Christian Spirituality Blog

We understand Christian Spirituality to be the practice of the presence of God in daily life.  As such it includes both the mundane and the mystical dimensions of Christian faith and practice.  This Blog is intended to provide thought provoking information and discussion in the categories of Christian Spirituality, Spiritual Direction, Sacred Psychology, Interfaith Relationships, Peacebuilding, Spirituality/Religion, and Book Reviews of interest. 

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Consciousness

The following article is excerpted from the forthcoming book by James L. Foster, Holonic Humanity: How God Makes Us Holy, due to be released in 2018.  It is a sequel to his earlier work, Holy Humanity:  We Are All Made of God Stuff, published in 2013.  The latter book, Holy Humanity, is reviewed in the January 2016 issue of Awareness magazine.

 

Consciousness

Such reality as we are capable of perceiving--that of which we are conscious--is affected by the very fact of our consciousness of it.  This phenomena is well documented by physicists wrestling with the problem of studying sub-atomic particles.  In their observation of these particles they have found that the very act of observing them alters their behavior.  There are even some quantum physicists who have concluded that matter could not exist without the consciousness of human beings. Quantum physicist Fred Alan Wolf has observed that "what we call 'consciousness' consists of waves of information that move from spirit into matter and then back again into spirit.  This flow of waves took place beyond time, in the sense that the whole action of that movement was instantaneous" (Wolf, The Eagle's Quest, p. 43). Therefore, consciousness is bound neither by time nor space Through it we may gain entree to both eternity and infinity.  This is also borne out by cosmologists on the macro  or cosmic level in what is described as the participatory universe.  In this participatory universe the cosmos creates us as physical beings, and then we create the cosmos.  The Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza (1632-77 CE) called this causa sui, cause of itself, a self-sustaining causal loop.  Spinoza reasoned "that all reality consists of a single infinite substance which he called Deus sive Natura, God or NatureSince the Creator is revealed in the Creation, the Creation itself must be divine.  Thus, humanity must also partake of all the qualities of divinity.  As such, we, who have always been and always will be, are manifestations of the  Creator who likewise has always been and always will be.  Together, we represent the whole of Spirit. Individually we are a part of Her, but since we individually participate in a holonic evolutionary process in which the part contains the whole, we also paradoxically contain individually the whole of the Creative Divine Spirit.  On this latter point, the Apostle Paul, in his Letter to the Ephesians, prays that "you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3:19, TNIV, italics mine.)   Fred Alan Wolf (referenced above) opined that "the breath of God was the movement of consciousness..."

We are eternal beings who both collectively and individually evidence our divinity by our continuing work of creation.  It is this cosmic consciousness which enables our creative interaction with the cosmos on both the earthly and astral planes.  It is also this cosmic consciousness of our oneness with the Ground of all Being which is recognized universally by virtually all the great mystical religious traditions of the world.  In this entire process can be seen the holonic evolutionary development of the human species from consciousness to self-consciousness to universal or cosmic consciousness.  Historian and theologian Karen Armstrong traces this development through our evolutionary history in her book, The Great Transformation:  The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (see bibliography). As a species we can trace this expanding consciousness over many millennia to this present day in which we can still see the expansion into what may be our final stage, universal cosmic consciousness.  Thus, our transition to universal consciousness demonstrates that the process continues.  We are still evolving!  quo vadis? Whither goest thou?  Where indeed?  Where are we headed?  Where is our consciousness taking us?  I am reminded of the Apostle Paul's observation in his loose translation of Isaiah 64:4:

"What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, 

what God has prepared for those who love him'--these

things God has revealed to us through the Spirit;

for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God."(I Corinthians 2:9-10, NRSV)                                   

The Hebrew cosmogony in the first book of the Torah, Genesis, describes  the Creator as speaking or naming the cosmos into existence:  "God said 'Let there be light'; and there was light...God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night." (Genesis 1:2-5, NRSV) The Spirit continues this creative process, calling or naming into being the earth, the seas, the stars, the moon and the sun, plants, living creatures and humankind, the latter being made in Her image.  We were then given the responsibility of continuing the creative process.  As such we are self-replicating Creators who have the power to consciously continue naming the cosmos into being.  Indeed, there are no limits to our creative consciousness other than those we impose on ourselves by our disbelief.  What we experience as the cosmos today is the result of humanity's own creative consciousness through the centuries.  It is a process that not only continues today but is accelerating exponentially as our consciousness expands holonically.

Deepak Chopra discerns three levels of consciousness:  1) consciousness of physical objects, 2) consciousness of subtle objects and powers, and 3) consciousness filled with nothing but itself--pure consciousness.  The first of these is that of which virtually all of us are aware--physical objects (though we may not be aware of their true nature).  The second, subtle objects and powers, though common, are less likely to be recognized for what they are by virtue of the fact that they and their sources are often hidden.  (It is this author's hope that this entire discussion of "subtle energies" may make my readers more aware of these provisions of their own divine natures.) The third, pure consciousness, is ubiquitous particularly in the astral realm, but on this earthly plane it has been experienced primarily by mystics of the great religious traditions.  These often have difficulty expressing what they have experienced because of the inadequacy of their language and the disbelief of their hearers.

Pure consciousness, as a planetary attribute, is also conscious of us.  Earth, as a conscious entity, is what the earth scientists call Gaia.  It is a term of Greek origin referring to the Earth Goddess.  Planetary biologist James Lovelock, cultural historian William Irwin Thompson,  Christian theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, physicist Freeman Dyson, psychiatrist Richard Maurice Bucke, mathematician Ralph Abraham, philosopher Elisabet Sahtouris, and many others represent a broad consensus of scientists and philosophers and theologians who have concluded that the earth is a living, conscious entity and even "an immanent divinity."   That the earth is a living, conscious system is also an ancient realization, particularly evidenced in the shamanistic traditions of tribal cultures world-wide.   According to these traditions, there is no separation of living entities from each other and no separation from the earth.  The holonic principle dictates that we as constituent parts of the planet-- our physical beings made of the same elements as the planet--are therefore parts that contain that whole.  As such, our consciousness is derived from the planetary consciousness--and is, likely, the primary manifestation of  that consciousness.

Human consciousness is the medium of  our creative capability.  Just as God, the Great "I Am", created by calling the various aspects of Creation into being, we human beings are "the Great We Are"  continuing  to call the Creation by name, thus making it conscious of itself.  As divine beings ourselves we are with the earth the consciousness of Creation.  There is no other Divine agency of Creation.  That much of the process is unconscious makes no difference.  That we may be ignorant of who we are does not change who we are.  Our consciousness, sublimated and subtle or not, gives us the power to create. 

This is also the conclusion of Professor John Wheeler of Princeton University (and a colleague of Albert Einstein).  Wheeler  described what he has termed the "participatory universe."  He concluded that "we could not even imagine a universe that did not somewhere and for some stretch of time contain observers because the very building materials of the universe are these acts of observer-participancy." (quoted by Gregg Braden in The Divine Matrix, p.39.)  This is  one place where science and religion are finding common ground.  Braden later  observes that "In the teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it's believed that reality can exist only where our mind creates a focus.  In fact, the wisdom suggests that both the world of pure form and that of the formless result from a mode of consciousness called 'subjective imagination.'"  (ibid., p. 80, italics mine) 

Likewise in the Christian teaching of the Apostle Paul, creation and humanity is described as being in an intimate and dependent observer-participant relationship:  "All around us we observe a pregnant creation.  The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs."  (translation of Romans 8:22 by  Eugene H. Peterson, The Message:  The Bible in Contemporary Language, p. 2045)  The children of God, all of humanity, has the assigned responsibility of completing the creative work of God--the birthing of God's creation!

Our consciousness is not synonymous with the brain.  We continue to be conscious even when our physical brain flatlines.  This means that our consciousness originates elsewhere.  One theory put forth by English biologist Rupert Sheldrake is that we consciously or unconsciously tap into a "mind field" (also referred to as "the zero point field) --a sort of invisible parallel universe through which we access everything we know. In this scenario our brain serves only as the receptor of data from the mind field. (see Sheldrake, The Presence of the Past, pp. 210-215)    Another proposal is physicist David Bohm's  suggestion that the universe is all “thought” and that reality consists only of what we think.  In this scenario, we would presumably continue to receive input however we are receiving it now. (Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, pp. 56-62)   On this side of death all we can be reasonably sure of is that consciousness continues on the far side of death whether or not we have a functioning brain.

Deepak Chopra has observed that "to create in consciousness is our greatest gift, and what we create continues to evolve.  If you open yourself without judgment to your role as a creator, you gain much more freedom.  Genesis does not have to be a far-off event that put the universe into play.  It can be a constant event that renews itself at every moment." (Chopra, Life After Death, p. 158)  We already have the power to consciously create and destroy.  It is the power to choose life or death.  The biblical author of Deuteronomy counsels:  "Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (30:19, NRSV)  Human consciousness goes beyond the limits of space/time.  As divine beings it is our consciousness, and subsequent naming all that we have conceived as manifestations of the Divine, that makes us  co-creators of the whole evolutionary process, leading to DNA and physical life on earth.  Holonic evolution is the original dominating force of nature.  Evolutionary growth, once it began, continues to this day and will never end.  It is also as observer-participants, conscious of this process, that we propel the process forward.   Creating does not require a gift of some special talent.  All it requires is that we pay attention, observe what is going on, and care about what we see.  Our gift to the creation is the gift of attention.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, reflected on the accelerating expansion of the universe and Albert Einstein's cosmological constant (which Einstein dubbed lambda).   According to Tyson, Einstein knew that lambda, as a negative gravity force of nature,  had no known counterpart in the physical universe.  "Lambda's sole job was to oppose gravity within Einstein's model, keeping the universe in balance, resisting the natural tendency for gravity to pull the whole universe into one giant mass.  In this way, Einstein invented a universe that neither expands nor contracts...."  ( Tyson,  Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, pp.99-100)  When data from the Hubble telescope confirmed that the universe is, indeed, expanding and that lambda is real and not just the product of Einstein's imagination,  "Lambda suddenly acquired a physical reality that needed a name,  and so 'dark energy' took center stage in the cosmic drama, suitably capturing both the mystery and our associated ignorance of its cause." (ibid, p.106)

Tyson continues:  "A remarkable feature of lambda and the accelerating universe is that the repulsive force arises from within the vacuum, not from anything material.  (ibid, pp. 112-113, italics mine).

