(Religious Ethics In Social and Economic Reality)

If the role of religion is, "to bring meaning to the life of a man," it would appear that it is failing. Our religions, and the theology they are based upon, have in fact, devolved. In ancient times the tales and stories about the beyond were harmonious with reality as it was understood by the people of that age. Religious beliefs answered questions that could not otherwise be answered. But, and most importantly, religious beliefs and cultures were harmonious with the everyday lives of the people they served. Often, the very trade one pursued was governed by the religious traditions of the society. Farmers planted, hunters hunted and performed rites according to the religious beliefs around them. Often, the very social/economic conditions were intertwined with the religious belief structure. In other words, religion helped to make sense and give purpose to a world that often made no sense.

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.

Much of the theology of this age has pitted itself against science in an effort to hold on to the antiquity of their beliefs. But for religion to position itself against science, is, religion positioning itself against reality. 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. Too many times faith is an expression of verbal belief, such as in the Divinity of Jesus, with little emphasis upon the message he delivered. Religious pronouncements often seem to take priority over religious life. Our words of prayer often replace our personal responsibility to work to change things.

Over the centuries, religions have developed profound theological arguments supporting the Divine nature of Christ. There are eloquent treatises explaining the concept of the Trinity, as if we can define a "person" of God. The Virgin Birth is rationalized to protect the literalization of the story. Angels, devils, and all sorts of nether world creatures have been substantiated to explain our successes and weaknesses. We have legitimized superstition, losing much of the meaning to our ancient tales, all this, in an effort to literalize a word that has meaning far deeper than any literalization.

What was once meant to comfort our fear of the unknown; has now, become at odds with reality. Religion has become a belief in an unknowable, thus, separating itself from its role in practical life. Religion is now a matter of faith in that which we cannot know, which can lead to a conflict with the truth of the reality we experience. Consequently, religion has separated itself from truth in favor of abstractions.

These  religious failures are visible in our social, economic, and personal lives because they are abstractions, which are often at odds with the reality we experience. Religion has no meaning if our faith has no substance in our everyday affairs with other people. This is not to say that we should legislate according to our belief structures, but rather, that we need to live what we profess to believe in the everyday realities of our business dealings, social dealings, and our interactions with the creation we are a part of. It is not putting voting blocks together to regulate human behavior by the state as some claim; but, it is setting an example which others might strive to follow.

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.

People need to ask: what good is all the witnessing of the so-called Gospel, when our society seems devoid of the "agape'' (kind of an unconditional love) that is this "Word's" primary message? 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. The Gospel Message is about forgiveness, not judgement. But above all, the Gospels are about how we should interact with one another - and they tell us that is how we are judged.

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. It is their willingness to love:

You are the light of the world. A town that stands on a hill cannot he hidden. When a lamp is lit, it is not put under a meal-tub, but on a lamp-stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. And you like the lamp must shed light among your fellows, so that, WHEN THEY SEE THE GOOD YOU DO, they may give praise to the Father in heaven.

      (Matthew 5: 14-16)

While this has been pointed out before in this work, it is well worth pointing out again: when Jesus addressed the issue of a final judgement there was not one word about faith, or sex, or morality, or worship, or church, or even God for that matter. When Jesus addressed the issue of judgement he proclaimed that it was in the way we responded to the needs of those around us (Matt. 25:31-46)!

Religion needs to take a more realistic and active role in our social and economic conscience, two important parts of our interactions with one another. This is not to say that religion should be encouraging legislation based upon its belief, for one cannot legislate morality, ethics, goodness, justice, or faith! And, we must always keep in mind that faith is just that - a belief, it IS NOT NECESSARILY TRUTH!

So, if religion is to remain harmonious with truth in reality, it must take into consideration the very diversity of the faiths which often makes up a society - a diversity that it would appear that God intended for if we all thought the same there could be no progress.

