I have a confession – I don’t believe in the Jesus that I once believed in. Over the years I have rid myself of many values and beliefs or ‘Be-lies.’ Belief systems and principles do nothing to change us. Often they have been fabricated from a text whipped out of context, culture and common sense.
Here are some of the belies I have dumped or trying to dump
1. Be humble, be meek, be nice (meaning be passive and obedient)
2. Do nothing on the Sabbath apart from go to church (church becomes so busy)
3. Work hard all the time for God (Don’t play or enjoy yourself – people to be saved!)
4. People who go to church are better then those who don’t (creating self-righteousness)
5. Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect (don’t make a mistake / remain guilty!)
6. Be under authority – (Always answer to a parent and remain a child!)
7. Don’t get angry (Not in an aggressive way, or in public – at home is OK!)
8. Be a good witness (God is watching you and will judge you for your faults)
9. Jesus always answers prayer (take your pick, now, not yet, future – he knows best)
10. Deny yourself and take up your cross – (worm theology – you are nothing!)
11. God will always protect you (But what will he protect me from?)
12. Dualism – (the original sin in my view – be separate!)
13. Keep repenting of all your dreadful sins (you are bad and don’t forget it!)
14. Children are resilient – don’t spare the rod!! (Treat them how you like)
15. Original sin (You are bad to the core and until you realize that, you are lost)
16. God is male (Creating patriarchy and male centered theology)
17. The Bible is infallible (Creating Bible believing Christians – or the parts they like!)
I have had to kill those beliefs, but they don’t die easily, they cling on deeply
But re- member many of us once believed…
• The world was flat
• Women are not equal to men (Some still do!)
• Divorce was a sin
• Children are born in sin and need the devil beaten out of them
• Christians shouldn’t shop on a Sunday
• Good Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol
• The King James Version of the Bible is the one and only correct version of scripture.
Holding onto certain beliefs creates a stuck ness, which stops us moving and hinders creativity, feeling and passion. Static belief creates machines, systems, institutions, clones, but not humans.
Jesus didn’t ask us to believe in him he asked us to follow him. Followers are always on the move internally and externally – I’m not even sure if Jesus would believe in Jesus anymore!
If we want to do what Jesus wants – perhaps we need to ditch the old beliefs and start moving and following.
Mary and Joseph were on the road to somewhere
They had a physical destination –
But did they have any plans for the future?
Would they keep safe on the trip?
Would the donkey manage the journey?
Where would they stay when they arrived?
Would the child survive the birth?
Would Mary survive the birth?
Would Joseph survive the birth?
During her nine months of pregnancy – Mary must have pondered and wondered about so many things. She may have had many doubts and anxieties about her baby and how the whole thing happened – Why her? Tensions may have arisen between her and Joseph and others in the community where she lived. If she had doubts, we can only imagine what others may have thought.
Perhaps she had to endure teasing and bullying from friends and others in her neighborhood. ‘Who does she think she is, does she think she is better then us? Having the son of God – is she mad? Visited by an angel – great story to cover up having sex before marriage! She should have been more careful. Her parents should throw her out – the shame of it’
The religious, priests and institutions and those in power may have found the whole thing tasteless, disgusting, and at worst blasphemy, deserving punishment.
“Who does this poor girl think she is? Visited by God, we are his mouthpiece not this little slut, she’s nothing but a whore! Let’s hope she loses the child. We can’t let her usurp our power.”
God waits on human history and suffers while she waits – Meister Eckhart
In true agnostic language – I don’t know, and to me it doesn’t matter.
What matters to me is matter.
Tradition, cycle and rhthyms and a sense of belonging
I love Christmas, I love the memories it conjures up, I love the traditions, I love the carols, mince pies, family gatherings, giving and receiving presents and I love the season. I love the romance of it, the feelings it provokes the coziness, the tree, candles and log fires, the snow, the wait, the excitement, the games and the joy. The magic!!
Every year we have the same rituals, the same cycle and also invent new family rituals, building memories and traditions that remind us and re-member us as a human, a family and community.
I am also aware that for many, Christmas is an awful time. It recalls and re-members difficult memories and painful situations, family arguments and separations and they hate the whole season and festivities. So in a different way, Christmas matters, it earth’s difficult feelings and memories.
