Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Wowed by Dowd

We had a great start to Expand Your Mind Week. Over 100 attended Michael Dowd's workshop on Monday night at First Pres. I will have some pics and reports up about it. I resonate with most of what he is doing. This isn't just about evolution or religion or whatever. It is about the future of humanity.

What will it take for us to move to a level of cooperation in which we realize that what is good for us as individuals is good for us as a species? It will take a consciousness of global cooperation in regards to energy, food, and our treatment of Earth. Evolution and cosmology which is our common creation story (that is beyond the stories of our individual religions), can not only inform us but inspire us to participate in life in such a way that enhances life for all.

Or we could continue our bronze age religion, ignore diplomacy, squeeze every last drop of oil for our addiction, and the nuke the crap out of each other all for the love of Jesus.

We will come back to this topic.

This coming weekend we expand your mind regarding Christian origins. Hal Taussig and Milton Moreland will be here Friday and Saturday. We are going to read some naughty books. Dirty books. Bad books. Heretical books. Banned books. Burned books. Books. Books. Books! Ewww!


Be sure to come in disguise so that no one will recognize you.



I am looking for a new name for what I am becoming and the religion I am embracing. It is bigger than Christianity or any established religion, but includes them. It is based on the Jesus Wisdom Tradition. But not in an exclusive sense. The Jesus Wisdom Tradition is all the stuff about Jesus that knows no canonical boundary. It fully embraces science and admires wisdom from all traditions. It is the interaction of Cosmology, Evolution and mythology.

EcoJesus. EvoJesus. CosmoEvoJesus.

This isn't merely academic interest, this expand your mind week and all. I am convinced that the largest block in the road to global cooperation is religion. No current religion is advanced enough to deal with our current and future problems. That is no big revelation. Our religious institutions reflect Bronze age ethics. We are right. You are going to hell.

And its vision of the future is some version of apocalypticism in which we wait for a divine superman to save us from our screwups. Why wait? Bring it on. The sooner it gets worse, the sooner Jesus (or some other divine being on testosterone) saves us. Obviously, current religion is not up to the task.


But, we can't get to a new awareness without our religions. They are so pervasive. We have to move through them and move them to embrace the creation story that science gives us. We need to honor religious symbolism as symbolism (depth psychology and literary and mythological study is helpful here) and allow it to inspire us.
There may be no more important task for the current clergy in our sleeping religions, than
  1. the call to awaken to our cosmological history and our current planetary situation and
  2. the call to reinterpretation of our religious symbols so that they can inspire us to global cooperation, peace and justice.

15 comments:

  1. John has been reading "Evolution's Arrow" this week during breaks at work. One of his co-workers said to him, today "So, you're an Evolutionist, huh?"

    It's not going to be quick.

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  2. What does the love of Jesus have to do with oil, ignoring diplomacy, and nuclear war?

    I also don't think it follows because Christians believe we can't put everything right by ourselves, that ultimately we need a Savior, that this means we should all sit by, and do nothing to focus on the world's problems. That certainly doesn't seem to be the message of the gospels.

    Part of our calling is to bear witness to the love of Christ, and to participate in kingdom work in the here and now! It's powerful stuff.

    You are presenting this caricature of Christian faith, "bronze age religion." What has brought you to this, John? Why?

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  3. What does the love of Jesus have to do with oil, ignoring diplomacy, and nuclear war?

    See Christian Voter Guide

    You are presenting this caricature of Christian faith, "bronze age religion." What has brought you to this, John?

    See Palin's Religious Beliefs Must be Explored

    For a good article about what I call Bronze Age religion or religion 1.0 vs. evolutionary Christianity or religion 2.0, see...

    Flat Earth Faith Vs. Evolutionary Faith

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  4. Is the reality of the incarnation simply culturally bound?

    Christians understand "abiding in Christ" to mean alot more than walking in integrity.

    Among other things, I think many people have become disillusioned with the institutional church, and have sadly "ditched the baby with the bathwater."

