Life for life

As she begins, Kay Warren tells us to find the guide to her sermon in the printed materials. I get mine, which is a four-paged supplement with sentences that have blanks where I can fill in the words from her presentation like a biblical Mad Libs.

The first sentence that needs my attention is this: “The altar represented the claims of a holy and righteous God which must be _________ before he can meet with man and bless him.” The missing word is “satisfied” but I need a moment to locate my pen so it stays blank. Further down: “Any deviation from perfection must be punished by the person or a _________.” I fill in “substitute.” Kay explains during the time of the tabernacle this substitute was an animal, provided as an offering. “Why did God require a blood sacrifice?” _________.  I write “because blood represents life.” The size and prominence of the bronze altar is no accident, it really was a hugely significant component of the tabernacle, perhaps even the most important element. Blood had to be shed for God in an attempt at restitution: the gift of life for the gift of life.

Now Kay’s talk turns to the act that birthed Christianity from Judaism. “Jesus was the __________.” I stare at the blank, knowing full well that “ultimate blood sacrifice” is the answer but unable to bring myself to write the words. Jesus was a human sacrifice. I’ve never thought of it like that, and the idea feels too big and powerful to reduce to a fill-in-the-blank response. His death didn’t occur on a bronze altar but his blood shed is interpreted by Christians as the last say in the “life for life” transaction, officially nullifying the need for further animal sacrifice and rendering all the other Jewish “rules” obsolete. To flesh-out the story, my study guide provides several quotes from the New Testament, like this one from Acts 13: “In this man Jesus, there is forgiveness for your sins! Everyone who trusts him is freed from all guilt and declared righteous—something the Jewish law could never do.” Whatever indebtedness to creation or God each of us senses was paid by Jesus and our job then is to believe in the power of this transaction. “Acceptance of Jesus as my substitute makes me ________ to God.” In tiny letters I write: “acceptable.”

At the end of the service Kay has an exercise for us. She asks us to find a small rectangle of paper that has been placed in each of our packets. This piece of paper has been made to look like an old-fashioned luggage tag, with a hole punched at the top and a string to tie to an imaginary suitcase handle. She tells us to write our sin at the bottom of the tag and, on our way out of the building, she wants us to rip the sin portion off and toss it in the red garbage bins placed by the doors for this purpose.

Audience members rise and begin to leave, but I stay seated and try to think of a good sin to write on my luggage tag. Finally, I scrawl, “Not feeling worthy.” This feels like the ultimate sin, something each of us struggles with on some level that causes any self-destructive behaviors that masquerade as the real sins. The Jews built into their system of worship an answer to this sense of unworthiness, an attempt to repay God for the gift of life. Christians accepted this basic premise but substituted Jesus as the compensation and sin as the debt.

The crowd streaming out has thinned by the time I join its ranks. The tall red bins are hard to miss. Each boasts a sign. “FORGIVEN,” they announce in big letters. I go to the nearest one and feed my paper to the slot at the top. I peek in at the mound of sins and watch mine flutter to the top.

53 thoughts on “Life for life

  1. There are many spheres of redemption and this is one of them. Atonement and redemption are like a prism through which we look at what Jesus did. It is multifaceted and complex, beautiful and yet mysterious. I would say, the answer is not simple, nor is it the finish line but, rather, the starting place for entering into a relationship with God, knowing Him, and learning to trust enough that obedience is desired as if the most valuable asset in life.

    Not feeling worthy is a huge sin because it denies that you are created in God’s image and thus deeply loved and valued beyond measure. It makes you hold God at arm’s length and thus it makes it hard to accept His love. Unworthiness colors life (and not rose colored!).

    But we do have to realize we are powerless in our own strength to be without sin or, to put it another way, entirely loving toward God, ourselves, and others. God has worked with humanity long enough to know this. He stepped in and graciously provided a way. But it doesn’t end there. It’s not like we accept it, brush our hands together and say, ‘thank goodness that’s done!’, and then we wait for heaven. No, when we accept what Jesus has done, it’s just the beginning. The beauty comes in the walk from that point forward and living out our lives here, with Him, in His kingdom.

    • Ginger makes a good point. The inability to feel worthy was once explained to me as “reverse arrogance”. Through Jesus, God tells us we are indeed worthy of being saved. When we doubt that, we are, in a way, saying we’re smarter than God, that only we know when we’ll be worthy. There’s always that voice that says we’re really not. Some call that voice Satan (one of his names means “accuser), who doesn’t want us to accept the gift we’re offered. Others call it self-doubt. Whatever it is, it replaces happiness with doubt.

      Several posts ago, we were talking about the doctrine of “total depravity”. I think that flies in the face of Jesus’ message. The Bible tells us God only creates what is good in His eyes (remember all those “..and God saw that it was good” in Genesis?). God created us in His image, so we. Too are good. If we were totally depraved, we never would have been worth creating in the first place.

      To me, its about balance–the acceptance that we are worthy of redemption and forgiveness if self and others, but not the arrogance to take it for granted.

