Monday, December 31, 2012

new years song for the broken-hearted

december 31st, 2012
by mark andrew alward

for those whose situation does not yield for a cup of kindness here.
for those who will still wonder where their next meal will come from in 2013.

for those who have long given up on 2014 and 2015,
and the years beyond long long ago when you were deeply hurt.

for those who lost their jobs in 2012 and are tired of all the paperwork to complete
in order to receive benefits that are pathetically shrinking.

for the disabled, either short term or long-term,
mentally, physically, or both.

for those for whom holidays lost their meaning long long ago,
perhaps since childhood,
instead they shine a light on a shattered innocence and faded laughter and dreams.

for all of you, I have been to many of your desolate places.

i wish you a spark of hope, some warmth for your heart,
and a silent prayer that despite all appearances,
you will simply know that you are loved and lovable.

a sincere happy new year 2013 my brothers and sisters.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Clinging To Security

He who clutches desperately to security,
To every day habits, work, organization, friends, family,
Closed off,
No longer lives:
More than security, life needs
Dynamic activity,
Presence To Others

~Jean Vanier, 1970.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Our Longing To Be Loved

"One of the deepest longings in the human heart is the desire to be loved for yourself alone. This longing awakens you completely. When you are touched by love, it reaches down into your deepest fibre. It is difficult to realize actually how desperately we need love. You inhabit your life, you seem to be in control. You live within an independent physical body. From the outside, you seem to be managing very well. Because you present this face to the world, no-one suspects that you have a different 'inner body' called the heart which can do nothing for itself if it is not loved. If our hearts were our outside bodies, we would see crippled bodies transform into ballet dancers under the gaze, and in the embrace, of love. It is difficult to love yourself, if you are not first loved. When you are loved, your heart rushes forth in the joy of the dance of life. Like someone who has been lost for years in a forgotten place, you rejoice in being found. When you are discovered, you then discover yourself. This infuses your whole life with new vigour and light. People notice a difference in you. It is nice to be around you. Love somehow transfigures the sad gravity of life. The gloom lifts and your soul is young and free. Love awakens the youthfulness of the heart. You discover your creative force. It is quite touching to see love bring someone home so swiftly to themselves. The Connemara poet Caitlin Maude writes:
"This little beak
 Under his wing
The thrush of our love"
Even without the outside lover, you can become the beloved. When you awaken in appreciation and love for your self, springtime awakens in your heart. Your soul longs to draw you into love for your self. When you enter your soul's affection the torment ceases in your life. St. Bonaventure says in The Journey of the Mind to God: 'Enter into yourself, therefore, and observe that  your soul loves itself most fervently.'
~ John O'Donohue, Eternal Echoes: Exploring Our Hunger To Belong 

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Mentally Ill Person Responds To The National Rifle Association

Please share with family and friends as you see fit. Thank you.

Mark Andrew

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dumb*ss Huckabee: God Allowed Killings To Punish Non-Christian Actions

Former Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee and current FOX News host Mike Huckabee on the Newtown shooting. Perhaps he's just trying to out-dumbass Pat Robertson, but here is his reaction: 

Here's a quote if that went by too quickly: "To get to where we have to abandon bedrock moral truths, well then we’re asked ‘Where was God?’ And I respond “We’ve escorted him right out of our culture, marched him off the public square, and then we express our surprise that a culture without him actually reflects what it’s become.”

That's not all. Huckabee also adds the following to his list of why mass shootings like this happen:

  • People sue a city so that there is no manger or Christmas carol;
  • Churches and Christians are told to surrender their values so that tax-funded abortion pills are available;
  • Things are no longer considered sinful, but instead are called disorders or normal (he doesn't provide specifics here at all).
People like Mike Huckabee make me ashamed that I ever aligned myself with the Christian right whatsoever. To essentially say that (through us) God wiped out 20 small children for any reason at all is beyond the pale. I thought we were over this when the New Testament kicked in and Christians eventually saw the vengeful, hateful God who slaughtered untold millions of women and babies was eventually toned down or embarrassingly forgotten. But no, here we have a buffoon saying that the massacre at Newtown was basically our fault and God was the one pulling the trigger of those assault rifles. This begs all sorts of questions:
  • Why did God choose Newtown? Does he favour Oldtowns with old values?
  • Why did God choose to murder them 11 days before Christmas? Was it because of our materialism this time of year?
  • Why didn't God choose an inner-city school, where he could have killed more African-Americans or immigrants who may have more of a propensity toward gun violence?
  • Why did he choose kids that were so young? If he chose, say, a grade 5 or 6 class, he could have sat them all down in an assembly, explain the decay of America, and then slaughter them.
In my opinion, all sane-minded religious people need to pray that we will decry pseudo-religious garbage like what Mike Huckabee said and instead take the time to comfort, mourn, and try to understand in his or her own way. 

Mark Andrew Alward

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Somewhere In Connecticut 20 Trees Stand Unlit


Perhaps we shouldn't be shocked anymore.

But 20.

We've grown accustomed to "Breaking News" of another mass shooting in America, and we hang our heads. But 20.

20 Children.

20 Children who will never grow up to be the doctors and firefighters, writers and veterinarians that only this morning they woke up wanting to be. This world will not know what they could have accomplished.

Bullets whizzed past kindergartners as teachers tried to shield their eyes from their classmates who had already been shot by a barely-at-20 a man with 3 guns at his disposal, all legally purchased by his mother, a teacher at the Newtown school who was also killed.

Tonight parents and other community members overflowed churches holding services for those lost, trying to make sense of it all, asking "Why? Why? Why?" There are no easy answers. They do not come.

Tonight 20 sets of parents will walk back into their homes without turning on their Christmas tree lights and they'll be met by deafening silence.

11 Days until Christmas, when we are reminded by clergy of the greatest gift that we could ever receive. The Lord giveth, and today a 20 year old taketh away.

This is not Virginia Tech.

This is not a movie theatre in Colorado.

This is not Columbine.

20 Children.

Mark Andrew Alward

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Don't Give A Damn

“When we are not afraid to confess our own poverty, we will be able to be with other people in theirs. The Christ who lives in our own poverty recognizes the Christ who lives in other people's. Just as we are inclined to ignore our own poverty, we are inclined to ignore others'. We prefer not to see people who are destitute, we do not like to look at people who are deformed or disabled, we avoid talking about people's pains and sorrows, we stay away from brokenness, helplessness, and neediness. 
By this avoidance we might lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us. But when we have discovered God in our own poverty, we will lose our fear of the poor and go to them to meet God.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
I don't know about you, but often I am still at the place where I try to avoid "the poor" at all costs.  If I see that there is a homeless person coming up on my side of the street, I'll deftly cross the street to avoid them. If I know that the woman in front of me is going to ask for money or a cigarette, I create a wide berth between myself and them.  Of course, there are other forms of poverty as well that aren't always noticeable. A person can be lacking in physical or mental wholeness as well; I'd rather avoid them too.

