30
Dec
07

Well that’s all folks…

I have decided to call it quits with blogging online. I haven’t had much to say in quite sometime, so this is where the line will be drawn. If anyone knows how I can save my entries to a hard copy, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.

My wife bought me a journal a few years back and I actually wrote some thoughts down in it! I would like to pick that up again for a few reasons. The main reason is the death of my mamaw.

After her death, I, and other family members, went through alot of her things. Among her keepsakes are a few letters from my papaw while he was in the service, one from POW camp! This made me think that I wanted to put thought to paper and one day my kids and grandkids can go through my things and find a handwritten treasure like we found. My handwritten thoughts being read one day after I am gone by my boys and there kids really appeals to me. A sort of eternal life.

Unfortunately for this blog (and it’s readers if there are any left), these thoughts will be private thoughts meant for my family’s eyes only and will no longer be thoughts broadcast on the web for all to see and praise or scrutinize. My voice will be much quiter by the world’s standards, but aren’t those things hardest to find more precious?

Good night and good luck.

07
Nov
07

My Journey Thus Far

I have been thinking a lot lately about de-converting, atheism, liberal and conservative Protestantism, to church or not to church, heaven and hell, what to do with Jesus, etc. and I will attempt to summarize the journey as best as I can, from early on till now.

I was a full time minister, both as pastor and associate pastor, for 7 years. Before that, I had done some youth ministry work with my home church and worked at a Christian summer camp for two summers. I really enjoyed being with people who were like me. It was easy. No major differences to speak of. As I got older and more responsibility was given to me, I thought, “This is it. I’ve arrived. I am where God wants me.” Life was…predictable.

It has been said that most people have a crisis of belief at some point in their lives. For most, it happens at early adulthood, for or some, early adolescence and for others later in life. I fall in the latter, later in life. I think that I can now pinpoint the time when it happened.

I had resigned pastoring my first church and had gotten a job as a cable TV installer. My family and I started attending another church and instantly fell in love with it. When you have pastored a church for awhile and then have little to no responsibilities at a new church, it is euphoric. What’s not to love? We weren’t members of the church very long when I was approached to teach an adult class for Sunday School. I was excited to take on a leadership role at this new church, so I accepted. Not long after that, I was offered the associate pastor/ youth minister’s position, a paying position, so I gladly accepted. I quit work with the cable company and planned to complete college. There is a “liberal arts” college near my home, so I enrolled. This is where the defining moment occurred. I was given special permission to take two religion classes, Religion 101 Old Testament and Religion 102 New Testament, and I even added in Religion and the Arts, World Civ., and a required orientation class. I get to my religion classes with a pretty well established Christian worldview, based solely on my experiences up to that point in my life. I had never gone to school to be a pastor but I had been one, and was one at this time. I found out in the first couple of classes that I attended, I was…misinformed about a great many things. To this point, I had always believed the bible was without error, God’s own words. I believed that the stories in the bible were not just stories but actual accounts of history. I believed that Christianity was THE road to God, the afterlife and its rewards. I believed anybody that had not had a “salvation” experience was lost and destined for hell. I believed that the bible writers were all taking dictation from their “God” phone and simply writing what he said down. I believed that the bible was some how one book that was stretched out over several thousand years. What I learned in that one semester of college literally blew my mind!

It would take up too much of your time to go into all the changes. Let’s just say that most of what I believed was…erroneous. At first, naturally, I thought, “These professors are heretics! How can this be a conservative Baptist college and teach this kind of stuff?” I put this new information on a shelf in the back of my mind and decided to take seminary classes by extension. There was a program offered by New Orleans Theological Seminary close enough by my house that I enrolled there instead the next semester. The way the extension classes worked, I stayed there most of Monday afternoon into the evening, but was able to get three classes in one day, nine hours. I did this for about two and half years. The classes were more of what I expected when I first started my secondary school work. Everyone there shared the same Christian worldview I was accustomed to it and it was more…comfortable. I wasn’t really challenged at all at these classes, but I was getting some hours under my belt and I felt pretty good about that. The extension classes work in a cycle. You can get in on any part of the cycle and get enough credits for an associate degree. From that point on, I would have to go to the NOBTS campus in New Orleans to complete my bachelor’s degree. I couldn’t uproot my family, so I tried finding ways to complete my degree online, without any luck. Since there was no other way for me to complete my degree, I just settled in my mind that that was as far as I was going to go.

During my time at seminary, I was working full time with the church. I liked going to school and getting some fodder for teaching the youth or adults in Sunday School. I felt really empowered. Life was pretty good and that is proverbially when the bottom falls out.

