Category Archives: jesus

a primer on the rapture vs. the end of the world

i have lots of pet peeves. one of them is using terms interchangeably that should not be used interchangeably. all week long, it was broadcast in the media that today was forecast to be the end of the world by religious broadcaster and nutjob harold camping, but that simply isn’t true, whatever you may or may not believe about the rapture ever happening. i don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but theologically, the rapture and the end of the world are two separate and distinct events. camping’s prediction was that the rapture was to happen today, with the end of the world several months down the line, the end basically being the result of god beating up on those of us who were left behind. what follows is a little bit of what i was previously taught regarding the timetable of the end times. not that anyone from the media will read this, but it’ll make me feel a little better…

the end of the world has been part of the doctrine in most religions for millennia, but the idea of a ‘rapture of believers’ wasn’t a part of christian theology until after 1830. in 1830 a young girl had a vision about the return of jesus and the taking up of believers. this was gradually adopted by various fundamentalist denominations, who have interpreted bible verses in 2 thessalonians to mean that this is the event spoken of. as i was taught, this event was to take place at the beginning of the great tribulation, a time in which the anti-christ has taken control over the entire planet, and all sorts of disasters, natural and man-made, take place. however, the verses (as i was taught and understood them while a resident of the christian ghetto) refer to the second coming of jesus, which is to supposed to occur at the end of the great tribulation.

…and i’m about to digress here, because a lot depends upon whether you believe in a pre-trib, mid-trib, or post-trib rapture.  i do know people who believe we are currently in the great tribulation and have been since september 2005, which could give some credence to camping’s prediction for mid-trib believers (if you choose to believe such a thing, which i don’t, by the way). pre-trib simply means that the rapture occurs before the 7 year tribulation, mid-trib, during the tribulation, and post-trib… well you get the idea. apparently camping’s group were late mid-trib adherents.

the thing is that, at the end of the tribulation the 1000-year reign of jesus is supposed to begin. jesus himself will be the ruler over the entire planet (assisted by believers taken up in the rapture, who return to earth with new bodies), according to a literal reading of revelation 20 as i was taught. at the end of the 1000 year reign is the great white throne judgment, which will, for all intents and purposes, be the end of the world, as the book of life will then reveal who spends eternity in heaven and who ends up in the lake of fire, and off we go to our permanent destinations.  so if this all is true (and i’m not saying it is or isn’t; it’s just what i was taught as a born-again believer), may 21, 2011 could hardly be called the end of the world, if it had actually happened today. *if* the rapture had occurred, it would not have been the end. at worst, it would have been the beginning of a new level of chaos (or perhaps your death if you had been a passenger in a vehicle being driven by someone who was taken up). but, since, according to camping, the rapture was supposed to have occurred at 6 pm local time in each time zone, you would have had time to get prepared (unless you were in new zealand). if you had heard about believers in new zealand disappearing out of the blue around that time, you would have been able to either ask jesus into your heart so you weren’t left behind when the rapture came to your time zone, or you could have hung out in front of the houses of people you know are christians so that when they were called away, you had first dibs on their possessions. i, of course, had plans to do the latter. 😉

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living for god

you may (or may not) remember when a couple of months back, a young woman boarded the bus i take daily to work, and proceeded to give her testimony about her relationship with jesus christ. at the time, i thought it was touching, especially because at the end of her spiel, she prayed for the bus passengers. even though i no longer believe as she does, i appreciated her sincerity, and as we got off at the same stop, i thanked her for her prayer.

fast forward to this morning’s bus ride. after the bus pulled up to the stop she was at, this same young woman handed out religious tracts to each person getting off. (the stop happened to be at a church ministry that provides free breakfasts every morning, and there are a number of regular riders who get off here daily for that reason). i thought, ‘uh oh, here we go again…,’ and yes, after she paid her fare, she passed out tracts to those of us remaining on the bus… except to me, but only because i politely refused. and then she proceeded to deliver a little sermonette about living for god.

