Four Ways to Make Your Good Friday Better

Annual rituals invite us to do the same things the same way, every time. How else can we maintain the traditions? Holy Week is no exception. Perhaps it should be.

This year, I invite us to do several things differently. With little effort, we can make this our best Good Friday yet—because this time, we could move closer to God than we’ve ever been. Here are four ways we can do that:

1. Render unto God only things that are godly.

God is good all the time--except Good Friday?What images do the words “God” and “godly” evoke for you? Do you see a gigantic male who lives in the farthest reaches of outer space, and sees every living being and blade of grass? Are His judgements harsh and His punishments extreme? Have you ever wished his angry vengeance upon someone who’s done something really horrible? Are certain acts unforgivable for Him? Does He favor some of us over others? Does He not love some humans?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you probably are God-fearing.

But do you also trust God in times of need? Does He occasionally grant your prayer requests and shower you with blessings? Do you believe that today, what has come to be known as Good Friday, is God’s greatest blessing of all? Do you celebrate the day “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”?

In plain-speak, this well-known verse means this: God loved His sinful children so much that He gave His only sinless son to the barbaric Roman soldiers as a scapegoat to be slowly tortured to death so that sinners are saved from God’s sadistic punishment for their own wrongdoing.

For most of our lives, we have clung to the belief that God behaves like a demon. But we also declare that God is good all the time. It is either one or the other. We have choices to make, Sweet Souls. May I offer some options:

We can consider the possibility that what we fear about God is based on “alternative facts.”

We can proclaim that injustice is not godly. It is not fair to shift the responsibility for Adam’s hapless mistake to every living human at their birth, or to shift the responsibility for every living human’s mistakes to Jesus upon his death.

We can defend God’s divine essence, instead of defending ourselves against what we believe is God’s wrath-filled violence.

We can stop cowering in fear at the thought of being in God’s presence, and start cuddling.

We have rendered unto God things that are wholly ungodly, and indisputably unholy. We fervently believe that a savior must protect us from God’s crimes against humanity, and we want others to believe it, too. We have relentlessly demonized God and we can make it right this Good Friday.

2. Do unto Jesus what you’d want done to you.

We play word games to obfuscate the heinous nature of Jesus’s death and exonerate ourselves from any responsibility for it. We love to say Jesus “died” for our sins. Let’s be clear: According to three gospel authors, Jesus was crucified—slowly and sadistically tortured to death as a criminal—even though he had done nothing wrong. For that, we thank God.

Really? We wouldn’t be grateful if any other loved one was murdered for something we did. We wouldn’t wear a symbol of the killer’s murder weapon around our necks, hang it in our homes, places of worship or from our rear view mirrors. Why do we make an exception for Jesus?

Are we so tone deaf that we can’t hear ourselves shout, “Better thee than me, Jesus!” We loudly and proudly thank God for washing us in Jesus’s blood, seemingly oblivious that this bloodbath is part of a satanic ritual.

Every open eye can see that the entire crucifixion drama is based on one premise: The appropriate and divine response to human error is heartless banishment, genocide by flood or sadistic torture. 

Why on Earth do we want to believe God is so brutally unforgiving? And why do we believe Jesus is mentally ill? Let’s face it, if anyone else volunteered to be slowly tortured to death for crimes others committed, we’d call him a masochist. But if it’s Jesus, we call him our “savior.”

We must own our beliefs. No one can force us to believe anything we against our will. We choose our beliefs and values. We choose whether it is good to be angry and vengeful. We choose whether it is fair for someone to suffer for the wrongs of others. We choose whether it is right or wrong for someone we love to be brutally tortured to death—and whether Jesus’s murder or the murder of any member of the human family warrants praise and thanksgiving. We also choose what kind of god to worship.

Conceivably, the primary reason we have such a distant and strained relationship with God is because we don’t know God. We don’t want to believe God is divine—and as God’s offspring, so are we.

We choose to believe implausible and horrific tales about what God is and what God does. It’s because we believe before thinking. As a result, not only do our beliefs disparage God, they force us to do nonsensical things: We run to a genocidal maniac to ask for a blessing, a healing, a lover. Or a lottery number.

Holding God in higher regard could significantly improve our relationship with the Divine. If we want to know God more intimately, we can start this Good Friday by treating Jesus the way we’d want to be treated. We could resist demands to be grateful he was allegedly murdered for something we did.

3. Learn a little ancient history.

Intellectual curiosity is often discouraged in religious circles. Sometimes we are even threatened when we question beliefs that others cram into our heads and ram down our throats. We’re told to just “have faith,” as if doing so will miraculously transform the implausible into the actual. If we don’t have faith, they say, we offend God. We are not believers; we are heathens.

Contrary to what some command us to believe, knowledge is not a sin. And neither is reading. They prefer to read to us what they want us to know. In our ignorance, many of us believe Jesus not only was Christian, he founded the Christian Church. If we read for ourselves, we’d know he was born Jewish, and remained so until he was crowned “King of the Jews” by the Roman soldiers who crucified him. We’d also know the Church wasn’t established until more than 300 years after his murder.

Reading also reveals that the cross was not created as a symbol of Christianity; it harkens back to the Bronze Age, thousands of years before Jesus was born. We’d also discover that Jesus’s life story precedes his time on Earth by many centuries. Wait. What?

Ancient mythology has told and retold this narrative many times. At least five sons of gods predated Jesus by centuries. Each had a father who was a god, their mothers were human virgins, they healed the sick and raised the dead, they were murdered by the establishment and all rose on the third day. In order of appearance: Horus of Egypt (c. 3000 BC), Mithra of Persia (c. 1200 BC), Attis of Greece (c. 1200 BC), Krishna of India (c. 900 BC) and Dionysus of Greece (c. 500 BC).

Don’t take my word for it. Read. What better day than today?

4. Forgive yourself this Good Friday.

Alexander Pope famously wrote, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” He apparently believed God is forgiving. Yea!

Perhaps humans don’t forgive freely because we believe God doesn’t. Our belief that God opted to banish Adam and Eve, drown almost every living thing on Earth—even the animals and plants—and brutalize Jesus rather than forgive wrongdoing has a powerful influence over our willingness to forgive.

