Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some loosely related thoughts....

Over the course of our week away, at the conference..... traveling to and from the conference….from several different (very far flung) sources I came upon unique ways of expressing some key concepts I’ve talked about on this blog.  The first one came from a sermon preached by David Levister. The conference focused almost entirely on the “finished work” of the cross so Jesus, his death and resurrection were a constant theme.  

I’ve often heard Jesus referred to as the mediator between God and man….but tweaking it just a bit in his sermon, he referred to Jesus as “the connector.” That fits with an example used in several of the sermons I heard (don’t ask me whose…I listened to 10 sermons in 4 days) In the example, Jesus reaches up and grasps God with one hand and reaches down and grasps mankind with the other.  Thus…the perfect connector.  An example that is not really contradicted by any of the standard theories of atonement. 

And another little ditty that stuck in my mind was from a song by the Lake City Christian Fellowship Praise Team.   David Bunch writes most of the music for the Praise Team and the lyrics reflect the beliefs of the church….the finished work of the cross.  You can check out some of the lyrics and even listen to the full version of about 10 or so of their songs here.

In a song called “The Tongue of Life” the lyrics talk about speaking life through Jesus Christ….and the finished work of the cross. It mentions one of the things that was accomplished at the cross which was:

Learned behaviors and second natures
Were swallowed up at Calvary

Learned behaviors and second natures.  Kind of an interesting way of describing the egoic mind/carnal nature, don’t you think? Which leads me to another idea that stuck in my head over the course of the week….

And it came from the Koran.  Yes…I did leaf through a book entitled The Essential Koran during the drive there and the drive home.  The book is a compilation of excerpts from an English translation of the Koran... translated into English by Thomas Clearly.  I base my faith on what I find in the Bible….but it so expands my view of God’s magnitude when I hear concepts from scripture in the sacred writings of other cultures…in contemporary literature, in movies and secular songs.  I love to hear his voice in unexpected places.  It really drives home the OMNIPRESENT facet of God’s nature. 

In several verses in Cleary’s translation, he refers to “satan” as the Obsessor.  Is Satan an actual being?  Maybe....but I know many times when scripture refers to satan it is talking about the egoic mind/pain body/adamic man/carnal nature. Since my egoic mind doggedly dwells on and obsesses about my problems, issues, worries, concerns, the term Obsessor is so fitting!

Just a few loosely related thoughts about a few loosely related words...

Friday, March 26, 2010

More From Jack E. Dawson

I mentioned that I was going to post a bit more about Jack E. Dawson’s artwork…but even though we are on vacation, time seems to be slipping away very quickly. I am posting two pictures I liked a lot…check out his website if you like paintings like this….

           Decision by Jack Dawson

Untitled, 8/7/03, 7:09 PM,  8C, 5274x7694 (83+178), 100%, Default Settin,  1/25 s, R64.9, G51.5, B93.0


             Wise Men Still Seek Him

Untitled, 11/6/03, 11:57 AM,  8C, 5148x6430 (223+1410), 100%, Default Settin,  1/25 s, R63.1, G49.4, B90.0

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jesus and the American Flag….

We spent the day yesterday…and last night in Pigeon Forge.  For some reason, the Parkway reminded me a bit of the strip in Las Vegas.  So many motels/hotels (many with dirt cheap rates) restaurants, shops, and shows. It was my first visit to Pigeon Forge….Keith’s second.  He was there years ago.  We had a great time.  We saw a magic show in the afternoon….and then went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat last night.  Both were very professional and entertaining.  Lunch at O’Charlies, a late….very late….dinner at IHOP…a walk down the strip in between shows…high point of which was a quick stop at Starbuck’s where it was our lucky day!  It was free breakfast pastry day….which included cookies! (My kids always tried to tell me cookies were a suitable choice for breakfast :)  A chocolate chunk cookie was exactly what I had in mind when we stopped there.

We also happened into an art studio that featured Thomas Kincade’s artwork…and a few other similar (copy cat?) artists whose paintings also appeared to be “illuminated.” I love Thomas Kincade’s work..and have a print of the Sweetheart Cottage hanging above the couch in our living room. 

