Spirituality based on a conscious suspending of disbelief can be a very good thing.

A mystic … Who or what is a mystic?

None of us are born a mystic in the contemporary and popular perception of mysticism itself.  However, all humans possess, I believe, the capacity to experience a mystical or intuitive sense. Such a sense is but one of many aspects of being alive and possessed of self-awareness and active thoughts.

I believe that I became aware of and began to actively tend to mysticism as a result of my religious training which included being stimulated by cultural stories of mystical events.

I would suggest that almost the entirety of LDS membership is made up of individuals who to some degree became self-informed and self-identified at an early age by taking literal the mystical cultural stories. Taking the events themselves as literally true was not so much the problem as was having to deal with the theology, dogma and doctrine that were the result of human interpretation of the storied events themselves.

These ideas bring me back to this, my most recent thematic writing: our deliberate and conscious suspension of disbelief.

In previous articles I have tried to portray the negative consequences of suspending disbelief and then emotionally and mentally entering into the mythical world about which we have suspended disbelief in order to understand and make sense of our lives as our culture portrays them.

At this time, I want to take a different tack in order to express appreciation for and discuss the value – the positives, if you will – of what can happen when a suspension of disbelief helps bring about an equalizing of our dual perceptive natures.

On the one hand, education and overall cultural tendencies within our Western society and culture for the most part emphasize scientific reasoning, cause-and-effect  absolutes, technology and a tendency to trust mostly those things we can measure, quantify and define in logical language and/or in the abstract.

This we call “objective” reality.

As valid as it may seem in very real and literal perceptual terms,  objective reality as we understand and function within it constitutes only one half of our perceptual nature.

Whether we like it or not, desire it to be so or not, we are not Vulcans as portrayed by Star Trek’s Mr. Spock.

It is impossible to suppress the subjective reality we experience. I suspect that the reason for our inability to be and remain “totally objective” about everything is that we attempt to suppress real feelings that are driven by mental and emotional reactions to our interpretations of things, events, words and ideas that dance across our stage of perception.

Suppressed feelings, despite any notion of living in a reality limited to objective perceptions, are not healthy nor normal. Actions based on suppressed feelings do not normally lead to “positive” outcomes regarding perceived problems, issues or challenges.

Let me attempt to express it another way.

It is my life experience and conclusion that we live an existence governed by the perceptions of our five senses. We have come to understand that our brains function from both a left and right side.

The left-brain is primarily an interpreter of facts – an encyclopedia of personally acquired knowledge and experience. The right brain, the creative and imaginative side, is the source of our music, poetry and inventions.

Both sides of our brains reside in the same cranium and it makes sense that the intent of the Creator is for the two aspects to harmonize in function. Through our senses, facts and experience are admitted into our thinking, ordered and collated on the left side of our brain. Essentially this same information may then conceptualized and experienced perceptively on the right side.

Furthermore, I’m not aware of any writing, sacred or secular, that advises us to emphasize one side at the expense of the other.

Balance and harmony of perception seems the path of our spiritual and physical evolution to wisdom and a higher spiritual plane. In a circumstance of religious and/or spiritual balance, we deal with what I have labeled “letter of the law thinking” and “spirit of the law thinking.”

Left brain thinking with its collection of facts assembled into a knowledge of the “world as it is” may – if relied upon with as much exclusivity as  possible – totally overrule the intuitive wisdom that is formed in the right brain. Right brain wisdom makes possible an ability to perceive and negotiate the “world as it ought to be; the world intended by God,” if you will.

Put another way, we are equipped to see in three dimensions: height, width and depth. Without three-dimensional vision, we see only a square instead of a box and a circle instead of a sphere.

There are in my view dimensions to our intuitive perceptiveness, our spiritual awareness so to speak.  The most commonly missing dimension of this intuitiveness seems to be a prompted wisdom that exists on the side of experience and common sense.

Let me talk about this in a context of what we do with scripture.

Knowledge of the scriptures isn’t enough in and of itself. Knowing the laws and commandments without grasping the divine or spiritual intent is not enough.

If scripture was written in an intuitive and prompted manner, then left-brain logic dictates that scripture ought to be read that same way. More to the point, left-brain logic suggests that a prompting more fully moves through the mind via the creative and imaginative side — the right brain side.

Left-brain thinking turns on the spirit receiver by its ability to read words, remember definitions, remember stories and remember personal life incidents. Right brain thinking activates the more spiritually creative aspect of thinking that senses the will and influence of ideas both higher and deeper in the mind and, very importantly, recalls FEELINGS, something the left brain cannot do except by linear definition.

To live entirely with an emphasis on left-brain thinking makes us no more human than a computer, which amasses knowledge and acts only according to facts in the database.

To live entirely with an emphasis on right brain thinking causes us to live in a world of fantasy, wishful thinking, and imaginary states where the practical application toward bringing wishes to reality is missing.

Right brain conceives the wish, but left-brain has the resources to realize the wish. It is probably the healthiest internal duality we possess.

It makes no sense that God would speak to man solely through left-side, logical, law-based thinking. Nor is it sensible that the Spirit would speak to man solely through right side thinking where ideas would remain only in a conceptual state without the will and knowledge to action.

The implication is that the Spirit speaks to man through a mind balanced with knowledge and wisdom.

Speaking in a specific religious context, I assert that the major weakness of Christianity is that while its Founder did all that He did using the Law as reference material to teach and point toward God, Christianity uses the scripture as Law first and Spirit second. It then points not at God but at the Founder and at its founding heroes instead of where the Spirit leads.

Do we lazily resort to a literal interpretation of spiritual things and then rely on left-brain-dominated blindness by acting only as the words are literally written?

Do we assume then that we have no need that sacred writings be placed in a context of spiritual feeling and understanding?

Do we lazily reside in a fantasy world with a right-brain-dominated weakness of wishful trusting that if we “believe” we are fulfilling God’s intent in giving us life and opportunity?

