We humans really love to pigeon-hole things. It seems to be part our nature. We need to see things in black and white, as an either/ or proposition. Uncertainties, or hazy gray areas make us uncomfortable.
Despite the fact that so many things in life are part of a continuum; from health and sexuality to simple things such as our favourite movies, we still insist on absolutes. Political affinities, food choices, whether someone is a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ person, we like to know just where we, and other people, stand. But things are far more complex than a simple tick in a box indicating a preference.
So, I’ve been wondering, do people who claim affiliation with a particular religious tradition needs to believe in everything that it entails?
Or, to make it all about me, if I claim to be a Christian does that mean that I have to stand by all of the claims of Christianity? My intuitive feeling is yes.
But I find this bit tricky.
If I don’t take on the whole package, am I absolutely not a Christian? Maybe a semi- Christian. Spiritual but not religious? I know that if someone tells me that they are a Christian then I assume that it means that they believe that Jesus was the son of God, sent to die for our sins, etc.
Catholicism has always appealed to me ( and I’m looking forwards to staying here http://www.jamberooabbey.org.au in August) but adding another layer of rules and stipulations to the fairly basic traditions of Christianity that I already seem to have a problem with clearly isn’t going to work. I can’t even stick to a basic ‘to do’ list without feeling tied down and controlled by ‘the man’ so adding the idea of purgatory, etc seems, how do I say it? Totally arbitrary and random.
At its most simple, surely a Christian is a ‘follow of Christ’; someone who believes that the words that Jesus is supposed to have spoken were revolutionary for their time and still have a resonance that speaks into our modern times.
I get that. That makes sense to me. If we took the red-letters and let them meld into our hearts then we would be transformed and so would our world.
The dying for our sins bit?
Even though I’m no longer a Materialist, and stories of reincarnation (not PC in Christianity, apparently) and NDEs have caused me to think that there probably is an afterlife, these testimonies indicate a general all loving God who doesn’t discriminate according to the Holy Book that you follow, if indeed you follow any at all, or which geographic region you happen to be born in.
Those that have had Near Death Experiences overwhelmingly report profound changes in their beliefs and what they see as important- not towards legalism and lists but towards overwhelming acceptance and love and a general sense of one-ness (I’ll add a list of books that I’ve found particularly informative here to my reading aspirations page soon) which I think point less towards a complete set of truths within one religion, and more towards a basic, matter of fact thing called God, which we, being general pigeon-holey categorizing types of people, have divided up into factions and separated into us and them.
As we do.
Which seems to be essentially the opposite of what the all loving God intended, but we will be difficult, won’t we?