jesus and other religions: what did he have to say?

interfaith

jesus interacted with many people from many different backgrounds. when jesus quotes the golden rule, he isn’t the first one to utter these words, confucius did — almost 500 years before jesus was conceived. there is speculation that jesus traveled quite a bit during his 18 silent years that we have no record for. some historians/theologians surmise jesus might have traveled to what is now known as britain and europe. others guess that he might have went to india, china and the rest of the world to meet, study and learn at the feet of other spiritual leaders; such as buddha.

in fact, right near where jesus lived and grew up was a port where there were major intersections and import and export of goods around the world at that time. it is no doubt that jesus would be heard of such religions as buddhism, zoroastrianism and others. in fact, he would have been aware of the two-kingdom split of the israelites in the Tanakh (Old Testament). jesus would have interacted with other religions. in fact, even in some of the stories jesus shows his compassion toward other religions. he meets up a few different greek people, who would have been cult-practicing  ‘goa’ (anyone non-jewish). when jesus spends time with them, he doesn’t reprimand them for their practices. if anything, most of our theology of condemning other religions tends to come from Paul not jesus (compare the number of verses between the two). when jesus changes the story of the two jews walking on a dangerous road, to a jew and a samaritan (who helps the jew), he is also playing with interfaith advocacy and religious pluralism. now, for some, they might argue that jesus was advocating the philosophy that ‘all truth is god’s truth’, which i would wholeheartedly agree, . But, what if there is more to it? what if the reason why jesus didn’t comment on their religious state was because to him it didn’t matter.  it was their heart and personal transformation he desired. (now, this is conjecture, i understand, but any other retort this will be just the same — keep this in mind). yet, we spend so much of our time fighting over ‘religions’ when we can agree jesus and i might add a person like buddha (who has written down that he wished people would not turn his insight into a religious movement) wanted something more than a set of rules or doctrines.

to assume jesus was here to create a ‘one-way’ religion (as is traditionally asserted) is to support the belief that god is truly small. it also doesn’t allow for the reality that god could easily break out all of our boxes, even the ones in this blog. we get so caught up in who believe in what that we forget jesus just loved people. he was a hippie. we should be hippies. but because our incessant need for labels and words have kidnapped mystery, we need to continue making sense of it all rather than loving people. the gospel isn’t about how bad people are and who need a small one-religion god. the gospel is hope (that’s what it means in aramaic), and that hope looks different for a christian than it does a buddhist or an hindu or an atheist. we have to see the gospel without our own interpretations. see it as the word is — hope. with no additives or preservatives, just extreme hope. jesus took the time to listen, learn and love. a lot of christianity is still learning how to listen let alone learn from other people. yet, learn we must. love we must. or we will be nothing more than a company who thinks our product is the best and everyone else’s (as the british would say) is rubbish. which is at the heart quite counter to jesus’s message of love toward anyone and everyone.

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an olive branch to the orthodox christians…

sometimes when businesses are looking to partner with individuals or others businesses they create what is called a ‘trust matrix’. it is a risk assessment tool to figure out who or what is trustrworthy enough to actually take the risk on. it is a plumbline to help make a decision without knowing all of the ‘facts’ or key players involved. it seems like a prudent things to do. except that it doesn’t leave much room for mystery or the ‘x’ factor that we are so repulsively attracted to.

just a personal note, this whole fight over absolute truth and relative truth. can we agree that it could be both? rather than making one the enemy of the other. maybe it could be absolutely relative or relatively absolute.

it seems like this is what it going on in the church. moreso in the space of doctrine, orthodoxy, dogma, church history, practice and theological development to name a few of the big ones. and to be honest, its sad!

