Tag Archive: Religion


My Lord, What Love Is This?

I can’t remember how I started thinking about this a few minutes ago, but I’ve just been grossed out, outraged and horrified by a piece of Church teaching that has never really hit me as so horrific before. It’s been presented as something good and deeply loving and pastoral and sadly necessary, without question, totally uncritically, and I along with many others have swallowed it, accepted and validated it in exactly the same way.

It is about the way God (and, by extension, His leaders, both temporal and spiritual) supposedly disciplines us.  He has been likened to a Middle Eastern shepherd. They lead their sheep from the front, apparently.  They have names for all of them (if it still works that way).  Jesus said His sheep know His voice and won’t follow another.

We have been told, so I suppose it must be true, that if a shepherd had a sheep that was constantly wondering off, he would break its leg and carry it until it was healed.  During that time the bond between the shepherd and the sheep would become so strong that the sheep wouldn’t wonder off after its leg had healed.  Wow.  How deep.  How lovely and romantic and heart-breakingly beautiful, that a shepherd could love his sheep that much – we are supposed to think, and feel, and some of us have, for many, many years, and grieve that we make it necessary.

I know this is going to offend a lot of people, but I think this thinking is warped and comes from a sick mind and makes its recipients and adherents sick, blind and cruel, to and about themselves and others.

Even if that shepherd thinks he loves his sheep, he is deluding himself, maybe because of the demands of the job and his need for it, and not facing the fact that he is raising them for one sole purpose: to be butchered, slaughtered, killed, violently deprived of life and end up on someone’s dinner plate, feeding someone’s selfish, animal appetites – these days, maybe mine.  And in the meantime he is causing an errant sheep pain by breaking its leg just so he doesn’t have to keep going to find it when, with its awesome, cute and endearing little personality it doesn’t always go where he wants it to go on its innocent and oblivious, happy little journey to the slaughterhouse.  So it might get attacked by wild animals. He is raising it to be killed anyway, so rescuing it can only be an economic and employment contract concern.  Where are his love, joy, humour, delight, relationship, humility and respect, in, with and for the animal?  So as I say in my title, what love is this??? How is this really a model of love in any kind and healthy person’s mind?

The Middle Eastern shepherd would lay down his life for the sheep.  Among other things, he would get them all into the pen at night and lie down and sleep at its entrance, to protect them.  And yet he was taking them to certain death.  That was the purpose.  So maybe this was required of the shepherd by his employers rather than being anything like the act of love and devotion it is presented as.  This has been far too romanticised and idealised outside of its economic context.  I wonder why shepherds were a despised group?  I’m sure that, with their mindset (if, as spiritual principle makers would have it, there was love and concern for the sheep involved), they must have had many emotional and mental problems.  I’ve often thought this in recent years reading David’s Psalms.  But everyone loves King David, and so should I.  I mustn’t touch him.  I’ll get myself strung up, by all sorts of people.

Oh, wait – I already have done!  Would someone please be so sweet and so kind as to cut me down?

Yesterday in my blog entry I said I thought the people I believe are trying to communicate with me and get me to go to them should be coming to me, and I thought I should clarify my reasons for this.  I did state my position on it years ago, from which I have not, by my actions and commitments, deviated very much, although I have given in to emotion and feelings of urgency (mine and others’) from time to time, but my position remains the same.

First, I think it is an abuse of power for people to use media or any other platform to put people on the spot at a distance by identifying them to themselves and others in various ways, while not actually naming them and fully and openly committing themselves to the communication.  They assume the right to do this while giving themselves a get out clause if, for some reason, they don’t like the person’s response.

Second, in my case they seem to be saying that, now they are actually convinced of what I have been saying for years, and now they have read my defences and explanations, everybody’s doors are wide open to me, I am not alone, I have support if I will respond.

a) That should ALWAYS have been there.  Instead, they decided it was all a mental health issue and distanced themselves from me and everything I said.  Apart from that, they are still hiding behind the same stuff they have always used.

b) I believe what they have been doing to me has been a human rights abuse from the beginning, and they are prepared to continue with it if they don’t get the required response from me: the media targeting, invasion of privacy, gang stalking (even if it is from official and so-called responsible people), computer hacking or collaboration with other sites I use (I don’t know how it works, but how else would they get some of the information about my internet activities that they have (see yesterday’s entry re: John Baldock and St Matthew’s Church)?

