The Third Way, 60 – Walking the Walk

“…. humanists, having no god, must put something at the center, and it is inevitably society, government, or the state …. the Judeo-Christian consensus … has weakened and all but disappeared, [along] with the lack of vision even from a pragmatic perspective, let alone principle ….”

Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto, in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer, Volume 5, a Christian View of the West.  (Crossway Books, Wheaton Illinois, 1982), p. 482

            Francis Schaeffer was an American Presbyterian minister, philosopher, evangelist and apologist who, for thirty-five years after World War 2, lived and worked in Europe, based in Switzerland.  He and his wife Edith founded L’Abri Fellowship in Chesières, Switzerland 1955.  Schaeffer died in 1984, but his thought and work has continued to exercise a profound influence on the thousands who met him and listened to and studied under him, as well as the millions who have read his books.  Few Christian thinkers through the last two millennia have created such a well-articulated and carefully thought-out and practiced view of both humanity and the cosmos.

In the summer of 1979 at Swiss L’Abri (there are other locations) my partner and I met and talked with the Schaeffers for a time almost daily as we worked at their chalet and in their garden.  His works and thought continue to exercise a profound influence on me.  Like all men, he was faulted, but he never betrayed his primary commitments to Yeshua, to Edith, to his family.  He strove to live what he taught, and to a large extent succeeded.

Schaeffer was not apolitical, but he was not partisan political either.  Politics is an inevitable concomitant of living in society, and, with few exceptions, humans cannot avoid living in society.  Even such exceptions almost always find society (other humans they attract) coming to them even as they attempt to escape it.  The story of Anthony of Egypt (250-356 CE) graphically illustrates this. 

Anthony sought to live as a hermit in the Egyptian desert in order to escape the corruption and distractions of the big city (Alexandria, Egypt) and to live a “pure life” dedicated to knowing God.  People heard about this radical holy man and began to come to him.  After twenty years of trying to be a hermit, he rather found himself a “Father” to a growing community of hundreds of God-seekers.  Despite himself he founded a community that focused on union with God first.  In 311, at the height of a terrible persecution, he was sent by his Lord back to the city to bring warning and to preach repentance to a corrupt and tumultuous populace and administration which threatened to kill him for his trouble. He hoped to be gifted with martyrdom, but was not.  Instead he brought conviction and hope to the suffering Christians and confusion to the Emperor’s agents.  There is much more to Anthony’s story, but the reader can find the details elsewhere.

With respect to the Christian aspiration to a Third Way, the most common mistake is in identifying a particular set of ideological posits and positions as where peacemakers and searchers after justice and true equity must commit themselves.  Taking up a party cause and socio-economic ideology has never led to the real objective of the Christ’s Third Way, which is the birthing of “the Kingdom of Heaven” on earth.

Schaeffer advocated civil disobedience, even at the risk of persecution and imprisonment.  He stood in a long line of Christian disciples from Peter and John the Apostles telling the Judean Sanhedrin “Judge for yourselves if we should obey God or you” (my paraphrase) when they had been arrested and told not to mention the name of Yeshua or teach anything about him among the people.  That line travels through time across twenty centuries down to Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany and the tens of thousands of anonymous martyrs in the Soviet Bloc and even China and North Korea right now.  Nor must we forget the quiet efforts to bring hope and freedom to love and speak truth of Christians in Islamic societies where they have a death sentence fatwa hanging over their heads which anyone can carry out and be immune to punishment.  More thousands have been put to death there.

But the Third Way is not primarily about civil disobedience to unjust governments.  It is about pointing to and working towards a different way of doing life in the here and now, a way that puts a premium on compassion and empathy and real, practical efforts to stand with the victims of injustice and oppression and neglect and denial of the most basic elements of human dignity.  It is about being Christ’s “body” even in the middle of whatever version of “this age/cosmos” prevails at the moment wherever the scorn for the Creator and the callous treatment of those made in His/Her image is reducing God’s human children to mere animals or tools to be used to enhance the power, wealth, prestige and personal glory of whichever set of haters and oppressors holds power at the moment.

It is about showing another way among the community of those who name the name of Yeshua/Jesus as Lord, about practicing the principles of His Kingdom among themselves and trying to bring some of that influence into expression in the larger society and culture.

Because that has been the calling and mission of the disciples of Yeshua/Jesus since he commissioned his ekklesia – the assembly of the people called to follow him and live as God’s children in the midst of what Jesus called “a wicked generation” – the koinonia, the community of love and compassion He meant for His disciples to become and be, has never been, was never meant to be, a closed, secret society.  It was never meant to be merely another human-created institution interested in gaining political and economic power and compelling everyone to go along with its agenda.

That agenda is quite simple – bringing the Kingdom of God into real manifestation here on earth.  But, as ever with flawed humans being the agents, great transgressions were committed and brought (and bring) great discredit to all Yeshua’s followers.  Those who hear the talk about all the wonderful ideals of the coming Kingdom are justified in holding Christians accountable for acting just like the usual human authorities. 

Historically, it is no surprise that the failures and excesses of the official leaders of Christianity here in the West, where they gained great political, social, and economic power, should have led to the present situation.  The loss of the power and influence of the Church (churches) is lamented by many Christians, but too often as a sort of political and social deprivation rather than as it should be – a repentance for having fallen into the perpetual temptation to take the road to compulsory control using the levers of position and coercion.  The reduction of the Church’s power and influence and its being shunted to the periphery would be better seen as an opportunity to do a reset and a return to first love, a true repentance, rather than as a trumpet call to take up political weapons to try to restore something that would better have been left aside in the first place.

Much more has been better said on all this by many down through the centuries and the last two millennia.  For two thousand years, the Lord’s Prayer has warned us and continues to warn us about taking the wrong path.  Its priorities are explicit and crystal clear: “Creator’s Kingdom, come!  Creator’s will, be done!  On earth as in heavenly realms.”  The original is as much an imperative as a plea.  It is a command, a mandate. 

But the practical side is also crystalline: “Give us today our daily bread” – a request that we receive what we need (not want, lust after, crave to get) materially in the here and now.  This is for two purposes – first so that we can carry on with the business  of bringing God’s Kingdom into this age for as long as we are here, and second so that we can meet the needs of others who do not have enough and so show them the real love of their Creator.

This amazing masterpiece of prayer, which is the format for all prayer and relationship with our Maker, ends with “And do not lead us into (“lead” is not the best translation of the Greek word –more like do not let us fall into) temptation, but deliver us from evil (again, the Greek is better rendered as the evil one).”

It is an indivisible unity which we too often treat as separate pieces, compartmentalized to suit our own purposes.  The greatest temptation for each of us, for leaders, and for the ekklesia as a body is to take up the apparently easiest and most direct path to “bringing in the Kingdom”.  The temptation, the allure, is to outpolitick the politicos and cleverly dominate the social molders of “this age” who hold the reins (and reigns) of power and control.  It is the song of Odysseus’s Sirens luring us onto the rocks of shipwreck.

We will give the last word in this series to Yeshua.  Shimon (Peter), the prospective leader off the ekklesia after Jesus, took out a sword and used it in an attempt to stop the arresters who had come to take Jesus to be crucified.  Yeshua sharply reprimanded him, “Enough of that!  If you live by the sword, you die by the sword!”

Shalom!

The Third Way, 59 – Reprise 3 – Finding the Door

“From the point of view of Christian faith, personality is not something given, which only needs development, but it is a relation.  Personality is rooted in relation to God.  It is the “self” of man which is called into existence by the divine “Thou”.  Its centre is responsibility, understood as the response of man to God’s call.  Its true realisation, and therefore the true humanity, is existence in divine love becoming concrete in love towards our neighbour.”

Emil Brunner, Christianity and Civilisation, II, Specific Problems.  (London: Nisbet & Co. Ltd, 1949), p. 54.

(Photo Credit – Unsplash)

Everything comes back to the the basic worldview questions and how we answer them:

            – Who am I?

            – Where am I?

            – What’s wrong?

            – What’s the remedy?

(This version comes from Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton in The Transforming Vision.) 

We could easily add several more essential questions to this list – “Why am I here?  Why is anything here?  How did I/it get here?  Is there anything after death?”, etc.  Walsh and Middleton’s formulation has the beauty and simplicity of subsuming all the other possible issues as corollaries of their four.

Over and over again in this blog and in the “Third Way” series, we have brought out Brunner’s statement that “personality is rooted in relation[ship] to God…. the response of [hu]man[ity] to God’s call.” 

We are still persons if we refuse the call to relationship to the Creator, but we can never be the sort of person we are meant to be, we can never fully discover and become what being human truly is and is meant to be.

We live in an age and culture which insists on the complete equality of all responses, all conceptions of being and exploring being—especially of being human.  But we know in our gut that all forms of exploring and being human are not equal.  We are equal as being designed and created as humans and in experiencing our humanity.  But while much of our human experience is “the same” no two of us experience even the “sameness” in an identical way. 

You cannot live my life for me or I for you.  I was not born to your parents (unless you are my full sibling) nor you to my mine.  Even growing up in the same family does not extinguish the differences in how we experience our humanity, how we process even our common experiences.  Genetic makeup and environmental factors preclude all such “equality”.  Some are endowed with more or less intelligence, height, physical strength, beauty, and on and on.  Much of our western education system has degenerated into a Neo-Marxist dreamland of somehow eliminating the natural gifting and limitations we all have to deal with so that no child experiences the trauma of “losing”, of being left out, of being traumatized by discovering that others are smarter, stronger, faster, more popular, etc. – or, on the opposite end, of experiencing the thrill of success, the joy of excelling, of winning something as a reward for their effort and ability.

