Primitive religion is not believed, it is danced!

Arthur Darby Nock

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Elizabeth Browning

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Rejecting insider faith

Anyone can be made to feel like an outsider. It’s up to the people who have the power to exclude. Often it’s on the basis of race. Depending on a culture’s fears and biases, Jews can be treated as outsiders. Muslims can be treated as outsiders. Christians can be treated as outsiders. The poor are always outsiders. The sick are often outsiders. People with disabilities can be treated as outsiders. Members of the LGBTQ community can be treated as outsiders. Immigrants are almost always outsiders. And in most every society, women can be made to feel like outsiders—even in their own homes.

Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our greatest challenge as human beings. It is the key to ending deep inequality. We stigmatize and send to the margins people who trigger in us the feelings we want to avoid. This is why there are so many old and weak and sick and poor people on the margins of society. We tend to push out the people who have qualities we’re most afraid we will find in ourselves—and sometimes we falsely ascribe qualities we disown to certain groups, then push those groups out as a way of denying those traits in ourselves. This is what drives dominant groups to push different racial and religious groups to the margins.

And we’re often not honest about what’s happening. If we’re on the inside and see someone on the outside, we often say to ourselves, “I’m not in that situation because I’m different. But that’s just pride talking. We could easily be that person. We have all things inside us. We just don’t like to confess what we have in common with outsiders because it’s too humbling. It suggests that maybe success and failure aren’t entirely fair. And if you know you got the better deal, then you have to be humble, and it hurts to give up your sense of superiority and say, “I’m no better than others.” So instead we invent excuses for our need to exclude. We say it’s about merit or tradition when it’s really just protecting our privilege and our pride.”
Melinda Gates

I have been wondering lately
Why I find my own faith system, Christianity
So unpalatable

Yes, really, I mean it

I find the whole thing a hot mess

I see power and dominance worshipped, instead of service
I see arrogance, instead of humility
I see selfishness instead of selflessness

I encounter theologies that are not only inconsistent and incongruent
But illogical

God is love, but most people who ever lived will suffer eternal conscious torment at the hands of God (who is love?)

God loves all, except all those we don’t like.

God asks us to give, while filling our pockets with worldly wealth

I cannot begin to explain how unappealing the Christian religion is right now
Which is very painful, given the fact that I love the way of Jesus
That way of acceptance, and sacrifice
Generosity and forgiveness
That way of inclusion

And I have struggle to figure out what is wrong

And this is what is wrong
We have made this faith which is inherently undualistic, dualistic

We have made it a matter of saved or lost
In or out
Good or bad
Life or death
Heaven or hell

But the biggest sin, is that we have made ourselves “insiders’
When it comes to the Sacred
And everyone else ‘outsiders’

And here is the rub
This faith was created by an outsider, for outsiders

Oh, I know, Jesus was immersed in the system
But remember that first sermon?
What happened?
He got rejected.
He almost got thrown over a cliff!

Why was that story included in the Jesus narrative?
Because we needed to remember
That Jesus came to “break down the dividing wall”
To eradicate the whole concept of “in” and “out”
The whole concept of privilege

He came to remove the whole idea that anyone has a unique claim on God
And to challenge the idea that any group can exclude people
From the love of God

Even the poor
The prisoners
The sinful
Are welcomed and embraced by God

And after that first event, Jesus gathered around him outcasts
And he taught outcasts
And he healed outcasts
And he ate with outcasts
And he died with outcasts
And he died an outcast

But we have made the faith about being an insider
We have violated its very nature

Instead of being in the mix
Instead of rubbing shoulders with all of humanity
The church has pulled back
Set itself apart
Created criteria for inclusion (you must believe the right things, utter the right formulas, do the right things, vote for the right person)

The church has become the insiders
Claiming God as their own (rather understanding that God has claimed them)
Acting as if God is a cosmic bellhop, there to answer every call
Believing that God will give the dominance and wealth (when it is very clear true discipleship is costly and a matter extreme service)

The church has become the insiders
Judging, controlling, dominating
And aligned with all the things Jesus came to combat
Aligned with the kind of people who put Jesus on the cross

As Gilbert K. Chesterton so aptly put it, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”

Following Jesus (see the beatitudes)
Is about being in the mix
Being outcasts among the outcasts

It is about mourning (perhaps mourning caged children)
It is about poverty of spirit (sorry, arrogance doesn’t cut it, in Presidents, ministers, or any Christians)
It is about giving not getting
Serving not dominating

It is about acceptance not inclusion
It is about empting oneself, and humility,
Not about privilege

Christianity as I see it
No longer follows Jesus
It is just another insider religion

And so it makes me queasy

And it makes me wonder
How do I find my way back,
How does the church find its way back,
To that place where Jesus leads us

Where pride and arrogance are gone
Where we are simply outcasts among outcasts
Loving God
And Loving all those around us

Keeping it simple
Walking the Jesus way

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