Be teachers yourselves rather than lazy Christians who go to meeting and let someone else do all the talking.

duminyanduminyanRepublican and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele … I’m on the same page with him regarding evangelicals and any other society of Christians  intentionally looking the other way.

“After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don’t matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn’t matter? The outright behavior and lies don’t matter? Just shut up.”

Seems to me that only crowd that worships political correctness are the same ones who themselves want to use violence and exclusion as their practice of an imperial form of brotherly love.

How about “Christiano-Fascist” for Kindergarten Christians who are giving politicians and preachers foolish talking points? These are the folks stuck in the Chapel of the Kindergarten Believers where all the preacher knows how to do is whine about how the rest of us don’t believe election-winners are put in place by God.

Remember that The Father is watching. We are all falling sparrows. And none of us fall far from the Tree. If it is in your heart that the Father has approved of such a bigoted declaration or if you have been taught that the Holy Spirit prompts, leads and guides every sermon and political utterance from the born-again, then you belittle The Father with your assumptions.

Take the following advice based on the 5th Chapter of Hebrews:

… those put in charge of things pertaining to God on behalf of the flock absolutely have to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward. This because they themselves are subject to weakness. They who talk to you of making sacrifice for your sins must make sacrifice for their own as well.

One does not presume to take the honor of speakership but only when called of God, as was Aaron. This of course means that the same sense of calling that aroused your preacher is a sense you yourself are fully capable and able to experience.

… unless that is hard for you to understand about yourselves and you lack the personal faith needed to do so.

Many have become dull in understanding – lazy even – and have given away too much personal will to preachers of kindergarten talking points.

By now you ought to be teachers yourselves rather than lazy Christians who go to meeting and let someone else do all the talking.

Perhaps you are one of those who need someone else to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God.

Perhaps you believe that the shallowest among you who nevertheless are able to memorize verses are the most justified because The Father places the highest regard on they who memorize the most.

If you regard yourself spiritually mature rather than a spiritual infant, are not such preachers the least able to respond to your need for milk?

They encourage you to believe that you are receiving solid food. You must however pay attention. They preach to you as if you were still infants, unskilled in the word of righteousness.

If the best your preacher or your pious Christian politician can do is to declare that human immorality is more of a threat to the United States than terrorism, perhaps you’d best understand this.

They who say such stuff still need milk themselves. Solid food is for the mature; those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

That’s what it says in Hebrews 5.

I found it there, figured it out and believed it before any milk-needer could tell me that my conclusions are not “biblical” … whatever that means.

 

To Religious “Social Conservatives” too proud to admit to a foolish vote for Republican God-Talkers

 … 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.

 

Organized Religion Anti-Virus

 
 