Forgiveness is powerful, transformative and liberating. It is an exercise we need this day, perhaps more than any other. Instead of modeling our behavior after that of an angry vengeful God, we could mirror the father in Jesus’s Prodigal Son parable. Jesus portrayed God as an unconditionally forgiving father who enthusiastically showers his wayward and disrespectful offspring with love and care, upon his awkward return home.

Who are we going to forgive first? How about starting with ourselves? We made a conscious decision to believe that God planned Jesus’s horrific murder, and that Jesus thought that was a splendid idea. We set aside the implausibility of any soul wanting to come to Earth to be sadistically tortured to death, and refused to ask even one common sense question:

If Jesus agreed to come to Earth to be slowly tortured to death for the wrongs of others, why would he say of his murderers, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”? 

Because we didn’t ask that simple question, naturally the follow-ups were never asked:

1. If Jesus was nailed to the cross solely because God wouldn’t forgive, wouldn’t he know his plea of forgiveness would fall on deaf ears?

2. Since the Roman soldiers were fulfilling God’s and Jesus’s plan, why would the soldiers need to be forgiven?

3. If Jesus was knowingly fulfilling his destiny, why did he reportedly cry out, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

We blindly believe that Good Friday is part of human history—and that it is a holy day. Perhaps it is time to exonerate God and fully pardon ourselves for the criminal accusations we’ve made and evangelized, based on the claim that God solves problems by killing His children, one at a time or en masse.

In 325 AD, when the Emperor Constantine and a gathering of clergy selected the books to included the Judeo-Christian Bible, it is clear how they wanted God’s image to be embedded into the human consciousness. It is just as clear what they didn’t want us to believe.

The chosen Gospel of Mark contains the initial birth and death narratives that were later mirrored in the chosen gospels of Matthew and Luke. They neither knew Jesus nor were his contemporaries. Curiously, the Gospel of Thomas, written by one of Jesus’s disciples, was not selected for inclusion.

Thomas’s book makes no mention of a crucifixion or resurrection—and he was there. Instead, his book focuses on what is really important about Jesus’s life: His wisdom and his lessons. Among Jesus’s sayings:

“If those who lead you say to you, ‘look, the Kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds will get there first. If they say ‘it’s in the ocean,’ then the fish will get there first. But the Kingdom of God is within you and outside of you. Once you come to know yourselves, you will become known. And you will know that it is you who are the children of the living father.”

This Good Friday offers an opportunity for us to think evolutionary and enlightening thoughts about who we are, and who God is. It is a chance to forgive ourselves for perceiving God as somewhere rather than everywhere, and demonic rather than divine.

It’s the perfect occasion to grab a hefty supply of free Forgiveness Coupons. They’ve been in popular demand on the site since 2006. Stock up, share freely. Spread the love. Change a life.

May your decision to believe that you are a child of the divine and life-affirming God make this your best Good Friday yet.

I love you!

Christians reject Jesus's teachings

At the Most-Attended March, Christians Broke Free from Jesus’s Teachings

We’ve been bombarded with coverage of the unprecedented worldwide protests following the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. But the largest march—the one primarily responsible for that ceremony—has received little mention: Millions of Evangelical Christians defiantly declared their independence from Jesus’s teachings, and it’s as if no one noticed.

Christians reject Jesus's teachingsMaybe it wasn’t newsworthy. After all, Christians haven’t been followers of Jesus for centuries. However, they do like being seen carrying a Bible to church, prominently displaying images of a non-Semitic Jesus, and they have a macabre practice of adorning their homes, churches and necks with the weapon that murdered him.

But like grinning all the time, it was inauthentic and exhausting; so they stopped. Throughout campaign season, they openly embraced values that are the antithesis of Jesus’s: hatred, misogyny, racism and xenophobia. They opted to build a wall around themselves. And rejected Jesus’s directive to care for “the least of these.”

According to Pew Research, 80 percent of self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians who voted and 52% of Catholics who voted say they cast their ballot for Trump—the proudly vindictive, misogynistic serial adulterer and KKK-supported cyberbully who urged violence against members of Jesus’s human family at his rallies. Their affinity for him reveals six things about Christians.

1.  Christians don’t ask, “What Would Jesus Do?” 

Our assumptions about Christians defy actual facts. Not only do they reject Jesus’s teachings, they are outright hostile toward them. In elementary school, these Christians would not have voted a think-skinned, petulant kid who reveled in name-calling and poked fun at other kids’ physical appearance as their eighth-grade class president. He’d be considered unsuitable to represent the class. As adult Christians, he is their ideal representative.

2.  Christians don’t have to be followers of Jesus

For years, I have made a distinction between Christlike and Christian: The former describes how a person behaves; the latter merely describes what a person believes. You don’t have to respect, obey or follow Jesus’s teachings to be a Christian. You simply have to hold some core beliefs:

  1. A human being can be conceived without human sperm fertilizing a human egg.
  2. God will not forgive the guilty unless an innocent son is heinously tortured to death; i.e., God is not the unconditionally forgiving father portrayed in Jesus’s “Prodigal Son” parable.
  3. Jesus’s purpose for coming to Earth was to be brutally murdered for sins committed by others—before, during and after his lifetime here.
  4. God will sadistically torture us throughout all eternity if we do not acknowledge that Jesus was murdered for what we did, express gratitude for his murder, and proclaim that Jesus saved us from God’s demonic, unending punishment.
  5. Jesus’s body ascended into outer space without the aid of a projectile, pressurized aircraft or spacesuit.

3.  Jesus’s followers don’t have to be Christians 

Jesus’s followers don’t have to share these beliefs. Punctuating that, I was given a palm card at the Women’s March in Chicago that read, “Love Trumps Fear.” It was distributed by Jews for Jesus—and reminds us that Jesus was born Jewish and dubbed “King of the Jews” by his Roman murderers.

Love Trumps Hate, Love your neighbors as yourself
Jesus’s teachings are at the core of his followers’ beliefs:

  • Love one another, be kind to one another, forgive others as God has forgiven you (John 15:12); i.e. God is the unconditionally forgiving father portrayed in Jesus’s Prodigal Son parable.
  • Love your enemies. Live peaceably with all. Do not be vengeful. (Luke 6:27, Romans 12:17)
  • Treat others as you’d want to be treated. (Luke 6:31, Matthew 7:12, Philippians 2:4)
  • Show compassion for all and help them: the poor, despised, and outcasts. (Matt. 4:24-25)
  • “Be sincere, not a hypocrite” (Matt. 6:1-6)

Followers of Jesus consciously strive to live by these tenets, as evidenced in the massive protest marches in various parts of the world. But for Christians, treating others equitably—or only saying and doing thing to others that you would want said or done to you—is scornfully dismissed as “politically correctness.”

