“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”George Bernard Shaw

Heretic (noun): a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church; anyone who does not conform to an established attitude, doctrine, or principle.

As I have been revealing in my blog, and with a great deal of studying and praying, I am understanding that many things that Christians put forth as “biblical” are not always so, and if truly studied, would be revealed as doctrine translated through the lens of current culture.

I know this next statement may offend some and disappoint other (hence the title of the blog) but it is important to understand that any and all spiritual journeys to be authentic must first be real, starting from where we are, not where we think we ‘ought’ to be. Expectations — both those from others and from within — are the death of my spiritual life and the dearth of my soul. Make no mistake, I am confident and comfortable saying that I truly adore Jesus but I am having a hard time with much of modern Christendom these days.

I am at a place in my life where I am comfortable enough in my own skin to make this declarative statement of faith: I cannot believe in any way, shape or form in a God who is (or a religion that is) homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic, culturally imprisoned, misogynistic, afraid of science, myopically tribal, captured or contained in ANY denominational or religious construct.

My doctrine and my dogma is simple: love God and love people (all of them, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized) because simply put God is LOVE. 

God is not doctrine or dogma, denominational or diminutive.

God is fire, unleashed and untamed, pure love.

Today, I am not so sure there is “room” for me anywhere religiously.  But I know, even if faintly, that God does indeed have plenty of “room” for a ‘borderline heretic’ like me.

You can

die for it—
an idea,
or the world. People

have done so,
brilliantly,
letting
their small bodies be bound

to the stake,
creating
an unforgettable
fury of light. But

this morning,
climbing the familiar hills
in the familiar
fabric of dawn, I thought

of China,
and India
and Europe, and I thought
how the sun

blazes
for everyone just
so joyfully
as it rises

under the lashes
of my own eyes, and I thought
I am so many!
What is my name?

What is the name
of the deep breath I would take
over and over
for all of us? Call it

whatever you want, it is
happiness, it is another one
of the ways to enter
fire.


Source:

When I talk about God and faith, I do not come at it from an angel of certainty, ‘rightness’ or an attitude of “I’ve arrived so you should get with the Program.” I come at my faith and experience of God rather from points and places of doubt, uncertainty, openness and hope (and not so much on that last one).

It is important to me that I strive for awareness and transparency when speaking and writing and living out spiritual ideas and ideals; people that are honest and messy are much more of turn on to me than people with neat, pat answers. Regardless of where I am in my journey with God, people who are so certain about the rightness of their beliefs have always left a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: my faith is messier than most. I’m grateful God is as well.

I know my last blog sounds like I’m giving up on God but truthfully what I was trying to communicate is that the “security” of some of the beliefs I have long held as ‘untouchable’ are crumbling away. And in their stead is nothing…for now. That is not to say that I will remain in that place, because like nature, I too abhor a vacuum – an empty vacuous space where nothing exists, not even God. Now I do not confuse the need for emptiness and emptying (what I am going through now a self emptying – kenosis) with vacuous space; one is a process the other is a perpetual state.

Sooner or later that which is dying in me will be resurrected into something new, something more real than anything I’ve ever experienced before. I know God is…and I know God is not done with me yet, this I do trust.

My faith is being peeled back, like an onion, reveling what is and is not real, what is dead and what lives.

Rob Bell, in his wonderfully clarifying work What We Talk About When We Talk About God, said that his experience of God is summed up in three little, yet transformative, words: with, for, ahead.

Bell sums up my messy faith by challenging my ‘tribal’ conceptions of God, namely that God is on our side, for us and us alone, out to smash all those who are not part of my tribe. I have grown weary of a God like this. This tribal God is no longer a God worth loving or following; this tribal God is more like a favorite football team than a eternal loving Being.

In letting go of my pedantic and tribal God, I am left with nothing and that nothingness I can begin to experience God anew, fresh with child-like eyes. This God of which Bell speaks that is with me always and in All Ways, in all things and through all things; this God who is for me, not as in on my side or to defend my POV, but for me as in an advocate, pure divine fidelity with me through thick and thin, in holiness and messiness. I like this God that is not tribal but ahead of me, ever expanding, opening new worlds of inner and outer discovery.

Having a God like this allows me not only to embrace my messy faith, but allows God to be messy (with me) as well. This God who is with us (Emmanuel), this God who gets down into the mud with me, being with me in my messiness, not judging or condemning – just loving.

I need a God as such. This God is one who is intimate yet unknowable; understandable yet unfathomable; tender yet transcendent.

That is the kind of God I can be into…one who is into (and in) me.

