A personal essay on the dialogue of Erhman and Licona, and on conversations during and before.
Over the years that my faith has evolved, I have changed. I happily admit that being of an indwelling “God Soft Hands Jesus” may label me as dangerous. And I do live with what some label as “my imaginary best friend” – GSHJ.
Some see that as “good”, and others as “bad”. The seeing is not based on evidence. The seeing and judging is based in personal preference – on world view – in a personal belief structure that we all carry.
We each have our own zones of comfort AND zones of fear. They are personal. They do overlap. We prefer them to be universal because it proves us right. None are universal. None are static (unless we allow). And I have found that if we allow them to become and remain static – we will change anyway – and our zones of comfort will decrease – and our zones of fear will grow.
Which is why we can each fight like a nursing mother to defend the encroachment of fear on our “children” of comfort. Our being “normal”.
Except that “normal” changes. Just as we all change. Just as what was normal in my youth is not normal now.
Falling over all the time to learn how to walk. Thinking falling over all the time was normal. Pooping in a nappy. Peeing without control. Playing football in the back lane. Dropping tadpoles from a great height. Walking along walls high above live train tracks. Quaffing a few drops of “pure alcohol” made during a school chemistry lesson. Walking away from stuff I was brought up with. Chasing ladies. Walking away from someone because they wouldn’t say yes. Walking away from someone because they wouldn’t say no. Staying up till dawn and not needing sleep. And now not having grandchildren that now gets us up before dawn. Writing a blog on an almost daily basis. Talking about stuff now I would never have talked about before. Exploring my life. Exploring just how unconditionally I can love. Dropping comfort zones more than I ever have before. Having a real imaginary best friend at 60 years old. And loving it all.
So if I admit to being indwelt by someone you cannot see and I cannot prove … How can I tell you that you are wrong … ?
But why does that mean others indwelt by imaginary friends of a different god must be wrong … ? And why does that mean those who don’t believe in any imaginary friend are wrong either … ? And why does that make me wrong … ?
Because there are real consequences of living with an imaginary friend and real consequences of NOT living with an imaginary friend.
We all have our own zones we carry with us each day – of comfort and of fear. And both have consequences that affect my choices of living … of how I influence others to choose … of how that will affect those around me …
Christians urge Christians to pray for those in power … atheists urge Christians to kill religion … poor people are always “so happy” for charity fundraising pictures … social housing attached to proper housing helps the needy … the poor will always be us … what’s in it for me … what about me … it’s not fair …
But back to Erhman and Licona – back to the bible and historical reliability of the Gospels (which is an indicator for how reliable the bible is)
Almost all countries have adopted the role of protector of a faith. Of an “imaginary (but proven) friend” of a faith that is now that country. It is a country-wide comfort zone. And – to religion – is proof it is right. But “political expediency” dictates religious freedom / protection. And that means religion is tied to politics. And politics is tied to power. And that means religion is tied to power as well.
So the country we love – Turkey – is going through turmoil because “religion as taught” brings many votes to those who have power. And those who have power have devastated the lives of tens of thousands of those who disagree / are thought to disagree with those who have power. And if you are one of those tens of thousands, then “religion as taught” buys you no protection (and no freedom) at all. Power will lock you up even though power and you are the same religion.
Obviously not my religion. We are British and a Christian country. Which means we don’t do “religion” because we don’t need to – we have the true and proper God – and here’s the proof:
O lord God arise,
Scatter our enemies,
And make them fall!
Confound their knavish tricks,
Confuse their politics,
On you our hopes we fix,
God save the Queen!
Verse 2: UK national anthem
Just like our “special relationship friends”:
“God bless America!”
And because we must (another “benefit” of the instant world-wide web) …
(even if it is the wrong one it helps prove we have the right one)
Which makes killing each other a nice clean religious matter. Keeps all the messy reasons off the front page. All that “global control” … all that “world order” … all that “oil and power and resources” … all the “how dare they challenge our global superiority” … all the “we are a first world country!” all the “how dare this fourth-world-bankrupt-collection-of-savages-who-still-worship-the-volcano threaten us!” And off goes a warship, missile and sanction. And back comes a bomb, bullet or knife. This “proven” god industry makes life so much simpler.
