Thursday, November 03, 2005

Primer of Christian Myths

A myth, as I see it, is an organization of meaning. Everyone has her myth, the constellation of ideas that informs his life (and determines her activity and the way she spends her time). There are many Christian myths:

There are two chief myths with respect to the identity of Jesus:

1. The conventional religious myth in our culture, emanating from the crystallization of orthodox Christian theology, especially at and around the Council of Nicea. The distinctive thing about this myth is that Jesus is God.

2. Going back to the early days of Christianity perhaps the chief alternative to this myth was that of Arianism. The orthodox and the arians contended for centuries, often with great bloodshed. Two of the spiritual descendants of Arianism have been Unitarianism and Jehovah's Witnesses.

With regard to the matter of spiritual authority we might list some other myths:

1. The Church and its authorized delegates provides the chief spiritual authority for the believer.

2. The Bible (usually considered inerrant) provides the chief spiritual authority. (This myth became prominent with the Protestant Reformation, when the Bible was thought by many to have replaced the authority of the Church.

3. Spiritual authority resides in the conscience of the individual.
All of these myths have had their believers over the history of Christianity. Of particular interest in regard to the third are the
Gnostics, the Bogomils, the Cathari, the Anabaptists,and the Quakers (and a host of others).

What is your myth? If might be golf; it might be cars; 'success'?; a needle? Whatever is most important to us, that's what our myth of meaning centers around.

In 1956 my myth was changing: as a research chemist I had decided to go far a higher degree, and I took as my teacher a man at the lab who seemed like a high priest of science. Sitting in his class it came to me that for all his brilliance in math and physical chemistry his emotional and social development lacked a great deal.

Mulling over this it occured to me that if I was going to follow a high priest, the best thing would be the one who worshipped the highest God. Early next year I changed from graduate school to a seminary. Never regretted it!!!


George Breed said...

Alright Larry! Speak it out!

My myth is that all that exists is the embodying, continuous transformational embodying, of a Great Mystery, which we call many names.

We are nerve endings of God (to use a name).

Krishna's hand is seamlessly inside the puppet that I am. And yet I'm independent -- the puppet that wags the hand.

Jesus was telling us this -- we are children of the living father -- but instead of listening to what he said, we bagged him, stuffed him, and made a religion of him.

To use one of my currently favorite phrases -- we are embodyings of the universe!

Thanks, Larry. You allow folk room to speak.

crystal said...

... this myth is that Jesus is God.

... speaking for myself, I hope that's not just a myth :-)

Larry said...

Good creative comment, George; thanks.

Crystal, thank you, too, for keeping up with my ramblings.

Anna said...

Hello Larry! I am enjoying reading your blog - you hold deep conversations on spiritual matters, for which I am thankful. I was noticing in your post that despite saying myth is anything that informs a person's life, you seem to treat myth as if it has to be something untrue. Although that is typically how we use the word, myth can also be defined as a story (often old) that explains the why of something, whether cultural, supernatural, etc. Just like allegories, stories can sometimes capture a deeper and more complex picture of the truth than a much longer codification of doctrine or ethics. I prefer a broader use of the word myth so as to avoid objectifying or belittling it; fiction or fantasy seems a better description to me, with the provision that you find it personally touching. What do you think?

Larry said...

Anna said, "you seem to treat myth as if it has to be something untrue." I don't know where you got this, Anna. If you can specify any such insinuation in my post, I would appreciate your telling me about it.

Twyla said...

Great post. Reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Rumi, "Unfold your own myth". I love the title,even! I use that as my descripter on Whimsical Mystic. Please indulge me as I include a few lines:

But don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth, without complicated explanation,so everyone will understand the passage, We have opened you.

That makes me think of you.

Larry said...

Well Twyla, I do believe that revealing ourselves, telling our story, who we are is one of the best ways to promote love and understanding.

In the 60's Harvey Cox was a 'guru' for many of us progressive ministers. His Secular City was probably the most famous religious book of that generation.

Among other things Harvey advised what he called 'ecclesiastical civil disobedience', and many of us put it into practice in various ways.

But what impressed me most among his ideas was his belief that 'telling your story' may be the most vital form of religious worship.

Thereafter I felt that the only really effectual preaching was confessional. To say who I am and what has happened to me-- and to you, is the closest thing to preaching the gospel. It's what Paul did, and the others as well, what Jesus told us to do, I believe.

Larry said...