Sunday, May 19, 2013

Those Who have Influenced My Present Thought

First of all, I am inspired by the Deuteronomist historians.  At a time when the old ways of the ancient Hebrews had come to naught -- their kingdom defeated, the Temple fallen, their religious and political leaders taken off into exile in Babylon, they re-imagined their relationship with G-d.  They re-thought their earthly Kingdom given to them by G-d, and they re-imagined it as a Kingdom in covenant with God, and conditioned on Israel's faithfulness.  But that faithfulness was not just at the level of the state, but at the level of the person, as well.


“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love theLord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.  (Deut: 6:4-9)
They made faith an inward attitude, love to G-d 'on your heart", a covenant made in the heart of the individual and the people, with G-d. They  re-imagined a religion that could be taken anywhere and survive any outward circumstance. Everything of lasting value in Judaism and Christianity has been along that inward path first suggested by Deuteronomist.

And I am profoundly influenced by Jesus, the Christ.  Not just the human Jesus, the man of prophetic utterances, farmboy wisdom and healings, but the Christ of the story, who was the Son of God, and who could have saved Himself from the cross with an army of angels, but who renounced divinity, and took on the life and death of a common man, even to the point of death on the Cross.
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  (Phillippians 2:6-8)
He calls to us now to set aside "divinity" as a subject of our religious life and discourse.  We know not God, and we know not how to defeat, evade or transcend Death, nor do we know what lies beyond its horizon, that only horizon that comes closer as we travel.  Religion must take on the life and death of the human person as its subject.  Christ was the founder of humanism, and humanism remains to this day, Christianity taken at a slant.

And I am influenced by Theodore Parker.  Let James Ford of Providence describe him.  I think the
stuff about the pistol of the desk is really cool, but it is this sentence that sums up the inspiration that I take from Parker:

“Christianity is not a system of doctrines, but rather a method of attaining oneness with God. It demands, therefore, a good life of piety within, of purity without, and gives the promise that whoso does God’s will, shall know of God’s doctrine.”
"Whoso does God's will, shall know of God's doctrine."  We know of God's will; it has been declared again and again, and it has nothing to do with temples, and bloody sacrifices, institutions and saying "Lord, Lord" with the lips.  It has everything to do with loving mercy, and walking humbly, and doing justice, and serving the least of these, and worshipping the Father in spirit and truth. Need we say more? No.

And I am influenced by Rene Girard, who convinced me that the Gospel of Jesus that is actually remaking the world is not information about Jesus at all.  It is the truth that his followers revealed about Jesus, a truth hidden since the foundation of the world.  It is that the victims of sacrificial violence are indeed innocent.  Jesus was innocent,  a truth once grasped reveals that the world has been from the beginning, a system built on the murder of the innocent, and justified by lies.  Rene Girard says that the gospel that decodes our reality is to look for the victims, and once seeing them to deconstruct the lies that hide their innocence, and thus reveal the true nature of the world.  It is a gospel that is not always carried by the religious, but often carried by those who are not religious.  As a religious people, we need to remember that.

And I am influenced by Don Cupitt, who intimated in a talk at a Westar Institute conference that
secularism was the culmination of the inward journey taken by Western Religion that was started by the Deuteronomist.  What was formerly the subject of religion has become the subject of all our thinking about Life-With-A-Capital-L.  The world over is thinking about Life.  There are so many that are no longer interested in Religion, but are intensely interested in Life: what is a good life, how should we live within ourselves and together.  Life is a word that describes a reality greater than God.  When the ex-Christian minister, Jim Palmer of Nashville, says that "religion is my life", he is talking Don Cupitt.

And I was profoundly influenced by the subtitle of a book I bought at the same Westar Conference.  It is by David Boulton.  "The trouble with God: Religious humanism and the Republic of Heaven."  I want to be citizen of that Republic.  Think how much more I will be moved when I get around to reading the book.

This is not the exhaustive list of those who have shaped my religious journey.  But they are the ones who have moved me to try to re-imagine Unitarian Universalism as a Great Awakening of the Liberal Spirit, a mass movement of people trying to embody the virtues of liberality in their everyday lives, a people no longer just religious, but spiritual, no longer just spiritual, but engaged, alive and becoming, citizens of heaven.


Links:

Theodore Parker:

Rene Girard:  I recommend "I Saw Satan Fall Like Lightening" as an introduction to his thought.

Don Cupitt: 

David Boulton: 

1 comment:

Stephen Cook said...

That is a power hitting line up, for sure! Perhaps you can devote a single blog or two to explicating a bit each of them and how they have informed your ministry?