Before I tell you about all of my devious and radical beliefs, let’s celebrate my first week of eating vegan! It has been pretty easy so far, but I have already made a couple mistakes. My favorite almost oops was when I mentioned all the great frozen yogurt places nearby that I haven’t tried to a friend that was visiting, and then suggested that we try one. Oops! Good thing I realized that was a no-go before we headed out. I also forgot to ask for no cheese on my veggie burger at a restaurant and did not realize it until a couple hours after lunch.
However, I made an absolutely delicious mac and “cheese.” If you are vegan, or even if you are thinking about it, here is the recipe. I also successfully ate vegan at In-n-Out Burger; it was not incredible as it amounted to a couple slices of tomato and some onion wrapped in lettuce, but I was just glad I was able to find something to eat at a fast-food burger joint! Eating vegan has been way easier than I imagined it would be and I feel great. Now, let’s talk about the good stuff… why your grandmother would probably be worried for my soul if she knew what I believed.
I grew up Lutheran in Minnesota, a place where everybody still goes to church or at least claims to belong to a church somewhere. When I decided that I wanted to be a pastor, people were totally stoked. As I entered into seminary, after studying religion and philosophy for four years in undergrad, I already had the feeling that what I really believed was not going to pass the test. The divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and some sort of afterlife are pretty integral aspects of today’s Christian dogma for most denominations, including Lutherans. I threw those things out the window for good sometime during my first semester of seminary. Remember in my last post how I said that I believe life is sacred? I really mean that, and what that implies for me is that I do not have to hope for anything beyond this life. If I die and there is some sort of afterlife I’m all in, but I always felt like concentrating my hope and faith in that was a bit selfish and sort of rude to the miracle of life that I have been granted. When you think about it, though, this life is pretty darn incredible. I’m no scientist, but from what I understand the chances of any life-form existing are pretty slim and the chances of life evolving into me are pretty much zero, yet here I am and there you are. That is incredible. That is sacred to me. What is even more amazing is the way that all life is connected, not only to other forms of life, but the entire universe. Here is a really great article by someone who knows a lot more about science than me, and does a beautiful job carrying the sanctity that was once preserved for religion into science, and vice versa.
When one does not believe in an afterlife, other than the body’s continued participation in natural cycles of life which we will get to next week, there is not much need for a divine savior in the traditional respect. I absolutely believe that Jesus was a human who lived a radical life by challenging social norms and a corrupt empire, and I think that is the saving message the gospels continue to offer the world. The entire Bible is filled with stories of people striving to live and we can continue to learn from these stories by allowing them to shape us and speak to the human experiences of suffering, injustice, loss, relationship, love, hope, faithfulness, fullness of life, and a host of other experiences. The stories of Jesus speak to me in particular because they are stories that show the courage of a human being who chooses to oppose societal norms that create outcasts and hierarchies while also challenging structures of power, which for Jesus were both the church and the empire. The vision projected by Jesus, one in which people lived for and with the “other” in whatever form the other takes, is a beautiful vision that I continue to strive towards. If life is sacred then every living being should be free to live life to the fullest; to support a system of life that dictates otherwise is straight up blasphemy. The stories of the Bible have absolutely helped me personally to understand what it is to love, forgive, and be in right relationships, which are things that I will continuously be working on in order to create a world where all living beings can live life to it’s fullest. So, since I am being honest and all, I do not believe that Jesus was any more divine or sacred than you, my dog, or myself. Jesus’ life was just as sacred as yours, and I think that is part of the message that easily gets overlooked in the church… possibly because many people would find it heretical but that is a minor detail for me these days.
Speaking of heretical beliefs, let’s talk about the Trinity. Obviously, without the belief that Jesus was divine the question of the Trinity is out of the question. I started to really question the Trinity before I questioned Jesus’ divinity because it is absolutely and undeniably patriarchal. Sure, we can throw in all kinds of un-gendered substitutes but it is the product of a corrupt system that has no grounds to stand on without that system. There are so many manifestations of God that are written about in the Bible and experienced in every day life, there is no possible way that they can all be contained in 3. Why limit ourselves? Why not let ourselves be amazed by experiences of God in all of their forms, figures, feelings, and whatever other ways this God thing has been encountered throughout history. I’m not an artist, but the way that I best articulate my encounter with God is through drawing out an image for you with my words. If I was an artist, this would totally be my first project. First, pretend you can see the vibrations that create the sound of a musical instrument and you see them in an array of colors. Let’s pretend it is a string instrument and you see an array of vivacious colors vibrating off the strings. Now, picture that as a continuous string, vibrating through every manifestation of life in the universe. If you can, imagine the source of the vibrations being a distant star, soil, and water. I might be totally nerding out here, but that continuous string vibrating through all life is 100% Holy to me. Somehow, that image is the best way for me to communicate my encounter with what is divine. It might not fit your definition of God, and that is totally cool. Part of my resolution to be honest is in hopes that we can all be honest about what we believe and have some really great conversations about it that include disagreeing. I am well aware of the fact that I am probably wrong, and maybe Jesus was God and there will be some sort of afterlife, but that and the perfectly valid beliefs presented by other religions just do not jive with me right now and my beliefs probably don’t jive with you. That is ok with me, and I hope it is with you, too. If not, let’s talk more about it and learn from each other.