I Don’t Believe The Way You Do: And I’m Still A Catholic!

conformity-2It is clear that Jesus was not a member of any of the sects of Judaism in his time (Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, or Zealots). Jesus was critical of much of these sect’s beliefs and practices, but also praised them when they were in line with the goodness and love of God. Jesus was not beholden to one theological construct over another, and Jesus never identified with any of these sects as his own. He simply was a “believer” and called God his Father. Jesus was a universalist; he was for everyone, and that is why Jesus was a Catholic.

In his book, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, scholar and Catholic priest Raymond Brown found seven distinct traditions in the various churches that were started by the apostles. Brown said, “There is no reason why there could not have been in the one city house churches of different traditions….”[i] Yet, Brown shows that even though these churches had different traditions and theological emphases, they would have still have been in communion with one another.

So, Jesus was not a member of any sect, and the early Christians did not practice exclusivism even as members of unique traditions. Yet, today Christians, to become members of churches, are obliged to hold to the distinctives of the various denominations and sects of Christianity, which way too often do not have communion with one another. Even within a particular tradition there are those who would criticize and even condemn those who don’t hold perfectly to a certain “party-line” of dogmatic teachings. Rigid religious exclusivism abounds and is often encouraged!

This is why I am advocating well-ordered anarchism as the solution to the exclusivism nightmare from which so many Christians cannot seem to awake. I want us all to be Catholics (universalists), if you will, no matter what group or non-group you identify with. All who even remotely have faith in Jesus are Catholics, no matter if some Grand Poohbah, clergy person, or even the person sitting next to you in a pew tries to say otherwise. You are free in Christ! You are beautiful before God!

Some of the issues of which I have been indoctrinated by an Evangelical or conservative Catholic upbringing are simply man-made constructs based on a narrow and often times erroneous interpretation of Scripture. For instance, Just-War Theory simply does not line up with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels. Rigid and absolutist teachings about divorce and remarriage, male-only clergy, hierarchical organization, homosexuality, abortion, capitalism, and how we see other religions are simply unhelpful and, worse, they are hurtful and oppressive.

It is time to do away with the denominations, do away with rigid dogmatism, do away with systems of theology which are exclusivist, do away with church institutionalism, and to embrace the diversity of belief which Jesus and the early church proclaimed and embraced.  It is time to see God for who God really is and always has been: Ultimate Love! When we do this, we can be like Jesus, the One and True Catholic.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

[i] Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind. New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1984, 23.


10/07/01 – A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

soldiers-in-afghanistan“We will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail.” – President Bush, 2001.

The war in Afghanistan started on this day fifteen years ago. Former president George W. Bush spoke the above words just days before the invasion, and it is abundantly clear that the U.S. has not grown tired of war. It has been waging this war for over 15 years now (despite what Wikipedia says). And though the U.S. has not tired of war, the U.S. has indeed faltered and often failed in this so-called global war on terror.

But becoming tired of war is not the real problem.

Too many of us are sick of war and sick from war. “War is always an evil,” Jimmy Carter, another former president, said recently. And evil is what makes humans sick—sick in our minds and sick in our souls. U.S. combat veterans are not just coming back with physical wounds from fighting, but sick in their constitutions—negatively changed forever in their minds and souls. I should know. I am one.

But it is our whole society that is now sick from war after so many years of senseless and unnecessary national violence.  This U.S.  government’s disposition towards violence has spread to the streets of our communities, with our police increasingly using military tactics and equipment to quell any hint of opposition to the U.S. corporate and government domination systems.  We should not be surprised. The U.S. has been in some sort of war conflict for 222 of its 239 years of existence.

It is obvious that the U.S. is not tired of war; but, its citizens are desperately sick from war.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist …” – President Obama, 2014

Today, President Obama has continued U.S. military warfare in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and God only knows where else. All this without any Congressional declaration of war against any of these countries. When the U.S. military recently attacked militants in Libya, where were the news headlines: “U.S. Now At War With Libya!” I might understand no outrage, but not even a mention to that effect in the mainstream media?

Imagine if one of Africa’s national leaders said, “We will wage a steady, relentless effort to take out violent racists wherever they exist,” and then began dropping bombs on suspected violent racist’s homes in ten different Western nations. There would be outrage; there would be calls for a war crimes tribunal. Is this a fallacy of false equivalence?  Only if you think that the U.S. is morally exceptional, which, of course, it is not. The U.S. is a nation, which is simply an abstraction, like any other nation. What is real, what is concrete and observable is a nation’s actions.

