Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Liberal Catechism

What is God? God is All That Is, and the Whole (naturally enough) is more than the sum of Its parts. Others might say God is a concept, the highest of all human ideals. Still others might say God is the personification of what is highest and best in life. Some would equate God with life itself or they might say that God is the Source and Substance of life or that God is the process of life as it evolves. Infinite Intelligence, Perfect Love, Interconnected Web of Existence...these various philosophical ideas are represented by the one, simple word: God.

What is the Devil? The Devil is a literary character meant to personify evil, which is the manifestation of the false belief that there is a power that could oppose the Allness which we call God. To focus on evil or to believe it to be ultimately real is to give it power in one's experience of life.

Who is Jesus? Jesus represents for us the Christ Idea...the human being at her or his very best. Though highly romanticized and mythologized, Jesus is for us the symbol of humanity's potential to realize unity with the divine.

What is the holy trinity? Divine Mind, Perfect Idea, Ideal Expression...this is the New Thought experience of the Holy. The Trinity is one of many images that point toward the Allness of God. Some people will find it a useful image, and others won't. If it helps one feel united with the divine Reality, then it is an appropriate way to discuss the ultimate.

What about the bible? The bible is a story of the human search for God. The bible shows the development of a people's concept and experience of God. It is neither a rule book, an argument against science, nor a literal history, but rather creative attempts to find meaning in life and to commune with the Source of life. The journeys of the people and characters in the bible can empower and encourage us as we move forward on the journeys of our lives.

What are Sacraments? A sacrament is an outward sign of inward grace. The traditional Christian sacraments are baptism (initiation) and holy Communion (a symbolic feast representing God's love for all people). The use of water for baptism and bread and wine for the Eucharist are helpful tools in acting out the message of grace, but the grace (unconditional, unwavering divine love) is an internal, universal reality.

Do miracles still occur? If they ever did, they still do. A miracle is a change of perception. Whenever we broaden our view, we see possibilities that we didn't see before. The new vision opens us up to new experiences which we may call miracles. Some people believe that all Good is available to all people and so there are no miracles, only the abundance of life that was kept at bay by limitation thinking that was finally released by developing a healing, prospering consciousness.

Does God answer prayer? Prayer is recognizing the divine Presence. Sensing the availability of divine power, we change our thoughts. New thoughts change our feelings. New feelings change our motives. New motives change our actions. New actions bring about new results. So, learning to pray powerfully does bring about desired results, but that isn't because a god separate from us chooses to grant some favors and not others. God is universally present and when we tap into that presence and choose to think creatively, we attract our Good. In this way prayer is answered, consistently and dependably. Prayer is the way we become receptive to the goodness of life.

Can we be healed through prayer? Prayer, meditation, counseling, rest, nutrition, medication, surgery, energy work, chiropractic, massage...there are many ways to experience healing. Whatever helps us express our wholeness is an agent of healing. Prayer can certainly help us change our thinking and our feeling so that we experience more of life and its goodness.

What is sin and atonement? Sin is missing the mark. The "mark" is knowing our oneness with God. When we forget or fail to know our divine nature, we have missed the mark. Atonement, or at-one-ment is learning or remembering that we are one with God. At-one-ment is our natural state, our oneness with our Creator.

Is there a heaven or hell? The details of the so-called after-life are the stuff of much speculation. But many people believe that like all energy, life and consciousness can't ultimately be destroyed. Living a life of hope, love, and joy will mean that if death is the end of life, we can conclude our lives without regret. And, if death is but one more experience in a life that never ends, then living with hope, love, and joy is the best way to prepare for whatever is beyond the experience of death. Heaven is being in the presence of God, and hell is separation from, whenever we realize our unity with the divine, we are in heaven. When we forget our unity with God, we are in hell. Heaven and hell are states of consciousness and we can be saved from hellish thinking whenever we choose to return to the heavenly reality of being aware of God's presence within us.

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