Where’s the Dog, Ma?

Where’s the Dog, Ma?

By Rev. Dr. D.A. Kjono

November 8, 2010

 

“Last I saw him, he was across the street at the church, son.” replied the mother as she stood washing dishes and looking out the window at the back yard, the opposite direction of the ‘church’. “I hope he’s not over there digging holes in the planter beds again!” (MGM – 1940ish – movie)

 

Yes, I’m well aware of the cheesy opening and the seriously lacking play on words, but I do believe “seriously lacking” are the key words here. However, it brings several things to mind for me after my cats distracted me away from an online discussion last night. It wasn’t the forum or the topic, it really wasn’t anything at all. As I checked out of the discussion to go tend to a mess created by my beloved felines, it hit me like a ton of bricks: The dogma, or more correctly the debate, is really what it’s all about for too many people.

 

It really has less to do with the correct reading of Scripture or infinitely small nuances of proper interpretation than it does with the bigger picture of a formal debate. The reason polite social etiquette dictates one never discusses politics or religion in public is because of the debate that ensues, not trying to quell personal beliefs. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” a popular bumper sticker says. I wonder if Thor had a bumper sticker on his chariot that read “Odhinn said it, I believe it, that settles it! and I have a hammer to prove it!”?

 

Faith Interrupted

For well over 20 years, in a general sense, I have contributed to the religious and pagan folk alike expressing my views on what I believe as my internal, my within, Truth. The essence of my being has been steeped in a firm belief that somewhere between the ritualized dogma of the organized church and the ancient ways of my Nordic past lay the truth of who and what I am. Or is it?

 

I returned to a place that “spoke to me” one night, many, many years prior, as I stumbled home from a local pub, falling flat on my face in front of the sign denoting the Universal Life Church in Modesto, CA. I made certain positive changes in my life way back then and continued to improve my Self over the ensuing years. After nearly three decades of intense study and research in various avenues of religious, secular and historical study I found myself at a turning point some dozen years ago. It was an epiphany of combining all my years of study into a unified theological approach to the many questions people have concerning their faith.

 

After finishing a grueling decade long instruction in the old ways of the Äsatrú Folk and being named a Fellow within the esoteric organization in 2000 and High-Rede in 2002 I then turned my attention towards following up with seminary studies within traditional, organized religions. Between attendance at both accredited theological schools and unaccredited “online” structured learning, I felt as if between a cross and whip when it came to being recognized for my long hard studies.

 

I found the answer to that quandary in 2007, again at the Universal Life Church, and was ordained. I now felt I had not only the education requirements, but the credentials ever so required by society to be able to genuinely help people in their endless search for truth. That same year I formed the Church of Universal Humanism located in Atwater, CA and began a small outreach to my community.

 

Chevy or Ford?

Clerics collar and black suit, next to Åsatrú Vitki-High Rede robes hanging proudly in my closet I felt certain I was ready to handle any problem the mass might throw at me or need help figuring out. What I hadn’t planned on was the adamant belief by nearly every one that in order to be an official spokesman of faith one had to be one or the other, not both. I soon found myself enveloped in an argument of theologies by both sides of the belief spectrum denouncing my allegiances. My long established alliance with my esoteric order began to question my loyalties and the traditional church refused to accept any such theology as I held.

 

By the end of 2008 I found myself ostracized from both communities of believers. I had to be either a “Chevy” or a “Ford” because everyone knew full well a “Chord” didn’t exist, no matter how loud I screamed “Yes there is, here we are!!” I had a small group of similar believers who I quickly found out abandoned ship as soon as the waters got a bit rough.

 

Over the ensuing year I found that my small group of like minded individuals was perfectly okay with the combined belief system as long as they didn’t have to fight for it. Several sheepishly returned to their previous dogma and doctrine while the others, except two, quietly faded from contact. I immersed myself in further study only to find that I didn’t have any “facts” wrong, just that much like any new thing it must be tested and proven before there is mass acceptance…unless it’s an internet fad or popularized piece of junk music of course.

 

I can most certainly empathize with how Yeshua must have felt in his day by facing the insurmountable task of formulating a new understanding of an age old system of belief.

