Love, Belonging & Vulnerability

“Religion is another example of social contract disengagement. First, disengagement is often the result of leaders not living by the same values they’re preaching. Second, in an uncertain world, we often feel desperate for absolutes. It’s the human response to fear. When religious leaders leverage our fear and need for more certainty by extracting vulnerability from spirituality and turning faith into “compliance and consequences” rather than teaching and modelling how to wrestle with the unknown and how to embrace mystery, the entire concept of faith is bankrupt on its own terms. Faith minus vulnerability equals politics, or worse, extremism. Spiritual connection and engagement is not built on compliance, it’s the product of love, belonging and vulnerability.”

Dr Brene Brown

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Things are Going to Be Much Better…..

Thanks James!!

 

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Stealing Jesus

I had a dream.

In the dream I was released from the captivity of religion. But when captivity ends and the captive set free, it creates a void. Now that I am free, who or what will fill “the void?”

Leaving Christianity has brought about an incredible freedom, especially from fear, but also freedom from the endless debates about systems of belief and doctrine. For me, these are great arguments in missing the point. But whom can I call on to help me as I remove myself from the perceived certainty found in religion and face; uncertainty?

There are many choices on offer concerning religion. I have decided that I will never join any religion again. But one “problem” I have had to face leaving Christianity, is that I am still fascinated by the Galilean sage named Jesus.

But doesn’t Christianity own Jesus? Has the name “Jesus” become a trademark and does Christianity own that trademark? Can “Jesus” be owned by an organisation? Does this cut me out of participation in that name?

I’ve decided to put a question to Jesus and see if he belongs exclusively to any religion or tradition. I have asked the simple and uncomplicated Galilean sage of the past, set in his uncomplicated and original setting of “the kingdom of heaven has arrived,” whether he will accompany me into the future as a Non-Christian? Can I “steal” Jesus from Christianity to guide me into the uncertainty I face? Will he respond with a “yes?” Or will he remain confined to a religion?

We are changing the description of our blog site from Love First Conversation to Love First Journal. Within any religion, any attempted conversation for change will never bring about reform even if the religion needs it. People simply defend religion, even if they have great doubts about it. We are all driven by our fears. And we want someone to believe on our behalf.

So, for us, the conversation within the framework of Christianity has ended. Our blog will be our journal and about the Jesus we have discovered. Lets face it, within religion; we all make “god in our own image.”

Fragments of Faith

One interesting finding in our search, is the discovery that the evidence of Jesus’ words and deeds are very patchy. Fragments. This is both unsettling and exciting.

Of those fragments, what has remained of the things Jesus actually said from those who wrote the gospels (but apparently were not written from eyewitness or ear-witness accounts) is dramatic, and for me, this will be enough. Regarding Jesus, my question will continually be “what is the point.”

While the debate rages about virgin births, resurrections, heaven and hell and inerrant scriptures, I am living in a wonderful and fearful world right now and I want to know what Jesus has to say about that. I want to know if I can get along with my “brother.”

The point of Jesus according to the Jesus I have pursued and discovered is “the kingdom of heaven” and it has arrived. His message was not apocalyptic and his kingdom does not represent anything that we have on earth. The few actual fragments we have of Jesus words speak primarily of enemy love; turn the other cheek and the beatitudes. “If you love your enemies, you have no enemies.”

There is a quote from Ian MacLaren (real name John Watson 1903). “Be kind for everyone is facing a great battle.” In the frame of love of God and love your neighbour, we are posing two simple ways forward for ourselves. First, “be the change you want to see in the world.” We intend to do this through the Enneagram, an incredible tool for self-transformation and understanding “the other.” Secondly, we will continue the experiment regarding “love your neighbour as yourself” attempting to actually be kind to one another as we recognise everyone, including ourselves, are facing a great battle.

In the days ahead, we will be pursuing how to actually get along with each other on earth and we think this is central to Jesus message. The reality of this has not been achieved apart from a superficial level. Within religion, we say kind things to one another but under pressure or while we try to protect “our religion,” perceived loving relationships fall apart. Enemies are made.

