©Stephen Mead, used by permission
By Dawn Steward
It took a few years before I caught up to my own analysis of teachings from the front of the church being heavily and uncritically spiced with the speaker's or the denomination's bias.
I came across a university course in exegesis with a translator of Psalms as the teacher. He had studied at Dallas Theological Seminary and had, I suppose, Baptist leanings. Those Baptists seem to hold their ground in what I consider to be respectful treatment of the scriptures.
After this course I took no teaching of any scripture to heart without first studying the important words in the scripture and then appreciating the historical setting, etc.
This course changed my view of scripture study for all time, and I am still, twenty-seven years later, deeply thankful for what I learned there and for the harmonious, whole-person teaching spirit of my instructor.
Looking back, I think the long-term effect of that course showed me there was little point in nailing things to the wall, and I began letting go of the idea of being convinced and being able to prove stuff.
I went through a process of simplifying—throwing out, in a sense, one doctrine after another that did not seem to be the point. I continued for about fifteen years in this simplified version of faith and then I met Annie, I’ll call her.
Annie was an alcoholic and a member of AA, but before that she had been a spiritual guru. I thought she was looking for Christ and suffered through her long sermons about New Age spirituality, waiting for the moment to present the Truth to her.
The moment never came. She told me she had met Christ in a meditation while she was waiting beside a body of water. I said nothing but looked through the New Testament for ways to prove at least to myself that there is no way this could have been the Christ of the Bible—and couldn't find it.
My ideas about how Christ presents himself to modern people had been deeply coloured by the Billy Graham Crusade et al, and I was forced to accept that there are as many ways to meet Christ as there are souls on God's good earth. I thought I was in Annie's life to show my Christ to her but in the end it seemed like she was in my life to help me let go of the idea that Christ has to appear in some special Billy Graham way, with an acceptance prayer and the whole deal.
It did cause me some pain to go through the transition involved with having Annie as a friend but that was a short period, and when it was over, I liked this new way of being. My own frame of reference for faith remains in its essence unchanged from its first moment of being. My frame of reference for other people is so changed that I would have to say it's not a frame anymore.
I recently read that Mother Theresa made no attempt to convert those that died in her arms or in her care. To the contrary, she gave each soul as much peace in the frame of their own faith as she was able, including of course those of the Hindu faith.
I read Carlo Carretto’s Letters from the Desert during my first years of faith and, while I loved the spirit of the writings, I was bothered by the Little Brother feeling no need to convert his Muslim friends. It's taken over twenty years for me to look at his experience and feel like I kind of understand the peace in it.
In the Study
When you sit before a spiritual teacher, the greatest honor you can bestow on a true teacher is to entertain a certain amount of doubt--that is, enough doubt to at least send you to the original texts of your faith for further study, feel free to question even so-called "inspired" writings, and never, ever give up your common sense. Use study helps that provide a well-rounded perspective, rather than a single point of view.
Interested in AA Study Materials?
Lotus and Rose is happy to host a set of AA Study Materials in both English and Swedish. They are available as online pages, but you can also download them either as PDF files, which you can read and print from any PDF file reader, such as Adobe Reader, or as text documents which you can view with any text reader or word processing software.
AA Study Guide in English
AA Study Guide in Swedish
The image in the heading is "Jezebel Ophelia Healing" from Our Book of Common Faith, original mixed media on canvas by Stephen Mead. Use by permission. For additional information.