Monthly Archives: September 2006

A Cause for Anger

In an earlier piece, I argued that Matthew 5:22, which (in the King James) says we should not be angry WITHOUT CAUSE – is actually better in the modern translations, which say that we shouldn't be angry AT ALL.

Ok, so what’s actually wrong with anger? What if you’re only angry over evil things in the world that a good person SHOULD be angry about? Let’s analyze that a bit.

The root of anger is a very primitive fighting response. It is the body’s way of preparing to defend ourselves against immediate threats to our body. It causes a surge of hormones in the body, such as epinephrine, cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. These are responses to threats or danger. Depending on the threat, our disposition, our other hormonal levels, etc – this hormonal/emotional response may motivate us to fight, or to flee. We may experience fear, or anger. They are simply the two sides of the same coin – the physiological response to a threat. Their purpose is to help us to run fast… or to hit hard. In natural conditions, they are also momentary. They make brief, enormous demands on the body structures and systems for the sake of survival. The body recovers from these demands when the fight or flight is over, in the relaxation response.

These physiological responses are probably still useful, but in an increasingly limited set of circumstances. Most of us may be in a “fight for your life” situation once or twice in a lifetime. Those who are in such situations often, such as soldiers or police, learn to control their anger. While rage may help get an ordinary person survive an extreme physical conflict – in the long run it interferes with a trained, calculated response to aggression, such as a soldier or police generally needs to employ.

Unfortunately, we have a problem – the ego. Our egoic mind constructs an elaborate mental image of ourselves. And it will trigger the body’s emotional fear/anger/stress mechanisms if it perceives any threat to our elaborate self-concept. This self concept includes our imagined status, our self-appointed roles, our country, our religion, etc. This is how thousands of Muslims can find themselves in a screaming, raging hormonal stew – fully prepared by their biology to immediately defend themselves against a rogue mastodon … over an old Pope quoting some obscure Byzantine emperor from a podium.

And since the ego spends more time in the imaginary past and present than in the here and now, the egoic threats don’t even have to be actually present. We can simmer over past wrongs that are no longer a threat. We can fume over possible events in the future that may not even happen. And 99 percent of these simmerings and fumings will be about things that are no direct threat to our actual physical person at all.

Because our ego is so large and complex, and because the combination of all imagined past and imagined future pseudo-threats is so numerous – many of us spend most of our lives in a state of – if not actual anger – at least borderline fear and stress. As a result, the enormous stress demands we make on the body – which are supposed to be momentary, become chronic. And chronically high levels of fear, anger and stress hormones are catastrophic to our health. They can cause high blood pressure, impair thyroid function, and disrupt our blood sugar levels (leading to obesity or possibly diabetes). They cause impaired mental function, decreased bone density, impaired immune system. They contribute to cancer, heart disease, stroke… sound familiar? The spigot of hormones, intended to save you from immediate physical danger will, if left running, KILL you.

So is there an appropriate time for anger? Yes. When you or someone you are responsible for is in mortal peril. And that’s about it. So if you really want to believe that Jesus says only someone who is angry with his brother WITHOUT CAUSE is in danger of judgement – fine, but realize that the only proper CAUSE for anger is that your brother is running toward you with a weapon threatening to kill you. If you insist on living in perpetual anger – realize that you are in danger of judgment. If nothing else, it will be the judgment of your body, which will collapse under the strain of trying to support the need to defend your own ego.

Angry Without Cause?

I recently ran across a “King James Only” sort who complained that one example of the evil of modern translations was the removal of the words “without cause” from Matthew 5:22. In doing so (this individual thought) these translators were trying to deprive us of our right to be righteously angry.

[img_assist|nid=125|title=Anger Management|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=100|height=83]Purely as an illustration for others, and not because I think this person will actually pay attention to a word I say, let me comment on Matt:5:22, which reads in part (in the King James)

Mt 5:22 "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”

Before getting into the texts, let’s notice how very UN-helpful this bit of advice is. Was there ever a violent, angry, abusive person who didn’t think they had a very good CAUSE for being angry? Many of them even manage to get their victims to enable their anger by brainwashing them into believing that they somehow had it coming – that they DESERVED the abuse. Speaking as a formally trained theologian Wink let me simply remark… this is cow dung.