4.  Christians hate political correctness

Political correctness definitionChristians want to say whatever, insult whomever and do whatever they desire to those who don’t look like, act like or think like them and, of course, those who are less privileged. They don’t care that Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) because they are not followers of Jesus.

5. Christians disrespect or distort Jesus’s lessons on karma

In Luke 6:37 and Matthew 7:1-3, Jesus reportedly admonished us against creating bad karma: “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” he said. “Condemn not, lest ye be condemned.” Translated: Whatever you do will be done to you.

Christians often quoted that admonition to excuse themselves from acknowledging facts about Donald Trump. “The Bible says that we shouldn’t judge!” they proclaimed.

But facts are not judgments: Trump is a serial adulterer. Fact. He has been sued by dozens of small business owners for not paying their invoices. Fact. He was sued by a woman who claimed he raped her when she was a teen. Fact. His foundation admitted to spending $20,000 on a portrait of Trump and $250,000 to settle private legal disputes, in violation of IRS rules. Fact. He’s taken six corporate bankruptcies. Fact. He boasted of grabbing women’s genitals. Fact. He settled a civil fraud claim brought by 6,000 alleged victims for $25 million. Fact.

These are facts, not judgments. But none of these facts cost him Evangelical Christians’ support.

6. God giveth free will; Christians taketh away

Contrasted to Followers of Jesus, Christians want to be the boss of every body, particularly women’s. Evangelical Christians and Catholics, in particular, are obsessed with forcing women to give birth to unwanted children. Many cited this as the reason they voted for Trump, who was pro-choice until it was politically expedient to be pro-birth.

This is not a pro-life issue. Notably, once fetuses breathe on their own, faith leaders and their flocks are not interested in their lives. Perhaps they should stick around to witness the results of their strong-arm tactics:

At least they’re consistent. These are the same folks who willingly endangered the lives and freedoms of God’s Jewish, Muslim, LGBTQ, Native American, Mexican and African-American children with their votes—further proving they are not “pro-life,” simply pro-mandatory birth. If you already have a body, they could not care less.

Cameron Harris's fake news story about Clinton was shared by six million readers

Winners never cheat; cheaters never win

Take young Cameron Harris, a recent college grad who, according to this New York Times story, parlayed the $5 he paid for the “Christian Times Newspaper” domain into $22,000, by unscrupulously publishing fake news stories that supported Donald Trump’s narrative.

After Trump claimed during a campaign stop in Ohio that the election was rigged against him, Harris diabolically wrote and published a story claiming that an electrical worker had stumbled upon “tens of thousands” of fraudulent Clinton votes in a Columbus, Ohio warehouse.

Compounding his deceit, Harris added a photo of a guy behind stacks of bins marked “ballot box.” But he didn’t mention that the man and the ballots were in Great Britain. The story was eventually shared by six million people, worldwide.

After Harris was unmasked, he was fired by Maryland lawmaker David Vogt. Chances are, he will be welcomed into another political camp that appreciates his diabolical immorality.

Christians have shown us that the simply want to win. Even if they have to cheat. Whether by concocting fake news or drastically gerrymandering legislative districts to favor their party. When intelligence officials revealed that Russia had manipulated the outcome of the election, Christians weren’t alarmed that America is now a pawn for the Kremlin. They followed their leader beyond disrespecting U.S. intelligence community, and straight into denial.

And finally, the elephant in the room

Christians mouth the words that we are all children of God; but they voluntarily joined the same voting bloc as the KKK. They also knew Trump was being counseled by a reputed white supremacist, and had attracted the enthusiastic support of white nationalists. They’d heard Trump’s blatantly racist challenge to the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, falsely claiming that Obama was not born in America—another insult to the intelligence officers who vetted him. The government had access to Obama’s late mother’s passport records, which revealed where she was on his birth date.

Beyond normalizing hatred, Trump’s candidacy and electoral victory turned up the volume on hate speech and unleashed hate crimes against other Americans. Apparently, it was simply waiting for a golden calf to set it free. And it fled into Christians’ open arms.

Jesus’s teachings can be our guide

I know many of us have called ourselves Christians all our lives. But if we still share Jesus’s values, we’re Followers of Jesus who choose to stay on the path.

Let’s bid a fond farewell to our Christian comrades, as they march into the Siberian wilderness, following a leader with a gyrating moral compass. May they find what they are looking for—and may we respect their choice, while making every effort to protect our rights and our freedom.

Thanks to them, millions of Americans fear for their safety because of the occupant of the White House. As these Christians march off into the dark side of history,  consciously trampling Jesus’s teachings, immorally attacking humans’ God-given sexual orientation, usurping a woman’s control over her own body and eradicating Christlike democracy, they will have nothing to show for it but calloused feet and bulging karmic debt.

They won their battle, but not their war. Love will forever trump hate.

Silhouettes of Three Crosses

Why is the sadistic murder of Jesus “Good”?

With no thought at all, we unflinchingly hurl the most damning insults at God. “Good” Friday may be our most consistent and most unconscionable slap at the Divine. It’s the day we annually reaffirm that a sadistic murder not only is good, it’s an act of God.

I was delighted to see that others are looking at this day through a different lens. A Reuters News Service story this week also explored this tradition. The satirical article imagined an effort by religious leaders to make “Good” Friday better by redirecting the focus from Jesus’s murder to his message of love. Is religion brave enough to make that leap?

Christianity calls sadistic murder an act of love

Bible Belt family entertainment: The sadistic murder of other humans

Sadistic murder was once family entertainment

Evidence abounds that humans have a conflicted value system. Here in America, a so-called “Christian nation,” we unhesitatingly do things to others that we would not want done to us. From the brutalization of the original inhabitants of America to the behavior of current presidential candidates, we fervently support leaders who loudly and proudly reject this core tenet of Jesus’s teachings. Another message, we are one: Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you also do to me (Matthew 25:40).

Despite that, for 245 years, based on other Biblical passages—among them, Genesis 9:25-27, Ephesians 6:5 and Titus 2:9—those who called themselves Christians enslaved and brutalized select members of the one human family. After slavery was abolished, lynchings were commonplace, especially in the Deep South. This sadistic murder of other human beings was considered sport in the Bible Belt. It was perceived as normal, wholesome family entertainment.