“I believe that to abuse a person’s legal and human rights until further information comes to light that makes you think it might possibly be time to recognise and respect those rights again as long as the person co-operates with your terms, is neither justified nor reasonable.”

I just made that up.

For everyone they try to convince that they are a special case in the way they are being ‘reached out to’ for restoration (Church terms, I think, rather than legal), there are many others who, for one reason or another, are not receiving the same overtures.  I said years ago that I stand with other involuntary mental health patients whose legal and human rights have been butchered and who have been virtually abandoned and invalidated, along with their perceptions and true assertions, because of the prejudice and stigma which are attached to their mental health diagnosis and are possibly the original cause for it in the first place.  There are many people who appear on tv programmes these days whose voice of gratitude for their diagnoses is promoted.  I don’t know, I haven’t checked this statistically, but I think there are many more who, like me, are not grateful for diagnoses or the ways they have been treated.

I feel a lot of pressure and less-than-honest expectation is being put on me to show a right heart and attitude.  I think I have to question the heart and attitude towards me of the people who do this.  I believe I am showing a right heart and attitude, but I hope it is towards others who have been similarly disenfranchised rather than people who want to secure a nice relationship with the odd individual here and there and come to a loving understanding rather than come clean unilaterally about their abuse (hate crime, if you will) and give proper legal redress, leaving the person, and other people like them who might likewise find redress as a result, free to decide if and how they want to pursue any further relationship or affiliation.

To me this is not a position of pride.  Committing it to a blog entry like this makes that clear to me, although I have often felt as if I’m just being proud and pretentious.  I think it is the necessary position in view of the legalities I believe need to be met.  Rights are not the same as privileges, so I heard in Church.  They are not given and conferred, or even stolen somehow, but are recognised.  I believe that we all have the same rights, and we all have the responsibility to recognise and respect those rights for everyone else.  We may lose privileges, but never rights.

Here I stand.  I believe I should do no other.

Psalm 121 – Safety and Security

Psalm 121 King James Version (KJV)

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.

The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

 

I had been thinking today about verse 8 of this Psalm when I saw a post by Ram Dass on Facebook which finished with a mantra that expresses the same sort of idea, I thought, so I decided I would post the whole Psalm.

Although I was thinking of verse 8, when I read the whole Psalm I felt I had to consider it in light of recent events especially, but many more before now, and decided that the key must be the last half of verse 7: ‘he shall preserve thy soul.’

have heard it said that when the Bible talks about the soul it means the whole person.  Unless the writer was indulging a flight of fancy I think it has to be assumed that in this case it is talking about the soul only, the Breath of God within the body (according to Genesis God breathed uniquely into man at creation and he thus became a living soul – Genesis 2:7, what I have been taught is the ‘fleshed out’ account and not a different story as some people assert.  I’m not sure where the story of Lilith comes from either, it isn’t in the Bible.).  God, Who Is Love, protects the soul that loves both Him and others and, as I assume must be part of that equation, is loved by others.  It certainly seems to be my experience that as long as I believe someone loves me I find refuge in that.  As my English lecturer, who was a Buddhist and also a psychotherapist, said to me once, ‘Love is your protection’.

There have never been any guarantees for the preservation of the body, and if anyone thinks there have, they must also think they have been broken, even within covenant communities to which they were given.  I can’t remember about the Old Testament, but the New Testament, especially in Thessalonians, talks about the resurrection of the body after death.  That is the only context I can think of for the word ‘soul’ in this Psalm meaning the whole person including the body.  I think that is the theological understanding, though I know people have many arguments and reservations outside of that.  My own sometimes, is ‘if God is love and perfection, where did even the possibility of evil in His creation come from?’.  I can find that question quite disabling in talking about God.  In Isaiah it says ‘I, the Lord, create both good and evil’.  Would any of the people who answer my posts anonymously through the media, Christian and secular, like to get into relativity with me?