So what do we know that is both real and not material?  My answer to this is consciousness--specifically human consciousness,  a consciousness already known to be capable of affecting matter at the microscopic particle level.  It does not take a great leap of faith to believe that human consciousness can also effect change on the macroscopic level.  Surely this feat (of slowing down the expansion of the multiverse) is not beyond the reach of the original Creator of the multiverse!  And since human beings are the incarnations of this Creator, we who are Her hands and feet and mind continuing Her creative endeavors through our human consciousness, it may be amazing but not unreasonable to believe, that our consciousness is the elusive "dark energy," the lambda, the cosmological constant that we seek.

None of what I have written about consciousness above qualifies as a definition of consciousness.  If it is not the brain per se, then what is it?  This question has stumped the minds of philosophers and scientists for centuries.  I am going to risk here endorsing the definition offered by Fritz-Albert Popp, a theoretical biophysicist at the University of Marburg in Germany in the 1970's.  He observed that in "quantum physics, quantum coherence means that subatomic particles are able to cooperate.  These subatomic waves or particles not only know about each other, but also are highly interlinked by bands of common electromagnetic fields, so that they can communicate together. ...The end result is also a bit like a large orchestra.  All the photons [light particles] are playing together but as individual instruments that are able to carry on playing individual parts.  Nevertheless, when you are listening [paying attention] it's difficult to pick out any one instrument [photon]." (McTaggart, The Field, page 43.)

The whole of creation is the orchestra and all of Creation consists of photons and nothing but photons. And we humans, who are ourselves conductors in the orchestra of Creation, also consist of photons--infinitesimal packets of light energy. Fritz-Albert Popp concluded that "Consciousness was a global phenomenon that occurred everywhere in the body, and not simply in our brains. Consciousness, at its most basic, was coherent light." (reported by McTaggart in The Field, p.94; See also my discussion of our identity as beings of light in Holy Humanity, pp. 115-117.)   Quantum coherence, photons able to cooperate, coherent light, beings of light giving attention to  Creation, conscious conductors of the orchestra of Creation.  How much more evidence do we need to demonstrate that we human beings are the consciousness of the Cosmos, the coherent light whose attention brings coherence to the entire Creation?

We are the consciousness of Creation.  All that we perceive on this cosmic plane--the world and all its creatures, the trees and flowers, stars, planets and galaxies--everything of which we are conscious--has being through our consciousness.  It is through continuing divine/human and planetary consciousness that the cosmos has awareness of itself. Because we are divine beings manifesting the Creator herself, we collectively and individually also reveal the eternal and infinite dimensions of the Divine.  As eternal beings we were observers and witnesses of the beginning of the cosmos and have continued observing and facilitating its evolution to this day.   We had no beginning and we will have no end.  As both eternal and infinite divine beings we have also been observers (and, thus, creators) of an infinite number of other worlds and parallel universes with infinite variations that were formed in consciousness. Therefore, consciousness, too, is both eternal and infinite, as is its primary manifestation--unconditional, everlasting, and infinite divine Love.   Agápé is the Greek term for this Love, coined over two millennia ago.

Goodbye Old World, Hello New

Goodbye Old World, Hello New

by James L. Foster 

There are four revolutionary movements currently underway, any one of which has the potential for changing the world as we have known it. All four happening simultaneously virtually guarantees that a new world order will be born in the lifetime of most of the readers of this article.  What I am talking about here is not technological (though communications technology may well be an enabler of the revolutions) and it is not political (though politics will certainly be greatly impacted.)  No, what is happening is much more basic, addressing the world views and the deep issues of faith and reason held by most of the human inhabitants of this planet.  What is happening is a fundamental mind change.

1.  The first revolution is within the Christian Church.  Because Christianity comprises such a large number of people throughout the world, a major shift in its understanding of itself in relation to other major faiths will have significant effects on every other religion.  These changes have to do with insights into the very roots of its origin in the 1st and 2nd centuries of the Common Era.  Because of the work of numerous Christian and Jewish scholars on the comparatively recent availability of both the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hamadi texts, Christianity is wrestling with significant challenges to its exclusivist teachings and the identity of it founder, Jesus of Nazareth.  It turns out that these texts, originally suppressed by the Church Fathers, seriously undercut Christianity’s exclusivist claims of superiority and historicity.

One immediate effect of the deciphering of these ancient texts is the discovery that we have new grounds for relationship with other religions, since major Christian doctrines that have purportedly been inspired by God to the exclusion of all other religious doctrines, may have origins that are far more human than divine.  For the centuries-old barriers between religions to come tumbling down, has a potential for peaceful relationships—even appreciative relationships—that has never before existed on such a massive scale.  One significant example of how these non-biblical writings are changing our understanding of the Christian faith has to do with the identity of Jesus Christ—born of a virgin? No; Killed for our redemption? No; Son of God? No, unless we are prepared to accept that we all, like him, are sons and daughters of God; Non-political and sinless?  Hardly.  Exemplary, yes, but as human and divine as the rest of us.

Another major example of this change is in the discrediting of the historical doctrine of the Trinity (one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  This doctrine alone has been an impediment to interfaith relationships in as much as the Christian Church has characteristically taught anyone who thinks otherwise is destined for eternal separation from God—or, in a word, Hell.  As it turns out, contemporary historical research shows that it was not until 325 AD that this decision was made by a Church council that was badly divided.  Its conclusions were made not on the basis of reasoned theological debate but rather on the basis of political power and brute, sometimes lethal, force.

With these kinds of changes in the teaching of the Christian Church will come the opportunity for genuine dialog, particularly with Islam and Judaism.  If these three major religious faiths can come to the place of mutual respect and appreciation, the world we live in will be all the better for it.  Let the new dialog begin!

2. Nonviolent atonement is yet another challenge to a cherished doctrine of the Christian Church, this time on the basis of biblical exegesis.  Challenged are two theories of the atonement (the saving work of Jesus Christ by atoning for our sin), the Penal Substitution Theory authored by St. Augustine (4th and 5th centuries) and the Satisfaction Theory (authored by Anselm in the 12th century).  These theories have been bedrock theology in the Christian Church.

The first, Augustine, says the sin offended God’s honor and caused inconceivable debt and that the debt must be satisfied or punished to satisfy God’s honor.  Since the payment of the debt is so far beyond what humans could do, only God could pay it.  There fore Christ (who must be God) paid the debt by his death on the cross.

The second, Anselm, speaks of retributive justice.  God has to “get even.”  Sin incurred a debt and has to be punished (payback).  Therefore, since humans cannot possibly pay the debt, God punishes Jesus instead.

Both of these theories make of God a vengeful, violent ruler and compromise Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness.  If sin is paid for (i.e. the debt is paid and the account is balanced) there is nothing to forgive.  If God is truly forgiving, it means the debt is written off and there is no need for either repayment or punishment.

 Nonviolent atonement says that God is neither vengeful nor violent (the violence attributed to God, especially in the Jewish Scriptures, notwithstanding).  Therefore God cannot be blamed for Jesus’ death.  Jesus suffered the fate of many of his contemporaries—death at the hands of the Roman occupiers, with the probable collusion of Jewish antagonists.  It was man’s violence, not God’s that killed Jesus.

This distinction is important because it deprives us humans of a major rationale for engaging in violence, i.e., “God, our Father, did it, therefore, so can we.”  If, as God’s children, we wish to emulate God’s relationship to us in our relationship with others, we can no longer justify violence. 

3. Nonviolent communication is a discipline taught by Marshall Rosenberg.  Though many of the principles he teaches have been taught before by the likes of Jesus and Gandhi, Marshall is a gifted in formulating a clear and doable way to put the principles into practice.  Nonviolence is broken down into many tiny and tangible steps, that when learned and put into practice can transform formerly confrontive and hostile relationships--whether these relationships are between individuals, groups, or nations—and whether or not both sides practice it.  These nonviolent “techniques” can be practiced, as it were, unilaterally by anybody, anywhere, in any circumstance.

Marshall’s books and seminars are proliferating as others take up the work of spreading his teaching.  What was originally one man’s crusade, is becoming a movement which will grow exponentially as others both practice and teach the disciplines he has so neatly packaged. 

