Archive for christianity

Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here on earth

Posted in Christianity, The Spirit, what I'm reading with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2013 by jason elijah

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said, “The Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it.”

“If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the Kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you.”

sunrise

In this excerpt from his book, Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ, Andrew Harvey describes Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God which is not about the afterlife, but a new form of society here on earth.

[The radical message and vision of Jesus] menaces both of the predominant modern visions of political organization — the “socialist” and the “capitalist” theories of society.

The socialist vision is “undermined” because the center of Jesus’ ideal society remains God, Kingdom-consciousness, and the living experience of love through communion — and not the State or some vague feeling of “fraternity.”

Capitalism, both in its historical and contemporary “globalist” and “nationalist” forms, is questioned because its frank advocacy of competition and blatant celebration of power and wealth betray all of Jesus’ beliefs about how human beings should live.

Any political vision, in fact, that is not primarily a mystical vision of transformation betrays the fullness and majesty of what Jesus had in mind; any mystical vision of transformation which does not also attempt forcefully to be a political one also betrays his vision.

He urged those who followed him to give generously to beggars, to lend money without expecting any repayment, and to give without anticipating any reward. The Jerusalem church after his death practiced a form of ownership-in-common, which may well reflect Jesus’ own beliefs. A kind of mystical “communalism” may be the best analogy we have of what Jesus intended for a society that reflected the egalitarian compassion of the Kingdom.

If everyone was equally welcome at the table of love, and love’s healing resources were to be shared equally with everyone, why shouldn’t wealth and land also be similarly equally distributed, so that no one need be poor and that everyone could have the chance at a decent life, and not at the expense of others but in admitted interdependence with them?

It is at least probable, even likely, that Jesus’ practical picture of the Kingdom on earth would have at its heart a vision of as equal as possible a distribution of wealth and property and access to, and control of, the sources of power.

As the mystic realist he was, Jesus would have known that mystical inner-communion had to be reflected, as exhaustively as possible, in the actual day-to-day relations of society at every level, and that the holy equality of beings to the all-loving eye of God could not simply be “experienced” but had also to be implemented in the life of the world.

To someone who has not seen the Kingdom, the games of power can seem sad but unavoidable rituals in a mostly evil world that needs hierarchy and power elites not to crumble into chaos. But to someone to whom the Kingdom and its glory has been revealed — and to whom the glory of the human spirit and soul have also been revealed — no arrangement deserves to be fostered that does not constantly encourage and inspire the transformation of the human into the divine human and does not constantly invoke the potential splendor of the new world, one in which the glory of God and of the Spirit and of the love between them would not only be honored but actively reflected in every law, every transaction between beings, every concerted “social,” “religious,” and “political” action.

When Jesus said “my Kingdom is not of this world,” he did not mean that it belonged to some purely ethereal realm: he was in not any way an escapist. What Jesus meant was that the Kingdom had nothing to do with this world, the banal, violent world created by human greed, ignorance, and folly; the Kingdom was the hidden soul’s reflection in reality and not the reflection of that blind false self that had — goaded on and inspired by evil forces — largely made human history. To make the hidden reflection of the soul “real” was the task of the life that Jesus came to “give more abundantly,” of the new being he was trying to inspire into action, and of the living and very heteroclite (“deviating from common rules or forms”) community that sprang up around him.

Jesus and dove

In the Gospel of John, when the Pharisees (religious elite) ask Jesus if he is the son of God, he replies, “It is written in your own scriptures that God said, “You are gods.”

We are all the divine children of the Spirit. We must bring the Kingdom of the Spirit into reality. “It will not come by expectation.”

Joseph Campbell says religious literalism sets Satan in the seat of God

Posted in Joseph Campbell, The Spirit, what I'm reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by jason elijah

In this very straight-forward lecture by Joseph Campbell, he explains the Eastern (Hindu, Buddhist) spiritual perception of “mythic identification” (seeing yourself, the world, and all beings as divine) in comparison to the Western (Jewish, Christian, Muslim) spiritual perception of “mythic dissociation” (seeing the divine as separate from yourself, life, and the world). He also points out that the Western religions each have a unique “fetish” as their focal point…

tree of life

Gods and Buddhas in the Orient are not final terms — like Yahweh, the Trinity, or Allah, in the West — but point beyond themselves to that ineffable being, consciousness, and rapture that is the All in all of us. And in their worship, the ultimate aim is to effect in the devotee a psychological transfiguration through a shift of his plane of vision from the passing to the enduring, through which he may come finally to realize in experience (not simply as an article of faith) that he is identical with that before which he bows. Their mythologies and associated rites, philosophies, sciences, and arts, are addressed, in the end, not to the honor of any god “out there” but to the recognition of divinity within.

