Has Organized Religion Lost Its Way?

Dedicated to the memory of Dr Harold Goldsman, a real “Mensch.”

Introduction

What made me thinking that organized religion could be on the wrong track dawned on me when I, after writing almost 20 years for a Christian weekly, was refused to write about the church. The editor suspected, I am sure, that I might not completely adhere to the party line. So I quit writing for them. At the time I was reading “The Brothers Karamazov,” Dostoevsky’s last book. In it is an episode involving the church: it’s called “The Grand Inquisitor”. It’s a story that Ivan, the atheist Karamazov brother, has composed and recounts to his younger brother Alyosha, the aspiring priest. In it Jesus returns to the earth during the Spanish Inquisition. Ivan says: “It is fifteen centuries since signs from heaven were seen. And now the deity appears once more among the people.” Everyone recognizes him, because a blind man sees and a dead child rises. But the old cardinal, in charge of the Inquisition, takes Jesus to prison and tells him that: “You have no right to add anything to what you have said…. Why have you come to hinder us?” Ivan explains that this is a fundamental feature of the Church that God cannot ‘meddle’ now because “all has been given by you to the Pope. The Church is the authority now.”
The Grand Inquisitor then tells Jesus that he erred when he resisted the devil’s three temptations in the wilderness, where the devil offered him miracle, mystery and might, which the Church has accepted. Jesus, however, wanted them to have freedom of choice. But, says the clergyman, freedom is too difficult and frightful for the masses and so the Church has taken the three awesome gifts for them. The Inquisitor concludes: “We are not working with you, but with the devil– that is our mystery.” Jesus, still not speaking, kisses him on the lips. “That was all his answer.” The Grand Inquisitor opens the cell door and says, “Go, and come no more, never, never.” And the divine visitor leaves.

“Freedom is too difficult for the masses” says the cardinal, but that is the essence of Jesus’ teaching, and that’s why the church of his day killed him.

When we today see the church on television, we see the Pope in beautiful attire, with a miter and staff, surrounded by red-hatted cardinals and purple-colored priests. The same applies to the church the queen attends, perhaps a bit less elaborate, but quite fancy just the same, something totally alien to Jesus who ‘had no place to lay his head.” The other picture we see of the church is the mega-type, thriving on male dominance and not being earth-directed but heaven-oriented, something alien to Jesus as well, who always called himself “the son of Man,’ meaning that he personified the human race.

Frankly church development has stalled precisely at the time when creation is in deep distress. Is that a sign? The crime of Iraq, the climate threat, Africa’s agony, reminds me of Hosea 4: 2-3:
“There is only cursing, lying and murder,
stealing and adultery;
they break all bounds,
and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
Because of this the land mourns,
and all who live in it waste away;
the beasts of the field and
the birds of the air and
the fish of the sea are dying.”
By and large for the churches it is “Business as usual.”   Some 50 years ago Bertrand Russell published his “Why I Am Not a Christian.” At that time his book caused quite a stir. Russell could not accept Christianity because he wondered how a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient Deity would allow the emergence of Hitler and Stalin, the H bomb, and I may add, the more recent phenomena, such as Global Warming and World-Wide-Pollution. Later in my presentation I will come back to the ’evil’ in society.

In his time Dr Bertrand was so controversial that he was declared unfit to teach philosophy in a New York College.

Today questioning religion is all the rage. Books, such as “God is not Great,” by Christopher Hitchens, and “The God Delusion,” by Richard Dawkins, are on the best-sellers list for weeks on end. If you want to make money today in publishing, become a religion – or God –basher. Richard Dawkins, for example, writes that “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction. Jealous and proud of it; a petty unjust control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniac..” and I could go on and on. I guess, from this quote, you can deduce that Dawkins doesn’t like God.

Nevertheless, I think that Jesus would have approved of such an outburst. He once said that a person must be either outspokenly in favor of him, or dead-set against him: it’s the lukewarm, the fence-sitters, he despises.

Non-church going people and perhaps a few within the churches themselves are looking for answers and are not finding them within the current ecclesiastical set-up. For many the church is no longer relevant. What is needed is a new type of church, where the world we live in, the cosmos, plays a large role.

Here’s why.

