Sunday, April 15, 2012

I wanted to start with love

The place I wanted to start was with love.

Finding a working definition of love, a bit less than 20 years ago, maybe, was the start of my growing up (yes, at age 45 or so). It hit like a lightning bolt, so maybe it was more like bringing Frankenstein to life.... And I think love is where it all begins and ends...

But the place I find myself at the moment is not back at that beginning, which I fully intend to loop back to in this blog, but rather thinking about how to make people's lives better.

Having been trained as a scientist, and living in a foreign country, and having heard so many stories of people hurt by or fed up with the church, I put this out shyly, tentatively, humbly. I ask that people who think the church is pointless bear with me, just for a moment. I ask that people for whom the church is everything also to bear with me. I'm thinking out loud here.

Is it possible that we could rethink "church" (and/or perhaps rename it, or "reboot" it?) and declare it to be nothing but a group of people who strive to live within a common set of principles, namely working to minimize the view of oneself as the center of the universe, and loving neighbor as yourself? How would we go about it? Is organized effort necessary? Is that where we would begin? And who is the "we" that would accomplish this rebooting?

The reason I ask is because this week, Holy Week 2012, has been packed with high-vis shucking of the traditional church. The latest is from the Bishop of Buckingham, Alan Wilson, in his blog, which then was quoted in the Guardian:
"The Church of the future may be less a civil service or conventional business, and more a movement like Alcoholics Anonymous, the ultimate locally delivered life-changing non profit. The job of the hierarchy will be to enable this, not to represent it or control it."
Hmmm. a movement, locally delivered, functioning as a life-changing non-profit. Then there was the coverstory from Newsweek magazine: "Forget the church and Follow Jesus." The author, Andrew Sullivan, says increasingly people are doing as Thomas Jefferson did and literally or figuratively cutting out of their Bibles (or their faith) all the parts that don't have to do with what Jesus said and did getting back to the purist form of his doctrines:
 What were those doctrines? Not the supernatural claims that, fused with politics and power, gave successive generations wars, inquisitions, pogroms, reformations, and counterreformations. Jesus’ doctrines were the practical commandments, the truly radical ideas that immediately leap out in the simple stories he told and which he exemplified in everything he did. Not simply love one another, but love your enemy and forgive those who harm you; give up all material wealth; love the ineffable Being behind all things, and know that this Being is actually your truest Father, in whose image you were made. Above all: give up power over others, because power, if it is to be effective, ultimately requires the threat of violence, and violence is incompatible with the total acceptance and love of all other human beings that is at the sacred heart of Jesus’ teaching. That’s why, in his final apolitical act, Jesus never defended his innocence at trial, never resisted his crucifixion, and even turned to those nailing his hands to the wood on the cross and forgave them, and loved them."
It's possible that in 2012 too many people have too many issues with the church for that to be a starting place for any sort of significant change to begin bubbling up. Maybe the 1% movement, the encampments on Wall Street and elsewhere around the world... but again, too many people with too many issues. The young vs the old; employed vs unemployed; haves vs have-nots; the return of Robin Hood to take from the rich and give to the poor. No, that's not it, either.

"IT" has to do with improving human existence in 2012, embracing all we now know -- much of it new knowledge from psychology, anthropology, game theory -- about how human beings behave and why;  how they are motivated; what broad common features make life worth living and what forces have the opposite effect. In spite of its being "new knowledge," I see it simultaneously as "old knowledge" -- a new scientific understanding and explanation -- biological grounding-- of things that great minds -- including Jesus, Buddha, and other mystics and moral leaders -- have told us were true all along.

"IT" has to do with embracing grace and nature simultaneously -- for example by recognizing that the way to maximize your own selfish personal happiness might very well be by choosing to abandon greed, materialism, and self-advancement in favor of loving and serving others;  intensely tuning in to the here and now; getting passionately caught up in your work and play.

That brings me back to the place I meant to begin, with love: Loving others by listening, really listening to them; and loving life (or God, if you are a believer) by being completely present to the world around you.

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