6/10/2007

Jesus as technologist rather than object of belief

I had an image of Jesus providing us with the technology of salvation...

This technology is not dependent on what we believe about the technology. It depends on how we use it. It does not depend on one's uttering a particular statement of belief about it.

For example. My five-year-old might say a car goes on its own, or might spin a terrific story about magic powers making it go. I "know" it goes because of internal combustion. I've never seen it in action directly -- I have faith it's there. And whatever either of us believes about the engine, it works! I can guide the car to take us places far faster than we ever could do on foot.

Similarly, whatever guides the universe -- whether God is singing each present moment into being, or whether it's a simple logical and causal unfolding from the Big Bang (whatever caused the Big Bang in the first place being beyond the reach of present investigation) -- is sort of beside the point for me.

Rather the point is twofold.

First: Do we live in the present awareness of the Kingdom of Heaven among us? Do we love That which brings forth this state among us, That Which Will Be What it Will Be?

Second: Do we love our enemies? and our neighbors as ourselves?

If I do these things, the universe begins to open up in unexplained ways. And I can imagine a far better world, and live my life into that world. It could be "imaginary," in a sense, and also it is true to my vision, my dreams, my desires, my very soul. (Just as one can't say John Lennon's "Imagine" is true or untrue... Yes, including the line about God!)
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I also imagine that this was just a half-formed thought. It's not a master's thesis! :)
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One of my favorite quotes ever is from Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hahn, to the effect that: "I am so glad Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life,' rather than, 'I KNOW the way, the truth, and the life.'" [I can't find my copy of that book. Robin thinks I might have loaned it to someone. If you're reading this and you have it, can I have it back? :)]

5 comments:

John Helding said...

Right action rather than right belief. I'm all with that friend Chris (and I think that's at least a part of what you're saying).

So we need to be the way and not just or only know the way. I'm very much with that.

John

Chris M. said...

@John: I'm glad you're on board!

Yes, right action; and I'm not sure I'm ready to say "rather than" right belief.

I would like to start by hearing what you think your own right belief is. After that, I want to take the time to listen to where "right action" combined with "individual right belief" brings us -- toward "corporate belief and action."

Let's see where it takes us.

-- Chris M.

C. Wess Daniels said...

Chris,
great thoughts, and I like how you brought in living in the reality of the Kingdom very Quaker of you. ;)

Also I want to believe God sings every moment into being, I'd never heard of that as a possibility but I think I am going to adopt that as my underling theology of God's dealings in time and space. What a great image.

Finally, I have your buddha book over here at woodbrooke. I was reading it when I saw your post, I am about half way through it - you want it right this second? ;)

John Helding said...

Chris,

Right belief? Have to say I hestitate that try and put that into words and I know its in part because I find myself so prioritizing the orthodox faith as right practice (which I'm told is now call orthopraxy, but Marcus Borg in Heart of Christianity points out was the original, pre-17th century, meaning of the word orthodox -- right practice).

I just don't think you can separate right belief from right practice, or for that matter for actual practice in the flesh and blood. I know who has "right belief" in others and myself via my practice and the results of that practice. Isn't that what 'testimonies' are all about? The tesimony of a person's life, or the example/fruits of her right practice, gives us insight into the Way, Truth, God ....

So I don't think corporate right action will follow corporate right belief (your order, not sure you met anything by that). Guess I'm feeling if we can get everyone to agree on the practice the right belief, or better put, the Truth will emerge.

Very much paying attention to Marcus Borg right now -- off to a week-long seminar with him and John Crossan in Portland the week before FGC -- where of course Marcus Borg will be speaking. Of particular interest to me is Borg's contrast between faith as belief in statements about God (a modern invention) or faith as trust in God (the pre-reformation active definition of faith).

So my own right belief, right now, is my belief in orthodox Quaker practice.

John

J

Chris M. said...

@Wess: Thanks for commenting. And for reminding me to whom I gave the book. (blush). No, I don't need it right away! I'll get it when we see you in August.

@John: It's all part of the process. The order in which I wrote the words was not intended to imply hierarchy!

"Belief" is probably a poor word choice. "Theology"? "Thought structure"? Hm...

I am trying to make the case that we can't hold off on "right action" until we have some "right belief" or whatever it's called. No, let's keep discerning what is right for us to do and be as individuals and as meetings as best we can at all times! The action will inform the faith and thought structures, and vice versa.

(And if your call to right action is contemplative prayer, so be it.)

Anyway, whether or not you ever read Borg or went to a workshop with him, wouldn't you say your experience with AVP gives new meaning to the opening of Jesus's ministry, as recorded in Luke 4:18:

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Orthopraxy is one thing, but how do you understand what you are doing when you are practicing? How is that the same as or different from your Friends? And does it matter?

-- Chris M.