A Former Catholic Takes Another Look at Jesus.
(Confessions of a Jesusologist)
A sermon Charlie Bradt gave last year about Jesus.
One of my favorite things is to sit down with ministers from different churches and find out what they preach and what they believe. As you might imagine, these two aren’t always the same. And I’m always surprised. Last winter in Sarasota I realized that I’d never taken the time to sit with a fundamentalist minister. So I called around until I found a minister that said “yes” to my question: “Are you a Fundamentalist?” I asked him if he could find time to sit and talk to me. I told him that, while my beliefs were different from his, I wasn’t interested in arguing. I just wanted to get clear on what he believed and why. When I tell people about this little adventure, I’m usually met with something like “Why would you want to do that?” Ya got me! I’m just curious I guess.
So we sat….for over two hours…and had a really nice conversation. I actually found it a nice relief to notice his words butt up against my own beliefs and choose not to rebut but instead to listen….just being curious. In the midst of our discussion it seemed to me that he believed that probably only a tiny fraction of all humans will get to Heaven, and the rest (almost all of us) would suffer unspeakable torments forever. In fact I asked him and he said that although we never know……it sounded about right. I asked. “Are you one of them?” He answered “yes” because he’s following exactly the instructions in the Bible. His parents had guided him thus. So I said to him, “Boy, that makes you really, really lucky!!” To have been born into a setting where you were taught these things. And he answered, “You bet your life I feel lucky. In fact I thank God every day for my enormous good fortune!”
It went on from there, of course, but when he said the lucky thing I remembered back to the time when my mother explained a remarkably similar “good fortune” which was ours (my siblings and me) because we were born to the “one true faith,” whose teachings would give us the best chance for the attainment of Heaven when we die. I knew about protestants (my dad was one) but mom said that only we had the religion founded by Jesus himself. Those others were the creations of misguided mere humans. She never said Protestants COULDN’T get to Heaven, but definitely implied that it would be harder for them. I don’t think she ever thought much about non-Christians. In fact I doubt that she even knew any.
So….am I still lucky? Who knows?? I FEEL lucky.
Anyway….life goes on. And I left behind my belief in the dogmas of my church and then my church itself. This labeled me as “a fallen away Catholic” or just “fallen.” I never quite let go of Jesus though; just the Jesus described by my Church.
Along the way however three events tweaked a new interest in Jesus. One was in The Kripalu Yoga Center where I learned about and decided to teach yoga. The founder and leader of this ashram was a Indian-American Hindu named Amrit Desai and many of his followers called him their guru….and literally worshipped him. Freda and I didn’t see him that way, but he was and is a wonderful teacher. Anyway, in one of his talks I heard him say this, “I don’t know why you need me to be your guru…..Jesus is the perfect guru for the western world.” Whoa…..let me think about that one!
Then one evening Kathy Montan returned from her training as a shamanic healer and she took me on a journey to find my spirit guides. Guess who showed up for me? Yup….Jesus himself! And without words from either of us I felt a powerful, wise, holy presence….A…what?…a vision…a spirit…an energy…that moved me.
Then a minister I met in Florida said the following, “I don’t believe IN Jesus…..I BELIEVE Jesus. I believe what he said. So I’m not so much a Christian as I am a “Jesusologist!” The word seemed perfect for the way I felt about myself.
In the intervening years I’d come to trust that if something keeps coming up in my consciousness then it’s something to pay attention to and explore. My first instinct was to go with my left brain and find information. Here is some of what I found about Jesus and the Church his followers created:
First of all, there is very little factual information about Jesus. Nobody copied down what he said when he said it, and we have no record of what he looked like. And he wasn’t the only “God” incarnation to enter human form in the fashion claimed for him. History shows at least 30 (probably more) myths involving the following: a virgin birth, in lowly circumstances, with a powerful “light show” (the star), involving three wise men or kings, around the time of winter solstice ( “the coming of the LIGHT”), who wound up getting killed and then resurrected. These stories are lovely myths….myths taken from previous “religions.”