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  5. Grace,

    What does "the reality of the incarnation" and "that we ultimately need a savior" mean to you?

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  6. Hi, John,

    I think the reality of the incarnation means that God loves us so much, that He became one of us so to speak. He entered fully into human life, and suffering, in Jesus Christ, so that we could be radically changed to share in the life of God. In Him (Jesus) we're made a "new creation."

    It's one thing to just say that God is love, or that God cares. But, it's through the reality of the incarnation that we can know, and see this first hand.

    God cares very deeply about the material, physical world, earthy stuff, and I think the incarnation speaks to this too.

    I totally feel that we are all fearfully, and wonderfully made, a blessing. But, also fallen, and broken at the sametime.

    John, I think in my own life, I fall so short of the love of Christ. Sometimes I can hurt the people I care for the most without even trying. Really, in a deeper sense, given the right circumstances, environment, and upbringing etc., we all are capable of great evil, as well as good.

    I can't just fix myself, by myself. But, I think it's through our union with Christ, that as Christians we are being changed to be like Him, enabled to share in the fellowship of the saints, forgiven, reconciled to God, and to each other.

    And, through God in Christ, I think even the whole creation is being redeemed. Of course, to my mind, our "salvation," has both present, and future aspects. It's not just about pie in the sky when you die. I'm feeling that God wants us to participate in kingdom work in the here, and now.

    I mean how can anything be more awesome, and relevant than this? Why would anyone want to ditch the historic faith of the Christian church for a pale imitation, even a counterfeit?

    It doesn't make sense to me at all.

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  7. Thanks, Grace.

    You wrote:

    Why would anyone want to ditch the historic faith of the Christian church for a pale imitation, even a counterfeit?

    That wouldn't be good. What I (and Dowd) am talking about is not ditching Christianity but nesting it in a larger way of thinking.

    We know so much more about the universe and about humanity than we did 100 years ago, let alone 1700 years ago when the Nicene Creed came into existence.

    Nesting Christianity and other spiritual traditions in terms of what we know from science allows us to keep the powerful night language as symbols of inspiration for the great work before us.

    That great work (to use Thomas Berry's phrase) is our task of global cooperation on behalf of our future generations.

    That is why I asked in this post, what is our vision for the future?

    On the personal level it means, as Dowd put it, living with deep integrity. That is day language for what you are saying when you use the night language of religion:

    I think it's through our union with Christ, that as Christians we are being changed to be like Him, enabled to share in the fellowship of the saints, forgiven, reconciled to God, and to each other.

    That is a beautiful expression.

    It is deep integrity with all of life. That is something to which we can all aspire, not just those of the Christian or of any other particular religion.

    The problem is that particular religions such as Christianity, unless they mature to embrace what we know from our cosmological and evolutionary history, will take these night language symbols in an exclusive, narrow sense.

    This in turn leads to religious intolerance and to a vision of the future in which one religion needs to win.

    For example, "Christ will come again" could lead to an apocalyptic view of the future. It often does. That is my concern.

    But if we see that phrase as night language for a transformation of human consciousness on both the personal and collective level, it can mean that Christ comes everyday in our lives as we embrace deep integrity.

    It is not about a literal future event, but a transformation of our wills and hopes for justice, peace, cooperation, and so forth now.

    I don't know if that helps, but I think that is what I mean! : )

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  8. John,

    I'm trying hard to understand this. In my thinking I don't find the witness of science to be contrary to the faith of the church. I mean I think it's like mixing apples, and oranges.

    Part of the difference might be that I'm not feeling that God is limited by finite human reason, or that He can be placed in this naturalistic box.

    There were plenty of folks living even during the bronze age, pre-modern times, that rejected the apostolic witness, and mocked at the testimony of the resurrection. I mean just read through the book of Acts.

    But, I can't see that the early Christians were willing to compromise their testimony to accomodate unbelief, or the philosophies of the current age.