I started to have some difficulties with the senior pastor. We no longer saw eye to eye on some things and I felt constantly frustrated with the situation. I began to see that his ideas on how to minister where very different from my own and there was nothing I could do or say that would change that. But I stuck it out for a few more years. But like any untreated wound, things festered. Long story short, I resigned when things were at there quietest so that there would not be any harm to the church, and slipped quietly away.

At the time, I thought I was leaving that church for another church. My family and I took a week or so off and started looking for other churches. I quickly discovered that I didn’t like any of them. I was extremely cynical and disillusioned. I still had some ideas about how church and ministry should be done and ended up running into a friend of mine from several years before. He was starting a home based church ministry and I was immediately interested. We talked a lot over a few months and tried to come up with a model for church that worked. We met together with a few others, in homes, and tried to make things happen. Unfortunately, we began to see a very big problem. In order to have a home church, you have to have potential members, people in your “circle of influence” to invite to come and join in. My friend, Lyndon, and I have the same occupation, marketing/advertising in the health care field. We travel around the state mostly and have no co-workers. It’s pretty much a solo mission. So that limited our “circle”. Another thing that limited our “circle” was all our friendships were with church people. We discovered we didn’t know non-Christians or non-church people. With a depleted “circle” of people we could minister to, we sort of disbanded. We had an idea of going to churches and trying to work with them to change what they were doing to match what we thought would work, but that didn’t work either. We finally decided it was time to give up on the church/ministry we were trying to do. What I discovered next was that I didn’t leave one church for another, I actually had left ministry period.

For the next few months, I tried going to church with my family. My wife was open to try some new things, so we did, but nothing appealed to me, I was still way too cynical. I started to believe that I was now agnostic or maybe even an atheist. It’s really amazing how fast the “fall” was for me. One day, minister, next day cynic, next day agnostic, where was the bottom going to come?

Influenced by my friend and authors such as Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, some Philip Yancey and Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Mike Yaconelli, Gordon Atkinson (Real Live Preacher, especially his early stuff), and more recently Marcus Borg, Karen Armstrong, and Donald Miller, I started to come to terms with the fact that I had completely left religion, the church, and all it had to offer. I couldn’t, however, leave God. Something keeps me from leaving the journey to find God. I can’t explain it but it is undeniable. Cynical as I am, I can’t let go of God. I have let go of the romanticized version of God and I think that is where I am right now.

I read a lot. Books and blogs, I listen to audiobooks when I am driving. I seem to have an insatiable need for knowledge. The difference between my life before “The Great Awakening” (what I call my moment of crisis of belief) and now is that I don’t limit myself to hearing only one voice, ie conservative Christian. I am more open to all kinds of things and so the vast sea of knowledge is even more vast. I have learned a great deal from this openess to all things. I have found that I am not alone in my thoughts. I owe a lot of the beginning of this journey to my good friend Lyndon. Without me having someone to talk to about what I was going through and them completely understand, I would have gone nuts. There is no doubt in my mind. Nuts.

Now you know where the next few statements are coming from, the context from which they flow.

I am not a Christian as most would define Christianity. I don’t want to be associated with, in my humble opinion, this dilluted version of religion. I define religion as the method by which we seek “God”. I agree with Margaret Cho’s statement, “I wish Jesus would come back and say, ‘THAT’S NOT WHAT I MEANT!!” I really believe that Jesus would really be appalled at what has happened and is happening in his name.

I am not an atheist. I define atheist here to mean the “belief” that there is no God. I have not come to that conclusion in my journey thus far. Even though I may not view God as I once did, I haven’t rejected the idea of something bigger than myself in the center of it all.

I am somewhere in the middle of these two. Maybe agnostic thiest is the appropriate term if it is defined as one who views that the true value of certain claims, in particular the existance of “God” is unknown or inherently unknowable but chooses to believe in God in spite of this. Is this dillusionable? Probably in most’s opinions. Can I help it? Not right now and maybe ever. I tried explaining this to Lyndon just the other day as a stain. No matter how much I have tried to rub out God from my mind and heart, it ain’t coming out.

It would take a great deal of work to correctly define “God” as I understand him/her, but I would like to put down a few thoughts.

I believe “God” is not described very accurately in the bible, especially the Old Testament. I think it is more accurate to say that the authors of the biblical books were defining “God” as they saw him/her, much like I am doing here. In the world that we live in now, I don’t need to Wow you with amazing stories of “God”’s works and deeds. Its just not necessary. Because of our current world’s fascination with high energy entertainment, we already get a steady dose of this without my having to awe you with the amazing feats of “God”. So I won’t. “God” is “God”, how can I add to that without seeming like a complete idiot?