As for Jesus the human being, it seems certain that he must have had a difficult, painful childhood because, as one writer pointed out, although the “holy spirit” may have whispered in Mary’s ear (possibly even Joseph’s) IT never told the citizens of the small town of his birth. To them, he was just an illegitimate child, and in that culture at that time it was about the worst thing that could have happened to him. The most humiliating thing was being called “son of Mary.” Legitimate children were called after their father (“son of Joseph”), so his very name exposed him to all kinds of ridicule and humiliation. That and the fact that he taught are probably the only things we know about him for reasonably certain.
But he grew into a man and a brilliant teacher who attracted many followers. After he died his followers created a religion around what they remembered of him. These memories were orally transmitted for many years, and eventually the Gospels were written from these stories. There were many “gospels” from which the four “canonical” gospels were chosen for inclusion in “The New Testament.” Those written under the names of Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the “synoptic” gospels meaning they can be read together, while the “John” gospel bears little resemblance to the other three. Evidence appears to show that they weren’t written by apostles whose names adorn them, but very likely by groups of men, writing and editing for several years, trying to agree on what was passed down, probably different groups for each Gospel.
I also learned that Mary wasn’t a virgin nor was Jesus “God” until the church said they were…. somewhere between 60 and 100 years after the crucifixion. It was 400 years before the Hell that we know today was declared true. Original sin was the brainchild of a second century bishop.
So this is some of the INFORMATION I found….my left brain search. But Jesus really came alive for me when I slipped over into the right brain and started searching for the METAPHYSICAL Jesus. I’d like to illustrate much of what I “know” about Jesus today by imagining a short dialog between him and me….or him and you if you’d care to play along.
ME: Let’s cut to the chase; are you divine? Are you really the son of God?
JESUS: Of course…as are you….and everyone else.
ME: Wow! That’s good news. Does that mean I’m going to go to Heaven when I die?
JESUS: Of course. It’s the only place you could possibly “go.” But remember my teaching to seek the kingdom of heaven not out there…… Not after you die….seek the Kingdom within….right here….right now.
ME: I do remember, but I’m not sure what it means….how to find the “Kingdom.”
JESUS: Well, all my teachings can be summed up in one single statement: “LOVE ONE ANOTHER….AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.”
ME: And that will take me to the kingdom of Heaven?
JESUS: Yes, it will.
JESUS: Let’s review some of my teachings on this subject; remember Mary Magdalene? What I said to her? I said “I do not judge you.” That’s what I mean by love.
ME: So…..love means not judging?
JESUS: Yes, but let’s focus on the positive. When you refrain from judging, you can ACCEPT the person…just as they are. And appreciate them, just as they are. Isn’t that what it feels like to you when someone really loves you?
ME: Yes, I guess it does, but I find doing that very difficult.
JESUS: Of course you do. It’s what you’ve been taught all your life….to divide the world and people into good and bad. Then choose one and condemn the other.
ME: So how can I love…in the way you suggest?
JESUS: Great question. Here’s something you might try: Pick a person…..any person. Then sit comfortably and breathe deeply until you get quiet. Then, picture the person you’ve chosen sitting across from you. Look into her eyes. Look deeply. Then look again. Look until you can see behind her eyes. Deeper until you can see her heart…perhaps even FEEL her heart. Then notice that just like you, she carries wounds. Just like yours, her heart has been wounded. Many times. And just like you, she has been lonely and longed for love and appreciation. Then feel the wounds in your own heart until compassion overwhelms you and you can no longer feel a boundary between the two of you. Feel until all your judgments drop away. That’s love.
ME: That feels really good. Sort of like I’m lighter from letting my judgments fall away.
JESUS: THAT is what I came to teach. In that way can I help SAVE you…from loneliness, and fear…from suffering.
ME: But there IS evil in the world, isn’t there?
JESUS: There is if you believe there is. And then you’ll find it.
ME: You said “Resist not evil.” Why not?
JESUS: Yes I did, it goes hand in hand with “Turn the other cheek” and “Love your enemies.” And I was contrasting that statement with the ancient Babylonian creed of “An eye for an eye.” Basically what I was saying was that you can’t find peace by fighting wars. And you can’t find inner peace criticizing what you don’t like in another. And on an even deeper level I was saying that carrying the notion of evil inhibits finding your joy.