A responsible theology must ask; what good is a faith if it has no practical application in the lives of men? What good is believing in the Trinity, for example, if such has no meaningful application in our daily activities? If we cannot find God in the reality of our world, how can we ever expect to find Her somewhere else? People go to church, they believe, they pray, they claim to be moral, while at the same time they become more and more indifferent toward those less fortunate; are becoming totally self-centered in business interest; and are often judgmental of everyone outside themselves. How can such be rationalized with the love message of the Christian Gospels?

Churches should be providing us with a conscience that will manifest itself in our treatment of others. Beliefs need to encourage individuals, of their own initiative, to be honest, fair, compassionate and loving. This is the very foundational message of the Gospels and a priority of so much of revelation myth. Faith is only relevant when it serves such priorities. Religion can only be truth when its affects are self-evident within a society by even those who may disbelieve. 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.

These ideals beg the questions: where is the voice of the church when it comes to the exploitation of workers in the work place on the one hand; or on the other, the petty thefts by employees from their employers? Where is the church's real influence to help the poor, the old, the sick, and the oppressed? These are every day problems of our real world, a world of con men preying on the old, a world where some work very hard and still cannot live properly, while others, make enormous sums of money for limited work? Where are the religions, which claim "all men are created equal", but have so little to say about the slums, about the lack of educational opportunity for certain classes of people, about a distribution of wealth that favors the few and has the rest struggling? Where is the moral conscience of advertisements that are manipulating, misleading and often a mere rhetoric of lies? Where is the morality of a society that will tolerate people living in squalor, children neglected and abused, or elderly locked away in some home? Where are the so-called family values in a society that puts career above family? Where is the practical Christian ideal in a country that entertains itself with murder, violence, gossip and sexual exploitation?

Particularly, in America, we talk about being founded on Christian-Judaic ethics; but where are they? We came from Europe and stole the land, exterminated Native American Peoples, and ushered what survived into poverty on reservations - often, in the Name of Christianity one might add! We practiced slavery for a third of our history; with bigotry and racism still alive and well today! We talk of the evils of drugs, alcohol and tobacco - yet, we advertise drugs for every ailment, glorify drinking and the sex appeal of it, and legitimize smoking as fashionable and a right. Churches who often seem so bent on criticizing personal behavior are all but silent about this corporate behavior.

It seems that the church is so busy seeing human sexual behavior as immoral that it is missing the real immorality of society. We have this tendency to justify our indifference about the state of our world by declaring God created it that way. But God didn't create poverty; society did. Is there any sexual act between two consenting adults that is more immoral than the bloated stomach of a starving child? Isn't a "whatever price the market will bear" mentality by business, merely a rationalization for theft? Isn't our advertising world of slogans and patronizing words, nothing more than lying and deceit? What is our world of politics with its empty promises and so much indifference to needs of the real people who they are suppose to serve?

While religions do talk of free will and equality, too often the reality is freedom comes in direct proportion of one's ability to pay for it. Equality is judged by rank - even in religion! Like the "Brave New World" we are being brainwashed to consume and become self-serving without much of an utterance from the so-called men of God. The world is so full of preoccupation with personal portfolios, quarterly profits, and accumulation of things: that our spiritual values are seen as transcendent of these things. We see corruption in government, frauds of every sort in business, and throat cutting in the work place. What is religion saying about these immoralities? It isn't pornography, or sex, or abortion, or a lack of faith that is the primary immorality. Immorality has somehow incorporated itself into our everyday affairs, and religion does not question such because of its own self-interest - because of its preoccupation with the abstract - because in some respects it is part of the problem.

Even many of the churches are driven by financial considerations, often only, putting on a performance so the faithful will give. We see the airwaves full of "spreading the Word", but the word while preached has little effect on the reality around us. Words cannot make the world a better place if they are not based in reality. Belief in God is useless if we can't see her in the people and world we deal in every day.

