Non Compos Mentis?

I am well aware that we all have freedom OF religion in this country. And that means that if I choose not to follow a specific religious belief system or a religious ritual, then I am free to do so. Please forgive me for repeating some things that you have heard from me before.

Concerning “Ash Wednesday,” the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, I understand it to be a solemn preparation of the mind and body given to prayer and fasting (actually, repentance and confession of sins). This season of Lent occurs during the 40 days prior to Easter and compliments the 40 days of temptation in the desert that Jesus supposedly experienced before he began his public ministry. The ashes represent those left from burning the palm branches thrown in Jesus’ path as he entered Jerusalem on what became known as Palm Sunday. Aside from all the supposed fulfilling of OT prophecies concerning the coming of a “Messiah,” one has to wonder what is really behind these rituals.

In my opinion, what is really behind this ritual of Ash Wednesday and the 40 days of Lent is the supposed holiness of a god whose “grace” is touted as sending an innocent man into the jaws of a heinous form of torture in order to pay for our sins. Some god! This injustice is supposed to assure us of our salvation, that is, if we believe it. And if not, then off to hell with you! Christian confessions declare as much. (cf. Athanasian Creed) This god’s holiness is claimed to have required a legitimate payback for our sins, something humans were unable to pay for. This holiness is said to be this god’s chief attribute, the “glory” of this god who demanded a worthy human sacrifice as payment for humanity’s disobedience; therefore, this god impregnated a human woman to put the salvation plan in motion through this god’s son. Really? Who comes up with this stuff?

I beg to differ with this whole contrived ritual and especially the holiness teaching behind it. Besides being very confusing and downright unfair, the holiness of God has never been an issue that needed satisfaction. Payback is not God’s idea and it certainly plays no part in God’s justice. Rather, love, compassion, acceptance and forgiveness of prodigal behavior are examples of God’s real justice! And for all that, God’s justice is unconditional! There are no strings attached to it. It does not even depend upon repentance before it is offered to humanity! Repentance is one of the fruits of recognizing such a loving justice. It is not a prerequsite to receiving such justice. Nor does God’s justice require any kind of sacrifice! God’s justice is merciful! God’s main attribute is love, not a payback vengeance against humanity in order to satisfy a contrived holiness! This also means that there is no need for a judgment day! And God’s love would not even think of coming up with an everlasting hellfire to punish unbelief in such a payback salvation plan.

Someone recently wrote: “If Jesus really paid our sin-debt to God to satisfy God’s holiness, then God actually forgives nothing and is without mercy!” Think about it. If B pays C’s debt to A, C’s debt has not actually been forgiven by A. A has shown no mercy to C at all. Where is the claimed “amazing grace” in such a transaction?

So, who did think up such nonsense? It was the sacrificial payback mindset of ancient powerful shamans who also conjured up a sky-god to go with their thinking about getting even – an animal-like behavior to supposedly assure their survival from this angry sky-god of theirs who they thought was out to get them with storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, etc.

In contrast to such thinking, the real “amazing grace” was proclaimed by the OT pre-captivity Prophets who spoke of a loving, accepting, compassionate God who cares for and freely forgives prodigal behavior. They called out for “mercy, not sacrifice.” And the historical Jesus taught and practiced the same ethic. His message of a loving presence (some call it a voice, others call it a consciousness) within us, patiently waiting to be discovered and mirrored to our neighbor, even to our enemy, was central to recognizing God’s “kingdom” among us, visible right here and right now. God’s kingdom is not something that will only appear sometime in the future. This teaching was absolutely scandalous to the religious leaders with their payback mindsets. It threatened their livelihood! So they went to the civil government demanding the death of the historical Jesus. (Precisely the same thing happened to the OT Prophets who taught the same “scandalous” message of God’s unconditional love for all.) And since the Romans were nervous about Jewish “messiahs” starting rebellions, having already had considerable experience with these messiahs in previous years, they quickly put an end to such rebellions by crucifying the leaders and their followers. No wonder followers of the historical Jesus went into hiding – or quickly returned to their homes in Galilee! The gospel writers’ narratives disagree on this point. That alone should make us question the historical accuracy of their narratives which most certainly were based on hearsay.

