Tuesday 12 December 2017

When Does Life Begin?

My opinions only - but carefully considered ones none the less! And I do love opening cans of worms to see what will happen!

Abortion has been a hot topic for a long time. But when we sift through all the arguments, it comes down to one simple question:

When does life actually begin?

I have no answer, and despite the best efforts of millions, I really don't think anyone does. Here's the problem as I see it...

https://img.purch.com/w/660/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzAyNS81MDAvb3JpZ2luYWwvc3Blcm0tYW5kLWVnZy5qcGc=Starting with eggs and sperm -  are these pre-human forms alive? Kind of. I mean sperm are definitely wiggling around waiting to do their job, and eggs are sitting around waiting for the brave little sperms to do their thing. But are they human? Most would say they aren't, but they are alive.

Then the moment they get together they form complete DNA and begin to divide. So are they human babies at that moment? Do they instantly become endowed with a soul/spirit and that point and become conscious? Do they slowly become "humans" over a period of time? If so, how long and how can we tell?

What if we back track to the eggs and sperm. Let's face it, millions of sperm die all the time, whether we like it or not, and most of a woman's eggs die too. So these half human "things" are carelessly discarded by our bodies anyway. So do we assume that it's not until the sperm penetrates the egg that human life begins? Or is it when the first cell divides? Or is it when the first "blob" of cells start to look like a human form? Then again, the first steps beyond the "blob" look like fish.

Perhaps it's a slow "awakening" to consciousness in the womb. But is "consciousness" the determining factor, or is the potential itself enough to go on? The more we look at the complexity, the more we have to admit there is no clear line - no point at which we can say "this is a human" and to terminate this is "murder".

Personally, I think we are a long way from knowing. Would I condone abortion? That's the million dollar question for all of us, and I would say we have no right to judge either way. That isn't a cop out, it's simply a way of saying I believe it's up to the conscience of the mother. No one else has that right - ever!

Full term abortions? They are rare, and will never be something that people will accept, simply because most women would not even go there after carrying a foetus for 9 months. Up to 3 months? Again, it's an arbitrary line we draw in the sand, pretending we know when the blob of cells becomes human. And again, I would say it's always the choice of the mother.

There are so many arguments either way, but let's face it, if you are a christian, why are you concerned? Surely you believe an innocent foetus would go straight to heaven anyway? A few moments of suffering through an abortion would be more than offset by a shortcut to heaven!

There is no argument either way. It's a non issue, despite our most heart felt and passionate beliefs. Only the mother has the right to decide. She may need help to do so, but not judgement. It's never going to be easy, simply because we all know that somewhere along the line that foetus will become a conscious baby.

It's time to find more important issues. Love the mother, no matter what her circumstances, and let her decide. She has the right decide what is going on in her body, whether we like it or not.

Let's focus our energy on issue involving those who are suffering here and now - fully conscious and self aware - creatures who have experienced the joy and pain of life. These are the ones who truly need our care. And that includes the mothers who, for whatever reason, may be considering an abortion!

Sunday 12 November 2017

Gay vs Gay

I write this with a certain amount of fear that too many will take offence without looking at the real issues. I welcome constructive discussion on his matter however, as it's something that affect our community quite deeply.

There's a quiet "in-house"  discrimination amongst gay guys (in fact, its amongst all the LGBT community, but I'll leave that for another blog).

Here's an example of the problem

In it's simplest form it comes down to masculine gays not liking effeminate gays. On the surface, it seems like a basic need for tolerance and acceptance, as stated in the article link above. But I think there are much deeper issues involved.

There is the simple issue of the type of person we like. We all have preferences for a partner, from hair colour down to personality and character. This is perfectly valid and should not be an issue in the slightest. However, when we impose our personal preferences as a judgement onto others we have crossed the line into discrimination and bigotry.

But there's another reason why so many of the more "masculine" gays don't like the feminine ones. Sadly there is a generalisation that femme guys are petty and bitchy.

