The Season of Peace

Among the seven forms of selfishness released upon the Earth when the seals were broken in heaven [Rev. 6], the prince of death is that mystical presence that divides us from those that we love and feasts on our sorrow.

In this season, we celebrate a man who submitted to death, yet still loving those that abused him [Luke 23:34]. Through his devotion, Jesus suffused death with love. He converted that impenetrable barrier into a shield that keeps warring spirits apart until they find the strength to forgive one another [Matt. 1:21 and Luke 24:47].

For those of us that in this season celebrate Christmas, this is the source of its meaning and joy.

Religious Intolerance in the Military

I’ve been active on the Religious Tolerance group on Facebook. I declared my position fairly early on in a posting that stated “all great religious teachings serve to transform an existence driven by lies, fear and death into an existence guided by truth, hope and life.” However there are those that see me as a Christian proselytizer, largely because I quote scripture. This makes me sad. I write there because I believe that “Christian intolerance” is rooted in false teaching, and that if we look in scripture, we will find evidence to that effect. I quote scripture because I believe that it is the best tool that we have for combating intolerance masquerading as Christianity.

This is nowhere more evident than in those that use death threats in order to conquer institutions in “the name of Christ.” I have been made aware recently of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and the death threats issued against its members and their families by Christian militants.

We don’t have to attain much depth of spiritual experience before we become aware that spiritual evolution did not begin with humanity. The dominant personalities in the spiritual realm, prior to our emergence, were the predators that stand atop the biological food chain. These would have been the dinosaurs (which appear as the serpent in the Garden of Eden and the dragon in Revelation) and the bear and great cats (the mammalian predators) that appear in Revelation and Daniel’s Dream of the Four Beasts.

Revelation is best understood as the history of the unseating of predation as the driver of evolution in favor of intelligent engineering that is informed by unconditional love. This is not a clean and simple process, and is made more difficult because humanity has only a dim perception of the spiritual dynamics. What transpires in Revelation 13:11-15 is that the dragon dresses up as the lamb and empowers the mammalian predators to religious dominance. As it is written: “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world”, that lamb being Christ. Clearly, those that follow the beast do not follow Christ.

The beast continues to promulgate teaching that “anyone that does not worship the idol must die.” The beast famously bears the number “666.” While John points out that this is the number of man (who was created on the sixth “day”), six is also the number of the “day” of mammals that attained evolutionary dominance after the fall of the dinosaurs.

So what is directly written in the Bible is that the use of death threats is false teaching, and actually anti-Christ.

That this teaching is particularly strong in the military, which is an institution organized to harness the forces of predation, is not at all surprising. As I see it, those that resist this process, such as Mr. Weinstein and his colleagues, are agents of truth and life, and regardless of their profession of faith, are held in the heart of Christ with the most tender concern and honored regard.

Perfect Love, Imperfect Justice

Seeking fuel for criticism of religion, there is no better place to look than the old testament. When presented the contrast between the simple message of forgiveness in the New Testament and the corporal punishments of Leviticus, the best I have been offered is the tortured logic that “Christ’s sacrifice satisfied the desire of God for perfect justice.”

The contradictions in this message drove me from Christianity. Perfect justice? Dear God, who created us, with all of our flaws and weakness? What right has our maker to pass judgment on us?

To the atheist, these debates lack any merit. The books of the Bible are clearly an amalgamation of myths and histories from different cultures and eras. What kind of consistency would we expect to find?

But to the fundamentalist, these are central issues. If murder is justifiable in the eyes of the Lord, then there are principles that justify state-sanctioned execution, and even warfare. More moderately, social repression of “deviant” behaviors has a holy sanction, regardless of the psychological and political consequences to the oppressed class.

As I implied, resolving this contradiction was critical to the acceptability of Christianity in my mind. Given the obvious justification of the atheist’s position, I was ultimately astonished that there should be any coherence in scripture as I sought through it for answers to the problem. That coherence I found is evidence that the work of Divine Love on human nature involves transfers of focus from one culture to another as the opportunity best presents itself to heal our separation from the Almighty.

Let us trace the history of justice since that separation was first recognized. It begins with fratricide, a crime certainly more horrific than adultery, for which Leviticus demands death. What was the response of the Divine to that act? Not murder, but banishment. Not rejection, but protection.

What is the purpose of this program? As God had counseled Cain earlier “Evil crouches at your door. But you can master it.” Cain lost that struggle with evil. His jealousy overcame him, and he murdered his brother. So God sends him away with his personal devil, knowing that the display of mercy and concern will give Cain strength as he struggles for the rest of his life to civilize the spirit that bound itself to him through his brother’s murder.

