Monday, May 31, 2010


Thoughts on reading TESTAMENT by Nino Ricci, which is a re-working of the Jesus story that restores his humanity and separates his true teaching from the pious and church-serving official Gospels.

Here is a human Jesus with moods and foibles and sorrows along with the wisdom of his teaching. Here is a Jesus who is not perfect and does not try to put on a pious perfectionist persona. In other words, this is a Jesus who is not a phony Christian. He is not caught in the trap Eckhart Tolle talks about of trying not to have angers or other feelings that might be considered non-Christian. This is what leads so many pious Christians into denial of their humanity and eventually denial of the humanity of others by holding themselves and everybody else up to a standard of perfection that no human can achieve, not even Jesus.

It also supports my belief that God is not a perfectionist. Perfectionism is a disease of the egoic mind. God does not make his forests into perfectly pruned English gardens and yet there is great beauty there.

The importance of discovering the humanity and fallibility of Jesus is that it allows me to be human and fallible, too. The true teaching of Jesus is acceptance and forgiveness, not human perfection and not hellfire and damnation, which was added later by small-minded clerics and preachers seeking to frighten people into joining their church so they could be “saved” from an imaginary hell.

But this isn’t a fault only found in Christianity. Both Hinduism and Buddhism are based on the concept of human perfectibility and it is basically impossible, as Huston Smith points out, to achieve that kind of perfectibility in this human body.

The ultimate strength of Christianity when it is practiced in the spirit of Jesus is that it does not demand perfection. Jesus simply asks for acceptance and forgiveness and allows people to be human beings.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Luther's lost teachings: 'Christ Present in Faith'

Has anyone read "Christ Present in Faith: Luther's View of Justification" by Tuomo Mannermass and Kirsi Irmeli Stierna?

They are Lutheran theologians from Finland who are working to get back to Luther's original -- and it would appear mystical view -- that Christ enters the believer through faith.

Here are a couple quotes from the book that capsulize the theology:

"...according to the Reformer [Luther], the union between the believer and Christ is so complete that these two become 'one person.'

"'Christ,' he [Luther] says, 'is fixed and cemented to me and abides in me. The life that I now live, He lives in me. Indeed, Christ Himself is the life that I now live. In this way, therefore, Christ and I are one.'

"Christ is freedom, righteousness, and life, and by his presence he drives sin, death, and curse away from the believer, making these 'disappear.'"

"God is seen in this view as an incessant movement toward transcendence -- that is, toward God, who nevertheless remains in 'heaven.' According to Luther, however, the true faith unites the Christian with God who in God's agape-love has 'descended' to us and who is present in the sinner by being present in faith in all God's fullness. Faith is 'heaven.'"

Finally, and this is pretty much the summation and conclusion of the book, the authors argue: "Luther does not hesitate to conclude that in faith the human being becomes 'God,' not in substance but through participation. This notion, which has been forgotten in Protestant theology, is an integral part of Luther's theology of faith, if interpreted correctly.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Listening to Richard Rohr

I've been listening today to audio lectures Richard Rohr gave on The True and False Self. Here are some of the key points that struck me in his teaching:

1. The False Self, which Merton wrote about, is the personal ego and body consciousness so glorified in our popular culture. The True Self is God in us or Christ in us, also known as God Consciousness or Christ consciousness. This is mystical religion that is free of all church rituals and legalisms, which are necessarily aimed at the False Self.

2. Speaking of the legalisms of churchianity, Rohr points out that the orthodox Catholic and fundamentalist protestant obsession with birth control, abortion, and gays, which as he points out Jesus never talked about, is that they are aimed at the shame involved in egoic body consciousness. It is a way church law is used to shame people. So this is church law aimed at the False Self, having nothing to do with Jesus but having a lot to do with keeping people in line and creating an us versus them paradigm where "we are the good Christians following the church rules as opposed to all those worthless horrible sinners out there."

3. Rohr points out that preaching the Gospel to the False Self is a lose-lose proposition because the personal egoic consciousness will never be able to live up to all the rules and eventually the fundamentalist preacher men are caught with male prostitutes and priests are found to be abusing children. So preaching the Gospel to the False Self rather than encouraging people to get in touch with their True Self amounts to pastoral malpractice.

