Who gave Christ his divine right? Was it not theologians? As understood by Christians, we didn’t have a visit from the Father to explain things to us for all to see because by definition he can’t visit us or related to us. He’s wholly Other, he’s omnipresent and omniscient. Therefore, He had to send an intermediary, his very own son, the Christ, begotten but not created, to be human and to dwell among us, to experience and suffer our frailty and victimhood, so that through our ultimate rejection of Him, his corresponding sacrifice, God the Father could exercise forgiveness to the repentant, to those who understand they are sinful. The murder of Christ was the rejection of the Father God and as such the ultimate rebellion. In his infinite Love and Grace, however, by allowing the death of his Son and then demonstrating resurrecting power, the Father provided a path towards reconciliation because ultimately, we are all his children. Like Christ, we will also all be with Him in the heavenly, physical dwelling, someday. If we believe.
By now this is an old story that has not been allowed to evolve fundamentally. Why? Because of the canon of narratives, the Bible had to be locked to support the theology of the church. Without that lock that is the Bible, the myths told would naturally evolve, as they do outside of the monolithic religions (which I’ll just call ‘monoliths’ for the purpose of brevity and metaphor).
In the study the African or Polynesian myths, and you can hear how the stories are fluid, with particular emphasis on this or that god, and this or that behavior of that god, changes by location and time in response to the needs of the peoples and the influence of other myths. Selection and articulation of myth are guided by the intent of the population. For example, trickster gods (and by inference trickster men) come to be expected in Africa, and this is reinforced by the myths.
Such fluidity is the enemy of theology, which needs to lock down the protagonists and their essential nature. In classical Christianity, we have the Trinity and other doctrines defined by conventions and councils with great seriousness. Yet over time, cultural currents inevitably erode the pillars of theology, which must be constantly reinforced. Maintaining the edifice of theology is a full-time job for many, and thus a livelihood. It’s easy to see how those invested in the institution of doctrines will consciously or subconsciously reinforce that institution. Given that humans love conflict and battle, staging conflict should be part of the business model. Intellectual wrestling, even about godly topics, is conflict.
Christianity wants the monuments of the ‘false gods’ to erode and wither in order to replace them. By way of comparison, monolithic soccer would replace monolithic football if given a chance. To theologians of any given monolith, Christianity can’t just be ‘another sport’, so to speak. Key differentiators must be found – the ‘us vs. them’ distinctions – because without them religions would be moral equivalents. When salvation is put forth as the ultimate purpose of religion – and thus is in turn required by the exclusivity of the chosen savior – then only one religion must survive. Denying that means denying the exclusive nature of their message, i.e the reason the religion exists.
Once asserted, the exclusivity principle must be upheld at all costs. It can be made more palatable through syncretism, there can be overtures of tolerance and loosening up of the rules of behavior that pass for doctrine (can gays be married? etc.) or the norms that seem anachronistic (can only men be priests?). Despite this tug of war within the camp, the lynchpin that can’t be pulled is the exclusivity of the means of salvation. Without it, there is no monolithic religion. By definition, therefore, the need for salvation must be established. In this light, a mechanism for salvation is an assumption. It’s the defining characteristic of religion, i.e. a well-defined and achievable path to life with God. Faithful fans will argue about rules and uniforms, but denying the need for winners and losers in eternity would nullify their own investment. Like sports, the monoliths are a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Thus, for Christians to be on the winning side is to have a single Omni-god (with a diversity of attributes), and not a pantheon. We could ask about the merits of one vs. many, but that would be sacrilege. It is, however, an irresistible digression. Is it really easier to discuss the wrath of the one Righteous God, the mercy of the same Forgiving God and the regeneration of Christ the Redeemer than to just have a separate god for each aspect? One with many attributes or many with single attributes could be argued to be functional equivalents. Mars, Venus, Mercury, etc. Perhaps the universality of these attributes is why harmonization across Roman and Greek, Greek and Egyptian gods is possible to some extent. We’ll have to leave those questions for now. God archetypes is a curiosity to be explored on another day.
The real point of these distinctions is not to come out with an understanding of the true monolithic religion as if the choice was between the One God and one of the god sets. We’re blind sighted by that polemic. It’s a diversion. The fight for ultimacy sucks all the energy out of the earnest and faithful, who don’t realize they can take control of their own stories. Minds shaped by religious wars can’t think creatively.
