In my recent entry, “He Was a Disciple“, I mentioned that my father held some less than orthodox beliefs. He was especially fond of the those espoused in Religious Science and he was open to even more eccentric (as in “deviating from the recognized or customary”, not weird). If my dad felt this way, my brother does even more so; embracing beliefs related to Native Americans and something called “pronoia“. At the heart of both of their theologies, however, is a strong belief in God and the message of Jesus. Both of them, however, have always been more willing to embrace the mystery inherent in spiritual beliefs than me.
In truth, I have more in common with Thomas Jefferson when it comes to this subject. Jefferson, a deist, loved the social justice (strange for a man who was a slave owner, I know) aspects of what Jesus taught but utterly rejected any mention of the divinity of Jesus. So much so, in fact, that he made his own New Testament by razoring out the passages he liked and pasting them onto pages that he later had bound into a book, The Jefferson Bible, which focused on Jesus’ moral teaching and leaves out completely any mention of angels, prophecy, genealogy or miracles. Now, I don’t go that far, but accepting things like the virgin birth, raising people from the dead (including Himself) and ascending into heaven is hard for me. There are two pieces of this mystical pie that I embrace without as much hesitation and that’s communion and the Trinity. I think I accept communion because there’s a physical aspect to it. The sharing of the bread and wine provides a touchstone that ties me to the symbolism involved in the act. Plus, I’m well aware of the sense of community that is fostered by sharing a meal and Christianity is nothing if not communal. As for the Trinity, I have no idea why I can handle that but I balk at believing that Jesus was born of a virgin; nor why I enjoy reading the Christian mystics, like Meister Eckhart, Julian of Norwich and (my favorite) Thomas Merton. Go figure.
In past writings, I’ve referred to myself as a nuts and bolts kind of guy and mysticism is anything but nuts and bolts. But, for all that it makes me uncomfortable, I’m still drawn to it. I want to believe all these things and still have room for what I believe is the core of the Jesus message, which is best summed up by this passage of the book “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal“:
“You should be nice to people, even creeps. And if you: a) believed that Joshua was the Son of God (and) b) he had come to save you from sin (and) c) acknowledged the Holy Spirit within you (became as a little child, he would say) (and) d) didn’t blaspheme the Holy Ghost (see c) then you would: e) live forever f) someplace nice g) probably heaven However, if you: h) sinned (and/or) i) were a hypocrite (and/or) j) valued things over people (and) k) didn’t do a, b, c, and d, then you were: l) fucked”
My problem is a,b,c and d involve a heavy dose of mystery and, because of that, are hard for me. I hope that doesn’t mean I’m l) fucked.