They excused kids from school to watch. Moms prepared a picnic basket. Dads beamed proudly at the rotting remains. Murdering another member of the human family was gratifying, and it was godly.

These macabre rituals of hatred defined our nation, our humanity, and they defined the god we worship. But they were never defined as acts of love—then or now.

Good Friday is probably the only day in human history that sadistic torture is universally embraced as an act of love.

Is it an insult to claim that God

Is it an insult to claim that God “gave” Jesus to be brutally murdered?

“Good” Friday marks the only time that those who desire a close relationship with God express gratitude for the sadistic murder of a someone who reportedly had an extremely close relationship with God.

These good people say they are grateful to God for sending Jesus to “die” for their sins. These same people also claim that they would never want anyone to suffer or be slowly tortured to death for a crime they committed—especially someone they loved. However, they make an exception for the beloved Jesus. As I said, humans have a conflicted value system.

Why do we say that Jesus “died”?

Another human curiosity: We’ve reclassified Jesus’s murder as a mere death, as if he climbed onto the cross, closed his eyes and stopped breathing. But he didn’t simply “die.” He reportedly was brutalized for sins committed by millions of souls who were wearing human body costumes during his incarnation and for billions, including you, who hadn’t yet arrived on the planet and hadn’t committed one sin.

We make sense of that by claiming that God’s ways are mysterious. But only our insulting portrayals of what God is and what God does are mysterious. We play mind games because if we said what we really mean, we’d be horrified.

Consequently, instead of saying what we really mean, “Jesus was brutally murdered for something I did,” we say, “Jesus died for my sins. Hallelujah!” But if we called this act by its real name—a murder—we might question both our own humanity and the veracity of any claim that God solves problems by killing people.

Why do we adorn ourselves with the murder weapon?

hulk-hogan-nyt-crucifix

Photo: New York Times

We say that God is Love, then contradict ourselves by claiming that God does things Love would not do. We characterize God as sadistic, and we glorify this murder (and ourselves) by wearing replicas of the indisputable murder weapon—the crucifix—as a badge of honor.

We have forgotten what this symbol really represents. We proudly wear crucifixes around our necks. We dangle them from our ears and rear view mirrors. They prominently adorn our places of worship.

We legitimize and worship a murder so heinous that it has to be sugar-coated by saying he merely died. We have become complicit in the sadistic crucifixion of an undeniably innocent person who, according to our beliefs, was performing uplifting work on Earth.

We claim that Jesus agreed to come here and be brutally tortured to death. And we assert this act of barbarism was actually an act of God’s mercy.

Why is the sadistic murder of Jesus attributed to God?

On occasion, often in a Drama Queen Workshop, I will ask why someone believes that God wouldn’t forgive the guilty unless an innocent son was brutally tortured to death. First, they’re startled by the question. Invariably, someone will defend this murder as “God’s sacrifice.” There’s always a person who claims that God didn’t have Jesus killed (although John 3:16 says otherwise); “He” simply didn’t stop the Roman soldiers from heinously murdering “His” only begotten son.

But the lightbulb generally illuminates for most when they hear this story properly described as God’s refusal to forgive the guilty unless an innocent son was brutally tortured to death. They instantly recoil and they do the most remarkable thing: They defend God’s goodness. They insist that God wouldn’t do something like that to anyone, especially Jesus.

I concur with those who disconnect God from the crucifixion because the rationale for this barbarism is wholly ungodly. Why would God do something so unproductive, not to mention inhumane? Jesus’s murder didn’t stop sin and it wasn’t enough of a sacrifice to convince God to forgive our sins. In fact, God allegedly added another caveat: Our sins won’t be forgiven unless we believe that Jesus’s murder personally saved us from an even more sadistic fate.

So what was the “good” outcome here? Jesus’s savage murder didn’t stop sin and it didn’t warrant forgiveness of our sins. It clearly didn’t change the way we treat each other. We still don’t love others as ourselves or as Jesus loved us.

We don’t have to look as far as Paris, Brussels or Nigeria for proof of that. Any random Donald “Two Corinthians” Trump rally will do. So what did this legendary act of sadism actually accomplish—and why are we grateful for it?

The “Good” Friday message: God is unfair, unreasonable and inhumane

The overriding message of the “Good” Friday story is that there is no difference between God’s behavior and the legendary Satan’s. It teaches us that God loves gratuitous violence and is perversely pleasured by unnecessary human pain. And we believe it.

Beliefs are a choice, and it’s easier to believe than to think about what our beliefs actually mean. Instead of thinking, we choose to believe that God sent Jesus to minister to the minds, bodies and spirits of everyone within walking distance or a donkey ride. His healing message was simple: We are one, God is within, God is the unconditionally loving father of prodigals, we should love everyone and that we should do nothing to someone else that we would not want done to us.

Powerful stuff. But we choose to believe that after three short years of spreading this good news, God abruptly halted Jesus’s ministry and gave him to the barbaric Romans to be sadistically crucified. We choose to worship someone who would do this to Jesus because we absolutely positively believe that God is full of wrath, vengeful, judgmental and solves problems by hurting and killing people. Consequently, we conclude that we need to be “saved” from the despicable and diabolical things that God does.

Our cognitive faculties are impaired when we are frightened. We fail to ask the important and common sense questions. That is by design.

God did not give us the spirit of fear. But someone did, someone who doesn’t want us to ask, “If God is Love, would Love do THAT?

We have chosen to ignore the dark energies on Earth that have successfully made us worship a god who does evil, hurtful things. We have chosen to believe that a sadistic, barbaric act such as crucifixion serves some good purpose. And we have agreed to joyfully embrace and vigorously defend this evil in the holiest of places.

At any time, we can choose to rethink “good”—and rethink God. At any time, we can choose to see the Light—and discover how that changes our lives.

What the “double-minded” quiz revealed

self-discovery-giftSooooo, did you take my “double minded” quiz? Well, I hope you enjoyed the little gift that I tucked inside for you: a piece of sweet self discovery. Actually, whether or not you answered the questions, the gift was yours for the taking.

I structured the quiz to be a treat for everyone. There were no right or wrong answers. And even if you didn’t answer the questions online, you still got the goodies: The opportunity to think about your beliefs—and the implications of your beliefs.

