ORI for the Cynical Christian
Posted by Frith on 1/15/2009, 6:02 pm, in reply to "The Right Life: Basic Lessons"
Hi, glad you stopped by.
There seem to be a lot of us out here who have all kinds of mixed feelings about religion. Are the organized sects and denominations for real? Are they good for people and society? Or are they nothing more than a lot of mythical hocus-pocus and archaic moralizing that only serve to brainwash us and blind us to reality? Would it be any better to scrap the so-called "organized" stuff and try other kinds of spirituality instead? Or would that be just as bad?
I've been up and down that road quite a few times over the years. And, like a lot of folks, I came close to throwing up my hands and proclaiming myself to be an atheist, a secular humanist, or an agnostic, After giving it a lot of thought, however, I finally had to admit to myself that there was something I sort of liked about the underlying Christian message, something warm and fuzzy and comforting about the way Jesus seemed to be suggesting we should approach living. It's just that I didn't have a lot of confidence in they way that message was being preached in the churches. All that stuff about eternal life, dying for sins, and so on, struck me as too abstract, too supernatural and, frankly, way too boring.
I concluded that, while I wasn't quite ready to do without religion altogether, I desperately needed to boil Jesus' message down to something simple that I could apply to my life and, hopefully, to the betterment of the world, without having to weed my way through a bunch of peripheral mumbo-jumbo.
And that led me to a kind of epiphany: Why should it not be possible to keep the religions as they are, leave them in place as options, and encourage people to worship (or not) in whatever manner makes them feel good and fulfilled...BUT... provide them with a second parallel institution---a quasi-religion, if you will---that might provide a practical way for each person to apply his or her own faith-based beliefs to the realities of modern contemporary living?
I kept thinking of my college days. Chemistry class, for example. On M-W-F, there would be the lecture portion with several hundred of us crammed into a lecture hall, madly taking notes on atomic weights, valences, catalytic reactions, and such. But then, on T-Th, a handful of us would converge on the lab and actually pour things back and forth from beakers into flasks in an attempt to understand how all those atomic weights and catalytic reactions actually work in the real world. It seems I had some kind of lab or workshop for most of the courses I took, even math, art and so on. And I invariably enjoyed them a lot more than I did the stuffy lectures.
That's when it occured to me. If it works for college classes, why shouldn't religion have both the lecture part and a corresponding workshop part?
I was raised a Methodist and, over the years, I have explored a number of different approaches to religion. I love Jesus and his message, but I have never quite understood why one had to become bogged down in a quagmire of scriptural quotations and theological speculation in order to live a Christ-inspired life. Instead of endlessly debating the fine points of doctrine and accusing the other folks of being full of crap, why shouldn't we just live the right life, enjoy whatever religious traditions and practices make us feel good, and leave it at that?
If you agree, I have an idea you might like. It leaves the actual "religious doctrine" stuff to the preachers and priests but adds on that quasi-thing I talked about. Our version of Christianity almost never quotes from the Bible. Rather, we place our focus on the general meaning and spirit of the New Testament---that is, on the message Christ was trying to get across---while leaving the Hebrew Old Testament (a tale of ancient history and prophesy) essentially alone. We don't deliver sermons; we teach and we learn.
Think of this as the beginning of an exciting odyssey, a journey into a whole new religious landscape where natural meets supernatural; where we investigate intellectually what the meaning of life and the universe "might be".
Along the way, we will be utilizing much of the beautiful tradition, language and rituals of the various faiths and we will put a lot of focus on the "family", in all of it's different interpretations and forms. But we will largely avoid getting into the really abstract concepts, like salvation, sin, blessings, holy, heaven, savior, resurrection, glorification, and so on. As vital as those things may be to being a true Christian, they are not what we are about. We will leave that to the churches and the clergy.
We will not be blasting anyone for the expressions they use or the things they do. Nor will we be condemning lifestyle concepts that are modern and progressive just because some ideological and conservative fuddy-duddies are uncomfortable with them. We will merely make it easier for each person to be themselves while doing so in a way that is considerate, loving and tolerant toward others. That, we feel, is as Jesus would have it.
As we go along, you'll notice that I eagerly encourage my friends and fellow travelers to keep their faith, to keep right on attending the church of their choice, to pay attention to what the minister or priest is saying, and to ponder the actual words from the Bible. But then, come back here to us. As I say, this will be like the "workshop", or lab, where you take what you learned in church and apply it to the modern world and to daily living.
Think of this, not as a replacement for the faith-based truths you hold dear to your heart, but as an augmentation to them---a parallel track that is more down-to-earth and pragmatic.
It might just be what you have been seeking.
This page is still a work in progress and I'm pleased that you got this far into it. If you think you might be seriously interested in all of this, check back here in a few days. I will be adding some links to other webpages, forums, blogs and so on in the days ahead. And, of course, you are more than welcome to message me if you'd like to discuss things one on one.
Loving regards from me and my family.
Link: Print version plus some FAQ