Jesus tells us repeatedly to love God, and he teaches that loving our neighbor is the expression of that love for God. The fact is, most religions see sin as a violation of the law of God (as declared by men); when, sin should be viewed as a shunning of our responsibility to love God by failing our fellow man, and the recklessness toward the glorious creation God has placed us in. This is actually what Jesus taught.
Religiously, what we really need to do is to concentrate on developing the love in our souls, which makes us in God's image; instead of, focusing on our weaknesses brought about by some original sin. The Christian Church needs to quit preaching the Gospels; instead, setting the example by showing us how to live the Gospel's message of love. The Christian Gospel has already been preached to the ends of the earth. But where is the love, compassion, egalitarian ideals, and responsibility of personal messiahship that is the essence of their moral message?
One cannot have a sound and responsible theological basis if they ignore the reality in which we exist. You cannot literalize the inspiration of another people from another time to dictate morals for a people that are far removed from that ancient world. We do not come to God by avoiding the metaphor of the devil; we are not washed of our sins by renouncing the things of Satan; but rather, we come to God by choosing to love the things that are from God.
Humankind is psychologically conditioned to accent their weaknesses by religious ideals that justify our darker side by placing responsibility outside of our personal control. In the Christian teachings such as: 'Adam sinned and Jesus atoned for it', 'the Devil in his battle with God tempts us'; and a theology that postulates a weakening of the human will ¾ we have the seeds of projection that justify our shortcomings, weaknesses, and indifferences. These concepts stand in the way of any effort to elevate the human condition. They lessen the human character that these same religions claim is in the Image of God.
This contradiction, between weak human character and being made in the image of God, has our ideals about religious morality is in a state of confusion. We wonder why so many human beings are irresponsible and violent; while our religions often project responsibility for salvation back to God, portraying Her as violent in His own Nature.
The concept of original sin, too, merely rationalizes man's inhumanity toward man by projecting the ultimate responsibility for our human failures in the hands of the first humans of consciousness. This belief also obviously implies that the human character is weak, and the flaws in that human character are a part of our basic nature, which Augustine stated was a result of the original sin. It implies that goodness is a state beyond the human condition because humans are flawed by that first sin. What we should encourage as natural behavior (goodness and love); becomes something that God has to give, and we need to earn.
We have already established that any meaningful view of God would allow for paradox. To apply this ideal to God, we need a common binding force for being itself, of which God is the Source. Grace, therefore, would be defined as a sharing in the life of God, which is love. It then becomes self evident that if we exist, God must love us if our existence proceeds from Her. Existence itself becomes the sharing in the life of God that we call Grace. Existence is the salvation. God has already given grace and we must choose if we are going to accept. Both the positive and negative are part of the being of God and it becomes our actions with that power of being which existence makes possible that make them good or evil.
A particular religion cannot be the keeper of God's Grace, for such would deprive all those not exposed to that religion. Religions do not control existence, therefore, they cannot be distributors of God's grace.
The whole idea behind the Gospel metaphor is that God's love is unconditional (agape) and that is why we exist. In the concept of original sin, we have reduced life to a test of one's faith, instead of the glorious experience of sharing in the creation. Love becomes secondary to ritual and law with the individuals looking to reward (or fearing punishment); instead of, seeking to contribute whatever they can in love toward the experience of life. We could not be stained and be created in the Image of God. Under existing theologies, love (Grace) is what makes us in God's Image. If this is true, under present theological arguments, we would be absent of the potential to love until our ritual baptism. In fact, common sense would dictate: that anything created in the Image of God could not be stained or flawed.
It would seem that it was God's plan that mankind evolve to have intellect and free will. Thus, the temptation of consciousness (knowledge of good and evil) becomes the force of human life itself. Yet, we religiously proclaim our free will as being weak and the cause of our downfall. But God could not give us the gift of free will without giving us the potential to be evil.
The story of Creation in Genesis is not about an original sin. In it we meet the reality of the Paradoxical Nature of the God who created us in His Image, which allows us to share in the creation with Her. By being able to recognize good and evil, love and hate, we can choose to focus on our ability to love and create. To believe in one's self is to believe in the Creation of God. To give of one's self is to give to God.