It is a complete denial of what nature, left to its evolutionary side, shows us—that we supposedly survive as individuals and a species by being the “fittest” – (viz. strongest, fastest, healthiest, most intelligent, most agile, most clever and cunning, etc.).  Having spent forty years as an educator, one learns that no matter how compassionate and accommodating one is, you cannot enable the one child to outdo the other in an area where the other simply has the innate aptitude to excel, at least when the one so naturally gifted sets him-/herself to excel.

This drive to create the “great leveling” actually denies the humanity of all those who supposedly will benefit from it.  For, as Brunner said, our humanity is fundamentally rooted in relationship with our Creator first and with one another second.  But the two cannot be separated, even if the “one another” part of our humanity appears and is presumed to be most important – to the very exclusion of the Creator from the equation.

Without the Creator we relegate ourselves to animality – to being accidental evolutionary outcomes.  With and in relationship to the Creator, personhood and personality are the very essence of being and becoming fully human.  They are not accidents; they are gifts.  They are not a survival strategy but the essence of purpose and the expression of the Creator’s being in and through His/Her creative handiwork and artistry.

We see God’s signature everywhere and in everything – every singularly different galaxy, star, solar system, and planet on the cosmic scale, and every microbe, mouse, and living thing on the micro-scale.  While we seem to randomly come into existence through the agency of our parents, there is nothing random about it, for it is all made to live and move and have being within the incredible design and living action of the One who gives it , and us, life and movement and being.

The Third Way in its perfection is the way modelled, lived, taught, and passed on by its ultimate incarnation, Yeshua/Jesus.  It is the way of redemption, of reconciliation, of repentance (as in turning around, turning back to the One who made us for communion with Him), and integration into His family, His Kingdom, and relationship with Him.

The struggle we face in this age, for as long as it continues, is finding the way to bring it as much into our lives and the life of our communities and nations as we possibly can, even in the face of the hostility of the system which rejects it because it contradicts so much of how we humans want things to work to validate our claim to primacy and even demi-deity. 

The Third Way is not a way of right or left, Conservative or Liberal, Socialist or Capitalist.  As Jesus put it, paradoxically, he came to bring both peace and a sword.  Too often those claiming to speak and act for him have resorted primarily to the sword.  The peace mission of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed and Sent One, is universal, as so much of the story declares.  When Simon-Peter took out a sword and struck one of those arresting Jesus to have him crucified, Yeshua rebuked him, “Enough of that!  Put away your sword!  Those who live by the sword die by the sword!”

Yeshua taught that his rule was opposite to all the coercion and manipulative control by fear and cajoling and threat of violence implicit in how our systems work.  But until He returns to rule in person, those claiming to follow and emulate him are in the thick of the dilemma of being called out of “the world” (the old system of power-politics and power-games for selfish gain) but still living in it and having to navigate not being “of” the system.

So it is not a game of right versus left, but of justice versus injustice, personal wealth and well-being versus commonwealth, restraining evil and stopping evildoers while offering them restoration and reconciliation.  It is not a question of personal privilege and absolute personal rights, but of personal and mutual responsibility and respect for one another as equally entitled to just treatment and fair opportunity, just as we have been gifted by the Creator.  And where our sin (failing) has robbed any of this mutuality and equity, it is a question of finding the path to removing the injustice and restoring what has been stolen.

It is delusion to create a false sort of equity which says that the tall and strong must be penalized to compensate the short and feeble.  It is a question of learning how to serve one another so that my gifts serve you and yours serve me in those areas where I cannot do what you can do.  It can never be about denying your individuality, gifts, abilities, and personality, and your enjoyment of them and their special strengths in order to “level everything for everyone” in the name of a false “equal opportunity”.  At 5 ft. 4inches, you cannot justly give me an equal opportunity to play in the NBA. You may legislate it, but it is not just.

There are real equalities of opportunity – such as the equal opportunity to choose good or evil, to choose service to others rather than self-promotion over everyone else. We all equally have a choice to seek and be found by the Creator and so discover our true purpose in Him/Her, or to seek all the personal advantage I can right now and discover how empty it all was when my hearts and breath stops and I cross over to meet my Maker. 

Even my very opportunities flow from my personality and bodily gifts – as in my unique personhood as gifted by the One.  When I focus fanatically on discovering “my true self” and “self-discovery and self-actualization” as the whole story, I paradoxically lose myself in the maze of endless byways and blind alleys.  As Yeshua put it, “The one who goes seeking his/her life [in the selfish quest of self-deification] will lose it, but the one who loses his/ her life for my sake will truly find it.”

The Third Way is the Way of Yeshua, and not the way “Christianity” – as in “the Church” as a system or an institution.  The way of Yeshua may well be partly found in such places, but has also been lost there.

It is not a call to found a new nation in any “normal” sense.  It is not a call to political revolution as in setting out to tear down Fascist, Communist, Capitalist, and/or Liberal Democratic states.  It is another path which operates like “leaven in the lump”.  It is like the unseen essence of life found in a seed which only appears when it is planted and watered and nurtured.

What it looks like is a subject with no definable boundaries in our “normal” way of talking about human societies.  It is also impossible to fully know in “this present age” even though those who find the Door into it begin to experience it as they travel its road. For the Door is a Person, not a place or a thing. And the path is a relationship, not a set of doctrines, dogmas, or commandments. At best, such things can be signposts, but they must not be mistaken for HIM.

Peace be with you in your seeking and finding.

Myth, Conspiracies, Shame, and the Quest for Truth, 5 – The Third Way, Reprise 2

“Even now. . . the Christian world view still affects—indeed, permeates—the Western cultural psyche, even when the latter is most apparently secular in disposition.”

– Tarnas, Richard. The Passion of the Western Mind, Understanding the Views That Have Shaped Our World View, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990). p.91

(Photo credit Pinterest)

Tarnas’ statement in the opening citation is still as true now as it was thirty years ago.  In some ways we have become even more secular, but in others considerably less.  When Tarnas wrote his much-acclaimed The Passion of the Western Mind, the internet was in its infancy and the World-wide Web a mere zygote.  Star Wars was still just a trilogy and the big-screen production of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit not even on the horizon.

Since then, we have seen an explosion of fantasy and dystopian post-apocalyptic tales, and the pulp-entertainment industry churns out so much magic and dragon-world mind-narcotics as to keep anyone hungering for escape of an kind able to spend the rest of her/his days doing just that – or playing super-real video-game versions of such imagined realities.  For many, virtual reality has become reality, for therein they can be a super-hero(ine) or super-villain and reach some sort of nirvana as they arrive at the pinnacle the final great quest.

All off this testifies that, as far as the deepest needs  of the human spirit and soul go, the secular paradigm which keeps the wheels of Western society more or less functioning is empty at the core.  It cannot truly inspire,  It offers a degree of bodily comfort and security, but has no vision to inspire the soul and engage the heart-of-hearts seeking real significance rather than the cold comfort of existential angst and the uncertainty principle married to quantum infinities.  Without the myth of a “supernatural” realm, in the end there is finally only a cold, dead universe left when entropy has finished its work in fifty billion years, or the implosion to the microdot of super-heat once more exploding into whatever random formulation appears the next time around.

Humanity is hard-wired for the quest for meaning, the hunger for significance, the driving passion to either find God or be god.  All of our known history shows it.  All our personal experience shouts it in our faces.  When we cannot or won’t find the Creator (although the Creator finds is, truth be told), we turn our innate drive for eternity to making stories and myths to set in the vacuum of the soul until the Light of Truth finds us.

That is why we have myth.  That is why, no matter how much we have been told and programmed to deny the myth, we keep replacing the old ones with new ones.  Denying the oldest “myth” of the Creator making humans in His/Her own image so that we might seek and find Him drives us literally insane – as in being of unsound mind, denying the most basic of all things about ourselves.  We compel ourselves to act even more terribly than the “Old Believers” ever did, creating Holocausts of whole inferior races and cultural groups instead of sacrificial holocausts of reconciliation with our Maker.

The most beautiful story ever told is about the Creator becoming one of us in order to lift us out of our spiritual suicide. It has been repeatedly and minutely deconstructed in the hope that He (not an “it”) would just fade away as a quaint old memory and irrelevant folk-tale.  As Saul-Paul of Tarsus once put it, writing to the Congregation in Corinth in ancient Greece in the mid 50s of the First Century:

“Where does that leave the philosopher [scientist, intellectual super-star], the Torah-teacher, or any of today’s thinkers?  Hasn’t God made this world’s wisdom look pretty foolish?  For God’s wisdom ordained that the world, using its own wisdom, would not come to know him.  Therefore God decided to use the “nonsense” of what we proclaim as his means of saving those who come to trust in it.  Precisely because Jews ask for signs and Greeks try to find wisdom, we go on proclaiming a Messiah executed on a stake [cross] as a criminal!  To Jews this is an obstacle, and to Greeks it is nonsense; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, this same Messiah is God’s power and God’s wisdom!  For God’s “nonsense” is wiser than humanity’s “wisdom”.