It is time to call what the U.S. government is doing overseas what it is: gravely immoral and evil. Our militarism is evil and it is making the U.S.’s citizenry and communities sick, both spiritually, materially, and emotionally. Worse yet, U.S. imperialism is not just killing militants but also many tens of thousands of innocent civilians, making the societies of other nations desperately sick as well.

It is time to end all U.S. military interventions overseas, stop all U.S. arms sales to other nations, close Guantanamo, and decrease the size of the U.S. military budget by half.

The only way to heal from this war sickness is to end the wars!

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

People do not change. …except….


People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people have their eyes opened.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a blind person can see.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people who were lost, get found.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a lost person is found.

People do not change. They almost never can.
Though some people are raised from the dead.
Then others say, “Oh, how you have changed!”
Yet nothing has really changed, except a dead person is alive again.

Amazing grace!

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Jesus Saves? (Reflection)

jesus-savesYears ago there was a woman who called into a Christian music radio station and excitedly told the D.J. that her daughter was listening to the station and “got saved.” The station played the recording of that call-in over and over again. Every time I heard it I asked myself, What did she get saved from? How did she get saved by listening to music? Now that she is saved, does she know why Jesus saved her? With deeper reflection, we must all ask what does it even mean to be saved?

Why did Jesus save you and me? In my experience with the Church’s doctrinal teaching, theologians seem to focus too much on the how of being saved; who’s in out, who’s out; and how it happens. But since we cannot know for sure how one is saved, thus who is and who is not saved, what is really gained from focusing so much on the how? The why question seems eminently answerable; the how question will always be an enigma.

I believe Jesus saved me so I could be in a deep, abiding relationship with God. This relation with our Creator through Christ is the only lasting satiation of the existential angst that we all experience because of our finite separation from an infinite God. By Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are all given intimate access to God as we open ourselves up to transcendent mystery.

Additionally, Jesus shows us, through his incarnational relationship to and with humanity, what it is to be in abiding, loving intersubjectivity with all creation. This includes primarily human relationships of love and compassion, but also the ecological connections we have as individuals with the whole world.

So, simply, we are saved to be one with God and with each other through Christ in an ongoing process of sanctification. Nevertheless, this pietistic understanding of faith is only half the story. Though we are ultimately saved on earth for eternal life with Christ in beatific union in heaven, we are also, and maybe more importantly, since we all live in the here and now, saved by Jesus so that we can abide with him as he brings heaven to earth through our Christian witness.

Thus, we are not saved just so we can go to heaven when we die; we are saved by Jesus so that heaven can come to and through us on earth as we live in Christ.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

This Is Eternal Life (Reflection)

eternal_life_titleFor many Protestant Christians (and Catholic and Orthodox Christians too), there is a clear and necessary connection that John 3:3 (“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'”) has with John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”).

Yet, there is another verse in John that is not always connected to the aforementioned two which will have a powerful impact for Christians who desire to live an abundant life today, and not just see this life as a way-station for the next. John 17:3 says, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ….”

Eternal life is living life in deep communion with God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit; not simply knowing where you are going to live when you die.  By connecting necessarily all three of the above verses together, the Christian will realize that eternal life, and the kingdom of God, has begun in their lives today.  This life is not a way-station for the next.  This today-eternal life is the critical part of really being born again, because it shows forth that God’s will can be done on earth as it is heaven. It shows how heaven has indeed come to earth in Jesus.  It emphasizes that Christ is really human and divine, and that we are like him in our resurrected life.

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

Grace Revisited (Reflection)

graceIn Christianity, grace is often defined as the unmerited favor of God in Christ. This definition is connected to the notion that the relationship between God and humans is irreparably estranged because of humanity’s intrinsically deficient sin-nature and God’s perfect holiness.  And this definition, almost exclusively, is related to the soteriological view that God must “save” us in order that we can to go to a place after death called heaven. So, grace then is the gift of salvation (life after death) given to those who don’t deserve it. Yet, in order to receive this gift, one must “repent” of his or her sins and acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of his or her life.

But God’s grace is so much more than that, isn’t it?  Isn’t God’s grace more of an experiential reality, rather than an intellectual or metaphysical one? Isn’t God’s grace more than an it? I want to feel God’s grace, to experience God’s grace, to be familiar with God’s grace; not just think about “it.”  Theologian Karl Rahner has rightfully expanded the definition of God’s grace as God’s self-communication to all humanity. That is, God is giving and has historically, since time immemorial, been giving grace, God’s self, as a gift to anyone who wanted to receive God in myriad ways.