There's a reason we have generalisations - they are mostly true, and as a result tend to be applied to all who fit the general description.

Personally, I hate pettiness, gossip, backstabbing and bitchiness in anyone, and have very little time for it. One thing I've noticed as I interact with the broad LGBT community, is that femme guys in particular display these characteristics far too often, to the point of being predictable. I hate it with a passion! And I have to admit it puts me on guard whenever I meet effeminate guys. I don't want to, and I genuinely want to assume the best of every person I meet.

But despite my best intentions, time after time, effeminate guys seem to see the world through the lens of petty gossip.

As I said this is a generalisation, and I give my sincere apologies to all those beautiful people who don't fit this picture. I also have to say that in spite of this, I genuinely see the best in people and choose to exercise empathy to everyone. I will never discriminate against anyone. But I will choose the level of interaction I have with people in the interest of healthy boundaries.

So... after saying all this, what are we to do? Why is this so prevalent?

Lets look at it without involving sexuality or gender. If you met someone who was into belittling, gossiping and generally being shallow and self absorbed, would you avoid them and leave them to it? Straight girls... if you have a friend who is like that, you tend to avoid them for your own mental health. We all do!

This is the crux of the matter. An effeminate gay guy can be fun loving and absolutely beautiful. They can be caring and deeply compassionate, full of empathy and a great confidant. But there are many who you know you simply would not trust.

This really comes down to the personal paradigms of so many effeminate gays who have allowed themselves to be defined by their insecurities, abuse and rejection. These produce the underlying fears that result in this sort of behaviour. It's a problem that we desperately need to address, with compassion and unconditional love - not judgement and more rejection.

We really are a persecuted minority and we must support each other, but we must also be realistic and have the guts to examine our own biases and paradigms.

We are bigger than this. We must learn to love, to validate each other and ourselves.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Religion... and religion...

I've often posted about the nature of religion and spirituality. It seems to be a very subjective topic with everyone ready to jump in with their ideas.

We all have our notions of these terms based on our experiences and inherent paradigms, but to make any sense out of it all so that we can communicate successfully and actually be on the same page, we need to find common ground.

The most popular comment is something to the effect of "I'm spiritual but not religious!".

But my point of contention is the definition of  "religion" and "spiritual".

Unrelated pic - just because
Now I'm not saying I have the ultimate definitions, but I've dug around extensively at the root meanings, the cultural interpretations and psychological inferences (sounds impressive!) and come to what I consider a good baseline for the terminology.

Spirituality is the innate part of every human, that longs for purpose, meaning and eternity.
It's the part of us that looks at the stars and the seas and forests and is left speechless in awe.
It's our yearning for meaning to this short, temporal existence. It fires our hearts with imagination and helps us understand love and life. It doesn't have any set form or dogma, it's simply a part of our existence.

When we talk about being spiritual, what are we actually saying? Most of us would agree on the above statements, give or take. But we also add our own belief systems into the mix, creating a confusing definition that others easily misinterpret.

Religion however, is the application of theories supported by subjective experiences, doctrines (formalised theologies and beliefs systems) and rituals that help us make sense of our innate spirituality. (Wikipedea: Religion is any cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, ethics, or organizations, that relate humanity to the supernatural or transcendental. Religions relate humanity to what anthropologist Clifford Geertz has referred to as a cosmic "order of existence".[1] However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion)

Using this definition, we can see that all the major "religions" clearly fit the definitions. But millions of people explore "alternative", "new age" or what they call pure spirituality without realising that they are also embracing religion.

I recently engaged in a tense discussion with a friend about things like chakras, reiki, and similar forms of "spiritual" practices. Although our biggest problem was to do with definitions, it did cause me to stop and think about the whole issue again.

Whatever methods we use to interpret and apply our innate sense of spirituality is basically a religion! We may embrace various forms of "new age" teachings or traditional teachings from indigenous or ancient cultures - a whole range of practices we consider as spiritual but not religious. But in fat, the moment we apply some form of methodology, interpretation and application of a spiritual concept, we have adopted a religion.

