The Advance of Love

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Reading the Bible with an Evolutionary Heart

Bruce Sanguin

160 PP | 6" x 9"
Paper
ISBN: 978-0-9865924-3-0

Do we really want world peace? Is the symbol of the cross too heavy to bear? Why forgive? Does putting Jesus up on a pedestal let us off the hook? In The Advance of Love, Bruce Sanguin asks these questions and more, tackling concepts that are central to the progress of science, religion, and faith.

Through the lens of evolutionary Christianity, Sanguin works through moral, spiritual, and scientific issues raised in Mad Men, the writings of Richard Dawkins, tales from the Bible, and other stories that inform our views of the world.

Sanguin’s reflections will revitalize your faith and leave you celebrating that you don’t need to sacrifice a rational, evidence-based worldview to be a person of faith in the twenty-first century.

Bruce Sanguin, Author

Bruce is a leader in evolutionary spirituality. He experienced an awakening from the illusion of separation from the cosmos and Spirit over 20 years ago, and ever since has been writing and traveling the world giving talks on evolutionary mysticism. Now retired from congregational ministry in the United Church of Canada he continues his inquiry into the lineage of the mystic Jesus of Nazareth from an evolutionary worldview. He is the author of six books, including If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics, which won an IPPY Gold Medal for the best inspirational book of 2012, Darwin, Divinity, and the Dance of the Cosmos: An Ecological Christianity and The Emerging Church: A Model for  Change & a Map for Renewal.  Bruce wrote the Participant Guide and was featured in the DVD curriculum, Painting the Stars: Religion and Evolving Faith.  His latest book, The Evolving Mystic and the Path of Jesus (2015), explores the life of the evolving mystic along with new images for Jesus and fresh interpretations of his teachings.

 

Bruce writes a weekly blog, interprets scripture from an evolutionary perspective, and interviews luminaries at his his on-line membership site, Home for Evolving Mystics, which is dedicated to inspiring and re-Sourcing every day mystics on their evolving soul-path. www.brucesanguin.com

An excerpt from Chapter 1: The Advance of Love

Luke 10:25–37

Ever notice that in the parable of the Good Samaritan Jesus doesn’t answer the lawyer’s question directly? The lawyer comes to him wanting to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. In mythic religion, this is code for: What do I have to do to get on God’s good side for eternity? Jesus requires the lawyer recite the first commandment, which ends with “love your neighbour as yourself.” The lawyer’s job in life is to debate the fine points of religious law, so he tries to engage Jesus in a philosophical debate: Who is my neighbour? Juicy question. You could debate it till the cows come home. This is why the writer of Luke’s gospel says that the lawyer was trying to “justify himself.” He was trying to make himself right with God and humanity by arguing his way out of actually having to be a neighbour. But Jesus realizes that embedded in the question is an assumption that God only expects us to take care of our own people. The others, surely, we can leave by the side of the road. Jesus doesn’t answer the lawyer’s question.

Instead, he tells a parable and then puts a better question back to the lawyer. Who acted as a neighbour to the man who was beat up and robbed: the two religious men, who walked by the man in order to fulfil their religious duties, or the Samaritan, who acted with compassion, tended to the man’s wounds, and generally put himself out for another person in that person’s hour of need? The theological debate that the lawyer was hankering for is cut short. He is compelled to acknowledge that the man who acted like a neighbour was, in fact, the neighbour.

The lawyer cannot bring himself to say the words Samaritan and neighbour in the same sentence. Instead he says: “The one who showed him mercy” (10:37). In other words, the one who acted like a neighbour. This is Jesus’s brilliance as a teacher on full display. Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Historical animosities ran deep between the two groups. Jesus forces a Jew to acknowledge that a despised Samaritan kept God’s commandment while two priests of Jewish law failed to do so. As a Jew himself, we know that Jesus wasn’t putting down Jews, just the Jewish priests who were so focused on religious rituals that they forgot what the spiritual life was all about. All of us know what it’s like to have something “more important” to do than to care for a stranger. The lawyer is required to see and validate the Samaritan’s exemplary behaviour. In so doing, the Samaritan becomes fully human to the lawyer—somebody capable of exceptional compassion. The Samaritan arises in the lawyer’s consciousness, perhaps for the first time, as a model for neighbourliness.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is about empathy—in the Samaritan for the man by the side of the road, and by the end, in the lawyer for the Samaritan. It’s about seeing the humanity in those whom we’ve been socialized to believe are less than fully human. It’s about transforming the fear of difference into a realization that we’re all one in our common capacity to act like neighbours. This is Jesus serving the advance of Love.

The church has a chequered history in regard to extending empathy to those who are considered to be outside of God’s grace. On the one hand, the early church was radical in how it expanded its social circles of empathy to include the poor, the impure, the widowed, the outcast, children, Gentiles, and women. When these groups were invisible to the world, the church saw them and treated them as the very presence of Christ. On the other hand, when the Roman Empire appropriated Christianity as its state religion, the church lost its radical empathic edge.

After the fourth century, the church regressed. Women and children were not seen as full participants in the Kin(g)dom of God. Infidels either converted or were persecuted. Gay and lesbian people were demonized—unless they “converted” to a heterosexual lifestyle. And still today, my estimate is that 70% of the world’s Christians assume that other religions are traps for unsuspecting souls. Too many Christians continue to behave like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Religious beliefs override empathy.

This is disturbing for a precise reason: Much scientific research that is being done today shows that empathic responses are built into the very fabric of our being. It turns out that we are not as red in tooth and claw as neo-Darwinians would have us believe. We are not merely selfish, unfeeling animals, competing for our survival at any cost. Barbara King, Frans de Waal, and Elisabet Sahtouris are just a few of a growing number of scientists whose research is indicating that our evolutionary wiring includes an instinct for empathy. Brain scientists have discovered what they call “mirror neurons” in our brains. When we see another sentient being suffer, these neurons fire off in our brains, which causes us to suffer in solidarity. This is not a choice. If our brains do not get lit up by another’s suffering, there is something wrong with us. We have an “empathy deficit.”

And here’s the kicker: this response is not exclusive to humans. Hungry rats will choose starvation rather than feed themselves if they know that taking a food pellet will cause another rat to be hurt by an electric shock.As it turns out, it takes a lot of brainwashing for us to override our natural empathic wiring.