It is no small thing that most of the post readers did not answer the quiz online, and most who started the quiz did not answer all ten questions. My guess is that they realized that their answers to the later questions would conflict with their previous answers, so they stopped.

The fact that the questions tripped the “double minded” alarm 99% of the time was a shock, I will admit. But what terrific insight it provided to each reader. It gave them pause. They pondered their dilemma, then realized that their beliefs contradicted each other. Hallelujah! Read More

Silhouettes of Three Crosses

Does Holy Week celebrate the divine or the diabolical?

I realize that everyone is not attuned to the jaw-dropping ways that humans have perpetually demonized God. But it seems to me that the demonization is so over-the-top during Holy Week that at some point in our history as thinking beings, it should have caught our collective attention.

An online search turned up results about the demonization of America, the Queen of Sheba and others. But not one word about the demonization of God. Fascinating.

Not only are we oblivious to the fact that we daily demonize God, we seem to be completely unaware that Holy Week’s underlying message is that Yeshua (Jesus) didn’t understand God at all.

Consider what we’re called to worship this week, and ask yourself: Am I celebrating divine or demonic behavior?

1. God sent Yeshua on a worldwide “good news” tour that was doomed from the start.

As the story goes, God sent Yeshua to Earth to set the record straight on a few things:

  • God is not the angry, vindictive brute described in scripture;
  • God does not solve human problem through murder, as described in Genesis;
  • God is within us;
  • God loves us unconditionally, and we should love each other the same way;
  • God forgives with no strings attached;
  • God welcomes home even the prodigals among us;
  • All we really need to do is treat others the way we’d want to be treated;

To make sure that this good news was spread, God entrusted “His only begotten son” with the task. I’m not going to address claims that Yeshua was half god and half human. At a later time, we’ll discuss the intersection where mythical gods who impregnated human virgins without semen and Old Testament midrash met.

If midrash is an unfamiliar term, I’d suggest insightful articles such as this one by theologian Robert M. Price. There also are a number of fascinating resources about the long history of virgin births that might interest you. These legends preceded Yeshua’s birth by many centuries, as outlined in this article by theologian John Keyser. They all were born on December 25, healed the sick, raised the dead, were executed by the establishment and rose from the grave in three days. But I’ve digressed from Holy Week’s demonization of God:

As we all know, there was no Internet, radio, television or even a printing press in Yeshua’s day. My goodness, there wasn’t even a public address system for him to speak to thousands of people at a time. (Yes, I took a swipe at that fish story, too.) But God allegedly had charged Yeshua with this task, and he was compelled to do it to the best of his ability. Unquestionably, it was his life purpose and passion.

So Yeshua set out on foot, donkey and the occasional non-motorized boat to share his good news. Three short years later, after he’d only reached a small fraction of the humans on earth, he was sadistically tortured to death.

Why? Well, according to scripture…

2. God planned all along to have Yeshua murdered.

To recap: God sent Jesus to Earth to tell as many people as he could, without electronic or social media to amplify his message, that God was not a tyrannical hypocrite who solved problems by killing humans. I suspect that part of the good news was that we should ignore the 50+ circumstances outlined in scripture, in which God allegedly mandated us to kill each other.

God gave Yeshua only three years to accomplish this mass communication campaign. Yeshua recruited and trained others to help him spread the message. Most of their time, however, was spent with him.

When the clock ran out on the campaign, God simply solved the sinful-human problem by having “His” messenger sadistically tortured to death. The murder didn’t put an end to sin. But of course, the Omniscient would know that.

After all, in Genesis, God had boasted that “He” was killing every living thing and starting over. Then, after surveying the mess made by the Great Flood, “He” lamented that it was all a mistake because man was naturally sinful. What that story alleges is that God not only makes mistakes that “He” regrets, “He” is not omniscient and has no clue about the outcome and effectiveness of “His” actions.

So, in a way, it almost makes sense that this God would rectify that by killing one person instead of everyone. Again: Is God’s behavior scripturally depicted as divine or demonic?

3.  Yeshua knew all along that God planned for him be a live sacrifice.

Live sacrifice was a sacred ritual of ancient people who believed that they had to kill something (or someone) to please God. You’ll recall that after the deadly flood killed everything from animals and infant humans to plants, trees and the elderly, Noah grilled one of the surviving animals and God was pleased with the smell. (So much for repopulating that species.)

This a barbaric practice was widespread because then, as now, people believed in a quid pro quo God. They worshiped a God who required an offering in exchange for granting their wishes.

Live sacrifices have been abandoned in most cultures today, but not all. Today’s headlines bear witness to the lingering barbarism of people who worship a violent god who requires mercy killings, even of loved ones.

What we are to believe here is that Yeshua knew from the beginning that God’s forgiveness was conditioned upon his excruciatingly painful live sacrifice. Despite that we are told that he taught that God was unconditionally forgiving. If you do not find that to be contradictory, I invite you to explain it to me.

4. God would forgive “His” bad kids on one condition: “His” only good kid was brutally tortured to death.

Suffice it to say that Holy Week teaches us that Yeshua and his lovely Prodigal Son parable got it wrong: God is not that father; “He” does not forgive unconditionally.

The natural question is: If God was going to solve “His” human-sin problem by having Yeshua heinously tortured to death, what was the point of sending him on that impossible worldwide journey to teach that God is not the Old Testament brute? Clearly, “He” is, according to the New Testament passages we celebrate this week.

Like the God portrayed in Genesis, “He” is not omniscient. “He” didn’t even know that murdering “His” only good kid was not going to make “His” bad kids walk the straight and narrow.

So the question remains: Was God’s plan for Yeshua, as outlined in scripture and celebrated during Holy Week, divine or diabolical?

5. God views the murder of an innocent child as an act of love.

To that, I have two questions:

  1. Under what circumstances is it an act of love to have one’s child tortured to death?
  2. Would the Divine or the Devil have an innocent child murdered so that guilty children can go free?

6. God’s plan is to brutalize all of us, unless we believe that Yeshua was heinously murdered instead of us

The Bible, the billboards, the placards, posters, magnets and Internet posts proclaim: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In other words, God loved “His” bad kids so much that “He” gave his only good kid to the sadistic Roman soldiers so that they could subject him to a long and painful death.

The message here is that those who don’t believe that God ordered this inhumane deed will be severely punished. Rumor has it that this time, the torture will last throughout all eternity.

