Christmas is kind of hard. Especially since, deep-down, I really want to fit in with everyone else… go to a good service or two and sing about baby Jesus, light a candle, or whatever you all do. I want to, but I just can’t. Or even if I do go, I just can’t forget the things that I know… the things that I know and so many of the other smiling faces in the crowd either don’t know or simply refuse to accept.
Through all my years of Christian (yes good old bible school seminary) education, Church history, apologetics, and various other studies I just know that this holiday can’t be taken literally. Although tonight I realized that I can still enjoy it and take it seriously.
I may not believe in god the same way that you all do. I believe that the whole thing is an allegory, meaning to inspire and point us all towards a greater truth… and one that we took far too literally. Believing, or better put “knowing”, that has always been a hang up for me. Especially on this holiday since it centers so much around the telling, re-telling, and proclamation of a ridiculous series of events as a historical fact that I should just accept as though I’m accepting the fact that there is a Europe, or that Abraham Lincoln was a President of the United States.
Tonight though, while in a service, I smiled and felt a certain amount of release and joy as I slowly broke down and started singing along with one of the Christmas hymns. The joy came from knowing that even though I debate the historical accuracy of this whole thing, and even debate the literal existence of a Christ… that I do believe in it conceptually, and that even if to me he was allegory and to you he is literal, that in the end our songs and our prayers are both reaching the same heavens.
For those of you who are new to this concept, and who think that I must be off my rocker for even proposing it; let me take a second to explain some of the basics of what was once called Christianity but now is referred to as heresy… or Gnostic Christianity.
A fact that I learned while studying church history in my minister’s training, was that in the beginning of church history there was already a debate going as to if the New Testament, and especially the story of Christ was to be taken literally or if it was simply a tool to help man “awaken” and be brought closer to god/enlightenment. There was even a point in time where both of these groups of people were still considered Christians and even managed to get along and worship side-by-side.
Now, most churches and religious schools today will state that the literal Christians came first, and that the non-literal “Gnostics” came along much later as Christianity got watered-down and mixed in with other Pagan religions as it spread through Europe and other territories. That is the popular answer, and as it is commonly said… the ones who win the wars get to write the history books.
However, archeologists, scholars and theologians across the globe have not too recently found enough evidence buried deep in the sands of time to support the theory that it was really the opposite that was true. That the Gnostics were the first to call themselves “Christians”, and that it wasn’t until much later that a fundamentalist movement came along, professing a literal, historical belief in the events of what we now call the New Testament.
Gnostics saw Christianity as a fluid, adaptive religion that could embrace any culture and would not only tolerate but incorporate other beliefs as it spread. For it wasn’t the message which was sacred, it was the end result. Jesus was a path to lead us towards the divine, but they saw many paths and never lost sight of the end goal… knowing that you are a Christ, that you are in God and that God is in you.
Historically, we should all be able to agree, that the split between the “Christians” and the “Christians” came to a head when Constantine decided that he wanted to pick a one world religion for the Roman Empire.
His final two choices had boiled down to what we now know as the Gnostics and the fundamentalists who soon after became the Roman Catholic Church. He made his decision, and one faith was elevated and the other cut-down… almost erased from history. Which does make one wonder… who the heck was Constantine, a political figure and ruler to decide our faiths in the first place?
For many years the church painted Constantine as a saint, even literally made him one, a man of God, a devout Christian who encountered God in a holy vision giving him divine direction, making him a messenger of God… an instrument to give direction to His church.
History, real history, paints quite a different picture. Constantine was a cruel and shrewd ruler, who even after his supposed “conversion” was killing wives, going to orgies and up until his death bed considered himself a pagan.
The desire of a one world religion wasn’t spiritually based but politically. Rome had one government, one ruler, and people needed to understand that there were dire punishments for disobeying that ruler, and benefits for obeying him. The religion needed to be the same. One religion, one ruler, some after-world benefit for following it, and some eternal damnation for disobeying. There would be another catch as well… Constantine wished to control this religion as well, setting himself up as the spiritual leader or director of it and its teachings. Total control of the people, both politically and spiritually.
Now out of the two primary choices, which fits the criteria best? Gnostics do not believe in a “heaven” or a “hell”, and could really care less if someone was Gnostic or not. The point was to help people find enlightenment, unleash the true good of the inner man, and adapt the message to something new if the current flavor doesn’t work for you.
The others, on the other hand… fit the criteria perfectly.
But what does this mean for me if I truly believe this? Does this mean that I can’t call myself Christian? Because the Gnostics sure didn’t have a problem with calling themselves that. Can I not enjoy church? They founded the church. Can I not enjoy Christmas? Communion? Easter? What do you think the Gnostics did during those holidays? I’m sure they worshiped right there alongside the rest — knowing full well that even though we may disagree on certain specifics, dogma, or theologies… that their worship and prayers are too making their way to their object of worship.
Am I declaring myself a Gnostic? No. No I am not. And neither would they, for in the end although some did die for their beliefs, many instead just simply adapted again… as I adapt and learn from this wealth of spiritual knowledge that is available to me from not only this one culture but so many, many more.
I like their attitude though, but I see no need for saying that I am any one thing when my attitude and beliefs are fluid, able to learn, able to change, able to appreciate all that is out there, and always, always focused on the end-goal… knowing god and self. Knowing that the form, the message holds nothing sacred for me, but that the quest itself IS sacred.
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