Sometimes I want to blow the lid off this blog; be so brutally and blatantly honest, that even my A.A. compadres would blush. And the blushing would not be due to raunchiness but because of the ‘rawness’ of it.  I feel like such a fraud these days, writing of a faith I am struggling to hold onto, saying I believe things that these days are not always so.

I want to be authentic about my life and where I am spiritually, yet I fear judgment; from where I do not know. Indeed, I am but flesh and blood.

I want to say that the faith that has been an intimate part of my life for 30 years sometimes feels like it’s slipping away, that it is not something I hold either tightly or dearly.  Or that the Catholic Church that I entered just five short years ago, along with most Christian doctrine, is leaving me wanting and empty.  The faith I profess is 2,000 years old. The Creeds I quote are less than 1,700 years old. The rituals from the Mass, well some of them are less than 600 years old. All things have changed in those time era’s but not religion, not much at least. My faiths seems outdated and dead.  In the last few years alone I personally have changed drastically. I change…my mind, my heart, my jobs, my friends, my addictions for recovery, and yes, some of my beliefs.

But God, well, God I know is timeless.

I am wanton to share that most Christians offend me, somewhere along the way the American version of Christianity became a marriage of conservative politics and social causes ensconced in fundamentalist tenets. That is not my faith. But I am also left empty by liberal politics that have all but abandoned their religious inspirations for protecting both the poor and the vulnerable. In truth, the poor and the abandoned, the imprisoned and the broken are the sole responsibility of Christians. But it seems Christians these days are known more for their hate than their love. I fear Jesus would not recognize the people that call him “Lord” if he were reading the papers and visiting the churches.

I am saddened and sickened by most religions these days, if I am to be honest. It seems my faith is fed more by what is outside of its bounds than what is within it.

I am not alone in my disillusionment. A recent NY Times’ bestsellers was a book by Frank Schaeffer (the son of one of the “fathers” of the rise of Conservative Christian political viewpoint) entitled Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God. Then there is the rise of the religiously disillusioned, the “Nones” who according to the Pew Research Centers: “[are a group of] people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics” as well as those who have left the church of their youth while still holding to a deep faith in God, just not in organized religion.

Some days I feel like a “None” – I believe in God, and madly so, but I find most organized religious expression to be pedantic at best, ruled and run by angry zealots who are milquetoast concerned more with doctrine and dogma than compassion, justice and mercy (the weightier matters of the Law according to Jesus, see Matthew 23:23).

I am rambling.

But I am seeking clarity and honesty.

I love Jesus. I mean I am really into (and in) Jesus and the words we have for him on record. You would not know it by stepping into most churches these days but Jesus spoke more about helping the poor, money, loving your enemies and forgiveness than about heaven or hell. And not once did Jesus ever condemn my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. Jesus never said “love the sinner but hate the sin” – a diatribe I have a hard time with because I am not so skilled at separating the “sin” from the “so-called sinner.”

The long and the short of it is I am seeing the cracks in the mirror.

My faith is old, and dry. My prayers are empty and seem worthless. The God I professed years ago is no longer the God I turn to in times of trouble or joy; when I do in fact turn to God at all.

The man I see in the mirror, although I know to be a child of God and made in God’s image, is cracked, faltering, burdened with a sense of giving up the faith and on the verge of quitting the ‘good fight.’

Maybe what I am going through (and not around) is a deeper, more authentic way of living; a birthing into the death of childish faith into the reality of the Real. Or maybe just maybe I am spiritually lazy and perpetually defiant, needing to reject something in order to feel powerful about anything.

I don’t know, I just don’t know. I still believe…but I don’t. I have faith, when I don’t. I am one with a God I know longer believe in. I am in the light even more so when I am in this darkness.

I find comfort in the words of the German mystic Meister Eckhart who said it best when he said the following statements (that almost got him burned at the stake!):

“I pray God to make me free of God…”

and

“If I had a God I could understand, I would no longer consider him God.”

If most of us are honest, we would say we prefer having a decaffeinated faith: it tastes like the real thing, but it is guaranteed to not keep us awake.

I don’t want decaf faith.  I want a faith that wakes me up – fully human, fully alive – prepared to be Present to all of life, good, bad, ugly, beautiful, pain and joy.

I pine for a faith that is more “red eye” than decaf, an extra caffeinated faith that hinges on these two truths, that God is Alive and God is Love!  And therein lies my faith standard of measurement: does my faith in God wake me up and does it lead me to Love?

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

 

Written by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., and excerpted from Hearts on Fire

My faith,
and my Passions, like grace,
are messy
and sloppy,
flung about like Water from
a river bound dog.