      • I guess my question remains, redemption and forgiveness for what? Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, I may think or say something damaging about another. Yes, I may swear or do something I later regret and yes there are times I say to another, “oh…I’m sorry.” But, to me this is the course of daily life in which I am making choices, consciously or unconsciously to which I must weigh the consequences and be responsible for the outcome. None of those things send me running to the cross. For my big past mistakes I am more apt to ask forgiveness from those I’ve offended, much in the manner that the Big Book of AA recommends and even then it’s about allowing myself to move into the space of self-forgiveness and self-acceptance and transcendence. Once I “hear” the words: “Go and sin no more.”, why go backwards. On the other hand, if it helps a person to feel better about themselves to keep touching the blood of the sacrifice, I judge them not, just sharing my thoughts. By the way this does nothing to diminish the deep emotional feeling I have with my spiritual connection with God. For me, it is ever a wonderful womb of possibility and probability and which often speaks to me intuitively and fills me with warmth and acceptance. And, yes, I am worthy and I always was. It just took me awhile to realize it.

        • “I guess my question remains, redemption and forgiveness for what?”
          Hi Frank
          Obviously, my perspective, coming from a “traditional” Christian background, is different than yours, but as I see it, there are some mistakes–or sins–that for some people go beyond their ability to objectively say to themselves “I have learned from my mistakes; I’ll apologize, and move on.” Now, for some, this can border on neurotic guilt, but others need to feel forgiveness from someone or something outside themselves. I think that’s where God’s redemption and forgiveness comes in. I don’t see it as “touching the blood of the sacrifice”, although I understand your meaning. For me, it mean claiming a gift freely offered and given for the asking. I do think the church has overplayed its hand on the side of guilt and too often forgets just how readily forgiveness is available.

        • Frank, I’m curious to know what helped you realize you’re worthiness because you mention that it took awhile to get to that place where you knew your worthiness had always been there. For me it seems that all the mistakes I’ve made–all the so-called sins–have really been rooted in that feeling, which I guess you could interpret as shame that doesn’t have a specific source necessarily (although at any point in my life I would have blamed it on whatever was most available, usually whatever made me “different” from others).

          • Three things helped: 1. Psychotherapy. Not only had I been raised with Catholic New England Puritan values in which guilt and shame seemed part of the atmosphere but then I turned to fundamentalism believing that the more I gave to God the more relief he would give me from my feelings of guilt and shame. Nothing could be further from the truth. Seeing the Bible as literal and God’s message to humanity I not only continued with guilt and shame but added a heavy dose of judgment. 2. Secular education in psychology and philosophy. I was a seeker of ways to feel better about myself and how to help others get the same relief. 3. Moving into a belief in spiritual metaphysics with it’s message of transparency: “Always tell the truth about who you are.” Psychotherapy helped me to work through the guilt and shame to a realization that simply because I had been raised in that culture I didn’t have to own it. I was now an adult and could choose my emotional responses and what I chose to tell myself. I could choose to forgive myself and others.
            Secular education helped me to see that I was not alone and that there were many ways to see myself as an independent thinker and a critical thinker that helped to make wiser decisions. It gave me a methodical way to reframe my life experiences. Spiritual metaphysics identified, for me, that underneath all the layers of emotional and belief baggage there was a place within me where God had always been awaiting my awareness and recognition and that once I began to pay attention to It I could use It to change my life in whatever directions I chose and, in fact, It may have been guiding me through all these searches to come to this discovery. As the old Zen saying says, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” Evidently I was ready. Essentially my search was over. I could observe all spiritual and religious thought and know that it all originated from the same One Power we call God whether some manifested it as atheism or religion or “none”.
            I would never have to move into positions of shame, guilt and judgment or unworthiness again. Once I no longer had to judge myself I no longer had to judge others. It left a lot more room for love or in Carl Rogers words, “nonjugmental positive regard” .

            • Frank, you and I share a common experience with fundamentalist Christianity. As long as I could keep my sins confessed “up to date” I felt ok about myself, but deep down I realized I was just going through a procedural ritual, a sort of magic formula to get on God’s good side.
              What I eventually came to was realize that my view of God–as was the majority of evangelical Christianity’s view and most Americans–was skewed to that of a hard, judgmental God who was tapping his foot until I ‘toed’ the line…
              God is more ready to forgive than we ever give him credit for, and his readiness was demonstrated on the cross which he initiated so he didn’t have to just be a nice, kind grandfatherly type who overlooks our mistakes. Mine is the freedom of a son.

              • a ps re repetitive asking of forgiveness: I am forgiven because I rely on Christ to pay for my sins once for all…but when I offend someone, I still ask them to forgive me. So it is the same when I “sin” (whatever you call it), I go to him (my Papa) and take care that my selfish heart is not blocking our family relationship, just as I would with anyone else. But, yeah, it’s easy to make that a ritualistic, legalistic ritual.

