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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Anselm and Beyond

Anselm lived a thousand years ago, but his ideas are woven into some parts of Christianity, and in those parts there is the belief that they know the only truth, the Bible is actually literal and inerrant (a gift of reaction to the Enlightenment),  the only way to be "saved". He attempted to "prove" God exists. He was considered an innovative thinker. For example, he thought up the idea of atonement and Jesus' substitution for us in his death. What I'm contemplating today is that he and others brought life to these ideas which had NOT been part of Christianity until then.

I've spent many, many hours over many, many years delving into the 1st century and what originally happened and what it meant to the people who lived it. My historical study moves forward to this day, through the mystics of the middle ages, through the martyrs of the last century (think Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King) to this time and today's great thinkers.

I have discovered that quite a lot of "theology" is not in the Bible, was not in the understanding of those who were there, and is sometimes 180' opposite of what was originally taught and understood.

Most modern Bible scholars see the Hebrews as people who wrote in metaphor, so that what is contained is more than what it might seem at first glance. The stories have deep meanings. The stories are people's understanding of God.

In the first centuries of Christianity, the teachings were several. An example of just one of these areas of argument revolves around the nature of  Jesus. Some believed Jesus was fully divine and therefore did not have a material body. Some believed he was fully human and was a great teacher/rabbi. Some believed he was both at the same time - which was the one that won the argument and was put into creed.

There were many arguments over a bunch of ideas. But there was not the argument that Jesus had to die gruesomely to appease an angry God, who was angry at humankind and demanded a blood sacrifice. When we look at this idea with all of our wits present, we can see that this idea is a bit crazy and definitely NOT what Jesus taught and his followers continued to teach. God is Love. God created everything and called it good. Love, forgive, repent, have compassion. The Kingdom of God is within, etc.

Jesus taught the way to live and that the Kingdom of God was already here. If/when we live in accordance with The Way, the ugliness of the world can/will vanish. One could say that Jesus was an idealist with utopian ideas. Yet the possibility of His truths has kept at least part of His teachings alive 2,000 years. I assume Jesus really believed it possible for humanity to awaken to the deep truths he lived and spoke. I assume He thought it worth his life to poke the powerful Rome and its representatives, so much so that he was given the death reserved only for those who were treasonous and dangerous to Rome.

I think that if we want Christianity to exist far into the future, it would do us well to study history in general and Christian history in context, to note what was added and what was subtracted and for what reasons. I see that much of what is taught as Christianity today is far off course, way different from the original and intended course, so that it seems to me more and more people are turned off by it and leave the churches. In Europe the church attendance is in the single digits. In the United States, 80% of the people say they consider themselves Christian, but half of those no longer are part of a church because of the superstitious and even ignorant things that are being taught.

The violence and hatred that arises today can be turned around. Let us find Jesus anew and turn ourselves around.

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