Beyond Labels

I just posted this as my latest Facebook update:

All this “I am ….”, such as Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Pom, Kiwi…….it’s all just an illusion, all just smoke and mirrors of the mind. When will we get that we are just plain HUMAN!!

It comes from the inspiration of books I’ve been reading lately, as well as several speakers on The Advent of Evolutionary Christianity series I’ve pointed to previously.  I’m not suggesting that a personal belief system or cultural identities are irrelevant; rather, they should never, ever be used as a means of exclusion.

Yet we do that, both consciously and unconsciously.  The net result is sectarian violence, manifested most vividly in wars and suicide bombings, but is present everywhere, even in the most civil and democratic of cultures. Examples of ‘the chosen’ and ‘the undesirable’ are everywhere.  And why is this so?

I would suggest that it might have something to do with our evolved heritage.  Most species fight for survival, and our history is a testament to violence and brutality. Within each of our brains is the capacity for all kinds of destruction and all manner of unfavourable tendencies.  Despite our best efforts to tame our wild natures, we oft to fail.

Doomed to repeat the failures of our evolutionary past.  Or are we?  That would be the message of a meaningless universe up to its own devices, of selfish genes just using our bodies as vehicles for their own ends, as Richard Dawkins would describe.  Yet I suspect that there is so much more to the story than this.  I see hope in the essential message of Jesus.  I see hope in the message of the Buddha.  I see hope everywhere, in all of life, just waiting to be unpacked and explored.

It is no wonder that religion was birthed in a package of boundaries and divisions – men driven by visions of grandeur perversely succumbing to their lower evolutionary drives.  What I’m now witnessing both in the realms of faith and science is the ability to witness these drives and yet overcome them for a higher good.  I choose to do this wrapped in the Christian story – to follow Jesus, to seek the power of God’s Spirit.  I do this because I am compelled to do so, for it is the story in which I find myself.

Unlike many of my contemporaries, I will not presume that God is calling me.  I will not presume to know and speak of that which cannot be seen, heard, or felt.  I can only speak in terms of mystery.  God is still meaningful to me, just not in the same way as before.  How my relationship with the divine will unfold is another mystery; I only know that I am on this path, and must remain.  I have many amazing guides on the journey, for whom I am utterly grateful.

So I refuse to create an identity for myself of ‘Christian’ or anything. To me, Christianity describes a meaningful framework and story in which I can live fully.  No title defines who we truly are.  Jesus did not come to create Christians or Christianity, and the Buddha did not create Buddhism.  Let’s move beyond the barriers of fragmented identities, and come to see our roles in sustaining life on earth.

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2 responses to “Beyond Labels

  • C Woods

    You said: “The net result is sectarian violence, manifested most vividly in wars and suicide bombings, but is present everywhere, even in the most civil and democratic of cultures. Examples of ‘the chosen’ and ‘the undesirable’ are everywhere. ”

    Your post immediately reminded me of the following quotes, all from Mark Twain:

    “So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: ‘Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor’s religion is.’ Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.” (Mark Twain, a Biography)

    “We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us.” (Following the Equator)

    Note: in the following quote, when Twain refers to the “higher animals” he is not referring to humans. He considers the human being to be the lowest animal.

    “Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.” (The Lowest Animal)

    I love Twain because he points out our hypocrisies and in consistencies, and at the same time, makes us laugh at the human condition.

  • Gary

    Thanks for the comment C.

    You’ll notice that my thoughts have evolved back towards language of Christ and God, towards the way of Jesus. And day by day I find myself becoming more and more one of those religious people I previously rejected.

    Yet the kind of ways you describe from Twain and the other comment I wholeheartedly stand in common as being evil and twisted. I’m excited by several new voices within Christianity that speak and practice inclusion, that see the gospel as being a message of peace and reconciliation amongst all peoples of the earth.

    I’m excited that many are on the journey ‘beyond black and white’, such that personal beliefs are no longer used to condemn and judge. Amongst these people, there is no talk of ‘my God’; there is rather a space for living large.

    And it’s not like I’m speaking of progressive or liberal movements either; these groups tend to be very evangelical, even conservative in theology. It’s rather a change for an institutional focus to an inclusive focus. Of course, it’s very much influenced by postmodernity.

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