Divesting ourselves of religious baggage

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an issue with organized religion. There are a lot of reasons for this. My parents came from divergent religious backgrounds. My dad was Roman Catholic and my mom was Jewish. They met and married in the early 1960s, when most Christians were still being incorrectly taught that “the Jews” killed Jesus (it was the Romans, for insurrection). Fortunately, they both came from families that saw past this sort of lie, and my parents were respectful enough that I attended both church and synagogue, although neither regularly. Not that it would have mattered anyway, because at that time the Catholic church was entirely in Latin, and the synagogue was entirely in Hebrew. What child could possible understand what was going on?
Other things happened throughout my life that soured me on organized religion, but I kept having what I can only describe as mystical experiences. I sensed, and still do, that God is a force moving throughout all creation. I think George Lucas was onto something when he created the idea of The Force in “Star Wars,” probably because he’s had those mystical experiences too. And if you’ve had that sort of experience, you immediately realize that the idea of God in Heaven on a throne of Gold is completely absurd—as absurd as the idea that God would have a demigod for a son, then commit suicide to somehow right the entire fallen cosmos.
If we study history, we realize that the mythology of Jesus is the same as the mythology of Zeus and Hercules. There are reasons for this, of course, most of them political and satirical. The people who wrote the Jesus stories wanted to poke holes in the dominant religion of their time, and exalt the message of Jesus—not Jesus himself, over and above that of the Roman Empire. Yet within 100 years, Jesus was turned into exactly the same sort of demigod the Romans were familiar with. This too makes sense once we understand that the Romans and Greeks becoming disciples influenced his very unique teaching in detrimental ways.
Greco-Roman influences end up diluting Jesus’ message drastically—and for thousands of years things just continue to get worse. Christians forget they were once all Jews. Jesus’ message of complete and utter connection with God as a way of being for all humans, not just him, is slowly obliterated as the Roman Empire firmly takes control of Christianity and twists it, and Jesus, into symbols that fit more appropriately into a dictatorial world view.
We have an opportunity to get things back on track. Religion in the 21 Century is already undergoing sweeping changes as people realize church, synagogue and mosque is about sharing our faith with each other. Religion can no longer be about dogma and creeds (and should have never been about those things). Religion today is about people helping each other connect deeply and intimately with a power that is beyond human understanding. Religion today is more disorganized, more democratic than ever before.

Christianity today is, I am hopeful, becoming less about the Roman mythology of Jesus, and more about how he lived, what he had to teach, and the incredible idea that humans are more than meets the eye. We are, in fact, a harmonization of the song of God, made to be like God in this world—creatures of love and compassion. To get there means we need to give ourselves permission to let go of some of the things we have been taught are the central tenets of Christianity, and to once again let God influence our spiritual growth, rather than any human empire.

Prayer: Let me know, God of all being, that it is okay to move forward and let go of the things that weigh me down. Take my mental and spiritual baggage away from me! Let me feel your presence, and understand there is more to faith than religious empire conveys. Amen.

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