Thursday, May 20, 2010

World Religions Final Part Three

Ethics 
Can we claim which paths are rabbit trails or authentic? This seems to be the primary concern of the mega-church. A quick test is to look at the measure of love of God, neighbor or self. But how could we really with any integrity? It would be like a climber speaking with authority about paths on the other side of the mountain that he has never been on. The climber may read about these paths in books or have talked to another climber on that particular side. This then, would prove to the climber that all paths seem to be heading to the same place. But any serious climber knows that only those who have climbed the path can speak with authority about where it leads and how it gets there. Once again, to say that there are "other mountains" is a poly-mountain idea and I'm only talking in a mono-mountain context. Nor is it good to assume that all are going up. Taoism seems to state that we should be content with where we are an interact naturally and non-utilitarian with our contexts and those we find in it. The Abrahamic faiths are the ones that seem most concerned about getting to the top and pondering what’s up there. The point being, we should listen to one another and hear what they have to say about their journey.

If people of other faiths want to swap faithful stories of their path and journey up the mountain, then great! In fact, I get a better handle on my faith when I hear these stories. If people of other faiths with whom we are in dialog decide to convert to our path as a result of this sharing, fine! However, conversion is not the ultimate purpose here of interfaith dialogue, sharing the joy and wisdom gleaned from our climbing experience is.

All We Have Is Metaphor 
Religions are like art, poetry, not science. It is after spiritual truths and seeking the best way to live, one that is in tune with a wider and more transcendent reality. I don’t know what to call this, so throughout this paper I have called it God, even though I recognize that other religions don’t have this concept. All we really have is metaphor to describe this experience. Hell, that’s all we have to describe anything! The word apple isn’t the essence of the little red/green/gold thing that grows on trees.

I'm reminded on a Joseph Campbell story about a tribe in Australia whose social order was maintained with the aid of bullroarers which are long flat boards with a couple of slits cut in them and a rope tied at one end. They are swung around over one's head and the low humming sound is other worldly. When the gods were angry the men of the tribe would sound the bullroarers in the woods at night. No one in the tribe knew this of course. The males of the tribe would explain why the gods were angry and what behavior had to change. In the initiation rite of young men into manhood in the tribe is very violent and bloody. Its culmination is the revelation to the boy by the chief priest of "We make the noises."

I believe we do. The noises we make are us trying to attach meaning to the experience of living. Most noises are self-generated and self-interpreted in this model and it seems to be about control. I have no interest in this. My future ministry will be about trying to get behind the buzz of the bullroars and experience the true sounds of the world. Sometimes God is in the thunderstorm, or earthquake, but often God is in the nothing. Just a still small voice in the wilderness. My ministry will be trying to get behind the feedback and attach some meaning to the shared existence of the community I will serve based on the tradition we come out of, namely Christianity. I also naturally tend to look at the similarities between not only my denomination and act ecumenically, but also bring in interfaith dialog. I base this on the shear fact that I share this existence on this planet and it could have been otherwise.

We are made of stardust and tied to the universe. Life on earth is very linked and interconnected. Authoritative claims take away this connection and the church has been a large part of this. So this leads me to think that there's something behind it all... some higher order behind the chaos. I call this something God. Which leads me to a different take on the incarnation: What if we are the incarnated universe trying to figure itself out?

So with that in mind we're called to wrestle and figure it out not make super vague claims like "Jesus is the answer PERIOD" like the mega-church would say. Nor say "There is no god, objective empiricism is the only way to go" like the stalwart atheists do. We are not objective, and while we may have some access to the facts, our brains can’t connect them all as we are very limited. There is an emotional and spiritual side that must be accounted for and atheists often miss this or don’t put enough emphasis on it.

We humans are making noises to try to understand the infinite. We are putting up boundaries on something that cannot be bound and what we place there should only be looked through into the grand divine. I too will look for wisdom where I find it whether in Taoist, Buddhist, Islamic, or one of the other of the world’s great religions. The way I see it, Jesus taught from somewhere between 1 and 3 years. The records we have are spotty at best and completely spun or even fabricated toward a particular editorial slant at worst. Jesus didn’t and couldn’t have taught a comprehensive view and this becomes apparent when Christianity is compared to the vast teachings of the Buddha’s 40 year career.

What I do know is that religion can make all the dogmas and doctrines it wants, the divine won't be contained. It's knocking over fences, crossing property lines. I am compelled to follow.

8 comments:

Sabio Lantz said...

If people of other faiths with whom we are in dialog decide to convert to our path as a result of this sharing, fine! However, conversion is not the ultimate purpose here of interfaith dialogue, sharing the joy and wisdom gleaned from our climbing experience is.
-Luke


Agree. But then, for real deep wisdom we need to look for insights deeper than the dogmas that these two believers of un-alike faiths hold -- especially when the dogmas contradict one another.

Religions are ... seeking the best way to live, one that is in tune with a wider and more transcendent reality.
-- Luke


The Taoist would disagree with the transcendent reality -- likewise many Buddhists. In other words, we are all not seeking your intuitions.

I don’t know what to call this, so throughout this paper I have called it God.
-- Luke


That, I feel, IMHO, is a mistake. Especially since millions who you may consider spiritual don't seek a transcendent reality -- they are not trying to "tune in with it" And certainly, all the atheists who are trying to seek the best way to live are not seeking anything transcendent or god like. By using "God" you are dragging all your traditions baggage into the conversation. Even your definitions show the baggage. We all have our baggage, I get that. We all have our metaphors, I get that. But you are writing an inclusive paper here so I am offering my 2 cents -- maybe 3.


