Saturday, February 11, 2006

Christian Variations


Nothing seems "easy" for complex human societies. I am not certain that there are 23,000 "denominations" of Christianity, but there probably are that many sects, cults, and certainly variations of understanding. (A "denomination" is a larger group, such as Methodism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, etc.)

This is because, despite its simplicity as the Way of Love plus nothing, Christianity has been interpreted as necessarily implying many other teachings. These are usually called "doctrines," and here, almost no one agrees with anyone else! Doctrines are further subdivided into smaller teachings, microdoctrines, in which infinite variability, and unlimited disagreement become possible! Since it is human nature to bicker, disagree, quarrel, and fight, whenever anyone has disagreed with anyone else-- about virtually anything-- the disagreement would result in a new group. So, sects, cults, and individual explanations of the microdetails of Christianity result in hopeless multiplication of groups, each disagreeing with all the others. Christianity has been a very vociferous and disagreeable group almost from the beginning, shortly after the death of Jesus.

That fact of history does nothing to alter the sweet simplicity of the message of Jesus. In trying to get it "exactly right" through attention to microdetails, ironically, most have managed completely to miss the gigantic Center of the faith. That is, of course, Love. If you do not get that one right, it hardly matters how "right" you are about all the other stuff. And if you do get that right, the details no longer count for anything.

The Christian Scriptures have been mistaken, in an old Jewish approach, for a "textbook." They are not; they are a reminder of the cruciality of Love. Life is the school, and life the "textbook," and the Bible is not a manual. It is instead a group of wisdom-discoveries made by some great Love-mystics, including Jesus. To pick apart the Bible, letter by letter, does not produce Love, but only divisions. This is antiagapic. That is why I have pointed out, repeatedly, that the entire spectrum of doctrines is optional for the mystic. If she wants to embrace a particular teaching, she does so, for she is free to do so. If a doctrine seems unloving, and she turns away from it as false, that is also within her right. God simply does not care what you believe; God cares about only how you live or behave. If you act consistently in Love, from Love, God is active within you. If you do not, then God is not activating you.

To "get it right" has never been about intellectual doctrines and dogma. It has been all about the exercise of compassion, goodness, kindness, and related qualities. When you turn Christianity into a thing of intellect, it becomes a subject of disagreement-- even, by extension, violence and even warfare! This occurs when you lose the focus, which is always Love.

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