A friend commented about the two extremes we tend to adopt:
If it feels good - do it
Our feelings are completely unreliable and we must live by external guidelines
Society tends to regard 2 as the best option, and religion in particular, declares that we are, at our very core, unreliable, deceived, incapable of making good choices, incapable of real love, and that we must have external guidelines by way of laws - either legal or religious - that govern our behaviour.
Christianity, although declaring we are freed from law and it's burden by Jesus, still states very clearly that it's only by having the Holy Spirit in us that we can ever hope to make good, life giving decisions. But that's still relying on an external source, and the end goal is to prove/demonstrate our "goodness" by living to the laws laid out in the bible, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power to do this.
I've found, however, that those who begin to understand who they really are, who we ALL are, see life very differently.
As we see that our intrinsic value isn't based on approval by others, adherence to "laws", performance based on assumptions etc, but is based on the fact that we are all equal humans, who are created in, by and for love, the need for external laws and rules fades.
We no longer need to think in those terms, simply because all that we do reflects our own self worth. We see ourselves in others and want to draw that worth out of them. We act with empathy in all we do, because we know that love is the only universal constant that transcends all other systems of belief.
My friend said he now pretty much lives by the first statement. And I agree, because I'm starting to understand that I really can trust myself - my deepest self. I am love. Love feels good. I trust that love.
We can say that we deceive ourselves, but what is the basis for that statement? Could it be that we have desperately tried to apply external rules, in the belief that without them we are evil to the core. We have been taught this for so long that we believe it without question. In fact, to question it only "proves" that we are just self seeking, hedonists
But as we gradually let ourselves see our essential worth, love becomes the prime motivation. Not performance based conditional love (which isn't love anyway), but a simple powerful love that genuinely wants nothing more than to
nurture, respect, unconditionally accept itself in all people and all things, especially and foremost, in ourselves.
This is nothing new. It's not some hippy drug induced dream, or "new age" escapism. It's the deepest truth that has wound it's way through human history. We all know it deep down, if we dig deep enough, it's there.
We ARE love, and when that revelation becomes "conscious" we can simply do whatever we want because it feels good.
Will we make mistakes? Of course! But those mistakes will help us to see deeper. It inspires greater empathy and compassion as our "unloving" ways are exposed. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
I struggle with a lot of stuff about christianity, as you probably know by now!
I think most of the fundamental doctrines are inherently flawed - but I'll leave that for another day.
Here's something that most of us can relate to in one way or another. We either love Hillsong, and all the other churches like this, or we hate them. I don't know many in between strangely. I guess they are out there somewhere.
This video is self explanatory of course, and I was involved with this type of christianity most of my life.
It's a cult.
All you have to do is read the gospels, then look at this to realise that.
I'll say it again - it's a cult. There is nothing about this Jesus would approve of (assuming you even believe what is written about him anyway)
I've seen countless lives absolutely ruined - spiritually, emotionally, psychologically and financially by these cults. I would go so far as to say they are "evil" in that they do not bring any benefit to the rest of humanity, and in fact actively cause hate and division.
"But Jim, these are good honest people and most would be sincere and loving!"
Yes, absolutely. They are good honest people, sucked into a massive delusion that only benefits the elite by bleeding the sheep of all self worth, independence, empathy, money... shutting down the ability to love unconditionally, inspiring judgement and exclusivity. I used to be able to think of good points, but I can't any more. Not one.
The methods of control and manipulation are totally abusive, causing very deep damage. There's even a name for it now - Religious Trauma Syndrome
I guess this is another negative post, damn it! But in all this I'm saying that this is NOT love, this is a counterfeit. Real love, real life doesn't look anything like this - never has. Look for the real deal - it's out there, well actually, its IN us just waiting to be found!
I get a few comments about being too negative. That I shouldn't tear down religious views and focus on the negative things. That I should show the overwhelming power of love, and draw people to truth through that alone.
In many ways, I think that's true. I would love to just get on with life, living out my belief that love wins - always!
I do try to make love the end goal of all I do and say. But I guess I'm not at the point where I can drop everything and just do that.
The reasons are perhaps complex, but I'm trying to work through them. The main thing that motivates my observations on religion is it's inherent destructiveness. Sure, there are some good things in the mix, but most of the foundations of religion (not just christian) are completely against everything humanity needs to function as a holistic, united and loving society. Religion divides - always.
I simply don't think it's loving to NOT help people understand the nature of their paradigms, to avoid wrestling with the inherent faults of their belief systems, to deny their God given intellect and reason. I want to inspire people to challenge the status quo and explore their own unique spirituality.
