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Fifty-seven years ago I first wrote this essay for a course in Systematic Theology. My
essential beliefs have not changed, but the method of expressing those beliefs has been
constantly changing as my understanding has deepened. Generally, I have avoided theological
terminology in favor of contemporary secular modes of expression, for theology tends to become
dogma and loses its vitality. I may mutter the Apostles Creed on a Sunday morning, but in fact
those words fail to express what I truly believe. The paper was an attempt to translate the words
theologians use into language understandable to the ordinary parishioner. The result, however,
was that my unorthodoxy made it abundantly clear why I could never be the pastor of a church.
Christian faith finds its origin, substance and security in revelation. We must begin, then,
by explaining the nature of revelation and the media through which it is revealed.
The nature of revelation. Revelation and scientific knowledge are very different. With our
senses we perceive the existence of various objects in the phenomenal world. Other human
beings appear to perceive the existence of the same objects, and for the purposes of
communication we agree to designate each object with a sign, a word (chair for the object upon
which I sit). The combination of sense experience and word sign forms our scientific knowledge
of the phenomenal world.
Revelation deals with that area of our experience which is metaphysical, which goes beyond
the phenomenal world into the arena of meaning, purpose, ontology.

In the realm of

metaphysical knowledge our word signs are helpless. We cannot point to anything in the

phenomenal world and say love. Such metaphysical knowledge is subjective. To use Dorothy
Emmetts example, a green thought in a green shade is complete nonsense if the words are
taken as signs referring to phenomenal objects. This combination of word symbols does suggest
a subjective experience which may be commented upon but never fully grasped. Likewise, when
we speak of the Love of God, we can only look within to understand what those words mean,
and the depth of our understanding will depend upon our own personal experience.
The media of revelation. Events in nature can become analogies for metaphysical insights
(Jesuss use of the seed planted in the ground). If one is fortunate enough, he can be caught up
by the beauty of nature into a state of ecstasy in which all distinctions between himself and what
he sees around him disappear, and he becomes aware, for the moment at least, of his oneness
with all of creation.
The Christian faith is more concerned about revelation as an interpretation of events
within human history. In the political events of their day the Hebrew prophets saw the hand of
God chastising his people. To the secular historian such events are the natural results of causes
inherent in the situation.

There is no necessity to postulate a God at work in history to

understand how these events might occur.

For the Christian the divine influence in human history is a matter of personal experience.
After two years at the Divinity School I happened to go several folk colleges in Denmark where
I happened to meet a girl named Jytte. We became friends, but my no means romantically
involved, since I had to return to the States to fulfill my military duties. The army sent me back
to Germany, and after a few months

I decided to take a leave to visit another friend in

Copenhagen, who happened not to be home. Jytte happened to have sent me a Christmas card
with her address on it; so I decided to call on her. On my second visit to Copenhagen, I found

myself asking her to marry me. After fifty-six years of an ever deepening love relationship it is
difficult for me to imagine that such apparent coincidences are not the deliberate intention of a
God of Love. Having experienced such coincidences on so many, many occasions, I do get the
point: the Divine Mystery does have a purpose which He fulfills in human history.
Is it really possible to have prophetic knowledge of the future? On a personal level it
certainly is, and in fact necessarily so. As a teenager I had a moment of intuition in which I
knew it was my calling to minister. I believe every person has his or her calling, what he is
meant to be. His future happiness depends upon his determination to follow that calling. But we
see through a mirror darkly. I had not yet been to college, so how could I possibly know my
destiny was to be a college professor? All that I needed to know at that time was I should go to
Divinity School after graduation from college, assuming that to minister meant to become a
minister. During my lifetime I have had other intimations of the future. One thing is certain: my
preconception of those intimations has always been wrong. The reality has proven to be beyond
my wildest dreams, impossible to have imagined.
The same was true of Jesuss disciples. When he spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven,
they were certain that he was the Jewish Messiah, come to rule over the nations of the earth.
They even argued over who would sit on his right and left hand when he became king. As a
result they did not listen, nor could they understand, when he said that the Kingdom of Heaven is
within you.
Only after the shock of his crucifixion could they begin to comprehend his true meaning,
and even so, they continued to insist that Jesus was returning to rule the world, perhaps even
during their own lifetime.

