What Does It Mean, "Spiritual but not Religious?"

If modern Church religion emphasizes performance as more important that any consciousness of actual contact and union with God, it is not fully and essentially religion. It is something else in which middlemen step in front of individuals and worry them to death.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A spiritual sense of identity is individual.

On opinions about us based on both observation and - more importantly - assumptions whose validity may possibly never be challenged, corrected or refuted




As I've stated several times and in an assortment of ways, my own path has come to be in this moment a satisfactory reclaiming of the who-I-am self-identity. This is an important  event for me because it becomes possible to capture (or in my case recapture) a spiritual sense of identity.

A spiritual sense of identity is individual.

It does not serve well as a means of communion with the Divine from inside a corporate reality [read "church" or "religion"] defined by unprovable claims. Nor should it ever be based on validation by the religious institution where belonging and conforming is gently or coercively obtained as the means of connection to higher truth.

What happens then is that the higher truth in reality is defined by the greater (but not ever higher) religious institution as a basis for like-minded thinking (conformity.) The  religious propositions which are proclaimed without much inhibition then easily wander into some sort of boundary-less emotional territory where the individual is subject to the unsolicited opinion of the organized religious body.

The greater corporate structure insists on the same unsolicited but relentlessly unchanging religious philosophy; a philosophy which gets broken down into the less critically-thought-out opinions of less-self-aware in congregations. These are in most cases less-critical thinking attenders and belongers who sincerely and almost unconsciously enforce a norm that never goes beyond the simplistic exhortations that pass for encouragement to serious spiritual growth.

In the presence of such narrow, shallow and unmoving water, serious spiritual contemplative growth is not an easily obtained or developed fruit of the spirit. Per corporate policy this particular spiritual water in which every member swims should not be splashed - even in the shallow end of the pool where the bulk of Salt Lake Mormons congregate. It is only in undisturbed shallow water where participation in seriously limited and scripted gospel  conversations occurs with almost mindless repetition every week .

The Salt Lake Mormon "bubble" which is essentially an unconscious acceptance of a "Truman  Show"-like way of life, is a life where the exaggerated religious melodrama is repeated and consumed week after Seek. The melodrama contains very little variation of theme and message. Rather it has become a kind of manufactured drama fit for soap opera scripts. These scripted performances are rehearsed in both lesson and pulpit contexts and pass for spiritual intercourse.

As time passes my particular and specific Arthur-identity had less and less to do with healthy contributions from me to those truth narratives coming out of the Salt Lake Church. My own spoken and unspoken-but-implied  support and agreement with the religious myths of the Salt Lake Church's identity may have kept familial disappointment somewhat to a minimum, but at the price of a sense of personal hypocrisy in looking like one thing but actually being another.

Even if my hypocrisy was not deliberate nor intentional, I have learned that I cannot correct, let alone manage, the mostly blind assumptions that are made just because I show up in Church and offer comments and commentary that seem "safe" in a public context.

We all should realize that other human beings will form opinions about us based on both observation and - more importantly - assumptions whose validity may possibly never be challenged, corrected or refuted.

I seemed to have arrived at the achievement of what I wanted as I spent time as a re-baptized Mormon who had come to mental and spiritual wholeness. I was in fact guided, influenced and protected by the powerful wisdom of my wife.

eventually, participation and private discussions between us led to a recognition that at least for me, continuation of almost any form of church activity in all its correlated venues caused  feelings  akin to a sense of touching a dead spirit battery where no spark ever gets generated.

I will always be grateful to lay membership of our ward and my birth families for the loving acceptance and forgiveness offered me upon re-baptism. The pattern for me seemed to follow after that of the Father of the Prodigal Son. However, the Prodigal who returns must be allowed to return according to his own definitions and expectations. Otherwise, there is only regret and repentance that returns to a subjection to someone else's magic.

I felt that my recapture of my identity in the form of a cultural Mormon is complete.

In the end, religion once organized seems unable to move in any direction other than a corporate brand and mode of both expression and presentation to the rest of the world.