Does this align with the good news that Yeshua taught, including his Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)? The behavior of the God that Jesus described during his much-too-brief good news ministry appears to be dramatically contradicted by his gruesome murder. Yet we are encouraged to celebrate this inhumane act of God. We even wear replicas of the murder weapon around our necks, in our ears and hang it in our homes, and places of business and worship.

Ironically, we call Satan the “enemy,” yet we worship behaviors that are nothing short of satanic. We have absolutely no awareness of the horrific things we are saying about God or how our worship of evil has perpetuated a world in which problems are solved by killing people. The reason probably lies in the fact that we are threatened that if we don’t believe what others want us to believe, God’s gonna get us.

Why do we believe that God behaves this way? Is that the kind of behavior we choose to worship?

Either Jesus was wrong–or we are

bad-mathFor years, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sins, and that I became a sinner the moment I took my first breath. That’s what I was told. Everyone around me believed it. As far as I was concerned, it was so—until I began to notice that something didn’t add up:

Jesus didn’t simply die; he was sadistically tortured to death. According to the scriptures, he was made to suffer for something others did, just as I was destined to be punished because of something Adam and Eve did. It made me think.

Is God unfair?

If asked if God is unfair, our natural response is, “Of course not!” But do we really believe that?

Yes or no: Is it fair to blame, harm or kill an innocent person for something someone else did? If not, we actually believe that God is unfair.

If we worship someone who treats others unfairly, what does that say about us? To be consistent, if we believe that satanically torturing an innocent man to death is the divine way to solve a problem, then we also must believe that society should jail or execute innocent people for crimes committed by their relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Do we?

No. We live in an if “you do the crime, you do the time” society. Why? It’s only fair.

The truth is, we don’t believe in harming or punishing innocent people, and we don’t know any sane person who does. Yet we love it when God does it.

Would Love do that?

Like most Christians, I was repeatedly told that Jesus’s suffering was an act of godly love. Further, I should be grateful that God loved me so much that He would have Jesus brutally tortured instead of me. And if I didn’t believe that Jesus was tortured, I would be.

I had to wonder: Is it an act of love to torture someone to death? Whether it was for their mistake or someone else’s, is that what Love does?

Furthermore, what kind of person is grateful that an innocent man was executed for a crime he committed? Was I that kind of person? I surely hoped not.

Jesus viewed God differently than we do

The way Jesus viewed God completely contradicts the way the crucifixion story portrays God. Jesus’s view of God is the polar opposite of ours:

Through his Parable of the Prodigal Son, retold in Luke 15, Jesus revealed what kind of father he believed God to be. He related the story of an impatient, greedy son who wanted his inheritance from his father—immediately, thank you very much. Despite the disrespectful “I wish you were dead” implications of his younger son’s demand, the free-willing father bestowed him the inheritance.

How to become a prodigal in a few easy steps

The self-indulgent son and his party pals squandered every cent of the inheritance, quickly transforming this son of wealth into a pauper. He became a laborer on, of all things, a pig farm. He’d hit rock bottom. To this famished heir, even pig feed looked like a banquet.

What next? After treating his father as if he were dead, going back home was out of the question. It was doubtful that he’d ever be forgiven.

But, weighing his options—pig slop or groveling at his father’s feet—he wearily returned home, bracing himself for the verbal or severe physical beating he deserved. He’d be lucky if his father didn’t turn him away or have him stoned to death, as was the custom in those days—and remains so in cultures that are wed to the dictates of their ancient holy books. It is human nature to be vindictive.

We view God as humanly vindictive

What would the next scene look like, if we were writing the story of the Lost Son? How would the father in our story react to seeing the wayward son who had wished him dead and had wasted everything?

My guess is that our scene would start with an angry, judgmental rant, complete with expletives and name-calling. If he allowed his son to live, the father would probably punish him so harshly that he’d wish he had been stoned to death.

In our story, he probably would never regain his position as a beloved son. He had traded that for debauchery.

Jesus viewed God as divinely forgiving

Father greets prodigal sonHow did the father react in Jesus’s story? He spotted his prodigal son from a distance and ran to greet him with open arms. He clothed him in fine garments and ordered a feast, much to the dismay of his older and much more respectful son.

The father in Jesus’s story was unconditionally forgiving, unconditionally loving and totally merciful. Why? That is the way Jesus viewed God.

It was a perception that defied religious teachings and disturbed the religious order. They felt that chaos would erupt if people were not controlled by the threat of extremely harsh or deadly punishment. (We see how well that has worked.)

What if every child was told the same thing when they reached an age of comprehension: “Sweetheart, we live in a what-goes-around-comes-around world. Whatever you do here will be done to you. It’s called karma. It keeps everything in balance. Keep that in mind every waking minute of every day. Let that be your guiding light.”

If we believed that, like the father in Jesus’s parable, God gave all souls the free will to choose our consequences, this world probably would be less chaotic and more heavenly. We would always be thinking that if we steal, cheat, deceive, rape or murder, at some point in our eternal lives the same thing will happen to us. Consequently, we would never do anything that we would not want done to us.

Instead, we worship the ancient human view of God as a controlling, judgmental, vindictive villain, an enforcer, and alas, a sadist who unfairly murders His innocent child.

I have only one thing to say about that: Either Jesus was wrong—or we are.

Forgive us, for we know not what we do

Forgive us, Father, for we know not what we do.

Each Palm Sunday, I am even more sensitive to the fact that for the next week, millions will unknowingly demonize God and believe that they will be mightily blessed for doing so. I’m sure you’re wondering: How in the world can someone demonize God and not know it?

As simply as I can explain it, we can be fully aware that we’re doing something (walking, driving or standing somewhere) without giving it a conscious thought. We frequently do things without thinking about why we’re doing them—or the meaning and implications of our actions.

For example: All of us have found ourselves in a room and wondered, “Why did I come in here?” Or while in the process of doing something, we suddenly ask, “Why am I doing this?”

On rare occasions, we ask, “What does it mean that I am doing this?”

Death by torture: Divine or demonic?

This week we will frequently hear the phrase, “Christ died so that we might live,” as if he lay down on a slab, closed his eyes and stopped breathing. No one ever says, “God gave Jesus to the Romans to be sadistically tortured to death for sins he didn’t commit.” If they did, would it change our perception of God?