When God created this world he called it good seven times after each phase, and very good when it was finished.  Does consistency not demand that we keep creation in that very good state and live simple and holy lives reflecting those commitments? I am sure that Jesus would be absolutely consistent in demanding not to tolerate a global and economic system that enables us, the world’s elite, to prosper at the expense of the majority, and defile the earth the way we do.

It seems to me that, if it comes to a choice between the depletion of the fish in the oceans, of the birds in the air, or of the lilies in the field, and a minister’s stipend or the mortgage, organized religion will opt for the latter. The irony is that paying into a sanctuary building fund is only a matter of money. The preservation of God’s creatures, however, goes to the heart of religion: the practice of a proper love and respect for them as creatures of God.

By now I am sure that we need a new approach to religion, a more all-inclusive approach. Looking back thousands of years, it is striking that every five – six hundred years a major religion came into being. Moses and the Hebrew brand belong to the Twelfth century before Christ; Zarathustra, Confucius, Buddha, all saw their births between 600-500 years B.C. In the first century the Christian Church conquered the world. Mohammed was born in the year 570. After a bit of a lapse in the Dark Ages, the Christian movement began to pick up in the 13-15th century, culminating in the Reformation of 1517, about 500 years ago. So it looks that we are due for a major new religious upheaval. That’s why I worded the Abstract as follows.

All major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, have defaulted on the environmental crisis. The basis of our present polluted planet was laid long ago when cosmos-related systems of belief were replaced by formal religions. Creation-based spirituality gave way to human-centered theologies that de-sanctified the earth and taught people to see themselves as dominant over nature.

If we want to heal the destructive divide that exist between the human spirit and the natural world, we must retrieve ‘the lost gospel of the earth’ by which people live in kinship with a sacred natural world.

General observations

In general I can say that by and large it’s the non-church people who are involved in the environmental movement, in spite of one Church hymn that starts with the line “This is my Father’s world.” However, most of the church people expect to go to heaven and so their commitment to planet earth is at best divided. It is well-known  that the American  Religious Right vigorously condemns environmentalists as pagans and New Agers while defending the rights of polluters who, in their opinion, are protected by the mandates of Genesis- “ to have dominion over the earth,” which is interpreted as subjection, like a slave to a master.

Although the religious communities have often defended the poor and victims of discrimination as God’s children, they have not spoken out about the actions of corporate and government polluters as a mortal sin against God’s creation, nor have they defended the earth as sacred and holy to the Lord.

More particulars

Let me start with quoting two general sources: the 700 page Oxford Illustrated History of Christianity includes less than one page on environmental issues. In a chapter called “The Future of Christianity,” it notes that problems of resource decline lie ahead, but we are reassured that “it seems likely that new discoveries may provide the means for averting the threats of diminishing food or resources.” In other words, the Christian hope is for a technological fix. Another source, Huston Smith, “World’s Religions”, covering, among others, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, never explores whether these belief systems include any wisdom concerning the modern environmental dilemma.

Since I will concentrate on Christianity where did it go off track?

Quite early in its history did Christianity see life as a temporary passage, and saw the earth as a phase to pass through on the way to a separate sacred place. Augustine (396-430) is the great architect of the Church’s otherworldliness. With him the separation between grace and nature had its start. He pictured the church being in charge of the soul, while he considered the earth unholy, abandoned and left to the uses of science and technology. This led to three conditions:

1. While humans are made in God’s image, nature is different, subject to the will of the people

2. Nature is no more than the sum of its parts, and can be reduced to these parts for use or abuse.

3. Human beings are the measure of all things; nature’s role is to be developed into a store house of value.

Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is the father of the scientific method. He wrote that “nature was to be placed on the rack, enslaved, bound into service, forced out of her natural state and molded.” Not long after that, Rene Descartes in 1637, made the famous pronouncement “Cogito ergo sum,” “I think therefore I am,” also divorcing the self from nature, and elevated the human destiny to be ‘masters and possessors of nature.” Sir Isaac Newton (1643-1727) called the universe a giant machine.

