Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of Hell.

"People often asked Dr. [Carl] Jung, 'Will we make it?' referring to the cataclysm of our time. He always replied, “If enough people will do their inner work.” This soul work is the one thing that will pull us through any emergency" —Robert Johnson, Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche (HarperSanFrancisco: 1991).

"The cataclysm of our time." That time was approximately 100 years ago. The word comes from the Greek, Kata (down, against) Klysmo (to wash over or surge). But do we now have a cataclysm? I think we do.

In fact, there will always be a potential cataclysm inside us, let alone in the world, if we don't understand the importance, calling and nature of our soul. The irony is that the vast majority of us don't know our own soul and not that many of us even want to.

It's much easier, isn't it, to live on the edge of chaos, exclaiming at the world 'out there' and blaming it and others for whatever situation you/we might be in.

But if you do want to, then the first thing to do is find the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a real place in the human psyche, a place of peace, self-acceptance and the gateway to your soul. 

Who says so? The ancient Judaic mystical system known as Kabbalah (which is the Hebrew word for 'receive'). This is nothing to do with Madonna and the Kabbalah Center — that's a modern re-working of the system which, in my not-so-humble view has completely missed the pot and potentially misled a lot of folks on the nature of this version of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition. 

You'll probably have heard of the Kingdom of Heaven through the words of Jesus in the Bible. He also spoke of the Kingdom of God which is where you can head for once you've found the Kingdom of Heaven.
Does that mean Jesus was a Kabbalist? In the sense that he knew the ancient mystical teaching and received inspiration directly from the Divine, yes. However, in those days, the tradition was known as 'The Way' or 'The Knowledge.' He certainly knew all about The Way. He never intended it to be limited to those who became what we now call Christians.

In a nutshell, in the Kingdom of Heaven is the place in the psyche where you have spiritual power within your own life and your surroundings. The Kingdom of God is where you have spiritual power within the World. Everyone's Kingdom of Heaven is unique to them and everyone's Kingdom of God is transpersonal — involving the whole of Spirit. That's why Jesus talked about giving up the self; you can do that happily from the Kingdom of God

We need both in these polarised times but more than anything, we need the Kingdom of Heaven, because it is everything within us that is generous and kind and honest and true and beautiful.

And we need to walk before we can run because if you head out seeking the Kingdom of God before we've internalised the Kingdom of Heaven we are likely to hurt ourselves - and others. It's like fire; marvellous when you know how to use it, and incredibly destructive if you don't. In fact, you'd never reach the Kingdom of God but you would believe you have and that's where you've opened a psychic doorway to something very unpleasant indeed, including the corruption of power.

My headline also mentions the Kingdom of Hell. That's where so many of us spend a lot of our time. The Kingdom of Hell is everyone else. It is where other people, family, work, governments, medical diagnoses disempower or incite us us. It is where our lives can be kicked in any direction without our say-so and sometimes even our knowledge. Sounds familiar?

As the lovely Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love (Penguin 2006): "All the sorrow and trouble of this world is caused by unhappy people. Not only in the big global Hitler-'n'-Stalin picture, but also on the smallest personal level. Even in my own life, I can see exactly where my episodes of unhappiness have brought suffering or distress or (at the very least) inconvenience to those around me. The search for contentment is, therefore, not merely a self-preserving and self-benefiting act, but also a generous gift to the world. Clearing out all your misery gets you out of the way. You cease being an obstacle, not only to yourself but to anyone else. Only then are you free to serve and enjoy other people.” 

"The search for contentment," to the mystic in the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the pilgrimage to uncover the Kingdom of Heaven within us. If we won't go within, we must go without and when we go without, we do just that...

What will you find in the Kingdom of Heaven?

Peace, happiness, joy, contentment, the ability to intuit what is needed for your own healing, the ability

not to react continually to the outside world's silliness and craziness and a space within that is open to inspiration and guidance from Beriah the world of blessings; the place we call heaven.

Heaven is not something waiting for us after death if we are good. Heaven is the destination at the end of the hero's/heroine's journey, made famous by the American mythologist, Joseph Campbell. It's where we leave our old habits and patterns and set out for a better life and then, when we have tamed and released our inner dragons, we bring our story back to our tribe so as to teach them how to do the same.

