The Simplicity and Complexity of God

When I look at this country, it occurs to me that America, in its very birth, was an escape from the Church, and though our forefathers were searching for religious freedom, for many of them, it was freedom from religion. They sought more from life – more from God.
Many of them were religious men, but for the founding of this new life for themselves on parchment, they used only the word “God.” The Declaration of Independence does not speak of the Holy Trinity, the Goddess, or the Eight-fold Path. The Bill of Rights says nothing of Heaven or Hell, Nirvana, or Valhalla. When they speak of a uniting entity, it’s just the word “God” – a powerful and mystical word that means something different to every tongue it rolls from and every ear it falls upon. A word that brings anger and gives love. A shout of amazement and a plea for mercy. In one simple syllable, an inflection in voice can take that word from praise to curse or back again. But the word has nothing to do with religion.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word describes the entity to the best of my ability to understand it. GOD – a self-encapsulated, parenthetical word that is too simple to be concerned with religion and too uncontrollable for politics.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.

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The Kingdom of Heaven Is At Hand

I’ve seen so many Christians consumed with End Time prophecies the way others are consumed with alien attacks and crop circles. Most every cult ever formed was based on End Time prophecy and believing whatever one has to in order to save one’s own ass. Where do we draw the line between the breath of God and our own imaginations?
The present, the experiences that God has put before us, will always, in truth, hold more sway than the past or future, for the present is the only place we have some semblance of control. Better a bird in the hand than two in the bush. And religion – the search for meaning through mysticism, laws, and the stories of the past and future – is nothing more than our attempt to discover what kind of nest is being built in the bush. The Kingdom of Heaven is the bird in your hand.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.

Religious Practice is Still Practice

I don’t decry anyone who tells me of a religious experience they had in church, for I, too, have felt the Spirit move while standing between the pews. But I have also seen the peace of Christ in the eyes of a Buddhist monk. I have seen the compassion of Christ in the actions of a pagan. I have seen God working in ways that many Christians never will. Though you may build Him a house, God will not abide there any more than He will abide in the wilderness, the desert, or the shopping mall. Even Jesus said that the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
If you want to practice Christianity, great. Good for you. If it draws you closer to God, I think it’s wonderful. But please realize that it is a practice. Practice involves making mistakes. Learning involves correcting them. Insanity involves repeating them and expecting different results. Constantine. The Dark Ages. The Spanish Inquisition. The Salem Witch Trials. The Trinity Broadcasting Network. This is what happens when you take your beliefs too seriously.
Too often, this religion breeds fear and feeds it with hope. But in the Kingdom of God, there is no fear to begin with. Such ideas would never cross His mind.
I, for one, refuse to fear God. I refuse to acknowledge any idea that has the Entity that has brought me into this world and proven to provide for me daily as playing a villainous role where He is out to get me. I can’t believe that the God I’ve had faith in, who has led me into the lives of some of the most amazing, yet often misguided, people, would punish them eternally for their very existence. The rule of ignorance not being an excuse is a man-made law. God would never have such a law because He knows that there are a lot of dumb-ass people on this planet who just aren’t ever gonna get it.
The story of Adam and Eve is a fable. It is a metaphor for the human condition and how we have separated ourselves from Spirit by our own judgmental attitudes. To hold it as a literal interpretation opens a large can of worms on the use of incest as a means of global population. To hold it as a literal interpretation means that God lost control over his creation after only seven days. I have far too great a faith in the God who has provided for me throughout my life to believe that His plan consists of the majority of Earth’s population to spend eternity in torment for merely being the humans He created them to be. I don’t think that God works under the proposition that two wrongs really do make a right.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.

Does your Faith include Fury?

I bear no ill will toward anyone who holds a religious belief, Christian or otherwise. Yet, a fire does burn in my heart when I see beliefs override compassion and human decency. I hate to see history and mythology given preference over experience. And I find it tragic that the present must be viewed in constant light of the past and future. This view of the world, to constantly filter each moment through a two-thousand-year-old book of stories, rules, and worship – as well as the fears to be faced in an imminent future – creates a form of reverse tunnel vision. The focus of modern Christianity is all too often on what was written in the past and imagined of the future, never allowing one to see what God is truly doing Now, where Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is.
I don’t berate any church for not having a pure heart or for lacking in good intentions. I just think their focus is off. The energy that is being poured into evangelism, spreading the message of Christianity the Religion, could change the world if it were only directed toward the Kingdom of God and spirit of service Christ intended.
I have actually heard of more than one Christian who does not recycle because it is against their religion. The two rationalizations I’ve heard on this unwritten tenet are: 1) there is no need to save the earth, because God’s gonna just destroy it and make a new one anyway, and 2) recycling conjures ideas of environmentalists, which conjure ideas of hippies, which in turn, conjures ideas of promiscuous sex and hedonism, making recycling, by virtue of roundabout association, sinful.
As ludicrous as these ideas may seem, they are actually held. Now, it’s quite possible that the people holding these ideas, with the right hand guiding them, may come to see the folly in them. That is often the only time we ever notice our own folly – when someone points it out. Whether we realize it as folly depends on our pride, our intelligence, and our fears.
If the events of September 11th taught me anything, it was the lengths men will go to in the name of belief. And I know of many Christians who would die for their cause. There was a time I would have. History shows many who have killed for it.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.

