OK, So What Do I Have To Do? (jj church sermon 0.2)

I had a disagreement with my church. I’ve mentioned it elsewhere and will forego the details here but to say that the things I was hearing from my pastor, and the actions taken by my pastor, were simply not aligned with the scripture he is allegedly teaching.

It took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that that issue has been a primary feature of organized religion since it’s inception. The basis of all Christianity is Jesus Christ pointing out that the organized church wasn’t teaching the stuff that was there, but were operating in their own self-interest. Looking at the history of religion is looking at a litany of people coming to the conclusion “the church isn’t looking at this correctly, I can’t abide this… I’m starting something else.”

It dawned on me how much of organized religion is arguing over semantics, interpretations, and simple differences of opinion about what the “important” parts are. The history of how we have defined and practiced religion is a history of rift, schism, and holy war. The irony is how central thoughts of love and acceptance of others are to the teachings of religion: in the name of and quest for peace, love, and goodness, we have created these organizations that continue to divide and set individuals against each other.

It seems obvious we are doing religion wrong. There will always be details, inconsistencies, and misunderstandings to disagree about… but we don’t have to focus on those areas. Religion is about bringing together… so the religion I am starting focuses on the things that bring us together.

  1. There is some existence beyond the three spatial dimensions and time we can perceive, affect, and understand. In some ways, I see this as the very question religion itself revolves around… the sense of knowing you are a small part of something bigger, wondering how you fit in the “grand scheme” of things. I won’t pretend to understand it’s workings, but I do think a basic belief in something laying above, beyond, around this world is the basis on which we are building.

  2. Some things are unknowable to us. Whether it is because of contemporaneous technological limitations, or our basic limitation to three physical dimensions and time, there are questions we cannot answer. Religion cannot answer these questions either.

  3. Scripture, even divinely inspired scripture, has been copied down, translated, and edited by fallible human hands, and often for political rather than religious reasons. We look to scripture for wisdom and guidance, but not for factual answers to questions… and particularly not those questions referred to above.

It is with those three basic beliefs that I started looking for the common elements of religions, in particular with regard to personal behavior: what do all these religions agree we should aspire to, should work toward? What I found was pretty simple: Forgive All, Do No Harm, Work For Good, Help and Share. These same ideals, thoughts, patterns, behaviors are basic to the teachings of all religions. And yet somehow, people who consider themselves very religious often ignore those teachings… sometimes even in the name of their religion. We lost the message somewhere, threw a baby out with some bathwater somewhere along the way.

I have an idea where I think we lost our way. I believe a big part of the problem is when we started using religion as the baseline for the behavior of others, rather than the goal for our own individual behavior. Whatever else this little church of mine one day becomes, it will be based on each of us taking the personal responsibility to Forgive All, Do No Harm, Work For Good, Help and Share.

Discussion thread for this post on the jjewell forums