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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

I want to thank all of you who have been following along with me on this journey of mine to find out just who the heck this God character is, and why I shouldn’t want to punch “Him” in the face.

It took me across a few countries, through several states, many states of mind, and a couple different religions, but I did finally find the answers that I was looking for.

I found it out a few months ago, but I still to this day am not quite sure how to write about it. Life is kōan and like any great riddle part of the enlightenment comes through the quest itself – so I believe it would do little good to simply try to hand anyone the answers. Besides, we have to be “ready” before we can see the thing that was clearly before us, before we can accept this Truth as positive rather than negative, before we can see it as giving us what we have been looking for rather than taking something away.

I know now, that like many before me I am a Friend of God.

I am starting a new project and a new website. The project is called Evolition and the website is Evolitionist.com. In it I and other Friends will be speaking out and creating resources for those who want a new kind of relationship with God. One that is for religious tolerance, recognizes the inherent good in all mankind instead of its fall (restoration theology), one that is socially aware and active, supports the rights of women, supports the rights of gay believers in our communities, and is environmentally responsible.

I don’t know yet how this will look when done, but like all good things it starts with an idea.

Neil Christopher
Friend of God, Reverend, #outlawpreacher, emerging church, Evolitionist

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When you sit and meditate, given long enough, you get a lot of time for self evaluation and reflection. Some would even argue that is the whole point; where, as one of the many fringe benefits. Regardless, I had one of those moments the other day and now it’s stuck in my mind like a sliver I just can’t seem to pick or an itch that I just can’t seem to scratch.

The realization was a simple question and answer session. Why am I looking, trying so hard to find a brand of religion that I can call my own and agree with 100%? Why am I going to church again, when clearly my theology, if known to these people would set me apart from them as a heretic? Why am I looking for that perfect teacher, temple, religion, practice… so I can find a home and finally call myself a Zen Buddhist in the _____ tradition, or brand myself as a Vedantic, a Mahayana or Gnostic?

Is my motive to find “truth”, god, and enlightenment; or is it that other word previously mentioned in my jumble of thoughts: home? Home. What is my greater desire? Could it be that somewhere along the way my quest changed, or was this it from the very beginning; some primordial need that I was seeking to meet without even knowing it?

Maybe I want to “be” something because I want a religious home, a community of fellow believers to practice with and be a part of — friends, family, teachers, community support and a sense of belonging. Could it be that this natural instinct, something that goes so far back in our genes as pack animals, is so strong that I would even trade finding the truth to fulfill it?

If I found a community that accepted me in, would I not look over all kinds of flaws, short-comings, and differences to hold onto my new found family? Would I play the part of a good Christian, Buddhist or really anything to keep my friends and my newly found social structure of comfort? How long would it take before I even forgot that I didn’t fully agree with what I was being told, and fall into some self delusion?

I can even seen now how cults do so well in bringing people into the fold and how they get such a strong hold on their lives. Soon they are enveloped in it as a community; they find a new family, friends, social activities, a girlfriend, a teacher… everything they always wanted. Everything I want. Now that’s a scary thought.

It’s not easy, that feeling of never fitting in. It’s deep-seeded, and brings back painful memories from childhood that best be forgotten. And what would I give up in order to make that go away?

Now here is the painful truth. If someone were to come to me and offer me belonging; a mate, friends, a community, but their asking price was for me to give up truth… I would be tempted to take the offer.

Look deep inside yourself. Would you? Have you already? It is probably more common than we think.

Knowing this, having this realization, has actually helped me out a lot. I have to be careful in my actions and double check my actions. I had to stop and really decide, am I looking for truth or am I looking for a place to fit in?

I decide I wanted truth. I hope I find community, but I must remind myself what my decision, what the true cry, or at least the loudest cry of my heart is.

This is also a liberating realization, for without the pressure of needing to find that perfect religion I am now freer to take from and enjoy many of them as they come to me. Without having to define myself so specifically I no longer have to so limit and define god, spirit and enlightenment… who I supposed to be limitless anyway.

So what am I then? Nothing really. A seeker, a finder, a good man, and just another crazy mixed-up human being trying to figure this thing out, and trying to enjoy as much of the process as possible along the way.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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It was weird how today marked my final day of translating The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines, and how it was today that, through translating it, I had a personal revelation on compassion. It hit me like a brick, that all dharmas are meaningless without compassion, and that all dharmas are fulfilled only through compassion. But what exactly is compassion anyway?