The paintings of an artist by the name of Jack E Dawson were also on display.  Keith pointed out one particular painting entitled

       “If My People” 

                  by Jack E. Dawson


Untitled, 4/16/02, 10:38 AM,  8C, 5734x7578 (168+384), 100%, straight 6 sto,  1/30 s, R56.4, G61.7, B100.7 

As you can see, the painting is a close up depicting someone mending a torn and tattered, bullet ridden American flag.  At first I thought it might be Betsy Ross but the clothing, while it looks like something from the Revolutionary War era, is obviously men’s clothing.  Scratch Betsy.  One of the hands in the painting is holding a needle with crimson thread.  The other hand? Can you see the hint of a wound….partially hidden by the sleeve on the other hand?  A nail print? Yes, it is indeed a nail print. This painting depicts Jesus mending the American flag.

There is detailed information about the symbols and images (twin towers, fetus, man in prayer, demon) hidden in the painting at Dawson’s Bitter Sweet Gallery website.  

I mentioned offhandedly that I didn’t think spirituality should be intertwined with patriotism.  Keith remarked that he didn’t know how you can separate the two.  We discussed it a bit more as we hoofed it up and down the strip.  Can you separate the two?  Should you separate the two?  Was this nation really founded on Christian principles?

Then….before leaving Pigeon Forge, we hit a discount book store.  And I picked up several books that deal with these very questions…

Shane Clairborne’s “Jesus For President” and “Irresistible Revolution”

Brian McLaren’s “Everything Must Change.”

And I had Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of a Christian Nation” in my pile….but ended up putting it back.  I (really) like what Boyd has to say but my stack was getting higher and higher (also bought McLaren’s “A Search For What Makes Sense” and the “Furious Pursuit Workbook” which was only 99 cents)

So…..with this painting fresh in my mind, several discussions with Keith…..and my stack of left wing reading material….. a series (at least theoretically) is born.  Musing about this melding, intertwining of politics and spirituality….specifically US politics and Christianity.  I’ve written about this topic on my blog before……HERE.  So another idea rattling around in the churner….

But in my next post, I am going to write a bit about Jack E. Dawson’s other artwork….which I really like.  It is ripe with symbolism and exemplifies how a picture can be worth a thousand words…..

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Just so you don’t forget me….

It is, supposedly, the bane of bloggers to let more than a few days go by without a post.  I have been very lax with my posting lately.  I’ve been sick (sick, sick, very sick) with this kick ass upper respiratory thing that will not let go.  I am still hacking away, although I see incremental improvement with each passing day. Thirteen days have passed thus far.  I am weary of coughing. I am fed up with being sick.  I even had a case of pink eye thrown into the mix for good measure.  I haven’t had one of those little teeny bottles of antibiotic eye drops since my kids were little.  I do now.  Two drops a day for 14 days.  

And we’ve been getting ready to go away….and we actually are away as I type this, sitting on the floor of a recently renovated “family owned motel” somewhere about two hours from Knoxville.  Between Kingston and Bristol TN.  I am on the floor trying to hide the light from my computer screen…since Keith is still sleeping….or trying to.  The Lark and the Owl go to Pigeon Forge.  Final destination is Lake City, TN for a conference at Justin Phillips Church.  Detour through Pigeon Forge.

We ran into some snow last night….yes….in Virginia.  It didn’t stay snow once it hit the roads but it was coming down at a pretty fast clip and visibility was not the best…and the roads were slick….so we decided to call it a night here at the Red Carpet Inn…at the recommendation of the janitor who was mopping up the Welcome Center.  Not bad…and for 39.99…what can you expect?  It has free wifi.

So while there are quite a few posts in the churning (around in my brain) phase…I have not done the necessary research to bring them to fruition.  I’ve read some interesting things about inerrancy and Biblical interpretation from Greg Boyd, Thom Stark, sharktacos, on the Sanctimonious Bob blog and also from a series I found on an eclectic vegetarian/Girardian/peace church kind of site called, “What the Bible Really Says” by J.R. Hyland.  True to my picking and choosing mindset, none of these writings expresses exactly what (I think) I believe….although some come very close.  There are also some things about sacrifice and mimetic rivalry/scapegoating I’ve been mulling over and want to write about. 

