We all know the delights of anticipating Thanksgiving dinner at home or in our favorite restaurant.  The wonderful aromas of roasted turkey, the stuffing we can’t resist, and the yummy gravy that cascades down the mound of steaming mashed potatoes as it forms enticing puddles around our plate full of mouth-watering morsels. Add to that your favorite wine, poured and ready to sip.

But wait….what if, after you saw that irresistible array of delicious food, you left the table without eating any of it? Would just believing in the existence of food be enough for you? How could you ever “know” how wonderful food can taste if you never took it in and experienced the abatement of your hunger? Would just seeing it and smelling it satisfy you?

Absurd you say? Indeed it would be. Yet that is exactly what people do when they go through the rituals of organized religion’s externals: stained glass, memorized repetitions of words, music, preaching, obedience to rules, contrived forgiveness, and the constant reminder of their guilt and the need to “behave”–all without experiencing a real, satisfying, and loving connection with The Divine deep within. Church can be like walking away from the Thanksgiving table without eating the food set before you.

Perhaps there are a handful of individuals who do experience a bit of Divine presence within the parade of Christianity’s externals, but that path is treacherous. To be required to constantly traverse the landscape of guilt, repentance, shame, forgiveness, and “fabricated grace” is a tragic path that is woefully unnecessary. It also greatly diminishes the healthy self-esteem of who we really are. The constant labeling of people as “sinners” only serves to keep them in the prison of theology, much like the story of The Scarlett Letter, in which the woman was externally labeled so as to make sure she was imprisoned in the shame forced upon her by the patriarchs in control. How wonderfully loving! Indeed, it would be interesting to see how many televangelists today would have to appear on their shows with a scarlet “A” on the front of their expensive suits.

The distortion-of-externals is the curse of a Christianity that is void of practicing Jesus’ teachings. Who decided that “God” must be appeased instead of experiencing love and  practicing love as Jesus taught? Why have men defined “God” as separate, angry, and eager to punish? Since when does my surrender to patriarchal control mean that I am more pleasing to God? Jesus said that it wasn’t that way! Is Divine favor only realized by keeping the rules of men? Who says so and why?

That is, however, exactly what was taught in the ancient nomadic Hebrew culture when 603 laws were invented and labeled as commandments from some god up in heaven. Once the fabricated idea that they were “chosen” and “special” beyond all other people, keeping the rules became “proof” that they were thus endowed. To not eat pork chops (bacon and ham included) became one of those external validations that “God” was pleased with them. The problem–another 602 laws and rules were lurking in the minds of the patriarchs that must be obeyed or else! Making gravy, shaving, eating lobster or shrimp, and being gay were just a few more of the idiotic rules from the professional god experts. It has never been a “SIN” to do or be any of the above! The same hypocritical rules, dreamed up by the patriarchs of religion, allowed the people of that day to take slaves from neighboring countries, to sell their daughters into sex slavery, to stone any neighbor who wasn’t observing the Sabbath, and to never touch the skin of a dead pig–unless you are playing football?? (see Exodus and Leviticus for details) What was “kosher” for the ancients had zero value when it came to pleasing a fabricated deity. No one is chosen above any other person! Even the Bible says that “God is not the respecter of persons.” Or maybe they cut that page out. It is only a dichotomous and dubious faith that leads to the kind of external conformity which requires that some god be pleased. A god that must be appeased by human conformity is not the God that Jesus knew. See my book, Liberating Jesus From Christianity, for the details. (Available on Amazon.com)

Who says that the Creator, the Source of life, and the One who is the essence of Love, requires strict obedience to fabricated rules in order to be pleased? I’m thinking that the Sovereign of the Universe has more important things to do. Why would the Creator be angry with what “he” had created? It was men who decided that if the humans were to choose for themselves, it would be “sin” and wickedness to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth. There were no rules in the Garden of Eden–it is only the English Bible that makes the case for “sin” beginning there.  There is no mention of “sin” in that story! There was no sin in the actions of Adam and Eve–just free choice. The “Garden of Eden” story didn’t really happen anyway. It is a story told to convey truth. That is the magic of myth. A myth is intended to emphasize and teach truth, even though it is just a story. Story is one of the most powerful teaching tools we know. The truth conveyed is the point. Jesus’ parables did not really happen either. He told stories to reveal truth and he did so repeatedly. Free choice is always a sin in the minds of control-focused men who need to have people obey them in order to feel good.