There's just one thing. I am one of them, I am poor too. Though thankfully I have a roof over my head, I am often broken mentally or emotionally, and I use soup kitchens for my meals.  Here, Nouwen says that the way forward is not by avoiding each other's poverty, but by embracing it and looking at it straight in the eye. By ignoring poverty we may "lose touch with the people through whom God is manifested to us." We can truly learn through our mutual poverty that it is not the material things in life that truly matter.

Blessed are the poor in spirit and for those who don't give a damn.

Mark Andrew Alward

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Good Music, Good Coffee, Good Painkillers = A Pretty Good Night

Coffee Culture - Kitchener, Ontario

I feel as if it is 8 or 9 pm and I'm semi-floating in a haze of Tylenol 3's and other pills to keep my back pain at bay. The soundtrack of my evening has been Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill, two of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. Stuff from the late 60's onward.  I didn't quite make it to church this morning because of the comfy stupour I was in from the previous night's pills.

I'm looking forward to the change in place and surrounding; I'll be going to my mother's place for a couple of weeks soon, where I'll spend time reading, writing, and playing with my Mom's cat, Oliver. That and drinking egg nog. The other day I drank a whole litre of it in the mall food court, and also in the library in the study carols. I suppose it could have been called the Carols of the Belch. It's interesting feeling this way; that not only am I not supposed to be busy, but I can't be busy. My mind is just temporarily dulled.  I look forward when I end up back in school or pursuing another career, but for now I'll still concentrate on spiritual growth and learning to listen more and talk less.


Mark Andrew

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Graceful Moments & Christmas 2012

Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 - Fairview Park Mall, Kitchener, Ontario

It has been quite a good, and relatively pain-free day; I'm thankful for it. I did something to my back about a month ago and it has got progressively worse so I had it checked out at a clinic yesterday and am now taking some pretty strong pain medication and will check back in in a week. But until then this medication is allowing me to complete some last minute tasks before going home for Christmas. Today I went to the mall to pick up some pills, and they were super cheap, so of course I picked up another litre of eggnog, which I'm drinking in a study carol here at the library. I ran into this woman who I don't know very well but who is always a real beacon of light and positivity; sometimes that's just darn annoying, but today I appreciated it. It was nice to see The Salvation Army band playing in the mall as well. Then I went to ValuVillage and found some jeans that fit me for a great price, which brings me here to the library. 


Each year I write some thoughts down as to what Christmas means to me and what I believe about what is presented as the "true Christmas story" by many Christians. I don't think I'll say too much about it this year. I do think that it is important to realize that just because something is a myth does not make it any less true or real than if it happened historically. For me, and for many others, there are just way too many similarities between the Jesus story and early Egyptian and other mythical stories for the Jesus story of the Bible to be literally true.  This shouldn't threaten our faith, but enhance and enrich our journey as we then can ask the question, "What is truly behind this Christ-journey if many of the events never even happened?"  For me, this year it is simple. Christmas mostly means time with family, watching Christmas classics and listening to Christmas songs, but also realizing the Christ-power or divine power within myself and within everyone around me. There are accurate stories of the meanings behind the Christmas tree and holly and ivy and gift-giving, and theologically speaking there are parallels between Jesus and other figures such as Mithras and Horus. But for now, it's mostly about tried and true traditions and Christ-power or Christ-potential in each person. I would also add that forcing someone for whom the nativity story has no connection with to believe in the far-fetched miracles is disappointing. Why not take the opportunity to share stories and learn from each other instead? For instance, there is a live animal pageant happening at a church just down the street from me that draws thousands to it every year; I will not attend, because it no longer makes sense to me.

Wherever you are today, I hope your holiday preparations are going well,

Mark Andrew Alward

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Atheists Don't Have No Songs

Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers 
Late Show with David Letterman 
March 16, 2011

Depression & The Holidays: Not Always The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

This video is part of the It's My Turn movement, whose goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and gives people the opportunity to share their stories. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Bible: History Or Myth - And Mary's 10-Year Pregnancy?

Here I continue my Christian exploration in Chapter 7 of Tom Harpur's 2004 book The Pagan Christ, which he entitles "The Bible - History or Myth."  Harpur begins with another quote from Alvin Kuhn, who says, "There is not one iota of history as we know it in the entire Bible!"

Harpur begins by noting several media articles and reviews disputing biblical historicity, and how many in the Church were deeply shaken by such. People began asking, "If the Bible is wholly unreliable as history, why should they believe any of it?"  Harpur goes on,
"The absolutist, literalist approach has been so successful that the concept of Scripture as entirely allegorical and mythical is still virtually beyond comprehension for most traditional believers. Yet that is proving to be Christianity's Achilles' heel in the present crisis. The old literalism simply cannot withstand the probing of modern thought, research, and scholarship. What was never history to begin with can't masquerade as history any longer. This marks a major, decisive turning point in Christianity's overall story. It brings with it the hope of the recovery of a much more spiritual belief system and experience of God." (p.116)
Harpur then, with the help of other writers, takes a carving knife to our old, literal understandings of the Bible stories, slicing up stories of the Israelites, the epic stories of Abraham and Isaac and David, and that the exclusive worship of the deity YHWA, or Yahweh "didn't fully coalesce" until sometime between an Assyrian conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 B.C.E. and the Babylonian conquest of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586. The Bible says this happened much earlier. Harpur notes that "the true origins (again) appeared in Egyptian religious thought.

Harpur relies heavily on the work of journalist Daniel Lazare, who wrote a leading article in the March 2002 issue of Harper's magazine and used other sources. Lazare calls into question Abraham's very existence, as well as David and Solomon: "If David and Solomon had been important regional power brokers, one might reasonably expect their names to crop up on monuments an in the diplomatic correspondence of the day. Yet, once again, the record is silent.

Calling again on the work of Massey, Harpur says that:
"Had it been real history, particularly the detailed accounts of battles in the Book of Joshua, Palestine and Judea ought to be overrun with ancient implements of war and work, of Hebrew manufacture and of the conquered races. But outside of the Bible story, there's absolutely no evidence to be found of the numberless combats and the devastation of Jehovah's enemies in great battles. Also, the country of a people so rich that King David, in his poverty, could collect millions of pounds to build a temple is found to have been without art, sculptures, mosaics, bronzes, pottery, or precious stones."
Harpur says the same thing about King Solomon and all his riches. "Not one single goblet or one brick has ever been found to indicate (his) reign existed!"