Interestingly, many of the newer versions of the Bible, the ones to which some of the idolitors of the King James so angrily object Wink – word it as follows:

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (NASB)

“But I promise you that if you are angry with someone, you will have to stand trial.” (CEV)

“But now I tell you: whoever is angry with his brother will be brought to trial” (TEV)

“But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (RSV)

“But, I, say unto you, that, every one who is angry with his brother, shall be, liable, to judgment” (Rotherham)

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[a]will be subject to judgment” (NIV)

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be in danger of being judged” (BBE)

 “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Holman)

“But I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment” (ASV)

 “But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Douay)

None of these, you will notice, uses that phrase “without cause”. Some of these, by the way, are hardly new. The Douay is almost as old as the King James. The RSV has my personal endorsement as being generally the most precisely translated version. There are a few slightly newer version which follow the KJV text on this one, such as Youngs, Darby, and versions of the KJV such as the NKJV.

Why do so many modern versions omit this phrase? Is it because they are satanically perverting the Word of God. Please…. It’s because a lot of the earliest and best manuscripts of the New Testament don’t’ have this phrase. The phrase wasn’t taken out by satanic conspirators. It was added in by scribes who just couldn’t imagine not having an excuse to get angry. This particular issue is not a new one at all. Scholars have been aware of the alternate reading for centuries. For example:

 "The Greek manuscripts do not contain sine causa.[without cause]" (Augustine of Hippo – Retractions i.19.4)

“Some codices add without cause. However, in the genuine codices the sentence is unqualified, and anger is forbidden altogether.” (Jerome on Matthew)

 Erasmus, the very scholar who PRODUCED the compiled Greek edition that the King James scholars used for their translation, noted that we must continually improve our scholarship by using the best manuscripts:

"You cry out that it is a crime to correct the gospels. This is a speech worthier of a coachman than of a theologian. You think it is all very well if a clumsy scribe makes a mistake in transcription and then you deem it a crime to put it right. The only way to determine the true text is to examine the early codices."

Yes, isn’t it ironic that Erasmus and the scholars who produced the King James were accused of doing the very same kind of tampering with scripture that current idolators of the King James accuse modern translators of doing.

There are, of course, hundreds of manuscripts of the New Testament. Many of the later manuscripts are grouped into regional “families” of texts, which tend to agree with one and other. In this case, the text family known as “Byzantine” as well as two famous codexes Bezae and Washingtonienus, include the phrase “without cause”. The two codexes are 4th to 5th century, and most of the Byzantine texts are much later.

By contrast, omitting the phrase is supported by the texts of codex Sinaitucus and Vaticanus (of the Alexandrian family), dated to the 4th century. This is supported by the remarkably early papayrus fragment P67, which dates to 200 CE and contains Matthew 3:9, 15; 5:20-22, 25-28.

In this case, removing “without cause” seems justified because the earliest manuscripts (in one case dramatically early) support removing it. It was very likely NOT in the original manuscript, and by retaining it, we would only perpetuate a scribal error or insertion. However, nearly every manuscript that omits the words has a footnote indicating that some manuscripts include “without cause”.

Jesus didn’t say it folks. Are you going to adjust your thinking to conform with what Jesus said, or adjust what Jesus said to conform with how you’d prefer to behave?

Quakers on Universalism

In the process of looking up a few universalist writings, I ran into a very interesting bit of writing from a liberal Quaker. First, a recap of a few universalist ideas:

The basic argument for universalism is quite simple and powerful – Human beings are finite. Because they are finite, they are only capable of finite good and finite evil. To suffer in hell eternally would be an INFINITE punishment. Since God is just, he could never insist on or even allow an infinite punishment for a finite evil. To do so would be infinitely unjust.

Traditional Christianity responds by making the concept of hell a bit more sophisticated. God is not throwing us into hell or keeping us there. We reject God, and that rejection IS hell. God cannot interfere with our freedom, and so we are free to continue to reject God and remain in hell forever.

Now I quote from the Quakers:

“I had rejected the image of a wrathful, powerful God anxious to punish the wicked in the fires of hell, but I was left with a benevolent but feeble God who had no choice but to destroy the ones he loved. Hell was another Holocaust, where once again millions would be thrown into the furnaces while God stood by powerless and defeated. When confronted with the inconsistency of an all-powerful God incapable of accomplishing his desire, I drew a careful distinction between what God wanted to do and what God was able to do. God was not free.”

“I defended our freedom to reject God–but denied God’s freedom to reject our rejection. Acknowledged that God can have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom he will have compassion, but I quickly defined the persons and situations in which God could be merciful and compassionate. My God was shackled, powerless to act.”

“This shackled God was not the God of Jesus.”

(From If Grace Be True: Why God Will Save Every Person. Philip Gulley & James Mulholland.)