From the questionable behavior of the Greek gods, to our present concepts about God's Vengeance, and the idea of Satan: Western civilization has always institutionalized evil by proclaiming its source in the transcendent. Other religious ideals also offer projections to their followers; some claiming there is no evil at all.
Theologically speaking, the emphasis upon transcendent causes for evil actually provide an excuse whereby evil becomes accepted as a given state of the human condition because of our inferiority to this transcendent cause. We look to magical prayers, faith in external messiahs, or God's Grace to protect us from that which we create.
Theologically, the responsibility for evil must shift from "other" unto the self; at least if we are to overcome evil. Theological reasoning or religious teachings about evil become unhealthy when they contribute to projectionary judgments which are often self-centered.
The religious logic is that the controller (church) speaks with the authority of God; and those who may stand against it ideologically, are therefore against God and must be evil.
Dogmatic declarations asserting a black and white nature to good and evil, are in fact, at odds with the reality we live in ¾ the reality which God created. A responsible theology would not deny the fact that evil exists, but the responsible approach would be hard pressed to blanketly categorize things into a good or evil column. We can often see examples where one man's evil can be another's blessing. Dealing with, and admitting to, human limitation becomes the first aspect theology must deal with if it is to be responsible.
Religions often define evil as a "breaching of the Will or Law of God ". But as we have already established ¾ what man has the right to declare God's law? Theologically, or religiously, it becomes impossible for human beings to say what is good or evil to God.
And religions must not feed projection, replacing it with self-examination. This allows us to maintain ethics without asserting God's Will ¾ as consequence and circumstance become our yardstick, and we are forced to measure with it. This "consequence of action" theory of evil also has a healthy psychological effect in our social order. If instilled in our religious people it allows them to equate their actions toward one another with their actions toward God. Religion should be helping us to be objective in our self-examination, never doling out rules for Almighty God.
The categorizing of indifference as evil, by Jesus, not only demands that we look for a further yardstick to measure evil at a responsible theological level; it also brings into question the whole Christian theological concept of what evil truly is. Perhaps this is why our world is so contaminated by evil, while we see the conspicuous evil; we ignore the reality of evil, which Jesus pointed to in his parables. Our indifference and rationalizations about everyday social inequalities and atrocities are the real evil in the world.
Indifference, whether by projection or rationalization is among the greatest evils of our world. It deprives us of exercising our potential to act in the Image Of God. A responsible theology will realize that when we act out of love we can each become a messiah, which is what Jesus proclaimed was our human mission, "Pick up your cross and follow me". To act in love is to act as a child of God! Indifference is an antithesis of acting out of love ¾ for it blinds us to our potential.
While indifference is part of the paradox of being, and is not always evil; as when we cannot do something about another's plight, it becomes evil when we cling to it out of selfish motivations and avoidance of getting involved. The degree of the evil in indifference can only be measured in accordance with one's potential and ability to alleviate another's suffering or problem. Those who have been given much, and those who take much, can become candidates for the evil in indifference.
It is the role of church to guide individuals to become self-aware of their indifference so they can avoid the evil of indifference in selfishness!
Another evil Jesus seemed to be terribly disturbed by was with people who preached something and then failed to live by it. This is known in our world as hypocrisy. It is one of the most frequent charges of Jesus in the Gospels.
So if we look to Jesus' teachings for what is truly evil, it is really not infractions against laws of God, or, failure to believe ¾ it is the indifference and hypocrisy which surrounds him in and out of religious circles.
Perhaps it is best that theology should avoid any dogmatic attempt to define evil, concentrating instead on the human characteristics that make us evil in the first place.
If we looked for God in the faces of humanity, in the creation itself, we would then make our experience of living an expression of our faith in God. When we function out of love of God, instead of fear of Her ¾ and God is seen in the manifestation of people and things around us ¾ our actions toward them become the expression of our faith; and thus, good. Our affect upon reality is our goodness or evil. Religion's responsibility accordingly, then, is to offer a means to objectively examine an absence of goodness within one's self without setting itself up as a spokesman of God or demonizing human individuality. Religions have no right to say someone else is evil, or sinned, or is a sinner. Religions cannot even say what sin is (if sin is defined as an offense against God) for what human could know what offends God? And religion has absolutely no right to pronounce the judgment of God for anyone.
