Probably I should get back to my decades-long description of myself as “agnostic” — on the ideas about Jesus. I still like claiming overall “pan-compassionate freethinker” — but I’ve been looking at “the Q gospel” and Crossan’s “The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus” with an idea of getting an idea of what Jesus might actually have been like, what he actually may have said, what actually happened to him — and I’m thinking that really the best I can hope for — given that I’ve been wrestling with this the better part of a century! — is to just say “I don’t know” and am probably 100% unlikely ever to know and 99.99999% unlikely even to have a hypothesis about the reality.
So — main thing: I don’t know what happened or didn’t happen in Israel around 33 CE. I grew up in one of the traditions that included much that I’m sure did not happen — walking on water, substitutionary atonement — but I’m not sure about traditions like Quakerism that lift up the idea of nonviolence, love, the inner light. Maybe there was a person whose influence in that direction stretches even to today. My tradition said that that person’s actual reality continues to this day, and “he walks with me and he talks with me” — but I think rather than keep trying to question myself whether what I feel is actually that or my imagination, I need to just say, “I’m agnostic about all that.” Because I really am.
I can say, “I align myself with any tradition that moves toward nonviolence and love,” consider some expressions of the Christian tradition as doing that, and think of myself as being that sort of Christian.
My problem in RL (real life) is, as an ordained minister of word and sacrament, what to do about prayer in this conservative congregation. I can pray as part of leading a worship service, but just as myself, I don’t volunteer to do it in Sunday School or as moderator of our PW Circle. [I would not be a member except that when we moved here I escorted Mom &, after she died, it didn’t seem kosher to stop attending. I think of Presbyterian Women as vestigial — left over from the days when women could not be part of church leadership so formed their own organization. Now I think it’s sort of a shadow organization to the local church leadership, though PW has taken a liberal bent that I think is a good thing : ) ]
As agnostic, what would prayer be to me? what would be authentic? During my pre-ordination conferences with my supervisory committee, I would say that prayer for me was just everything (don’t remember how I phrased it). How would I turn that in to saying something at Sunday School or Circle? Or — more to the core — does the idea of prayer relate to me now?
I think it might be for me now a turning of my attention to the question of an ultimate reality that is something like personal, and just letting it be. Maybe it would be good to just do that periodically.
The kinds of things I want to keep learning about, in this regard, include
Dali Lama studies on physics & meditation practices — & “The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States” [The Tibetan Book of the Dead]
Western science, including astrophysics, quantum mechanics, cell biology, etc, including the scientists who don’t rule out a person-friendly character to reality (Rabbi Artson, Kenneth Miller, etc)
Historical Jesus studies — Crossan, Jesus Seminar, etc
In the meantime, what is the most nearly authentic that I can pray at SS & Circle? I will mull.