          • Hi Corinna: I think you read my last post on my blog about my relationship with my dad. A result of my perception that I didn’t really exist to him was that I didn’t have a clue who I was (identity); I spent most of my life trying to figure that out. I’m still working on the next post (hopefully up by tomorrow) how I finally connected the fact that I’m an adopted son of the Father with knowing that sonship as my identity and a source of great strength against all doubt. Before I came to that, my uncertainty about how my dad felt about me was a source of great shame, lack of self-confidence and lack of self-worth. Now I know I am my Father’s son, and I am worthwhile and valuable to him simply because I am his. We human beings are valuable to God, as Frank said, simply because we are made in his image. Knowing I’m a son in whom he delights gives me an assurance of even greater worth. I don’t have to jump through hoops to make myself acceptable to him. I still fail (sin) all over the place, but it doesn’t keep him from loving me unconditionally. Woof!! 🙂

            • Walt, you make me smile. I must say, though, that if I were to think about an anthropomorphic God I prefer the “grandfatherly” one you made reference to. When I was a youngster there was a Catholic Portuguese tradition that when you visited older relatives the first thing you did when you entered the house was to ask for their blessing in Portuguese. Being the firstborn of many cousins my grandfather would sweep me up in his arms as I repeated the words my mother had taught me, “Vavo sua bensa.” Loosely translated, “Grandfather give me your blessing.” The response he gave was always, “Dios da ben su.” again, loosely translated, “May God be good to you.” as he laughed and rubbed my tender cheek across his whiskered face.
              Another thing that made me smile as I read your comments is how much it was on the tip of my tongue to ask you when you last “sinned” ?? My sense is you’d have a difficult time remembering. It’s beyond my ken to think of you as a sinner. I think you sometimes think like a “sinner” but I certainly can’t visualize you as one.
              We probably are a lot alike and most likely the relationship I have with Spirit is much the same as the one you have with “Dad” and others have with Jesus or Buddha or Moses.
              There’s an energy there that is beyond explaining to others. We just know it. My prayers usually end with the words, “And so it is.”

      • Hi Tim, It seems to me that this “reverse arrogance” stems from feeling singular or apart from the rest of humanity or creation when really we’re just a part of it. I also think if we look closely at arrogance, it’s usually hiding fear–like the thought “I’m above it all” is really “I’m all alone!!”

        • Happy Saturday Evening, Corinna
          Yes, arrogance in any form is a feeling of being apart, whether because you think you’re better or worse than others. Its the inability to accept we’re all part of the same creation. I also think arrogance is a shell–when I encounter a flagrantly arrogant person, one of my first thoughts is “what is this person so afraid of the rest of the world finding out about, that he puts up a wall?’ Arrogance also seem to go hand in hand with anger–I think arrogant people get angry easily at others because “they just don’t get it the way I do.”

  2. If only these so called Christians believed they were forgiven once and for all time because of the sacrifice but they show by their behavior that they don’t because they keep asking for forgiveness of this or that sin. It has become such a comfortable behavior that even if they arrived in a place called heaven they would continue to look for forgiveness even if it was nothing more than to believe they are not worthy. Mea culpa….mea culpa. I wonder how it would have been if Kay could have shared that the tabernacle represents you and the commandments you carry in the depth of your heart and the internal Light that fills you and shines forever for you awaiting your awareness of Its presence. Once you recognize Its presence within you and you see the internal and eternal perfection the need for animal or blood sacrifice is unnecessary but simply represent the thoughts and ideas that kept you in bondage to a belief that you can now let go of, knowing that you are made in the image and likeness of God and walking in the consciousness of the Christ.

  3. Ah, you wrote down on that slip a very important topic – one that drives all of us in how we act when deciding to give empathy to others…its easier to forgive others then it is ourselves….but when we are in deep despair, its even more difficult to raise ourselves out of our own self awareness to recognize others deep despair.. Humans have so many complexities 🙂 and we all have experienced what you wrote down one time or another…

    IMO in reality, forgiveness for your “sins” comes from good mental health decisions that build on top of each other -and this is also where confidence comes from. As a child, you make a mistake for touching the hot stove – its not a sin because your mother told you not to touch it, its a physically painful mistake that you derived learned behavior from. We make many mistakes in our lifetime, and all of them are learning opportunities, but unfortunately we let Religions rather then educated decisions determine its importance – kind of like a hierarchy of sins. It can muddle up those healthy mental decisions we need to do in order to move on and be a productive member in the community…

    An example i can think of right away – for the longest time Divorce was a huge taboo and Divorced people could not get married in a christian church due to “adultery” even though they may not even had wanted the divorce – churches didnt know what to do with them. “god hates divorce” so therefore everyone hated it more, including people who had no right in “hating” in the first place. Now that the “forgiveness” era has arrived in churches the last 15 years (and they realized that they would be losing their congregants $$$) that “sin” has a lesser standing…and what was taboo 20 years ago has totally changed today with divorced people getting married in the church…but why now and not then? Culture determines the sins? Or is the Money-driven life?

