Brian Wilcox. 'yellow daffodil'
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The Sage told a story about the wisdom of not arguing with those who hold tightly to their beliefs:
A Christian scholar who held the Bible
to be literally true
was once accosted by a scientist who
said, "According to the Bible the
earth was created some five thousand
years ago. But we have discovered bones
that point to life on earth
a million years ago."
Pat came the answer, "When
God created earth five thousand
years ago, he deliberately put those
bones in to test our faith and see
if we would believe his Word
rather than scientific evidence."
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Having beliefs is not a problem; the one having beliefs can, however, be a problem. One can act as though beliefs are something substantial; beliefs, however, are insubstantial - ideas, thoughts, viewpoints, opinions. We become a problem when we see others and Nature through our beliefs rather than with our hearts. In fact, seeing through our beliefs is not seeing at all. We may look at, but we do not see. The scholar above could look at the scientific evidence, but he could not see it - what he saw was his belief.
* * *
The Sage said to a man who clung tightly to his beliefs and enjoyed talking about them, "Sir, what helps you move from the shore is the same thing that keeps you tied to the shore."
Clinging to beliefs deters emotional and spiritual development. Clinging signifies insecurity. Insecurity encourages us to hold tightly to the known, rather than trust the Unknown. Many who claim to trust the Unknown, call this God, or whatever, are not trusting, but holding on tightly. Sound religious belief encourages us to venture into the unexplored and trust the Unknown.
* * *
Lightly holding beliefs is needful, for we all have opinions, and we need to live civilly among others with different viewpoints.
A follower said, "I don't believe in having beliefs anymore; I've left that behind." "Interesting," replied the Sage, "you just shared with me a belief. It seems you've not left beliefs behind after all."
The theme of my writing ministry, "Lotus of the Heart," is "Living in Love beyond Beliefs." The theme does not imply living without beliefs.
"Living beyond..." means holding beliefs lightly, esteeming them as what one thinks. "Living beyond..." concedes beliefs are concepts, not principles. One can, for example, advocate for the principle 'justice for all,' while denying it by the belief that particular races are not worthy of being treated as equals with other races.
Principles are universal, timeless wisdom, while beliefs are ideas and nothing more. Any claim that a god has given a law that violates the law of Nature would be absurd, even as the claim one can believe something unkind and claim it right for a god or holy book gave the command is senseless thinking. Illogical thinking distorts our view of reality and, so, others.
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A religious conservative said, "You're too receptive to the beliefs of others. Where's your faith?" Said the Sage, "I have no intent to be too receptive to the beliefs of others; rather, my faith inspires me to be receptive to others. You, sir, have confused the two."
One spiritually-logical question to apply to any belief is, "Does this belief encourage equal treatment toward all persons, creatures, and our planet?" If the answer is not a clear yes, we need to examine the belief as to its worthiness and efficacy.
Once a mother and father concerned for their son consulted with a young pastor of a conservative church. The problem, according to the parents, was their son was gay. They wished the pastor to have a talk with him, which meant to show him how wrong he was. The pastor said he would.
The young man entered the sanctuary, on a later date, and the pastor greeted him. The young man kindly spoke to the pastor about his being gay; he said he could not help it, he did not choose it. The pastor offered him counseling, which meant quoting scripture from the Christian Bible interpreted as all gays would go to hell. The pastor provided the man with no hope. The young man tried to reason with the pastor, but the pastor clung to his belief and his understanding of the scripture. The young man kindly walked out that day.
I know what happened in that sanctuary, for I was the young, 24-year-old pastor. I was a Bible-believing evangelical conservative: that is all I had ever known. Many years later, I felt shame to divulge what happened that day. I told no one for decades. Since, I have forgiven myself, understanding what I believed was what I had been taught to believe. That belief changed, thankfully.
Some persons have said sincerity is more important than what we believe. No. What we believe is more important than sincerity in what we believe. We can sincerely hold to a belief disrespectful of another. Regardless of my honesty, and that of the parents, we were acting in ignorance, not the son. Over time, I came to view differently those with a different sexual orientation than mine, for I valued truth over what I had been taught is true.
I cannot undo what happened in that sanctuary. Looking back, the young man was brought up to believe as his parents told him. I sensed he came to me, hoping I had another answer than even the one he had, the one I had. While I cannot undo what happened, and need not, I have used that experience to advocate for others discriminated against, for whatever reason. I had the opportunity to do that later, in regard to inclusion in the church of gays and lesbians - this time, I was the one treated as though I were hopeless. Also, I left the church sect of my upbringing, a pricipal reason was the exclusion of females from serving as pastors. Ironic, the turn of events.
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©️ Brian Wilcox, 2020
*Brian can be contacted at email@example.com; his book, An Ache for Union: Poems on Oneness with God through Love, is available through major online booksellers, including Amazon and Books-A-Million, or via the publisher, AuthorHouse.
*Story of "A Christian scholar who held...," from Anthony de Mello. Song of the Bird.