Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

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WHAT SECRET?

March 17, 2011

In a recent entry that my son Adam posted, he mentioned religion, “The Secret” and the phrase “…cult-like following of obsessive, overly-positive thinking…” To say all of this irritates him is putting it mildly.

I absolutely respect (as does he) an individual’s right to believe as they choose. But like Adam, I too have big issues with organized religion in much the same way Jesus did. Oddly, this is not a subject Adam and I ever discussed at length.

While a much broader discussion is certainly warranted on the subject and the consternation it can create, my focus is on the two words Adam mentioned that got my writing juices flowing: The Secret. 

The premise of the film is that we attract our good/bad based on our thoughts and behavior. It’s called “The Law of Attraction.”

Many people have misconstrued this as a “cure-all” for their lives. Their (false) perception is you can attract wealth by simply believing you will be wealthy. The same goes for good health, love, happiness, relationships and so on.  Those taking this over-simplified path are ignoring the most important element: the Law of Attraction is much more about changing behavior than learning a thought process, which obviously makes it far more complex.

When I was the administrator of our church, we showed “The Secret” in our Fellowship Hall one Sunday after services. We really promoted the event. Combined with the hype it received nationally, we packed the hall. Afterward, there was a Q & A held by our minister, who had a very good understanding of the concept. She answered many questions in much the same way as she taught from the pulpit on Sunday mornings. The underlying theme throughout the afternoon was, “It won’t work unless you work it.”  Unfortunately, many walked away with the perception that “working it” meant if you pray for it everyday, believing that you will receive it, it will arrive.

Not so.

The truth is the Law of Attraction is no secret. It has been a mainstay in spiritual and religious teachings since long before Jesus walked the earth. Then after He arrived, was chastised and ultimately crucified for His teachings of spiritual principals, some in civilized society decided maybe He was on to something, They tried to capture these teachings with 66 books in a collection we’ve come to know as the Bible.

Sadly, most of us have yet to grasp the concept which is – Biblically speaking –  “You reap what you sow.” We go to church, read from one of the 50+ versions of the Good Book, celebrate Christmas and Easter and then give someone the finger when they cut in front of us on the freeway. We buy self-help books by the millions and still have no peace in our lives. We try everything to get to a better place in life, but nothing works, and yet we never ask “Why?” Instead, we move on to the next set of books, CDs and DVDs hoping the “guru” who developed them has our path to wealth and happiness – two elements of life that should never be conflated.

Occasionally, one of us breaks through the madness. We receive the proverbial a-ha moment (usually a critical, possibly life-threatening event, followed by thoughtful, quiet retrospection) that sinks in. We re-assess our life, make the necessary adjustments and then give ourselves the “What-was-I-thinking?” smack on the head for not realizing it years sooner.

Very slowly, our life begins to change. We don’t focus on problems, we focus on solutions. We quit worrying. We become attracted to the good in a situation, regardless of the challenge it may present. We are thankful for who we are, for the good that is in our life and for those around us who truly care about us. We distance ourselves from people or situations that negatively affect us. We see life, not through rose-colored glasses, but through the realistic lens of what is and isn’t important realizing that much of what goes on around us does not have to adversely affect us.

As Adam said in that same entry, you can’t control the pitch. Similarly, my grandmother used to say “Everything is already written.” (The pitch will be thrown). We have no control over it. (When, where or how it will be thrown). We can only live in the moment, enjoying life each day, no matter what is thrown at us, and know that there is far more good in the world than many would have us believe.

If you want peace in your life, you must first learn to be peaceful. The same is true for happiness, kindness, love, appreciation, forgiveness, understanding and discernment. As these attributes begin to permeate your being, you will attract the same from the world around you. 

No secret there.

Sincerely,

www.MichaelKontras.com

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JESUS IS ALREADY HERE

October 29, 2009

JesusIsAlreadyHereLOGO

The end of conflict.

I was baptized in the Greek Orthodox church (at the age of one), but I have not been a part of the church since my late teens. This is not because I think there’s anything wrong with the Greek Orthodox faith, I do not. The Sunday Service is a moving experience that captures the imagination and is rich with tradition and symbolism. But when I looked around the cathedral with its gold trim on… everything: icons, platters, robes, crosses, walls, ceilings, arches, and stained glass visages everywhere, a discomfort came over me.

I couldn’t imagine Jesus speaking in a room like this.

Cathedral

Entering adulthood, I occasionally experienced other churches’ Sunday Services and discovered a seemingly endless variety, each with their own unique way of offering the “…word of God.” The stoicism of my childhood religious experiences seemed rigid and out of touch, by comparison.

SingersLightsSoundI found myself enjoying the “celebration” of many contemporary services: rooms mildly decorated, some with non-descript stained glass windows and often without the traditional large cross; gospel choirs and small vocal groups with drums, bass, guitars and keyboards; people standing up, clapping in time to the music – on 2 and 4 for a change – filling the room with joyous sounds and once the songs ended, offering thunderous applause; messages that lifted people up, instead of asking them to get on their knees; ministers, dressed in business casual or even casual attire, asking questions and challenging the congregation to respond, engaging them to think not only with their minds, but with their hearts.

I could imagine Jesus speaking in a room like this.

