We assume we need holy texts. We also assume that nature is flawed along with humans. What I've discovered is that most religions (especially christianity) are complex systems built on those assumptions.
What if we are actually perfect, exactly as we should be, but all that is missing is our realisation of that?
Every single person created knows what love is. Its inherent in our deepest psych. We may not understand it fully or have experienced it, but the deep longing for unconditional love is absolutely universal. In fact, its the only thing that truly is universal.
The only thing that brings life and healing is love.
The bible myth about the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" expresses the basis of the problem - we keep choosing to look at everything in terms of right and wrong instead of love. Even Paul in the New Testament, hinted at it often with statements like "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial".
The people we all most admire and respect as examples are those who live from that place of unconditional love. They don't judge, they simply love.
We don't need any holy writings for this. Its already who we are. We simply need to acknowledge it, and "repent" - a word that literally means to just change your mind. That's it!! Just change your mind about who you are.
Sure we will still act in unloving ways as we gradually learn our true identity, but all we have to do is be responsible for any mess we make. That's all there is to it!
Its living loved. Everything else is a distraction.
We think we need endless books and sacred writings of wisdom that talk of how and what to do to be good people - but we already are perfect people - we have just been convinced that we aren't by choosing to judge right and wrong instead of living loved.
Its a massive paradigm shift, but myself and millions over the centuries (all history I guess) have discovered that this really is the narrow road - its the real gospel, and the only thing that brings real freedom and the "fruit of the spirit". Its taking responsibility for who we really are, not shifting that responsibility on to the shoulders of others.
I had a scooter when I was a kid. Not one of those little things they have these days. Nope, this was the 60s. I had a blue and white super deluxe scooter with big pump up tyres and white rubber hand grips. It was fast and smooth. It could handle the rough, but best of all was the speed.
We lived near the bottom of a long gentle hill, and as I slowly gained more confidence, I would go further up the hill to get that extra bit of speed. Stopping was a challenge, even though it had good brakes, but you could never be too careful!
Off I’d go down the footpath, oblivious to the thought of people coming out of drives and old ladies with walking frames or the postman. When it was quiet however, I’d go straight down the middle of the road.
Finally I worked my way to the top of the hill but still I needed more speed. My ultimate technique involved crouching down to minimize drag, and I was always oiling everything to get that last little boost as well.
Of course, it wasn’t without its risks, and there were many grazed arms and knees, but I was never daunted. It was my scooter – it was perfect.
I’d scoff at other scooters and prided myself on how fast I could go. And yet, in the back of my mind I knew bikes were even faster. My older brother had a bike, but I ignored it completely – stupid looking thing with skinny tires and you were right up in the air, not close to the road like my scooter.
I did try the bike once, but it was terrible! All wobbly and just not right at all. No, bike riders were stupid. Scooters ruled!
For some reason I never allowed myself to think that bikes were actually far more useful. So much so that I would rather walk than make the transition. Eventually though, after pushing it too hard for too long with too many accidents, I had to admit defeat and finally realise I had outgrown my precious scooter!
So as soon as I was old enough I got a motor bike and eventually a car, as you do. I mean, scooters are great, don’t get me wrong. When I was little it was my life, my pride and joy, and did everything I needed. But I simply had to admit that there were bigger and better ways of getting around.
My spiritual journey was very similar.
I wanted the best! I wanted truth, wisdom and knowledge. So amidst all the options I choose Christianity.
Christianity had everything I needed! It was slick, with all the answers. I could dig deep into mysteries and get more and more revelations. I could stretch my limits with faith and “ministries”. There was so much to do and strive to be better.
Of course, it wasn’t without its risks, and there were many accidents, causing damage to myself and others. I’d trip up when doctrines didn’t work properly and find another one that did, or patch up the old one with a few different scriptures.
I’d not only scoff at other beliefs, but actually declare them evil – even other Christians who didn’t have my particular polished, high speed, oiled and maintained doctrines, weren’t as good as me.
