Heard the old expression “putting people in boxes”? Unfortunately, another thing that gets put into boxes a lot is faith.
Through the centuries, bloody wars have been fought over religious beliefs and differences. To their credit, there have been groups, organizations, and even some political entities (like states or countries) that came together to demonstrate it doesn’t have to be that way. One can gain much more by recognizing and appreciating our differences rather than fearing them or making them the cause of conflicts and bloodshed.
We won’t name names of people who have been doing it wrong — or right — you all know who you are. Actually, come to think of it, perhaps even drawing lines in the sand like that is all part of the problem. If we’d only try to be more comfortable with living in the “gray area,” that place where there are no black & white wrongs or rights, we might all be much better off.
Recently, the people of Denmark were privileged to view a TV commercial that expressed that very same thought. It dramatically illustrated the problem with putting people in boxes.
More than that, it suggested the beautiful, encouraging, inspiring alternative.
Wouldn’t you rather live in a world like this?
Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief! There are actually people out there trying to make our faith less fearsome.
One of them, Matthew Fox, has been at it for over 40 years. His approach? Changing from the all-too-common, patriarchal, guilt-based “original sin” obsession to something that is less punitive, more freeing, user-friendly, and uplifting: “Creation Spirituality,” which focuses on the “original blessing” received when we’re born, not on some inherited curse.
Fox’s own faith journey was an unusual one — he started out in the Dominican Order, but his liberal ideas eventually got him in trouble, especially during the days of Pope Benedict XVI. After developing (and teaching) new academic programs on creation spirituality in Chicago and California, he was silenced by Pope Benedict and later expelled from the order. His “sins”? Being a “feminist” theologian; associating too closely with Native Americans; not condemning homosexuals; and lifting up the idea of “Original Blessing” over “Original Sin” (the notion that Adam and Eve’s actions condemned us all).
Now an Episcopalian, he has devoted his life to facilitating a “New Reformation” of faith that will offer hope, not condemnation; stand for social and ecological justice; be more universal and all-embracing of diverse faiths, both eastern and western; promote interfaith understanding, rather than creating divisiveness, hate, and hostility between different traditions; and create a belief system that does not demand an “either/or,” take-it-or-leave-it opposition between science and faith.
As one way of expressing what Creation Spirituality is all about, Fox came up with his own “95 Theses” (Hundreds of years earlier, Protestant reformer Martin Luther became famous for his original 95 Theses that led to the split with Catholicism.) Here are just a few of Fox’s new theses:
- God is both Mother and Father.
- Theism (the idea that God is “out there” or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (this is called panentheism).
- God loves all of creation, and science can help us more deeply penetrate and appreciate the mysteries and wisdom of God in creation. Science is no enemy of true religion.
- Spirituality and religion are not the same, any more than education and learning, law and justice, or commerce and stewardship are the same.
- Economic justice requires the work of creativity to birth a system of economics that is global, respectful of the health and wealth of the earth systems, and that works for all.
- Loyalty and obedience are never greater virtues than conscience and justice.
- Original Sin is an ultimate expression of a Punitive Father God and is not a biblical teaching. But Original Blessing (goodness and grace) is biblical.
Want to know more about Matthew Fox? Check out his website at http://www.matthewfox.org/
A friend just shared a link to a Vimeo production on “being a mensch”, which is an old tradition that is actually so extremely applicable to what we’re going through today.
The Making of a Mensch from The Moxie Institute on Vimeo.
It’s a New Cloud Film from the Let It Ripple Film Series — a message which is insightful, inspirational, helpful, playful, thought-provoking, and entertaining, and needs to be shared with more people (no matter what faith you profess, wherever you are, and whoever you are becoming in this journey of life).
This new 11 minute film and accompanying discussion kit takes the science that was explored in a previous film, “The Science of Character,” and reframes it through the lens of the ancient Jewish teachings of “Mussar.” The film and discussion materials are an opportunity to revitalize these teachings around character development that date back to the 10th century, and reengage us all in how these Jewish tools are applicable to our 21st century lives.
And, yes, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate this. Honestly, if more of us who weren’t could take steps towards becoming part of this growing movement of “mensch” development, regardless of our denomination (or belief system), the world would be in much better shape to fight the evils facing us today.