Of one thing I am certain regarding knowledge of the future:

premonitions may give some insight, but the future is the totally unexpected. I therefore have
grave suspicions when anyone declares he can interpret the Book of Revelation.
Another medium of revelation is the spoken and written word.

Ancient religious

testaments normally begin as an oral tradition which is written down decades, even centuries
later. The same is not true for modern testaments such as the Book of Mormon or Christian
Science. Stories about the gods, or God, are mythologies, which is not to say they are not true.
Quite the contrarythey have the power to transform lives when they become part of ones
personal experience.
Central to the Christian faith is the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The
power of the myth is realized when an individual experiences the death of self-centeredness, the
ego, and resurrection into a new life in which the center of the personality is subconscious
Christ in you. Central to this experience is the dark night of the soul, when we in desperation
recognize that we cannot be in control consciously but must make a leap of faith into the hands
of the mysterious unknown within ourselves.
In the Christian faith we call that unknown the spirit, which is a paltry word in English
because it conveys no visual image. In the original Greek and Hebrew the word meant breath,
wind, air, something which you could feel, which was the very substance of life, but which you
could never see or touch ().
Another word I would use is Love, but again the English word is not precise enough.
On the one hand there is erotic love () which is egotistical, self-centered, and divine love
(), which is unconditional and centered in concern for others.

The death of egotism, so central to Christianity, is not a one-time affair. Some Christians
believe that because they have gone through a conversion experience, they are saved: no longer
like other human beings, they are destined after this life to live an existence of glory. Such an
attitude of being one of the chosen (inherited from the Jewish tradition) is not the death of
egotism. On the contrary St. Paul says, I die daily. The transition from egotism to selflessness
is a life-long challenge.
We usually think of love as an emotion, which of course is true. But divine love is not
primarily a feeling.

Conversion, like falling in love, which is an essentially self-centered

experience, may be quite an emotional experience, but sooner or later the emotion is no longer
there. At this point some Christians feel that God has deserted them.
Divine love requires a choice, a crucifixion, a prayer which must be made on every
Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.
The Will of God for our lives is rarely what we prefer to do. Determining what Gods
will is is always a difficult task, no matter how much we pray about it. My yardstick is this: if I
really would rather not, then that is probably what God wants us to do. In the mid-1980s we
were just settling into life in Spearfish, South Dakota. We had just bought some land, and I had
begun to build a house. We had finished the basement and had erected the basic framework. It
was a most inconvenient time, but I felt called to teach in China. Had we known what lay ahead,
we would most likely have said: no way! But my wife and I are often called to do the most
unexpected, however inconvenient.

Revelation through the spoken and written word is not confined to sacred scripture. It
has occurred in every generation. How I got started as a writer is an interesting story. I was
sitting alone at home and decided to pray, not to God as a masculine being, but to the feminine,
to Sophia (the Greek word for wisdom), who was recognized by the early Christian Gnostics and
still is

central to the Orthodox faith.

I associate the masculine with my left brain, the

intellectual, conscious mind, while my feminine side is my unconscious mind (but more about
that later). The result was that I began to speak in tongues. Glossolalia was a common
experience among the early Christians and still is among some evangelical Christians, but I had
never spoken that way previously. The language appeared to be African, with clicks of the
tongue and guttural sounds. It seemed to me quite appropriate my muse, or alter ego, would be
an African female, the exact opposite of my conscious ego. What I learned from the experience
was that I should get out of the way and allow the Spirit to take over. The result was a series of
short stories which contained the truth about myself, much of which I would not otherwise have
known or acknowledged.
Obviously, my writing is by no means on the same level as sacred myth. I do know,
however, the first draft is never perfect, and inspired writing is not to be taken as word for word
the unalterable wisdom of the divine. Nor are the Old and New Testaments our only sacred
myths. The recently discovered gnostic gospels, which had been suppressed by the organized
church before 200 A.D., seem to me to contain a great deal of wisdom, at least on a par with the
canonical gospels, as do the sacred writings of other religions. On the other hand, sacred myths
are not necessarily timeless. The mythologies of the Greek, Roman and Nordic gods have little to
say to our present generation, or rather, few can experience them as part of their life story.
The Lamb of God