4. From Rohr's Franciscan/universalistic (not sure if he or his superiors would be happy with the latter label) perspective the only goal of religion based on Jesus Christ is to help people find Christ within themselves thus helping to liberate them from the personal egoic mind of the False Self.

5. What's wrong with the personal ego so lauded and catered to in popular culture and pop psychology? Rohr used a metaphor borrowed (as much of this is) from Merton. Merton said people driven by ego climb the ladder of success, fame and fortune, only to find at the end of their lives that the ladder was up against the wrong wall. Because of the reality of death and the inability of mortals to take their precious stuff with them, sooner or later the path of the egoic mind leads to Nowhere Land.

6. And along the way up the ladder of success evidence gathers that it's not only lonely but empty at the top, which leads to depression, now epidemic in the middle ages of the middle class and often in the upper class, too. This recalls Tolstoy's version of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says: "But woe to the rich, for they have already got what they wanted, and will get nothing more. Now they are satisfied, but they too will be hungry. Now they rejoice, but they too will be sad."

7. Hope lies in the realization that your False Self is leading you nowhere and that it is time to sit down quietly and let God into your life.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Law versus mysticism

Listening to an excerpt of a Richard Rohr talk on Audible this morning I got a clear sense that I'm on the right track with my Outlaw Christian stance. Rohr, who is a Franiscan priest explains that the church that developed in Rome stressed laws over a mystical union with Christ. So the church focused on rules and rituals and the importance of belonging to the church. Jesus Christ's message of peace, love and forgiveness took a back seat to requiring everybody to attend mass regularly and rigidly control their sex lives.

Here endth my quest for church membership.

I feel I am a confirmed Outlaw Christian.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Chirst cannot be held responsible for the monstorous tradition that has been interwoven with his teaching and presented as Christianity.

... while preaching doctrines quite alien to Christ's teaching [church leaders] affirm that their doctrine was taught by Christ. So that according to their teaching Jesus declared that by his blood he had redeemed the human race ruined by Adam's sins; that God is three persons; that the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles and was transmitted to the priesthood by the laying on of hands; that the seven sacraments are necessary for salvation; that communion should be received in two kinds and so on. They would have us believe that all this is the teaching of Jesus whereas there is not a word of any of it in his teaching. Those false teachers should call their teaching and religion the teaching and religion of the Holy Ghost but not of Christ; for only that faith can be called Christian which recognizes the revelation of Christ reaching us in the Gospels as the final revelation. -- Tolstoy

I get caught up in the beautiy of Catholic Churches and the ideas of Catholic intellectuals like Merton, and I forget what a repressive and backwards hierarachy controls the church.

As happened when today I read this on Daily Beast:

This week, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix announced the excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride for the crime of approving an abortion necessary to save a woman’s life. The patient, a 27-year-old who was 11 weeks pregnant, had pulmonary hypertension, which interferes with the functioning of the heart and lungs. Pregnancy exacerbates the condition, and doctors at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center determined that she would die without an abortion. St. Joseph’s is Catholic, so an ethics committee meeting was convened. As part of the committee, Sister McBride opted to save the patient’s life. For that, she’s been rebuked, transferred, and essentially barred from participating in Catholic life.

The bad crazyness in the Catholic Church over abortion never ceases to amaze and dismay me.

Here we have an all male power structure, headed by an 80-year-old elected monarch influencing medical decisions for young women. It's just crazy and I can't see myself being part of that despite whatever other good the church may be doing.

So I end up back with Tolstoy, who was a Christian but despised the established churches for the ways they controlled and lied to their people.

It does not seem to be possible to have a church without corruption -- paranoia, homophobia, etc. -- so it seems my best course is to be a Christian outlaw avoding any ties with any church.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Some Merton Quotes

All quotes are from No Man Is an Island

In order to find God in ourselves, we must stop looking at ourselves, stop checking and verifying ourselves in the mirror of our own futility, and be content to be in Him and to do whatever He wills, according to our limitations, judging our acts not in the light of our own illusions, but in the light of His reality which is all around us in the things and people we live with. p.120

If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I really wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everybody seems to admire, I would really begin to live after all. I would be liberated from the painful duty of saying what I really do not think and of acting in a way that betrays God's truth and the integrity of my own soul.

Why do we have to spend our lives striving to be something that we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted. pp125-26