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2:59 am - Fri 5/3/03
Embracing The Mystery

Embracing The Mystery
FRI 5/02/03 (1:20 am) (Offline)

This was at the end of a John Shelby Spong newsletter Jane recently emailed me. I thought this question, and Bishop Spong's answer, ties in pretty well to the "negative theology" stuff I was talking about recently:

Kay from St. Louis asks:

"What do you mean when you speak about idolatry among Christians?"

Dear Kay,

Idolatry means ascribing to anything less than God the qualities that pertain to God alone. Infallibility, inerrancy and eternal truth are but a few of these God qualities that have been applied to people, books and churches. In the history of Christianity, various bodies of Christians have claimed infallibility for the ex-cathedra utterances of their spiritual leader, inerrancy for the words of scripture that human beings wrote, and absolute truth for human formulations of doctrines and dogmas.

Recognizing the weakness of such idolatrous claims for particular people, human creations and human formularies, they developed an even stranger claim that the Holy Spirit somehow directed the leader in his (not her) infallible utterances, since God would not let the Divine Church live in falsehood, or that the Holy Spirit guided the authors of the Scriptures so that the words were inerrant, or that the Holy Spirit assisted the Church in its doctrinal formulations so the Creeds might reflect God's ultimate truth.

Each of these claims borders on the ridiculous. The evil that has been done by papal claims, biblical claims and doctrinal claims can be documented all too easily. One has only to look at the Crusades, religious wars, the Inquisition or at the way the Bible has been used in the defense of such outdated evils as the divine right of kings, the condemnation of science, slavery, segregation, second class status for women, homophobia and religious persecution. People also justify aggression by claiming an ultimate justice for their own badly compromised national vested interest.

There is an ultimate truth of God, I do believe. No person, no nation and no institution, however, can claim to possess it without becoming idolatrous. Idolatry is, therefore, a fact, a dark fact, in Christian history.

John Shelby Spong

I liked something else he said in the body of the newsletter–"Fundamentalist churches grow today because they traffic in a certainty they can never deliver".

I started reading a book today, by Osho, called Courage; The Joy Of Living Dangerously (I've had it for probably a year now, but never read it. But I wanted to find something to read today, and it "called to me").

Seems like I'm getting a pretty clear message as to what I need to learn right now. Whether reading about "negative theology", "Idolatry" in the Christian church, or "the joy of living dangerously", the lesson for Jim these days seems to be to "embrace the mystery".

I rented a movie yesterday called Waking Life. Not for everyone, I wouldn't imagine, but I thought it was very cool.

I won't bore you with a big description/plot synopsis of the film, but it got me to thinking; The movie raises some big existential points, and it occurred to me, after watching it, that while I have that sensibility, a sensibility that wants to ask the big questions, to ponder the imponderables, I don't really ask myself the big questions anymore.

"Why not?", you ask? Because I could never figure out the answers. And I didn't like not knowing. I didn't like failing to figure things out. I didn't like feeling...insecure.

And once you become an adult, at least once I became an adult, there isn't anyone to have that kind of conversation with.

(Getting tired...)

But I feel myself becoming dull. And I think my desire for certainty has led to my being a duller, more stagnant person than I'm really meant to be. I'm afraid my brain is dying.

I think when I wrote about how I just wanted to spend more time having fun, doing things I want to do and not "working", what I meant was that I was anxious to be more authentically "me". After all, it's not that I want to stop "working" and do nothing; I want to stop spending most of my time doing something that doesn't feel right and instead do something that feels like "This is the thing I do best, the thing I love".

I want to be in love with my life.

And I think part of being more "in love with my life" is not just about getting to act all the time. Because no matter how successful I become as an actor, there will always be "real life" to contend with. There will always be the inside of my head to contend with.

It's occurred to me a couple of times that I love Jennifer. And yeah, I mean I think she's really pretty and talented and funny and all that, but there's something more; I think I realized that I truly loved Jennifer as a person when I'd heard she'd gotten divorced, which I thought was a long time coming, I realized it didn't mean anything to me personally (She doesn't feel "that way" about me, and probably never will), yet I was still happy for her, because I thought it was the right thing for her. Because I cared about her beyond my attraction to her.

Kyle is with Nick. She's pregnant. She works mostly mornings now, so I don't really see her very much anymore. But when I do, my heart kind of sings. I don't know why, it just does. It no longer matters that she's not going to be with me. She's here on Earth, and I love her.

Turns out I was short-changing myself; I do have a capacity to love others.

(Wondering if I have a point here...)

I guess I'm thinking about the stuff that goes on inside me that doesn't get much play. And I'm not sure why that is; I don't need anyone's permission to think interesting thoughts. Over the years, I've shut myself down somewhat, but there's no rule that says I can't "open myself back up" again. There's no reason my mind can't become a playground instead of a house of horrors. Ican speculate on the nature of "God" without expecting to find the solution in a single Diaryland entry. I can wonder if there are hundreds of "Jim Hoffmasters" across parellel dimensions, each one spun-off from "the path not taken", without giving in to frustration or bitterness.

Often times, I act as if a better, more entertaining, more fun, more meaningful life is "out there" somewhere. But I think that "better life" has to start with allowing myself to be. I think I have the capacity to have a more meaningful, enjoyable life than I've allowed myself to lead up till now.

And before I can have a change of heart, I'm going to copy this into Diaryland, and go to bed.


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