Category Archives: Emergent

Where Is Your Spiritual Identity?


Specific to American politics, the last few years have been very tough on the identities of all Americans. As an African-American, I may perceive that it has been especially tough for people color. However, regardless of our cultural perspective, we all may be feeling like our culture alone is being singled out. It appears that the current political strategy has raised the stakes in a game known as identity politics. Pitting the feelings of one cultural group against another group of humans is a very popular and easy way to win support for anything.  In the same way, the threat level was used to control public sentiment and manipulate perceptions about personal peace and safety after 9/11, the reporting of ethnic slurs float as headlines across our media. And like a group of children in a schoolyard, we continue to fall prey to its tactics watching a bully pick on the innocent all the while fearing that, that kind of attention is never focused in our direction.

So when asking the big and relevant questions concerning identity the key to the answer has to do with where we go for that answer? Many of us turn to an outside source like a mirror, family,  culture, or religion to tells us who we are. Then there are those families, cultures, and religions that we do not belong that also make their opinion of who we are known to us and others. Please notice that these sources appear to come from outside of our being.

As humans, we all have individual traits that separate us from others in our various groupings. However, we all have one thing in common, and that is, we all use the title “I,”  to describe ourself. As technology brings awareness of happenings and opinions from around the world, we develop a global consciousness concerning the opinions of others, and we allow those to shape our identity.

When one’s identity is no longer subject to outside opinion, tactics of identity politics go away. Thus, understanding our essential nature as spiritual beings allows us to see reality in its purest form. If we can grasp the infinite qualities of our existence, then we would understand that we cannot be threatened or harmed. Human consciousness is fundamental, revealing oneness with God and all creation. However, these truths fly in the face of some religious and cultural traditions. But at the root of these same cosmologies, often the peace and unity longed for, is ignored to foster hierarchical systems known as our social order.

As technology brings on global awareness it increases the tensions between the trends that want more equality and those that benefit when human culture continues to organize around economic, gender, and ethnic divisions. So how do we humans rise above these simple tactics of namecalling and other schoolyard strategies? How do we begin to see the truth of our identity and enjoy the immunity from outside threats and opinion?

First, we must be willing to change our personal beliefs about ourselves and others. Ultimately we must be ready to change our world view. Amazingly, we are eager to replace the software in our phones and computers, but we are unwilling to change the software of our being. Who is willing to live without a technology upgrade for the next 10 years? And yet, many of us are holding onto beliefs about ourselves and others that have origins older than 100 years.

Second, is the acknowledgment that human evolution is not complete. Our current social structure rests on the advancements and shortfalls of previous generations. As we spring forth from the unevolved creatures that existed during the days of black and white television and pre-transistor technology, we need to maintain a perspective that we humans are still evolving. 1950 was 70 years ago and the relationships between every human sub-category and social role has advanced. Therefore judging people based on traditional societal roles, rebels against human advancement.

We are fast becoming technologist about to embark on a journey side-by-side with Artificial Intelligence, and many of us are not willing to ask the deep questions concerning human identity.  If the assumption is that traditional religious and cultural authority will continue to be the arbitrator of what is right, then we might as well bring on the apocalypse. Many of the minds in some of these religions and cultures groupings see no future existence on earth outside of the scriptural interpretation or imagination from many centuries gone bye. The sad truth is that many of us today feel lost and we have settled to become better versions of the human creatures of days gone bye. Even the social justice activist of today that fight for new visions of equality still rely on the tactics of 70+ years ago.

Only by understanding the truth of our being can we get off the merry-go-round of identity politics. So, how to do we find out what is fundamental and essential to our being? Using a piece of rope as an analogy, we must see the truth of its reality.  Just realizing that the rope is not the snake does not keep us from mistaking the rope for a stick at a later time. We must see beyond what the rope is not and truly see its nature.

Overcoming a racial slur, gender or ethnic putdown will only happen when the truth of our identity is revealed. As long as we continue to allow others in this material world to define who we are, our lives will remain on the merry-go-round in the schoolyard. The ultimate security of our being rest in the knowledge of what we fundamentally are, and thus making us immune to the opinions of what others might mistake us for.

By the process of self-inquiry the answer of who am I is revealed. If we find that our identity is continually assaulted by reports in the news, then its time we get a hold on who we really are. Investigating more deeply the “I” of our being is not difficult. Here is a hint. About 6000 years ago, it was stated: “I am that I am.” Simply asking ourself and pondering the answer to that statement any human can begin to unlock their true identity and find out what all humans have in common with that statement?

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Filed under Emergent, Emergent Church, Evidence, Evidence Locker, God, Mystic, non-duality, Religion, Spiritual, spiritual but not religious, Spirituality, Uncategorized

The Other Team Sport?

2019-01-01_waterdrops-8-1184377-1599x1066The human concept of religious freedom is our acknowledgment that spiritual beliefs, practices, and understanding can be as individual as the number of humans. The recognition and respect for all individuals to freely express their personal beliefs are fundamental as breathing.

