What we’re developing here is a universally applicable praxis of spirituality that focuses on the phenomenon and dynamics of faith, and not the specific trappings and content of a canned religion. In other words, we seek to establish universal practices that result in bonding with God and people. How do we know we are successful? At least three criteria must be met:
- A personal connection with God that is undeniable, i.e. an experience
- The so-called ‘fruit of the spirit’, i.e. a manifestation of a godly personality in inter-personal relationships
- Scalable choices, i.e. those decisions that can be applied broadly without detrimental effect on the environment and fellow humans
Have you ever met a holy person, a preacher or guru or prayer warrior or missionary who exudes the presence of God? I have and so have many people across the globe. A connection is undeniable. It’s not so much how they say they connected that is interesting. Instead, for me it is the love and spirit presence they emanate that convinced me a connection is possible, and I experienced the Spirit rushing through me like a fresh waterfall from above. They all spend time establishing that connection and use Scriptures in the context of life experiences as a catalyst for prayer and meditation. In other words, they make the effort, come with good intentions and an open heart. Yes, it’s possible they are duped by spiritual beings (because of the n-level problem described elsewhere). However, with these ‘saints’ we get the sense that they are connected straight to the source. The smell of scammers is more often on the hierarchy in the religious organizations than it is in these saints. So the possibility of a personal connection with God is pillar of faith.
Another other pillar is choice, or put another way: human agency. Nothing happens in this world apart from the actions of people. These two pillars are of course related. If you see a person acting selfishly and not for the greater good, then we know by their fruits that they are not connected to God.
We often think of choice as consumer choices. We have to also consider spiritual choices. In other words, it is not just about a shopping choice, or choice of career and good social behavior. It is also about what spirits we let into our lives to listen to. We often act based on muses we summon. We can pick our influence; we can exorcise undesirable spirits from our dwelling places. Music we listen to, movies we watch, angry talk radio, etc. All of these influences predispose and open our imaginations to being fed. It’s like tossing bread crusts to the sea gulls – put it out there and they will show up. I don’t know the dynamics of spiritual beings, but one thing is for certain, they are hungry for action; and the way they act is through human agency.
So how do we get rid of them? In whose name do we exorcise the foul demons? Since it is our choice, why do we need a name? Can’t they just go because we said so? Or do we need the name of Jesus or some other spiritual bouncer? In the first degree, it is in our own name that we can do wondrous things, because we have the choice. We are not the source of life and goodness. However, we channel it.
Nevertheless, we as humans seem to need a personification of that source. ‘In the name of Jesus’ is what Evangelicals say. Other cultures invoke deities with different names. Some are facts of God. Some embody the quintessential behavior of a holy man, i.e. they a proto-faithful, like Jesus. That is to say, they embody the pattern for our faithful behavior. How do you fill in the blank?
‘In the name of ____________.’
Jesus was said to be God because he could give commands and miracles would happen (wither the fig tree; convert water to wine; heal the sick; raise the dead, etc.). Assuming those acts happened as reported (which is never really the case when humans are involved), let’s flip it around and take the reported proto-faithful-behavior not as evidence, but as a pattern. For the criteria enumerated above, we don’t actually need tricks like turning water into wine. Because of the n-level problem and the factional will applied to the interpretation of those events, we don’t really know they came from God. They don’t really catalyze a personal connection because they result in awe of the performer, and veneration of the Other, which doesn’t further the cause of scalable decisions unless it’s under an organizational control framework. Yes we can use organizations, but they should be intentional by and for the community, and not driven by miracle evidence and a class of intermediaries.
We should remove the exclusive thinking in the Scriptures, for example the ‘I am The Way’ credentials for inter-personal mediation, and rather view what conforms to the criteria above as proto-behavior, i.e. the normative pattern of behavior. Ironically, in Scripture what was interpreted by the mediator class as evidence of God was reportedly touted by Jesus Himself as phenomenon possible by anyone with the ‘faith of a mustard seed’. Jesus himself diminished the miracles as tricks compared with the fruit of personal behavior and decisions. You can move mountains, he said metaphorically.
Thus what makes me suspect some of the Scripture is true are empowering assertions like that. ‘Oh ye of little faith. . . ‘ or ‘He is near you; He is in you’, etc. Despite the controlling intermediary class, these precious insights made it into the Holy Book. Generally they are obfuscated by the exegesis that interprets His ‘miracle’ acts as evidence of deity. In fact, I feel confident to say, those acts were prototype for us to emulate, and likewise not take them as evidence of our deity as some who have figured this out actually do. The only thing they attest to is the ability to manipulate nature; the source of that ability cannot be known, good or bad.
What we have to watch out for are those who exercise a religious pattern of interpretation, i.e. who take the normal miracle-practices and interpret that as evidence of deity and therefore requiring veneration of the intermediary class by the faithful. Give glory to the ‘Father in heaven’, or ‘Gaia’ as some now call her. God has aspects, not a gender; however, our minds require a name.
We should all manifest the fruit of a connected relationship and as such be common deity. Evidence of connection is normative behavior and the agent cannot be mistaken for an intermediary. Rather he or she are demonstrating what must be our ‘new normal’. This is not to say that every person will provide wine from the water faucet at parties. No, miracles have their own logic, and God doesn’t always make an exception to the laws of nature and mortality.
What should be common practice among mortals who are ‘common deity’ is healing and the fruit of the spirit. In the end, the only name that really counts is your own. After all, we God-fashion Him in our image, like so many 16th century capitalists commissioning portraits of religious subjects in the pious garb of their own times. We can paint our own mental icons if we want, if that helps. Or we can flush them out as spiritual crutches and in the end act in our own name. It is time we own up to ourselves as common deities. Believer or not, the only name counts is your own. So then, why not make it a good name? That’s your choice; it’s your decision.
— Roy Zuniga
copyright 2013 Roy Zuniga