This autumn, I'll be teaching a new online course, The Kingdom of Heaven: How to Live in Heaven on Earth, which will show you the map for your journey. it won't tell you who you are meant to be; it will help you find that for yourself. And when you know who you truly are, then truly, life itself becomes heavenly.

We'll be starting on Monday 7th October for five weeks and the Early Bird price is £75, rising to £99 on 21st September. You won't have to listen live to any of the course. It will all be recorded and sent to you in MP3 format so you can tune in in your own time.

Let me say again: this is NOT selfish work. Finding your own happiness is a gift to the world.

What are my qualifications for teaching it? I'm the author of 18 books, have been widowed and divorced, have emigrated and returned and have studied Judaeo-Christian mysticism for more than a quarter of a century and I'm a joyful survivor of cancer. I'm an independent minister, or Hedge Priest, and I am both very happily married and incredibly content. Most of my time, I live in the Kingdom of Heaven. More details of my life and work here.

"Working with you made me feel alive. The whole of my future opened up; I felt that I had a future. You saved my life" — Salley Farquharson, Birmingham, UK.

Let me know if you think you might be interested in knowing more. Thank you.


Continuing the Edinburgh Blog: Not me in the picture, honest!.

This is The Duchess. She was MC at The Big Gay Story Slam at The Gilded Balloon. She gave me the best moment of the whole Edinburgh Fringe when I posted a picture of her on Facebook and someone said, 'You're looking great!' thinking she was me.

Oh for legs that long! :-)

The Big Gay Story Slam was a nightly event where folk went on stage and told a five-minute story about either being part of the LGBTQ community or about their guardianship or interaction with it.

I was thrilled to be invited to take part when I attended Fringe Central's Media Day. Conor, one of the organisers, came over, having spotted the now legendary rainbow clerical shirt and asked me to come along. Try as I might, I couldn't think of a funny story to tell but fortunately, they weren't necessarily looking for humour.

So this is the story I told. But before I tell it, I will add that I started my five minutes with hand on heart, apologising for the treatment LGBTQ folk have had from right-wing religion. I told the audience I took responsibility for what had been said and done in the name of Jesus and that I was so very, very sorry.

My story was about my childhood friend, Pete McKay. Pete was a kind of adopted brother of my school friend, Sara Tompkins. He was gay, as was she. When we were 17 and over, Pete used to take us to Nightingale's, the gay nightclub in Birmingham where we mingled with folk who looked more like Village People than Village People and we got the best physical work-outs ever, dancing to twelve-inch disco remixes which, in the 1970s usually lasted about fifteen minutes each.

I always felt totally safe and protected at Nightingales. The first time, I was a bit scared about going to the Ladies because that was the place I ususally went to get away from people who might fancy me! However, no one ever did fancy me in the Ladies or, just as likely, they weren't mad predators who were about to leap on any undefended female (something that people have often believed about gay men, for some reason).

Pete was a darling. But he was also a bit of a trollop and, after one particularly outrageous trip to New York, he contracted HIV. This was the early 1980s when those terrifying advertisements voiced by John Hurt were starting to feature on our screens.

He's the guy on the far left in this picture, taken at my 18th birhtday party. I'm the rosy-cheeked one in the white and Sara is the fair girl next to Pete.

No one in the medical profession in the Midlands of the UK back then knew very much about AIDS and everyone was afraid that it was contagious like the flu. Once Pete was diagnosed, none of the people he loved were allowed to come within two metres of him, let alone hold his hand or give him a cuddle.

I will always remember, sitting in a chair away from his bed (he was still at home then) and discussing what I should do after he died. You see, the thing is, I was breakfast presenter on BBC Radio WM and Pete's death was going to be the very first known AIDS-related death in the Midlands.  I wanted to know what Pete wanted me to do about that. He asked me not to report it, so I didn't.

On the day Pete died, Sara called me at work and I told my producer, Tim Manning and went home. Tim, bless him, who was also gay, kept schtum. However, BRMB, the local independent station did get the story on the day of Pete's funeral and I nearly lost my job when my news editor found out that he was a friend of mine. It was probably the first time I'd ever stood up to a news editor and I told him, quivering with both rage and fear that personal loyalty was more important than such a news story. Pete had never willingly harmed a person in his life so supressing the story was not an act of injustice.