    IMO,The funny thing is, in the old testament all the sins had costs – a goat here, two lambs and a wheat bundle there etc. for whatever sin you may have committed…The new testament said we didnt have to do that anymore; but in reality, is that really true in the way churches handle “sins” today? the Roman Catholic church still has Confessions….but does a person feel better after sharing their sins? Really? Or do they live healthier when they seek to understand why they did what they did and how they can avoid that mistake in the future by examining the “sin”? But if a deity can just come and forgive your “sin”, with no action on your part but somehow you will have learned from your “sin” to not repeat it, is this really mentally healthy? Or is this why we have repeat offenders, abuse in the churches, and misconstrued new religions popping up all over? I always wondered what Martin Luther would think if he were to attend a Saddleback teaching…

    Anyhow, for me and my “sins” , we examine the whys, hows, whats, wheres, to come up with healthy ways to avoid negative thinking and poor behavior ** in the future…and then apply it by living it.

    **no lambs sacrificed in order to write this comment*

    • Janice, I think the answer to the question you asked–does a person feel better having confessed his or her sins or by seeking an understanding of themselves (a paraphrase, I know), is “yes” to both in some cases. As a former Roman Catholic and current Episcopalian, I’ve experienced sacramental confession many times. Its been parodied so much that its too often treated as a caricature, but it does have value. Many times–maybe most times–I went to Confession, I did it because that’s what you do when you’re Catholic. But there were those times when I did feel truly unburdened by sharing my faults with someone who wasn’t there to judge me, but to help me forgive myself and others. I also think self-examination and seeking a deeper understanding of yourself has tremendous value; without that ability, we’d never learn not to touch the hot stove. I really don’t see that there is a conflict between the two approaches; they complement each other when held in balance. And its not quite as simple as a deity forgiving us with no action on our part. When Jesus had dinner with the tax collector, the tax collector told Him, if ever he wronged anyone, he would pay him three times what he took. There is an expectation you will do what you can to right your wrong–to put salve on the burn.

      P.S. Thanks for sparing the lamb!

      • No problem – did you ever see a baby lamb when they are brand new? they have the cutest teefers ever!! okay, i digress lol

        I think its a good thing that you were able to share your “sin/mistake” and feel deliverance from it – that is what forgiveness truly is – deliverance IMO. In the context of using a Roman Catholic Confessional, the priest that you shared that with was definitely helpful in helping you purge that…

        What i am concerned about is this ~

        My basic issue with “sharing the sin” is who determines its a sin against their God and not a human mistake in the first place? Which religion is the actual word of God that determines sins? So how does one stay within a religion when they know they are not sinning but yet that Religion points out that they are and that they cannot be included until they confess their sin? And then how does one argue with someone about the topic of sin if they profess to know what God wants and its not you right now? Is it a hierarchy system and thats why there are priests, rabbis, preachers, elders etc. who are there to set us “straight”? And why is the hierarchy system male dominated? Is that what God wants, and by whose system? WHY ARE THERE SO MANY RELIGIOUS/RELIGIONS RULEBOOKS THAT CONTRADICT EACH OTHER??? 😛 ACKK! no wonder there are nones!

        And this is where I back off slowly, realize im terribly confused by all of this…then smile and go for a ride in the mountains….

        • Hi Janice–
          You hit it one the head! As I’ve mentioned before, one of the reasons my family and I left Roman Catholicism was because it was very easy to get caught up in the rules rather than the faith. And as we all know, its an institution that does not react well to criticism. The male-dominated hierarchy is a great example. Granted, Paul’s epistle does mention the characteristics of a deacon and an elder as being men, out considering the cultural milieu, that’s hardly surprising. And elsewhere, he refers to a female disciple as an apostle. Rather than getting caught up in arcane arguments about the meaning and translation of ancient texts, I prefer to use a simpler explanation; Its about the message, not the messenger. If you have the gift of ministry, gender is secondary. It does make for some interesting visuals, though–in the Episcopal Diocese of L.A., which includes my town, the Bishop is a big man–as in physically–he’s well over six feet tall and built like a brick. One of his assistant Bishops is female, about 5 feet tall in heels. Seeing the two together is proof of God’s delight in diversity!

          As for who determines what’s sinful and what is a mistake, I was given a simple rule of thumb a long time ago; You have to know what you’re doing is wrong by Scriptural standards (not just because you’re breaking a temporal rule); you have to want to commit the wrong; and you have to actually do it. I’ve also heard sin defined more subjectively, as a feeling of living apart from God and others on a spiritual level, along with a desire to repair the relationship. I, too, share your suspicion of extraneous rules, so I think that however you define sin, if you’ve found a way to bring yourself back into balance–to make yourself feel whole while doing what you can to heal harm we may have done to others–than that is the way that leads you back to where you and God want to be. C.S. Lewis said if God wanted us all the same, He would have stopped with Adam and Eve. I think He delights in our differences and can reach us in the way that best resonates with each of us, as Walt referred to Him–as a father does with his kids. There are way too many good people in this world who are “nones” or of other faiths to make me think God wants us all the same.