This in itself is fine! We have to, so that we can apply the principles in a constructive way. It's not "bad" to practice religion in any form because it's the only way we can live by our beliefs.

But here's where the rubber hits the road...
  • Do you think your religious applications of spiritual concepts are "the truth"? 
  • Do you proclaim you have the real deal and other people need to be enlightened to the reality of your beliefs? 
  • What are the "fruits" of your beliefs (that you apply as a religion to your life)?
  • Have you refined your beliefs into a form of religion that has become dogma? (a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true)
So many people claim they have rejected religion to discover "true" spirituality, free of the dogma and oppression of religious fundamentalism. but they are unaware that they have simply shifted from one form of religion to another - that they have accepted another dogma with just as much passion as they claim to have rejected. 

What we fail to see is that any form of religion and dogma is entirely subjective - there is no empirical evidence for any spiritual beliefs or the applications of those beliefs through a religious structure.

Whatever we embrace is, by it's very nature, subjective and cannot be defined by dogma. Whatever we believe, we have two primary considerations - do we regard it as dogma, and what is the fruit of that belief?

If our "religious"  belief and expression is in any way exclusive, creates an "us and them" mentality, denies unconditional love to all humanity, then we have failed at the most fundamental level. We must examine our beliefs and be prepared to let go of all our assumptions.

It's OK to be wrong.
It's OK to lose unshakeable beliefs.
It's OK to have an existential crisis.
It's OK to simply "be".

Live loved - because that is all that matters!

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Praying in disasters.

We all do it! Even if it's not to THE God (whichever one that me be), but we all cry out to something outside of ourselves when things get desperate. Unless you are a die-hard atheist I guess.

We want god to rescue us, change the situation, do something to change what seems inevitable.

Time and time again, in the face of a disaster, people are called to prayer. Government officials, churches, relief organisations... all will end up saying things like "all we can do is pray". Churches hold big prayer meetings, and the government might even announce a national day of prayer.

We never seem to learn from history how ridiculous this actually is! God never turns up to save the day - ever!

Image may contain: 1 person, text
Some people may be spared, and call it a miracle and praise god for being so blessed, and yet countless others may be killed or devastated. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It's completely random. And yet we persist in thanking god for those who do make it through. We feel sorry for those who don't make it and pray for god's mercy and grace for them and their families but fail to recognise how absurd the entire belief really is.

Those who do allow themselves to question it all work hard to invent doctrines about why god allows such things. But ultimately it always ends up that "his ways are mysterious" or "higher than ours" etc. I was recently watching a thread where this very issue was brought up, and not one of the numerous comments actually addressed the issue. They skirted around it with the whole idea of who are we to question god, as well as the usual platitudes that god works with these things to refine us, to give us wisdom and strength.

Now there certainly is some truth to the fact that if we come through disasters and hardship it is possible to learn to see the world in a much more philosophical way and develop a deep strength of character etc. It's possible. For many though, it's the opposite, and they find themselves broken and wounded, with deep scars. Either way, god is not involved - it's a response formed by the strength or frailty of our own mental health.

If you find comfort in your faith, then that's awesome. If it brings you life and makes you a loving, caring, compassionate person, then great. But lets drop the notions that this god is somehow involved in the whole dynamic of disasters - either large catastrophes or small daily disasters.

What really matter is how we respond in the face of any disaster. If we can find some internal peace and strength, with enough left over to extend compassion to those around us, then we have responded with integrity and love.

Stop wasting time praying. Stop looking for reasons. Stop blaming society or gays or whatever.

The strength you need is in you already. If anything, develop mindfulness and meditation skills, because they will bring a genuine peace and stability to our minds and a clarity to react with love and grace.

Wednesday 13 September 2017

Unity or Uniqueness?