So far, it's a sad story but I'm glad I had the courage to tell this room ful of strangers at The Gilded Balloon what happened at Pete's funeral. Now, I'm not psychic but there are times when I sense things and I had a real problem at that funeral. Why? Because everyone else was so unhappy and hurt and miserable but I was simply filled with joy and could hardly stop my face from beaming all the way through. It was utterly clear to me that Pete was there; he was dancing above the coffin in a party of angels and laughing with delight.

I've never forgotten that funeral; I suspect that in some way it was part of my journey to ministry and it is certainly why I can never subscribe to any theory that God isn't fond of the gay folk. Pete was in heaven.

At the end of my story, and the stories of the other speakers, The Duchess took a vote. I was that night's winner and, afterwards, a dozen or more people came up to say 'thank you.'

There was no need to thank me. I'm just so grateful that I know what I know...

Oh Edinburgh!

I was going to post a whole load of blogs during White Collar Comedy's stint at the Edinburgh Fringe but my laptop cable died and the replacement I ordered after hastily joining Prime for the one-day delivery, vanished into the ether and never arrived.

Which basically meant I had more time to be out and about, seeing shows, flyering and having fun.
So here's a bit of a catch-up, with some pictures of folk that Kate, Ravi and I met at the Fringe, starting with the winner of Thursday's 'who looks most like a fantasy Jesus?' competition. And yes, we vicars are aware that Jesus would most likely have been a short, dark and definitely Jewish dude. I did say 'fantasy' Jesus, didn't I?
 Kate Bruce and I did a lot of flyering together. Ravi was a one-man flyer phonomenon all on his own and we were just in the way if we hung around while people were being spontaneously seduced by his irresistable charm so we found ourselves a regular spot by the Gilded Balloon and watched out for what we called 'our people' — i.e. respectable middle aged types or spectacular members of the LGBTQ community.

I've been flyering in Edinburgh before but never so successfully or so enjoyably. We spotted our people and launched into our pitch: 'Three genuine vicars doing stand-up. What could possibly go wrong?'

There were three types of responses: 'I'm sorry, I've gone deaf and you are invisible,' gestures that meant 'I'd rather go straight to hell than come to your show' or laughter. If they laughed, then we had a conversation starter and it's the conversations that sell shows, not just the flyers. Sometimes the conversations went on for about ten minutes and maybe they never ended up coming to the show but they were all great conversations and we wouldn't have missed one of them.

What was really rather special was that we recognised most of the people who did come to the show from the flyers we handed out, especially the middle-aged 'respectable' ones who turned up at Sofi's Southside in good time to get themselves a drink and dry out a little from the thunderstorms. That meant that we were able to meet and greet and that, in turn, meant they were happier to talk with us after the show when we forced them to do the traditional 'shake the vicar's hand after the service' routine. Except this time, the vicar's hands had a collection bag and a free 'get out of hell free' card. More than 200 people ended up with one of those after just 10 days. My work here is done!

Before we went to Edinburgh, I posted on Ravi's, Kate's and my behalf on most of the Facebook Edinburgh fora that we were willing and able to be any backup needed for anyone in the LGBTQ community who faced any discrimination while at the Fringe. We can play 'Bible tennis' with anyone who wants to try and say that sexuality is something that Jesus gave a flying fig about or who wants to quote St. Paul (who, incidentally, is one of the misquoted teachers there is and clearly thought that gossiping and being rude to your parents was just as bad as 'abnormal acts' which is generally mistranslated as 'homosexuality.'

It's a bit weird writing this after the event but there are more stories to tell including the one about the Great Gay Story Slam and meeting Eddie Izzard ... so I'll be back...


Capacity crowds and no one more amazed than us!

Edinburgh is beautiful but it is not flat. Until you've got your bearings, you will be doing several cardiac work-outs just trying to get from your bus stop to your venue. They say that J. K. Rowling got her idea for the moving staircases at Hogwarts from the stone steps in Edinburgh that seem to lead somewhere different every time — but always to more steps.

