Group Comments on a Grand New Creation Story
What people find most successful – hence the continued historical movement away from pagan mythology toward something more in tune with reality as we now know it (and this may change once again tomorrow or the day after). This is not the ‘greatness of Christianity’ (that temple called Babylon by some, full of all that defiles- my paraphrase <:) but this is the greatness of human consciousness or the human spirit that constantly seeks something better. This is not “driven” by outside forces but comes from the human consciousness within all people. Watch it move on to ever better things, lifting all humanity and all life with it.
Good point made by Herb. What is most successful. I have watched this in action among a tribal group in Mindanao that held a very pagan mythology. They regularly sacrificed pigs and chickens to placate angry deities/spirits. A real waste of valuable resources. But with some challenge to the old mythology and then with a loosening up of perspective and voila, lets save the damn pig for something more useful, or successful.
So in other religions. When people understood that it was a waste of time to make sacrifices to the god of storm to try and stop flooding, they then turned to more successful things like building dams instead. Such has been the march of humanity toward things more successful. And it leaves in its wake an eviscerated religion, basically nothing more than Pastor Joel Osteen’s feel good pop psychology. Not much different that most of the feel good stuff out there coming from all sides, whether New Agers or non-religious types. But yes, it works.
I get Karen Amstrong’s point that people create myths/gods that work for them in any given era. And when I say this let me qualify that there is a God beyond God to use Campbell’s terms (God is a penultimate term pointing to some incomprehensible Mystery beyond). But I hold to the view that this incomprehensible Mystery is personal, love, generosity, Light, and other truly humane things that we have concluded from the varied insights that humans have come up with (Schillebeesk- if Jesus is an expression of God then God is more truly humane, more human than human beings, or something to that effect).
As Christians and non-Christians move forward in life and history, yes, they are creating alternative stories to the old ones. Sometimes they are just making slight adjustments to the stories, sometimes ignoring dark older themes and hoping they will just fade away by neglect (like the myth of Hell), and sometimes making quite radical shifts. They are finding stories that work for them within the confines of what is comfortable for where they are in their journeys. I don’t expect everyone to be where I am.
Joel Osteen is closer to where some percentage of the Christian population is comfortable. He is trying to keep the deck chairs arranged in new orders but may not see the iceberg has already gashed the ship and… And a growing percentage of national populations across the world have abandoned the old religions for non-religious status. Many claim to be spiritual but eschew religious membership. They need new stories for this new status. So we have our work cut out for us and job openings are plenty.
They do articles on how pervasive the influence of the Bible has been on Western culture. How often even today in so-called secular arenas we hear an endless stream of biblical references- David and Goliath, turn the other cheek, and on and on.
And each of us takes and uses what we were fed from this source, and do some tinkering, or wholesale revision, or whatever we find helpful.
Sometimes the shifts in perspective are quite radical. I think for instance of the Christian doctrine of holiness. This was the supreme attribute of God in our Evangelical tradition. This was the “glory” of God. Even love had to kowtow to holiness. It had to be first and foremost ‘holy love’.
But in rethinking these things over the years, I took a second look at such ideas. Holiness is really about separation. It is about clean/unclean, pure/impure. It reinforces the myth of separation from God, that God is separate from this defiled world and defiled humanity. And of course Evangelicals like Spurgeon even got into the ‘angels on the head of a pin’ aspect in debating how an omnipresent holy God could be present in, say, a dunghill.
This holiness doctrine gets to the heart of salvation mythology- that offended holiness must be propitiated, a holy separating law has been broken and payment must be made. Holiness supports the whole system of belief.
For me, things like this teaching on holiness became an issue of dare to blaspheme and dare to be free. To see that this holiness feature was a distortion of God. That such a God may be in actuality more of a Devil (your God is my devil). Such radical change in perspective is part of liberating oneself from those deep inner slaveries of mind and spirit. To confront those deepest fears of offending some potentially offended deity. These things are not easy to let go of, after having the fear of God beaten into one’s consciousness. But part of human liberation is to let go and find something more humane to replace it.
I have mentioned before that my earliest memory as a child of 3 was of my Dad standing beside our wood stove and quickly touching the hot top and telling us, “This is what hell is like, like when you burn your finger but only its all over your body”. That kind of fear gets deeply ‘burned’ into one’s consciousness. Traumatizingly so.
Some of us face such residual fears of things taught long ago. Biblical things. Holy things. Things that we now know were wrongheaded.
