Author: EricAlexander (Page 1 of 2)

Are Religious Labels Good or Bad?

To answer the question in the title, I say both. Like anything real, that’s where paradox is going to exist. Does spirtuality call us to claim the “I Am” that is threaded throughout the Judeo-Christian tradition, or the “I am not” as seeded in Buddhism?  Again, I think both. I gave a short sermon once to a bunch of teens, and afterwards one told me my talk was hot, and another said it was cool. They both are saying the same thing with opposite labels.

A song by Meredith Brooks says:

I’m a bitch, I’m a lover
I’m a child, I’m a mother
I’m a sinner, I’m a saint
I do not feel ashamed
I’m your hell, I’m your dream
I’m nothing in between
You know you wouldn’t want it any other way

These are questions we get a lot within Jesism too. Do we need another label? And I say yes -and no. We humans simply cannot and will not anytime soon live without labels. People may say they don’t like that politics are divided between Republicans or Democrats, but those labels are what attract people to put candidates forth. As other candidates come into the arena, they will inevitably have to choose a label if they want to survive; maybe one of those two, or maybe Green, Independent, or Libertarian, etc… Different religions around the world dedicate themselves to specific disciplines too in order to explore them very deeply and evangelize and experience their findings. And that can be very helpful to the aggregate. We don’t have to be all-in any one, and we can each choose a blend or mashup of whatever feels inspiring and beneficial. But the fact is that many times our labels and commitments help us to grow with self, community, and Ultimate Reality.

What I think is important is a non-exclusivity of labels.  You and I simply “are,” and we don’t need a label for our being-ness to have value. But we are also in part Christians, Buddhists, Agnostics, Nones, Male, Female, Gay, Hetero, Trans, Married, Single, Poly, Black, White, Brown, American, Chinese, French, tennis players, figure skaters, Etc…  Instead of trying to excommunicate our labels, perhaps the more effective path to grow is to pile them on deep and high, without too much attachment of them to our ultimate identity. The labels that feel most real to us are often the one’s that enable us to grow with our inner being. No label will be without it’s friction, because like anything that goes forward, it needs friction to provide thrust, that’s simple science.

We can allow our labels to act as signposts and symbols to connect with others of similar history and interests, but not necessarily to define the whole of who we are. We can cherish them in a way that helps us grow deeper within certain communities, but not become our only community.

So whatever labels we adopt or reject, I think the key is in the balance of the paradoxes, which will invariably exist. We will have our labels, but hopefully we won’t let them have us. We can celebrate our many unique differences and passions, but that doesn’t automatically exclude us from new experiences and novice attentions.

So yes I think labels are good -and bad 🙂  And as it relates to Jesism, my suggestion would be to claim it as a label if it feels like a tribe that will feel good to be around, but please don’t think you should commit to it as your only label. Be a Christian or an Agnostic as well if you want. Or mix ten or a hundred labels together and cherry pick the best from the buffet.  The important thing is to go to the buffet. And maybe at times it will be best to stick to one thing, like a marriage, instead of piling twenty different selections on our plate. Other times a more diverse indulgence, or an alternative single selection may appeal.

– Eric

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Common Reactions to Jesism

A 3 year anniversary note from founder Eric Alexander about some of our most common reactions to Jesism.

Over the past three years since Jesism was first created, I have had the first-hand thrill of seeing how a diverse theological and cultural populace around the world have reacted. When Jesism was first created, a certain realm of responses was not only expected, but it was sought after. A primary reason for the name and the concept was to expressly open a few paradigms and get people’s attention, and that it has certainly done. Below are a few of the macro-type reactions we’ve gotten over the past few years. Do you fall into a particular category listed?

 1) Excitement and Enthusiasm. It has been rewarding to get feedback from so many who seem to completely understand what we’re doing here with Jesism. They read it and they get it. They resonate with the 9 Guidelines and they see the potential in what it can do for the overall Jesus movement. They get that it’s not a new sect or religion, but instead a paradigm / philosophy that can be overlayed to Christianity or any other path. Those responses have by far been the predominant ones and it has helped the Jesism team to remain focused and interested in continuing along the journey.

2) Non Interest or Moved Beyond. Another group at the opposite extreme of the spectrum are those who have progressed so far to the edges of Christianity that they no longer even resonate much with Jesus, historically or mythically. They tend to like the concept and the guidelines of Jesism, but they have no real interest anymore in anything Jesus related. They still hang around progressive Christian communities, but mainly as a cathartic outlet to complete their deconstruction as they explore what lies beyond.

