Saturday, March 05, 2005

Theology - Not The Answer

In the global village of the modern world we
are often required to interact with those who
do not share the same spiritual perspective
as the one to which we may be committed. This
brings us face to face with the question: how
should we conduct ourselves in the face of
these differences?

Just as there are sectarian differences among
various segments of the Muslim community, or
differences among Orthodox, Conservative and
Reform branches of Judaism, there also are
huge differences among various denominations
of Christianity which go beyond the broad split
between Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions.
While there are many factors which have led to
this cascade of bifurcations, one force which
has had a very fundamental shaping role involves
theological considerations.

However, perhaps the answer to so many of the
problems with which we are confronted - including
sectarian differences - does not lie in attempting
to work out the nuances of theological doctrine
such that only "lunk heads" and down-right evil
people could fail to grasp the certainties which
are uncovered through the niceties of theological
methodology. Unfortunately, more often than not,
theology tends to lead to separation and alienation
from one another instead of bringing any kind of
existential resolution to tensions and differences.

People are so caught up in arguing, in terms of
theological doctrine, about what "the" meaning of
revelation is, or about what THE nature of God is
(e.g., unitarian, trinitarian, multitarian, or is
God a She, He, It, or none of these, or all of them
and more), or about what the proper name(s) of God
is (are), or about whether the reality behind
everything is even deistic (and, here, there is an
allusion to such perspectives as a Buddhist approach
to things in which the idea of a Deity is de-emphasized),
or about how to go about gaining brownie points by
pointing the finger of judgment at others so that
one can think oneself superior to, and more self-
righteous than, the rest of humanity, and, as a
result, have a favored place in paradise or heaven
or the next life, that none of us can see the forest
through the trees anymore.

Many of us believe there is some Absolute Reality.
Our understandings and interpretations may differ,
but we can feel in our hearts, soul and spirit that
there is something more to things than the apparent
world reveals.

Not until Jesus (peace be upon him) comes again
for a second time [and some Chrisitians may be
surprised to discover that Islam also teaches
about the second coming of Jesus (peace be upon him)
and that he will do battle with the Anti-Christ - or,
the dajal (imposter) as Muslims refer to the anti-Christ
- and, by the grace of God, Jesus (peace be upon him)
will be victorious], not until the second coming will
some of these issues be settled, in some empirical
fashion, and, maybe, not even then, since there will
be many who will deny Jesus (peace be upon him) (even
some so-called Christians) when he comes the second
time, just as there were those who denied him during
his first ministry.

And, in many respects, the truth of things may
not be disclosed and realized until after we have
passed on to whatever awaits us beyond the narrow
confines of this process we call earthly life. As
such, most of us are working in the dark and trying
to call it light.

I would prefer to leave the theology to God since
Divinity alone is the only One Who knows the truth
of these matters. The rest of us argue out of ignorance,
fear, hostility, foolishness, jealousy, and rivalry,
yet, we often are so convinced in the correctness of
our own interpretation of things that we feel this
sense of self-serving conviction entitles us to
harbor all manner of contempt for, and condescension
toward, others, which in turn is interpreted as a
Divine signal to inflict whatever cruelty upon
others that we deem to be appropriate.

If we look to the example of the lives of Jesus,
Muhammad, Moses, David, the Buddha, Krishna, and
so on (peace be upon them all), the answer is staring
us all in the face, and we would see it if we weren't
so intent on gratifying our egoes in an attempt to
prove that we are theologically right and everyone
else is wrong. These remarkable, blessed individuals
were all, without exception: loving, kind, compassionate,
thoughtful, considerate, reflectful, forgiving, tolerant,
understanding, charitable, sensitive, respectful,
encouraging, helpful, supportive, wise, practical human

They were not theologians. We are the theologians,
and we have taken things which they have said - or,
which we think they have said - put our own
interpretations on these sayings, and, in the process,
have become prepared to abuse and/or distrust and/or
hate and/or kill every man, woman and child who does
not agree with us.

Let us listen to what the aforementioned spiritual
personalities did, not just to what was said, not
because what they said was unimportant, but because
actions often speak so much more clearly and eloquently
than words. One does not have to have a theology of
kindness to observe or recognize many, if not most,
acts of kindness. One does not have to have a
theology of love to observe love in action.

If we love these people, if we love Jesus, if we
love Muhammad, if we love Moses, if we love Krishna,
if we love the Buddha, (peace be upon them all), then,
why not become preoccupied with following their actions?
Let God worry about the theology.