There are many reasons why we love religion: purpose, meaning, security, community and so on.

One reason, that I find is overlooked to some degree, is a desire to unite humanity with common beliefs so that we can all get along and live loving, meaningful lives. We think that if we all believe the same way, we will have world peace.

This is, in itself, an understandable and noble goal. In fact, in a way if we really did have the same religious beliefs it would solve a heck of a lot of problems.

In the real world though this will never happen, although most Christians believe Jesus will return to rule the world and everyone will become Christians or burn in hell (or something to that effect).

To embrace this idea however is lazy – really lazy. In fact it’s everything that’s wrong with religion!

We cannot all believe the same thing no matter how hard we try. There have been, and still are, thousands of groups trying to create communities and organisations that all believe the same theologies and doctrines. Every church’s main focus is to make sure everyone is on the same page, faithfully shaping people’s lives to match their particular denomination’s rules.

Religion demands (overtly or extremely subtly) that we all become clones. Like it or not that’s the bottom line. Sure, we can have varied lives and roles in our community. As long as our belief system matches everyone else’s we can do whatever we like.

Solving the world’s problems and creating a better world however, requires hard work – just not the type of work Christians (and all other religions) think.

It requires that we actively go out of our way to encourage uniqueness.

You see, even in a tight church group, no one has exactly the same beliefs. They can say they do, but it’s impossible. Every mind is different. The way we all process information and our environment is different. We respond differently to everything, with different emotions. The variations are limitless. And yet we pretend that we are all in unity – until someone expresses the fact that they see something differently. We give them a certain amount of liberty, but if their thoughts run too far off track we have to bring them back into line. We have to help them force that unique thought process back into our particular group’s mould.

History has shown that this never works – ever! And it never will. It’s like “whack-a-mole”, eventually the moles always win.

The key to growth is through accepting our uniqueness, and helping each other discover our own unique approach to spirituality. We need to help each other discover how to live with integrity (the “concept of consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes. In ethics, integrity is regarded as the honesty and truthfulness or accuracy of one’s actions.”). It doesn't matter what we believe if we do so with honesty and integrity, and that, most importantly, we display love – for ourselves and others.

To force uniformity of beliefs is to bring death.

To encourage freedom of beliefs with personal integrity brings life.

When I say to Christians (and all religious people) “it’s time to grow up”, I get slammed for being arrogant and patronising. And yet, after thousands of years of religion, it’s clear for those who really want to see, that unity through religion has failed. It’s failed in a way that is horrific. It really is time for all of us to grow up as a species.

Time to love each other for who we are, not who we think we should be to appease any religious expectations.


Thursday 24 August 2017

Popper's Paradox

Free speech,
Unconditional love...

How do these things work in reality?

In 1945 the philosopher Karl Popper proposed the paradox of tolerance.

In a nutshell he said "if a society is tolerant without limit, their ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant", or to paraphrase that: we can only survive by being intolerant about intolerance.

As we all know, white supremacy and all it's ugly variants are making headlines and empowering those who secretly embrace those views to speak out. There's also the current political mess in Australia over gay marriage, where conservative christians are doing all they can to stop it.

So where do we draw the line on free speech and religious freedom?

We have to draw it somewhere, or our society will become victim to it and we will loose those very freedoms!

The balance is in how we confront them. If we use "violence" (physical, vocal or in any form) we are playing the same game, and when confronted in this way, the intolerant simply dig their heels in and use the opposition to fuel more intolerance.

Respect for their humanity is key. To recognise that we could be the same if we'd been raised in a different environment is a sobering thought. It's a learned trait, something we aren't just born with. So compassion and empathy is the key to any communication, bypassing the rhetoric and reactionary thought processes and focussing on understanding why people are like this.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, it comes down to a lack of love. They never experienced the type of unconditional love themselves that breeds self worth and empathy for others. They are broken and angry, but instead of looking within, they are lashing out at the rest of us.