SanctuarywScreen

There are, of course, the mixed messages within organized religion: Jesus was not the son of God, therefore (the son of God) has not arrived on earth verses He is the son of God, and is coming back; the Old Testament’s “an eye for an eye” verses Jesus’ “love your enemy”; back in the previous century, the world – which was only 6000 years old according to some – was in its sixth day of creation, Armageddon was near, and by the year 2000, only 144,000 would survive as God’s chosen people, yet here we are nine years after the “seventh day” has begun; a newborn baby, pure of thought and deed, is somehow born a sinner;

It appeared Jesus’ teachings differed greatly with some of what was said in traditional Services. I had many questions and no reasonable answers. I understood faith is “…the evidence of things not seen.” What I didn’t understand was how do we as people of faith, live our lives according to scripture, when scripture is conflicted?

bandstandDuring this time I realized I had to make a decision on what (not who) “God” is (for me) and why the man from Nazareth came to be the most quoted yet misunderstood (my opinion) person in Christianity. For three decades, being a member of a church was not a top priority. From time to time, I read about the teachings of different denominations, realizing that none have a lock on Christianity, although many would have us believe they do.

When I finally learned how to walk this gauntlet of contradiction, the answers came. I discovered a peace that will sustain me for the rest of my life. Whether my conclusions are in agreement with any denomination is not the point. Each denomination of the Christian faith represents nothing more than the conclusions of a few people who think their way is better.

Who can say they’re right and I’m wrong? No one. So, here’s what works for me:

1.)   The man, Jesus of Nazareth, showed us through words and deeds, we have all we need to live peaceful, loving lives. It’s our choice.

2.)   My mother did not give birth to a sinner.

3.)   Armageddon is a man-made concept, created to control people through fear.

4.)   An “eye for an eye” results in blindness, to paraphrase Gandhi.

5.)   You attract that which you are.

6.)   The “…second coming of Christ…” is already in progress, in each and every one of us, every day. Jesus, the “the Son of God,” is not coming back – there’s no need. His work on earth was done years ago. He showed us we have the power to become whatever we choose. The future is our responsibility, not His. Our choices and their consequences were made crystal clear.

In other words…

Jesus is already here.

BandPerforming 

As for those who absorb these contradictions, week after week, year after year, without ever asking questions? How does this affect their beliefs?

Soon after the 9-11 attacks, I had many conversations about traditional Christianity. In one discussion, I was told the invasion of Iraq was necessary. When I disagreed, it was then brought to my attention that, “…there were wars in the Bible that were justified, as is this one.”

“I’m pretty sure Jesus would not go to war,” I said.

“Jesus wasn’t around during those wars.”

“So which is right?”

No answer.

Jesus is already here.

RockChurch

I once presented a hypothetical to one of my Greek Orthodox relatives:

A man, or woman, lives in such a remote part of the world that he or she has never heard of Christianity, the Bible, God or Jesus. They’ve unknowingly lived their life, according to Jesus’ teachings, to the letter: never wronging anyone, having forgiven anyone who may have wronged them; helping to care for the sick and the elderly in their village; giving of themselves selflessly day in and day out. They’ve led an exemplary life.

“Would they be accepted into the ‘Kingdom of God’?” I asked.

 “No, no! Unless they ‘give themselves to Jesus Christ,’ they would not be accepted into God’s Kingdom.”

A stunning answer and one I couldn’t disagree with more. It’s obvious to me Jesus’ teachings are already in that person’s life, whether he or she knows it or not.

Jesus is already here.

ContemporarySanctuary

I was once asked if I believe in God. Before I answered, I took a moment to collect my thoughts, because I did not want to give the impression that I was either Atheist or Agnostic.

“Yes. But not in the traditional sense of God in a place called ‘Heaven’ and the devil in a place called ‘Hell.’”

“I don’t understand.”

“For me, God is not some being – in the sky somewhere – that we pray to. Instead, God is inside each of us. It’s the moral compass – the power to reason and choose – the power of free will. That’s God, to me.”

“So why don’t you go to church?”

“I can’t find one that has what I’m looking for.”

“Do you know what you’re looking for?”

“No. But I’ll know when I see it.”

“Would you go to church if you found the ‘right’ one?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll start looking.”

This paraphrased conversation took place between my wife and I very early in our relationship. I’ll never forget it. It was the only time I have ever been asked the question and finding the right words was not easy. Not long after that, she found a church home that’s part of the rapidly growing movement known as “New Thought” or “Practical” Christianity. Most of these churches are non-denominational and welcome people of all faiths, races and sexual orientation.

Jesus is already here.

PlainChurch

Many traditionalists have voiced their discontent with these new, more progressive approaches to Christianity. Could it be their discontent stems from the diminishing attendance at their own Sunday Services? Is it possible the more progressive approach to Christianity is the future? Are people growing weary of the conflicting messages? Are they concluding, as have I, the answers to their questions are actually inside of them?

The incredible growth of progressive, forward-thinking ministries seems to answer these questions. Case in point: the highest attendance of any church in this country belongs to the very progressive Lakewood Church in Texas, which draws well over 40,000 people, in three separate Services, each weekend.

LakewoodSanctuary

Borrowing again from Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I believe we have all we need – here and now – to be that change.

Jesus is already here.

Sincerely,

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www.MichaelKontras.com