4. A fourth movement gaining momentum in our day is the result of the writings of the French philosopher Rene’ Girard.  Rene’s writings have the effect of holding up a mirror in which we see ourselves for who we really are.  The starting point for Girard’s theory is “acquisitive mimesis”.  Girard proposes that much of human behavior is based on “mimesis”, an all-encompassing expression of imitation, but focuses on acquisition and appropriation as the object of mimesis, contrary to most of the extant literature on imitative behavior (Girard 1979, 9). Girard describes a situation where two individuals desire the same object; as they both attempt to obtain this object, their behavior becomes conflictual, since there is only one object, but two people.  “Violence is generated by this process; or rather, violence is the process itself when two or more partners try to prevent one another from appropriating the object they all desire through physical or other means” (Girard 1979, 9).  In his mimetic theory, Rene’ argues that imitation is an “ability that is fundamentally linked to characteristically human forms of intelligence, in particular to language, culture, and the ability to understand other minds. This burgeoning body of work has important implications for our understanding of ourselves, both individually and socially. Imitation is not just an important factor in human development, it also has a pervasive influence throughout adulthood in ways we are just beginning to understand.” – (Susan Hurley & Nick Chater)

A related area of Rene’s A thought is scapegoating.  “This scapegoat is, according to Girard, an arbitrary victim: For Girard, there are several conditions for the choosing of the scapegoat.  First, the scapegoat is, by definition, an arbitrary victim, at least to the degree that the victim has, in reality, no direct bearing on the problems that are causing the community disturbance.  However, the victim is not arbitrary to the extent that most scapegoats tend to have similar cultural traits that allow Girard to classify them as a group.  Normally they are an outsider, but on the border of the community, not fully alien to the community.  This victim belongs to the community, but has traits that separate him/her from the community.  Several common victims are elucidated by Shea, summarizing Girard's list in The Scapegoat (1986): children, old people, those with physical abnormalities, women, members of ethnic or racial minorities, the poor, and '`those whose natural endowments (beauty, intelligence, charm) or status (wealth, position) mark them as exceptional" (Wallace 1994, 253). 

Paradoxically, this victim is often deified.  Not only was the victim the cause of the violence, but, since this victim was sacrificed, s/he also becomes the salvation of the community, since sacrificing the victim becomes the method of ending the violence.  So the victim is surrogate because s/he was sacrificed instead of the entire community being sacrificed. 

Once this process is established, it becomes mythologized.  The immediate memory reconfiguration becomes woven into the oral history of the people.  This figure that was sacrificed was the deity who saved the community from destruction.  Since the pattern started with the cessation of violence by the original human sacrifice, the continuation of that pattern is understandable.  But as culture progressed, and specifically with the introduction of the Jewish religion into the world's culture, symbols--animal sacrifices and sacred rituals--were used in place of human sacrifices.  Thus Girard claims the origin of religion is rooted in violence. (Jeramy Townsley)

If any of this sounds familiar, we have only to look at our own religion and consider its origin.  And if it makes us uncomfortable, it may be that when we look in this mirror, we do not like what we see. (For more on this, see the review of the book by Suzanne Ross.

Conclusion

Each of these revolutionary movements, as I have called them, qualifies for such a designation.  According to Webster a movement is “a) a series of organized activities by people working concertedly toward some goal” and “b) the organization consisting of those active in this way.”

The first of the above listed revolutionary movements is represented by several organizations, the most notable of which would be the Jesus Seminar that includes such notable members as theologians John Dominic Crossan, Robert Funk and Marcus Borg.  Institutes for Christian Spirituality, the publisher of this journal, En Christo: A Journal for a New Christianity is another such organization.  The number of books that are being written to address the multiple changes that are already taking place continue to proliferate.  Change is hard, particularly when it is in areas in which we have a lifetime investment, but it is also necessary if we are to mature in our faith and vision of what God is doing in the world.  Teilhard de Chardin’s vision of the future of humankind was of a final stage of development during which we would mature spiritually to our fullest potential.  I have always hoped that he was right and that I may be one of the fortunate members of our species to participate in that process.  I dare to hope that the dramatic changes happening now in Christianity are an indication that it is so.

The second movement listed above, nonviolent atonement, is smaller but is quickly gaining momentum.  It, too, has just initiated in May of 2008 the formation of an organization called Theology and Peace to promote research and publications supporting fresh biblical understandings of the nonviolent, compassionate Father of us all.  Michael Hardin of Preaching Peace along with Catholic theologian Anthony Bartlett, Mennonite theologian Sharon Baker and approximately 40 other biblical scholars are among the charter members of the organization.

Marshall Rosenberg’s organization, Center for Nonviolent Communication, though new, is already spawning others devoted to spreading his program for teaching nonviolent communication in a wide variety of secular and religious contexts around the world.  It is already providing resources for the rapid dissemination of the principles he espouses.

Finally, the movement built on the teachings of Rene’ Girard, has fostered Colloquium on Violence & Religion (COV&R), a well-established organization with a world-wide constituency.  Other organizations, too, are involved in promoting Rene’s teachings on violence and religion, notably Preaching Peace, founded by Michael and Lori Hardin; The Raven Foundation, founded by Suzanne Ross, author of The Wicked Truth: When Good People Do Bad Things; and Institutes for Christian Spirituality.

How long will it take for these and other initiatives I have not covered to have a visible impact on our world?  My guess is years, not decades.  The impact is already considerable, but the world is a big place.   We will know that it is happening when these concepts become the fodder for conversations of the people in the pews.  The internet is providing the means for rapid dissemination of information, a phenomenon which Teilhard did not envision but would confirm his anticipation that each phase of human development would be significantly shorter than the one before.  God willing, this journal will have at least a small part in bringing about the revolution.

What We Will Discover When We Die

The following article is excerpted from the forthcoming book by James L. Foster, Holonic Humanity: How God Makes Us Holy, due to be released in 2017.  It is a sequel to his earlier work, Holy Humanity:  We Are All Made of God Stuff, published in 2013.  The latter book, Holy Humanity, is reviewed in the January 2016 issue of Awareness magazine.

 

What We Will Discover When We Die

(if we have not made the discoveries  beforehand)

 

Deepak Chopra has listed seven events which take place at the  moment we cross over to eternal life at the dawning of our new life  beginning at our physical death:

 

1.   The physical stops functioning.  The dying person may not be aware of this but eventually knows that it has occurred.   

2.  The physical world retires.  This can happen by degrees; there can be a sense of floating upward or looking down on familiar places as they recede.

3.  The dying person feels lighter, suddenly freed of limitation.

4.   The mind and sometimes the senses continue to operate.  Gradually, however, what is perceived becomes non-physical.

5.  A presence grows that is felt to be divine.  The presence can be clothed in a light or in the body of angels or gods.  It can communicate to the dying person.

6.  Personality and memory begin to fade, but the sense of "I" remains.

7.  This "I" has an overwhelming sense of moving on to another phase of existence."  (Chopra,  Life After Death: The Burden of Proof, 2006)

 

Others, especially those who have reported on their own near death experiences (NDEs) have characterized their experience somewhat differently, perhaps reflecting their acculturated expectations of the death experience.   These often included the inadequacy of language to describe the experience, feelings of warmth and peace and stillness, a perceptible rise in our personal vibration level, the experience of love as a vibration, the sensation of being out of our bodies, meeting other persons--known and unknown--who had died earlier,  meeting beings of light, a non-verbal and non-judgmental life review, entering a tunnel and moving effortlessly toward a bright light, disappointment at having to return to our former life, and an all-together new appreciation of death--almost a longing for it and a total lack of fear of it.  In our physical life our vibrational level was very slow and dense but we will feel our vibration level rise precipitously as we make the transition to pure Spirit.

 

Our afterlife is created by our own consciousness, but this does not mean that what we have created is not real.  It means that as divine beings we are quite capable of creating our own reality. We quite regularly do so, even in this earthbound life.

 

The following conclusions have come from a combination of insights I have received through (1) the first hand reports of those who have had near death experiences--particularly those recorded by Raymond A Moody, Jr., Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, George Ritchie and Ian Stevenson,  (2) my study of various religious traditions (primarily Christian, Hindu and Buddhist and shamanic mystical teachings--particularly the Christian mystics, including Jesus and Paul; the Tibetan Buddhist Book of the Dead; and the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita), (3) the writings of Plato (428 BCE), particularly in Phaedo and The Republic, (4) my reading of current discoveries from the sciences of quantum physics and cosmology, (5) the many intuitive insights I have received in the process of writing Holy Humanity:  We Are All Made of God Stuff and in this current writing on holonic humanity, and (6) current intuitions born of my contemplation of the meanings of "infinity" and "eternity" and "Spirit."  You, the reader, will probably have already discerned some of  the following affirmations.  If there are a number here that are new to you, don't worry about it.  Nobody is keeping score.

 

 

When we die...

 

 1.  We will discover that death as an end to life is a fiction and that death is, instead, a transition from our current life to an incomparably greater life.  This realization will be immediate and seamless.

 

2.  We will discover that our true essence is Spirit.  We are not the bodies we thought we were.  Our true identity, even throughout our earthly life, was and is, spiritual.

 

3.  We will discover that as our physical sensations recede our subtle spiritual sensations expand, eventually replacing the physical altogether.  Money, sex, power, sickness, sin--all these end. Our spiritual bodies will be ageless and free of sickness and all other limitations.  We will experience again, as if for the first time, pure consciousness.

 

4.  We will discover that there are some things we can take with us through death's portal--things we have learned during our earthly sojourn--our memories (contrary to #6 in Chopra's list above), and knowledge we have acquired, and understandings and experiences upon which we can continue to build in future sojourns.  We also take our consciousness of both our past and present.

 

5.  We will discover that Love can and does survive death.  Those we have loved in our earthly life we will still Love--even more and better than before.

 

6.  We will discover that connections made  during our life on earth continue into eternity.  This is particularly the case with those who we know to be our soul mates.  With them we have a bond that cannot be broken throughout eternity.

 

7. We will discover that we are reunited with loved ones who preceded us in death.  Our "homecoming"  will be the occasion for  celebration by those loved ones, family and friends, who have been awaiting our return.

 

8. We will discover that death is not painful. It is our somatic existence that was painful.  This we will realize immediately as we pass from sometimes excruciating pain to complete freedom from pain.