If one could measure the effect of Christian Theology, in its present form, in relationship to the everyday affairs of our society, one could only conclude that it is failing - especially when one studies the directives of Jesus. This is not to say that society, as a whole, is not better off because of Christian Theology. But strictly speaking, the most important teachings of Jesus were much more about our everyday lives then the endless pages of rules, mysteries, and rhetoric about God's Will and our eternal reward so prevalent in today's theology. Morality to Jesus was in our treatment of others, in our everyday human interactions from business to pleasure. And this same message keeps turning up in the sacred myths throughout mankind.

If it is merely preaching the Gospels to the four corners of the earth, then the church has fulfilled its obligation. But for all the preaching, there seems to be little "living" of this proclaimed Gospel. One might ask, did Jesus wish that his message be lived, or quoted? Maybe we should start looking at Jesus as a deliverer rather than a savior. Just maybe he delivered the words and example whereby we might save ourselves!

The fact of the matter is, that in their simplicity, the teachings of Jesus were suggestions of social attributes, which might ease the pain of living that so many experience in today's world. In looking so hard for the "mysteries" of the gospel, we are blinding ourselves to their simple message. We look for theological meanings to the Virgin Birth and grasp at the angels in the sky on that first Christmas. We seek our salvation in the passion, death, and blood of Jesus. We look forward to sharing in the resurrection. We proclaim the miracles of Jesus over and over to encourage belief. But we have to search long and hard to build a case for any of this; for it is a case that when reduced to the lowest terms, is only about one's personal beliefs. It is a case that has nothing to do with "trust" in God. But most sadly, it is a case that has little to do with the everyday realities of the real world where the drama of life is God's wonderful living miracle.

We have our religious heads in the clouds and are so busy looking up that we are tripping over our reality. Of course, religion is not the blame for our social ills, but it is encouraging a kind of magical thinking that justifies the emotional stagnation of human society. While we proclaim ourselves brothers and sisters, we grow more distant. Individualism replaces individuation. Materialism consumes our spirituality. Paranoia often buries our compassion. Love is shattered by the demands and stresses of life. Career has replaced family as one's highest priority, and contemplation has been replaced by endless hours of television. The natural order must yield to modern progress and we become increasingly dependent upon our machines. Money and wealth seem to be a greater priority than God, even in religious circles! Is this the kind of world that we can derive from the teachings of Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohammed, Plato, or any of the great inspired people whom we cherish and revere? Is it God who invented money, or, was it man?

At some level, the depths human spirit knows the truth. This is why idealism, poetry, art and music have survived for thousands of years - offering people pleasure, comfort and hope for the human existence. Those who have preached and practiced compassion and love are elevated to a high honor of social status among our religious ranks. The idealism's of equality, justice, mercy, love, honor, brotherhood, peace, beauty, and truth and all their branches as expressed in human literature, revelation, and myth - all survive and are given a timeless place in our societies. And while we feel all this is something special, we choose to put these ideals religiously out of our reach. They're not considered virtues of man, but of saints who have some special connection to God.

It is not about abandoning the old tradition, it is more about looking at it differently. 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. A Responsible theology need not "throw the baby out with the bath water"; for our ancient sacred texts, our myths, and literature itself all offer solutions for so many of our collective self-created problems we endure. These, offer us hope for our emotional growth.

While we complain about the state of affairs in humankind, creating all kinds of theological positions to rationalize such; we ignore so much of the inspiration which God has given that can lead us beyond those weaknesses.

Far too often, religious and social programs are nothing but Band-Aids on the problem - sort of a relief for the conscience of individuals. Alexander Chase proclaimed:



And from Martin Luther King Jr:

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to OVERLOOK the CIRCUMSTANCES OF ECONOMIC INJUSTICE WHICH MAKE PHILANTHROPY NECESSARY.


The first paradox that revelation reveals to us is one of the connectedness of all things. God and man, humankind and the individual, man and nature are all connected. Today there is much talk about a lack of personal responsibility, but one could credibly argue that such a lack is psychology rooted in the teachings of the church and its projection of evil and redemption to an external source.

