An Open Letter to Our World
THERE IS NOTHING WE MUST DO
TO RETURN HOME TO GOD
EDITOR’S NOTE: I am excited to be able to use this space on the Internet as a place in which we can join together to ignite a worldwide exploration of some of the most revolutionary theological ideas to come along in a long time.
The ideas I intend to use this space for in the immediate future are the ideas found in GOD’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD: You’ve Got Me All Wrong. I believe this new book (published last October by Rainbow Ridge Books) places before our species some of the most important “What if” questions that could be contemplated by contemporary society.
The questions are important because they invite us to ponder some of the most self-damaging ideas about God ever embraced by our species. For example…
One teaching about the Divine is that God sees us as imperfect because we have not been obedient — and that we cannot return home to God in this imperfect state.
There are those who go so far as to say that we were born imperfect because the first humans did not obey God.
Of the world’s three largest religions, two—Christianity and Judaism—have taught their followers across the centuries various doctrines declaring that all human souls are subject to death as a punishment for the “ancestral,” “inherited,” or “original” sin of the first humans.
Modern Judaism (as opposed to Jewish teachers in Talmudic times) rarely teaches of original sin any more, but much of modern Christianity does to this day.
As well, both Christianity and Judaism teach that human beings are now imperfect, regardless of whether they were born that way. Modern Jewish teaching stresses that this is because humans choose to sin later in life, not because they are born in sin, while much Christian teaching still holds that imperfection is the state of our soul upon entry into this world, and this inborn state is what creates an ongoing tendency in humans to sin throughout their lives.
Part of this idea is the notion, supported by some, known as traducianism, which declares that God created only one original soul—Adam (Eve was said to have been formed by God from Adam’s rib)—and that all other souls derive their basic qualities and tendencies from their parents, and the ancestors before them, through a process by which the qualities of the soul are passed down from one soul to the next, generation to generation.
How did the imperfection that some say is “inherited” originally arise? There are varying versions of the story, but, loosely, it is this:
The first humans, Adam and Eve, were given total freedom, with all of their earthly needs met, in the Garden of Eden. God asked only one thing of them: Do not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They did. Eve picked an apple and shared it with Adam. The rest, as they say, is history.
The two were driven out of paradise by an angry God, who is said to have cursed their children, their children’s children, and their children’s children’s children—yea, even unto the end of time. God cursed their entire progeny, it was said, with inherited imperfection and physical death—neither of which conditions were aspects of Adam and Eve’s reality in paradise.
Thus, imperfection and death became part of the very nature of being human.
Now comes The Great What If . . .
What if God never cursed anyone? What if no one is born in sin? And what if God has never seen, and does not now see, any human being as imperfect in any way?
Would it make a difference? Does it matter? In the overall scheme of things, would it have any significant impact in our planetary experience?
Yes. Of course it would. The first thing it would do is relieve people of any anxiety they may hold about death and about what, if anything, “bad” could happen to them after they leave their body.
Actually, humans wouldn’t have any worries about this at all if they had not been told of God’s requirement that only perfection is allowed in heaven. But most religions have made it very clear that this requirement is in place, and that there is no getting around it.
The Bible, for instance, tells us directly and unequivocally that God’s standard for allowing us to join God in heaven is perfection. The Bible also tells us, at Romans 3:23, that no human being can meet that standard. It says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Yet even if we haven’t committed one sin in our entire life, there’s that bugaboo, traducianism. We’ve got our inherited imperfection to deal with.
And as we noted earlier, our beliefs tell us that God has no leeway here. The Law is the Law. The 23rd Psalm says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,” but that does not, presumably, apply after death. Then, mercy apparently has no place. God has no choice but to deny every imperfect soul immediate access to heaven—and since no soul exists in a state of perfection, that means, according to some doctrines, that all souls are initially denied access.
This doesn’t mean they never get into heaven, however. Wear told there is a place called Purgatory, where souls are said to be sent prior to entering heaven in order to be purified by having the blemish of their sins eradicated through a process of suffering in payment for them.
It should be made clear here that not all of the world’s religions teach of the need for the soul to suffer in order to compen- sate for offenses. Many teach of a God who admits us into heaven at once if we sincerely repent of our sins. But if we don’t . . . .
So the overall pronouncement is this: We are imperfect beings. We should stand before the throne of God in trem- bling and in shame, with the hope that our imperfections and transgressions will be forgiven. If we do not do what is necessary to purify our souls and return them to perfection, now or in the hereafter (such as by submitting to abject suffering in payment for our sins in Purgatory), we’re not getting back Home. It’s as simple as that.
