So much of what is preached and publicized on behalf of religious organizations seems to consist of encouraging not much more than pure moralizing as the basis of theological righteousness
In fact, one might hear the proposal that morality is theology.
Morality is not theology- because it consists, as Alan Watts wrote, “of telling people what to believe and how to behave.”
Does not focusing on morality – telling people how to behave – impact public or private thinking only as it relates to control of behavior? So long as the emphasis is on morality is not the emphasis is on control?
Preaching morality rather than the virtues of goodness – particularly the common good we all ought to be seeking – seems merely to give us mostly sermons and exhortations that limit themselves to issues defined entirely by judgmental thinking.
Humans also have repeatedly demonstrated how judgmental thinking drags the positive and negative aspects of human behavior into morally gray areas where actions seem more governed out of a concern for reward or punishment.
Does not judgmental thinking have at its core the idea of worthiness?
In fact do we not make acceptable moral behavior based on reward and punishment? Worse, does not judgmental thinking drive a comparative that pretends to justify one person’s superiority over another?
Does not reward/punishment involve the use of fear, shame and guilt which – if ever used successfully – almost always results in the right things being done for the wrong reasons?
There is value in reward and punishment if the only goal is that of deterrence, intimidating those who would commit acts that would harm another person. Such is a concept within a code of civil justice.
But in that regard then what is the relationship between a use of deterrence to coerce obedience and someone’s genuine un-forced willingness to do good because it is the right thing or the compassionate action upon which an invisible monarch prompted someone to preach?
Could we not say that this sort of spiritual construct only works in a religious sense if God is likewise viewed as judgmental and punitive; a divine being who responds to human behavior in a manner that creates deterrence and control?
Whether spiritual or civic, such control is nothing more than legalistic in thought and assumption – it is both spiritual and civic governance by the letter of the law.
Does that not cause sin – in a context of an offended God – to become greatly exaggerated and elevated into the realm of criminal activity?
Do not sacred writings that inform humanity of its relationship to God lose most of their power to spiritualize individual lives if they are reduced to a canon of inflexible statutes born out of rigidity and possessed of a very narrow range of interpretation?
Because a canon is essentially a document intended to preserve a status quo with as little change as possible, can we not assume that a writing that has been canonized is a document of censorship? Does it not preserve the benefits of those already in authority at the expense of the culture itself?
Canonization of spiritual writings lets the controllers retain control.
In the 21st Century it seems that literalist scripture as many view it is not much more than an instrument of control; a tool and a means by which conservative manipulation of the status quo is now more important than the spread of the philosophy of the Sermon on the Mount, The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan.
The more influential among religious authorities now seem to primarily subjugate the simple philosophies of inspired parables. We seem to be caught in the 19th century with a monarchical vision of God that capitalizes on a wrathful Cyrus or Nebuchadneezer. Have many of our influential Christian celebrities then blended that God-of-wrath image with that of imperial power and imagery of the Caesars and Roman civil administration?
Has not the kingdom of today’s literalist scriptoria authorities come to resemble almost entirely the negative aspects of Judaism into which Jesus was born 2000 years ago?
To many it feels like when a Bible is waved from a pulpit, it resembles more a cudgel than an olive branch of peace and compassion.
Theological writings existed in the medieval church, but what filtered to the masses was moralistic manipulation – a device for sustaining ecclesiastical and civil authority. Such was possibly the most powerful factor that allowed a church to persecute, torture and kill heretics – all the while pretending that An invisible monarch was applauding their actions.
Do we need for theology to include a “disobey and you’ll go to hell” in order to describe humanity’s interrelationships?
Is there a fear that morality in and of itself will fail without that kind of deterrence?
Can one not be moral out of nothing more than a concern for the highest good of all concerned?
Historically, a definition of necessity included a literalistic view of the information recorded in the Bible with the inherited assumption that the scripture – because it was canonized – was inerrant and absolutely written by God. It seems that Protestant reformer could not see any way around that notion either.
Can we not consider it important to understand that so long as scripture is viewed as inerrant and written exclusively by the invisible monarch with the assumption that the Divine Eye is single to obedience first and punishment as the otherwise consequence?
Does that not limit then scripture to primarily a tool for preaching morality?
When scripture has become an instrument for enforcing orthodoxy, many forget that orthodoxy is not theology. Conformity to orthodoxy is morality-driven. It does little in and of itself to influence moral and spiritual growth as acts of choice made for the right reasons.
These concepts and the internal spiritual reactions they generate are and have always been in Scripture. What is scripture that is worshipped really about?
Ought it not facilitate growth toward making the right choices for the right reasons and toward a common desire for the highest good of all concerned?
“That’s not scriptural” as a response to a spiritual idea is like saying “Do not think for yourself.!”
Aren’t we supposed to work out salvation in fear and courageous trembling?
Or are we to be therefore commanded in all things and limited to what comes out of a canon?