By: Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
I have to hand it to you. I think a lesser man than you would have gotten out of this conversation long ago and would have told me to buzz off.
I have felt considerable judgment and anger, not toward you particularly, but toward today’s general tribe of Christian social conservatives. And because of that, there has been an undertone of attack in a lot of what I have said to you in our extended conversation. Sometimes this has been cool and reasoned, sometimes blunter. So I apologize for this. There is no excuse for hostility that is intended to harm. I guess you provide an open door for me to speak my mind, sometimes eloquent and sometimes just plain venting. Now, having said that I think I have more venting to do.
At the moment, it seems to me that many religious people are just as ignorant as the non-religious. I am now making a sweeping global statement that is intended to include all religions. These ignorant religious people, bless their hearts, commit all the same sins and cause all the same havoc as the non-religious only they use the beliefs and the holy scripture of their religion to cloak the nasty and ignorant nature of their positions.
The two most aggressive camps that I am aware of are radical evangelical Christianity and radical Islam. The worst of the Islamic extremists try to defend the purity of their faith by killing their enemies. The worst of the evangelical Christians seek to punish their opponents and dominate everybody else through legislation and exclusion and of course heavy judgmental rhetoric. What I find highly irritating is when these folks dis-own their actions and fail to take responsibility for their actions by claiming that they are doing God’s will. “It is not us that judge, but God.” This twist of logic is not only obnoxious, but it can be extremely dangerous. When one’s motive is split off and dis-owned, it gives license for any kind of behavior imaginable. It can even produce a serial killer.
I was recently thinking of Christ’s anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. He seemed especially human during these hours. I believe when people forget or deny Christ’s humanity, this also leads to very big trouble. As I understand it, in the human aspect of his life, he felt sadness, he felt anger, and he had doubts. There are those who seem to think that to be a really top-notch spiritual being is to have absolute certainty in your faith and in your course of action. This is also very dangerous and spiritually misguided in my view. This can produce a self-righteous posture that denies reality and is basically stubborn rather than inspired.
All the great spiritual beings experience struggle. For those who figure that they have the formula, the right formula, the best formula, the ideal formula for their own self and everybody else too, that is simply arrogance. And that is the primary complaint with the evangelical Christians. I have seen this arrogant attitude up close and personal within myself. When I feel within my heart that I have found something wonderful, I want everybody else to feel the joy that I feel. That’s innocent and natural. But when I believe that I know what’s best for others, that’s not so innocent. I was a member of a large church for seven years that had a global mission. We certainly felt superior to everybody else.
Okay, this is my speech of the day. If you were to comment on just one of my points, take the point about Christ’s humanity.
As usual, your eloquence and passion are superb. You express the pain of your struggle with your humanity and the larger family of man exquisitely. I accept your apology for whatever sense of violation you have felt toward me. I will not hold that against you, nor think less of you in the future for having been a man subject to the passions of humanity. Your points of criticism with some individuals who call themselves evangelical Christians are no doubt valid. Without a doubt, there are those who have not yet developed the maturity to accept those who are at varying levels of growth. Interesting that understanding growth is an indicator of actually growing.
A man who was not seeking the truth would not continue to write to me. I do not just offer a place to speak into, I also respond with a perspective which I expect will be considered, I hope will be adopted, and I trust will be challenged and corrected if it is wrong. You are welcome to continue to correspond as long as you are sincerely seeking to engage in an examination of truth, as you have done.
I think the greatest challenge we all face is to love God, self, and our fellow man. To be sure, some display very bad manners, ignorance, and outright error in their stance toward life and others. We should love, encourage, and stay in appropriate relationship (i.e. proper safe distance) with those who are clearly off the path to righteousness. We need not feel ashamed that we are wise enough or mature enough to recognize that there is a difference between the man who is seeking, and trying to be righteous, and the man who is simply self-serving.
But the point you raise is whether we should judge any difference between those who are sincerely seeking? In other words, is there a Right or best path? As you know, I believe there is a best path. Possibly the difference between me and many Christians, is that I am willing to let other people go through their tests and erroneous trials without alienation.