But now, in irreconcilable contrast to this ancient, practically universal mode of experience of the world’s and one’s own dimension of divinity, which I have termed “mythic identification,” there is the order of beliefs derived from the biblical tradition, where Yahweh, as we know (arriving very late on the scene), cursed the serpent of the Garden, and with it the whole earth, which he seems to have thought he had created. Here God created the World and the two are not the same: Creator and Creature, ontologically distinct, and not to be identified with each other in any way.

In contrast to the Oriental (Buddhist and Vedantic) ways of interpreting the symbolism of the guarded gate and passage to the Tree of Life — as referring, namely, to an inward, psychological, barrier and crisis of transcendence — the authorized Christian reading has been of an actual, concrete, historic event of atonement with an angry god, who for centuries had withheld his boon of paradise from mankind, until strangely reconciled by this curious self-giving of his only son to a criminal’s death on the Cross. The fact of the crucifixion was read as the central fact of all history, and along with it certain other associated “facts” were accepted, such as in other mythological traditions would be interpreted psychologically (or, as theologians say, “spiritually”) as symbols; such as (1) the Virgin Birth, (2) the Resurrection, (3) the Ascension, (4) the existence of a heaven to which a physical body might ascend, and, of course, (5) the Fall in the garden of Eden, c. 4004 B.C., from the guilt of which the Crucifixion has redeemed us.

God in this system is a kind of fact somewhere, an actual personality to whom prayers can be addressed with expectation of a result. He is apart from and different from the world: in no sense identical with it, but related, as cause to effect. I call this kind of religious thinking “mythic dissociation,” The sense of an experience of the sacred is dissociated from life, from nature, from the world, and transferred of projected somewhere else — an imagined somewhere else — while man, mere man, is accursed.

The sacred is now not secular, of this world of mere dead dust, but canonical, supernaturally revealed and authoritatively preserved; that is to say: God, from “out there,” has condescended graciously to accord special revelations: (1) to the Hebrews, historically, on Sinai, via Moses; (2) to mankind, historically, via Jesus; but then also, apparently, (3) to mankind, once again, historically, in a cave near Mecca, via Mohammad. All, it will be noted, Semites! No other revelations of this desert god are admitted to exist, and Extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside the church there is no salvation”).

To the formula of mythic dissociation, there must now be added that of “social identification”: identification with Israel, with the Church as the Living Body of Christ, or with the Sunna of Islam — each body over-interpreted by its membership as the one and only holy thing in this world. And the focal center and source of all this holiness is concentrated in each case in a completely unique and special fetish — not a symbol, but a fetish: (1) the Ark of the Covenant in the Temple; (2) the Torah in the Synagogue; (3) the Bible of the Reformation; (5) the Koran, as well as (6) the Ka’aba, of Islam.

In India and the Far East such revered supports of the religious life would be known, finally, to point beyond themselves and their anthropomorphic god: beyond names, forms and all scriptural personification, to that immanent transcendent mystery of being which defies though, feeling, and figuration. For, whereas the attitide of focused piety is there recognized as appropriate for those not yet able to live in the realization of their own identity with “That” (tat tvam asi, “thou art that”), for anyone ready for an actual religious experience of his own, such canonized props are impediments. “Where is Self-knowledge for him whose knowledge depends on the object?” we read in a Vedantic text. “The wise do not see a this and a that, but the Self (atman) Immutable.” “You have your own treasure house,” said the eighth-century Chinese safe Ma-tsu; “why do you search outside?”

For the lover of that jealous god in the Bible, there is no allowance for the following of one’s own light: the leadership and guidance of one’s own expanding, deepening, enriched experience of the nature of the world and oneself. All life, all thought, all meditation, is to be governed by the authority of the shepherds of the group [the Church]; and there can be no doubt, from what we know of the history of this tradition, that this authority was imposed and maintained by force.

But any religious symbol, so interpreted that it refers not to a thought-transcending mystery but to a thought-enveloping social order, misappropriates to the lower principle the values of the higher and so (to use a theological turn of phrase) sets Satan in the seat of God.

