Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Broken and Spilled Out

shattered-glass-1-daniele-smith

Often when reading blog posts I’m triggered.  Not into a downward spiral of despair.  More of a remembrance.  A remembrance of who I used to be.  A remembrance that causes me to take note of who I am today in relation to that person.

As I read this post at VictoriaNeuronotes and the subsequent comments I was brought to just such a remembrance. I remembered when I thought so little of myself that wanted nothing more than to be broken and spilled out because of what my supposed savior had done for me.  I was, in my mind, such a wicked person; so evil and vile that only a perfect blood sacrifice could atone for my shame, my depravity, my iniquity.  Unworthy of such a sacrifice I would be willing to sell my soul to the one who had made such a sacrifice.

I was reminded of this song by Steve Green which used to be a sort of personal anthem:

Broken and Spilled Out

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn

And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a prisoner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of You, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee

Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Lord, You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me the love of the Father
Just for love it was done

And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me, Jesus
God’s most precious treasure
Lavished on me

Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet, in sweet abandon
Lord, You were spilled out
And used up for me

I so identified with the very first verse of Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

I even took to heart that John Newton had originally written, “…that saved a worm like me.”

A worm.  I was nothing more without Jesus than a wriggling worm in the dung heap of life. As a result of being told over and over that I was born as an affront to God, his enemy, I needed Jesus to mediate on my behalf. Made in God’s image, of course.  But I marred that image from the start by my own unrighteousness.  Anything good, and noble, and beautiful were the remnants of God’s perfect image.  The blackness, the ugliness, the humanness, that was all me. And that part of me deserved eternal damnation in a lake of fire. I needed a savior. And like anyone who has ever been saved from a sure fate of hell I was enamored with the savior.

This, folks, is the prescription company defining the disease and selling the cure.

I wanted to be broken and spilled out and used up in sweet abandon for any cause to which my savior called me.   And I was.  I was broken.  Every bit of my essence spilled out.  Shattered into a million little pieces.

You see, just as Victoria states in her excellent post, this all comes at a price.  Any notion of self-worth is hijacked and jack-knifed. Why would any loving parent want their child to be so broken?  How can this be called love?  In any other setting, if you removed the super-natural being from all of this, we would see it as twisted and abusive.  How can we just excuse this and say that because this is God there is some sort of caveat that makes this all different?somethingnew

So I’ve taken my million little pieces of broken and spilled out mess and I’m putting them back together.  I’m making something new.  I am reborn.

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Freezing Out Hell, Part the Second

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

~John F. Kennedy

Ancient Greek Views on the Afterlife

The ancient Greek conception of the afterlife and the ceremonies associated with burial were already well established by the sixth century B.C. In the Odyssey, Homer describes the Underworld, deep beneath the earth, where Hades, the brother of Zeus and Poseidon, and his wife, Persephone, reigned over countless drifting crowds of shadowy figures—the “shades” of all those who had died. It was not a happy place. Indeed, the ghost of the great hero Achilles told Odysseus that he would rather be a poor serf on earth than lord of all the dead in the Underworld (Odyssey, 11.489–91).

The Greeks believed that at the moment of death the psyche, or spirit of the dead, left the body as a little breath or puff of wind. The deceased was then prepared for burial according to the time-honored rituals. Ancient literary sources emphasize the necessity of a proper burial and refer to the omission of burial rites as an insult to human dignity (Iliad, 23.71). Relatives of the deceased, primarily women, conducted the elaborate burial rituals that were customarily of three parts: the prothesis (laying out of the body (54.11.5)), the ekphora (funeral procession), and the interment of the body or cremated remains of the deceased. After being washed and anointed with oil, the body was dressed (75.2.11) and placed on a high bed within the house. During the prothesis, relatives and friends came to mourn and pay their respects. [1]

 

Ancient Egyptian Views on the Afterlife

The after-life of the ancient Egyptians was known as the Field of Reeds and was a land very much like one’s life on earth save that there was no sickness, no disappointment and, of course, no death. One lived eternally by the streams and beneath the trees which one had loved so well in one’s life on earth…To reach the eternal paradise of the Field of Reeds, however, one had to pass through the trial by Osiris, the judge of the dead, in the hall of truth.

In The Egyptian Book of the Dead it is recorded that the soul would be lead before the god Osiris and recite the forty-two negative confessions beginning with the prayer, “I have not learnt the things which are not” meaning that the soul strove in life to devote itself to matters of lasting importance rather than the trivial matters of everyday life. The forty-two negative declarations which followed the opening prayer went to assure Osiris of the soul’s purity and ended, in fact, with the statement, “I am pure” repeated a number of times. It was not the soul’s claim to purity which would win over Osiris, however, but, instead, the weight of the soul’s heart.