i only caught bits and pieces of what she was saying, because i was trying to listen to a podcast on gnosticism (would this be called irony?). however, the gist of it was the usual ‘if you’re not living for god, you’re going to hell’. and, on one level, i can appreciate what she was saying, because i’ve been in that place. i’ve been where i earnestly believed that anyone who had not accepted jesus christ as their personal lord and savior was going to hell. therefore, i believed that people like gandhi and mother teresa were in hell because they were not born-again christians, but someone like jeffrey dahmer was in heaven, even after the horrible things he did, because reportedly he had accepted christ into his heart before being murdered in prison. forgive me, y’all, but this is rather fucked up theology. a person such as gandhi, whose life was dedicated to the betterment of humanity, is currently being tormented by demons for all eternity because he chose not to believe that the jewish version of a myth was a series of historical events? seriously? and you do realize that christianity really is little more than the jewish adaptation of myths revolving around various sun gods (and related goddesses, who are strangely missing in the christianized version) dating centuries before the time jesus was said to have walked the earth. the major difference between the christianized version and earlier versions is that, due to various power plays between political factions at that time, people were convinced (basically by the sword) that this jesus character was real. (and i mean no disrespect when i say ‘jesus character’.)

if there is anyone reading this who has known me for many years, but not had any real interaction with me, you are probably rather shocked at this point. a number of you know that i spent (or as i like to say, wasted) many years believing and living this. jesus was my life. i lived in what you might call a christian ghetto: i worked full-time in a christian bookstore, was deeply involved in a church (or two), all my social interaction was with other born-again christians, and i was afraid (i didn’t realize it at the time, but it all boiled down to fear) to scarcely listen to anything that wasn’t ccm (contemporary christian music) or even drink something as innocent as a watered down wine cooler.

what gradually but ultimately changed things for me first was developing close friendships with people who didn’t have such a narrow view of what it meant to love god, people who helped me to see that what i was really doing was ‘churchianity’. also, after moving away from columbia in 2000, i read a book that removed the foundation from under my feet, ‘why christianity must change or die’ by bishop john shelby spong. actually the first time i tried to read it, it made me so angry, i couldn’t finish it. i couldn’t believe this so-called bishop was saying all these ‘untrue’ things about what i had staked my life on. for some reason though, a few months later i tried it again, and got angry again, but for a different reason. this time i was pissed because i realized that i had been lied to for pretty much all my life. however, the unanswerable question was, whom should i be pissed at? i couldn’t be mad at the people who taught me this stuff, because they were only teaching me what they had been taught, and what their teachers had been taught. and it seemed pretty pointless to get mad at an institution. i remember right after finishing the book, i said to god, aloud, ‘all i want to know is the truth.’ and i swear, i heard a voice in my head say, ‘now we can begin.’ and my life has not been the same.

i’ve been through a lot spiritually, and religion-wise, between then and now. (spirituality and religion are not the same thing; trust me.) i’ve studied various world religions, some more deeply than others to be sure, but i’ve noticed they’re all basically pointing at the same thing. the problem with most religion is that people get hung up on the thing doing the pointing instead of paying attention to the ‘object’ (for lack of a better word) being pointed at. (not gonna use the finger pointing at the moon quote here, not gonna do it…) a couple of people who have met me in the last few years have accused me of being an atheist, just so i can ‘get away with’ doing whatever i want. nobody gets away with anything, but that’s a whole ‘nuther piece of writing. i’m not an atheist because i don’t believe the bible literally anymore. (actually i’m not an atheist, period.) my belief about the bible, and, by extension, about jesus, is that although the bible is true, it is far from being factual. it, along with other religious texts, is a collection of stories about the human condition, about how to (and how not to) treat others, and about ways to find deeper meaning in life. and that deeper meaning does not consist of literally believing that a man born of a virgin was sent from heaven to die for your sins so you don’t have to. that’s what my problem is with the young woman on the bus this morning. i know where her head is at, because i’ve been there. but she’s got to get outside her own head somehow, and see the bigger picture. she, and all of us, can embrace the experiences that brought her to this point in her life, but she needs to know that there’s more to this life than keeping people out of a literal hell.

maybe this life here on earth would be a little bit less hell-ish if we stopped to realize that there are as many ways to live for god as there are people on this planet.