Do we restrict ourselves to merely looking and pointing at Jesus instead of looking where He looked and pointing where He pointed?

“Lazy” is appropriate here. Are we mostly interested in learning only that which we are commanded to “do”, that which we need to “obey” and that which we “shouldn’t do”?

I have at times in my life been a piano teacher. Worrying about jots and tittles to excess is like being able to play music only by reading notes and counting the rhythm loudly inside our heads as we try to hit the notes as dictated by our loud inner counting.

We have no true feeling for the music itself, the phrasing and the flow.

It is very unlikely, playing or listening to music in that manner, that we will be captured by the fullness of the musical piece nor carried to a higher plane as the music actually communicates its mood and feeling.

Such playing and listening, such “active participation,” if you will, is dominated by left-brain thinking. Although mechanically a player can become very skilled, not only does the music remain mechanical in sound, as if played by a computer, but it is unlikely such a player will ever successfully understand or interpret what he plays, let alone create his own music.

Left-brained musicians and composers did not create our greatest and most beautiful music.

Left-brain-dominated-humans make poor practitioners of lives fully blended by logic, wisdom, intuition and promptings.

It takes a right-brained deliberate resistance to left-brained habit of mind in order to achieve willing suspension of disbelief.

In so doing, it becomes possible to fully experience AND ENJOY a spiritual aspect of living.

 

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Search, ponder and pray: What I discerned from the teachings of Joseph Smith

 

Joseph peepstone hat and transcriber
Joseph Smith translates using the seer stone placed within his hat while Martin Harris acts as scribe. Image Copyright (c) 2014 Anthony Sweat.

He was a charlatan, a pious fraud, a liar, adulterer, money digger and whatever else we offendeds can bring to pass in our minds as to why  we’ve been  had from the get-go. Whether, as was I, we were taken to a Saturday night baptism in the 50’s or 60’s by relatives who wanted theirs and our blessings within the kingdom, or whether in a moment of spiritually emotional conversion it all seemed so true and we joined up, the consequence of those moments was a more detailed immersion in the Church narrative which proposed what I have referred to frequently as the “true-churchiness of it all.”

Yeah yeah yeah … that’s how it was in our earliest spiritual mortal life. That’s how it was in the earliest years of our culture’s evolution into the 20th and 21st-century society thriving out of the Valley of the Great Salt Lake today.

I might suggest one impact of the true-churchiness narrative we were fed like  pablum with its claims of exclusivity, a perfect church peopled be imperfect members and the truest doctrines on earth. That impact is that members have a antiseptic perception of the organization, its doctrines, its heroes, its teachings and policies.

The mental resistance bases itself on an almost unconscious assumption that the Mormon Church teaches the purest doctrines, includes a priesthood authority that God gave it (including a power not unlike Obi Wan Kenobi’s “Force” with which miracles are wrought.

Yeah, yeah yeah. Our indignation has taken over our own common sense. We look at years of feeling guilty during the passing of the Sacrament because we were told that the true from of sacrament-participation is to think about the Savior and not so much to relate to remembering the Last Supper and what that might have felt like.

We look at years of agonizing over smoking and drinking coffee, having been spiritually inoculated against those things to the degree that we inflict upon ourselves our own sense of less-than in the worthiness sweepstakes because we know there are so many sitting in righteous reverence who are called to serve when we are not.

We agonized over tithing and the frequent testimonies that affirmed and/or promised nothing less than the tenets of the prosperity gospel if only we would place the required and requested amount into the outstretched hands of Church authority.

We agonized over Church callings as if they were prophetic opportunities to magnify ourselves in our own eyes as much as the eyes of our righteous peers.

We in fact came to believe in and live by the most harshest assumption that can be found in any performance-based religion: Only obedience makes one worthy to receive Divine blessings.

Which brings us back to the seriously flawed but inspired founder of the great global religion.

Joseph the Flawed gifted to his Saints some of the most powerful theological ideas to ever emerge out of the 19th century.

Regarding Joseph Smith, I think of this description as analogous:

“Another kind of sign-seekers are the people fascinated with psychic powers, believing that all genuine mystics must also be magicians who can foretell the future, read other people’s thoughts, heal diseases …

This can be done by giving the impression, allowing rumors to spread, and claiming nothing overtly. Just look knowing when funny coincidences happen, and you acquire a reputation for working miracles. Given the reputation, the actual miracles follow, because people believe in you.

When it doesn’t work you lament about their lack of faith …  Your successes will be remembered and your failures forgotten because so many people hope against hope for a real wonder-working Master, and you will end up by believing your own hoax. ” – Alan Watts

The most honest confession I can make for myself is that I am a product of what  Joseph Smith started two hundred years ago. By the time I was born, the rigid theology, doctrinal principles, procedures and ordinances were in place.

But none of those things are currently thriving in my most spiritual of inner sanctuaries. What are however are the habits of search, ponder and pray accompanied by the enculturation of the belief that God  hears my prayers, listens to my thoughts and has given to me through my own personal revelatory experience a testimony of his constant  presence in my life.

With that awareness I occasionally bear testimony of the Mormon Promises and have I have used them to obtain ANY knowledge on ANY subject regardless of whether or not the Church might define my questions as approved and without regard as to whether or not I was ever worthy to just ask the question.

That is how I perceived Joseph’s experience with God and the Spirit. His experience left him with the sure knowledge he could -in the eyes of scientific investigation – replicate his experience enough time to give him a confidence that waxed strong regarding revelation and inspiration.

An honest consideration of the charlatan reveals how fully confidence waxing strong in spiritual affairs permeates the membership and the overall approach to personal revelation.

Which leads me to a few paragraphs appropriate to the title of this article.

“I teach them good principles and let them govern themselves.” Joseph Said.

