Do We Know What Is Real?

Do We Know What Is Real?

Long ago, I spent a couple of weeks getting to know a brilliant professional theologian who had already written an entire shelf of books, while letting him get to know me. This was of vital importance at the time because I was proposing to marry his daughter. The one serious sticking point came up when he framed a question as if it was about acting as an umpire at a baseball game. A pitched ball had crossed home plate, and the batter had held still as it passed. Some observers said that it was a ball because the pitched was just out of the strike zone, and some said that no it had been a strike. How, the theology professor asked, would I solve the dispute? Was there an absolute measure that could be arrived at, or was everything just relative depending upon one’s point of view?

“Oh poop,” I thought. I could see the trap. What my prospective father-in-law was asking was, “Did I accept that what seems obvious is reality, or was I infected with that deconstructionist, post-modern radicals who basically implied that nothing is actually real? Well, I was not in the camp that he was so unhappy with, but neither was I as naive about accepting as absolute what our senses tell us as he, a person of an earlier intellectual era, insisted upon being. I was unprepared, and fudged my answer, fuzzing up the edges of what I said.

But I have faced this same question often in the years since, and understand how to clarify what has to be expressed fairly well. What I’m going to give you now is an explanation written as dialogue between a fairly advanced human being of a future time, and an alien with whom she is creating a friendship. The whole story is not written here, only the snippet that expresses an answer to the nature of the “Reality,” within which we all exist:

“This is, I say, good. This, Megan Joy Brown, newest friend, is first the question from me. What mean you with this strange snippet of words, “Ultimate reality?” Is not what is real simply what is real? How then is some reality ‘Ultimate,’ indicating in this tongue of yours, more real than what is real? How is such a statement not, as you say, ‘Crazy?’” Megan Joy is relieved because this is a serious question that shows that the non-human female has placed her attention upon the actual content of what has been said, but this particular inquiry is not beyond Ms. Brown’s ability to answer. She clears her throat. “We each, my friend, experience the reality that we see, hear, and feel with our nervous systems. These systems are set up to keep us alive, and not to give us accurate scientific data. The two purposes overlap much of the time, but not always.”

“How is this? Understand I not this.” Megan Joy takes a deep breath before plunging in. “I cannot tell you about how your own nervous system works my non-human friend, but I can tell you about mine, because it is similar for all of us who are human and what is human is well studied. Let me start with color. My eyes show a specific spectrum of vibrational frequencies as colored light, and they do this only for those few chosen frequencies. There are infinitely more vibratory frequencies that might be perceived, but I do not see them.

“Instead, everything in this entire visible universe that is vibrating slower than the specific band of frequencies that my eyes see, strikes me as black. Everything vibrating faster than that band is also black to me. I experience a hue that I call black, that is either moving faster or moving slower than let us say yellow, and I simply do not know the difference. Under most circumstances this has no bearing on my survival, but in a laboratory…? You can, my Spacer friend, understand that this might be another story entirely?

“Black? What is black might but many colors unknown? This is disturbing.”

“Oh, just talking about vision, that isn’t even the half of it. Half of what I see, what any human sees, is not coming up my optic nerve from my eyes. Half of what I see is actually manufactured in my brain from memory and expectation. This is what causes smooth, no-gap perception, even though new information has to be processed before it is perceived, it is also why my kind are so often shocked to see how someone has grown so much older when we have not seen them for a while, but we take their aging in stride when we have seen them every day. You do understand this, surely?”

The ungainly being mimes a human nod, but says nothing more.

“Well, far more importantly, something similar is happening in the front part of our brains as we go through life,” Megan Joy drills down deeper. “Only this is not because of our being stuck with original equipment like the color sensing in our eyes, but because we are not stuck at all. Here is the situation: I am going to arrive at an understanding of the situation around me so that I have a way to understand how I fit, and what makes things happen. This we call a world-view/self-image. Self-image and worldview are always paired, and each forms a container for the other. On the other hand, every time I discover, through frustrating experience, that my present world-view/self-image is inadequate, I feel like I have run up against an unyielding bulkhead like the inner walls of this interstellar vessel, smashed my face against the thing or something.