God-so-loved the worldWe unconsciously declare, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Have you thought about the meaning of this Bible verse and others that proclaim that Jesus “died for our sins”? Would you like to? Let’s do a Drama Queen Workshops-style thinking exercise:

Scene:

Front door of a beautiful suburban home. A business executive and single father, who has returned home a day early from a business trip, hears loud music and raucous chatter coming from his basement as he opens the door. He walks past beautifully appointed living and dining rooms, then into the huge kitchen, and down to the basement.

As he gets to the foot of the basement stairs and his eyes adjust to the darkness, he surveys the room. It looks like a scene from Sodom and Gomorrah:

Teenagers are drinking alcohol and dancing wildly. A few have passed out on the floor and on the sofas. Four guys are gambling at a table in the corner.

Near the laundry room, two boys are raping a drunk girl in the shadows. One kid, who was severely beaten after vomiting on a classmate, is lying in a pool of his own blood, lifeless.

The father is outraged! “What the hell is going on here? Mandy! Mandy, where are you?”

Screaming kids start scrambling, trying to escape up the stairs. He blocks their exit.

His daughter stumbles over friends to turn off the music and runs to him, stammering, trying to explain. Dad doesn’t want to hear it.

Mandy begs for his forgiveness; but forgiveness is out of the question. She falls to her knees, head bowed, in tears.

Dad is so angry, he can barely look at her. He asks, “Where’s your brother?”

“He left for that spiritual retreat today, remember?” Mandy murmurs, sobbing.

Dad raises an eyebrow. “It looks as if you are the one who should have gone!”

“I’m sorry, Dad. I don’t know what I was thinking. Please forgive me. Please forgive all of us,” she says, making a sweeping gesture across the room.

Her friends are now too afraid to move.

Dad thinks for a moment. Looking into the faces of the frightened teens, his tone softens.

“Because I love you so much, I will forgive you—but only on one condition: When John returns, I’m going to have him arrested and slowly tortured to death. His murder will wash away all your crimes. Everyone who believes that I have done this as an act of love will be forgiven of their misdeeds. In fact, they will live forever. So go tell everyone you know.”

That’s our drama. Now, ask yourself:

How would you respond to the father’s forgiveness offer if you were one of those teens in the basement: Would you accept it? Would you be grateful?

Is it an act of love or sadism to have an innocent child sadistically tortured to death so that the guilty children can escape punishment for their own misdeeds?

Why do we believe it is an act of love if God does it?

If a parent loves his guilty children so much that he would protect them by having his innocent child tortured to death, how does he feel about his innocent child?

If we insist to others that God had His innocent child tortured to death, are we proclaiming that God is good or evil?

If we believe that torturing an innocent person to death—for any reason—is a good thing, what does it say about us?

Needless to say, I’ve given this matter considerable thought, and I have concluded that declaring that God does something that Love would not do actually demonizes God. So during Holy Week or any week, I will repeat only one verse from the Bible’s crucifixion narrative: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

Does Christmas belittle Jesus’s mission?

Egyptian god Horus

Horus of Egypt, son of a human virgin and a god.

I’ve often wondered whether we have done Jesus a great disservice by assigning him the same birthday as ancient gods. In mythology, Horus of Egypt (c. 3000 BC), Mithra of Persia (c. 1200 BC), Attis of Greece (c. 1200 BC), Krishna of India (c. 900 BC), Dionysus of Greece (c. 500 BC) and others were “born” on December 25.

All are the alleged offspring of virgin mothers and powerful gods. As legend has it, these illustrious demigods healed the sick, raised the dead, and were murdered by the establishment. Each one was resurrected after three days.

While it’s possible that December 25 was Jesus’s birthday, no one can pinpoint anything, anywhere that cites that date or justifies claims that he is “the reason for the season.”

Despite that, hundreds of songs have been written, thousands of pageants have been performed, and millions of gifts have been exchanged on December 25th. The Pope’s latest book says our Christmas traditions are based on myth. If you want the Cliff notes version, Yahoo! News outlines “Five Surprising Facts about Christmas” in this post.

How many times was Jesus born?

Many contend that to be a Christian, you must absolutely positively believe the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’s birth and death. Fair enough, since religion typically requires unquestioning belief. But which accounts are we required to believe: Luke’s or Matthew’s? (Were you brave enough to take the poll in my previous post, Manger or Mary’s House?)

As discussed in that post, most of us haven’t noticed that the Bible cites two different locations for Jesus’s birth. Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman says it’s because we read the Bible as we read other books: vertically, from the top of the page to the bottom, when it’s often more insightful to read it side-by-side.

To help his students glean more from the text, Ehrman asks them to list all the facts in a Bible story, then compare them with facts stated elsewhere. It’s a technique also used by the Rev. Gaylon McDowell, my New Testament teacher at Christ Universal Temple.

What I discovered when I did that exercise is that both narratives began and ended the same, but nothing else matched:

Contradictory Birth Narratives

If you’re interesting in learning and growing, I’d suggest that you try this technique with the Bible’s accounts of Jesus’s death and the days that followed. I think you’ll find it as insightful as the fact that the Book of James, written by Jesus’s brother, contains neither of these accounts.

How we missed it the first time

More fascinating, try this technique with the Great Flood story in Genesis, which claims that God couldn’t think of a better solution for man’s wickedness than to kill every living thing—including innocent infants, animals, fish and fauna. According to Bible and Torah scholars, five flood myths were woven together to Genesis. Because of that, you’ll need more than two columns on your page because the “facts” frequently contradict each other from one verse to another, not simply from one chapter or book to another.

Because we are told that the Bible is the inerrant “Word of God,” we typically dismiss or ignore inconsistencies. In other books, we’d consider it implausible for someone to be born in two different places. We’d easily notice that facts are changing from one sentence (or verse) to another.

With the Bible, we negotiate and reconcile blatant contradictions. That’s why we often see the star in Matthew’s story positioned over the stable and shepherds in Luke’s story. The wise men, who went to the house, are curiously standing near the shepherds and manger.

Why the facts don’t line up

Many believe the gospels were written by Jesus’s disciples. But based on the dates their gospels were written, Bible scholars agree that neither Matthew nor Luke ever met Jesus. They also note that the Book of James, written by Jesus’s brother, doesn’t mention the miraculous virgin birth involving his very own mother.