3) Resistance to anything that doesn’t seek to save the term “Christianity.”  Particularly in the elder crowd or those who were entrenched in the church as pastors / pastors kids, we have seen a strong interest to save the term Christianity, and they have offered feedback that Jesism seems to be competing with that. As the founder of Jesism I can say that I keep a foot in each camp on that. Sometimes I pull Christianity along to progress (and this is something I focus on particularly as a board member of ProgressiveChristianity.org and editor-in-chief of ProgressingSpirit.com). However, my main goal in life isn’t to save the term or the religion. It’s to help those who have some connection or paradigm within Christianity to relate better to the most beneficial messages and examples of Jesus, while also helping integrate other tangential spiritual teachings from other paths which are often ignored or blocked within most expressions of Christianity.

4) General Fear of Change. There is a group who seems to want to go the direction of Jesism, but their paradigm just won’t allow it yet. There is still something too extreme to them about not being explicitly in the traditional Christian sandbox, and some of the guidelines still feel a little challenging. At Jesism we don’t care much if people change their labels or terms. We are perfectly fine and glad if people keep referring to themselves as Christians who are also “Jesists.” The goal of Jesism isn’t to create a new religion or do away with Christianity, it is to add a layer on top of it that can usher in a new understanding that we think can make the world a better place, individually and collectively.

5) Complete bewilderment. And lastly, many folks in this category seem to get the 9 Guidelines and like them quite a lot conceptually, but they cannot for the life of them understand why I / we continue to care. These folks tend to have never been entrenched in the Christian paradigm (besides maybe half-heartedly as young children) and may tend to be more about atheism, humanism, or some other type of spirituality that is not Jesus-centric. They see organized religion as a hindrance (especially American forms of Christianity) and sometimes they have become quite evangelical about their new thing, so it feels foreign to them to have a layered and nuanced concept where multiple ideas can be of benefit, especially from the roots of the Jesus tradition. They also don’t tend to understand the concept of progressive Bible interpretation and can only view Jesus from the contemporary fundamentalist-evangelistic viewpoints. Or sometimes they are just so burnt out on anything “Jesus” related that they simply have no interest or bandwidth to discuss anything coming from that arena.

So these would be the five general categories of responses we’ve seen. Did you feel yourself more heavily represented in either particular category? As Jesism continues to grow as a concept I remain very curious to see if these five memes continue to hold true. The comments are closed on this page, but if this was shared on a facebook page that would be a great place to share your thoughts.

– Eric Alexander

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The Platinum Rule of Jesus

We often hear about “The Golden Rule” of Jesus, but have you heard of The Platinum Rule? The Golden Rule says “we should do unto others as we would want done unto us.” But some scholars are wondering if that was authentic. They question the accuracy of this verse on multiple merits, but even just logical thinkers can see the moral limitations in the golden version of the rule, and are questioning whether an even higher standard was actually set?

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Jesism’s Take on Being Gay, Trans, Gender Fluid, Etc…

As Jesism has become more widespread, we’re getting more questions about our “official” stance on certain issues. One is about LGBTQ issues, since the more traditional Jesus people tend to be so conflicted on the issue. So we wanted to address that question here today.

Our view is that there is no issue as far as we are concerned. We believe that everyone can be who they want to be when it comes to their gender and sexual identity. And we believe that other people really don’t need to have an opinion about others gender or sexual identities.

If the Bible says anything about sexuality and gender, such as in Leviticus, we believe that it is only the opinion of the writers based on the culture of their day. Jesus was never recorded as having spoke about it, so it must not have been a big thing to him. If someone has pressing concerns with another persons gender or sexual identity, we believe that it means they could benefit from growing deeper in their spirituality, theology, and world view.

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Wondering why another label and “ism”? See the Answer to Question #4 here…

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Finding Peace

With so much going on in the world I’ve noticed lately that so many of us are worn out, worried, and anxious about the future. And while that is perfectly understandable given the circumstances, I think for some of us a little boost is needed to take on 2017 with everything we’ve got. In order to do that, we need to center in again on our peace and strength. We can’t help others and fight the good fight if we are depleted and defeated ourselves.

We hear the words of Jesus cited often, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” We might call that a very early way to say “be in the Now.”  But how’s a person to do that?

Point one is to manage that little thought cloud that follows us everywhere. As most of us already know from experience, when we have idle time on our hands, we often spend some of that time worrying about things – and that worry can be the greatest thief of our joy and peace in life. It can just wear us out… And also render us pretty ineffective.

Think about it.  How many times have you had time on your hands to think (in the shower, driving, in bed before falling asleep, meditating) and find much of that time being spent worrying about the regrets of the past and fears of the future? Our inherent human nature is to be worrisome; hence why so many of us do everything we can throughout the day to stay plugged in to a distraction (TV, Ipod, phone calls, facebook, reading, work, texting, going out, and uhm… blogging, etc…).

There is an old saying by Lao Tzu which goes:

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Historical Jesus vs. Mythic Jesus?