I will briefly mention that I made 8 CDs for Keith and I to listen to on the way here.  Four of Gary Sigler, four of Preston Eby.  We listened to an older Preston Eby message yesterday….from 1999.  We both heard the message before….long forgotten…..but our memories were jogged as we listened. 

The name of the message was “The Divine Perspective.”  It was a message that included an example I’ve used many times since I first heard Eby use it.  The gist of the message is that our perspective is limited…God’s is not.  The word picture Eby uses to illustrate this point is of a parade on “Main Street.” 

Our perspective is similar to the guy who sits down in a lawn chair in front of the hardware store…cooler of Pepsi beside him….to view the parade.  He can only see the small portion of the parade that is passing directly in front of him.  He can’t see the parts that have already passed by his chair and he can’t see the parts of the parade yet to come….and for sure he can’t see how all the parts fit together.   But God….Go'd’s perspective is akin to the view from the top of the three story building that houses the hardware store.  Not only can he see what has passed, he can see what is passing….and what is yet to come.  That is the divine perspective.  Eby urges us to get up out of our chairs and rise above our street level view and see things from God’s perspective….atop the three story building. 

He also talks a lot about the NOW….which is where God dwells.  It reminded me a lot of what Eckhart says about the NOW and coincidentally, while packing, I grabbed a copy of The Power of Now to bring along to read. 

We also listened to Gary Sigler’s message “Practical Spirituality.” One comment that stuck with me was the tendency even in the kingdom ranks, to put ourselves into doctrinal boxes and shun fellowship with those outside of our particular box.  Gary knows a lot about being shunned. Summing up Gary’s entire message in just a few words is mirrored in the signature line of a guy I who posted on Tentmaker a long time ago.  His name was PD…short for Pastor Dave.  His tag line? “It’s all about love.”  And isn’t it  REALLY all about love?  Doesn’t Paul declare that in 1 Corinthians 13?

1 Corinthians chapter 13 (TEV)

1 I may be able to speak the languages of human beings and even of angels, but if I have no love, my speech is no more than a noisy gong or a clanging bell.

2 I may have the gift of inspired preaching; I may have all knowledge and understand all secrets; I may have all the faith needed to move mountains-but if I have no love, I am nothing.

3 I may give away everything I have, and even give up my body to be burned-but if I have no love, this does me no good.

And then just in case we need a further explanation of what love is, he goes on to say:

4 Love is patient and kind;
it is not jealous or conceited or proud;
5 love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable;
love does not keep a record of wrongs;
6 love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.
7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

8 Love is eternal.

We should not let doctrinal differences separate us.  Yet we do far too often. It is just the kingdom variation of the denominational “us four and no more” stance so many mainstream churches take about salvation.  And now, having said much more than I intended to talk about, I am going to close this post.  More….to come…..

Friday, March 19, 2010

More on Scapegoating Revealed in Scripture....

I closed the last post by saying that according to Girard the Bible is the only sacred writing that exposes (rather than hide) mimetic rivalry and scapegoating.  
From Genesis to Revelation, it becomes clearer and clearer with each book of the Bible...with each progressive chapter...with the turning of each page. And it not only exposes it, it provides an answer to the problem. The answer? Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus. Put on the mind of Christ.
Lately, I've been reading through some articles about mimetic rivalry that I have saved on my computer.  I came upon the following quote from Mark Heim

Modern sensitivity to victims, which now makes people uneasy with the Bible, is rooted in the Bible.

He goes on to say that we would not be able to criticize the Scriptures of encouraging victimization(blood sacrifice/"holy wars"/scapegoating) if we had not already been converted by them. There are a whole slew of examples in the Bible that subtly....then more blatantly with the the crucifixion...reveal the scapegoating mechanism, the sacred violence human societies were founded upon.  There are many examples of mimetic rivalry and the turmoil it causes.  I will touch on some of those in upcoming posts.  But for now...I am sick, sick....very sick....with this kick ass cold that has had a grip on me all week.  I've spent most of my time....coughing, sniffling, sneezing and whining.  We are planning on going on vacation next week, to a conference at Justin Phillips church in Lake City, TN.  Hoping I am on the mend by then...and that I haven't passed this plague on to Keith.   