Matthew and Luke, however, were fervently committed to converting more followers to Judaism’s new sect, Christianity. Matthew crafted his birth narrative to attract more Jews by including as many elements as possible to link Jesus to the Jewish prophesies about the Messiah. In particular, it was important to establish that he was born in Bethlehem and from the lineage of King David. For good measure, he drew a parallel to Moses, who escaped the Pharoah’s mandate to kill newborn boys.

Luke’s aim was to convert everybody, Jew and Gentile. His birth narrative used imagery of common folk, shepherds, who rejoiced at the birth of the Messiah.

Both men realized that they needed a device to get Jesus to Nazareth after the birth. After all, he was known as Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Bethlehem.

Does myth matter?

Completely lost in these tangled fables is the real significance of Jesus’s life: His message for us to love unconditionally and forgive untiringly, as exemplified by the father in the Prodigal Son parable. Another casualty: His admonitions for us to avoid judging and condemning each other.

If Jesus’s mission was to teach us that we are one with the father and to save us from committing sin by loving, forgiving and being nonjudgmental, have we belittled that mission by dedicating ourselves instead to errant words, unrelated traditions and worshiping the life story of mythical gods? If we haven’t honored Jesus’s teachings, as urged in his brother James’ book, what on Earth are we celebrating?

Manger or Mary’s House: Why does myth matter?

I saw an interview with theologian and bestselling author Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, who mused about polling his students on the first day of class at the Bible Belt university where he teaches. His first question: How many of you believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God? Practically every student’s hand shoots up.

Da Vinci Code Cover

More thoroughly read than the Bible?

Next, how many have read “The Da Vinci Code,” cover to cover? Again, almost every hand is in the air. How many have read the Bible, cover to cover? One or two.

It’s no surprise to Ehrman and other Bible scholars that people who haven’t read it or haven’t comprehended what they’ve read are the ones that believe it’s the inerrant word of God. Like him, I’m a bit fascinated by that phenomenon, although I’m sure we both understand that the language in the text can often be challenging.

Add nuances such as ancient ritual, cultural idioms and good old-fashioned hyperbole to the mix, and it’s even more difficult to separate fact from fiction. Jesus, Interrupted coverPlus, as Ehrman pointed out in his latest book. “Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them),” we tend to read the Bible vertically, from the top of the page to the bottom—the same way we read other books. And that could be a problem.

A problem? Yes. It’s probably the reason most who call ourselves Christians totally miss the fact that there are contradicting narratives of Jesus’s birth and death published in the Bible.

Most of us are confident that we know basic details about Jesus. Certainly, we know where he was born. More than likely, we don’t. Pretty weird, especially since we’ve attended dozens of Christmas pageants, even if we haven’t actually read the narratives in the Bible.

I’ll reveal the answer as we continue to explore whether myth matters, in the next post in this series.

Can you have faith without religion?

God is so reliable. I was perusing my list of blog post ideas, looking for inspiration, when one caught my eye: Can you have faith without religion?

F is for Faith

The substance of things hoped for, The evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1, KJV

It’s a compelling question, especially since an increasing number of Americans now describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious.” One study reports that as many as 33% self-identify as such. I am among them.

Before I could expound on some of the reasons millions today believe God is spirit [John 4:24], rather than an angry, judgmental and vindictive Being who lives beyond the farthest star, a browser tab caught my eye. I typically have at least a dozen browser tabs visible. They’re frequently visited sites, including CNN, The Weather Channel, a couple of unfinished books on Kindle Cloud Reader, Facebook and Twitter, and sites related to whatever research I’m conducting. Right now I have 18 tabs at the ready.

It was Facebook that lured me from my writing. At the top of my news feed was a story, “My Neighbor’s Faith: The rabbi and the Christian cab driver.” I was instantly intrigued.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield recounted the time he hopped into a Syracuse cab and was stunned to discover “JESUS LOVES YOU” stickers on practically every surface of the interior. The dashboard bore a crucifix; pocket Bibles hung from the windshield. He quipped, “This wasn’t just a cab, it was a rolling cathedral!”

The scruffy looking cabbie asked the rabbi what he thought of Jesus, and why he didn’t believe Jesus was his path to salvation. The rabbi’s response was profound:

“I can believe that Jesus is a great teacher without believing that he is God’s son and the only path to salvation. One truth doesn’t negate the other. I can love Jesus in my way. And you can love Jesus in yours. There is room for both of our understandings of Jesus. I don’t believe that you have to be wrong for me to be right.”

“I don’t believe that you have to be wrong for me to be right.” The words hit the cabbie like a ton of bricks.

I felt a punch in the gut, too. Why? Because I’m keenly aware that the Loud Mouth can be as strident and judgmental as those who describe themselves as religious, particularly those who describe themselves as Christians.

God's wrath was aimed at you. Jesus took it. Don't reject him.Many Christians criticize those who don’t believe that we need to be saved from God’s judgment and eternal punishment. I, on the other hand, criticize anyone who believes that God is judgmental, sadistic and unforgiving. Neither position reflects Yeshua’s (aka Jesus) teachings.

Days ago, I expressed to a Facebook friend that I wanted to be more mindful of Jesus’s admonition to “judge not” and “condemn not.” It obviously put the spiritual wheels in motion.

Enter Rabbi Hirschfield, stage right: “Why do religious people have to be wrong for you to be right, Pat?”

I’m sure he is only the first of many who will offer me opportunities to rise above my Virgo propensity to criticize and analyze.

Rabbi Hirschfield didn’t say that I have to believe that God is an angry, judgmental, genocidal and vindictive Being who lives in the sky. I don’t have to believe that God’s forgiveness has strings attached, or that God solves problems by killing, banishing, forsaking or sadistically torturing anyone to death. I also don’t have to believe that sadistically torturing an innocent child to death is a divine way to demonstrate one’s love for the guilty children.

What he said was that others don’t have to be wrong for believing any or all of these things. Another great Jewish rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, probably would concur: “Whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet,” he reportedly said.

I have faith that I can shake the dust off my feet. I can give others loving allowance to believe whatever they want and worship whatever kind of God they want. I have faith that I can practice Jesus’s teachings until they are second nature: Love my neighbor as myself; forgive 70 times 7; judge not; condemn not; God is within.

I have faith that I can experience and radiate the Christ within me, as he did. I have faith that with practice, I will grow in love so consistently that I’m will not be the person I was the day before.