At some point in my life my karma ran over my dogma. I don't remember exactly when, but shortly thereafter I found I understood The Golden Rule, and that became my life's guide. Allow me to explain.
What is dogma?
It's described in the dictionary as a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true. That is to say, in simpler terms, what your church tells you to believe, and you must believe it to remain a member of your church. Many people are okay with that.
What is karma?
It's defined as the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences. Karma originates from the Hindu and Buddhist belief systems. I'm neither, so my karma doesn't involve reincarnation or "previous states of existence," but I use the term because it best describes what I'm trying to say about my beliefs. My actions are guided by my beliefs, and my beliefs are the sum of my actions.
It is my karma is to believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings, and practice them as best I can in my daily actions. However, the dogma surrounding organized Christian Religions and Churches is full of contradictions, counterclaims and seeming errors. At some point we each must face up to those contradictions and make a decision. What does it all mean to us? Does the dogma of organized Christian religion help us or hinder us from following the example of Jesus? I made a choice, and I left organized religion behind, but took my faith in Jesus with me.
Jesus and Christianity
My knowledge of Jesus and my brand of Christianity is rooted solely in the words ascribed to Jesus Christ, as written and recorded in the Four Gospels of the New Testament of The Holy Bible: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Some people like to bicker about who actually wrote the Gospels. I say, who cares! They are the Gospels we have to work with, and the only books of The Bible that really describe Jesus' ministry. Does it really matter who wrote them? Not to me.
These people say that the Gospels are the inspired Word of God, and that makes them the same as all the other books of The Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments. I don't necessarily agree with that. Inspired by faith in God, yes, but written by men.
To me the only words in The Bible that really matter are the words that Jesus is supposed to have said while he was here on this Earth teaching his followers. I know logically that none of those words are actually verbatim quotes of what he really said. They were first written well after his crucifixion, and then rewritten in various languages, based on the recollections of different people. They have since been translated and retranslated. But, regardless of how many variations they have been through, when you read his words today, for the most part his message is unmistakable. Basically he just wanted us to be: good people. That's the true bottom line.
These four Books of The Bible are the best and most complete collection of Jesus' works and teachings that we have available today. They describe for us what he did and what he said, according to people who recalled the events and words from their memories 30, 40, 50 or more years after the fact.
They are what we have of him. They are all we really have. To me, they are enough.
The Four Gospels of The Bible
I read Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, and I try to get out of them what I think Jesus would want me to know. Most of the stories make sense. Some don't, like The Beatitudes for instance. I just can't make sense of them because - who would not want to enter The Kingdom of Heaven? But in the Beatitudes Jesus said that "The meek shall inherit the earth." I don't know about you, but I don't want to be stuck on Earth if there's a chance I can go to Heaven. So that doesn't make sense to me right now. Someday, maybe it will, but for now I just read it and move on.
What I'm saying is: Why does it seem like some people have to make faith in God and Jesus so damn complicated?
Read the Four Gospels for yourself. Interpret them for yourself. Don't let anyone else interpret them for you. Get out of them the message that they impart to you, from Jesus. It's easier that way, and it makes a heck of a lot more sense when you figure it out for yourself, instead of having someone else tell you what it means, or in other words, teach you their dogma.
That's just the way I look at it. You do what you want, whatever makes you feel good about Jesus and God, but just don't tell me I'm wrong. Because I am not telling you that you're wrong. I'm just saying, this is what I do. This is what I believe. I am not going to force my beliefs on you. You believe what you want to believe.
As I say, these Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are the only real widely available documented writings we have of what Jesus did and said when he was alive here on Earth. They have been vetted over thousands of years and are still in The Bible, and so I believe they are primarily factually based, and that's really good enough for me.
I'm satisfied with Jesus' words alone. I don't need anything that's written in The Old Testaments, and other than The Four Gospels, I don't really need anything else in the New Testament either.
The Golden Rule
One of the things Jesus taught us is what some people call: The Golden Rule. He called it the second of his Two Commandments, that replaced the Ten Commandments and all the other Laws of Moses.
The Golden Rule has been promoted by several religious leaders of various faiths throughout history and around the world, and NOT just by Jesus. It is a Universal Rule, and it's very simple.
Do Unto Others As You Would Have Others Do Unto You.
Would I want someone to kill me? No. So I will not kill others. (Thous shalt not murder.)
Would I want someone to lie to me? No. So I will not lie to others. (Thou shalt not bear false witness.)
Would I want someone to take my stuff away from me? No. So I will not take their stuff. (Thou shalt not steal.)
