Sunday, November 10, 2013

Does This Describe You?

About five or six years ago, I read a book called,  If Grace Is True, by Jim Mulholland, a Quaker minister, and his friend, Phillip Gulley. I was impressed by Mulholland and Gulley's universalist leanings which were very evident in the book. I was fully exploring universalism at the time and the book spoke to me deeply.

My atheist friend, Andrew recently posted that Mulholland has left the faith completely, and gave a link to Mulholland's website called "Leaving Your Religion".  On the website, Mulholland offers a Questionnaire for folks who think they may be in the process of leaving their religion or suspect they might already have. Leaving your religion doesn't necessarily mean leaving God. Maybe it's just leaving your old version of God or a particular kind of theism.  I know that is very true in my case. I continue to explore the spiritual side of life even when it looks nothing like what I believed it to be for so many years. The following is the result of the questionnaire of one who probably is in the process of leaving:


You’ve been in a crisis of belief for months or even years.  You are probably not attending religious services often, or you are participating in the most progressive element of your religious tradition.  Yet neither of these choices has made you completely happy.

You no longer believe many of the key doctrines of your religious tradition.  You are increasingly uncomfortable with many of its rituals and practices.  You have tried to hold on to a core, but that core gets smaller and smaller.  Reading your tradition’s holy writings no longer helps since you have serious doubts about the reliability of those writings.  When you pray, you often wonder if anyone is listening.

You struggle with how to identify yourself.  You try to make a distinction between religion and spirituality and may call yourself a mystic or a spiritual seeker.  You may have read about or dipped your toes into other religious traditions.  You probably still believe in God, but your definition of God is quite different than that of your religious tradition and difficult for you to explain.  If truth be told, making sense of religion has become exhausting.

You have mixed feelings about your religious tradition.  It has been a powerful force in the past.  It is part of who you are.  But it isn’t working for you any longer and you can’t pretend any more.  You may feel sad and depressed about this crisis.  You probably feel a void and real loss.  You may even be angry at or hostile toward your religious tradition.  You may feel like you were duped.  Sadness and anger are normal responses.

For the first time in your life, you’re seriously considering leaving your religion.   You may find yourself envious of the non-religious people and curious what life would be like without religion.  You may be both frightened and excited about the prospect of living outside a religious community.  Regardless, you can feel yourself disconnecting from your religion.

Does this describe you? What's your opinion? I am interested in what my friends think of the result and the website

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marcus Borg on Atonement Theory

"The image of Jesus as the 'once for all' sacrifice for sin has often been misunderstood in Christian history. It has been placed within a theological framework that emphasizes that we are all sinners, that our sins must be paid for in order for God to forgive us, and that Jesus is the sacrifice who paid the price. This theological framework is a later development, not present in the first thousand years of Christianity."

~Dr. Marcos Borg

IMO, that pretty much settles the case for the validity of atonement theories.  Atonement theories were one of the first things I discarded eight or so years ago. I respect Dr. Borg tremendously and have followed his back and forth commentary with Tony Jones, whom I also respect, on the how we should see the resurrection. Here's what Dr. Borg has to say, and here is Tony's comments.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Tribal Thinking

Tribal thinking, believe or not, is one the strongest characteristics of our human condition. Here is one of the best, if not the best explanation of “tribal thinking” that I have read. This comes from John Shelby Spong’s latest book on the Gospel of John, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic”.

            …It is the nature of human life to feed our ever-present security needs by displaying fear in the presence of anyone who is “different.” This fear grows out of not knowing how to interpret behavior that has not been vetted by the norms which govern tribal life and into which tribal members have been incorporated. This is why it is in the biological nature of human life for us to respond to the stranger with heightened suspicion. Strangers speak a language we not understand, so we do not know how to process their words; and as a result we fear their motives. When we do not understand their words, our latent paranoia is fed and excited. Strangers who are not of our tribe also have different ethnic characteristics. Tribal thinking always defines the characteristics of one’s own ethnicity as “normal,” which immediately suggests that to be different is to be “abnormal.” Strangers also worship in a different way and since the primary, primitive meaning of worship is to solicit divine protection for ourselves, worship that is different from our norms might turn out to put us at risk of losing the protection of our deity to the deity of another tribe, who might well be malevolent.
            For all these reasons, xenophobia is a natural human survival technique that is present in all of us. We cannot lay it aside because it is part of what it means to be human. We can escape it only by escaping the limits of our humanity. Making that escape thus reflects a transformational moment, one in which we cross a boundary and enter a new level of consciousness and begin to perceive the reality of human oneness. That is not easy, for survival drives all life, and survival always demands barriers behind which we can find security.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

15 Things Jesus Did Say
“There’s only one litmus test to authenticate if someone gets what I’m about – love.”

“The kingdom of God is here and now, which means it’s not somewhere else and later.”

