Christ and paradise

To the extent that I attend church these days, I go to the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durham. One of the benefits of that participation is the chance to read the excellent UU magazine, which is also available online. A recent issue featured a provocative article about the political power play behind the emergence of aggressive Christianity around 1000 AD.

Images of Jesus’s Crucifixion did not appear in churches until the tenth century. Why not? This question set us off on a five-year pilgrimage. Initially, we didn’t believe it could be true. Surely the art historians were wrong. The crucified Christ was too important to Western Christ­ianity. How could it be that images of Jesus’ suffering and death were absent from early churches?

(snip)

As the paradise of early Christianity entered our vision and seeped into our consciousness, Crucifixion-centered Christianity seemed increasingly strange to us. We wondered what had happened to the understanding of this world as paradise. When and why did Christianity shift to an obsession with atoning death and redemption through violence? What led Western Christianity to replace resurrection and life with a Crucifixion-centered salvation and to relegate paradise to a distant afterlife? In short, the needs of empire—and theologies that justified and then sanctified violence and war—transformed Christianity and alienated Western Christians from a world they had once perceived as paradise.

It's not simply the case that Congress, Contractors and the Media all tilt in the favor of "war is good business." It's also the case that Big Religion (not just Christianity) is wholly complicit in the celebration of agonizing death. Their institutional purposes are best served when the sheep are afraid and willing to spend money to secure their safety from Osama and Satan alike.

And naturally, the authors put in a plug for Plan B.

Universalism tells us that we can come to know the world as paradise when our hearts and souls are reborn through the arduous and tender task of living rightly with one another and the earth. Generosity, nonviolence, and care for one another are the pathways into transformed awareness. Knowing that paradise is here and now is a gift that comes to those who practice the ethics of paradise. This way of living is not Utopian. It does not spring simply from the imagination of a better world but from a profound embrace of this world. It does not begin with knowledge or hope. It begins with love.

Comments

My heart breaks

for the lives broken in Tennessee today - and for all of the suffering done in the name of "God". I know people who are better than "God". (Please note the quotation marks, my friends.) I know many people, who name themselves Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Pagan, and Atheist, who work at making the world a better place to be - they are themselves the hands of creation at work against the hands of destruction. I hope we always recognize that in each other no matter what faith we follow (or don't follow).

Pointing at Naked Emperors

My wife and I are members of

My wife and I are members of the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship in Morehead City, and I was president of the congregation two years ago and VP the year before that. It's a wonderful demonination that allows one to follow one's own path of spirituality, be that aethiasm, paganism, Christianity, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhism, Judaism, humanism. We have members and friends who profess to be all of those, plus some who profess to believing in virtually nothing but love and environmentalism. It is full of people who believe in good works and kindness, and we are involved in food banks, homeless shelters, the peace movement, liberal politics, nonpartisan voter registration, literacy, anti-poverty, anti-racism, etc. We are a "welcoming congregation," which means we make special efforts to attract and encourage participation by all sexual orientations and races and creeds. I, too, know many who go to no church and are better humans than many who do go. However, I know of no better people than those at our fellowship. My heart grieves for those in Tennessee this morning. I didn't realize until i read this thread that it was a UU church. Of course, my heart grieves also for the family of the shooter, as my heart always grieves for those who are victims of the senseless violence that pervades our world.

bradford

bradford

My family and I only wish that there were a UU fellowship close

enough to our home for us to be a part of. My spouse and I lean heavily pagan, and my son is an Atheist. But fellowship and spiritual development is important for everyone, and it's hard to find when you don't fit into most of the places around you.

Unitarian Universalist

I am a former Unitarian Universalist who is deeply saddened by yesterday's events in Tennessee. My prayers and thoughts are with this congregation as they are undergoing a long road of healing.

Don't READ that crap

James! Don't read that stuff. That's like reading the comments on our local news channel blogs -- or even the "anonymice" who post on TAP.

I think it's the same pool of folks who call in on AM Talk radio shows. Reading their comments will just give one a jaded view of humanity -- and isn't it already bad enough just negotiating city traffic?
(Isn't it aggravating enough to read *my* comments from time to time?)

How many of us were wondering, as we read that the shooter "hated liberals," whether he were inspired by some "cute" remark made by one of the RightWing clowns like Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Savage or Coulter?

I figured it was personal.

In some way.

The appeal of hate-mongers

is personal.

Personal angers, prejudices, grievances are given vent by cynics like Limbaugh, Savage, Coulter and the like, who are laughing at their fans' stupidity -- and cashing enormous checks.

I'm not blaming the shooting rampage on talk radio or any teenageer's suicide on Ozzy Osbourne. One can never really know what jostles another person's screws loose, and we certainly can't go around shutting down incendiary speakers or other "triggers," whether real or imagined (absent criminal intent, which I doubt any of these jerks has in mind when they blather).

Yet I wonder what cute quips any of these talk radio icons will have with respect to the obvious targeting of someone based upon hatred of liberalism?

Reminds me of the movie from so long ago, in which a disc jockey made a joke about someone going to a disco with an uzi and spraying the place -- and a nut who heard the radio program did. Can't recall the name. Starred Robin Williams and Amanda Plummer, I believe.

I have a weird relationship with guns

I was trained to use them in the military - and used them very well. My Southern Baptist father used one on himself 15 years ago last week.

Combine all that with my daughter's friends at the Knoxville UU fellowship, and I confess to a morbid interest in what this all means in 21st Century America.

Jesus Swept, coming in December

I understand.

I made a conscious decision not to ever own a gun because of my own passion - I am quick to anger. I am also prone to periods of depression. I don't want anything around that would make it too easy to do something that can't ever be undone.

Special hugs for you about your Dad, James - those anniversaries never leave us. My brother will be gone 24 years in August.

And I'm sorry your daughter had to learn such a painful lesson so young.

You make a very valid point.

One wonders if this shooting spree will be called a terroristic act. Probably not, except out here in the blogosphere.