First letter to the Assembly in Corinth, Chapter 1: 20-25, The Complete Jewish Bible

            The “Jews” and “Greeks” in Paul’s analysis represent all of humanity in our dual approach to circumventing our desperate need for communion with our Maker and the incredible Cosmos He/She has made us a part of.  Our end-run around who and what we are and are made to be takes the two forms the Jews and Greeks of Paul’s days incarnated- the religious-spiritual-supernatural search for truth under our own terms, and the “philosophical” road.  But we need to understand that the “philosophy” of Paul’s time was not the dry, esoteric pursuit of a select group of academic theorists endlessly fussing about the definitions of terms to the point of not even being able to meaningfully communicate with one another, let alone the rest of society. 

            Paul, himself no slouch in the philosophy and literature of that time, summarizes it as “the wisdom of this world”.  The object of the search was “wisdom” – understanding of the cosmos and the human place in it.

            In today’s successor-West that role has largely devolved upon Science and its Siamese Enlightenment twin, Reason.  Part of the mythology of the present paradigm of wisdom, which is of the same character of the “wisdom” of the thinkers of Paul’s day, is that the story of the Messiah as God-come-as-a-human is nonsense.  In our reasoned scientific wisdom we know that a personal Creator cannot be behind the Cosmos, and therefore no human can be that Person incarnate.  It is still “foolishness to the Greeks” (everybody banking on the way of Science and Reason) and still an obstacle to the religious seekers. 

            The religious seekers of truth and the secular de-mythologizers have this in common: if we are to find the truth (wisdom), if such is to be found, about Reality as it exists, it must be on our own terms and by our own efforts.  We are, must be, in control.

            The Christian Third Way proclaims something so different that it lays an axe to the root of both these still-prevailing paradigms.  It first says that the true myth is that of human independence and self-sufficiency, that we are and ought to be proudly in control.  Secular wisdom warns, “The Maker robs us of our independence and demands our submission because He is ungenerous and wants to deny us our rights.  Therefore, away with the Creator!”  Or, if we can’t really get away from Him, we need to define how to relate to Him by deciding how and when and where. 

            Now we hear two whispers.  One is Marcus Aurelius’ echo of the elusive dream and vision of the world as it is supposed to be – the perfect “Rome” which is actually the pale reflection of the “New Jerusalem”, the everlasting City where the Creator abides and calls us.  The other is that of an ancient deceiver lurking in the shadows, trying to stay out of sight as part of the old discredited myth – “Did God (Elohim in the original, the same name of the Creator when He/She said, “Let us make humanity on our image… ”) really say…?

            Neither whisper is going away.  Both will remain, breaking ever in upon us, piercing our armour of self-sufficiency and independence at the most inconvenient and unsuspecting moments.  The monstrous Nazi and Soviet horrors of the twentieth century remind us.  At such moments the whispers become warning shouts, alarms, that our true nature is other than the myth of self and independence, the conspiracy of silence (or rather silencing) about the greatest story of all time.  Even a great leader of the West in that moment (Winston Churchill) recognized that it was really about the survival of “Christian civilization”, which even in 1940 was well on the road to a fading echo, although not then quite a whisper.

We will make one more foray into the Third Way in our next episode.

Myth, Conspiracies, Shame, and the Quest for Truth, 4 – The Third Way, Reprise 1

The Christian conception of man [humanity] stands above the false alternative of individualistic liberalism or capitalism and collectivistic State Socialism or Communism.  Christianity is absolutely unique in its conception of man [humanity] in which true personality and true community are not only firmly connected with one another but, at bottom, identical.  Wherever a community is firmly grounded in Christian thinking, neither individualistic nor collectivist Communism or State-Socialism are possible.  The “third way” is inherent in the Christian conception of [humanity] itself.  That is why Christianity is called upon to lead the way wherever the third way is seen as necessary and wherever, out of economic life itself, new schemes of social order emerge which are neither individualist nor collectivist.”

Emil Brunner.  Christianity and Civilisation, Second Part: Specific Problems.  London: Nisbet & Co., Ltd., 1949.  p. 97

(Photo original to the author – The Roman Colosseum – remains of the basement where the “performers” were kept. Jesus has been the true “Third Way” since his coming, and thousands of Christians died in this place to testify to him and that.)               

“… wherever the third way is necessary…”  Where is the third way not necessary in the 21st Century?  Where is there any society left in the world where “individualistic liberalism or capitalism and collectivistic State Socialism or Communism” are not now the ruling ideologies?  Where is there any society not drowning and floundering in the excesses of predatory individualistic capitalism combined with the assertion of personal rights run wild, or, alternatively, crushing State Socialism?  We have even seen the return of hybrid-Fascism without the name but with all the attributes in some countries (e.g. Russia and even China, which retains the Communist label but operates like a Fascist dictatorship more than anything else). 

What Brunner calls the “third way” is a far different path than the one we now find ourselves on in the West, and indeed in all the world now overwhelmed by the Western paradigm of progress. 

           Like the old Roman strategy of “bread and circuses” to dull the masses’ anger and exclusion, we are given mass-entertainment and fed mind-numbing pulp and distractions while the figureheads in office utter platitudes about equalizing opportunities for everyone.  Like denarii and sestercii thrown to the Roman mob, money is periodically poured into that mix to appease the populace with fancy-sounding new programs in particularly tense moments, such as the present.

            The two uneasily yoked ideologies Brunner names agree on one key element: the inadmissibility of the (Christian) Third Way to any part in the discussion of how to make things work better.  Brunner tells us that there is really only one way into the Third Way – Christianity.  Instead, we are treated to a yo-yo exhibition of more individual choices and rights to satisfy our discontent while offering no real way up or forward over the chasm-divide in living standards and other basic things and opportunities for the general population.

            The inadmissibility of the readmission of Christianity as a way forward is understandable from the dominant secular progressive perspective.  Christianity has worn so many cloaks and guises and brings so much negative baggage to the table that it is almost impossible to conceive how it has anything to offer.  Better to keep hoping in science and reason and the inherent basic goodness in the human heart [sic] to break through.  Either that or wait for the next violent revolutionary outbreak to see where that may take us.

            For that is the other shoe – the “Dark Side of the Force” that always lurks beneath the surface and keeps breaking out into the daylight with all its destructive ugliness.  When the people get too fed up with the inequality and suppression and parasitic egotism of the ruling classes, they rise.  Or, as Toynbee points out (see previous instalment), the outside barbarians arrive, kick down the rotten gates of the moribund civilization, and bring down the whole decrepit edifice with a great crash.  Then the cycle starts over again.

            For any real progress to occur, for any real change, we desperately need a “Third Way” to navigate through the dual predations of egocentric individualism married to predatory capitalism (which loves to play on the liberal ultra-individualism we so love) and crushing State Socialism seeking to level everything for everyone and thus sap the will to excel out of life.  The old Communism has gone, but it lingers in so much of our consciousness because so much of what its theory suggests seems morally right and looks like the antidote to predatory individualistic capitalism.

            Is Christianity really the only true way forward, the only way into the Third Way that is neither of the two dominant systems? 

            So what is the Myth?  What is the Conspiracy?  What is the Shame?  As to the Quest for Truth – it goes ever on.  It is everyone’s great quest – even if only to find a truth we can live by for the moment, in the here and now.  For how can we ever find “the Truth” in a universe so limitless, so vast in all its complexity, so full of contradictions, so deep in its unsolvable mysteries?  The “Truth” we seek is the Big Answer to the Big Question: “WHY?”

            Not that we spend our days continually seeking such answers.  We can’t live that way.  Life must go on.  We must “muddle through”.  Rather, willy-nilly as we live life we develop answers of some sort to fill the void, to deal with the myths and stories of origins, to understand the conspiracy (however we understand it) to suppress and cover up the hidden truth, to escape the shame (individual and collective, for we all have it) of being and doing wrong and “missing the mark”.

            But there is still that Aurelian “whisper” flitting in the twilight fringe.  There is that nagging thing about Christianity and its connection to the way out, the way forward, the way ahead to Marcus Aurelius’ “dream that was Rome”.  There is that “mythical” Jesus-guy always out there on the fringe, beckoning to something in us that longs for release from the shame, from the conspiracy of silence and repression, from the myth of progress.

            For three centuries the progressive story has put it out that the Jesus we knew in the West was not the real Jesus, but a later mythical concoction.  Paradoxically, all we have been learning as we have “demythologized” him over the last two centuries now says he was very real, an actual historical person so revolutionary that he upset the greatest civilization and empire of the ancient (and perhaps any) era.  He keeps coming back, like one who “rises from the dead”!

The distant “Classical” age killed him to silence him. But when he just wouldn’t stay dead, it tried to crush the movement that sprang from his life and example.  Instead, the (Roman) Empire’s leaders found that they had to co-opt the emerging Third Way to serve the old ways. 

 “Christendom” was the hybrid child of that union.  Instead of rehashing that tortured tale, let us identify the real “conspiracy” – the conspiracy to turn the original Jesus revolution to serve the old gods of greed, power, lust, pride, etc., etc.  Given the human heart’s still broken condition and divided soul, the servants of Jesus, whether sincere or those of convenience, too often fell into the trap. 

Despite all of that, out of this hybrid civilization grew something definitely better and more humane than what had been before.  There was more room for compassion, for healing of the body, soul, and mind, for forgiveness, for charity, for reconciliation, for recognition of the equality of all persons before God, for genuine opportunities to education and to rise above one’s birth-class.  Out of this struggle to bring fruit even from this troubled marriage came institutions to foster all the best ideals still living in its bosom: schools even for the poor, hospitals and hospices, orphanages, homes for the homeless, refuges for widows, governments that began to let the people’s voice be heard, however feebly at first, a justice system that gradually offered something closer to a “fair trial”, and even the first universities for the pursuit of the quest for truth!  If all are God’s children by virtue of being created in His image, then all have dignity and value.

