Friday, April 1, 2011

Matthew 5:17 for the post-religious

You might wonder how I can seem devout and heretical at the same time. We all live in emotions and ideologies of gray; there are no black and whites. So my relationship with Christianity is at times love affair and at times cycle of violence. When it's good, it's so very good, but when it's bad, it's awful. Sound familiar?

Anyway, I heard a quote from Scripture that resonated with me like a gunshot. Matthew 5:17: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." That is exactly how I feel. I do foresee the fulfillment of and subsequent end of religion in our lifetime, but A) that's exactly what all of our religions have foretold; B) it's exactly what is supposed to happen; and C) it's a very good thing, a very natural thing.

My new way, which does not fit under any current Ideological, Philosophical, or Theological heading, is about completing and fulfilling religion, and then quite naturally, setting religion as we know it aside. Its prophecies fulfilled, religion will then evaporate as quickly and quietly as it came upon us. There could be nothing more natural in my mind. Shedding the skin to begin the new day in the promised land. Graduating into adulthood in the human lifespan. There will be no command to forsake your faith; it is just an inevitable and immutable course for this world. I am looking forward to it and want to provide comfort for those who fear the END. It is the beginning.

Anyway, I am going to begin analysis of my very favorite Bible verse: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13. This is a verse many know by heart..."love is patient and kind.." etc. For me it is my light in the darkness. It is a map of the future for me.

You know I experience altered dimensions as a symptom of Bipolar. I see and feel things that transcend reality, time, space, place. This verse has always felt special to me (my brother read it at my wedding in 2006) but a few years back I read it and felt as though Paul were sitting on my couch discussing his words with me and telling me exactly what he meant by every letter. He was guiding my translation. The words stood out almost in relief to me, as truth and clarity shattered thousands of years of dissension about what Paul meant. It took years to see the full picture; the verse lived and breathed and changed with me as I grew older. But in 2009 I realized Paul had seen and felt exactly the same things I have felt; he had a special window, a special channel. I felt like I knew his mind, and that I must share my view. I'm sure certain verses, whether in the bible or in any other text, have sent shock waves through your consciousness in much the same way.

So, the discussion of what I think it means:

1 Corinthians 13: 1-13.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

This verse seems, at the outset, to be a warning of false prophets. If I speak in man-made languages and speak about angels in Heaven, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Religion as we write and talk about it is a noisy, brassy distraction from the truth about Love. Writing about Love necessarily obfuscates it, because it is a feeling and not a concept or a thing. We throw the word "love" around, but sadly, we have forgotten what natal, unconditional love feels like. Love is the transcendent eternal essence, transcending even our depictions and understanding of the Christian God, and written or spoken words fail to convey the infinite scope of love. (Not lost on me that I sound like I think I am a prophet....classic irony, Paul, classic).

If I have prophetic powers….if I tell you that Heaven is coming and when and how to get there, and if I claim to understand all mysteries and know all the answers, and if I have unlimited faith in God, but I have not love...if I am not filled with love for myself, I am missing the point. When Paul says "I have not love" he does not mean giving love to others, he does not mean being filled with loving acts and acting in a loving way or lavishing love on others; he means if I cannot receive and believe unconditional love of myself, I have not love. Love is not an act toward others in this instance, it is receipt of a gift. It is a recognition that the world, the universe, the benevolent creator, God, Mother Earth (whatever you call it) is the Love current and all of us love you, YOU, more than you have ever thought possible. You are born with an unbelievably deep tap of love for self, and are instantly taught to doubt it. If I "have not" that understanding of how much I am loved, I am tilting at windmills. I am running in place. My faith in God may (may, I say, because we have no proof) be able to move obstacles in front of me, or move mountains, but if I do not understand how God (Love) (the rest of us) truly loves me, then I am lost in darkness. We are lost in darkness.

To me this means that someone or something will come to tell us the future, to describe heaven, and that person will HAVE LOVE: be so full of love for self, so understanding of Love's scope, so content and confident in the gift of love, that it no longer becomes a commodity to take, give, trade, or withhold. It needs no more words. The prophet that does not exhibit this state of being is false.

Whew....I'll give you a break and continue in next post. Bottom line though: the only way I can get on board with the term "God" as the Abrahamic religions describe it is if God is Love. The infinite. The beyond. The eternal well within.

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God, to have these guys in a room together again....