The Biblical Archaelogical Review (BAR) released its own article in May/June 2002, but had scarce to say in defence against Lazare's work. In fact, it defended it in some cases. For example, when it comes to the Exodus from Egypt, where Moses leads the Israelites across the Red Sea into the somewhat absurd and obviously symbolic forty-year wilderness trek - "I doubt you'd find many scholars who'd accept the Biblical account at face value. We have no archaelogical evidence of a man named Moses, of Israelites wandering in the desert or of the events at Mount Sinai." The BAR goes on to concede that it doesn`t have a definitive history of David or a battle of Jericho.

So, if what much of the Bible never actually took place, what can we take from it? If it is all, or mostly a myth, we can look underneath and find a treasure of timeless truths.

Harpur then begins to give his own interpretations (heavily influenced by Kuhn and Massey) of some of the Old Testament stories. For example:

  1. The story of Samson makes little sense literally but must be seen allegorically and with an astronomical background. Samson in Hebrew means "solar," and he is a sun-god figure. Delilah is linked with the feeble, waning aspect of lunar light - the dark of the moon - a sign of the sun's weakening.
  2. Gideon's soldiers each hold a candle in a pot and then suddenly breaks it open in an encircling ring of light. Their enemies run for their light. The meaning is the light within each of us (the Christ) can overcome all things.
Even more interesting are the discrepencies and the mythical interpretations of the New Testament. For example:
  1. Mary's song when she learns that her aged relative Elizabeth is with child is clearly a repeat of Hannah's song in 1 Samuel, chapter 2.
  2. There is no trace whatsoever of Augustus' decree that the whole world should be registered. "It's simply a means of getting Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for theological reasons. The messiah had to be of Davidic descent, and thus from Bethlehem." Luke says the birth happened while Quirinius was governor of Syria. That means it couldn't have happened before 6 C.E., the year we know he took office. At the same time, Matthew says Jesus was conceived while Herod the Great was in power of Judea. But Herod died in 4 B.C.E.! That adds up to a "ten-year pregnancy!"
  3. For Matthew, Jesus' hometown was Bethlehem. For Luke, it was Nazareth.
  4. The entire matter of Herod ordering the killing of all babies is clearly symbolic once you realize that an attempt to slaughter a holy child appears in all the ancient hero myths, from Moses to Horus to Saragon to Hercules.
  5. The two genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke have nothing to do with history and everything to do with myth. Luke traces the family "history" to Adam because his story is universal. Matthew traces it to Abraham because he's interested in establishing the Jewish line of descent. Strangely, both show that on the father's side, Jesus was a descendant of David. "But they fail to point out how utterly irrelevant this really is, since, in their view, Joseph wasn't the real father at all - it was a virgin birth. The myth required this."
  6. Every early messiah figure was heralded by a star, not just Jesus.
Harpur then discusses particular stories within the New Testament:
  1. The Prodigal Son: This story is about a person realizing his unique, inner self and how it turns his life around. It has an esoteric meaning The prodigal son represents the hidden drama of the soul. When we enter into matter, we are going off into a "far country," to be tested, fed on scraps, etc. One day, true enlightenment dawns and the divinity within is recognized and the sleeping Christ is awakened and we return home to the waiting "Father."
  2. The Raising of Lazarus: If it was meant to be such an important part of the account of Jesus' life, why is it only found in John? Rather, it is lifted straight from ancient themes. "Read allegorically, the way it is told in the Egyptian sources, this story is no problem. Read as history, it's a plagiaristic (though well-meaning) forgery." There is a story of Horus, the ancient Egyptian god, raising his father from the dead, and we see this here. Harpur goes on to explain how the name Lazarus comes from "father of Horus." Also, just as Jesus, Mary and Martha wept, Horus, Isis, and her sister Nephthys in ancient Egyptian lore also wept.
Tom Harpur concludes his 7th chapter by once again leaving us with what is seeming to be the main theme of his book. Even though what much or most of the Bible never actually took place, there is a deep mythological element that can be even more revealing than historical truth. Regarding the Lazarus story, he repeats his claim that "it was intended to celebrate the eventual resurrection to radiant glory of the individual's true self, the inner Christ."

I will continue my exploration of Harpur's book shortly, where he delves into the Gospel accounts even further. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Anticipation of Christmas

Christmas Eve 2011
4:28pm - Saturday, November 24th, 2012
Kitchener, Ontario

I've spent the last hour or so tracking down the addresses of people that I'm sending Christmas cards to this year - just one of the things that I like doing around Christmastime. Currently I have Christmas music piped into my ears; everything from the modern (She & Him, Pomplamoose) to the endearing classics (Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole) to the ethereal (Enya, Loreena McKennitt). I'd say that Christmas can't come soon enough, but there's something about the anticipation of it all, something in the waiting.  

There's also something very refreshing in knowing what I am going to be spending and what gifts I will be buying for my loved ones this year, so that I don't enter a mall and feel overwhelmed.

So far I have 2 Christmas parties to attend that I'm looking forward to, and I also can't wait to grab a blanket and curl up and watch Holiday Inn, White Christmas, Rudolph, A Christmas Carol, and It's A Wonderful Life. Mom and I might throw some hors d'oeuvres in the oven on Christmas Eve after attending a Christmas Eve service. 

But before I go down home to St. Thomas, it'll be the conversations held over egg nog latte's that I'll enjoy, and going to the annual service of Lessons and Carols at the Anglican church if I'm still in town.  If I can somehow find an egg-nog beer, I'll be in orgasmic bliss (just sayin').

It's still a month and a day away, but I am  thankful for this time to anticipate, to look forward to, when I'll see family, particularly my niece and nephew, brother and sister-in-law and mother.  I hope you find your own magical moments in the coming weeks.

Mark Andrew Alward

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Hallelujah Horus: Tom Harpur's View Of Another Christ (Part Deux)

Tom Harpur, Rhodes Scholar, journalist, professor, former Anglican priest
Author, "The Pagan Christ" (2004)

This is the second blog entry as I read through Tom Harpur's highly controversial 2004 book "The Pagan Christ," where he essentially asserts that practically nothing out of the Bible is original, but came from ancient Egyptian lore. For my first blog about this, visit here. And for a highly critical response to Harpur, visit here.

To begin his sixth chapter "Convincing The Sceptics," Harpur quotes Gerald Massey once again, this time from his book "The Historical Jesus and the Mythical Christ." I believe that quote is worth repeating here:

"Considered as those of a human being, the character and teachings of the Christ in the Gospels are composed of contradictions and opposites impossible to harmonize. In fact, the many hundreds of sects and denominations of Christians who are today engaged in formulating the theology of their assumed founder and in denying each other's interpretation, do but inevitably represent the organic disunity from the beginning, and reflect the fragmentary nature of the origins.