For some reason I never allowed myself to think that other beliefs were actually far more beneficial – both for me or everyone else! Eventually though, after pushing it too hard for too long with too many accidents I had to admit defeat and finally realise I’d outgrown my precious beliefs.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t make Christianity work any more. It finally became a matter of either ignoring all the other options and doggedly limping on, or at least giving these other beliefs a serious look.
Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with Christianity as such, but like my scooter, it had a limited usefulness – it would only take so much before turning into a liability.
All this may sound a little patronising to a lot of Christians. I would have thought it was when I was still oiling the wheels and going further up the hill to get more speed. I would have vilified anyone who thought I would outgrow such an amazing belief system.
But outgrow it I did. I still appreciate all that I’ve learned. It’s opened up the enormity of God to me and set me on a far longer and fascinating path. But I grew too much for it to contain me. Like my scooter that is way too small for me now, Christianity is too small to be of much value.
Like I said though, nothing basically wrong with it, and at the time it was extremely valuable – and still is in many ways. “Are you still a christian then?” I hear you ask? Well, I could still ride my scooter if I wanted too, but why would I? I’ve grown to see its purpose for some people as part of their journey, even if it’s prone to abuse as all religious systems are. Some kids trash their scooters, run over people’s toes, smash into old ladies’ shopping trollies and wreak havoc!
So, sorry if you feel like I’ve been patronising and thinking I’m better in some way. Far from it! I finally feel like I’ve just started my journey, with a new level of respect for all mankind and all our uniqueness and an experience of love that christianity could never offer.
And I’ve even come to realise that some people bypass the scooter stage completely!
In the 80s and 90s I was swept away in the pentecostal mindset. The thrill of hearing God speaking was something we all clamoured for. We hung on every word of the prophets who would speak His very words to us - inspiring us, building our faith!
The best prophetic words were about revival. It was going to sweep the world, save the lost, convict the evil and bring God's righteousness to earth in a radical tangible way. It was the advent of the final days where God poured His spirit out on the world.
The prophesies kept coming thick and fast. On they went, always the same. Of course, it was usually dependent on the church getting their act together. Although others would say the revival would MAKE us get our acts together. Either way, it was coming!!
So many meetings, worshiping, praising... moving "in the spirit", listening, waiting, striving.
As the 2000s rolled on it became clear that God was taking His time, despite the urgency of the latest round of prophets. The old faithfuls kept revamping their old tried and true "words from God" while the newbies added their little twists to it.
And still it goes on.
I wouldn't care less if it didn't hook so many faithful but gullible christians into a life of expectancy - of forever waiting for some miraculous event that would save the world. So many people thinking that God will come and change everything so they can bypass their daily lives and magically be part of some new way of life. There's always the rapture of course, but that never seems to fit in with these types of prophecies - oh well. So perhaps revival will come and then all the "revivaled" people will get whisked away to heaven with Mr Cage.
Its almost as if there is a special book of prophetic cliches that these people have to learn. The right words said in the right way is what gives you that level of anointing and credibility.
One day, christians might actually realise that it's simply a matter of being your authentic selves - loving the person next to you, living with integrity - like I always say - living loved!
OK, politics is big at the moment in New Zealand with elections tomorrow.
We all get heated, tempers flare and it gets a bit nasty. Political debates by party leaders in the media are a joke - no better than a bunch of kids throwing punches. A complete waste of time.
Everyone thinks their favourites are demigods and everyone else is stupid at best, evil at worst, for believing otherwise. Of course, this applies to all politics in the democratic world.
I've been chewing on it all for a while and made
some observations of a spiritual nature. Most people probably know I am left wing in my views, so yes, I'm biased. Take that into account of course, but I'm trying to be objective.
Left versus right - conservative versus liberal - socialist versus capitalist, and other various labels.