In the end, religion will not do if limited only to religious practice based on artificial moralities that insist that there is a nit-picking God of petty mind who has an obsession with obedience. Such becomes be a God whose mode and manner lack any notion of eternal progression based on the satisfying of natural human curiosity and longing for communion with the Divine.

As we are spiritual beings, we must grow to whatever form of spiritual maturity we seek on an individual basis. Despite foundational and doctrinal claims to the contrary, the Salt Lake  Church - any church for that matter - has no justification for the notion that the church is a vessel for coming closer to God and as such, a vessel we can never abandon, but must pick up and carry on our backs even after it has outworn its usefulness.

As the Buddhists well know, if a boat carries you across the river, you are not expected to pick up and haul the boat on your back beyond the shore once you reach the other side. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

They told me that as a teen I was part of the Chosen Generation ... and that was almost 60 years ago.



I was raised in an environment that seemed to be saying, "It's all about the Church, not you. What have  you done for us lately?"

59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

Excerpt
1. Nobody’s Listening to Us
Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?
2.We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements
Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.
... Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.
3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority
My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.
Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…
Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.
4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture
Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.
Solution: Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect
Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”
The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.
Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.
6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources
Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.
We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.
Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?
7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At
Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. 
...For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

8. We Want to Feel Valued
Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”
Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.
We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.
9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)
People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.
We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.
10. The Public Perception
It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.
11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)
Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.
12. You’re Failing to Adapt
Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials.
Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.
“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells
Solution:
You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.
You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Let's Pretend

Leonard Ravenhill
Let's Pretend We Don't Know We Are Pretending
  
Enter with us into an imagined world ... one myth among many

Once Upon A Time …

Children born into a Church are in most ways unaware and unwitting conscripts into an environment that is totally and unequivocally one of "let's pretend."

Since comparative critical thinking is not one of those innate gifts with which most children are born, those born into active, believing and participating families experience from the get-go a circumstance that - if explained to adult recruits/investigators in an honest, fair and responsible manner - might go something like this.

"Now, Brother Brown, we are here today because we are totally happy, totally satisfied, totally believing in the truths we are preaching. We have mentally moved into the world portrayed by these pretend truths and invite you to do the same.

These truths along with the duties and obligations that we consider legitimate, real and effectual in this pretend world, are what you should come to believe in. To get there we challenge you to suspend your disbelief and assume that everything we teach you is the truth.

We invite you to pretend along with us, go along with us, go along with all our stories, rationales and theologies. As you suspend disbelief, you will become more and more planted in this pretend reality we who are members all share.

If you are faithful, at some point, the disparities, the faulty rationales and theologies and the absolute truths will all be just that … absolutes. You will be so convinced that they are all true, that our drama - yours and mine - is the only true reality, that it will be hard to return back to that original curious state that led to your encounter with us."

That would be the honest way to proselytize.

But such is too honest for a religious organization, especially one that believes and teaches unreasonable notions about itself. Getting lost in unreasonable religious notions means having lost yourself inside a make-believe world.

Whether born into a Church or converted now with a few years of total participation in  your history, you must pursue and suffer withdrawal pains from your addiction to  a pretended dramatic performance in which you have been recruited and commissioned as a participating actor.

This often becomes more challenging if you have been commissioned a more significant role as an actor of influence on a local, regional or home-office level.

Resisting the demands made by fellow actors also caught within this pretended performance may require nothing less than the resistance required in a Prisoner-of-War circumstance in which one has become entrapped and must endure until release is obtained.

The circumstances of the pretended drama for most religions may be porous and permeable allowing entry and exit easily according to desire and inclination. However, in some organizations, the let's-pretend devolves in the the rigid, inflexible formalism of religious fundamentalism. Some of the circumstances became buttressed by equally pretended but nonetheless real "rules" and "conditions" that must be met in order for the drama to play itself out to a personally successful conclusion.

When such circumstances exist, fellow actors are empowered to work manipulatively (in many cases as unwitting participants) to keep you engaged in the pretended drama through what amounts mostly to mental and emotional coercion.