Manchester Suicide Bombing

I don’t say much about news items usually, because I feel so under siege in my own home I can go days without seeing any news. I saw someone post earlier about Manchester but I’ve only just listened to Premier Radio’s Inspirational Breakfast. I broke off half way through to get a cup of tea.

I had Om Shri Matre Namah playing on a loop in the lounge and I found it helped me to process some of what I was feeling. There have been many times when I have felt an appreciation of the depth and beauty of Krishna Das as a priest (he was a priest in Maharaj-ji’s temple), and of a lot of the material he draws on in his chants. This was one of those times. And this mantra, Om Shri Matre Namah, meaning ‘I bow to the divine Mother’ seemed completely appropriate as a prayer for the situation.

In my particular stream of Christianity it may be frowned upon, probably most definitely will be, that I could even be saying this. But Catholicism honours Mary.  Islam does, too.  Even in my own background I was taught that the Holy Spirit has mother-like qualities. In the creation story in Genesis it says that the Spirit brooded over the waters. I heard back in my teens that God is also called the ‘many breasted one’. The mother is the archetypal source of love and nurture.

There are many other kirtan leaders than Krishna Das, but he is the one I know best. He says that when these chants or mantras are sung they are an invocation to the love within us, who we truly are. Whatever we think of how it does or doesn’t work, it seems to me that God as Mother is a model we are badly in need of. Not God the Warrior, God the Judge. People say we become what we worship, so I think it would be good for all of us on this planet, men, women and children, to begin to discover, value, release and cultivate within ourselves and each other the Mother heart, mind and nature of God that exists in so many of the world’s religions, including both Christianity and Islam.

 

Om Shri Matre Namah
I bow to the divine Mother
Within and Without
 

For me, that question mark is not just the either/or that I have been taught, it is also questioning the either/or itself.

Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is Soooo arrogant and elitist, or at least it appears so to me in presenting such a false dichotomy.  Why?  Why take such an entrenched position?  Please. . . . It’s not even Biblical.  There is at least one verse of the Bible, that I know, that has been completely ignored in this position, or maybe it has just been ‘better’ translated?  I don’t know.  The verse I know is James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”.  Having just looked it up I see the word is used twice in the preceding verse as well.

OK, I’m just thinking now.  I know where I want to go but I’m not sure how I’m going to get there.

Martin Luther called the Book of James ‘straw’.  I don’t know why he was personally motivated to do that.  We have different historical accounts and opinions from many sides, I am sure, none of which I have examined, because I think I wouldn’t be any the wiser for doing so.  The multiplicity of Christian denominations and their (I suppose) sincere disagreements, and all the internal disagreements . . . . what are people really united in?  In the end, the delegated power of the chosen wins, at least in their own circles.  Maybe that is too pessimistic of me.

OK.  According to the AV translation of James, Christianity IS a religion.  This asserted dichotomy – mistaken, I want to believe – is really contemptuous and alienating and belittling to beautiful, loving and sincere people who seek – and find – truth in other religions.  We were told that the Devil (in other religions) takes a little bit of truth and mixes it in with a lot of error, to lead people astray.  Excuse me – does anyone know he also does this in Christianity?  In every human heart?  Love covers.  Grace covers.  Any true seeker?  Anyone who knows that he doesn’t know, but wants to know and be.  Jesus can be, and is, found, in measure, anywhere people want to know Him.  Even in Christianity.

For me this is all theory and it feels right and good, but I feel as if it isn’t working in my life right now, and the Christian onlookers I know would definitely say it isn’t.  So maybe I’m wrong.  I want to be.  I want to go back to pure and simple Christianity.  My heart has needs that argument and positions can’t deal with.

I’m not a good writer, I never save drafts.  I never – hardly ever – ‘kill my darlings’.  I write then publish, for all sorts of reasons.  Maybe I shouldn’t, if anyone wants to give their opinion on that I’ll be more than happy to think about it and maybe even discuss it, if I feel up to it.

Thanks for reading.  All feedback through this blog or on Facebook welcome.  Twitter doesn’t allow sufficient characters, it gets incredibly frustrating! 🙂

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