I've noticed, as a generalisation, that most left leaning people are the creative passionate ones. They are often artists of some description. They tend to see the world through eyes of compassion. They tend to feel the pain of others and are concerned for injustice. They hate oppression and inequality. They often see the unity of humanity, our relationship with the world and nature. They are more demonstrative and vocal. They are idealists.
Right leaning people, as a generalisation, see the world through the eyes of personal success. They see the value of inspiring us all to achieve, and often assume everyone is capable of being well off, happy and healthy through hard work. This is usually because it's exactly what they have achieved themselves. They tend to be more materialistic and put great value on power, personal success, capitalism, consumerism, and feel that the economic success of a country justifies the means taken to attain it.
As I said, these are generalisations, but the overview is valid.
So which of these is more "christ like"? Which of these represents God's heart of love?
Most christians in the west have been deeply influenced by the Protestant work ethic. This leads to a very materialistic world view, making our hard work and success an indicator of our spirituality.
The justification for many is that our wealth can then be used to extend the kingdom of God and get people saved. For many people, its simply a matter of "if you don't work and pull your weight, you don't deserve to eat", and variations on that theme. There are of course, many others who see a different picture, where our value isn't determined by materialistic success.
But I think there are very deep issues underlying all this. Right wing views often state that we need good capitalism to provide the resources so we can help the needy. To a degree this is true, but very shallow and shortsighted. Often those who are deeply involved in business and money making justify it by saying their taxes help the poor, or they donate to good causes. But there are very few who realistically live this ideal. They often give token amounts that are gestures to help them feel good. Jesus apparently had a lot to say about money and the mentality behind riches. Also, the underlying values of the whole stock-market/share-trading system is to make money in the most impersonal way possible. Companies hand over financial control to thousands of faceless investors who have no concern for the hearts and passions of those who make up the real business. Profit is the bottom line. To me, its the most insidious form of abuse and greed we have devised.
All that's not to say it wrong to make money. Our whole society is based on money, for better or worse. But in the process we lose sight of deeper values.
Why is it that those who really care, who see the suffering, the injustice and abuses in this world, at every level, care little about conservative, capitalistic, materialism, treating money only as a way to bring love and equality to all mankind.
In my experience, I've found right wing conservatives, ultimately lack a depth of compassion and understanding for the world and of individual hearts. They tend to label the underprivileged, abused and dispossessed as a single nondescript entity, rather than millions of individual people with their own unique stories, each one precious and loved in their own right.
I'm "left" because its the only way I can see God's heart of unconditional love being effectively expressed to every person. Yes, there's a balance in all this, and I've made generalisations. But at the core of it all, I understand why Jesus apparently said the pursuit of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
I cannot, with all good conscience, support any right wing views, no matter how well they expressed, simply because the core values are built on something that is the antithesis of unconditional love.
I know many will have different views on this and will jump on me for being so black and white, and sounding judgmental. But don't take it personally, think it through carefully, and like I said, its a generalisation.
The incredible revelations surfacing in the upcoming New Zealand elections have, for me anyway, highlighted a part of human nature that is pretty universal - our propensity to bury our head in the sand when confronted by something that is potentially dangerous.
In the case of the elections, the accusations being made about the Prime Minister and his party are overwhelming, and the world is watching, waiting for him to cave in. But meanwhile, the party faithful not only refuse to believe the evidence, but actively deny the possibility of any wrong doing. Their leader and his political party would not just be unwilling to commit such things, but would be incapable because they are so honorable.
You constantly hear comments like "John Key is such a lovely man", "he has such a lovely manner and smile", "he's a good family man" etc.
People are afraid to admit they could be wrong. They can't admit they voted for someone who could do that. They aren't prepared to face the implications of the issues. The status quo is more important than having to live with the mess that will ensue. Its better to hang in there with the devil we know and just bury our heads in the sand, in the hope it will all blow over and everything will carry on as it was.