There are many beautiful and loving christians (and other religions too) who see past the poisonous doctrines and walk in the simplicity of love. But the majority are happy to embrace the lies and deceptions, call them truth, and then call the rest of the world heathens - who can only be accepted by God if they believe exactly as they do.
What I feel compelled to do these days, is to dismantle/de-construct christianity (and I'd do the same to all religions if I was an expert on any others, lol) - to expose the logical fallacies; the glaring inconsistencies; the historical, cultural and social ignorance we display of the biblical times and paradigms; to show what a complete farce it is and just how deceived we can become.
Perhaps it's all still too fresh in my mind. Perhaps I still have an axe to grind for the abuse LGBT people suffer at the hands of christians. Perhaps I resent the fact that I struggled so hard to make this religion work. But if I can help others through the same struggles; give them "permission" to be angry; to question without fear, and tell them that to avoid the hard stuff by pretending everything is nice, and just "love" each other - then I think that's an empowering thing to do.
I may grow out of this phase. I don't know. But I do know that above EVERYTHING else, love wins - always - so live loved.
I even have a tattoo on my arm that says "Live Loved"!
Coming from a strong born again bible waving Christian background I can say with absolute certainty that christianity is convinced it has the monopoly on love. And I'm talking about real meaningful love. Not fleshly/worldly love - the real deal love!
Christian love says that God loves you. It also says that He loves you so much that he sacrificed His son for your sin. He says that the most loving thing we can do is bring people into His kingdom so they too can experience His love.
They also say that we were conceived in sin. That our inherent nature is sin and there's absolutely nothing we can do about it. It was our choice however, although Adam made that choice for us, but somehow its still our choice, so we have to chose God's solution to the problem which is accepting the sacrifice of Jesus so we can take on Jesus' perfection and live vicariously through him.
We will then live happily ever after, basking in God's love.
I used to believe this was the one truth - the only way to peace and eternal bliss.
But then I re-read 1 Corinthians 13, and then I looked at my heart, and I looked at the rest of the bible, and I looked at the church, and I scratched my head. Something just doesn't add up here.
So here it is: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Notice anything odd about this?
Is God patient? Only to a point, it eventually gives out, as it did quite regularly in the Old Testament stories, and it eventually gets too much for him in the New Testament too.
Is God kind? Only if you do the right things, say the right prayers and don't get up his nose too often, but he's definitely not kind to the unsaved.
Does he envy? You bet! He's a jealous God and will have no other lovers!
Does He boast? All the time. He's God, He's awesome and you better believe it!
Does he dishonour others? He dishonours everyone who isn't "saved".
Is He self seeking? Well, He seems to want our absolute and total worship and devotion, so I guess he is.
Is God easily angered? You bet, in the Old Testament he was one angry dude, and He loses it again when Jesus returns.
Does He keep a record of wrongs? Now this is a doozy. He keeps complete records of everything everyone does, but then gets rid of them if they get "saved", but if they blaspheme the Holy Spirit, or turn from God, he digs them out again. And apparently we all get judged anyway so there's not much point.
Delight in evil? Obviously his definition of evil is different to ours, but he thought it was great to wipe out entire nations, murder babies, rape women, all that stuff. He thought it was perfectly acceptable to displace other nations from their rightful lands by whatever means they saw fit. He delights in seeing his enemies defeated.
Protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres? When it suits his interests.
His love never fails? As long as it only concerns the "saved". His love for teh rest of the world fails all the time and will ultimately fail completely when he's had enough of us scum.
And then there's all the stuff Jesus said about love and forgiveness!! So all up, God expects far more of us then he's willing to do himself. Does he love his enemies? Nope.
Does he turn the other cheek? Nope.
Is he fair and just? Not in this life - hopefully in the next.
Sure, I can sprout lots of complicated theology to wriggle out of stuff like this, and to be frank, that's what the church has been doing for centuries - creating more and more complex convoluted doctrines to make sense of the mess.
There's no getting out of it though. The God of christianity is a psychopath.
(I'll be writing a lot more about this stuff soon)
When I was recording my audiobook, it struck me a few times how intense and traumatic my journey has been.
I never really gave myself the "luxury" of saying, "hey Jim, that was some pretty crappy shit you went through" and then taking the time to actually feel the impact of that.
When I've read about other gay christian stories of struggle and trauma, I feel for them with a passion. But I've always felt a bit emotionally detached from my own story. Of course, its a protection mechanism, one of the fruits of a good British family - stiff upper lip old chap!