Religion's role is not about defining or even ridding the world of evil. Its role is about promoting and flooding the world with goodness, love, and compassion. Evil, or even the devil, isn't the problem! The message of Jesus was not concerned with defining sin or proclaiming God's Law, it was to teach us how to live in the Image of God which is contained in our ability to love one another. If we concerned ourselves with these things, evil isn't a problem.
We have an "us" and "them" mentality, which we ultimately project unto God, implying God only created us to live one particular way. We need our differences, we need our questions, and we need lots of latitude in the way we live our personal lives. To tell people that their faith is somehow evil and not of God because it differs from dogmatic claims, is irresponsible.
In reality, evil is a necessary result of free will. God had no choice but to allow us the choice to be bad, if in fact, we are given the right to choose to be good. We cannot hold God to any standard of good and evil, because God is what She is, transcending any such notion. God is no more all good than He could be all evil. God is the Source of all being from which our potential to be good or evil comes.
In a sense, evil is our choosing to use the power of God (being) in direct opposition to our purpose of being. When people talk of the devil being the master of deceit, such is a good metaphor for the self-deceiving the self. We are our own devils, for who is more of a master t deceiving one's self than one's self? The cold hard reality is we all contain evil, because without such evil we could not be good.
But the messages of the gospel contain a formula for balancing evil. It is a concept that has distinguished men and women of God for eons. Jesus sums it up in the Gospel of John:
I give you a new commandment; Love one another as I have loved you, so you are to love one another.
There is only one preoccupation in the gospel message, and it has nothing to do with faith, defining evil, proclaiming laws, or even the worship of God. Jesus' message by word and example was one of salvation through personal messiahship driven by the love that makes us in the Image of God. In that simple message lies the key to our fulfillment as well as the power to rid our world of evil. Evil defeats us when we project, evil thrives in our indifference, and evil is a choice that we make. To rid ourselves of evil we need to learn to love, the love that God inspires in our hearts. From that love is born our purpose, and the living of that purpose is the reality of salvation.
It would seem that for Christian Theology, the concept of God and the love of Her as expressed towards our fellow man (which is what Jesus taught), was not viewed as enough of an incentive to hold people to a faith. To justify the need for the church, ritual, and power; their theology created an external threat, an all-powerful sworn enemy of God, one whom we need to fear and be protected from. He is known in the Christian world as the Devil or Satan.
But Paul Carus in his work "The History of The Devil And The Idea Of Evil", tells us:
Theologically, there is no need or place for the concept of Satan in a monotheistic religion.
(Bell Publishing, 1969, pp70,71)
We don't need the devil to explain the evil of mankind. Such only creates a psychology where we cling to God for protection from the devil. In many religious interpretations, the devil is feared more than God is loved.
If we examine any human act of evil - rape, genocide, murder, persecution, etcetera: we find that a human being is responsible for the act. It is a self-serving theology that needs enemies that God needs to protect us from. It is a contradictory doctrine that states: we need God to provide the means to protect or save us; when we are stating at the same time, that mankind is in God's Image and that we have free will. If we are in God's Image, all we need do is draw upon that Image, which is our free choice, which is within our grasp; and then, life will be in accordance with the design of the Creator.
Our motivation must shift from God's protection, or God's punishment or Her reward. Our only motivation for the love of God need be: because "GOD IS", and that we share in His being with our gift of life. To create super-powerful forces to explain our evil in our theology is to provide excuses for our failures. If the devil is making people evil, what can we do - where is our responsibility or power to effect real change in our world?
Jesus didn't blame the devil for our problems. It is not "other" that is the enemy of God; it is the self. Responsible theology needs to recognize the true demon, in the personage of one's self, with its power coming from a collective that justifies evil through projection. Religion doesn't need to fight a devil. The weapons to fight evil are not faith and ritual; they are: love, and compassion ¾ our very sharing in the nature of God.