 

9.  We will discover that we are one with our Source, that we have never in fact been separated from our Source, and that our  only "sin" had been in believing we were separate when, in reality, we were not.  This, too, will be an immediate realization.

 

 

10.  We will discover that we really are One with the Many, that our perceived separation from others in this present life was an illusion.  If we had had this perception earlier, it would have significantly accelerated our holonic journey. 

 

11.  We will discover that to have been human was to be beautiful, even elegant and exotic.  Even in spite of our failures and mistakes, we were an incredible species.   We will come to see this because we will be seeing the essence of ourselves and all others, a startlingly beautiful essence in stark contrast to what we may have perceived in our earthly sojourn.

 

12.  We will also discover that the whole of Creation is stunningly beautiful and that we had not previously succeeded in destroying it.

 

13.  We will discover that our identity is spirit and we no longer identify with body, mind, or ego.   Each of these were limitations we no longer have.

 

14.  We will discover that the Cosmos was our planetary home, yet infinite;  full of life, and utterly the pregnant, nourishing and living dwelling of the gods.

 

15.  We will discover that we are not inherently evil,  that soul (that which is of God in us) is not evil.  Jesus came to show us who we are already (as did other prophets and avatars), not to save us from eternal punishment.

 

16.  We will, therefore, discover that we have no need to be "saved," not by Jesus or anybody else, that in all eternity we were never lost.  As eternal beings we were made to self-correct.  Jesus did not die for "anybody's real or imagined sins," as Christian theologian Roberta Bondi so succinctly put it.  And it was Bishop John Shelby Spong's conviction that "Humanity is not alone [as we once thought],...separated from God and thus in need of rescue." (Spong, Eternal Life..., p. 207)

 

17.  We will discover that Life in the astral realm is not just a time to do nothing, but rather a timeless experience of continuing holonic evolution.  We will be building on the things we learned in our  earthly sojourn.

 

18.  We will discover that we are enveloped in pure Light, that we have become one with the Light, and  Light Givers  ourselves.

 

19.  We will discover that our doubts and confusion have vanished, that what had been struggles on the earthly plane no longer exist.

 

20.  We will discover that the ability to choose did not end with our earthly passing, but is instead vastly expanded.

 

21. We will discover that the Big Bang, the beginning of our cosmos, the cosmos of which we were and still are caretakers, is but one of an infinity of Big Bangs distributing Life, Love, and Light through an infinity of universes.

 

22.  We will discover that creating is an endless process in which we are key participants as co-creators with our Source, that we as eternal Beings have indeed participated in the creation of an infinity of universes, including our own cosmos.

 

23.  We will discover that we are both within the interstellar void we helped create and that, at the other end of the size spectrum, the void is within us, in as much as infinity includes the infinitely small as well as the infinitely vast.  Infinity goes in every direction.

 

24.  We will discover that God is not just "out there" somewhere in the vast reaches of space, but is also "in here," in me, in you, in us.

 

25. We will discover that the whole of Creation, even our consciousness of it, and we ourselves, are made of Light, that God is Light, and that God is all there is--that God is Being itself, not a being.  (See my book, Holy Humanity, chapter 8, "The Omega Point", pp. 171-181)

 

26.  We will discover that the whole of the universe is imaged by Spirit, including all gods, all demons and angels and heavenly hosts, and that we, ourselves, are Spirit.

 

27.  We will discover (with the Persian poet, Rumi) that "death is our wedding with eternity" and is therefore an occasion for rejoicing.

 

28.  We will discover that death replaces time with timelessness, that eternity is not just a long, long time, but is the absence of time altogether.

 

29.  We will discover that such identity as we do have in the astral realm is non-local, meaning that we have not just expanded boundaries, but that there are no boundaries, that as spirit we may be in more than one place simultaneously.  Neither time nor space will have relevance in eternity and infinity.  The eternal "now" means that past, present, and future are all now.

 

30. We will discover that death fulfills our most audacious dreams.  If, for example, we have dreamed of travel, we will find that we can travel instantly, anywhere we choose, both within this universe, and beyond.

 

31.  We will discover that only our physical bodies were made of stardust--not our Spirit.  Our spiritual essence has always been.  We, along with all other divine beings, are uncreated, that there was never a time in which we were not.

 

32.  We will discover that our memories, both short and long term, are not contained in our physical brain.  We still have them, and that without our former physical brain.  They are, along with our memories of other lives, stored in an immense data field such as that postulated by Rupert Sheldrake as a "Mind Field" or the Zero Point Field thought by Albert Einstein to be the only reality.

 

33.  We will discover that Love is an emanation of Light and that as divine Lovers we spiritually embody  the Light, Power, and the Love of God.

 

34.  We will discover that there is no death in any final sense.  What we call death is just a transition to an old, but ever new beautiful and fuller life, in which we will continue to evolve into the fullness of God.

 

35.  We will re-discover that we are a part of God, that we have never been separated from God in the past and will never be separated from God in eternity.

 

36.  We will discover that many of the things we valued in this life--comfort, money, sex, privilege, material things--are gone but that the really important things--unconditional love, life, compassion, memories, knowledge, the capability to continue learning, loving relationships, and meaningful goals--these things remain

 

37.  We will discover that there is no Hell, at least no more than we had created for ourselves on earth.  In this latter sense we may have undergone a multitude of heavens and hells in many incarnations.

 

38. We will discover that the primary difference between the heavenly plane and the earthly plane is a matter of consciousness.  It is our consciousness in each that determines our perceived reality in each respective plane.

 

39.  We will discover that our physical body on the material plane was like clothing for the soul.  It gave us a planetary identity which is not needed in the heavenly realm.

 

40.  We will discover that the subtle energies we experienced on earth are no longer subtle, but are rather an acknowledged and trusted aspect of eternal life.  We will have immediate access to the entire spectrum of subtle energies.  These will replace whatever physical senses we lose at death.

 

41.  We will discover that our evolution continues, driven by our choices.  We can go wherever our desires take us and do whatever we wish to do.

 

42.  We will discover that as free spirits we can roam both the astral and the earthly planes.  We can roam  the cosmos, visit the places we were unable to visit in our earthly incarnation,  even return to our earthly home if we so desire, though this latter may be a bitter-sweet experience, as our presence will likely go unnoticed.   But as spirit beings we can be everywhere at once, should we so choose.

 

43.  We will discover that there is no retrogression in the spiritual realm--only holonic growth as we accumulate the skills and develop the will to be the bearers of unconditional agápé  Love. (See pp.16-23 above for the definition of holonic.)

 

44.  We will discover that if we eventually choose to re-incarnate, we will return to the earthly plane more highly evolved than when we last left it and it will likely be to a life of service to those who continue to struggle.  It may also be in the company of soul mates with whom we have traveled for eons.

 

45.  We will discover that death is not a movement to another place or time, but a change in our perspective, a change with which we resonate.  We resonate only with that with which we vibrate as in the quantum vibrations which connect us with all things physical and spiritual.

 

46.  We will discover that those persons who have shared deeply in our earthly lives will continue to share our lives throughout eternity.

 

47. We will discover that the mysteries we wrestled with on earth have passed into even greater mysteries on the astral plane, thus insuring that even as wholly spiritual beings we will never cease to be stimulated to dig deeper and to discern more.

 

48.  We will discover that on the astral plane we can only progress to greater understanding and enlightenment.  We cannot regress.  Our evolution continues on all planes.

 

49.  We will discover that we have finally transcended the limitations of our earthbound humanity--all of them.

 

50.  We will discover pure Truth, and further that Beauty is one of Truth's most eloquent expressions.

 

51.  We will discover that quantum physicist David Bohm correctly theorized that from a loftier perspective than that provided by earth we will see that everything and everybody are connected by a universal matrix (which he called the implicate order)--that there is no separation whatsoever, that we are all part of an undivided whole.

 

52.  We will discover that our consciousness is the key to our co-creative capabilities which, though potentially available to us during our life on earth, are fully available to us in our life hereafter.  We will discover that our consciousness does, both here and there, not simply observe the universe, but actively participates in its creation--fully so in our elysian identity  and partially so even during our earthly sojourn(s).  This is the implication of the Apostle Paul's assertion that "For now we see the dim image as in a mirror, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."  (I Corinthians 13:12)

 

53.  We will discover that earth is but a mirror of heaven, its beauty the obscure reflection of the heavenly realm.  The applicable rule of thumb is "As above, so below."

 

54.  We will discover that, collectively, as divine beings, we are the only intelligence and consciousness that the cosmos has.  Indeed, God has  no hands but our hands, no feet but our feet, no mind but our mind, and no heart but our heart.  God is all there is, and that all includes us as Her primary manifestation to the cosmos.  We humans, on both sides of the Eternal Now, have been and will continue to be the guardians of all Creation, including both incarnate and spiritual humanity, because we possess the only incarnate spiritual consciousness the cosmos has.  We are God's only self-conscious presence on this earthly ground and our presence makes it holy ground.   This  fact alone provides sufficient rationale for belief in reincarnation.  The Earth and all its creatures needs our representation as conscious agents of the Divine in order that it may fulfill the Divine mandate to bring about the  Kingdom of God throughout the Cosmos--"For God so loves the cosmos, that She incarnates Herself in her children to take up the task of filling the cosmos with Her Life and Light and Love." (a 21st century paraphrase of John 3:16 by the author).

 

Given the above, perhaps the only question we need to answer now, in this earthly incarnation, is...

 

How then should we live now?

 

Chances are that, in this life, we will not have completed our work, but that it will continue into eternity.  Whatever we accomplish in this life towards the goal of our evolutionary development will not be lost at death but will provide the foundation for our continuing development in eternity.  Our work will never be finished.  Even if we eventually reach the mountaintop, there will be others behind us who will need a hand up,  so our work will continue.  Our work will not be complete until all who follow us have joined us at the top of the mountain, so whether in this life or in the next, our work continues.