[from Flight of the Wild Gander: Explorations in the Mythological Dimension: Select Essays, 1944-1968 by Joseph Campbell]

banished from paradise

banished from paradise

Karen Armstrong lectures and interviews

Posted in Karen Armstrong, The Spirit, what I'm reading with tags , , , , , , , on January 8, 2013 by jason elijah

Here are 14 wonderful, in-depth talks, lectures and interviews featuring brilliant religious scholar Karen Armstrong. Watch below and save for your archive.

“Karen Armstrong is considered one of the world’s most thought-provoking and original public thinkers on the role of religion in historical and contemporary life. Her poignant writing and captivating talks have sparked worldwide debate and respectful dialogue.”

ka-case ka-battle ka-history

2004-03 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong hopes for compassion in religion

2008-02 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong’s TED Prize Talk – Charter for Compassion

2009-09-27 [mp4]
Vancouver Peace Summit – Karen’s Charter for Compassion

2010-04-27 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine

2010-06-17 [mp4]
An Evening with Karen Armstrong at UC Santa Barbara

2011-03-10 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong on InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse

2011-03-13 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong CIRS Distinguished Lecture

2011-04-28 [mp4]
Compassion: Nice idea or Urgent Global Imperative

2011-08-06 [mp4]
One on One with Karen Armstrong

2012-03-20 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – Jack P. Blaney Award

2012-03-22 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – What is Religion

2012-03-27 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong in Vancouver – Compassion in Action

2012-04-23 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong – Big Think interview

2012-10-16 [mp4]
Karen Armstrong at St. Paul’s Cathedral

John Shelby Spong: Reclaiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

Posted in John Shelby Spong, The Spirit with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by jason elijah

Bishop John Shelby Spong presented a week of lectures for The Chautauquan Daily’s Interfaith Lecture Series in June 2012. The series was named after his book, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World, and you can watch all 5 lectures here, or download them in .mp4 format for your archive.


“I study the Bible every day of my life, I’ve read that book from cover to cover more than 25 times, some parts of it many more times than that, but I am one priest and bishop in the church who is no longer willing to read that book through stained glass lenses.”

“I was amazed by how many educated people actually thought the Bible dropped from heaven fully written, divided into chapters and verses and in the King James version. Paul only wrote seven of the Epistles that are attributed to him. And Solomon did not write the Proverbs.”

“Did you know that in the book of Deuteronomy we are told that if a child is willfully disobedient and talks back to his or her parents, that child is to be taken to the elders of the city and stoned until dead at the gates of the city?”

“Someone said the church likes to treat laypeople like mushrooms. You keep them in the dark and you cover them over with — shall we say — manure.”

“Everything we have in the New Testament about Jesus floated through some kind of oral transmission for 40 to 70 years before anybody wrote it down. How literal can such a process be? And there is no evidence that we can find anywhere that miracles understood as supernatural acts were ever associated with the memory of Jesus of Nazareth before the eighth decade of this Common Era.”

“The division between Christianity and Judaism is a very late division. The Christian inability to place its story into a Jewish context is the primary source, I believe, of the way the Christian story has been distorted with literalism.”


The Judeo-Christian Faith Story: How Much is History? [mp4]

The Prophets: Not Predictors of the Future but Change Agents [mp4]

The New Testament: An Evolving Story [mp4]

The Story of Judas Iscariot [mp4]

Re-Casting the Christ Story: Not a Rescue Mission but the Birth of a New Consciousness [mp4]

Rob Bell: Poets/Prophets/Preachers

Posted in Christianity, Rob Bell, The Spirit with tags , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by jason elijah

This is the complete 2009 film series by pastor/author Rob Bell. Excellent stuff.

Description: “Filmed live in 2009, Poets/Prophets/Preachers is a five part film series devoted to reclaiming the ancient, beautiful, provocative, healing, inspired art form known as the sermon. Over the five talks Rob explores the theological, conceptual, practical and personal dimensions involved in giving a talk, sermon, message, or teaching.”

Part 1: The Original Guerilla Theatre

Part 2: Beginning in the Beginning

Part 3: The Science of Homiletical Architecture

Part 4: Radar Buckets Chunks and the Marinade

Part 5: Death by Paper Cuts

Revelations of Christ book launch

Posted in Christianity, Paramhansa Yogananda, The Spirit with tags , , , , , on August 26, 2012 by jason elijah

This is an excellent public talk by Swami Kriyananda in Los Angeles at the July 21, 2007, book launch of Revelations of Christ: Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda, Presented by his disciple, Swami Kriyananda.