The solution to the problem of evil will never rest in fear. The solution to the problem of evil begins with self-control - based upon, personal responsibility and the love of a Creator always visible in reality. Life has real purpose; it is not merely a test. God could have no enemies; but we can reject our purpose created of God's Love.
Theology needs to recognize that goodness comes from the human heart, not from any law dictated by men. It should be the primary objective of religion (if it is to serve God and man) to promote goodness; rather than, advocating the avoidance of evil. Our present religious approach becomes problematic because it tries to dictate human behavior; instead of, encouraging one's personal responsibility and their contribution to the whole. Religion needs to recognize that the true Divine law is self-evident, expressing itself in the reality of what "IS". God needs no human to declare or interpret His law, for what God Wills "IS".
Morality isn't really God's dictate; but rather, a necessity if human beings that have differences and free choice are going to survive and harmonize with each other and nature. Morality should lead to harmony among humans and a balance with nature. Morality needs to be rooted in a self objectivity that is fueled by love for the creation, a love for each other, and a respect for the majesty of God that is expressed in the creation.
Too often, we see the "action" as sinful; rather than the "consequence" of an action ¾ which is the real evil in our world.
Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to two:
Jesus answered, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. That is the greatest commandment. It comes first. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Everything in the law and the prophets hangs on these two commandments.
To keep the first of these commandments, we need to understand that the love of God can only be expressed in our reality by our actions toward the things that are of God; that is, the entire creation. Love is a much more powerful motivator than the dictate of law, which is something Jesus realized.
All actions occur because something exists, therefore, it is being that allows action to take place - and, all being comes from God. God is transcendent of good and evil, and what operates according to Her purpose and plan would not be considered evil, but part of the Divine plan. It's what sets itself up against God's plan that would be considered evil.
It is difficult for humans to know God's plan, and this is why dogmatic assertions about Divine Edicts are impossible. Our differences and free choice make us, as individuals, responsible for our actions, which can be contrary to God's plan of harmony. The reason that religion should prioritize the "ethic" and the "consequence of actions" has to do with this individual responsibility. In fact, the ethics of any religion should transcend the belief of a particular faith, trying to serve unity and love rather than division and judgement.
One of the main causes of evil in humanity is when an individual separates one's self from the whole in selfishness. We loose our self-objectivity because we see ourselves as the centerpiece of God's creation.
The gospels seem to actually rebuke the idea of a religion of "Thou shall not," replacing such with a suggested ethic based upon love, personal responsibility and action. The gospels deliver to us a wonderful formula for an ethic based upon love expressed in the way we live our lives. We need to break this theological trend of God being the wrathful god-enemy who waits for us to break some aspect of Her Divine Law. We need to evolve, seeing God as the loving Father which Jesus portrayed. Our morals should evolve to a point where we need no laws to be religious because our own personal messiahship is so important that we wouldn't think of intentionally offending God, another human being or creation.
Morality is really about our personal participation in the ethic of Love as Jesus so profoundly demonstrated in his life.
Morals, rituals, words, and faith are all useless if they do not promote spiritual growth. Our love for God is expressed in the treatment of what is of God, not in our songs, works of art or words of adoration! Love, as Jesus used it, was the term 'agape', which is an unrequited love that God has demonstrated for mankind. A love which expects nothing in return! Love, mercy, compassion, generosity, empathy, and self-objectivity are all virtues that are preached in the gospels, which are, in a sense, the moral ethics by which we can live a moral life. They are all extensions of love!
Often, when we hear preachers talk, it sounds
like the greatest evil in the whole of reality is in our HUMAN sexuality; when
in fact, it is one of God's most wonderful gifts! So often, religions condemn
the life-styles of homosexuals, or the unmarried, as being evil; to the point
where some actually blame them for the natural disasters on earth, as if the
In such thinking, sex becomes the scapegoat of all human shortcomings. Religion often distorts a psychologically healthy sex drive, turning it into an evil force to be reckoned with. In these cases, sex seems to be a weapon of the devil; rather than, part of the creation of God.