This idea that God is free to reject our rejection of him also works into their view of the crucifixion. Quoting again:

“Calvary was not the fulfillment of a divine plan. It was not the final installment on a cosmic debt. It was not necessary to satisfy some bloodthirsty deity. The crucifixion was the cost of proclaiming grace. The more insistent Jesus was on God’s grace, the more likely was his eventual death on the cross. His death was a human act rather than a divine sign. People, not God, demanded his crucifixion."

“God did something glorious in Jesus. His resurrection settled once and for all the question of God’s attitude toward his children. God has determined to love and redeem. In the crucifixion we said no to God, but in the resurrection God rejected our rejection. This is the triumph of grace”

I found this point of view quite refreshing.

Found at: http://www.quaker.org/quest/issue-9-gulley-02.htm

 

Sermon on Worry

Near the end of his life, Mark Twain said: "I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” How many hundreds of hours have we spent agonizing over possible problems that never actually happened?

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it more poetically:

 

"Some of your hurts you have cured,

And the sharpest you still have survived,

But what torments of grief you endured

From the evil which never arrived."

 

The Peanut's character Charlie Brown is notorious for this kind of worrying. Eventually he said, “I’ve developed a new philosophy. I'm only going to dread one day at a time".

 

The Master Jesus doesn't want us to dread the future. Not even one day at a time. He wants to introduce us to the "Perfect love which casts out fear." He tells us in his teachings not to fear the future. Now the version of this we have in Matthew is a bit confused. It makes Jesus into Charlie Brown. Jesus says there, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Now I’m pretty sure that this isn’t a very good rendering of what Jesus actually said. Jesus never focused on troubles and he would hardly advise us to do so. I suppose if he had, we could make a fortune marketing the “Don’t Worry About Tomorrow” Christian day-planner. It wouldn’t have a calendar – just a page that says “Today’s Troubles”.

 

I suspect what happened was that some poor neurotic scribe a hundred years after Jesus read Jesus’ statement to “not worry about tomorrow” and thought “How can Jesus be serious? How can we not worry about tomorrow?? Oooohhh – it must be because there are so many horrible things to worry about TODAY!!” He apparently doesn’t notice that two verses earlier, Jesus tells us not to worry about TODAY either! Here’s how Bishop Keizer renders this entire teaching in the Simple Word of the Master Jesus:

 

“Therefore, do not WORRY (!) or say, what will we eat? Or, what will we drink? Or, how will we be clothed? For your Heavenly Father knows you have need of all these things. But seek first the guidance and justices of God’s INNER kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you. Therefore do not fear the future; rather, entrust the problems of the day in prayer to the Father, and then act on Heaven’s guidance. For the transformed present will produce a transformed future.”

 

The Master Jesus wants our attention in the here and now. In the present moment – the only moment where we can actually change anything. The past doesn’t exist. The only contact you have with the past is in your memories – in the present moment. The future doesn’t exist. The only effect you have on the future is caused by your actions right here and now, in the present moment.

 

Does this mean we SHOULDN’T use an appointment calendar? No, that’s not what it means at all. It’s fine – even helpful, to use “time” for practical purposes. Who do you think worries more about tomorrow – the person who consults their appointment book and knows they have three appointments tomorrow – or the person who doesn’t HAVE an appointment book and THINKS they may have appointments tomorrow. The person without the appointment book may spend hours trying to remember where they are supposed to be and at what time, or making calls to find out.

 

Even if you aren’t consciously thinking about your appointments and things to do – if you don’t have a good planning and appointment system, your commitments will always be there in the back of your mind or in your subconscious, giving you a faint feeling of anxiety as your mind tries to keep track of everything. So the purpose of organizing your plans and appointments isn’t to worry about the future, it’s to NOT worry about the future. Once your mind knows that your commitments are captured in some external system that it knows you will check when you are supposed to – it can relax, and let you focus back on the present moment.

 

Of course, if organizing and reorganizing your day becomes your hobby – if you spend more time organizing than actually DOING, then you’ve let your organizing pull you away from the present moment.

 

So let’s get back to the present moment. Because the present moment is the gateway to the Kingdom of Heaven

 

I’m going to make a statement that may seem extreme, but I ask you to consider it carefully. Almost all of our worry, fear, stress, frustration and anxiety comes from refusing to accept the present moment as it actually is.

 

Next time you’re worried about a relative or stuck in a traffic jam, notice your feelings. At the bottom of your frustration you’ll find a deep feeling of resentment and hostility against the reality of the present moment. When we worry about the future, what are we really doing? We may be rebelling against the fact that our reality has uncertainties in it. Or we are unhappy with our present reality and want to focus on our plans for the future – but they’re not coming fast enough. There are too many setbacks. We’re not getting out of this terrible present situation as fast as we’d like to. Or perhaps we fixate on the past to escape the present moment. We linger in the sweet sadness of memories of a past that we prefer to our current situation.

