The other day I was turned onto this progressive pastor by the name of Jim Wallis who evidently has been arrested over 22 times for various activist activities — this may not necessarily be a good thing; there are plenty of Christian activists who are on the wrong side of the activist fence lest we forget those who are active in the fight against women’s right to choose or equal marriage rights for same sex couples. But seeing that he was on Bill’s show I figured he just might be one of the good guys. (Bill has on occasion thrown us a few fast balls though — he had that stubble faced right wing congress extorting weasel on his show once… can’t remember his name; when I do I’ll let you know. But for the most part Bill knows what’s up.)
Needless to say I was impressed with the man. Mr Wallis hasn’t found the holy grail of evolved spiritual intelligence or anything; don’t get me wrong. But he has recently altered his views on same sex marriage equality (go figure; even the staunchest convictions can be altered when there is fear of long audience share). But I dug many of the things that were coming out of his mouth. Namely his message re “let’s focus on the GOOD things Jesus preached and did rather than the more disenfranchsisng aspects of traditional literalistic Christianity.” He stressed what I and my Christian friends already take for granted (and we are very aware that we are in the minority in the congregation of our faith globally), i.e. that Jesus was a very hip equal rights for all kind of guy, fighting for the poor as well as the rich, for the sick, the meek, the strong, the sinners and the saints. This is the face of Christianity that most outsiders never get to see or hear about because the ugly head of Christianity is so much more vocal than we the all inclusive types.
I sent him a message on Twitter telling him I was impressed. He messaged me back and recommended I check out this Christian activist magazine/organization called Sojourners. I didn’t have time to do it until late this evening. Now in fact. U know, for a Christian organization it’s definitely more open minded and progressive than you’d expect. But nonetheless it still contains enough in it’s first three column inches to make most of my friends who are not religious scream and run. Still though, I was impressed with it’s fresh take on Christianity needing to get more open minded to same sex couples and homosexuals in general, as Jesus surely would have.
I came across these lines which I thought were exceptionally inspiring considering the source: “Rather than a Third Great Awakening I believe we are standing in the threshold of a Great Grace Awakening. It’s a move of the Holy Spirit drawing people away from legalistic and fear-based beliefs to a place some of us would call grace. On the surface, it may seem to fly in the face of some traditional Judeo-Christian ethics. But it is aligned with a broader, more universal ethic that seems to be developing around genuine Christian love and grace — the very essence of Jesus’ ministry and what makes it so revolutionary — as guiding principles.”
Good stuff right? Despite what many of my non-religious friends believe, this is pretty spot on when it comes to what I and most of my fellow Christian friends believe. We’re pro-choice, anti-capital punishment, pro equal marriage rights for all humans, and generally open to live and let live and try to help out whenever you can. “Serve God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself” sums it up quite nicely.
Then I came across this strange one: “Grace is a gift available to all of us. We can’t earn it. We don’t deserve it. But we get it anyway. Abundantly. Audaciously. Without caveat or qualification.”
I lashed out in a comment on the page of the article before I gave myself a chance to think… I do that. “I’m not sure who said the above, but being new here, just checking this org out, i must admit that is one ignorant comment. The hubris of making a declarative statement about something as mysterious and slippery a concept as “grace” as if it is true when it is subjective opinion and completely unprovable either way shows a short sighted ignorance that is precisely what some of us in the Christian community are fighting so hard against in an attempt to show that true intelligence can and does exist in the heart and mind of the faith.
Besides the fact that this sentiment just isn’t a positive way to view life. For anyone. Christian or not. I’m all for “Grace is a gift”, though it’s the kind of statement that is so entirely unprovable that it would be thrown out of any court of law except in a theocratic society that bases it’s whole justice system on a set religion, which we are far far far from ever becoming. But more importantly, who says we can’t earn grace? Who says that we don’t deserve grace? These are just beliefs. Sure the whole set up is nothing but a series of infinite beliefs, none of them more or less provable than any of them.
But the basics, that Jesus existed and did some really groovy things that set a great example for many who want to live a more spiritually profound life would do well to follow, are more or less factual. Even your average uber-zealot atheists (the most religiously fervent group on earth save the Muslim extremists if you ask me) couldn’t argue with this basic idea. Jesus was a very cool fairly hip and smart revolutionary with a big heart who showed us all a new way of being toward each other.