Would I want someone to attempt to baffle me with bogus arguments about framework and contextual judgemental-ism or other ways to reinterpret religious teachings so that they can control my beliefs? In other words, feed me their dogma! No. So, I will be direct and honest with you, like I have been so far, in the hope that you will be direct and honest with me in return.
But, there are some who will try to color the truth, instead of stating it outright. Let me give you an example.
Let's say I tell you a piece of cloth is white.
But you say, "No, because at dusk when the sun is setting and there is a certain angle by which you can hold the cloth, as you can see now, in that angle, the cloth is red or perhaps orange."
I tell you that you are wrong. The light changed color, but not the cloth. The cloth is still white. That is truth. The cloth, no matter what color light shines upon it, is still white. It has not changed, only the light by which you attempt to color the truth has changed.
There is truth, and there is untruth. I prefer truth.
The Golden Rule is truth. The Golden Rule is its own context. The Golden Rule is like the white cloth. It doesn't change, no matter what light is shined upon it.
Coloring the truth is a big problem with many, if not most organized religions. They may try to color their version of the truth and then push their beliefs onto you. They try to indoctrinate people with their version of the truth, not THE TRUTH. Most people aren't stupid, and they don't like that. Many end up rejecting all of the beliefs, even if they are basically good beliefs like The Golden Rule.
Some people become so disillusioned that they even come up with backlashes like...
- The Tin Rule: Do unto others, BEFORE they do unto you. (aka: Get him first, before he gets you!)
- The Brass Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules! (But all he really has is brass, which is a fake substitute for gold.)
Finding The Truth in The Golden Rule
If you find The Golden Rule on your own I think you'll be much happier. Finding your own path is really the best way to create your own beliefs, because YOU believe them, not because someone else tells you that you must. Your beliefs become your karma, instead of memorizing their dogma.
There are many who interpret Jesus as saying that all people must obey all the laws of Moses, including the 10 Commandments, and that means that all the Old Testament applies to Christians. I disagree. I read on in The Gospels, and I find that Jesus said the two new commandments he gave us make it so that if you follow just those two you cannot break any of the previous 10 or any other real laws of Moses. So, the Two Commandments trump all of the Old Testament, and are the essence of all Christian teachings given to us by Jesus. Therefore, I no longer need the 10 or the Old Testament, because Jesus has given me something better and easier to follow. And I no longer need anything in the New Testament beyond the Four Gospels, because most of that is simply other people's interpretation of Jesus, and not really what Jesus said himself.
It is my karma to believe in the words of Jesus Christ, and that he said there are only Two Commandments I need to follow to be a Good Christian. The Two Commandments given by Jesus in The New Covenant are these:
- Love God.
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Those are the two he gave us, and he said; if you follow just these two rules you just cannot possibly break any of the previous Ten Commandments or any other of the original Mosaic Laws. And I believe Jesus is right.
There are some universal truths that all of us can agree on. (Well most all of us, there are some outliers for everything, exceptions to the rule, or just plain weirdos!)
Universal truths such as:
- The Earth is round
- The Earth orbits the Sun
- The Sun rises in the east and sets in the west
- Gravity exists
No one can really disagree with any of that. Right?
Also, how about: If you treat all people the way you really would like for all people to treat you, you cannot be a mean person or do harm to others, because those are things you would never want anyone to do to you.
What does sound like to you? The Golden Rule perhaps!
That's why I say that The Golden Rule is its own context and a universal truth. It works for everyone who follows it. And, its been taught by almost all religions, not just Jesus. It is Universal, at least as that term is applied to Earthly acceptance
Now, besides the Universal Truths we've just agreed upon there are personal truths, and those are the ones we each individually believe-in that no one but us needs to believe-in. Such as: my personal belief in God and my adherence to Rule #1 given by Jesus as part of The New Covenant.
You DON'T Have to Believe
You don't have to believe in a God if you don't want to. You don't have to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, or God the Son. But, at least if you believe in The Golden Rule as it was taught by Jesus, or The Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, the Dalai Lama or any of the great religions and religious leaders of history, if you just believe in The Golden Rule and nothing else, then you are ahead of the game toward becoming a Good Person. For a true believer and practitioner of The Golden Rule cannot be mean or bad.
Now, here's the kicker.
I believe all that! I believe what I just wrote. But YOU don't have to.
I believe it's a Universal Truth TO ME. You don't have to accept any of it as any kind of truth at all.
I am okay with that, because I am never gong to try to force my truths or beliefs onto you or anyone else.
Are you okay with that?
And that's what I think it really means to be a Good Christian, ever since my karma ran over my dogma.
Thank you for reading this, and...
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(A Traditional Gaelic Blessing for you!)