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Home arrow Blog arrow March 2009 arrow March 3, 2009

March 3, 2009
March 3, 2009: Just because people say they are Christian; it does NOT mean they are...
My Sermon of The Mount 

March 20, 2006: I bid goodbye to the sixty ecumenical Christian Internationals who I had been traveling throughout the West Bank with, and then I went solo to spend two nights on the Mount of Beatitudes in Israel. This awe inspiring site sits above the shimmering Sea of the Galilee where Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount. After the nine day Sabeel Reality Tour in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, I needed to be alone and silent.

But, I ended up delivering my own Sermon on the Mount.

Four Franciscan Sisters, one each from Syria, Jordan, Malta and Italy care for the shrine and the pilgrim guests at the Hospice Center where I spent two nights and a day of silent reflection of all I had witnessed the previous nine days.

At dinner a Catholic Pentecostal from Scotland introduced himself and asked me why I was there and what church I was from. I responded I have Irish Roman Catholic, Polish Jew, Russian Orthodox and Episcopal roots but that my rock is The Beatitudes.

He looked even more perplexed when I told him I came to the Mount of Beatitudes to decompress and reflect after nine days in Occupied Territory. I asked him if he were aware of the work of Sabeel, a Palestinian founded organization that promotes a theology of liberation based on justice, peace, non-violence and reconciliation for all, regardless of faith path or nationality.

He sternly admonished me, "God gave this land to the Jews! The Bible never mentions Palestine, and that is that! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!"

I responded just as fervently that the Palestinian Christians are the descendants of those who first followed Christ and they have been denied inalienable human rights by the Israeli government. I told him the Christians in the Holy Land have shrunk from 20% of the total population to less than 1.3% since 1948 and if things don't change soon, there will be no Christian witness in the land where Christ promised it is the peacemakers who are the children of God.

He sputtered, "But the Jews have suffered! God gave this land to the Jews and that is that!"

I responded, "Yes, the Holocaust happened because good people did nothing for far too long, and now the oppressed have become the oppressors. In the 21st century good people are unaware, ignoring or are in total denial about the injustice in the Holy Land. And what about all the Hebrew prophets, such as Micah who reminded the Hebrews of what God requires: To be just, to be merciful and to walk humbly with your Lord."

I could NOT shut up although I knew that Scotsman was trying to get away-he also looked a bit terrified! But, I was on a tear and barely took a breath as I tell him that instead of staying in Israel for his entire visit, he should go and witness life in the occupied territories; to go and see the effects of The Wall on his spirit and see what it has done to the Palestinian economy. I tell him he should go and tour some of the 57 year old refugee camps and see the ruins of all the uncompensated home demolitions. I bring it on home by telling him that I also doubt that God was ever in the real estate business!

His eyes had bugged out and his mouth had dropped open while the torrent of words flowed out of me. When I finally finish delivering my sermon, he stammered, "But there is suffering everywhere!"

I responded swiftly, "Yes there is suffering everywhere and Christ always stood up for the poor and the oppressed. And he told us what ever we do or do not do for the least and the outcast; we do it or do not do it unto God."

He shook his head and turned and quickly walked away and never looked my way again. Nobody else spoke to me the rest of that evening or the next day. All I kept hearing within was Luke 23:34: "Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing."

A new Zogby International poll found that 31% of those surveyed in the national poll strongly believe or somewhat believe in the ideas behind Christian Zionism, defined as "the belief that Jews must have all of the promised land, including all of Jerusalem, to facilitate the second coming of the messiah."

A CNN/Time poll showed that 59% of the American public believes the prophecies contained in the Book of Revelations will come true.

The fastest growing cult in the USA-and perhaps also in Scotland-is the cult of Christian Zionism.

What is Christian Zionism?

Christian Zionism is an extremist Christian fundamentalist movement which supports the claims of those who believe that the State of Israel should take control of all of the land currently disputed between Palestinians and Israelis. It views the creation and expansion of the modern state of Israel as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy toward the second coming of Jesus.

Christian Zionism is a two hundred year old theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist program provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it laces an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.

What is the Christian Zionist connection with the Holy Land ?