This is the work of an engineer, using humanity as a tool to heal brokenness in the realm of spirit.

Then we come to Noah and the flood. Here we see God, in an act of desperation, attempting to purge the world of human evil. Several historical events have been proposed as the precursor of this story: an asteroid impact, the release of flood waters from glaciers on the Asian steppes, and rising sea levels fed by Ice Age melt that eventually flooded continental shelves. There seems to be no lack of material mechanisms to explain the myth, but this doesn’t let God of the hook: why didn’t He intervene to remove His creatures from the path of destruction?

The simple answer is that nobody was listening. But God still regrets the consequences, and this is central to the thread of the history of justice in the Bible. He announces that no longer will He intervene to dispense justice over men – the cost to the rest of reality is too great. From this point forward, men will maintain their own courts of justice.

In this context, the words of Jesus take on a different weight. Asked to identify the commandments, he replies “Love thy God with all thy heart and mind and soul. And love thy neighbor as thyself. All the rest of the law is derived from these.” But derived by who? Clearly, in the post-flood context, by men. Elsewhere, Jesus asserts “I came not to overthrow the law, but to restore it.” Reading his proclamations and efforts to the reclamation of sinners, clearly Jesus is referring to the law of unconditional love that granted mercy to Cain.

The Law of the Torah is a human construct, serving human ends, motivated by divine principle, but expedient where human patience reaches its end. Jesus did not die to satisfy a Divine need for Perfect Justice. He died and rose again to demonstrate the imperfection and ineffectuality of human justice, and give us the courage to struggle against the tyranny of misguided enforcement.

In the end, then, there are no just wars, because wars perpetuate and strengthen the spirit of violence. There is no just persecution, because persecution always separates us from those that we are intended to heal. Any pronouncements to the contrary contradict the teachings and acts of Jesus. They are not the teachings of Christianity.

Engarde!

The old adage “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will do” applies to religion as well as to any other human endeavor. In fact, in the case of religion, the implications are particularly acute.

The process of religion has a character much like that of the scientific method, with the exception that the demonstrations of its principles – avatars such as Jesus of Nazareth, Clara Barton, Lao-Tzu and Buddha – are exceptional manifestations that cannot be produced by rote method. There are no factories for people of grace. They are called into existence through channels in time opened by exceptional human need.

Lacking any understanding of mechanisms, theosophists (those that speculate on the soul and its relationship with the divine) have typically resorted to monotheistic escalation. Their reasoning is roughly as follows: exceptional experiences that overwhelm the material status quo must have their origination in superior principles. That those principles hold sway indicates that they must be free of corrupting influences, and so superior in their own realm. If they are superior, their influence must be inescapable and complete. Ultimately, Dao, Brahman, God, Allah and all others are ceded control over all aspects of reality.

There are three strategies of religious practice allowed in the psychology of this relationship between infinitesimal humanity and infinite deity. The first is paralysis – trust in the Divine, and await its deliverance. The second is passivity – study the Divine, with the hope of emulating it, but assert no independent will. The third, most dangerous path, is to follow someone that asserts superior understanding, with the hope of achieving enlightenment.

The third path is dangerous because, when coupled with wealth, the assertion of spiritual authority is backed by means for suppressing cautionary voices.

I have been negotiating with a subset of self-proclaimed religious “authorities” over the last decade. The process has developed as a series of manifestations of the power of unconditional love, and attempts to communicate principles and mechanisms that would, as Jesus promised, enable a disciplined practitioner do “greater works than these”. The disciplines are those described most directly in Daoism, but mirrored also in Buddhism: surrender of self-concern and commitment to the manifestation of harmony in the realm of our influence.

What has become clear through those experiences is that the process will proceed only through dis-intermediation. Purveyors of mystery will not exchange their mysteries for understanding.

So what I have to offer here is an antidote to religious speculation. I am going to attack confusion by offering a model of religious experience, and use it to elucidate the recorded history of the lives of our spiritual avatars. I am going to attempt to place their lives in the context of the evolution of Human Nature, and offer my sense as to how that process is going to unfold over the next 40 years.

Involvement in the process is inescapable. Paralysis and passivity are not viable options. The only way out of the bind Humanity faces is for some number of us to learn to recognize the “still, small voice” inside of us, and let it guide us as we re-organize the broken reality that will come to surround us.

In the service of that process, I am going to clear the air. I am going to winnow from religious teaching expedience in the service of priestly and political authority. Names will not be named. Social policies will not be promulgated. The only thing on offer here will be the antidote to hypocrisy: truth in the service of spiritual liberation.