 

Deeply disturbed by what the litmus test with my small band of believers had taught me I began to find solace in my own ordination’s web site. The forum proved to be exactly what I needed to share and express my thinking. There were those who were very hard on me, testing my belief and those who warmly and openly expressed a “what will be will be” attitude. This was all taken in as a form of recovery by myself and even my wife made comment about my ‘turn around’ in behavior and attitude.

 

Grasping at Smoke

Then, last week, I read with great interest a short bio by one of the members at the ULC.net forum explaining his views on the whole theological debate. One line in particular hit me in a deep and very strange way as he expressed faith to him was “like grasping at smoke”. I knew wholeheartedly exactly what he meant. My entire life has been doing just exactly that and even when I thought I had indeed grasped the breadth and depth of both secular and religious concepts upon opening my hand I saw I had nothing.

 

Things just are what they are.

 

While learned and layman alike join together in a fruitful exchange I find many who are merely expressing a hope rather than a true belief. They hope they are right because eternity may just count on them being a part of the “right” theological philosophy. Good luck all. There will always be a counter point of view to what you so firmly believe as being correct. Dismissing the contradiction to one’s belief doesn’t invalidate the facts behind it.

 

Faith of our Fathers

Most believers in any formal theology, do so because that is what they were raised in. Certainly there are those raised in “Godless” homes and find their way to one form of belief or another, but I would have to say the majority do as their parents or grand parents did. Some so fervently that they even begin to question their own elders faith as is evidenced by my nephew.

 

I was raised in an off shoot of the Lutherans in an Evangelical Covenant church. One verse from the Bible that was held in the highest praise was about not sparing the rod. My senior siblings and myself could find ourselves under the wrath of an angry parent for the slightest faux pas and questioning the authority of the church was as near to high treason as any young person could get. Something I think all three of us decided at an early age was that we would never raise our children in like manner when the time came.

 

Each of us struggled greatly through our formative years and despite having more questions than answers came into adulthood knowing that being a good, decent and honest person meant something.

 

Do That Which is Right

Doing that which is right! -the call sign of the ULC does mean something. It means having an ethic and moral beyond reproach and that regardless of the circumstances one will do the right thing at all times. Now that is something “smokeless” that anyone of any belief can in fact grasp. It’s not always easy but it is in fact an obtainable goal. It is also something that is of the highest importance to those of the Åsatrú Folk, Wicca and many other esoteric organizations.

 

What is not “right” is to force opinion down someone’s throat until they come to an acceptance, not by truth, but because it relieves the inquisition. Whether it is the Bible, Torah, Koran, Veda or Edda, coercion into that belief system is not right, even if it is what the father and mother adamantly believe. Children are the product of the parents, not the extension of the parents. As a parent myself I would hope that my children would voluntarily follow my example in all matters of life as I feel I was a good parent. But as they have chosen to follow their own heart and mind as adults, so be it. For the most part they do that which is right and what more could any parent desire for their legacy?

 

“För Odhinn!”

I’d have to say that circumstances leading up to my latest epiphany have all fallen in place exactly as was needed for me to endure yet another of Life’s Lessons. When I compare religious theological formats to that of the ancient, and in my opinion right ways, I find that dogma and coerced adherence replace inward, heart felt compliance. Yes, for some this will immediately start the cycle of debate all over again because they do not feel that way. I’m sorry, I won’t be debating my truth. To do so invalidates the very premise of its concept.

 

In the end of a long and arduous journey through the halls of theological academia to the great Halls of Valhalla, I am left with no further conclusion than the Six Fold Goal and Nine Noble Virtues are not in any way a theological summary, but rather a personal conduct summary of living aright. These goals and virtues have been verbalized, as best we can tell, since around 3,000 BCE and have been in written form since around 500 BCE. The Jewish monotheism of Abraham came about roughly 2,000 BCE and Moses wrote in all down about 1,200 BCE. The beliefs systems of numerous ancient cultures had similar and dissimilar variations of both. Perhaps an “original philosophy” is best kept alive.

 

The sagas set forth in the Edda and Poetic Edda are not Scripture. Each saga is an example of a way of life one should hold dear as a means to emulate, not worship. Emulation is not adherence to dogmatic doctrine rather a personal interpretation of Doing that which is Right. Since I’ve felt certain since my teens that esoteric, or internal belief trumps that of sheepish compliance to the exoteric, or external, formal doctrine, I think I’ll just stick to that.

 

I wonder what Goodwill will get for my clerics collar?

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