Thursday, February 10, 2005

Spiritual Journey: Part Five

A slightly-expanded, edited excerpt from a recent e-mail to a relative of mine--a "born-again Christian" (dated Feb. 8, 2005):

Well, this must be a very short reply. ...
I realize that mine are minority views in almost every case, no matter who or what we are talking about, and I also have to say that I never have had and never will have any intention whatsoever to think and act just like everyone else around me. I am interested in only one, basic, underlying thing: TRUTH. No matter what the cost. I don't care whether other people fear that truth, or whether it appears frightening at first even to me. I only know that if it is true, then I must accept and embrace it, no matter who it might offend or what "orthodoxies it might challenge."
My outlook is ... that of a SCIENTIST, an EMPIRICIST. I accept only what can be demonstrated and shown, or basically PROVEN. Some things, of course, cannot be shown with such firm, final evidence, and so we must in those cases rely rather on educated, reasonable, rational guesses. That for me is definitely the case with "God." 'His' existence cannot easily be shown or proven as I state here, yet I do believe in a "God" (sort of)--not exactly in the same limited and infantile manner as most people in this nation, but definitely as a 'higher power', and the creator and SOURCE of all life, energy, intelligence and matter in the universe. I believe that "God" is so immense as to be almost literally beyond our comprehension and description, though I do believe we come nearest to approaching a proper understanding when we think of 'him' as LOVE and ENERGY, and try to internalize that love and energy by showing the same toward our fellow-creatures--even when and if we feel they may not deserve it. (Who are we mere puny humans, anyway?)
I do NOT believe that "Jesus" ever had any real, physical existence. And I believe there is overwhelming historical and cultural evidence which supports this contention, though many people with their own prior religious agendas will try to belittle (or even deny) those evidences.
Having said that (controversial enough, right?), I will add that I DO believe that "Jesus" has a very real METAPHORICAL existence--both in the form of the body of his "followers" known collectively as "the CHURCH," and in the belief that--following St.Paul's ideas--each of us is capable of becoming a "Christ" individually when we act according to 'his' teachings and example.
I thus see the term "Christian" as being definable in two separate, distinct ways:
The first way is as a literal believer, who agrees that "Jesus" was born in a manger as the Son of God on Earth, lived, preached, performed miracles, died on the cross to save mankind from their sins, rose again on the third day, and will return a second time in glory to rescue the faithful and condemn the ungodly.
The second possible way that one can be a "Christian" (I believe) is to try diligently to LIVE A CHRIST-LIKE LIFE; that is--following the beliefs of St.Paul and the early Christian 'Gnostics'--to literally emulate or follow the example that 'Christ' taught and showed. (I realize I'm speaking here as if he actually existed; I do this only as a way to get the point across--as a teaching tool).
This second path--living a 'Christ-like' life--is, of course, much harder than the first (merely saying one believes). Many people CLAIM to also follow this second path to 'Christianity', but few in fact really do so (alas).
I am most definitely NOT the first type of Christian, but I do try to be the second type (even though I don't believe "Jesus" ever really existed as a distinct person like you or I). I merely believe, rather, in the ethical teachings and the (fictional) example, without believing in the historicity of the man himself. "A Christian Without Christ" is how one writer once referred to it. ...
T.J. White, 8 February, 2005.