So, why do so many people participate in their spiritual development as a team sport? Also, why have many people allowed their personal spiritual identity to become entangled with a religious organization? Organizational religion has two main goals. One is to aid in the spiritual training of those that join its organization. The second is to transmit to future generations the teachings and practices that are part of the religious culture for which it represents.

Many Sunday morning worship services in America have morphed to resemble sports and political gatherings with people supporting their home teams. The Sunday morning gatherings in America used to be a time of spiritual devotion where any visitor could join the community practice. It was an opportunity for people to temporarily escape from of their personal lives to reflect on the actions they committed or omitted during the busy week. It was a time for quiet reflection while being washed in spiritual words of encouragement. It was an opportunity for personal transformation.

Do you gather in huge a stadium or do you gather in a smaller group, and is it with people and friends that have the same perspective or worldview? Is there time for quiet devotion and reflection or does the gathering put on a production and presentation to keep you excited so you will come back again? Is the overall point of view being shared one that says, there is only one way to God and all others perspectives in the marketplace need to be driven out, so the world can become transformed? If someone holding a different worldview happens to visit or is invited to attend your service are they accepted as they are if they never change, or are they made to feel especially uncomfortable if they fail to cheer on the home team and its perception of the world?

This may be fine for sport and political gatherings, but it violates the concept for spiritual freedom. Yet, religious institutions have adopted this format as a method to support and bolster its organizational goals. Religious institutions train their membership in groups to maximize efficiency, but they fail to reinforce the idea that a person’s spiritual identity is as personal as their fingerprint and that it belongs to them. More important and because of tradition, many members freely abdicate their responsibility for spiritual development and trade in their personal identity for a group identity. Many people do this in hopes that God’s heart is moved by numbers when standing in faith on an issue. Have you given over your identity in hopes that it will be used as a political force that can influence the material world issues in a spiritual way?

For many years religious organizations, worldwide, have been more than happy to let people give them their identities so they can be the ones representing their spiritual lives. Just prior to the Protestant Reformation in the Christian culture, the most popular religious institutions were accused of having to much power and abusing that power. Back then the power was in the form of a financial tax on individuals, and families. From birth to death these organizations formulated a strategy of dispensing and withholding blessings to influence and control various parts of a persons moral and spiritual life.

Today people volunteer to be members of their religious institutions and have the freedom to terminate the relationship whenever they want. However, for those that choose to evolve spiritually, most never do it outside of a religious organization. Therefore, today these organizations continue to yield tremendous power from birth to death. They do not directly tax individuals, but the relationship has financial obligations and when it comes to political power, they strongly influence the beliefs and thoughts of most of its members. There is a valid chicken and egg argument to be made, however, within the membership only a few members hold differing beliefs from the membership at large.

But be encouraged, many people are waking up to these trends as it concerns personal spiritual development. The Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) movement and specifically within Christianity the Emergent Church movement and the Red Letter Christian movement are examples of pushbacks towards this trend. However, just switching teams is not a solution to the trend of spiritual development being a team sport.

Only the act of taking personal responsibility for one’s spiritual training can truly reverse this trend. It does not require everyone to exit organize religion, but it does require everyone to set personal goals and partake of training materials that they have sought out. With the advent of human technological advancements, especially in the area of social networks, individuals in the western world are without excuse when it comes to seeking spiritual enlightenment. Do you avail yourself of the spiritual resources available on the social network at least once a week?

To remained pigeonholed into a way of thinking spiritually from birth to death reflects truly on one’s beliefs about all things spiritually. Fear is the primary tactic that keeps many people from exploring spiritually. In every other area of life, people exercise freedom except when it comes to their spirituality. It is kind of like when a stockbroker or a doctor discourage you from getting a second opinion, you should automatically know that something is wrong. However, many falsely believe they will be better off not knowing the truth.

Again, be encouraged that you will not be the first pioneer to strike out on your own and do something spiritually on one of the other six days of the week and still show up on Sunday for the religious pep rally. Odds are that there are more than a few members already doing it. Social media sites like Meetup.com provide links with information about meetings and groups that have planned alternative events for exploring and finding people with awakened spiritual points of view.

For every charlatan standing in the pulpits in America, there is probably one on social media with the fraudulent intents, and yet my experience over the last 5 years has been all good and left my desire to explore peaked and all the while feeling safe. As human understanding grows some religious tradition will not stand the test of truth. What is true is that our spiritual identity as a created child of God is secure as God’s very Presence. That is our spiritual heritage and it has nothing to do with human tradition or the team we choose for our spiritual training.

One reason that unconditional love is in short supply among the human population, is because love has been made conditional to the spiritual identity of the spiritual team a person trains with. Yet, the true source of unconditional love is God. This is the reason that Jesus made love the only condition for a true relationship. While the religion of Jesus day had 613 ways to break the relationship, Jesus made love the only condition for a relationship.

