Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rami: Response to Mike's 11/18 Post

It looks that we will never agree on our capacity to separate feelings from actions. I suspect you mean something far more profound than I do in this regard. Just imagine how much worse the world would be if people acted on every feeling that arose in their psyches. It is bad enough as it is. Nevertheless, I am very much in favor of “confronting our feelings” rather than controlling them. To confront our feelings inevitably leads to questioning them, and questioning them leaves open the possibility that they are inappropriate or that if we based our behavior on them our behavior would be inappropriate. This requires a high level of self-awareness.

And with that level of awareness comes the opportunity for new feelings. When we operate from the reptilian brain we are all about sex, war, and food. Regardless of what or whom we meet we are going to mate with it, battle it, or eat it. But this is a low level of human functioning. The higher mammalian brain calls us to love, altruism, caring, and compassion. When this brain dominates our feelings are elevated. And when we operate form the highest brain justice and righteousness also come into play. As we move from lower to higher brain functioning we expand our sense of “neighbor” and community.

I think there is an even higher “soul sense” that biologists cannot find that lifts us into the realization that all life is interdependent, and that to love my neighbor as my self is to realize that my neighbor includes all life, sentient and otherwise. I believe that Jesus and other God-realized prophets call us to this level of spiritual awakening.

Just a quick comment on Christian anti-Semitism. The Gospels, like all books sacred or otherwise, have an agenda, and, given the history of their time, part of that agenda was to paint the Jews as the enemies of Jesus even to the extent of blaming them rather than the Romans for his murder. The fact that this kind of thinking continues is an indictment of Christian education; a reluctance to read their sacred texts in the context of history. This is changing with the scholarship of people like Marcus Borg, Bishop Spong, and Dominic Crossan, but it is a slow process.

To be a Christian and an anti-Semite is to attack Jesus’ mother, brothers, the apostles and Jesus himself. But for too many Christians the realization that Jesus was a Jew and that his religion was Judaism is a shock, and perhaps too much to bear.

The notion that God has a dark side is difficult for many people to understand, let alone accept. Even your reference to Paul sidesteps the issue, though I am in full agreement with your notion that both rah and tov must die in the resurrected self.

Few of us doubt that people have a dark side, but that is only half of what I am saying. God has a dark side. It comes out in the Book of Job, in the Flood story, in God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate God’s power, and in all the acts of God-sanctioned murder and genocide in the Hebrew Bible and the Book of Revelation.

In my classes at MTSU when the subject of God’s love comes up students want to argue that God is love and that love is absolute. But then what do we do with the notion that if not for the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross God would condemn all humankind once again? And what do we make of the notion of God condemning the vast majority of humanity (and most Christians by some accounts) to eternal damnation. I would never do such a thing. Can it be that I am more loving than God?

I doubt it. What I offer my students is the notion that God and theology are not the same thing. If God is love, religions are not. Religions and theologies reflect the agendas and biases of their all too human creators. I don’t believe Jesus called us to religion, but to God, and the God he spoke of in his parables is not the damning brutal God of so many theologians.

My opinion is this: we have too many priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, and swamis and not enough God.

1 comment:

Patti said...

Back in the 80’s I had a pastor who promoted the idea that feelings are “bad”. He would say, “Don’t trust your feelings, trust the TRUTH!” Well, I think we can all now see the error in that well-intended theory.

Why villainize an undeniable aspect of all humanity? If we are all part of God, we share both sides of that nature. Labeling the sides “good and bad, light and dark” put value judgments on them based on our own ideas of such notions. Surely, what “feels” just, necessary and prudent to my sons as soldiers often “feels” wrong, vicious, repugnant and down right scary to me. Should I judge our hormonal reactions to environmental stressors without taking that environment into account? Should I label their feelings bad or less “developed” than mine? Or can I view all our emotions as serving a purpose?

Some scientists would soundly place behavior swimming around in the same brain chemical puzzle pool as its cousin emotion. Does faith somehow pluck it out and place it back on the good girl, bad boy playground? I just don’t think it is that black and white.

Perhaps if we see feelings and behavior as part of the whole reality, we can feel, speak and act out of a place of loving-kindness and learn to walk justly and humbly.