For those who want to join us in our experiment within our non-membership and non-religious community, we are inviting anyone, on a small-scale experiment, to treat one another with kindness. Where every word and sentence is thought through when we talk to others and of others outside their presence. It’s our words that kill each other. When someone rips you, you can simply say, “be kind for (I am) everyone is facing a great battle.”

Some one said there are two kinds of love. These are passionate and compassionate love. Passionate love is the early stages of a new relationship. But if this doesn’t develop into compassionate love for one another, we disintegrate.

If you join us, let us know how the year went. You may only last a few weeks, because love and care for the other and the stranger (the kingdom of heaven) is “impossible!

Graeme

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Can ‘Love of Neighbour’ change our world?

People want to be religious, says scholar Karen Armstrong; we should help make religion a force for harmony.

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What Ever Happened to the Good News?

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“The church I attended in Chicago, located near a slum housing project, began as an outreach project of a large, traditional church. In time, though, the mother church cut off all funding. They learned that our inner-city tutoring program was teaching kids to read without using the Bible exclusively. Worse, the mission church had installed a pool table in the basement for kids to use! The mother church had missed the whole concept of grace. Grace dispensers give out of their own bounty, in gratitude (a word with the same root as grace) for what we have received from God. We serve others not with some hidden scheme of making converts, rather to contribute to the common good, to help humans flourish as God intended”. Philip Yancey

From “Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?”
Now available: http://bit.ly/VanishingGraceBook

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YOU CAN’T SAY THAT ……… (Leaving Christianity)

Reading my post, some have expressed their anxiety regarding my statement about “leaving Christianity”. Others, seeking to clarify “Christianity” tell me that being a Christian is “simply following Jesus.”

But the “simply following Jesus” statement is not as simple as it sounds, because Christianity has become a convoluted system that has morphed into something that is far from “simple”……. It is two thousand years of history, including more recent works like the Fundamentals of the Faith (twelve volumes!!).

This anxiety exposes how we keep missing the point, which in this post is “love”.

Before you can bring about reform, even if the reform has amazing possibilities, you will need to tick all the boxes required by “Christianity”. For example, permission from the top, a review by the board and confirmation from the same that every box is ticked so that it is “doctrinally correct”. In the haze of protecting “Christianity”, reforms and opportunities are lost. Is protecting Christianity an attempt to protect God? Does God need protecting?

What ever happened to Jesus words “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I ask again, can the message of Jesus be fulfilled in love? Have we been set off course by seeking to build the Church rather than building for the kingdom of heaven and what I call “the impossible”?

For those people within “Christianity”, who are completely content with the system, good for you. But for the many agitating for reform and a new way of being in the world, for the sake of the world, leaving “Christianity” is the only way to start again, to stop being “shut down.”

By the way, when I did leave “Christianity”, I was surprised to find a familiar friend was already there, beckoning me on into the “impossible”…….

Graeme

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Leaving Christianity

One of the requirements for the journey that I have embarked on was to be absolutely honest regarding “Christianity.” But I had never contemplated that the outcome of this honesty would include leaving the same religion, which was not only hard, it was terrifying.

Many, many people are exiting Christianity and this is still happening on a large-scale today. Perhaps the keepers of religion are able to define someone when one leaves “the faith” and as a former “insider,” the reasons will generally be associated with scriptures from the Bible. But for the Bible to carry any weight, it must be infallible and inerrant, which is a doctrine as fresh as the nineteenth century. This is a period where the Pope was made “infallible” and the “Rapture” theory was established as well. But I agree with one well-known writer who quotes “the Bible is covered with human fingerprints.” 

With nowhere to go, people exiting religion throw up their hands and simply just go the way of the world or the “next” religion. Many who have exited the faith are judged as “lost.” A judgement is made. The insider becomes an outsider and what was once a relationship of committed love can become, of this same person, a rejection. The insider continues to focus on the insiders because of the perceived idea that the world is evil and one must not be associated with it nor those who have left Christianity. Why so much fear?