 

We fight and we resist and we run away from the only thing that actually exists – the present moment.

 

Why do we resist it so?

 

Well, one thing that may worry us is an idea in the back of our minds that if we accept the present moment, and are content with our current situation – we’ll never get out of it. We’ll be stuck here. Forever. We think that with our discontent we can bribe or threaten God into changing things for us. But if we let him think we’re content – he’ll just let us languish. That doesn’t say a lot of good things about our image of God, does it? It sounds like the kind of God who if we ask for bread will give us a rock. But it is love and gratitude that open the windows of heaven, not discontent.

 

If we drop our resistance to the present moment, does that mean we are stagnant? That we can’t change? Of course not! It means that our change begins with an objective, loving assessment of out situation as it really is. It’s like a person who falls into quicksand. By resisting – by flailing around like a lunatic – we only sink deeper – because our activity is irrational – not productive. But if we keep ourselves calm – if we don’t resist the reality of our situation, then we can plan our escape more efficiently. And the universe will help us. Perhaps we will notice a branch nearby that we can grab. Something we wouldn’t have noticed if we were flailing around. Perhaps we can explore the quicksand and find a gentle handhold or toehold somewhere. And we make progress.

&
nbsp;

The next time you find yourself in the grip of worry, or resentment or anger some other strong negative emotion, try this exercise – completely surrender to the present moment, including all its risks and possibilities. Don’t resist. Know that everything is just as it must be for the moment. Suspend your judgment of other people, or the situation or yourself.

 

What you will find is that a space opens up in the spiritual atmosphere. There’s a feeling like a fresh breeze blowing away your problems. You may still feel anxiety or some other emotion – but you won’t be lost in it. You won’t BE worried – you’ll be a person aware of experiencing a feeling of worry. And that’s a much different feeling. And when you do, you’ll find that your emotions will settle down. Negative emotions like worry don’t like to be watched. They’re bashful. Be the witness of your emotions instead of being possessed by your emotions.

 

Let’s come back to the present moment again. There is another reason we run away from the present moment. This reason is rooted in the nature of our being. It’s a metaphysical reason. That doesn’t mean it’s weird or complicated. Just the opposite. It means it’s so basic it’s sometimes hard to see.

 

The Master Jesus says that the Kingdom of God – God’s dominion or God’s dimension – is within you – within each of you. If you could reach down to your innermost nature, your heart of all hearts – you will find the presence of God. Your innermost essence – is God’s essence. That is the secret of all secrets. That is the core of all mystical teaching – the root of all true religion.

 

But this inner kingdom is hidden from us. It’s covered up by huge amounts of emotional turmoil and mental noise. Anyone who has seriously tried to practice meditation knows that – even when you don’t want it to – the mind keeps spewing out thoughts like some unwanted television set that’s impossible to turn off.

 

Eckhart Tolle tells a story of sitting on a bus next to a woman who was mentally disturbed. She was talking to an imaginary person in a loud and often hostile voice. Lots of profanity. She was a running stream of conversation. Later as he washed his hands in public bathroom, Eckhart thought to himself “I’m sure glad I’m not like that woman” – and the man at the sink next to him gave him a strange look. Then Eckhart realized he hadn’t THOUGHT the phrase to himself – he’d actually said it out loud!

 

We’re all “crazy people”. We all have a running stream of mostly useless, mostly repetitive thought going on in our minds all the time. The only difference is that the “normal” people manage not to let it come spilling out of their mouths – at least MOST of the time.

 

A lot of those thoughts are hopes and plans, and especially worries, about the future. They pull us like a strong swift current away from our grounding in the present moment. And it is in the present moment, and only there – that we can find the gateway into the inner kingdom of God.

 

You won’t find the Kingdom of God in some grandiose plan for the future.

 

You won’t find it in some cherished memory of the past.

 

God, your inner nature – is reality. And there is only one point of contact we have with reality – that pinpoint gateway – that eye of the needle, between the remembered past and the imagined future. The doorway to the kingdom of God that fills up the reality of the present moment.

 

Be in the present moment. Don’t think about it. Experience it. Surrender yourself in a complete and loving acceptance of the present moment, and the door begins opens to you. And behind the door is the essence of the Godhead, the Buddha Nature, closer to you than you are to yourself.