The `heart’ of the soul was handed over to Osiris who placed it on a great golden scale balanced against the white feather of Ma’at, the feather of truth, of harmony, on the other side. If the soul’s heart was lighter than the feather then the soul was freely admitted into the bliss of the Field of Reeds. Should the heart prove heavier, however, it was thrown to the floor of the Hall of Truth where it was devoured by Amenti (a god with the face of a crocodile, front of a leopard and the back of a rhinoceros) and the individual soul then ceased to exist. There was no `hell’ for the ancient Egyptians; their `fate worse than death’ was non-existence. [2]

Ancient mesopotamianviews on afterlife

The Mesopotamians, a civilisation existing in and around modern day Iraq around the same time as the time of Pharaohs of Egypt had a very different view of death. For them, death was something to be feared. In the Mesopotamian tradition, humans were created from clay mixed with the blood of a sacrificed god. Thus, being partly immortal, the spirit did not die after death but lingered on to suffer a dismal afterlife. While retaining all the needs and emotions of the living, after death the soul would live a dark and subterranean existence eating only dust and clay in a place deprived of drinkable water. The only respite from this existence was the food and offerings of their descendants. This meant that the confiscation of an enemy’s body from the care of the family was a terrible punishment. [3]

ancient hebrew views on afterlife

There is a reality to the biblical notion of death, a directness that recognizes the physical process is undeniable. “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return,” Genesis 3:19. “We must all die; we are like water that is poured out on the ground and cannot be gathered up,” II Sam.14:14.

In the biblical mind, death is final. After death, one is not expected to return to this Earth. In the Book of Job we read, “If a man dies, can he live again?” The biblical answer is no.

Yet the ancient Israelites did not fully accept the notion of a total dissolution; rather they spoke of a place called Sheol, where the dead dwell. Sheol is referred to in the Bible as “the ditch,” “the pit,” “the realm of death,” or “the land of darkness.”

It is clearly a place to which one descends after death, where one meets up once again with relatives who have died before us. In Sheol, the dead live a shadowy existence. They are refayim, shades, who are without strength, freed from the sickness of the flesh, and God can hear their voices. Though dreary, Sheol is not seen as a place of punishment. Every living being, without regard to moral character, goes down to Sheol at the time of death. The concept of Hell developed much later. [4]

This is certainly not an exhaustive look at the views of ancient peoples about the afterlife but having studied, somewhat, the views of each it is easy to see both similarities and differences.  The striking thing about them, though, in my opinion is their similarities.  All of these ancients believed in some sort of shadowy existence, at least for a time, for all of the dead.  It becomes apparent that some beliefs and practices were borrowed from others.

That certainly played into my thoughts on the afterlife and a hell when I was doubting.  None of these refers to anything close to the Hell of Christianity.  Either one passes judgement and proceeds on to a paradise or is annihilated.  Or there is no paradise, only a shadowy, gloomy existence beyond the grave for every dead person. No reward and no punishment; merely existence.

It is worth mentioning that the ancient Hebrews, at first, did not particularly speculate about the afterlife.  They believed that it had not been revealed and as such was not for them to know.  They did not ponder questions of cosmology nor the afterlife.  They placed emphasis on this life. However, since the Torah does mention an afterlife, but no details of such, there is plenty of room for speculation and as is human nature, inquiring minds want to know.  Hence, the Jews seemed initially to incorporate the views of the ancient Babylonians – that everyone went to one dark, shadowy place when they died.  It was nowhere to be excited about.  (Job 14:10-12, Job 17:16, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Psalms 30:9, etc.)

Later, after the Jews were Hellenized, heaven and hell seemed to take on more meaning.  For instance some Jews believed individuals were made to suffer in this life precisely so they would have a grand next life.  [5]

Are all of these peoples worshiping the same god unawares?  Or are all of these merely to be regarded as myths?  I guess it’s hard to suffer your whole life long and then think the end is all there is.  What a travesty.  At any rate, most Christians would write any and all of this off as myth.  Only the Christian version is the correct version of the afterlife.  It’s ironic that people can dispel every myth but one.

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[1]http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/dbag/hd_dbag.htm

[2]http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/42/

[3]http://www.history.co.uk/study-topics/history-of-death/death-in-ancient-civilisations

[4]http://kehillatisraeltest.publishpath.com/what-do-jews-believe-about-life-after-death

[5]http://mobile.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Theology/Afterlife_and_Messiah/Life_After_Death/Heaven_and_Hell.shtml

 


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Freezing Out Hell, Part the First

This talk of the fear of hell reminded me of this scene from Friends.

I used to be terrified of the thought of Hell.  Whether it was fiery or not, whether it was dark or not, I did not know.  I just knew I was afraid – to the point of panic attacks – of the thought of eternal punishment.  I’ve mentioned this before, but I had to first face and dispense with my fear of that torture before I could even begin to objectively look at any evidence of whether any of my other beliefs were true or not.  Fear is scary.  Fear is a powerful motivator.  It doesn’t make the things we fear real any more than monsters under the bed or in the closet.  We can even know in our rational minds that there aren’t any such things as monsters but that doesn’t make the fear go away.  At least not at first.  Fear causes us to do irrational things and think irrational thoughts.