We're four performances in now and, thanks to Fringe Central's excellent 'how to make your show noticed' session, we are flyering like pros. To flyer someone successfully, you need to pick your people carefully and engage them in genuine conversation. For us, picking 'our people' is quite simple: middle-aged couples and groups. Obviously some of them aren't our people and give us the equivalent of a flip while passing on but, hey, we're vicars. We can forgive them. :-)

I even managed to forgive the woman dressed like the most stereotypical witch you've ever seen, including green make-up. I thought I'd say 'hi' and complement her outfit but she swore at me in either Czech or Slovakian and waved her broomstick at me threateningly. Bloody foreign witches, coming over here and stealing our jobs...

Kate had the brilliant idea of flyering a troupe of middle-aged singers performing on the Royal Mile. Every single one of them took a flyer (and they were, at the very least, the types who would recycle them). And as for Ravi - well, he's a natural! About every ten minutes we lost him because he was deep in conversation with someone, charming the M&S pants off them.

Sofi's Southside is a lovely little bar just five minutes from the Fringe Central with seating for about 40 people max. Um ... we may have a venue that's a little too small! On our first night, we had six people, which is not bad for starters but that trebled on night no. 2 and for the last two nights we've been at full capacity! Can't tell you how delighted we are about that.

It's lovely that people have simply found us in the brochure and thought they'd take a punt, it's wonderful that old friends and friends of friends are turning up out of the blue and it's just great that people we've given flyers to, actually turn up! It's also terrific fun to experience ourselves referencing back and forward to each other during the show as we get to know each other better. We are not only performing together, we are living together too. And nobody has died yet!

But God, is it tiring! I went down with a cold on day three so not at my best but it's also hot here and we're not as young as we think we are and are slightly prone to hysterical laughter when Google maps tells us that our destination is ten minutes' walk away 'mostly flat.' That's flat if you have a helicopter. Or a broomstick.

Another part that's fun is getting feedback from Kate when she and I are going somewhere together (Ravi is always strides ahead, engaging with everyone). Kate can see the expressions on people's faces when they see my rainbow dog collar and relays them back to me. They vary somewhat drastically at times. :-)
However, I was stopped by one young man and practically begged to go and take part in The Big Gay Story Slam one evening. Can't wait! (it's for LGBTQ folks and allies so I do qualify).

As we settle in, we're starting to have the energy to go and see other shows, although it's astonishing how many shows I'd like to see are on at the same time as we are. Will have to work on the bi-locating.

We know we're getting at least two reviews — from the in-crowd, Premier Christian Radio were in two nights ago and both Kate and Ravi wisely suggested I dropped all my 'Dartmoor witch' material... And we have Church Times on our last night so I guess that will be witch-free too. Still, the great thing about so many years of comedy is you can always drag up a properly ancient joke and drop it into a gap. It will be fascinating to see what other reviews we may get.

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 - White Collar Comedy.

It was a wet October morning and I was wondering what the next step might be in my comedy career. I was doing okay, but meeting a few dead ends along the way and it felt as though some new impulse was needed.

So, I did what I usually do each morning, gave it to God (who pretty well had to pin me to the ground and wrestle it out of my head as per normal) and sat in meditation. The answer was swift and clear: "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together."

It's an African proverb so neither God nor I were being particularly original that morning but then God did make Africa along with everything else (including dinosaurs) so I guess He/She can still claim it.

"Go together" meant performing comedy with other vicars. Fortunately I knew two who were intentionally funny, from a show we'd done for Christians in London called Holy Guacamole. Not one of my best gigs: a load of folk staring in horrified outrage at my heresy (and less than perfect timing) but at least I'd got to meet Revs. Ravi Holy (yes, that's his real name) and Kate Bruce.

They take up the story in this article in The Wee Review.  Originally, there were to have been four of us — Rev. Mark Townsend is a talented magician as well as an author — but that will have to wait until another year. Perhaps if Mark were with us, Pontius Pilate would have given us four crosses?

Getting a load of vicars together outide their parishes is like herding cats (we are well trained in plausible avoidance techniques by our Parish Councils) and we live in Devon, Kent and Oxfordshire so we couldn't just meet up after work for a drink. But suitably tempted by the offer of supper cooked by my Jewish friend Adam — all vicars should have at least one Jewish friend who invites you for supper, obviously — we met up in the holy city of Aylesbury and started to plan.