Many of us tend to do this with all sorts of stuff. We can acknowledge the pain we've experienced, but devalue its impact by saying things like "there's always someone worse off", "no use crying over spilt milk" etc. But there's a paradox here as well. We DO need to realise that the past is gone, despite the effects on our lives, it's only a memory, and yet we have to acknowledge and actually feel the emotions of our painful past. It's an integral part of our psychological make up.
So I'm letting myself, a little at a time, finally embrace the pain of my past, and emotionally embrace the words I write and the memories in my heart.
I'm totally into the belief that "now" is the only thing that has meaning, but if we don't allow the full experience of "now" in all its emotional glory, we keep robbing the next "now", and the next...
The emotional process allows us to embrace the moment to its fullest, provides healthy context for the next moment, and frees our hearts to be fearless.
THIS MOMENT, FRIEND, THIS MOMENT
This is for anyone who is going through a crisis, big or small.
Friend, I know that sometimes it feels like everything's falling
apart, and even the most beautiful spiritual words sound like bullshit,
meaningless, flowery, new-age drivel. We lose everything we thought
defined us, or made us happy, everything that seemed to matter to us,
and it feels like we will never recover. We are left in total despair,
disappointment, disillusionment. It seems like 'the end', with no hope
Yet in life,
there are no true endings, only transformations, new beginnings emerging
from rubble. Old dreams dying, the false falling away, which can be
excruciatingly painful, of course, of course! Destruction, breakdowns,
disruptions, shocks and losses, often feel like enemies, but always
contain seeds of the new, and sometimes it just takes time to recover.
This devastation you are going through, this crucifixion of dreams you
feel, is an opportunity to let go of EVERY SINGLE IDEA you've ever had
of how your life was "supposed to be", all those cherished dreams that
were simply false, yet beautiful and useful at the same time (or even how your life never even seemed to get off the ground!). The
invitation today is to be present to your life, to wake up to it, to
turn towards this immediacy, to dignify what is actually happening where
you are. If there is loneliness visiting you here and now, do not turn
away. If there is fear, do not push it away or try to escape. If there
is frustration, anxiety, or just a quiet sense of hopelessness moving in
you, do not reject these energies. They just want to be felt, now. They
are not wrong. They are your lost children, orphans of awakening, and
just want to move and be felt. Sometimes life brings us to our knees so
that we will FEEL everything we've been running away from all our lives.
And yes, the 'meeting' may hurt. But perhaps feeling the hurt is the
beginning of healing, not the ending of it.
And watch the mind.
How it constantly spins, rewinds and fast-forwards, constantly leaves
the present scene of your life, here and now. Thought is constantly
running away from the present moment. It goes into memory - of how good
things were before, of how wonderful your life used to be. And it longs
to return there. And it feels unable to. And despair results. Regret.
Homesickness. And it fast-forwards into the future,
imagining all kinds of future scenarios, many dark and scary. It takes
you into regions way beyond your control. And both movements into past
and future disconnect you from where you are NOW, which is all there is.
They take you away from your only point of power - this moment.
But this moment is all there is. This breath. These sensations. Present
sounds, smells. Present beating of the heart, the feeling of your butt
on the chair. A little bird singing on the tree outside. The buzz of the
television over there. A feeling of contraction in the chest,
tenderness in the throat. This is a call to radical, radical simplicity.
To honouring the not-knowing. To admitting humility in the face of
life. Without the story of past and future, can you really know that
your life has 'gone wrong'? For that is the belief at the core of
everything, isn't it? That your life has 'gone wrong'. That the 'me' has
failed somehow. That the universe is cruel and somehow against you.
It's an intelligent conclusion to make, yes. I won't judge you for it.
But perhaps it's not the truth. Perhaps the mind doesn't know.
friend, your disillusionment, your inability to believe all those
spiritual teachings now, including my own, is not a mistake - it is pure
intelligence at work! Your disillusionment is part of waking up, not
the end of waking up! This is all an invitation to a deeper awakening
than you ever thought possible. You are being forced to question
everything - everything - including all those cherished spiritual
teachings that once held so much value. You are being called to find
your own authority, to let go of all those bullshit ideas about what 'a
good life' means. You are being invited to let go of everything
second-hand, everything old, everything received - from parents,
teachers, gurus - everything in memory, and be present to life, raw and
Sometimes we have to lose everything to remember our total
humility, to remember that we are not in control, and that each moment
is full of wonder and thrilling uncertainty. You are on a path of
devastation now - it was exactly what Jesus was teaching.
is not the end for you - it is the beginning of a new and different
life, a new way of moving in the world, however hard that is to see. It
is a time of renewal, of slowing-down, of discovering the abundance
contained within the nothingness. A time to be kinder to yourself. There
is so much potential for you, friend, even if you cannot believe that.
