I’m still not sure.
But today’s readings and something else I’ve been working on, all, as God perhaps intends, come together to suggest answers, or at least a profitable way of looking at it.
I will give the quote in full:
…For most of us, our religious community seems far more important than our religious community’s theology. That is, people attend church largely to socialize with their friends and acquaintances in the congregation; somewhat less to worship their god; much less to learn about their god; and almost never to think critically about their god. Yet, many proselytizing atheists focus on critical thinking. That might be like trying to use a carpenter’s pencil to lever a house off its foundation. On the other hand, if I ever want to convert people to atheism, I’ll first hold a social.
Painful statement, yet there is truth in it. Yet, I feel no need to defend against it. Much. I’m aware of polling that suggests that atheists know more about the contents of the bible than do believers. And I have no reason to quarrel with it. Yet, I know that that should not be very comforting, to atheists, because what most atheists “know” about the bible is seen through the lens of fundamentalism. The point out all the errors, the contradictions, but they really don’t understand anything about how it was gathered together into the distinctive writings that eventually found their way into a canon. Much of their error finding is irrelevant to scholars, and explainable.
I’m a good deal less troubled by the idea that going to church is mostly a social event. You hear that a lot from atheists. But that’s not something to defend against, but rather something to embrace.
We do socialize in church, and that’s a good thing. For in that action, we enlarge our circle of “neighbor” if indeed it is not limitless to begin with. For practical reasons we only have time for so many neighbors, those to whom we are beholden to offer our help even when it is awfully inconvenient. Church socializing forms those new friendships and ties. It brings into the circle those we care for and about. It helps us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s a good thing.
The rest? About critical thinking arguments being wasted on the believer. Well that’s just plain mean, untrue and not worth further comment.
Today’s readings are:Lev 19:1-2, 17-18 1Cor 3:16-23 Mt 5:38-48
In Leviticus, Moses listens to God who tells him to tell the people to be holy as I am holy. You must love your neighbor as yourself.
Similarly, Paul reminds us that we are God’s temple, and that we must respect God’s temple, both ourselves and others.
Jesus speaks in Matthew and he tells us that we must not hate, we must love our neighbor, even when our neighbor is unkind, hurtful, or worse to us. We must give to whomever asks (something extreme right-wing religious might make note of as they argue that universe health care is wrong since it gives to some who are not worthy to receive).
Jesus reminds us that God makes the rain fall on the righteous and the wicked equally. Again, perhaps we might remember that before we are so quick to claim that hell awaits those whom we find evil.
But the over-riding point Jesus attempts to make is one of love. Love conquers all, hate never can. It but creates more hate, distrust, fear. All negative. All cutting against the neighbor concept.
I’m reading a wonderful book about Mary Magdalene. It draws heavily on the so-called gnostic gospels of Thomas, Mary, Peter, and the Gospel of John. It requires a lot of reading between the lines, a fair amount of reordering one’s thinking. It suggests that Jesus, along “his way” diverted from the Nazarite path, the aesthetic path he began, and ended in a more Eastern approach. More Buddhist, yet not.
His was the way of self-emptying. A concept well-known to anyone who is a believer. Paul talks of this in Philippians 2:9-16. He understood Jesus, perhaps better than did the writers of Mark, Matthew or Luke.
It’s all about kenosis, self giving. Similar to the Buddhist way, of letting be, giving up, but not, the denial of all as transitory. Rather it’s the giving all, and in that very process, receiving all, being all, being totally, wholly human.
Having never been an inerrantist, I have difficulty understanding the former fundamentalist. They accept that the bible is not inerrant, but they now have trouble seeing it as having any value. It is no longer trustworthy as conveyor of God’s “WORD.”
The bible, remains to me, (as other sacred texts do as well) as repositors of man’s highest achievement in enlightenment. We are able, as we progress, to tease out sometimes those things that point to a greater truth, one they didn’t even realize they spoke of.
Everything I read and study, helps me to see Jesus, and God more clearly. It all, to me resolves itself into love. Love was the vehicle Jesus pointed to as the means to the Kingdom. As Cynthia Bourgeault suggests, it is the vertical axis connecting ourselves to the infinite. It is what, she theorizes forever connected Mary Magdalene to Jesus in a way far superior to any of the other apostles.
She got it, and many others have followed in her footsteps and His. It’s just about love.