Using Jesus

May 27, 2017 § 2 Comments

Jesus, the Christ, and I—Part 3

When I was little, my father told me that if I ever found myself wondering what to do in a situation involving right and wrong, I should try to imagine Jesus doing it. I never forgot that.

When the lottery for the draft was instituted during the Vietnam war, my number—my birthday—was number one, the first to be drawn and the first to be called. I had to cut short my hippy hajj to California in the summer of 1969 because I had to come back to beat the draft. Which I did, but that is another story.

By 1970, the war had really ramped up and one day, talking to my then girlfriend, who would become my wife a year later, I came to a personal crisis: I felt compelled to confront my dad about the war.

Maybe the biggest mistake of my life. A huge fight. He ended up disowning me, telling me to leave and not visit or call or write. That if I ended up going to prison instead of serving, as I told him I was prepared to do, he would tell his friends I was dead.

At one point in that terrible afternoon, I reminded him of what he had advised about using Jesus as a test and I told him that when I tried to imagine Jesus piloting an attack helicopter over Danang, I just couldn’t do it.

He looked at me with this utterly stricken face, turned away, and changed the subject. I had used Jesus as a dagger to morally wound my father. I was morally wounded myself by his denial. We never fully recovered from that moment and from the ongoing conflict between us, though we did eventually rediscover our love for each other and became quite close in our we’re-not-going-to-talk-about-anything-substantive-or-personal way.

But I had been such a hypocrite. I was right about Jesus and that helicopter. But in that moment, I did not think about the fact that I could no more imagine Jesus taking all the drugs I was doing, or having the sex I was having, or living the lifestyle I was living.

I don’t think my father saw this right away, either. I think he was at that moment too freaked out by the act of my moral jiu jitsu and his own inner conflicts. But I don’t think it took him long to realize how I had used him and how I had used Jesus. I don’t think he ever forgave me for my willingness to hurt him so, or for challenging his faith that way, or for subjecting him to the sure knowledge that I would not be joining him in heaven, that in fact, I was going to hell, and he, like Lazarus in the parable, would be sitting in the bosom of Abraham looking down on my eternal suffering.

Jesus, the Christ, and I

May 26, 2017 § 4 Comments

Why a thread on Jesus, the Christ, and I?

This series is my testimony regarding Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ, what I know from my own experience, what I choose as a matter of experimental faith, and how I choose to act in my religious life based on my experience. I separate Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ because for me they are separate. I have experienced them differently and thus I think of them differently.

I have been struggling with these relationships since my freshmen year at college in 1965. My struggle has both intensified and clarified since I started writing this blog. Writing has always been an integral and dominant aspect of my spiritual life: I find myself writing about what’s going on for me spiritually and I find myself turned back toward the Light by what it reveals as I write.

More specifically, though, in this blog I find that almost every thread I follow leads me in to the Christ. Almost every Quaker problem or concern I consider seems to have our relationship with the Christ at its heart, or at least, as a radiating epicenter of pressing unanswered questions. I have come to believe that, for liberal, post-Christian Friends, at least, these relationships—with Jesus, the Christ, and Jesus Christ—deserve a level of attention, discernment, and integrity that we do not give them, and that this negligence has become a stumbling block.

Maybe I’m just projecting. I know that I need to sort these relationships out, so here I am in this blog. I feel this need because I believe that the Religious Society of Friends is a Christian movement, and I am not a Christian by any of the five definitions I’ve felt compelled to identify, save perhaps one. So what am I doing here?

As a matter of integrity, I feel I must conduct myself as a guest in the house that Christ built. I am so grateful that I have a place here, but I am clear that Christ belongs in the master bedroom, not out on the living room couch, or in some outbuilding, where so many meetings have put him.

I feel we are a Christian movement for a lot of reasons—historical, demographic, in terms of Quaker discernment—which I won’t go into here. But the most important reason is that, according to the testimony of Friends who were there, we were gathered as a people of God by Jesus Christ. I cannot in good faith, or with integrity, gainsay their testimony. For me, that changes everything. I accept their testimony as truth.

So I feel led to offer my own testimony.

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