So  how about let’s govern ourselves and let the dogmatic preaching of a Church with its hand out for cash build its own fortune?

I have come to realize that how I see the world spiritually is a direct consequence of the teaching and examples of the charlatan.

​My soul is not some fragile, static and pre-existant jewel given me by God before I left to come to Earth and birth. The soul is alive, responds constantly to every stimulation, forever curious. It had a hand in forming my body and has a hand in maintaining my body and spirit in this life.

My soul thrives on subjective experience rather than the mere passage of time in some vague ever-rising eternal progression.

My soul has to work with the assets not only given but that which would develop into the mind’s ally most closely involved with physicality: my ego. My ego is not my enemy and cannot pretend to not know what my soul definitely knows.

The mind with the ego seated in the captain’s chair constitute the spiritual connection to the soul and eternity in one direction and the world and physical reality in the other.

I am then the manifestation of your own soul expressed mortally by the work of the ego. If my ego begins to take itself too seriously, it is up to the soul, who is the only presiding authority in my mortal arrangement, to take the ego to task, restore humility and move forward in faith.

In other words, I quote the Gnostic text in which Sophia, the Soul Spirit takes the self-important ego that thinks itself almighty to task.

“Opening his eyes he saw a vast quantity of matter without limit; and he became arrogant, saying, ‘It is I who am God, and there is none other apart from me.’

When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And a voice came forth from above the realm of absolute power, saying, ‘You are mistaken, Samael’ — which is, ‘god of the blind.'” (The Hypostasis of the Archons, p. 167, The Nag Hammadi Library in English, edited James M. Robinson). 

Without the promptings from the mind of Joseph Smith – who spoke without any correlation of doctrines, performances and belief sets in mind – I would not have come to a place of my own revealed religion and spiritual practice.

If religious leadership leaves us confused and perhaps even doubting, I realize how well the process described from the mind of Joseph Smith works for me, and has going back to the commencement of my so-called apostasy.

7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must cask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a

stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. – Joseph Smith, D&C 9

There are no perfect prophets, no perfect general authorities and certainly there is not a perfect church. There is not a perfect culture. I never chose the culture, it chose me when I was born into it. To think otherwise and reject it would be in truth tearing off my own hide.

I do not need to do that. Neither do you.

Own the way you’ve come to see the world.
Own how much of it comes from your culture.
Own it!

Lesson 1: On Children and the Feudal Family Model

Family.

I consider that the term “family” refers to the natural Family of Creation. The natural family includes its invisible and visible aspects:  rocks, plants, animals, and humans, each of which  has its own unique consciousness that obviously enables the sacred creation in which we live  to function as a harmonious whole.

If there is something we might call “intelligent design” then the sacred creator which I have come to refer to as Wisdom is whom we call upon for help. In my experience I can only conclude that Wisdom functions on the basis of Harmony. Wisdom serves us best when we recognize our correct place in the Whole. We err when we assume that we are somehow more “special” and – even if only subconsciously – we adopt demanding and presumptuous attitudes about our worth and stature in Wisdom’s scheme of things.

What about the demanding and presumptuous attitudes? Wisdom’s help comes to anyone who asks for it regardless, but when we believe that help comes from something other than Wisdom, i.e.  a clan God from a clan that listens to a supernatural source that plays favorites we inevitably think of ourselves as undeserving or worse yet – unworthy – when the clan God talks to fellow-citizens but not to us.

The natural human family contrasts with that defined by the collective spiritual-minded  society which employs believers to insert a false mental program, or mindset, into the psyche of children. The natural human family has the function of providing the correct environment for the child while he is being reared; including the avoidance of demanding and ego-feeding assumptions.

By the way, a definition of the natural family is not limited to any notion of marriage or a supernatural-endorsement of “one man and one woman” proclamation that suggests a supernatural decree that there is only “one true way” to build and raise a family. The natural family can refer to whoever it is in a child-rearing environment, whether it be an orphanage or single parent household, or adoptive parents, regardless of gender. There are no character differences between the genders.

The natural function of the parents, throughout their child’s infancy, is to care for him, and to ask Wisdom, not some other human mind, for help for all the needs of the family. Beyond infancy, the parents’ function is to recognize the innate abilities of the child, and give space to grow. Children’s abilities must develop in a psychic atmosphere that shelters them from the pressures of any collective social group whose philosophy is based on their own or other flawed human assumptions.

Natural families are to teach the child that the families themselves are not the source of love, help and nourishment, but the vehicle through which these gifts flow to the child  through the will of Wisdom – which is in mortal terms the real Mother and Father of the child.

As Gibran wrote:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,

which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might

that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

 

Natural families must also teach that when they are not present or available, the child  can inwardly ask Wisdom for any help, love and nourishment needed. They also teach that they are NEVER cut off or abandoned by Wisdom, whose love is true and at no time has ever been conditional. Finally, the natural family has Wisdom’s calling to let go more and more as the child learns to trust his or her own connection with creation.

Natural families must be firm in the face of pressures from the collective spiritual-minded community. It is the parents’ job to make the child aware that all guilt, fear, threat and flattery come from a mere human society with the purpose of making the child feel inadequate, on the one hand, and special on the other.

Natural parents must ensure the child learns to think critically and to acquire a large bottle of salt grains. They must make the child aware that feeling special prevents one  from listening to true feelings; that feeling inadequate makes one forget that Wisdom’s help is available. Wisdom – the Creator – exists in the presence of every person, and  whenever one believes oneself to be in trouble, ask Wisdom to come and help.

Natural parents, through not regarding themselves as superior, and treating themselves with respect, teach the child respect for oneself, and support a sense of equality, fairness, and respect for others. The parents also must persevere in helping to keep the child free from taking literal projections, threats and criticisms that others might put upon him. In sum, the family setting, as defined above, is meant to be a setting in which the uniqueness of each member can develop and find expression without any feelings of inferiority or fault.

