Things of Faith, Man and the Search for Universal Truth

My faith journey has come a long way.

From a theological perspective, I was raised in the Judaea Christian traditions within various denominations. Through the years I have been taught by the church, inspired, motivated, fooled, disillusioned, angry, resentful, ashamed of, and even restored.

Regardless of my personal experiences with dogma and the organization of religion my faith in the Supreme has never diminished. My belief system is simple and complicated, spiritual and natural, scientific and unexplained.

I could never subscribe to the atheist belief that there is no Supreme Being. To me atheistic thinking dismisses a serious explanation for the origin for life. In other words, I haven’t seen evidence of any life form without their first being life to reproduce itself after its kind. Even if creationism from a religious perspective is not a viable option, just a look at the sun, moon and the stars, all of the living creatures, the way the cycles of the earth rotates, lives, nurtures, replenishes and sustain itself with its inhabitants; I find it illogical that all of that which we behold and witness is without thought, planning and design. In this way I don’t judge the concept of atheism. What I can say is that I don’t get it.

galaxy-1

As much as I like Bill Mahr and admire his political satire, I think he sounds like a fool when he arrogantly dismisses any possibility of a higher power. His brain is so creative, that he can actually talk himself out of acknowledging his own lack of having anything to do with it. He depends on air he breathes to live, and yet it does not keep him alive. Think about it. Oxygen is all around those dying every day. At some point everyone will take in their last breath. And all the oxygen on the earth can’t give you another breath once that last one has been exhaled. With all the riches, wealth and resources in the world one cannot give him more life. Nor does anyone have the power to ask and receive it initially at the beginning of a natural life.

A study of the massive sophistication and depth of DNA alone should prompt one to believe that this world, this universe, even our humanity was intentional. This is why I believe the atheist argument comes up horribly short. There is just too much genius around us that we had nothing to do with to call it all random.

What Mahr and I share along with others who believe as he does however, is the disdain for those seeking to validate and promote ‘God’ only as they see Him in such a fashion that it boxes his breadth and scope down to moral, theological and geo-political bents. I too scoff at the limitations and lack of critical thinking skills people subject themselves to in order to follow a bunch of laws and standards written by mortal, flawed, and often agenda driven men. I can resonate with his frustration of people who refuse to observe and work through critical issues with a reality based point of view as opposed to choosing to hide head-in-sand and quote scripture so as to eliminate the need of such deeper or even more simplistic considerations.

I get it. But that doesn’t answer the questions of life, the potential and capabilities of the human mind and body, the spirit world, and the universe. The fact that in the wild a lion and a deer will drink from the same water brook and if the lion is not hungry, not only will he not so much as bother the deer, but that the deer instinctively knows it. Man, in all of his ingenuity, intellect, skill and passion have only learned and understood so much of it. He certainly hasn’t been able to define it.

My basic understanding of myself, my surroundings, my instincts, makes me curious, and awestruck on the subject of the Supreme Being. Though I have identified my beliefs through Christian lenses most of my life, I have studied various religions and beliefs among men. Lessons from Christianity as well as other faiths have helped me greatly. Still I’ve rejected many pieces of doctrines. Through it all here I stand; still seeking, still desiring, and still stretching to find the source of my own significance.

black-jesus

As of now I don’t really claim any specific religion. Though if you pushed me, I would still lean towards a very loose and selective portion of Christianity. Not for any special reason. This is simply the environment I was brought up in and therefore most familiar with. It’s second nature. I love gospel music and can often find myself blissfully swept away in its messages of worship, submission and hope. One of my mentors the late Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was a Christian man who lived the most dedicated and faithful life I have ever seen in a human. Yet I admire and respect the life of Malcolm X especially after he split from The Nation of Islam and went in a direction that he believed was more beneficial to his perspective of the way he saw his Creator. Am I to say that Shuttlesworth knew God because he called him Jesus or that Malcolm’s aligning himself with Allah did not? There is hardly no religious sect that does not have within it members who believe and have evidence that their prayers have been answered. There are unexplained ‘miracles’ happening everyday regardless of faith type. Thing begs to question, “Does the Supreme have an exclusive name?” Only religious people think so. Or is He so awesome and self-assured that He is not hung up on and limited by that kind of thing? – Man actually giving Him a name that will sum Him up. Even as I write this I only say ‘Him’ as a reference point. I don’t know that The Supreme has a gender.