One of the reoccurring comments we get back about Jesism has to do with the mythic Jesus.  Friends will respond and say they like Jesism, but their Christianity is not contingent on whether the historical Jesus existed or not.  They will often expound that even if Jesus was completely made up, i.e., mythical, they find their peace and hope in the story of Jesus, and the Christ in their hearts. Sometimes they think this differs from the tenants of Jesism in a one vs. the other type of dichotomy.  And since it is very important to us here at Jesism to be clear about this point, we’ve taken a recent comment from our facebook page that was very well articulated and offered a response to each question inline in red.  In this response, the author offered a question and answer to his question to state his position. To which we commented below each one. Your comments are also welcome.

Question: Do I believe in Jesus?  I believe in the mythical Jesus. That is, the story of Jesus and his alleged teachings has brought me inner peace and joy. Whether or not the story is historical has no bearing on my experience of the Christ within.

Response from Jesism: That is perfectly harmonious with Jesism.  In the preamble to The 9 Guidelines of Jesism, we state “Like Buddhism, Jesism has a range of supporters, from dogmatic to non-dogmatic, and from those focused on a historical figure to those who view the enduring message within a mythical context, or “cosmic Christ” as some say.” In other words, by referring to Jesus it doesn’t mean we are specifically taking it all at historical or mythical value, which will bring us to the response in the next question.  Portraits of the cosmic Christ as offered by Meister Eckhart and adapted by folks such as Fr. Richard Rohr and Rev. Matthew Fox are very valuable to most Jesists.

Q: But do I think the story isn’t historically accurate?  The beautiful thing is that it doesn’t matter, because I enjoy the peace and joy either way. The historicity of the story may be somewhat congruent with my experience, but it is not necessary for me to know for sure. I experience the risen Christ within my heart when I follow the teachings of Jesus, and that is all the evidence I need.

Response from Jesism: We agree. We believe that Jesus was indeed based on a historical figure named Yeshua of Nazareth, who lived and died around Jerusalem during the Roman occupation. And we believe that some of his sayings, as recorded in the gospels, are likely accurate, even if not captured verbatim.  We also believe that many of the stories around him were never meant to be taken literally, but instead to be used as literal devices to capture the importance of Yeshua, which was a common method in cultures of oral tradition.  In ancient cultures, stories had to be memorable to be passed down, and we believe the readers wouldn’t have ever cared to literalize much of the gospels, but instead to focus on their message.

Q: But if the story isn’t accurate, why did Jesus die? I didn’t say the story isn’t accurate. I said it doesn’t affect my spirituality because my spiritual foundation is a universal foundation independent of the veracity or probability of historical events. It is possible to be a follower of Jesus and an agnostic regarding the details at the same time.

Response from Jesism: We agree 100%

Q: Further, how could anyone possibly say that Jesus died for nothing, when his teachings have helped so many. One might also claim that Martin Luther King Jr. died for nothing as well, but it would be a lie.

Response from Jesism: Again, we agree 100%

Q: But don’t you have to have faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus to experience the Holy Spirit? I believe in merely the mythology of the cross and that brings me overflowing peace and joy. I feel guiltless and clean by understanding the principle of the cross. The principle of dedicating one’s life to doing what is right. The principle of forgiveness and reconciliation. I need not invoke a vengeful God that could be pacified only by a human sacrifice to experience the psychological and emotional benefits of Christianity.

Response from Jesism: We say bravo! Well said!

Was Jesus a Radical?

In a post by Episcopal Priest, David R. Henson on Patheos, he points out that Jesus wasn’t really a “radical.” At least not as we tend to understand the word in today’s culture. He makes the insightful case that Jesus was actually quite level headed, and perhaps it’s us who are radicals if we aren’t doing as Jesus did.  In the post David says the following:

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If We Want Non-Violence, Don’t Appeal Blandly to Peace

Jesus was non-violent.  So was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. And so was Mahatma Gandhi. But some people tend to misrepresent what it means to be “peaceful” when fighting for a cause. And sometimes those who claim to be followers of Jesus are leading that charge. Let me expound.

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7 “At Some Points” of Jesism

Have you ever tried to articulate your progressive / evolving / emergent reasons for remaining a follower of Jesus, without it being primarily focused around what you no longer believe? I took a shot at figuring out what still resonates.

My 7 “At Some Points” of Jesism…

1) At some point in our lives we all naturally deal with self-centeredness. We sometimes think (at least subconsciously) that the world revolves around us – and we tend to take ourselves way too seriously. But Jesus said to put others first. He said if we want to know love, we must give love to others as we would expect to be loved. He said if we want to find ourselves, we must first lose ourselves. That still resonates…

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The Greatest Miracle of Jesus

The Greatest Miracle of Jesus

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