Today was a good day. It was a balmy 60º in April. Gotta love that. My friend Bill and I went for a walk. We are opposites when it comes to politics. So, we usually avoid that topic. We met at an evangelical church back when I was an evangelical. He’s still attending the church and is a former pastor. So, let’s say our religions don’t exactly line up either. I respect where he is. I think he thinks of me as lost. And, since I’m someone who is lost, it’s his duty as a Christian to get me back into the fold. I respect that. If he didn’t try, it would mean he doesn’t care.
He asked me where Tywana and I are going to church now. He wanted to know if we were still attending the “universalist” church. It’s an understandable mistake. I tell him no. We stopped going to the Unity church. I have more than enough social interaction with friends and neighbors and online. I don’t need church for that anymore. In fact, in the years we attended the Unity church not once did we do anything with anyone outside of the church service. As far as religious instruction, I get that via podcasts and reading. Tywana listens to Super Soul Sunday. When we were in Phoenix, we attended the Unity church there. Tywana listens to their podcasts. So, as far as the functions that church serves, it’s not something we need to get up for on Sunday morning and spend two hours, including drive time, to do.
He moved on to ask me what my relationship with “Christ” is like now. That is one of my pet peeves. Why is it Christians, and I think mostly evangelicals, call Jesus (Yeshua) Christ? They say they know him and they have a personal relationship with him. But, they refer to him by a title. Even worse is “Jesus Christ”. Jesus the Christ would be more accurate. Christ is not his last name. I had to ask
Me: “Bill, why do you refer to Jesus (Yeshua)? as Christ? Christ is a title, it’s not his name.”
Bill: “Christ is the Greek.”
Me: “Yes, Bill, I know, but it’s still not a name.”
Bill: “Christ is Greek for Messiah.”
Me “Yes, but Messiah is also a title. Like your name is Bill.You are a father, you are a husband. Those are titles.”
Finally, he relented. On to the meat of the conversation. I told him I view Jesus as a Master teacher, as an Ascended Master, if you will. I view Jesus as someone who perfected his relationship with God (Source). Jesus was a pure channel. It’s my goal to be like Jesus and become a pure channel for source. I do not view Jesus as the son of God. We are all sons of God. Jesus told us we can do what he did (and greater). He said that Jesus said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” Yes. Because Jesus had become so much like the Source (God) that they were inseparable. Bill asked me my source(s) for these conclusions I’ve come to. I explained to him that I have studied a lot of extrabiblical materials. In a previous talk, I tried to refer him to a book that I had read, and he refused me saying that he only needs the Bible as his source. When I brought up today that he had said that, he say that he reads other sources. Anyway, the idea that Jesus is an Ascended Master comes from channeled communications, NDEs and after death communications; all sources Bill would not take as credible.
Then, I got into what I definitely do not believe about Jesus. Jesus did not come to pay the penalty that God was owed for our sins. That is an insane notion. I told Bill that God commands that we forgive seventy times seven. To forgive is not to demand payment. Why would God tell us to forgive when he cannot forgive us? I said if God is love, how could God torment any of his children? Bill explained to me that God is not just love; he is a complex being. Bill explained that sin has consequence and God is also justice and punishment is a part of justice. My eyes rolled so hard, I thought I was going to pass out. OK. Slow down. Sin has consequences. We agree. Natural consequence. Sin damages our relationship with God. OK. I agree with that. But, we’re not talking about natural effects or a damaged relationship. We are talking about torment. I said to him: “If I owe you money, you have a choice. You can demand payment. Or you can forgive the debt. Either is within your rights to do so. Right? You can forgive my debt without demanding payment.” He countered with the relationship between the two of us and the relationship between man, and God is different. Yeah. OK. God is supposed to love me infinitely. So, God is so constrained by his own “godness” that he cannot do what man can do, forgive?
I continued. OK. This brings me to my next point, Bill. God also is demanding a double payment. He looked at me quizzically. I continued. Jesus paid our debt. So, let’s say it was a bajillion whatever that’s the cost to cover the whole debt of humanity for all time. God’s got his payment. But, wait. Here I come, and I haven’t “accepted” the payment. God torments me eternally as payment for my sin. But, he’s already been paid. Besides, in what justice system eternal torment for a short lifetime of sin a just payment? I tell him I read many decades ago the answer to the question of how Jesus could have paid billions of lives times eternal torment in just three days in the grave. The author even diagrammed it out how Jesus, being a multi-dimensional being, could simultaneously absorb all of that torment in a finite amount of time. That makes the movie the Passion of the Christ look like a walk in the park.
Things were getting a bit heated now. But, we kept our mutual respect and continued. Bill acknowledged that I had had bad religious experiences as a child and he thought that’s why I’ve rejected my faith now. I admitted I did have bad experiences as a child and that is a huge part of who I am today. He is spot on. I said, the pain of my religious upbringing forced me to look for answers that made sense. When I was about eight years old I wished I had never been born. I was told that I was born with God hating me for my “original sin” and that only Jesus loved me. Only by being “covered in Jesus blood” could God even bear to look at me. It made me feel worthless and ashamed. And I was told I was supposed to love God because he created me. I didn’t ask to be created. Uncreate me. Put me back where I was before. Then, when my uncle was murdered and they told me he was in hell because he hadn’t been saved. But, he couldn’t be saved because he was gay and the church wouldn’t accept him the way he was, that set me over the edge. Up until then I passively accepted this notion of the angry sky God. I was OK because maybe he wouldn’t torment me if I could keep up the charade until I died. But, I couldn’t accept he was sending billions to eternal torment anymore. Yes, Bill, I have rejected the faith of my youth. It would have been easier just to accept I was saved and move on. I was baptized. I spoke in tongues. And, I was taught eternal salvation. I was all good.
It’s when I got outside of the Bible, which is primary, if not exclusive, for people like Bill, that I began to see the big picture. I studied church history. I learned how the Bible was cobbled together. I learned about how the books of the canon were chosen (by men who had a political agenda). I discovered how Constantine early on co-opted and corrupted Christianity. And, I began to read other texts- the Dhammapada, the Bhagavad Gita, the tao de ching. I looked at contemporary sources.
All of this changed how I read the Bible when I came back to it. I see it through new eyes. For example, if God could speak to Paul and John, why can’t he talk to Neale Donald Walsch today? I related to Bill that Paul’s experience on the Road to Damascus sounds just like an NDE. He saw a bright light, he heard a voice from the sky. He was blinded and later regained his site. Bill said “Except Paul didn’t die.” How do we know Paul didn’t die? What we do know is he heard the voice of a dead person (Jesus). Paul was blinded by the light and subsequently ended up with new vision. I told Bill I absolutely believe Paul’s experience. But, you know who else I believe? Michelle Clare who I spoke two days ago who had three similar experiences and came back with messages. Why do you believe Paul’s experience just because it was written down 2,000 years ago and is in your Bible? And, when Paul had his vision where he was taken into the third heaven “Whether it was in the body or out of the body- God knows.” sounds an awful like an astral travel or out of the body experience. Why don’t we believe people who have those experiences today?
For years, I tied myself up in knots and believed things that defy logic and common sense. And, the wilder the thing, the more “faith” you were supposed to have had. I told Bill this to sum up. “You began by asking me about my faith and immediately tied that into Jesus. My faith is stronger than it has ever been. In fact, it’s not even faith anymore. It’s knowing.” I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I like where I am on the road.