When I experience God’s grace, I am experiencing so much more than the assurance of what will happen to me when I die.  Though God’s grace is greater and more amazing than I can ever express with words, I believe the more real or experiential aspects of my relationship to God in Christ are founded on three immediate realities of grace:  Grace as acceptance, grace as forgiveness, and grace as love.

God’s grace accepts me for who I am.  I am God’s son.  There is nothing I can do to change that, enhance it, or undo it.  And because I am God’s fully accepted son, I no longer have to succumb to shame—a shame that often tries to tell me that I am not good enough or that I am somehow deficient in my God-imaged humanity.  So, I apply the Gospel of grace to myself, and because I can accept myself, I can accept others as well.

God’s grace completely and always forgives, because I so often know not what I do. My sins, through Christ, are wiped away—past, present, and future.  Since, I often think and act selfishly, because I am self-deceived or I allow others to deceive me, I rely on the reality of God’s ever-present grace of forgiveness. And this forgiveness allows me to have a clear conscience and not wallow in guilt. As I appropriate God’s forgiveness, I walk in self-forgiveness.  And because I can forgive myself, I can forgive others.

God’s grace also fills me with unimaginable love, and this love brings me into the deepest intimate relationship with God.  I will never be alone; I will never be empty; I will never not be satisfied as I drink from the well of God’s never ending love.  God’s grace as love makes real relationship possible, and ultimately compels me to love myself, to care for my own being.  And because I can love myself, I can love others.

Three scriptures jump out to me: “Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Ro 15:7, NLT).  “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ep 4:32, NLT). “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other” (Jn 13:34, NLT).  Christ accepts you and me; Christ forgives you and me; Christ loves you and me. Period.  Exclamation point!

In revisiting grace in the here and now, and not just for the future, helps me and should help you to experience the reality that “… now is the time of God’s grace, now is the day of salvation” (2 Co 6:2b).

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Ego Transcendence: Christosis (2 Co 3:18)

Salvador-Dali-Woman-Nursing-Her-Son-1923What is the ego? Literally, the ego is the self, the “I” that a person truly and fully is. It is not the roles we play, the stuff that we do or have, but the innermost reality of who we are as individuals. Yet, the ego is more than our individual person, because the “I” is always in relation to the “other” and the world. The “I” is not alone. We cannot know ourselves as “I” unless we can see ourselves in others. For the “I” to be truly or fully “I” is to transcend himself or herself to be with.

The ego transcendent, then, is one who is able to be truly with, who can fully incarnate into another’s life. Thus, the ego transcendent is fully accepting of the “other,” so much so that the “other” is not an “other,” but at one with the ego transcendent. Therefore, the ego transcendent has no agenda but to join with the “other” in mutuality and solidarity. If the “other” is open to growth, the ego transcendent journeys with the “other” to explore the universe.

When God states that God’s Name is, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14), God is expressing the fullness of the Deity’s ego transcendence. God is beyond God-self and is at one with all of creation. The Transcendent One, the Christ, then comes to be – to incarnate – with us, Emmanuel. Jesus is the archetype Ego Transcendent human: “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58), so that “they might be with him” (Mk 3:14) .

Jesus announced a new age, the age of Christ, the age of ego transcendence (Mt 3:2) to mark the beginning of his ministry. The age of ego transcendence is discernable by being involved in the process by which we divinize our souls (the Eastern Orthodox call it theosis), becoming the “I am” to be with God and the “other.”

Becoming the “I am” is not different than who we already truly are. We need only strip all that is not “I am.” So, our present reality is as the “I am” but we esteem not the “I am” nor do we receive the “I am” (Is 53:3, Jn 1:11). And because we esteem him not, nor receive him, we do not live in the truest state of ourselves, but as others to ourselves. It is not surprising then, because we live as others to ourselves that we treat others as others, and not as our true selves. This is why Jesus gives us the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all that is within you, and love your neighbor (the “other”) as you love your “self”– your “I am” (see Mt. 22:34-40) Thus, we are all called to be involved in a life-long recovery process, recovering the “I am” in each of us.

Today, ego transcendence, becoming the “I am”, is often spoken of as a psychological process, but has, as I have shown, been a spiritual/religious process for time immemorial. In Christian religious parlance the process has been variously called sanctification, divinization, perfection, conversion, or as Karl Rahner called it, simply, transcendence. Whatever it is called, whether with psychological terms or spiritual/religious terms, it is what the Transcendent One wishes for us, in order that we be joined to the Divine Mystery, to be with God and others.