“If you’ve reached perfection on your journey, feel free to judge others. Otherwise, be quiet.”

“My peace is not as this world gives. Your strategy to control circumstances in order to be happy won’t work… ever.”

“You religious people have your nose buried in the Bible, feeling all smug about your spiritual maturity. But you wouldn’t know my truth if it knocked you in the head.”

“There is no mountain, sacred place or church building where God expects to be worshipped. True worship is a way of seeing – it’s spotting and honoring the divine in all things.”

“You think you are doing well because you have not been hauled off to prison for murder, but your harsh and critical spirit is no different.”

“Embracing my truth will make you a heretic in most people’s minds and you will be persecuted. No worries; you’re on the right track in my kingdom.”

“God and I are one, you are included.”

“I have to die. Otherwise, you’re going to create a religion around my human personhood and personality, rather than embrace and give expression to my spirit and truth.”

“Don’t say you love God and then hate people. Those two things can’t be true at the same time.”

“You and God are not separated and never have been. You are connected to God like a branch to a vine – the essence and nature of God is the sap running through your veins.”

“You can’t reduce my way to a book. The same spirit that filled and led me fills and leads you. Follow that spirit.”

“You think your humanity is an affront to God. If this were true how could I be one with God?”

“You look into the sky to find some God that sits on a throne. You want to see God? You’re looking at him. Now, see that same God as 

~paraphrase by Jim Palmer

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Personal Thoughts on Firearms in the U.S.

I have been a gun owner since I was a teenager. Lots of folks would say it's a part of the culture in which I grew up (Texas). The southern U.S., Texas in particular, has often been the object of derision for many of it's cultural characteristics. One of the prominent topics of derision, in recent years, is it's "gun culture". I was born in Texas and have lived here all my life. Guns, of all varieties, have been part of my life. I was taught as a child respect for firearms, gun safety, and the use of all types of firearms. Almost every male raised in the rural south has had experience in the use of them. My father, a former law enforcement officer,  taught me how to safely use rifles, shotguns, and pistols. As a teenager, I hunted rabbits, birds, wolves, and various other varmints. I have not done so in many years. In the 1970's, I took a job which required me to become a Commissioned Peace Officer. I held that license for two years before becoming an educator. When the State of Texas passed a Concealed Handgun License Law in the mid-1990s, I obtained mine that first year and have been "carrying" ever since. I have never had to use my weapon and hope never to have a reason to do so.
 I am realist when it comes to violence in today's society. I know that there are "bad people" out there who would do my family or me harm if they had the opportunity. That is why I "carry". I do not want to become a victim or have anyone in my family become one.
I fully respect the right of anyone to avoid weapons of all kinds. I know that not everyone feels the way I do about firearms. I respect everyone's feelings when this volatile issue is discussed.
The following article was taken from the Pew Research Center's website. It is an excerpt. If you wish to read the whole report, follow the link at the end of the excerpt.

SDT-2013-05-gun-crime-1-1National rates of gun homicide and other violent gun crimes are strikingly lower now than during their peak in the mid-1990s, paralleling a general decline in violent crime, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data. Beneath the long-term trend, though, are big differences by decade: Violence plunged through the 1990s, but has declined less dramatically since 2000.
Compared with 1993, the peak of U.S. gun homicides, the firearm homicide rate was 49% lower in 2010, and there were fewer deaths, even though the nation’s population grew. The victimization rate for other violent crimes with a firearm—assaults, robberies and sex crimes—was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Simple Thoughts

If you need a scripture to tell you........

"As long as anyone is a slave, no one is free."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finally, an Answer I Can Understand

For several years now I have been attracted to Brian McLaren and his ideas of what Christianity should be. Brian is generally thought to be one of the leaders of the Emergent movement in Christianity.  After reading most any of Brian's books, one would soon begin to ask: "Brian, are you a Universalist or would you consider yourself an inclusionist?"

I have seen Brian seemingly dance around this issue numerous times on numerous occasions. His response has left me unsatisfied. I've always liked his approach to the subject of "Original Sin". Just for clarity, I like Matthew Fox's idea of "Original Blessing" much better.  Brian's approach seemed at least to me to be somewhere in between. But, I still felt that he needed to further clarify  his position. I know Brian is not  inerrantist. Still I wanted him to clarify, simply, so I could understand, where he stands in the world of modern/traditional Christianity. Finally, I think he has done that for me....for the most part. The following is Brian's response to being asked if he believes in Universal Salvation:

 .............centuries of tradition have taught good Christians to make unwarranted assumptions - for example, that "salvation" means "exemption from hell," or that "judgment" means "sending to hell," or that "Jesus died for our sins" means "Jesus died as a penal substitutionary sacrifice to solve the problem of original sin." Instead, we're reading the Bible with different hypotheses - that "salvation" means "liberation, healing, correction, and restoration," that "judgment" goes beyond punishment to restoration and so means "confronting evil and setting things right," that "Jesus died for our sins" can mean "Jesus died because of our sins," or "Jesus died to turn and heal us from our sins."
That's why I think the old ...... system that divides people into exclusivists, inclusivists, and universalists offers people.............. three ways of being increasingly irrelevant and unhelpful.
My critics love to say that I'm evading (dancing around) the issue. I wish they could come to understand that it's much worse than that. I'm rejecting the whole paradigm that defines the issue as it does.