          • well-expressed, Tim! For some reason after reading your response, i somehow could see myself peering around the corner at your church’s door, being tempted to come in, sit down and observe….being at peace with yourself and others really is what life is about…Your God sounds like an all-encompassing God; i like that 🙂

            • Well, we welcome nones and others of all stripes, so stop in anytime. The coffee isn’t bad, either! And both are priests are indeed women…

            • BTW, Janice, regarding Nones, there’s a quote I’ve used often on the blog; its from Romans, Chapter 2, where Paul is writing about the Nones of his day:
              “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them”

              I’ve always like that “law written on their hearts” line…I think it shows you don’t need rules and structures, just recognition of what you know to be right, and the will to do right. God takes care of the rest.

              • Tim – you give me hope that maybe just maybe the Christ centered religion is evolving into what was intended in the first place – it is for all, not based on gender nor status, it is for glorifying a God that loves, not accumulating wealth. I have been in churches where that same exact scripture/quote and its surrounding scriptures/quotes were used against “gentiles/nones” – being preached as “dont worry, the people who wont believe will be condemned by God anyways because they know better – so dont try to work so hard on converting those “lost” ones – ease up on your conscience, pass them on by”. This was spoken by a male pastor, to help a group of elderly ladies feel better about themselves not choosing to help out a woman who wasnt “ready” to be “converted” yet. I stood there with a WTH expression on my face, and proceeded to organize a food drop at this same womans apartment – her and 3 children were hungry due to her being a single parent and unemployed: spiritual food can come later thank you – i could give two poops that they were from a divorced family and never been baptized – that does not make them less then human beings…I like your interpretation of where this should be applied much better! Too bad the majority of christ centered religions doesnt agree with you. I have found there are many like you, but they are constantly struggling about having to do the “right thing” that may be against their church’s doctrine and interpretation of the scriptures/quotes that will not be changed. why?

                Like Corinna, I was fortunate to have over a 45 year period! (yikes!) to have had opportunity to not only attend different Christian denominations, but at one point be a member and ministry leader within quite a few, for decades each – this gave me privileges of seeing how the mechanical workings of churches are formulated. But it has changed my way of life and put me into a direction of seeking that “there has to be something humane, better then this!” Unfortunately I have seen many more instances of building the “church” rather then building people…against the exact principles of Christ – last time I checked, Jesus wasnt about building new buildings, he was about spreading this new concept that God loves you no matter what. This 46 years of revelation was more then enough for me to determine that a man’s God is a money making endeavor on those who want to be exploited in exchange for Hope. Hope is a beautiful thing – religion destroys it to something that “it is yours, but only if you repent, follow what we say and tithe regularly.” Once upon a time then, I used to believe after all of this that salvation and forgiveness of my “sins” was obtainable through God without a church – then i was preached to that no, you must have salvation and the church, not by just one male pastor but by many… “Too bad, I’ll take my salvation back thank you, and give it a proper home..”.

                I am all for the gathering of worshippers of their God, but when you open the back door to churches and see exactly how they are developed, this is what you are going to see as far as my experience – Its somewhat kind of like going to the rendering plant after you been to the fancy market where the final product is displayed in such a beautiful artistic way…or making sausage – tastes great, but seriously, you dont want to watch.

                It was not pretty, nor loving and its drive for money and power is sickening. And its male dominated without too much concern for women and children’s personal faith, only that they “obey” so they too can be rewarded in heaven like a man…theres even a glass ceiling in many churches, ugh. And unfortunately it has permeated every church at one time or another based on their firm belief that the new testament is Gods word – and “it says right here in scripture”. . I wish i could say my experience was localized, but it was across the denominations and the US, and in seeking more information about atheism, I have read now many more experiences of others. It has to stop – it causes wars, breakdowns of families, and most importantly, breakdown of personal faith. We will become a Godless nation by our own hand.

                Religion is entrenched in cultures, but since the science of Anthropology is so “new” we are learning that cultures can change for the better…so there is that hope…well, time for more coffee and to feed the horses, enough pontification for this morning – shame on you Tim for making me think hard LOL

                • Hi Janice, Thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective. You’ve been a “miner” for a long time. I’ve thought a lot about the fact that my experience into the places of worship I visited has been influenced by the fact that I am a white female. I’ve wondered how my experience would be different if I were a man or if I were not white. Of course, these issues are there whether we’re in a place of worship or just making our way through a normal day out in the world. What people perceive us as or label us as changes how we’re treated and what’s expected of us. I haven’t figured anything out much beyond that, but I have thought about it.