One becomes subject to threats, warnings and admonitions that are as pretentious as the entire scenario itself ...  unless one has been mentally stampeded to believe that not only is the scenario real, but the threats are real and really legitimate.

Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation validated by fellow actors' opinions rise almost to paramount importance. It is only in that venue that theologically-based threats appear to be legitimate. The legitimacy lies mostly with our pretending that there IS a God who would let some mortals eternally course or impede the "progress" of other mortals toward some imaginary bliss.

However, without willing suspension of disbelief, such mortals can not be empowered.

Authorities of the earthly church cannot "do" anything to you physically or eternally. They can only request that the actual head of the church - God - do that ... with the expectation that God will do what they request because God is in some way bound to go along with it.

If you believe in that kind of God, then I might say that you have been stampeded too far and for too long. You may now consciously (aware of what you are doing) or unconsciously believe in. 

Given that the genuine and loving Divine Parent ought not let one child abuse another for any personal or authoritative retribution, the Church can only physically restrict its validation of anything formal you accomplish, you say or do inside the walls of the formal and conforming church.

The Church can only enforce its specific earthly organizational "club rules" that are expressed in social ostracism, shunning, disfellowshipment and actual dis-enrolling in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication.

Any God who would actually countenance such congregational behavior and turn that sort of power and influence over to a few mortals at the expense of the rest is not a real God, has ceased to be God and in truth does not exist

… unless one is lost in an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a god IS real

... in which case one in quiet desperation attempts to live in fear of the imaginary divine tyrant.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

On God, The True Church and Politics

We citizens of the United States of America live in a country that has nurtured and sheltered the growth of religion within its borders.  We have lived self-protected from religious abuse by what has long served us well: keeping state and religion officially separated.

As I write this I’m aware that many religious politicians have spoken about tearing down the traditional wall of separation of church and state.

What for?

Ought we not ask whether a religious focus on blending state and religion is not in effect a return to the historical murderous marriage of Roman Legions and Roman Priests - each of whom enforced the will of the other?

If we allow those who would blend politics and religion in this country would we be allowing ourselves to be told by others what it means to be religious in America?

What it means is a religiousness or spiritual practice of which no religion or particular perspective within any religions has a monopoly.

Ought not American Christians agree with the rest of the world? Belief should be in Jesus as the founder of a global religion, not a political or official religion of a single nation or culture.

What being Christian in America ought to really mean …

Those of us who follow Jesus do in fact follow the ultimate portrayer of human compassion and goodness.

They follow Him who taught love of God and each other; who taught that compassion and understanding are the highest spiritual virtues to be sought.

Jesus tells them in their scripture to love and be concerned about the poor, the suffering, the weary, and to learn and practice compassion.           Regardless of private interpretation, Jesus in scripture does not tell who can and who cannot or who is and who is not.

However, in America, conservative Christian celebrities tell us that such teachings of Jesus are not as important as this stuff:

-Being seriously frightened by the threat of children being indoctrinated in the homosexual lifestyle,

-Being more concerned about a plot by judges to assault the right to publicly acknowledge God.

-Being outraged by media slander of Christians which is in reality a media slander that is communicated by the unjustified whining of right wing Christian celebrities who attract negative responses because of their own negativity and victim pretense.

-Being disgusted by Hollywood attacks on Judeo-Christian ethics which are not one and the same with genuine common sense ethics, personal morality and sense of goodness. In fact the literalist morality of public pretense of godliness is in fact inferior to the natural goodness in a majority of citizens who live a pattern of goodness undefined by the prescriptions of professional religious gadflies.

These same Conservative Christian gadflies express this in a form that assumes that America is special above all other peoples;

that God has maintained some sort of holy curtain of protection from natural and man-made disasters and attacks for the simple-minded assumption that our supposed holiness is now showing wear and tear. God is thusly angry about it. God's feelings are hurt.

- American celebrity Christians encourage that we be “fearful” of God in a way that recognizes God’s capacity for wrath and punishment to those who stray, backslide and slip into immorality.