This proves that the biggest hindrance to understanding The Supreme is defining the revelation of His presence and purpose solely through a religious bent.

I have learned to settle in and take what I believe one step at a time; one lesson at a time; one experience at a time. And with those I focus on that which I am comfortable with. Which are a basic set of principles that I live by. (At least try to live by most of the time.)

Faith

Faith is first just an acknowledgment and recognition of a centralized presence. I don’t believe He/She/It needs to be called Jesus or any other religious or secular name. I believe in this Power that is so brilliant beyond measure, beautiful, and peaceful. The Universe has been created in such a way that it would take perhaps a million lifetimes just to scratch the surface of what is really going on out there. Names are too limited to describe The Ultimate. That is about as far as I am willing to take it as of now.

Do I believe this Universal entity cares about what happens to me personally? Yes. This is because I don’t believe all of this is by chance. If I’m correct then there has to be a purpose. Anyone who is aware of his purpose cares about fulfilling that purpose. With that I am able to give thanks and blessings many times per day to The Supreme for all that I am blessed to behold.  Sometimes, I even submit a few prayer request along the way.

Personal Purpose/Destiny

This is a tough one. Because most people either believe that they have a specific purpose on earth that a higher power has in mind or they don’t. Others believe we make our own decisions no matter what. I fall in the middle of both world views. For example, none of us had anything to do with us being here. That includes when we were born, where we were born, or to what family. We couldn’t decide what color we were going to be, whether male or female, and so forth. There are so many things that were not in our original control.

And yet as the species on earth we call mankind, we have the ability to create, build, reproduce, expand, grow, and it goes on and on. Our decisions shape the direction of not only our lives, but those around us as well as those who come after us. Decisions made by only a few throughout history have led to generational worldwide rewards and consequences.

With this I believe that many, but not every aspect of my life has been fully intentional. I am thankful for my time, my space, and my opportunity to do whatever it is I am supposed to do. I am abundantly grateful for everyday believing that my universe is saying something to me and beckoning me to respond for my own benefit, and the benefit of others. I believe that if enough of us do that, we will experience even greater awakenings, recognition, and access to this Universe.

            Islam7

Morals

Morals are a very subjective from person to person. I believe that morals must come from within, not just what is taught within a society to preserve order; though order is necessary. Some people are comfortable with doing things and living by certain principals that others are not. My morals are a combination of what I have been taught as a youth, as well as what I have grown to understand as an adult. Since I am still growing, segments and pieces of my moral code are still being refined. What has remained consistent is to live by a standard in which my conscious remains clear of guilt and that my life is one of freedom and not bondage. I believe that many of the unhappy, unsatisfied and destructive people on earth are ones whom live against their own conscious. I can’t speak for those whom seem not to have a conscious at all. Still I have to live by my own. I desire that my life continues to project that which is less harmful but more liberating to me as well as my environment.

Who is The Supreme Being/God?

I absolutely don’t know the answer to that. I believe that God is spirit as I am though much greater. I don’t believe God is fixated by what we call he/she/it like most organized religions i.e. Christianity, (Jehovah, Christ) Islam (Allah) and so forth. I believe that mankind has had various reasons for wanting to segregate God into something they are comfortable with. Certainly having a book such as the bible for instance, makes following God or expressing faith more focused. For now I choose experiencing and receiving whatever it is I may learn and absorb whether it be from a religious context or not. My trust is that The Supreme knows how to get a message to me when it’s time. And that I will receive it as long as I stay open. I’m not afraid to fail at this. I embrace all of the possibilities and resources imaginable at this point.

Organized Religion

In spite of my critique, I am not down on organized religion as a whole. I believe that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Zen, and many others has served millions well over the centuries. Organized religious morality has influenced many peaceful societies as most of them promote treating one another in a loving and civilized way. Most promote growth and spirituality. Most promote submission to a higher authority and less self-seeking. Most emphasize sacrifice and giving towards something much bigger than the individual person who claims its faith.

Most have had their downfalls as well. So many wars, forms of oppression, and crimes against humanity result from religious beliefs and zeal. This is not only true of Christianity and Islam. Human sacrifices for instance took place long before Columbus set foot on the shores of the Americas. Nobody’s hands are clean. There has been and continues to be both good and bad.

