Thursday, August 4, 2011

Realization, Not Salvation

The last couple of days I've been thinking about salvation, namely the idea that there is "one way" for humankind to be saved and to be acceptable to God. A passage by the Catholic writer Henri Nouwen arrived in my in-box yesterday, in which he tries to explain the Bible verse "no one comes to the Father but by me" which was supposedly uttered by Jesus. He offers up the idea that Jesus did open the way to God, but that everyone, regardless of if they've ever heard of Jesus or not, can walk through that door. And then today I had a nice chat with a friend and former professor of mine, and we touched on the idea as well. At some point perhaps I will stop writing about Jesus, because frankly after over 20 years of fundamentalism I can get a little tired of all the Jesus-centric talk. But here are a couple thoughts on a Thursday afternoon as I slurp down a Starbucks Java Chip Frappucino.

I think that having a 3 hour (or 20 year) discussion about "how humankind can get to God" is like a fish in the middle of the Atlantic ocean having a lengthy discussion about how to get to the water. I believe that each of us, regardless of our creed, colour, economic situation, or sexual orientation, are all immersed within the vastness of God. One of the verses from the Bible that still resonates for me is "In him we live and move and have our being." Literally...(well maybe not the "he" part, as if God has a penis). We are not separated from God as has often been put forward as truth. We are not bad boys and girls who need to do something or believe the right things in order to be acceptable.

What we need, I believe, is not salvation, but rather realization. We are loved and lovable expressions of God in the world, rather than people so offensive to God that we must be redeemed or washed clean before we dare approach the Father. As I've said before, I think this belief within many groups of Christianity is more a reflection of an innate fear of judgment and an extension of childhood guilt than it is truth. To me God is Spirit within which I live. This Spirit is love, peace, kindness, compassion, etc. When I am not experiencing these things, I may be holding onto thought patterns or beliefs that are "turning off the tap," rather than committing some grievous sin against a vengeful Person In The Sky.

From the day of our birth we are nothing less than acceptable and lovable by God. We are born out of love. It doesn't take us long to start forgetting our divine nature. And then we are taken to church and told that we have to jump through hoops A, B, and C in order to be close to God, and if we have forgotten enough, we buy what they're selling. And this is not to say that all church people are malicious. They just bought into it many years ago as well.

Perhaps it is the world's biggest ongoing lie - not just within Christianity but other religions as well - that human beings are separate from God and must perform special mental or emotional tasks in order to remedy the situation.

I believe that we can realize our unity with God through affirmative prayer, meditation, and immersing ourselves in loving those around us, among other things. A good starting point is to examine ourselves and ask which part of our lives have we left out in the cold, unloved. Perhaps we can't realize our unity with God as long as we continually reject a part of ourselves. Some people ask "Why can't I ever seem to feel close to God?" A good response may be "Do you accept every part of yourself as loved?" And then you realize that God is found in that love.

May you experience love today and realize that you are acceptable.


Mark Andrew