written by LA Jamison
What does Anthony Scalia and Spiritual Booby Traps have in common? We have all heard the news about the most recent death that has captured news media attention, that of the death of Supreme Court Justice Athony Scalia. One reporter on Fox News commented that Scalia felt it was his duty to interpret the constitution according to how, from his perspective, that he saw the "founding fathers" intended it to be understood. It sounds pretty noble and patriotic--to be so enamored with a document and the creators of it, to want to try to see it through their eyes and then live it. There's a certain amount of humble reverence in that act we all admire. Yet, in one of life's little ironies, this brings us to Spiritual Booby Trap #2.
Spiritual Booby Trap #2: Idolizing Pioneers and Ancient Documents
Understand that traps have an appeal. Mouse traps for example usually involve a piece of cheese or some type of lure--something the victim would want--to hook them in. My father was an avid fisherman. Fishing lures are colorful and attractive to get the fish over to the lure (the trap) and then hook them for the catch n' reel, to the fish's doom. Our "lure" as people who desire a spiritual journey (and in many cases, those who have an equal passion for patriotism), is the myth that charter members of a movement, document, or faith had the purest of intentions, had supreme understanding, and the only lens in which to view the world through than we ourselves have even centuaries later.
I remember at the most earliest of spiritual revivals that I had experienced, I had a deep passion to know God and live as the Apostle Paul did. The Apostle Paul's writing actually make up most of the New Testament (though some aren't sure all of those were really written by him). Paul's writings and portrayals of Jesus and the portrayal of other disciples in plays and films gave me an emotional attachment that served a two-fold purpose. One, I understood: the other was more subversive.
The one I knew about was finding out if God was real or not. The more subversive one was to create a world and a God I could understand and control. It was born out of a need to rise above the fear and exclusion that was literally paralyzing me by secluding myself with people who believed like I did with the intensity that I did. A noble desire and passion to have a healing faith soon was hyjaked by fundamentalists ideas because of the subversive purpose. I was deceived simply because I saw the first Apostles as flawless, that every Biblical text written was flawless as well. My purpose then was to understand what these men and woman long ago understood, 2000 years ago, and live it. Of course, I didn't think of it this way. It came out in more subtle ways. Seeing others as damned or saved by whether they were "born again" like me. Seeing other churches and faiths as good or bad, as to how literally they practiced the Bible teachings in the way that my circles taught. This was not because I thought the interpretations I found was the Gospel at it's best, but that it felt freeing, transformational, and made sense of the world around me....so it should for everyone else otherwise they were misguided and hellbound.
The interpretations I was taught and learned weren't all bad. It was more so the idea of "I got the secret the rest of the world does not". The problem really and truly wasn't always the lesson but HOW it was taught, as the "One" truth. This simplified a complex God, people, the world and what my purpose was down to only one acceptable view. If that view wasn't working, the view wasn't wrong, I was. We often like to sing of one faith, one truth, even on the radio we sing songs of "one love". We like oneness. It simplifies and unifies and that's not always bad thing. It can be a great thing and an uplifting thing. But it isn't always good either, especially when everyone has to be under one "truth" or seeing God or a text in "one" way ...OR ELSE! It can make for a clever trap for its appeal toward peace once we can "save" everyone and get them to believe the same thing.
In the Muslim tradition there are strict interpretations as well based on their older set of rules and older forefathers that would kill homosexuals, suppress women and children in favor of tyrannical males. Many a terrorist genuinely feel they interpreting the Quran the way Mohammed intended as they go about killing masses of people. Yet, real hard core truth be told...the Quran, the Bible, and the Torah themselves have some questionable and controversial parts to them as to how we are told humans should see the world. There are parts that contradict each other at face value, unless we examine culture context. I am not sure why religions have thrown this exploration out the window. But why examine our ancestor's culture when we dismiss our own culture in light of such documents as dung?
I remember sitting in an auto shop and being charmed by the passion of a Muslim worker there who gave me a copy of the Quran. I loved how he passionately prayed over it and kissed it before giving it to me. The next time I was in, when Ellen Degenrais came up on the TV., he was going on about how homosexuals should be stoned like back in the days of old. Let's just say, that was my last visit. This is an example of a passionate, sacred gesture being desecrated by a sense of fear of the unknown driving a man into an older, orthodox view of idealized text.
Isn't it interesting that we think so readily, right in this time and place, that we don't have the understanding, the connection to God like our "forefathers" or "foremothers" before us? We readily dismiss our own passions, compassion and intuition as faulty and blind as compared to those leaders from the days of old. People want to turn back the clock on culture because of that sense of not knowing what new things will bring. Surely the ancestors knew better because they created this nifty document, right? We should go backward because going forward....its new, scary and we may lose the good intention of those who wrote ______ or those who started ___________. Yet in reality the opposite is true. We stand on what our forefathers and our Creator began. We have more knowledge and more access than ever. God never said "I will work through my Disciples and they will be the last of it...you newer guys just copy them, memorize their texts and history and just keep repeating it." The reality is far more like what God said of Peter "I will build the foundation of my Church on you"...building...not built, in the past tense...it means construction, adding to, adjusting. Yet on this very foundation...did not Peter betray Jesus three times before the famed cock crowed? Did not God visit him in a dream to get him to see that truly nothing he created was unclean as Peter held tightly to laws of unclean food? Did not Paul murder Christians before God blinded him to take him on another path? Didn't Thomas Jefferson own slaves and cheat on his wife, having a child with one? Who are we talking about here? We are talking about human beings who can be divinely inspired and humanly flawed as anyone of us. And what did Jesus say to the rest of us in regards to even his great deeds, "and greater things shall YOU do because I will go to my Father in Heaven on your behalf".
It is interesting because we all laugh at the extremes out there...the people who dress and live like they did back in the 1800's, those who refuse to dance or listen to music, the fundamentals, the "orthodox". Yet, we lean and cling to the older fundamentals in great fear. God is still doing new things but as soon as new surfaces many jump and call it bad because they don't know how it will fit into our way of seeing the world, let alone our faith. Today, we say instead "thou shall not eat shell fish" or "thou shall stone children who curse their parents", we say new words in the same tongue: Those who don't follow these 3 points to salvation, don't say these magic words, don't attend our church, our denomination, our temple, or don't do these set of things are not one of us. They are walking abominations. If you aren't one of us, you are in trouble not only with me but with God! Do you see how incredibly backwards that it is and how truly nonspiritual that is? We need to let God be God. Adaptation is key to human survival and the same holds true for spiritual survival. If we don't adapt to changes we die. Strict adherence to older times and ways doesn't allow for change and adaptation.
Justice Scalia often fought against what many see as human rights everyone deserves because changed scared him. He wanted to reverse laws to outdated ways of viewing human rights. He was clearly a very fearful man. The human heart was not and is not the concern of those who are enamored with past laws and strict adherence to the intent of "forefathers" who no longer live in the present culture. Rather, control is their concern, not people. Yet, ironically, our most remembered spiritual leaders were the opposite. Jesus fed people out of the priestly storehouse and healed on the Sabbath, Martin Luther King and the Apostle Paul got arrested for their cause while Jesus died silently for His. Therefore, instead of regulating your heart and mind along with those around you, free yourself. You can have communion with your God instead of locking God into pages of history and texts and icons from past history. Be a part of making a new history, blaze a greater spiritual trail. Your ancestors will be proud of you, not to mention God.