In order that the first humans might experience what it means to be fully alive, to choose, and to understand the results of their choices, whether good or ill, they needed to experience life beyond the robot-like existence of a “perfect environment.” To give someone choice and then severely punish her/him for choosing, is not the nature of The Divine that Jesus knew. It would have been really stupid and mean of “God” to put a tree in the garden, speak about choosing, and then make it inaccessible by absolute denial, a permanent barrier, or any means that totally prevented them from experiencing choice. The “evil” of choosing for oneself is only a projection of the patriarchal mind. There was no punitive warning to Adam and Eve–just a choice between two paths. To choose the path of knowing the difference between “good and evil” would mean the human experience of death would also be part of the choice. How else could it be? Death was not punishment. Death is not the end of the human–it is only the end of this one lifetime. There is no fear in death for the ones who know that the human spirit is part of The Divine and cannot be destroyed; it is a continuum of life. Had their choice been as heinous as the patriarchs made it to be, then “God” would have made them into a human sacrifice and torched them or some animal on an altar just like they later claimed was required for all human “sinning.” But then, more humans would have been required on the scene. God did not torch them! And, choosing to know the difference between “good” and that which isn’t, did not suddenly render their genitals as sinful and needing to be covered. Was it suddenly sinful to be seen without “clothes”; whatever “clothing” might be! If so, then God would be the only one sinning by looking upon them. No one else existed. The word naked in the text does not mean to be without clothes. It has more to do with transparency. If the penis was now to be seen as sinful, why then did the patriarchs later decide that a circumcised penis was required for a man to please God? It seems to me, if that were true, “God” would have been telling Adam to improve upon what “he” had just created, and cut off what shouldn’t really have been there! What indeed was all that phallus focus about? After circumcision, did the men walk around with their pants down to prove their devotion to God? How else would anyone know if they were dedicated or not? Since women didn’t have a foreskin to offer, I guess they just weren’t that important to the patriarch’s “god.”

Religion is always about externals–like looking at Thanksgiving dinner and then walking away without eating any of it. Spirituality is about internals–like taking in nourishing truths and by that experiencing Divine connection deep within. Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites because, in their keeping the rules of religion, the external observance of their laws became nothing more than self-righteousness. They wanted “to be seen of men.” He told them that they were “full of dead men’s bones” because, in all their keeping of rules, they knew zero about The Divine within.

The Pharisees were the fundamentalists of their day. Their focus on fabricated rules was no different than the right-wing Christians of today who say, “Here are the rules! You must keep them–or else!” Oh really? And whose rules are they? Do they also have a rule about not being self-righteous? I asked a preacher that once. I left quickly. Of course they don’t have that rule, because then they would also be guilty. There is not a more classic example of this than as seen in the little church in Kansas that sends their people out to protest with signs that say: “God Hates You”, “God Hates Gays”, God Hates Muslims, “God Hates Soldiers”, and whoever else doesn’t agree with the theology of their congregation of less than fifty people. That they are only projecting their hatred onto God, is abundantly clear. There is no greater proof of absolutely zero connection with The Divine energies of love, compassion, healing, and empathic service to others. Externals are about doing. Internals are about being. Keeping external rules, working hard at self-denial, acquiescing to forced observance of religious ideals, and keeping a list for the sake of self-righteousness, are the results of a focus on the self as being bad or “evil”, and a god who is punitive at best.

Doing or being? Forced rules or learning by experience? Robotics or choosing wisely? Which most aligns with your spirit? You know that you are much more than a pawn in the hand of religion. You know that you have value beyond what you’ve been told. You know that religion takes away your divinity and robs you of real, personal experience of Divine connection deep within. You know that compliance is not the nature of The Divine, nor is it required. Divine connection is union with, it is cooperation and alignment with Divine values, it is love beyond any other experience, it is a flowing with, it is choice always, it is community wherein we love and serve others, it is knowing you are Divine by nature–the kingdom of heaven is within you–and the self is good, rather than shameful. Yes, of course, we all have shadow stuff to trans-form–see Jesus Was Not A Christian for much more on this–and we can learn to do that transformative work in ourselves first and then do it together. We are called by the Aramaic Jesus to birth a new self continually. We are thus called to become spiritual midwives for each other’s birthing of our most magnificent self; the self that we’ve been hiding behind the shame that was dumped on us by the shadow-masculine that demands control. It takes a great deal of love to do this work effectively. This is one of the most important reasons for building com-munity.

Yes, we can! We don’t “have to” do the inner work. We “get to” participate in Divine connection, choose again and again, and learn to make better and better choices. Jesus was always about choice, learning by experience, compassionate service, and growing in our experience of The Divine within! The real “God” is not about rules, but rather desires that we walk in mercy (see all others as equals), in loving kindness (practice justice in all our relationships), and the delights of walking humbly with the Source of our Life. In this way, our choices and actions reflect oneness with The Divine, not the slavery of conformity to the rules of men that come out of fabricated theology.

We can learn to sit down to the table of The Divine and partake of all the delicious possibilities of being part of that Essence. We don’t eat just once. Neither are we to experience Divine connection just once. This is a powerful, delightful, and continual spiritual experience. And, it is not all fun and games; but even when there is pain to deal with and learn from, we can do it, because this is the path to higher consciousness and to discovering our purpose for coming to the planet.

See my book Liberating Jesus From Christianity, on Amazon for more details.

–Jim Stacey (all rights reserved)