Christendom is exactly the same - only on a much larger scale.
We do the same with our beliefs. Its impossible that we have made a mistake. It's completely inconceivable that our treasured belief system, that has been established over nearly 2000 years, could even vaguely be off course, let alone off the tracks completely.
So we bury our heads in the sand when confronted by new evidence. We refuse to believe that anything outside the traditional christian paradigm has any validity. We claim that our spirits know that anything outside that paradigm is a lie from the devil. Our faith system is so firmly stitched up that those who even entertain the possibility of alternatives are branded rebellious or at worst, heretics.
We are actively discouraged from pursuing any line of questioning that isn't confined within the current theological boundaries, and taught that the only truth to be had is strictly within the bible. We must not undo all the good work that centuries of minds far better than ours, have sweated over, apparently under God's guidance, to bring us orthodox, unquestionable doctrines.
Of course, we conveniently overlook the fact that there has been endless arguments over those doctrines, but none the less, the bible is unquestionable (whatever that means).
But just like our comfortable voters refusing to have their paradigms shaken no matter what is put before them, christians remain standing with their heads firmly buried in the sand (well, bent over somewhat I guess!).
Why? Because they have too much to lose. The mess created by confronting and sorting through the real issues could damage the status quo irreconcilably. The truth becomes too "inconvenient", no matter how its presented. Reasoning is futile, logic is futile. All questioning outside the accepted doctrines is deemed deception.
I could go on, but to those who have seen this phenomenon, well, they know the futility of trying to confront it.
How do we help people get their heads out of the sand?
Bloody good question. For me, deep down, I could never be satisfied by the status quo, no matter how determined I was to fit in, or to embrace it all because everyone genuinely believed it was the only truth. No, I had to be wrong, I was rebellious, so I towed the line and repressed everything until it all turned to custard.
And yet for many others, they are blissfully unaware until one day, a light get's turned on.
Perhaps its a deep desire for truth and integrity - to want to know truth for ourselves, no matter what the cost. Perhaps that finally rises up in some and breaks into the light.
And many never make it. They simply perish with their heads still happily stuck in the sand, and genuinely happy at that! Ignorance is bliss I guess. And in the end, I simply can't judge a person's worth just because they are happy where they are! Of course, everyone is equally loved and intrinsically part of God whether they know it or not. So its not like I feel superior - just sad and sometimes frustrated.
But something in me refuses to accept that people can't live better lives, happier, more fulfilled, more loving and compassionate, if they can let go and allow themselves to think bigger and not be afraid of where that may lead, because ultimately, all roads lead to love. It would be great though, if we could get the best out of the journey on that road!
I saw a short clip from some mega church today, where the preacher was shouting at the people (aka abusing them) saying that God told her that they had no right to question the pastor because they were dumb sheep. They had to obey the pastor's every word no matter what they thought of it.
Yes God told her that.
That's a rather extreme example and I probably don't need to comment on it as such. But the issue really comes down to "God told me".
I always thought I could hear God speaking sometimes in a way that was very clear - not audible, but in a way that cut through the chatter in my head and told me how much he loved me and it would all be OK.
But like so many christians, I became obsessed with "hearing" God speak so that I could be sure that everything I did was His will. I thought every failure in life was because I didn't hear Him, so I was just bumbling along wondering if what I thought was God really was him. And yet, if I had to be honest, the only thing I could say I really "heard" were the words of love and comfort.
This was incredibly frustrating as I was obviously a second class christian. So what about those who claimed God actually told them clearly what to do, where to go, and basically everyday instructions for life?
I ended up doing a little survey amongst my online community about how they "heard" God, without using any religious language or bible verses to describe it. Some couldn't describe it without using christianese, which was rather telling, and most admitted that they felt closest to God through nature/creation and sort of went with what they felt. Once the religious jargon was stripped away, it seems most people just fudge along - except for the few who claimed to actually hear God telling them stuff.