Am I a mean person? No, I don’t think so. Most people that know me think that I am a peach:) I open doors for strangers, help old people cross the streets, volunteer at food banks, and I wind up listening to and helping out people all the time with their problems. Today though, this all made me wonder if my current level of compassion was yet enough. Am I at least doing something? Yes. Is there more that I could be doing? Yes, I think that there is. I think that there is more for me to work on in this area.

What will the end result look like? I have no idea. But I don’t think that true compassion is going to turn me into some slobbering wuss, crying at every touching commercial, and Hallmark card. I still, highly doubt that it is going to change my stand against self-help Buddhism — I still think that falls under the term “idiot compassion” and that it is doing more harm to the practice than good. Can I maybe become more understanding and tolerant towards it though? Or, at least the people in pain that are grasping for it? Yes. I think that is the right thing to do.

On a different note, this all is really making me think a lot more about Right Action, and how as Buddhists we need to be doing more in the world/our communities to reach out to people. If those of the Mahayana tradition really do believe in the sheer importance of all this stuff, then shouldn’t they be at the forefront of all kinds of charities and good works? Why isn’t my sangha heavily (or even slightly) involved in helping others? Is yours? If this is such an integral part of the practice, then why are we all doing it so little?

The main thing that it got me thinking about is: is there more that I can be doing to help others? And no, I am not talking about crying more and getting all emotional all the time. And I am certainly not talking about running out and joining one of those Buddhist support groups. But…

Maybe I have been so concerned with my own personal journey that I have started to neglect spending time reaching out as much to others? I think I am going to start looking around to see if there are some more ways I can get involved locally.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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manic panicWhen I was a child, no older than 5, my parents took me to the Big City for my first trip to a real bonifideshopping mall. We lived in a small podunk town a few hours away so this was a pretty big freaking deal. Seriously the town was small. Heck a few years back I had the chance to visit it again (for a funeral) and not much had changed. The biggest news was that the town finally got its first electric street light. They had a parade and everything to celebrate the thing — some welcoming of the modern-age I guess. Funny thing is that they didn’t even really need it. There was still no traffic there, but I guess they just really, really wanted one. Why? Well all the other towns had them. Why should they be left behind?

Anyway…

The mall was huge. It was my first trip to Toronto. I remember being in awe looking at all the people rushing about, and at all of the stores and stuff to buy. I held on to my mom’s hand tightly — I did not want to get lost in such a vast sea of people.

Then there she was — this beautiful punk rock chick. I still remember her to this day. She was wearing a leather jacket with some pins and paint-pen graffiti on it; stating names of ideas or bands that I was too young to have been introduced to. Her skin was pale, and her nose was pierced. She had this kick-ass Siouxsie Sioux style haircut, but the outer part of her hair was died blue; while the inner part of her hair was died jet black.

My eyes grew as big as saucers. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I knew that I liked it. I tugged on my moms dress and pointed to the girl as I said “Pretty!”.

My mom and dad carefully explained to me that was not pretty.

“Pretty!”

It has been over 25 years now, and I have got to tell you… I still think that she was pretty. I still think that blue hair is awesome.

Over these years my family has told me that it was not; my school system has told me that it was not; my religious institution has told me that it was not; hell, there were even times where I tried to convince myself that it was not. But you know what!? It is pretty. At least I think so, and there is nothing that can be done about it.

I am who I am. I embrace that now. If you are a Christian and you think that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made” then I do not understand why my being myself is such a distasteful thing to your God.

If Buddhist — we are all individual expressions of the Divine experiencing itself in new and unique ways through us. This then is life experiencing itself through me at this moment, and at this moment it is really enjoying art, diversity, and kick-ass punk girls with blue hair.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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a giftThis is lesson that I learned today; that you can not steal from me that which I have already freely given to you. If I take on the heart of a servant, and give to you that which you have tried to take from me–you have lost your power over me. You cannot harm me, you cannot rob me, and you cannot manipulate me; you are not empowered to any longer.

The President of the seminary that I go to contacted me a few weeks ago and told me that they wanted to offer me job at the school as their graphic artist during Summer break. I was told that we still had to “work out the details” on when I would start, how much I would get paid and all of that, but that it was all underway and not to look for other work.

