Tag Archives: authenticity

An Affirmation of Faith

Increasingly I am emboldened in my faith, finding the courage to allow this experience to extend deeper into my heart and into the whole of my life.  As I do so I feel empowered to speak and write from my heart, realizing that if you speak from any other source you are merely using what Carl Jung called “directed thinking.”  Directed thinking was his term for thinking which is designed to mesh with a social and cultural context, a type of thinking which is very important, but not if it disallows a more genuine, authentic vein of thought.

Often as I “hold forth” here I experience a tinge of guilt as I am approaching faith in a way that is contrary to the way I was taught in my youth, contrary to “the faith once delivered unto the saints.”  But this guilt is a core issue and reflects the residual enslavement to the “guilting into” religion that I was subjected to as a child.  That “guilting into” dimension of faith is not as bad as it sounds as it is merely part of enculturation and a part that can be discarded as we grow up, allowing a more genuine experience.

Another dimension of angst I experience is, “What will they think?”  There are family members and people from my youth who probably have ventured into this literary venture of mine from time to time and they will certainly lament, “Oh, he certainly has ‘departed from the faith once delivered unto the saints’ or perhaps, ‘He went out from us because he was not of us.’”  There is residual guilt for having ventured from the beaten path at this late point in my life.  But, as Jesus put it, “What shall a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul” which is what happens if we obsessively trek onward on that “beaten” path and never allow authenticity to flow from our lives.  It is the fear that Henry David Thoreau had when he “went to the woods” and there sought to delve into the marrow of life and not come to the end of his life and realize that what he had lived was not life at all.

Still another critical concern I have is the residual notion, “If I’m right, they are wrong.”  In the linear thinking that I was enculturated into, right and wrong are clear and distinct categories so that the vein of spirituality that I share here must mean that those who I have “left behind” don’t have it right.  In that same vein of thinking it would mean that “I’m saved” and “they aren’t” unless they believe as I do.  That is certainly true if one is enslaved to linear thought but not in the least if one has found freedom from that prison.  I now see the Christian story as an expression of cosmic truth, a story of love and grace that has been written into the hearts of mankind from eons past which found one beautiful expression in the person of Jesus Christ.  His story shows us that His Grace is a gift and is not dependent on our “believing right” or even “behaving right” but merely an unconditional absolution for perceived guilt and shame.

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Two other blogs of mine are listed here which I invite you to check out:

https://anerrantbaptistpreacher.wordpress.com/

https://literarylew.wordpress.com/

https://theonlytruthinpolitics.wordpress.com/

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Humility is Often an Exaggerated Virtue

Yes, I remember so well how wonderful it is to be humble!  I had learned that this was so very early in my life, knew that I certainly did not appear to be arrogant, was generous to others, and was just an all around nice guy!  And I still think this description of my self was true…and I hope it is still true today!  But there is a profound difference in the “knowledge” of humility and “be-ing” humble, the latter not an acquisition but an on-going process.

BUT, I now realize that the “humility” described above was a learned life-style instilled into me from an “humble” rural Arkansas culture and an “humble” fundamentalist Baptist culture.   The “humility” certainly did include a socio-economic dimension as I was the product of what historians called the Southern white “dispossessed” who were still suffering from the collapse of the pre-Civil War Southern culture, a pronounced historical “humiliation.”

But, one could still use the label “humble” to describe me and still could I hope.  However, I now think that humility is not something that you can acquire by social pressure or education or a spiritual culture.  In fact, I don’t even believe in “humility” in a certain sense but I do firmly believe in a phenomena which I like to call “humility-ization.”

Humility-ization is something that came to me, and is still coming to me, as a result of “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”  I prefer, however, to describe it as “the Grace of God.”  Humiliti-zation is a life long process of being stripped of the superficies of our existence, including the extremely superficial accoutrements of our “spiritual life.”  It entailed learning that my “humility” was mostly performance art, a role that I had subscribed to in return for the approbation of my family and community.  AND, that was good and I’m pleased that I acquired that persona for I now realize it kept me from a lot of mischief.  But, it took me way too long to realize that this “performance art” was very superficial, essentially inauthentic, and thus an act.  Even more so, it dawned on me that the New Testament word “hypocrite” was merely a term for one who was “acting” virtuous.

I emphasize that performance art is just a natural part of life and there is nothing necessarily wrong with it.  But, in a Christian culture, if one lives his whole life being “good” basically because he has learned it is the way to earn social approbation, then these words of Jesus would apply to him, “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?”  In my culture it would give one a good “send off” with lots of lavish praise. But what about the unlived life which could certainly have been lived as a Christian but one who was sincerely living out of the “abundance of his own heart” and not just from listening to shrill dogma he had listened to since early youth.

For, Jesus was not here to provide us fire insurance.  Jesus was not here to prop up an empty life, to give the shell of a human being a “suit of clothes” to wear, but to empower one to become authentic, to give expression to his inner-most essence which might be described as “the Christ child” within us all.  “Becoming a Christian” in the culture I was raised in, and lived in most of my life, was merely part of a persona and that, I might add, a very worthwhile persona.  But, to live one’s whole life as a mere Christian persona, as a Christian marionette (or Christian-ette) is to miss the point of the wonderful spiritual teacher who left us so much wisdom if we would find the courage to explore it more fully.

 

The Crisis in Modern Faith

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.