Religious texts redefined

Let me be blunt: revisions of religious texts, whether verbally or in print, are postmodern heresies. To which I say—Yes, indeed.

First off, languages and circumstances change. The lifestyle of today is not the lifestyle of yesterday. When attempting to apply religious texts in everyday life, those texts need to be adjusted to present day reality. We revise what we read in our heads, or in conversation, or through publication.

For example, in the Bible, we read that Moses told the children of Israel to bring offerings of animals or grain, to the Lord. The religious text has been revised dramatically. No longer do we insist on those offerings. Modern day society has shifted from an agrarian culture to one of industry and technology, diminishing access to animals and grain.

The old texts are revised because they violate our liberal mores. Society denounces as anti-Christian the slaughter of animals and the waste of grain. We instead offer the food to feed the starving. In other words, the revised version is heresy to the indigenous meaning.

Honest-to-Goodness-Truth-50Let me be clear: I am all for this heresy. But, let’s be honest about what we are doing. We can’t revise religious texts and believe or insist that that was their original intent. Revisions are designed to advance further the religious ideals that empower and train us to worship a God that promotes wisdom, justice, equality, and wellbeing.

Revisions do not replace the original. But we can submit to them to actualize the great and promising potential of religious texts.

This was originally posted on Beliefnet.com at Everyday Spirituality blog

Moses and regulations for cleanliness

The biblical book of Leviticus is filled with instructions on some rather gory circumstances. Regulations abound concerning skin infections and bodily discharges, causing uncleanness. (Lev. 14-15)

Leviticus 15:1 reads, “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When any man has a bodily discharge, the discharge is unclean.”

Moses then gives the people a mountain of regulations dealing with the uncleanness.

clean windowLiving in the 21st century, and in a society that values cleanness, these statements seems outmoded. However, I can take a mental view of situations. I can keep my mind clean.

When I find myself in the presence of negative minded people, I respect the ability to regulate myself and not touch the negative thinking.

I admit, I’ve failed a few times, and touched the negative thinking, only to feel unclean later. Now, I try to excuse myself from a group of people who are voicing opinions as if they are truth, or I change the subject to something more useful.

From 21st Century Science and Health, “Science not only reveals reasonable possibilities but also prompts human beings to discover what God has already done. You must trust your ability to experience goodness and to bring out better and higher results. Don’t become a sluggard. Be alert so as to save yourself from the possibility of failure.”

God does not skimp on details

laughing_cats-323While reading though the book Exodus in the Bible, I had to laugh.

After the children of Israel escaped Egypt, they looked lost. But Moses goes up on a Mountain and hangs around or 40 days and 40 nights while God gives him instructions on what to do with the people.

The instructions were so detailed that I got bored reading. Here’s an example from Exodus 25: “They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 11 You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. 12 You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. 13 You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 14 And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. 15 The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. 16 And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you.”

Yea, that’s like me telling my husband to grasp the top edges of the 13-gallon plastic bag firmly with both hands and bring in together while pulling up out of the container. But before pulling completely out of the container, find the drawstring and pull on it from both sides to close in the top of the bag. Tie the drawstring together with an under the loop tie knot. Remove the bag from the container and backup two steps. Turn to the left and make another two steps. Turn to the right and walk 5 steps. Turn to the right again and make 4 steps. Open the back door. Walk through the door into the garage. Walk down 2 steps. Walk over to the garbage can, lift the lid and insert the bag into the can.

Or, I could say, Take out the garbage please.

Idolatry causes a healing method to be lost

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIdolatry is a trickster. How often, without even knowing it, do we idolize something or someone?

Idolatry is defined as adoration, reverence, veneration, or fetishism.

I adore my cats.

I venerate some people. Or, it looks like I do because there are some people who I avoid because of their backward thinking.

I have a fetish for certain foods and means of healing.

Is this idolatry?

I think idolatry comes into play when I take what is a benefit and focus on it so much that I lose sight of new ideas. Yesterdays benefit then becomes todays hindrance.

The method that healed me yesterday might not work today, therefore I want to be open to new ideas. The openness disallows an unconscious idolatry of yesterdays method.

This idea of newness can be found throughout literature:“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (Jer. 31)

What is Sacred Anymore?

sacred ibis thoth flyingAs a news reporter, I’ve had to discipline my facial antics. Rolling eyes, frowns, and crinkling my nose, are not allowed when I’m out getting a story.

Examples:

While interviewing a woman who is demonstrating how to use an antique book press, I stifle the urge, strong urge, to want to plug my nose and belt out, “Oh my gosh, your cat just crapped and it stinks to high heaven in here. I can’t listen to this for anther second.” Whereas, she is calmly and gently and solemnly showing me how to handle the antique equipment, as if it was sacred. Maybe it was, I don’t know, but not to me.

Another example, although I rarely use the word “never” because, “never say never,” is brilliant advice, I can say I know a couple who will never get a divorce. Sadness overwhelms them when they hear about people getting divorced. “Marriage is sacred,” they pine. My lips struggle not to tighten. Surely, deep down they know marriage could be hell for some people, I hope.

Antiques, marriage, the woods, the Bible, bread, a church, may offer a sense of sacredness sometimes. But, are they sacred?

The sacred is associated with God, with something holy or worthy of veneration.

I read the Lord’s Prayer verse, commonly phrased as: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

Okay, the word hallowed isn’t used very often today, probably because it isn’t sacred, but hallowed and sacred mean the same thing. The nature (name) of God is sacred. Love is sacred. Truth is sacred.

Making a person, place, or thing sacred deters from seeing God as sacred.

When I know God as sacred, I feel a  respect for persons, places, and things and it’s easier to keep my antics under control.