I don’t think that I necessarily have all the answers, but I do believe that I am obliged by a sense of duty, and service to them, to share my perspective, just as I expect that they would have the right to enroll me in theirs. I simply believe that the better argument, the more-right position, will capture the heart and enroll it for the Kingdom. If we do a poor job at advocating, even if we are right, the man with the better presentation, even though flawed, is likely to win the heart of the listener.
Is this fair that truth is bought and sold on the market of persuasion and charisma? Well, one could make the argument that God should be more blatant, more obvious in what is True, especially if people are going to Hell if they choose wrong. But, that wasn’t the way God designed the world as far as I can tell. So, accepting how it is, and understanding why God designed it as it is should be our primary pursuit.
It looks to me like God wanted to build a universe that had free will, and a necessary ingredient to creating a world with free will is having the opportunity to make decisions about what is truly right and wrong. If God came down and made it blatant, it wouldn’t be free will anymore than saying, “If you don’t give me your money I’ll shoot you.” Any action with sufficiently obvious and strong consequence removes that option of behavior progressively farther away from the category of “free will.” In other words, I think most of what we see in the world as moral dilemmas are simply situations where we do not see God’s moral system clearly. As a result, the cause and effect consequences teach us to understand His methods and ways more deeply.
It is wrong when people behave violently in the name of God against other sincere seekers, simply because they hold different beliefs.
What was your particular denomination, the one you belonged to in your 7-year stint as a True Believer?
We should feel ashamed at our misguided zealotry when we finally awaken to a proper attitude of judgment and acceptance. If we keep trying we will eventually come close to being the most effective instrument for personal witnessing.
You correctly note the humanity of Yeshua. You mentioned Gethsemane, the other obvious human experience was the raw pain and agony of his torture and death. I believe it was His fully human passage as a subject of the world that gave Him the authority and ability to rightly judge, forgive, and save the world from the very strong laws that He embedded into the structure of the creation.
I got a taste of the brutal sequence of cause and effect today. Margo came down with shingles (Herpes Zoster) yesterday. I mention this only to note that I have also been touched by pain, even if I am a member of God’s believing family, tragedy, pain, etc. strikes, and it challenges our belief in a good God, as well as a God that has power, or one that will use it in our behalf. In such situations, as a Christian, we stand on the promise that “All things work together for good for them who love God and are called according to His purposes.”
Christ experienced pain, at the hands of Pharisees. These were men who claimed to know the truth about God and took it upon themselves to execute violence against Him for His beliefs. They found His claim to be “The Way and the Truth” so threatening, or offensive, that they killed him. His claim was either true or false. But, we cannot dismiss His claim as a lie simply because he took a strong, seemingly arrogant, and absolute stand. We can only say for sure that those who judged and sentenced Him to death did so because they saw His stand as an unforgivable and serious crime against their belief structure. This would be a primal example of the judgmental religious person and their response to heretical beliefs. But, the other side of that is the fact that heresy produces hybrid strains of belief, error combined with truth. And being real about it, it’s good to eliminate the weeds from the garden so that the young plants can grow strong.
I believe Jesus was Right to declare that He was the Way, Truth, and Life, and the no man could come to the Father but by Him. If it was true, then it was true. He need not be condemned for standing for an absolute truth. Either absolute truth exists, or it doesn’t. If there is Truth, then it should be spoken. I personally believe Yeshua was and is God, and is divine, infallible, the standard of truth and inerrant in His statements. As humans, we must stand for Truth as best we see it, even though our stand is subjective, we have an influence on others by our stand, and our stand will influence our life. We must each decide what scripture or person has divine authority in our lives.
I believe Truth exists as principles and laws established by God which have cause and effect power to affect reality. I believe Absolute Right exists in the Mind of God, but as humans, we may not be able to accurately identify it in any given situation. Still, as participants in life, we must deal with every situation with our best judgment of truth, regardless of how morally confusing the particular situation.
Simply because truth exists does not mean that I know it, and that I can tell you what it is. I must simply qualify my declaration of Truth with the caveat, that “I believe” this is true. As officers of the court or members of the Jury, and as parents, teachers, counselors, doctors, businessmen… we are placed in such roles, and we simply must do our best to sincerely divine the truth at any moment.
