Thursday, 22 May 2008
Brother Are You Saved?
P.S. Murray - one more thing.....
Jesus began his ministry proclaiming "think again! The Kingdom of God is as far away as your own hand!"
For many Christians the ground has got to shift before they could even begin to talk to a Buddhist. I started in the Evangelical/Pentecostal tradition as you know - you were there at the time, though you didn't stick around for as long as I did. So, here's a metaphor for the faith we once shared, you and I, though both of us have moved, in our own way, beyond it:
God gave the people of the world a beautiful luxury ship, but unfortunately they sank it. So now the people are adrift and alone in a vast ocean, treading water, and beyond any possibility of rescuing themselves or others. They are waiting for certain death. Fortunately God, being loving, has sent a lifeboat, paid for in some mysterious way, by his son. The way into the boat is simple. You just have to ask. There's a set way of asking. You've got to acknowledge that you're wet, admit that it's your own damn silly fault and promise to obey the captain and not to leave the boat once you're aboard. If you don't ask in the right way you can't get in but despite this oddity, many people clamber into the lifeboat and are safe. Once safe aboard, the survivors, in gratitude set about rescuing others. In fact, the main duty of being in the lifeboat is this rescue work and the survivors do it with enthusiasm, cheering themselves along with jolly songs and finding ingenious ways to make the boat visible and inviting - but never for a moment forgetting the entry rules. Unfortunately there are other purported lifeboats, also doing some "rescue" work, but anyone can see that these are leaky vessels, and offer no real hope to those foolish enough to accept their offers of false help. So the lifeboat works tirelessly on, getting very full at times, but never moving across the ocean very far from where it began.
Over the years, I have seen something apparent to you almost from the start: that the faith for which this little story is a metaphor proclaims a God who is greatly at variance with the central tenet of our faith: that Jesus of Nazareth presents a window or a picture of the great loving mind at the centre of all reality. Further, this type of faith is a digital faith. It's 0 or 1. You're in or you're out, and once in, that's it really. You're saved, so there's not a lot of incentive for much else, so there is a preoccupation with finding faith, and a not a lot of energy devoted to its continuation.
I have a similar metaphor which I believe is closer to what Jesus actually taught. It's certainly closer to what he lived.
The people of the world BELIEVE that they are adrift and alone in a vast ocean, treading water, and beyond any possibility of helping themselves or others. In fact they are not adrift, for God, being loving, has sent a lifeboat, paid for in some mysterious way, by his son, and the people are already warm, safe and dry inside it. They have, in fact, never been adrift. The job of those who know the true state of things is to tell the others. Unfortunately most of the others simply can't believe it: such good news is simply too good to be true. So, believing that they are adrift they continue to act as if they are: they tread imaginary water, they cough, they splutter, they feel cold and alone.Some, remarkably, even manage to drown. For those who know, the best course of action is to go quietly about the business God has set them: that, is, rowing for shore, which is still a good way off. Rowing takes some effort and knowledge but strangely, in the rowing, people are strengthened and made happier. They feel the breeze and see the sky. They watch fish and whales. Other people, seeing their new enjoyment of life, become interested, and soon their delusions begin to fade and, tentatively, they also begin an interest in rowing. Or, at first in oars, at least. There are of course other lifeboats. Whether they are going to the same shore, who can tell? What I know is that much can be learned about rowing by watching them, and talking with their friendly crews.
Think again. The Kingdom of God is as far away as your own hand.