“The more desperately I try to claw through that solid barrier the more frustrated I get. When I finally let go and stop thinking, my brain actually disassembles part of itself, “pruning” we say, many of its nerve bundles, then re-formats them more complexly. Meaning reconfigured with many more cross-connections, as well as possibly more nerves altogether. Suddenly I can think thoughts, and solve dilemmas that I was incapable of thinking or solving before, and I set off to do just that. But this leads to a new problem that my species did not understand for the longest time. I now tend to see everyone who has not reconfigured as many times as have I, to be backward and stupid, and I also continue to regard anyone who has re-formatted more often as foolish, unrealistic, and untrustworthy, so I will be wary of everything that such a person might think, say, or do.

“Do you see what this neurologic situation naturally, and inevitably leads to? We unfortunate humans, for most of our history have, because we could not see into our own physical brains, found that we hold to ideas, philosophies, cultures, what have you, that must simply contradict one another, and fight over those contradictions as if they are not only real in the outer “Real” world, but of vital importance. Therefore, my personal reality and my neighbor’s reality will be in each case not an ultimate reality after all, but we will still kill each other in defense of what we each say is reality. There are quite a number of other examples that I might give, but is this pair sufficient to give you a basic picture?”

The listening alien is horrified. “How can you then continue to exist?”

OK! If you are personally eager to have ever deeper levels of reality within your own grasp, or merely wish to explore the “whichness of why,” and what makes that old mystery tick, then please, sign up joyfully, delightedly, ebulliently to receive our Christ the Healer UCC newsletter.
And even better, join our interactive community, take part in our exercises and offerings, and participate in the ongoing, ever-evolving fun. We are ready to welcome you with wide-open arms!

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 2

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 2

We Don’t Need to Change the Story, Just Change Our Eyes as We Read.

The entire point of this two-part blog post, of which this is the second half, comes down to this one statement: What we find when we each read and ponder passages in our Bible is a stirring together of our own previous personal scholarship, and what the complexity in the neuro-networks of our individual brains allows us to see.

In earlier posts, I have focused on many “missings” in the scholarship of most people who profess to be Christian. So let’s look at the other part of our issue this time, OK? To do this in a fun way, here is an exciting “What if?” In a recent talk given at our sister church, Hillsdale Community UCC, our own Christ the Healer UCC co-organizer, Gabrielle asked the question, “What if all of that serious stuff that Jesus is remembered as having declared with great solemnity, had really been tossed lovingly at his listeners with a smile on his face and a chuckle in his voice?”

That would be a mind-blower wouldn’t it? If this so-called suffering man of sorrows had been showing off a life of unconditional joy in his own thought, word, and deed? The implications of this idea are more than explosive, they would be an earthquake under the entire twin enterprises of teaching Christian thought, and of our understanding of his message. Most importantly of all, we would have a clear demonstration of why the tales about Jesus and what he did, and what he said were called “Gospels” which means “Good news,” from the first, bearing in mind that some folks look at the doctrine that says, “Believe that I am God, or you go straight to hell,” as anything but good news. Let’s test out a couple of more-or-less random samples paraphrased to make them more sharply pointed, alright?

There is one shocking story where Jesus is recorded as rebuffing a Canaanite woman who begs for a healing of her daughter, with the chilling words “When the children of Israel go hungry, should I give food to the dogs?” Hardly a loving, all-embracing attitude right? This passage has occasioned a lot of ducking, shuffling, jinking, and excuse-making down the centuries, but whatever is said to slide past the bad impression, these words that dismiss a non-Jewish woman as a dog continue to create an unpleasant stir in many hearts. But what if, Jesus, already established as a famously clever debater, was laughingly playing to the surrounding crowd, poking fun at their tribal prejudice, rather than showing off his own? If that is the case, then his instant cave, when the quick-witted foreign woman shoots back with her own saucy answer, “Even the dogs under the table get to eat scraps,” makes far more sense.