 

The next question we need to ask is:

 

What does  it mean to be the incarnate presence of the Divine now?

Inspiration

The following article is excerpted from the forthcoming book by James L. Foster, Holonic Humanity: How God Makes Us Holy, due to be released in 2017.  It is a sequel to his earlier work, Holy Humanity:  We Are All Made of God Stuff, published in 2013.  The latter book, Holy Humanity, is reviewed in the January 2016 issue of Awareness magazine.

Inspiration

One of Webster's many definitions of "inspiration" is "a divine influence upon human beings."  A common  verbal derivative of the term is "inspire" which means to infuse with life.  A lesser known cousin is a transitive verb "inspirit" which means "to put spirit into; give life to...," "to infuse" with life. It is this latter sense that is important to consider in the context of subtle energies.

One further term which begs definition is "life." In spite of the  branch of science we call "biology," sometimes called "the science of life," it has been difficult for scientists to pin down just exactly what life is--nor do we know where whatever it is originates.  One of humankind's modern quests has been to discover whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe.  But how will we know what it is if we find it?  Just what are we looking for?  If life is something that is inspirited, as in Webster's definition above, how does one know whether or not any given living object embodies or is infused with spirit, thus giving it life?  To resort to an old conundrum, which came first--the chicken or the egg?  Did the chicken come from the  egg or the egg come from the chicken?  I think the answer is both and neither.  Life comes from the Spirit--whatever kind of life it is--plant, animal or human.  Our lives did not begin with the seemingly miraculous confluence of two cells, each dividing to make four cells, then eight,  then sixteen, ad infinitum, until we became fully formed human beings with trillions of cells.  Those first two cells, gifted to us by our parents, had beginnings elsewhere--or did they?  I would propose the wholly unscientific solution that our physical beings are the earthly home of Spirit which as such had no beginnings.  That is what it means to be eternal.  To be human is to be eternal, with neither beginning nor end.

Gregg Braden, quoting an article by molecular biologist Daniel E. Koshland, Jr. in the March 22, 2002 issue of Science offers seven determinates of whether or not something is living.  Living things, says Koshland...

1.  Must have a program to make copies of themselves.

2.  Adapt and evolve to reflect changes in their environment.

3.  Tend to be complex, highly organized, and have compartmentalized structures.

4.  Have a metabolism that allows them to convert energy from one form to another.

5.  Can regenerate parts of themselves, or their entire forms.

6. Can respond to their environment through feedback mechanisms.

7.  Can maintain multiple metabolic reactions at the same time.

 Though Koshland's criteria for life may indeed suffice for some living things,--perhaps weeds, mosquitoes and such--it is far too mechanistic and simplistic.  As such I find it a totally unsatisfying description of human life. In the first place, his and similar attempts to equate our human identity with our bodies fails to account for our physical existence, much less our psychic and spiritual endowments. Nor does he make any allowance  for the incredible complexity and depth of whatever it means to be living, functional beings.  Without the inclusion of Spirit human life is totally devoid of Life!  Apart from Spirit, we would not exist.

To be human is to be infused with Spirit.  Spirit is our essence.  We are the embodiment of Spirit.  Spirit is our eternal nature.  We were solely Spirit prior to our human birth.  We shall be solely Spirit after our physical death.  In our earthly sojourn we accept the yoke of physicality in order to accommodate our physical environment.  But our bodies are not our essence.  We are, first and foremost, spiritual beings, no less so than the angels of heaven.  Indeed, if the biblical author of the Letter to the Hebrews is right, we are the superiors of the angels. They are here to serve us, as the divine children of God that we are.  He writes...

"Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?"  (Hebrews 1:7-14).

In John's Gospel, "eternal life" supplants the phrase "Kingdom of God" which is the characteristic phrasing of the synoptic gospels.  Eternal Life is, in John's understanding, life under the rule of God, a life that is free from the constraints of time, decay and evil.  It is wholly a spiritual realm, preexistent and co-existent with this earthly life as well as a continuing life after our death in this earthly sojourn. Our essence does not change  just because we change addresses.  The life we live now is eternal life infused with the Spirit of God.  Apart from the life-giving infusion of the Spirit we would not exist.

So what is the situation with all the other creatures, both plant and animal, that appear to have characteristics we identify as life?  My conclusion is that they, too, are infused with Spirit.  They have their own life-callings, their own inspired roles to play in God's Kingdom.  As such they are due our respect and consideration as fellow inhabitants of God's Kingdom.  Whether they be weeds or trees, birds or fish or reptiles or insects,  they, too, are subject to God's rule and recipients of their own gifts of God's  spirit infusions.  And if, indeed, we have been charged with the responsibility for their care and welfare, we should take the responsibility seriously  as fellow participants in God's Kingdom.

I would suggest further that creatures in our folklore may be more real than fictitious.  Given the quite serious and contemporary explorations of quantum physics into parallel universes--i.e. parallel realities beyond those we can apprehend by our limited human senses--we may find that creatures such as elves, gnomes and other nature spirits actually exist.  Science has already demonstrated that there are many realities beyond the reach of our physical senses.  That some persons may have sensitivities that I do not have seems to me not just possible, but even likely.  That our Creator may have created more realities than just the reality my senses are tuned to, does not strike me as particularly strange.  The fact that I may never develop the  capability to personally perceive my mythological neighbors proves nothing.  That there are others who have developed such capabilities is reason enough to warrant an openness to whatever spiritual beings may exist.  After all, we humans are also, in essence, spiritual beings.  As noted above, apart from Spirit  we would not exist.  Perhaps nature spirits have as much trouble believing that we exist.

Following Jesus

Following Jesus

By James L. Foster  

Given the title of this publication it seems to me appropriate for us to consider how we are doing in following the one whom many of us claim as our leader.  In the records of his ministry and teaching given us by the writers of our gospels, Jesus has laid down some pretty clear markers of what it means to be en Christo, “in Christ.”  I think it is safe to say that none of us have followed him perfectly.  Indeed, if we look back over the last two millennia of the Christian Church, it would appear that on a number of issues we have not followed him at all. 

It is no secret that the Christian Church through the centuries has been wrong on many occasions and in many ways:  We were wrong morally by perverting the grace of God, as in the crusades (by which we set out under the banner of Christ to either convert the Muslims or to kill them), as in the inquisition  (in which we tortured or killed those who dared to disagree with the church), and as in indulgences  (by which, for a price, we offered to wipe the slate clean of the believer’s sins), as in papal infallibility (including our present Pope’s suppression of Nag Hammadi scrolls for 40 years), and as in character assassinations, Mary Magdalene, for example.  We have also been wrong intellectually, believing, for example, that the earth is the center of the universe, and that the world is flat, having four corners (Revelation 7:1).  We were wrong in our understanding of biology, believing and building our theology on the assumption that only the male contributed anything of substance to the character and identity of the new born child (the mother only contributed a safe haven for the fetus to develop). Therefore the birth accounts of the child Jesus, composed almost a century later, only needed to replace the human father, presumably Joseph, in order to eliminate inherited sin.  In later years, we have been wrong again in supporting slavery, shunning, and segregation; wrong in our participation in wars and genocide (for example Rwanda, Burundi, and Bosnia), and wrong in our support of consumerism, and neglect of the poor – to name a few.  Injustice has been our credo, and it still is.  We have a sorry legacy when it comes to following the teachings and example of Jesus.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37), the gospel writer has Jesus tell the story of a man journeying from Jerusalem to Jericho who fell among thieves who left him battered, bleeding and perhaps unconscious on the side of the road.  The Torah, the Law of God by which the Jews pledged themselves to live, demanded that human need must take priority over every other concern.  Yet, in this story, says Jesus, a Levite, a recognized leader in temple worship, who was surely aware of the Law’s command to show compassion to those in need, passes by on the other side of the road, ignoring the wounded man.  Next comes a priest, a holy man of Israel, ordained after becoming proficient in the study of the Torah.  He, too, sees the victim. Perhaps justifying his behavior in typical ordained practice by countering the text calling for compassion with another text prohibiting one from touching the flesh of a dead man, he refuses to stop long enough even to investigate and passes by on the other side of the road. *

Then, says Jesus, a half-breed, a Samaritan, journeys along that way.  He is not schooled in the Law and so may have been ignorant of the Torah’s demands.  But he sees a human being in need, and he responds without hesitating.  Going up to the wounded man, he pours oil in his wounds and binds them up.  He then gives the victim wine and water to drink and takes him on his own donkey to an inn, where he arranges to pay for his continued care and lodging until the healing process is complete.

Then Jesus says to the lawyer who prompted the story, “Go and do likewise.

This parable was a challenge to the defining prejudice in 1st century Judaism and it invited people to step beyond their prejudices, whatever they were, into a new definition of humanity, a humanity that emerges beyond the boundaries of our prejudices.

In this story and others, like the Prodigal Son and the Rich man and Lazarus, Jesus is shown to be a God-presence that calls those of us who would be his followers to become more fully human by opening up the dark places in our souls where our prejudices hide, the place to which we have assigned the Samaritans of our day.  For some of us the Samaritans may be persons of a different skin color.   For others they may be people who worship God in ways different from our way.  For still others the Samaritans may be those whose sexual orientation is not like our own.  To be followers of Jesus we are forced to heed his call to surrender all our killing stereotypes and to walk beyond all our fears into a new prejudice-free humanity, a humanity free of those barriers that divide us one from another.