Now if the huge number of people (we are talking billions here) who believe this is true altered their belief, fear, shame, and guilt would be lifted from the hearts of both innocent children and sad adults who carry as a burden their identity as being undeserving of reuniting with God in heaven.
And if the third question in the “what if ” above were to be embraced as humanity’s reality, the lack of self-worth that now sponsors so much of our species’ dysfunctional, self-defeating, and hurtful behaviors would at last be healed. It is clear that this would cause the largest number of those behaviors to disappear.
Now here is the news: God has been telling us from the very beginning, and it is becoming more clear to us every day, that humanity’s Ancient Cultural Story about God seeing us as imperfect, and therefore not allowing us back into heaven unless and until we have been purified, is plainly and simply inaccurate.
It is okay now to remove this ancient teaching from our current story, and to stop telling this to ourselves and to our children.
We are not born in sin, nor do we inherit sinful tendencies through a lineage of souls going back to a purported First Misbehaver. “Ancestral guilt” is a figment of our religious imagination. The story of Adam and Eve is a fiction as well.
God did not throw anyone out of paradise, and one look at the world around you will show you that human beings are still living in a paradise. They are despoiling it step-by-step, to be sure, but even with all of that, nothing compares to a sunrise or a sunset, to an eagle’s glide or a butterfly’s flutter, to the fragrance of a rose or the smell of the morning dew. There is nothing more stunning than the quiet beauty of an unexpected snowfall, or the noisy beauty of expected waves pounding upon a sandy shore. We watch both with awe, as well we should, for we are clear we are seeing something exceeding magnificence.
And that is just the beginning, just the top of a long list of treasures that this paradise called the earth will always hold, if we will but hold them as treasures, keeping them safe from disassembling and destruction.
The beauty of this world is enhanced beyond measure by the beauty of you. Nothing is imperfect about you. Nothing you have ever thought, nothing you have ever said, nothing you have ever done. It is all perfect, because it is all part of the process of your personal evolution—and, on a larger scale, of the evolution of the human species.
Even as all the “failed” experiments of all the scientists in all the laboratories across the globe are perfect, in that they are steps in the producing of an ultimately important and highly beneficial result . . . even as the mathematical miscalculations and spelling errors of all the children in all the schools of the world are perfect, in that they are steps in the producing of the highest scores . . . so, too are the “mistakes” of humanity as a whole seen as perfect in the eyes of God—steps in the evolutionary process of all life everywhere.
All that was ever thought or said or done by any and every human being—even the worst of it—has been the product of the innocence of a species so young, its members did not know any better; they did not understand how to get that for which they yearned, they did not comprehend how to escape or evade that which they wished to avoid.
This is difficult for many people to accept. The idea that fully grown humans have done these things, that some of us have acted in these ways, because of extreme immaturity, is challenging to our belief that surely, grown men and women know right from wrong, and don’t have to be told that killing others and destroying everything in their path is not the way to achieve their goals, whatever they may be.
We assert that people should know better because we like to think of humans as highly evolved. In fact, humanity has just emerged from its infancy.
In their book New World New Mind, Robert Ornstein and Paul Ehrlich placed this in perspective in one mind-boggling paragraph:
Suppose Earth’s history were charted on a single year’s calendar, with midnight January 1 representing the origin of Earth and midnight December 31 the present. Then each day of Earth’s “year” would represent 12 million years of actual history. On that scale, the first form of life, a simple bacterium, would arise sometime in February. More complex life forms, however, come much later; the first fishes appear around November 20. The dinosaurs arrive around December 10 and disappear on Christmas Day. The first of our ancestors recognizable as human would not show up until the afternoon of December 31. Homo sapiens—our species—would emerge at around 11:45 p.m. . . . and all that has happened in recorded history would occur in the final minute of the year.
As you can see, we are an astonishingly young species, and, not surprisingly, very immature.
And so, we have used violence to produce outcomes that we were sure justified its use (even if it meant death to millions of innocent men, women, and children).
And so, we have used domination—sometimes cruel, heartless domination—to generate results we were sure were desirable to experience (even if it subjected the entire population of a country or an area to ruthless suppression, persecution, and maltreatment).
And so, we have used self-interest—sometimes unmitigated, unbridled self-interest—to generate a level of sufficiency for ourselves that we were sure we deserved (even if millions of others had to go without, given the global economic model that we have empowered).
And so, we have used self-righteousness—sometimes appalling, execrable self-righteousness—to generate a sense of self-worth that we were sure we deserved (even as we told others that they were unworthy and were going to be condemned by God to hell).
