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Tag: Khrysso Heart LeFey

Yes, actually, I AM a Girlyman

Yes, actually, I AM a Girlyman

Buck, our Honda Element, wouldn’t start one day last week so I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed a few tools, and got my hands greasy. A few minutes later he was purring in the drive, so I came in, put things away, washed my hands, […]

Monotheism and Biblical Literalism

This is not new to a lot of people, but it is to me: a quotation by biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan, to wit, “My point… is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”

What is not new is Crossan’s name to those who are familiar with The Jesus Seminar, which was pretty well known to liberal Christians in the 1980s and ’90s.

I did not spend a lot of time being a liberal Christian; I was Roman Catholic for the first 20 years of my life, then Evangelical for about 10, then liberal Christian for about four, then Neo-Pagan for about seven, then on a slow path through Pantheism to my current a-theism with Buddhist leanings. I have a master’s degree (a Master of Theological Studies, or, as I like to call it, “M.A. Lite”) from a liberal United Methodist theological school, but I was an apostate while I was there–the highest-profile infidel in the student body at the time and a Unitarian Universalist to boot. Because of my seven years in an Evangelical cult, I was well versed in a lot of Bible and, ironically, quoted more scripture in a lot of my seminary classes than most of my Christian classmates or faculty did.

A lot of my friends were familiar with The Jesus Seminar. Some had probably attended it, I don’t remember.

But thanks to my friend Eddy, I ran across this quotation by Crossan today, and I find it particularly apt, because I think that a lot of Liberals don’t think of things this way: I think a lot of us are inclined to think that we don’t take that mythology stuff literally any more the way they used to. But myth has never been about literalism; it has always been about story. My working definition of “myth” is “controlling narrative.” Nothing about my definition is about literal truth. It is reliable, but nobody says it’s true.

I was surprised to have it shared twice when I said on Facebook, “Biblical literalism is one of the most destructive forces in the world today.” I am particularly aware of its destructive power because it caused years of religious wars in my own family of origin when I declared in 1988 that I was a Gay Christian. The political divide in the USA these days is all around the primacy of the literal Bible, and it’s going to tear us apart because of the way literalism fuels hatred and bigotry.

My statement about literalism goes hand in hand with a decision that I made years ago and have been announcing ever since. Somebody asked me–probably on Facebook–what I thought the worst event in human history was, and I answered, “the conversion of Constantine.” I think of Graham Nash’s song, “Cathedral,” in which  he sings, “So many people have died in the name of Christ that I can’t believe at all.” Constantine’s political blessing of Christianity paved the way for 1600 years of mayhem in Jesus’ name. These following millennia of waste laid by the armies of the Lord of the Hebrew Bible.

Monotheism in general is responsible for a lot of mayhem, because any time a god says, “I am the only one,” the logical conclusion is that destruction of competitors and interlopers and infidels is appropriate. Monotheism is inherently a king-of-the-hill proposition.

There are theologies that allow for adherents of Abrahamic religions to co-exist peacefully with others, but people who embrace such theologies are not devoted monotheists. They are henotheists–believers that other gods may exist, but we only pay attention to ours–or monolatrists–believers that other gods may exist, but ours is the only one worthy of worship.

None of the Abrahamic religions’ revelations allow for these options. In Judaism, you have the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods before me.” In Christianity, you have 1 Corinthians 8:4, “There is no God but one” and Acts 4:12, “There is no other name under Heaven… by which we must be saved.” The basic tenet of Islam, the affirmation you must make to become a Muslim, is, “There is no God but Allah (God).”

If you’re going to relent on the only-one-God statement and allow your infidel neighbors to live, you have to stop being a literalist. And then the question arises, as it arose for me when I first began to doubt the Bible many years ago, “If you’re going to let go of biblical literalism, then how far are you going to go?”

If you’re not going to accept all of it, why accept any of it? Where do you draw the line?

Why, then, is it worthwhile being a Jew, a Christian, a Muslim, let alone an adherent to any of the dozens of monotheistic religions outside of the Abrahamic spectrum?

I despair when I hear of religious wars in countries that don’t think of being dominated by monotheistic religions, because I think, “Maybe John Lennon was right–maybe religion is inherently flawed.” (I am not given to believing that religion is bad. I think that religionS can be bad, but I believe that religion–small r–is just the way that people make sense of the world, of the things in the world that are greater than they. I am an atheist and I don’t believe that I am devoid of religion.) But even in India, where Hinduism is not usually monotheistic, a lot of the wars involve Muslims, who are monotheists. Monotheism inevitably begets war.

Last night I watched a staging of Jesus Christ Superstar on TV, and I remembered that I had just, in a Facebook posting, quoted a Gospel. I had to admit that the Bible is not useless to me: the parables, for example, provide me with useful points of departure as a writer. But really, the picking and choosing that I do out of the Bible is so little that it would be ludicrous for me to suggest that I look to it as Holy Book. It’s a resource, much as my thesaurus is a resource.

I can live and let live, because I’m a pluralist.

Khrysso’s Scrumptious Low-Carb Gluten-Free Almond Cookies

Khrysso’s Scumptious Low-Carb Gluten-Free Almond Cookies These cookies are a bonus for us both because they are low-carb, sugar free, and gluten-free! A Dutch friend of ours inspired this recipe, but we like ours better than the one from the Old Country. The bad part […]

Stephen Hawking and My Unbelief

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The world got the word today that Stephen Hawking has died.