Ancient religions practiced human sacrifice, whether it be the Incas or King Agamemnon
sacrificing his daughter so that his ships might sail to Troy. The story of Abraham and his son,
Isaac, marks the substitution of an animal for the human being. In any case, the shedding of
blood was required to propitiate the angry gods or to persuade them to do what the worshippers
wanted them to do.
A mans basic instinct is to shed the blood of any man who has violated his wife or
daughter. Some years ago I read the story of a police officer who was escorting a suspect who
had made his way into the officers home and raped his daughter. The policeman suddenly took
out his gun and killed the suspect. No one was willing to condemn him for his doing so. Blood
vengeance lies deep in the heart of every man. The myth of Cain and Abel addresses this issue,
for God places a mark on Cain to prevent his being killed for shedding his brothers blood.
So Jews and Christians have attributed to the Divine this ancient demand for the shedding
of blood. Christians believe that Jesus, as Gods Son, was sacrificed to propitiate his bloodthirsty Father, a demand which no human father would make. This is a creed which I simply
cannot understand nor reconcile with the reality of Divine Love.
Jesuss sacrifice is supposedly made to cover the sinfulness of man, in particular his
disobedience in the story of Adam and Eve. But read that myth carefully. The god in the story
states quite clearly that if Eve and her husband eat the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, they
shall surely die. The serpent tells Eve, you shall not die, but rather gain knowledge of good and
evil. Who is telling the truth: the god or the serpent? Notice also that the myth comes from a
time when each tribe had its own god or gods. Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of
Eden, not because of their disobedience, but because they have become like us, knowing good
and evil. They must not remain because they may also eat of the Tree of Life and become

eternal, like the gods. In the gnostic interpretation of the story, Eve is the heroine, the Sophia,
bringing knowledge of the opposites into the world.
I believe that when a mans first sexual experience with a woman is a sacred act, he
experiences entering the Garden of Eden, losing his innocence and gaining knowledge in his
physical being: (1) that the universe is composed of opposites; (2) that the opposites can be
united, and (3) that the feminine is his goddess.
We know from archeological evidence that prehistoric man worshipped the feminine.
Indeed, recent archeological discoveries have shown that the Semites, before their discovery of
monotheism about the sixth century B.C., believed in a god who had a wife. Many female
figurines have been unearthed in the land of Canaan. The results of the misinterpretation of the
myth of the Garden of Eden have been devastating: Women have been degraded for millennia as
being the creatures who brought sin into the world.
Among the gnostic gospels discovered in Nag Hamadi in 1945 is the Gospel of Mary, to
whom Jesus reveals knowledge not given to the other apostles, much to the dismay of Peter.
There is also a passage in which Jesus is said to have loved Mary more than the other disciples
and to have kissed her frequently on the lips. The church fathers made sure that Gnosticism was
driven underground. But the gnostic interpretations coincide much more with my own personal
Divine Love makes absolute demands. It is not possible to be perfect, in the sense that
we never make mistakes of commission or omission. But the statement Be ye therefore perfect,
even as your father in heaven is perfect is not talking about that kind of perfection. The Greek

word used is , which means having reached its end, finished, mature, complete, perfect.
The closest we can come today to its meaning is Carl Jungs individuation. We are commanded
to follow our calling and, as much as is possible, to realize our potential as an individual human
being. But we realize that potential by making mistakes and suffering the consequences, in other
words sinning. As the Greek playwright put it, Man must suffer to be wise.
We have an innate sense of guilt. Every once in a while I have a physical reaction at the
bare thought of something I did or did not do. I become frozen with fear, as the result of a
childhood trauma. But my reaction is simply an animal survival instinct in the face of possible
death (PTSD). We may have a similar fear of severe punishment if we have done something
wrong. But I do not believe in the Old Testament God of Vengeance who demands blood
sacrifices in order to propitiate his anger. Divine love does not condemn; it understands.