I believe I have a duty to love others unconditionally. This is not an easy task and may never be made manifest in my life during my lifetime but I will try.

I believe I am responsible to my wife and two boys to love them, nurture them, protect them, teach and learn from them, support them, acknowledge them, guide them based on my life experiences, and just be there for them in all their needs. They are mine and I am their’s.

I believe mankind has an innate desire to be with one another. I believe the statement, “No man is an island”. There is something about community, in all it’s forms, that is a very good thing. We are not meant to walk alone.

I believe somewhere in time, my questions will be answered. No matter what, I will get to the bottom of it all. No matter if the Christians are right or the atheist is, I will one day know and until then, I must journey on.

06
Nov
07

The Law of Dharma

“Everyone has a purpose in life…a unique gift of special talent to give to others. And when we blend this unique talent with service to others, we experience the ecstasy and exultation of our own spirit, which is the ultimate goal of all goals.”

“Dharma” is defined by Chopra as being a Sanskrit word meaning “purpose in life”. This law states, “we have taken manifestation in physical form to fulfill a purpose.” Chopra goes on to say that we “have a unique talent and a unique way of expressing it.”

Dr. Chopra says there are three components of this law:

1. You’re here to discover your true Self, so discover it.

2. Express your unique talents.

3. Service to humanity.

This sounds like Deepak has been reading Rick Warren’s mail! (Or vise versa). Purpose Driven Life meets The Seventh Spiritual Law of Success! What is my purpose in life really? Do I have a unique purpose? If you take away the afterlife(I said IF), what is the purpose? To be kind and loving to others? Without the threat of eternal damnation, what is your motivation in doing so? Is it fair to say that with out “purpose” in life, there is chaos? Think about this.

What if you were able to convince all the church going, happy go lucky, fundamentalists that a mansion is not their reward and that heaven may not even be a reality, in the traditional church’s understanding of heaven? There would be mass hysteria!

This is what I imagine some people would say, “What do you mean? I’ve been ‘loving’ this worthless bastard for 10 years and for what? No MANSION?!! You mean to tell me that all those dirty homos and bleeding heart liberals are not going to roasting in hell forever? Well, screw this…shit, I’m outta here!”

I believe there would be a mass exodus from the church like never before. If you can’t “guilt” them into submission, tell them they have a “cosmic purpose” and that should keep ’em coming back week after week.

Well, this concludes the break down of Deepak’s book of spiritual laws as compared to the traditional Christian model. I will admit, this is not a overly thorough compare/contrast. I felt there were some similarities between the two that I wanted to explore through writing. Thanks for reading.

06
Nov
07

Law of Detachment

“In detachment lies the wisdom of uncertainty…in the wisdom of uncertainty lies the freedom from our past, from the known, which is the prison of past conditioning. And in our willingness to step into the unknown, the field of all possibilities, we surrender ourselves to the creative mind that orchestrates the dance of the universe.”

This law says, “in order to acquire anything in the physical universe, you have to relinquish your attachment to it.” Deepak goes on to say that you don’t give up on desire or intention, but you give up on the attachment to the result. I think he is saying, live your life without attaching yourself to the end results of said life. In everything you do, live in the now.

As this relates to biblical teaching, doesn’t this sound like, “don’t worry about anything, you can’t change anything by worrying about it.” Can you really change the outcome of your life by worrying? No. Can you really change your life by having a more positive attitude? Maybe. Will my life be more focused and therefore successful if I live in the moment? I think so.

04
Nov
07

Justification by Grace

I am still reading Borg’s “Reading the bible again for the first time” and am in the chapter where he is tackling Paul’s letters. I came across some good information on “justification by grace” that I would like to share here.

Borg gives four interpretations and a final thought.

1.  Justification by grace in opposition to justification by works of the law is NOT about the inadequacy of the Jewish law or Judaism. Paul’s attack of the law subverts a more universal way of being, found not only within Christianity and Judaism but also within secular culture. Life under the law is the life of “measuring up” in which our well-being depends upon how well we do. Life under the law is, as one contemporary scholar puts it, living according to the “performance principle.”

2. Justification by grace is NOT about forgiveness; it is not simply an affirmation that God will forgive those who repent. Forgiveness was a given for Paul even before his Damascus Road experience. The Judaism he knew did not teach that one had to observe the law perfectly; rather, it taught that God forgives repentant sinners, and it provided means for mediating forgiveness.

