Here it is Easter, April 21, 2019 and Christians are still unable to distinguish between the myth of Christianity and their own experience of the life they have been given by the Creator. That inability accounts for much of human suffering. Not to pick on the Christians, all inhabitants of the Global Village whether religious or “pagan” suffer from similar illusions.
In this essay Nicholas Kristof is interviewing Serene Jones, a Protestant minister and president of Union Theology Seminary and author of a new memoir, Call It Grace. Her responses reveal an unconventional interpretation of the Gospel and a clarion-call for a paradigm shift in human consciousness.
The worldview of Simple Reality (SR) (in italics) adds another layer of depth to the discussion.
Kristof: To start, do you think of Easter as a literal flesh-and-blood resurrection?
Jones: Those who claim to know whether or not it happened are kidding themselves. But that empty tomb symbolizes that the ultimate love in our lives cannot be crucified and killed.
SR: Reverend Jones has intuited the critical importance of realizing our true identity. The ultimate essence of every person is that of a compassionate expression of an indestructible energy and is an expression of the essence of our Creator. Or as the eastern religions often emphasize—“We are That!”
SR: If we fail to distinguish our essence (True self) from our false self, that mistaken identity leads to the self-destructive behavior so prevalent in the Global Village today.
Kristof: But without a physical resurrection, isn’t there a risk that we are left with just the crucifixion?
Jones: Crucifixion is not something that God is orchestrating from upstairs. The pervasive idea of an abusive God-father who sends his own kid to the cross so God could forgive people is nuts. For me, the cross is an enactment of our human hatred. But what happens on Easter is the triumph of love in the midst of suffering.”
SR: Choosing a healthy, life-affirming identity for God is the first step in being able to choose our own true identity. Einstein affirmed this when he said that the most important question for humanity to answer in beginning to create a sustainable community was: “Is the Universe friendly?”
Kristof: So how do we reconcile an omnipotent, omniscient God with evil and suffering?
Jones: At the heart of faith is mystery. God is beyond our knowing, not a being or an essence or an object.
SR: The limited human intellect was not created to “understand” God but the human heart is perfectly capable of “feeling” the essence of our Creator.* (See Intuition and Intellect)
Kristof: Isn’t Christianity without a physical resurrection less powerful and awesome?
Jones: For me, the message of Easter is that love is stronger than life or death. That’s a much more awesome claim than that they put Jesus in the tomb and three days later he wasn’t there.
Kristof: What about other miracles of the New Testament? Say the virgin birth?
Jones: I find the virgin birth a bizarre claim. It has nothing to do with Jesus’ message. The virgin birth only becomes important if you have a theology in which sexuality is considered sinful. It also promotes this notion that the pure, untouched female body is the best body, and that idea has led to centuries of oppressing women.
SR: We can see how some of the core beliefs of Christian doctrine are “unfriendly” to the human community.
Kristof: Prayer is efficacious in the sense of making us feel better, but do you believe it is efficacious in curing cancer?
Jones: I don’t believe in a God who, because of prayer, would decide to cure your mother of cancer but not cure the mother of your non-praying neighbor. We can’t manipulate God like that.
SR: When we feel the need to pray we are affirming that we believe God’s identity is that of the judgmental Old Testament God not the God of the New Testament dispensation in which God’s love is freely given without having to beg for it.
Kristof: What happens when we die?
Jones: I’m absolutely certain that when we die, there is not a group of designated bad people sent to burn in hell. That does not exist. But hell has a symbolic reality: When we reject love, we create hell, and hell is what we see around us in this world today in so many forms.
SR: See more details on the distinction between Heaven and Hell.
SR: What is the solution to the abject human suffering so prevalent in the human community today?
Jones: This wrestling with climate change, and wrestling with the levels of violence in our world, wrestling with authoritarianism and the intractable character of gender oppression—it’s forcing communities within all religions to say, “Something is horribly wrong here.” It’s a spiritual crisis. Many nonreligious people feel it, too. We need a new way entirely to think about what it means to be a human being and what the purpose of our lives is. For me, this moment feels apocalyptic, as if something new is struggling to be born.
SR: Are the world’s religions supporting a sustainable human community or are they in part responsible for the collapse of global civilization?
Jones: The structures of religion as we know it have come up bankrupt and are collapsing. What will emerge? That is for our children and our children’s children to envision and build.
SR: Reverend Jones’s insights can be experienced as the beginning of a dialogue in the creation of consciousness without which humanity cannot hope to avoid catastrophic suffering brought about by our self-destructive worldview, identity and behavior.
Insight # 97: In our own day, of course, the world pictures [worldviews] of all the major religions are at least two thousand years out of date, and in that fact alone there is ground enough for a very serious break-off. –Joseph Campbell
- Mythology in this blog and in print in The ABC’s of Simple Reality: The Encyclopedia of Self-Transformation, Vol I (2018), pages 359-370, by Roy Charles Henry.
- Kristof, Nicholas. “Reverend, the Virgin Birth Is ‘a Bizarre Claim.’?” The New York Times Sunday Review. April 21, 2019. PAGE