If we love for the sake of God or Allah or Jehovah or
Yahweh, the Way, or The Void Which is Full, or Whomever
or Whatever, then, if we are, for example, kind for the
sake of Truth, if we are tolerant and forgiving for the
sake of Divinity, if we are charitable for the sake of
the Tao - if we do all of these things because of love
for the Essence and not out of hope of heaven or fear
of hell - then, I believe we will be much, much further
ahead of the "game" so to speak.

Every human being has existence due to the love and
compassion of the Great Mystery, God, or the Void of
Infinite Fulness (these are all linguistic terms to
refer or allude to that which cannot be circumscribed
or exhaused by words). If we minister to people -
irrespective of how wrong we may feel their theological
perspective may be and irrespective of how wrong (from
our subjective point of view) that perspective may, in
fact, be - if we minister just with love, charity,
kindness, forgiveness, and so on, and not with theology,
and not in order to win converts or gain influence or
the like, but because people are more likely to turn
to the light and truth which Divinity has planted within
them when cared for in a respectful way, then, I believe
we are going to have a much better chance, God willing,
to improve the wretched condition of the world.

We are so busy arguing over the theological shape of
the table, like they argued over the shape of the
table during the Paris "peace" (?) talks on Vietnam,
that we never get to the really important issues -
namely, how are we going to treat one another? We each
may have our own why or intention or motivation or
goal, but the actions themselves all can be precisely
the same.

When one receives kindness, it makes no difference
whether it comes through Buddhist theology, Christian
theology, Taoist theology, Muslim theology, Hindu
theology, Native theology, or Jewish theology. Kindness
is kindness, and all kindness is a gift from the Great
Mystery - we are merely the loci of manifestation
through whom it comes.

Let us all purify ourselves of the jealousy, hatred,
prejudice, selfishness, bias, greediness, hostility,
envy, desire, insensitivity and so on which stand in
the way of our being beacons of love, charity,
forgiveness, tolerance, and compassion, which,
ultimately, come from Divinity, or the Absolute,
or the Void (which is Fulness), or the Great Mystery,
and not from ourselves. It is only our pride and
ignorance which makes us think otherwise.

These actions are the common language of all the
great spiritual traditions, irrespective of whatever
theological differences may have arisen over time.
All the mystical dimensions of these great traditions
point in precisely the same direction.

The idea of love is worth little. A system of thought
with love at its center is worth little.

Only actions of love have value, and love has no
theology since it is done out of only love for Divinity
or the Absolute, as well as being a reflection of the
love which the Void or the great Mystery has for us,
in giving us the capacity to love, and be kind, and
be charitable, and be forgiving in the first place.

Love, sincerity, compassion, tolerance, kindness,
and so on are not rule-governed. They are principles.

Principles are non-linear. One can see that all
acts of love or compassion have a certain self-
similarity to them, but one cannot possibly reduce
the expression of such qualities down to some
linear recipe, like baking a cake, which must be
done, more or less, the same way each time.

In a sense, like snow-flakes, no two expressions
of such principles as love, generosity, compassion,
kindness, and so on, are alike. There is a creative
freedom to the many degrees of freedom which are
inherent in a principle which are not just present
in the narrowness and, often rigidity of rules.

This is not to say that there are no good rules.
Rather, it is to give emphasis to, and direct
attention toward the idea that the values which
many of hold most dear are principles, rather
than rules.

There is no set of rules which is capable of
generating such things as, character or integrity.
Character and integrity are rooted in a reality
which lies along the horizons of rules which hint
at truths which are deeper than rules and which
must be understood through the essence of one's

Like poetry, principles resonate with something
deep within us which is somewhat ineffable or not
given easily to linguistic expresion. Poetry, like
a principle, hints at facets of reality through the
resonance of meanings which lie along the horizons
of what is being said.

If one tries to reduce, say, freedom, to a set of
rules, oftentimes, freedom slips from view amidst
the endless set of rules which are being used to
define freedom, and as a result, one, literally and
metaphorically, cannot see the forest (freedom)
through the trees (rules). The exercise of freedom
requires the flexibility, subtlety, and richness
of principles which are understood with the heart
and soul and not just the mind.

If we can't induce others, through gentle and wise
ways, to believe in, or accept, our theologies
(which tend to be rule-governed), then, let us
share the principle of love and compassion with
these people. I don't know about you, but I would
rather have the actuality of love and compassion
any day, rather than a theology of love and
compassion, no matter how eloquently it was

Let us be love and kindness and sensitivity.
Let us not just talk about these things.

The foregoing may seem rather simplistic in
'principle', but it is extremely difficult
to accomplish in practice. Moreover, whether
it is simple or difficult, I believe that, the
Great Mystery willing, it is the only way out
of the theological conumdrums into which we
have painted ourselves ... conumdrums which
are having devastating, destructive, impoverishing
effects upon our lives, both individually and

Anab Whitehouse

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