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mimesis in a Nutshell….

Okay...so a week or so ago, I posed the question....Church?  Good or bad?  And followed up with several posts on fundamentalism. 

The next few posts, while related to the church question... will also touch on something I haven't really talked about for a while.  Mimesis...mimetic rivalry and scapegoating. Even though it was one of the founding topics on my blog, I haven't written much about it lately. For a bit of background, check out this series of posts if you aren't familiar with mimesis. 

And..to put it in a (very small) nutshell, mimesis is an unconscious form of imitation.  Mimesis is inborn in all of us. It is similar to imitation…but not exactly.  Imitation is something we do consciously...and it is more or less a neutral morally and is, in fact,   a vital part of growing up...babies learn to talk, walk, behave through imitation. But mimesis is the shadow side of imitation.  We take on the desires of others...without thinking...like a reflex.  Mimesis is something we do unconsciously...which is where the danger lies.  We are not aware of it.  The website "preaching peace" describes the process thusly:

Mimesis is best understood as desire passed from one individual to another. We do not simply imitate each other’s actions, attitudes and beliefs but more fundamentally we imitate one another’s desires.

We want what others have.  We want what others want. Sometimes we even want to "BE" what others ARE. The person we "catch" our desires from is called the model. This becomes a problem if there is a limited supply or if we perceive that there is a limited supply. We become rivals with those who possess what we desire.  We become angry and frustrated....

One of the best examples of mimetic rivalry that I've read is the one that goes...

Two kids in a room full of toys. Any toy in the hand of another child is infinitely more appealing than the plethora of toys scattered about the room.  This applies even if it is the shabbiest toy there. That one particular toy becomes the most appealing toy there, in fact, it becomes the only toy in the room worth playing with.  All other toys pale in comparison to this particular toy. Any one who has spent any time with kids can relate to this. They can also relate to the inevitable fight that it causes. It is lack...or a perception of lack...that turns mimesis into rivalry...which sets up the whole scapegoating process. 


The scapegoating process itself is even more elusive and difficult to explain simply because we all do it but we don't/can't see it and we won't/can't acknowledge it.  Probably in its simplest terms, we take our pent up anger and frustration…the result of all the unfulfilled desires and ,singly or more often, collectively vent it on an innocent (or not nearly as guilty as presumed) victim. This not only promotes camaraderie between everyone but the victim....it diffuses everyone's anger.  It is a "safety valve." We see it on a small scale in our interpersonal relationships and on a much larger, grander scale...in society at large. 

Every time I try to explain mimetic rivalry, I feel like I have done a woefully inadequate job.  Fortunately, there are about a zillion resources on the internet. Check some of them out if you need more clarity... There are a few in the side bar in the links section....some in the posts I've written...and of course, as always, a seemingly endless supply on google. 

One more thing I should add is that Rene' Girard, the guy who is credited with "discovering mimetic rivalry" which pervades all facets of culture including religion...perhaps especially religion...feels that the Bible is the only holy book that exposes the sacred myth of the scapegoat.  From Genesis to Revelation, it becomes clearer and clearer with each book of the Bible...with each progressive chapter...with the turning of each page.  And it not only exposes it, it provides an answer to the problem.  The answer?  Have this mind in you that was also in Christ Jesus.  Put on the mind of Christ.  More on that in my next post……

Friday, March 12, 2010

Explore Faith.org

I came upon the Explore Faith web site a while back...saved it in the queue of ideas for just such a time as this....when I have not posted for three days...and when all the half formed ideas that are banging into each other in my brain have not seemed to congeal into a stream of words lucid enough to become a blog post.  Perhaps the ideas are in the process of coming to "fruition."  You know...ripening.  Although I know some might see them as far past ripe (which is synonymous with RIGHT) but that is the subject of another post.  (oh great....more stuff to churn around up there and "ferment")

Anyway, I came upon the site Explore Faith a while back, saved it in the queue...checked it out a bit yesterday here at home and yesterday at work during a break.  It is an interesting site...slanted heavily toward the Christian perspective, but inclusive at the same time. There is a page with links to articles about other religious traditions...but it is a small portion of the site.  