Well, OK, you might say, but what in the Bible can possibly tell us that Jesus had a sense of humor? He always seems like such a hard-core sobersides. My reply has to be multi-layered and nuanced, so please follow along carefully. Our first step is to admit that thousands of years of worshipful tradition, along with a groveling style of reaction to what is called “high Christology” – which means putting our first attention on the ancient doctrine that Christ is fully God, in preference to balancing that understanding with the co-equal doctrine that Christ is also fully human. This co-equal doctrine was issued, by the way, by a Council of Bishops at the very same long-ago moment. The result is that this impression has been stamped into nearly everyone’s mind. So, let us examine that.

If Christ is fully God along with being fully human, then what we know about God applies to him, right? So, let’s consult Isaiah, where in one passage we find that prophet, speaking for God, declaring, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts, nor are your ways, my ways.” Deity, which is one and only one absolute totality, needs no self-protection at all. Deity merely loves, and does so joyfully. That is Jesus’ actual inner nature, and ours too, once we can find it under our knee jerk need to battle for our lives.

Returning to Jesus’ stories and sticking with his relation to women, let’s examine the story of his being buttonholed by a bunch of self-righteous men, heavy rocks already in hand, who bring him a woman, saying “This slut was caught right in the act of committing adultery. Speak your holy judgment, teacher, and join us in stoning her to death.” The story says that he bent down and wrote in the dust. What if he was simply hiding his knowing smile from the boys, whose hearts he knew? What if he was giving them time to hunger for, then hang on his coming words? “OK, then let the one without sin throw the first stone.” Then he looks down again. When he looks up the woman and he are alone, and she is still alive. When he addresses her directly, his tone is fatherly, loving, and smilingly kind as well as sad, not a thundering admonishment. Instead amounting to a directive: “Go home, clean up, think about what has happened, and miss the mark no more. Your sin is forgiven, but you must learn to do better.”

Or how about his dealings with that iconic pair of sisters, Mary and Martha? Jesus the itinerant Rabbi has slogged into Bethany, just two miles outside of Jerusalem proper, and is putting up at their house. It is clear that he has been their guest before, and they are very familiar with one another. Both women are excited with the visit and determined to get the most out of the evening. Mary by taking advantage of Jesus’ teaching and general aura, Martha by honoring her beloved guest with the best feast that she can prepare. She sets to with a will, yet it is soon obvious to her that she has bitten off too much. She can not get it all done in time. Many are the highly responsible adults who read these words will recognize that sudden, sinking feeling, and recognize also, what happens next.

Put yourself in the scene. You are Martha, your big gift is about to flop, your nerves are stretched thin, and you are about to snap. Instead of presenting Jesus with warmth and celebration the way you had planned, you go to the teacher with a whine instead. A further humiliation. “Rabbi, don’t you even care that my sister has left me alone in the kitchen? Tell her to come out and do her part the way she should!” Then hear Jesus’s sweet reply, imagining that he smiles, lowers his voice and speaks softly, teasing slightly, maybe pulling at the strings of her apron. “Martha, Martha you get so distracted by so many things! There is only one thing that’s important, and Mary has zeroed in on that very thing. Calm down, take a rest, maybe some of the others will lend a hand, maybe I will help out when my teaching job is done for the evening. It is all going to be all right.” How do you react to this picture?

Or, how about this: The same family in the town of Bethany, the brother, Lazarus took ill days ago. Jesus the miracle worker was sent for, but for some unknown reason he has dragged his feet for a total of four days, and Lazarus has died. When the Rabbi reaches the dwelling, Martha, who has been on the lookout, meets him on the road. “Master! You are here at last. If you had been here in time, my brother would not have died. In the ensuing dialogue, Jesus gets Martha to declare that she knows that his is the awaited “Anointed One,” in a manner that implies that God’s grace will of course respond to his word even at this late date. Then he says that they should go to the tomb, implying that they will pray together.

Meanwhile the weepy, more volatile Mary has also rushed out, and stings him with the same message. “Had you been here, our brother would not have died!” delivered with an undertone of, “Didn’t you care enough?” When they get to the tomb a big group of mourners is loitering about, everyone down-hearted. Jesus weeps to see their pain. That is when he orders the huge stone wheel that blocks the tomb be rolled aside and Martha, ever the practical one, squeals in protest, “It has been four days! It will stink!” Yet what has been ordered is accomplished, and Jesus, showing of his chops at last, yodels into the cavity that has been carved into that limestone ridge, “Lazarus come out!” And of course, in our story, Lazarus does.