There have been many times in my own life when I felt unable to go on,
unable to stand. I felt that I had lost everything, that nothing was
possible, that the void was the only life. But I just didn't know what
the universe had in store.
Even though you feel lonely and
abandoned, frightened and angry, friend, know that many others are
walking with you, and many others understand. You will write your own
book of transformation one day.
This moment, friend. THIS moment.
- Jeff Foster
Just listening to some classical music and felt inspired to write a few ponderings about music in general.
I'm a muso myself and have a few offerings on my Music page if you are interested.
I find the role that music has for us absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I've spent most of my life trying to understand why we love it - what it is that makes some music special for some but not others - the feelings that it evokes in us etc. Its a huge field of study and one that's still quite lacking in any real answers.
I would say that there are basically two types of music - "folk" based, and "art" based, and the differences cross over into all the fields of art in many ways.
Folk based music is all about cultural and community identity. I don't mean hippies with guitars and musical genre of "folk". Its far more encompassing, being music that expresses common values among communities. It's music that provides comfort, meaning and purpose. Through the ages its been the music that the "common folk" could sing together, or the traditions could be passed down through the generations. It's music that everyone can understand, learn easily, sing along with and identify with. It often links with key points in our own journey through life and triggers significant events - good and bad.
Folk music can cover everything from classical music to rock to hip hop to country to metal... whatever. Its not the style of the music. Its the purpose.
Art based music however, is about exploring forms and expression, creating new sounds that stimulate emotions and reactions, that dig deep into our souls to confront the "status quo" (subtle pun intended). Art based music is like the painter who goes beyond the traditional images to purposely challenge emotional paradigms, to draw responses and emotions that we may not be comfortable with, to stretch us.
Of course, these two basic approaches aren't clear cut, and often the boundaries between the two are blurred. A lot of what we might consider traditional classical music is nothing more than folk music, in that it creates a place of structure and comfort from easily recognisable forms, melodies and harmonies, rhythms with tried and proven "clichés" (not in a derogatory sense, but simply meaning well used motifs, phrases, patterns etc)
Modern music is the same. Most of it is just a collection of commonly established forms within certain genres, drawing from well defined boundaries to create music that's comforting, familiar, inspiring and defines and builds a particular community identity.
But there's always those who push the boundaries. Those who feel deeper than the commonality of the "folk" expression. Those who long to explore the full range of passion and emotion that can be expressed through sound and word. These are the people who break the traditions, and yet often the very things they wrestle and struggle to give birth to, become the musical norms for the next generation of "folk" music.
But despite all that, there's always the profound words of John Cleese: "Ooo, I like a nice tune - you're forced to!".
I spent all my life so obsessed with the battles of religion and desperately trying to be a "normal" heterosexual husband and father, that I missed so much of my son's needs. I could see he was hurting. I could see as he hit his teen years that he was struggling, and withdrawing.
I could see the calls for help when he was sick, and battled with IBS for so long.
I could see the darkness when his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was 15.
I could see the ache and the walls he built as she died when he was 17.
But I was never really there for him. I tried, I really tried, but it was too late in many ways, and I couldn't get through.
He hurts, deeply, and I feel the remorse.
We'll get there, I know we will, and he knows I love him, and I know he loves me.
And my daughter, grown and long moved on. But I missed out on her life, her pain, and wasn't there for her either. I'm so grateful to her mother and new father for being what I couldn't be. And yes, she loves me too, and she knows I love her! Here's the bitter irony.
I wasted most of my life living the lies of religion, denying my own integrity and living a dishonest life. But that life brought forth my children. Two beautiful people.
If I'd lived with the integrity I so craved (to the point of being suicidal), they would not be here. So my life of "faking it" still brought something good.
What do you do with something like that? I hate the lies that told me I couldn't just be me. I hate them with a passion. But living those lies produced two beautiful people. Well, I guess that's just how it goes. But the pain of not being able to be the father they really needed, because of some screwed up religious dogma makes me angry.
I spent every ounce of emotional energy on maintaining the lie, leaving nothing for them.
It'll be OK, I know. But I'm putting this out there to show just how disgusting religion in all its forms can be. I lived some christian lie that directly affected the lives of two women and two kids. I know they still love me, but it hurts more than they may ever realise. And that hurt is something untold numbers of gay men (and women) experience.
It's got to stop!
How many more screwed up lives do there have to be before things really change?!?!
I'm not saying this looking for pity, I'm saying it so we can grow, and
live real lives - to get the word out there to every LGBT person on this
planet - we don't have to be someone else, to live up to some religious
expectation or cultural demands. We really are free to be who we are!