It may be that we all have an unfinished wrestling match with Grandpa Church. It may be that although we have broken Grandpa’s unfair choke hold and have managed to stagger to our feet as well as more or less keep away from those grasping arms, we nevertheless remain engaged and unable to leave the mat.
We do not seem to be able to simply call the match ended and call the inevitable stalemate achieved our victory in combat with a more powerful opponent. In that sense, when he wrestles with us, Grandpa Church applies his arm twisting and choke holds as a leader of a tag team –  which means that among those friend and family souls whom we treasure most, there are many whom Grandpa can tag and thrust into the ring to distract and weaken our resolve through exploitation of
existential angst.
Are we not overwhelming underdogs in a circumstance that is not really “winnable” in terms of being able to retain unfettered relationships with those about whom we care the most so long as we wrestle against Grandpa? Is not Grandpa – as the ultimate tribal elder and authority – practically unassailable?
Cannot Grandpa Church more than likely hold on to more unquestioned loyalty, unquestioned love and unquestioned conformity of more members of those of our own blood who constitute our “in-the-Church” family birthright?
At Wikipedia where I learned that existentialist philosopher Kierkegaard used the word Angest (in
common Danish, angst, meaning “dread” or “anxiety”) to describe
a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity
and fear in the free human being.
Where the animal is a slave to its instincts but always conscious in
its own actions, Kierkegaard believed that the freedom given to people leaves
the human in a constant fear of failing his/her responsibilities to God.
Kierkegaard’s concept of angst is considered to be an important
stepping stone for 20th-century existentialism. While Kierkegaard’s
feeling of angst is fear of actual responsibility to God, in modern use,
angst was broadened by the later existentialists to include general frustration
associated with the conflict between actual responsibilities to self, one’s
principles, and others (possibly including God). 
This was an interesting find for me, principally because I had been pondering the idea of being programmed from birth to be RESPONSIBLE to God; of viewing my life as a gift from God to whom I then owe (am responsible) obligations to generate good fruit.
Belief inculcated from childhood is a difficult thing to overcome when, for example, the transparency of the religious fabrication is not as obvious as the transparency of a cultural myth, say of Santa Claus, to a child growing into an adult. Religious beliefs are planted (one could even use contemporary techno-vocabulary and say “installed’) in our thinking at an early age when the nature of the installation is not easily perceived as beneficent or malevolent.
The malevolent aspect then resembles more of a “virus” that is so firmly installed in so many programs that removal could very well require deletion and re-installation of the fundamental operating system. This because as young and then not-so-young adults who were active in a “program” (the Church), years of intensive activity caused us to  replicate the virus in many venues of our lives,  fortifying those strengthened venues with long-term emotional and spiritual devotion-based activity.
Do we realize how profound that circumstance can be?
Just how powerful is that choke hold we have wrestled against and at what price do we seek and achieve genuine liberation?
I remember a year or so ago in a Mormon Gospel Doctrine class in which the lesson was the Book of Mormon chapters where King Lamoni and his father “converted” to the Nephite gospel and took upon
themselves the name “Anti-Nephi-Lehies,” laid down and buried their weapons and vowed that they would never again live by the sword.
As a discussion ensued about what it means to be truly converted and what kind of change is required if a genuine conversion occurs, we listened to what I felt was a lot of rigid and two-dimensional blathering about knowing truth, being teachable, humble and obedient – most of
which sounded to me like suspending critical thinking and devolving into cookie-cut conformity. That to me was the virus asserting itself.
I finally raised my hand and talked about Star Trek (thinking of The Next Generation.) Like the Book of  Mormon Lamanite characters who became Anti-Nephi-Lehies, Star Trek Klingons are a warrior society. They talk combat and warrior talk all the time. Such is the only way Klingon’s know how to talk. The Warrior culture infuses everything about Klingon society, Warrior principles are based on habits entrenched in the violent culture of battle, combat, victory, vengeance and death before dishonor.
The point I tried to make in that class was that all the conversion stuff about trust, humility and teachable-ness was trivial compared to the magnitude of the change in a way of both thinking and living that would be required for a warrior society to turn its back on violence and combat-mindedness.
In that regard, how do we set ourselves free and bury our old preconceptions which have become part and parcel of our infections? What happens when we awaken? For me it felt like some internal light had ignited in what was not unlike a massive inoculation of truth serum.
Healing was the object based on massive doses of critical thinking and extended logic. That for me, in reality, only began treatment involving removal of a virus that was  continuing to poison.
I would suggest that most of us who linger longer with Mormon Stories groups find themselves in a repetitive pattern of having esolved as well as unresolved feelings about choosing to live a life that
includes or excludes Grandpa Church. Perhaps we have not yet adequately dealt with the virus that may inevitably again start replicating itself in as many venues of our lives as possible.
I don’t know what the cure for that virus really is or what anti-virus program one could self-install to become free of that particular existential angst. 
I believe that it is possible to construct boundaries (firewalls if you will) that oppose the virus.
Having said that, I can then confess that for me, all that God talk, all that programmed sober-minded discussion of Eternity and a God-parent who demands that He be pleased in every sense has become
exceedingly wearisome. I have sought out my own new treasures that require no programming, that invite exploration that includes not only finding new wisdom but new entertainment as well.
I do not believe or accept any notion of a religiously defined or religion-based Eternity nor any notion that whatever possesses Eternity is a moralizing, ordinance-principle-and-covenant maker who invents the game, makes the rules and calls the score.
As I’ve written more frequently, I totally reject the entirety of the theologies of the world’s Abrahamic  religions of which Mormonism is currently number 4. In doing so, I personally feel freed and liberated from any notion of obligation or responsibility to God regarding sin, evil, atonement, redemption
or being carnally an  enemy to God.
I echo a friend whose privacy I want to respect who wrote,
” … I only “do” what I “feel” like
“doing” in relation to “The Church”. The absolute hardest
thing I ever did was to give myself permission to NOT DO Church.
When I feel like doing, being, etc anything “Church” I just
do it. Doesn’t set the precedence that I’m rushing back. It’s more like I said
– “snack”. Reading, exploring, participating, only as an
“interest” not a duty. Maybe it’s kind of a “hobby”?
But either way, I think you get my drift. It’s taken over 2 yrs and I
feel absolutely FINE with my relationship w/ the Church, or lack thereof.