He had a huge influence on my metaphysics because of his statement that a creator–God–was not required in order for there to be a Big Bang.

It was at that point that I felt comfortable not assuming God any more, and began to feel comfortable wearing the label “atheist.”

I have been careful, since I began feeling comfortable in that way, to emphasize that I am not an Atheist-with-a-capital-A. Atheists with a capital A are all about there not being a God.

I don’t profess that there is no God; I simply do not believe that there is one. I don’t profess to be agnostic, though I believe that we are all, in the end, agnostic inasmuch as we may have a belief, but none of us has absolute knowledge.

“You ask me how I know He lives–He lives within my heart,” as the hymn puts it, does not count.

I am not about my not-knowing; at this point in my life, I simply assume not.

I think that Ockham’s Razor provides a good point of departure on the matter, the principle that the simplest explanation is to be preferred. One may argue that it is simpler to suppose a Creator God and let that be the end of it

From a logical perspective, though, it is not the negative that needs to be proved; the “burden of proof,” as it is called, is on the person making the assertion.

In fact, from a logical perspective, you can’t prove a negative, so it is never incumbent on the unbeliever to prove the non-existence of God. In the many centuries of Western debate about God, there has never been proof: only best arguments.

So I believe that it is simpler to believe less: the absence of God.

Before I entered theological school in 1998, I already knew that I did not presuppose that God and A Creator were one and the same. That is a Western notion, a biblical notion, but not every theist is a monotheist: there are, or have been in history, people in the world who believe in more than one God who don’t assume that the Creator of the world and the Sustainer of the world are one and the same.

I happen not to assume that there was any Creator at all, thanks to Stephen Hawking’s teaching on the Big Bang, and at this point I don’t believe in a divine sustainer, but I don’t count those two kinds of disbelief as the same.

I have believed many things in my lifetime. Ask me again in ten years and I may give much different answers to your questions than I give now.

Stephen Hawking was only human, and I understand that he was fallible. But I think he knew what he was talking about when he talked about the Big Bang, since he was a major voice in formulating it since 1970. I observe his death and his life today.

HOW INTIMACY HAS SMASHED THROUGH MY DEFENSES, PART I: A SHORT COURSE IN MY ENNEAGRAM TYPE

Nearly half my life ago, circa 1990, I was first exposed to the Enneagram as a personality-typing tool that might give me insight into how I operate vis-à-vis members of my family of origin. The first book I read on the topic reflected Jesuit explorations of the tool for spiritual growth.

I have studied, though not become an expert on, the Enneagram over the years, enough that I have been able to learn a lot about myself from it and enough to see it grow in popularity among psychologists and business coaches. It’s an incisive though not scientific way of looking at behavior—or, some would point out, misbehavior—and so, because it is not scientific, it gets likened to tools such as astrology and numerology… or at least the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

The Enneagram (“ennea-“ comes from the root meaning “nine”) is a figure consisting of a circle with what looks rather like a nine-pointed star inscribed in it but is actually two shapes. The points interlock by way of the lines in the “star.” I continue to be fascinated with how the characteristics represented at each point relate to one another. Those relationships are complex and thought-provoking should you care to let your thoughts be provoked by them.

The nine points are not hierarchical; that is, Nine is no better than One. They are just places on the figure.

Especially in the earlier years in Western writing on the subject, when I was first exposed to it, the way of discovering one’s Enneagram type was through examining one’s preferred compulsion—one’s basic driving force. You looked at the one thing that you wanted to avoid at all costs, the thing to which you most wanted to devote your power.

My preferred point on the Enneagram it was clear, was Eight, the type that, depending on the theorist, may be nicknamed, among other things, the Protector, the Challenger, the Asserter, the Warrior, the Leader, the Chief, the Top Dog, or, most flatteringly, the Bully. (If you’re interested, I’m an ESTJ, a.k.a. the Executive/Supervisor/Organizer/Administrator.)

Eights typically will do anything we can to avoid being, or even perceived as being, weak. We tend to think, the book asserted, that to be good is to be strong. We are inclined to take an offensive stance in life, to push against our world and to suppose that we are big enough with inner resources enough to do so successfully. We act from our guts first and our heads second; we frequently need to be called back to our hearts. Some people call our basic sin lust (for power, I suppose), but the first book I read identified it as arrogance.

Many theorists suggest that we were dominated or somehow taken advantage of in our early lives and that we spend the rest of our lives as crusaders to compensate for how power was misused against us. We are typically looking for a cause to champion, and we are willing to take hits in the ones we choose.

Eights are not always bullies, and at our best we are inclined to be, if dictators, at least benevolent ones. We’re courageous, that’s for sure. A lot of people think that we are always complaining, but the book says, and I assert, that we are simply calling attention to things that we think deserve further attention. A lot of prophets have been Eights.

What brought me up short on my first reading of the book all those years ago, and what sticks with me all these years later, is the matter-of-fact statement, “They do not like to face the fact that in spite of their outward behavior of strength they are marshmallows inside.” Well, it doesn’t just stick with me; it has smashed through my defenses.

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Beesing, Maria, OP; Robert J. Nogosek, CSC; and Patrick S. O’Leary, SJ. The Enneagram: A Journey of Self-Discovery. Denville, NJ: Dimension Books, 1984.