Why Christian Eschatology Matters?

EschatologyEschatology is a religion’s view of the endtimes. In my last post, I compared a Hindu Vaishnavite view with the common view held among mainline Protestant American Christian churches. To put that view in perspective, I recently updated my chart on the “Varieties of Christian Eschatology” which I first made in 2009 — take a look if you’d like by clicking on the image.

But why does eschatology matter? There are good reasons not to care: First, very few of my readers believe any religion’s end-time stories. And second, most Christians themselves don’t understand the various eschatologies and don’t really understand theology at all and probably don’t care. (See my post called, “Most Christians Don’t Believe“).

Religious professionals (pastors, priests and such) do seem to care, however. And they preach them to their congregations and use them to help tell their parishoners how they should act in this world, the proper role of Israel and Jews and other political positions. So, for those Christians who listen to this stuff, eschatology matters.

But why should eschatologies matter to religion-free folks? Well, we can point these Christians to more benign eschatologies (see my post on “My Favorite Christians”). Or better yet, in seeing so many various views these eschatological Christians may start to understanding how man-made these theories are — all of them.

Questions to readers: What view were you raised with or believe now? Which view do you feel is most dangerous, and why?  All corrections or suggestions welcome.

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Hindu vs. Christian Eschatology

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My Secret Mantra

Let me share a story from decades ago when I learned a secret mantra!

The Meditation Center, Mpls

The Meditation Center, Mpls

As I explained in this post, I trained for two years at a Yoga Center in Minneapolis (now called “The Meditation Center”). After my first year, my progress had qualified me for initiation and without initiation, further training as a potential Raja yoga teacher (my track) was not allowed. Initiation was considered an honor. In the private initiation session, the teacher would whisper your secret Mantra to you, one you’d use in years to come as you strive for higher states of consciousness.

I was, as always in all my religious years, both excited and skeptical. What would this secret mantra be? Would it be all it was cracked up to be? How could it be any more than just some random Sanskrit word?

The magic, we were told, was two fold:  (1) The guru picks the words to specially match our temperament, our spiritual needs and the energy of our chakras. (2) Sanskrit is a sacred language and indeed, the sounds themselves carry a power that we can’t imagine. We were to have faith.

Dr. Arya, my  guru

Dr. Arya, my guru

I dressed well and bought some flowers and fruit as traditional gifts to my guru. I sat in meditation in a room by myself until I was called to meet my teacher.

The guru and I meditated together a short while and then he came to my ear and whispered my three secret, personal magic words — my ticket to the divine.

I worked with those words for several months. Hell, they were just words, no magic. Embarrassingly, I forget what they were: OM HRIM HUM, or something like that. Oh yeah, besides, you are suppose to never tell anyone your secret words.

The huge cognitive investment of time and money on courses, of bowing and presenting flowers to my teacher and of practicing with faith for months were not enough to help me hallucinate the magic. Sure meditation had fantastic affects of quietness and the ability to watch my mind, but no “higher consciousness”, no seeing the world as it really is. Yet I kept my disillusionment private and it would not be for several more months before I left the group.

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My related posts:

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What is “Life”

article_imgEveryone feels like that can tell you what “life” is. It is pretty obvious. Well, unless you get near the edges of the definition.

My son just started High School here in the USA and is taking his first biology course. One of their first assignments was to decide if a virus is alive. My poor boy had to put up with his ‘ole man lecturing him on the arbitrary nature of the word “life”. He felt that “life” was an idea that needed to be discovered, but quickly saw that “life” is not a concrete thing, but an abstract word created by people that masquerades as a concrete thing.

He soon realized that to decided whether a virus was a form of life, he needed an arbitrary man-made definition of “life”. Next, he saw that the definitions everyone put forth were fuzzy and loaded with assumptions.

Like the words “religion” and “patriot”, people generally feel they know exactly how to use the word “life” and intuitively know what it means until they are up against things on the edge or people who don’t agree with their use of the word.

 

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“The Wedding”: a Polish movie

WeddingCouchsurfing in the UK this summer, we spent time in Wales with some fun Poles.  Wesele (“The Wedding”), 2004 by director Wojtek Smarzowski, was one of their recommendations for Polish films I should watch (see wiki).

I did not enjoy the movie and would not recommend it. They told me it was about a stereotypical Polish wedding — so that part was educational. But that wedding and the side stories were about a culture of Vodka, bribery, meaningless tradition and sexually-erotic wedding games.  All cultural elements that I detest.  The movie made me want to never visit Poland. I rarely write negative reviews, but thought it would be a good exercise.

I’ve added it in my “other” category in my index of film reviews, because I can’t imagine watching another Polish film very soon, unless someone can recommend a Polish film that matches my tastes.

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Hindu Texts that Support “Queers”

Devdutt PattanaikReading the writings from other religions can help both atheists and theists get a wider perspective on religious issues. But not just reading other religious texts, but reading and listening to those believers talk about their faiths. Hinduism, for instance, was part of the cause of my downfall from Christianity.

