The Heart of God Rather Than The “Heart of Christianity”

On this blog, I’ve always tried to be completely honest about matters of faith and non-faith, my sometimes agnosticism, and other personal matters. I’ve wanted to show that despite how some Christians act in public and despite how some who have no faith act, there can still exist a middle ground in which these matters are by no means settled. I am uncertain most of the time about the state of my heart when it comes to matters of faith. There has never been a time, since my conversion in 1983, when I did not think about God, Jesus, or the church or when I didn’t think about matters of philosophy and how we all fit into the various views out there. That’s just me and the way I’m wired. You see, I see nothing wrong in asking the hard questions, in learning the hard answers, or dispensing with the nonsensical.

I’ve often thought I need a therapist to help me sort out all the conflicts I deal with on a daily basis, but who has the money or the time? Blogging seems cheaper, if not completely free of the wisdom of inflicting my weirdness on the public at large. Blogging is also missing sometimes that healthy give-and-take between people and also that naked honesty wherein only truth-telling can thrive. So yeah, there are those shortcomings. But, there are always weirder people than me out there in blog-land, so I don’t fret most of the time. Who was is that said “Don’t go looking for a spiritual director, one will find you when the time is right.” Well, the time is now, whoever’s out there willing to take me on! You can show yourself cause I really, really could use one. In the meantime, I just keep on inflicting it upon you whether you like it or not. I want you all to know that there are people who have faith out there, just maybe not in the things you may have faith in. There are those out there (me included) who believe that Jesus is the Eternal Christ and who came to spread the Love (kingdom) of God to the ends of the earth and that, mostly, men have severely botched the job. They’ve set up rules and conditions to keep people away from God’s love. I call them “the gatekeepers.”

So, in this mood today, I ran across something at explorefaith.org that got me thinking about how simple Jesus’ message really is. Someone wrote to the website and asked, “What is the heart of Christianity?” Dr. Marcus Borg and the Rev. Anne Robertson responded (the words in bold are their emphases):

For me, the heart of Christianity—Christian fundamentals for our time—would be, first, the reality of God. Without a robust affirmation of the reality of God, Christianity makes little important sense.

Secondly, the centrality of the Bible. To be Christian is to be in a continuing, ongoing conversation with our sacred scriptures.

Thirdly is the utter centrality of Jesus. Christians are people who find the decisive revelation of God in Jesus, in a person. That means when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.

The fourth fundamental is that a relationship with God is known in Jesus. Christianity is not primarily about believing; a relationship involves a much deeper part of ourselves than simply the content of our minds.

The fifth fundamental is a concern for the transformation of ourselves and of society. I’m convinced that the Bible from beginning to end is both personal and political, concerned with both spiritual matters and social matters, and the life of Christian faithfulness involves both of those. —Dr. Marcus Borg

To me, the absolute center of Christianity is embodied love. In my reading of the Bible and in my experience, that’s it…hook, line, and sinker. In Genesis it is God’s love embodied in Creation, with every part dependent on every other part for perfect function. When human beings couldn’t seem to keep their part of the harmony going, God embodied love more specifically in human form, in the person of Jesus. Jesus thus becomes both the embodiment and the revelation of God’s love.

Christians consider themselves to be the Body of Christ…those who try to continue to embody God’s love in and for the world. If it is not done in love, it is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. It matters even more than faith, Paul says. When Jesus is asked in Luke 10 what must be done to inherit eternal life, the answer is to love. Love is at the center of Creation, because God is love. Embodied love is at the heart of Christianity because that’s who Jesus is. —The Rev. Anne Robertson

I would agree with both of their statements except for one thing. In Borg’s statement I would put Jesus second and emphasize the point: “…when Jesus and the Bible [contradict] each other, Jesus trumps the Bible.”

Of course, many will wonder how we can know that what Jesus said are really his words and not the newly forming church hierarchy’s own words inserted into early documents. Well, we can’t know that for sure, but what we can know is that Jesus’ overall life and mission are visible for all to see in the words that are there. He brought a message of inclusion for all those that humans deem undesirable. The New Testament is full of examples where he welcomes those caught in sin or those ostracized from communities. And I believe it translates over to today. Those we wish to exclude, he includes. Those we hate, he loves. There are no conditions. I would add to the above statements that the heart of Christianity SHOULD be: Love God (however that’s defined) with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength AND Love your neighbor (whoever that is) as you would love yourself. (Mark 12:28-31– Mark is the earliest and most reliable gospel tract).

Sadly, I don’t see too much of that love going on right now. I see more religion and rule-keeping more than love. If this makes me a deconvert from religion, then count me in. I am forgoing what passes for religion for true spirituality. Some people can’t seem to see the difference, but there is a huge difference. God does not reside inside church buildings. It is we who bring God to church and it is we who can take God back out of it again. God (however that is defined) dwells in the heart. Forgive me if I’ve not shown much of my heart lately. I’ll try to do better and thanks for being willing to be inflicted with my meanderings.

Blessings!

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10 thoughts on “The Heart of God Rather Than The “Heart of Christianity”

  1. This is a wonderfully written and heartfelt post. It certainly touched mine. I think Jesus trumps the Bible as well, as odd as that sounds to some people.

    I hope you consider contributing to The Handbasket. Donald is going to write some stuff too. We have a pretty good group going. We could really use writing of your caliber. 🙂

  2. Thanks Kay! I got it and successfully logged in. I LOOOOOOOOOVEEEE the name of the blog, by the way. And I better get busy, folks are postin’ away and I’ve done nothing!! 🙂

  3. Well said.

    For me, the centre of the Christian faith is Christ. And the Way of Christ he calls us to is encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount and in particular the Beatitudes. Even if everything else could be shown to have been written by someone else, those words have an unwanted quality that to me speaks of divinity.

