Sunday, January 17, 2010

Missing The Point: Sign is Secondary


       Today I decided to give the Christian sermon radio another listen. Filled with heavily mystified teachings and fluff that seems to go on mainly for the sake of seeking donations, one may ask why I even bother listening in the first place. I listen because every now and then I find a rare diamond of insight amongst the fog of dogma.

         Today I was pleasantly suppressed to hear a preacher say exactly what I had been thinking, without any appeals to the supernatural. He addressed the disconnect between the symbol and the symbolized. Rather than being deluded by focusing on the reality of a religious tradition, he emphasized the importance of seeing the reality IN a tradition. He went on to explain how too many people take these teachings for face value and therefore interpret metaphorical lessons as literal occurrences. The story of the last supper is an example of an occurrence that if taken literally, a person must believe they are consuming the body and blood of Christ that is transformed from bread and wine into a divine substance. To believe this is to miss the point. The bread and wine may be sacred, but it is no more divine than it was before it was blessed. The communion represents the importance of community rather than the literal ingestion of Jesus as many Catholic practitioners still maintain. 

        This idea of the symbol can also be seen in the ‘divinity of the church’. Many people hold churches as necessary for mass since they believe the church is ‘Gods home’. I agree a church may be sacred, but just like the bread has not transformed into Jesus, the church no more divine than your own home. If this is the case, than why are masses carried our in churches rather than being broadcasted over television?  The answer is again in the importance of coming together. Communities coming together in one space for a common purpose allows individuals to feel a connection to something larger than ones self. In a highly individualized society where globalization and capitalist competition alienates us from a sense of community, church can serve as a sacred place of coming together. The ‘home of God’ does have a practical purpose if one looks past the literal translation of metaphysical terminology. Looking past the metaphor is emphasized quite very well in this Buddhist quote:

“All instruction is but a finger pointing to the moon; and those whose gaze is fixed upon the pointer will never see beyond. Even let him catch sight of the moon, and still he cannot see its beauty.”

         There is beauty in the breakdown of  literal translations.  Behind the thin shell of prose there is a vast poetic sea of meaning and emotion. Many Christian groups have become a gravy bowl of watered down teachings that are too stubborn to keep up with modern thought. Thinking about why you hold your beliefs is important. Thinking about what they mean is even more important. 


  1. The INCREATE ENERGIES of God penetrate the bread and wine [epiklesis]: the energeia that descends is IMMORTALIZING GRACE: it is not a symbol or metaphor - it is deifying according to the capacity [worth] of the recipient. To the Visionary in Christ God's GRACE can become VISIBLE [His Glory can be seen]