The Christian

There is a famous quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi in which he states to admire Jesus, but not followers. In one version, he speaking to  E. Stanley Jones, author of “The Christ of the Indian Road”. In response to a question about bringing Christianity to India Mr. Gandhi states,

“I would suggest first of all that all of you Christians, missionaries and all begin to live more like Jesus Christ.”

I grew up going to Sunday school as a child. Our small Congregational Church here in Centerbrook only counted a few families as members. My great aunt  Catherine played the piano. In Sunday school we mostly read the Gospels and bits of the New Testament. There was an emphasis on trying to be like Jesus – in fact it was the name of one of the songs we used to sing: “Lord I Want to Be Like Jesus”.

The Jesus I came to know as a child was a kind, loving, forgiving presence. He was someone who could see the very essence of a person’s heart through all their bullshit, all their wounds, all the “things” they had become in life. The message to me was that I must always love my neighbor, that I must always strive to let go of material things, let go of grudges, that I must never judge and that I must develop a compassion and understanding for those less fortunate than I – whether that meant the poor in “pocketbook”, the poor in spirit, or even those lacking the same knowledge I had of our potential to be so loving and kind as to say we were indeed, “like Jesus”.

It wasn’t until later in life I realized that Christianity seemed to mean something very different to some other people.

As I read through the entire Holy Bible myself, it seemed to me that Gandhi made quite a powerful point.

I was not taught to worship Paul – although his writings reveal much about the early Church. I was not taught to bring judgment against my fellow human beings. I was not taught it was ok to rationalize my political beliefs using the Bible. This is the point where formal Christianity and I parted ways.

What do I think now? I think Jesus overturning the money changer’s tables would pale in comparison to what he might have to say to a few folks using His name today…

I also think Jesus would be a fast friend to a few of us doubting Thomases…. Who simple question what to believe in the face of so much religious zealotry and insanity.

I think if the folks so wrapped up in telling the rest of the country what to do would spend more time trying to be like Jesus, we’d all be better off.

The Law: God and Gravity

My wife and I got into a discussion the other day. She had gotten into a heated Facebook argument about gay marriage. We believe the legal, societal aspect of marriage is a legal one – a contract. Others believe it is a religious institution. I personally believe it is *both* –  and my marriage means more to me than a legal contract. But this is not the crux of our problem.

We are bothered by those who seek to impose “God’s Law” on everyone. We are annoyed and frightened by those who can’t separate science or governance from “faith”: defined in Hebrews 11:1 – “… faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

The clues here are “things hoped for” and “things not seen”.

This is the problem – not all of us have equal measure, or the same “impression” or “feelings” about those things that can’t be seen. Not everyone has the same “hope”.

Let’s talk about the Law of Gravity. A Muslim, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Christian, a Hindu and an Athiest all go to Wal*Mart and buy a scale.

They weigh each other. The atheist weights 173 pounds. He weighs 173 pounds when he weighs himself, and he weighs 173 pounds when each of the other people weigh him.

Just for kicks, the group asks one of the clerks to weigh him. He weighs 173 pounds.

It doesn’t matter what science book we read. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in holy communion or offering sliced fruit on a shrine. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in worship of dead ancestors or no worship at all.

173 pounds is 173 pounds – Measurable and verifiable. There is no interpretation. No feelings. No impressions.

Now let’s talk about God’s Law. What is it? Answer: it depends on whom you ask – even if someone says “The Bible” or “The Koran” – it still depends on whom you ask. Of course there are those who claim to be the one “true” religion – to them I ask, according to whom? Can your statement be *independently verified* like the 173 pound athiest?

So having a religion is well and good if it makes you happy. Perhaps there is a beneficent God, and a Holy Spirit. Maybe the Catholics are right. Maybe the Jews are right. Maybe the Protestants are right. Maybe the Methodists got it right and the Episcopalians screwed it up. Who am I to say? (I don’t have any measure to verify they are or are not true,  just my feelings – which do not compare to the unarguable result produced when we all tested Gravity by weighing and comparing our result).

Until you have a test, that gives an answer like “173 pounds” – your religion is no more right than anyone else’s – and you certainly have no businesses trying  to create real laws that affect real people who believe differently than you do.

And by the way – your religion doesn’t belong in the classroom either. But we don’t mind if you want the teach the proper use of a scale.

Cheers.

Group Survival

Holidays often bring us together with people who share vastly different opinion and philosophy from us.

One can argue, or find common ground.

One thing I know is the survival of groups – be it from a scientific and evolutionary perspective, social or religious perspective; Groups only survive when their members learn how to take care of and look out for each other.

Who’s got your back today?

Susie Explains Evolution

This is Susie Neunmalklug – also known as Susie Smartypants. In German, her name means “Nine Times Clever”. Susie is the character in a children’s book on Evolution by Michael Schmidt-Salomon and Helge Nyncke. See the link for more information.

Here, Susie gives us an explanation of her experience challenging her teacher Mr. Hemplemann’s explanation of literal Biblical Creationism. Go Susie, go!

Stardust

Religion is dangerous topic. For me, I like the book of Genesis and I like science. We are all comprised of the same atoms that existed at the beginning of time. We are made of stardust. In this sense quite literally we are a chip off the same block. Whatever was before the Big Bang, whatever existed prior to that primordial soup – whatever made that – wherever the energy that makes light and mass and space and time – that is God to me. I’m part of that. You are part of that. Even Hitler was part of that. Mother Theresa was part of that. We all came from the same place. So forgiveness for me is simply remembering that. My personal suffering doesn’t mean anything. Coming to fully understand the fellowship I share with All the Is – does.