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. That Divine element is part of us! What Jesus really taught was that we are all saviors in our own way, and once we have saved ourselves we can lovingly give an example which others will follow. We are of God when we do for others:

... Then you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I IN YOU.

      (John 14:20)

Anyone who loves WILL HEED WHAT I SAY, then my Father will love him, and we will come to him and MAKE OUR DWELLING WITH HIM.

(John: 14:23)

And when Jesus says, "heed what I say", we look back a few verses where he proclaims:

I give you a new commandment love one another as I have loved you, so you are to love one another. If there is this love among you, then all will know that you are my disciples.

(John 13: 34,35)

While the degrees may vary, every individual is in some way a part of every problem and every solution to every aspect of life. Indifference in itself is a participation. Our intellectual history has shown that when men work together they can overcome the most insurmountable problems. Just take flight for one example! But spiritually and emotionally we continue to base our religious concepts on precepts from a darker age; not that they are necessarily wrong; but they are not literal. Thus people literalize what cannot be literalized; and, the profound inspiration from those ages is drowned in a sea of fanciful rationalizations.

Thus, religion becomes a tool of projection and avoidance when it proclaims sin and fault upon others - self righteously stating that only its adherents are righteous and worthy of heaven. For example, many religions make it their business to condemn homosexuality, but remain silent about social policies that allow people to live in sub-standard conditions. Religions talk about the danger of pornography, but seldom mention a word about the lies and deceit going on in so much of the advertising which can be just as harmful to children. They are outraged by agnosticism, but seem far removed from the problems of pollution and exploitation of both resources and people. Churches are trying to legislate against abortions, but what are they doing about the misery in which so many children live? What are they doing about the social conditions which lead to abortion?

Religion fails, too, when people believe they can lobby or can legislate morality. Social equality can never come from the state, something communism proved. Ethics and morality must be of the individual; not the government. Spirituality is not about creed or belief, it's about how individuals experience life - a recognition of the reality of God in that life. The priority of any responsible theology will be to aid individuals to grow whereby they know themselves; discover their own purpose for living; and always be able to recognize their connectedness to the whole. The job of religion is to empower individuals with a self-objectivity, which allows them to critic their own faults first; and then, reach out to others in tolerance and love!

The demand made by the imitatio Christi - that we should follow the ideal and seek to become like it - ought logically to have the result of developing and exalting the inner man. In actual fact, however, the ideal has been turned by superficial and formalistically minded believers into an external object of worship. And, it is precisely this veneration for the object that prevents it from reaching down into the depths of the psyche and giving the latter a wholeness in keeping with the ideal. Accordingly, the Divine Mediator stands outside as an image, while man remains fragmentary and untouched in the deepest part of him.

C.G. Jung, PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY, vol 12 Collected Works, revised 1968, P7)

In other words, religion has us reaching out of ourselves for answers; instead of, looking within where we can experience the ideal from our own depths. We have learned to trust in the church more than in our own ability to communicate with God. Perhaps that is why the Divine inspiration for our age seems so limited.

Those who realize the connectedness of all things can receive religion in a wide variety of ways. The diversity for conveying this universal message is repeated in the sacred books, great myths, music and art which adorns our world. In other words, God communicates to people in different ways. Once we find our faith, and turn it to trust in God, it should motivate us to interact with one another in different ways, for only then can we see the Divine Element to all things.

Faith would work if a business owner who believed were to treat their workers fairly, paying them a decent wage and seeing to it that employee's had decent medical coverage in a society. A faith would work in reality, if it had employees going to work and giving the boss their best because it is the right thing to do. Religion would have real meaning if an advertiser felt ethically responsible for the truth in an ad, rather the rhetoric and slogans of meaningless jabber that they think will sell. Faith would work if the directives of Jesus were more of a priority than money!

The idea of "sacredness to life" is simple lip service, because, in today's world the "bottom line" is the sacred. But what we fail to realize is that there is no "bottom line" without life!

