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clear picture The origins of the effort

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The course of thought that lead to the founding of the Open-Handed Church began in the late '80's. The following is from that time mostly.

I began by trying to discover the meaning of three eruptions of our age which seemed to me related, and their common sources:

  • Salmon Rushdie's peril;
  • The international agony of abortion and the disappearance of the topic from civil discourse;
  • The imperfection of marketplace communications media -- newspapers and radio and their analogues -- as global village windows, their apparent inability to present complex situations fairly, their obvious incapacity to present ambiguity at all, their opacity to broad areas of relevant experience.
I came to believe that it all has to do with the god Yahweh, and with a lie that he has perpetrated through the connivance of his priests.

The lie is that he is the only god, that he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, beyond time and space, and that all other gods are false. The lie is monotheism.

Look at the world's scriptures. We have three choices:

  • There's truth in none.
  • There's truth in all.
  • All truth resides in one, and the rest are all lies.
The first judgment seems to me to be trivially wrong, and I believe that it is seriously held only by a compulsive, literal, angry few. The second judgment seems obvious to me. Every scripture has inspired men and women whom the world has acknowledged wise. Whatever truth might mean, however it is to be judged, surely it must rest where wisdom finds its origin. The third judgment is madness and pervades the world.

The madness stimulated by Yahweh's lie has spread with his Jewish, Christian and Moslem disciples to engulf the world; those afflicted by it are made fearful, cruel and insensitive. Whole nations are touched by the madness and have committed the most monstrous violence. The madness, in nations and tribes, is what threatens Rushdie

Whole cultures in the grip of the madness have evolved systems that endorse and perpetuate an hysterical vision that can sustain the madness, even when the priests falter and belief wanes. The distinctive awkwardness of our dance around abortion stems, I submit, from the awkward fact that monotheists cannot agree and their systems cannot envision diversity.

It is that failure of vision that presents us with our morning newspapers and our evening news programs, our documentaries, our sitcoms, our quiz shows All diversity is bureaucratically and anonymously ordered into two sides of an issue, spokesmen are recruited, the side that compels the most belief wins and winner takes all.


I believe that if we are to free ourselves from, heal ourselves of the madness -- madness that causes us to turn against one another and from one another in fear or pride and anger, madness that drives the world toward catastrophic war, environmental disaster and economic tyranny -- if we are to save ourselves in our human world, then we must first expose the lie of monotheism. We must heal the madness in our human selves, and we must heal the madness in the god, Yahweh.

Over the years since then, I worked on several things: what the nature of the gods might be and how we might communicate with them; how the Yahwist churches hold their power, and how that power might be redistributed to people so that they may be more free and more responsible, healthier and wiser; and how the World Wide Web might develop into an instrument for that redistribution of power. One end of all that study is the Open-Handed Church.

Again, from an earlier time:

I am convinced by my own experience and the credible witness of history that there is at least one god. Indeed, it seems obvious to me that there are many gods. The names they have been called by resound through every cultures's most ancient and profound literature and inform its deepest rememberings.

What the gods are, the limits to their power and what they have to do with men -- all those are things less clear than who they are. Leaving miracles aside for the moment, most tales of the gods, especially those that take place in our recognizable world, at a time only yesterdays distant, indicate that the gods typically influence the affairs of men in just two ways. They have intercourse with our sons and daughters, or otherwise interfere with the normal course of reproduction, and heros are conceived to alter the balance. Or they inspire us with visions and with words.

I believe that the gods speak to all, always. I believe that every one has her chorus of gods, that every one's life is a dialogue with that chorus. It is hard to hear that chorus now, hard to surrender to the lofty distant harmonies, hard to follow through the darker passages, especially hard to distinguish the words. The gods have a wide dynamic range, and much of what they have to speak is said or sung near silence. But the world has moved away from silence now, and it is hard to hear.

Many witness, day by day, that it is possible, if one will sit as close to silence as circumstance and patience permit and listen carefully, to hear the harmonies and discover the motifs that attend one's life. Many witness that they have done this, and their lives have been made glad thereby.

Who speaks? I do not know. I think that it is only in the very deepest silence, the silence of the desert, the cave, the mountaintop, the silence of former times, a silence unpolluted even by the beating of another's heart: only in that solitary silence, between the heart beats, a single god might make his voice and very words distinguished. It happened rarely enough even in the deep quiet of the distant past; now there may be no place on earth where anger and tears do not shatter every silence.

In general, it seems, the gods speak sound advice to those who distinguish meaning in their harmonies. As that advice is revealed to me in books of prophecy and wisdom, in myths and teaching stories, in dreams and daily oracles, very much of it points the way to contentment, fulfillment, success. Love one another as you love your self. Focus on the task at hand. If you have a job to do, do it right; don't be distracted by intellectual subtleties or fleshly temptations. Be cool. When you take pleasure, take it well; rejoice in the beauty; celebrate the glory. Be generous, be humble. Be alert to oracle; listen to the voices of your gods in all the singing ways of your world. Accept; when you hear your call, respond. Hope.

All the godly literature says that, in one way or another, in one place or another. And it's confirmed for me by the chorus I hear. A lot of the advice in scripture on the other hand, especially in the books of law and ritual that insert themselves in most canons, seems purely tribal and local. Light your fires at just these times; make your sacrifices in just these ways; don't boil the kid in its mother's milk. That advice is of historical and anthropological interest, and Yahwist churchmen seeking power have frequently found it down those paths, but taking that part of it whole, in the world I live in now, does not seem to me to conduce to wisdom and contentment, and most especially it does not conduce to civility & peace within the modern polity.

I reject orthodoxy.

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