Ideally, story evolution would be nurtured. We can see this in the ‘apostate’ creative hive that is Hollywood. Characters from the Greek pantheon are evolved – like Thor. New ones have been added, like Wonder woman, whose backstory is tied to the ancient myth of the Amazon women. How fun! Moviegoers don’t take offense at the evolution of the stories because that’s what they want: change, creativity, new ways of expressing the values they cherish. Superhero movie making is picking and reinforcing new values, programming a new generation in new behaviors that are important. We can learn from the craft of screenwriting, which has matured to recognize the response of a protagonist in the face of challenges to their driving intentions defines the strength of their character. The cycle of the Hero’s Journey has gone mainstream. Thus, powerful and buff kick-ass women are a new standard set by feminist producers who are tired of the old sexist stereotypes. These views will themselves evolve over time, as Men respond to defend their right to act on their testosterone levels. The ebb and flow of emphasis in stories are natural. Superhero agendas of today will also pass.
Theology and mythology are at odds. Theology needs an assertion of exclusivity to be realized. A hero must be picked as the Anointed One, the one whose journey exemplifies key learnings and behaviors, one with whom we can empathize, and thereby internalize their values, behaviors, and responses to circumstances.
To see the religious ecosystem for what it is, one must step back. It helps to question the assumptions (as I have done elsewhere in the dynomyth.net blog posts). For example, does ‘hell’ make sense, how do we know Christ himself wasn’t deceived and later impersonated by higher beings who are gaslighting us like our own public ‘servants’ do (the so-called ‘n-level problem’), etc. Above and beyond the criticism, it is helpful to have an alternative paradigm, and that’s where intention-based belief comes into play. A benefit of coming out of theological controversies is that you become familiar with some of the key questions, like pre-determination vs. free will. These are real struggles for many of the faithful.
How to know the will of God? To what extent can I mold my own destiny? Put simply, intent-based faith assumes there is an ‘orchestration engine’ out there – call it God, call it the Universe, call it what you will. We don’t know it directly like we know a person. There is no objective incarnation. The Universe doesn’t have an avatar to talk with us, although certainly through stories we can invent one. We just accept it exists. I gave it a name, Uranthom, for expediency (it should be in the dictionary). You can call it what you will.
The model is simple. As individual articulates and expresses his or her own intentions, without assuming they know how they will be realized. This articulation is otherwise known as prayer. Uranthom then takes over. Over time, if there is enough alignment on intentions, the intent will be realized in ways that are both directly related to the original intention but at the same time, surprising. This is why it is important to separate intent from a specific prejudice for its realization, otherwise, you might be disappointed. This is analogous to God’s sovereignty in religion – you don’t always get what you want in the way you want it. It also explains free will because you get to pick your intentions. Uranthom’s effects could be interpreted as the actions of a loving, personal god (especially if you already created a divine personality).
Moreover, there’s a greater chance of having your intent realized if you get other people to align the intent (which is analogous to group prayer). What better way to do this than via story-telling. Are you passionate about your intent? Then get creative. Write a story, make a play, create a movie and get it distributed. This exercises the mind and energy of the faithful, who are no longer spectators and mere financial supporters.
Without story, theology has no legs. Theological concepts are abstractions most of the faithful don’t care about. So, stories have to be created to tie it all in. Biblical stories, which were originally created by the people, have been appropriated as canon and are now the top-down delivery mechanism that sustains theology. Clergy of the past did pick some good stories, stories that people can empathize with and learn behaviors from. The interpretation of which has been self-serving to the ecosystem. It doesn’t have to be.
The natural course of myth-making based on a people’s intent denies the divine right of Christ to rule over our thoughts in decision-making. Story making is a fundamental act of rebellion against monolithic religions, and the affirmation that your intent – and especially the community’s intent – is what matters. Hasn’t it always been that way? We pick an existing religion that aligns with our intent. That act of choice proves we pick our own flavor of the One Way. Let’s just acknowledge the dependency of sacred stories to our personal intents, roll with it and get creative. Start influencing.
— Roy Zuniga