It is that sort of thinking that dominated the church. In our days during the Reagan administration, his interior secretary, the equivalent of our Minister of the Environment, James Watt, a Pentecostal Christian, addressing a cattlemen’s convention, said, “if the troubles from environmentalists cannot be solved in the jury box or the ballot box, perhaps the cartridge box should be used.” Founders of the Wise Use movement, a coalition linked to the timber and mining interests and the National Rifle Association, called environmentalists “the new paganism, in which trees are worshiped and human sacrificed at its altar. Environmentalism is evil and we intend to destroy it.”

I know it would be unfair to imply that mainstream Christianity shares the view of these right-wing extremists, yet as a whole organized religion in both the USA and Canada has ignored the plight of the earth for many centuries. Its heaven-oriented theology, with its lack of express participation in the healing of the cosmos, has left the ever-dwindling church crowd direction-less and even bewildered.

What does the Bible say?

Both Judaism and Christianity base themselves on the Scriptures, the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.

The Hebrew Bible has a host of passages which indicate that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, as Psalm 24 says.

The prophet Isaiah had a vivid picture of the earth. Some 2700 years ago he wrote: “The earth languishes and withers… lies pollutes under its inhabitants, for they have transgresses the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”

Joel, another prophet, addressing the earth as if it were alive wrote: Fear not, o soil, rejoice and be glad, for the Lord has wrought great deeds. Fear not, o beast of the field, for the pastures in the wilderness are clothed with grass.” James Lovelock, developing his Gaia Concept, indeed considers the earth a living entity, which is a very biblical idea.

For Isaiah, too, the earth is alive with pain and suffering. It’s polluted because of the deeds of its people.

The pre-enlightenment theologians, such as St. Francis of Assisi- 1186-1226 referred to the sun as Brother and to the moon as sister, and in connection with the earth “All praise be yours My Lord through Sister Earth, Our mother who feeds us in her sovereignty and produces fruits and colored flowers and herbs.”

The most striking text in the New Testament is John 3:16: God so loved the cosmos that he gave his only son to die for its renewal. If God so loved what he has made, then we, if we really want to follow him, must do likewise. Yet the church does little or nothing to honor that claim.

I maintain that the organized religion has failed there. It has seen the Bible as the only Word of God, paying no heed to the words of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who said that revelation comes in two volumes – the Bible and Creation. The 1561 Belgic confession most emphatically says that we know God: “First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.” Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), both theologian and mystic said, “Every creature is a word of God and a book about God.”

Most of North American Christianity has a far too limited view of “The Word.” That’s why during the one hour per week the church meets, sermons concern themselves only with the Scriptures, the written word, while attention to the Created Word, is only in passing.

I can’t understand why the church has never caught on to Psalm 115:16, where it says explicitly that “The heavens belong to the Lord, but the Earth he has given to humanity.”  So, once it is given away, God no longer owns the earth: we do. The church got it wrong. Of course, I sincerely believe that God created it all. But just as a Rembrandt created his magnificent paintings, to which his name is tied forever, once he sold these, he no longer has possession of it. That’s how it is with the earth: God has given it to the human race. This error has misdirected the church.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man with a double doctorate in theology, professor in Berlin at the age of 25, hanged by Hitler because he opposed his godless actions, seeing the state of the church, paints an ironic picture of religion. My grandparents on a farm in the Netherlands, had one room, the most beautifully adorned room in the house, where nobody ever came. Bonhoeffer compares religion to such a room, ‘the best room,’ that has nothing to do with work, everyday life and normality, a sugar-coated faith for Sunday mornings, that turns Jesus in to a moralizing figure head.” Wrote he: “The religion of Jesus Christ is not the dessert that comes after the meal, but is the entire meal, applies to all of life.”

He then describes how Jesus actually lived quite un-religiously and he totally contradicted the customary views of religion of his days. He concluded that therefore Jesus had no use for religion and wanted human beings to be act like Jesus himself, that is being fully engaged in the act of being human. Paul calls Jesus the First-born of Creation, which makes Jesus the first human being. He was the first “Mensch” in the Jewish sense as well. God  became human, that’s why we belong to the earth, and the desire to go to heaven, the main plank of the Christian religion, is unbliblical. Genesis 1:1, the very first text in the bible says “In the beginning God created heaven and earth.” Heaven and Earth belong together. I repeat: The heavens belong to the Lord. The earth is given to the human race. God, in Jesus, became human, and in the mystery of God’s humanization becoming visible, it is this earth that is God’s ever-lasting dwelling place. It is through love for this earth that we can express our love for God. The church has totally ignored this aspect and as such it has lost its way. Bonhoeffer saw that only in a world that is no longer religious, just as Jesus abandoned the religion of his days, that we, the people of this planet can become aware of ourselves; and so Christ’s reality can have a greater impact on a world come of age than a world wearing disguises of religion.”