The religious message should be that human sexuality is healthy, beautiful, holy and very much a part of God's plan. One could conceivably argue that if God wanted sex for only one purpose, there would be only one sex act that brought any pleasure.
Many religions compound these problems of human sexuality by glorifying abstinence and celibacy; as if somehow these individuals were closer to God than sexually active people. While we might respect the self-control and sacrifice of these celibate individuals; their abstinence is a matter of choice to express their love of God. We need to acknowledge that many of the religious and social attitudes (which are rooted in our religious beliefs) about sex are out of touch with natural creation of God. This is a problem which religion has a responsibility to address in a realistic and loving manner - a problem that is of religious concern because human sexuality is one of the most awesome gifts that God has seen fit to bless humanity with.
People like Paul, Augustine, Calvin and numerous other religious thinkers and teachers have turned God's most beautiful creation into a disgusting act that can only be performed under certain approvals of the church (marriage). These thinkers say that sex should be avoided if one wants to reach perfection in the eyes of God.
Also, the religious condemnation of homosexuality, self righteously in the name of God, creates hate groups and psychological pain and suffering for millions of gay and lesbian people who are simply responding to their own inner sexual drive. If homosexuality is a sin, than we must have an awfully cruel God to allow it to orient so many people.
We have overpopulation with thousands of unwanted children born every year; some of which could be avoided if religion took a realistic approach toward sex, birth control, sensible sex education and focusing on a purer ethic.
The emphasis on human sexuality in Christian Theology begins with Paul who is the basis for much of the theology that overshadows so much of the deeper message of Jesus. This as a man who in fact never met Jesus, nor did he learn from Jesus first hand. Then Augustine, who like Paul, was a deeply troubled man when it came to human sexuality, came to view human sexual desire as a weakening of human nature caused by the original sin of Adam and Eve. Where Jesus delivered a message of God within, Augustine chose to accent the devil within ¾ and this has been the position of countless Christian Theologians ever since.
Yet, what Augustine considered the weakening of our human nature (sex drive) because of the original sin; is the natural - God given - sexual drive of a human being. As always, the first premise of a responsible theology is that men have no right to declare God's word for other men. The responsible approach for religion is to encourage an ethic among its followers, especially the young, by which they can develop a personal moral code, which is positive in the life of the individual and respectful of the rights and lives of others. To declare human sexuality between consenting adults a sin, is a presumption of God.
The soul may give life, but it is the body which lives it, experiencing it through the mind. God would never declare a law that would require us to act against our natural well being; therefore, it is imperative that religion considers what we know about psychology, genetics, and the biological realities of our human sexual natures. Religion needs a sexual ethic which will help protect the society from destructive sexual behavior; but one that does not condemn an individual on the basis of our own personal dislikes or beliefs.
Theology must support the concept of marriage based on the psychological importance of children needing a stable environment in which to grow. But, no church, acting as a spokesman for God, has the right to pronounce, deny, bind or excuse; the vows which individuals pledge to one another. The fact of the matter is, when it comes to God, no human being has a clue as to what marriage should be.
The marriage ritual is performed by human beings acting as self-proclaimed spokesmen for God. And while it is advantageous for people to express their vows before God and others, such might not really be necessary for marriage in the eyes of God.
Today, love is supposed to be the root of marriage. People need to determine their own expression of love and the commitments they make to each other without a church telling them what God requires. The role of the church is to respect an individual's decision within the ethical guidelines of responsibility and love. A minister, or a judge, doesn't define love in the eyes of God; it is what is in the heart of the individual that makes the love that God sees; in, or out of, a church. Theology should concentrate on the sacredness of two people committing their love for one another. Religion needs to also recognize that the vows individuals exchange should be personal in nature, exchanged in a manner where individuals know if they can keep them or not.
Instead of trying to discourage certain aspects of sexual behavior, especially between consenting adults, religion should be emphasizing the virtues of love, respect, personal responsibility and the idea of treating people as we wish to be treated.