Believing that God fights on the side of Israel, Christian Zionists call for unqualified support for the most extreme political positions related to the Holy Land. Christian Zionist spokes persons have attributed Hurricane Katrina to God's wrath over our failure to stop Israel from pulling out of Gaza. They consistently oppose any moves towards a solution to the conflict which would validate the political aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Who Supports Christian Zionism?

Christian Zionism has significant support within American Protestant fundamentalists, who number between 10 and 20 million. Its reach is broad, by virtue of its favorite themes related to the "End Times" and an Israel-fixated Christian media.
Christian Zionism is both a "movement" and a way of interpreting current events. Its focus is on Israel and the Middle East, as much an ideology as a "movement." Its promoters share many beliefs but are not organized through any one institution.

Throughout history Christians have at times twisted scripture to justify violence: for the Crusades, for Anti-Semitism, and for slavery. Too often the church has been slow to respond to these biblical distortions with disastrous results.

Although the Christian Zionists motives are couched in terms of compassion toward the Jewish people based on a literal reading of scripture the political agenda of territorial expansion advocated by Christian Zionists has given rise to injustice against Palestinians and added fuel to the fire of conflict in the Middle East.

The GOOD NEWS is that some mainstream churches have spoken out against this inherently anti-Semitic theology. What follows are but a few words from some of those who have.

Presbyterian Church USA, in July 2004 during the National General Assembly meeting stated: "Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God, and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

In June 2004, the Reformed Church in America at their Annual National Synod issued an Historical Analysis and Critique which stated, "Jesus, picking up seminal themes from the Hebrew scriptures, preached and lived a message of reconciliation."

In July 2003, the United Church of Christ's General Synod offered an Alternative Voice to Christian Zionism and affirmed, "We believe that the tenets of Christian Zionism neither reflect the intention of the teachings of Jesus and the prophets, nor promote peace in the Middle East, and respectfully recommend...an alternative voice to this theology."

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America during its June 2005 Chicago Metropolitan Synod issued a Resolution to Encourage the Study of Christian Zionism
which states that "the movement of Christian Zionism based on these biblical interpretations seeks to influence U.S. policy toward Israel in a manner that would arguably facilitate mistreatment of Palestinians, continued occupation of the land, opposition to a two-state solution, and exclusive Israeli control of Jerusalem."

The United Methodist Church in June 2005 held a Conference On Unwrapping the Rapture warned that
"every household should give prayerful consideration as to how God will actually judge us for our silence about and complicity in the crushing of the Palestinian people."

In 2004, the Diocese of Chicago's Episcopal Church confronted Christian Zionism and reminded the flock that, "A partial response to Christian Zionism would be to say that we read Scripture in light of [Jesus'] two great commandments - to love God and our neighbor."

All Christians would do well to remember, that in that war ravaged land we call Holy, Christ delivered his Sermon on The Mount and promised:

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." Matthew 5:9


John Hagee Zionists
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Hagee is a fundamentalist Christian.

The Stages of the Soul and How Religiosity/Fundamentalism is holding up Evolution
"All truth passes through three stages: First, it is ridiculed, second it is violently opposed, and third, it is accepted as self-evident."
-Arthur Schopenhauer



In Have you heard the true tale of the Bedouin named Mohammed Ali,
Read more...   I related the true tale of the Bedouin named Mohammed Ali and his 1945 discovery of what has become known as the Nag´ Hammâdi Library; a collection of ancient texts that were buried in the wilderness under the cliff of Jabl al-Tarif  in Egypt, just above the bend of the Nile, north of the Valley of the Kings, across the river from the city of Nag´ Hammâdi, near the hamlet of al-Qasr, apparently for safe-keeping.

These ancient compositions written in Coptic and Greek are now available in most every language. These ancient texts offer NO new answers; but they do provide us with a glimpse of Christianity at its very roots, and it was most diverse indeed.

Many of the texts were considered Gnostic and banned by the church Fathers during the reign of Emperor Constantine and were ordered to be burned. Gnosis is defined as knowledge discerned intuitively, and intuition is anathema to fundamentalists who prefer doctrines and dogmas, easy answers and who see black and white, but not shades of grey.