How ever we perceive Christmas, believing in the virgin birth doesn’t matter!
Or does it?
‘I know the truth’ or ‘I know God’
Even scarier to an agnostic is a group who say ‘We know the truth’ / ‘We know God’
To say I know God, reduces god to a god made in our image.
People who claim to know the truth want to wrap Jesus up in swaddling clothes or keep him pinned to a cross. It’s safer!
To claim you know the truth immediately prevents you from knowing any further truth.
Meister Eckhart says…
‘If thou lovest God as God, as spirit, as Person or as image that must all go. Love him as he is: a not-God, a non-spirit, a not-Person, a not-image.’ In short, whatever you say God is, you must also say God is not, and if you don’t you risk nothing less than idolatry’
‘I pray God to rid me of god’
‘The highest and loftiest thing that one can let go of is to let go of God for the sake of God’
‘God’s exit is her entrance’
And Mark Vernon says..
The strongest Bible-believing Christians are probably the ones building the great idols of our day
We know almost nothing about the childhood, adolescent and young adult years of Jesus. The Bible just leaves a blank, a gap, leaving us agnostically challenged. So since we don’t know, we can only wonder and guess at what happened. My guess is that his childhood was full of nurturing, tenderness, joy, empathy, patience, attention, and love. What we learn in childhood we act out in adulthood.
So what did he learn – my guess is the following
1. Don’t be afraid of men in authority / challenge them
2. Respect all people, women, children and men
3. Questioning is good –Question the accepted truth/ the dogma of the day/ patriarchy / injustice / bullies / self.
4. Big people don’t have all the answers / they are not always right
5. Life is about more than what we see
6. Be who your are / love self / have faith in self
7. Age doesn’t guarantee wisdom
8. What you see and what you hear is not always the truth
9. Treat others the way you want to be treated
10. Be tender, be loving, be kind, be thankful, be forgiving
11. Be empathic/ think of the other
12. Be fully integrated and emotionally intelligent.
13. Our lives are not just for ourselves.
14. Be authentic – be real / be direct
15. Be fair and speak out about injustice
Clearly Jesus held the child and childhood in high regard and linked this as the key to entering the kingdom of heaven.
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
They say, Christmas is a time for Children
Adults show their love by swamping them with presents.
And yet, all the research tells us that what children want more then anything from their parents is their attention, their TIME.
At Christmas many celebrate the birth of the divine child
Mary was focused on the child growing within her
And in days of old people were led to follow the trail of this child
To find the child and to be with him
Perhaps before we can be with others
We have to give time to being with our inner child
To find the child within!
To learn to grow down!
To listen to what s/he needs
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me”
Let them BE with me
What he didn’t say was, “Make them believe in me”
He wanted to keep their company.
My boys sometimes say to me – “Daddy, I just want to be with you” –
They may trust me, love me, and believe in me, but these gifts come from time spent being with me. The gift I get from time spent being with them is their love, trust and belief.
It works both ways.
Sunday School teacher holds up a picture and asks the class, “What is this?”
Little Johnny answers, tentatively, “Well, it looks like a squirrel, but I know the answer is ‘Jesus’.”
Is dogma and belief reducing the child’s imagination?
Is it creating them into conditioned machines?
Is belief medicating our children?
Is it numbing them?
Is it harming them?
Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Children are naturally agnostic. They are receptive, inquisitive and essentially mystics. They are learners, they don’t assume to know and ask many questions. How many parents have been frustrated by children who ask a question, when you give an answer they say, “why?”, you give another answer and they say, “why?” again and again.
Children inhabit a natural openness and a questioning presence (why, what, how, when, where) and practice this with their body. They practice innocence, naivety, tenderness, wonder, awe, mystery and are accepting in nature. They are in touch with their bodies and full range of senses. They are fully integrated and at one with themselves.
We also know that many children in out society are not allowed the freedom to be a child, they are not able to freely be who they are. They have been hindered, squashed, unheard, enslaved, medicated, abused, closed down, pacified and conditioned. They have not been able to enjoy a ‘care-free’ childhood and have been made to grow up far too quickly by adults who are threatened of welcoming this beauty, wonder and freedom into their lives.