we’ve created sides within. we’ve also created sides without. and there shouldn’t be sides period. this need to label someone emergent or orthodox (i have failed in this; and probably will continue to do so) has created more unnecessary division within the ranks that shouldn’t be. there was this author who was a church leader who used the metaphor of the body as a word-picture (not as a piece of theology mind you) to say that yes we may not get along all the time (e.g., if eyes don’t work, then it impairs other parts of the body) but that working together should be something we all should strive for. but, we’re not. we’re fighting, name-calling, shouting out our frustrations. and some need to be voiced. let’s be honest, we could be bringing our ‘a-game’ when all we’ve been doing is borrowing a lot of our answers from those before us, don’t get me wrong they said some good things, but most of it isn’t relevant to now. even some of what paul said just doesn’t mix well with the times, and it isn’t about cheapening the bible — it is more about engaging with this important book as a narrative we are still writing for those ahead of us. but to turn it into a manual cheapens the power of experience within its pages. there is power in experience. most people are changed by experience not doctrine. most people meet with the divine on a street somewhere not in 5-points of Calvin. but, that is neither here nor there. Jesus talked a lot about love. more than sin, more than death. he spent so much energy talking about how we need to care for the other. this was his message, and not just his, buddhism, sufism, hinduism, and other religions seem to espouse a similar desire spurred on by a similar ethos. but this is about us in the here and now who say we follow jesus. fighting each other is a waste of time! if we fight anything, let’s fight the need for labels, the need to be right, the need to claim our version of god as the best. if we continue down this path, we will implode. and that is only a matter of time if we continue to cling to our views as being the best. sorry, hate to break to you (and me), there is no ‘best’ view. well, not at least in the colonial/neo-colonial sense of the word. we can’t afford to say we believe in a big god and then judge others when their view of god is outside of our view of his bigness. not only is that unfair, it isn’t right. if we fight anything else, let it be arrogance. or any pressupositions that our doctrine holds more weight than another. can we do something radical here, can we just get rid of doctrine. yep, i am suggesting we throw it out the window. we don’t need it. we need god. we need to let go of this diametrical approach to discovering the divine. doing so cheapens the overall of God. and i know it scares the hell out of most people to talk like this, and i don’t want to invalidate your experience. but we can’t afford to say we follow after jesus than sling mud. and that isn’t to say we won’t get it wrong, i might be getting it wrong right now, and that is fine. but let’s be honest about our pimples and scars. noen of us have it right. none of us. and for one group of people to assert that they do is nothing short of some sort of doctrinal holocaust and the victims are ourselves and those we interact with. but, this is just an opinion. maybe there is no value here. i could be completely wrong. but as one who doesn’t profess traditional orthodox views, i am extending a hand of grace, and an olive branch to anyone who is fed up with unecessary bloodshed within. the body of christ wasn’t meant to be torn apart,it was meant to be a body.

confusion, a lover on the street

war is a childing screaming for peace
freedom is a prisoner denying release
a laugh, is a smile under pressure to cease
indifference is the eternal kind of disease

if we choose our blindness
than we seal our fate
if we run from ourselves
we might get there too late

hanging from trees are the leaves
that want to say more than we want
to hear
and when the skies open up, god sheds
his tears

we have to say goodbye to what we know
to find out who we are tomorrow

scandalous intrigue dances around
in our dreams, because sometimes
things are better as they seem

hope is a broken promise that we can taste
in our treason
life is found when no ones around in the in-between
seasons
confusion is the lover who sits on a street
waiting for the cigarette to burn with defeat
and we all are seeking more than we would like
and yet it becomes trite to be right
and so we close our eyes and
surrender to the fight

the beauty myth: we’ve been shipwrecked.

Rose Leaf

a commercial flashes across your television screen. someone famous steps on the scene and the music cues and thir hair is somehow magically shiny, wavy and free-flowing. the commercial isn’t saling you a hair product. it isn’t even saling that you could be like the person the screen. they are saying, you aren’t like the person on the screen. it sounds the same, but it isn’t the whole premise is that you don’t have what it takes unless you buy this product. and when you do, you will be whole. fulfilled. you will no longer be broken because of what L’oreal can do for you and your hair. Women have been prisoners of the beauty myth for years and years. Long before commercials were even introduced. this obsession also existed before the Greek culture who thought life was about physical beauty. Adams’ response to Eve in biblical narrative was one of shock and surprise on how beautiful she was. Adam was stricken with Eve’s beauty. And his jaw-dropped. So, where did it come from? Maybe that’s the wrong question, but I still think its good to hear someone who has been studying this subject a lot longer than I, Naomi Wolf.

