Thursday, March 03, 2005

That's ethics...get used to it

Can we consider the possibility that for many, their faith is not a set of ethics, written in stone, but a living growing thriving faith informing their actions?

Here’s a great description of this sense of God’s love making all things new written by my dear old Friend, Sally Rickerman: Explaining her journey toward universalism, Sally says it was her reading of the Old Testament book of Hosea which finally clinched the Universalist point of view for her.

Hosea demonstrated the validity of new revelations concerning the nature of God. His story helped validate for me that new insights and enlarged horizons are constantly available to those who seek with open hearts and minds.
As many realize, before the coming of this prophet, Jaweh was known as a mean, patriarchal, and vengeful god, one who had little love, forgiveness, or compassion in his makeup. Hosea's experience with his wife led him to reason from the specific to the universal, from the particular to the general, from the individual to the group. Based on this, he arrived at the amazing discovery that God was a god of love, acceptance and forgiveness.
The story, as we know it, described Hosea's desertion by his wife, who first became another man's mistress. Then Hosea became aware of her traveling down the primrose path to become the woman of many men. Her next step was to become a common prostitute, and finally she dropped to the depths of society to be sold as a slave. On the slave block in the market square, Hosea found her. Then and there he bought her. Not for vengeance, but for love! Not to humiliate her and grind her under his feet, but to elevate her once again to the position of mistress of his home. Then, it appears, he reasoned from the specific to the universal and concluded (paraphrased by me), "If I, a mere mortal, am capable of this love, acceptance, and forgiveness, surely the God whom we worship is capable of this and more."
Here lies the intellectual basis for my universalist beliefs. Namely, if I a mere mortal am capable of understanding that no Divine Spirit would eliminate from true enlightenment the 98 percent of the past, present, and future world population who have never heard and will never hear of Jesus, then surely the God whom we worship is capable of revealing the Divine Nature, with validity, through many prophets, in many cultures, and in many eras.

That’s a far better description of how I know take the teachings of Jesus, and how it’s understood by most of the Christians I’m associated with. You can claim what you want about how the rules are codified, but you’ll find that for Catholics and Quakers, there is an expectation that God has not stopped speaking, that the work of creation is ongoing.

For example: in the inner city, anything that isn't nailed down gets taken and reused one way or another, and that's not a bad thing. It's the quickest way round the corner to the jubilee. Everybody gets lucky sometimes, and the closer you are to the ground, the more you need to grab what you can. From the perspefctive of the person in need, it’s no more immoral than was the thievery that went into taking the resources from the ground in the first place.

My children and I have a way of coping with stupid things that happen. There’s a Frank Sinatra song, none of us know very well, but the chorus is “That’s life, get used to it…” So we’re driving and somebody cuts us off in the passing lane, if I start sputtering, one of them will start singing “That’s driving, get used to it…” Or if their father completely forgets that we’re going to my sister’s for dinner, and I’m grumbling about needing to wait for him to get home they’ll sing “That’s Daddy, get used to it…” Seems to me that most human ethics are likely malleable based on the situation at hand—That's human ethical systems, get used to it…

The notion that there is one rule, one “dentological” set of ethical principles which should be set in stone is nothing I’m familiar with as a Christian. I’ve come to see the moral relativism of our age as exhausting, but probably not that different from what went on in ages past. The systems which require clearly drawn lines are very earth bound institutions including governments and the church. None of that has much to do with the realm of Spirit, the Kingdom of Heaven. Parse these things too fine and you end up in the same boat with the scribes and Chief Priests at the Temple who tried to catch him in blasphemy or sedition by asking him whether it was right that they pay tribute to Caesar.