All of Traditional Christianity, as well as most of Universalist Christianity, Emergent Christianity, seem to me to be so sure of each's position (dogma?). I on the other hand, as a result of ten years of research, searching for answers (answers which were never offered me in my previous Christian experience), have come to the conclusion that I probably know, with certainty,  less about God, whom I now call "The Ground of All Being", than I did when I started my quest. I  am a believer; a "Believer in Exile" (from the church) until an epiphany gives me clarity of this seemingly unfathomable subject.

To read Brian's complete response to the question, please follow this link:

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Marketing the Messiah

My friend Ernie has again made some outstanding statements about Jesus. the following is from his latest post at his blog, LRC . Ernie was discussing how the early church "marketed" Jesus for the rest of the known world at that time. It began with Constantine and continued with all the rest of the church councils since.

">Jesus was made into a god- second person of a created trinity.
>He was given traits of previous gods such as virgin birth and resurrection
>Epiphanies were created that were larger than life
>Miracles were developed to show supra-human powers, etc."

Makes good sense to me. These ideas follow the histories which I have researched over the the past ten years.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Just Like ITunes

From Jonni via my friend Andrew:

 "To a Christian, the bible is like the terms and conditions on their itunes account. No one actually reads it - you're just supposed to scroll to the bottom and click "I agree".

Wow! Never thought of it in those terms......

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Little Quantum Physics

"Quantum physics asserts that the whole is present in every part. And furthermore, that every individual part is a genuine expression of the whole, and yet, no one individual part is the totality of the whole itself. I thought about how the ocean illustrates this truth. I can go to the beach and scoop up ocean water in a Dixie cup. The water in the cup contains the same properties as the entire ocean , and yet obviously , that cup of water is not the entire ocean. In the same way, as spirit or energy, the whole of God is present in every part."

~from "Being Jesus in Nashville", by Jim Palmer

For some years now, this has been my interpretation of God; not the "Sky-God" concept of most of mainline Christianity today. My own "shedding of religion" (Jim's words, not mine) came when I first began to ask questions which I was never bold enough to ask before. Once I began questioning, there was no stopping. Four or five years ago I was introduced to Quantum Physics. It, of course, only added to my questions. But this time, not from a religious pov, but from a scientific pov. Yet, they fit perfectly together in my mind. To me, God is beginning to make sense for the first time in my life. I haven't "arrived". I don't have all the answers. Heck, I probably have less answers than when I started. But, oh my what a trip I am on!

Monday, February 25, 2013


Another wonderful sign from the little fundamentalist church near me:

"Stop, Drop, and Roll doesn't work in Hell"


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"God will judge America over abortion and Gay Marriage."

So let me get this straight, God didn't judge America over the millions of Native Americans that were murdered and had their land stolen. God didn't judge America over the millions of Africans that were enslaved and brought to America and worked to death for centuries. And God didn't judge America for not taking care of the homeless, hungry, sick, and dying poor. But now God will judge America over abortion and gay marriage. OK, I got it.....


Thought to Ponder

"There are Christians who make me wonder if I'll get to heaven. And there are Christians who make me wonder if I even want to go".......

~Matthew Paul  Turner

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Something to Ponder

I borrowed these two quotes from Rachel Held Evans' blog. They really made me think about what I once believed.

“It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases. God gives life and he takes life. Everybody who dies, dies because God wills that they die.” 
– John Piper

“Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.” 
– Thomas Paine

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Reflection

Since I began this journey,  my desire to read and find more information "outside" the box has multiplied a thousand fold. I read more since 2002 than I read in the fifty years previous.
 What I have begun to notice lately is that my desire to read has been reduced significantly. It seems that I am not finding as many books that I really want to read. This may be due to the fact that I had read so precious little previously. I am not fully convinced that is the reason, however. I seemed to have reached a plateau; a place where I am content for the moment at least.
 I enjoy reading my favorite authors. I imagine I shall continue to read what they offer. My favorites are: John Shelby Spong, Bart Ehrman, Neale Donald Walsch, Eckart Tolle, and Marcus Borg. I do not limit myself to these. I also like to read Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and Jim Palmer.
I  have experienced plateaus in the past; times when I simply am enjoying my life as it is presently. I don't worry about lulls. Sometimes I think they give us a chance to reflect on what has gone before. I look forward to whatever life has in store for me, knowing it will be another adventure in this thing we call life.