This article serves as an introduction into an investigation into
God-beliefs that will continue in issues 20, 21, 22, 26, 30, 34, and
38. My hypothesis is that most adults have stagnated in their theology
and I hope to jump-start you back into thinking about these things. – RB
I want to share with you a beautiful spiritual-religious
story; it is an ancient, religious legend of some people who live in the hills
of northern Thailand. Read it slowly and take it in.
Long ago, one human being wronged another and tried to
un-do that error. But, the record of the error was lodged in time, never to be
undone. While amends were made, a scar forever remained in history. Time
passed, more blunders occurred, and the toll of humanity’s sin grew. After a
number of generations, the amount of wrong in the world was seemingly infinite,
and humanity could hardly stand to breathe.
The heavens had compassion upon humankind and wanted to
A deity had an idea: to balance the scale, an infinite
sacrifice – something beyond human ability – would be required. This deity,
infinite by definition, became human – finite – a man. And then, as a human
being, this divine being killed himself thereby making an infinite sacrifice on
behalf of humanity and forever wiping out their collective debt.
I think this is a beautiful tale of a god’s love and
compassion for humanity. Now take a moment to note your own response to this
story: favorable, lovely, charming….
I have to admit that I’ve purposely misled you a bit.
While it is true that this is a legend of a group of people
who live in the hills of northern Thailand, I didn’t tell you that those people
are modern day Christians living in northern Thailand. It’s also the story of many
Christians in the rest of Thailand, and also of Christians the world over. If
you re-read it, you’ll find it is really the story of Jesus dying for the sins
Here’s my point – we tend to have baggage with regard to
organized religions with which we are familiar. A dear reader of this
newsletter told me that she cringes whenever her born-again relatives say “God
bless you,” but she was fine when religious folk in India bestowed upon her
their exotic blessings.
If you are like most people, your response to this beautiful
tale of God’s love is not the same as your take on the basic Christian doctrine
of John 3:16 translated into over 1,100 languages and read by billions upon
billions of people – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only
A favorite quote of mine speaks to this:
If we dislike someone, the way they hold their spoon might
offend us. If we like someone, they could drop a plate of food on our lap and
we wouldn’t care.
In other words, our preconceived perceptions get in the way.
This is very important to realize – our assumptions that
things, people, or religions are a certain way can make us see them as only that
and not necessarily as they actually are.
It wasn’t until after I was able to drop my baggage about
Jesus that I was able to see this story for what it is – a beautiful Midrash that speaks about God’s love and
compassion for humanity.
As in airports, I will advise you to keep your eyes on your
Baggage can tarnish and ruin the most beautiful aspects of
(And, please, for the love of God, let’s not let that same
baggage get in the way of what I’m talking about here. I know some folks can
get confused when a Jew, not to mention a rabbi, mentions Jesus in a favorable
light. Let’s not get bogged down in that.)
N.B. What I have written reminds me of the article by Horace
Miner about the bizarre culture of the Nacirema. If you enjoy anthropology at
all, I encourage you read “Body Ritual among the Nacirema.”