Sunday’s Sermon: Things I Cannot Prove

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While I agree its good to have facts back up our beliefs there are some that cannot be proven no matter how much research I do.  It is part of my experience to be perceptive, to sense what is happening around me, and after many years of dismissing many of these perceptions because of a lack of proof, I believe they have some element of value.

For example I cannot prove that Jesus, who, according to scriptures, was nailed to a cross – died for our sins, not to save us from our sins as the Christian doctrine says.  Certainly these doctrines have been studied by scholars and priests for many centuries, and  I would never doubt their intelligence, but there is a theme in these teachings that reaches me in a very deep and disturbing way.

The meaning of this story comes from my first impression as a child. It is a warning of what happens to those who challenge authority. The imagery is so powerful it hardly needs thinking about.  The son of man (and woman) nailed to a cross, naked, and left to die a long and excruciating death, for advocating a spiritual life – what child would not get that message deep under their soft skin?

After two thousand years of evolving doctrines, the most fanatic adherents have been willing to mutilate, torture, burn and murder for their Christ without feeling any apparent conflict to their saviour’s message in life – although I have no way of knowing the conscience of crusaders.

What is that sin we are guilty of that allowed him to be crucified? Is it the original sin – being born of woman, of sexual desire, of being imperfect? Or is it that we (mortals) failed to climb on the cross, remove the nails and set the Christ free?

This question is, of course, naïve, and all the arguments, interpretations, are irrelevant no matter how eloquent or learned they may be – except the meaning that impacts the followers.

Some dismiss religion entirely.  After all history reveals our vainglory.  The teachings of Christianity have been selected and altered to fit the politics of the day.  First it was used to make the people suspicious of their own intellects and judgement, and to fear their own desires and needs.  Then it taught misogyny, a hatred of feminine wisdom. It  forced men to doubt their own feelings and fears, to become soldiers and cannon fodder. Then it taught followers to hate those who did not share their religion and race. Instead of teaching the love of Christ it taught religious intolerance.  It taught that suffering was good for you and at the same time, taught that those who suffered ill-health, poverty, injustice – must have angered god and so their suffering came with shame and guilt.

Now that a new tool of propaganda has been invented, religion is not essential.   Now voice-overs, images, TV shows, movies, consumerism, and the internet, can broadcast the doctrines that keep us serving – what exactly? Ideology? Technology? The corporate elite? Racial supremacy? Patriarchy?

Are all these things evil or are they different versions of the same thing? Should we get rid of them all and return to community and nature?  Would we then be free of oppression?

I don’t know.  All their messages point to some truths, but they don’t willingly tell the whole truth.  Religion has also given us Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Buber, Martin Luther King Jr., Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama and many others who have inspired great movements.

Although I can’t prove it I believe ideology is a way of ordering life without understanding it.  It’s an operating system, under different names, we willingly give in to,   in the hopes we’ll rise to a position of power that will enable us to feel  superior.  We submit to doctrines, game plans, education, clubs – believing we can reach the top, change the rules, or change the system.

So the story of Jesus, like the story of the witch hunts, the French revolution, war, capitalism, communism, and The Wizard of Oz – to me, are all about the worship of power over the use of responsible democratic power that comes from within. Their cautionary tales reveal our inability to transcend the operating systems that punish those who seek alternatives to structural violence.  Those who affirm life through love instead of hate.  Those who work for the greater good of all. I can’t prove it but I keep seeing it this way.

[photo Lotta Hitschmanove by USC Canada]

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9 thoughts on “Sunday’s Sermon: Things I Cannot Prove

  1. Your planet is a tiny speck in a void of interplanetary space. Your sun is one of a hundred billion other stars in your galaxy. Your galaxy is one of 50 or 100 billion other galaxies in the universe. Does this make you feel enlightened or depressed?

    “I assert that if you were depressed after learning and being exposed to this perspective,” says the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, “you started your day with an unjustifiably large ego.”
    Read more here.

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    • I meant to list Lotta Hitschmanova among those who came from religion to social justice. Sorry about the omission there.

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  2. It is interesting to read this sermon after listening to Bob’s pieces on truth. When you speak of “the whole truth”,nebulaflash, what do you have in mind? That capital T Truth? What would that be like? Examples please.

    And then, Although I can’t prove it I believe ideology is a way of ordering life without understanding it. It’s an operating system, under different names, we willingly give in to, in the hopes we’ll rise to a position of power that will enable us to feel superior. The first sentence is profound! “ordering life without understanding it”, but I don’t get the second claim – often ideologies don’t give us power but strip us of power.

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    • I meant the whole truth of what these teachings contain. It is the small ‘t’ relational truth, the truth of what the writers and legislators understand but is kept out of the text. The capital ‘T’ truth, the absolute enduring truth I don’t feel qualified to claim.

      On the second paragraph – I agree that ideologies strip us of power, but in the social climbing world we are educated to strive for position and to believe that we achieve superiority according to our status. It is this kind of power-over that promises a tentative feeling of superiority.

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    • If Jesus didn’t die on the cross, then he didn’t “rise.” Without the resurrection, would there be Christianity? The new testament states: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (I Corinthians15:17) The story of a deity who defeated death is a common theme in many religions since the beginning of human time. Ancient myths tell stories of virgin births.

      All we know about Jesus is from the New Testament. There is no independent supportive documentation, nor any circumstantial evidence. No historian of the day (or since) mentioned one word about Jesus’s resurrection. There is virtually not one detail of the crucifixion and resurrection narratives upon which all four Gospel authors agree. The date of the crucifixion is an issue of contention among the four Gospels, as well as details of the “last supper,” the Passover. Only the Book of John mentioned that Jesus was pierced in his side by a soldier. Why didn’t the others mention it? There are even contradictions about when Mary was told of the resurrection. The Gospel writers were not eyewitnesses and didn’t write their accounts until 40 to 70 years after it allegedly took place. The philosopher Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C.E.-50 C.E.) was a contemporary of Jesus but never wrote a word about Jesus or his alleged resurrection. Why did the Catholic church not let the people have copies of the bible? The people were told what to think and believe.

      There are so many contradictions and so many attempts to explain them away, that discussion always ends with “divinely inspired.” But wouldn’t God have had them written perfectly? When does “faith” come “truth”? When we can answer “why.”

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