    Of course, I understand that Scripture, and the creeds of the church do sometimes use anthropomorphic language to speak of God. I mean do we all think that Jesus is literally perched on God's right hand like a giant bird of prey? Or, that "Jesus coming again" means that He will be flying through space at the speed of light like superman. Of course not!!

    And, don't get me wrong. I love the natural world. If I weren't a Christian, I'm sure I would be this tree-hugging pagan. :) And, I certainly can understand how someone might embrace theistic evolution, and orthodox Christianity at the sametime.

    But, that's about as far as I can go with this. John, in your deepest self, are you truly persuaded of all Dowd's views, and even more that what he is sharing can truly be reconciled with orthodox Christian faith? I can't see it, friend.

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  9. I mean do we all think that Jesus is literally perched on God's right hand like a giant bird of prey? Or, that "Jesus coming again" means that He will be flying through space at the speed of light like superman. Of course not!!

    Why not? Can't God do it if God wants? Why are you being naturalistic? Who are you to contradict the word of God?

    ...are you truly persuaded of all Dowd's views, and even more that what he is sharing can truly be reconciled with orthodox Christian faith? I can't see it, friend.

    Well, friend, if you want to put God in an orthodox box, that's your call. If your orthodox God is too small for evolution, cosmology, the world known through science, for those who have a different religion than yours, I am not interested in your orthodox god. He is 1.0.

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  10. John, the difference is truly profound. I followed Michael Dowd's link to the website he recommends to people, to help understand his belief as a religious naturalist.

    As far as I'm able to understand, I don't think these people feel that a personal, loving God actually exists at all.

    The church has fallen asleep at the switch.

    I'm just so sad right now, really at a loss for words. What more can I say?

    I don't want to just hang-out, and get into fruitless debate, and personal attack. That doesn't go anywhere, and never reflects the love of Christ at all.

    Prayers to commend both of us to God!

    Sincerely,
    Grace.

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  11. Grace,

    Dowd begins, and I do as well, with our cosmological and evolutionary story.

    Any religion that cannot include that, at the very least, into its claims about God, is of no use to me. I don't think it bodes well for our future either.

    Simply being able to reconcile religion and science is not enough.

    A task I find important is to make the universe revealed to us through science sacred. One way is to use, adapt, and reinterpret our sacred symbols to move us toward a more just, peaceful future.

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  12. Back again. Most Christian people I know are okay with theistic evolution. Have you ever read Francis Collins, "The Language of God?"

    And, I think Dowd does have some good insights relating to our biological predispositions, why people can struggle with addictions, and so forth. It's wonderful that He's rejoicing in the creation.

    But, where I personally think this all goes off track is almost this substitution of the gospel of evolution for the good news of Jesus Christ. I don't know how else to put it.

    It's as Dowd supposes that if everyone accepts evolution, and we have this shared sacred story, and understanding, all our problems as a species will eventually be resolved. We will all be living in integrity.

    But, the truth is right knowledge doesn't always equate to positive change. I'm sure there are people out there fully convinced concerning evolution, and current cosmology who are just as wicked as the day is long.

    (I understand that Hitler was a convinced Darwinist.) On the other hand, I've met plenty of folks persuaded of ID that would give anyone the shirt off their back, and are doing tons of stuff to help the poor, and needy, and speaking out for justice.

    People need the Lord!!

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  13. People need the Lord!!

    People need an evolutionary understanding of the universe!!

    where I personally think this all goes off track is almost this substitution of the gospel of evolution for the good news of Jesus Christ.

    I don't consider this a substitute but a deeper understanding and application of the gospel to our time and place.

    It's as Dowd supposes that if everyone accepts evolution, and we have this shared sacred story, and understanding, all our problems as a species will eventually be resolved. We will all be living in integrity.

    No, he doesn't say that. An understanding of our sacred story of cosmology and evolution is only the beginning.

    But, the truth is right knowledge doesn't always equate to positive change.