I decided to look a little more objectively at those who claimed that level of communication and look at the fruit of their life and the things they communicated. Without any exceptions, they left a trail of destruction behind them. Broken relationships, gossip, manipulation and control, you name it, they are walking disasters, often with deep seated mental illness hiding behind the religious facade. I found this could be extended through to big name ministries, the so called prophets and apostles, the big time pastors, all who spoke the words of God.
So meanwhile, what's really going on?
I read a lot of stuff about the psychology of this and tried to put it into a spiritual perspective. At our core, we are spiritual beings desperately in need of love. We are created for love, from love, but if we don't recognise it and "get it" we do whatever we can to get whatever resembles it, no matter what it looks like or who else it affects. The more desperate we are for love, the more our hearts and minds will create and manipulate to get it, or whatever they can that helps to numb that need.
Hearing from God falls neatly into that category. I was absolutely desperate to know that God loves me, and perhaps because of my passion for integrity as well, I heard Him telling me how much he loves me, but nothing else. In hindsight, I'm so glad I didn't start to hear more than that!
I've come to the conclusion that what people hear is no more than their own hearts, but shaped and coloured by their paradigms. Paradigms that allow them to expect God to talk to them like the prophets of old claimed. Paradigms that tell them they will be blessed and loved by God if they speak his very words to people. Paradigms that are built on religious assumptions.
So where does that leave us? Personally, I think God does speak to us, but not like that. I look at who he is, in all he has created, and hear his love and peace in that. I "hear" my mind say its OK, I'm loved. I hear my heart speak truths about love, joy, peace, acceptance, because that's what I want to hear.
It comes down to integrity and honesty with ourselves. Are we so desperate that we aren't prepared to stop manipulating God and people so we can see what our hearts really want and need? Those who hear God speaking harsh judgement and damnation - are they just projecting their own fears, subconsciously taking others into their own hell?
I think God is one with us, we are inextricably united, so in a way we can't help but "hear" him, but religion blinds us to the fact that we ARE love and that we already have all we need simply because "I am". If we hear God telling us what to do, where to go, what scriptures to read, what to say to people, we are actually hearing our own desperate hearts, scrambling to find our true identity. When we are honest enough with ourselves to recognise these needs, we begin to see that everything we need is in us - I am! God doesn't speak to us - our heart's fears and desires, coloured by whatever our greatest needs are, speak to us. And if our paradigm is based in christian religion, then the voice of God will sound like that.
In the end I realised I don't need to hear God's voice, simply because "I am", and I'm learning to live loved, and because of that, I hear and see and taste and experience so much more than a mere voice in my head.
I just watched a video of an interview between Steve McVey and an "ex-gay" guy, Willy somebody...
It was really interesting, mostly because of Steve being a "hyper grace" teacher (of course there is no such thing as too much grace and I don't think Steve goes far enough at all, but that's another story).
The gist of Willy's testimony was basically, after being brought up a highly performance orientated christian, who's whole life and acceptance by God was based on how well he behaved, he discovered God's unconditional grace and love and it changed his life and filled him so full of love that he simply lost his need for romantic/sexual relationships with men and now only saw them as brothers. Indeed he now sees people as beyond male or female and loves the spirit.
Now that is something I totally agree with. We should be loving the spirit of every person equally no matter what their sexuality or gender. But there was one huge glaring hole in the interview that was neatly ignored (well a few actually...).
He never mentioned if he still found himself attracted to men at all, or if he was now attracted to women instead, and Steve neglected to ask this. But even more interesting is I can only assume he is now asexual! It seems he has completely decided to ignore and repress
something that is intrinsically part of every human. He (and many others like him) have decided that sex is simply an earthly worldly thing and ultimately, living in God's love exceeds that physical love in every way, thus making it sort of redundant.
I totally get that. I used to think that myself, and in some way still do. I think it really is a mark of spiritual growth to be able to see beyond the sexual.