Once we step past that of course it all gets a little murky, especially once you start throwing the Roman’s (the so called catholic’s) “original sin” patriarchal misogynistic rule from the top down ideals into the mix. And this “we can’t earn grace and we don’t deserve grace” smells a lot like some of that old Catholic rubbish is still leftover somewhere stinking the place up around here.
I was really hoping that this org would be valuable and intelligent based on Wallis’s appearance on Bill Maher’s show, but my god what kind of precedent are you trying to set or example to show by declaring things like “we can’t earn grace and we don’t deserve it.” Says who? I just wonder sometimes if you all, whoever you are, people like you, have any idea how precious and sacred the human heart and mind is, each and every one of us. They, we, come seeking solace, refuge, comfort, answers. Hope. And the idea that a kind caring unconditional loving grace is available to all humankind is a beautiful sentiment. Truly. But in the natural, in the secular world that most people live in, we get enough of “we don’t deserve” to last us a life time. In fact, one could assert that feeling undeserving is one of the single most destructive feelings that a person can harbor, certainly responsible for a host of inner turmoil, heavy burden baggage, and quite possibly a good deal of some of the world’s greatest tragedies.
The last thing anyone needs to hear is that they “don’t deserve.” You’ve made it this far; you’re alive. You deserve a lot. It’s important that you know that. And the grace of the divine, whatever that means to YOU, is just one of the many things that is available to you. Freely. It’s there for the taking. If there was anyone less deserving in this world of the love and grace of God, it was I. But I let go of all that kind of thinking. It took a lot of self love, a lot of self forgiveness. A lot of atoning and making amends. Hell, I’d call that working to earn it. Earn what? God’s love? God’s grace? Probably not; how can we possibly answer that? We can’t. It was for me. I needed to forgive me. I needed to love me. Only WE can forgive ourselves. God Goddess Source The Force The Great Spirit the Divine is far too mysterious to us all still for us to have any idea what he/she/it thinks or feels. All we can do is hope. And pray if that’s your thing, (it is mine), and continue to connect and commune with our idea of this idea of God we’ve created.
We work hard to get to that place where we start to believe that we’re capable of earning our own self forgiveness and our own grace and self love, and that eventually leads us to a place where we start believing that we just might be capable of deserving the love of God. IS it there for us all along? I’d love to believe that. But the truth is that my brain doesn’t disconnect from my body without an untimely and instantaneous death; and thus I haven’t the ability to say unequivocally that I know the answer to this question. But I do know this: once I felt it, I had never felt anything more exciting, more ecstatic, more wonderful or comforting before in my life. The idea that I didn’t deserve it was very clearly a psychological issue, not a truth, but merely subconscious feelings of inadequacies, insecurities, caused by guilt, both real and imagined, deliberate and indoctrinated. Something that i worked hard to discreate. I earned it. I deserved it. And I got it. So too can anyone else.
I’t’s no wonder the majority of humanity groups all the world’s major religions into one big barrel and thinks the whole lot of us are crazy when there r so many overt examples of crazy all around us claiming to be religious. It’s time now. It’s time for we as Christians to grow the fuck up, to evolve along with the rest of our being in all the other arenas we have been evolving in. Why continue to grow and evolve as quickly as we have — exponentially so — over the last few thousand years in every arena of our lives but our spiritual lives? Let us evolve our religious beliefs right along with our technology and our minds and our abilities and our social customs.
We owe it to ourselves. To future generations. We deserve it. They deserve it. The worst thing we could possibly do is keep dragging our asses on spiritual issues out of fear of reprimand or judgment from the more literalistic or vocal among us and take the risk that the many blessed and positive aspects and benefits of this fascinating and beautiful faith tradition become extinct to the point that future generations never get to know it or even bother to explore it. That would be a sin like no other. And lest we forget, Humankind has worshiped thousands of gods through the millennia. This latest one that we are all so fond of is not the first, nor will he/she/it be the last (think Islam or Mormonism). It isn’t a given that Christianity will always be as large a movement or as popular as it has been in it’s short life in the human psyche. Whether it continues to be is entirely up to us and how we present it, but most importantly what we say and what we do in its name.
Ambassador out. I’m exhausted. Peace Love and Blessings. As always, more later.