 

And as you become more at home in the present moment, you realize that you ARE the present moment. It is timeless. It has no past and no future. It is only now – eternally now. Forms and manifestations come and go. They appear in the field of Now and then they disappear – but the Now remains, and YOU remain – at peace in the vibrant energetic emptiness of God – wanting for nothing, worrying about nothing.

 

And here’s the paradox. When you seek first God’s inner kingdom, all the rest falls into place. The universe aligns itself to your purposes because you are aligned to the universe. Just at the moment when you begin to lose your desperate grasping after the external things of the world, the things you need begin to come to you almost without effort. And you can enjoy them fully – free of worry, because when they go, as all finite things do, they don’t take a part of you with them. You are connected to the source of all manifestation.

 

This is the kingdom of God, and the home country of all mystics. It’s a place where worries and problems subside, because you are no longer at odds with the purposes of God manifesting in your life. Many teachers of different traditions have commented on this.

 

Listen to the Catholic mystic St. Theresa describe it:

 

Let nothing trouble you / Let nothing frighten you

Everything passes / God never changes

Patience / Obtains all

Whoever has God / Wants for nothing

God alone is enough.

 

The Indian Guru Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj said:

 

"You are all drenched for it is raining hard. In my world it is always fine weather. There is no night or day, no heat or cold. No worries beset me there, nor regrets. My mind is free of thoughts, for there are no desires to slave for."

 

And here’s one of the most famous quotes from “A Course In Miracles”

 

"Nothing real can be threatened.

Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God."

 

Put aside the unreality of your worries about the future, your longings for the past, your impatient desires. Surrender to the reality of this present moment.

 

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost Christianities

 

In discussing Islam on another website, the argument was made that because Islam does not regard Jesus as God, and because the Bible clearly DOES teach that Jesus is God, Islam rejects the Bible. A variation of the same sort of argument is often used against various groups claiming to be Christians. Since they don't believe orthodox teaching, and since the Bible “clearly teaches” orthodoxy, then these groups are not Christians.

 

 

While I have no intention of defending everything that Islam or every heterodox Christian group believes in, the argument above is presumptuous and unhistorical.

 

 

Even using the books of the Bible that we have come to regard as canonical (our current New Testament for example) there was a tremendous battle over such questions as the divinity of Jesus. For a number of years, Arianism (which taught that Jesus was a divine, but CREATED being – inferior to the Father) was the dominant viewpoint in Christianity – and they had plenty of verses in our current New Testament to back them up. Jehovah's Witnesses believe much the same thing today.

 

 

But what we also need to realize is that our current New Testament was specifically selected by the proto-orthodox Christians. The Gospels we have (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were not the only Gospels circulating in the early Church. The epistles and apocrypha we have in our current Bible are not the only ones that could have been selected. The ones that were selected were chosen PRIMARILY because they taught the orthodox viewpoint.

 

 

There were many groups of Christians in the early Church. The range of their beliefs was even more diverse that our modern versions of Christianity. Each group had it's own collection of writings – of Gospels and epistles and apocryphas – that supported its own point of view.

 

 

One of the earliest groups in Jerusalem were the Ebionites. Their beliefs were in many ways similar to Islam. They believed Jesus was a great prophet – but only a human being. He had come to revitalize Judaism and set it on the right path.

 

 

Then there were the Marcionites, to whom Jesus was not human at ALL. He was entirely God, and his humanity was simply a facade. To the Marcionites, Judiasm was a false religion created by a false god from whom Jesus had come to set us free.

 

 

All of these groups, as well as the proto-orthodox, who staked out a middle ground on the nature of Jesus, had scriptures to support their theology. But once the proto-orthodox position became the dominant one in Rome, Rome used its political influence to not only exclude other points of view – but to create a list of scriptures that ALSO excluded other points of view. Scriptures that didn't fit the proto-orthodox theology were destroyed or hidden. In spite of this, there were enough remnants of divergent points of view left in the canonical scriptures to keep the orthodox arguing about the nature of Jesus for centuries

 

 

An excellent book on this by one of my favorite scripture scholars (Bart Ehrman) is:

Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew

 

 

The point of the proceeding is that it is circular to claim that the Bible obviously proves orthodoxy when the Bible was specifically selected and edited to prove orthodoxy. Even with the aggressive selecting and editing (and even forging) there is enough variety in the Bible to have kept Christians arguing for centuries. The nature of Jesus is not “obvious” from the Bible, and Islam, for all it's peculiarities is not “obviously” trying to be anti-biblical (much less anti-Jesus) by questioning orthodox dogma.

Related Posts with Thumbnails