mother used to whip me with a stick if I did something she did not like; I could never understand
why she would do so if she loved me.
The Christian church has used fear of damnation down through the centuries to control its
members. The most profound understanding of this misuse is expressed in Dostoevskys chapter
on The Grand Inquisitor, which argues that Jesus was too inhumane in offering freedom to
human beings, a freedom too burdensome to bear. Therefore, the church has shown greater
humanity by taking upon itself the task of relieving mankind of the fear of retribution by making
Jesus the Christ who pays the price for our sins through the mediation of the churchs rituals. A
religion based on fear is not a religion of love.
Divine Love demands freedom. If we truly love, we cannot impose our will on another
person. Nor does the Divine impose His will on us. We must be free to choose to love. If we

choose not to, we pay the consequences. That is the way we learn the wisdom of Gods will.
But He does not threaten to send us to hell for eternity if we disobey.
If we look at God from an egotistical point of view, we have every reason to fear him.
The Creator is of necessity also the Destroyer. A few centuries ago we could be egotistical
enough to think of ourselves as the center of the universe, made in the image of a God who
placed the stars in the heavens for our enjoyment. We now know the immensity of the universe,
the beauty of creation and destruction of galaxies. As for our own species, human beings have
existed barely a second in the billions of years it has taken for life to evolve on this planet.
Ninety percent of life forms that existed at one time or another have disappeared. All that we
find is their fossilized remains. Our personal death is most certain. In all probability there will
be an end time for mankind.
Confronted by the Power of the Almighty to destroy us, our natural reaction is fear; he is
our enemy. Yet we know from personal experience the intimate involvement of the Creator in our
individual lives, his love for us.

The bipolar nature of God is beyond our intellectual

comprehension. But this is the wisdom which Eve gave us: knowledge of the opposites, good
and evil, creation and destruction, masculine and feminine.
While I was a very young boy I witnessed an act of total depravity. The memory of that
event still haunts me from time to time to this very day. I know of no other animal who is as
depraved as a human being, whether it be burning witches at the stake or a fellow Muslim in a
cage. Evil has nothing to do with sinning, making mistakes for which we must pay the
consequences but also from which we gain wisdom. Evil acts destroy simply for the sake of
destruction, without any sense of remorse or pity. We are all capable of performing such acts.

Strangely enough, some of the most depraved individuals were apparently deeply
religious in their youth. As a young teenager Hitler lived opposite a Benedictine monastery at
Lambach and dreamed of taking holy orders. Stalins father was an orthodox priest, and Stalin
himself spent five years in a seminary. Then of course there was the Spanish Inquisition.
The myth of the fallen angels gives us some insight into this strange paradox. The love
of God demands that his creatures be given total freedom. The angels used that freedom to rebel
against God. In Miltons Paradise Lost Satan says, Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
Egotism insists on being in control.
In the Kingdom of Heaven egotism is crucified. The spirit of love is in control. But selfcenteredness does not easily give up its dominance. The more it is confronted by its own death,
the more it fights back to remain in power. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts
absolutely, in the words of Lord Acton. The temptation to remain in control when confronted
by the will of God will corrupt us. That is why we pray, lead is not into temptation but deliver
us from evil.
Before he could begin his ministry, Jesus had to go into the desert, acknowledge the
temptation within himself to go his own way, and deliberately choose not to do so.

Once we

have become aware of the presence of the Divine in ourselves, the failure to choose Gods will
leads to our own corruption. We retain the power to return to the will of God until we have
become totally corrupted by an inflated egotism which thinks it has absolute power, at which
point we become a Satan, a Hitler, a Stalin: totally depraved, without remorse, immensely
We ask, How can a good God allow such evil to exist? But the question assumes that
the Creator is only what we consider good, or at least humane, which is not the case. Divine love

is impartial. It rejoices when we choose the right path toward our fulfillment. God suffers when
we degrade ourselves and our love for those closest to us. I have experienced that suffering, and
it is more than a human being can tolerate. But love does not interfere. We must be able to
choose evil.