(this post is an adaptation of a note i posted on facebook earlier today.)

mixed reaction

i hate to actually say this out loud (or type it, as it were), but is god trying to get my attention? first there was the cross dream from the other night. i didn’t feel bad about the conversation i had with ‘jesus’ in the dream (and still don’t). but i (foolishly) wonder if what happened this morning on the bus is somehow related to the dream, and if so, what message might god be trying to send me.

if he is trying to get my attention, i don’t believe the message is as obvious as the casual observer to the whole thing might think. here’s what happened: a cute young lady of color, probably in her early 20s, boarded the bus and paid her fare, while casually chatting with the driver. i didn’t think anything of that, but realize now that she was probably asking permission for what she was about to do. there were no seats on the bus, so she stood at the front, and asked how everybody was doing this morning. most everyone replied with some version of ‘fine’ or ‘good’ or ‘blessed’. then she asked if anybody on the bus needed prayer, to which no one responded, so she then said, ‘well, i’m gonna pray for y’all anyway, that god will provide whatever it is that you need.’ and then she started preaching, about how god had done so much for her, and for all of us, and how if we’re not living for god, we’re going to hell. then she prayed aloud, that basically everyone on the bus would repent and be saved, if they weren’t already. most of the people on the bus had their heads bowed and eyes closed (but not me). at the end of the prayer, ‘in jesus’ name’ of course, she thanked us for her time and was silent for the rest of her time on the bus.

so, my reaction to this? first i was pissed off that she was intruding into my thought space. plus, how dare she assume that everyone on the bus believes the same way she does. the majority of passengers on this particular route are black, which as a racial group tend to be pretty religious on the xtian side of things, so that was a safe bet for her, but still. i was pissed, especially when she started talking about living for god, and hell. i wanted to exclaim, like i did in my dream, ‘it’s all a fucking metaphor!’ then i calmed myself down by thinking about this being a blue/amber thing, and considered that maybe she is at a point in her life where she needs this belief structure to make sense of her world. maybe god, as she sees ‘him’, really has rescued her from some bad situations or a bad lifestyle, and feels that everyone else ought to know all the good god has done for her and could do for them. i get that. i was certainly as zealous as she, especially about not wanting folks to go to hell, when i first became a born-again christian back in 1985. so i could respect that and started being a little less pissed.

once she started praying, i felt tears well up in my eyes. actually, i suddenly had this huge urge to just start bawling my eyes out. what stopped me was the fact that i ride this bus daily, and while i see most of these people every day, we’re mostly essentially strangers. yes, i was worried about what they would think of me. then, even while she spoke, i was trying to figure out why her praying affected me so. one conclusion i came to was that it touched me that someone cared enough to pray for me, and the other people on the bus, all strangers to her. she put herself out there for us, and seemed quite sincere about it.

on another level, i think god, not big daddy god in the sky, but the ground of all being, used this incident to get my attention. over the last few months, i’ve not done much praying or meditation or even study of spiritual matters. it’s not that i need to go live in an ashram or a convent, but just that i do need to remember the divinity present in all people and things. today on facebook, one of my friends posted a link saying something about ‘if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at a godly man or woman.’ i say (and almost commented to him), if you want to see the fingerprint of god, look at the person right in front of you, ‘godly’ in the world’s eyes or not. here’s a controversial thought: even hitler is a part of the fingerprint of god. (stay with me here: i’m just considering the idea that god encompasses all things, good and evil, and that evil, in its own way, is nothing more – and nothing less – than god’s shadow side.)

so, i am eating the fish i need and spitting out the bones from this encounter. when i got off the bus, i surprisingly (to me) thanked her for her prayer and her heart. (her response? ‘praise god!) i’m taking this as a reminder to pay attention to the divinity i see all around, even during mundane activities such as my morning commute. and i pray that god/the universe/the ground of all being will use this young woman to bring more light into the world, and that she will grow into an ever-expanding knowledge of who and what god really is (and isn’t).

rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated…

hi strangers!

i’ve been around, really i have, but you know of my tendency to ignore the blog for months at a time. i’m back, for however long it takes. (however long what takes, who’s to say…)

a couple of nights ago i had a disturbing dream. i get the first part of the dream, which involves my mother, and i even get the second part of the dream, because i’m just stating what i believe to whomever i’m talking to in the dream. what i don’t get is what the two parts mean to each other. and maybe they are completely unrelated, as things in dreams often seem to be. anyway, here’s the dream:

I am riding in the backseat of a car that my mother is driving, recklessly. We are on a busy two-lane highway, and she is weaving in and out of traffic in both lanes, almost causing several near-misses. I can see in the rearview mirror that other cars have run off the road because of her erratic driving. Finally, we do hit another vehicle in the other lane, head-on. (Ordinarily in a dream like this, I would wake up immediately before or during the impact of the crash, but did not in this instance.) The dream fades to black momentarily, and then picks up with the erratic driving once again.

We pull up into the driveway of a house where there are people we know. (Some other stuff happens at this point that I vaguely remember, and then…) The person I am talking with in the front yard suddenly runs into the house because he sees a man walking alongside the highway, carrying a huge cross on his back. I just stand there and wait for the man to approach me. He looks like Jesus, and his eyes seem to be on fire. He plants the cross in the ground, and then somehow manages to chain himself to the cross. I say to ‘Jesus’, ‘You fool, it’s a metaphor, it’s all a fucking metaphor! The cross symbolizes our egos, and your death is symbolic of us finally dying to our egos! Anybody can chain themselves to a cross, but the real work is coming down in one piece!’ And I continue to rant along these lines for a little bit. ‘Jesus’ unchains himself from the cross, puts the cross back on his back, and continues on down the road.

yeah, so what do you think about that? am i going straight to hell because i yelled at jesus?

repost: miracles, jesus walking on water

this is a repost from 2007. i have been looking through old entries, trying to clean up the blog, and i saw this, and thought: wow, did i really write this? apparently some incarnation of me did, so here it is again, for 2010 and beyond.

Dudes, have you read this? One of my favorite quotes is ‘I would rather live in a world surrounded by mystery rather than in a world where everything can be explained.’ (Or something like that, close enough…) Apparently there is a researcher at Florida State University who says the miracle of Jesus walking on water can be explained by some perfect atmospheric conditions that caused ice to form on the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus was on the water, he was actually walking on ice, according to this scientist.

C’mon. Whether you believe the biblical story is true or not, does everything have to be explained? There’s no poetry, no mystery, no hoping for that one-in-a-million chance that something good might come out of a bad situation, no bloody faith involved in the idea of Jesus walking on ice. You ‘explain’ this, and you’d better explain him turning water into wine, feeding 5000 people with seven fishes, and Lazarus being raised from the dead, for starters. Actually you’d better start explaining how Jesus himself was raised from the dead. I’m not a biblical literalist (anymore), but I do believe these stories of miracles serve a purpose. One of those huge purposes is to give us hope that we can rise above our circumstances if we will just look inside ourselves for the strength to step out of the boat onto the water. Stepping out onto ice takes some faith and strength too, but it’s the things we can’t see that gives us more power and courage than the things we can, if we’re looking with the right eyes. And looking at most anything literally is not looking with the right eyes.

label-free living

i think it turns out that my epiphany from a few weeks has been a catalyst for some major changes in my life as far as how i am looking at the world these days. since this blog’s focus is supposed to be politics, religion, and sex from an integral point of view, i will try to stick to those topics in this post (but make no guarantees).

with my recent (and it’s about damn time) understanding of jesus’ true place in the grand scheme of things (the example of the kind of relationship one can have with god, as opposed to the misleading portrayal of him being the ‘savior of the world’), i have come to truly see that, at their core, all religions are pointing to the same thing: the one true source of all being that is commonly known as god. i had already believed that to some extent, and still made the choice to call myself a christian basically because it was what i grew up with and what i knew best. pressed to identify myself spiritually, i would have said i was a christian who incorporated some sufist and vedanta beliefs into the mix.

