Fear (From Fellow Blogger PoojaG)

The fear of change

The fear of nothing changing

The fear of love

The fear of hate

The fear of pain

The fear of feeling nothing

The fear of everything

Why are we so driven by fear?

Why do we live in a paradox?

PoojaG

 

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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

 

Pastor Rick Warren – A Faith and Visionary Leader

Senators John McCain and Barack Obama

A Model of A Man of God

This is truly a blog that I am happy to write about.  Over the weekend there was a historical event that took place.  In the home stretch of a presidential election, the pastor of a church was able to bring the two main candidates together under one roof – for one on one questioning.  Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA had both Obama and McCain at his church with a crowd of parishioners and onlookers.  Why am I so glad about this event?  Because in this age of extreme conservative evangelical ministers who want to stake their claim in the political game, Warren is a man who totally gets it!  

Most people know of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, after some 25 million copies have been sold.  Some may even know how he does not accept a salary from his church, how he paid back the salary the church had given him over a 20 year period one he started to benefit from the book, how he tends to preach most sermons at his church in blue jeans.  My impression of Warren took another turn when I saw him featured on Meet The Press last year.  (See Transcript) Listening to him talk about faith and politics was so refreshing.  In this day and age where men representing faith, mainly Christian faith come in the persons of Pat Robertson and James Dobson, guys who are dogmatic in their approach and single-minded in their schemes, Warren is a man who talks about his faith as a committed Christian man who has a worldview that is inclusive towards others in the country – even those who may not subscribe to his specific faith.  He understands that this time, this nation more than ever multi-cultral, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and yes multi-religious than ever before.  And yet we all have a stake in the plight of America and the direction we are to take.  He understands the big picture – and in that his love for mankind is actually a reflection of that of Christ himself.  Warren is a brother who’s spirit is attractive and therefore he is able to engage wonderfully with other people.  Now here is the best part.  Warren is not some ultra-liberal crack preacher who has an anything goes philosophy.  He has a set of values that are very fundamental to traditional Christianity.  The difference is that he does not behave as if he should damn the rest of the world to hell.  Neither does he act as if Christian beliefs are the only ones under attack these days.  Many evangelicals often play victim and act as if the whole world is conspiring against their beliefs.

As a result he was able to have enough influence to command the audience of THE two major candidates in the heat of the campaign.  In the sermon the following Sunday he spoke of how voters should respond to the candidates. 

Don’t just look at issues, look at character. Look at the candidate and say,  Does he live with integrity, service with humility, share with generosity, or not?’

This is much different from the approach I have heard for years where unless a candidate is dead set against gay rights, abortion etc., that vote is in effect a vote against God himself.  Warren understands like many of us that there are many other issues as well that are just as important to Christian and non Christian alike.  Issues such as poverty and education – these are American issues.  I would also argue that these are also issues of faith when you look at the complete teachings of Jesus.  Regardless a president has to be concerned about all of America – not just a segment that shares his faith – even as he holds dear to his own convictions. 

As good as the forum went, it wasn’t quite perfect.  In total fairness Warren had a set of questions and he used those same questions in the same order to both candidates.  Obama answered first.  And although McCain was said to be in a room tucked away until his turn came, it turned out he was not even in the building.  Where was the dear senator?  Somewhere tuned in watching the pastor interview Obama so that he could be ready for the questions himself.  As I watched McCain’s interview, I was surprised as to how easily he answered Warren’s questions – though McCain claimed them to be hard questions.  Some of them he seemed to rattle off before Warren could get the whole question out.  So as impressed as I thought I was with some of McCain’s answers, he was cheating and thus prepared with his script.  Look at the tape.  You can easily tell that there was virtually no reflection whatsoever – but a rapid fire of ready answers given.  Warren said initially that McCain was in another room.  Later he admitted that McCain was not in the building.  For the sake of my original point, I am going to give the good pastor the total benefit of the doubt here.  I believe he conducted an interview for the American people – specifically American people of faith with total honesty and integrity.  It was McCain who messed things up.  Of course Warren is too polished and graceful to accuse the senator – but he also knows that we can judge the facts and issues for ourselves.

Keep up the good work Pastor Warren.  I hope to meet you one day and enjoy some vigorous discussions.