A: I think there’s a danger in posting the Christ Zone model. I think there’s a danger that many Christians will glance at it and assume this model isn’t new and isn’t different. I want to be very clear, for the record, that this model has nothing in common with the traditional teachings of orthodox Western Christianity. Many devout Christians want to believe their religion has always taught people how to live a life of balance and humbleness and self-actualization. But the truth is, it hasn’t. If Christians want to heal the church of the third millennium, and help people of faith understand more fully how to be in relationship with God, they have to be honest about the psychological abuses perpetrated within the halls of Christendom over the centuries.
J: Living your life according to the Christ Zone model — or, as I called it, “entering the Kingdom of the Heavens” — appeals tremendously to anyone who cherishes values such as gender equality, egalitarianism, humbleness, self-respect, and service. It should go without saying that many religious folk have been taught by their religious leaders to be suspicious of gender equality, egalitarianism, humbleness, and self-respect (though service work is usually endorsed). So let’s be honest — most conservative religious leaders do not ever want to hear about the Christ Zone model. If they had their way, they’d bury it. Permanently. It flies in the face of everything they’ve been teaching.
A: This was true 2,000 years ago when you first introduced your Kingdom teachings.
J (nodding): Here’s the problem: individuals who live their lives according to the Christ Zone model do not and will not play the “Status Addiction Game.” They have too much common sense and too much faith in God to listen to religious bullshit about Chosen People and Salvation and Sin and Special Sacraments and Atonement and Judgment Day (that is, doctrines which feed status addiction). Their brains work really well — the way God intends — and they have no tolerance for cruel or unjust treatment of anyone. They see Creation as a beautiful and good place, a place to appreciate and learn more about. They see God as a person* with feelings who cares about all beings. They’re natural-born social democrats who scoff at ideas such as special royal bloodlines. They make very poor slaves.
A: You don’t have to put metal chains on people to enslave them.
J: No. In fact, the best chains are the invisible ones. The mental and emotional chains that come with indoctrination of regular people can serve a tyrant for a lifetime. Very useful as far as a psychopath is concerned.
A: This morning I was thinking about the early 6th-century Rule of Saint Benedict (see also Humility: Vice or Virtue?). I had to read the whole Rule for one of my church history courses. This helped me pinpoint the ways in which traditional Christian monastic practice has done everything in its power to prevent individuals from feeling what it’s like to live in the Christ Zone — to prevent people from living in relationship with God. Everything about Benedict’s Rule seems almost designed to obstruct a person’s chances of balancing the four main needs of the Christ Zone model.
J: Actually, your observation is accurate. It’s an intentional design. It’s a Rule for Living that’s intentionally designed to break an individual’s sense of self and force him (or her) to be a willing and obedient slave to his master’s authority — and by “master” I don’t mean God or Christ; I mean the abbot, bishop, or land-owning aristocracy. Benedict’s Rule has nothing to do with being in relationship with God, and everything to do with crushing the human spirit so it won’t rebel against injustice.
A: Well, that’s a pretty picture!
J: I don’t want to make it sound as if Benedict “invented” this system of control through religious teachings that beats humility and obedience into people’s heads. Far from it. This method of controlling potential troublemakers through psychological means has been around for at least 5,000 years. In my time, the Essenes were the Jewish group that “rediscovered” these teachings and embraced them. But the Essenes didn’t invent this method of control. Just as Paul, when he founded a new theistic religion based on a Saviour called Jesus Christ, didn’t invent this method. Just as Paul’s orthodox followers didn’t invent the “humility and obedience” paradigm. But it’s time for Christians to be honest about this gruesome intent among early orthodox Christians. It’s time for them to recognize that the orthodox Western church has never wanted regular people to imitate the kind of life I actually lived. God forbid that anyone should be allowed to think God likes them!
A: One of my theology classmates a few years back was a devout Roman Catholic. One day in a small group discussion he asserted (with tears in his eyes) that God doesn’t need us. Not any of us. Apparently, God only needs Jesus. This is what the Roman Catholic church has taught him. And he believes it.
I was horrified. Shocked to the core.
The worst part is that millions and millions of Christians would agree with him.
J: These teachings help destroy the ability of regular people in the Christian community to seek the path of wholeness and humbleness that I found during my ministry. My heart goes out to them in their suffering. The church is abusing them — spiritually abusing them — and they’re going to keep paying the price for this abuse until they decide to walk away from it.
The good news is that you can walk away from the church’s teachings without walking away from God.
God is always with you. Whether you like it or not!
* The English language doesn’t easily allow the use of plural verbs, pronouns, and adjectives when referring to God. But when I type the word “God” I’m always thinking of two people rather than one — God the Mother and God the Father working in love together for all we know and love in Creation.