Monday, August 6, 2012

Myths and Fables vs. true religion

Hindu offering
When did you last marvel at the direction spirituality has taken in the West? For me, it was this morning.

I opened an email from Mother Earth News, offering a free viewing of a film, titled “I Am.” Its caption: “What if the solution to the world’s problems was right in front of us all along? Everyone needs to see this film!” And below, a quote from Buddha: “Be a light unto yourself.” The film was produced for Gaiam TV, a Hindu-based (yoga) network.

The questions filmmaker Tom Shadyac asks: “What’s wrong with the world? And what can we do to fix it?”

Buddhist art
I’m bemused when I hear accusations that Christianity is only myths and fables. There’s more archaeological evidence for the historicity of – and more manuscripts of – biblical writings than any other historical documents of the time. Yet where are the scholars who are tearing into the Koran, Hindu writings, or Buddhist scripts with presumptions that they are forgeries, made-up tales of lunatic writers, or historically inaccurate. Why attack the Bible so fiercely?

Religion is humanity’s attempt to please God or the gods by doing something. Sacrifices, pilgrimages, prayers, and rituals are part of systems responding to the Unseen, appeasing the gods, or winning favor.

Torah scroll
The Creator understood our human need to express devotion and attention, to make appeals and requests, and to understand our surroundings. Books 2-5 of Moses (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) explained to Israelites – uneducated, raw from slavery and oppression, and being shaped by I AM into a innovative culture of blessing to the world – how God could be approached. The laws and rituals realigned them from pagan idolatry to the Creator’s nature of lovingkindness, goodness, and justice.

Alternative "medicine"
But we hate being told what to do! It’s easier to:
·      walk on a bed of nails
·      breathe in and out contemplatively, thinking only of the current moment, blocking out our sins or suffering
·      deprive oneself of pleasures in a monastery
·      endure hunger, heat, and cold in the name of self-actualization
·      devise strict systems of discipline in eating, exercise, and meditation
·      focus on self as the center of the universe and the solution for world peace, environmental care, self-love, or whatever the faddish focus
·      slavishly follow a charismatic guru with wise-sounding philosophies
·      chip off part of God’s Truth and manipulate until it twists and warps to fit us rather than molds our nature to please God …
… than it is to do as God has told us.

The Ten Commandments
God hasn’t suggested inner happiness and wholeness. Instead, he’s laid out for us exactly what it would take to achieve those things. Hard things, that cut to the core of our motivation, like:
·      honor God, not only with words but with actions, with our time and wealth, with our energy and devotion
·      become friends to the poor and needy and help them bear their burdens
·      love others as we love ourselves
·      meditate on God’s Word and let it shape our lives
·      pray, fast, and do other spiritual disciplines as alignment with God rather than as self-discipline and self-promotion
·      be thankful for what God has given us: the husband/wife/single life, the family, the possessions, the job, the ---
·      keep ourselves free from unforgiveness and jealousy so that our relationships are sweet rather than bitter

These things require self-renouncement without external praise or affirmation from others. They happen between us and God. And God judges the heart, knowing how sincere our motivation and how much integrity we have.

DIY - or not ...
Ugh. There’s no faking it with God, so we’d rather turn away from our shame and failings to devise our own systems of right-ness. We feel better when we can attain some goodness without accountability. We prefer “DIY” checklists rather than exposure to God’s searchlight of perfection and his solution of Christ as Savior, Benefactor, and PeaceMaker.

Because of this, complicated myths and fables arise in cultures, becoming systems of worship and self-protection against spiritual beings. Anthropologists record many stories of the Flood, tales of Father and Son gods who save their people, and rules upon rules of behavior that mimic the Ten Commandments. Our first parents knew the stories and passed them down, interwoven with human worship systems.

Muslim pilgrims
Why are religious counterfeits still so compelling and enduring today? Why am I reading nonsense from Mother Earth News promoting self-idolatry? Because we instinctively know God’s ways. In Self-preservation, we reject the laws he has written on our conscience and refuse guidance by his Holy Spirit.

Rebuffing his good direction has always brought deceit and religiosity … without life. It has killed us from the inside out: entire cultures become cruel and self-seeking. We are able to do things so vile – in the name of religion – that other humans shudder in disbelief. Sacrifice of children to ensure the harvest, maiming the innocent for temple worship, mass slaughter of those who disagree with our beliefs. Unthinkable. It’s been going on since humanity’s rebellion against God’s prescription, “Do not eat of this one fruit, because it will kill you.”

To those seeking self-actualization through guided meditation or physical movement, harmony through good works and positive thoughts, or self-medicating with the jewels of materialism, remember that we’re not inventive. Idols have always appealed to more people than the terror, accountability, and overwhelming awe of a relationship with the Living God.

Accepting the sacrifice; telling the Story
Today, we may choose again – for or against Him, but only on His terms.

Achieving a true flow or “harmony” with the Creator’s purposes (glory to God, peace on earth, and goodwill toward humanity) will cost us everything. Our pride. Our self-will. Ownership of anything. Human systems of religious accomplishment and recognition. It will even cost some of us our lives, today or in the future.

But what we win, what we win! Life, inner peace, joy, Love, kindness, goodness, self-control, friendship with God, integrity, and wholeness.

What is that kind of a life worth to you?

Read more:
* Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV

*If you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

*Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:4-5

Moravian Prayer: O Lord, sometimes it is difficult to hear your voice amid the everyday noise and distractions of our lives. Pause our lives, if only for an instant, to let us hear you clearly and know that you are still with us. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. People turn to idols of various types because they can fashion and control them. That seems easier than allowing the Creator to be in charge of our lives, but in the end it is impossible to be good enough to please God in our own strength.