BUT... God created us as physical sexual beings. We are intrinsically sexual and even the bible has lots of romantic/sexual imagery relating to our relationship to God and each other. Every culture holds romantic sex as something sacred that expresses deep spiritual truths and unites us in deep profound ways. To be asexual really is a rare "gift", if it can even be called a gift. Perhaps for some the journey to deeper spirituality can be hindered by earthly sexuality so they genuinely manage to leave it behind. But the longer I live, the more I see this as a very, very rare thing.
So basically the idea, according to Willy and Steve, is to be gracious and loving to those of us who embrace the sin so that
eventually God's love will fill us to the point where we no longer
desire it. We don't condone the sin/lifestyle but unconditionally love the person.
There were many comments on the video thread. Everybody had their opinions about how this worked, and of course there was always the assumption that being LGBT is a sin that must be treated like any other. There was even a long discussion by some people about "gayness" being a physical neurological condition, which medical science is supporting now, but then they assumed that it was a physical abnormality that needed healing like any other disease.
But it always comes back to the assumptions that any variation or departure from the "one man - one woman" doctrine is sin. The bible says so and that's it, end of story. That is the root of the issue for christians (and fundies of all persuasions). Its really pointless discussing anything outside of that premise.
The bible, no matter what we think of it, has been the source of more atrocities, hatred, bigotry and evil the world has ever seen. Sure, there are good things in it if you choose to see them (and many have and do), but we still just don't get it. We cannot "live by the bible", it doesn't work, because we will forever twist it to make it say what we want - always - and we are no better now than we were 1000 years ago. We can pull out the nice bits, but we can't even agree on what the nice bits are!!
So all these patronising christians saying we love our LGBT brothers and sisters, and we'll simply pour out God's love and let him sort out their sin - can take a running jump.
Being LGBT is not "sin". All that matters is that we live, with all we are and do, as love. If I have a loving caring relationship with another man, that brings the "fruit" of love to each of us, and everyone around us, then that's all that matters. If anything we do brings love, then keep doing it.
I challenge any christian to explain to me how having a loving, caring romantic/sexual relationship with someone of the same sex is wrong.
Here's where it gets interesting - I want to facilitate and inspire "silent gays" everywhere to get together, to talk and love and support and inspire and cry and believe in each other and BE God's love to this world.
I've started a "secret" Facebook group (Gaylent Sighs) as a safe, private place for people to share their hearts in a loving and safe environment. Its also a place where people can organise small group get-togethers.
These groups will be around 6 people max, in "public" places - cafes, bars etc - so there is no hint of anything religious or "churchy" (home groups can be intimidating and triggering for a lot of people).
The basic premises for the groups are:
The meetings are NOT to be counseling sessions. Everyone attending is on equal ground, the goal being to listen to each other’s hearts, discuss problems, share burdens and explore religious assumptions and paradigms that underlie the issues.
Every person’s spiritual journey must be respected. The process of dismantling religion to find spiritual and personal integrity can be a long difficult process. The group’s purpose is to support each other on that journey while exploring and challenging traditions and religious assumptions.
The Gaylent Sighs Facebook group is the central focus for meetings. People can look for others in their area in the group and discuss issues, share their concerns, ask for advice etc.
This isn’t a dating service! Although relationships can start anywhere, we must be respectful of everyone’s emotional state and vulnerability.
My book, Its Life Jim... will be an integral part of the project as it will hopefully inspire people to be real, ask the hard questions and not be afraid of the answers.
Of course, I need MONEY to help it along, so I have a GoFundMe campaign set up raking in the filthy lucre for my spurious project. Please feel obliged to give me as much as you can!!
Seriously though, I do need some descent backing to get the marketing running on a serious level as well as enough to cover a first print run of books (around $1000 to kick off).
I'm so grateful to everyone who has supported and encouraged me this far. Lets get this thing on the road!!