Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Rami's Reply to Mike's April 7th Post

Yes, we come from different perspectives about religion as well as from different religions. And the former is probably the greater difference between us.

I see religion as inherently social and political, one of the ways humans construct and enforce communal identity. As such religion is given to hierarchies of power, in-groups and out-groups, and even enemies both human and demonic. Religion keeps us constantly at war with “the other” and even with ourselves. By keeping us perpetually at war and afraid, religion fosters dependency upon its leaders and its gods who offer us security even as they manipulate us into insecurity. Fear, not love, is the central operating system of religion.

If I understand you correctly, what you call your personal faith journey I would call spirituality. Spirituality can operate outside religion and fear, and root itself in humility, compassion, and justice. Spirituality, at least as I experience it, isn’t about security, but about living fearlessly, embracing insecurity with a loving heart.

While I draw from Judaism and you from Christianity, we are both creating our own vantage points from which to judge the rightness of things. By definition, our respective vantage points must be outside the thing we are evaluating. So we are, each in our own way, heretics.

I wonder if it is possible to stand outside all systems, to stand free and unconditioned. The best I can do is to be aware of my conditioning by cultivating what is often called Witness Consciousness. Once I am aware of my conditioning I am no longer so conditioned by it. When I am aware of my conditioning I am also aware of what I call the te of God, the way of forgiveness, truth, compassion, justice, etc.

I like what you say about the Third Commandment and your pastoral toolbox. We use God to excuse the cravings of ego, and in so doing mistake ego for God. Ego becomes the god we worship, and in so doing we violate both the Second and Third Commandments. People are lucky to have a pastor who can point this out in a manner that frees them from such idolatry, though I imagine they are not quick to praise you for it.

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