In practical terms, if people lived the universal religious ethics in large numbers, the dealings of society would be far different than they are now. If individuals truly believed in equality, honesty, compassion, mercy, tolerance, justice, brotherhood, and that we are all children of God - belief as manifested in their actions; then, society could begin to change without any legislation. If even half the human race at the individual level would begin to treat others as if they were truly sons and daughters of God, what transformations might we see?

We cannot truthfully say that we believe that we are all children of God and ignore the unnecessary human suffering all around us. In practical terms, when humans suffer God suffers just as any loving parent would! Theology's job is to open our eyes to that suffering around us so that the individual will not ignore such injustice. This is the whole mystery of the passion and death of Christ: that when we take responsibility for the world, although the burden may be great, the reward is eternal - that the indifference toward suffering is inflicted upon the Creative Force.

If a Christian theology is to be faithful to the teachings of its founder, the teachings that are proclaimed to have come from God incarnate; then, they must reflect his positions and the example of his life. Anything less is hypocrisy, something Jesus abhorred.

And what were the teachings of Jesus? They were reflections on how to approach the everyday realities we face. They taught us that anger was immoral (Matt 5:21-25). They taught us to examine our own faults first (Matt 7:3-5 & Luke 6:39-42), and to pass no judgment on others for to do such only brings judgment upon ourselves (Matt 7: 1-2 & Luke 6:26). He teaches we should turn the other cheek, and love our enemies (Matt. 5: 38-48 & Luke 6: 27-35). He tells us to give freely without seeking reward (Matt 6:1-4). He tells us not to make a show of our faith and pray to God in secret, being brief in what we say because God knows our needs (Matt 6: 5-8).

Jesus issues the command to love in both the great commandments and his farewell address in the Gospel of John. He tells us we cannot have more than one priority, that we cannot serve the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of money (Matt 6: 24 & Luke 16: 10-13).

Over and over he repeats that we are all messiahs, urging us to pick up our cross and follow him (Matt 16: 24-28, Mark 8: 34-35, Luke 9: 23-25, Luke 14: 25-27). He tells us we must serve to lead (Matt 20: 24-28 & Mark 10:41-45). He warns us of the danger of materialism taking us over (Matt 19:16-25, Mark 10:17- Luke 18: 18-27).

In the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), Jesus proclaims we are responsible for our brother. In the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12, Luke 6:20-23) he tells us of our need for God and gives us virtues which help us to develop our life. Being gentle of spirit, being righteous, showing mercy, being peacemakers, being sorrowful and pure of heart - are all there to guide us in our everyday interactions.

Thomas Jefferson describes nicely the reality of our religious state of affairs:

Of all the systems of morality, ancient or modern, which have come under my observation, none appears to be so pure as that of Jesus.         

(To: W. Canby, 1813)


Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole-civilized world would now have been Christian.   

(To: Benjamin Waterhouse, 1922)

But, Jefferson also seen the distortion of that wonderful message:

The religious builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticism, fantasies and falsehoods.

      (To: Thomas Pickering, 1821)

The role of any responsible theology would be to demystify the teachings of Jesus, steering them away from flights of fantasy, offering a practical application of these teachings for today's world. When we look at Jefferson's words, how different are they from what Jesus, himself, said:

You have made God's law null and void out of respect for your tradition. What HYPOCRISY! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: "This people pay me lip service, but their heart is far from me, THEIR WORSHIP OF ME IS IN VAIN, for they teach as doctrines the COMMANDMENTS OF MEN".

      (Matthew 15:7-9, repeated in Mark 7:6-8)

This is the problem: instead of religion focusing on the messages of scriptures, they read into them human speculations that are magical in nature; then, they teach such as the truth of God.

This brings us to the point of a responsible approach for religion to take. It is not so much the theology one might construct for their faith; it is rather, the actualization of those beliefs. If we are to truly become a spiritual people, a real part of the Kingdom of God in this world, we need to change our views about personal social responsibility.