Being religious without a script

thegoodsamaritan.jpg.w300h362

The Second is like unto the First.

What does it mean to live spiritually?How might we define Spiritual-Mindedness?

Do we need to belong to a church to feel religious?

Can we self-identify as individual human beings focused on goodness and moral integrity without performing as a church-attender or one who belongs to a group of like-minded human beings who are “religious” together?

Can one find satisfaction in the privacy of one’s own thoughts – reflecting one’s own values by an outward behavior not intended to draw attention to one’s self?

Can we seek goodness for the sake of goodness without a concern that others see us as good, worthy, or righteous (whatever that means?)

Is genuine moral living with a focus on walking uprightly in reverence to all things something someone else needs to validate for us?

The answer ought be obvious.

We are the masters and commanders of our own lives, We can only live and love sincerely and genuinely of our own free will and accord … without the by-your-leave of anyone else.

As it ought to be.

Let us not then worry about our public self-portrait as an expression of conformity to someone else’s notions.

Let us be our own persons, fully possessing ownership and proprietorship of how we live, what values we live by and all things we deem worthy of reverence.

A spirit-driven life need not be a system of chores, obligations and religious mechanics of motion by which a human being then feels “spiritual.”

Might the alternative to religious obligatory performing might be a hunger for a non-verbal experience of whatever divinity is and the steps one might create by one’s own light and wisdom to achieve that?

Ought we be able to be human without some need to “perform” for visible peers acting on the same stage or invisible deities sitting in a divine audience perhaps maintaining invisible mental, emotional and spiritual “critiques” of our performance?

Performance?

Must we worry about performance as a spiritual way of life?

A religion of performances with rewards and punishments might involve the following equation as an expressive answer to such a question.

Obedience + Worthiness = Spirituality and Blessings

In thinking about the variety of religions that conceive of God as a supernatural being to whom there is an obligation to worship, obey and “please” (satisfy), might we then try to portray precisely what sort of movable head sits on a throne at the pinnacle of an imagined spiritual and mental construct?

Many religions, many systems of spiritual belief and many spirit-influenced cultures do not understand religion  in any sense of performance pointed toward reward or fear of punishment.

Can anyone really provide or make available for us a spiritual experience of the divine?

Would it make sense that such experience is possible only through connection to some other human being? Regarding some other human being, can we define our own reality rather than let someone else do it for us? If we cannot, then is not such a reality our own?

Would it not be a reality that we have borrowed  –  a way of seeing life that has been “loaned” to us by someone else? As a loan, will not the lender only validate our use of loaned magic as we use it in ways approved by the lender?

In other words, our magic  is not our magic – is it not the lender’s? Would not such a borrowed spiritual reality be formulaic by definition in that it can’t be validated unless we adhere to the lender’s requirements?

If one is feeling a desire for a sense of living a religious life how might such a life proceed free from the formulas of someone else?

Can we bring a certain sense of what I call “mystic-mindedness”  that blends critical thinking which does not rely merely on logic and provable  fact but also with an internal feeling and perception that captures a sense of awe and wonder at being a part of life in some non-measurable way?

Might I suggest that it is your internal feeling that reflects whether spiritual-mindedness is part of how we  view and interact with life – whatever “reality/the real world” is to you?

Why would it be significant to understand how we individually view reality in a spiritual sense?

Many from a churched place of perception seem to see reality as an earthly world governed spiritually by a divine monarch – a king who commands, judges and rewards/punishes. There is an element of religious literalism that drives such a churched way of being.

Literalism is what might  work as a way of perceiving, judging and being. In this sense we see in our churches a world of spiritual reference materials and text books as manuals of formulaic instruction and codes of moral rules and rituals.

There is nothing wrong with this so long as one’s natural stance tends to be a response to God as a lawgiver whose scripture is in fact law – the letter of the law.

But might there not be a more personal way – driven by one’s own passion – to commune with the Divine in perceptual and conceptual ways one has created from one’s own personal soul-hunger?