Does the above amount to historically accurate reportage like something we might expect to see in the New York Times? I absolutely have no way of knowing, and sort of suspect not, but I can say this with confidence: “At the deepest level available to me today, it is definitely true.” If you are eager to have ever deeper levels of reality within your own grasp, or merely wish to explore the “whichness of why,” and what makes that old mystery tick: please, sign up joyfully, delightedly, ebulliently to receive our Christ the Healer UCC newsletter.

And even better…

Join our interactive community, take part in our exercises and offerings, and participate in the ongoing, ever-evolving fun. We are ready to welcome you with wide-open arms!

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 1

Science, the Bible, and Truth Part 1

The setup – issue – so-called problem

One of the most valuable insights that repeatedly arises for us in the fields of psychology, philosophy, sociology, meta-position studies of theology, and communications theory that we find being explained through recent developments in neuroscience, is that we, humans, do not see things as they are, as we all so fondly like to pretend, but as we are. It is the most hateful who are easiest to hate. The most dedicated to love who are easiest to love. The most afraid of theft who are tempted to steal, the most jealous who are most liable to turn faithless. We are stuck in front of our mirrors. Thus our many traditions, cultures, political opinions, or other strongly held commitments that we can’t understand why someone would see in any other way.

This situation can lead to estrangement, conflict, and war. The implications for religion, theological reflection, and for Christians, in particular, are gargantuan. To put the issue baldly, what we find when we each read and ponder passages in our Bible is a stirring together of our own previous personal scholarship, and what the complexity in the neuro-networks of our individual brains allows us to see.

This is universally true, not just for us moderns – who look at those two thousand years (or more) old passages in English translations, which have twenty to fifty centuries of years separation from their cultural context – but for each translator or translation committee that rendered Latin into English, and those who previously wrote down Latin from Classical Greek, and those who had rendered Hebrew into Greek, and for us, the still earlier editors who transferred memories spoken in Aramaic, the vernacular tongue of Jesus’ place and time, into Temple Hebrew, a related language, but emphatically not the same.

Moreover, and most important of all, we must remember that the traditions and habits that we all follow, most of us without much personal thought, have been laid down by the many, many thousands of preachers and teachers of previous generations who influenced our traditions, who lived in their own times and cultures, and faced their own problems, worries, and psychological misfires through the lens of their own cultural biases.

What then are we to do? Give up? Many tens of millions in both Europe and North America who have confronted aspects of this problem, or run up against emotional sour points, have done just that. Not to blame these folks, every human knows her or his own needs best, but I sorrow for these unfortunates. They are missing out. When approached with exuberance and trust, the Gospels are an endless source of inspiration, personal and emotional support, and credible, down-to-earth information about how we (the human species) are hard-wired. And they provide information about what we can do with the downsides of those existing neurological apparent impediments to spiritual growth. Every wonderful, valuable thing that we need is there, in those stories, just buried under encrustations of historical misuse and sadly ignorant misrepresentation.

Again there is no possible use to be gained in blaming our predecessors: they, one and all, were simply doing their best with what they had – just as we in the twenty-first century still must do what our descendants are sure to recognize as our own best, however inadequate. But let it be said that many, many threads of slow, painstaking evolutionary development have at last come together to give us, in this and following generations, a delightful chance to do better. That is, if our species’ previous mistakes are not allowed to eradicate our breed entirely in the next few decades. For details of how the hopeful, bright, and ebullient side of this observation can be realized by connecting with Christ the Healer UCC, keep your eyes on this space. It will not be long in appearing. And if you cannot wait, you are always invited to join in on the fun just by asking to become enthusiastically involved today.