Holiness is not in the preaching of the Gospel. Holiness is not a voting block that responds to an agenda set by some church. Holiness is not in our worship or faith. Holiness is responding to the needs of all that is of God in a direct proportion of our ability to do so. Quite simply, holiness is our expression of love.

Argue as we do over the rich and the poor, about what constitutes personal responsibility, about careers and skills and their worth - the mythology and scripture all tell us that exploitation of another is wrong and that such comes back to haunt us. No human being that is willing to work should be exploited by a sub-standard wage, which forces him to make choices ABOUT THE NECESSITIES of that culture. This is the whole essence of our ideal of equality. No matter how menial the task might seem, one who works should be paid a livable wage. Yes, educated people and certain skills may deserve a higher compensation, as they have often put forth a greater effort to achieve such. But spiritual people will realize, and responsible theology will argue, that even the people at the bottom end of the work force are important to the proper functioning of that work force. Therefore, they deserve to be compensated at a societal level which allows them to eat properly, afford safe housing conditions, be able to adequately cloth themselves, have access to health care, have access to educational opportunity in proportion to their ability to utilize such, and even a little money for recreation. "Life, liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness" as we call it in the Declaration of Independence. This begs the question: Where are those rights in our so-called Judaic/Christian constitution?

And the unfortunate, simply because they are out of a job, or sick, or old, or incapacitated are entitled to the same rights, that is, if we are to remain consistent to our rhetoric that life is sacred and we are all children of God. God doesn't arbitrarily give and take:

But you must love your enemies and do good; and lend without expecting return, and you will have a rich reward; you will be sons of the most High, because He Himself is kind to the UNGRATEFUL AND THE WICKED. Be compassionate, as your Father is compassionate.

(Luke 9:35)

Churches need to go far beyond their words, mobilizing for change. They need to be setting the example. To start with an example, any religious institution that hires employees, even if it is to scrub floors, should meet all the standards as outlined above. They ought to seek to provide health care through the church to those who cannot afford it. Our reality shows us, that often, those who work for religious hospitals, religious educational institutions, and other religious institutions; despite the fact they are non-profit and tax-exempt, often pay their help less and offer far less benefits than comparable counterparts. And often these same institution charge more for their hospital or educational services then are available elsewhere. While focusing on the abstractions, they are often ignoring the practical theology which Jesus himself preached - a theology of social justice, equal opportunity and human compassion.

The church needs to get its head out of the clouds and they need a theology to help get them there. They need to speak out and try to do something about the real immorality of our world which is the unnecessary suffering, mental anguish, inequality and poverty in which people are forced to live.

How can any religious person not see something ethically wrong in a world where less than 20% of the people control 90% of the wealth. This might not be so bad if it were not for the fact that over a third of what's left live are at or below poverty levels. Many of these people work very hard.

The critics of social welfare are right when they say we shouldn't need a state welfare system. If the churches were doing the work of Jesus, they would be providing such a safety net without regard to a person's personal belief structure. Churches should care enough to help people out of their problems with educational opportunity, social counseling, and financial and emotional support. They should lead the cause of social justice by their example; to be sure, this is the Kingdom which Jesus envisioned. While there are many social religious causes, they most often Band-Aid the situation, having little to do with elimination of the root of the problem.

These are the theological questions that challenge a responsible theology for the twenty first's century. We must move from the realm of the metaphysical, to the practical and real concerns for the "life" we proclaim sacred. Our theological positions should address questions such as: What does God expect of us in relationship to our diverse everyday lives? How can a religion best serve community without causing division, self-righteousness or prejudice? What are the ethical and practical guidelines for a Kingdom claiming to represent God? How could the church set an example for fair modern living which might encourage people to emulate it? Can a theology be built that responds to the real needs of individuals; a theology that is harmonious with truth as it is understood, and a theology that is corporally and psychologically healthy? How can theology help prepare people so they can: Change the things they can change, accept the things they cannot, and offer them the wisdom to decide the difference without the need of the church to do it for them?