                  • Corinna, I think a journalistic perspective is reflected well in your writings; your personal “white female” viewpoint doesnt seem to sway your detail to describing what you are observing. I think youve done a good job in staying gender neutral while describing what you see (versus what you “feel”)… and thats why I like to read what you have written…i think if you were to write as C. Nicolaou without reference to a feminine name, one could interpret you either as a male or a female writer – please take that as a compliment in the highest form 🙂

                    • Well, thank you Janice. I appreciate that. Only one problem: things are about to change!! You’ll see in this next post that I must sit in a designated area just for women–an experience I’ve never had before.

    • Hi Janice, Your comment made me laugh. As a person who grew up in a secular setting, I have to admit I’ve benefited greatly from psychologically therapeutic tools. Those methods were the only means I had at my disposal to sort through my feelings and behaviors, etc. and I made full use of them. What I’m seeing now is that religion can be another sort of “toolbox” and it addresses the same kinds of issues we all struggle with in some of the same ways. But I can also see that it can give a person another perspective–like a much broader point of view that gives us a sense of our lives as a part of this much bigger story. I don’t think a person necessarily needs religion to see things like this, only that it offers this context that puts all the incidences of one’s life–all the things we think are SO IMPORTANT–into perspective.

      • Good! Levity is needed when we deal with such heavy topics as forgiveness, as we all know!

        Corinna, You do bring up a good point of religion as a toolbox; however, for future generations of women – which/whose religious toolbox serves their needs for a healthier lifestyle? At this point in Humanity, I dont think we are there yet in having a formalized religion that covers all the bases when it comes to being female within a context of a church, synagogue, mosque, heck even a culture. It scores me to think that there are many cultures where women are not even considered an equal human being – no matter how I try to understand the culture in order to be able to respect that certain belief, that stumbling block gets me every time. Even within the context of the universal Sciences we are not adequately represented. So yes, religious rituals may be able to offer certain solutions to humane problems, but at what cost to a female and her descendants for the long term?

        IMO personally what I do require within a religious context is being able to worship a God, my God, Thee God without judgement or restraint due to my sex, or even the opposite spectrum of glorifying my sex. I dont want to exclude people nor fit them into slots due to religious gender discrimination, in order to have organization – there are other ways to achieve organization within a culture. Men and women are physically created different, but we share many commonalities – we are both from the human race – we love, hate, grieve internally all the same. When religions point out the gender differences and set “laws” / “doctrines” due to those differences, that speaks of gender discrimination loud and clear, and how worse it can be if you choose not to follow their laws/doctrines – you are choosing to “sin” and are no longer part of the “righteous” group…even if that sin is something as silly as preaching in a church as a woman, or touching a man while you have your period, or even wanting to divorce permanently your husband. I dont see anything in that particular ‘forgive me of my female sin you pointed out” type of thinking I want to use on the topic of forgiveness, but you are certainly right – it certainly helps us comprehend why people think/ react the way they do within their religious beliefs due to these laws/doctrines.

        Enlightenment of the soul is a personal journey – and if that journey is from a female’s perspective, there are far more roadblocks then toolboxes set up within religions to impede that journey. History has proven they have not been beneficial in promoting equality for all human beings, no matter what sex or caste you are. Jesus was right on some things – the road is very narrow, especially for women.

        IMO, everyone is influenced by what their upbringing/culture has been – how much better that a “none” can make an educated decision when observing religions without that influence – and thats why im here, because Im interested in how you process this in your personal Journey 🙂

        So respectfully I thank you for having this journey of yours public – it certainly makes us think out loud,and within a proper format – Thank you!!!

        • Janice, thank you for bringing a different point of view to the discussion. I have been a voice for the spiritual but not religious since almost the beginning of these conversations. I wouldn’t really say I feel like a “none” but that is basically what I would be officially designated! I share your opinions about religion and women…..”religious” roadblocks have contributed to the cultural roadblocks that we find in all parts of the world….and, as you have said, religions have impeded the journey’s of women toward basic equality through time….and I think that the men in power in the churches preferred it that way…..and still may in some circles.

          And I would like to be so brazen as to say a few words for Carmen, who is unable to respond to our discussion being half-way across the world!….but I am sure that she is clapping long and clapping loudly for your words, Janice, as they are similar to those I have heard from her in off-blog communication.

          I also do not understand the need for “sin” and sacrifice and all that goes with that. I do not need this idea in my broader perspective.
          I don’t think that any of my blog friends would say that I am arrogant……blasphemous, perhaps, but not arrogant!….but I believe that human beings can make sense of our lives and be a part of a bigger story without all of the mythology and church doctrine. Like almost everyone, I struggled with my self-worth during my teen years and my 20’s. I was helped greatly by a pastoral counselor whom I worked with for several years…..that is partly where my toolbox originated! He understood the depth of my spirituality and made sure that it stayed intact without ever mentioning his religious preferences. I am much indebted to his compassion and clarity.

          But my journey was never about being “unworthy.” Finding my inherent worth? Yes. Some of this is about language….let’s not forget its ability to bend ideas! Unworthy is a very denigrating idea which reaches far beyond wondering why your mom treated your sister differently than you or why you seemed to choose to be in relationships which are are unhealthy…..that doesn’t make a person unworthy. I didn’t need to return to the Methodist Church to sort out my life choices, for sure!