The God of the Christian political conservatives is perfectly capable of destroying the innocent with the guilty as evidenced during the 9/11 attacks and the godly fist of Katrina expressing His displeasure with an entire city that has supposedly mocked God for too long.

This is the stuff of which an American Christian separation from global Christianity is made.

You tell me, gentle readers. What does it mean to you to be Christian in America at this time in our history?

Although many Christians are not actively and outwardly religious except perhaps on rare Sundays, special holidays or family events, there are millions who sit in congregations and outwardly celebrate their religion in a spirit of worship and fellowship every week.

Yet many of these do not cross the line into the politics-and-religion discourse. They are content in their lives but are they content with what they are told from the pulpit or see and hear on television and radio?

These majority Christians possess the power to impact the political and spiritual direction in America and keep sacred the declaration that we render unto Caesar only the political stuff and unto God and each other the truest practice of religion.

Most recently these are the voters who myopically looked the other way and supported a wholly confirmed moral midget who presides.

What does that mean?



Monday, December 26, 2016

Might be the nastiest word in the Church

unworthy

"Brother Brown, at this time you are unworthy to baptize your son."

"Sister Scarlett, you are unworthy to remain in your calling."

"Brother and Sister you are unworthy right now to have a temple recommend."

And the worst ... "Bishop, I consider myself unworthy to …"

"A Worthy Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church member who obeys the commandments of God to the best of his or her ability, and meets a minimum acceptable standard outlined by Church leaders.
A "worthy" member of the Church is worthy to hold a Temple Recommend. In order to obtain a Temple Recommend, one must be interviewed and found worthy by one's bishop and stake president. The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, "Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?"
Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one's "increase"), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church." - mormonwiki.com

"Worthy" might very well be the signature self-esteem word in the Church.
"Unworthy" might very well be the nastiest word in the Church.


Ours is - regardless of objections - a performance-based religion. Ours is also an authoritarian religion that insists on worthiness as the principle criteria for Divine recognition and performance of ordinances and blessings.

obedience + worthiness = spirituality + blessings


Ours is a merit-based religion that fully preaches to itself that there is a "worthy" key that must constantly be inserted and in place before the blessings of Heaven pour.
And now this word from Moroni, both to the missionaries and to the converts: “See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Morm. 9:29).
 But we do it to ourselves when we buy into that idea, rate others or rate our own standing in the eyes of others.

… because "worthiness" as the LDS preach and portray it is a false and invalid idea.


Today I've invited a few outsiders to offer thoughts along with my own about how worthy we have to be in order to be human; in order to be recognized, respected and reverenced by Higher Power[s].

The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat:

God don’t make trash.”

Our own human experience has taught us the value of positive reinforcement and its impact on encouraging self-motivated change. Meaningful change is more likely to come to pass as we understand that whatever is Divine in our lives does not consider humanity as something unworthy or evil.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama
Therefore, let's discuss the use and meaning of the words "worthy" and worthiness" in the Church.

Could we not say with certainty that the imagery portrayed in the Church and by Church leaders is that of a God whose angels record our every flaw and mistake?

Do we not believe - or act as if it is so - that these behavioral and mortal flaws are tucked away  in a book of life from which we will then be  held accountable - if we fail to cleanse ourserlves via repentance - by the God of the Doctrine & Covenants  "who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?"

It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is no one special, only other mere human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we are who insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves in worthiness terms.
“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are - what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff
Does the Church in such a manner openly declare that God is in fact a "respecter of persons" who requires worthiness before his outpourings of love occur?

“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”― Mark Twain

Does not the Church teach that God's outpourings are conditional rather than unconditional?
In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell. -Apostle David Bednar
Does not the  Church deliberately instruct us that the God of Compassion is obsessed with morality as the foundation of defining Goodness – and also suggests that therefore we too should obsess on sin?
The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.
Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us. …" Apostle David Bednar
Why would such men and women insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners, as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state?

This notion of unworthiness moves rapidly across the line of credibility more  powerfully when within the official context of Church policy we begin to believe that unless we are "temple-worthy" we find ourselves in a one-down or less-than circumstance.