Recommended reading: I’m done …

635968910060249142-1151776573_daddy-dont-leave

 

I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian” – Chris Kratzer

Something is wrong with me, I’m sure. All the accountability partners, prayer warriors and small-group interventions have somehow fallen flat. Years of Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors, and mentors hoping I’ll get serious enough to get my life on track. I feel like such a hypocrite and fake to just take a step towards your fellowship, as if I’m even close to making the grade or would ever be capable of drawing within your lines. It all leaves me so empty. I feel everything in my soul shutting down at just the thought.

I look around, and everyone else is so much more spiritual. All the inspirational posts they have on Facebook, all the good things they are doing for the Lord—so deep into worship and prayer with their eyes closed and hands raised, loving every minute of it with complete abandon. There’s this ardent love and commitment to Jesus that’s just dripping from everybody’s lips with such eloquent and Jesus-flavored verbiage. And here I am—riddled with serious doubts and questions, embarrassed that I’m not feeling nearly as into Jesus as apparently I should. Heck, truth be told, I’m still struggling with a good amount of the bad stuff you folks seem to be so far beyond. My beliefs change, my behaviors fall short, my passions fade—no wonder why, from time to time, I’ve gotten the disappointed looks, cold shoulders, and leadership “time outs.” What was I thinking, I’m way out of my league. Repentance here, pointing out sin there, keeping people from an eternal torture in hell prescribed from a God who is Love—I don’t know how you stomach it all. It’s true, I really should be so much further along by now, but for some reason, all the formulas, disciplines, rituals, steps, and “soaking” in worship aren’t working for me. And trust me, I’ve tried—really, really hard.

Church, I want to fit in so badly, I want to feel like a genuine follower in American Christianity, but I just can’t. Whatever it is you have, I simply don’t have it in me.

 

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

How a new spiritual culture developed in America.

occult-america

Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation

We finished this audio book today. Well worth the time and a survey that covers many fascinating aspects of what spirituality has come to mean in the United States over more than just the 240+ years since the founding. Recommended reading or listening (audio should be available at libraries).
“Occult” is not written about as something akin to satanic rituals, evil combinations, conspiracies or religious nut jobs. Occult simply defined is something hidden of which discovery through human effort is possible.

Napoleon Hill: Think and Grow Rich
Dale Carnegie: How to Win Friends and Influence People
Og Mandiono:The Greatest Salesman in the World
Tony Robbins’ silliness
Prosperity Gospel doofuses like Rev Joel Osteen
Ouija Boards
Seances, Divination Spiritualism and Spiritism
Course in Miracles
Entire New Thought movement
American embrace of Eastern Religions like Buddhism, Zen and the like
Most of the Self Help publishing genre
Most of the How-To religious advice books where writers pretend to know the mind of god in ways us run-of-the-mill humans don’t. (Such pretended wisdom has led to the rise of every American religion, spiritist and new age movement coming out of the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries)

all these and more are addressed

From Publishers Weekly

America has provided fertile ground for alternative spirituality, particularly the form known as occult, whose American leaders, unlike their more grandiose European counterparts, sought to remake mystical ideas as tools of public good and self-help, says Horowitz, editor-in-chief at Tarcher.

Looking back at the growth of the spiritualist and utopian movements, he introduces the reader to a parade of personalities, both familiar and obscure: dreamers and planners who flourished along the Psychic Highway.

He begins with Shaker Mother Ann, who arrived in America in 1774 followed by, among many others, pioneer prophetess Jemima Wilkinson; Poughkeepsie Seer Andrew Jackson Davis; Madame Blavatsky, who founded the Theosophical Society in 1875 and popularized the word occultism; Frank B. Robinson, the Mail Order Messiah; and Edgar Cayce with his past-life readings.

Horowitz covers a wide variety of topics, from voodoo to the tenets of the New Age, psychics in the White House, Rosicrucianism, Wicca, arcane Masonic imagery, Tarot cards, the controversial reincarnation of Bridey Murphy and the origin of the science fictional Shaver mystery. Employing extensive research while writing with an authoritative tone, Horowitz succeeds in showing how a new spiritual culture developed in America.

 

21st-Century Parenting, church, goodness and personal virtue

Frame Sign

What is it that draws people to religion?

We hear contemporary couples with young children expressing the idea that if church is to be part of family life, they want to find one that teaches lots of goodness morality and a lot less about a judgmental and punitive god that expects the same from believers.