Bonhoeffer perceived God and the world to be one: a suffering creation means a suffering God.

There is one book in the bible that clearly demonstrates this: the book of Job, the man who is, perhaps, the Bible’s best known character, after Jesus.

Job is famous for his afflictions and his patience, a man fabulously rich, who suddenly lost all his wealth, his children and in a violent argument with his wife was told to curse God and die.

The book contains  the encounter with that mysterious figure called the Satan, who, out of the blue, appears in heaven and when God asks him, “what are you doing here?” says, “Oh, I was going out for a stroll, saw the door open and decided to say hello.” And then curiously, as if it were a common day matter, the Lord says, somewhat flippantly may be, to the Satan, “Say, you get around. In your wanderings have you noticed Job out there in the land of Uz? I tell you, no better person anywhere in the whole world.”

“No wonder,” replies the Satan: “look, you have given him special protection and have favoured him above everyone else. I bet you that if somebody were to ruin him financially and kill off his immediate family, he’ll curse you to the face.”

The Lord says, “Alright. It’s a deal. He is in your power. Don’t touch his body, though.”

And so it happens. Job loses everything and has no clue about the wager God made with the Accuser. Now, what is at play here?

Job believed, with all people then and many today, that being rich in possessions was a sign of piety. And evidently the Satan is of that same opinion because he figures that, as soon as Job would lose his personal and material treasures, he would deny God.

However, even though Job is reduced to utter poverty, his faith remains steadfast, evident from his famous words: “Naked came I from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Quite the statement. Just imagine that we, you, I, in one day, see our immediate family killed in a car accident, a drunken driver being the cause; then lightning strikes, our house burns up and we have forgotten to renew the insurance; next, due to a market crash, our portfolio is wiped out, our job disappears, and all we have left are the clothes on our body. What would our reaction be? Like Job’s? Not likely.

And that is only the beginning. Again a mysterious Satan visit. Again God gives him permission, this time to affect his health. So Job becomes an AIDS sufferer, quarantined, placed in isolation, somewhere in nowhere. There his wife approaches him and angrily shouts, “Do you still cling to your pious ways? They are no use to you now. Curse God, if he exists and then die like a man!” But Job remains unperturbed: “Shall we accept the good from associating with the God, and the evil not accept?”

Of course the big news about Job’s misfortune had spread rapidly through the land (imagine Bill Gates gone broke!), and three friends from far away heard it too and made ready to pay him a visit. Weeks must have passed for this to happen. No e-mail in those days, or airplanes. These friends often had been Job’s guests at his lavish banquets where they had enjoyed agreeable discussions. When they see Job in the distance, sitting on a small hill, they stop, sit down and look at him for 7 days and 7 nights, without saying a single word.

Job too remains quiet, even though his mind is in overdrive. Somehow their body language reveals to him their thinking before they even utter one word. And as they sit there and he sits there, he gets madder and madder, because he is utterly at a loss. Job tries to fathom why he is suffering so much. Somehow he could bear it as long as nobody sees him. But now he has become a public spectacle. Continuously his mind revolves around the basic question: “God is doing this to me. No, God can’t do this to me. Yes, it is God. No, it isn’t.” He is going crazy. His mind, already weakened by his sickness, cannot think straight anymore.

The friends are the typical, judgmental orthodox believers, be they Christians, Muslims or Jews who sense exactly why Job is in this state: it is God’s punishment.

The Satan wanted to score a fast one with God, and prove once and for all that Job would deny God as soon as he had become a welfare bum. But he failed in Job, because this sort of tit for tat is the theology of the devil.

Job’s story tells us that there are no immediate rewards to religion.

Why is this book in the Bible?

There are a number of reasons.