I use the terms “historical Jesus” and “hearsay” as opposed to the “Christ” of Paul’s letters, the same “Christ” that the gospel writers adopted and wrote about in their narratives, all written one and two generations after Paul’s letters and nearly three generations after the crucifixion. Obviously, the gospel writers were not witnesses to the events they wrote about and only had hearsay to build on.

More to the point, Paul’s new mystery religion, later called “Christianity,” used the holiness of a sky-god as its central theme. It was an apocalyptic god that needed to be appeased with nothing less than perfection – full payment for humanity’s sin paid for with the innocent blood of a perfect sinless human. This plan was proclaimed as being the saving grace of a merciful god, a plan that satisfied this god’s holiness. And Paul said that this plan was made known to him by “Christ” himself in another one of Paul’s apparitions in the desert of Arabia. Again, remember that these letters, written around 50 A.D., and which also included Paul’s account of his first vision of what he claimed was the risen “Christ,” were all that early Gentile followers had to go on until Mark’s narrative was written a generation later. But especially note the contrast between Paul’s message and messages of the OT pre-captivity Prophets and the historical Jesus.

Three generations later, in John’s gospel, written at least a generation after the Romans totally destroyed the Temple and most of Jerusalem, this man was then said to be something much more than a mere man, something more akin to the famous Roman heroes who were considered to be sons of the Roman gods.

Early Christians lived during perilous times to say the least. They were either killed for their mysterious beliefs (baptisms, and a secret meal of flesh and blood), or enslaved by the Romans in their mines. Besides that, and much like today, they fought among themselves over their differing beliefs and chose to exclude from their fellowship those who disagreed with them. Most followed the teachings of Paul and the gospel writers. Some followed the more Jewish teachings of Jesus’ brother James and the Apostles who were the original leaders of the Jerusalem Church that had been scattered after Jerusalem was mostly destroyed in 70 A.D. They were mostly Jews who still tried to follow the Torah and several Jewish rituals, and they believed that Jesus was the promised “Messiah” who would return soon to set up his kingdom. Paul, however, claimed that his “Christ” was the “new” Torah who had fulfilled the old Torah and he openly challenged the Jerusalem Church followers of James for insisting that their old Torah rituals must be followed by his Gentile converts. The Jerusalem leadership, in turn, openly challenged Paul for not teaching his Gentile converts to follow the rituals of the Torah, specifically, circumcision and exclusive table fellowship. Both were unloving with their exclusive behavior and accusations.

Then there were those who followed their various collections of Jesus’ sayings instead of the NT gospel narratives and Paul’s letters, or the Torah. They refused to believe that the historical Jesus was actually God the Son (some were known as Arians), that his shed blood paid for our sins, or that his body rose from the dead and will return to judge all humanity. Instead, they claimed that his “appearances” were only in the minds of his followers. They taught that we are all “resurrected” when we finally understand and see the presence of God’s “kingdom” already here and now by mirroring God’s love and compassion to others. They tried to practice loving their neighbor as Jesus did, treating all humans as God’s children, even the Jews and other Christians. They believed that God was a loving God and that God’s presence within us would never leave us or forsake us, not even when we pass through death together and into another existence with this God. Since these were minority groups, they were branded as heretics (Gnostics, ones with a secret knowledge of an inner presence, voice, consciousness). The ruling bishops ordered that their collections of Jesus’ sayings should be burned. My, oh my, what an example of “love” for each other!