The general assumptions concerning the gospels is that the historical element was the kernel of the whole, and that fables accreted around it; whereas the myths, being pre-extant, prove that the core of the material was mythical, and it then follows that the "history" is incremental...The worst foes of the truth have ever been the rationalizers of the mythos. They have assumed the existence of a personal founder of Christianity as the fundamental fact. They have done their best to humanize...they mythos by discharging the supernatural and order that it might be accepted. Thus, they have lost the battle by fighting it on the wrong ground."

~ Gerald Massey

Harpur then continues with his chapter by saying that "As we examine the similarities between the words and miracles of Horus and those of Jesus, we will discover fresh, unsuspected insights and meanings in Bible texts that once seemed worn, beyond belief, nonsensical, or simply inexplicable. Comparing the two representative Christs helps us move out of old, and now irrelevant, paradigms toward the universality of the much deeper message behind it all.

Comparisons Between Horus and Jesus:
  • Horus says "I am the baby born as the connecting link between earth and heaven. Jesus came to "bring glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those of good will."
  • The baby Jesus is threatened by Herod. In the story of Horus, the infant is immediately threatened by  an evil being called Herut. 
  • In the New Testament, the angel of the Lord says to Joseph, "Arise, take the young child and his mother and flee to Egypt. At the birth of Horus, the god That says to the mother, "Come goddess, hide thyself with thy child."
  • All four Gospels declare that Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin John, dubbed "the baptizer." John was later beheaded by Herod Antipas, and this signalled the beginning of Jesus' public ministry. Horus was baptized by Anup, the Egyptian John the Baptist, was also later beheaded.
  • The spirit, like a dove, descends on both Jesus and Horus, noting the divine energy of the soul.
  • Both Jesus and Horus were 30 years old when baptized. 
  • Both Jesus and Horus have gaps in their lives between ages 12 and 30.
Harpur continues by speaking of the ministry, teachings, and miracles of Jesus and Horus, noting that in the Egyptian myth and symbolism, the kingly force of life - the sun and the spiritual reality it stood for in each human being - was thought to be caught up in an ongoing struggle against elements seeking to limit or destroy its potency. Thus:
  • Horus, who represented the spiritual light, is depicted as engaged in a great spiritual warfare with various mythical creatures. Jesus, the agent of light against darkness, was involved in a running battle with Satan.
  • Both Horus and Jesus have temptation stories. Horus was taken to a desert to a high mountain and tempted, but overcomes it. Jesus overcomes temptation by Satan after being tempted to throw himself off a temple. Harpur concludes that these stories represent an ongoing battle in each of us, and that the Christ presence gives us the victory.
  • "Great crowds came to (Jesus), bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put him at his feet and he cured them." (Matthew 15). Much earlier, Horus had opened dumb mouths and performed healings, such as sight to the blind and casting out demons.  The inner meaning was that Horus' spiritual influence caused their lives to express the words of power and truth. This is the allegorical essence behind Jesus' healings too. The Christ within gives each of us the power to find and express "our own true voice."
Harpur says that "the healings remain tremendously important. Spiritually, the message is that the Christ (or divinity) within each of us can be called upon to aid us in all our infirmities. In the Gospels, the disciples were fearful of an approaching storm, but Jesus was asleep in the stern of their boat; like them, we need to awaken the Christ within and draw upon that resource. The healings of the Gospels are not cancelled out. Far from it. They are seen in their true light, as illustrations of God's healing power yesterday, today, and always."
  • Continuing with the miracle stories, Harpur writes that Horus emerges from the rage of a nocturnal storm on the waters in the calm of a bright daybreak. It was written of him, "He hath destroyed the water-flood of his mother...He has dispersed the raging rain storm!" Also in one place, Osiris is said to keep souls from being drowned in the symbolic waters of incarnation. Jesus, in a popular story from the Gospels, is sleeping in the stern of a boat when his disciples panic and wake him up during a violent storm to save them, and he calms the seas. Harpus concludes: "What such passages are actually about is the power of the Christ within each of us to still the strong, restless power of the elements in our lower animal nature, symbolized by the wild and roiling sea. Instead of a literal story about a kind of magician, we have a relevant and potentially transformative wisdom to apply to our daily life."
  • The emphasis on the number three: The Bible follows the Egyptian emphasis on this number. Jesus stayed behind at the temple after his bar mitzvah and Mary and Joseph looked for him for 3 days.. Jesus had compassion on the crowd because "they continue with me three days." Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  Meanwhile, Horus also rose on the third day. Harpur's conclusion is that the number 3 represents the period of incubating life - a special time when something new is about to break forth. However, he says, it was based on solidly on Egyptian lore. There are other important "events" in Scripture that were said to have happened in 3 days. Jonah was in the belly of the whale for 3 days, Jesus said he would raise up the temple in 3 days, etc.
Other similarities between Horus and Jesus:
  • Both Jesus and Horus were known as the Good Shepherd
  • Both Jesus and Horus were described as coming forth as the Winnower (with Jesus being described as gathering his wheat into the granary and the chaff burning with unquenchable fire..
  • Both Jesus and Horus are described as the Light of the World
  • Both Jesus and Horus are described as the Bread of Heaven. Horus says, "I am a soul and my soul is divine. I am he who produceth food. I am the food that perished not." Jesus said, "I am that bread of life...Whoever eats of the bread that I shall give him will never hunger." Both are speaking about the same deep spiritual realities.
  • The concept of being "born twice" or "born again" is present in almost all early religions, including the Egyptian cults.
  • Both Horus and Jesus make lengthy pleas to their Fathers.
  • The Isaiah passage that speaks of one being despised and afflicted by men and bearing our pain, being wounded for our transgressions sounds more like a reference to Horus.
Here, Harpur again notes that Christianity suffered a grave loss when authorities in the 3rd and 4th centuries went on a rampage destroying religious documents and commentaries on the Gospels. For instance, Basilides, a Gnostic theologian wrote a 24-volume study, one of the first commentaries on the Gospels. He was steeped in all the ancient wisdom and his interpretations of the Gospels would have been of priceless value to the world and to would-be Christians today.  He expounded "a fully spiritual, allegorical, and symbolic interpretation of the Christos based upon his knowledge of Greek, Hebraic, and Egyptian lore. We have an urgent need to recover his vision."

To conclude this chapter of The Pagan Christ, Harpur says the following: "Today's Christianity needs a cosmic yet inner Christ, not some personalized idol in a narrow cult that bids all the world to come to it - on its terms alone. People need and want a connection to God that has already been planted in the soil of their own minds and hearts. Knowing the Horus story is a sublime myth, we can penetrate once more - like Origen and the other earliest Christians - to the heart of the same eternal myth carried by the Gospels. That's where my hope for the future of the Church really lives - in the Christ within."

A few thoughts:

Firstly, I realize that this particular book by Tom Harpur has generated a lot of controversy and parts of it, if not all, have been widely dismissed. However, I find it interesting that it is not only the Egyptian god Horus who has similarities to the Jesus story, but other ancient myths as well. I shall do more research.

