Following a False Messiah…

I am going to begin this blog post with a few confessions. First, I am a chaplain and a clergy person who really dislikes going to church, and secondly I am an Ordained Baptist Minister who wonders whether or not what I have been taught to preach as the “Jesus Story” is even true. As a sidebar note, I also like gay people, transgender people, and people of all ethnicities and races. I don’t think what goes on in person’s bedroom is their defining characteristic and I don’t believe in Hell. At my core, I am a universalist and I see value in all spiritual paths that are genuinely followed and I incorporate elements of several different faith traditions in my own personal spiritual practice. I suspect this makes me sound like a terrible minister, but I must say that I find the representation of Christianity in America today to be pretty reprehensible. It has morphed from a freeing movement focused on a group of people loving one another and loving God into a nationalistic, self-focused mechanism for social control that has been perverted and inseparably intertwined with a chaotic and corrupt political system. The Jesus of the Bible who was open, honest, caring, and socialistic in practice has been overshadowed by a caricature of Jesus that is capitalistic, nationalistic, hates gun control, and frankly has about as much spiritual significance as the little golden Buddha that sits fat and smiling next to the cash register at a Chinese restaurant. The narrative around this figure has changed too. Jesus has shifted from being a kind man making time for the downtrodden and less fortunate into a wrathful demigod who is more concerned with the pragmatic following of arbitrary rules, conversion, and church attendance than actual spiritual growth and healthy community. Christianity today has taken elements from a broken culture and projected them upon an image of God that is omniscient and omnipotent. By doing this, it has created a God in the image of human beings and deified and justified the broken elements of American culture. This creation has become an idol blindly worshipped by many. It has become a false messiah that people follow without question and the consequence of all of this is that society is made worse by its presence and not better. The Christian “ideals” which were once tantamount to the operation of American have now decompensated into a rhetoric and a message that is playing a major role in division, inequity, and the unravelling of the fabric of America. Yet people fail to see it. They fail to see the skewed nature of the ideals they are being taught just as they fail to see the darkness that lies within themselves. This individual and corporate “shadow” remains in the background pulling the strings as the average church goer sits in the pew every Sunday abating their own sense of inadequacy and avoiding the darkness that exists in their hearts with memories of “walking the aisle” as a child and “getting saved,” neither of which has had an apparent impact on improving their lives or the lives around them in the subsequent years. The only real impact of this knowledge is that it inoculates an individual against the taught existential fear of going to Hell and perversely gives the person a sense of having a “bargaining chip” in their hands when they face an angry, malicious, judgemental, and malicious God that they themselves have created. So, how do we find our way back? The truth is, I don’t know that we do. Just as science changes and evolves as new information is found, so must faith. If Christianity fails to evolve to meet the needs of contemporary culture, it is dead. It will become little more that a cultural vestige of a far away time and have no power or capacity to offer positive change to the world. As I see it, the first place to begin is within. Religion is often seen as an external thing or process, but in reality, what is going on within a person is then reflected by their actions and engagement in the world. Perhaps by going within, we may find that the Jesus or “Christ Consciousness” that we sought to accept externally was within us all along. We merely had to take the time to find it. There is a danger with going inside of ourselves though. For, just as we may find the divine inside of ourselves, we will, without a doubt, find darkness inside too. It is quite the humbling experience to discover that the devil we once blamed for things and feared has resided within us and been us the entire time. To truly follow the divine, whether one calls this God, the Universe, Natural Law, or any other conceptualization is to see our connectedness with the world around us and to live a life that does not cause harm, but that helps all around us. For it is in these connections that we find the meaning and purpose that we so crave and often seek in unhealthy and destructive ways. To follow the true messiah is to develop a spirituality of compassion and care directed at ourselves and others, because at the end of the day, we are all one. No matter your faith tradition or religious beliefs, I leave you with these two questions today: Do you love and seek God (as you understand God) above all things? and Do you care about your neighbors (recognizing that everyone is your neighbor) as much as you care about yourself? These two simple questions hold the key to spiritual growth and to living out Christianity (and all other faiths) as it was intended. By engaging in these two simple things we protect ourselves from following and getting misled by false messiahs.-

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