From a human perspective the Divine purposes are sometimes unacceptable. Just before
his death on the cross, Jesus cried out, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani. They are words spoken in
Jesus native tongue, Aramaic, the only time we hear his actual speech. Translated, they mean,
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? As a human being, he could not understand
how God could be so inhumane, why his disciples had so completely misunderstood what he was
trying to teach them, why he should have to die such a horrible death.
In the garden of Gethsemane he had prayed, Father, if this cup may not pass away from
me, except I drink it, thy will be done. Other than prayers of thanksgiving, Thy will be done is
the only prayer I pray. Fortunately, I have not had to accept crucifixion on a cross, as many early
Christians did. But I do know that I must be willing to accept the will of God, no matter how
inhumane it may be.
Therefore, I absolutely refuse to tell God what to do. I feel very uncomfortable going to
church, where I must participate in prayers for the elimination of suffering, the blessing of our
nation, the destruction of our enemies, peace in our time.


On the other hand, prayers of thanksgiving are quite in order. We have much to be
thankful for. Prayers for guidance are also acceptable, for we can so easily mistake our own
wishes for the will of God.

The Kingdom of Heaven

In order to accept Gods will, I must assume an attitude of indifferencewhat the
Buddhists call non-attachment. We are essentially spiritual beings encased temporarily in an
egotistical physical body. What happens to our bodies is of little consequence to the Divine
Being, and therefore of little consequence to me. Our physical nature is composed of matter.
Our spirit is pure energy.
It is quite possible for our spirits to exist apart from our physical body. There are
numerous accounts of people who have died, for example, in an operating room.


resuscitated they speak of hovering above their bodies and can relate what the doctors and nurses
were doing to bring them back to life. I do not doubt that the disciples of Jesus saw him after his
death, and that Paul saw him on the road to Damascus. The Christian religion would simply not
exist were that not the case. I have one friend who saw her dead relatives, another who kissed
the feet of Jesus.
When scientists study energy (or spirit), they enter a paradoxical world where light is
both a particle and a wave, and where a particle can be in two places at the same time. Physicists
are also talking about multidimensional worlds beyond the three-dimensional world we can see
and touch. The world of spirit is filled with paradoxes which our intellectual minds cannot
understand. By intuition I feel that we are surrounded by a world of spirit.


Einstein has taught us that space and time are inextricably related. In the world of spirit
there is no space, therefore no time.

T.S. Eliot, in the beginning of his poem Burnt Norton

suggests that all time is eternally present, which I believe to be true in the spiritual world
apprehended by our subconscious mind. That being the case, it is quite understandable that we
might at times have premonitions about the future, and that at the time of his death a person
might see his entire life pass before him in a moments time.
I believe that it is the subconscious realm to which Jesus was referring when he spoke
about the Kingdom of Heaven, not some place we might go to after death. The Kingdom of
Heaven is in every one of us, a place of fellowship with divinity. We can enter it at any time
while yet alive, as for example in a moment of ecstasy. But in order to do so regularly, our
egotism must be crucified.
For example, Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Wealth brings with itself power, a
sense of superiority, an attachment to the things of this world, an egotism. The Kingdom of
Heaven demands an indifference toward material goods, a willingness to live the simple life. On
our spiritual journey we may well be tested by a period during which we do not know where our
next meal is coming from, as was the case of a friend of mine. The more we become indifferent
to our personal concerns, the more we are able to experience the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.
In my own experience that joy comes during a period of ecstasy. I remember as a
teenager seeing the sunlight pouring through the leaves of trees and suddenly I was caught up in
an awareness of being at one with the entire universe. My ego was gone and I was filled with
pure joy. I ran away as fast as I could, too overwhelmed to tolerate that moment. Since then the


ecstasy has been most often in hearing classical music: the organ in the Mormon tabernacle, a
pianist in a concert in Minneapolis. It is in these moments that we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Kingdom of Heaven is a realization of our oneness with all things. As individual
human beings we are like islands in a vast sea, with our little egos rising above the surface.
From an egotistical point of view we are obviously separate from everyone and everything else.
But what we really are is below the surface of the water, in our subconscious. The island is in
reality a mountain, and much of our personality is underwater, beyond conscious control. But
the more important truth is that the mountain is a miniscule part of the surface of the earth. This
is a metaphor I have often used to visualize our relationship with the Being in whom all things