But they still have to be stopped from spreading this disease, and that's where we have to draw lines. Although love is the only "cure" for these people, we still have to deal with the affects they are having on our society.

The alt right issue is pretty obvious, but the christian right style of bigotry, especially towards LGBT people is more complex because of the religious freedom problems. And that opens a very large can of worms because it will eventually confront all religions on issues of bigotry and tolerance.

Perhaps it's time we stop being afraid of challenging people's belief systems?

We can do this with love and patience without compromising our stand. They believe they are doing the right thing, so we have to talk to their hearts, bypass the religious rhetoric and present compassion and empathy for the broken as our motivation.

We also have to remember that for most christians it's a case of "the bible says so", and that's a tough nut to crack. But with the same level of compassion we can help them to understand that their views are in error, as have been so many christian opinions over the centuries, that had to be adjusted and morality, ethics and science outgrew the ignorance of ancient culture.

We must be strong but loving - compassionate but without compromise - draw the lines but help them gently step over them. It's hard work, but if we can step back from our own reactionary thought processes we will be able to exercise the love they need to see in action.

Tuesday 15 August 2017

"Real" Christians?

I've been getting a bit of backlash lately. Not from the usual quarters, but from concerned friends. They are worried that I'm too angry about Christianity and religion and point out that I'm painting all Christians with the same brush - that I'm offending those who I shouldn't be offending and that really, I should just get on with loving people, not judging, and living my new found life to it's fullest.

I'm told that I'm still angry at what the church did to me, and that isn't what christianity is about, and I should back off and pursue the love that I preach and leave others to live their own journeys.

I totally understand this. I really do!! And to be honest, I often contemplate just walking away from all this stuff (even Silent Gays) and getting on with living a nice life.

These days, I'm not particularly angry over what has happened to myself  (apart from the odd trigger of course), but I am angry over the damage I  still see every day from Christianity in all it's forms.

One of the many issues that needs clarification is "real Christianity".

My main concern, obviously, is with fundamentalism. But even this is a broad term with many variations and complexities.

Most of us would assume I mean the bible belt red-neck version, that encompasses biblical literalism and strict dogma built around the Old Testament version of god - the type that believes rational thought has no place and the bible takes precedence over science and psychology etc.

But there is also the type of traditionalism that is embraced by the broader church, that still has strict dogmas based on things like the Nicene Creed and other dogmatic statements of faith that very clearly define what you must believe to be "saved".

Then there are the more liberal doctrines that allow for far more gnostic and esoteric interpretations, right through to those who just follow the example of Jesus as practically as they can and don't even concern themselves with all the other stuff.

So the waters become very muddied when we all respond with our various paradigms based on our experiences, our upbringing, culture etc. Everyone thinks they understand "real" Christianity - that their beliefs are right/best/loving/biblical/just/compassionate or whatever.

Because of all this, we are faced with "what is real Christianity?". So when I dissect and expose so many doctrines and expression of belief, am I calling any particular belief system that is loosely based on Jesus into question? Or all of them?

Can you see the problem here? Where do we draw the line between what is "true Christian doctrine" and what isn't? I realise that everyone will immediately try to justify their biblical interpretations and the traditions of the church and 2000 years of church history etc., but the fact remains that the bible, and Christian doctrines are a mess of ambiguity and contradiction. And the crunch really comes down to when is a Christian not a Christian and, even more important, what are the "fruits" of those beliefs that define your own brand of Christianity.

My "mission" then, is to help bring some clarity to what we believe and why we believe it. The sooner we all realise that every form of religion is totally subjective, with no empirical evidence for any of it, the sooner we can get on with really making this world a better place - of discovering what real love is and actually living it.

You can believe in anything you want, but do so in the knowledge that you are simply adopting something that just feels good to you and empowers you (hopefully) to bring love, compassion and peace to this world.