Spong’s 12 Points for Reform of Christianity

Posted in John Shelby Spong, The Spirit with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2012 by jason elijah

John Shelby Spong was the Bishop of Newark (New Jersey) from 1979-2000. He is a brilliant theologian who has written many intensely-researched books on Christianity. He calls for a new Reformation — a fundamental rethinking of Christian belief — in which many of Christianity’s basic doctrines should be reformulated.

Spong said: Martin Luther ignited the Reformation of the 16th century by nailing to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 the 95 Theses that he wished to debate. My theses are far smaller in number than were those of Martin Luther, but they are far more threatening theologically. The issues to which I now call the Christians of the world to debate are these:

Twelve points for Reform

1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.

2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.

3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.

4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.

5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.

6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.

7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.

8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.

9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.

10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.

11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.

12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Elaine Pagels interview archive

Posted in Elaine Pagels, The Spirit, The World, what I'm reading with tags , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2012 by jason elijah

Elaine Pagels is one of the greatest religious scholars of our time and is Professor of Religion at Princeton University. This is a collection of her interviews from 1995 to 2012.


A discussion with Elaine Pagels
July 4, 1995 – Charlie Rose

The Beatrice Interview
1996 – Beatrice

Heaven’s Gate And Early Christianity
Spring 1997 – Sean Casteel: UFO Journalist

Bill Moyers Interviews Elaine Pagels
May 16, 2003 – PBS: Now

The Politics of Christianity
July 17, 2003 – Edge

Video interview
October 10, 2003 – PBS: Religion and Ethics

Interview with Elaine Pagels
January 2004 – Rodes Fishburne

Revisioning Christianity:
New Perspectives from the Gospel of Thomas
January 26, 2004 – Stanford University Lecture

The Gospel Truth
January/February 2004 – Stanford Magazine

A discussion about Jesus and the impact of Christianity
April 9, 2004 – Charlie Rose

There’s Something about Mary
November 2005 – Minnesota Women’s Press

Video interview
2007 – Barnes & Noble

Early Christianity’s Martyrdom Debate
March 7, 2007 – Time

The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
March 14, 2007 – NPR (audio)

Gospel according to Judas
April 2, 2007 – Salon

A conversation about the Gospel of Judas
April 6, 2007 – Charlie Rose

The Mysteries of the Gnostic Gospels
October 1, 2009 – Future Primitive

“Gnostic” Is an Open Question: An Interview with Elaine Pagels
May 2, 2011 – Reality Sandwich

Elaine Pagels on the Book of Revelation
February 24, 2012 – PBS: Religion and Ethics

Book of Revelation: ‘Visions, Prophecy and Politics’
March 7, 2012 – National Public Radio

Elaine Pagels on Her New Book “Revelations”
March 13, 2012 – Religion News Service

Elaine Pagels “Revelations”
March 26, 2012 – Eye on Books

Elaine Pagels’ New Book Offers ‘Revelations’ On The Book Of Revelation
March 27, 2012 – Huffington Post

Fight the Power: How to Read, and Re-Read, the Book of Revelation
A conversation with Elaine Pagels
March 27, 2012 – Religion Dispatches

Revisiting Revelation: PW Talks with Elaine Pagels
March 28, 2012 – Publishers Weekly

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Books by Elaine Pagels:


Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters


The Gnostic Gospels


Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity


The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics


Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas


Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity


Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation

John Shelby Spong talks about Jesus for the Non-Religious

Posted in John Shelby Spong, The Spirit with tags , , , on April 20, 2012 by jason elijah

“I don’t know of a single biblical theologian of world rank that thinks of the virgin birth as literal history, and I think it’s time we say that to the world at large. Now, you might find one at some of these fundamentalist schools, but they wouldn’t be recognized as scholars in the academies of Christian learning around the world.” – John Shelby Spong

This is a great interview with Bishop John Shelby Spong about Christianity and his book, Jesus for the Non-Religious.

God in the 21st Century

Posted in John Shelby Spong, The Spirit with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by jason elijah

On May 24, 2005, Bishop John Shelby Spong presented a lecture on “Who is the Popular God in Public Life in the 21st Century?” in Columbia Hall at the University of Oregon campus [mp4]. This was around the time of publication of his book, The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible’s Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love.

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