3. Jusification by grace is NOT about who goes to heaven, or how. The notion that it is flows out of conventional Christianity’s preoccupation with the afterlife throughout the centuries, as if that were most central to the message of Jesus and Paul and the New Testament. When justification by grace is thought about in this context, it leads to questions such as: Does this mean that everybody goes to heaven, regardless of what they believe or how they have lived (which strikes most people as unfair)? And if it doesn’t mean that, what distinguishes those who do go to heaven from those who don’t. If it’s something we do, then we are back to works. But if going to heaven doesn’t depend on something we do, then God must arbitrarily decide who goes to heaven–and then notions of predestination emerge. Here, as is much else, preoccupation with the afterlife has profoundly distorted Christianity.

4. Paul’s understanding of justification is NOT about replacement of one requirement with another. This frequently happens in Christianity when “faith” replaces “good works” as what God requires of us. The system of requirements remains; only the content has changed. Of course, faith in God and Jesus was central for Paul. But it was not a new requirement; rather, faith in God’s grace–in the God who justifies the ungodly–is the abolition of the whole system of requirements. It is thus a radically new way of seeing.

So what, then, is justification by grace about? Very simply, it is about the basis of our relationship to God in the present. Is it constituted by something we do or believe? Or is it a gift, a given? For Paul, of course, the answer is by now obvious. Justification is a gift of God, not a human accomplishment. Within the framework of justification by grace, the Christian life is about becoming conscious of and entering more deeply into an already existing relationship with God as known in Jesus. It is not about meeting requirements for salvation later but about newness of life in the present. And living by grace produces the same qualities of life “in Christ”: freedom, joy, peace, and love.

Your thoughts? Personally, I really like his third point. Lots of discussion can come from it.

04
Nov
07

The Law of Intention and Desire

“Inherent in every intention and desire is the mechanics for its fulfillment…intention and desire in the field of pure potentiality have infinite organizing power. And when we introduce an intention in the fertile ground of pure potentiality, we put this infinite organizing power to work for us.”

“This law is based on the fact that energy and information exist everywhere in nature. In fact, at the level of the quantum field, there is nothing other than energy and information. The quantum field is just another label for the field of pure consiousness or pure potentiality. And this quantum field is influenced by intention and desire.”

Dr. Chopra also states that the only difference between a human and a tree “is the informational and energy content of your respective bodies”. This takes on a more scientific approach to me. I have found that Deepak is very spiritual but at the same time, very scientific. The quantum field is so open right now for discovery and there seems to be endless lessons to be learned from it’s exploration. This is one such lesson or, law, according to Deepak.

Although a tree and I are very similar in an “informational and energy” way, we are very different in a unique way. Humans have the ability to be “aware” of it’s surroundings there by letting us “experience” the quantum field. And Dr. Chopra goes on to say that not only do we “experience” this field of information, but we can control it with intention and desire.

This seems to border the deification of the human race. Is there going to be a time when God is “explained” and there truly is no mystery left for us to wonder at. Will Nietzsche’s belief, “God is dead” come to a reality in my lifetime?

25
Oct
07

The Law of Least Effort

“Nature’s intelligence functions with effortless ease…with carefreeness, harmony, and love. And when we harness the forces of harmony, joy, and love, we create success and good fortune with effortless ease.”

Deepak says that “the law is based on the fact that nature’s intellegence functions with effortless ease”. For example, “grass doesn’t try to grow, it just grows” and “fish don’t try to swim, they just swim”. It is their nature to do what they do and it is “human nature to make our dreams manifest into physical form, easily and effortlessly.”

I am having a bit of trouble with the last part there. Is that why I am here, to make manifest my dreams easily? If this is true, it seems kind of selfish to me. I am sure there is more, at least I hope so.

Let’s move on.

Dr. Chopra also equates this law with “miracles”. We should get to the point when we are in complete harmony with the universe, we will only need to think and things will come to be. Not sure that is possible even if I knew what he was talking about.

To be fair, here is the prescibed action to take to achieve the law of least effort.

One, Acceptance. Accept things as they are. “This means I will know that this moment is as it should be, because the whole universe is as it should be.” It is easier for me to accept the big picture here. The WHOLE universe is as it should be. OK. But when I think that I am a part of the universe, this is a lot harder to swallow. I don’t believe I am as I should be.

Two, Responsibility. This means that you are “not blaming anyone or anything for your situation, including yourself.” Doing this allows you to have a “creative response to the situation as it is now”.

And three, defenselessness, “which means that your awareness is established in defenselessness, and you have relinquished the need to convince or persuade others of your point of view.” By doing this, you “gain access to enormous amounts of energy that have been previously wasted.”

Towards the end of the chapter, Dr. Deepak encourages us to “make a commitment to follow the path of no resistance. This is the path through which nature’s intelligence unfolds spontaneously, without friction or effort.”

How, if at all, does this law correlate to Christian doctrine?