My post last Sunday (Love Never Dies) prompted some subscribers to unsubscribe. Only two, but not just any two. My nephew and niece.
That hurt. I felt disowned. I’d spent many a happy time with them as children and young adults. Even while apart, we were close.
Their father, my older brother, was a strict fundamentalist. He lived and died as one. He raised his children on fundamentalism.
I, too, was a strict fundamentalist. It’s how my parents raised us. My father distrusted higher education. My mother did not. I went to college. My brother didn’t.
In college I studied biology, literature, and philosophy. I learned things fundamentalism never taught me. I moved away from fundamentalism and became an evangelical. What is an evangelical, you ask? An evangelical is a fundamentalist with an education.
I went to seminary. I studied the Bible in its original languages. I saw that it was a human product, not a divine one—divinely inspired, perhaps, but still human, and flawed.
I moved away from evangelicalism and became an ecumenist. What’s an ecumenist? An ecumenist appreciates truth and wisdom in many traditions, not just one.
I opened my mind.
I saw passion for social justice in Judaism. I saw wisdom in Native American earth-centered spirituality. The Noble Truths of Buddhism impressed me, as did The Way of the Tao. I fell in love with a Sufi Muslim poet named Hafiz.
did the rose
ever open its heart
and give this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being.
My heart opened.
I saw the natural world as divine. Everything is sacred. Everyone is a child of God. We and all that dwell upon the earth are one family. We belong to each other. This world is our home.
I became a humanist.
There is no heaven and no hell other than what we make on earth. There is no Judgment Day other than the consequences of our daily choices. There is no God that saves some and condemns others. We do that for or to each other.
I believe in natural laws. I also believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I know that I don’t know everything or even very much. And there’s a lot I don’t understand.
Still, I feel the encouragement of light against my being.
See Paula’s photo “Bluebell Forest” on the home page. Posted April 18
This makes me quiver! I have been hibernating and needed this sunshine. Thank you.
Can I get two additional subscriptions to plug the hole left by the two righteous souls who left?
I love your definition of “evangelical”. That particular take on Christianity has always puzzled me.
It’s because they love you that your niece and nephew experienced discomfort reading your thoughts on Christianity. You write what you have to, and they chose not to continue reading it. They aren’t rejecting you as a person. Ironically, if their faith were truly strong, they would likely not react to your words by figuratively holding their hands over their ears. You certainly aren’t shutting them out, whatever their beliefs.
Unfortunately, the strategy used by many who have a closed mind is to also utilize their closed eyes and ears, thus ensuring their cognitive stagnation.
I sympathize with your loss of not-just-any-two subscribers. I am surrounding you with white light and sending you energy!
Encouragement of light. Made me smile. Makes me think. I like that. And I like the thought that we and all upon the earth belong to one another and thus by extension should care for one another. We need more caring.
Thank you for this. Its tone and substance are lovely — especially at a time when religious and political schisms often split families.
I’m sorry to hear that your nephew and niece unsubscribed to the blog. That’s the way some folks handle disagreements, by shuttering their minds and closing out the world. My grandfather Willingham, a Baptist fundamentalist, once told my mother that we make our own heaven or hell in this world and don’t have to wait for an after life. He never read Aldous Huxley’s essay on the subject. My mom passed his wisdom on to me. Many years later, I encountered a song by John Lee Hooker where he sings about his realization, “Ain’t no heaven; ain’t no burnin’ hell! When I die, where I go, nobody knows!” I like the company I’ve been keeping since then. As an old gospel song implores us, “Give me my flowers while I live.” And let’s not forget the spiritual, “This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine!” Also, Procol Harum’s “Shine on brightly, quite insane!”
Thanks for a succinct telling of your path to enlightenment and for letting your light shine.
All I can say is “Amen, Brother”
Could it be that the words you now turn away from seem “unbelievable” because they are only a very faint shadow of the Mystery they tried to convey? They are the “fake news” of what is left after words and content are lost, twisted, and used for power and greed. There is something that has been attempted to be conveyed to us since time immemorial, in all faiths and cultures, and yet in all faiths and cultures only the shell remains after the Buddha, the Laotze, the Christ, the Shaman, the saint leaves the mortal coil. That doesn’t mean that there is not an Immortality, a Redemption, a Judgement, a Heaven and a Hell. The true meaning just needs to be reborn and encouraged in the Life of every Soul. Our understanding grows by Faith and Intellect. The former blesses us with grace, while the latter is a rock that cannot be easily shaken. I am just a Pilgrim on this Road.
I was raised Catholic and even at a very young age I had questions. What troubled me was I learned not to question what those in “charge” were teaching. Reminds me of the military’s slogan, “Don’t ask.” ” Don’t tell.” Many humans need to hold onto the egotistical thought that we are the most intelligent life on the planet. I believe we don’t know the half of it! I so appreciate the wisdom of all faith traditions. We have so much to learn!
The beauty of free will is that it leaves matters like faith and worship up to one’s own interpretation and practice. My father, a self-proclaimed intellectual agnostic, found the presence of God in the beauty of nature, music, prose, and the innate ability of Man to know right from wrong. I feel that the inability to respect the beliefs or schools of thought in others stands in stark contrast to what all religions claim to stand for, particularly when that differing opinion is very much rooted in the pursuit of kindness and knowledge.
European history and those of us from its former colonies suffer from the effects of the two-headed eagle. The church and state had the power to demand total conformity to dogma and absolute monarchy. In our history the weakening of external authority and the dawning of the age of reason are fairly recent. As (I think) you have said, the Bible can be understood as metaphor with inspired truths and great stories to reveal God’s plan and hopes for us all. I do not think it was ever intended to be taken literally. When a monarch, King James, commissions the translation, there are bound to be errors favoring the monarch.
So sorry about your niece and nephew. Telling one’s truth can hurt. One small caveat. With such a beautiful rose as in your photo, how can there not be a God?
Indeed. The rose no less than you and I is a child of God. It’s hard to believe that chance alone or random selection could create something as glorious as a rose.
The roses we see today have been painstakingly crossbred and selected for by humans. But I get what you’re saying.
Heard on a BBC family comedy: “I’m an evangelical agnostic. I knock on the door and say “I don’t know. Do you?” I may be a deist. There’s a supreme being, but she’s not engaged with, nor interferes with, human beings. I belong to the recovery tribe that doesn’t respond well to the Christian requirements of AA. Secular members are twice cursed—alcohol is poisonous and denial of God is cause for group disapproval. I want an open-minded, heart-driven, free-spirited world. Thanks for pointing the way.
“That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:5 (HCSB). A midrash on Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8:22-31, perhaps? So, what, or who, is that Light?
A beautifully told story of evolution, the opening of a rose and your rose exudes the most healing, fresh and nourishing, uplifting fragrance. Thank you.