Today's scholars agree that it is very possible the sayings in the Gnostic gospels are closer to the words Jesus actually spoke than what is found in the canonical gospels.

Two thousand years ago, there was lively debate about who Jesus was, and why he came. Churches before Emperor Constantine legitimized Christianity were hot beds of individuality and not the institutions that have become big business today.


 
Jesus said he came that we would have life to the full; abundant life [John 10:10] and that takes deep thought, wrestling with The Divine and then taking action.


"To think deeply in our culture is to grow angry and to anger others; and if you cannot tolerate this anger, you are wasting the time you spend thinking deeply. One of the rewards to deep thought is the hot glow of anger at discovering a wrong, but if anger is taboo, thought will starve to death."-Jules Henry

The first mention of Israel in the Bible is in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestled, struggled and then clung to the Divine being and was then renamed Israel.

Jesus also was never a Christian; in fact the term 'Christian' was not even coined until the days of Paul, about 3 decades after Jesus walked the earth as a man. Jesus was a social justice, radical revolutionary Palestinian devout Jewish road warrior who rose up and challenged the job security of the Temple authorities by teaching the people they did NOT need to pay the priests for ritual baths or sacrificing livestock to be OK with God; for God already LOVED them just as they were: sinners, poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Military Occupation.

 

What got Jesus crucified was disturbing the status quo of the Roman Occupying Forces of his time, by teaching the subversive concept that Caesar only had power because God allowed it and that God preferred the humble sinner, the poor, diseased, outcasts, widows, orphans, refugees and prisoners all living under Roman Occupation above the elite and arrogant.



The early followers and lovers of Jesus were called members of THE WAY-being THE WAY he taught one should be; Nonviolent, a Peacemaker and one who did the will of the Father. "What does God require? He has told you o'man! Be just, be merciful, and walk humbly with your Lord." -Micah 6:8





We are not just body and mind, we are also spirit; a trinity in one flesh that will decay and whither away. When any part of the human trinity is out of balance, so will ones life be. Life is a journey and the best trip one can embark upon, is by going within and wrestling with The Divine; and thus become Israel on the way.


"I said, you are gods: you are all children of the Most High God."-Psalm 82:6


It has been said that evolution is being held up by fundamental religiosity and the surge of such narrow minded and arrogant thought, sends shivers through cynical atheists and mystics alike. The bumper sticker actually did get it right: "We are spiritual beings having a human experience."


According to the 1987 classic, The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, Dr. Scott Peck defines the spiritual life as fluid and that one may pass back and forth repeatedly through any of the four-probably more-stages of the soul.

Stage one upon this journey -that begins from within-is essentially our infancy in the spiritual life. Like a wild child, a person in this stage reflects the inner chaotic and anti-social, unregenerate soul that is interested only in its own self-satisfaction and ego, much like the stereotypical spoiled child.

Stage one people may claim to love others, but their behavior reflects they love their own pleasure, money, power, prestige, and security above any other. For stage one people, it really is all about them.

Stage two souls seek to "let their light shine" and will live virtuous lives and do many good works. They also can be judgmental of others, self-righteous, rigid of thought, cold of heart, legalistic concrete literal thinkers and may even be guilty of a lukewarm faith. They want to do right and they even may desire to love and please God, but have not yet fully opened up to the Inner Light, as Joan of Arc did when she challenged church and state and persisted that she had intuited God within -even while being fried.

Jesus said, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." -John 8:32


Stage two souls have not yet been set fully free and prefer the security of a higher human authority than themselves for guidance. They submit to institutions, scripture, dogma, ritual, ministers, or gurus. This is the most appropriate stage for older children and most adults who live busy lives just trying to keep bread on the table and a dry roof above.

The difference between a stage one and stage two soul, is that a one wouldn't even notice a neighbor in need, while the two has awoken to the fact that we are to be our neighbor's keepers and they will respond to a friend-and like the good Samaritan, even to a total stranger in need.


Most theologians would agree that the opposite of faith is not disbelief: the opposite of faith is fear. Stage three souls have not just fearlessly awoken, they have evolved! This evolution has led them to the realization of what Christ was really talking about in the Sermon of the Mount AKA: The Beatitudes which sound like crazy promises, but are all about waking people up to The Divine.

