Goodly vs. Godly
Here’s where you are and here is where God is. Only He’s slightly to the left of reality. Here constantly, but never really here at all. He is everything you see, he is all you touch hear and feel. Yet, he is above all of these things. Outside of them. He is the essence of this world. Without God’s constant presence this world doesn’t exist. And without his constant absence, as it were, humankind wouldn’t have advanced as it has.
Our intellects and spirituality would have never developed. God left a piece of himself behind after he withdrew His hand from His creation. Christians call it the Holy Spirit; Taoists call it the Tao; and the Upanishads call it the Veda. All different names with slightly different properties, but all of them are the same at their cores. All represent God’s constant presence and paradoxical continual absence among men. Thus, you can’t perceive God in any sensory way, not as God Pure. But one can feel him. Somewhere inside. The inside that’s deeper than your physical body. The inside that is deeper than your mind, this is where God dwells. We call it “the soul.” And that is the best way to explain it.
People think they understand this. They’ll say, “I know I have a soul and I know what it is.” But do they really? Do they really know their souls? Sadly, the answer for the most part is no. Do they comprehend what it means to possess such a gift? Again, we are left with the negative. Modern religions and their doctrines have turned the soul into some kind of divine bargaining chip that will assure entrance into some great afterlife kingdom. Give your soul to this one. Give it to that one. This is the right way, this is the wrong one. Understand that the soul—your soul—is not a “divine bargaining chip,” but a golden ticket. The trick is finding the ticket amidst all those delicious and distracting chocolates.
What did Jesus mean when he said in the Gospel of Thomas that, “those who look for the kingdom of God in the sky the birds will reach it before they do”? Perhaps he was telling us of God’s presence here on this plane. We must find it—realize it—in order for God to finally reveal himself to us. You must use your soul to see Him. How? The Bible says to meditate on the Word of God. It even suggests praying without ceasing, sacrifice and foremost, to follow the teachings of Christ.
In the early days of the Church, Christians were communal. They gave all of their possessions as well as themselves to the church as a whole. This was their sacrifice. Their necessity for survival among an unfriendly people that sought their lives. At this point in American History, very few actually seek to harm those associated with Christ. However, we are living amidst an unfriendly populace. How then, is a church to stay strong? How is it to survive? It is to do these things by overcoming the petty differences that plague us. By accepting all of God’s children for being just that.
I am not speaking of the political rightwing religious resurgence. This is not a joining together of God’s people for Pure ends. Within this movement hate, intolerance, greed, discrimination and judgment not only thrive, but are condoned. Those are the movement’s driving force. There is no sign of God. Oh, his name is tossed around easily enough. His Holy name is used for leverage, justification and threats as it rolls off the tongues of evil and bigoted men. And up in heaven, Jesus shakes his head sadly. His purpose was not to be a mascot for a rising political majority that will inevitably crumble upon itself, but to bring men into the presence of God.
If you take only one thing from this entire essay, take this: All the “moral living” in the world doesn’t mean shit unless you are doing it with an open heart that is not only contemplative, but meditative. Why do you think sacrifices are required? What do you think moral living is really about? No, it doesn’t hold us together. It doesn’t save our social structure. If anything it deteriorates it. But, by denying all the temptations this world has to offer, our souls will turn to higher matters and gaze into higher places. By tossing aside all the chocolates instead of greedily devouring them, we can finally secure our golden ticket. Without focus on the mundane we are free to focus on the Divine and enrich our souls. Like it or not, human beings are part of the Cycle of Nature. Our own natures are ruled by this cycle with or without the moral obligations that society binds us with.
Don’t believe me? Then turn on the television or read the paper. Cycles continue despite our best efforts to cease them. There is going to be evil in this world. There will be negative energy or bad karma or whatever you call it. It is a part of Life, of Nature. It is inescapable. That is why we must rise above it. All these big Focus on the Family hotshots and their pack of vile cohorts can rant and rave until they pass out from lack of oxygen from the brain. This accomplishes only two things: a moment of silence and an inevitable backlash to their cruelties farther down the road. All they really have to offer is pheasant posturing. A lot of noise and fluff with nothing substantial behind them. And people flock to these organizations as if they offer some sort of salvation for mankind and America. It is LAUGHABLE! I dare say that particular group of flamboyant individuals are some of the best false prophets Satan has in his stable. They will lead you astray. They will blind you with mundane propagandas and moral agendas. They most certainly will fill your heart and mind with hatred and rage and intolerance. They will shift your gaze from God and the Soul to man and his petty devices.