(1) The reason could be that Job actually represents not only the people of Israel, but the entire world. There is no real Jewish connection evident in the book of Job at all. In other words, God is saying that Israel, as a nation, is no longer an exclusive people, but that everybody in the world is included in his plan for salvation.

That would be a drastic change. Thus the writer of the book of Job points to a new relationship between humans and God, one based not simply on obeying God’s laws as outlined in the books of Moses, the Torah, but much more on a living, all-inclusive lifestyle, expressing a deep appreciation for creation, and thus living so that its well being is constantly considered.

Thus God wants all people, not only Jews, to be saved, a thought that met with a lot of denial and resistance in the pre-Christian church, so much so that 700 years later, when Jesus appeared on the scene, his disciples still had not fully absorbed these new emphases and still thought that he would make Israel a world power again.

(2) And then there is this Satan figure. Where does this creature fit into a metaphorical interpretation?

Here I have to fast forward some 700 years again, to the New Testament time of Jesus at the start of his ministry as related in Matthew 4. Remember Dr Russell’s objection to being a Christian, blaming God. Well, it ain’t God’s fault. The earth he has given to humankind, who in turn gave it to the Satan who, in Matthew 4, showed Jesus all the glories of the world, the Greek Parthenon, the splendor of Rome, the Inca institutions, the marvellous temples in Indonesia and Asia, and offered the entire world and its glories to Jesus, on the condition that Jesus bow down and worship the Satan.

Jesus does not dispute that Satan is the ruling power of the globe: on the contrary, he later calls him ‘The Prince of the World.’ Yes, the Satan, now more than ever, is in control here, witness the Holocaust, Rwanda, AIDS, Global warming, the Bush regime, the religious Right.

This explains also why this book is not popular with the theologians: it is simply too controversial. Increasingly organized religion is in trouble. Where it still flourishes, it has become stagnant, judgmental and uncaring, condemning rather than exploring and adverse to any innovation.

(3) When finally God speaks to Job, he opens Job’s mind to some radical new thinking. The book tells us that we are never able to rest on past achievements, that there simply is no religious retirement for us ever.

Already the word “the land of Uz” gives an indication of this new meaning. Dr David Wolfers, the author of Deep Things out of Darkness, a 550 page book dealing exclusively with Job, translates the word “Uz”, ( the physical location where Job supposedly lived) as “the Land of Council.” He thinks that the book asks us to look at the Bible with a critical eye, to weigh its ideas carefully and consider them to see whether it expresses the right view. In other words, he recommends that churches, mosques and synagogues everywhere, must meet to discuss, probe, investigate and discover what the gospel means for us in this millennium. No longer are matters clear-cut: we have changed, circumstances have changed, the world has changed.

(4) And then there are the four friends. Dr Wolfers, himself a Jew who devoted 20 years of his life to the study of Job, thinks that they may stand for three or four ethnic minorities within the Jewish nation, with their different types of worship, all centering on a faulty view of God. Transposing the scene to the religious world-wide spectrum today I believe it could well be that the first three friends, in our time, represent the three major organized religions: Judaism, based on the Old Testament only, Christianity, and Islam, later joined by the johnny-come lately, the so-called Christian Right. Although Job replies to the first three speakers, he wisely does not enter into dialogue with the orthodox Christian Right, which, he thinks correctly, is a waste of breath.

The most liberating element about the entire book of Job is that here is a human being who is not a good and patient and pious God-fearer, but a person who fights God with all the passion he can muster. The New Testament speaks of such a person as one who is blessed because he or she hungers and thirsts for righteousness and is willing to die for that ideal.

Job is suffering because God wants to teach Job something. God wants to teach Job that he must let go of some of the ideas he has about God, taught by previous generations, true for them in their time, perhaps, but not true for Job now.

Only when God had personally spoken to Job, only then did he understand for the first time in his life- and his suffering was the turning point- that God was different than he first had imagined. He expressed this when he said: “I have heard of you with my ears, but now my eyes have seen you.” Job’s idea of God was based on the oral traditions: what his ancestors had told him. But now something different is forming in his mind, new thoughts, new ideas. The eye of his mind is seeing a new God and also, looking inward, is seeing a new Job.

And what is it that Job starts to see?