A week later I was asked to take on a small graphic design project for the school. I asked what the status was on when I was going to get hired, and was told that it was still “in the works” but that it would be great if I could still do this project beforehand since the school needed it for that weekend. I agreed.

A week after that I was contacted about a bunch of multimedia editing that needed to be done for the school. I was apprehensive. I again asked about when I was getting hired, and I was told to do the video editing on my own time over the weekend and that when I hand it in then they will tell me about my job, pay, and hire date.

It is sad how transparent humans can be. I knew that it was a set-up. I knew that the President was just trying to get this work out of me before telling me that he was not going to be able to offer me a paying gig as promised. The sad part is that he did not have to try to manipulate a gift out of me, if he would just be up-front I would have just done it out of kindness.

I knew what he was doing, but I smiled and chose to do it anyway–as a gift.

I did not mention that I knew, I am sure that it would have offended this man of God to have his character put in question, but it certainly was in question.

I handed in the work, in fact I took the time to do extra work so that they had enough media for their website for the next 4 months instead of 1 month as they asked for. I handed it in, and then asked about the position. They informed me that they really do not have the budget to hire any more staff, but thanks for the files.

I had no anger inside of me, for they did not take anything from me that I had not already resolved myself to freely give. I am not even going to go off on how ungodly this man’s behavior is; it is not worth it to me.

I will say however that these Christians are lucky to have a Buddhist Christian in their school to help them, forgive them, and hopefully show them what Christ-like behavior is like.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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enviro churchWell everyone, after several days of sleepless nights and living like a hermit in my 10×12 room–I finally finished my mock church proposal for an environmental, socio-political church.

It took longer than expected; granted:

  • It is 40 pages long
  • I designed a logo for it (not the image to the right)
  • Full branding guideline and standards manual
  • Website
  • Marketing Materials
  • Marketing Plan
  • Mission/Vision Statement
  • Core Values
  • Demographic breakdown of my proposed area. With graphs and charts.
  • Breakdown of over 50 community organizations to establish partnerships with
  • Programs Offered
  • Bio of the proposed pastor (me)

Not to mention the fact that halfway through this project I decided that there was no way I could ever consider myself to be a born-again Christian. That kind of threw me for a loop, and took some wind out of my sails. It’s hard to design a fundamentalist Pentecostal church when you yourself go to a Unitarian one, and practice Buddhist meditation.

However, I modified the project and turned the church into a multi-faith congregation; affiliated with both religious and secular institutions and organizations; highly involved in human rights, feeding the hungry, environmentalism, animal rights, and social justice. Heck, I even have it suggested to team up with Food Not Bombs, to hold religious tolerance meetings, a plan to get into the local Universities, and start up a counseling program for “at risk” kids.

One of my favorite parts was the mention of teaming up with the local Gay Rights chapter and having a booth at the Pride Parade. As well as the Tree Planting teams, and nature hikes while meditating on various proverbs.

Funny part is that this could actually work, and I would personally go to such a place… in a heartbeat.

Too bad there is no way in hell that any chapter of the Assemblies of God, or PAOC would ever let this thing fly. Although, who knows? There has to be some kind of a religious organization out there that would welcome me as a member and a leader.

Sorry, nothing deep to say tonight about religion. Nothing witty. I am just stoked that my paper is done, and that after a day or tow of rest things may get back to normal for me. I was certainly burning out.

If anyone is interested in seeing my actual paper–let me know. I’d be happy to share a pdf with you.

Take care all.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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gazeatstarsWhen I was a child I, like many others, had some rather rough years. I do not think that my particular story is any more dramatic or piercing than any others; except in the fact that to me it is, since it is mine.

Yes, I had some hard times at home; my father made it quite known to me at as a child that I only existed because the birth-control went wrong, and their religion frowned upon abortions. My sister was the perfect, favorite child, who could do no wrong; mother was timid and dominated– afraid to venture out, speak up, or fully come into herself.

Yes, some things were a bit off, but nothing extraordinary… right?

Father was a pastor, and I lived in what I thought was your typical Christian home. He seemed to have a nack with “combating” the supernatural; he and my mother wound-up specializing in counseling people who the church deemed to be demonically oppressed or possessed. They even had a special crucifix that hung on the wall at all times that opened up to reveal an emergency exorcism kit; complete with holy water and all. I got to spend the typical Saturday morning watching Scooby-Doo, or some other cartoon, in the living room while trying to phase out the screams and curses coming from the adjacent room, as mom and dad were casting a demon out of somebody.