In my passion, I search and seek
for One Who is
Wild, named Holy/wholly.

Instead I found that this Wild Divine One
has been searching me
and chosen to pitch his tent
In the tender fleshiness that is my life.

It seems so simple, so obvious; this life of faith we are called to live. But in light of the heinous actions we have seen in the media and in our world lately – killing of black Christians by a racist zealot, religious hatred and bigotry, choosing nationalism over biblical mandates – that it appears to be far from simple.

What is so simple is this: God is Love; and if we love God then we must love AS God loves – unconditionally.

God is not white. God is not black. God is not a human, neither man nor woman. God is not Catholic or Protestant. In fact, I don’t even think God is religious, although God may be just a tad bit Zen.

The fact of the matter is, it really is plain and simple – this Love thing – it’s just not easy. And there is a huge difference between something being simple and being easy (just ask anyone who is a part of any 12 Step fellowship, they’ll explain it).

The apostle John, also known as John the Beloved, said it best when he spoke of two of the eternal truths about God – namely that “God is light” and “God is love.” The latter is the focus of this blog. This concept, this truth (Truth) is so simple, yet profound and almost unutterable. The truth of God’s being is so simple children get it and yet this truth – that God is love – is also so profoundly frightening that we adults are threatened by it so much so we create dogma, doctrines, denominations and diatribes to control the very essence and definition of God’s love. But God forever remains Love.  Any and all expressions of love, whether pure or perverted, have their origination in and from Divine Love; all loves are mere shadows and reflections of God’s Perfect Love.

And since God is love, we too are called to both BE love and DO Love. We can spend all sorts of time, money, and energy arguing about this Love or we can spend all of our time, energy, money and efforts Being and Doing Love – and leave the rest to God.

God will forever and infinitely BE love, it is we who are born, live and die. Love abides forever.

God’s love is so awe-inspiring and eternal that we are given free will to choice to do as we wish to this Love. We are free to qualify it; we are free to quantify it.  We are free to try and control it through restrictions, definitions, exegesis, rules, regulations, stipulation and the like. We are free to commodify God’s love. We are even free to try and mete out, control and block God’s love for that is how much God loves us – to allow us to do some pretty heinous and asinine things and still BE LOVED.

But it is still simple. Love. Jesus said it, preached it, lived and died it. Love. Love. Love. In truth, if you break down all that is required of us it is simply love: love God with all your being and love your neighbor (everyone!) as yourself.

But God’s love is unconditional, unlimited, unbridled…and that truth scares the bejesus out of us. We – I – do not know what to “do” with a Love like that, so I do what most people do to love – I end up killing it with rules, reg’s, and restrictions. I tame love. I make it safe for me, and you if you jump through the proper hoops and channels.

We humans are so afraid of the utter brilliance and intensity of divine Love that we have to limit God’s love in order to understand it; we have to control it in order to receive it. At the end of the day, we cannot truly believe God’s love is indeed unconditional, as in absolutely unconditional, that we need to establish temporal conditions to that which is Eternally Unconditional. Religious laws are/were constructed because people are not to be trusted with the unlimited, unfathomable, unchanging, unbearable, all inclusive and all embracing love of God.

What would happen though if we simplified it, really simplified it, down to what it is: LOVE? What would happen if all who love, seek, pine for and “speak for” God simply sought to give, be and do Love? What if all other dogma, doctrine and denomination burnt away as the dross that it is, and only God’s unconditional love reigned supreme in all of our hearts?

What would happen?

Would the walls drop away? Would all the excuses we have for separating ourselves into neat little, safe categories melt away? Would we stop being white, black, red, yellow, rich, poor, red state, blue state, pro-life, pro-choice, anti-gay, queer friendly? What would truly happen? My sense is the greatest revolution of our existence would happen: a revolution of the heart (to paraphrase Dorothy Day).

God’s Love is not a doctrine, or a sect, or a rule; God’s love is an ever Present Reality. Love is God’s very Being – the very essence of who God Is. When God said that his name was Yahweh (YHWH), what was being said was “I AM Who I Am and Who I AM is Love.”

The late Teilhard de Chardin urged us onward and inward, to discover the “energy of Love” – which he considered to be the energy of God’s Being. Teilhard told us, “Someday, after mastering winds, waves, tides and gravity, we shall harness the energy of love; and for the second time in the history of the world, [humanity] will have discovered fire.

Divine Love is just that, divine.  And no human language or doctrine or dogma should ever try and tame the perfect wildness, the wondrous Fire, that is the Love of God.