At the best of times for more than a millennium even the powerful and the elite made room for such things and paid at least lip-service to them.  There was, in fact, real overall progress.  There was in fact growing understanding that matters of race, language, birth, and even religion do not obviate the made-in-God’s-image humanity of all humans everywhere.  It was not universal or constant, but the seeds grew and bore fruit.

The Enlightenment myth of Christianity’s suppression of truth and human dignity was a caricature born of the many sins of leaders following more in the footsteps of the old gods rather than in those of the Creator-Redeemer they paid lip-service to.  The great stumbling block for the secularist philosophes was this Jesus-fellow as an historical person.  It became necessary to mythologize him, strip him of his real humanity and historical presence and certainly of any hint of miraculous properties.

There is indeed great shame on many of the misguided leaders of the old Christendom and even today on some of Christianity’s present representatives.  But there is at least an equal share on those conspiring to strip Jesus and the best of his followers and disciples – whether well-known or anonymous, as most of them have always been and remain – of the just recognition due to the fact that so much that is most noble and worthy of preserving in the West has come from the root of the coming into this world of Yeshua of Natzeret two millennia ago.

There is shame enough to go round for all of us, just as there is truth enough to be found and shared by all of us.  It is time for an end to conspiracies to cover up the truth and deny our universal share in the blame-and-shame game.

NEXT TIME: THE CONCLUSION

Myth, Conspiracies, Shame, and the Quest for Truth: 3

“A learned fool is a greater fool than an ignorant fool.” – Molière

“People are never nearer playing the fool as when they think themselves wise.” – Mary Wortley Montagu

“Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope

“The fool has said in his heart, “There is no Creator.”” – Psalm 14:1

Last time we finished with this:

“The game was on.  Whose way would yield the most results – the team of Scientific Reason and Progress, or the teams of the model “City on the Hill, the New Jerusalem”?  Who would win the reins of influence and power to direct the future of the West?”

VJM

As we survey the civilization of the West in the third decade of the 21st Century, it is not unreasonable to give the decision to the secular progressives.  In the public forum – the world of politics, general culture, and social policy – secularism undoubtedly rules.  Matters of personal faith have been, and often by law are now required to be, kept as private, personal convictions.

We still publicly profess all the requisite “freedoms”, including those of conscience, religion, and expression.  We have enshrined them in constitutions and Bills of Rights.  

Human societies have always engaged in excluding deviants and misfits, in shunning and shaming them by subtle and, if necessary, blunt and even brutal sanctions.  It is just a question of who and what will be placed in the “too be shunned and shamed” category.  That is a moving target – just as it was with the original ostracisers of ancient Athens in the 5th Century BCE.  Once a year they would write the name of the latest pariah on their ostrakoi (pottery fragments used to vote someone out of the polity and into exile).  A few years later they could invite him back to save them from the dreaded Spartans.  (I am referring to the gripping story of Alcibiades in Thucydides’ great classic, The History of the Peloponnesian War.)

For certain sorts of behaviours and thinking, severe sanctions are entirely appropriate and essential.  No one wants sociopaths and psychopaths running wild and claiming they have every right to legally declare and practice all sorts of perversion and destructive behaviour.  Occasionally, as in totalitarian societies where the sociopaths and psychopaths take over, we have witnessed the results of such legalized horrors unleashed on the general population.  The pariahs rule and outlaw the former good people.  But here in the Post-Christian West we find ourselves walking a razor-thin line.  How do we handle the now much-frowned upon, old Christianity-tainted ideologies of our forebears and still maintain the reality, or at least the veneer, of our all-inclusivism?

Other cultures have less of an issue with forthright discrimination.  Islamic countries make no bones about it.  Islam is #1 and the rest may be tolerated up to a point.  Nominally communist societies d0 likewise, although there is no genuine communist society anywhere, nor was there in the soviet era.  Soviet countries were communist in name and in official ideology, but a far cry from the Marxist version of utopia, however they rationalized their horrendous performance.

The saddest part of the West’s identity crisis is that the triumphant secular establishment does not have the courage of its own proclaimed convictions.  It has gone beyond the pendulum-swing analogy of a strong reaction against the stifling shackles of the old religion and its clinging tentacles.

“Civil liberties” zealots have militantly sought out and, with the assistance of their acolytes and adherents in positions of legislative, judicial, and cultural power and influence, sought to expurgate or at least silence the vestiges of the Judeo-Christian roots of this culture from public consciousness.  In many disciplines, no respectable, serious student and scholar would adopt that sort of worldview for themselves (at least never in any public way) and hope to retain their reputation and ability to advance to the highest levels of their chosen field.

Our cultural amnesia conveniently sets aside the clear evidence that the very foundations of all the best progressive features of the very culture we luxuriate in are more than a little derived from the very foundations we wish would just disappear under the sediment of history.

What are we talking about?  What do I mean by such a statement? 

What are the actual origins of the progressive social-democratic West?  Is it really rooted in the Enlightenment minus Christianity?  The progressive elite will not say so in so many words, but they still believe in “our” (the West’s) sacred mission to show the rest of the world the way past Marcus Aurelius’ “whisper” to the reality of the coming utopia.  This is nothing more than a retooled evangelistic mission to “save the world” – minus the Cross of Christ.

After all, isn’t the West the beacon and example of how to educate a population into the great pluralistic, inclusive, multicultural all-embracing paradise?  Isn’t the West the example for all of how to include everyone in being cared for in a universal health-care system, a universal welfare system, a universal pension system, etc?  Haven’t all these things been born in the West, instituted in the West, and now been exported to all the rest of the benighted world who need to learn the “right” way to look after their own people?  Haven’t we developed the economic methods, the technologies, and the organizational methodologies to bring all this to pass?  Didn’t we spearhead the United Nations, the Red Cross, and so many other great benevolent institutions to bypass the blockages of the pernicious old nationalisms and particularisms? 

Isn’t the emerging World Order due to the West’s great leadership, humanitarianism, and compassion for all?  And isn’t all this the outcome of the magnificent breakthrough of the Enlightenment in shattering the old superstitions and dark fantasies of supernaturalism?

But what is the whole notion of the progress of history, of human society from one phase to another, from “worse” to “better”, less-developed to more developed, really rooted in?  Did the secular worldview derive this from the “Classical” past which its proponents place with the brilliant Golden Ages of the Greeks and Romans, the great minds of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and so many others?

To put it bluntly – No!  The whole notion of progress in history, in human development, in the rise of human life and society from darkness into light, brutality to civilized polity, is Biblical!!  It is straight out of the Creation epic and the saga of the human journey from its Creation to its “Fall” – rebellion against the Creator, to its Redemption, to its journey in this world towards the promised completion in our ultimate destination in a New Heaven and a New Earth, promised by the Creator and guaranteed by His sending of His Son, Yeshua ben Yosef of Natzeret at the right time.

The roots of the other story we are being asked to accept lie in the great “Classical” philosophers who have inspired so many since.  The great secular philosophers of the modern and postmodern West are all their disciples, generations removed indeed, but still the children of the Ancients.  But the Ancients’ whole notion of the big picture was not linear or progressive at all. It was cyclical. 

“But what about the evidence of science and evolution as the “real” story of beginning and progress to greater and better?  Doesn’t the whole line of evolution take us “naturally” to some ultimate goal or destination with a humanity of unlimited potential?”

It may seem so superficially.  But the same story concludes with a return to elemental disintegration, full circle, dissipation, the end of all meaning.  It’s a great big “SO WHAT?”  After all that movement for billions of years, what does it mean?

We are left with an empty void – just like the old creation myths describe the beginning.  Except this is not the beginning, but the end.  And then, just perhaps, it all begins again to go back around ad infinitum.

Thus “progress” is really an illusion, a trick we play on ourselves to give us a sense of meaning while we are here, as long as we don’t think too long and hard about the glossed over brutal meaninglessness of it all.

There is no reason that it should mean anything at all in any ultimate sense.  The only other possibility is that we are wrong about the beginning and about how things have moved in time and history and why they move that way.  Unless there is a real story of progress rooted in a real series of events that have had a sense and meaning right from that beginning.

That is what the Judeo-Christian story has said, what it still says, and what it has passed on in the very heart of the West’s, worldview.  Today’s secular progressives can try with might and main to change the story of origins and why we value what we value.  But their very foundation-stone, the very “cornerstone”, as the Bible calls it, is the story of the Creator’s action to create, to create humanity in His/Her own image, and to give humanity an infinite value and an infinite purpose, with a story to live and co-create, and with a goal to arrive at – eternal union with the Person of the Creator Him-/Herself.

Meanwhile, our culture is running as fast as it can the other way with its fingers stuffed in its ears like a rebellious child yelling, “No! No! I don’t want to hear this!  Stop it! Stop it!  I won’t listen to this!”

TO BE CONTINUED

Myth, Conspiracies, Shame, and the Quest for Truth: 2

“All truth is God’s truth.”

John Calvin, ca 1560

(Photo credit – Quotefancy)

How does a society change?  How does a culture shift?  How does the basic belief system of a whole civilization turn in a new direction? 

The casual reader may not have great patience for this kind of discussion.  But in the West of the 21st Century, we signify the importance of such questions by referring to how things now are versus how they used to be, as recently as forty or fifty years ago.

Previously, we have noted that change is one of the very few certainties we can all count on.  Even if we sit still and do nothing, the Law of Entropy decrees that everything will decay and fall into ruin and corruption over time.  That is a law of physics, of inevitable change. 