There are articles about prayer, meditation, peaceful living, parenting, oneness, everyday spirituality, an eclectic page of links, guided journaling, etc.  Worth a visit. You will find much food for thought there. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

C.S. Lewis on Pluralism

Recently, on an e-list where I am a member, someone posted an article warning of the dangers of the slippery slope stuff….a slope this guy thinks several of us “new agers” (under the influence of our ring leader, annie) are whizzing down at breakneck speed. This article was kind of “out there” with its dire warnings about goddess worship.....all stemming from that first little chink we chiseled in the Bible's armor of inerrancy.

But this is no surprise because he has been blaring the “new age” warning siren for the past 6 or 7 months….sometimes with a dogged determination….other times a bit less frenetic. It is not us he is particularly concerned about….but those that we will lead astray. The “baby” Christians. They will be helpless against the new age wares annie and crew peddle.  Any contact with us or the words we write….the thoughts we think…..the beliefs we believe are surely the first step down Apostasy Lane and very likely could result in things like the article warns of. Goddess Worship. Profane, evil, sacrilegious goddess worship. Which is about as far from the truth of what I believe as something can be.

I’ve said it here before….many times. God has revealed himself to me as Father. I know God has no gender per say….but I figure if Jesus called him Father, he probably knew what he was talking about. That is my belief, I have no need to shove it down anyone’s throat.

So, I googled the first few lines in the article…and “presto”….using a bit of google “magic,” I found the site. Oh my! Prolific! Thorough!!  No stone unturned.  Kjos Ministries. Warnings about every freaking thing under the sun. You name it, they’ve slapped a warning label on it!!! The label they use for most everything is “new age.” The old adage about the hammer and nail comes to mind.

To the man who only has a hammer, everything he encounters begins to look like a nail. Abraham Maslow

Amen to that. We all know how often the Bible is used as a hammer...and not hammer as in useful tool, but hammer as in bludgeoning weapon. The Bible can be used as a weapon against…well, against anything we want to hammer with it. It lends itself to a myriad of interpretations. Taken at the most literal level, heck, it’s against just about everything. Problem is, most of those wielding it as a weapon, don’t agree. So we get a ton of “the only correct interpretation” of scripture.

So anyway...if you want to find out what is wrong with Pokemon, Avatar, Twilight, the Message Bible, the Shack, magic...for heaven's sakes bump magic up there to the top of the list....which brings us to Harry Potter, the Vatican, contemplative prayer, Free Masons, Labyrinths, Pocahontas, Theophostics, the UN (of course the UN), Touched By An Angel, Narnia and the occult world of CS Lewis. Ahhhhh.....CS Lewis. This posts' namesake. Just let me say that the above list does not even scratch the surface of people, places and things this site exposes and warns against. 

Well as is so often the case on sites like this, they mine out perfectly delightful quotes to prove heresy, which is so convenient for heretics like me...and other heretics who read this blog. The article about CS Lewis was no exception!! Following is a rather pluralistic, inclusive sounding quote by CS Lewis....­compliments of Kjos Ministries.

…...in Chapter 10 of Beyond Personality, book three of Mere Christianity, Lewis takes the “all under one roof” idea even further, as he writes,

“There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. CS Lewis

Makes me wonder if it is somehow related to the declaration in 1 John

“....... it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that hath this hope in him, purifleth himself even as He is pure.” (I John 3:2-3)

They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:4

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Our True Character....

The other day, there was a great quote I noticed as someone's tag line.  And it kind of fits with all this talk about fundamentalism. Wayne Jacobsen from the God Journey said it...and it it totally fits him.  He and I are not best buds or anything but I've listened to quite a few of his podcasts (with Brad Cummings) and read some of his writings...including his blog.  The quote?

The test of character is how you're willing to treat someone when you are absolutely certain you are right. -Wayne Jacobsen

So I googled "quotes about character" and came up with the following that I thought blog worthy.  I love quotes.  Succint, encapsulated truths. 

Similar to the above quote...

This is the final test of a gentleman -- his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him.