It is interesting to note here that the first narrative gospel writer, Mark, had used several of Jesus’ sayings from these collections that would later be banned and destroyed. Mark fit them into his narrative. And more than another generation later, the writers Matthew and Luke copied most of Mark’s narrative, adding their own slants to the Jesus story, but also including some of Jesus’ sayings as well. How do we know this? – Because a collection of those sayings that early Scribes had translated from the original Aramaic into Greek had been hidden in a clay jar by someone who disobeyed the burning ban. They were discovered in that jar along the Upper Nile in Egypt (Nag Hammadi) by a farmer in 1945. Most of the collection was gathered up by an Egyptian museum curator. It then became easy for scholars to compare the sayings with those found in the gospel narratives. However, just like the gospel narratives, the collection contains hearsay as well, including sayings that do not fit with the historical Jesus’ message of the loving presence of God being within us just waiting to be discovered and shared with others. Also, again like the NT gospels, the writers used pseudonyms of early followers.

Bottom line? Search through all the weeds of both the OT and NT scriptures, even the Nag Hammadi collection, and you will find God’s unconditional love shining like a beacon in the darkness. So how can we tell the difference? The people asked Moses the same question: “How can we know when a prophet’s words are false?” The answer was: “If they do not happen, then God never said them.” (Alarmist’s have a 100% failure rate!) If the fruit is spoiled, that is, if the compliant behavior results from threatening words or from fear of predicted punishment, then the behavior is merely conditional, and you will know that the words are not God’s. If the fruit is truly good, refreshing and liberating the life, then you will know that such behavior is the result of being set free by the loving words of God.

Disagreements among early Christians became so heated that they threatened to divide the Empire. After Emperor Constantine’s supposed vision which directed him to conquer under the cross, he was determined to unify the empire. He called a Council of more than 300 bishops to Nicaea in 325 A.D. and led the Council to agree on accepting some of the NT letters and gospels as being sacred and inspired by their Christian god. Constantine had an official sacred “Bible” published and distributed. (The official canon of our OT and NT Bible took centuries for Councils to finally agree on.) The Nicene Creed was adopted to settle the argument over Christ’s divinity. Anyone who refused to believe in what the creed confessed and the saving payment of Christ’s blood would be exiled or answer to the sword of the Emperor if they openly taught otherwise. Little wonder that Paul’s new religion and his “Christ” all but buried the message of the historical Jesus and the OT pre-captivity Prophets, especially when coupled with the bishop’s burning ban of the “sayings” collection!

Although the central teachings of holiness of the Christian sky-god and the god’s holy plan for our salvation from sin’s punishment appear to have buried the better news of a loving accepting God, God’s loving message will finally prevail because it is all inclusive, and it is truly just and humane toward all! God’ love will finally heal the hearts and minds of all those who are still worried about the strength of their faith in their god’s holy plan. And it could possibly be your inclusive accepting love for them that finally convinces them that holiness is not what God is about.

Many very religious folks may be offended by this email which questions their belief system and their rituals, and they may even describe me as being “non compos mentis,” which is Latin for “not of sound mind.” But we shall see….

In the meantime, just as I accept each and every one of you as brothers and sisters in God’s family, no matter what your current religious convictions may be, and that includes those who are convinced that there is no “God.” (One has to wonder if their conclusion is based on what they know of the Christian “god” that I described earlier. If so, I agree with them. They just have not discovered the unconditional – loving – accepting – forgiving God yet, the One who is not up in the sky somewhere, but instead has chosen to live within and among us.) Just as you have been freely accepted and forgiven, forgive yourself. Then I encourage you to do the right thing, the loving thing, to your neighbor, to a stranger, and even to your enemy. Surprise them with your caring and compassionate goodness. Follow the lead of the Samaritan that Jesus told about. If you have not already done so, look for and begin to discover this better presence within yourself. Then turn it loose to all around. It is liberating!

The writer of Psalm 51 caught this inner voice from the Prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah and passed it on to all who were ready to listen:

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
“I will build you up again, and you will be rebuilt.”
“See, I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them will be the blind and the lame, expectant mothers and women in labor; a great throng will return. I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble, because I am their Father.”
“They will come and shout for joy; they will rejoice in the bounty of The Lord.”
“I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy in place of sorrow.”
“Restrain your voice from weeping (over your past) and your eyes from tears, for your work (though it was unloving) will be rewarded,” (with unconditional forgiving love) declares the Lord.
“I will put my law (of love) into their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

“Vengeance was his, but he gave me back my life.” That line comes from the new movie Les Miserables. And it ends with another even better one, “He who loves another person has seen the face of God.”