We can be certain that truth exists because we are all under the effect of truth. Truth will act on us regardless of whether we choose to acknowledge its presence or not. This is not the “Great White Throne” of which I speak, (although that is one aspect of it), the truth that “is” is the truth that is embedded within the structure of the universe. Truth is integral to the gears and wheels that produce cause and effect in both the natural universe and the world of sowing and reaping between humans in relationship. When we judge, either we have judged rightly, or not. And, we must then deal with the consequences of our choice. And in that, we will learn if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
While not overtly stated, your identification of the pernicious effects associated with the radical Muslim and Christian implies some degree of equivalency. These two religions believe that their particular elaboration of religious creed & tenets of faith are “True”. The Muslim enforces his belief on the world by death, and the Christian imposes his belief about truth by political directive (statutes that establish a legally enforced behavior). Of course, I believe these two methods of influencing the society are strongly different. (I do understand your sense of upset at the blind Christian who imposes his beliefs, and how that can lead down the slope to murder. Nevertheless, I am concerned that the equivalence between Islam and radical Christianity is taken too strongly, so I elaborate on the distinction below.)
The Muslim to kills randomly to destabilize and terrorize; he does so in an effort to bring down a stable Christian (non-Muslim) state so that he can build a Muslim state in the place of the rubble and chaos. The Radical Christian seeks to institute a rule of law that embodies his belief structures, doing so through the protocols of decision-making on matters of public policy.
Violence reduces people to victims, slaves, and objects. Political influence is the tool of organized masses that choose to agree upon the self-imposition of rules of behavior. Such is the nature of democracy, or in our case, Representative Democracy. It matters little whether the life paradigm is Theo-centric, Gaia-centric, or Homo-centric, or Nihilist. Every person has a concept about truth, and it is incumbent upon us each to exert our voice, and agree with the leaders, or take a position as a leader. There is no position in life which is not a position of faith.
As humans, we do not know the depth of truth of anything. At the very end of our long sequence of “why does that happen,” the final answer is, “God made it that way,” or “I don’t’ know,” or “Natural law works that way.” Etc. Ultimately, there is no final objective data upon which we can rest all opinions and judge them accurately. Ultimately our understanding of “why” rests on faith. With regard to statute, it is simply a matter of which belief structure that we choose to adopt that governs how we wish to establish public policy and group behavior of our particular self-run (we the people) society.
Nor can we escape holding a position by believing that “every person has their own view” perspective of life. Ultimately public policy requires a standard of behavior. It is simply a question of whose standard, and what standard is chosen. The “every person has their own view” philosophy implemented in public policy will produce anarchy, which is just another social order choice.
Likewise, we cannot say that there is no place for violent reaction in the life of the man of Truth. Violence can be used as a tool to stop violence that will not quench itself without an opposing force of sufficient magnitude.
When we take an attitude of pride, infallibility or inerrancy, we take a step toward allowing ourselves to act out violently. If I am a simpleton, and I believe that my view of life is right, then I could believe that I should impose that “rightness” on the rest of the world. Such a person will be a potential violator. He must learn that he needs to regulate his temptation to act out violently by recognizing that influence and discussion, and reason are the tools of combat are the only weapons on the battlefield of ideas and philosophy. I would hope that even the most radical evangelical Christian would restrain himself from imposing the slavery of force on another man, simply because of a difference in theological perspective.
I believe most Christians follow this prohibition against violence to a large degree. The fact that they do not comply perfectly with Christian doctrine is not the fault of Biblical scripture, but, a symptom of the environment which has polluted our minds. As we purify our society and become a truly Christian society, we will have ultimate freedom, we will coach, counsel, and support each other in right-action. Most of what we criticize about Christians is actually a result of the society from which they come. Many Christians come to Jesus because life had become too painful. The church is often populated with people who have grasped onto Christ as a last hope for their own redemption from the destruction they faced. As a result, they may then go out as enthusiastic Christians, when in fact they have a little of Christ inside, and a lot more of the world to clean up inside. And yes, they don’t get the subtleties of Christianity. They apply it like a child, painting the world and Christianity in black and white, heaven and hell terms, which the truth may be much more complex.
By the time of the final revelations by Jesus, the Bible does not authorize violence against other people simply because another man holds a different view of life, God, creeds, and doctrines.
