to reclaim faith and bring it into the post-Christian era to help others heal and make sense of this chaotic world. I’m done with people judging others and treating others poorly.
And I think Jesus and Paul had a vision for humanity that would be revolutionary even today: A world where we treat each other as equals and we love our enemies. A world where we serve each other instead of use each other for selfish gain. No more war. No more harassment. No more intentional mistreatment. No more labels that divide us into classes of people.
I’m not saying we’ll get there in my lifetime. But I want to bring hope to people that we can get there someday.