The truth of the matter is that we can know nothing for certain about the nature or realm of God; it is simply beyond us! What we need to see is that in self-improvement, we can enhance the creation, and in doing such, one must be doing the Will of God. . Theology should work to improve the quality of human life, just like our other branches of knowledge. It's about motivating people to reach out to one another as individuals, not simply write checks to the church in hopes of buying God. Theology is limited in its understanding of the supernatural, but history has shown that it can influence the natural world for good or bad.

The immorality of our world rests in a rejection of Jesus' call to "Pick up our cross and follow him." A call that he stated almost as much as his call to love. We find it Matthew 10:38, again in Matthew 16:24-28, in Mark 8: 34-35, and twice in the Gospel of Luke 9: 23-25 and 14: 25-27. It becomes so ironic that the basis for most Christian theology is that he carried the cross for us!

Again, this idea of carrying our cross is not literal, but a metaphor to tell us that each one of us can make a difference. The messiahship may differ from one person to the next, but if we are truly connected to God, we will make a difference in someone's or something's else's life. Our cross, according to the teachings of Jesus, is to make our brother's burden our own!

And as we develop these new theological positions, we must be careful not to advocate a certain type of governmental structure. It has been said that Jesus would have been a socialist if he were alive today, but when we carefully study his words one could not reach that conclusion. Our world has plenty of examples of socialism, which is unfair and oppressive. And given Jesus' principles, it would be hard to accept that he would advocate a free market capitalism, which truly has money as its god and thrives upon greed.

It doesn't seem that Jesus ever envisioned the government building an equitable society. Rather, he saw the Kingdom of God as being composed of individuals who care. In democracies, the government reflects the ideals of the individual. If individuals are principled, then ultimately the state will be. This is the underlying message in Jesus': "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." To reflect God's love in our everyday individual lives is what we can render to God; and if enough of us do that, the state will reflect it.

Theology should encourage the church to experiment in social programs that make a difference, not just put Band-Aids on the problems. Many churches, for example, feed the hungry. How about working toward a goal where there are no hungry? They should be offering educational opportunity even to those who cannot afford it. They should demonstrate fair labor practices and offer an example to other businesses. Religious hospitals should give care regardless of one's ability to pay for it. For a Christian to provide anything less becomes a hypocrisy, because these are the very things that are expressed in the practical and social theology of Jesus.

A church should be a center where individuals can pool their talents and reach out to others. Maybe worship should be replaced with helpful community projects instead of songs and entertainment. Teaching people to read, working with inner city youth, getting involved with the poor and the downtrodden, visiting sick or lonely people; are all things that could make a difference in our real world - if only they were the priority. There is nothing wrong with worship or prayer, but when it becomes a substitute for our compassion, a projection of our holiness, or a way to attain social status; such becomes a hypocrisy losing all its spiritual value.

The religious teachings of individuals such Isaiah, Plato, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed move us beyond a simple recognition of the Creator. They move us beyond the code of the Ten Commandments of "Thou shall not's ". These inspired individuals tell us that morality is simply not in the avoidance of violating certain Divine Laws. If we are truly moral we need no such laws, because true morality goes beyond such a minimum, requiring every individual to be a "Savior" in ratio to their ability to do so.

The hero of every myth, is the one who helps others, even when their personal sacrifice is great.

Theology needs to establish its priorities in the here and now. Whatever the archetype it chooses, it should help to establish the Kingdom of God in the reality of the world though its teachings, example, and establishment of humane priorities. Our responsibility to God is treatment of each other. Our tribute to God is our interaction with the creation. Our love of God is expressed through our love toward one another.

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. It is easy to believe in magic; but it takes skill, sacrifice, and self-discipline to create it. Religion is not a belief, but rather, an action!


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