The best index to a person's character is (a) how he treats people who can't do him any good, and (b) how he treats people who can't fight back.

Abigail Van Buren

James D. Miles and Ann Landers are also credited with saying the same thing...with only a variation of a word or two. 

And another line of thought....also true....

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. -Martin Luther King, Jr., "Strength to Love" speech (1963)

When the luggage is lost, when the house burns down, when one is falsely maligned, treated unfairly, when the waitress spills a cup of coffee in your lap....how do you behave then?

And then there is the revelation that comes with the kind of humor a person likes....or not....

A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents. -G. C.  Lichtenberg

There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at." Goethe

And then there is the "will I get caught" aspect to character:

Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking. H. Jackson Brown Junior

The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out. -Thomas Babington Macaulay

And what wealth can reveal about one's true nature

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. -Abraham Lincoln

Or when we evaluate other people....

A man never discloses his own character so clearly as when he describes another's. -Jean Paul Richter

And one that many of us can relate to...

A persons character is but half formed until after wedlock."C. Simmons

But truly....the problem with most of us might be that we live out of the wrong character...out of our egoic mind/adamic carnal nature.  The solution?  Gary Sigler says the following:

This is why Paul said, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." Phil 2:5 He also said, "You have the mind of Christ." How do we let that mind be in us? Ah, it is through practice. It is learning how to discern that which is of God, from that which is from the natural mind.

Casting off the old man...putting on the new.  When we are living out of our christ nature...walking in the spirit....abiding in the Presence....our character is never compromised.....

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reflections on Fundamentalism...

I found this purely by happenstance as I was poking around the web looking for stuff on fundamentalism and its effects on the brain. (some of which made it to my last post)  It is fairly long yet at the same time succinct and "right on the money" in the description of fundamentalists. 

I googled the author.  He is a Canadian man who converted to Islam in his young adult years.  He was a Christian who studied for the ministry and was, in fact, an assistant pastor for two years.  He became disillusioned with faith in general and left the ministry.  Later, he converted to Islam.  

Some audio sermons of his (and those of quite a few others) can be found HERE

Following is a blatant copy and paste of his writing...with full credit given to the author. 

 My Take On Fundamentalists And Fundamentalism

by Yahya Abdul Rahman- Nov 7, 2006

Fundamentalism has nothing to do with religion.

In fact, one does not have to believe in God or any religion to be a fundamentalist.

Fundamentalism is a mindset or a particular way a person interprets what they see around them, and in turn determines their course of action.

Fundamentalists tend to be rigid and will not accept any other interpretation of how things are other than their own.

They adhere to a set of principles- sometimes codified in a book or articulated by some charismatic leader- and they refuse to waver from those principles even if they have been proven wrong.

In fact, they are never wrong, and that is why they are called fundamentalists in the first place.

Everyone else is wrong, stupid or an agent for some other vested interest and, as a result,  they- the non fundamentalists- cannot see the true reality.

Underscore THE true reality.

Fundamentalists build a wall of virtue around themselves and they are the only true purists.

Everyone else is tainted.

They have been to the top of the mountain and their "eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

They are impossible to deal with and every argument one uses against them merely further confirms what they already believe to be true.

Thus, their position is  irrefutable.

They do not believe in dialogue as that would be a cop out.

They don't believe in compromise as - once again - that would demonstrate that the other side may have a point.

If you even suggest to them to have an open mind then you are an apostate from "the cause" or an enemy that must be silenced at all costs.

They are usually vulgar and abusive in their language, but can dress their presentation up a bit when the need arises.

They may call themselves Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists, anarchists, environmentalists, left wing, right wing, centrist, fascist, democratic, socialist, progressive, and every other kind of "ism" one can think of.

They are NOT out to save the world, but to make it in their own image and will spend all their energies doing so.

Generally, they are very sad people but are convinced of their rightness, so the sadness is a necessary sacrifice for a higher cause.

How one arrives at such a state of mind is a subject of a lot of debate.

I think it is their means at finding concrete and ready made answers in a complex world and this gives them a sense of security -  a sense of smugness that they are right and have seen the light.

One thing is for sure it is a very miserable way to live one's life.