Secondly, I really tend to connect with Harpur when he talks about the real meaning behind the Christos archetype. What can we take out of these stories, even if they are just stories? We can connect with the message that each of can find that Christ spark within us, that divine light as we live our daily lives and strive to overcome darkness.  

More to come!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Horus: The Christ Figure 1000's Of Years Before Jesus

The ancient Egyptian mythic Isis suckling her son Horus;
An image of Mary with her son Jesus

Growing up as a conservative Christian, I heard the name "Christ Jesus" or "Jesus Christ" hundreds, probably thousands of times. I heard of "Jesus Christ" so many times that it was as if Christ as simply Jesus' last name.  I learned that Jesus Christ was the literal Son of God, born of a virgin, who came down from Heaven at Christmastime to eventually save me from my sins.

What I wasn't told is that this narrative quite possibly had already been told thousands of years before the person of Jesus may - or may not have - been born.

In his highly controversial - and both praised and reviled - book The Pagan Christ from 2004, Tom Harpur, a Rhodes scholar, former Anglican priest, professor, and columnist for The Toronto Star,  he lays out an argument that the idea of a Christ figure was not original at all, but that it came from much earlier ancient Egyptian Paganism. This of course is highly controversial, but also fascinating as humanity continues to try to come to grips with the actual meaning of the original Christianity. I offer some of Harpur's initial arguments and findings in this, the first of a series of blogs about Jesus the Christ.

Note: Harpur relies heavily on the works of Godfrey Higgins, Gerald Massey, and Alvin Boyd Kuhn. 
  • Most of the Bible and Christianity is a product of Ancient Egypt religions.
  • Only myth and metaphor could convey the truths that the Scripture writers were trying to convey. They weren’t reporting actual history. Scripture began to be literalized only in the 3rd and 4th centuries.
This is an important point, because in today's world, often we hear the word "myth" or "legend" and we automatically think of falsehood or a lie. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Harpur writes: "Anyone who wants to understand religion, religious ideas, and religious documents – that is, scriptures of any kind  - must realize that the divine, the mysterious, the ineffable, the workings of the spirit in the human heart or in the cosmos at large cannot be adequately expressed other than by myth, allegory, imagery, parable and metaphor. Literal, descriptive narrative inevitably leads to either idolatry or utter nonsense."

I think it's important to note that most Christians already literalize things that weren't even spoken of in the Bible. When we set up our nativity sets, we have 3 wise men coming to the manger where the baby Jesus lay and offering him gifts. Yet, in actual Scripture, it says that Magi (doesn't give a number) came to the house where the child was.  Who really knows how old Jesus was or how many Magi there were, yet we've come to the conclusion that since there were 3 gifts listed, there must be 3 men.

Continuing on with myth for a minute. Harpur writes: " "Thus myths are not some fictional embroidery or dispensable addition to the major faiths; they are their very essence. Strip them away and there is little that is precious left. Christianity does not need to ‘demythologize’ its story; it needs to ‘remythologize’ it." In other words, myths contain truths that are deeper and more rich than literalizing them could ever do, and we've lost something in literalizing much of Scripture.

Now let's go back to 18,000 years before the time that Jesus supposedly walked the earth, and we'll see why many scholars believe that Christianity eventually copied much of their religion from ancient Egyptian lore. A few notes:
  • There was a Jesus in Egyptian lore as early as 18, 000 BCE. His name was Iusu, or Iusa and means “the coming divine Son who heals or saves.” There was also an Egyptian Christos, or Christ, named Horus. He and his mother Isis were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child.
  • “Almost every traditional faith the world over rests on a central story of the son of a heavenly king who goes down into a dark lower world, suffering, dying, and rising again, before returning to his native upper world. This king/god wins a victory over his enemies, has a triumphant procession, and is enthroned on high.” There are 30 to 50 such avatars or saviours, including Osiris, Horus, Krishna, Hermes, Adonis, Hercules, Thor, Beddru of Japan, etc.”
  • Theologian Alvin Boyd Kuhn, whom Harpur relies heavily upon, says, “All that went into the making of the Christian historical set-up was long pre-extant as something quite other than history, was in fact expressly non-historical, in the Egyptian mythology and eschatology. For when the sun at the Easter equinox entered the sign of the fishes (Pisces) about 255 BCE, the Jesus who stands as the founder  of Christianity was at least 10,000 years of age and had been travelling hither as the Ever Coming One through all preceding time…During those 10,000 years, that same incarnation of the divine ideal in the character of Iusa (or Horus) , the Coming Son, had saturated the mind of Egypt with its exalting influence. Little did men of that epoch dream that their ideal figure of man’s divinity would in time be rendered historical as a man of flesh.”
Now let's look at some of the uncanny similarities between the Jesus story and that of Ancient Egyptian mythology.
  • "At the winter solstice, the ancient Egyptians would parade a manger and a child through the streets of major cities and towns. The birth of the Persian sun god, Mithras, also was held to have occurred in a cave at the winter solstice, sometime between 3000 and 2400 BCE. His birthday was celebrated on December 25. Mithraism, a contemporary and and keen rival of early Christianity, had a Eucharist-type meal, observed a Sabbath, had its major festival at Easter (when Mithras' resurrection was celebrated), and featured miracles, twelve disciples, and a virgin birth.
  • The various names for the Christ in Egyptian literature - Iusa or Iusa (Jesus), Horus, Iu-em-hept, and Atum (Adam) are always associated with phrases meaning "the coming one," because he represented the cyclic rebirth of the solar deity...Spiritually, he was the symbol for the soul in every human being.
Let us now look at the comparisons of the Egyptian mythical Jesus figure of Horus, who "lived" thousands of years before Jesus, and see if anything rings familiar:
  • Like the "star in the east" of the Gospels, Sirius, the morning star in Egypt, heralded the birth of Horus
  • Horus was baptized in the River Eridanus (Jordan) by a god figure name Anup the Baptizer (John the Baptist), was was later decapitated. 
  • Like Jesus, Horus had no history between the ages of twelve and thirty. 
  • Horus walked on water, cast out demons, and healed the sick. 
  • Horus was transfigured on a mountain; Jesus took Peter, James and John into a "high mountain" and was transfigured before them.
  • Horus delivered a "Sermon on the Mount," and his followers faithfully recounted the "Sayings of Iusa" (or Jesus).
  • Horus was crucified between two thieves, buried in a tomb, and resurrected. His personal epithet was Iusa, the "ever-becoming son" of Ptah, or the Father. Horus was called the KRST, or "anointed one," from a word that was inscribed or pained on the lid of a mummy's coffin millenia before Christianity duplicated the story.
  • Horus was the good shepherd, the lamb of God, the bread of life, the son of Man, the Word, the fisher; so was Jesus
  • Horus was not just the path to heaven but the way by which the dead travel out of the sepulchre. He was the god whose name was written as the "road of salvation"; he was thus "the Way, the Truth and the Life." Therefore the key verse of conservative orthodoxy today was sourced in Pagan roots.
  • The Creed says that Jesus descended into hell, or (better) Hades, but so too did Horus before him. Both went to preach to the souls in prison. Both were "dead and buried," but only figuratively.
  • Jesus came in the name of the Lord. He was called Kyrios, or Lord. Horus too was "the Lord" by name.
  • Like Jesus, Horus was supposed to reign for one thousand years.
  • Horus came to seek and to save what was lost. We are reminded of the Gospel parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the "lost" son.
  • In the Gospels, it is the women who announce the Resurrection. "The goddesses and the women proclaim me when they see me," shouts Horus as he rises from the tomb, "on the horizon of the resurrection.
I could go on, but I believe those are enough glaring similarities for now. I think that 2 questions need to be asked at this point:
  1. If this is all true, why has it been covered up for so long by "orthodox" or "conservative" Christianity? and
  2. What does this mean for my Christian faith if it is all a myth/copy and didn't really happen?
To answer the first question, Harpur states that most Christians of the early church realized that what they were experiencing was not literal historical truth; there was a power behind it, a power only found in myth (which I'll touch on in a moment).  It was only in the 3rd or 4th centuries that powerful men wanting to establish an "orthodoxy" decided to quash any ties to Christianity's Pagan roots, and massive burnings of scrolls and books, the burning of academic schools, and the killing of influential leaders took place. Harpur estimates that 700,000 to 800,000 books/publications were destroyed during this time. “Christianity began as a cult with almost wholly Pagan origins and motivations in the first century, “and by the fourth it had utterly turned its back on Paganism and repudiated every hint of…connection with it, loading it with contempt from that day to this.” 