Realistically, love can, and often is, expressed outside marriage. While socially there are a variety of reasons to marry in love, especially where there are children; God needs no human intervention to determine the value of one's love for another.
Responsible theology will recognize that sex can express many different things to different people. It would seem that God cares whether people are hurt or not ¾ not what two people decide to do in their bed. Sin is in indifference to the feelings and needs of others; compounded by a lack of self control over self-gratification. These things are what lead to evil, in sex, as well as every other aspect of life. It's not the sex that's evil, but the individuals who may take advantage of others in selfish pursuit.
Responsible theology must stress the sacredness of sex, not its immorality or our weakness. Ultimately, the responsibility for sexual behavior is personal, between individuals, their partners and God.
Religious ideal cannot ignore science in the pursuit of self-serving truth about human sexuality. Human sexuality is part of life, and life is of God ¾ and science studies the realms of life, thus science studies the actualization of the mind of God. This is the reason that religion cannot ignore scientific truth in the teaching of ethics.
While responsible theology can concede conception as a part of God because it is a sharing in the creative process, it is biology, which is the pure determinant that God has put in place for procreation. In a world of overpopulation, in a world of starving children, in a world where children are abused, in a world where children are exploited, in a world where many will have no opportunity; it is irresponsible of any theology to proclaim birth control a sin! In light of the overpopulation (and because God has given us the intellect and means to control our numbers) birth control can be considered part of a responsible approach toward human sexuality and morality. And those religions that choose to stand in opposition to birth control are as much of a cause of the suffering children in the world as the irresponsible people who continue to produce life they cannot offer love and hope.
The question of abortion is one about the sacredness to life. It should be fighting for a QUALITY OF LIFE where children need not live in fear, hopelessness and misery. Again, responsible theology would emphasize the sacredness of life, the sacredness of sex, and the personal responsibility of the individual to respect that sacredness. It would work to promote an ethic based upon the concept of love, instead of, seeking to legislate its moral conclusions. Responsible theology would recognize that the greatest evil in our societies is the conditions in which our children must live! While we constantly hear about the evil of abortion, seldom is mentioned responsibility for a quality to life. Is it any less evil to bring a child into a world to suffer, be unloved, exploited; then, to abort it?
Divorce, sexual entertainment, using sex to advertise - not to say that these things are evil; but, they are a hypocrisy in a society that lays claim to be founded on the traditional Christian values preached by Jesus.
The theological problem we have is that too often people separate their religious lives from their secular lives. When religion looses its meaning in everyday reality, as practiced by individuals who proclaim such faith, the religion can no longer lead people to God or effectively serve society. A responsible theology will recognize that the church's role is to lead people to God; not speak for Her. It will always see sex as sacred, avoiding concepts that it is evil or something to be avoided like violence. Human sexuality is one of God's most joyous gifts, one that should be celebrated and not condemned.
Religion has capitalized on our emotional state of our fear of death.
Our real experience of eternity is in life, and what comes after cannot be translated into a human experience. An afterlife can only be conveyed to humans in metaphors to which they can relate. The idea of life after death should enhance the glory of the experience of the life we now live. A responsible theology will build a case that leads individuals to their own personal relationship with God, where the individual can be reasonably assured of what God communicates to them in relationship to their unique purpose which might include eternal life.
Many tend to look at eternal life as a reward, or punishment, for the living of this life - a mere "test." Life is about the experiences we live. One of the best theological arguments a responsible theology could dispel is concerning the idea that life after death is somehow a superior form of existence.
Life's experiences are part of God's Kingdom. In a sense, life is eternity as we are experiencing it in the now. So Heaven would be in achieving our personal covenant that we have made with God. As Jesus demonstrates in Matthew 20:1-16, it doesn't start with death, but occurs in our daily living. Heaven is the cultivation of the Divine seed that is planted in every human heart (Matt. -23).
Simply put: the
Responsible theology will shun the idea of promising God's reward; emphasizing instead, peace, contentment, and fulfillment - which is God's Kingdom no matter how one is experiencing it. Sin, therefore, is not a failure to keep God's law, it is the failure of one's self to fulfill purpose. It's a failure to "take time to smell the roses" as they say, missing the true miracle of reality and God's gift to us on the very earth that gives us life.