Do we not assume that members are not routinely called to leadership positions unless temple-worthy? Are we not fearful then of not being able to give the  scripted answers to recommend questions because so much self-validation as worthy rides on those answers?
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”― Marilyn Monroe
Temple-worthy is also a status you cannot obtain unless you buy it through your voluntary payment of tithing. In this regard purchasing LDS temple-worthiness through tithing looks like a first cousin to the old fashioned indulgences the Roman priesthood used to sell.

When it comes to exacting payment, unworthiness is the principle leverage for completing the deal through the priesthood brokers.

In other words, Mormons inflict upon themselves unfair comparisons with each other based on the notion of worthiness.

Congregations are full of mark-missers, not unworthy sinners.  Many have missed the mark big time. Those who - in interviews with others - insist that mark-missing is sin may then feel authorized and justified in labeling others "unworthy" and calling them to repentance.

Literally, in the Church, take it to the bank that "unworthy" indicates that you might have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any degree of you-also-know-what.

We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die at younger ages and often with high blood pressure, but also that they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonabole demands on themselves.

They also tend to be highly intolerant of flawed-ness and imperfection in others.

Perfectionists who are called to lead feel themselves empowered to use the sin-based definitions of worthiness and are much more numerous on a local and stake level than in the general quorums leading out of headquarters.

Such persons substitute their value judgments for the more meaningful pastoral skills that take more work to acquire.

As leaders they make absolutely terrible ministers.

Why then would we need to believe in a Supreme Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful and therefore too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else."~ Judy Garland
We do it to ourselves. It is done almost in knee-jerk fashion often in families where family members are perceived according to two standards.

Who are the "unworthy" among us and why do we label them that way?
"It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not."~ Andre Gide
It becomes easy to accept the idea that the monarchical God is offended because when we are not worthy we have something evil or inadequate about ourselves.
"If you don't run your own life, somebody else will."  ~ John Atkinson
One might conclude that when the phrase "unworthy" is internalized, the horrific “evil” is just around the bend.  If we see ourselves as evil we more easily perceive God as offended or withholding blessings.  Because of unacceptable behavior on our part, we force God into a role of a deity who loves us only conditionally.
"Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality."~ Les Brown
If we relate to our Heavenly Parents as Divines who must be pleased by us in order to bless us,  aren't we placing our lives at risk for the next logical step: believing ourselves subject to approved exclusion or discriminatory thinking.

Do we not become part of a group of haves and have-nots in which the "unworthy" somehow have failed while the "worthy" remain  acceptable to God.
"I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time."~ Anna Freud
Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point when we decide that "unworthy" is now "less-than."

Since we feel uncomfortable in the presence of sin and/or sinners and we exclude by condemnation, social avoidance, shunning, excommunication or something worse. Terribly, we suddenly feel very uncomfortable in our own presence. We risk then discriminating against ourselves before someone "in authority" does it to us.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
We don't have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual "shoulds" is to discern not only "sin" but whoever has sinned and is by gospel extensions "unworthy."

If we believe in Heavenly Parents who deal with us conditionally based on worthiness, we also  become dupes of a second falsehood that always makes sense so long as Jesus Christ is viewed and believed in as the Master and Commander.

We come to believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus is assisted by the Holy Ghost who carries out another form of divine retribution by ignoring us. And we are left to figure out how The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are a trinity whose relationship with humanity becomes  conditional rather than its eternal opposite.
At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian, so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.
Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. "You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man," he said, "if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314). mormonwiki.com
A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized. 
Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). - mormonwiki.com 
The idea of worthiness as a condition for the Spirit of God to assert its influence seriously distorts - but reinforces - every authoritarian religion that portrays itself as the agent of an autocratic God.

The autocratic God is a co-dependent God relied upon by His self-appointed authoritarians. These authoritarians invest most of their energy attempting to micro-manage the very thoughts of believers. Such is a false god who would judge you for what you think and believe more than what you do.