I’m not suggesting that one shouldn’t strive for a “moral” lifestyle. I am suggesting that one undertake that particular way of life for the pure reasons. The intended reasons. Otherwise you are living a lifestyle of evil and hypocrisy and are really more wayward than those you seek so vehemently to judge. If you have Christ in your heart, then you have been awakened. Now you must turn off the snooze and get out of bed. You have the glorious possibility to undertake the spiritual pilgrimage that God has set down for us. Eliminate focus on the mundane in order to focus your Soul on God. (Repetition is key for memory.) That is the only reason for moral living. That is what Jesus did and that is what he shows us how to do. Anything else is hypocritical pheasant posturing. Disguising immorality with haughty and false intentions and behaviors.
Sadly, God and Christ have become marketing tools. Ways to make a lot of quick bucks. Examples required? How many of you have a “Jesus Fish” of some manner or kind on your vehicle? How much did you spend on it? Three dollars? Five? More? What has it caused other than a backlash? Now there are Darwin fish and all other manner of parody on the symbol. And in retaliation there are Truth Fish eating Darwin Fish. What is the point in all of this? What good has come of it? What purpose does it serve? None but to let everyone know which “side” you are on. That is infantile and useless behavior. But people are making money hand over fist off of this constant battle. How many “Christian” stores are there? What are they if not even more temples to Mammon that stand side by side with those places they have the very audacity to condemn?! How do they serve God and his glory? By filling the planet with even more shallow propaganda and useless junk? They don’t serve God or his glory. They serve to fill bank accounts and pay for expensive clothes and cars and houses and 3D t.v.s and leather furniture and whatever else.
When your soul is dwelling with God, you don’t need material representations of which team you play for. People will know. They will sense Him radiating from you. Like a pleasant warmth or a comforting aura. Idols of Mammon are still Idols of Mammon. It doesn’t matter whose picture is on your shirt or what religious text excerpts adorn your coffee cups.
I attended an Easter Service for a rather large church in Lubbock. The service was expecting so many people that the church rented out the United Spirit Arena to house them all. All the lights and bells and whistles were present and it had the makings of an entertaining show. Before service started, on a huge television screen was played a commercial advertising the church! This from within it’s own walls! Perhaps they felt their church needed to reinforce their merits to its own congregation lest they become disenchanted and are led astray. Heh. Needless to say, vainglory exploded upon the screen like so much filth. Outside the “sanctuary” there were tables set up with vendors selling merchandise that was of course, christian related. I could picture very clearly Jesus storming in and trashing their tables and cursing them all for their blasphemy. The sermon itself was an entertaining motivational seminar sufficient to make the people feel good about themselves and their lifestyles for another six days or so. I left that service uncomfortable and with a heavy sadness on my heart.
Another church I passed had on it’s sign one of those cutesy religious sayings that seem to have taken over like verbal cockroaches. This sign said, “Money is a poor way to keep score.” Yet, their parking lot was full of all manner of the latest and greatest S.U.V., pickups or luxury sedans one could imagine! I laughed out loud at the poetic irony of it all.
Another service I attended had in the bulletin a request for members to donate certain items that the church was in need of. The request actually tried to entice congregation members into donating by telling them that it would count as a tax write off! (As if the people were wondering what was in it for them) Imagine having to beg, plead and entice one’s congregation of “faithful” followers with such trivial means into supporting their very own church! The story of Ananias and Sapphira comes to mind. That’s in Acts Chapter 5 in case any were wondering.
I heard of another church which is actually sponsored by Starbucks Coffee. Starbucks gives the church some ungodly amount of money a year and in exchange the church serves nothing but Starbucks coffee in the classrooms. In addition, Starbucks set up a coffee shop in the fellowship hall so that members could purchase coffee on their way to worship or Sunday school. If the church is found to be using any coffee product other than Starbucks they are subject to a fine!
For a people who are supposed to be rejecting Mammon and all material things, he seems to be thriving very well among the majority. It’s disgusting. People should be sickened by it, but instead they condone or even defend these behaviors.