For some things, this is a rapid process – like the cycle of life for many plants, insects, and micro-organisms.  Even stars, solar-systems, and galaxies manifest this Law.  It is universal.  At the personal level, our bodies remind us of it as we age and find ourselves gradually losing strength, agility, flexibility, hair, teeth, potency, visual and auditory acuity, and even height!  Looking at photos of our families and relatives – and ourselves – is a good reminder of all this and keeps/makes us suitably humbler than we might otherwise be.  “The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be.”

As we see this inexorable process in nature, so too in societies, cultures, and civilizations.  Arnold Toynbee’s monumental A Study of History is still a great introduction to how we see entropy in action over centuries and millennia of human societies.  Like an individual’s life, it ebbs and flows – Conception of a society and culture, Birth of a Civilization, Decline, Partial Recovery, Final Decline as morbidity takes hold, Demise (Death), as the forces of decay set in beyond the ability to stave them off any longer.  Often, even usually in the case of civilizations, outside powers, waiting for the signs that the time is right, issue the coup de grace by mercifully (?) kicking in the door and knocking down the derelict structure so they can take what they want from the ruins and expand or start their own time in the sun.

We describe the pinnacle of a civilization/culture/society’s existence and achievements as its “Golden Age”, and the later “Recovery” phase after a period of initial decline as its “Silver Age”.  Humanity has also always yearned for an illusory “Utopian Age” – the time of the reign of the gods, of the heroes, of the legendary supremely virtuous founders who inspire us still with their example.

A civilization’s greatest flourishing happens its Golden Age, producing the greatest thought, the greatest art, the best and most beneficent rulers, the most equitable overall prosperity, an era of unparalleled peace and security, etc.   When this departs, as it inevitably must, following generations hark back to it and to its great people with deep longing, drawing inspiration from them. 

As in the film Gladiator when the old Emperor Marcus Aurelius says in his secret conversation with General Maximus, “There was once a dream that was Rome.  It was so fragile that you could only whisper it…” our Utopias stir us with some deeper spiritual vision, so fleeting but so real, moving like a chimera in and out of our awareness that, as unreal as it is, it is still more meaningful than the “real” .

We in the progressive West live double-mindedly, with divided souls.  We serve two masters trying desperately to please/serve both.  We have self-induced amnesia about how that works out in the end.  We have seen this saying before: “Nobody can serve two masters.  Otherwise, they will either hate the first and love the second, or be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You can’t serve both the Creator and wealth.”  (Matthew’s Gospel in the New Testament, chapter 6, verse 24)  It is from Jesus of Nazareth, historically the West’s once most revered figure. 

We are riven between the lust for an ever greater degree of material comfort and pleasure built on a foundation of predatory capitalism, and, on the other track, dreaming of a Utopia of perfect harmony of rights and individual liberties coupled with responsible behaviour towards everyone regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, etc., etc.  The list of special status keeps lengthening by the year as everyone with some claim to exclusion comes to the table for recognition.

Buried in our Jungian collective memory and our civilization’s foundations there is an old dream.  We now see and hear only its “whisper” as Marcus Aurelius put it.  Its ghost is fading in and out of our ability to perceive it.  It was the dream of a Christian world and a truly Christian society.  Saul of Tarsus (the Apostle Paul), its earliest ideologue, described its inclusiveness in two ways, like the double-aged Roman sword of his time, a razor-sharp instrument that cut both ways equally.

“There is no longer Jew nor Greek; there is no longer slave nor free; there is no longer “male nor female”; you are all one in the Messiah, Jesus.” (New Testament, Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, chapter 3, verse 28.)

And then, “For there is no distinction: all sinned, and fell short of God’s glory…” (Letter to the Romans, chapter 3, verse 22b-23)

For more than a thousand years, the divide in the West’s soul created the dream of “Christendom” on the one hand while still lured and divided by the old habits of heart and mind of power, greed, and lust.  The cynics, or perhaps realists, have always had plenty of ammunition to question the dream of the coming of the Kingdom of Christ in the warp and woof of human history – Christendom!

What brought that hard-fought battle for the soul of a civilization to a crescendo was the evidence of spreading rot at and in the heart of the official institution that stood as visible sign of the presence of Messiah on earth – the Church.  The “Body of Christ on earth” – the Church – seemed itself to have succumbed to the three great temptations – power, greed, and lust – at least in its upper hierarchy, and the calls for purging of the sickness seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Finally, the most desperate of those seeking for a return to “first love” decided to challenge the very order of the Christendom which had emerged in place of the “peaceable Kingdom of Messiah”.  That Kingdom facsimile was built as a hybrid of what Jesus and Paul exampled and taught.  The old ways of power and control inherited from the Roman era with Roman-styled concepts of how to create conformity through the use of “this age’s” methods had taken hold.  It had fallen far from “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female”.

We will not retell the long and complex story of the West’s weaving, sometimes staggering dance from right to left, longing after a sort of purer, cleaner “Christendom” and veering towards the other ditch of “wipe the slate clean and find a new way forward towards the “whisper””.  Suffice it to say that after a very complicated “civil war of Christendom” that lasted about two hundred years (we will arbitrarily say from ca 1450-1650CE), the idea of Christendom itself was fading to chimera status.

In the 17th Century, thinking movers and shakers of a new sort emerged, proposing that the old Greco-Roman ideal of Reason, used now with the new methodology of Scientific method and logic, could show the way forward, could propel the West out of its delusion of “Christ-on-on-earth-in-his-people” being the way to create the longed for Utopia of harmony, unity, and liberty.  But “Christendom” did not “go gently into that good night” and kept reappearing at the meeker, national scale rather than as a remodeled Roman imperialism.  True disciples and believers sought to create smaller-scale models – a “City on a hill”, a “lamp on a lamp-stand” to give light to the whole house of fragmented Christendom. 

One line of this thinking was that it could be better done in “the New World” west across the Atlantic if you just started with the right set of dedicated, committed people.  Experiments of this sort were set up in New England, New France (Ville-Marie), and New Spain.  Some were even tried in the Old World in areas less under the sway of conformist Imperial or Royal tyrants – (the Mennonites, Hutterites, Moravians, etc.)  Idealist Roman Catholic attempts were made too, inspired by Jesuits to large degree.

The divergent Western path followed the new “Enlightened” philosophes, arguing and persuading that, however reformed, the old superstitions could not take us out of the darkness. These must be set aside all together.  God could be kept on as a sort of magnanimous cosmic clock-maker who set out the laws of existence, but left the outworking of our sojourn in the Cosmic drama to us, to be done within his discoverable parameters within His/Its universal benevolence, justice, and equity.  These Enlightenment “Deists” were the old Roman Stoics reprised.

The general target in all these notions, schemes, and attempts at implementation of the Great Dream was the “whisper”, the here-again-gone-again chimera of the ideal age and society of universal harmony and justice.  The ideal of “progress” was born to indicate moving towards the goal at long last.

The game was on.  Whose way would yield the most results – the team of Scientific Reason and Progress, or the teams of the model “City on the Hill, the New Jerusalem”?

Who would win the reins of influence and power to direct the future of the West?

TO BE CONTINUED

Myth, Conspiracies, Shame, and the Quest for Truth: 1

“I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” –

Frederick Douglass

“Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves.” – Jesus

“[To] conspire – combine privily for unlawful purpose, especially treason, murder, sedition…plot…” – The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1964

 “The garb of religion is the best cloak for power.” – William Hazlitt, English journalist, 1819.

(Photo credit: Quotefancy)

For years now, we have been witnessing the growing the gullible credulousness of many millions in believing and accepting as “cash” the most egregious falsehoods.  E-media and its social (anti-social?) counterpoint have greatly exacerbated and accelerated this unfortunate side of human nature.  It has manifested itself via the “grapevine” and “rumor-mill” since time immemorial. 

Even sadder is the tendency of professing and practicing religious people (no particular religion holds a monopoly on this) to engage in these tales and even commit themselves to propagating them and, to some degree, acting on them. 

No more blatant illustration of this can be found than the recent events in the USA surrounding the defeat of Mr. Trump and the election of Mr. Biden.  Substantial evidence has come to light that probably 50% of those engaged in the pre-inaugural assault on Capitol Hill were “good folks” of Evangelical persuasion and regular Sunday Church attendance.  On a personal note, I find this very sad and disturbing, but not too surprising.

Violent phenomena have recently occurred in a series of religiously motivated murders and attacks on strangers and tourists in India based on wild rumors.  Islamists have long used the same methods to generate ferment and outbreaks against “infidels” in areas of Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and African states.

As to “true believers of whatever persuasion convinced of the rightness of their extreme behaviour, I am certain that nothing I can say will change the minds of those deeply steeped in what has actually become (for Christians) a false gospel, so interwoven with the Bible and a certain strain of triumphalist theology that they cannot separate them.  For them, the religion of Christ has become (or maybe always was) the religion of a certain conception of national and political righteousness, committed to preserving, restoring, or (re)creating a lost dream of what the USA was founded for back in its early years when the Pilgrims and other idealist pioneers sought to create the “City on the Hill” in the “New World” because hope for its coming in the old (Europe) had faded.

As we are leaving Black History month, it is an appropriate moment to let a great Black and Civil Rights pioneer, speaking as a Christian, be heard on this subject.  These words were penned 160-170 years ago and are still frighteningly relevant:

“Between the Christianity of this land [the United States], and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference – so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked.  I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.  Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.”  – Frederick Douglass – Autobiography…, quoted in Common Prayer, a Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Zondervan, 2010, p.153.

