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Excerpt from "Jesusgate: A History of Concealment Unraveled"

The Road To Discovery

by Ernie Bringas


THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear . . .

Robert Frost (1874-1963), American Poet

The fork in the road described so eloquently by Robert Frost in his poem The Road Not Taken, clearly illustrates the dilemma of decision- making. As life unfolds, such fork-in-the-road decisions must be made. No matter which path we follow, we leave behind still another path—the road not taken.

When that decision is made, and if the angle of the fork is not too great, those who have chosen the other road may be kept in sight for some time until the ever-widening split obscures them.

Whether these roads move apart quickly or slowly, the result is the same; the experiences of the one become isolated from the experiences of the other.

At times, while moving forward on our chosen path, we may glance back with a curiosity about the road not taken and wonder,

“What if ?” We made our decision, however, and there’s no turning back. We are com- mitted to following the road we chose, and our experiences thereon will determine whether we made the right choice—or at least a good choice.

Theologically, I know many will choose a different road than mine. Some because they are less informed, others because they are more

informed. And their road to them is as real as mine is to me. It would be foolish and presumptuous of me to believe that this book has laid out the ultimate explanation about the religious issues discussed herein. No individual, no school of thought, no educational discipline, no government, no religion, can corner the market on truth. We can, however, search for clarity through these various sources. Therefore, I cannot help but believe that my theological path is appropriate for me because its direction was influenced by religious studies, and the collective knowledge from other fields of study, not to mention my own experiences and ruminations.

My personal journey aside, there is no argument that the findings

from biblical criticism and other disciplines of study have raised perplexing questions—questions that can only be viewed as adding more mystery to the Mystery. These unresolved questions, with their serious overtones may not bring aid and comfort to the reader. But as I have already stipulated, this work seeks only to create a framework of knowledge, a starting point for discussion. One must continue to wrestle with these thorny issues and perhaps, along with other seekers, help lend perspective to these troubling insights.

For the present, we must resist the easy answers streaming from the

Jesusgate crowd. Their negative response to this work is anticipated.

Importantly, however, we must avoid relying on simplistic answers that no longer correlate with twenty-first century knowledge. Biblically stated, we must not put new wine into old wineskins. All to often, our fear of the stark truth has led us to denial. Even some Christian scholars, in an attempt to salvage traditional beliefs, have tried to force square pegs into round holes—an attempt to preserve the foundation of a religious system badly shaken and cracked by the continuous jackhammer impact of emerging knowledge.

In the pursuit of truth, freethinkers must find their own way through

the maze of learning and spirit. Any outside authority such as the state, the church, the Bible, our peers, our parents, may indeed point us in the right or wrong direction. Yet, the responsibility for what we choose to believe remains with us. But there can be no substitute for personal perseverance. Opinions and viewpoints without a raised KQ are basically worthless, debilitating, and sometimes dangerous.

If, after examining the bulk of the evidence, we adopt beliefs that

conflict with “the powers that be,” we must summon the strength to keep faith with our growing awareness. Some may accuse us of arrogance or perhaps heresy, especially if we choose to adopt beliefs that run counter to religious tradition. But we must hold fast to our chosen course, our chosen road.

The satisfaction derived from this quest will depend on the maturity,

strength, courage, and resolve of the seeker. Such character traits are

essential for this journey since it will also be difficult and painful. Pain is likely whenever we are forced to reexamine and, perhaps, jettison ideas that we once thought to be sacred. When one is separated from one’s religious blanket, the surrounding temperature can take a precipitous drop. I suppose it wouldn’t be so difficult if the pain were swift and brief, but this is not generally the case for those recovering from Jesusgate addiction. The personal struggle for growth involves long-term doubt, emotional anguish, and requires courage to abandon the familiar, comfortable, but convoluted answers of the Jesusgate herd. However, there can be no other way, for change is essential to a vibrant existence. Without change there is stagnation and, ultimately, decay and death within the human spirit.