So, let each of us stay mindful that we have the right and the freedom to develop our personal spiritual training. If nothing else, explore the limits of your current training organization. Ask questions of God, your organization’s leadership and other members. Open your heart and spiritual ears to God and determine where you want to end up when this earthly life is finished.

Do you want a personal faith relationship in your spiritual team or personal faith relationship in God? There are 52 Sundays this year, will your personal spiritual development remain as the other team sport?

 

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Filed under Christian, Christianity, Church, Emergent, Emergent Church, Evidence, Evidence Locker, Faith, God, Jesus, Religion

Utopian Hope

The thing that seems to be in most need today is a hopeful view of the future. If you browse any book store and see the type of fiction that fills the teen shelves, you will notice that many of the bestselling stories are very dystopian. If the children are our future, then what we are filling them with is scary. The phrase “Happily, ever after” is another indicator when compared to the beliefs of many this phrase has been relegated to fairy-tale and myth status.

More important is the outlook that some of the owners of today’s future tech companies hold. As Artificial Intelligence technology begins its ascent many of these owners feel free to communicate their fears of a coming dystopian future that they are steering us toward. In the cases of the teen books and the outlook of some tech firm owners, maybe the reason we hear such fearful predictions in the media is because that is what sells as news today.

So how do we change our personal outlook from this looming fear to a future that resembles heaven on earth? One simple solution would have us use the tools of love and gratitude. Love can be defined as the removal of separation between people. Gratitude is an attitude of thankfulness. Fear is the opposite of love, and we can first be thankful that our fear has not totally overwhelmed the reality of this present moment.

Too start, all we need to do is take a simple inventory of the blessings in our life at this current moment. For example if you are reading this posting you are alive. The next thing to notice is that you will probably take several pairs of in and out breaths within the next few minutes. From there quickly exclude of your relationship status, political affiliation, and personal financial status and inventory anything else you like and it will be a blessing.

Hebrews 6:16-20 (NLT) Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us.19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.20 Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

Oh, bird of my soul, fly away now; For I possess a hundred fortified towers. ~ Rumi

 Most of us at times allow thoughts of fear for the future to fly into our minds and obscure our view of the reality at this present moment. In this moment there is abundant life, for the 7.5 billion humans on this planet. Though our definition of utopia may differ vastly, we are all at this moment alive. The portion of the human race that experiences immediate death or extermination is vastly diminished when compared to just 20 years ago.

Historical Crude Death Rate (DR)

Years CDR Years CDR
1950–1955 19.1 1985–1990 9.4
1955–1960 17.3 1990–1995 9.1
1960–1965 16.2 1995–2000 8.8
1965–1970 12.9 2000–2005 8.4
1970–1975 11.6 2005–2010 8.1
1975–1980 10.6 2010–2015 8.1
1980–1985 10

Source: World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision | United Nations Population Division

Secondary to death, fear that our liberty may be restricted, or that we will not have the resources to exercise freedom of choice, presents another looming set of fears. In this present moment humans on this planet are experiencing technological and social advancements and yet many fear that they will not be able to participate in future developments. This fear overshadows our current reality and produces an outlook so dark that death becomes a viable option. Life is changing for the better every day and yet many hold beliefs that society has lost its way and civilization is out of control and everyone is doomed. One such advancement is the awakening of the human global consciousness, aided by communication technology it provides greater awareness about the lives of many people with details on a personal level, and for many this is ‘too much information’ (TMI). The acquisition of any new technology always presents new challenges, but instead of embracing these advantages many tend to dwell on the glass half empty.

Today most humans perform jobs that make life better for all of humanity. Like bees in a hive we actively participate in laying the groundwork for a future society that will be capable of sustaining a greater human population and yet far too many see only, and fear what can go wrong. At this very moment we each love someone or something. We also posses the ability to pray and meditate for their health and well being. Hope has never been at a higher level in human history and more people possess the spiritual tools to make their lives better. At the same time we are fickle individuals who like slowing down and looking at a car wreck and consuming the fear of being hurt and ignoring the fact that just seconds before and after viewing the accident, we were probably exceeding the speed limit as we zipped through life.

My encouragement today, is for us to take time to inventory and then dwell on the good that is our life. Stay present when we are with those we love. Be thankful for every breath and put the fear of not having a next breath in proper perspective. Life may be difficult but compared to the human population 1000 years ago, we are living the utopian dream. Hope is always relative to the time measured for its manifestation. During this infinite moment of now, love is in your heart and breath is in your nostrils and human society is more supportive of our next breath than ever before. At this moment in human history hope and fear are like two wild beast living in the hearts and minds of every human. There is a Cherokee proverb that simply asks which animal will you feed?  Feed love and feed hope that today life will be well with you.

“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.”  ~ Dalai Lama XIV

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