On the other hand, Islam, if the stories are true about Mohammed the man, then it is understandable that a branch of Islam would follow the way of the sword. Such were his actions, to eliminate the infidel by extermination. Even though such teachings are not overtly part of the Koran, but I do believe it has been read into the intent of some verses because of the life of Mohammad himself. I believe this is how the Wahabe sect developed its particular creed.
Christianity has no such tenet or personage when looking at the full progression of the revelation of God throughout the Holy Scriptures.
You made a comment that it’s God’s place to judge, not man’s. It appears that this is one of your central tenets of faith, worldviews, and life-paradigms. I believe that is an incorrect view of life, and/or interpretation of Scripture. The verse, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” was spoken as a statement about hypocrisy. If you are going to judge, then you will be judged by your own words. The entirety of Biblical scripture is a treatise on proper judgment. The scripture warns us how God judges, and gives us examples, instructions, and metaphors about how a man should judge life, self, and others. God’s purpose in giving us the scriptures was to serve as a template for focusing our hearts and minds into a pattern resonant with His mind. In so doing, we become His hands extended, and His mind operating is His world as His agents. It is in this way that the Kingdom of Heaven is brought to Earth. The final day of judgment when the Lord returns is simply the end of the opportunity for self-rule. With the Lord as the ultimate ruler, the proper way of behavior will be much clearer.
In other words, regardless of whether we believe we have absolute certainty in a particular issue, we must take a position, and ultimately, action is a de facto judgment. Life does not allow us to sit on the sides and simply embrace all perspectives. (You have demonstrated this by the implications that both Radical Islam and Christianity have embraced evil to a degree. This, of course, implies that you have a standard of truth, a concept of absolute right and wrong to which you are loyal.) I do not criticize you for making a value judgment. You have every right to do this. I simply note that you have made a judgment about what is true, just as I have. We simply disagree on a few concepts.
I think you have attempted to place “no judgment” as a proper and true position to apply to many situations and circumstances of life. (I suspect you were hurt badly by judgment, or possibly your own time in the “church” for 7 years caused you to recoil at the simplistic judgments you made about life during that period.)
I believe the “no judgment” perspective is unworkable if applied too broadly. There is a place for not judging in the sense of patience and Godly tolerance in allowing people to grow and learn from their own mistakes. But in actuality, such an application of “no judgment” is simply a judgment with the action step given to time and life. When “no judgment” is applied globally, it leads to inactivity or a sense of victimization by others who enter the play of life as advocates for a position. I think this emotional-psychological factor may explain your anger at activist Christians. It appears that you feel they should not be imposing their religion or perspective, or judgments on you. But, as I mentioned, a society will always, and inherently, implement morality in its laws, it’s just a matter of whose morality will prevail in the democratic majority. In other words, there is a time for judgment when we are deciding what laws we wish to impose upon ourselves. There is a time for being acceptant while people are growing and learning by their own mistakes. And, there is a time for allowing time and the spirit of God to reveal the underlying force operating in a situation when we are confused by the moral dilemmas of the moment.
I don’t think you and I really disagree on the position that both good and evil exist. I think that you simply don’t like people being unaware of their own positions, thinking they are speaking the absolute truth, and then imposing it on you. And I agree. When true believers demand the imposition of their version of the Truth on other people, they can do so without realizing their own limitations of perspective and can be very dogmatic and harsh. Such simplicity is pandemic, and few among us have the perspective to recognize our own limitations of ideology. Tolerance can even be imposed with demagoguery. The only equitable solution I see is persuasion, taking a position, and advocating for it in the public square (which is the gift of freedom). If we don’t simply recognize that this world responds only to the cause and effect pressures of force, then we will feel victimized by everyone else who operates according to these (true) rules about life.
In other words, I believe truth does exist, and I’m sure you do too. But, you have difficulty advocating that concept because you have no scripture to which you can quote or point towards to validate promoting a particular perspective as “true.”
Nevertheless, truth exists, and as we see evidence of the fact that “Truth acts on us constantly. We do not need to have God administering the cause and effect of this world. Rather, we simply live in world where force acts on the actors in response to their actions. How does it happen? I don’t know, but I do know there are laws of the universe, on many levels, and to deny that would be foolish and blind.