Wednesday 14 June 2017

God (or doctrine) "allows" evil

I saw this article and simply had to respond, mainly because it's indicative of a deeper issue than the one being addressed. Just have a quick read before continuing...

 Read this first
Read this first before continuing
Why do we wrestle with this problem so much? The article puts forward a pretty good theological explanation that may or may not be strictly "biblical", but it puts a nice soft band-aid on it so we don't notice the problem so much.

When we are confronted with the never ending contradictions in the bible and god's character we have to sort it out somehow. This is the purpose of creating theologies and doctrines. Without them we are left to make whatever we can of the collection of disparate writings of the bible (the canon of documents created by the Roman church around 350 years after the fact).

Doctrines are nothing more than man made ideas about how to make it all work.

So this article looks at one of the most asked questions mankind has ever put forward, and because a christian is asking the question they have to look at scripture for an answer. This is where the doctrine machine kicks in. The author has worked hard to reconcile things and takes into account a lot of newer doctrines that have been created recently as people start thinking a little more rationally and logically, daring to question taboo issues.

But as I said, this particular article isn't the main point.

We just keep making up more doctrines to keep this faith alive. We have to! As we realise that something we thought was reasonable a while back is actually nonsensical and possibly downright evil, we have to look at the bible again and create different ways of reading and interpreting it so that we can breath a sigh of relief and carry on again - with a new revelation. And that new revelation builds a whole new set of "movements", all just as judgemental as the last, all claiming to have THE truth (or the latest version specially revealed to them).

The simple reality...

We don't need the bible, or Jesus (sure, there's good stuff there if you can extract it from the crap). We don't need to be "saved". We don't need the latest revelation.

We are enough - as we are. Everything we need is already in us. WE are the source of love. Our inherent sense of empathy, compassion and morality is greater than the god we have created. Time to ditch the book, the doctrines and challenge the paradigms of religious thought.

Live loved 💖

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Good, Evil, Sin, Love

This is perhaps one of the most important issues we have to face. It's insidious and rules over every part of our lives. In fact it's the basis of the "human condition" irrespective of religion.

(It's a long one so hang in there!)

I became a passionate Christian at 15. 

I was gay, struggling to understand what was wrong with me.

I grabbed the bible and read it nonstop, cover to cover. I absorbed it, and the prayer books, and started listening to the sermons. I loved talking about it and how amazing God was, and assumed everyone else in my church youth group had the same understanding as me!

Inevitably I discovered that it was wrong to be a christian and be homosexual. The bible said so and that was that. So I prayed and prayed for it to “go away”. I started to look for more radical “cures” and went to a “deliverance” ministry to get the demons cast out. I persisted for a few weeks and went along with the whole thing, but nothing actually changed, strangely enough!

I then had some prayer counselling which supposedly got to the deeper spiritual and psychological causes, but just made me feel like a failure. So I ended up marrying this really lovely girl, who was a great friend, thinking that would fix everything, and we’d have a family and live happily ever after. Not a happening thing. 

I then drifted into Pentecostalism to find a deeper more powerful spirituality that would enable me to overcome my evil desires. I became a worship leader, home group leader and dived into the whole lifestyle boots and all, even street witnessing in Kings Cross.

I decided to get married again! Really stupid, I know, but I was convinced it would work this time and my dream of a happy family would come true. 

She’d had lesbian relationships so we knew basically what we were up against, but of course we had no idea of just how hard it would be. We had lots of counselling, all sorts of whacky Christian ministries, and finally got involved with Living Waters reparative therapy group in Australia and then over here in New Zealand. We were involved with them off and on for about 15 years, as worship leaders, participants and leaders.

Never once did we admit that it wasn't working. Sure there was some good insights gleaned from the teachings and they were beautiful, sincere and loving people, but I never became one tiny bit straight.

