Authentic religion “Within me and between me and thee”

Ours in the West is largely a secularized society. However, especially after 9/11, we have become much more aware of the influence of religion—mostly bad in many people’s eyes. This, I believe, is a bum rap for authentic religion, which I would describe in a phrase as “Within Me, and Between Me and Thee.”

I cringe, for example, when someone says of a Jewish person that she is “religious,” meaning, of course, that she does all the externals. That is not only a wrongheaded understanding of what religion is, but it is precisely wrong. To stick with Judaism for the moment, according to the Rabbis, the heart of what Judaism is all about is Kavanah, “interior intention.” The same is true, of course, of all the major religions. In Confucianism, for example, the rituals, Li, are for the sake of forming an authentic human, Ren. The externals are supposed to be helps to get our head and heart right, and then to act accordingly—“Within Me, and Between Me and Thee.”

If the externals—which include not only “doing” all the prescribed things but also “saying” the correct formularies of doctrines (which is a special problem for Christians)—in fact distract us from the righting of our head and heart and consequent action in the world, we should reevaluate and perhaps even drop them. After all, the greatest “sin” in the Bible is idolatry. This is so not because God is thereby maligned—surely God cannot be injured by humans. No, there is a constitutive reason why idolatry is the “worst” sin. Idolatry is so bad because, as long as we hold on to it, we are incapable of becoming authentic humans.

Idolatry literally means “worshiping an image” (Greek: Eidol, image, Latria, worship). It is to focus on the finger pointing to the object, rather than on the object. The whole purpose, however, of the pointing finger is for us to look at the object, not the finger. In the case of religion, the finger is the externals and the object is the interior thought and desire and consequent action: “Within Me, and Between Me and Thee.”

The two major Semitic religions, Judaism and Islam, both tend to concentrate on what to do, on actions, whereas Christianity (“half” Semitic) stresses much more, though of course not exclusively, what to think. Hence, the greatest temptations toward idolatry for Jews and Muslims are the external actions: “I must not eat certain food;” “I must stop what I doing and go pray now;” “I may not join with you at these times.” All these prescribed actions are doubtless good, as long as they are for the sake of persons (for we truly “love God with our whole heart” by “loving our neighbor as ourselves”), not for the sake of an action.

For Christians, although they are also tempted to idolatry by way of external actions, the most deceptive temptation comes from their adherence to doctrines. For example, Protestantism classically claimed that truth is to be found solely in the Bible (Sola Scriptura), and yet in the United States alone there are over 350 different Protestant denominations. Have they made an Eidol of their doctrine of what the Scriptura teaches? Catholicism, of course, is not any better off, with its doctrine of papal infallibility. Has papal infallibility become an Eidol that is focused on with Latria?

Many examples of authentic religion could be lifted up. Let me pick just one here that, in different ways, reflects all three of the Semitic religions. The Jew, Rabbi Yeshua [Jesus] from Nazareth, whom both Christians and Muslims call the Messiah, said that, “It is not what goes into the mouth” (an “external”), but “what comes out” (an “internal” reflecting the kavanah in action) that makes a person good, or not—and elsewhere: “What you have done to the least ones . . . enter into the reward prepared for you.”

      Authentic religion is “Within Me, and Between Me and Thee.”

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New Creation is the Center for Christogenesis online magazine dedicated to deepening our awareness of God, Cosmos, and Humanity in a scientific age.

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A love letter to Ilia and Peirre Teilhard de Chardin Dear Ilia, I am so grateful to have found your books, your website, the Omega community and you, the prophet. Of course none of this was accidental. It all started with a car accident on my 21st birthday in 1968. I was driving alone at night, back to my job as a junior housemistress in a rural boarding school in Australia. Only my knee was badly injured in the accident but when I regained consciousness in the ambulance, I was aware of a terrible pain in my chest (bruising from the impact against the steering wheel before seat belts) as I struggled to breathe, it crossed my mind that I might be dying. I remember clearly thinking ‘what did the nuns teach us to do when one is dying?’. I was feeling pretty panicky by now and said the ‘Our Father’ as I was praying I relaxed with great relief because I knew from that moment (since never waived in my whole body conviction), that I actually, after all that teenage angst and doubt , did believe in God and more importantly that he/she believed in me. It was the greatest birthday gift I could have wished for . However it took about 15 years of ‘unfolding’’ to recognise the giftedness of this experience. The freedom of discovering that “faith” is not a noun but a verb of growing and becoming has given me licence to come and go, explore here and there, on and off. From Liberation theology, to the feminist project, sojouning with protestant friends and projects in social justice and ecological activism to Francis’ Laudato Si, the testament in scripture and finally home to the cosmic Christ and Teilhard de Chardin. Recently I get quite giddy, or ‘tipsy’, in awe and wonder at evolutionary creation and sometimes can cry at the privilege of being part of it. When I see an ant, busy about its business, or a weed struggling between the paving stones, I say to them,’even to be one of you would have been a great gig in this universe!, but to be chosen to be human through chance and natural selection, at this time of internet and DNA, to live in this country of security and more than my needs, to be a woman, a mother, grandmother and to have reached this consciousness of ’ unbearable wholeness’ and all that that means takes my breath away, like a car crash! Just one question. I don’t believe in “supernatural” any more. Is that heresy? The more I read about evolutionary biology and ponder on its implications for an evolutionary chistology, the more it seems to me that from the sub atomic to the cosmic scale, natural creativity, interconnectivity, communication networks, diversity, regeneration: have it all in hand. Thus the concept of ’super-nature’ is a tautology. I hope humanity can redeem itself, so that homo sapiens can continue to evolve into communities of healing and peace, but if not, then the infinite impulse will mourn the suffering and loss, but life is’ immortal and love is eternal’ (Bede Jarret) Resurrection goes on in the now, on the cusp of creating the future. Many thanks for your website. People like me need your company and inspiration. Patricia
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