The label "fundamentalism" is hurled at members of the Muslim community quite frequently as it is currently an effective way to bludgeon Muslims into silence.

Ironically, those making the accusations are - for the most part-  the worst kind of fundamentalists themselves and possess those characteristics which have been outlined above.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention, fundamentalists, while claiming moral superiority, are the worst form of hypocrites one can imagine.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What Fundamentalism Does to Your Brain!

Following is a rather sizeable chunk of text from How God Changes Your Brain.  It is taken from the section on religious fundamentalism and its (detrimental) affect on the brain.  Not just evangelical fundamentalism...but any group that nurtures an us vs them mentality with angry rhetoric and hate speech.  Sermons about hell, and sinners, homosexuals and Muslims, fornicators and liberals seem to be a mainstay of evangelical fundamentalists in this country.  "Allah be praised!!  Death to the infidels" is the Islamic version of hate speech. Exposure to this kind of crap can actually damage your brain....not to mention it incites violence and spreads more hate and fear far and wide.  

If you allow anger and fear to dominate, you will lose the neurological ability to think logically and act compassionately toward others. In fact, it is nearly impossible to find peace and serenity if your mind is preoccupied by negative, anxious, or hateful thoughts.

Excessive anger or fear can permanently disrupt many structures and functions in both your body and your brain. These destructive emotions interfere with memory storage and cognitive accuracy, which, in turn, will disrupt our ability to properly evaluate and respond to social situations. Anger makes people indiscriminately punitive, blameful, pessimistic, and unilaterally careless in their logic and reasoning skills. Furthermore, anger encourages your brain to defend your beliefs—be they right or wrong—and when this happens, you’ll be more likely to feel prejudice toward others. You’ll inaccurately perceive anger in other people’s faces, and this will increase your own distrust and fear. It’s an insidious process that feeds on itself, and it can influence your behavior for very long periods of time. Eventually, it will even damage important structures in your brain.

The Neurological problem of fundamentalism does not lie in the firm adherence to a specific set of beliefs.  Rather, the problem arises when individuals use their religion to justify angry feelings toward others.  Specifically, expressing or listening to angry thoughts can disturb the normal neural functioning of many parts of the brain.  In fact, just reading emotionally evocative words stimulates the amygdala and hippocampus in ways that resemble the encoding of traumatic memories. 

When you listen to angry speech--in a congregation or political forum--specific parts of your brain begin to mirror the angry content of the speaker.  All you have to do is see a harsh, angry or contemptuous face in a picture, and the same neural reaction will be triggered because the circuits involving the human amygdala are particularly responsive to the emotional expression on other people's faces.  And the stronger the expression, the stronger your emotional reaction will be. 

Unfortunately, as far as the brain is concerned, negative speech has a stronger effect than positive speech.  Negative remarks and memories are more strongly encoded in the brain, and they are the most difficult memories to eradicate.  In fact, simply being around negative people will make you more prejudiced, because listening to negative opinions can easily undermine your positive opinions about virtually anything. 

In essence our brains are designed to mimic the emotional expressions of others.  Not only does this allow us to feel what others feel, but it causes what is known as emotional contagion, a universal neurological process whereby subjective feelings are transferred to other people and spread through social groups.  So how fast does it take the brain to react to another persons emotion?  When you see an angry expression, it takes less than one second for your brain to respond with fear. 

I want to bring up an important but often overlooked point.  What you choose to meditate upon, or pray for, can do more than change your brain.  You can damage it, especially if you choose to focus on something that makes you frightened or angry.  In Psychology this is called rumination and it is clearly hazardous to your health.  In a Stanford brain scan study, people who focused on negative aspects of themselves, or on a negative interpretation of life had increased activity in their amygdala.  This generated waves of fear, releasing a torrent of destructive neurochemicals into the brain.

Interesting how the Bible tells us

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.Phillippians 4:8 KJV

or as The Message renders it:

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious--the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Church...Good or Bad?

A week or so ago I wrote about Stephen Knapp...his website and some of his views on religious unity and religious divisions.

Here is some more from Stephen Knapp on religious unity. The whole article can be found on his web site….HERE.