As a Canadian, I cannot be smug about my own country’s participation in deceiving itself about its Eurocentric concept of “civilizing the savages [the indigenous peoples]” – i.e. assimilating them to be “good Christians like the rest of us”.  And our history of welcoming and including Afro-Canadians and other minorities is not much more (it at all) distinguished.

Point of fact, there are no cultures or societies on the planet which have any reason to believe themselves more righteous in this sort of history than any other.  Indigenous enslaved and oppressed other indigenous –even before the coming of those devilish Europeans.  Ancients enslaved other ancients in the millions. Muslims perpetrated (and some still do) all the same sorts of evils on peoples they conquered and forced to assimilate or face all the usual sorts of consequences for not doing so.  Let us put aside the legends of Islamic toleration and magnanimity in comparison to the “Crusader States”.  The Jews and Christians they overran, raped, pillaged, and slaughtered to “serve as examples”, or the Parsees of Persia, or the idolatrous Hindus, etc., would beg to differ. 

No one anywhere has lived up to what most “progressive” people will at least publicly profess as the “proper, correct” way to respect differences and build a truly pluralistic, inclusive society.

What is most interesting about where such modern progressive ideas are most deeply implanted is that they are found in the self-same nations that were most guilty (at least as the “official” versions of history now dominant in Academia have it) of perpetrating the most horrible historical crimes, sins, wrongs (or whatever term you prefer).  It is a striking paradox. 

The “official” progressive version of this apparently amazing turn-around in a culture so steeped in subduing the rest of the world to exploit as its mass-market and resource-base is that the Enlightenment broke the millennial spell of religious quackery over the minds of the leading thinkers, who then gradually disseminated the new truth of “liberty, fraternity, equality” (the French Revolution’s toxin-cry) or “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (the USA Declaration of Independence toxin-cry) among the populace.

Apparently, nobody before Rousseau, Jefferson, and Tom Paine ever thought or wrote about such things!  Apparently, their “new” wisdom was so electrifying that it galvanized all right-thinking people into action to overthrow the moribund Christ-religion’s hold and awaken the West to surge into a new age when, at last, Utopia was within reach!

The biggest problem with this version of history is its patent lack of support in how and why the “turnaround”, as imperfect as it was and still is, actually occurred.

Not that Rousseau, Jefferson, Paine and other salient thinkers like Voltaire did not play a role and say and write some stimulating stuff to get some people thinking and talking and even willing to act.  To attribute to the Enlightenment and the new “Religion of Progress” (!) – and yes, the French “progressives” even invented such a thing to replace the Roman Catholic Church in France as the (First among several) Revolution got into full swing – all that changed was and is simply a new mythology, a very selective and very truncated account of what actually transpired and who was responsible for most of it.

We hardly have time to do more than offer a snippet of that story today.  Let us take Mr. Hazlitt’s cogent aphorism (see above) as a starting point.  Mr. Hazlitt, as well as William Cobbet, another well-known journalist-pundit of that time in England, was criticizing William Wilberforce and “the Saints”, an Evangelical faction in Parliament, for justifying a series of repressive measures aimed at suppressing the early efforts to give labourers the right to organize.  On this occasion, the “Saints” did merit some hard criticism.  In fact, some of them also criticized Mr. Wilberforce, without the acid sarcasm.  (Now there’s mindless religion for you- disagreeing with your mentor and leader!)  Effectively, Hazlitt, Cobbet and others saw only hypocrisy in professing religious convictions while actively engaging in the dirty world of politics on the “wrong” side – the one you don’t like!

The exercise of power in the hurly-burly world of politics, business, and commerce is always messy.  Even within the confines of religious institutions, where one might expect (hope, anyway) them to be minimal, they can be vicious and devastating.  It is not unfair to be more acerbic and bitter against open professors of high moral principles who fail to measure up to their own expectations.  But to accuse them of being villains because they do not live up to their critics’ expectations is another thing.  (People who live in glass houses and all that…) The details of the affair in question in this instance are not important for our point.  The issue is whether it is always hypocritical and false to put on a “garb of religion [a]s the best cloak for power”.  Using religion as a “put-on”, as we ex-wanna-be hippies “put” it?  Definitely not cool!

But what if the “religion” in question is not a mere “garb”, not a “put-on”?  That is the falsehood on the other side.  So let’s ditch the pejorative term “religion” and say “conviction” or “worldview”.  You can fake “conviction” and even a “worldview” up to a point.  Today religion is seen as an outward performance more than anything else – a “mere garb”.  In the post-modern West it has virtually no status as a sincere set of life-principles. 

But no one who does not really and truly hold a conviction and worldview in their soul can fake it for a lifetime.  It is not a garb.  It is who they are. 

Wilberforce (the architect of the abolition of the slave-trade and ultimately of full emancipation in the British Empire), was no faker or fakir.  He was a Christian through and through, as were most of his closest collaborators (the “Saints”) both in Parliament and beyond. Like anyone else, he made mistakes of judgment and action. But his historical record large-writ speaks for itself.  

That is the precisely the kind of fallacy about what really happened in the attainment of our modern-post-modern progressive Western society we have to debunk.  Its roots were not miraculously planted by a gaggle of Enlightenment philosophes who suddenly discovered the truth about basic human rights and amazingly seeded and then brought them to fruition in the rocky soul of a religiously purblind society.  But that is the standard caricature that has bemused our intellectual and educational establishment for the last 160 years at the least.

We will suspend this tale here for this week and pick it up next time.

The Money-Game

“The love of money is the root of all evil.”  The New Testament, 1 Timothy 6:10

“If you make money your god, it will plague you like the devil.” – Old English proverb

“The price we pay for money is paid in liberty.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

(Photo credit – Pinterest)

(Note to the reader: The following is not meant as a put-down of honest business-people and entrepreneurs who act with integrity and fair-mindedness.  Rather, it is a sort of parable of how so many “regular folks”, even honest business-people, become trapped by and in the moils of the money-game which has produced so much misery and evil in human history over the six or so millennia in which the “game” has been on.)

In the 21st Century, it is pretty much impossible to live without money.  It’s nice to fantasize about retreating to the deep wilderness somewhere and “living off the land” as we conceive our remote ancestors once did.  Cro-Magnon humans or Neanderthals, and the earliest groups of homo sapiens sapiens, would have done so, according to Palaeontology and Anthropolgy.

The earliest myths and legends do not tell tales of money, although some speak of quests for gold and riches of some sort, usually coupled to a quest for power.

A moneyless society, we imagine, would be a sort of proto-paradise.  If only we could return to the barter system, the just and equitable quid-pro-quo method of doing business, cutting a deal to mutual advantage, fair trade between equals.  “You want/need this thing which I have, and I want/need that thing which you have.  Let’s cut a deal we can both live with.  Let’s give our solemn mutual pledge; let’s shake on it; let’s give each other our left shoes.” (This was an ancient custom between negotiators in Hebrew and Canaanite societies about 1200 years BCE).

The perpetual roadblock to realizing such fantasies is stubborn old human nature.  You and I may be happy to negotiate as equals, but there have always been shrewd aggrandizers and manipulators looking for the thrill, the pleasure, the “rush” of putting one over on the gullible dupe.  “Ah, Suckers!  There’s one born every minute!” famously said P.T. Barnum with great relish (or was it mustard he preferred on his circus hotdog?).  There have always been lazy, sleazy types ready to latch onto the unscrupulous manoeuvrers and ambitious people seeking advantage over regular folks.  The “shifty” types are happy to help the shrewd to “play” the dupes who only seek a quiet life among their neighbours.  Scammers call us up regularly offering impossible get-rich-quick schemes, or, in more recent schemes, telling us to pay up or face prison.

Flash back to 3000 or so BCE.  Here comes Mr. Shrewd looking ahead to what others are probably going to want and need next season, even if they haven’t realized it yet.  He plans how to have it ready or knows how to get it ahead of time so the seekers will come to him first and negotiate on terms to his advantage. 

This year, Mr. Shrewd has a bumper crop of emer or barley far in excess of his own needs.  He goes out and trades with Mssrs. Hunter and Herdman for their skins, offering them seed, pots, or perhaps tools in exchange.  Hunter and Herdman are happy to make the exchange to ensure they will be able to plant and harvest and store what they reap and hunt.  And everyone needs skins for clothes and leather.  Leather is universally useful.  Everyone also needs seed and tools and pots to plant and harvest crops. 

Mr. Shrewd has it worked out.  In time, everyone will come to him, once they find there’s not enough to go round (and all the moreso since he traded for much of the excess).  He has become the essential man.  He can even hire a few fellows to serve and “talk” to some of the locals who maybe promised things they haven’t come across with.

In time, and probably not that much of it, the Mr. Shrewds began to network and develop a system of exchange among themselves to make sure that, when the time came, they did not lack the things Mssrs. Local, Yokel, Hunter, and Herdman would inevitably require.  Flexibility and collegiality were necessary skills to stay in the game, and the Shrewds who didn’t learn this dropped or were forced out to join the “marks”.

But how to keep track of all this?  How to create a trust network where Mr. Babylon-Shrewd and Mr. Assyria-Shrewd would help each other out even if one or the other didn’t have a suitable direct exchange right at the moment when one or the other needed something for his Locals and Yokels?  Write it down!  Pay it forward!  Keep it on record to be redeemed/made good later.  Invent writing and create “hard-copy” records that could be carried over distances and stored in a safe place to be kept track of.  (Clay tablets were definitely “hard-copy”! Cuneiform was definitely a contract etched in quasi-stone!)

