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Posts tagged ‘Matthew Fox’

Perfectionism ain’t holy

MosesOrangeFor those raised in religious traditions that obsessed over following the letter of the law, crossing every “T” and dotting every “i” when it comes to obeying all those carved-in-stone commandments, here’s some good news. The reason for our suffering is not some vengeful, drill sergeant God who wants us to “get it right,” every single time. Sure, there are good reasons for all those laws and commandments. But it’s not because God wanted to make our lives miserable.

No, actually, the problem is due to a very understandable situation that had nothing to do with God — it’s called “human error.” Somebody MISTRANSLATED a key passage in the Bible!

And once that mistranslation starting making the rounds, and others in the church hierarchy began adopting the idea as their own… even expanding on it, and making it ten times more awful than the original mistake… that’s when all the trouble started.

The passage in question comes from the New Testament, from the gospel of Matthew: “Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (5:48, if you want to look it up).

The famous Episcopal scholar, author, and creation spirituality guru Matthew Fox points out that the Greek word (in the original Biblical text) that had been misleadingly translated as “be perfect” is teleioi. Fox explains that a more accurate meaning is “be full grown, be adult, be complete and whole” — not “BE PERFECT!”

A parallel passage in Luke’s gospel (the equivalent of another eyewitness giving his own take on what he heard in the same sermon from Jesus) comes much closer to the original intent, in Fox’s opinion: “Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate.”

So there you have it. God didn’t intend holiness to be equated with perfectionism. Rather, in Fox’s thinking, our goal in this life is to “expand” or to “ripen,” to grow towards and into the pursuit of greater compassion for our fellow human beings and other creatures on this earth.

“Imperfection is not a sign of the absence of God,” says Fox.”It is a sign that the ongoing creation is no easy thing. We all bear scars from this rugged process. We can — and must — celebrate the scars.” The alternative, he adds, would be to opt out of the ongoing work of creation, in which we are all serving as partners along with God.

Simply put, questing for perfection is destructive, in so many different ways — while seeking to grow in faith by becoming more compassionate is much more CONSTRUCTIVE and ultimately more kind, more caring for all concerned.

Ever wish religion wasn’t so scary?

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief! There are actually people out there trying to make our faith less fearsome.

matthewfoxOne 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/