Two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth was asked what was the greatest commandment of the law. His answer was quite simple. “‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.” Mark 12: 28-24
One of the things that truly bothers me about this new Calvinistic, dominionist, patriarchal, Christian Reconstruction cult that has taken over the more conservative churches such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Presbyterians not part of the PCUSA, and all the little cults and mega-churches that go along with it is their lack of emphasis on Christ and love. They don’t seem to put much emphasis on John 3:16, which is the real basis of the Christian faith. Instead, it has morphed into a religion of rules, demands, and practices which have nothing to do with mainstream Christianity.
When you read enough of their writings, and their blogs, there is a theme that constantly resurfaces. The Gospels are almost completely ignored. One would think that Paul was the Messiah, not Jesus of Nazareth. There is no room for Christ, nor is there room for Love. But, there are rules, requirements, demands, and all sorts of convoluted requirements to become holy. I’m still doubting if John 3:16 is involved.
One of the reasons is the fact that so many of these people are Neo-Calvinist. Not only that, but they are TULIP Calvinist. If you are a strict TULIP Calvinist, then John 3:16 basically has no place in your life. If you are not one of the elect, no matter how devout a Christian you are, even John Paul II, if not one of the elect, goes to hell. On the other hand, if a Charles Manson is of the elect, he gets a get out of hell pass for free.
Christ is about love. For God so loved this world that He gave us His only begotten Son (that’s an interesting theological discussion above my pay grade) so that those of us who believe in Him receive salvation.
It’s all about love. In the world Christ created there are no requirements of submissive wives. Husbands don’t intercede for their salvation and spiritual growth. Wives don’t intercede for their husband’s salvation and spiritual growth. In the world Christ created, we can pray for those who don’t know Him.
There aren’t a lot of rules. I don’t even know where the doctrine of modesty is required. If you believe as I do, that God is omnipotent, then rather like the words of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.
He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good…
So, He sees everything. This is where I admit that I do a heck of a lot of my praying while I’m in the shower. It’s quite, sealed off from the world. I don’t pray the way I should. Much to my amusement, I’ve discovered that I’m a heck of a lot like my grandmother Froehlich. I sit down in the evening and I’m asleep. I close my eyes to pray, I’m asleep. I try praying at bedtime and I’m asleep. I bow my head to pray, and I’m asleep. Consequently, I have a tendency to pray while I’m driving, cleaning the kitchen, doing what little laundry I actually do, this sort of thing. I pray when I’m getting dressed. If I sit down, just to pray and study, I’m asleep.
The Lord understands that I’m a total bitch. He understands that I am a completely ungrateful little snot so lacking in faith that there are times when I must be slammed in the face to see what is before me. It’s that faith to me, that is the real miracle.
I’m a skeptic in life. I’m a total and complete skeptic. If you told me that the sky was green, I would need to see it and seek a practical explanation as to why it wasn’t blue. I am very much into science. While I get a kick out of cryptozoology, just don’t make me think there is anything remotely paranormal in this world. I’m not into ghosts (thought a building I owned was once haunted – and rather humorously, at that). I don’t want anything UFO, alien, or weird. There is a logical explanation for everything, in life.
I say this because, I happen to recognize the fact that my believe in the Lord, in Christ is a miracle. It is not something I would logically do. I’m not into ‘religion’ because I’m not into rules, or playing by the rules. Having evolved my life toward Christ, I must admit that there is something absolutely transcending about the confirmation process in the Worldwide Anglican Communion. It is basically the same in the Catholic Church. There is something miraculous during the confirmation process where the bishop lays hands upon your head. I never understood until it happened to me. Apostolic Succession teaches that there is an unbroken lineage from Christ, laying hands on His Disciples. Oh, sure, we argue that we are the only unbroken line, and the Catholics argue the same thing. it doesn’t matter. What is so remarkable is the documented continuity.
There is a moment, in the process, when something remarkable happens. I don’t know how to describe it. I did not believe it. In fact, no one prepared me for what I would experience. You could feel two thousand years of prayers, coming originally from Christ.
The other day, a very wise woman wrote something to me in an email. “Christians should never forget that love is the fulfillment of the law. When we discard love we place ourselves above God. When we do that, we deny God. The scripture tells us that to fear God is the first stage of wisdom. All who do so prove themselves wise. God pours his love into your heart and he longs for you to encounter that love in prayer.”
What you never see from the Calvinistic right is the following: 1 Cor 13
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
It is rather ironic that the passage telling us we should pay our taxes comes right there with love. It is even more ironic when one considers that the religious is basically libertarian.