One more stroke of genius was required to perfect the Shrewd System.  They needed a substitute form of payment rather than the cumbersome barter system.  After all, Mr. Shrewd-Babylon might not have what Mr. Shrewd-Assyria needed, but he knew Mr. Shrewd-Elam did.  So if Mr. Shrewd Assyria would give him something to offer Mr. Shrewd-Elam, all three could be happy.  And he, Mr. Babylon the middleman, could make a little (or a lot) extra for doing the extra work at both ends.  The substitute payment medium would have to be accepted by everyone in the network, something everyone thought was special and valuable.  Gold!  Silver!  Some other special things too – precious stones, rare things of beauty or special status.  Everyone likes those glittery things.

Voilà money!  Naked Power is already on the ground.  The local King-Priest-Chief Strongman’s tough boys demonstrate that.  The powerful immediately see the usefulness of getting control of the trade routes that everyone needs and wants. The Mssrs. Shrewd quickly learn that their access to this rapidly growing network rooted in both the local and wider economies gives them a fast in with the powerful.  It also gives them a sort of power of their own which, used carefully, could even move the warlords to forward the interests of the Shrewd network.

The rest, as we say, is history.  Eventually, money needed to become even more readily portable than lugging around rings and bars and ingots of gold, silver, bronze, and even copper and iron.  In the early Sixth Century BCE, King Croesus of Lydia found the solution and minted the first honest to goodness coins.  Henceforth, currency minted by some bona fide person of power and authority vouching for its purity and consistency becomes the medium of exchange.  And, just as in the old barter and trade system, the more you have the more powerful and influential you become, or can become.

Croesus lost his kingdom to Cyrus of Persia (ca. 550 BCE), who was so impressed by Croesus’ invention (and legendary wealth) that he made coinage the universal means of trade and exchange in his vast empire.  From Persia, the money-dance-and-romance spread like a prairie-fire around Eurasia and into Africa.

Such is a very bare-bones story of the coming of money.  But what of its intimate relationship with the phenomenon of evil?  After all, how can something so indispensable be “the root of all evil”?

The old English Proverb of our second citation tells us, and Mr. Stevenson seals the deal about money in the third.  Money can and does very often climb, wheedle, and claw its way into the heart of the one needing and seeking it.  And it is not only the rich and ultra-rich who become bewitched by it, thinking that if only they had more of it, life would be all wonderful. 

The madness of gold, silver, precious stones, and even our (in reality almost worthless as real things) plastic and paper symbols of those ephemeral baubles has driven countless millions and probably billions away from what can make them really content into the arms of the beguiler who claims he can make us content as he dangles the golden carrot in front of our noses and keeps it just out of reach until we are so crazed that we can no longer see or even think about the road back to harmony of body, soul, spirit, and peace of mind. Now the insanity is at the point where most money is not even a real physical thing but a digital accounting engram which has no substance except in human minds, yet the lust for it has never been greater!

“Money is the root of all evil,” a saying of the Apostle Paul, must be understood as part of an even bigger picture: that humans have turned their faces away from the Creator towards the bewitching glitz of things that can never do more than give fleeting pleasure and simulated happiness (and yes, even fifty, sixty, or seventy years is fleeting beside eternity).  Beneath the hunger for the glamour and shine and sense of being in control that real or digital bullion promises, there is the age-old original lie.  “You will not die if you take it, but you will become as wise as God, knowing all about [and by implication controlling] good and evil.”

The old Liar of liars (who goes by many names, including Satan, Lucifer, Ba’al, etc.) has found the lure of lures to keep us swallowing the same old rotten fruit.  It’s on us that we keep on reaching for it to taking the fatal bite that, like Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, makes us comatose to our real situation.

How many fruit-(f)lies (one of Old Nick’s Biblical names was “Ba’al-ze-bub” – Lord of the flies!) does it take to justify accumulating into billions the innumerable small holdings weaseled from billions of simple honest folk, or speculated out of driving up the cost of most everything they need to live on?

Yeshua of Natzeret put “paid” to this discussion when he said, “Nobody can serve two masters.  Otherwise, they will either hate the first and love the second, or be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You can’t serve both the Creator and wealth.” (Matthew’s Gospel in the New Testament, chapter 6, verse 24).

Choose your god wisely.

Certainty, Doubt, and Faith

“Doubt is the vestibule of wisdom which all must pass before they can enter the temple of wisdom.”

– Charles Caleb Cotton

“I respect faith, but doubt is what gets you an education.” – Wilson Milner

“Modest doubt is call’d the beacon of the wise.” – William Shakespeare

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.”

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Last time we mentioned the very short list of life’s certainties – birth, change, and death.  But I think we can legitimately add a fourth item to our list.  It is certain that we will believe something and, on the flip-side, come to doubt what we believe. 

Even people deprived of some of the most basic functions of the body and mind arrive at belief, or “faith”.  Even those who cannot vocalize their faith and belief still have it.  For example, I have a beautiful grandson with severe cerebral palsy, but he knows and believes he is loved and cherished by his family.  He knows by experience, by relationship, and has arrived at trust that it is so.  Although he cannot speak, he shows by his responses that he really knows and trusts that he is safe and loved.

It is helpful to use another word than “faith” with all its modern aerie connotations stemming from existentialist angst and post-modern sceptical deconstructionism.  A more specific, positive, and helpful word is “trust”.  In Hebrew the same word is used to say both, and ancient Greek does the same thing.

In other words, these two ancient foundational cultures whose genius gave birth to so much in the West, along with the later Roman and Germanic streams, saw clearly that faith is not a blind leap in the dark without good reasons to go that way.  Our super-sophisticated Western sceptics (although they have nothing on the ancient Roman cynics!) have so often and unhelpfully characterized “religious people” as merely weak-minded and credulous.  In truth faith is almost always a deliberate decision based on evidence and experience.  That’s what it is for my disabled grandson.  That’s what it is for any little child.  That’s what it is for almost all Theists and Atheists.

It’s always good to re-examine the evidence which has led us to “trust-faith”, but it has never been the “blind leap off the cliff” straw-man so much mocked by the likes of Richard Dawkins.  Perhaps some religious people have arrived at a real faith by such a route, but only after discovering that, after all, there really is someone to have faith in and be in relationship with.

The “jump-off-the-cliff-and-hope-for-the-best” route so often attributed to Danish philosopher and theologian Soren Kierkegaard (often called the father of existentialism) is actually a caricature of what Kierkegaard was saying about belief in God.  His point was that faith is a choice that must be made on the best evidence available.  Ultimately, it is a choice to trust that “still, small (quiet) interior voice” telling them they will be “caught” by strong arms when they “take the plunge”.  The New Testament defines faith, or “trusting”, as “being confident  of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see”, or, as another translation has it, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. (Letter to the Hebrews, Chapter 11, Verse 1.

Atheists and sceptics love to pillory theists, and particularly Christian theists, as gullible and naive because they put their trust in a personal Deity whose existence can never be proven.  “Proven” is a narrowly circumscribed term as they use it.  What they mean is “scientific” or perhaps philosophical, and therefore “irrefutable”, proof. 

By their own criterion, neither is there ultimately any “proof” for even the most sacrosanct “truths” of science.  Science’s trust-faith is entirely founded on the long-term reliability of human reason and the scientific method to conclusively demonstrate the nature of reality.  This is dogma, not science, for there are as many formerly scientific “truths” and “facts” which have been debunked as there are apparently now disproven religious dogmas in the trash-heap of history. Theologians also rely on reason and logic. Like any tool, these can be used for many purposes.

The long-standing “war between science and religion” is not the real point of our reflection in this post.  The real point is that we humans cannot live without “faith”, without trust, at least not for long.  We are inevitably going to believe, to choose something to trust as the foundation on which we take a position from which we will “do life”.  As Bob Dylan once sang, “You’re gonna serve somebody.”

Much stems from what we experience and what we are shown by example and instruction in our early years.  “Nature or nurture?” is the old debate.  The answer is “both”, nuanced by the discoveries of later experience in relationship to the immensity of Cosmos, our world, and our fellow humans.  Somewhere in all of that arises the growing “substance” and “evidence” that we are not in fact alone, that behind and within and through it all there are huge questions all pointing at the same answer.

Those very basic questions come out something like (with many variations possible), “Who am I? What is all this?  How did I/it get here?  What does it mean?  Why do things die?  Why is life so wonderful and painful all at the same time?  Is there anything after death?” etc, etc.

Ultra scepticism (systematic doubt) takes two forms.  The first is the post-modern type that denies we can ever be certain of anything and so have to question everything all the time.  (As mentioned above, this “post-modern” practice is really a reprise of the Greco-Roman cynics.)

This position instantly disproves itself by refusing to be skeptical of skepticism.  The second type of ultra-skepticism is of the mystical variety that says “all that is here is maya” (illusion, not really here at all).  This denies even that the individual doing the questioning  is really here, for there is no such thing as an “I” with an identity. 

In our “veriest bowels”, as Shakespeare puts it, we all know, or can and should know, as Descartes famously said, that “Je pense, alors je suis!  (I think, therefore I am!)”  The cynical response is to say, “The thinker thinking they exist because they know they are thinking may only be a deception of some greater being forming a thought that thinks of itself as an individual able to think.” This is patently absurd, but we will not here take the rabbit-trail that reveals its complete absurdity except to say it is totally self-contradictory. 

