I am a lifelong Christian who believes that humanity got to its current state through the natural process of evolution. I believe that Jesus is who he said he was, and I also believe that the fossil and genetic records tell us who we are, and how we came to be here. My goal for this blog is personal: to help me learn how to articulate this perspective in a way that it can be clearly understood.
Jesus’ message has been so distorted over the centuries that for many he is a cartoon caricature: either a manipulative tyrant dangling a “Get out of Hell, Free” card in exchange for your worship, or a persistent, forlorn and desperate suitor who wants you to love him and cries if you don’t.
Lost in that nonsense is the very real life-transforming power that comes from realizing what Spirit is and what it is really all about. This is the true message he came here to teach us.
I grew up in a church that believes in young-earth Creationism, and in my younger days I was an ardent defender of the Biblical creation story. My grandfather was a pastor in that church, and I was studying to be a minister also when I challenged myself to take some biology classes at a nearby community college. I became a bit addicted to science and mathematics. I took all of their biology, chemistry, and mathematics courses and every other science class I could get into my schedule.
My studies of biology, which included co-authoring with a professor a journal article about the evolution of a species of lizard in the Caribbean, opened my eyes to what evolution is really all about. In that process I came to see that my real objection was based on my mistaken belief that accepting evolution amounted to a rejection of God. It does not, but coming to terms with evolution while continuing to be rooted in Spirit opened up a whole new intellectual battle front for me. I found that certain passages of the New Testament make much more sense to me now in the context of mankind as a product of evolution than they did when I read them through young-earth creationist eyes. But I was also struggled to understand my still-strong faith outside the context of my church’s theology, which was rooted in Biblical literalism.
At this time I was continuing to study toward being accepted in my church’s seminary to become a pastor. But the more I studied the simple message of Jesus, the harder it was to defend the complex theology of my church. Jesus’ summation (or rather, re-interpretation) of the Old Testament was simplicity itself: Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. On this, he said, hangs all the law and all the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40). I must have read that passage a hundred times before I finally realized what it really meant. “All the law and the prophets” is pretty much the entire Old Testament, and Spirit’s incarnation here in the person of Jesus was on a mission to completely re-construct our understanding of God in a way that was, and remains, revolutionary.
Old Testament law was a series of commands, demands, and threatened punishments. That’s how a parent talks to a child. Remembering that these were people who thought it was a good idea to sacrifice their children to statues of livestock, a parent-child relationship was probably the only kind of relationship Spirit could have with humanity at our level of personal and cultural maturity at that time.
Jesus spoke to us adult to adult. God’s true law is selfless love, and a call to establish a bond with Spirit that eliminates any concern about death. He sought to energize us from within through the power of Love rather than constraining us from the outside by threats and by force. In places he even attempts to dismiss the “royalty” metaphor for our relationship with him, referring to us as his “friends” in partnership with him in places where one would normally see the kind of “king”, “lord”, and “master” language that is used throughout most of the Bible.
It is this revolutionary aspect of Jesus’ true message, that message of love, that I wish to focus on in this blog.
I also want to be open and realistic about the dark side of religious obsession in Christianity. I have been witness to some of it. I was a high-school friend and classmate of David Koresh, who even in his teens had insights into spirituality that I still remember well. But at the same time he was rooted in a very literal understanding of the Old Testament and he was obsessed with the books of prophecy, primarily Daniel and Revelation.
When the Jonestown massacre happened, I was involved with a different jungle religious commune in a neighboring country, although ours didn’t have a paranoid schizophrenic for a leader. What we had instead were ELN guerrillas and their Liberation Theology. I have a drawer full of photos from my time there, but they are photos of ghosts: many of the people I have pictures of were dead within a year or two of after we gringos were forced out.
When I was very young, six-years old, I had a near-death experience after drinking gasoline (I thought it was lemonade), and since that experience I have not needed any evidence of Spirit. That potential tragedy has been a blessing: it has left me with the certain knowledge that Spirit is real, as real as any rock you’ve ever stubbed your toe on. My lifelong struggle since then has been trying to figure out what exactly we are doing here in this rough place when we could be there.
The answer is that all of us soon will be ‘there’, but we have things to learn and experience here first. This life in these bodies of flesh and bone is like an incubation period for what comes next. The very real joy and the very real suffering we all experience from the cradle to the grave of this physical life is a process of growth and development that will only continue at another level when our time here is done. The psychology of that process will also be a theme of this blog.
The original message of Spirit’s incarnation on this earth, of Jesus, has been distorted or even lost by many practitioners of Christianity. That message is to love, and to believe in love. Which is to say to believe in God as he really is.
About me: My name is Dan, I have a masters degree in Psychology and I work at a mental health agency in South Florida. You can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.