Eventually my wife became sick with cancer in 2009. I nursed her for nearly 2 years before she died after which I had something of a meltdown. Our son had to watch his mum die as we kept hanging out for miraculous healing. We read all the books, heard countless preachers on every aspect of healing imaginable. Went to conferences with the best international healing ministries and lost count of the number of people who prayed and prophesied over her. It was horrific on so many levels, and it wasn't until after she died I could even attempt to process any of it.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I’d lived my entire adult life with depression and suicidality, struggling with the cognitive dissonance of being gay in a belief system that said I couldn't be gay.
My core spirituality was based on my experience as a 15 year old, and I’d spent the rest of my life thinking that fundamentalist Pentecostalism (in one form or another) was the only genuine expression of that experience.

So I then spent 12 months unravelling my faith, and coming to terms with my sexuality. I began to take small steps to embrace my real identity and slowly become very active in the LGBT community as a spiritual voice for those silently suffering in churches and religion.

So now how does that all relate to my topic on the knowledge of good, evil, sin and love”? I'm glad you asked.

Part of the unravelling process required me to take a radical look at the bible. I started to look at the original languages, the cultures, social norms, historical context etc, as best I could without my Christian paradigm. I saw of course, that all the scriptures about sexuality were completely misinterpreted (that’s a huge discussion in itself!). If only I’d known that from day one…

But it didn’t stop there and wasn’t long before I began to see all the flaws in my belief system. It became clear (to me at least) that humans have an insatiable assumption that we need holy texts – irrefutable words of wisdom that define our meaning in relation to God and the universe. Writings that set out moral and ethical codes, rules and rituals, that are necessary for humanity to survive. But the biggest problem is that we also assume humans are essentially flawed and need saving from our inherent brokenness.

This is quite understandable as we all wrestle with the horrors we inflict on each other on a daily basis – even down to our own petty squabbles. It seems as if we really are inherently evil.
(This is a huge subject of course and countless books have been written about it already)

Most religions (especially christianity) are complex systems built on those assumptions. However, what if we are actually perfect, exactly as we should be, but all that is missing is our realisation of it? This is a concept that has always been around in some form but rarely embraced because of the apparent contradictions in what we experience. After all, despite our best efforts we all take offence and argue and fight, blaming each other for all our problems. It’s not a good look, so we have invented religious systems that build on this paradigm to create a way of hope for a better life.

Now, every single person knows what love is. It’s inherent in our nature as humans. We may not understand it fully or even experienced it in any meaningful way, but the deep longing for unconditional love is absolutely universal. In fact, it’s the only aspect of spirituality that truly is universal.

Deep down, we all know that the only thing that brings real change towards life and wholeness, is love.

So here’s my point (finally!)

The bible myth about the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" that Adam and Eve ate from, expresses the basis of the problem - we keep choosing to look at everything in terms of right and wrong instead of love.

The story says that the only thing that would cause them to die was embracing the desire to know good from evil! Even Paul in the New Testament, hinted at it often with statements like "everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial". We keep thinking that the most important thing we can do is determine right from wrong – sin from righteousness. We think that justice is only defined in terms of good and bad, so we spend most of our time making judgements. We are obsessed with having the knowledge of good and evil. Our entire civilisation is built on this! We want clear cut lines that say “this is right but that is wrong”. Our legal system is nothing more than countless lines drawn to define if something is good or bad.

But if we look to the story of Jesus, we see something very subtle and easily overlooked in his words to the disciples after the “last supper” dialogue. He simply said, in possibly his most powerful words, “I'm giving you a NEW command – love each other the same way I love you”.

Up to that point he’d supported the principles of the law and 10 commandments, and had reduced them down to two – love God and love each other. But what he did here is ditch the “thou shalt” mentality entirely and institute something new.

Love each other just like I love you. He turned it completely around. The onus was no longer on us to “love God” first and foremost. He took that out of the whole equation. The disciples had seen the depth of his love for humanity, and that’s exactly what he put to them. Love humanity, just like I do.
Stunningly simple, and bypasses all concepts of laws and rules. Up to that point he’d been pointing out that living by the law was completely unattainable, and he constantly upped the ante with things like “you know you shouldn't have it off with another woman, but I'm telling you - if you even look sideways at a woman you may as well have had sex with her”. He did this heaps and upset a lot of people! But then he turned it all around with that one final “new” command. It was a command for unconditional love. 