Our first show together was at Leicester Comedy Festival in February. We were doing just one night on the first day of the festival — and none of our promotional material had been brought along for us to do any flyering. It was all done just not delivered. So, we had a pizza and a quick word the the One Upstairs and to our delight, thirteen people showed up. Now, 90% of those were friends of Kate's but no one was complaining about that and we never told the Holy One we wanted strangers. You do have to be very specific in prayer...

Our second gig was at Bath Comedy Festival, eight hours after Lion and I landed at Heathrow from three weeks in the USA. I don't sleep well on planes and was a tad nervous about the effects of tiredness. But the delight of seeing more than 50 people turn up (together with a few of Kate's friends), was enough to help the adreneline and we all did better than on the first night.

So, two gigs together before we headed for the Edinburgh Fringe. Seriously under-prepared? Yes and no. We're each doing our own set which we already know well and allowing ourselves to refer back to each other spontaneously from the day's events and it just works.

Edinburgh isn't cheap and, as we are at the Free Fringe, we rely on donations to keep us going. For most comedians, accommodation is the biggest cost but, bless him, Ravi got in touch with an old friend from his wild-child days who lives on the perfect bus route to our venue, Sofi's Southside, in Buccleuch Street. She's obviously quite crazy because she happily invited all three of us to stay for the whole 11 days we are here.

So here the adventure begins for real. And no better start for three middle class, middle aged comedians to sit with our hosts the night before we begin our run. Ravi and Pauline are discussing their wild days of drugs and punk music (Ravi was lead singer in Satan's Bitches and yes, he'll tell you about that in the show). As they remembered some of their more unravelled times, with "E" and other illegal substances ,Pauline came up with a classic about the seriously mad, bad and dangerous to know "Joe":  "I well remember the day Joe introduced me to Earl Grey tea." You can take a girl out of the Middle Class, but you can't take the Middle Class out of the girl...


Dear Republican America: Don't you DARE call yourself Christian.

It has come to the point where I want to apologise for being a Christian; where I feel embarrassed to be a minister in a sea of prejudiced, inaccurate and archaeic law-quoting hypocrites.

It's not just Alabama and Georgia ... it's all the people who love to worship Jesus without taking the time, courtesy and energy of trying to follow him. Christ never once asked us to worship him; he did ask us to do what he did. Following him is bloody hard work; worshipping him is a piece of cake.

You do not get to call yourself a Christian just by worshipping Christ. I'm sure someone would like to quote Ephesians here as in "you cannot get to heaven by good works alone" but even that is a selective quotation. It makes it clear that we get to heaven through Grace and Grace alone and the signature of Grace is that it cannot be deserved. Grace is radically unfair; Grace is God's unconditional love for us. The woman having an abortion and the doctor aiding her are equally likely to receive Grace as the pro-life Christian. If you even want to consider calling yourself a Christian you have to allow Grace even when you really don't approve of it. God gets to call the shots and God is always love. Read the dratted Prophets! No one ever does but they make that abundantly clear.

N.B. Heaven and hell are states of the psyche. There isn't any nice land up there that's exclusively for Christians ... or Muslims ... or anyone else. We're all going to be surprised who we meet in the reality after death.

But to the point: I'm not the first person to call out Kay Ivey, Governor of Alabama for saying the ruling on abortion comes from, "Alabamans' deeply-held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God." Really? REALLY?

Apart from the fact that Alabama has the death penalty — and Kay Ivey has presided over the killing of six people — you cannot, cannot, CANNOT say you are pro-life and not challenge the NRA on assault rifles and, frankly, you cannot even go to war. Ever.

If you are "pro-life" you do not agree with the taking of any life, obviously including the life of a child in a school classroom. You truly do not even consider sanctioning the bombing of other people's children (of any age) in countries across the world.

If you support pro-life, then you must be pro all life. Otherwise you are exactly the kind of person that Jesus fervently condemned, even if you think you are a Christian. Especially if you think you are a Christian. You are the equivalent of the Pharisees of his day - hypocrites of the highest order making sure they were seen to be following the law while holding no compassion whatsoever.