Does Glenn Beck Have a Dream or a Nightmare?

Although I disagree with just about everything that comes out of his mouth, and though he didn’t remember the date himself, I have to thank Glenn Beck for reminding me about the 47th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington. It so happens that Mr. Beck has scheduled his own rally against the government on the exact spot where Dr. King beseeched the government for civil rights all those years ago.

Beck says the day is not political, it’s about restoring what once made the country great.”We have a shortage of character. We don’t even know how to teach it to our children anymore. We’re running low on personal responsibility. We’ve got a loss of integrity, a loss of shame in this country, a loss of principles and values. We’ve lost our way because we have lost God….We’ve lost our honor. We must restore our honor first, our principles.”

This may be one of the few things Mr. Beck has said that I actually agree with… at least in part. Although I agree that we have a shortage of character and must restore our principles, I think that we probably disagree on what those principles actually are. Mr. Beck is the Fox News commentator who has continuously tried to rally religious believers to leave churches who further the cause of social justice, as in caring for the poor and ensuring civil rights for all. While he says “we have lost God,” his attempts to dissuade God’s followers from actually following through on the teachings of Jesus don’t seem like a likely path toward the principles that need restoration.

Although Mr. Beck may be standing on the same steps as Dr. King, he will never fill his shoes.

The Fallability of Words

Forgive me if I philosophize for a moment, but you see, I’ve never really had a philosophy before. I’ve had religion. It seems that in my life I gave up my right to a philosophy, choosing to blindly adhere to the religion I was given and told to never question.
But as I see it, there can scarcely be any real truth to any word ever written or story told. Words themselves, these configurations of letters, are beguiling in that they have traditionally conveyed a certain meaning. But once upon a time, someone just made them up.
And that’s not to say that any given story or principle in the Bible is not true. But Truth is absolute, and though the Bible may very well be inspired by God, that inspiration has been filtered through egos, governments, time, and language. I don’t think I have enough faith to believe it to be infallible, nor do I have any reason to.
There are words in Spanish that have no English translation. Spanish! Espanol. It’s practically English with more style. And I’m supposed to believe that we have a perfect translation from ancient Aramaic?
It’s a book. And one way or another, like it or not, it was made up. Did God inspire it? Maybe. But when there’s room for doubt, it’s often best to give doubt the key. Not every hole of doubt needs to be filled with a plug of belief. When I don’t know, I don’t need to. I don’t need for that to be the Word of God – I have a relationship with Him. None of my girlfriends have come with an instruction manual, though I often wish they would have. And still, I would rather spend time with a woman than her diary. I would rather spend time with God than with a book about Him.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.

Words are Not Enough to Define Faith

There was a time in my life when I put a great amount of faith in the Bible, or at least what I called faith at the time. I spent years looking for God in the pages of a two-thousand-year-old book. My flaw was putting tradition ahead of experience, putting beliefs ahead of faith, dogma ahead of people, fear ahead of life.
As a young Christian, believing all that I was told by those who had given their souls to the Church before me, I understood that, though not pertinent to my salvation, I still had to accept this book called the Holy Bible as the perfect, inspired word of God. Infallible.
There is no verse within its pages that proclaims it to be the only book mandated by God, Himself, to have all authority over every word written or thought thunk. There is a reference in the book of Revelation stating that no other words should be taken or added to that work, but as far as the other sixty-five books that were tacked on before it… nada.
Oh, John said that in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and many have considered “the Word” to be the Bible, but the Bible didn’t exist when these words were written. I believe John, as with many of the biblical writers, meant something different – that Word that goes beyond laws and stories created by the Israelites and their offspring.
One of the bases for the idea that the Bible is the inspired word of God is the reasoning that of sixty-six books and however many authors, there are no disagreements. The dogma reads that there is a consistency in the flow of its ideas. Now, I don’t want get into how untrue that statement is beyond the inconsistencies in the Old Testament God of Wrath and the New Testament Prince of Peace; however, using the same argument, I could say that the reading material that has floated my way over the last year has been inspired by God in its consistency. These are not books or authors I sought out, but ones people gave to me, recommended, or let me borrow. Yet, each has challenged the belief system that my life was based upon in a commonly unusual way.
Many Christians, including myself, have used the phrase: “It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.” (I want to state now and for the record that I never had a bumper sticker that stated “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” I will, however, cop to having one that read “Real Men Love Jesus.”) Anyway, if that be the case, I in no way am trying to deny anyone’s relationship with Him. Therefore, I hope no one takes offense if I point my pen toward the religion that generations of bumbling followers have created.
Any religious person will tell you that with God, all things are possible. But no religious person thinks it possible that they might be wrong about who they think He is. (You want a bumper sticker: “My experience can beat up your dogma.”)
If God is dead, his tomb is sealed in ink, for it is in that blackness that we look for Him. Though Jesus may have been crucified on the cross during a stormy day at Golgotha, the living Christ we seek has been crucified on papyrus every day since. Were the spirit of Christ alive and flowing today – if His meaning had been understood and not twisted into the keyholes of government and pressed into currency, but if compassion had grown with our population instead of judgment growing against it – we would not be in our current state, one hand of humanity nailed to our own cross, the other clutching a hammer.

This is an excerpt of The Rucksack Letters by Steve McAllister. Buy your copy of the eBook on Amazon.com.