The forces mediating spiritual consequence for offenses against God’s behavioral laws are more subtle than the force of an electron repelling an electron. The mediators of spiritual consequence are probably held inside of billions of distributed spiritual commands held inside an ever more diffuse sphere of beings that were affected by the causative act. We cannot definitively answer the question as to where an offense is held, and we do not know the method by which cause produces the effect in the realm of the intangible action.
Nevertheless, we must ponder this question because the model we hold of the universe strongly influences our view of eternal justice, and in turn, how we should handle judgment in this life. Is the Bible the rule book by which every cause and effect sequence follows? Is it necessary for the human memory and emotions to keep track of the offenses of life so that the justice of sowing and reaping is repaid? Can we truly release that responsibility to God and expect that the violations we have experienced will be repaid with full justice administered? If God does repay all violations, what is His method of keeping track of the score?
In other words, it’s too big for us to hold onto. As a result, God has simplified our job somewhat with a command to simply love God, self, and fellow man. When we love God, we love who He is, and the rules of life are integral to who He is. We automatically want to follow those rules when we establish a love relationship with Him.
When we release the violator from his debt to us, to be repaid by God in due time, we free ourselves from the linkage with the violators in this life. When a man confronts his victim, makes restitution and apology, and asks God to cover his own debt of violation with the price paid by Jesus’ sacrifice, the forces that twist the strands of time and fate together to produce repercussions upon us are straightened to some extent. There will probably still be some effects associated with our violation, but the cause-effect consequences associated with a past error can be diminished with a proper spiritual posture.
I believe the universe has a cause-effect force operating in it, even if we cannot identify its exact name and form. We all know we are subject to the sequences of life that result from the law moving as it moves. If we judge wrong, if we make wrong moves or alliances, we will suffer. And, such suffering is the result of the fact that we live in a universe where there are rules, consequences, and cause-effect sequences of forces operating.
Did Jesus suffer as a human? Yes. Did He err in his judgment of the proper action at each moment? No, the Bible declares that He was tempted in all things as we were, but He did not sin. I believe He had a connection with the Father that was perfect in the sense that He was aware of Father God’s approval and disapproval, and He felt the leading of the Holy Spirit in His life. I do believe that Jesus lived the same life that we can live, but to attain such perfection would require more dedication to effective meditation and discipline in controlling our minds and hearts than most of us will apply. Did Jesus have doubts? Probably He felt every emotion that we felt. But, this did not reduce His divinity, or put Him on equivalent stature with other “masters, gurus, avatars”. Either He was the creator of the universe, or He was not. If He was not, then the Biblical Scripture is a lie and should not be taken seriously as a definitive guide to life, it is just another collection of the works of men, with no more significance than the sayings of Buddha, Krishna, or Mohammad.
But, if in fact Jesus was the Son of God, creator of the universe, Savior who came to die and be a sacrifice for the error that had to be paid to save the universe from destruction; if the words of the Bible were inspired by God to be metaphors, lessons, and instructions for behavior and life direction, then we would be well advised to consider the words of the Bible carefully.
It all comes down to whether we have come to a sufficient conviction of these concepts as true. We must each decide what we choose to define as true. Each of us as Ambassadors of Christ is under the obligation to share the Good News with our fellow man.
Jesus’ life was the quintessential illustration of the fact that perfection of action does not produce a pain-free life on this earth. In fact, it serves to highlight the fact that the ways of the world are perverse, and following God’s way produces pain when we confront the world and attempt to modify its direction. Two forces pushing in opposing directions will transfer momentum when they come into close proximity. As Christians, we are commanded to be salt and light. As a servant, I simply offer you my best perspective on a path that I have found to offer great comfort in that it reflects the truth of how God created the universe, and in turn, reflects the rules of life that work.
I cannot prevent the zealots and chauvinists from pressing beyond their boundaries. I cannot prevent the legislators from passing laws that embody a world-view in opposition to my own. I cannot prevent other people from holding improper paradigms about life. But, I can and must offer my voice, my reason, my perspective. If I do not, the world is poorer, cheated of my gifts which I could give by participating.
I don’t need to be thrown off balance by the radical who tries to kill or legislate. As long as I survive, my job is simply to do my best to influence in for the way I consider to be true.