In and of itself then , the natural family is the setting that prepares the child for a future personal love relationship. The principles of relating that is learned in the natural family  environment can lead to a respecting of the personal space of a love partner. When the love relationship is not based on this respect, its duration is at risk.

There is a contrast, something I’ve perceived and come to describe as a “feudal” model of the family. Such a family is held together by the loyalty and endurance mostly of the  wife and mother, whose place is within the house. The husband’s role is to  be the family “face” and “facade” in all outer relationships. He is more but not entirely in charge of a strong authoritative need in the parents to instill the values of the collective spiritual community in the children. The children are taught that the loyalty they owe to their parents, right or wrong, is to be carried over to a “feudal prince,” or in modern terms, the supposed chain of authority starting with parents, then to church, community, nation, (as in the expression “my country, right or wrong.”)

Thus, the family may be regarded as “society in embryo,” where the sons and daughters are to learn the societal roles they are expected to take later on, and to which they are expected to sacrifice themselves by putting aside whatever feelings they have that do not fit into the roles.

This feudal model of the family is still in practice in modern, hierarchically organized societies throughout the world. The term, “feudal prince” may be easily replaced by institutions such as colleges, government, corporations, and most especially churches as those entities to which a person presumably owes his loyalty.

Why?

Because they have gradually assumed authorizing powers, and because the individual have been programmed to believe they are the only sources of protection. Such “feudal lords and ladies” have taken on the function of authorizing individual existence, individual worth and forced purpose into group purpose.

An important part of conditioning within the “feudal family” is to prevent the children from questioning the fundamental premises and taboos on which the institutions of the collective ego are founded. To this end, feudal the parents must train the child to suppress any awareness of contradictions between what is said and what is inwardly felt to be true.

The poorly -trained child grows to adulthood having gradually learned to substitute the shoulds and oughts of the collective for real inner truth.

Let’s talk a moment about authority.

Since the natural family is where the children learn language, and comes to understand  the crucial role of language in a maturing circumstance. Children then start out mentally, spiritually and emotionally  healthy.

In the feudal model of the family, parental “authority” is taught to be paramount. If the authority is strong enough, then the societal roles assigned to each individual will be enforced. All hierarchical social orders must stress this need for authority over the individual in order to maintain their dominance.

However, when one’s words have substance, they call things by their true names and not words and phrases that confuse the natures, meanings  and functions; or even turn them to their opposites.

For example, if a child is taught that his/her existence is something owed to parents, something vital may never be taught, let alone realized: a child, once born, is Wisdom”s  gift to the parent to whom the child does not owe his/her life.

The worst spiritual notions parents can teach a child include any theological notion of how existence occurs, where existence comes from and superficial and silly ideas about what Wisdom’s creation has as purpose.

Teach a child have to regard his nature as defective and you harm the child’s growth and ultimate maturity.

Teach the idea that a child is born with original fault, or sin and you harm the child’s growth and ultimate maturity.

Teach that a child’s animal nature is the source of evil, or, put another way, natural man is an enemy to God, and you harm the child’s growth and ultimate maturity. This particular belief is the basis for the suppression of the child’s true nature and its replacement by the abstract virtues and disciplines promoted by an ignorant and presumptuous spiritual collective thinking. Many adult neuroses have their origin in notions put on them in their early family life.

Within the feudal mindset, I believe it is a learned attitude to shove personal accountability in the direction of others who had been the pretended cause of one’s misfortunes. Unfortunately parents who were also brought up within this mindset are unaware for the most part,  of even the possibility of any other way of relating. Inasmuch as they did not listen to the prodding of their inner own truths, they risk creating a similar fate for their children, ignorantly thinking it’s the best way even when confronted with their accountability.

The truth is that Wisdom  naturally and easily helps keep the house in order through giving clarity and enabling contact with our inner truth. The Creator is the helper that watches over the borderline between the subconscious and conscious mind, so that we  do not get overwhelmed by elements of falsehood in portrayals of life as it really is.

Children need to be earnestly taught to rid themselves of the idea that they need to be authorized in thoughts and actions by an outside authority. This idea has deprived them  of the ability to feel inner truth and to act from it.

A person who has grown up in an authoritarian structure is rarely taught that while the Creator knows everything, it does not use its knowledge to intimidate or belittle those it teaches. When it comes to spiritual considerations of life, the watch words ought to be “fear not.”

No mortal can protect you from any spiritual “infidelity” because such infidelity – with its attached penalties does not exist.

 

Mother in Heaven as a Reality and not a Theological Notion

cropped-she-who-is.jpg

I may have to come out of the closet.

I may have to reveal my secret long-time devotion to the Mother of Creation,

the Goddess

… She Who Is.

Years ago, after encountering the Wisdom of Solomon (most easily found in the Apocrypha) I realized I had found Her … Wisdom … Sophia … Shekinah … Inanna.

All of them trump Old Wrathful, the Patriarch.

I found Her in the book of Wisdom … and then asked why the early Roman Patriarchs placed Wisdom in the Apocrypha – essentially putting an asterisk to the idea of Mother in Heaven. This was an asterisk that later Protestants would out and out exclude from the Bible.

The early Gnostics knew what the Roman literalists had done and – as the Gospel of Thomas was suppressed for  centuries – so was the legitimate understanding of who the Queen of Heaven really is.

But the Gnostics knew …

When I read what they had treasured and preserved I understand how the Wisdom of Solomon was included with the Apocrypha. Not all the early compilers of scripture were strict patriarchals.  I had found proof of ancient comrades who confirmed the reality of my own contemporary experience.

If ever I felt a burning of the bosom it was in reading the Book of Wisdom.

… And of course the  following account from Gnostic scripture:

Now when the heavens had consolidated themselves along with their forces and all their administration, the prime parent became insolent. And he was honored by all the army of angels.