According to John S. Dunne (Professor of Theology at the University

of Notre Dame), the key to renewal and growth is the “seeking and finding” we experience at each new stage of life: infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and maturity. This is true, Dunne says, if we perceive our lives as a journey for discovery, and if we expect each new plateau not merely to repeat what we know, but to give us new insights and new perceptions.

Similarly, world renowned, psychologist Dr. Carl R. Rogers (1902-

1987) states:

Life at its best, is a flowing, changing process in

which nothing is fixed . . .

When I am thus able to be in process, it is clear that

there can be no closed system of beliefs, no unchanging

set of principles which I hold.

Life is guided by a changing understanding of and

interpretation of my experience. It is always in process

of becoming.

In the process of becoming, we must search deep within ourselves to

discover the great reservoirs of faith. We will need a more tenacious faith than previously held because the Mystery will remain unclear, and also because all of the props and security of popular Christianity will be gone. We will discover that the most cherished and accepted religious dogmas of our upbringing are no longer attuned to our evolving level of awareness. Forever lost will be the absolute assurance of a “divine” Jesus or an all-authoritative Bible. Indeed, there will be times when we will long for the warm shelter of our Jesusgate tradition in which simple, unquestionable answers soothed the troubled soul. Even so, we cannot return to that system any more than we can return to the innocence of a childhood Christmas.

Our chosen path may also lead to feelings of isolation. We may find

that our ability to relate to the system and the people that nurtured us will diminish substantially, not only because we are different but also because they cannot tolerate our difference. They will feel uneasy about our chosen path, and will view our expanding consciousness as an aberration. The seeker’s fate is well illustrated by the creative words of Kahlil Gibran

Said the Eye one day, “I see beyond these valleys a

mountain veiled with blue mist. Is it not beautiful?”

The Ear listened, and after listening intently awhile,

said, “But where is any mountain? I do not hear it.”

Then the Hand spoke and said, “I am trying in vain

to feel it or touch it, and I can find no mountain.”

And the Nose said, “There is no mountain, I cannot

smell it.”

Then the Eye turned the other way, and they all began

to talk together about the Eye’s strange delusion. And they

said, “Something must be the matter with the Eye.”

Still, we will find the rewards of our journey are commensurate with

the trials endured. As we become the eye of our spiritual quest, we will also perceive a reality beyond the one that surrounds us. No longer will we be fettered by religious dogma and mind conformity. Instead, like a bird on the wing, we will soar into open skies and, hopefully, experience new vistas of insight. This will be possible only if we allow the continuing light of knowledge to illuminate our minds, and if we take seriously the implications and responsibilities of love.

Importantly, I am indebted to my Christian heritage. I cannot imagine

my life without the loving Christian community that nurtured me

through my formative years. The experience was invaluable, in spite of the Jesusgate influence. I believe that Christianity—and other religions also—carry some core values for us that must be maintained. Therefore, I would be at fault to leave you with the impression that Christianity is an enemy. It is not. However, It should be clear from this writing that the Jesusgate element is a negative force that must be reckoned with; it fosters religious illiteracy that leads to attitudes of exclusiveness, dogmatism, arrogance, presumption, adverse expediency, and stifles human progress. Not unlike the Berlin Wall, the Jesusgate blockade must fall. It will. It will fall with or without the cooperation of the clergy.

For myself, I am grateful for the journey thus far. It has not been

easy, but that is what has made it special and valuable to me. And I feel deeply confident, as echoed in these concluding words from The Road Not Taken:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

ERNIE BRINGAS has a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and was ordained as a minister of the United Methodist Church. He served the Church for almost twenty years before venturing into academe, where he currently teaches Religious Studies at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Under their auspices, he previously taught these classes at Arizona State University. Interesting to note, during the early 1960s Ernie, with partner Phil Stewart, founded a rock group that came to be known as THE RIP CHORDS. Recording on the Columbia Records label, they achieved stardom with five hit tunes on the Billboard Hot 100 singles charts.

Purchase Info: ISBN 978-1-937907-04-4, Rainbow Ridge Books, $18.95, available anywhere books are sold and Amazon.com.


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