Ego transcendence is becoming Christ-like: “And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, NET).

© Paul Dordal, 2015

For or Against? Being Good News to the World (Reflection)

ForOrAgainstJesus came bringing the Good News (the Gospel) of salvation to the world, and charged his followers to do the same (Mk 1:14; 16:15). Yet, there has been much talk recently about the presentation of Christianity as unattractive, especially in America – as often not being Good News, but bad news of condemnation of people who are not Christians.

Christians are frequently, but unfortunately, known, by unbelievers and some believers alike, for the bad they are against rather than the good they are for.  There is a hypocrisy here that is without question, as the focus of some Christians is to create “scapegoats” of the “bad people” in the society, while these same Christians view themselves as the “good people.”

My wife, Martha, reminded me of how often, growing up, she heard Romans 1:18-32 used in the pulpit to condemn homosexuality (vv 26-28), while completely ignoring the sins committed by just about everyone in the congregation (vv 29-31). Hence, Christian traditionalists are routinely judged for their unbalanced stance against:  homosexual marriage, divorce, abortion, pre-marital sex, alcohol consumption, evolution, and the list can go on and on.

It seems to me that too often the political, religious, and/or social conversations which take place in the United States start from a polemic of for or against.  This makes the conversation over contentious issues often more a diatribe, rather than a dialogue that will help promote spiritual growth and mutuality. Interestingly, for those who are accused of being against something, those same people can usually make an anti-statement read like a pro-statement.  For instance, most theologically conservative Christians are anti-abortion, but refer to themselves as pro-life. Thus, perspective comes into play when making the statement that someone may be more negative than positive. But let’s not be naïve here and simply use semantics to make ourselves out to be the good guys and the other the bad guys.

Fortunately, there are many Christians who would like the (religious, social, and political) public square conversations to become more positive and dialogical.  What would it be like for Christians to be known more for what they are truly for rather than against (and I am not talking attitudinally, like being more loving or compassionate)?   I believe if Christians would shift the emphasis of the conversation from the overly sensual moral issues of our day to the more justice oriented teachings of Jesus, we would find more allies and have a greater opportunity to witness for the life-changing Gospel of Christ.

Jesus said, “Whoever is not against you is for you” (Lk 9:50, NET).  We have more allies for the faith than we sometimes think.  Conversely, if we believe that the world is against us, then we will assume a posture of being on the defensive, condemning the “bad people,” rather than being proactive by finding what Christians have in common with others of different or no faith.

I believe there are three Gospel imperatives which Jesus clearly taught which can be areas where more traditional Christians could find excellent ground for collaboration with progressive Christians and non-Christians (and atheists), and which will foster God’s Kingdom advance in the world.  Unfortunately, there are many Christians who are unaware of or simply disregard Jesus’ clear teachings in these areas, so it is important to note that this blog post is written not to the world, but to the Christian who is either ignorant of or ignoring important Biblical truths proclaimed by Christ.

First, and foremost, Christians should be known for peace.  I find it almost impossible to understand how Christians have historically twisted the clear non-violence teachings of Christ in order to support wars and oppression of all kinds.  Jesus said, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt 5:39, NET). Christians are clearly called to be pro-peace (Mt 5:9), which would also be understood as firmly against the use of violence (anti-war).   We ought to always stand for peace and against war in all situations.  We should be for the development of the capacities of people and vehemently against the arms trade which brings so much death.  Since many Christians erroneously see patriotism as a biblical imperative, Christians have, sadly, not been united in this area.  It is high time for Christian leaders, especially Orthodox, Evangelical and Catholic ones, to clearly join the chorus of the peace-promoting Christian groups (Mennonites, Quakers, many Mainline Protestants, Red-Letter Christians, and others).

Second, American Christians ought to be known for justice.  This would mean that Christians would be against practices like the death penalty, the use of torture, the slave trade, institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and anything that diminishes the inherent dignity of humans (with as much fervor as they are opposed to abortion). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Mt. 5:6,NET).   Christians who are justice seekers are not happy or satisfied because of what they get, but what they give to others.  Justice oriented Christians see Jesus in the poor, the marginalized (people of color, women, homosexuals, etc.), and those are very different from them.  This leads to third imperative in our day: the love of the immigrant.

