It’s the Christian holy week and I’ve been musing over my changing beliefs about Jesus, the point man for Christianity, the one whose mind so many people profess to know. Actually we don’t understand what’s in our own minds, let alone anyone else’s. But since I am one of two people who know the password to my blog’s dashboard, here’s what I think:
I think that what has developed right from the beginning as Christianity is not what Jesus had in mind. I believe there was a historical Jesus and that he died and that’s where I part ways with traditional Christianity. I believe the good news is that we are all divine in the same way Jesus was divine. That was the radical message. It was only after he died that someone cooked up a story to fit the mindset of a culture and mythos that existed 2000 years ago on the other side of the globe.
I think there is a much simpler interpretation and one that doesn’t beggar belief.
Jesus had an idea that we are all part of an energy and a power that brought the world into being and sustains it. Maybe we could call it Love, but let’s leave God out of it. To many of us, God is forever going to be remote, oppressive, male, and dressed in pajamas. Jesus made new sense of what it meant to be born, to be a person and to grow into the glory of one’s own life. The point is not to copy his life but to be our own piece of divinity that’s connected to the whole.
Death and transformation were familiar to an agrarian society. People understood that seeds at the end of flowering were buried and sprouted into new life. So it was a useful image until Jesus physically died and someone who didn’t understand the mysticism involved had to cook up something more concrete. I imagine the reasoning then was much the same as today: we have to get our story straight and everyone has to believe the same thing. We can’t let people just go off and access their own spirituality, find their own paths, have their own numinous experiences and come to their own conclusions. What if they get it wrong? What if it gets out of control?
The death and resurrection story had to be linked to the ancient culture’s traditions of sacrifice. I still occasionally choke when I hear someone ranting about being saved from his sins. I was raised by a mother who chased me around the house with a fireplace poker screaming that God was going to punish me so I have a jaundiced view of that particular theological point. It’s been an achievement for me to no longer think in terms of sin. It makes no sense that this beautiful world was created in love but its pièce de résistance was early in its tenure declared bad. (Please don’t try to explain it to me. I understand the logic. It’s no longer in my paradigm.)
During the years that I was trying my damnedest–and I use the word pointedly– to be a good Christian, I remember when the teaching came down from on high via InterVarsity Press that sin really meant separation from God. I think that’s the meaning of the word in the Greek. Fair enough. But I think Jesus was suggesting that separation from God was separation from oneself, from the divinity within ourselves. Separated from our little piece of divinity, we can’t be ourselves. A true modern, I call that anxiety, not sin. And it’s deadening.
We experience our divinity in a balance of attending to the still small voice inside and allowing ourselves to be influenced by the love of others. Love. Not indoctrination, not coercion, not guilt, not obligation, not sentimentality.
Christianity without mysticism is not significantly different from a fraternity, a rotary club or the junior league. They can all host potlucks –or keggers– and do volunteer work. Christianity without mysticism doesn’t have enough to do. It makes us police each other. At the lowest level we bludgeon each other with anything that sounds like a law or a rule. A little higher up the enlightenment ladder we get smarmy with our concepts of grace, usually allowing more of it for our own “sins” than we do anyone else’s. We get self-righteous about social justice.
It’s uncontrollable, the divine spirit. A holy spirit is implicated in what is sometimes called intuition. Disparagingly if it’s female intuition. I believe the holy spirit operates intuitively: you can’t prove its existence, you can’t control it, it doesn’t explain itself, it works creatively like an artist. If ever the feminine is elevated along side the male in our society, we may find the holy spirit to be much more generally accessible and Christianity might seem less like boot camp. There might be much less suspicion that someone out there was doing their spirituality “wrong.” I would love to see everyone cut loose from religions and religious terminologies, free to find our own ways and experience the integration of spirit among us.