Homeostasis is the ability of an organism to maintain an internal equilibrium. I believe it
is the spirit of love in a man which maintains homeostasis in his psyche, or soul. Our souls are
composed of opposites: good and bad, self-centeredness and selflessness, creativity and selfdestruction, just as natural phenomena contain the opposites of positive and negative, new
galaxies and black holes.
The most important homeostasis is between the masculine and the feminine. All of us are
both masculine and feminine. Normally, in a man his masculine nature is his conscious self,
while his feminine side is repressed into the subconscious. Men do not cry. A woman represses
her masculine nature, but as she grows older her masculinity begins to express itself in the hair


over her lips; an old man develops larger breasts. In other words, the hormonal balance changes
in the physical body, and our bi-sexuality is revealed.
Since a mans femininity is repressed into the subconscious, he is not aware of its
existence. He cannot look directly into the subconscious. His awareness of femininity may
strike suddenly: he projects it on to a particular woman and falls in love with her. I call this
erotic love. He becomes entranced, ushered into a world of intense emotion. In fact he knows
nothing about this woman, nor is he interested in her as she really is. She is a mirror of his inner
As long as she plays the role of being the girl of his dreams, she has complete control
over him. She has become his goddess, for the feminine is a mans pathway to the divine, in
Goethes words, The eternal feminine that calls us onward and upward. As the father of three
girls I have seen how a woman can wrap a man around her little finger, and as a teenager I fell in
love with a girl who was in fact a lesbian. I am so fortunate as to have a wife who does not
abuse her feminine power.
Erotic love alone is not a good basis for a permanent relationship. As soon as the woman
steps out of her role of being what her man wants her to be, he becomes angry, even violent. A
woman can become just as entranced by a man who mirrors her masculine side. Even though he
may beat her up, when he says, Im sorry and returns to being the man of her dreams, she
cannot help herself. She stays with him, for she is convinced that she cannot live without him.
Understandably so, for he mirrors her soul, and she thinks that to lose him would be to lose her
own soul.
Erotic love is self-centered and controlling. There is no freedom in the relationship.
When she beckons, I come. Her wish is my command. Homeostasis requires that erotic love be

counterbalanced by divine love.

Self-centeredness must be crucified by selflessness. The

attempts of a man to control the one he loves must be must be replaced by her freedom to be
herself. That is not easy. I still remember a student groaning out loud in class when he realized
he had to let go of the girl he had fallen in love with, to give her her freedom.
I do not accept St. Pauls contention that there is a war between the flesh, our physical
bodies, and the spirit. I believe rather in homeostasis, a balance between flesh and spirit. We are
sexual creatures, for example, but if we love our spouses with a divine love, erotic love for
another woman is crucified. At least that has been my experience.
Although we are spiritual beings, that does not mean that we should not be part of this
world, the real world. We should embrace the world of nature in all its beauty. As for the
society we belong to, there is much corruption to be avoided, but the individuals who make up
that society must be accepted and loved as they are.

I am inclined not to follow social

expectations. When I was in college I never drank alcohol, since it was the thing to do. I began
drinking in divinity school. I was ready to become part of the real world.
Religious experience is a process of gaining knowledge about ourselves. When we refuse
to know ourselves and repress what is bad in us, it becomes an autonomous power that takes
control. Take, for example, the alcoholic who is possessed by the need for alcohol. When an
alcoholic says that he can stop drinking whenever he wants to, you know that nothing can be
done for him. It is not until he openly confesses that he is an alcoholic that recovery can begin.
This is a key procedure experience in an AA meeting.


Having accepted this knowledge about himself and the fact that he cannot help himself,
the next step is to turn to a Higher Power, the only healing power that gives him the ability to
say, No. He regains his ability to choose, but only by relying on a Higher Power. Often he
needs the support of other alcoholics who can love him, accept him as he is, encourage him,
since they know from personal experience what he is going through. He must constantly affirm
not only that he is an alcoholic, unable to control his habit, but also that there is a spirit of love
within him that has the power to forgive, to accept. His struggle to obey the spirit is never
ending, but that is precisely the nature of religious experience.
When Eve ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, we became like the gods, knowing
both good and evil. We are all good people, right? The evil in us we prefer not to see. But I can
imagine myself as a Nazi guard in the concentration camp, simply obeying orders, not seeing any
other alternative during a time of war, a loyal son of Germany. I must know myself in order to
be whole.

