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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

There Are Tons of Ways of Looking at Everything

 I used to do an exercise in workshops around this very idea. Example:

Let's form small groups of about 6 people around one chair. Now imagine with me that you have never seen such a thing before. Maybe you live in a remote jungle in a community that has nothing that looks like this. Now brainstorm together what this strange object is and what its uses might be.

People came up with the most fascinating array of ideas. Maybe you can play this game with yourself right now, or later with friends and family.

One of the points is, that once we decide what something is, we don't have to think about it again, it just gets a label and then it's settled. This is much more important when we think about social issues, racial issues, economic or political or religious issues... We already have a position on this or that and are often unwilling to rethink it.

Let's brave a religious issue. Some say that we should actually describe the current most followed religion "Paulianity." Ouch you might say, or how dare you, or blasphemy. But think about it. I know the Gospels are long after Jesus' life, but they are likely at least partially related to what Jesus said and did.

I mentioned recently on this blog about the sheep and goats and the difference being who took care of the needy and who didn't. There are other similar references to doing good as a requisite for a good eternal life. Think rich man who was told to follow the Commandments, who responded he already did that, and was told then give everything for the poor. How about the poor woman who could only give a mite to the offering, but was upheld as a hero. Think of the beatitudes or the two great commandments.  I think you get the picture. Jesus, as his brother James did too, uplifted those who were good and kind and generous and who would therefore have a good eternal life. 

But then Paul, the self-appointed apostle who never met Jesus, enters the conversation. What quotes of Jesus did he offer in his 7 authentic letters? What was his idea for a good eternal life (salvation)? Believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that was Paul's core message.

Paul's view won historically, so that is what is taught in most so-called Christian churches. Paul's idea "Paulianity" I suggest is actually what it is. I'm not trying to disparage Paul. He said many thoughtful things, many of them more Greek than Jewish. I enjoy reading Paul. But his eternal life insurance plan is far different than the one Jesus taught.

I urge, and have for decades, let's go back to the ethical teachings of Jesus in order to be able to say honestly that we follow Jesus, maybe without the apocalyptic side of him. Obviously the Son of Man did not come in his lifetime, or any lifetime, to wipe out evil and establish God's Kingdom. But then, we could do that ourselves, if we activated the ethics of Jesus.

There is another way to look at everything, then another way, and another, and on and on.

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