My Christian faith has really matured in the past year. Specifically, I have no faith in the Christian tradition but I do firmly believe that there was a man named Jesus who walked the face of this earth some 2100 years ago and he left behind teachings that I find of great value. I do not know how much of the story of Jesus that we have in the Bible is valid but I firmly believe that there was some young man who was attuned with what I still call “the Spirit of God” and his story is a story of redemption. There is so much to explore here. So much to “cuss and discuss,” and yes I’m familiar with all the debate about the “historical Jesus,” and don’t find that vein of thought threatening to my faith. But I firmly believe, in the midst of all my doubts, that there is a wisdom in the teachings of this man that we call Jesus though allowing this wisdom to filter through our ego-ridden mind requires a lot of work.
But then there is the conflict between his teachings and my experience in church and what I observe in the “performance art” of modern Christianity. And I think that the whole of life is performance art in some sort and that is necessary. But sometimes the performance art that is our life gains such primacy that we totally disregard the other dimensions of life which I like to call “spiritual.” The whole of the performance art that is our life, our identity itself is often called our persona. When this persona becomes the whole of who we know ourselves to be, and if we live our whole life ensconced in this “pretend-me” that famous question of Jesus becomes relevant, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul.” For one who makes this mistake has lived his life on the surface and never done the “soul work” that would allow his soul, his inner-most essence, to find expression. He will live his life as “The Hollow Man” that T.S. Eliot made famous in a poem. And, emphatically I state, “This does not mean that losing his soul means he will burn for eternity in hell.” In some sense, never having escaped the fantasy of his superficial reality, he has spent his life there.
Jean Paul Sartre described “bad faith” as one of such naivety that it perpetuated great darkness even while sincerely assuming to be promoting Truth. Just because we are sure of our faith tradition, and of our practice, does not mean that the ego is not in control and if so ugliness will abound. But then if the ego is in control, its primary objective will always be keeping one from awareness of its tyranny.