Abandoning the earthly hierarchy of What is Holy Vible
Some worshippers seem to envision God as a divine C.E.O., One who loves nothing more than a well-run bureaucracy or media empire. Trapped in this worldview, the worshipper must petition endless “intercessory” aid to communicate with the Almighty. Is your prayer request properly filled out? Are your interpretations of spirituality approved by the pulpit? Are you supporting “God’s work” with Mammon’s cash?
It may be difficult for sectarians to spot the flaw in this clean, well-lit cosmology. Like so many other aspects of modern life, experience of the divine has become mediated. Rather than developing a personal relationship with Deity, the sectarian must petition human beings who are specially trained (or not, as the case may be) to visit with God on her behalf and interpret His Word for her benefit. In more absurd cases, televangelist-inspired worshippers are even urged to lay their hands on the television to contact God, thereby soaking up those consecrated cathode rays. Bureaucrats would have you believe that communing with God is the work of specialists and pastors. But does the Lord not hear the prayers of the simplest among us?
Another problem emerges when the pulpit is used to manipulate the faithful, whether to raise money, pontificate politically or exercise social control. Too often this sacred trust is violated by those who usurp the very role of God. “Judge not lest ye be judged” has been interpreted so liberally (or ignored) as to have become virtually meaningless. Judgment has run rampant in extremist Christian circles. Few are the fundamentalists willing to suspend judgment with its attendant certainty. Likewise, all kinds of intolerance have been sanctioned by the non-Biblical bon mot,”Love the sinner, hate the sin.” In practice, this phrase often seems to mean,”Hate the sin, persecute the sinner.”
Biblical interpretation under the Roman Christian Church was often punished by death. The utterly devout Christian mystic Meister Eckhart narrowly escaped a death sentence for his beliefs. Giordano Bruno did not and was burned at the stake. Members of the sect of the Free Spirit were murdered for their interpretations, as were Gnostics, Beguines and other “heretics”- a curious solution for Christians who are commanded NOT to kill. Other atrocities are a matter of record. Extremist Protestants will argue that these abominations were committed by the Catholic Church. Yet they, too, react with authoritarian condemnation to those who dare interpret the word of God independently. And does this condemnation not lend itself to an atmosphere of organizational intolerance and sometimes hatred?
Those institutions which have cornered the market on interpretation are too often as fallible and flawed as the most speculative individuals. And where is this more apparent than in the works of those missionaries who have delivered the “Good News” not as a means to liberation but as a message supporting a hidden colonial agenda? Too often, missionaries have simply softened up indigenous peoples for economic exploitation, slavery, abuse or manipulation by colonial powers. Blinded by self-righteousness, missionaries preach the Word to the “savages.” But, as Denis Diderot argued, the missionaries may be the real savages, afflicting indigenous innocents in their own Eden. What is Holy Vible
The usefulness of faith as a tool for personal or cultural empowerment is usually ignored by those bureaucracies with a vested interest in power. Yet there are sects which encourage individual interpretation, have abandoned earthly hierarchies and empower the downtrodden. Rastafarians embrace their religion as a tool to spiritually oppose those systems that keep them impoverished and marginalized- those forces they call “Babylon.” Members of the Moorish Orthodox Church have no pastors, choosing instead to teach and learn from each other as equals. Some Christian sects accept only intercession from the Holy Spirit and speak as it moves them.
Worshipping independently does not mean disregarding the words of human beings and great teachers outright. Rather it offers a method by which we can measure their words in terms of our own experience of the Divine and how it may best blossom for us. Rabbi Hillel, that distinguished predecessor of Jesus Christ, was once asked to interpret the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Without pause, he lifted his foot and said,”That which you would not have done to you, do not do it to another.” In submitting only to God, perhaps we may best also serve our fellow human beings. And in doing so, may we treat each other with genuine kindness, forgiveness and patience. With this accomplished, our institutions might one day offer a radically different forum for true charity, worship, fellowship and a wealth of personal perspectives to consider without attendant judgment.