(Scripture references: see 1 John 3:11, 18; 1 John 4:7-21)

There are four prayers I fall back on, four that I try and pray daily: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!  They can sum up my spiritual life and my relationship with God.

Prayer is an amazingly simple, yet profound experience; it is something that is hard to teach, unless by example.  Prayer is not something, in my estimation, that can be done wrong (except maybe to not pray at all). I mean to say that as long as one is holding the moments as sacred and as a holy ‘conversation’ – as between the creature and the loving Creator – that in and of itself is prayer and there is no correcting that type of conversation.

I put conversation in semi-quotes because for many, myself included, prayer has nothing to do with spoken words, but rather the living words of my heart in direct communiqué (veritable oneness) with God via contemplative prayer and meditation and being in silence in the woods or mountains or by a stream or river.

I say all that to basically let myself off the hook about ‘teaching’ on prayer and rather sharing some of my prayer life with you.  For when it comes to prayer, I am no expert or saint, but I do pray a great deal (like every day or else I am doomed).

When I pray, I start and end my days with a simple “Thank You” to God in loving gratitude.  And regardless of what is going on in between those waking hours, if I am alive, I have something to be grateful for, namely life (all of it).

“Please” is high on that list as well because if it ain’t obvious to you, it sure is to me: I am one needy little boy.  And I don’t mean I say please as in, please give me a Porsche (don’t like them) or a mansion (too much maintenance required).  I say Please as in “Please God, come to me, be with me, remind me that You are forever one with me…and as Your child all I need do is re-member my oneness with You…” and all is indeed well.

For when I say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’, I am merely paying tribute to my Momma and my Nana’s who always and often reminded (whether nicely or with a wooden spoon to my behind) that I was always and forever more to say Please and Thank You, especially to God!

“Help” is an obvious one.  I need a great deal of help, all day long, every day.  It really is that simple.  When I feel the sting of hurt feelings or the rage rising up when another idiot is behind the wheel of a car or I am frustrated with the addictions that rage in myself or the people around me (or when toxic people leave me feeling toxic), I need HELP!

And only God’s help will do…most other help is ego-based megalomania.

Yes, God works in and through people, but to me as long as my ego is in check and my level of self awareness is “on” (not self conscious), then I am attuned to the divine help coming through flesh and blood.  But when I am out of whack, and the source is out of kilter as well…hmmm, recipe for disaster.  As a wise person once said to me, “2 dead batteries will not start a car!”

And last but certainly not least, “Wow!”  That is the prayer I utter when I realize all the grace and miracles that surround me…from my dog Juno (I truly believe there is a reason dog is God spelled backwards) to the sunrises and sunsets, to the Blue Ridge Mountains still within eye shot.  All is glorious and indeed divine splendor!  And the best and most appropriate responsorial prayer is “Wow, God!”

Which then of course leads back to “Thank You, Lord.”  And the whole prayer cycle starts all over again.

So, if today you cannot think of what to say to God, might I suggest: Thank You; Please; Help and Wow!

For reasons that words can not explain, the poets are feeding my soul and giving me delicious glimpses of God (yes, note the paradox).  So, I continue with sharing some of my favorite Poets and their writings.  Please drink deeply of the great Persian Poet, Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez-e Shīrāzī, also known as Hafiz (Hafez).  May we all realize the truth of this poem, that indeed with awakened eyes and heart we know that everything points to God.

Forget every idea of right and wrong
Any classroom ever taught you

Because an empty heart, a tormented mind,
Unkindness, jealousy and fear
Are always the testimony
You have been completely fooled!

Turn your back on those
Who would imprison your wondrous spirit
With deceit and lies.

Come, join the honest company
Of the King’s beggars—
Those gamblers, scoundrels and divine clowns
And those astonishing fair courtesans
Who need Divine Love every night.

Come, join the courageous
Who have no choice
But to bet their entire world
That indeed,
Indeed, God is Real.

I will lead you into the Circle
Of the Beloved’s cunning thieves,
Those playful royal rogues—
The ones you can trust for true guidance—
Who can aid you
In this Blessed Calamity of life.

Lover,
Look at the Perfect One
At the Circle’s Center:

He Spins and Whirls like a Golden Compass,
Beyond all that is Rational,

To show this dear world

That Everything,
Everything in Existence
Does point to God.

 

Hafiz

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

August 2015
S M T W T F S
« Jul    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
Creative Commons License
The Earthy Monk by Niles Comer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at earthymonk.wordpress.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://earthymonk.wordpress.com.

Categories

Blog Stats

  • 12,807 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 612 other followers