Sunday, 16 August 2015

Post-christian prayer

The last week or so have been really interesting!

Some of you may be aware I had a mental meltdown 4 years back after Min died, and I went bankrupt, and I "came out" (if you are going to overload your brain you may as well do it in style).

One of the ongoing symptoms is that in times of stress and pressure, I get severe ADD symptoms, can't focus on any one task, can't absorb what I'm reading (especially any technical info), get to the end of the day wondering what the hell I've been doing, forgetting why I just went to another room, all that sort of stuff. So yeah, lots of fun, but I just roll with it these days. Funny thing is it doesn't affect my sense of well-being and happiness, so something's going on at a deeper level.

Anyway, that's not really the point!

I had to go for my annual review for the sickness benefit that the government generously [sic] provides me, but due to my propensity to confusion with paperwork, I sort of stuffed it up and they cancelled my benefit. I had to re-apply from scratch with nearly two weeks delay before I got any money again.

Now in the past I would have prayed and applied every christian prayer formula I could think of to get through tough financial (or whatever) situations, but these days I just stop and do a little mindfulness meditation, centring, breathing, all that stuff. But most importantly I just rest in the fact that there's nothing I can do about it, so "god" is my only solution.

I put a little call out for help, and then allowed myself to rest in that, with no fear, just simple trust that when I focus on love, the universe will reciprocate by whatever means it may.

This is something I've been living by for some time now, and I can honestly say my needs are met in ways that my "christian" years never got close to. So my recent adventure was another confirmation - that "faith" has nothing to do with religion. My faith was in the simple trust that I am loved, I am integrally part of all of us, the universe, and all that cosmic stuff, lol. But it's true!! I am just an expression of love (warts and all) and when I relax in that oneness/unity, trusting in God/Love/The Divine... than I have nothing to worry about.

It's very different to claiming and speaking out what I want. It's not "positive confession", although it kind of is. It's not demanding what's rightfully ours from God, or even putting any expectations on God. It's a simple confident rest, that comes from love and acceptance, self awareness and a sense of unity with all things and people.

I tried this one as well!
Yeah, I know it sounds really cosmic and new age. Sorry about that. But what can I say! Its where I'm at, and it's far more real and life giving than my christian experience.

Of course, I know that many will say I was obviously never much of a christian, and I know many christians who do get answers to prayer all the time. Sure, I got answers to prayer, I was passionate and loved God and Jesus and had a very intimate relationship with him. But its so much better and easier now. No more battling in prayer, and then trying to work out how the complete failure of that prayer was actually God's answer. No more twisted doctrines trying to make sense of "God's mysterious ways".

No, I'm at peace, and even when things seem to go rather badly, that peace, grounded in love, is what brings life and "answers to prayer".

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Through religion, and out the other side

This is probably more of an article than a blog. So grab a wine first.

I've spent a long time de-constructing Christianity (and religion in general) because I've lived through the worst of it, and seen the inestimable damage its done to so many, as well as the damage it's done to mankind in general.

I do this because it needs to happen. We need to be honest about this stuff. I recognise my bias/paradigm in all this, and would never deny it.

I have denounced the bible and traditional doctrines in no uncertain terms - not because they are devoid of any truth, but because to see any of the truths in a way that has real value to humanity in general, or to us individually, requires a level of "maturity" that not many have allowed themselves to achieve.

That's not meant to sound patronising, so I'll unpack that idea a little.


There is a "levels of faith" process described by Brian McLaren that lays out 4 distinct levels of growth or progress through our beliefs. It's not perfect of course, and often the lines are blurred between the levels, but it serves its purpose. (The levels can be applied to just about any religion).
  1. Simplicity: Seeing everything in black and white - right and wrong - us and them. God is the ultimate authority who must be obeyed. The truth is knowable and liveable, but only through our belief system. This is where fundamentalist/literalists generally fit.
  2. Complexity: There are many ways to grow and serve God. Life and spirituality is measured by goals, purpose and success. Authorities are the experts and can coach and direct us. God is the ultimate guide/coach. This is where your average church sits.
  3. Perplexity: Everyone has an opinion and we can never know who is right. Beliefs are more subjective and relative, but being honest and authentic is crucial. There's a distrust of authority and a tendency to be highly cynical. Although passionate about integrity, there's a strong tendency to be highly critical and negative. Most leave the church at this stage.
  4. Humility: There is an understanding of unity and deeper truths - our connectedness and focus is on wisdom and love instead of doctrines and dogma. Love becomes very practical and unconditional. Life is mysterious and paradoxical.
Most of us are happy to be told what to believe, how to live a good life etc, and as long as it represents good morals and makes reasonable sense we are happy to go with it. That's not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is a lazy thing. It's deferring the responsibility for our core identity and belief system to someone else. It's lazy because we can "believe" something simply because heaps of others believe it, and assume that it must be true. This is basically level 1.
I would say that it's only beneficial for little kids, to provide boundaries of safety as they learn to think critically and mature. This is not a good place for any human to live, although it's often part of our spiritual journey.