Such intellectual gaming is really a ploy to avoid Descartes’ and Kierkegaard’s very (to them) unacceptable ultimately identical conclusion that, “God is real.”  Both great thinkers also conclude that  God is a personal Being who gives us our being and our ability to conceive Him in thought and discover Him by experience in and through His creation.  Therefore, with open eyes and clear minds, they (and we) take the plunge in trust-faith based on the substance and evidence we can now see and experience all around us.  We find it even within our own hearts and souls.

We all long for certainty.  We all naturally experience doubt.  Doubt is the questioning of what we have taken as true up to the time we begin to seriously question that “truth”.  If we are to be honest, we must not run from our doubts, but face them.  We must allow our questions to come into the light.

Most simply, faith is trust, but not blind trust.  It is evidence-based trust.  It is knowledge-based trust.  It is relationship-based trust.  Is has “substance” based in reality, not mere imagination and wishful thinking.  For example, I know I can completely trust my spouse after almost five decades of doing life together.

The scientist trusts, has faith in, science and reason because of the repeated evidence that it works.  By it we discover how things work.  We know how its methodology can help us solve problems, give answers in practical ways to real critical issues.  We know it can show us how to protect people from deadly infections like COVID-19, how to create usable energy by controlling the forces and elements of nature, etc.

The “War” between science and religion is a misconception.  Theists and atheists both believe we can discover much about reality by the scientific method.  Both believe that our innate creativity and remarkable intellect can use the creation to bring into being things that would not exist without human invention. 

A theist easily explains why that is possible: the Creator made it in such a way that we can use the abilities of reason and faith to discover how the creation was made to function and how we can direct it to produce previously non-existent things.  In the best scenario, we can learn to protect it and care for the creation the Creator has placed us in. 

The atheist believes it just somehow happens to work that way as an inexplicable result of blind “evolutionary processes” that defy all the “laws” of probability.  Beneath it all, there is no real, compelling reason for it to be that way.  Nor is there any ultimate purpose in what is.  We are just here, and while we are here the best we can do is to try to make our existence as pleasant as possible for both ourselves and our fellow humans.  Or perhaps we only need to concern ourselves with our own comfort.

Let us conclude this reflection with this thought and a couple short open letters:

Thought: “Let the believer not be afraid to doubt; to question opens the path to greater wisdom.”

Dear Theist,

Doubt is not the enemy of trust-faith, but the way to new trust and stronger evidence for your relationship with the One you have discovered is really there and has been all along, even when His voice was silent (or, rather, when your eyes and ears were blocked).

Dear Atheist,

Dare to doubt your total faith in reason and science as the sole path to truth and wisdom.  Dare to consider some great thinkers and scientists who moved beyond dogmatic skepticism.  Finding a Creator did not suddenly make them scientific and intellectual weaklings.  Newton was no weakling.  Descartes was no weakling.  Pascal was no weakling.  Bacon was no weakling.  Einstein was no weakling.  Francis Collins is no weakling.  Hawking notwithstanding, we do “have need of that [the God] hypothesis”, now more than ever.

Pax tibi, amice!  (Peace be with, my friend!)

Transitions

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves.  We must die to one life before we can enter into another!”

Anatole France, French author and philosopher.

“There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change.”

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindberg the aviation pioneer.

“Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.”

Alvin Toffler, American futurologist and author.

(Photo credit: emindful.com)

(Note: Biblical citations in this piece are taken from The Kingdom New Testament as translated by Anglican theologian and Bible scholar N.T. Wright.)

The list of certainties in life is very short: birth, death, and change.  Some people add taxes to that list.  However, it is theoretically possible to conceive a life without taxes, and we are told by anthropologists that in primitive societies they didn’t exist – although contributions to the common weal were expected.

I suppose birth is not even inevitable if we accept that a child in the womb is alive, but may not make it to birth.  Of course, this has become a very uncomfortable and largely ignored subject in polite progressive societies like Canada, but scientifically there is no denying that an unborn child is alive.  The US is not as “polite” as Canada, so this subject is still a hot public one there.  But we will not follow that trail today, as worthy a discussion as it is to have.

The US has just undergone a very important change, a transition from one President to another, with the legislative reins of power also significantly shifting from Republican to Democrat hands.  Some readers of this blog are doubtless also going through major life-changes, transitions from one chapter to another.  All of us, young or old, rich or poor, famous or ordinary folks, partnered or single, are going through change, experiencing transition.  As Henry Ford once said, “Life is just one damn thing after another.”

Our three citations above all point to different facets of how everyone experiences transition.  I could have given many more.  I will simply add the gist of a few of them: “… [the] gate of change…can only be unlocked from the inside” (Marilyn Ferguson); “Most of us are about as eager to change as we were to be born…” (James Baldwin); and finally, a famous one, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” (Alphonse Karr)

Toffler speaks of change “invading” our lives.  This is because most of us, if we reach a place of comfort and ease, or just plain old being used to how things are even if they are pretty dismal, like “the devil we know rather than the devil we don’t know”.

Anne Lindbergh, who went through horrendous pain in her personal life, knew what she was talking about when she said that resisting the inevitability of change brings on “implacable punishment”.  In her case, she was speaking of deep grief never being able to bring back her once fairy-tale life after her dead child was kidnapped and killed and her family destroyed.  Anyone who has lost what is most loved and precious either learns this truth or ends up emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually destroyed.

It is easy to be philosophical about change as you observe it from afar.  It is a far different thing when I am the one in the midst of it.  When it involves great pain, loss, and prolonged suffering, whether physical, mental, or spiritual (and they are inextricably interwoven in the long run), philosophy becomes very thin.  At that point, survival becomes primary.  Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s paradigm of loss and grieving comes into play with all its messiness. 

There are many variables in how individuals, groups, and whole societies undergo transition and change.  There is no fixed template.  Kubler-Ross’s brilliant synopsis, nuanced since then by her and others, remains a tremendously helpful reference point, allowing that there is no clean order in which the phases occur, the length of time they may endure, or the intensity of the feeling.

“Navigating” change and transition is a helpful analogy.  Traveling the road of transition and change is much more like a voyage in an old sailing ship than in a vessel equipped with powerful engines to combat the forces of nature.  Even powerful modern ships are often blown off their planned course.  “Nature” and Life do not play by our rules.  Life is embedded in Nature and not governed by how humans hope, yearn, and strive to control its course and outcome.

With few exceptions, none of us knows ahead of time when “the end” will come.  Paul Anka and Frank Sinatra famously sang “I did it my way!” with more than a little autobiographical hubris.  I suspect that upon reaching the other side we find that what awaits us is not about “doing it my way” anymore, and in fact never was.  A very old aphorism says, “You reap what you sow; if you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind.”  If all you have is now and then you go into oblivion, perhaps the complete ego-centrism of “doing it my way” and telling everyone else that they can just go down “the highway [to Hell? – as per ACDC]” – has appeal.  But the deadness at the centre of such a life kills what is essentially human even for atheists.

“Doing it my way” is described by the Biblical author Kohelet (King Solomon’s pen-name) as “chasing after the wind.”  You can never catch up to it or cage it.  We like to think we are quite clever because we have found some technology to make the wind work for us when it is blowing the right way.  But we always rediscover that, as Jesus described the work of God’s Spirit, “The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound it makes; but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to.  That’s what it’s like with someone who is born from the spirit.” (John’s Gospel in the The Kingdom New Testament, Chapter 3, Verse 8.)

We can never really have it all our own way.  There is indeed a highway to Hell.  Jesus once described it like this.  “The gate that leads to destruction is nice and wide, and the road going there has plenty of room.  Lots of people go that way.  But the gate leading to life is narrow, and the road going there is a tight squeeze.  Not many people find their way through.”  (Matthew’s Gospel in the The Kingdom New Testament, Chapter 7, Verse 13.)

Born of the spirit.  That’s the difference between insisting I do it my way and everyone else can just take “go to Hell”, and discovering a life full of greater meaning and enduring fulfillment.  Humans are spiritual beings, but many of us spend our lives neglecting or even denying the inner source of our life.  When we do that, change become hell, because the darn old world and cosmos keep insisting that we’re not in charge, no matter how carefully we strive and contort ourselves to make the reality we want happen.

That is the deep truth that Anne Lindbergh was referring to when she said, “There is no sin punished more implacably by nature than the sin of resistance to change.” 

That is what Anatole France was driving at when he said, “We must die to one life before we can enter into another!”

The future will “invade our lives” as Toffler said.  And when it comes, if we have not prepared to meet it with openness and grace, it will “punish us” and perhaps even destroy the life we led up until that time.

We will conclude these reflections with another saying of Yeshua/Jesus that is really the last word about changing, for it speaks of the only way to really change permanently to open the road to birth into what the Creator made us to be.

“Let me tell you the solemn truth,” replied Jesus [to a Jewish leader named Nicodemus two thousand years ago].  “Unless someone has been born from above, they won’t be able to see God’s kingdom.”

“How can someone possibly be born,” asked Nicodemus, “when they’re old?  You’re telling me they can go back a second time into the mother’s womb and be born, are you?”

“I’m telling you the solemn truth,” replied Jesus.  “Unless someone is born from water and spirit, they can’t enter God’s kingdom.  Flesh is born from flesh, but spirit is born from spirit.  Don’t be surprised that I said to you, You must be born from above.  The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound it makes; but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to.  That’s what it’s like with someone who is born from the spirit.”

(Gospel of John, Chapter 3, Verses 3-8)