And my (itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy) “God Soft Hands Jesus, GSHJ” who doesn’t threaten anyone … my “love is the answer, now what’s your question?” is the problem? Really?
I think it’s about time that ALL mainstream faiths / religions looked long and hard at what they are about – who they are tied to – and why.
Because you speak to anyone of faith. You ask them what gets them out of bed every day, you ask them what unites them. And no matter their age, colour, sex, country, culture, religion, wealth or poverty … they will speak of love. Listen to anyone who thinks they have no voice and they speak of love.
Always of love.
Of seeking love. Of finding love. Of giving love. Of being bound together without differences. And (if they believe in any god) it is always a god of love. A god who has no problem with a different god of love. I have found that ordinary people don’t think religion is “it”, I have found that ordinary people think love is.
So just what is gained by “religion” or power – or “power religion” – denying that commonality?
Because which unproven “god of love” encourages killing others? Because which unproven “god of love” alienates those who love without needing any unproven “god” at all? Other than a “god of religion” – a god of power – a god of expediency. A god that we might create.
Because the one thing the dialogue of Erhman and Licona has proved to me is this: no sacred text (of god) can ever be proven as historically reliable (even with cherry picking).
“If it’s a historical view, why do historians who do not have a stake in the matter not share it?” Erhman
But more than that …
Just why is it so important that any sacred text must be proven to be historically accurate (other than for power)?
Is that not where “faith” is – in the “unprovenanced”? Or has religion made faith “of this world” whilst insisting it is not?
Because the very fact that “Christianity” thinks it can – and has – prove(d) the bible as historically reliable (evidenced by the Erhman Licona dialogue) suggests, to me, that religion I have experienced prefers a god of expediency – a god of culture – a small god of “God save our gracious Queen” … of “God bless America!” … of “Allahu akbar!” A god of division … a “top down god” … a “do as we tell you” religion. A cherry-picked god that is our god and no else’s.
And that is not my GSHJ. Because that is religion.
But here’s “the kicker” for those who don’t like the unhistorical bible and god – and for those who do like the historical bible and god …
I learned all that in the bible (and what I hear of other sacred texts). I heard all that from all these people who are never heard. I found “love is the answer, now what’s the question” in the bible. I found my relationship with my real and present GSHJ in and of this very world and the sacred texts within it. And I cannot prove any of that to you.
Not even if you believe as I do.
Because if you believe as I do – then no proof is required. And if you don’t believe as I do – then nothing I can offer is “proof” as you have a right to expect of proof.
So the bible has great value to me. It always will. Just not in the way I was taught. Nor, seemingly, in the way I would like to teach. Because the consequence of how I love and wish to live, how I choose to allow others, how I choose to live with my own GSHJ, is no different to how we each choose to live with our own zones of comfort and fear.
It is what I choose to do (or not do) that are the consequences. And religion has to make the same choices.
Because you speak to anyone of faith. You ask them what gets them out of bed every day, you ask them what unites them. And then you really listen … No matter their age, colour, sex, country, culture, religion, wealth or poverty … they will speak of love. You listen to anyone who thinks they have no voice and they speak of love.
Always of love.
And my (itsy-bitsy-teensy-weensy) “God Soft Hands Jesus, GSHJ” who doesn’t threaten anyone … my “love is the answer, now what’s your question?” is the problem?
I would like to teach that my god of love does not cherry pick. That my god does not need to be your god. That my god does not even need to be a god at all. And my “god” is a divine something that I can never prove that to you. An entity of connecting and universal and timeless unconditional love who does not need the definitions we seem to need.
And that, for me, is the difference. It is why I am content to admit to being indwelt. It removes fear and allows you in.
No matter who you are.
(I hope the conversation continues)