So, lets look at this a little closer. The people we all most admire and respect as examples of life and faith, are those who live from that place of unconditional love. They don't judge, they simply love. Like Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama – those types we admire for their sacrificial and genuine love. They don’t preach doctrines and rules, morals and ethics – they just love unconditionally and completely.

Here’s the crunch though. We don't need any holy writings for this. Its already who we are. As little children we don’t judge, we simply “are” and enjoy life based on the level of love we receive. Sure, there are heaps of ancient and modern writings that are incredibly profound and have so much to offer. But I'm talking about revering these writings, and their authors, to the point of “god’s infallible words”, “anointed”, “holy” etc. It’s called bibliolatry (the worship of the writings themselves instead if the deeper message), and most religions are guilty of it.

When Jesus said to be like children, he wasn't talking about obeying your parents or being submissive - he was talking about a simplicity of life and faith – a returning to that wonderful reliance on love and love alone and the joy and peace it brings to ourselves and everyone around us.

Christianity in particular calls us to "repent" - a word that is loaded with guilt, shame, penance and punishment. But the original word in context with the Greek language and culture literally means to just change your mind. That's it!! Just change our minds about who we are. Look at a baby! It has no concept of right or wrong, good or evil. It’s just a little love receptor, a love sponge, which gives as much as it receives. So we “repent” of our craving for the “knowledge of good and evil” and return to that state of innocence. A love sponge!

This has to be practical as well, and sure enough, we will still act in unloving ways as we gradually learn our true identity, but all we have to do is be responsible for any mess we make. That's all there is to it! That may be difficult and may require extreme measures to amend for those actions. But the point is, there is no sense of punishment for wrong doing, or reward for doing good. It’s a simple matter of being responsible for all we are and do from a place of love.

Its living loved. Everything else is a distraction and a returning to that tree.

We think we need endless books and sacred writings of wisdom that talk of how and what to do to be good people - but we already are good people - we have just been convinced that we aren't by choosing to judge what’s right and wrong instead of living loved.

We will keep hurting each other, misunderstanding and fighting, but as we begin to see what love looks like and embrace it for ourselves, we’ll change. The whole point of love is in embracing imperfection!

How does this look in daily life? Every decision we make should begin with the premise that “I am loved – I am inhabited by love – I am love incarnate”. Will this decision, this action, thought or word come from love and bring love? What will be its fruit? It may be a very hard decision, but if it’s done with integrity and honesty, then we can ask no more. Because love covers “sin”, and we all know that sin is simply “missing the mark”. Yes, it’s another one of those loaded words that religion has escalated to the ultimate judgement. But again, the original languages and context reveal it to be a simple “missing the mark” like an arrow missing the target.

So after all this – what is love? Most of the western world knows 1 Cor 13 and it could be said to be the universal standard that depicts pure unconditional love.

“This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience—it looks for a way of being constructive. It is not possessive: it is neither anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own importance. Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage. It is not touchy. It does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails. Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”

Of all holy writings, this is probably the one that hits the depth of every soul. Even if we have never experienced this kind of love, we all crave it. The lack of it is the cause of all our woes, from war to mental illness.

To “live loved” requires us to abandon the desire for the knowledge of good and evil, and extend the same level of compassion and empathy we desire for ourselves. Then we will begin to see God in us and everyone one else.

Its a massive paradigm shift, but millions over the centuries (throughout all history I guess) have discovered that this really is the narrow road – it’s the real “gospel” (good news), and the only thing that brings real freedom and the "fruit of the spirit". It’s taking responsibility for who we really are.

THIS is what changed my life - from internal and external judgement to unconditional love.

Live loved!!