God has his own agenda. Imagine that. He will bring it to fruition in his own time, he doesn’t need christian interference. Christian with a lowercase “c” is how I denote those that profess with their lips and not their hearts. They are not helping, they are hindering. Why the lashing out against the Christian faith? Why the ridicule and the scorn? Some will tell you that it’s biblical. Jesus says the faithful will suffer these things as he and the disciples had to. Remember that Jesus and his disciples were suffering because they stood up for what was right. They stood against government and religion and all conventional thought. They weren’t about nonsensical bickering and a holier than thou attitude.
As it happens with all religions, the people eventually developed their own agendas and doctrines and tried to force them on people esteeming their own thought above all others. To make matters worse, the Christian church has fractured into many denominations, each with their varied and selfish human concerns in mind.
What God requires of us is a devotion to him. A focus on him. If and when he reveals himself he needs us to help those along that will follow. That is our purpose. We are to help bring others closer to God. His way. Not our way that we say is His way. We are not to push but to nurture.
Thus the difference between a “good” person and a “Godly” person. Being “good” is a disposition. It is a character trait conditioned by our environments and instilled within us by nature. It is the desire to see all things turn out for the best. That does not make one a “Godly” person. However, if used properly, it can act as a tool for moving towards God. There is no room for scorn or intolerance. The Christian monks in Plum Village, France, worship and live alongside the Buddhist monks that populate the village as well. That is a higher purpose, a pure one. A Godly one.
I see God as an infinitely vast space. The walls to this infinite space are littered with “peepholes.” Everyone has their favorite peephole that they rarely, if ever leave. Each peephole offers a view of God from a slightly different angle. Yet, since people refuse to look away from their peepholes, they become oblivious to all others. Then the arguing starts. And then the right and wrong get brought in. And then heaven and hell get added to it all. Instead of all of this we should be striving to tear down the walls that block the whole of God from our view. A utopian thought if I’ve ever had one, I admit. But what sense is there in dreaming small?
Yes. I am saying that all your religious talk and even actions are crap. They are a façade. An agenda to push, blinders to wear. They are no better or worse than anyone else’s facades. Not the Church of Christ, or the Assembly of God, or the Muslim or the Catholic. It’s a different peephole all peering into the same room.
I know there are others who feel the same confusion and frustration. Those who are conflicted between their loyalty to their Church and their God. To you I say this, “Unless the church focuses on God, you need not focus on the church. It is nothing but a building packed with fools. And it will pass away just as all other things of this world do. God and church are separate. Church has become a mundane focus. A means to a selfish end. Those people can see no further or higher than next Sunday’s potluck or their choir solo for the Christmas show. These people, while they may be “good,” aren’t Godly. These people are obsessed with the moral majority and not with God’s workings and presence in their lives. Don’t let them fool you. They may attend services without fail, read their Daily Devotionals and pray with a superfluous passion, but all of this is hollow. They don’t understand, nor do they care to. Their only desire is their appearance to others and the recognition and gifts they accumulate from being involved in every church committee or organization known to their denomination. Ultimately they serve the church and not God. They are the Pharisees and Sadducees of modern times. Their minds are filled with religious law and fervor, but their souls are as hollow and empty as they claim those “lost” or “worldly” or “evil” people’s souls are.
These people you will clash with. They will try to lead you astray and cloud your mind with goodly Mammon worship. They will try to tell you that you are wrong and that God doesn’t think or act or work other than how they’ve been conditioned to believe. Laugh at them. Laugh in their self-righteous faces. Laugh hearty and long. Here’s a secret: They don’t have a clue. They can only spout the rhetoric they’ve been taught and nothing more. It goes no deeper. They are no deeper. Don’t let them discourage you. These people are weak and powerless and full of their own pompous self worth.
Note that this essay may offend and anger people. And to you I say this: Don’t yet concern yourselves with things that your Souls are in no shape to comprehend. Go about your church business in your scornful oblivion. After all, there is that SUV payment to worry about and that abortion clinic protest to plan. And everyone knows that these things are important, they are necessary, they are infinitely more important than dwelling in God’s presence. But remember, Jesus (and Buddha too!) was a willing beggar. A dirt poor man who left his career and family and claim on his piece of the pie to seek the truth. To bring others to the truth. He was the leader of a group of such men. They forsook all to understand God, can you?
end note: This is written by a man who no longer attends church services regularly, who doesn’t claim any denomination or doctrine and was a devout Southern Baptist the first 21 years of his life.