because of the studying i’ve been doing over the past few months, i have come to learn of the deceit and misunderstanding of some core truths involved in forming the basic doctrines of christianity that millions today take for ‘gospel truth’. this studying has led me to my current belief in world religions all pointing in the same direction (with many detours and unnecessary side trips along the way). it has also led me to shed the label of christian, as well as any side labels that i may have attached to my beliefs. i believe in one true god, who comes in many manifestations through many different religious traditions, as well as through no tradition at all. otherwise, there is no label i can place upon myself to say where i am spiritually. some would say i’m backslidden; others would call me an atheist (nothing could be further from the truth); others would just say i’m deluded. i believe each individual on earth is really nothing more than god experiencing itself in one of six billion plus individual incarnations, and our interactions with one another are really just god interacting with god. how can someone place a label on that?

so with the shedding of this particular label, i have taken stock in other areas of my life. for several years, i have been a card-carrying member of the libertarian party and have proudly identified as such. i still have very strong libertarian tendencies, but honestly, the two party system is way too entrenched in this country and is not going away anytime soon. the lp may be the largest third party in the country, but they are still largely ineffective in making a difference in policy and having any effect on our day-to-day lives (by getting the government out of our day-to-day lives).

anyway, the fact is that politically i espouse some very liberal points of view (against the death penalty, pro gay marriage) as well as some quite conservative viewpoints (pro-life, against affirmative action, pro gun rights), and then some viewpoints that are just kinda ‘out there’ (legalize most drugs in a manner similar to the way alcohol is handled, abolish the income tax). again, how can someone place a label on that??? while i may be libertarian in spirit, i can no longer consider myself a member of the lp, and really can’t place a label on myself in that regard anymore, other than maybe calling myself some sort of anarcho-capitalist.

ah, and then there’s my sexuality. hmm, well, for many years i’ve lived as a relatively (yes, c, ‘relatively’) heterosexual female. i’ve had limited experience with my own sex, but romantic relationships have been with the opposite sex. however, i don’t have many straight female friends, preferring either the friendship of men or women who seem in some way to be in touch with their masculine side (not necessarily meaning butch). as for myself, i’ve long thought that while i may appear feminine and definitely have a feminine energy, i think more like a man, and have never really been into things that many women i know are into, like shopping and makeup and talking about relationships with men. those things have always seemed like a waste of time. i’d rather talk politics and sports and beer and the meaning of life.

recently, i had a sexual experience that would seem abnormal by this society’s standards, and yet was the most natural thing in the world to me. in the days after, for like 13 seconds, i wondered, well does this mean i’m a lesbian? and the answer is, absolutely not; i currently have a male interest, but have no problem in saying that there are men and women both that i find attractive. there’s no reason i can’t acknowledge and act on either one if i feel so led, as long as the feeling is mutual.

so then, does this mean i’m bisexual? i don’t like that label, because it promotes duality, as though there are only two genders, when in reality there are a panoply of genders. gender and sex are not the same thing: gender is what you think you are in your head and sex is the equipment you were born with. most people live their lives thinking that their gender must match up with the equipment which means they can only develop feelings for people that have the opposing equipment. and if that’s how people want to live their lives, if it really works for them, that’s great. but there are far too many people who, in trying to make their gender match their equipment because of societal constraints live miserable lives.

as far as my own sexuality is concerned, would it be too much to say that i would like to be label-free in this area as well? at this point, my being a biological female serves two functions for me. first of all, it gives other people (coworkers, casual acquaintances, the society at large) an idea of how they think i should be treated. i don’t particularly care for this aspect, but it’s a fact that biology still determines how we are treated. (race comes into this as well, which i will write on at some point in the near future.) secondly, there are the truly biological functions, such as how i go to the bathroom and my ability to give birth. otherwise, it serves no function to me (other than to maybe determine the types of clothes i wear, although if i were really attracted to the idea of wearing men’s clothing, i would). i no longer allow my anatomy, or the anatomy of another person, to determine who i am attracted to, or how i move about in the world any more. to steal a teensy bit from dr. king, it’s not the color of the skin nor the anatomy but the content of a person’s character that i judge when deeming who i find attractive and may possibly want to explore a relationship with.