            Tian Tan Buddha

Afterlife

Since I don’t believe that our lives are our bodies, I don’t believe that life ceases without the body. I believe our bodies are Earth suits. With them we move about upon the land or the sea. The earth is our bodily home. We live here for a time and season. It is here that we eat, sleep, love, share, learn etc… Perhaps our earthly time is training for something else that has nothing to do with our bodies. I just don’t know. And I don’t know that anyone really does.

I know many people whom I trust said a relative who have died or have been released from their natural bodies visited them in a spiritual form. Perhaps those who are ‘dead’, in body, help watch over us who remain. Perhaps there are differing dimensions that continue in cycles past our earthly lives. I don’t have a clue!

But I’m OK with that right now. For now I want to concern myself with the form of life I am experiencing now. And I will have to let the other work itself out. It’s definitely outside of my pay grade. If I can make this one count for something good, then I trust things will work out in the end… well, if there is one.

In Faith, Me

 

Relax, God has NOT left the room!

From a child I have been a person of deep faith.  When my mother took me to church unlike most my peers I actually wanted to sit towards the front instead of hiding in the balcony.   I wanted to be up close so I could especially hear what the minister was saying.  If I sat too far back, I would get lost and eventually fall asleep.  Learning about God and the characters in the bible was a fascinating thing to me.  I took those opportunities seriously.

My spiritual journey has taken me through many places.  One principle that has reinforced and remains with me is that my faith is a very personal journey.  The journey itself and the fruits thereof may be shared with the public at large.  But the beauty of it being a personal journey is that no one can prevent my soul from connecting or communing with my creator.

I thought about this when I came across an email recently that suggested (not the first time I’ve heard) that a major downfall of this country happened when the Supreme Court took corporate prayer out of public schools.  Since that time lack of prayer has been blamed for dropout rates, teen pregnancy, school violence etc.  Years ago I was lukewarm on the subject at best.  I remember having corporate prayer in school and the benefits of it was debatable.

There was still mischief, bullying, drugs and pregnancy.  Nowadays I have strong opinions that taking public prayer out of public schools was not the tragedy people made it out to be.  Especially considering the world we live in today.  I’ll make my case:

Religion is Polarizing

We live in a society that is more diverse than ever before.  With that comes faith with all sorts of flavors.  Who gets to decide what brand of faith is emphasized for public schools?  The general consensus among those desiring prayer in public schools is Christianity.  But which kind of Christian; Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist?  Of course not only would either of these choices leave out another Christian persuasion, it would also exclude and isolate people of other faiths that do not include Christianity.

The natural strife would distract from the original emphasis of primary education which is to teach the basics of reading, writing (typing) arithmetic, and now technology.  Remember we are talking about publically tax payer public schools.  This brings me to my next point.

This is what private schools are for

In any given metropolitan area, there are hundreds of private schools which in addition to academics emphasize their faith.  There is nothing wrong with a family choosing a school based on their own faith.  Some schools have struggled to remain solvent as the economy has suffered making it more difficult for parents to afford tuition.  And some have been vibrant enough to offer scholarships to those less fortunate.  I have several close friends who put their children in private school for both religious as well as academic purposes.  All of them are not coming straight out of pocket either.

Some live in public school districts known to be inferior.  Some seek Catholic institutions for their young though the parent’s faith is far from Catholicism.  They simply believe the quality of the Jesuit education will prepare their children for college better than the local public school will.  It is a beautiful thing to have educational choices for American families.  Still, I have never heard one parent tell me that they chose a school because there is corporate in it.

God has never left the building

While I never attended private school of any sort, it never stopped me from praying neither in school nor out.  I prayed for good grades on test before and after I took them.  I prayed to make it off school grounds fast and slick enough to avoid bullies and being jumped on.  I prayed not to get thrown out of school for fighting.  I prayed my team would hit the jump shot or score the touchdown against the cross town rival to win the big game.  Since I believed that God and prayer were within my grasp as surely as my own personal belief, nothing could prevent me from making a connection.  No politician, no school administrator, no teacher.  I didn’t need my relationship with God legislated to make it any more legitimate.