    Agreed. Yet we still think it is a good idea to educate people. Why is that?

    I'm sure there are people out there fully convinced concerning evolution, and current cosmology who are just as wicked as the day is long.

    Agreed. I am also sure there are people out there fully convinced concerning orthodox Christianity, and who have a relationship with the Lord who are just as wicked as the day is long.

    (I understand that Hitler was a convinced Darwinist.)

    Please. Ever read Martin Luther's On the Jews and Their Lies?

    People can take scientific theories and religious doctrines and warp them to whatever evil they can imagine.

    On the other hand, I've met plenty of folks persuaded of ID that would give anyone the shirt off their back, and are doing tons of stuff to help the poor, and needy, and speaking out for justice.

    I have as well. Most of the people I know are like this.

    However, that isn't my point.

    People need the Lord!!

    Christian night language for living in deep integrity. Love others as you love yourself. That works day or night.

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  14. John, if they actually know the Lord, they aren't going to stay as wicked as the day is long.

    There are tons of people out there who have simply been enculturated into the institutional church, and that's as far as it goes. It's possible to even be actively rejecting the work of the cross, while parroting the Nicene Creed.

    I know from my own sad, personal experience.

    This is the whole point. We can't live in integrity by ourselves, and love God with our whole heart, and mind. We don't love our neighbors as ourselves.

    God in Christ is changing us to be like Him. It's not something that we can do simply by our own reasoning, strength, and effort.

    Although, I don't question Michael Dowd's sincerity and good intentions, I don't think he is actually a Christian believer. On a deeper level, we are not all saying the same thing.

    Ok, I"ll give you the last word. And, thanks in advance, for this conversation, and for hearing me out.

    Prayers for both of us, (((John)))

    Becky.

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  15. Hey Grace (Becky!)

    John, if they actually know the Lord, they aren't going to stay as wicked as the day is long.

    If knowing the Lord is the same as living with integrity, then I tend to agree, except that we often slip into ways of behaving that are not integrity-based. To use Christian language, we continue to sin.

    We can't live in integrity by ourselves, and love God with our whole heart, and mind. We don't love our neighbors as ourselves.

    God in Christ is changing us to be like Him. It's not something that we can do simply by our own reasoning, strength, and effort.


    I agree with you. We need all kinds of things, others, education, discipline, forgiveness, awareness, and so on. Practices, rituals, and a commitment to a spiritual community can be helpful resources. If there is any sense that I may live in integrity from time to time, I realize that it is not from my effort, but by many forces around me.

    Where you write "God in Christ is changing us to be like him", I agree that is Christian night language for the sense that we are indebted to forces larger than us.

    Where I seem to differ with you is that I don't think that the Christian path is the only or the best way.

    Although, I don't question Michael Dowd's sincerity and good intentions, I don't think he is actually a Christian believer.

    You have the freedom to define who is and what is Christian as you see fit. Since I have heard this more times than I can count from all kinds of people in all kinds of places saying someone is not a Christian, I let that go. Dowd is a UCC minister after all.

    It is that obsession about who is in and who is out and who is real and who is not that I find most objectionable, false, and unhelpful about Christian 1.0 thinking.

    On a deeper level, we are not all saying the same thing.

    I probably don't disagree with that. This is why I have realized that Christianity is not large enough (especially in its 1.0 sense) to enable humanity to face its current challenges.

    Christianity (1.0) is too exclusive. When it does good things it ruins it by thinking it alone has the keys to good things.

    Christianity (and other religious and philosophical systems) can be the spice of life. But spice needs food first. Christianity is not the food. The food is our common story--the story of the universe that we are learning through science.

    Our universe story is bigger than the Christian story. It is bigger than any religious 1.0 story. It is our common story. It is our sacred creation story. Or it can become that if we put our spiritual energies to learning it and telling it.

    thanks in advance, for this conversation, and for hearing me out.

    I welcome your comments! This is an important conversation! Thanks!

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