And all the gods and their angels gave blessing and honor to him. And for his part, he was delighted and continually boasted, saying to them, “I have no need of anyone.” He said, “It is I who am God, and there is no other one that exists apart from me.” And when he said this, he sinned against all the immortal beings who give answer. And they laid it to his charge.


Then when Pistis saw the impiety of the chief ruler, she was filled with anger. She was invisible. She said, “You are mistaken, Samael,” (that is, “blind god”). “There is an immortal man of light who has been in existence before you, and who will appear among your modelled forms; he will trample you to scorn, just as potter’s clay is pounded. And you will descend to your mother, the abyss, along with those that belong to you. For at the consummation of your (pl.) works, the entire defect that has become visible out of the truth will be abolished, and it will cease to be, and will be like what has never been.” Saying this, Pistis revealed her likeness of her greatness in the waters. And so doing, she withdrew up to her light.”

So I am willing to speak out in a spirit of Mormon testimony bearing.

I have nothing intellectual to say or offer regarding The Goddess. I need no theology and no fake wisdom from patriarchs quoting other patriarchs. I need no intellectual summarizing to reinforce feelings I have had within for years now: the reality of Our Mother.

She lives.

She is as real to me as is the Father. More real in fact in making her presence felt powerfully.

My experience of Our Mother has nothing to do with any formula or prescription for requisite worthiness. I have never had to ask permission to sense her presence, to feel her touch my heart or any need to worship her in the shallowly respectful and toadying honorific sense regarding The Heavenly Father common to most Christians and specific to performance-based Mormonism.

I liken the scriptures to the reality of my experience of Our Mother more than any other scriptural experience. It is to Her that I offer unconditional devotion.

To the strictly patriarchal Heavenly Father I offer mere recognition of a fictional image that is not real; is more tool of manipulation and is nothing worthy of regard.

It is the real Father, the Eternal Co-Parent with The Mother who is long hidden. He has been muzzled, masked and ignored; replaced by Old Wrathful, the Nitpicking Patriarchal Fraud beloved of authoritarians.

The real and living Mother in Heaven is perceivable, knowable and powerfully willing to reveal her presence. That is one testimony I can and shall bear.

I am the child of a revelatory society that celebrates a prompted knowledge of the mysterious – particularly the greatest mysteries of divinity.

I have not sold my soul or spiritual sense to a pure veneration of logic, to academics or to historical research that in and of itself worships scientific method at the expense of feeling. None of that can truly serve to self-validate one’s personal spiritual sense.

Compassion is not a measurable commodity nor can it be generated through formula, procedure or any application of psychology.

Compassion as revealed in  The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan are best experienced emotionally; most certainly not through logic, discourse, analysis or deconstruction.

Those two parables serve well to remind that Life is in the experience and also to read and feel moved by goodness. Such is representative of the Love of Divinity for humanity.

This is something for me to own and nothing by which I would evangelize anyone else. I certainly am not willing to urge conformity with mine nor anyone else’s magic.

This magic of which I speak is my magic.

Your magic  is yours to find.

May you not borrow it from anyone else but be the seeker you ought to be.

May you be prompted more than led; inspired more than guided.

If I may then, I will bear what I would call a testimony of my burning experience with Our Mother.

This scripture that follows for me is as true as it gets.

Book of Wisdom, chapter 7 commences with verse 7:

Wherefore I prayed, and understanding was given me: I called upon God, and the Spirit of Wisdom came to me.

I preferred her before sceptres and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison of her.


Neither compared I unto her any precious stone, because all gold in respect of her is as a little sand, and silver shall be counted as clay before her.


I loved her above health and beauty, and chose to have her instead of light: for the light that cometh from her never goeth out.


All good things together came to me with her, and innumerable riches in her hands.


And I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom goeth before them: and I knew not that she was the mother of them.


I learned diligently, and do communicate her liberally: I do not hide her riches.


For she is a treasure unto men that never faileth: which they that use become the friends of God, being commended for the gifts that come from learning.


God hath granted me to speak as I would, and to conceive as is meet for the things that are given me: because it is he that leadeth unto wisdom, and directeth the wise.


For in his hand are both we and our words; all wisdom also, and knowledge of workmanship.


For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements:


The beginning, ending, and midst of the times: the alterations of the turning of the sun, and the change of seasons:


The circuits of years, and the positions of stars:


The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts: the violence of winds, and the reasonings of men: the diversities of plants and the virtues of roots:


And all such things as are either secret or manifest, them I know.


For wisdom, which is the worker of all things, taught me: for in her is an understanding spirit holy, one only, manifold, subtil, lively, clear, undefiled, plain, not subject to hurt, loving the thing that is good quick, which cannot be letted, ready to do good,


Kind to man, steadfast, sure, free from care, having all power, overseeing all things, and going through all understanding, pure, and most subtil, spirits.


For wisdom is more moving than any motion: she passeth and goeth through all things

by reason of her pureness.


For she is the breath of the power of God, and a pure influence flowing from the glory of the Almighty: therefore can no defiled thing fall into her.


For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness.


And being but one, she can do all things: and remaining in herself, she maketh all things new: and in all ages entering into holy souls, she maketh them friends of God, and prophets.


For God loveth none but him that dwelleth with wisdom.


For she is more beautiful than the sun, and above all the order of stars: being compared with the light, she is found before it.

For after this cometh night: but vice shall not prevail against wisdom.

 

Might be the nastiest word in Church


“Brother Brown, at this time you are unworthy to baptize your son.”

“Sister Scarlett, you are unworthy to remain in your calling.”

“Brother and Sister you are unworthy right now to have a temple recommend.”

And the worst … “Bishop, I consider myself unworthy to …”

“A Worthy Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church member who obeys the commandments of God to the best of his or her ability, and meets a minimum acceptable standard outlined by Church leaders.