Jesus said "I come to bring a sword" (Mathew 1034) but it was not a sword to use to kill, it was the sword of truth, to cut through hypocrisy. Jesus was a pacifist. He restored the ear cut off one of the Temple guards who came to arrest him in Gethsemene. He really, really didn't have to do that; everyone would have understood. But he did. Yes, I know he knocked over the tables in the Temple and chased the merchants with a knotted cord but there's no report anywhere of any of them actually getting hurt. I'd quite like to do the same in Alabama right now.

What I find truly shocking is that people, like Kay Ivey, who think they are Christian obviously haven't even read the Gospels.

How about this: "Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."  (Matthew 25:40)

Every single person every single one of us has hurt in any way is Christ. We cannot do anything to harm another (or for that matter ourselves) without doing the same to Christ. That's because Christ is in all creation.

I can just hear Kay Ivey respond that she has done just that to save aborted fetuses. But if you are trying to be a Christian you don't get to pick and choose. You don't get to condemn the woman who knows she is carrying a baby who has already died to keep carrying it so it rots in her womb. You don't get to condemn the teenager who thought she was in love and the condom broke; you don't get to condemn the family which already has too many children to provide for and no benefits.

Even more, if you're a Christian, surely you should know something about souls? That souls are immortal and that souls do not fully attach to the fetus until they are good and ready? And that souls aren't affected by abortion and can - and will - return another time. Why is nothing about souls ever taught in seminary, in church, in the world? Why? Why? Why?

The answer to that is because we are all too tied up with our bodies ... "the sins of the flesh" but both the Prophets in the Bible and great mystics teach that the first, and most insideous form of evil is "the world." It's the system, it's the way things are, in the modern world, it's generally what's called "mammon" - the pursuit of money as opposed to spirit.

But the greatest of all evil is when we present this system as being virtuous. The system that disallows abortions is virtuous. Of course it is! It is all for the good! From what I observe, the Republican "system" absolutely loves to tell us how good it is. Democrats are far too busy arguing among themselves to get on quite such a high horse.

The first demon in Mark's Gospel is found in the synagogue and that's not a coincidence. You find evil very easily in our churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. That's its favourite place to hide, looking all shiny and virtuous and full of glamour. These are the forms of evil that present themselves as the light. To truly succeed, evil must always look necessary or virtuous and it will encourage us to support and need it by broadcasting how good it is.

For more on this, please click here.

If you want to ask me if I'm pro-life, then honestly, I have to say "no." I still eat meat and fish; I visited the statue commemorating Bomber Command, in honour of my father, and I think it was a necessary evil to fight Hitler. I don't think abortion is a good thing and I am glad for better forms of contraception but I would never condemn a woman who had one (how could I?).

And in the meantime, I will continue to apologise for Christianity each time I do stand-up and each time I minister anywhere. Truly, fellow Christians, we have absolutely no excuse for not knowing better.


Easter 2019. The Too Small God.

The Cosmic Christ - Toledo Cathedral.
A good man dies in the most horrible way because his father (God) requires his sacrifice in order to atone for human sin.

This is the wholly unsupportable Christian orthodoxy that we have lived with for more than seven hundred years. No wonder people turn away from churches in droves now that it is no longer a community requirement to attend. Only the ego can support such a theory and only the tribe can maintain it.

It is not the point of the crucifixion and it never was. And it's not just me saying that. Great theologians such as John Duns Scotus and St. Bonaventure have been saying it for centuries. It has always been part of the Franciscan Orthodoxy and, now, Richard Rohr, says it magnificently in his new book The Universal Christ.

In a nutshell, all this "substitutionary penal atonement" came about because of theories by St. Augustine (354-430 CE) and Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109 CE). It's important to emphasise that these were only theories - but they were gobbled up by Christianity like chocolate eggs at Easter - because they fitted so neatly into the ego's desire for blaming and shaming. If you can make other people wrong, you really don't have to do anything about the plank in your own eye. And you can worship Jesus Christ and thank him while doing diddly-squat about following him, healing and loving as he did. N.B. Jesus never once asked us to worship him. He did ask us to follow him.

St. Augustine came up with the theory of "original sin" — that humanity is born sinful because of Adam and Eve's disobedience and that Jesus died to save us from that. From what I've read, his point appeared to be that Jesus had saved us from that so it was over ... but good old Christianity preferred to pick up the idea and run with it. Blaming people and making them wrong is just so much fun, isn't it?