The call of Jesus through his example and teaching to those who would be his followers is to put aside all gender and sexual distinctions.  The Apostle Paul apparently understood this when he said that for those who have clothed themselves with Christ, “There is no longer Jew or Greek…slave or free, male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)  These become only categories into which humanity is divided.  They are not divisions that indicate sin, as past rhetoric had suggested.

The portrait of Jesus drawn by the biblical writers shows him violating the sexual boundaries of his day, not just once but many times.  John’s gospel, for example, says that Jesus engaged the woman at the well (John 4:1-42) in a lengthy theological discussion, even though Jewish males did not converse with women in a public place.  No wonder his disciples were astonished when they returned to find the two of them in conversation, and though none of them said, “Why are you talking with her?”  you can be sure all of them were thinking it.

Jesus also had women disciples, among whom Mary Magdalene was prominent.  She was obviously a key person in the Jesus movement, despite the early church male leaders’ attempts at character assassination by turning her into a prostitute without a shred of evidence to support their accusations.  Apart from one unexplained comment in Luke 8:2 where Jesus is reported to have cast out demons in Mary Magdalene, she is described in very positive terms in every other reference.  She also went on to write one of the early gospels about Jesus, though it was never acknowledged by the Church Fathers.  But they do not reflect either the example or the teaching of Jesus.

As for those with a different sexual orientation, Jesus never says a word in any gospel about homosexuality.  Indeed, the word homosexuality does not appear in Scripture at all, nor does sexual perversion.  Jesus did mention adultery and fornication, both heterosexual sins.  And in the story in Genesis of Sodom and Gomorrah, though the inhabitants of Sodom were apparently homosexuals, their sin was in their attempted rape of Lot’s guests.  James is quoted in Acts 15:20 as advising the Gentiles to abstain from fornication, and Paul in Galatians 5:19-21 lists fornication as one of several works of the flesh, but makes no mention of homosexuality.  I know a few homosexuals and all of them with but one exception are people of integrity, struggling with the burden of rejection, placed upon them for the most part by Christians

The science is in and it is conclusive.  Sexual orientation, both heterosexuality and homosexuality, are natural, genetically imposed orientations with which we are born.  Just because homosexuality is not natural for those of us that have a heterosexual orientation, that does not mean that it is not natural for those born with a homosexual orientation.  The only thing that really divides us is the fear we have of an experience we do not understand, and for that we misquote Scripture to justify not following the teaching of Jesus.  Homosexuals are clearly the pre-eminent Samaritans of our day, and the call of Jesus is to reach across the divide with compassion and acceptance.

Another teaching of Jesus about which I suggest we should be very concerned is that reported by Matthew in the opening verses of chapter 7 of his gospel.  “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged, for with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

You, dear Christian friends, are my brothers and sisters.  But we also have other brothers and sisters who are not a part of our faith traditions and who are different from us in one way or another.  As we have opportunity, we need to embrace them, too, without judgment and without fear.  May there be for us no more Samaritans but only human beings who share the wonder of what it means to be a child of God.   

 

* Much of the interpretation of this parable is roughly quoted from the book  New Christianity for a New World  by John Shelby Spong, pp. 134-ff.

 

A Vision For the 21st Century

A Vision For the 21st Century

(Editor’s note:  John Lackey, a minister of the United Church of Christ, is here priming the pump for future dialogues.  In the future it is anticipated that reader responses to other readers and to the editor will constitute the bulk of the dialogue.) 

My vision for our world in this 21st Century is a biblically sourced vision having to do with economics. Douglas Meeks, in God the Economist,[1] points out that the Greek word from which we derive economy, “oikonomia,”is a compound of  “oikos,” meaning  “household,” and  “nomos,” meaning “law” or “management of the household.” “Economy” means literally  “the management of the household.” The Bible, throughout, is about a God whose purpose is to create a household in which all of God’s creatures can find home and abundant life.  This suggests lines from the World Citizenship Creed:   “I believe in the dignity of all humanity, that each person is a being of supreme worth...I believe in the stewardship of life and resources to the end that all may mutually benefit from the earth’s bounty and that no person may have to go without food or shelter...I believe in the global community, interdependent and mutually responsible for our physical and social environments...a world where justice and compassion rule and where greed and hatred are diminished...”[2]  The chief goal of this 21st century must be to develop the potential implied in these words.

This requires an understanding of today’s system of Global Economics--why it has failed to live up to its heralded promise that, in time, all of earth’s citizens would enjoy a decent standard of living. The basic problem is that global economics is under the control of the developed nations and giant corporations, which exist for profits and not for people. Even so, as Joseph Stiglitz says in Globalization and Its Discontents,[3]  “I believe that globalization--the removal of barriers to free trade and the closer integration of national economies--can be a force for good and that it has the potential to enrich everyone in the world, particularly the poor.” 

This raises some vital questions: 

(1) How did it come about that globalization became a  “domination system,” to use Walter Wink’s term?

(2) What changes are necessary if globalization is to be transformed into a just, humane system that benefits all of the earth’s peoples and nature?

(3) How does “outsourcing” fit into the picture?

(4) How can the greed in human character that drives the profit motive be transformed for the sake of both the victims and the oppressors?

(5) How can peoples of the developed nations begin to recognize how we support the system?

It seems that the needed reforms require that people around the world work together with collective action in shaping international agreements and regulating international corporations.  Global public institutions must be created to help set the rules.  Concerned world citizens need to join and support organizations that are working toward economic and environmental justice.

This kind of vision calls for a global communications system. It seems that such a system is available to us today through the World Wide Web. With global access to the Web:

(1) There could develop a common understanding about how the global economic system works and what is needed to change it.

(2) Workers in a given nation could share information with those in other nations about how the corporation-controlled system is affecting their lives.

(3) Peoples involved in the struggle for justice in their homeland could enjoy encouragement and support from around the world.

(4) Global action could be brought to bear on a local situation of injustice (refusal to pay a living wage, refusal to provide health care, damage to the environment, etc.). Peoples in other nations could write the corporation CEO with appeals for justice. When a corporation knows that the eyes of the world are on it, it may feel inclined to change its ways.

How important to the 21st century is the vision discussed here? William Sloan Coffin, in his Credo,[4] says it well: “the war against terrorism will finally be won by economic justice.   There is nothing meta-physical about terrorism. It springs from specific historical causes--political oppression and economic deprivation.  Until these injustices and our complicity and their furtherance are faced, our escalating counter violence will predictably result in more and more terrorists attacking more and more American institutions at home and abroad…”

What’s at stake in the 21st Century is world peace! This world must become a household in which all of God’s creatures find home and abundant life.

What Is Inner Peace And What Keeps Us From Having It?

What Is Inner Peace

And What Keeps Us From Having It?

 by Ralph Hubbard

In some ways inner peace is in the eyes of the beholder.  You know it when you have it.  People describe it in numerous ways.  One person said they have inner peace when they are fully confident in their own lovability.  Another said they believe inner peace is achieved when they are living in a state of gratitude for everything life has offered them. Another definition might be those rare moments when we let go of all anger, are not being resentful of others or judging them or holding that we are somehow better than another person or group.  Another might say they have inner peace when the inner commentary or chatter going on in our head, with all its accusations and demands, slows to a crawl. Inner peace is any and all of these thoughts.  However you define it, you will know when you are at peace.

All this is making the assumption that at some time in your life you have been at peace within yourself. Perhaps you never have.  At Living in Peace our belief is that when people have their own inner peace they are also at peace with their world.  We would like to help make those moments of inner peace not be so rare.  We would like to see inner peace become the rule rather than the exception in most people’s lives.

If you asked most people if they would like more inner peace, they will probably say," Sure I would like to have more inner peace”.  So what keeps us from having more inner peace and all the benefits that go along with it? One of the major contributors to our lack of inner peace is when we are resentful and angry with anyone or anything.  It is our resentment and anger that helps to rob us of our inner peace and joy.  We might be able to rationalize our anger and resentment and perhaps get a lot of people in agreement about why we are that way, but we all know how we feel when we are angry and resentful, and its not inner peace.

Resentment is probably the single most insidious force in our world.  It brings about enormous personal suffering, although we often don't see it at the time, and many believe it gives us justification to do almost anything to those we are resenting.  It is at the very root of the most horrendous atrocities that humankind has inflicted on other humans.  On a small scale some people believe resentment toward an employer can give them permission to steal time or supplies or worse, after all look at how badly they have treat you.  Or resentment toward a spouse can give you permission to cheat on them.  On a larger scale resentment toward another ethnic or religious group appears to give permission for discrimination or even genocide.  I doubt that many people reading this have participated in genocide, but I'll bet you can think of some small thing your own resentment has "allowed" you to do. 

Why would anyone want to hang onto a resentment when it seems to cause so much suffering?  Think about some little resentment you have held on someone.  The juicy little secret is that we believe we get something for holding the resentment.  At the very least, we believe we get to be better than the other person or group and it seems to make it O.K. for us to act anyway we want or do anything we want towards them.  We believe we are justified in our actions or thoughts.  Anytime I feel down, all I have to do is drag out some old resentment toward someone and I instantly get to be better than them.  With a “prize” like that it is no wonder so many people harbor resentments for so many years.  Try listing some of your resentments and count how long you have held them.  It will probably surprise you how the years add up.

The problem is that the “prize” is an illusion, it’s not real and the number of years you have held the resentments is how long you have had to suffer a loss to your inner peace.  We don’t really get to be better than those we resent.  We don’t really get permission to treat them in any despicable way we want.  If we really tell the truth to ourselves, holding our resentment doesn’t hurt the other person it only hurts us.  There is a huge cost to our holding onto resentments and at the very least, it cost us our inner peace.  There is almost no area in our lives that resentment doesn’t cost us.