Hell is really a self-centeredness whereby we see the creation as centering on the self. For all intent and purpose, the previous life has ended.
Everyday we view in nature a cycle of life and death where death is actually becomes life and renewal. If the cycle of life is so apparent in nature, why should it stop at what is transcendent of nature?
But fear of punishment is no reason to come to God, even Hitler had followers like that. Reward is no reason to come to God, we all know people who can be bought and sold. Morality is not about avoiding transgressions of the law; it's about how we live and interact with our experiences of life. We need not please God, because the fact of the matter is, we cannot please God, for God is perfect and pleased unto Himself. We cannot displease God because in this same perfection God could not be displeased.
It is not the role of religion to pronounce God's judgement, to tell people how to live, or declare God's law. It is the role of religion to give meaning to life and death, to comfort, and encourage the development of the individual soul.
(Paul Tillich, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, 1967)
Fear, magical thinking or overactive imagination should not drive our views of life after death. It is not death that defines who we are, but life! To be sure, life after death could be a most wonderful experience. Live life to its potential, responsibly, and eternity will fend for itself.
If the role of religion is, "to bring meaning to the life of a man," it would appear that it is failing. Ancient religious beliefs answered questions that could not otherwise be answered and were harmonious with the everyday lives of the people they served. Today we live in a vastly different world, one where science answers so many of the questions which religion once answered, one that is diverse in how they view God. The result of such conflict has been to separate the everyday living of life from the realm of God. While our real world is full of our interactions, the religious world is full of ritual, abstract rhetoric about faith, and a salvation offered outside life. The reality of our everyday world appears to be inferior to the place where God dwells.
Religion has become a belief in an unknowable, thus, separating itself from its role in practical life. Religion has no meaning if our faith has no substance in our everyday affairs with other people. Too much of the present theological system often leads to a situation where people are looking for blame and judgement, rather than, taking responsibility for their own life and self-improvement. What purpose does a belief in God serve if the Divine is alien to our reality?
The Gospel Message is a message of unconditional love; not about belief, religion, laws, and ritual. It is here that Christian theology and its church has its greatest responsibility, for it is not the witnessing, nor the praying, nor the faith that makes individuals followers of Jesus or moral. It is one's willingness to love that is the Gospel criteria for morality.
A responsible theology must ask; what good is a faith if it has no practical application in the lives of men? If we cannot find God in the reality of our world, how can we ever expect to find Her somewhere else? How can such be rationalized with the love message of the Christian Gospels?
Beliefs need to encourage individuals, of their own initiative, to be honest, fair, compassionate and loving, ethics that will always lead to morality. Theology needs to work to allow the Face of God to be visible in every human being, helping us recognize Her Presence in all the reality we see.
Morality to Jesus was in our treatment of others, in our everyday human interactions from business to pleasure. One might ask, did Jesus wish that his message be lived, or quoted?
Theology needs to shift the emphasis from belief, to action: from its priority of death, to one of life: from God's status in the supernatural, to Her active participation in our miraculous reality.
God and man, humankind and the individual, man and nature: are all connected. If we are truly in the image and likeness of God, we would need no redemption for such a Divine element within us can manifest itself whenever we choose. We are of God when we do for others: Spirituality is not about creed or belief, it's about how individuals experience life - a recognition of the reality of God in that life.
If we are to truly become a spiritual people,
a real part of the
Theology should work to improve the quality of human life, just like our other branches of knowledge. It should motivate people to reach out to one another as individuals, not simply write checks to the church in hopes of buying God.
Whatever the archetype it chooses, theology
should help to establish the
The coming of the Messiah begins with every human being's birth, and when people dig deep they will find the essence of Jesus within themselves - and then Jesus truly lives once again in their manifestation of his love. Religion is not a belief, but rather, an action!
