Thursday, September 9, 2010


One of the terms I have learned a lot about lately is dualism. There are many things that are very different about Christianity compared to other religions. One of them is dualism. In Christianity, and Judaism, there is this world and there is a place inhabited by angels, demons and God himself. One of my pastors once said that Christians see the world as a two “scene” world, referring to scenes in a play.

Other religions see the world as cyclical, or that supernatural beings normally inhabit the earth and walk among us, not just on rare occasions. Some practices, such as Buddhism don’t concern themselves much with the afterlife at all. Christians definitely do.

This was sort of interesting when I first read about it. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal. But a couple things recently have made me rethink that. Brian McClaren, a Christian who is about as far on the edge of Christianity as you can get and still get invited to speak at Christian churches, pointed out that we have a lot to deal with down here on the earth. If we are focusing on our exit plan and figuring things will be better when we leave, then is it surprising that we are not doing what needs to be done here and now?

Brian McClaren on the relevance of faith

After clicking above, look for the links in the upper right. You can listen, read or watch video. McClaren does an excellent job of examining Christian faith. For example, he points out that the Lord’s prayer does not say “your kingdom will be in heaven, unlike here on earth”, he notes that it says, “your kingdom come here on earth, your will be done here.”

Another spiritual leader, this one a monk from Vietnam, a man who many people don’t know much about, but had a very big hand in why America got out of the Vietnam War, also recently came out with a statement that included some thoughts on dualism. He begins by talking about how America’s desire to consume is a symptom of a larger problem. We need to address our disconnection with the world.

He addresses this with language about feeling the spirit within us, which may or may not be language you embrace, but his message that we need to find the feelings in us that bring us into tune with the place we inhabit comes through clearly. He does not take a Pollyanna approach to this. He says we need to listen to the sounds and smells of our toxic environment that is leading children to kill each other or themselves so we can find our place in that. Only then can we know what to do about it.

Thcih Nhat Hahn on dualism and sustainability of the American lifestyle

Last, and possibly least, depending on where you stand, is Christopher Hitchens. He is one of the most visceral of the atheists. I would speak ill of him, but he has recently been diagnosed with cancer, so I will let you research him for yourself. He does occasionally say things I agree with. In a blurb on the jacket of a recently published book, “Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist”, he said,
“The human thirst for the transcendent, the numinous – even the ecstatic – is too universal and too important to be entrusted to the cultish and archaic and the superstitious.”

I have no problem with people who have seen magical things, or have been transformed through the experience of a ritual or by simply reading something mystical. I love hearing these stories and sharing in their enthusiasm. The problems begin when people say that their experience means something about the rest of the world and the rest of us should repeat the experience exactly as they did and we all need to make the same leap of faith they did. A quick review of conflicts past and present finds many of them based on one person saying there is something wrong with another person simply because they won’t make that leap or won’t try that experience.

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