Read more…

The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement

The Original Purpose of the Christian Movement

Part A. Why we at CtH seem so different

By Thomas Chavez

Over the course of twenty centuries, Christian teaching, for the most part, no matter which specific church or denomination you talk about, has sought to maintain a consistent image. Wanting 5to present a picture of unchanging truth. This is powerfully illustrated by the fact that in the 1860s the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church issued a declaration that Catholic doctrine has never changed and can never change, despite the simple fact that a close reading of history shows that Catholic doctrine has time and again tied itself into knots to go along with changes in emphasis, and function necessary for the church to answer issue after issue, with shifts in understanding in what the then-current power structure in the Vatican saw as most important, either spiritually or politically. What is more, that same Pope created a new doctrine that whatever a Pope said while speaking “ex-cathedra,” meaning in his official capacity, is always flat out infallible.

At Christ the Healer UCC we take a diametrically opposite tack. We have done everything that we could to unbury the original vision of Christ as shown in the words and actions of Jesus, and then have sought to understand that intention in the most attentive, detailed, and functional ways, so that we can do what Christ asked, and follow his way says Thomas Chavez.

That is where the difference starts. By realizing that we are directly asked to follow, we are never asked by Jesus himself to worship him. Jesus in fact related to, as his substitute for worship, his people’s image of the one and only God, whom he named, “Daddy.” So the first doctrinal shift was right there, the morphing of the religion “Of Jesus,” into the religion “About Jesus.

This bend in the path was more or less accidentally worn deep when the Apostle Paul, in his efforts to sell Jesus’s program to non-Jews, spent so much ink in his letters explaining why Jesus was so important. Furthermore, The Theology of Apostle Paul is divided into three, depending upon which Pauline letters a person might read. There was an original Paul totally dedicated to the image of a radically giving God revealed by Christ through Jesus. He said that in Christ there was no Greek nor Jew, meaning that there was no difference between tribes, nations, or races. No Male or female, no difference between the genders. No slave or free, meaning no difference between social classes. Contrast this with a reactionary Paul greatly concerned with the order within congregations, eager to make women shut up in church, submit to their husbands, have enslaved people meekly obey their masters, and so on. These letters when looked at carefully use language that the original Paul never used, and expressed views that the original Paul never hinted at. For long years these were called “Attributed,” now scholars are simply calling them forgeries. Then there is a third Paul, who seems from a doctrinal point of view to be suspended between the two. But when these letters are examined it turns out that when the few paragraphs of contrary material is removed, the rest of each letter flows along without a hitch. Showing that the regressive material was inserted into original texts. That is three changes right there. Then, the Early Desert Fathers had a theological take somewhat different from the Theology of Paul. Saint Augustine in the sixth century issued Theological opinions that became church doctrine that was an “An Advance,” on those views, then the late Middle Ages “Scholastics,” especially Thomas Aquinas, argued with, “Advanced and corrected” those doctrines, and Theology has evolved generation by generation ever since. Including the Protestant reformation and the subsequent splitting up of Protestants into hundreds of strands of Christian thought. All claiming to be the one, unchanging central understanding of the Gospels.

By sticking with, and clarifying what we see as the original purpose of the Christian movement, we at CtH feel that we have recovered the deep, founding momentum of what Christ as Jesus had in mind, and was determined first to work miracles to attract attention to; second, to give his life for, and third, becomes himself a jaw-dropping miracle of resurrection to hammer home. Because we have this incredibly powerful perspective, we are eager to invite anyone who is intrigued by the prospect of both personal and planetary transformation to check out what we teach, and climb on board. We welcome you with loving arms.

Like this article? Read our companion article Part B. Why we at CtH seem so different – The Denominations

New Brain Science

New Brain Science

New Reading – What we are learning are sharing together

Join the conversation, and learn about the latest in brain science, through this short video with excerpts from the book Whole Brain Living by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, Neuroscientist. 

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor shares her life-changing insights about the four unique areas of your decision-making brain (aka the Four Characters) and how to tell which Character is in control at any moment. She also teaches a powerful Brain Huddle technique that will help you get all Four Characters enthusiastically serving on the same team. When you’re able to do this, you’ll be able to choose who and how you want to be in every moment—and you’ll experience more peace than you can imagine.

What are your four characters? Share with us at our Summer Solstice Event