A Journey in Hope
Written By: Wendell Krossa
Let me give you a bit of background on my journey over these past decades. It is a journey that has benefitted immensely from interaction with others along the way. It has been a journey toward ever-increasing hope and there is nothing like hope to steel one’s spine and drive out the darkness. Hope has always meant more to me than faith.
As I recount these things, I would emphasize the importance of being open to all evidence no matter how upsetting it might be to one’s personal worldview. Most people look for things (anecdotes not long term trends) that will affirm their beliefs and commitments and most people abhor change, especially too radical change. I like to think I have remained open to radical change if the evidence supports it, no matter how discomfiting it may be.
Years ago numbers of us read Joseph Campbell (1)on the history of mythology and religious ideas (also Mircea Eliade). We also read much of the Jesus Seminar (2) research on the historical Jesus. Others we imbibed included Karen Armstrong (3) on the history of God ideas. Much of the belief system of Christianity derives from the same body of mythology that has informed all world religions and other belief systems. These myths (and I don’t use myth disparagingly) include themes of a former golden age or perfect beginning, a subsequent fall and separation from the divine, an angry god evident in the destructive forces of nature, sinful people that have defiled the world, sacrifice to appease the angry god/gods, coming calamity as punishment for sin, a time of cleansing, ending and restoration to original paradise. This narrative is now seen as distorting the actual story of the cosmos and life and many of us have abandoned it. Abandoning such mythology also involves abandoning many other related religious themes- that Jesus claimed to be God (he claimed to be only human- the human one, son of humans), that he believed he was a sacrifice for the sin of humanity, and so on. Out of the Jesus Seminar we got a clearer view of the core teaching of this fascinating historical figure. His followers mistakenly tried to explain him in terms of the themes of the old narrative of fall, separation, sacrifice, and apocalyptic ending.
Others like Thomas Sheehan helped us to see there never was a God above in heaven, a male king ruling over life. We took this and clarified further, recognizing that there never was a separation of God from humanity, there was no rupture to be restored, not broken relationship to be healed. God never left us. God is manifest in human emergence since the beginning. This is where God is seen and known most clearly. This is not a story of original perfection and fall but rather a story of imperfect beginning and the slow progress toward something better, something more conscious, more advanced, and more humane over time. God is evident in the emergence and growth of love in human society over the millennia. God is evident in the never-ending development and improvement of human civilization. The old narrative and mythology did not see this and missed it, opting for an apocalyptic narrative of decline and decay and coming destruction.
The most profound insight in our journey has been to see more clearly the absolute supremacy of love. This is the essence of being human. This is the fundamental nature of reality and life. This is behind everything. And not just love, but unconditional love. An incomprehensible, scandalous, and even offensive love that forgives everything, includes everyone, offers everything freely to all, and simply overwhelms with its brilliance. This is what divinity is all about. This is what life is all about. This is what humanity is to be all about. There is no divine anger at human imperfection but rather infinite patience with the freedom and development of humanity as a whole and with the progress of each individual life story and venture. In that love, there is no desire for payback, punishment or revenge. There is no demand for correct belief as some sort of condition for acceptance. There is no coercion or control from above with such love.
We also learned that justice according to the OT prophets did not mean payback and punishment for wrongdoing. It meant liberation and scandalous generosity. And of course common sense tells us this does not mean permitting people that cannot control their basest impulses, freedom to harm others. Love and justice mean the protection of the weak and ensuring the safety and freedom of all others.
Others helped us refine our thinking on such issues as human suffering and the presence of evil in life. We discovered there was no intervening, controlling deity managing the affairs of people or rushing in to save us from the devastating accidents of nature. We discovered that Love values freedom above all. Without genuine freedom there is no genuine goodness (absolute freedom of choice to be human). But such freedom also opens the way for free choice for evil, and that can devastate others. This is still an area of confounding mystery. A God of love exists everywhere sustaining every atom in existence every moment, yet does not coercively interfere or overwhelm the freedom of life and humanity. Earthquakes surprise and kill thousands. Yet the tectonic plate movement that produces such devastation is also necessary for the development of life (creation of mountains with their beauty and their effect on climate which impacts life and its development). Such disasters inspire people to find solutions to such problems which are then passed on to succeeding generations to their benefit.
So this is a rough introduction to the great transition to a new grand narrative. The new narrative embodies the growing human awareness of what it means to be truly human. This is all about our advance toward light and love. The old narrative embodied the themes of an animal-like past – domination, exclusion, separation, destruction, pay-back. The new narrative expresses the themes of our human future – unlimited forgiveness for all, inclusion of all, radical freedom for all, no separation of humanity from the divine, and no fear of coming retribution or destruction.
These themes need to be absorbed into human consciousness and sub-consciousness more fully, to drive out the darkness engendered by the themes of the old narrative. These new themes will liberate human consciousness more fully. They will truly enlighten in the truest sense of bringing light. Embedded at the core of human consciousness, these new themes will take humanity to even new heights of liberation and progress. It’s all about a revolution of hope, light and love; may it spread like a wildfire through public consciousness.
Let me add that the historical Jesus got the new narrative quite well. His core teaching and parables emphasize unconditional love like no one ever before him – scandalous inclusion of all; unlimited generosity toward all; unlimited forgiveness toward all; no payback, no retribution or punishment, and no requirements to be met before experiencing unconditional love. This theme of unconditional love is so central and so primary and so absolutely essential to the new narrative and understanding what it means to be human (the central issue of all existence and life). This is what the cosmos, life and human experience is all about. We exist to learn and experience unconditional love. The entire cosmos exists to provide an environment for us to learn and experience this within. It explains the purpose of existence and life like nothing else does.
All the writing on near death experiences also affirms this insight. The ones that clearly see this are most helpful. Others also see this but then interpret it in terms of their own religious beliefs which often end up distorting this core element: but that is divine freedom. We are not overwhelmed or coerced into suddenly changing our beliefs: not even in the next life. We still learn and grow and develop within divine patience.
References: click here for Wikipedia (Joseph Campbell)