Some of these couples have not set foot in a church since they themselves were children. Other folks come to churches seeking an alternative to spiritual and psychological attitudes that have not served them well. Some are drawn to religion and to churches after some sort of personal trauma or loss, seeking answers to questions to which they’d never given conscious prior attention.

There are also those who seek an opportunity to teach families and children in particular about giving service, expecting that the social circle within a church congregation will provide that opportunity as well as one for greater social contact and interaction. Opportunities to give service in contexts other than church congregations are abundant and I would not suggest that the primary appeal of religion is an opportunity to perform some good work in a formalized moral setting.

Just what is it that our church congregations offer in their communities – and does that offering have a real potential of satisfying the needs or hungers of those looking through the doors and windows?

The enduring power of religion is not as a social club. Rather, it lies in the realm of the needs for meaning and purpose in living. The venue in life that seems to require endurance is more in the perceptive realm of mind and spirit and is not better countered by an approach of moralizing and exhortation to conscious believing with strict conformity to tradition and doctrine.

When our non-physiological internal hungers flare up, the void to be filled is not satisfied by lasagna, a hot bath or a good night’s sleep. These hungers generate not a weakness in body, but a powerful uneasiness or restlessness with life.

Often we think we are just worried about things, wanting things we don’t have, dissatisfied with work, with marriage, with friends, our community, the economy or even our favorite pro team that’s never going to win a championship.

We may even mislabel internal spiritual restlessness as being the above those particular kinds of dis-satisfactions or perhaps as something worse, some sort of depression. TV ads now tempt us to a kind of self-diagnosis where we are encouraged to take a predisposition toward depression to a medical provider in hopes of a prescription of the advertised “feel-better-medicine.”

Religion ought to hold out the possibility to the internally restless that there is something available that fills the void – something more than just Sunday worship, potluck suppers, and cliched generalities around believing.  It should be no surprise that a hunger for something more powerful arouses not just laity, but the clergy as well.

If being spiritual  means more than just going through weekly motions and repeating worn out slogans then what ought to be offered is something responsive to that internal hunger, what Alan Watts called a “non-verbal experience of the divine.” However, such an objective currently seems out of place. In Watts’ words (written in 1947 but absolutely true today), “The Church is still overwhelmingly didactic and verbose.”

The power behind our beliefs is not our ability to become educated in what scripture SAYS, thereby permitting us opportunities to publicly display how well we can read or memorize famous verses. Power lies in what scripture, prayer, tradition and reason prompt within and I’m not talking about being prompted to obey, conform and donate.

The non-verbal experience of the divine lies within the potential of every spiritual congregation but remains somewhat elusive – even perhaps hidden. The more common emphasis seems to be more on social behavior and an effort to cause or resist change by religious rhetoric.

What about a belief system that acknowledges the mystical in our psychologies of perception? Working in a mystical venue has always been a part of living. Farmers plant corn because in their minds eye they see a field of ripe corn. Buildings are constructed because an architect visualized in his mind what he later designed on paper. Meals are prepared from scratch by mothers who know recipes by heart, bring together separate materials and turn them into tasty and satisfying dishes. What is visualized internally is the source of what is created externally.

Martin Buber, referring to a non-verbal experience of the divine, wrote,

“God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.”

That which we have labeled “mystical” is in reality a part of most everything we ourselves create and accomplish. Can we not truly say that the Mysterium Tremendum is the ultimate end we seek in actively involving ourselves in a spiritual life?

Without a mystical sense and approach to both worship and daily living, do our congregations busy themselves as social clubs more concerned about public opinion and conformity, perceiving themselves as an island surrounded by a sea of hostile, stupid or indifferent waters?

So long as our active participation is limited to a purely social venue where participation is mentally easy, almost a lazy alternative to a personal pursuit of the kind of intimacy with God portrayed by Jesus, we will go through life running the risk of doing what we do out of social habit.

Perhaps even worse, we will ultimately suffer a church-social burnout.

Clergy – all ministers – ought to openly seek a growth of independence from themselves within their congregations. Publicly telling God what to do and the people how to behave is a poor substitute for teaching and modeling spiritual independence and spiritual self-sustenance.

Telling congregations that “God has a plan for you!” Followed by some behavioral and ritual formula by which a pleased God then activates some ephemeral plan for you and your loved ones, you are invited to enter into a literalistic interpretation of a religious reality that has very little to do with the reality defined by our own intuitively activated senses.