ME: But you wouldn’t suggest that I just ACCEPT abusive behavior, would you?
JESUS: Of course not. I’m suggesting that you accept people, not necessarily their actions. I’d suggest that you disengage from what or who’s abusing you. And when you can forgive and even bless your abuser (the person, not the act) then you’re back in the kingdom. Remember the “wounded heart?” It will help you if you can see it in that person. It’s only out of our own pain that we treat others poorly. Remember this, and it’s one of your real challenges: When someone is mean or unkind, IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU. It FEELS like it does, but it doesn’t. It has only to do with the person acting out. And he’s doing it out of a wounded heart. He’s simply showing you what he feels like at that moment. This one understanding, lived out, can transform your life.
ME: Okay….I’ll have to ponder that…….just a couple more questions. Did you really perform those miracles of healing they talk about in the Bible?
JESUS: Well…sure, but that’s no big deal. It’s more like a little entertainment. And remember that I said “These things and greater shall you do also.” The REAL miracle is when the man is “blind” because he can’t see the truths that I’m teaching. When he “sees” (feels in his heart) these truths then is he “awakened” to see….to see the truth. Same with the deaf person. When he HEARS in his heart and understands the deep meaning of the words I speak, he is AWAKENED to hear. Same with Lazareth. He was “dead” to the truth. I simply helped him WAKE UP. Not so much come BACK to life as to AWAKEN TO HIS LIFE….IN A SENSE TO BE “BORN AGAIN.”
ME: Okay. Last question. Why did you really come? What was (is) your purpose?
JESUS: I have come that you should have LIFE and have it more abundantly.
So, here’s how I see Jesus today. I do believe that Jesus (or someone like him) lived and taught. His teachings are timeless and reflect the major truths evident in most serious religions….that peace, love, joy come not from anything outside of us. They are, rather, inner states and it’s inside that they are created. I don’t believe he spoke of reward or punishment after death. He was only concerned with LIFE. So he wasn’t teaching a way to an after death peace. He was talking about a way to peace, love and understanding in this life. I don’t believe he taught morality. That came, as it has in other religions, from those men who manage the INSTITUTION that they formed. I don’t believe he had “world peace” in mind. He was speaking to each one of us about our own peace and the path to a rich, full, meaningful life. I’ve never read anywhere that he said “I love you.” Rather, he demonstrated love everywhere he went. Why should we love? Not to be a “better person.” To be a happier person. Because when we let go of our judgments…. when we simply ACCEPT our brother and our sister and our heart opens to love, we let in the light and we can breathe again. And when we accept our life as it is, we say to the Great Spirit of the universe, “THY WILL BE DONE.” It’s heavy work, this carrying of judgments about others and about life. Letting go of them lightens our load and allows us to connect with life and with one another in a place beyond fear, disharmony and loneliness. And because when we look deeply enough we see our own beauty and our own truth reflected in the beauty and truth of our brother and our sister….and our life. In loving, we understand who we really are. In loving, we come home….to the Kingdom of Heaven.
I’d like to reflect this Mothers’ Day morning ……on mothers. But I’d like to dig a little deeper into the word and its meaning. It seems that many indigenous cultures imagined their Diety(s) as females….as Goddesses. Those cultures were frequently referred to as “Earth Centered” cultures. Thus the term “Mother Earth.” The earth as nursemaid, nurturer, nourisher….literally the place from whence life springs and is sustained. Classic feminine qualities. As human consciousness has risen however, we’ve come to understand that “mother consciousness” need not be gender specific; that men also have female energy and as we allow ourselves to explore it we approach our completeness as human beings. We too can learn to nurture, share from the heart and accept one another without judgment. So let’s celebrate on this Mothers’ Day……the mother in all of us.
Reading from Eric Butterworth
Jesus, in his teachings, emphasizes the divinity of MAN and that if you believe in your innate unity with God you contact a Dynamic Power. Then you are one with the flow of the means by which you can change your life.
And from me, “Christ is a word that describes not a person, but a consciousness.”