A few of my favorite passages from the pre-captivity Prophets follow from the NIV translation. I think these also encouraged the historical Jesus.

♥ ♥ ♥

Jeremiah 25 – I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

I will put my way into their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. – because I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

Isaiah 40 – Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly and proclaim that her hard service has been completed, that she has received from the LORD’s hand a double blessing for all her sins.

(Forgiving you gives me relief so you do not have to worry any longer that I will bring you harm. And since I forgive you, you can forgive yourself and be relieved, and finally turn about and get on with your life. A double blessing! Relief for me and relief for you. Love your neighbor exactly the same way. Another double blessing. Relief for you and relief for him. No payback from you and hopefully a turn about by him.) – hh

You who bring good tidings, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns, “Here is your God!” See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Let the nations renew their strength! Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD – with the first of them and with the last – I am he. You, whom I have chosen, I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my children. I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you, declares the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”

You will rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One. The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. But I the LORD will answer them; I will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, that the Holy One has created it.

This is what God the LORD says – he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for all people and a light for all, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.

Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements rejoice. Let the people sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the LORD and proclaim his praise in the islands.

For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see! But now, this is what the LORD says – he who created you, he who formed you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One, your Savior.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. Lead out those who have eyes but are blind, who have ears but are deaf.

Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed – I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. When I act, who can reverse it?

This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One: I am the LORD, your Holy One, Creator, your King. This is what the LORD says: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. You are saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.

For this is what the LORD says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: I am the LORD, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness. I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: They will say of me, “In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.” In the LORD all my children will be found righteous and will exult. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are far from righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation. Our Redeemer – the LORD Almighty is his name – is the Holy One.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. (of payback) Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (no conditions) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Maintain (my) justice (forgiveness) and do what is right, (love one another) for my salvation is close and my righteousness is now revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast. ( ) – hh

Ezekiel 34 – For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. I will shepherd the flock with (my) justice (acceptance and forgiveness). I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I the LORD have spoken.

I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees of the field will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the LORD their God, am with them and that they are my people, declares the Sovereign LORD. You my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, are people, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign LORD.

Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes. For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; (in them) I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the LORD make them holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever. (God’s “kingdom” here and now and forever!) – hh

Hosea 6 & 11 – I will have mercy, not sacrifice. It was I who taught you to walk, taking you by the arms; but you did not realize it was I who healed you. I led you with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from your neck and bent down to feed you; all my compassion is aroused. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

I will heal your waywardness and love you freely. (unconditionally) I will be like the dew; he will blossom like a lily. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them.

Micah 7 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgressions of his inheritance? You delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Zephaniah 3 – Then will I purify the lips of the peoples, that all of them may call on the name of the LORD. On that day you will not be put to shame for all the wrongs you have done to me. You will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. Sing; shout aloud! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart!

The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

I will rescue the lame and gather those who have been scattered. I will give them praise and honor in every land where they were put to shame. I will gather you; I will bring you home. I will give you honor and praise among all the peoples of the earth when I restore your fortunes before your very eyes, says the LORD.

Zechariah 2 – Shout and be glad. I am coming, and I will live among you, declares the LORD. Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has been sent to you.

This is what the LORD Almighty says: Administer true justice: show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.

I will restore you because I have compassion on you, for I am the LORD your God and I will answer you. You will become like mighty men, and your hearts will be glad as with wine. Your children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the LORD. I will signal for them and gather them in. In distant lands they will remember me. They and their children will survive, and they will return. I will bring them back and gather them. I will bring them. I will strengthen them in the LORD and in his name they will walk, declares the LORD.

Henry Hasse ~ February 17, 2013

Published in: on February 19, 2013 at 8:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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