But this does not depreciate much else that was valuable. Its more about sorting things out. Picking and choosing. The ongoing work of creating a narrative for oneself, to guide one’s life story.
God gave us an incomplete creation like an incomplete or if you like, a less than perfect Promised Land. We are God’s hands to fashion it according to the dream of a Promised Land without hunger, sickness, war, injustices, oppression and so on. Listen to the song/prayer of the little girl that I sent Wendell. In this sense we have become the co-creators God could not give us the gift of love without at the same time giving us the gift of liberty – so great as to be scary. In this God’s love is so great and bewildering that God put God’s self in human hands and became subject to a lot of random chance along the way as we ourselves are.
In a sense, we need to keep re-writing and up-dating the Biblical story. We stand on their shoulders – that is, those who wrote the Bible. We listen to any wisdom that is relevant to us, use it, edit it, revise it, and so on. How could we ever surpass that brilliant flash of insight, the foundation of the great story of humanity, that appears in the first chapter of the Bible, namely, that man and woman were made in the image and likeness of God. Take that gift to me from that unknown ancient writer, and I would have nowhere to start my own theological ediface. That to me is almost the foundation of all the theology that I will ever express. In that sense, do I believe in the inspiration of the Bible? You bet I do – and I believe in a lot of human inspiration other than what you can find in the Bible too.
I got out Dawkins (The God Delusion) the other day, and what a field day he had exposing some of the violent, inhuman, and embarrassing stuff from the OT, and if that was not enough, he jumped all over the NT and mocked the shocking stuff about blood sacrifice (atonement), hell, end of the world and such like. The blows he rained on the Bible were for the most part all very true – and he was so obssessed with this garbage drawn from the Holy Bible, that he had no insight at all into its true inspiration. But he did illustrate how a certain atheistic group advises people to read the Bible as the very best means of turning people into atheists.
Let me now acknowledge that most, if not all of the insights that are important to me, have been drawn from the Bible or begin with some Biblical insight – it is like my Promised Land, or my own farm here – if this farm did not have a certain potential to start with, I could never have turned it into a farm that thousands want to come and see. In the case of my farm, nature conspired for millions of years to bring about a big volcano to make this soil, this aspect added to this climate, with the kind of topography to create some Disney-like illusions of space, size and imagination. I simply worked on things that were givens.
So I have worked with material, ideas, insights, inspirations handed on to me by Biblical authors. I value what they did, and that’s is why I don’t hesitate to edit, revamp, polish and even add to what they have contributed.
The most empty and nothing place to most humans is outer space, yet even in that there is the solar wind, fast moving particles (ions) streaming out from the Sun.
But even if that didn’t exist, and there was only the cold vacuum, we know from quantum physics that this is teaming with virtual un-manifested particles. It only takes certain conditions and they come into existence or go out of existence like sea drops splashing upward and then sinking down into space-time.
Space is cold to us, because we associate warmth with infrared light, that’s what keeps us warm and we have skin sensors for that energy. It is empty to us because the gases that are there are not sufficient to inflate our lungs. We require the gravity of the planet to create enough density of gases to sustain our lives.
We know from the Hubble that space is full of colors in spectrums our eyes can’t see. We have such a narrow band width of vision there is much we do not see. Everyday people photograph amazing things on digital cameras that their eyes cannot see. Digital cameras have “vision” in frequencies that can see infrared light and ultraviolet light. Even among humans there are different sensitivities and perceptions to light. Some are even color blind – confusing two or more colors.
I see God as the source, ground of all being. The question that I have is, does God delegate creation? The Bible speaks of the Elohim in Genesis. It means the supreme ones. Plural. Who were they? Is this simply a gaff of incomplete understanding as man transitioned from polytheism to monotheism? Or did Christians completely misunderstand what older religions were talking about? What do we mean when we say “God”? That idea is clearly in transition. Were the Elohim the planetary construction crew? The terraformers? The botanists? The zoologists? Why does Genesis put them in the role we normally assign to God in Christianity. Just as we are beginning to see that humans are part of the whole that is “God”, could it be that God works through all life including beings of such power and intelligence we cannot even conceive? I think it’s very likely, but I don’t have the answer.
Is there a hierarchy of Universes? That’s such an enormous idea it’s hard to even pose the question. Is there a local God to each Universe that is also part of a large Source? Perhaps I should get the nesting Russian dolls out and paint galaxies on them?