Having written and talked extensively about having to give up that fear of hell in order to undo the years of indoctrination I’ve been subjected to and that I subjected myself to it occurs to me that I’ve never written about how I accomplished this feat.  It wasn’t easy. It was probably the hardest doctrine to rid myself of.  Even still every now and again I get this little adrenaline push when I think about the fact that there’s the possibility, no matter how remote, that I might be wrong.  But I cannot and will not allow fear to rule me.

My panic subsided quite a bit when I got it through my thick head that hell was manufactured to control people.  Christianity, itself, solidified this doctrine.  If Christianity is built on Jewish thought then just where the hell did this idea come from?  Certainly not the Old Testament. What better way to get people who wouldn’t convert and conform to do so?  Where the law fell short fear took over.  The doctrine of Universal Salvation is not a new concept.  It is but one of a number of doctrines that Christians have battled over since the beginning of Christianity.  No consensus is reached on the matter.

From Judaism 101:

“The place of spiritual reward for the righteous is often referred to in Hebrew as Gan Eden (GAHN ehy-DEHN) (the Garden of Eden). This is not the same place where Adam and Eve were; it is a place of spiritual perfection. Specific descriptions of it vary widely from one source to another. One source says that the peace that one feels when one experiences Shabbat properly is merely one-sixtieth of the pleasure of the afterlife. Other sources compare the bliss of the afterlife to the joy of sex or the warmth of a sunny day. Ultimately, though, the living can no more understand the nature of this place than the blind can understand color.

Only the very righteous go directly to Gan Eden. The average person descends to a place of punishment and/or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom (guh-hee-NOHM) (in Yiddish, Gehenna), but sometimes as She’ol or by other names. According to one mystical view, every sin we commit creates an angel of destruction (a demon), and after we die we are punished by the very demons that we created. Some views see Gehinnom as one of severe punishment, a bit like the Christian Hell of fire and brimstone. Other sources merely see it as a time when we can see the actions of our lives objectively, see the harm that we have done and the opportunities we missed, and experience remorse for our actions. The period of time in Gehinnom does not exceed 12 months, and then ascends to take his place on Olam Ha-Ba.

Only the utterly wicked do not ascend at the end of this period; their souls are punished for the entire 12 months. Sources differ on what happens at the end of those 12 months: some say that the wicked soul is utterly destroyed and ceases to exist while others say that the soul continues to exist in a state of consciousness of remorse.

This 12-month limit is repeated in many places in the Talmud, and it is connected to the mourning cycles and the recitation of Kaddish. See Life, Death and Mourning.”

I found the same thing at Aish.com in an article entitled, Hell No, We Won’t Go.

Jewish thought on the afterlife is compared to the seats in a stadium.  How close one gets to be to God is directly related to how righteous they’ve been – not what god they worship, not who they are, not what doctrine they’ve believed.   In fact Judaism sounds relatively close to Humanism. The Torah is all but silent on the notion of an afterlife.  Why?  Because the Jewish perception is that God is more concerned with what kind of person one is, how well they’ve lived their life, in this life and not particularly what one has believed.  For a religion that should have built on Jewish thought Christianity seems to have taken Judaism and turned it on it’s head, making more requirements of a believer, not less.  Gentiles were never expected to exclusively worship Yahweh.

Again, from Judaism 101:

“Some people look at these teachings and deduce that Jews try to “earn our way into Heaven” by performing the mitzvot. This is a gross mischaracterization of our religion. It is important to remember that unlike some religions, Judaism is not focused on the question of how to get into heaven. Judaism is focused on life and how to live it. Non-Jews frequently ask me, “do you really think you’re going to go to Hell if you don’t do such-and-such?” It always catches me a bit off balance, because the question of where I am going after death simply doesn’t enter into the equation when I think about the mitzvot. We perform the mitzvot because it is our privilege and our sacred obligation to do so. We perform them out of a sense of love and duty, not out of a desire to get something in return. In fact, one of the first bits of ethical advice in Pirkei Avot (a book of the Mishnah) is: “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of receiving a reward; instead, be like servants who serve their master not for the sake of receiving a reward, and let the awe of Heaven [meaning G-d, not the afterlife] be upon you.”

So for me, the beginning of putting the book on hell in the freezer went back to the beginning.  What was the original thought on what fate lie ahead for the wicked.  I had no idea that Jews were so accepting of other faiths.  As Christians this is not what we are taught.  After all we were taught that the Israelites wiped out entire populations precisely because of their idolatry.  But is this so?  These thoughts would indicate otherwise, would they not?  I guess we’ll see…