A “worthy” member of the Church is worthy to hold a Temple Recommend. In order to obtain a Temple Recommend, one must be interviewed and found worthy by one’s bishop and stake president. The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, “Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?”

Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one’s “increase”), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church.” – mormonwiki.com

“Worthy” might very well be the signature self-esteem word in the Church.

“Unworthy” might very well be the nastiest word in the Church.

Ours is – regardless of objections – a performance-based religion. Ours is also an authoritarian religion that insists on worthiness as the principle criteria for Divine recognition and performance of ordinances and blessings.

Ours is a merit-based religion that fully preaches to itself that there is a “worthy” key that must constantly be inserted and in place before the blessings of Heaven pour.

And now this word from Moroni, both to the missionaries and to the converts:

“See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Morm. 9:29).

But we do it to ourselves when we buy into that idea, rate others or rate our own standing in the eyes of others.

… because “worthiness” as the LDS preach and portray it is a false and invalid idea.
Today I’ve invited a few outsiders to offer thoughts along with my own about how worthy we have to be in order to be human; in order to be recognized, respected and reverenced by Higher Power[s].

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”

Our own human experience has taught us the value of positive reinforcement and its impact on encouraging self-motivated change. Meaningful change is more likely to come to pass as we understand that whatever is Divine in our lives does not consider humanity as something unworthy or evil.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama

Therefore, let’s discuss the use and meaning of the words “worthy” and worthiness” in the Church.

Could we not say with certainty that the imagery portrayed in the Church and by Church leaders is that of a God whose angels record our every flaw and mistake?

Do we not believe – or act as if it is so – that these behavioral and mortal flaws are tucked away in a book of life from which we will then be held accountable – if we fail to cleanse ourselves via repentance – by the God of the Doctrine and Covenants “who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?”

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is no one special, only other mere human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we are who insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves in worthiness terms.

 “As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff

Does the Church in such a manner openly declare that God is in fact a “respecter of persons” who requires worthiness before his outpourings of love occur?

 “The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”― Mark Twain

Does not the Church teach that God’s outpourings are conditional rather than unconditional?

In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell. -Apostle David Bednar

Does not the Church deliberately instruct us that the God of Compassion is obsessed with morality as the foundation of defining Goodness – and also suggests that therefore we too should obsess on sin?

 The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.

Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us. …” Apostle David Bednar

Why would such men and women insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners, as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state?

This notion of unworthiness moves rapidly across the line of credibility more powerfully when within the official context of Church policy we begin to believe that unless we are “temple-worthy” we find ourselves in a one-down or less-than circumstance.

Do we not assume that members are not routinely called to leadership positions unless temple-worthy?
Are we not fearful then of not being able to give the scripted answers to recommend questions because so much self-validation as worthy rides on those answers?

“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”― Marilyn Monroe 

Temple-worthy is also a status you cannot obtain unless you buy it through your voluntary payment of tithing. In this regard purchasing LDS temple-worthiness through tithing looks like a first cousin to the old fashioned indulgences the Roman priesthood used to sell.

When it comes to exacting payment, unworthiness is the principle leverage for completing the deal through the priesthood brokers.

In other words, Mormons inflict upon themselves unfair comparisons with each other based on the notion of worthiness.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not unworthy sinners. Many have missed the mark big time. Those who – in interviews with others – insist that mark-missing is sin may then feel authorized and justified in labeling others “unworthy” and calling them to repentance.

Literally, in the Church, take it to the bank that “unworthy” indicates that you might have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any degree of you-also-know-what.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die at younger ages and often with high blood pressure, but also that they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonabole demands on themselves.

They also tend to be highly intolerant of flawed-ness and imperfection in others.

Perfectionists who are called to lead feel themselves empowered to use the sin-based definitions of worthiness and are much more numerous on a local and stake level than in the general quorums leading out of headquarters.

Such persons substitute their value judgments for the more meaningful pastoral skills that take more work to acquire.

As leaders they make absolutely terrible ministers.

Why then would we need to believe in a Supreme Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful and therefore too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?

 “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”~ Judy Garland

We do it to ourselves. It is done almost in knee-jerk fashion often in families where family members are perceived according to two standards.

Who are the “unworthy” among us and why do we label them that way?

 “It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not.”~ Andre Gide

It becomes easy to accept the idea that the monarchical God is offended because when we are not worthy we have something evil or inadequate about ourselves.

 “If you don’t run your own life, somebody else will.” ~ John Atkinson

One might conclude that when the phrase “unworthy” is internalized, the horrific “evil” is just around the bend. If we see ourselves as evil we more easily perceive God as offended or withholding blessings. Because of unacceptable behavior on our part, we force God into a role of a deity who loves us only conditionally.

“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”~ Les Brown

If we relate to our Heavenly Parents as Divines who must be pleased by us in order to bless us, aren’t we placing our lives at risk for the next logical step: believing ourselves subject to approved exclusion or discriminatory thinking. Does that not mock the idea of divine unconditional love?

Do we not become part of a group-thinking involving of “haves” and “have-nots” in which the “unworthy” somehow have failed while the “worthy” remain acceptable to Go?

 “I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”~ Anna Freud

Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point when we decide that “unworthy” is now “less-than.”

Since we feel uncomfortable in the presence of sin and/or sinners and we exclude by condemnation, social avoidance, shunning, excommunication or something worse. Terribly, we suddenly feel very uncomfortable in our own presence. We risk then discriminating against ourselves before someone “in authority” does it to us.

 “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not only “sin” but whoever has sinned and is by gospel extensions “unworthy.”

If we believe in Heavenly Parents who deal with us conditionally based on worthiness, we also become dupes of a second falsehood that always makes sense so long as Jesus Christ is viewed and believed in as the Master and Commander.

We come to believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus is assisted by the Holy Ghost who carries out another form of divine retribution by ignoring us. And we are left to figure out how The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are a trinity whose relationship with humanity becomes conditional rather than its eternal opposite.