Well here we come to the central point of the book, which makes it one of the most profound sources of contemporary spirituality. The accusing Angel, the Satan, believed that Job was only obedient to God because God had made him rich and prosperous, and so the Satan thinks that Job will curse God if his blessings are taken away. However, there the Satan miscalculated. True, Job was initially very much concerned about himself and his family. He figured that, because he was so rich and so blessed with possessions, he was the centre of the universe.

Job’s sin, the sin of Israel and our sin, is Anthropocentrism, the arrogant and deluded belief that the earth and the universe were designed for our benefit and control. Something the current Washington administration believes with a passion. When God talks to Job He says: “Job, I’ve got a few questions for you. Where were you when I planned the earth? Tell me if you are so wise. Were you there when I stopped the waters as they issued gushing from the womb?”

For verse after verse the voice in the whirlwind rages on, outlining all the interdependent elements of creation- the winds, clouds, thunderstorms, the lightning, lions, antelopes, oxen, ostriches, horses, hawks, vultures, bulls, serpents. The voice lashes out at Job’s and our narrow self-centeredness, admonishing that he can never understand the complexity and the functioning of the planet and cosmos. “Have you been to the edge of the universe? Speak up, if you have such knowledge,” a remark very applicable today when the Hubble spacecraft probes ever deeper into the universe and the pictures become ever more baffling. Or when Mars is being explored and the questions multiply.

What we see here is the very opposite of a universe built for us to manipulate as we will. Instead of being given dominion over plants and animals, or a license to subdue creation, Job is told- and we with him- to bow down and be humble. He and we are required to understand absolute humility before the face of God and thus Job says in the end: “I have heard of you with my ears (heard the Torah, heard hundreds of sermons) but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I will be quiet, comforted that I am dust.”

The Hebrew word for ‘dust’ here is exactly the same word used in Genesis 2, out of which God fashioned Adam, whose name actually means ‘dust’. So the rebirth of Job is akin to becoming Adam. He is the prototype of the New Humanity. As a parable Job represents the New Adam, the New Humanity, fully at ease being human, being of the earth. Dust we are; ‘Adam’ we are and to dust, to ‘Adam’, the New Adam we shall return.

His ultimate surrender is not the sort of mindless obedience often required by orthodox religion. It is the kind of surrender that is “the whole-hearted giving of oneself,” a surrender to God’s creation, His Universe, arising from a humility that leads to wisdom instead of self-centered pride. Job is born again, converted from an ego-centered person to an eco-centered consciousness based on awe for God and His great creation. That is the basic message of the book of Job. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, my favorite Theologian says in Schoepfung und Fall (Creation and Fall): “God, brother and sister, and the earth belong together.” That is the real Trinity. We are not here to maximize personal consumption and to glorify individual greed, the basic message of the gods of our age. As citizens of the world we must, following Job’s message, progress from being ego-centered to becoming eco-centered.

We know what happened to Job. The story is well-known how he received double his capital as well as his family back.

Consider the following: the most curious detail in the epilogue is the mention of Job’s daughters. In his new world in which Job now lives and which is humanity’s future, these fair women are not inferior to the brothers and do not have to go to their brothers’ houses for the annual celebration. Indeed, they are given the same honour by receiving a share of Job’s wealth as their inheritance. Each is named, while the seven sons of Job remain anonymous. The names themselves- Dove, Cinnamon and Eye-shadow- symbolize peace, abundance and a specifically female kind of grace. The story’s centre of gravity has shifted from righteousness to beauty and the focus is now the manifestation of inner peace.

“And in the entire world there were no women as beautiful as Job’s daughters.” There is something enormously satisfying about the prominence of women at the end of Job. Here they are especially included. The lesson here is that Job, and in Job, all people have learned to surrender not only their erroneous ideas about God but also their male compulsion to control. The daughters have almost the last word. I think that even though now women are still secondary in many cultures, especially in religious institutions, in the new world they will be more than equal. And in the entire world there were no women as beautiful as Job’s daughters. What this parable also tells us is that in the world to come there will be great appreciation for beauty, including female beauty. Organized Religion has lost the Gospel of the Earth. No wonder it has stagnated. Those who want to find this ‘gospel of the earth’ need look no further than the Book of Job.

Bert Hielema, Fall 2007.

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