We are made of stardust and tied to the universe. Life on earth is very linked and interconnected. Authoritative claims take away this connection and the church has been a large part of this.
-- Luke


I agree. So why make authoritative claims about that Marcionite's metaphysics. Anglical Boy must love it when you throw on your priest robes and go showing heretics why they deserve to be called heretics.

BTW, most Atheists I know are very in touch with the emotional side of life - the importance of values and love and such. You further the prejudices against Atheist with your stereotypes. I am not sure what your objective is?

Seems Jesus came for 2 purposes: (1) to teach (2) to die an atoning death.
Seems odd that with #2 was so big, why #1 happened and was so incomplete and feeble. We get much of what the Buddha taught. And apparently he was not sent by god. Jesus gets sent to teach and gets killed after 3 years without good records. Buddha came 500 years later and got much more time. Doesn't that seem the least bit odd to you?

Tit for Tat said...

The above comment was very well communicated. I get it. Luke, you are wrong. ;)

Luke said...

"The Taoist would disagree with the transcendent reality -- likewise many Buddhists. In other words, we are all not seeking your intuitions.... Especially since millions who you may consider spiritual don't seek a transcendent reality -- they are not trying to "tune in with it""

From Taoism by Hsiao-Lan Hu and William Cully Allen page 26:

"The operating principle of the universe is understood to be circularity and balance, therefore human beings need to attune themselves with Tao in the same manner... The word Tao is used to refer to the ultimate reality, the origin of all there is, the force that keeps the world spinning, the universal truth and ideal for which human beings should strive."

Sounds pretty much in line with what i'm saying. maybe we're talking religious toaism (me) vs. a philosophical taoism and a Mahāyāna Buddhism (me) vs. your Theravādin Buddhism... but there is a great deal of deity and transcedent talk in both traditions. that claim, in my view is completely unsubstantiated.

"especially when the dogmas contradict one another."

a religious mind, IMO, is one that loves and swims in paradox. otherwise you get dogmatic certainty, which is the opposite of faith.

"So why make authoritative claims about that Marcionite's metaphysics"

i didn't feel i did. esp. the priestly robes garbage... you having a bad day or what? this is a little too polemical for my blood and even for your usual tone.

i just stated that based on my hermeneutic and exegesis of the scriptures as well as the history of the Christian Tradition i studied made it really clear that Marcion was wrong. i'm doing more research and will post my findings next tuesday as i reconsider Marcion. it's been a year or so since i studied, so i'll make an honest reappraisal and look forward to your critique. only this time, please refrain from the drama and attempt to be more level headed.

Sabio Lantz said...

"And if the dao is a ultimate reality such that nothing can depart from it, ...... and is therefore not transcendent in the way that the Christian deity is ..."

The Tao of the West: Western Transformations of Taoist Thought
Book by J. J. Clarke; Routledge, 2000

But you are right, much of this is philosophical. And the vast majority of Taoism in Asia is mixed with all sorts of superstitions, much like Christianity in South America and Africa. My point was that many do not use "transcendent" thinking the way Christians do. That was all. I don't think religion can be boiled down to the "transcendent" which I feel are a particular sort of intuition.

But I won't add any more least I get accused of being dramatic, polemic and unlevel headed.

Luke said...

Sabio: the priestly robes was a low blow. i don't think i've pulled anything like that on you which would be like "what would you know, you're just an atheist!" or "you were never really a true Christian in the first place..." which i wouldn't do cause i take your claims and your own history seriously. you've arrived at your conclusions honestly. i hope never to come across as using such tactics or hitting anyone over the head with my degree or job title.

"I don't think religion can be boiled down to the "transcendent" which I feel are a particular sort of intuition."

i think my use of "transcendent" wasn't as accurate as i intended it to be. what i was trying to get at is "the sum of everything still doesn't add up to the whole of what God/Tao/Ultimate Reality/The Higher Math is. we all can access it, yet we access it differently. i see you accessing it and being very in tune with it, esp. on your concern for others as well as a great set of virtue ethics you employ. i learn a lot from you, that's why i tolerate your occasional low blow ;-)

Sabio Lantz said...

Sorry dude, that is the problem with long threads. I can't find my "priestly robes" comment. But I will apologize anyway, I am sure I can be harsh at times. The devil makes me do it, you know ! Smile.

You said:

i think my use of "transcendent" wasn't as accurate as i intended it to be...

I agree. Thus I was making comments to offer you a foil to tighten up your writing and/or thinking on that. That, as you know, is something I offer in relationship even if it comes with occasional perceived or real barbs.

Again, I know you are constantly changing (we all are -- some more than others). The blog forum is the use of words and ideas and thus invites analytic analysis as well as narrative analysis. I hope I continue to prove useful without being to caustically irritating. But I must remind you, for someone cursed with a mind like mine, ideas which I object to often are more "caustic" to me, than you'd imagine. I just need to try and couch my wording more carefully.

Peace.

Douglas said...

Luke. The password is "Triathlon." Would appreciate your thoughts. Sorry to be absent so long.

Luke said...

Sabio: you're good at details. i'm not so much. i'm a generalist who is in tension with good ideas. i love ideas. i love religions. i love metaphor. i do need to focus more on the details. thanks for helping with that!