The Church
The church was originally a community of love gathering in someones home. After two
thousand years it still is, which is a testament to the power of the Christian mythology. As a
teenager I belonged to such a group. It was the beginning of my spiritual journey. Although that
is a journey which we must make alone, as an individual, from time to time we need the
guidance and support of such a community, as for example does the alcoholic who attends AA


Such gatherings of love have occurred, I believe, in every generation and in the most
unexpected places.

In China our colleague Lydia belonged to such a Christian home

congregation, and apparently today house churches are springing up all over the country, much to
the consternation of the ruling elite.
As a communist state, China is officially atheistic; their theology is communism,
although there are very few who believe in it any more. An open display of affection in the
1980s was not tolerated; concern for the welfare of others did not exist. One day our daughter
came home in hysterics. She had seen a man dying on the sidewalk in front of a nearby
department store. Everyone simply passed him by. No one called for help. Our good friends
Haiyan and Weihong were always impassive while we were in China. When they came to the
states and I met them, they threw their arms around me. I had no idea they felt so strongly
toward us. Their love had been repressed by communist theology.
In the 1980s in China the freedom of the individual to realize his potential scarcely
existed. A young person could not choose whom to marry, what college to attend or what major
to follow, what job to get after graduation. Such decisions were made for him by his parents or
members of the Communist Party.
We were told: You Americans are interested in money. We are not interested in money.
[In fact everyone was poor.] We are interested in power. If you had power, you could get what
you wanted. Despite how kind and hospitable individual Chinese people are, their society is
totally corrupted by power.
There tend to be power struggles in every social institution: the political system,
universities, churches. At the height of its ascendance the Catholic Church burned heretics at the


stake, as the American Calvinists did to the witches when their ministers ruled the community.
Divine love demands the renunciation of power.
Even universities are corrupt. Becoming a teacher is a sacred calling; the classroom is a
sacred place where the truth must be told. A teacher must love his students. His concern is that
each one discovers who he really is and prepares himself to dedicate himself to his calling to
serve others. The teacher should not be there to show off his superior knowledge or to require
students to repeat on exams what he has said in class. He teaches, not by becoming an expert in
some esoteric subject, but by being an example of a human being searching for the truth.
Unfortunately, the classroom, even in a church-related college, is too much a part of the
institution to become a true church.
My church is a disorganized group of writers who gather together in love to give
guidance and support, to hear confessions and offer acceptance, and never to discuss religion or
In the Name of Jesus
During his lifetime Jesus never called himself the Son of God, according to the synoptic
gospels. He called himself the Son of Man. I do not know if anyone knows what he meant by
that phrase. As usual his disciples misunderstood what he was teaching and thought he was the
Messiah, come to rule over the kingdoms of this world. It was after his death and his appearance
before his disciples and St. Paul that he became the Christ in us.
There is no sign, nothing in the external world which we can see and touch, which can
point to the Breath of God which is in every one of us, although the churches have used pictures
and statues in an attempt to do so. Protestants use words. I have used many different words as


symbols: God, the Creator, Divine Love, Spirit, Breath of God, Sophia, Christ. They are all
pointing to the same thing.
To that list of words I now add Lord Jesus. They are the words I use when saying grace
or in private prayer. They encompass a paradox beyond human understanding: that the Creator
of this vast universe is also a person. Here we tread on sacred ground, for by addressing the
Divine Mystery in words, we are somehow limiting him within the bounds of human thought.
The Jews used the sacred symbol YHWH, which they did not pronounce because it was too
sacred, but whose meaning is I AM. That is about as close to the truth as we can get.
To write a Credo is to put into words what I believe, to clarify in my conscious mind
what I feel deeply in my unconscious mind. But it does not begin to express how grateful I am
for the life of love, suffering and acceptance which has been granted to me, in the name of Lord