          I respect other people’s journeys…but that doesn’t stop me from being puzzled about why everyone is not a none!
          Love to you guys!!

          • I’d never call you blasphemous, Merrill–far from it! Nor do you obfuscate, nor are you obstreperous (sorry, Janice, its kind of an inside joke…)

              • I pontificate … a lot. does that count for something? LOL

                Good morning, Guys, its gonna be a nice one! (((group hug))) LOL

                • You left out a couple of female dominated religions, The Wiccans and Centers for Spiritual Living but maybe you want more Jesus than they have to offer. LOL

                  • LOL thats why i wrote in my above thesis statement LOL ~ ” without judgement or restraint due to my sex, or even the opposite spectrum of glorifying my sex. I dont want to exclude people nor fit them into slots due to religious gender discrimination, in order to have organization – there are other ways to achieve organization within a culture” ~

                    thats just it – I want to believe in a gender neutral God – I may have studied the suffragette movement for decades, but I am not into “one or another” theory at all…at some certain point im hoping humankind will evolve to that point… I am married to a great guy, who also doesnt like the fact that his wife’s status as a human (not as a mother or wife figure, but HUMAN) is tied down and reduced within most churches format. I am his equal in our business, home and most everything – but he knows i work well with the horses, so the horses are mine…

                    Id like to think that in the future there will be more men who think that women as a whole in religion do not have to be “reduced” in order to let men “shine” as leaders. But unless they change their viewpoint of scripture/quotes, generations of young men are being taught the exact opposite. Unfortunately for them, Woman can and do rule over men frequently in Politics, Business and World affairs. And they do it just as well or just as terrible LOIL…But women and men? women = men, men = women. Funny how nature or god or whoever designed/evolved that egg/sperm thang – we need each other and we are both as equally important in that regard.

                    Plus i dont like the pointy hats in wiccan…too gauche for my tastes…

                    • And so I settle for the wonderful Psychologist Carl Rogers whose famous book, “On
                      Becoming A Person” didn’t worry about gender.

          • Merrill:
            I was snagged by your comment about language. I strongly agree. The broken-window syndrome seems obvious to me; perhaps too slow in action, but effective in its erosion. Isn’t the importance of world decisions reduced by the gaming metaphors and banalities attached to the “players” and “level playing fields” referring to leaders and their actions. Attempts to familiarize and demystify generally obscure elements of society seem laudable, but describing something wonderful as “kick-ass” leaves me unmoved. “Whenever two or more”…feels right to me until one of them starts indiscriminately shoveling the language; I find I swallow and seek out another two. Thank God (You know who You are) for this blog. I live a simple life; somewhat reflective, but generally more inclined to “what” more than “why”; “now” more than “after death.” Thank you, everyone. You all have caused me to try to concretize some of my ephemeral thoughts. The concrete has a long way to go before it sets. I may be waiting for Godot but it’s not an idle (idol?) wait; Heaven and Earth, Horatio.

  4. I am a simple soul who does not see things as complexly as some, but I finally overcame my feelings of unworthiness after I read “Believing Christ” by Stephen E. Robinson. He explained how many of us believe in Christ but we do not believe Him when He says He will save us, that He has saved us by His sacrifice on our behalf. For the first half of my life I didn’t believe in Christ at all, so I have come a long way.

  5. I overcame feelings of unworthiness when one night, feeling very alone, sitting in the floor reading my Bible by the light from the streetlight outside of my living room window I read these words:

    “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:6-10)

    It just struck me then that it wasn’t something I could earn or that I deserved; it was simply because He loved me. It made all the difference.

  6. And not directly related directly either, but obliquely so! I read an article in the paper today where a new study from the Pew Research Center has found that more than a fifth of Jewish Americans say they have no religion, but that they still identify themselves as Jewish. The article goes on to say, “As more Americans of all faiths turn away from religion, Jewish secularism seems to be booming, too. Pew found that the share of ‘Jews of no religion’ appears to have surged, compared to a somewhat different study a dozen years earlier. Younger Jews are much more likely to shrug off religion than their elders.” I found this interesting.

  7. Hi Janice

    As I mentioned, our church’s rector (priest-in-charge), is a woman. She’s been there about two years, and last year, we attended her official installation service, presided by the Diocesan Bishop (the big dude I mentioned). Parts of the service referenced God as Mother as well as Father, in a way that made perfect sense and seemed to flow naturally. Personally, I don’t have strong feelings either way, since God is Spirit and nether male nor female. As long as any term used to refer to God is used respectfully and not simply for shock value, I don’t have much of a problem with it. I read an article a few years ago during the Christmas season about the so-called “war on religion”, where a city has removed a nativity scene from public property (darn that pesky Frist Amendment)! The paper’s op-ed piece made a good point: if God is omniscient and all-powerful, is removing a nativity scene really going to hurt His feelings?