To answer the second question, and also to give my readers a sense of one of the reasons why I am writing about this controversial topic, I believe, as Harpur does, that when we "re-mythologize" Christianity, we bring back a depth to it that has been lacking.  Listen carefully: when we say that much of Christianity didn't literally take place, we are not saying that it isn't true. The great truth is that the Christ was to come in humankind, and that the Christ principle was potentially in every one of us. But that was changed in the 3rd or 4th centuries to the exclusivist teaching that the Christ had come as one man. As Harpur writes, the Christhood has come in every man and woman, it is the intersection of the divine and the human that really matters, not the literalization of clearly mythical stories. This can change every human being's outlook. In summary:

"Christos is the name given to the incarnate presence of God within. – Christos is known by many names but in all humanity. – To realize the potential power of the Christos within, everyone must realize his or her innate spiritual power and nature. – Doctrines and creeds have tended to replace this awareness of our innate spiritual essence, but they can still be helpful. – “The Gospels are really dramas about the Christos, with Jesus in the starring role as a dramatic personality. Jesus is the symbolic personification of the Christos.” – “Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection are subjective events of the Christ within that each of us is meant to experience.” – It is through our permission that the Christos is unleashed to spiritualize our nature. We don’t become God, but each of us is a fragment of God with divine potential. – Religions should provide opportunity for people to commit their lives not to a personal, historic Jesus, but to the eternal Christ, however this divine presence is described."

That's all for now. More to come as I continue on in Tom Harpur's The Pagan Christ. 

If you are interested in a refutation of Harpur's work, you can find one such refutation here by Tekton Education and Apologetics Ministry.

Mark Andrew Alward

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rising In Non-Violent Action: It Is Possible To Live In Peace

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

If someone with courage and vision can rise to lead in nonviolent action,
The winter of despair can, in the twinkling of an eye, be turned into the summer of hope.

It is possible to live in peace.

Nonviolence is not a garment to put on and off at will.
Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.

It is possible to live in peace.

Nonviolence, which is a quality of the heart, cannot come by an appeal to the brain.
It is a plant of slow growth, growing imperceptibly, but surely.

It is possible to live in peace.                                                                    

If a single person achieves the highest kind of love,
It will be sufficient to neutralize the hate of millions.

It is possible to live in peace.

If we are to reach real peace in this world,
And if we are to carry on a real war against war,
We shall have to begin with the children.

It is possible to live in peace.

The future depends on what we do in the present.

It is possible to live in peace.

Mohandas K. Ghandi

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hollywood & The Balance Between Solitude And Being In Relationship

Julia lays a kiss on Hugh in Notting Hill

“Human beings are alone. No other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do. Each of us is unique, and our aloneness is the other side of our uniqueness. The question is whether we let our aloneness become loneliness or whether we allow it to lead us into solitude. Loneliness is painful; solitude is peaceful. Loneliness makes us cling to others in desperation; solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community.
Letting our aloneness grow into solitude and not into loneliness is a lifelong struggle. It requires conscious choices about whom to be with, what to study, how to pray, and when to ask for counsel. But wise choices will help us to find the solitude where our hearts can grow in love.”
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Hollywood has a bad habit. It is a habit of lying to us. Most of the romantic movies or romantic comedies that we watch give the inference by the end of the movie that the purpose of relationships is to take away an individual's aloneness or solitude. But this is not the purpose of relationships. Even the wording of some Scripture can be misleading. We hear it in wedding ceremonies, that "two may become one." In reality what this kind of relationship is suggesting is a type of symbiosis, or if viewed negatively, a parasitic relationship. But Nouwen has it right in that "no other person will completely feel like we do, think like we do, act like we do." He says that this can lead us to a loneliness (which is often crippling and which we often run away from) or a solitude which is harder to get used to.  But if we don't get used to this solitude, which ultimately leads to peace, we begin to expect things from others which they cannot give, namely our security or identity. Sometimes when we are tempted to surround ourselves with people out of loneliness, it would be better if we simply stayed home and journaled, or went for a walk and convened with our spiritual side. I have done my share of clinging to others and expecting them to take care of me because of my loneliness, but all it does is stifle the friendship/relationship because no other person can truly give me the fulfillment that I can only find in solitude in my spiritual life.  

The trick is to find balance and not to swing too far either way. How can I be in love with someone while retaining that sense of solitude? After all, Nouwen writes, "solitude allows us to respect others in their uniqueness and create community." So how can I commune with my spiritual side in solitude while not distancing myself from love?

I'm certainly no expert....yet. :P

Mark Andrew Alward

Teen Sweethearts Were Both Born Opposite Sex

Arin Andrews, 16, & Katie Hill, 18

by Emily Nash
from The Sun (

Pretty Katie Hill, 18, spent the first 15 years of her life as Luke, son of a Marine colonel.

And boyfriend Arin Andrews, 16, was born a girl called Emerald who excelled at ballet dancing and won beauty contests.