    But the problem is that those words show me up. Those words convict me, reveal my true self. I’m not sure I can call myself a follower of Christ when I read them. I’m not sure that the Christian church has anything to do with Christ when I read them. And in that point of despair, I’m totally confused.

  4. Hi MOI,
    About a year ago I was very restless, struggling and grappling with christianity and the church and the christians and the bible and trying to get it to all fit together and always coming out with more confusion. At that time I was struck by a phrase you wrote about yourself describing that you had not yet found “a new resting place.” I loved that image and it helped me to realise just how restless I was, but in fact had always been with christianity. Like you, I had a dramatic conversion experience, but that lead me into churches and all the rest and … well, we know all about that. Finally, 3 years ago I finally left the church and started a home group with other “christians who don’t go to church”. Then, bit by bit, I questioned more and more the foundations of christianity, until I finally decided it was perhaps time to drop the whole thing. Thus began my painful journey of deconversion, and you and Roopster were leading lights and pioneers that blazed the trail I was to follow. But then something quite unexpected happenned. Just over 1 year ago someone told me to read a book called “Conversations With God” I read book 1 and was very skeptical, as it did not match up with the bible. Not at all. But I stuck with it and re-read it several times, and it slowely dawned on me that there were other models of God and Man, very different to the biblical model. As I absorbed the CWG model more and more, it made more and more sense to me, and I discovered that the storm had been calmed and I had found a new “resting place”.
    I am saying all this simply because it pains me to see you wrestling and struggling with the christian/biblical model, when there are other models out there that may serve you far better. What if you started out with another set of assumptions? What if you could trust your feeling to tell you the truth? What if you were not born sinful? What if God did not require your worship or your obedience? What if there was no judgement after death? What if you decided how well you were doing/ What if you were here to learn nothing and go nowhere, but to simply create and experience yourself in any way you chose? What if you were to change your truth easily and often? What if everything you thought was right was actually right?
    You get the idea. For me, the CWG books 1-3 have been a tremendous liberation of thought out of the prison of fundamentalism, and all I am really trying to say is that I wish you could share the same resting place that I have found, as almost all of the thing I used to stress and hassle over when I was using the biblical/christian model have now evaporated away and I find my mind free to focus on getting on and creating my life.
    Sorry for the long comment – but we do go back a while so I’m sure you will indulge me going on a bit!
    Peace!
    Jon

  5. Hi Joe,

    Welcome to the realm of confusion, but in a good way! One step away from chaos, but not quite “there” yet. Ye olde Handbasket as Kay would call it.

    I’m with you on following Christ, but I would take it further as a living from the inside out kind of “following” never as just following a mere example or in someone’s footsteps. I’m a firm believer in the indwelling Spirit that guides our actions. If nothing else, I feel that this Spirit and Christ are one and same and if a believer has that, then mere “following” will never do.

    After all, the bible says that God works in us the desire to do what God wants and gives us the will as well (Phil. 2:13). I think we all try way, way too hard to do those things that don’t come naturally. When I relax and follow the Godly flow as my daughter puts it, everything seems to fall into place.

    Good to see you over here!

  6. JON!!!! Good to see you again!! I’ve missed you. In fact, I was going through old email (yes, I’ve saved them) and wondered what you’ve been doing. 🙂

    You wrote:
    “What if you started out with another set of assumptions? What if you could trust your feeling to tell you the truth? What if you were not born sinful? What if God did not require your worship or your obedience? What if there was no judgement after death? What if you decided how well you were doing/ What if you were here to learn nothing and go nowhere, but to simply create and experience yourself in any way you chose? What if you were to change your truth easily and often? What if everything you thought was right was actually right?”

    You know, I’ve increasingly come to this place myself, BUT, I still think that I can come to that place with the “biblical” model of Christ. I’m not big on books written by people who claim to be “channels” of some new knowledge. I don’t mean any disrespect for those who read it, it just never seemed ok to me somehow. But, that’s never stopped me before from reading whatever I’ve come across. For God’s sakes, I even picked up and read parts of the Urantia book, which is some doing, so I can certainly give this a go. In fact I think the library where I work has it. So, I will be open and explore new horizons.

    It’s so good to hear from you again. Are you still blogging? You always had something wonderful to say each time.

  7. Joe, that’s the problem exactly.
    “For me, the centre of the Christian faith is Christ. And the Way of Christ he calls us to is encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount and in particular the Beatitudes.”
    Those words speak to me of divinity also. But, since I see Christ as a channel rather than as essentially divine, I can’t call myself a Christian. To do so would be dishonest, and a blasphemy against those who do believe in Christ as divine.

    I buy the message, and I agree with you that a very few get close to taking on its full implications. For the numinous part, I’m afraid that however much you read and/or discuss these things, convictions of that sort are simply things you either have or you don’t.

    Fundamentalists have accused me of “hardening my heart”. I really don’t think this is true. My faults, which are legion of course, lie elsewhere.

  8. Hi MOI,
    I’m back blogging but rather sporadically. The main use I had for the blog was as a way of venting while I was struggling through the deconversion process, but now that is mostly over the blog does not serve me for much.
    Anyway, like you I am very wary of most New Age literature. Much of it strikes me as weird and spooky and I stay away from most of it.
    However, CWG Book 1 has been really really helpful for me in finding a new model to use in thinking about God and Man. I don’t mind one way or the other whether you read it, my motivation is more along the lines that it helped me to find a “new resting place” and it would be great if that happened for you too.
    Jon

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