 
About 2,000 years ago, when Christ was about 33, he hiked up a hill and sat down under an olive tree and began to teach the people;

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

In other words: it is those who know their own spiritual poverty, their own limitations and sins honestly and trust God loves them in spite of themselves who already live in the Kingdom of God.
How comforted we will all be, when we see, we haven't got a clue, as to the depth and breadth of pure love and mercy of The Divine Mystery of The Universe.

God's name in ancient Aramaic is Abba which means Daddy as much as Mommy and He/She: The Lord has said, "My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not yours." -Isaiah 55:8


Christ proclaimed more: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The essence of meek is to be patient with ignorance, slow to anger and never hold a grudge. In other words: how comforted you will be when you also know humility; when you know yourself, the good and the bad, for both cut through every human heart.


"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they will be filled."

In other words: how comforted you will be when your greatest desire is to do what "God requires, and he has already told you what that is; BE JUST, BE MERCIFUL and walk humbly with your Lord."-Micah 6:8

 
"Blessed are the merciful, they will be shown mercy."

 In other words: how comforted you will all be when you choose to return only kindness to your 'enemy.'


"For with the measure you measure against another, it will be measured back to you."
Christ warns his disciples as he explains the law of karma in Luke 6:27-38.


"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God."


In other words: how comforted you will be when you WAKE UP and see God is already within you, within every man, every woman and every child. The Supreme Being is everywhere, the Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. Beyond The Universe -and yet so small; within the heart of every atom.


"Blessed are The Peacemakers: THEY shall be called the children of God."



And what a wonderful world it would be when we all seek peace by pursuing justice; for there can be none without the other.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires, theirs is The Kingdom of Heaven."

And one fine day the lion will lie down with The Lamb and man will make war no more and that is the Kingdom of God.




A stage three soul may well reject Christ as God, but often agree with the philosophy of Jesus, which Thomas Jefferson laid out when he weeded out the miracle stories from the gospels and clarified the teachings and ethics of Christ in: THE LIFE AND MORALS of JESUS of NAZARETH

1. Be just: justice comes from virtue which comes from the heart.
2. Treat people the way we want to be treated.
3. Always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
4. Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
5. Do not judge others.
6. Do not bear grudges.
7. Be modest and unpretentious.
8. Give out of true generosity, not because we expect to be repaid.
9. Being true to one's self in more important than being loyal to one's family...those who think they know the most are the most ignorant...


A stage three soul will see that a neighbor is everyone on the planet and not just those who think and look the same and are born in the same geographical localtion. Stage three's are seekers, doubters, skeptics, atheists, agnostics and frequently adults who grew up disenchanted with institutionalized religion. Their inherent intellectual curiosity leads them to seek their own way towards the Mystery of the Divine through philosophy and the study of multiple faith paths choosing and discarding according to their "inner light."

Stage three souls often become activists for social justice and reform and the increasing wave of humanitarian secularism verses the bondage of religious dogma just may be the way to change the world as we now know it.

 
It has been said we are all called to be mystics in the market place and a stage four, such as Thomas Merton and Rumi give voice to that experience of the curtain being lifted and seeing through the glass a bit less darkly.


A mystic can best be understood as one who is in love with the divine mystery and is viscerally connected to the unity of all creation. Mystics are not navel gazers, they feel the pain of the world within their hearts and grieve at what humans do to the other when they have no clue that The Divine is within the other as much as within themselves.


Mystics have detached from their concepts of God-not by their own efforts, but by the invitation and action of God upon a willing and simple soul in love with Pure Being, AKA: God for lack of a better word.


The mystic fool, Saint Francis, the leper kisser of Assisi, was so head over heels in love with God in everyone and all of creation that most people of his time considered him crazed, or at least, extremely eccentric. One needn't be a mystic or move beyond stage two on the spiritual journey to do what is good and right just because it is good and right.
 
On that foundation alone people of faith, atheists and agnostics can surely find something to agree upon. Or would only a mystic see that? 

 

   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa


“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has ceased...to obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946



The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright



“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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