If people got the huge cost to themselves and our world for holding resentment, they would run to the nearest church, counselor, coach, or personal growth training facility and beg to learn how to let go of their resentments if they didn’t already know how.

Letting go of resentments is not the only path to inner peace, but it is a great start.  Look for further discussions on this and other ways to gain inner peace in future newsletters.  The newsletters are a way Living in Peace can do its part to help people have more inner peace and become a link in the chain of world peace.

Ralph Hubbard

Ralph Hubbard has been on a path of self discovery, enlightenment, and personal growth most of his life. The last 20+ years he has learned much through the Kairos More To Life Foundation’s More To Life program. (www.MoreToLife.org He has seen radical change in himself and other people through this program and has seen many people loose their anger, resentments, prejudices, and intolerances and become at peace with themselves and their world.  His desire to pass this knowledge on to others, so we can have a more peaceful world, is what prompted him to start the Living in Peace organization.

Inner Peace is the Beginning of World Peace...

Post submitted by Ralph Hubbard

Inner Peace is the Beginning of World Peace...

Living in Peace, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to creating world peace one person at a time.  Our belief is that world peace does not begin by solving the differences between nations or political organizations or between groups with strongly held religious or ethnic beliefs.  Rather world peace begins with each individual taking responsibility for their part.  When we can let go of our own resentments, prejudices, fears, intolerances, and anger, we become a link in the chain of world peace. 

Our mission is to promote personal inner peace on a large

scale so that we will have a more peaceful world.

We believe inner peace is the beginning of world peace.  We will work individually and in partnership with other non-profit organizations and individuals with similar goals to promote this mission.

There are certain concepts or universal truths about human life that, if understood and practiced, can lead to more personal inner peace and ultimately a more peaceful world.  Making these truths become common knowledge among all people is the mission of Living in Peace so that we will have a more peaceful world.

Universal Truths That Living in Peace

Wants to Make Common Knowledge in the World

  1. Our emotions and feelings are not caused by the events in our lives, but rather by the mind’s interpretation of those events. 
  2. We can learn to hear our mind’s interpretation of events and thereby learn to catch or intercept the reaction of undesirable emotions and feelings.  
  3. Most of what our minds say to us when interpreting events is either false or questionable, because at a very early age our minds decided how life, people, and events were.  Beliefs, expectations, and judgments were then set in place that often were not based on facts or reality and do not serve us as adults. 
  4. Consciously telling the truth to ourselves about our mind's interpretations of events, and then choosing a new path based on this truth, is one of the easiest ways to maintain inner peace. 
  5. Our self-worth is not dependent upon anything external to us.  We have it because we are. 
  6. People hold on to resentments because there is an illusion that we get something for doing so. 
  7. There is great cost to us and to society for holding on to our resentments.  
  8. Forgiving someone or something that we hold resentment toward does not mean we are saying it is OK that they did what we are resenting them for.  It simply means that we will no longer hold ill will toward them. 
  9. Forgiveness is something that we do for ourselves and not necessarily something we are doing for those we have resented. 
  10. Self-forgiveness is an important step toward inner peace. 
  11. A peaceful soul does not hold anger, resentment, fear, intolerance, or prejudice.  
  12. In every event in life there is an opportunity for growth and a chance to get closer to that which sources us. 
  13. Having inner peace is a choice and every time we find ourselves out of sync with an intention of living in peace, we have a choice of how we want to live. 
  14. There is great power in our thoughts and we attract to us what we think.

Ralph Hubbard has been on a path of self discovery, enlightenment, and personal growth most of his life. The last 20+ years he has learned much through the Kairos More To Life Foundation’s More To Life program. ( www.MoreToLife.org )  He has seen radical change in himself and other people through this program and has seen many people loose their anger, resentments, prejudices, and intolerances and become at peace with themselves and their world.  His desire to pass this knowledge on to others, so we can have a more peaceful world, is what prompted him to start the Living in Peace organization.

Finding Our Way Home: A Brief Note On The Authority And Interpretation Of Scripture

Reader Responses

Michael Hardin of Preaching Peace, has shared the following letter, written in response to a friend’s request:

Finding Our Way Home: A Brief Note On The Authority And Interpretation Of Scripture 

You recently asked me to write something on Jesus’ hermeneutic. That one can even speak of Jesus’ hermeneutic is a blessing today. Between the churches removal of Jesus behind the veil of dualism and the academy’s burial of Jesus in historical science, it truly is a wonder that we are able to speak the words Jesus and hermeneutic in the same breath.

Some thirty years ago when I began studying Scripture, I found that I had a lot of questions. Every subject I tackled led to ten more subjects, all of which I felt driven to understand just to comprehend whatever book I was reading at the time. Over the years, I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of questions, the questions of the authors whose books I have read.

Their questions led me on some amazing journeys with breath-taking vistas around every corner. Writers from all places and times, backgrounds and faiths each seemed to have a piece to contribute to the overall picture. More so, many of these writers captivated me and I read everything they wrote that I could get my hands on. I could sense that somewhere deep within the questions was a solution. I knew that Jesus was that solution.

I believe that Jesus has something to teach us and tell us about the Creator that we have consistently missed throughout our history, Christians included. It is the secret of the kingdom of heaven: God is forgiving, God is not conflicted, and God is not violent. Jesus’ Jewish spirituality recognizes this through and through. It is the one singular thing his contemporaries did not want to hear. It is the one singular thing we do not want to hear. Jesus’ God is not an angry God. It is demonstrated in the way he lives and forgives others in the name of this God. It (this life of forgiveness) is, in a sense, ontologized within history as the eschatological horizon of the resurrection; the resurrection of the forgiving innocent victim. It is the one message that is differentiated from every other form of religious discourse. Jesus teaches us this.

However, it is necessary for us to understand the roots and trajectories of our sacrificial thinking as Christians. We need to deconstruct before we can re-construct. Sort of like what the folks on the PBS show This Old House do. They take an old house whose structure is solid, take it down to the basics, which are sound, and re-build on that structure. Christian theology, for me, is like This Old House. It is tired, old, worn, beaten and generally in great need of repair. Through the eyes of the folks who rebuild houses and see within a decrepit building a beautiful home that with time, effort and attention can be an enjoyable habitation, so also I think we can do the same with Christian theology. Theology is a beautiful science because theology is about Jesus.

Let’s look at some of the stuff on our theological house that is no longer useful. Let’s examine whether or not we need to restructure some of the interior of our house. Then let’s rebuild.

Using Paul Ricoeur’s language we might say that if the church is mired in a first naivete, the academy is no less stuck in critical distance. Neither one is able to speak of Jesus credibly with any sense of unity. It is the third stage of the understanding process, which Ricoeur calls a ‘second naivete’ from which I write. Since I am neither in the academy nor in the parish, I do not feel constrained by either when I consider the question of Jesus’ hermeneutic. The ‘historical Jesus’ is slick and slippery, and just when you think you have a grasp, he slips away. The ‘Christ of faith’ is a gigantic monolith, high and exalted, encrusted with traditions. If the ‘Christ of faith’ represents the ‘first naivete’ and the ‘historical Jesus’ represents the ‘critical distance’ then how shall we describe ‘second naivete?’ In order to do so, it is crucial to shift our perspective on the either/or of the question to this: what is the relationship of the Jesus of faith to the Christ of history? Must we not begin with the presupposition that as bearers of God’s Spirit we already know the Lord Jesus? What we need to discern are the ways both the church and the academy have embellished the living Jesus with their Christologies.

Christological duality, which is and always has been, the big issue in both the church and the academy, need not be necessary if one moves the question to a position of ‘second naivete.’ But how can we justify such on both anthropological and theological grounds? You already know how I will answer this: by turning to Rene Girard and Karl Barth. These are the two significant twentieth century thinkers who moved beyond Platonic dualism to construct a Christology that is true to Jesus. One did it from an anthropological perspective, the other from a theological one. But both succeeded because they both began with the cross of Jesus.

The early Christians understood that this whole resurrection/life thing existed only because there was a crucifixion/death thing. The resurrection was a vindication of this death that was forgiving, and this life and ministry that was all about forgiveness. In the resurrection God does not retaliate, God forgives. This is the message of the early church. It encompasses the entire Jesus reality: Jesus as Spirit and Jesus’ story were woven of the same stuff.

We also must not forget that the perspective of the New Testament is ‘from below’, that is, it is written from the perspective of the persecuted. This is of strategic importance. All of the complaints that have been made against the Christian churches are derived from the fact that the very church which is grounded in the forgiveness of the Cross of Jesus, and whose texts are written from the perspective of the persecuted, does itself persecute and justifies persecution by an appeal to these texts. There is very little that is apostolic about the modern church.

Michael Hardin

Michael is one of the initiators of a movement within the Christian Church to reinterpret both the Old and New Testaments in a way that demonstrates  that the God who inspired them is not a God of judgment, but a God of mercy, compassion, and justice.  He shared this way of understanding the biblical text at a workshop in Knoxville in October 2007.  He and his wife Lorri will be returning to Knoxville on March 15 and 16, 2008 along with two others in the vanguard of this peace theology, theologians Sharon Baker and Anthony Bartlett.  On the 15th they will be facilitating a day long workshop for clergy and lay leaders on the “Non-Violent Atonement of Christ.”  On the evening of the 16th, Michael will be repeating a workshop on “The Mimetic Theory of Peacebuilding. 

The Asian Jesus

The Asian Jesus

Michael Amaladoss, Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2006; 180 pp, including Endnotes, Bibliography, and Indexes.