” A whole generation of women  crippled by a male-generated myth of beauty that does not apply to them, are hungry sexually deprived, physically mutilated, and addicted to beauty rituals that leave them feeling anxious and unfulfilled. Along with masses of undifferentiated statistics (90% of women surveyed say they weigh too much), imaginative displacements (men having sexually enhancing cosmetic surgery), and perceptive analyses of cosmetic advertising (creams, shampoos, conditioners with sexual attributes substituting for failed relationships with men)…”

The beauty myth tends to be categorized as a women issue, I think I think there is something to be said about what Wolf says here. I would say the first step is to come to a place where we all agree that what is being perpetuated is a lie. And that, for men, we might have to accept we help perpetuate this lie. And yes, there are also commercials for men too, even more so now in the last 30 years or so. But, instead of playing the blame game, why don’t we do something about for the audiences involved? to believe in something like ‘the beauty myth’ is to agree with all the lies in our past that have told us, we need something more. we need to hide behind our masks. that we aren’t good enough as is. at the heart of the beauty myth is consumerism. and consumerism is a drug we all take without knowing it. but that’s the power of this drug. that we aren’t aware that we’re taking it. that the lie has somehow become the truth. and we have become the very media we so despise. and so the only option is to walk away. it’s very much like the Greek muses who’s only purpose was to distract people from getting to their destination. to shipwreck them out into places unknown. but, to be honest, to divorce ourselves from the beauty myth, we are going to have to go out to the places unknown. and we have to run to get here. the longer we stay, the longer we advocate beauty as a commodity. and unfortunately, to those who make commercials, all of our a commodity.

 To the ancient Jews, beauty wasn’t at all outside. It was the person who was willing to talk through hell and back and still believe in hope. It was the young boy turned man, molested and abused at a young age, who decides to live life to the fullest regardless of his past (this is not minimizing his past). It is the woman who was abandoned by her husband for another woman and still decides to keep the baby and fight on. And there are better and worse examples that we could use to fill in the blanks. But to the ancient writers of the Torah, beauty had nothing to do with lipstick. It was who you are as a person and who you are becoming regardless of the hell you have been through. It is the person who believe the sun will shine after the rain, not simply because someone told her it would, or even because science told her it should, but because in her soul is this pearl deeply embedded within. and it whispers to her ‘one day, it will be alright’.

Why ‘God is here’ doesn’t work OR Be God Here.

imagine walking lazily down the street and you just turned your ipod up really loud to get lost in the lyrics of Rick Astley’s famous song ‘Never gonna give you up’ when out of the blue a car loses control and crashed right into you. Your body reacts as if in slow motion and bends over to protect itself. But, its too late. The impact has done its damage. Both of your legs are broken and your one of your lungs have been punctured. You don’t have much time to live, and a caring pedestrian runs over to you and you sigh a breath of relief. Someone has come to the rescue. While you like in agony hoping the pain would stop, the good samaritan reaches into their pocket and pulls out a band-aid and asks, “will this help?!”

when the world around you falls apart and there is no sense of balance anywhere to be found the last thing you want is a band-aid to help you through your pain. as well-intentioned as this is, it doesn’t even begin to meet you at the point of your need or even recognize the gravity with what situation has just occurred. i feel like we do this with statements like ‘God is here for you!’ or ‘Just believe it, God is there!’ To me it cheapens the pain that the ‘victim’ is experiencing. It also makes the divine to some marketable cliche we feel like we have some control over. now, i don’t want to minimize those experiences where people have met with God or had a God-experience. But the phrasing assumes so much. telling someone god is here doesn’t do much for them there.

God is here. One it assumes we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is really here. But, what most people mean is that they had some emotional experience or maybe even visual or auditory experience with the divine. but what they fail to recognize is that isn’t everyone else’s experience and if a person doesn’t experience that, it doesn’t make them any less of person interested in God. God is here assumes we know better than God and others. it assumes that because we have been taught that God is here that God must be there always or when we say.  People in the scriptures struggled with this themselves. In Jesus’s most desperate hour, God wasn’t there. God abandoned Jesus. (We can make up all kinds of arguments why). But, Jesus experienced death alone. Alone. Surrounded by crowds who wanted him dead. Sometimes faith isn’t even done in community. Sometimes, everything and everyone is against you. Some might think this cynical and I am not attempting to be so, it is saying that our cliches and assumptions/experiences tend to tell us what we should tell others when they might be experiencing similar things. Which doesn’t work. The idea also assumes, God leaves.

God doesn’t leave according to the ancient Hebrew authors. God never did leave humanity. In fact, according to the story, God chases after the nation the whole time in the Old Testament. God is everywhere all the time, every moment. And not in the guilt-like father mode we sometimes see him as. He is bigger than Christianity. and most assuredly bigger than our assumptions and theology. And sometimes, people don’t need any of that. They need you to let them know that they are going to make it through, and that you will be there for them. That is the most divine thing you can do. Be God Here.