I rejected Christianity back then as a child. I saw little evidence of a changed nature in the lives of those Christians around me, and I felt nothing inside of me that spoke up as a witness to a God living inside of me.

Fear however, was inside of me.

The one thing I did get from those creepy-ass years (thanks dad) was an unhealthy fear of the supernatural. I never heard nor saw God, a miracle, an angel, or anything to make me think that something was out there pulling for me. However, I grew up with such a fear of demons, witches, and the devil, that I could no longer sleep at night.

I had no awareness of divine good, but I sure as hell feared evil. To help myself through those times I used my imagination. I had a good imagination; I loved to daydream and draw; I even made up an alter-ego of myself that feared no evil. I would write, draw, and dream away of his many heroic adventures. He wore a mask, he grew up in an ancient small village, he had these little rituals that he would do and trinkets he could use.

Later on in life while visiting an art gallery I stumbled upon a travel exhibit of old masks. For some crazy reason there was a copy of my imaginary hero’s mask there. Unbeknown to me, as a child I instinctively gave him a pretty traditional Shaman’s mask. Intrigued by this I studied the religion some, and came to find other settings, rituals, and items from my childhood stories in there. This intrigues me, but I have no answers for this phenomena.

Having no “real God” to pray to as a child was difficult for me, and many of my problems if confessed to mom and dad would only result in more scorn and rejection. Having nothing else to talk to–I started talking to the moon about things. It was helpful to me, I always loved the moon. It was something that was always there, watching over me; bright and lovely, glowing like a warm smile. I spent many a night out in a field looking up and talking to her.

Her, that’s right–I felt like the moon was a she. I even gave her a name as a kid; I named her Chandra. Funny that now I know that Chandra is the name of a lunar deity in Hinduism. Go figure; and by the way… my astrological sign is Cancer (Moon sign). Another thing that intrigues me, but I have no answers to as of yet.

I wish that I could say that I managed to keep this childhood openness and awareness going throughout my entire life; however, that would be a lie. Eventually I “grew up“, did away with such childish things, and started serving the Lord like my family expected me to. Why? What happened?

I held on to about the age of 17; that was when my girlfriend, whom I loved dearly, tried to kill herself. She had grown up in a very physically abusive home, understandably had some emotional issues over this, and was in recovery from drug abuse when I met her. When we first met we were 15. I stayed with her through many a rough time; loved her; and always believed that our love would see us through all of this.

One night she came home and her mother was high again. Mom beat her, and she went running out the door. Depressed and distraught, she decided to self-medicate to make the feelings go away. She went to a dealers house and he got her high; while she was high, he raped her. She then tried to take her life.

She did not succeed, but she got taken away to some “home” in some other State, and she was not allowed to contact anyone from her previous life–including me.

When I broke down in front of my parents and explained to them what was going on in my life, and the pain that I was going through, that she had gone through, they told me exactly why all this had happened to my girlfriend. They told me that Jesus put me in her life to save her with the gospel of Christ, but since I was selfish and unbelieving I messed the whole thing up. Instead of saving her I dated her. Instead of giving her Jesus, I fell in love with her; I was carnal and slept with her. If I would have acted sooner, she would have not have been raped that night, she would not have tried to take her life, and God would not have had to have taken her away from me.

They told me that not only did I miss my God-given opportunity to help her, but I also made her life even worse; for now she will probably never get saved, healed, or get to heaven; since now she thinks Christians are people like me…

I then repented and decided to enter into the ministry.

It took a while, but I am slowly starting to shake-off all this Christian craziness that my family heaped on me. The guilt and shame goes deep though, and it is hard to break. I do have beliefs that guide me in my pursuit though,

  • I do not believe in a literal Christ (who lived, died, rose again); I believe the story was an allegory
  • I do not believe in the Devil or demons
  • I hope that if there is a Higher Power, it would inspire me to love, heal, have compassion, peace, and motivate me to help others
  • I question if I could not also find those very things in myself without a God, if I spent time and energy working on myself, my relationships, and on helping others.

I am trying to reject all the fear and pain; while still maintaining my childhood-instinctive faith. I am trying to talk to the moon again. I am trying to rid myself of the fear of the supernatural. I am trying to awaken my sleeping alter-ego once more for another adventure.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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