Michael Amaladoss, S.J., a native of South India, is a professor of theology at Vidyajyoti College in Delhi and director of the Institute for Dialogue with Cultures and Religions in Chennai.  Among his books and articles is Life in Freedom: Liberation Theologies From Asia (Orbis).  With a special interest in intercultural and interreligious dialogue and spirituality, Amaladoss has been a consultant to the Pontifical Councils for Culture and Other Religions and to the World Council of Churches.  He also has served as the president of the International Association for Mission Studies.  He is the author of 20 books and more than 300 articles in various languages.


Occasionally one picks up a book that proves to be an unexpected breath of fresh air.  For this reviewer The Asian Jesus turned out to be such a book.  It is written, I believe with two audiences in mind—the Asian religious (though not necessarily just Christians) and Western Christians.  For the former he supplies a great deal of material, including a few entire chapters, about perspectives on Christianity that are not unique to Asian Christianity.  For the latter, however, the preponderance of material is quite unique to Asians, this in large part because of the cultural and religious milieu in which the Christian faith has developed, often without the overwhelming influence of Western missionaries.  (Though Amaladoss nowhere makes this assertion, his description of the Asian cultural and religious influences on biblical interpretation certainly strongly imply that this is the case.)

The Asian perspective that Amaladoss unfolds is formulated in terms of a number of images of Jesus that Asians incorporate into their understanding of the Gospel accounts of his life and ministry.  These include the images of the Way (Tao), Guru, Moral Teacher (advaita), avatar, satyagrahi, and bodhisattva.  (There are others that Amaladoss discusses at some length—for example, sage, servant, dancer, pilgrim--but these are more conventional portrayals common to both Eastern and Western traditions.)

The Tao: The term Tao is used in both the Taoist and Confucian traditions in China and means simply, “the way.”  In India, one would use the term marga, and Buddha spoke of the eightfold path.  “It is in this context that we must understand the way proposed by Jesus.  He does not indulge in any metaphysical speculations… The framework of Jesus is a human community fragmented by egotism and pride embodied in structures of religious, social, and political power.  People are called to turn away from this self-centered arrogance.  This is achieved through the selfless love of others, shown in humble service and sharing… The way of Jesus therefore operates at the level of human and social relationships… It resonates with the nishkama karma of the Indian tradition and the wu wei of the Chinese tradition.  But it is set in a framework of cosmic-human-divine community building.” (pp. 58-59)

Amaladoss cites the observation of Indian writer George Soares-Prabhu: “The vision of Jesus indicates not the goal but the way.  It does not present us with a static pre-fabricated model to be imitated, but invites us to continual refashioning of societal structures in an attempt to realize as completely as possible in our times the values of the Kingdom.”  Amaladoss continues, “The Kingdom of God that Jesus announced and began to establish is not an institutional, politco-military structure.  It is a community of people who are ready to love and forgive, share, and serve.” (p. 59)

Amaladoss goes on to describe the way of Jesus as a way of love and service, a way of non-violent struggle, a transcendent way, and an inclusive way.  “The way of Jesus is the way of creation. It is the way that humans and the world live.  It is the life.  It is God’s gift to creation and humanity.  We can understand why some Chinese theologians call Jesus the Tao.  But the Tao of Jesus has a Confucian resonance because it concerns community building.” (p. 65)

Guru: In Indian practice, a guru is a person who has traveled a particular spiritual path and is thus qualified to lead others on that path.  “In the Advaitic (non-dual) tradition, in which true spiritual experience consists in realizing one’s oneness with the Brahman or the Absolute, gurus are seen as divine, because they have experienced advaitic oneness with the divine.  In the Bhakti traditions…in which the final experience is one of encountering Siva, the Absolute, in love… the guru [is understood to be] a divine-human person… Many Indian disciples of Jesus, whether Hindu or Christian, have considered him as their guru.  Christians stress the uniqueness of Jesus by calling him sadguru (true guru).” (pp. 69-70)  Jesus is thought to be “the guru of a cosmic movement that he initiates himself and perpetuates by choosing disciples and sending them to continue his mission.” (p. 76)  He is seen to be exemplary of what other gurus should be like.

Advaita: As a moral teacher, advaita (Indian non-duality) presupposes a strong monotheism, a view that militates against acceptance of Jesus as God.  Asians who maintain this view may think of the unity of will between Jesus and God rather than the identity of being.  “Jesus was an exemplary human being who taught us how to live by word and example.  He shows us the way to self-discovery and moral behavior.” (p. 22)

Avatar: Avatar is the word used in Indian languages to refer to the incarnation of the Word in Jesus.  “God is believed to self-manifest in some earthly form to encounter the devotees and grant them liberation.” (p. 105)  Amaladoss cited Hindu Swami Vivekananda:  “Jesus had our nature; he became the Christ; so can we and so must we.  Christ and Buddha were the names of a state to be attained.  Jesus and Gautama were the persons to manifest it.”  Vivekananda goes on to note that one need not become a Christian to be a follower of Jesus.  “He (Christ) had no other occupation in life; no other thought except that one, that he was a Spirit.  He was a disembodied, unfettered, unbound spirit.  And not only so, but he, with his marvelous vision, had found that every man and woman, whether Jew or Greek, whether rich or poor, whether saint or sinner, was the embodiment of the same undying Spirit as himself.  Therefore the one work his whole life showed, was calling upon them to realize their own spiritual nature… You are all sons of God, Immortal spirit. ‘Know,’ he declared, ‘the kingdom of heaven is within you.  I and my Father are one.’” (p. 23)

Avatar can be variously realized at different places at different times.  The Hindu “devotees of Siva [the Absolute] think that God cannot become human.  But they still believe that Siva can manifest himself in various ways in the lives of his devotees.” (p. 105)  Because of this cultural/religious context, “Indians looking on Jesus will spontaneously consider him [Jesus] an avatar.  It is an Indian religio-cultural entry point to explore our experience of Jesus as a human-divine person (p.106).

Amaladoss suggests, “…the term avatar, meaning ‘manifestation,’ helps us look at the plurality of manifestations of the Word, of the Spirit, and of God positively and openly and profit from all of them” (p. 107).  He believes that Jesus’ disciples experienced him first of all as a human being.  But as avatar it was eventually recognized that Jesus had a deeper dimension as a unique manifestation of the Father, but a manifestation that was still subject to the limitations of it human nature.

Satyagrahi: Satya means “truth”. Graha means “clinging.”  The combination, satyagrahi, coined by Mahatma Gandhi, is someone who clings to the truth, namely, to God.  “Gandhi saw his own life as a quest for truth.  He knew that truth is absolute.  One does not possess truth; rather, one is possessed by it” (p. 86).  Gandhi held that “we cannot reach truth through untrue means” nor “peace through violence.”  As applied to Jesus, “the image satyagrahi points to the idea that Jesus, though he was a revolutionary, was a nonviolent one” (p. 87).

“What distinguished Jesus from the Zealots [of his day] were two things.  The Zealot effort focused on liberating Palestine from the colonialism of the Romans… On the contrary, Jesus does not seem to focus much on the Roman presence in Palestine.  He takes it for granted… The second difference between him and the Zealots is the means used to promote revolution.  Jesus is firmly committed to the means of love and nonviolence.”  Jesus believes the ends and the means must be the same.  “We cannot promote love through hatred, nor peace through violence” (p. 95).

“God, the Father of Jesus, is not a vengeful God who demands expiation for sins.  Jesus presented God as a loving and forgiving parent.  The suffering imposed on Jesus comes not from God but from Jewish leaders who seek to defend their own self-interest by doing away with Jesus.”  But “The murder of Jesus… does not put an end to the movement that he has launched. As a of fact, it acquires new vigor” (p. 97).

Amaladoss continues with an extended analysis of the role of suffering in Jesus’ life and, by extension, in the lives of his followers.  He asserts, “Suffering for its own sake is not a Christian ideal.  Suffering has meaning as an element of protest or as a manifestation of self-giving.  Without such meaning, suffering is not a virtue. It has no transformative value” (p. 104).

He concludes his discussion of satyagraha: “The image of Jesus as satyagrahi places the idea of salvation on a personal, human-divine level.  It is not something automatic effected by the cross and the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is a divine-human interaction marked by freedom on both sides… Jesus calls us to be satyagrahi in our turn.

Bodhisattva: Buddhists in Asia consider Jesus a bodhisattva.  In Buddhist tradition the bodhisattva is the model of the compassionate person.  In this sense Jesus is seen to be very much like Buddha.  “Having achieved personal liberation, the bodhisattva delays the personal enjoyment of it in order to help everyone become liberated” (p. 135).As a bodhisattva, Jesus is compassionate like no other.  His compassion operates around God’s gift of abundant life, which he not only promises but shares with others. (p. 136).  “The measure of the abundance of God’s gift of life is not our merits but God’s generosity.  The crucial element in the process of salvation is our openness to accept it as a gift of God, since God’s gift is always there.  Being sure of God’s unbounded love, we are ready to abandon ourselves to God. God then saves us.”  Thus, in a major departure from the understandings of Western Christianity, “Jesus saves us precisely by enabling us to respond to God in humility and faith, in egolessness and surrender, and thus receive God’s gift of life.  He enables us by being in solidarity with us” (p. 143).  “He saves us by freeing us, by forgiving us, by loving us, and by empowering or enabling us.” (p. 144)

This reviewer is struck by how much resonance there is between many of the beliefs of Asian Christians and the so-called “heretical” teachings of a certain 3rd and 4th century priest in Alexandria, Egypt.  His name was Arius.  His teachings were affirmed by most of the Christian bishops in the Eastern half of the Mediterranean world of his day but were opposed by most of the bishops from the West, thus creating something of an East-West divide in the Christian Church.  Could it be that the present Asian-West theological divide has its roots in that early division?  Interesting.

Jim Foster, reviewer