At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian … so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.

Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man,” he said, “if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314). mormonwiki.com

A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized.

Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). – mormonwiki.com 

The idea of worthiness as a condition for the Spirit of God to assert its influence seriously distorts – but reinforces – every authoritarian religion that portrays itself as the agent of an autocratic God.

The autocratic God is a co-dependent God relied upon by His self-appointed authoritarians. These authoritarians invest most of their energy attempting to micro-manage the very thoughts of believers. Such is a false god who would judge you for what you think and believe more than what you do.

The autocratic micro-managing false god of commandments lies at the heart of most guilt complexes all over the world. Believers then tend not to be authentic, not they’re real selves.

“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.

Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing.
You get to love your pretense.

It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks.
They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison

If you choose to believe that as a parent you are justified – at the most critical moment in your child’s life – in refusing to speak to that child because that child did not “obey” you, the truth then is that you literally do not deserve to be a parent.

If you choose to believe that your Heavenly Parents will refuse to “be there for you” if you have become “unworthy” of their conditional requirements for blessings and comfort, I tell you that such Heavenly Parents are not worthy of your reverence.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

 

Excommunication:Expressing a wrath they imagine exists in the Divine

Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detail

Get Them Jehovah! We’re with ya!

More excommunications happening this week.

When a member feels some sense of risk of excommunication for having acted or even entertained thoughts believed to be offensive to God and the Church, excommunication hangs over the head like an executioner’s sword.

What is it we believe we risk when someone else, especially someone else who has an authoritative leadership calling, implies the risk of excommunication?

What does excommunication mean and how literally should we take it when another mortal threatens us with being cut off?

Read the following form of religious excommunication and ask yourself if the vindictive and mean spirited God of that particular Jewish church is the same God worshipped by another church that wields  excommunication like an addiction :  the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Would their God act and think in such a way?

Unspoken but inflicted – and not in practice a pretended “court of love.”

The vindictive, mean spirited and all-around butt ugliness of what was declared to Baruch Spinoza by his Jewish church:

“having long known of the evil opinions and acts of Baruch de Spinoza, they have e and after all of this has been investigated in the presence of the honorable hakhamim, they have decided, with their consent, that the said Espinoza should be excommunicated and expelled from the people of Israel…”

The “hakhamim,” namely the official rabbis of the community, with whose consent the resolution was made to excommunicate the “said Espinoza,” were familiar with thetraditional wording of the proclamations of excommunication and excerpts of these onventional formulations were incorporated in the announcement of Spinoza’s excommunication: 

“By decree of the angels and by the command of the holy men, we excommunicate, expel, curse and damn Baruch de Espinoza, with the consent of God, Blessed be He, and with the consent of the entire holy congregation, and in front of these holy scrolls with the 613 precepts which are written therein;  

cursing him with the excommunication with which Joshua banned Jericho and with the curse which Elisha cursed the boys (who mocked his baldness) and with all the castigations which are written in the Book of the Law. 

Cursed be he by day and cursed be he by night; 

cursed be he when he lies down and cursed be he when he rises up. 

Cursed be he when he goes out and cursed be he when he comes in. 

The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, 

and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. 

And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law. 

But you that cleave unto the Lord your God are alive every one of you this day.”

The proclamation of the excommunication concludes with the following famous lines of the actual warning:

“That no one should communicate with him neither in writing nor accord him any favor nor stay with him under the same roof nor within four cubits in his vicinity; nor shall he read any treatise composed or written by him.”

I place no credence on what the Jewish officials pronounced on Spinoza … but also none on whatever Church members place on the meaning and intent of excommunication other than the obvious (termination of membership.)

eternal-damnation-syndrome
Nope! Not with the least degree of allowance!

Removing the guilt is an okay concept I suppose so long as one buys into the idea that sin summons guilt in the same way that a crime involves guiltiness.

In my reality and opinion I do not see God as in the crime-and-punishment business whether due to laws and procedures created by God or due to some nebulous notion of “justice” which demands a karma-like accounting of credits and debits.

For most within the sphere of Mormonism a thought involving excommunication is usually a thought involving the idea of having offended God or some rule of God that demands recompense.

The idea of a Church benevolently (by removing something called guilt) terminating membership and by extension the hope of eternal life is nothing more than a theological notion that has gained traction by tradition. It is in effect a disingenuous reasoning to justify a procedure intended most fully to assert authority and encourage conformity.

The bulk of Christian belief is based on theology. Theology, by the way, has always been and always will be human religious speculation, suspended disbelief and an imputation of human attitudes in the Divine Mind.

Seems that the best idea is to remove the notion that excommunication is a valid and needful piece of gospel repertoire. In doing what might also be discouraged is the excessive sober judgmental seriousness – the taking of one’s authoritative calling as a mandate to do whatever is necessary to defend God and The Kingdom.

Something else might be dissuaded, the temptation to use fear, shame and guilt as motivation toward desperate conformity.

Excommunication has little to do with any relationship to Jesus Christ and His faith- hope-and-charity business. That’s the business that teaches that we ought to love God and Neighbor as if they were one and the same …

which by the way is the single needful question a genuinely true and living church should ask members in a temple recommend interview.

I say to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints:

Bring your excommunicants back into the fold with open arms and no conditions. Make a truly grown up and loving expression of acceptance of the many forms of spiritual and religious devotion manifested by all genuine and believing Saints.

You will be more grandly and publicly accepted as a worthy institution.

Time … long overdue in fact … that we leaped down off our crosses.

April Conference Priorities: No-Votes and Counterfeit Families

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”

On mark-missing and being mistaken in what we say and do.

It is interesting how many of our human foibles – particularly when they are our own – tend to be more effectively dealt with as if we are correcting a missing of the mark.