    I the idea of church is pretty simple: “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there will I be.” I do think there is value in community; after all, Jesus did say “two or more..” because it’s important to be able to spend time with people who share your beliefs and with whom you can discuss your philosophies. I can say, for myself, many of my small group discussions have both strengthened my faith and helped it evolve. One of the things I like about the Episcopal/Anglican tradition is its ability to exist in what Brian McLaren calls “faithful tension”. Episcopalians run the spectrum from traditional “Anglo-Catholics” with rites reminiscent of the pre-Vatican II Roman church, all the way to charismatic. I think that’s what drew us to Episcopalians after a lifetime in the confines of the Roman church. It was as if someone said. “Yes, you can be different and don’t agree with 100% of what we say, but the door will always be open.” That is what works for my family and me.

    Others find comfort in more structured faith traditions, while some people find strength in looser organizations. I think we all need to find that point that resonates with us spiritually, where you hear an inner voice telling you, “Yes, this is what will take you down the right path.”

    I’d also like to think the Christian way to act is with love and charity regardless of the audience. I prefer to use St. Francis and Mother Theresa as my paradigms for faith in action. Almost none of the people Mother Theresa and her order ministered to are Christians, but that didn’t stop her. And I think actions like hers are far more likely to influence the way people think about Christians and Christianity than 1,000 loudmouth preachers slamming their Bibles on the 1,000 pulpits. If fear of damnation is the only reason you’re a Christian, then you have it backwards. Jesus expects us to create His kingdom here on earth, and the only way to do that is to emulate His actions while He was here on earth.

  8. How wonderful that one can have that selection to choose from within their community – i mean this sincerely. And I totally agree with being “Christ-like” , within the community that you are in. It sounds like you and your family were able to make an educated decision, and have the selection to choose the right fit for you…And I totally can see your viewpoint … However, not all of us have that option – when i was younger, yes, because I lived in a populated state with many diverse ideas which included progressive churches.. But a recent move in the last 5 years has put me within a less populated community where I do not have the ability to choose a church where I would be freely accepted – actually i now live an hour away from any church, and the US State I live in has only under a million people in it.. On the contrary, I would have to either move, or change my personal beliefs in order to be accepted as a member within the local churches here – which I personally attended a few for the first two years. The good thing is that in general, i like people no matter what religion they choose or not choose, and I like to help out, or have dinner parties for no good reason at all but to have fun, so i am accepted within the community even though I have purposely chosen to not “go to church”. I can be like Jesus – whether its sitting down and eating with neighbors for fun, or whether its helping out the elderly ranchers down the road when theres a fire.. Anyhow, empathy is a choice not an emotion and its one that i believe in wholeheartedly, and Jesus was an excellent role model in that regard…that being said –

    Here it is in a nutshell – Its not the condemnation from God or from people, its the distinct special rules for women that religions have that I cannot promote in good faith. Sorry, but I just cant suck it up, pretend to look the other way and take one for any God on that level anymore. And if Im told that the New Testament, or any other religions holy word is exactly what God wants – subjugation due to one’s sex – and that we have to wait it out until death and we are obliterated from our sex, then nope. no. NO. Girlfriend here dont play that lol. I have worth and value as a human, not just as a woman, as the same as a Man has worth and value as a human, not just as a man. I will not teach anything different to future generations nor role model anything different. Until the world understands this, there is not much hope for any of us – that is truth. And that is why I will not follow willingly anymore. Your churches belief of women = men is rare, and I know you know that – that is why you are there.

    So on the internet, I like coming here for my Corinna “fix” once in awhile (limited by satellite coverage lol) and then being able to have the ability to comment (pontificate lol) afterwards with like minded and not so like minded people. This makes me content 🙂 ,and I can apply what i learn or someones viewpoint that makes me think out loud to who i may have contact with (mailman? occasional neighbor checking fence? Husband and horses? LOL) For some people, they would consider that I am sinning against God because I dont make an effort in supporting a church body or that I am questioning my beliefs and others. But really what constitutes a church body? Does it have to be in physical form, or does the internet apply – who says? And if I cant question the concept of religion or my own beliefs, or a religious doctrine for answers, is it really then a voluntary decision to participate? Or does the “real” God require enslavement to those in leadership at all costs to prove your belief/faith? Is that what “real” salvation is? nope. no. NO.

    The funny thing is, my concept of my self worth didnt become genuine and real until I decided I no longer needed someone or something from outside of me to validate it. I am worthy because I am – there is no one else like me – and all of us have that inside of us. No stamp of approval/forgiveness from anyone/anything needed. And that is what real freedom is.

    • “We hold these truth to be self-evident, that all men [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..”

      Now where have I heard those words before…..that little phrase, “self-evident” meant there’s no need to adopt complex philosophical or moral theories to justify treating people justly and decently. We as a nation haven’t always lived up to those words, but at least they give us a goal to work towards.

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