The last few years, I've been struggling through level 3 and moving into level 4. Although I hate the clinical labels, it does help to map where I'm at and ponder where I'm going in my spiritual journey. I'm finding more and more people struggling at level 3, seeing all the inconsistencies, hypocrisy and just about everything that makes christianity a laughing stock at best, and a damaging blight on the face of the earth at worst.

To get to this stage can be soul destroying, causing a complete crisis of faith, often resulting in totally abandoning all traditional beliefs and even becoming atheists. A few manage to sift through all this and find a far deeper understanding of God and life, and move into level 4. For myself and many others, this isn't a clear cut process, but I can certainly attest to the reality of level 3, as we become critical thinkers, using logic, reason, science and above all, honesty and integrity, to examine our belief systems.

I have probably always tended to see aspects of the mystical and higher truths, but always felt trapped in seemingly logical constraints of fundamentalism. Finally leaving christianity, as it's known and represented in the first 3 levels, has felt like walking out of a school hall full of hyperactive screaming kids all throwing tantrums, into a beautiful serene forest with flowers and a little stream... you get the idea!

But to communicate to those still living in the other level is almost impossible. Level 1s will call anything else heretical. Level 3s will despise the lower levels as ignorant fundamentalists, and often fail to see the potential to keep growing. Even those at level 4 can tend to be dismissive and patronising of others apparently stuck in fundamental beliefs.

For myself, I'm still transitioning into level 4, as I wrestle with all the crap. But the level of peace I'm experiencing as it all falls away is astonishing. Doctrines become irrelevant. There is no in or out, us and them. Unity, love, integrity, compassion and empathy, have become the only things that matter, and love has become tangible. Love is becoming something I see in everyone without even trying. Living loved is becoming a natural part of me.

Life is still rich and complex. I act out of selfishness and ego, but I recognise it more than ever, and am finding myself more teachable than I've ever been, getting less offended about stuff. My heart for compassion and justice, to help the underdog and the broken is becoming real, rather than an obligation. I no longer have to "act" loving in defiance to my "sinful" nature, I just do what I feel, which happens to be more and more loving.

What used to be unreachable/unrealistic ideals is becoming reality.

So how does this relate to anything practical? Glad you asked!

I'm finding that Silent Gays is directly aimed at those struggling through level 3, compounded by their sexual identity. I seem to be finding people who are ready to jump off the cliff of faith, or those who have already jumped and are needing an ambulance. Realising all this is helping enormously in my focus and methodology.

I'm worried though, as a read through the blogs of my journey, that it sounds like my "growth" makes me, and others who relate to "level 4", superior and patronising, and that is the last thing I want!!

If anything, I understand why people cling to dogma and black and white thinking. I get the whole need for strict authority structures for some. But it's my passion to help people move through that phase and into greater freedom and peace.

I no longer see the bible as a historical book in any sense, and I'm not really concerned if Jesus was even a real person. If there is anything to be learned from scripture it's in hidden and deeper metaphor, which could be why so many "mystics" of the centuries, have drawn any life out of it.

Spirituality is constantly growing and changing as society and culture change, as science and technology change - because these sciences discover the reality of our physical universe and how we interact with it. And that has to change our spiritual concepts whether we like it or not.

Christianity, and all religions, can serve a purpose if we are taught to use critical thinking to see the deeper universal truths. But it takes time and a willingness to be wrong - about everything - all the time. And that's something we don't like very much!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Truth

Thought I'd try my hand at a meme.

Of course, being me, it had to be profound and loaded with subtle nuances, provocative ideas, and require some thought rather than a passing reaction.

Enjoy (or not)

If it feels good...

A friend commented about the two extremes we tend to adopt:

  1. If it feels good - do it
  2. 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.

Live loved!

Friday, 17 July 2015

The bible made simple

Here's the best way to understand the bible.

It's a collection of documents written over a really long period of time that describes how a primitive middle eastern tribe tried to figure out god.

The end.

Now doesn't that make religion a heck of a lot simpler. Everything falls into place, and we can actually start to learn useful stuff from it.


Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Do I hate christianity: Part 2

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!

So anyway - enjoy the video - or not.





Monday, 13 July 2015

Being negative

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.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Christian love?

I talk a lot about love.
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:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
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)

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Feeling the feeling

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.

Its OK to feel

Thursday, 25 June 2015

THIS MOMENT

Thanks to Jeff Foster for this amazing insight

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 of recovery.
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. Longing.
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.
My 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 naked.
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.
This 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