The autocratic micro-managing false god of commandments lies at the heart of most guilt complexes all over the world. Believers then tend not to be authentic, not they're real selves.
“That's what real love amounts to - letting a person be what he really is.
Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending - performing.
You get to love your pretense.
It's true, we're locked in an image, an act - and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks.
They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you're trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison
If you choose to believe that as a parent you are justified - at the most critical moment in your child's life -  in refusing to speak to that child because that child did not "obey" you, the truth then is that you literally do not deserve to be a parent.

If you choose to believe that your Heavenly Parents will refuse to "be there for you" if you have become "unworthy" of their conditional requirements for blessings and comfort, I tell you that such Heavenly Parents are not worthy of your reverence.
“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Most Powerful Religious Creed in the World



The Civic Integrity of Compassion and Understanding


On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and "to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories."

PREAMBLE

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.
·         All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
·         Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
·         Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.
·         No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.
·         No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.
·          Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
·          All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.
·          Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.
·          No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.
·          Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
·          (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
·          (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.
·          No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
·          (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
·          (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
·          (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.
·          (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
·          (2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
·          (3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
·          (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.
·          Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.
·          Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
·          (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
·          (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
·          (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.
·          Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
·          (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
·          (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
·          (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.
·          Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
·          (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.
·          (1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
·          (2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
·          (3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.
·          (1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
·          (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.
·          Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.
·          (1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
·          (2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
·          (3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.
·          Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Monday, November 28, 2016

To Religious Social Conservatives too proud to admit to a foolish vote for Trump

 

... and who still  pretend that they know better than we do what God wants us to


Republican Christians have no special credibility for passing moral judgment on anybody else. We have even more Christian Celebrities stepping into the spotlight, selling books, expanding televangelist ministries as well as the usual pretenders who claim and act as if God is prompting their every word and deed.

It is to all of you I respectfully request a purpose-driven and honest exposition, scriptural or otherwise. No individual, no Christian church and no Christian alliance of like-minded evangelicals, fundamentalists, traditionalists or liberals has any right or responsibility to define for me how I should exercise my consciousness of how I practice citizenship.

In fact, as a citizen, and in the tradition of American free-market sharing of ideas and concepts, I see it not unreasonable to invite those blowing the hardest to tell me more about God and Politics. Not believing that my own outlook is absolute and inerrant, I'm willing to be more informed.

So to you big time Brothers and Sisters; all of you born-again politicians, all you self-described moral conservatives: you owe it to the entire American audience - and not just the religiously gullible whom you have targeted. You must speak honestly to those whom you haven't made captive by media, technology and social conformity. Please elaborate on  issues raised by the apparent conflict between belief, assumptions and reality:

1- Are ALL of your political and economic policies divinely inspired?

2- Are they based on and do they include the precepts taught by God, your preachers and prophets as written in scripture; a God-writing which most fundamentalists insist is inerrant and which the Mormons insist to be true as far as it is translated correctly?

3- Should the skeptics among us believe that opposing Republican political policies is opposing God's will? Speak plainly here because when you guys imply that it's so, those who think you're smarter than they are when it comes to making God talk will conform.

4- Do ALL of your policies enhance human life? In that regard, do the families of the evil-doers - parents, spouses and children - fall into the category of deserving the sword? As a matter of fact, if God places you folks at the head of this country, what is God's position on collateral damage?

5- Jesus was outspoken in advocacy of human dignity in clear and unambiguous terms. So how does God justify your and your candidates' ambivalence about torture as a means of exporting righteous American freedom worldwide?

6- What does God say about the justifications from your candidates and preachers that sexual debasement is justified in pursuit of said exportation?

7- Has your version of God declared that our processes of education and scientific study are of the devil? You must speak plainly if you believe you speak for God. Do you believe that the encouragement of responsibility around human sexuality is sinful and displeasing to Him?

8 - Is social justice important to God?

9 - Did Jesus believe that profit was more important than compassion?

10 - Has God repudiated Jesus' declaration that the laborer is worthy of his hire?

11- Is it God's will that working against gay marriage is more important than working to put people back to work?