i know that as long as i am alive and moving around in this world, there will be people attempting to label me, for whatever reason. labels do serve a purpose, to be sure, but the fact is that underneath the labels, we are truly all the same. we are all nothing more than differing expressions of the the same everpresent consciousness underlying the universe. as humanity slowly comes to this realization, hopefully we can drop the labels and just love.


jesus is still alright with me

this particular post (which is probably going to be a long winded one) has been about a month in coming, ever since my return from new orleans, or maybe even it could have been written before then. this is a sort of processing what i have been reading lately, and doing some self-examination as to what i believe spiritually and why.

right before my trip, i read the laughing jesus by (hottie!) timothy freke and peter gandy. the blurb on the back cover looked intriguing, posing questions about the old testament being a complete work of fiction, and whether jesus christ ever actually existed as a human being, among others. so, i took the bait, and by the end of the book, i was an (un)believer. i made the conscious decision to believe the facts that i was reading and not the stories i had been told to believe on faith for much of my life. it is now my belief that the story of jesus, as presented in the bible is nothing more than a myth based on previous pagan myths about various god-men with almost the exact same biography found in the bible regarding jesus.

at the point i made that decision, it was like the scales literally fell off of my eyes. i always thought i understood this previously, especially after having read some years back books such as wilber’s up from eden or putting on the mind of christ by jim marion or why christianity must change or die by john shelby spong. however, this is where the idea finally clicked for me, that the story of jesus, like the stories of god-men before him, was meant only as an example of the possibilities i, and we all, can experience in god. paradoxically, my feelings about jesus are no different, and can be said to be even stronger because of this. he is an example to me of how i can be a christ, or anointed of god, right here and now. i don’t have to wait till i ‘die and go to heaven’ in order to be permanently in god’s presence. god’s presence is everywhere, even in the minutiae of my daily life, and i am in the continual process of learning how to be aware of it.

because of what i’ve read in this book, and others since then, i have come to the terrible conclusion that christianity in its current form is actually quite a diabolical religion. this is kind of hard to swallow, as this is the religion i was born and raised with, and i spent a number of years in the charismatic christian community. i know that if anyone from that movement were to read these words, they would immediately consider me backslidden and my soul lost for eternity. but this is exactly what i cannot reconcile, despite this blog post i wrote just a few weeks earlier on ‘why i am still a christian’. i just don’t think i am anymore. i mean, who would dream up a god supposedly of love, a god who demands absolute loyalty, a god who sentences you to hell because you don’t literally believe in jesus’ life and death? how can a religion claim that it is the only way to know god, when it has only been in existence for 2000 years? how did people get to know god before then? were they just screwed?

the original christians, the gnostics, knew that the jesus story was just a jewish version of the myth of osiris-dionysus, the god-man who within various milieux was believed (for starters) to have been born december 25 of a virgin, wandered the countryside as a young adult teaching parables, died on a cross for thinking he was god, arose from the dead and returned to heaven, promising to come back. the gnostics saw this story for what it was: an allegory of what we can have with god. it was this story that was perverted by the roman church, and moved from the level of teaching story to ‘gospel truth’, and is the basis of what passes for christianity today. what is so sad is that people who are normally rational thinkers believe that a child was born from a woman who had not previously had sex. and they believe in a literal hell for those people who think otherwise. and even though the crusades are obviously long over, there are still people who abuse their power in order to get people to believe this, while handing over the money in order to reach more people for this americanized jesus. thinking of the millions of people that have been brainwashed over the centuries into believing this form of christianity, i’m sorry, but to me, this truly is nothing short of diabolical. this is the very evil that i have so often heard preaching against.

it is also interesting to me how christians see stories in other religions, particularly eastern religions, as being mythical in nature, but stories of jesus walking on water and feeding thousands with only a few loaves of bread are ‘obviously’ true. again with the obi wan kenobi quote: ‘you’ll find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.’