Discover more from TRANSCEND with Cylvia Hayes
God Has a Sense of Humor
Christ Isn't Jesus's Last Name
I have learned that there are far fewer true coincidences than synchronicities if we’re paying attention and connecting dots. This Sunday, after six years of formal study, I’ll be getting ordained as a Unity minister. To me this just proves that Spirit/Source/God, whatever you choose to call It, has a great sense of humor.
I was raised with a heavy-handed, fear-based, patriarchal Christian approach and I flat out rejected it, and all organized religion, in my late teens. It took a lot of years, therapy, and deep unlearning to release the disempowering programming instilled by such teachings and preachings.
Despite being totally turned off, even angry at and disgusted by religion, I have always been spiritual, sensing something greater than just being a body, and feeling the spiritual magnificence in all of creation.
Throughout the ministerial training I’ve had moments of bemused wonder that I was on such a path. I also had resistance, especially when taking one of the many required Bible-related classes. My first reaction was a grimacing, “Bible, blech!” Despite my distaste, those classes proved to be important healing steps. Unlike the religion of my youth, Unity doesn’t view the Bible as literal history or written by God. Rather, these stories are viewed within the context in which they were written and through a metaphorical and metaphysical lens. Similarly, Jesus isn’t seen as an unapproachable exception but rather as an exceptional example, a human being who tapped into their full divinity, something available to all of us.
It seems synchronistic on the eve of ordination, that I just finished reading a remarkable book, The Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr. Rohr is a Franciscan priest and ecumenical teacher grounded in Christian mysticism. In The Universal Christ, he delivers a direct and bold critique of and challenge to the approach and teachings mainstream Western Christianity has put forward. He also clearly addresses the tremendous damage those teachings have caused.
He had me with the first chapter’s title, “Christ is Not Jesus’s Last Name,” which is a point I’ve made many times in talks and classes. He goes on to describe “original goodness” as opposed to “original sin”, which really is such an awful belief to instill in a person’s psyche.
I especially appreciate that Rohr blends theology with a clearly stated need for societal transformation. He challenges conventional Christianity’s patriarchy, punitive approach, and disregard for non-human aspects of creation. He writes:
Salvation, heaven, hell, worthiness, grace, and eternal life all came to be read through the lens of the separate ego, crowding God’s transformative power out of history and society. Even Martin Luther’s needed “justification by faith” sent us on a five-hundred-year battle for the private soul of the individual, thus leaving us with almost no care for the earth, society, the outsiders, or the full Body of Christ. This is surely why Christianity found itself incapable of critiquing social calamities like Nazism, slavery, and Western consumerism.
That’s a powerful statement, most appropriate to the challenges we are now experiencing. As someone who has spent decades speaking, writing and teaching about the insanity of Western consumerism and its devastating damage to our planet I was fairly electrified to see a person of Christian persuasion include it in the same sentence as slavery and Nazism.
Finally, it feels important for me to note that there is absolutely nothing mean-spirited in Rohr’s rather pointed criticism of Western Christianity. Rather, it is a love-filled invitation for Christians to evolve and revitalize their institutions and traditions by moving past dogma and man-made rules and into universal spiritual truths.
Two of the major threads of my ministry are aiding people of faith in helping create a more ecological civilization and healing the shadow of religious trauma. I truly hope a lot of folks who consider themselves Christians, or who have suffered from so-called Christian teachings read The Universal Christ.
P.S. If you read the book I’d love to know what you think of it. And, just as an FYI, I do not know Richard Rohr and have zero financial affiliation with the book! I am just genuinely curious about reader reactions to it.
You’re invited to the Celebration!
Honestly, I feel a little sheepish about the ordination ceremony and being so much the center of attention. I wasn’t wanting to make much of a deal of it, but Rev. Jane Hiatt, the Unity minister who has been my main mentor through this entire journey, had different plans.
The ceremony will be part of the overall service titled, Callings. It will take place live and online Sunday, May 21st, 10am Pacific Time. Here’s a little description vid. Please consider yourself invited!
To join the online service go to https://unitycentraloregon.org/live-services/ and scroll down to the Zoom connections.
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