To believe that I don’t support God or prayer within the scope of society or youth would be the furthest thing from the truth.   As I’ve stated I have a strong faith in God and a deep appreciation for prayer.  When I go to some private schools as a sports official, some of them conduct pre-game prayers.  I participate in these prayers with the kids and coaches.  Not because I have to, but because I want to.  When a school is private, they have a unified point of view that everyone agrees to following before enrolling.  No one is singled out or ostracized in the midst of any of those prayers.  Prayer should be a unifying tool, not a dividing one.

I’ve heard it said many times that Christianity is under attack.  I believe that in the United States of America that sentiment has been greatly exaggerated.  It’s easy and historic for most all religions to claim victimization.  Certainly there is conflict and strife among people of faith vs. those that claim none.  The same can be said about differing Christian organizations/denominations etc.  I explained all of this in a previous article titled, “Why I Refuse to Join A Church Part 2”

The reason I say that Christian ‘martyrism’ has been overblown is because there are thousands of churches in any given metropolitan area.  Startup churches are being formed daily.  Nothing is stopping them.  There has always been a running joke about the city I’m from that on every block, there is a Rice House, (Chinese take-out restaurant) a liquor store, and a church.  I don’t call that an attack.

Faith is as American as our desire for freedom.

Finally, I’m not some ACLU honk.  While they have served a good purpose at times, they are also often more zealous and ridiculous as any raving mad TV evangelist.  I look at some of the causes they take up and just wish they would go away.

What I am saying is that at the end of the day prayer is a private and personal thing first.  And if we do well others will be attracted to our faith through our displays of character that reflect the love of our creator.  One doesn’t need religion to have character.  But without character, religion is tyranny.  There is a scripture that says “they shall know me by the love you show one another,” That carries more weight than a nativity scene on school property.

Meanwhile I’d just assume teachers and administrators do what it takes to make our schools better and prepare our youth to create and compete in this ever increasingly competitive market.  I don’t need James Dobson trying to ‘take my local school for Jesus.’

I’ll pass the concept of faith to my children at home.  I’m just saying.

Catholic Priest: To Marry or Not!

The Rev. Alberto Cutie was removed from his duties after pictures showed him bare-chested with a woman.

I am not Catholic but sometimes I do find these subject matters interesting.  In the wake of this latest controversy with Rev. Alberto Cutie I listened to a program on the radio and they had a discussion with a religion reporter, a religion professor, and the editor of the Catholic World Report.

One of the topics they discussed was whether the argument for priest to marry or not is more of a political one than a religious one.  What do you think?

Should some priest be allowed to marry?  I say some because the program noted that it’s not uncommon for a minister who was married before converting to Catholicism and became Catholic priest.  They get to keep their wives and families as well as serve in their flock.  Is this hypocritical? 

Some believe that celibacy is a gift that is particular to a person.  So if he/she has that desire and gift it should be a choice but not a mandate.

I have also spoken to some Catholics who take the hard line that if one wants to be a priest, celibacy is what the proper order is and if you can’t hang then don’t be a priest. 

Anyone who wants to give an intelligent take is welcome to comment.  I would love to hear especially from practicing Catholics on both sides of the issue.

UFO’s – Myth or Reality

Growing up I was always facintated with astronomy.  I loved reading and learning anything having to do with outer space.  I even watched Star Trek faithfully and the less imaginative Battlestar Galactica.  Of course Star Wars was stirred my imagination as well. 

I found it quite interesting that the Catholic Church by way of The Vatican recently announced that it was acceptable to believe in “extraterrestrial brothers. ”  I feel so relieved now.  If it wasn’t for that announcement I would have had to remain an non-believer!

Seriously though; personally I believe it would be shortsighted and quite arrogant to believe that as much as know about the vastness of the universe – that we are the only forms of life or intelligence.  But truth be told, just like issues of race we are not ready to seriously tackle the possibilities of life outside of Earth’s atmosphere.  Imagine questions about ET sightings being asked at a presidential debate.  Or how about this.. if your Catholic or Christian and believe in the existance of life beyone the Earth’s atmosphere and that they too are God’s creatures – well did Jesus die for their sins too?  With that said unless we have a serious encounter that is too much to avoid, we are prone to avoid these questions as a nation for fear of among other things, the facts possibly throwing a monkey wrench in our theological dogma.