But I have discovered that many who have left religion have a deep abiding faith; a faith that you would never know was there unless you dug a little deeper. I have had several discussions with sworn atheists only to find they have no problem with the simple message of Jesus. In fact, I have a sense that most people don’t really have a problem with Jesus at all. What went wrong with Christianity?

How do we escape religion to find rest from the never-ending debates about doctrine, systems of belief and “truth”? Does one become an Agnostic or become an Atheist? Who is there outside of religion that can help when one cannot accept religion one moment longer for a multitude of reasons?

“Christianity” has created its own stalemate because of the endless debates, a debate that is taking it nowhere fast.

To leave “Christianity” was extremely hard and I had to unwind layers and layers of fear, sometime disturbing my sleep. Some times, I wasn’t sure I had the courage for the next step. My greatest release from fear was to stop fearing God. When anyone fears, including fearing God, some human has a hook that person.

St Augustine said this “Love God and do as you please.” Think about that. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” You can read this two ways with an emphasis on love or commands. People will do amazing things when someone loves. If God is loving and gracious, why would he want anyone to follow him out of fear rather than love? What sort of relationship is that? Is that the kind of relationship we desire with our children? Fear?

For me, the road in my quest for faith has broadened dramatically. I no longer follow God through fear and daily I continue to resist any fear of man. Christianity has no claim on me because I am no longer a Christian. In fact, I have, and will continue to resist all man-made religions. I realise there is no such thing as certainty or satisfaction which once again leaves only faith. Rather than endlessly try to define God, making him a kind of vending machine, I have let Him “go” and I will have to trust in the God I see through Jesus, letting the indescribable be the mystery He is.

For me, I am free to pursue a brand new faith. I will continue in this most simple faith, based on love, that doesn’t need more and more padding to support it. As Saint Paul said “love does no harm to a neighbour therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.” I am free to pursue the message of Jesus in all its simplicity without religion experts demanding I obey a Christian perspective for I am not a Christian. I still strongly believe we are in a great transformation and this may be a reformation. But one may need to leave Christianity to see it, even if one maintains going to Church. Would you be willing to leave “Christianity” if God is calling for something new? 

What then is the point to following Jesus? Not creating another religion! As I see it, the only hope is transformed lives and a transformed world through love. Welcome to the impossible. Welcome to the Dream (kingdom) of God.

Graeme

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If there is a God………..

I often reflect on a letter that I had sent out to friends several years ago. The letter was an invitation to an experiment to see if the “Christian Religion” could be simplified and lived out through one word. That one word was love.

This morning as I revisit that letter in my mind, I have thought about what has transpired since. We have given ourselves over to a sort of quest, working our way through dozens of books written by contemporary writers and drawn wisdom from many brilliant philosophers, new and old, who have written both inside the confines of religion and outside of those constrains. There have been endless discussions between Elaine and myself, driving each other (and friends), nearly mad at times.

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The result of our quest and my answer to the question is “Yes!”

We went out on a limb, we cut the ropes mooring us to the jetty of religion and security, and we “put God to the test”. Does God exist? Will he punish us for our questions, our anger and our frustration as we wrestle with both God and religion? Will God send us to hell for our insolence?

As we moved through the stages of letting go of fear of God, or gods, including fear of “man,” we have discovered a higher law than “the rule of law.” Love like faith is risky. It has no certainty. It is often volatile. All of the authors of the books that I have read ultimately see love as the answer, especially sacrificial and compassionate love for the other, esteeming the other to the place of “yourself”. Many writers claim that if humanity took seriously the words “to love our neighbour as ourselves,” which most religions espouse, the need for the rule of law would disappear.

The one single “new law” that Jesus gave was “a new command I give you that you love one another, by this the world will know you are my followers.” Love gives way to grace and forgiveness and non-judgement. Jesus asked us not to be like the rulers of our age and “lord it over others” dispelling the notion that his kingdom is like human kingdoms of top down omnipotent controlling power but rather, power seen as powerlessness, a very humble position.