Incidentally, Judaism has no concept of original sin so it's fairly unlikely that the human known as Jesus did either.

St. Anselm's theory was that "a price had to be paid to restore God's honour and it needed to be paid to God the Father by one who was equally divine." (Cur Deus Homo? 1094-98). The ego is fully programmed to leap onto this kind of idea and promote it - that authority is angry, punative and violent and that we must either fight and resist it (atheism) or appease it even if that means rejecting or killing "unbelievers" (fundamental religion). For both sides this makes the genuine spiritual journey impossible. As Richard Rohr writes, "why would you love or trust or desire to be with such a God?" (The Universal Christ.)

Franciscans, on the other hand (and I would call myself 100% a Franciscan), do not see the incarnation of the Divine in a human body and the crucifixion as a reaction to sin. We see the cross as a freely chosen revelation of God's love. God is spilling Its own blood to reach out to us and tell us that It understands and experiences our pain with us.

Life on Earth is painful. Where there is love there will always be loss and sorrow. Where there is food to find or grow, there will be hard work and sometimes injury. Where there is a child to be born, there will be blood and pain. That is not a punishment; that is just how physical life is. And God is in there with us, living it with us and helping us when we remember to be conscious enough to allow that.

God is not a distant authority figure who could choose to stop our suffering but won't (like our abusive parent/teacher/boss). God is in us, in creatures, in plants, in the land, in the water, in the air, in the fire. The choices WE make are God's choices. That's what free will means. The message of the Hebrew Testament prophets is, again and again, that God may be astonished and even horrified by our choices but that God will love us through everything. Don't believe me, read Samuel and Jeremiah ... and read them as metaphor for your own life because then they will make sense.

The whole Eden story is about teaching humanity about choice - we can choose good or evil - and every day, we do.  What's more, we choose what we (or more accurately, our egos) believe to be what is good and what is evil. And like Adam and Eve we deal with it by blaming others ("The woman gave me the fruit"/"the serpent tricked me" Gen. 3:12) instead of taking responsibility for our own beliefs and actions.

Look at the rage over the donations to restore Notre Dame for example. The energy of blaming and shaming those who choose to give to restore a building rather than to the rainforests or corals or poverty is far more damaging to the life-force of the whole planet than the wealthy's well-intentioned donations. It is entirely possible that our pollution of the planet follows directly on from our culture of blame and hatred — particularly of those who have wealth and whom we deny that we envy so we can feel virtuous for criticising for their choices — and we could heal the Earth simply through the long-term application of love.

Richard Rohr again: "A religion based on necessary or required sacrifices, required primarily of Jesus and later the underclass, is just not glorious enough for, hopeful enough for, or even befitting the marvelous creation that we are a part of. To those who cling to Anselm's understanding, I would say, as J. B. Phillips wrote so many years ago, 'Your God is too small.'

"Far too many evils have been committed in history under the manipulative cry of 'sacrifice,' usually violent and necessary sacrifice for an always 'noble' cause. But I believe Jesus utterly undoes the very notion of sacrificial requirements for God to love us — first in himself and in all of us. 'Go, learn the meaning of the words, what I want is mercy, not sacrifice' (Matt. 9:13, 12:7).

"It is not God who is violent. We are.
It is that God demands suffering of humans. We do." (The Universal Christ.)

So, what is the point of the crucifixion and the resurrection? It is transformational not transactional. We all suffer "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" ... and by dying to that suffering, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they are doing"  (allowing it rather than resisting it or fighting people over it or blaming people for not saving us from it), then resurrection is a done deal. How? Because we let go of our own judgement of the situation and allow Grace in.

I can't say it any better than Richard does:

"The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a 'mixed' world which is both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured...

"... Jesus the Christ agreed to carry the mystery of universal suffering. He allowed it to change him ('resurrection') and, it is to be hoped, us, so that we would be free from the endless cycle of projecting our pain elsewhere or remaining trapped inside of it...

"...We are indeed saved by the cross — more than we realise. The people who hold contradictions and resolve them in themselves are the saviours of the world. They are the only real agents of transformation, reconciliation and newness.

"Christians are meant to be the visible compassion of God on earth." (The Universal Christ.)

Thank you for reading to the end. Happy Easter.

Time For Some Not Fake Food.