12- Is it God's will that Republican economics - voodoo or otherwise - is the one and only sacred economic approach to feeding and sheltering the people?

13 - Does God support deception as a political tool?

14 - Does God endorse a policy of political mud-slinging rather than reaching agreement with those who disagree with you? What about yea yea and nay nay?

15 -Does God want our politicians to put our elderly at economic and health risk?

16 - Does God believe that generating massive profits to drug companies is a greater good than relieving human suffering?

17 - How does that align with honoring father and mother?

18 - And finally, is Jesus really going to come as a thief in the night? Or has he revealed to you and the rest of the Christian Right that He cannot come until American Christians maneuver Israel into a circumstance that unlocks the Key to the End Times?

Christian practice as taught and exemplified by Christ is not something complex nor is it something that requires convoluted logic and ideological twisting in order to ponder treasure in Heaven.

Christ said directly, "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's."

He did not say that Caesar and God are one and the same.

Until you teach the difference, you and your sheep remain a primary cause of the lack of harmony, lack of social conscience and absence of real moral outrage in this country.

When it comes to moral outrage, your hypocrisy and failure to reflect social conscience on a comprehensive and all-inclusive level generates legitimate moral outrage.

You do it deliberately and apparently by arrogant ignorance.

Your sheep do it with apathy.




Friday, August 26, 2016

Portrait of Religion: The Mormon Model



I was born and raised in a fully LDS community some 160 miles north of Salt Lake City. I am culturally a heritage-based Mormon to this day. It is from that perspective then – the religious perspective with which I’ve spent most of my life – that I am able then to write this portrait.

What does it mean to live spiritually?

Mormonism can be defined as a performance-based religion with the following operational formula:


Obedience + Worthiness constitutes Spirituality ... which leads to blessings

Churches that encourage the belief that heaven is the destiny and reward toward which one directs a life of accumulated accomplishments are known as performance-based religions. The LDS Church with its systematic theologies, doctrines and programs may very well be the ultimate example and pattern of this way of imagining god and god's reality.

Although entirely lacking proof in any physical or spiritual form of such a realm organized after the pattern of that 19th-century reality,  Joseph Smith and a host of early American prophets, evangelists and circuit-riding preachers asserted in creatively imagined and described forms, the notion that the ultimate truthfulness of the spirit world is based on performance and worthiness.

The Divine Abusive Elephant in the Living Room

This imagined reality, consistently asserted over more than the past two centuries, is why most believing Mormons today - easily and perhaps without much critical thought - buy into Church legalism. It becomes almost second nature to accept the idea of an over-controlling detail-obsessed God whose portrayed behavior looks so much like a domineering patriarchal alcoholic who is in reality a controlling parent, spouse or lover.

Uncritically, as an act of faith, devotion and obedience many sincere believers buy without question into the notions such as

  •      humans are so imperfect that God created religion by which that Divine Male Patriarch could - in a loving but domineering manner - thrust guidelines for living into our lives.    
  • Such guidelines almost casually become laws or, better said, doctrines "irrevocably decreed" which the children of said God are expected to follow. 
  • This God of guidelines demands strict adherence to such doctrines which in fact do nothing more than establish a notion that obedience is elevated at the expense of agency.   
  • The highest spiritual approval in life is nothing more than an experiential pat on the head for being an obedient child.

The implications of such internalized assumptions include an idea that the God and Father of Obedience created a world abundant with the fruits of creative activity, but then commanded adherence to a list of the performances - or in some cases, negative performances - that the children of God are expected to do … or not do ...

A performance-based religion puts bans on what are perceived to be inappropriate things. These bans become "laws of the Church" which by implication become "Laws of God" which are viewed than as “Irrevocably Decreed” and upon which a worthiness obsessed God grants rewards.

In a performance-based-religion, members are banned from inappropriate music, television, movies, books and other literature. Freedom of  expression in art, music, and other forms of entertainment are seen as risks that may cause the Father to stop attending the disobedient.

In a performance-based-religion certain food and drink products are banned and seen as the causes of risks that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.