Where to draw the line

As a mother of 2 daughters and a past foster mother, I noticed that while raising the children, I had to draw the line. I drew the line when it came to their vocabulary, what clothes they wore, and how late they could stay out. But, the line was drawn at different places for each child.

It almost seemed unfair.

But, when I drew the line too close or too far from what the child could handle appropriately there was a hint of rebellion or weirdness. When I moved the line with artistic mindfulness, things worked out.

Each child was unique. I treated them all the same in that I treated them different.

For example, I could offer all kinds of food to one child and there was never any over eating. But, this was improper with another child who overate. So, I drew the line with myself and offered a healthy amount of food, and that’s all.

This drawing the line method of working with others requires me to look past myself. I can’t do what makes me feel good. I don’t want to enable another to over-do or under-do their potential.

draw lineIt reminds me of the Letter of Paul to Titus.

Titus was left behind in Crete, signifying that a line was drawn by Paul. Even if Paul wanted Titus to come along with him, Paul somehow knew Titus was to stay behind. Titus was to “set in order the things that are lacking,” in church. Titus went to draw lines himself that would help people discover their best character.

With reference to “liars, evil beast, lazy gluttons,” in the church, Titus was to draw a tight line that would allow them to “be sound in the faith.”

Knowing God as one Mind, I believe I can pray to hear Godlike thoughts that respond to others in the way that is best for everyone. Mind shows us where to draw the line. It might look unfair to the human mind, but to the divine Mind, God is allowing us all to express our full potential in a way we are ready to do so. God knows what we can handle.

I was able to draw the line with the children to keep them safe and balanced. I draw the line in my relationships to ensure they are pure and productive.  I want to draw the line each day to keep me focused on God, rather than the world.

Bad leaders

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The list can go on but one way to identify a bad leader is when there are reluctant dazed followers

The Old Testament mentions kings who “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Manasseh, Amon, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, were noted in the Bible as crappy kings. How did these leaders stay on the throne if they were so bad?

One reason could be that many human beings don’t know bad from good. Even today, with almost 14 billion eyeballs on this earth, there is little vision and we have a hard time seeing the consequences of our current behavior.

Because books in the Bible were written posthumously, it was hindsight that inscribed how certain kings “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”

And, hindsight teaches me I owe an apology to people. My behavior, disguised as a love of church and God, makes for the ridiculous. I keep trying to learn from and correct my mistakes.

I’ve learned: I need to be more open-minded. I need to listen instead of assume I already know what I’m going to hear. I need to stop thinking, talking, or writing as if a dead person is still alive. I need to stop pretending I am more spiritually minded than I really am. I need to stop insisting on using only certain words. I need to work hard to express God in understandable, welcoming ways.

I too easily, and uncomfortably, can recall times when I acted as if I recently had a conversation with Jesus or Mary Baker Eddy. But, I can’t think or act or write as if I know what a spiritual leader would say, do, or teach today.

To do otherwise is to try to force myself or someone else to walk the narrow thorny path of a religious ideology rather than stick to the facts.

And religious ideology does die. It will go down in history as “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” But church won’t die.

I still attend church services. I can attend many different denominational services and feel the presence of truth, life, and love.

Rubbing the tarnish off the silver lining

silver tarnishThe religious needs of society shift on a regular basis.

In times past, religions have offered a silver lining to the rigors and rumpuses of human experience. They’ve offered heaven.

Religions also twist this “heaven” and threaten a hell, if traditions and creeds go unheeded.

But, in general, religion depicts this heaven as enchanting, serene, and pleasing. Happiness and contentment exude the atmosphere.

Can we really believe this?

Reality is reality. No one knows what happens after death. Christ Jesus was purported to have said the kingdom of heaven is within, not over there or beyond here.

The glorious Utopia of heaven as hyped by religion doesn’t meet the needs of society today. Moreover, these false promises undermine the origin of truthful promises. They lead human beings to disillusionment to the point of many disappointments.

In the 21st century, the idea that happiness and contentment can be found within our own consciousness now, rubs the tarnish off the silver lining.

From 21st Century Science and Health, Heaven. Harmony; the rule of one Spirit; government by divine Principle; spirituality; happiness; the atmosphere of Soul.”

The Vision of Revisions

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. (Prov. 3:5, The Message)

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Prov. 3:5, KJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. (Prov. 3:5 Common English Bible)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Prov. 3:5, Revised Standard Version)

Cling steadfastly to God and His idea, if the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you. Let nothing but His likeness abide in you. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of Being—as it eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Being is not.(Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy’s 1894 copyrighted Edition)

When the illusion of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and His idea. Allow nothing but His likeness to abide in your thought. Let neither fear nor doubt overshadow your clear sense and calm trust, that the recognition of life harmonious—as Life eternally is—can destroy any painful sense of, or belief in, that which Life is not. (Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy’s 1908 copyrighted Edition)

When the curse of sickness or sin tempts you, cling steadfastly to God and Spirit’s idea. Allow nothing but Soul’s likeness to prevail in your thought. Do not let fear or doubt eclipse your clear sense and calm trust in Truth. (21st Century Science and Health, copyrighted 2006)

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Out of the Wilderness

The wilderness can feel like a time of loneliness and doubt, however it can also be a time of quiet reflection and a time when false evidence is being replaced with spiritual evidence.

With the understanding that there is no time, it is simple to see that each day configures to each scene that Moses is associated with.

All in a moment, I can feel the demand to express God more fully, dismiss what I am familiar with, overcome loneliness, and experience a promised healing.

None of us want to be a slave to mortality, idolatry, self-deception, complaint, or dying.

The wilderness experience may be necessary to work our way out of the limited world, but sitting in the wilderness isn’t very spiritual. Infinite God demands, and supplies, progress and interaction and experiences of goodness.

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