Both struggled with their sexuality all through their childhoods and were teased and bullied.

Katie always felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body while Arin thought the reverse. They met when both went to have gender-changing treatment in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and instantly fell in love.

Katie, who has developed breasts with female hormones, said: “We’re perfect for each other because we both had the same troubles growing up.

“We look so convincing as a boy and a girl nobody even notices now.”

Arin said he knew he was a boy inside on his first day at school when he felt confused at being told to line up with girls.

He said: “Girlie things didn’t interest me. I was called a lesbian growing up but I didn’t feel gay.”

Both sets of parents had trouble accepting their children’s situation but are now firmly behind them.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Which Charity Will You Support This Christmas?

It's early November, so that only can mean one thing: time to start thinking about Christmas!  And while buying gifts for loved ones is first and foremost on our minds, many people choose to pick a charity to support. Two of these charities include Samaritan's Purse and The Salvation Army.

1) Samaritan's Purse is an organization founded by Rev. Billy Graham's son Franklin, and each Christmas they run the wildly popular Operation Christmas Child, wherein participants fill thousands upon thousands of shoeboxes with age-appropriate gifts for children in impoverished countries around the world. It is estimated that the 100 millionth shoebox will be distributed this coming year, somewhere within the 130 countries they end up in. At a church I was attending until recently, they had taken part in this program for over a decade. Not anymore. The problem? Often, an evangelical Christian message goes out with these shoeboxes, rather than them being "good for goodness sakes."  According to the UK website of Operation Christmas Child: "We have never put Christian literature into shoeboxes before they are shipped, nor do we ever intend to do so." In the next breath they say "Yes, where appropriate we are pleased to be able to provide literature.  A local church or Christian partner distributing the shoeboxes may issue a free copy. of a Christian booklet, The Greatest Gift, which contains Bible stories, including an explanation of the true meaning of Christmas.  No-one is obliged to take this booklet."

If you're an evangelical Christian and you're OK with this, it's no problem; however, if you're not, you may want to be aware.

2) The Salvation Army.  We all know of the Salvation Army and the tireless work that they have done amongst the poor and needy for decades. They provide food hampers at Christmastime, run thrift stores, and provide other family and community services. Each Christmas we see Salvation Army volunteers manning donation kettles in our local malls.  However, if you're passionate about LGBT issues, you may find this interesting. While "the Salvation Army offers its services to all who are in need, regardless of sexual orientation," practising homosexuals are "ineligible for full membership" in The Salvation Army. Therefore, members who are attracted to the same sex should "embrace celibacy as a way of life" (something no doubt many straight married couples do already!)

The last decade has been spotted with a couple eye-popping stories when it comes to the Army and the LGBT community. In 2004, the Salvation Army threatened to close all its soup kitchens in the New York City area—which would have ended $250 million worth of contracts with the city—if they were forced to offer benefits to same-sex couples. This move would have lost the Salvation Army around $70 million in direct funding from the city and endangered the lives of several thousand people reliant on the Salvation Army. They said that, by offering benefits to same sex couples, they’d be supporting HIV/AIDS because HIV/AIDS is only the product of homosexual intercourse (um...wrong).  And this past June, Maj. Andrew Craibe, media relations director for Salvation Army Australia Southern Territory, found himself in the middle of a public-relations firestorm for comments he made on a gay-oriented Australian radio show. He was asked about the Salvation Army’s position on homosexuality and a section in its “Handbook of Doctrine” that cites a Biblical passage -- Romans 1:18-32 --  containing a condemnation of homosexuality. The passage mentions that in God’s eyes, “those who practice such things are deserving of death.” One of the radio hosts, Serena Ryan, expressed concern over the passage and asked, “How do you respond to that as part of your doctrine?” Craibe responded: “Well, that’s a part of our belief system. We have an alignment to the Scriptures that that’s our belief.”

Two days later, The Salvation Army put out an apology and explanation: "The Scripture in question, viewed in its broader context, is not referring to physical death, nor is it specifically targeted at homosexual behavior. The author is arguing that no human being is without sin, all sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God), and all people therefore need a Saviour.”

This is a tough call for me, because I have people very close to me who are very loving and do vital work in the community with the Salvation Army. As a Community Services Coordinator told me as I put together this article, "We are all equal. We wouldn't treat anyone differently. I don't know what that guy in Australia was thinking." They would not base their ministry on hate whatsoever. But as an LGBT activist, I feel the need to point these things out.

Who will you support this Christmastime?

Mark Andrew Alward

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Bringing Your Vulnerable Self Home

The following is an excerpt by Catholic priest and author Henri Nouwen, from a collection of his journals entitled The Inner Voice of Love. While I personally would replace the name "Jesus" with something like "Love" or even "God," I keep Nouwen's words intact. He remains an integral spiritual leader of mine.

Live Patiently With The "Not Yet"
by Henri J.M. Nouwen - "The Inner Voice of Love"

“A part of you was left behind very early in your life: the part that never felt completely received. It is full of fears. Meanwhile, you grew up with many survival skills. But you want your self to be one. So you have to bring home the part of you that was left behind. That is not easy, because you have become quite a formidable person, and your fearful part does not know if it can safely dwell with you. Your grown-up self has to become very childlike – hospitable, gentle, and caring – so your anxious self can return and feel safe.

You complain that it is hard for you to pray, to experience the love of Jesus. But Jesus dwells in your fearful, never fully received self. When you befriend your true self and discover that it is good and beautiful, you will see Jesus there. Where you are most human, most yourself, weakest, there Jesus lives. Bringing your fearful self home is bringing Jesus home.

As long as your vulnerable self does not feel welcomed by you, it keeps so distant that it cannot show you its true beauty and wisdom. Thus, you survive without really living.

Try to keep your small, fearful self close to you. This is going to be a struggle, because you have to live for a while with the “not yet.” Your deepest, truest self is not yet home. It quickly gets scared. Since your intimate self does not feel safe with you, it continues to look for others, especially those who offer it some real, though temporary, consolation. But when you become more childlike, it will no longer feel the need to dwell elsewhere. It will begin to look to you as home.

Be patient. When you feel lonely, stay with your loneliness. Avoid the temptation to let your fearful self run off. Let it teach you its wisdom; let it tell you that you can live instead of just surviving. Gradually you will become one, and you will find that Jesus is living in your heart and offering you all you need.”

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hold Me Together: A Poem

Hold me together until your kingdom comes,
In and around me.
Today I feel broken, fragmented,
And I don't see the path ahead.
There is nothing I can hang on to,
No cavalry waiting to scoop me up.

To me, you are beyond any man, any book, 
Anything that any one has ever fully explained.
Still that does not make it hurt any less,
Here at this vacant café.