In a performance-based-religion the Father requires strict adherence to dress and personal appearance codes the rejection of which creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.

In a performance-based-religion scriptures become the means and tool that can be utilized to effectively stand in for a lack of contemporary legitimate on-going revelation from the same God who started everything eons ago by speaking directly to his children. Scripture then becomes the weapon that confronts those who challenge would-be church-proclaimed prophets who don't seem to do much contemporary prophesying, seeing or revelating themselves..

In a performance-based-religion, the very Father of Obedience - who has become in fact a Father of Conformity - does not speak to His church except through the voices of those who declare that the same silent Father has established in this performance-based-religion the only acceptable and effective means to salvation.

The Father of Conformity either refuses or is unwilling to justify or explain how such an only-right-means-to-salvation system and circumstance is equally fair and just to every other human being on the planet, not to mention why a privileged minority are granted the divine privilege of being born inside this only-right-means while the rest of the world must figure and work it out for themselves.

In a performance-based religion, like an overly strict and self-absorbed alcoholic parent, the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of emotional guilt, intimidation, thought control and coercion to keep family  members in line. He is also seen as justifying and endorsing guilt-ridden sermons and lessons designed to push believers into submitting to the authority of the leadership without question or criticism. Failure to respect the leadership creates a risk that the Father will stop attending the disobedient.

In a performance-based religion the Father of Conformity has authorized the use of the theory that people should spend long hours at the Church and do work in the Church in order to gain rewards in heaven. A bureaucracy has been created at all levels in order to engender, monitor and "lovingly" coerce this sort of working participation which then becomes the standard by which member spirituality is measured and recognized. This is not unlike the demand of an alcoholic tyrant that his family enable his behavior.

The same bureaucracy becomes then a powerful instrument for limiting criticism and dissention through emotional and spiritual abuse by perceived authority and endorsement by the Father of Conformity.

What is happening today and something about which the grand bureaucracy at all levels refuses to admit to being in denial about is that the process of establishing and enforcing man-made rules and doctrines creates mere man-made leadership. These leaders tend to nothing other than, or nothing better than the jot-and-tittle Pharisees of the New Testament. They are driving many away who would otherwise not be driven away.

Some who are driven away leave with emotional scars that cause depression, substance abuse and - unfortunately - suicide, along with the very activities against which the religion relentlessly preached. One can make a case the some of those driven off are at least temporarily not prepared to deal with life and society in a manner that is free from long-internalized judgmental and narrow notions.

The gentle but rigid Church programming involves and in fact revolves around forms of guilt and coercion. Within the Church as well as among those driven off there is a danger of low self-esteem that causes essentially unreasonable reactions to the Church itself. 

Repentance becomes much more than returning to God.  It involves returning to the Church from which one has fled in desperation. This is not unlike a battered-wives syndrome where one consciously returns to a life at home with a mean and unrepentant battering inebriated spouse who wants her back but will –once she returns - continue business as usual.

There is a genuine tragedy when one feels driven off from the clan or out of the tribe because, like an enormous and ominous dark tower, the Church rises in the background or even the actual center of the tribal village. The Church thrusts itself with impunity into the middle of family relationships to which it has no moral or God-given right to interfere.

Members - unconsciously in many cases - are forced to choose between Church and family.

The Father of Conformity has said nothing about why this circumstance is a positive fruit by which that Father is known among the children of men. The either-or attitude may only be a perception of those driven off when the rest of the family remains inside the righteous but unseen walls of Church conformity. However, the Church does little or nothing to address that very family estrangement of which the Church and its historical narrative, that which informs it’s the Church’s justification for existing, is the principle cause.

Limited serenity that comes from separation from the direct and immediate sources of emotional pain still feels like something much better than the rigidly inflexible cauldron of conformity whose principal legacy is misery.

One day perhaps enough souls will be driven out of that imagined reality to change the face of the Church which might then turn away from the performance-based religious corporation it has become.

If not, those who imagine themselves to be living lives of actual free agency in the Great and Spacious Building may come to have greater power and influence than those who imagine themselves as children of the Father of Conformity.