Most Christians however are not taught that their mistakes are missing marks. Rather, sins are  SINS; behavior that offends, disappoints or hurts God’s feelings. These notions are reflected in how we are exhorted to face up to our sins and sinfulness; to feel the cultural guilt, shame and sense of having offended a God who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not sinners. Many have missed the mark big time. In the opinions of those who seem to specialize in detecting mark-missers and seek out indications of sin, mark-missers shoul be called to repentance.

Why? Because by theological notion they have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any you-also-know-what. Trouble is that it’s hard to love with all one’s heart a low-tolerance-with-no-allowances kind of God. A God who cannot tolerate mark-missing to any degree is a God to be feared, not respected.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die young with high blood pressure, but also they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonable demands on those around them.

Perfectionists tend to be highly intolerant of “flaw-ful-ness” and imperfection in others. Likewise, most perfectionists imagine themselves to be subject to the terror of not being tolerated with much degree of allowance by those upline in a  hierarchy  whom perfectionists view as powers that be.

Why would we need to believe in a Supremely Divine Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful; as too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?

… and who stubbornly and relentlessly insists that He (The Supreme Divine) is is unable to tolerate you-know-the-rest?

Sin?

Sin has been incorrectly defined and then institutionalized for the most part as a wicked act, something that is in a nasty way an affront to God. Acceptance of the notion of sin suggests that the God of no- compassion is obsessed with morality as the basic concept by which Goodness is defined. The implication suggests that therefore we mere mortals should also obsess on sin.

So many among us accept the changed meaning and image of sin as something immoral which is then married to the image of a judgmental and punitive God.

It then follows that sin creates in our lives a sense of something connected with the more powerful word, “evil”.

It then becomes easy to accept the idea that the Divine Monarch Himself is offended – precisely because when we sin; because we commit evil acts.

One might conclude that when the phrase “we are all sinners” is expressed, the horrific “we are all evil” is just around the bend. Sinfulness viewed in that manner then literally relegates humanity to living in a state of criminal activity as viewed by God.

That seems to be the desired state needful to those who equate morality to theology;  whose pastoral livings are based on teaching about the evil of sin and offering advice on how to clean it up.

But …

Once we can conceive of God being offended, we cause God to no longer be God.

God should be much larger then merely being “offended.” An offended God has been reduced to a reflection if judgmental mortals ; as such is no longer really God or God-like.

It gives lie to any pronouncement of mercy. Jesus understood this and used the Prodigal Son to demonstrate it.

From the labels of sin and evil, the next logical step with sin is a concept of punishment,  exclusion or discriminatory thinking in which the sinner somehow has failed while the rest are still acceptable to God.

The sinner now has a handicap that leaves him/her “less-than” until the other FORM-ula (as in form over substance) ingredient of repentance is accomplished.

Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point. Many believers almost unconsciously decide that since the sinner is now “less-than” what true believers  consider themselves to be, many believers suddenly find themselves “uncomfortable” in the presence of sin and/or sinners.

Believers and non-believers tend to exclude by condemnation, by social avoidance, by shunning, by excommunication or by something worse. All of which is a false and non-scriptural path and reflects the spiritually violent thinking of the Prodigal Son’s older brother.

The arrogance of that act is reflected in Roman Catholic calls to Crusades and more horribly in the Inquisition. When we casually equate the word “sin” with “evil” we are never very far from looking like and participating in the evil acts of those Inquisition accusers who self-righteously assumed that they had a God-approved right to judge and punish.

Reformers such as Luther only put a Protestant spin on the traditional concepts of sin which came out of Roman Catholic dogma – concepts that remain reflected and camouflaged within the Bible today.

Protestant fundamentalists thrive on the strength of viewing the Bible as inerrant and absolute and portraying the terrible image of a punitive monarchical God. It was not Catholics who executed so-called heretics and witches in New England in the 1600’s. It was Protestants.

We members of a Christian society who casually evoke this altered meaning in our use of the word “sin” have habitualized a tendency to judge. We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not “sin” but whoever has “sinned”.

We allow ourselves to condemn the action and feel to thank God that we have not done what the “sinner” has done.

However we tend not to stop there. Many of us behave in ways that suggest that we personally feel  more holy, more worthy and even more righteous than the sinner. We then deserve the blessings God bestows while sinners do not deserve those blessings.

“We don’t hate the sinner. We hate the sin, but we love the sinner.” And many of us lord it over the sinner.

There is a smugness and condescension in that statement that is almost impossible to hide. When preached to the choir, such a statement might receive applause. However, as a public declaration of attitude, it is something detrimental to an image of Christian compassion and understanding.

It is not the thinking of the Father of the Prodigal Son.

It is a thinking that lies at the heart of an attitude which accelerates from hating the sin to advocating punitive action against the sinner.

It is not “Go, and sin no more.”

Again, Jesus understood this. He made no attempt to modify the stoning of the woman caught in adultery into something less capital but still punitive. He simply said in effect,
“Go and sin no more. Try to stop missing the mark and you will stop harming yourself and others.”

We as a society have systems in place to apply punitive sanctions against those whose behavior crosses the line into criminal activity. Unless we honestly believe that “sin equals crime”, we have no justification for being invested in our morally judgment-and-punish business.

It is true that we have every right to make choices around who will be the friends with whom we can safely interact. Common sense dictates that we should do so. But if we truly think we can love the sinner while abhorring the sin, let us put to the test the idea of loving neighbors as we love self –even if we can only do so from afar.

If those who preach can get those mortal congregations who judge to stop doing so, they  will do a great work in the social context truly honest and compassionate living.

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is merely other human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we but who seem to insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners; as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state.

Our own human experience has taught us the value of mental and spiritual reinforcement and its impact on successfully eliciting change that is self-motivated and  more likely to come to pass.

We already know this.

So does our Divine Mother and Father, who do not consider his creation as something evil.

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat: “God don’t make trash.”