These childish, almost infantile, behaviors are seen by God as the uncontrolled and irrational tantrums of an unenlightened species, a breed of sentient beings in the primitive, primeval, primordial stages of its maturational process.
Put simply, The Divine perfectly well understands the nature of what it is to be human.
Even as we understand how a three-year-old could knock over the milk reaching anxiously for the chocolate cake because it wants the cake so badly, so does God understand completely how we could act as some of us have acted, reaching for what we have wanted so badly.
Even the wanting of some things, in and of itself, could be considered “wrong” by judgmental humans, just as a child’s wanting more cake than his little sister might be considered “wrong.” In our human value system, he shouldn’t want more than everyone else. And he certainly would be considered “wrong” for trying to get it by bullying his way to it. Yet the wise parent understands the not-yet-mature desire of the older brother, and does not send him to his room for the remainder of his childhood.
God sees us just as we see our children: in the process of maturing, but nonetheless whole, complete, and perfect just as we are right now. There is nothing we have to be, nothing we have to say, and nothing we have to do to gain the love of our Creator, who adores us even as we misbehave. There are no credentials we must acquire in order to be qualified to return to heaven. Our credential is our existence. Nothing more is needed.
That message is important enough to be repeated.
There are no credentials we must acquire in order to be qualified to return to heaven. Our credential is our existence. Nothing more is needed.
Again, this is hard to believe and difficult to accept by a race of beings conditioned to imagine that perfect justice requires con- demnation and punishment—including, in some cases, death.
You must remember that human beings are of such infantile comprehension that they will claim that the killing of people by the state is the way to teach people that killing people is bad.
You must remember that human beings are of such infantile comprehension that they will claim that the use of weapons of mass destruction in a preemptive strike by one country is the way to teach another country that to have weapons of mass destruction is bad.
You must remember that human beings are of such infantile comprehension that they will claim that strict adherence to a religion that teaches intolerance of any other religion is the way to teach the world that intolerance is bad.
A God of Unconditional Love is utterly incomprehensible to a species that has still not learned to love itself enough to stop destroying itself.
We cannot believe that God would forgive us for that which we cannot forgive each other.
It is nonetheless true that even if we have done what we, or others, consider to be truly horrible things during our time on the earth . . . even then, God will welcome us back Home.
There are a number of very good reasons that this will be true, and we’ll be examining them in the chapters just ahead as we continue to explore humanity’s misunderstandings about God. For now, please read this, given to us by Jesus.
I know that you are probably very familiar with this tale, but please read it anyway.
A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.” So he divided among both of his sons their inheritance.
Not many days after, the younger son gathered all his things together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal liv- ing. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
Then he went and found work with a citizen of that country, and the man sent him into the fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, but no one gave him anything.
Then he came to himself, thinking: “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”
And he arose and went to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
But the father said to his servants, “Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fat- ted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” And they began to be merry.
Now the father’s older son was in the field, work- ing. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant.
And the servant said to him, “Your brother has come home, and because he was safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.”
But the second son was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So the second son answered and said to his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me even a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your liveli- hood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.”
And his father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.”
To me, this is the single most important story in the Bible. It says everything important that Jesus wanted us to know about God. But Jesus knew that people rarely understood, much less embraced, really deep truths if heard only once. So he made his same point again and again, saying things like . . .
What man among you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost!”
Does this include the worst of us? The “black sheep” of our human family?
And so, we can rest easy. We will not be abandoned because we became lost, and we will not be rejected when we finally return Home, no matter what we may have done while we were away.
Parables and stories are one way of getting an idea across. Poetry is another. It bypasses the mind and seeps right into the heart. I have placed the following poem in other books of mine, and I am placing it in this book again, because—like the parable above—a message wondrously crafted cannot be heard too often.
I am blessed to be married to the American poet, Em Claire. This is her offering:
LONG AT SEA
I left Home so long ago now
that I would not recognize my own face.
I constructed the Boat of my Life
and I set out into the open sea,
waving to all who knew
that the seas would give me
everything I could handle,
and everything I could not—
and yet they waved,
and I set out
into the open sea
in the Boat of My Life:
built from Soul, crafted by Heart.
And with great innocence I pushed off
into the open sea
and have been away from my Home
so long now that I would not recognize my own face—
but I know that Home,
(From the book and CD Home Remembers Me,
available at www.EmClairePoet.com)
(The entirety of the exceptional text of GOD’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD: You’ve Got Me All Wrong brings our species theological constructions that truly challenge the world’s thinking about God. Five full chapters of this book may be sampled here: www.godsmessagetotheworld.info)