And The Truth Will Set You Free

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 2.57.59 PMReading Jesus’ Answer to God by Elizabeth Boyden Howes (1984) helped me reframe some key theological understandings. It felt as if I were being set free.

John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (CEB)

[Scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.]

Christianity, true to its roots in Judaism, wanted a Messiah… and found him in Jesus of Nazareth. Leaving its Jewish roots as it spread through the Greek world, Messiah became Christ, a subtle acknowledgment that Judaism did not recognize the Messiah when he came into their midst. As the progression moved on, Jesus became Christ became God. How unlike the recounting in the Gospels of Jesus’ baptism and wilderness experiences… and his continual resistance to having the Messiah title applied to him.

Jesus transformed the Messiah/Savior Hero archetype into the messianic — that is, into an inner dynamic that not only inhered in him, but is available to all (the “Son of man”). The Eastern Orthodox theological tradition has maintained the roots of this understanding in the concept of “divinization.’

Christianity, true to its roots in Judaism, continues to understand God as a strong person/force that is capable of intervening in and contravening historical processes. Jesus as Christ as God is seen as evidence of this — calming the storm, healing the sick, rising from the dead. How unlike the recounting in the Gospels of Jesus’ life and ministry that grew out of his baptism and wilderness experiences.

Jesus refuses to allow others to see him as the source of healing, he is merely the catalyst, the channel. The healing comes from within — from the integration of sickness and health, darkness and light, Self and God. Howes is correct in referring to the “God-process” (rather than the Being of God) to describe the Source of life, healing, wholeness). While God is more than just what I personally experience inwardly, inner experience is exactly where God (the Divine, Mystery, Spirit) is to be found. That message is clear in and through Jesus.

Christianity, in movement away from its Jewish roots, began to overlay accretions to the root stories and words of Jesus to ensure his answer to humankind — that is to answer our questions such as: How am I to be saved? (Who will save me?) How can I be healed? (Who will heal me?) How can my life have meaning? (Who will give my life meaning?) Unfortunately, many of the proposed answers to these questions have lead to a degradation of this life in favor of a heavenly next-life after physical death.

Jesus’ answer to God was an assuredness of the responsibility of choice in all these matters. Rather than concern for being rescued by an outside entity, Jesus pursued an interior wholeness (integration of competing inner forces) that is salvation (that is “the healing of purpose” as Jack Biersdorf so eloquently states it). Instead of waiting for an ideal next-life, Jesus plunges into this life, even “turning his face toward Jerusalem” and squarely facing the greatest resistance (internally and outwardly) to his campaign for a new understanding of God and the ‘religious’ life. Jesus was not a next-life preacher, he “sold his all” in the here and now, in the meantime.

Jesus emerged from baptismal waters and wilderness temptations with a profound insistence (sense of call) and a deep-seated sensitivity to the movement of the God-process within. This was not only his experience; he invited everyone with whom he came in contact to experience this for themselves — for us to experience it for ourselves — for me to experience it for myself.

The God-process is experienced within. The Kingdom (Commonwealth) is within, as well as having a social/political dimension. Healing may look to a Healing Symbol (such as Jesus) to help find the strength or determination, but the healing process must be initiated from within, for that is where it happens. Salvation (a fancy word for healing of the spirit or purpose), likewise, is within.

What I find remarkable is that the Gospel accounts, with all their intentionally mis-leading overlays and accretions, still contain a true picture of the original message of Jesus. It just took a Jungian analyst to strip away the layers and confront me with the “truth that will set you free.” I am delighted that I have a friend who is willing to journey together as we strip away the overlays and accretions to our faiths and lives in order that we may discover more of who we are and who we are continuing to become. I am distressed and frustrated that more friends and family are not as willing to take that journey.

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