We are a part of a growing number of Biblical scholars, theologians, clergy and lay persons who are making history in the Church. Our message is not commonly conveyed in the traditional churches but there is an abundance of discussion, interaction, and books related to a more progressive Christianity. Of course, any kind of change that goes against the status quo is resisted and slow to materialize. Nevertheless, the change has already begun on the fringes of the church.
The Purpose of Namaste Church
After years of study and prayer, we are questioning the explanation for Jesus’ death and have a strong conviction that, rather than the death of Jesus, the life of Jesus and his profound message of justice, compassion, and love should be the core of Christianity.
It is presumed by the majority of believers that our image of God and the tenets of the Church should remain the same throughout the ages. However, there are also those who believe the Body of Christ continually grows in its understanding of the world and its God. Rather than Christianity being stagnant, we propose that there is an evolution of Christ Consciousness. At this time in church history, a growing number of individuals are seeking a Christian theology that is more in sync with contemporary theology. Namaste Church is a virtual church that models a Christian paradigm for the 21st century. The objective of this web site is to raise the consciousness of the people of God and empower them to emulate the life of Jesus rather than focus on his death.
Beliefs vs. Facts
In order to comprehend the concept that our faith can change, it is necessary to distinguish between beliefs and facts. Though we might know the difference, Christians recite and read the beliefs of their faith a good part of their lives and, as a result, often interpret them as facts. Following are a few beliefs and facts contrasted in an attempt to demonstrate the difference:Though this illustration may be shocking, perhaps even sacrilegious to some, the point is that beliefs are just that, they cannot be proven.
Belief: Jesus died for our sins.
Fact: Jesus was crucified under the rule of Pontius Pilate.
Belief: Jesus is the Son of God.
Fact: Jesus gave his followers a God-like experience.
Belief: The Bible is the Word of God.
Fact: The Bible is filled with wisdom and the writers could have been inspired by God.
Belief: We will one day be with God in heaven.
Fact: We will one day die.
We are free to believe whatever we choose but if we are to grow in our faith, it is important to put our beliefs in perspective. Keep in mind that what we believe is significantly influenced by our scientific knowledge and cultural background.
Science and Religion
It is typically presumed that Scripture is the word of God and therefore must be true. However, this rationale does not take into consideration that the writers of the New Testament were limited to what they knew about the world at that time. For example, God is portrayed as an elderly man residing somewhere above in the heavenly skies. Down below is a fiery hell where the devil, an evil man with horns and a tail, resides. The earth is presumably in the middle. The people in biblical times perceived their surroundings as a three-tiered world and yet it has now been established that there are no up-above or down-below residences. Through the many scientific discoveries that have been made since the Bible was written, it is now common knowledge that there are unending galaxies.
Culture and Religion
The followers of Jesus were also influenced by their culture and religious beliefs at the time. The explanation given for Jesus’ death is an example of this. Jesus’ followers were devastated that God did not save their Messiah, the Chosen One, from a horrific death. Naturally, they were searching for the reason for this twist of fate. During the time of Jesus, It was believed that sacrifice to Yahweh was necessary in order to atone for sin in the Jewish culture. It was therefore reasoned that God needed a sacrifice to atone for their sinfulness... but not just the sacrifice of a lamb, as was typical. It was surmised that God saw them as such unworthy sinners that a human blood sacrifice was required in order to earn forgiveness. In fact, atonement required God’s only begotten son. Jesus was supposedly ‘The Lamb of God,’ the ultimate sacrifice once and for all.
Our Current Paradigm
As Christians, we are to believe that God sees us as unworthy sinners and therefore required a mediator in order to atone for our sins but this belief no longer makes sense. Most Christians today do not perceive their God as vengeful but, rather, a God of love. While it may have been an appropriate view for the early church -- a view that reflected the conditions and life experience at that time, it simply is not relatable to us today. Not only is it unrelatable, it is also destructive to our self-image and quality of life. It is a view that undermines the essential value of human beings and suppresses our capacity to be happy. Our Christ-consciousness is evolving, and as it continues to evolve, we are going to have more and more difficulty adhering to a vengeful God and the crucifixion/resurrection story as reflected in Scripture.
A Paradigm Shift
Rather than a punishing God somewhere up in the skies with the purpose of judging our behavior, consider the possibility of God being Spirit. Imagine that the Spirit of God is everywhere and therefore dwells within us. As we become aware of this Spirit within us, we are able to draw from it, and are empowered to live the most fulfilling God-given life that we can live. Granted, this is simply a paradigm that can change as our understanding of our world and God change but this focus has manifested an abundant life for many progressive believers. As we experience our greatness and lovability, we will experience true happiness – not at some time in the future, not after our death – but in the present moment.
We honor the Divinity within you. Namaste…
FEEDBACK RELATED TO THE PURPOSE OF OUR MINISTRY
The April publication of our newsletter, The Dance of Life, contained a briefer version of the above commentary. Here are a few of the responses received:
Wonderful and beautiful! You are doing what should be done. I am positive that you find your message resonates with the majority of people of good will, who would have inevitably said,
“That’s what I believe; why haven’t I heard it said that way before?” My best wishes for your
good work. -Bishop Jim Burch
The penal substitution theory was created by Anslem toward the end of 11th cen.
I have written extensively against it. Theologians and scripture scholars, even evangelical
ones are rejecting it out of hand as diminishing Jesus as a mindless puppet and God as an
arrogant, murderous, lustful, vengeance seeker. The Franciscans objected, debated the
Dominicans and lost. The Church adopted it and life changed forever.
-Father Don Pachuta
This is Good News. I never felt comfortable with an Angry God as most Xian Churches present to us. -Noel
Theresa and I appreciated the way you have put in writing what we have been feeling for years now. St. Michael's ECC is open enough that these thoughts have been discussed. -Rev. Delores Knoff and Theresa Gorley
So cool. -Jim Lauder
I do not know why you call this controversial, as the theory of the atonement that you reject is neither necessarily the teaching of the Church nor uncontested by theologians! It may well be an important constituent of unsophisticated folk piety but it is not the only atonement theology offered by the Church today. -Simon Bryden-Brook
Oh my gosh - Thank you for this... -Pamela Spence
What you two are doing is right, necessary and good for the" People of God". -Tom Slymon
I enjoyed your discussion this week. I am solidly with you in your approach to these issues. -Tom Altapeter