Dominion in the traditional religious sense implies that we are in control of nature; instead of, a loving part of it. Once we profess belief in God as Creator, we are morally obligated to treat as sacred what we claim is God's Creation. Moving away from this idea of dominion, we need to look at the hypocrisy of a Christian theology, which teaches that God is the Creator of all things, and remains silent about abuses that not only endangers the welfare of future generations, but might endanger the work of God.
We theologically assert that all was created for man, the so-called crowning glory of God's creation, without anything other then the words of men to support such a dogma.
The argument that these lesser life forms are only relative in relationship to the creation of man is a self-serving and arrogant premise. Dinosaurs, as well as other life forms, walked this earth tens of millions of years before any type human being lived. If we are to believe God is the Creator, then these creatures who survived so long must have had purpose to the Creator Who created them. The miracle of God which stands in front of our physical observation - the true representation of God incarnate is the creation - the greatest manifestation of God's power in our reality: is too often theologically reduced to some kind of a game board that was created to test man.
If we truly believed that God is responsible for the creation, that makes every aspect of the creation, sacred, by nature of its origin in God. If God seen His creation as good, what possible justification could man have in his religious indifference toward the ecological problems we face in the next century?
As long as we replace the sacred miracle of God with the material devices of men, our faith is a hypocrisy, blinding us to a truth which is before our very eyes. If we can no longer see the majesty of God in what is before us, what is of Her design - our other religious beliefs are a distraction to God's created revelation.
It is the duty of a responsible theology to promote an Image of God in all of the creation, encouraging men to treat with respect and reverence all that is of God's Hand. Earth was put here for all God's children and creatures that dwell upon it.
Too often, religion emphasizes the Love that God expresses for each individual, losing sight of God's Love for the all. Yet, only in seeing this paradox can we truly respect the individual rights of all human beings, as well as all living things.
If one stops to think about it, the gift of life is a very fragile gift. Any moral code that refuses to take this into consideration; any ethics that do not address these realities; any religion neglecting this most profound truth; is, failing God as well as the people it serves. If we mistreat what God has already created, why would She possibly send us on to something better?
At the root, God's truth is visible even to the most simple mind. The sacred is of God and nothing can be more sacred than the creation which proceeds from Him.
Until our theologies incorporate this concept, they are lacking in their ability to lead people to God.
It would seem that to Jesus, the ultimate wrongdoing was to tell others how to live and how to please God; and then, fail to set the example or live their life according to their pronouncements. A society, which reflects hypocrisy, can only do so if masses of individuals are hypocritical themselves. Individuals proclaim God to be the most important aspect of life; but it seems most people are much more devoted to making money than to God. Religious people proclaim the sacredness of human life; but remain silent about the poor quality of life for so many. Christian politicians calling for capital punishment, yet, their religious belief promotes the sacredness of life. While the state should not legislate based upon religious ideology, the state should reflect the common sense ethic of taking care of its people. One might say that the church that Jesus would have envisioned, if that were his aim, was a living church that ministered to people tending to their physical as well as spiritual needs.
Responsible theology needs to move away from the ideas of abstract faith and the power of the "word". Faith is only as powerful as its manifestation in our daily lives! The idea of God sitting on a thrown in heaven does little to influence the everyday, and sometimes mundane, living of life. To be effective, theology needs to encourage images of God more useful in terms of recognizing Him in our everyday reality. People need to be encouraged to see the wonder, the complexity, and the mystery of God in the diversity of Her natural creation. Only when the idea of God is compatible with reality does a religious faith come fully alive.
When we see God in the all, the actual experiences we have in the course of a day become experiences of God. With such awareness, hypocrisy becomes less of a likelihood because our daily experiences are experiences with God; our interactions with one another are interacting with God. Jesus tells us, "You cannot serve two Masters". One cannot serve God by acclamation. In order for religion to give meaning to life, it must concentrate its effort on helping men to recognize the reality of God in the living creation. Theology should act as a guide to the living of an honest life; rather than, interpreters for a world beyond. If theology were effective, religions would not have to declare morals, for the faithful could determine their own morals.
Sin is not an infraction of God's law; but rather, the antithesis of love directed at God's Image reflected in other individuals and the creation in which we live.
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