As I witness the incredible brokenness and suffering of our world, I often pass as a good Atheist. “God must not exist, for no kind God would allow this.’ At other times I find myself at loss for words to express myself to God, as I witness the beauty of creation. Each week fluctuates. Faith is different than certainty.

Rather than reject those who oppose me, like the New Atheists, I allow their message to buffet my tendencies for the cult of institutionalised religion and I hope they will eventually allow the many of us who seek, and cannot shake off spirituality (not religion), to buffet their tendency to institutionalisation. The world could do with a lot less hate and a lot more grace.

But, I cannot shake off love; especially compassionate love. I think that we are in a wrestle with a passionate God, if God exists, who can do no more than hope and allow time for the wise words of Jesus minus religion, and many other wise words from women and men of the past to take root in our lives, especially love. A very risky business indeed, as so much rests on us as humans.

All of us contain the seeds of love but wrecked lives impact those seeds. Every life has wreckage. Often I find myself saying; “This love is impossible!” But is it not true, that it is the impossible, that humans aspire to! Ever dreamed of climbing Mount Everest?

Graeme

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Are we Good, Gooder or Goodest?

Simon Anholt: Which country does the most good for the world?

Published on Jul 2, 2014
It’s an unexpected side effect of globalization: problems that once would have stayed local—say, a bank lending out too much money—now have consequences worldwide. But still, countries operate independently, as if alone on the planet. Policy advisor Simon Anholt has dreamed up an unusual scale to get governments thinking outwardly: The Good Country Index. In a riveting and funny talk, he answers the question, “Which country does the most good?” The answer may surprise you (especially if you live in Australia or China).

Click here to see how we rate as a ‘Good Country’:

The Good Country Index

 

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“At its best faith in God is about thanksgiving, shared suffering, loss, pain, generosity, and love.”

I have just finished listening to an audio book by Frank Schaeffer. His fundamentalist evangelical background was very similar to mine and I found his journey, thoughts, memoirs and conclusions resonated with me. Recommended read/listen.

Graeme

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Patience With God: Faith for People Who Don’t Like Religion (or Atheism)
by Frank Schaeffer

Book Summary:

Frank Schaeffer has a problem with Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, and the rest of the New Atheists—the self-anointed “Brights.” He also has a problem with the Rick Warrens and Tim LaHayes of the world. The problem is that he doesn’t see much of a difference between the two camps. As Schaeffer puts it, they “often share the same fallacy: truth claims that reek of false certainties. I believe that there is an alternative that actually matches the way life is lived rather than how we usually talk about belief.” Sparing no one and nothing, including himself and his fiery evangelical past, and invoking subtleties too easily ignored by the pontificators, Schaeffer adds much-needed nuance to the conversation. “My writing has smoked out so many individuals who seem to be thinking about the same questions. I hope that this book will provide a meeting place for us, the scattered refugees of what I’ll call The Church of Hopeful Uncertainty.”

Book Review: 

At times really beautiful; at other times a mish mash of stories and ideas. His central point is wonderful (when it comes to belief and disbelief in God, certainty is harmful and divisive; embracing paradox, mystery and love is our best choice) but was made over and over in a variety of (sometimes tangential and self-indulgent) ways. Here are some of my favorite thoughts from this sometimes essay, sometimes memoir:

“Take the sum total of human experience, discount it by a wide margin because we know we’ll never know, take the one overarching lesson from reality–humility–to heart, and move forward together.”

“With all due respect to Dawkins, mystery trumps everything. With all due respect to the theologians, every true story begins with the words “In spite of what I thought at the time…”

“At its best faith in God is about thanksgiving, shared suffering, loss, pain, generosity, and love. The best religious people and the best secular people learn to ignore their chosen (or inherited) religions’ nastier teachings in order to preserve the spirit of their faith, be that faith in secular humanism, science, or in God.”

“I think most people are better than their official theology and/or ideology. There are wars aplenty in the world and hatred abounds, but there is also peace aplenty and love abounds as well. There are extremists in all our camps…they have anger, or worse the blind certainty of their correctness, but the rest of us have the numbers. The future belongs to the peacemakers.”

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