It's not always easy to stand in the midst of a group of people (particularly if those people are people that we have known and are attached to emotionally) and be different. To think differently, to believe differently, to respond differently, to live a different life than our friends and our family are living is, in a sense, the "toughest challenge" of manifesting our spiritual self. The threat inherent to this situation is that those we love, those we care about, those we have always depended upon for emotional support and encouragement will turn against us because we no longer follow the same belief system that they do.
In some situations, this fear of un-acceptance is not an invalid one; it is a fear based on a working knowledge and a working understanding of the prevailing philosophy within that group of individuals. If the prevailing philosophy is one which denies all truth except their own, then it is, indeed, a major risk-taking to suggest that another avenue of truth might have some truth within it.
Because the foundation of most individuals who work from a single truth basis - that is, who believe that their truth is the only truth - is based more on an emotional acceptance of the truth as it has been presented through other people than on an inner acceptance that the truth that they profess has been confirmed within their inner self and is, indeed, the truth, these individuals have a tendency to respond to any "different idea," any "different thought," from a position of defensiveness.
Defensiveness is not usually manifested as defensiveness. In some cases it is manifested from an authority position in which one individual takes it upon them?selves to lecture another individual and tell them "what is truth" and remind them of "what is right and what is wrong." Sometimes it is manifested as anger: personal insults that come as a result of feeling that their belief system is being questioned or invalidated. Sometimes it is taken as resentment; this resentment is usually much deeper than the individuals involved recognize, for the resentment is not so much for the new chain of thought as it is for the willingness on the part of the other individual to step outside of the confines that have been established through their religious belief system and explore on their own.
While the mouth may profess that this is wrong, the inner self recognizes that this is right, and resents the fact that one individual had the courage to pursue their inner truth while he did not. Anger and sarcasm are often used to manifest a personal power that will enable one individual to manipulate the wandering individual back to where he needs to be according to that first individual's perception. All of these are very effective tools against "straying from the fold," but not the MOST effective.
The most effective tool against spiritual growth is guilt. The religious structures of today are based on doctrine that very clearly states "what is right and what is wrong behavior" on the part of the follower; any individual who breaks this code is made to feel guilty, not only on an external level but internally, for his conscious mind has been taught that this is wrong and this is bad, and until the personal growth process has been completed - and all of the elements are in place to support that spiritual exploration - the conscious mind will continue to remind those individuals that they are doing something wrong. The conscious mind will question their faith. The conscious mind will question the goodness of pursuing spiritual truth. The conscious mind will question other issues as well: "If you believe in God, why do you need any other answers? Acceptance is God's way, and you should simply accept things at face value. That is the true measure of faith in God."
Faith in God has nothing to do with faith in the ability of mankind as a species to record and maintain the record of God's relationship with man.
Faith in God has nothing to do with faith in various individuals throughout the ages who have served as God's emissaries and have taught spiritual learning in a physical existence.
Faith in God is not the same as faith in individuals who chose to follow one or another of these great teachers, and later put their working knowledge of what that individual accomplished into a permanent record, and faith in God has nothing to do with faith in the ability of monks throughout the centuries to translate those original documents so that nothing was lost in the translation, nothing was reinterpreted in the translation, nothing was changed in the translation that might change the entire concept that was being presented.
I would remind you of a basic historical fact, and that is that they had no Bible in Christ's time. The books of the Bible were written over a period of several centuries by and for the Jewish culture, and were naturally written from a perspective that supported and encouraged the belief system of that culture. The New Testament was written within the first one hundred years after Christ's death for the purpose of documenting his teachings and for the purpose of explaining those teachings and working with the groups of Christians in various cities to apply those teachings to their day to day lifestyles. These teachings to these groups of Christians are known now as "The Epistles" or "The Letters." It was never intended by the individuals who wrote those epistles that they should become the frame?work of religious doctrine.
It was simply a case of the teachers of Christianity trying to make the average person understand how the one on one relationship with God can be integrated into your life, thereby relieving stress and worry. The suggestions as to how that manifestation of belief system on a daily basis might be accomplished were simply that - suggestions.
It was not Jesus Christ who said that women must have their heads covered.
It was not Jesus Christ who said that man should not eat meat on Fridays.
It was teachers who said this, teachers who were attempting to teach the whole - that is, the culture - how to apply spiritual truth to their daily lives, and faith in this particular group of individuals - who combined are the authors of the New Testament - has nothing to do with your level of faith in God.
It must be very clearly understood that God is separate and apart and at the same time is interconnected to every living form in this universe, but that does not make God responsible for Man's conscious choices in terms of what information to present and how to present it. Men are only men, and no matter how pure their hearts may be, their conscious minds are not, and the emotional and the intellectual and the physical implications of their present moment when they wrote what they wrote - which would later become the New Testament - certainly affected their present moment interpretation of the spiritual knowledge that they contained within their subconscious mind.
There are many great teachings in the Bible, but it should not be taken word for word and applied to one's daily lifestyle today. It is not the physical acts that the emphasis should be placed on. The question is not how to worship; the question is how to manifest your belief system on a daily basis by applying the principles of that belief system to your day to day lifestyle. The suggestions given in the epistles were appropriate to the lifestyles of the individuals those letters were directed to, but we certainly do not experience the same day to day lifestyle in 1995 in the United States of America that they experienced in Judah in 93 A.D.
The environment is different. The socio-economic position is different. The political situation is different. The degree of man's awareness is different. The ability of the conscious mind to understand what is happening is different, and these differences must be taken into consideration before one accepts at face value the teachings that were intended for the early churches.
It is the concepts of manifesting the Christian belief system that are important. It is the concepts that must be evaluated and confirmed or denied as part of one's personal truth, and the physical aspects of how to worship should be translated into terms that are more ap?plicable to today's life?style. Only when this adjustment has been made will one find that the Christian foundation does, indeed, fit their modern day lifestyle.
Lois Grant-Holland is a Life Path Focus Counselor offering Life Path Focus Sessions, Karmic Astrology Charts, Channeled Guidance, Intuitive Readings and Classes and Workshops to spiritual seekers on all positive paths, and is the site facilitator at The A.N.S.W.E.R. - (The Seeker's Resource Guide to Alternative, New Thought, Spiritual Growth, Wellness and Enlightenment Resources.) You can visit her website at http://www.loisgrantholland.com