This morning I began reading Richard Rohr's new book, The Universal Christ. It downloaded on my Kindle during the night, just released, and I had preordered it. I am certain many insights await me as I savor his words.
The prelude and the beginning of chapter one already confirmed some of my experience and also gave my mind a few stretches. Right now though, I want to consider a "fact" he mentioned that keeps shocking my thoughts.
He said that there are approximately 30,000 different varieties of Christianity!!! Let that sink in.
First I thought no wonder there is so much religious turmoil. Then I felt slightly amused by the varieties that teach they are the only way. Then I was stunned that the Galilean from Nazareth's message was so poorly understood that it fractured into so many shards. Then I thought about the thousands upon thousands of thinkers who laid their own ideas, even opposite ideas, upon what we know of the words of Jesus.
Is it even possible to peel it all back to the original? Can we find solid ground without any first hand writings? Paul wrote in the 50's. He knew a couple of apostles, but not the historical Jesus. And, there are only copies of copies of copies of his letters. The Gospels were written after 70 ce to somewhere near the end of the first century. They were circulated as "Memoires of the Apostles," and not named until sometime between 150 and 160 ce, plus there exist only much later copies. The authors are unknown. But at this point in time, that's the best we have.
Scholars have variously tried to discover or bury whatever the original might have been. I've spent most of my adult years studying, contemplating and seeking. In my own life, I put the most weight to what my experience has taught me and how that resonates with anything I read.
If you look over my writings, you can see my current understanding. In a nutshell, live as lovingly, authentically, kindly as possible. Spend daily time in study, prayer and contemplation. Live as if all I do and say is done in the Presence of God, for it is.