Image if the Bible had stories like these:

  • a hero who was also a cross dresser
  • a woman who is raised as a man, and married off to another woman, but then changes into a man to satisfy her husband
  • a god who is depicted as the “third gender” both male and female

Well, these stories are scattered throughout Hindu religious literature and Devdutt Pattanaik puts many of them together in one book and retells them in an easy to understand style with fun illustrations. His dedication page states:
 “To all those here, there, and in between”.

I’ve read Pattanaik’s retelling of the Mahabharata and love his writing. Unfortunately, this new book (“Shikhandi: and other tales they don’t tell you”) is not available in the USA yet. But I thought readers may find it interesting to hear how this liberal Hindu is using his Hinduism to fight suppressive narrow views of sexuality in his country.

Below are some of Devutt’s interesting answers to a Bangalor Mirror interview about his new book, with my comments below.

As you have mentioned, people chose to retell stories of mythology by omitting queer references. Was it difficult to find such stories?

Many of these stories are quite familiar to people. I have just retold them such that one pays attention to the underlying comfort with queer elements. You don’t find such queer elements in other major religions, certainly not in Christianity, Islam or Judaism. A God who is comfortable cross-dressing and indulges in it to express his deep love for his devotees — that is only in Hinduism.

The Judeo-Christian scriptures certainly does not have as much queer elements, but there are some. Consider the relationships between King David and Jonathan; Ruth and Naomi; Daniel and Ashpenaz. (see religioustolerance.org).

Have you been worried about the reactions to your book?

We indulge intolerance too much. I am perfectly fine if someone wants to oppose my book and ban it because it bothers his or her notion of how Indian narrative history should be. Banning the book does not destroy the idea. Vedic wisdom has never relied on books for its survival, anyway. The stories gave me great joy and wisdom and I feel everyone should have access to this joy and wisdom.

Well, I wait to see what happens to Devdutt now that he has spoken up in support of the queer section of society.

People think of Hinduism as weird — and it is (see my post “Your God is Wierd!” ). But maybe that is good — or at least Devdutt is telling us that it is good:

We want simplicity, certainty and convenience in life, neat boxes and fixed rules — Hinduism refuses to indulge this childish need. And the gods chuckle at human exasperation.

Sure, many Hindus are jingoistic, nationalistic, anti-gay, superstitious, anti-women and more. But just as liberal, progressive Christians try fight these things in their cultures, Devdutt is using good Hinduism to combat bad Hinduism. I wish him well.

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My Many Names

SabiozIndentityIn my life, I have gone by many different names. I love experimenting with identity — see my posts on the subject.  Like many folks, I feel like I have lived several lives in one, so having different names has been fun to mark those periods.  But over the years, the majority of folks I meet look at name changes (first names, that is) with horror or disgust.  It seems only  a small percentage of people like to experiment with their labels.  How about you?

Here is a chronological listing of most of my names:

  • James: Birth Name – same as my father, his father, his father’s father (a Welsh immigrant) and perhaps further back.
  • Spider: Father’s toddler nickname for me. apparently I actively crawled all over the place.
  • Jimmy: Childhood name to differentiate me, my Dad and my grandfather.
  • Jim: Used by friends until I was 19
  • James: a girlfriend prefered my formal name so I stuck with it for several years.
  • Jaymuzu-ji: जेमुङुजि India (their version of “James” with the honorific “ji”). It was then that start to realize that names both do matter and don’t matter.  It how we hold them, and how we hold ourselves.
  • Seamus: Japan. A nickname used by my teaching colleagues — the Irish form of James. I started really enjoying the playful use of different names.
  • “J”: The name I gave myself on moving back to the USA. Used by everyone I knew in North Carolina while I was at Duke Medical School. I just wanted a change again.
  • “______”: My present name. Shhh, it is a secret to minimally shield my privacy. But it is a variant of Seamus which I chose upon moving to Seattle, Washington to honor my celtic roots. Since the city was new, I introduced myself by that name and then changed it legally to make everything simple. Ah, what great fun — and great surprise to family.
  • Zhàn Xiáng: 戰祥 “Propitious Battle” – the name I chose for myself in China where people receiving a green-card must choose a Chinese name. I was the medical officer for an American Chinese consulate and my staff wanted to make up a name for me, as they did for all other long-term American employees, but I would not let them. The names they made up were nauseatingly sweet, poetic or just bad choices to match the sounds of the person’s English name. I spent days choosing my name. Later, the Chinese would say it was a cool name — like pen name of a famous writer. I was proud.
  • Shaytan: Arabic for “Satan”. A name given to me by Peace Corp volunteers because they felt I was a little crazy and dangerous.
  • Sabio Lantz: my blogging name meaning “a paucity of wisdom” (which you can clearly see by reading my posts) + my mother’s maiden name (in her honor).
  • Shadrach: one of my present nicknames: an Akkadian Name used by many of my colleagues call me in my new Urgent Care medical job. More in another post.

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