If we are mature enough to see the purpose of each religion or spiritual path, we will recognize that there is very little difference between them. Once we get past the superficialities and variations, like dress, language, rituals, diet, or architectural styles of churches or temples, we can see that the essence of each religion is the same. That is to pray to God, sing His praises, discuss His pastimes and instructions, study the guidance of the prophets or messengers of God, and to think of God or meditate on Him in any number of ways. The process is the same, summarized as hearing about God, chanting or singing about Him, and remembering and serving God. That's it. Anything else is an expansion of these items. The goal is the same: To learn how to surrender to God and love Him with all our hearts and minds, and then to treat and love others as parts and parcels of God. Simple.

Why do we gather at temples, churches or mosques? Simply to learn and practice how to do this, and associate with others who wish to do the same. Thereby we all help each other in this direction.

So Knapp seems to take a pretty optimistic view of religion…all religions. He see it as the finger that points to the moon. Recently, I read parts of a book called “How God Changes Your Brain.” Some of the activities that take place in organized religion (praying, chanting, meditating, contemplation) actually make changes in the brain chemistry…..stimulating certain parts of the brain that govern good stuff like empathy, goodwill, compassion etc. A few quotes from the book:

But religious and spiritual contemplation changes your brain in a profoundly different way because it strengthens a unique neural circuit that specifically enhances social awareness and empathy while subduing destructive feelings and emotions. This is precisely the kind of neural change we need to make if we want to solve the conflicts currently afflicting our world. And the underlying mechanism that allows these changes to occur relates to a unique quality known as neuroplasticity: the ability of the human brain to structurally rearrange itself in response to a wide variety of positive and negative events.


When you intensely and consistently focus on your spiritual values and goals, you increase the blood flow to your frontal lobes and anterior cingulate, which causes the activity in emotional centers of the brain to decrease. Conscious intention is the key, and the more you focus on your inner values, the more you can take charge of your life.

The emotional centers the book talks about are the areas of the brain that control anger and like emotions.

So we find different religions the world over…and contained within these varied religious traditions… we find practices and activities that stimulate the parts of the brain that make us kinder, gentler people. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing…does it?

Well, according to Preston Eby organized religion is a very bad thing. He refers to it often as Babylon, the Harlot…the Mother of Harlots....the Whore…..the Great Whore. According to Eby, It is fueled by the spirit of antichrist. (which means “instead of” not necessarily “against” Christ) And the goal of spiritual maturity and a right relationship with Christ is to “come out of her, my people.”

In his series, The Heavens Declare, Part 18 he says:

All religion is the invention of man in his effort to meet man's spiritual need — apart from the anointing! Alas! they understand not that the reality of God's life is not contained in, nor ministered through, doctrines, programs, rituals, ceremonies or ordinances. Those who live in that realm know nothing of the mighty power of the indwelling Christ of God. Man's religion is of the world, for it is outside of God, being not of the Spirit, nor by the anointing.

Generation after generation, people have been raised up from childhood in this atmosphere and have absolutely no knowledge of anything else or another way. It never even enters the minds of these people that THE CHRIST WITHIN is the Head of the church, the life of the church, and the whole sufficiency for the church, its people, its work, and its needs. Each church must be constantly creating new plans, programs and activities to keep the people busy "doing something". The idea is to keep the people busy and to keep up the interest, so that they may be kept in that church. In the church world such a church is known as a "lively" church, and the pastor is known as one of the "successful" pastors. Spirituality has little, if anything, to do with it, for the whole group, including the so-called pastor and church leader, is simply a natural body of people, carrying on what they imagine is a church.

So while Knapp sees the religions of the world as more or less of a good thing that bring people closer to God, Eby sees them as an obstacle. Eby also writes from a very Christian paradigm. He does not think that people from other religions can really know the Christ and their relationship with God is, at best, second rate. At worst, it is bogus and the spirits they are in relationship with are not the true Christ/God. He talks about this in (among other places) The Seed in Every Man.

In How God Changes Your Brain, they discuss fundamentalists and how their activities and beliefs actually stimulate the wrong parts of the brain. Well, wrong if you are going for kinder, gentler. More on that tomorrow.