American Christians have a clear scriptural duty to be for the alien.  Ironically, most American citizens who are Christians are either immigrants or the children or grandchildren of immigrants.  Have we forgotten what God said to the Israelites, “So you must love the resident foreigner because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Dt 19:19, NET)?  Borders are meant to divide and nation-states were constructed to separate, but Christ wants to bring all people into global citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  Jesus said, “people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and take their places at the banquet table in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29, NET). Our being for the alien is not just an advocacy, but a love of those different from us.  “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the [oppressors] do the same, don’t they? And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the [unbelievers] do the same, don’t they?” (Mt 5:46-47, NET).

Clearly, we have Gospel mandates that are just (and maybe more) important than some of the social issues that many conservative Christians overemphasize.  Can we seek a balance between the either/or and for/against polemics for which we are often responsible?  Jesus boiled down our mission to love of God and neighbor.  And just who is my neighbor: those who I might think are my enemies; people who are differently situated than me; and; people from other lands who would like to dwell in community with me.

© Paul Dordal, 2015

The Inverted Continuum of Truth Seeking (Reflection)

Moving SquareJohn Dewey opens up his remarkable little book Experience and Education by saying that, “Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites.  It is given to formulating its beliefs in Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities” (1938:17).

I am not sure if the predisposition of humankind towards dualism is neuro-biological, but it does seem to be a universal inclination from a socio-philosophical point of view.  Nevertheless, dualistic thinking when confronted by a critical-realist usually exposes its limited objectivity. Dewey says later that one must compromise when the extreme beliefs do not work in practicality.  Either-Ors are extreme beliefs and often are only tempered by finding the mean between the extremes.

It hearkens to the notion that Aristotle spoke about as the ethical doctrine of the mean, where a virtue is “a state that lies between two vices, one of excess and the other of deficiency” (Kraut, 2014: Web).

Dualisms and the doctrine of the mean are Western ways of thinking in rather linear and mathematical ways. (I am not sure that Eastern people have these same philosophical difficulties, parsing and making endless distinctions.)  Since I am a Westerner I tend towards these dilemmas because of my socio-cultural formation.

Nevertheless, in my first Master’s thesis I proposed some paradoxical ideas which may have not be original to me, but I was unaware of their origin when I wrote about Intrafugal Force Diagramthem.  One of these paradoxes I wrote about in my first book, The Great Commandment Leader, was related to a missiological approach to Christianity that tapped into both centripetal and centrifugal forces equally. This both/and approach was not a mean between the two forces, but a paradoxical combining of these forces to create a new force, which I coined as intrafugal force (see the diagram, left).  Intrafugal force combined simultaneously a sending out of missionaries to un-evangelized areas from a particular center with equal force (emphasis) on evangelizing locally both the churched and the unchurched towards that center.

The above is parenthetical to my main idea that I want to explore today, which is the notion of an inverted continuum as a pathway to discovering deeper truth.  Nonetheless, it is the paradoxical that I want to emphasize. Thus, restating the intrafugal paradox emphasizes the possibilities that Westerners can, in fact, think non-linearly, and must do so to discover deeper things of God (see 1 Co 2:10).

If Dewey and Aristotle are right about the polemical nature of the Western (or even human) mind (and who I am to argue with such great thinkers), then a new way of discovering deep truth is necessary.  My experience has shown me that it is in the dichotomy of reality, the mystery of competing ideas, of polemical dualisms colliding together like atoms smashing into one another, that deep truth is discovered (as well as respect and love of others).

Thus, if we take a look at two ideas on a continuum, let’s just say something simple like left and right, we find that there is no reconciling them.  Aristotle might say that there is a moderating position, a mean which can be found somewhere in the middle.  But in this regard it is something less than Left and less than Right.  In politics this might be the moderate position, one who holds some conservative views and some liberal views, but not both at the same time.


Holding competing beliefs simultaneously will not be possible by inventing some golden mean, but stretching and inverting the continuum.  We must make Left and Right confront each other in love to learn from each other, without giving up on their nature of being Left and Right.

Inverted Continuum

In the inverted continuum, as you can see, Left is still Left and Right is still Right, but they have met and co-exist in the same space and time (see Ps 85:10).  Now, my scientific knowledge is quite limited, but I hope that I have been able to convey a bit of my process in approaching the reconciling of distinctions, not solving the dualisms, but embracing the mystery of the both/and, rather than living in the either/or of often contentious and polemical distinctions.

What do you think? Does this make sense? Does it open up possibilities for you?

Dewey, John. Experience and Education. New York, NY: Free Press, 1938. Print.

Kraut, Richard, “Aristotle’s Ethics”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2014/entries/aristotle-ethics/&gt;.

© 2015, Paul Dordal