Sometimes it seems that you are dangling the carrot on a stick,
In front of me but never letting me taste.
Still I believe that the answers are out there, 
Or perhaps more accurately, in there.

Today I am not an advocate,
For anything or anyone.
I am just messed up, fucked up, and confused me.

Hold me together until your kingdom comes.

Mark Andrew Alward

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Why I Am A Unitarian Universalist

Mark Andrew with the chalice, the Unitarian symbol
by Mark Andrew Alward

I have been a Unitarian for about 5 years, off and on. In the middle of that I belonged to another congregation called Unity, which I have fond memories of. For 22 some-odd years before these 2 places, I was an evangelical fundamentalist Christian. I could go on and on about this experience, but I’ve written a lot about that in the past, and have also preached a sermon about it (which can be found here).  But this morning during the service at my congregation – Grand River Unitarian Congregation in Kitchener, Ontario – I thought to myself, “I am really glad that I belong here.”

For starters, many reading this may ask, “Is Unitarianism a form of Christianity?” or “What is the history of Unitarianism?”  The answer to the first question is no. Unitarianism is a separate, liberal religion which stands outside Christianity (while it may include Christian members – more on that later). I say this with the caveat that Unitarianism initially came out of Christianity, with the belief that God was not a trinitarian God, but that God was "one." As for the second question, I am not an expert on the history of Unitarianism, only saying that it has roots in mid-16th Century Transylvania and Poland, but goes even further back. As far as North America is concerned, James Freeman began teaching Unitarian doctrine in Boston in 1784, where the Unitarian headquarters still are today. For a more thorough read, go visit the Canadian Unitarian Council's site, and the Unitarian Universalist Association site out of Boston.

For now I will tell you what I appreciate about being a Unitarian. The first thing that comes to mind is inclusion and diversity of belief.  Unitarianism has no official creed or dogma which a person must follow in order to be “in the good books” or to be “OK with God.”  Yet, there are many people within Unitarian congregations who see life through a Buddhist lens, or a Jewish lens, or a Christian lens.  More intriguingly, you will find many atheists and humanists in a Unitarian congregation. That sounds strange to some. “Why would an atheist be part of a religion? Why would they go to church?” Is Unitarianism a social club? I'll get to this later. Also, it is important to me that the LGBTQ community is fully welcome in our congregations.  On a Sunday morning you will find people who come from all sorts of religious or non-religious movements, denominations, and beliefs. Yet we've been drawn to this historic faith.

Since there is no creed or dogma within a Unitarian congregation, and because there are people of various beliefs or unbelief, you may ask, “What holds a congregation together?” To this I would say that a commitment to caring for one another and the earth is important. Another question may be, “Aren’t you just a social club if there isn’t a God you believe in?” My answer would be no, since Unitarianism has its roots in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we have our own rituals, and we come together regularly in community in a way that runs much deeper than just a club.

We also have our set of Principles & Sources. They are as follows:

We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to affirm and promote:
§  the inherent worth and dignity of every person;
§  justice, equity, and compassion in human relations;
§  acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
§  a free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
§  the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
§  the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
§  respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

§  direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
§  words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
§  wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
§  Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbours as ourselves;
§  Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
§  spiritual teachings of Earth-centred traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

There is a high degree of value placed on intellectualism in Unitarianism. You don’t have to “check your brain at the door” and have blind faith.  While saying that, intellectualism isn't the main thing that draws me to my Unitarian community. Aside from inclusion and diversity, I value that I am not judged in any way and can be completely real. If I’ve had a great week I can come and celebrate that with people. If I've been having a shitty week, I can come and be honest about it and not be judged. In our congregation, we have a time called “Joys and Sorrows,” where people can come forward, light a candle in observance of a joy or sorrow, such as a birthday or perhaps a death in the family, and they can briefly share that joy or sorrow with the congregation. In this way we can better celebrate or care about them.

I also value the meditation time in our services, where our minister reads a short inspirational reflection, followed by the singing of a hymn called Spirit of Life, followed by a few moments of silence, then a musical meditation.  Here are the lyrics of Spirit of Life by Carolyn McDade:

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion. 
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea; 
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice. 
Roots hold me close; wings set me free; 
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Now, you may be wondering, "What is there to meditate about if you don't believe in God or the Bible?" My answer is simple and yet important: Just because we may not believe in God, many in Unitarian congregations embrace spirituality, and some, even a divinity.  The big difference maker mystery. Three of my favourite words when asked these days about my beliefs are "I don't know."  And that's OK at a Unitarian church. While many may have their own personal credos, others do not, and are, as Buddhist monk Pema Chodron would say "comfortable with uncertainty." For me, after most of my life thinking that I must have the "right" beliefs about God, it is a real relief to know that it's OK to not know all the answers. Actually, I find it baffling if any human thinks they have all the answers about God. Unitarians realize that change is an inevitable part of life, and we have changed in several ways since our foundations.

As far as what a Unitarian service looks like, that also varies depending on the congregation and on any given Sunday. There may be a theme for a few weeks, but perhaps not. There may be guest speakers, perhaps not. There are Unitarian ministers, who perform weddings, funerals, everything other ministers do. At our congregation we are incredibly blessed to have Rev. Jessica as our minister. Most weeks are about not just personal growth, but how we care about our religious community, our communities at large, and the world as a whole.

Well-known Unitarians have included: 
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Essayist, Lecturer, & Poet)
  • James Luther Adams (American Professor, Most Influential Theologian among Unitarian Universalists in the 20th Century.
  • Louisa May Alcott (American Novelist)
  • Florence Nightingale (English Social Reformer/Founder of Modern Nursing)
  • Beatrix Potter (Author)
  • Thomas Jefferson (An American Founding Father, Principal Author of the Declaration of Independence, 3rd President of the United States)
  • John Quincy Adams (6th President of the United States)
  • Benjamin Franklin (Author/Scientist/A Founding Father Of America)
  • Paul Revere (Patriot - American Revolution)
  • Charles Dickens (English Novelist & Social Critic)
  • T.S. Eliot (Publisher/Playwright)
  • Henry David Thoreau (Author/Poet/Philosopher)
  • Paul Newman (Actor/Philanthropist)
  • Christopher Reeve (American Actor)
  • Randy Pausch (Professor/Author "The Last Lecture")
  • Robert Munsch (Canadian Children's Author) 

I'd like to leave this article with a link to the Canadian Unitarian Council's main site, and an affirmation we collectively read each Sunday.  

Love is the doctrine of this church,
The quest for truth is its sacrament,
And service is its prayer.
To dwell together in peace, 
To seek knowledge in freedom, 
To serve humanity in harmony with the earth, 
Thus do we covenant together. 

And finally, as Ferenc Dávid, a 16th-Century Transylvanian Unitarian preacher said, "We need not think alike to love alike."