By Pastor Robert Perez
Throughout the bible there is one paramount theme that is the core of a successful connection to God, and that is Faith. When Jesus sent his twelve out, He gave them authority “to cast out demons and heal the sick”. But when put into practice it was reported back to Him that they had failed. His answer was simple, they had no Faith, meaning they did not believe, nor did they trust, in God.
The word “faith” is gravely misunderstood and overloaded with convoluted usage. It has ceased to be effective. Some Christians argue that it is intentionally vague in order to weed out the “unfaithful”, because those who truly “get it” are in the know and with that said, they can do without the imposters. Regardless, the lack of understanding of what Faith is, is the reason why the majority of people, including most of Christianity’s leaders, gain no value from it.
Christianity has become a practice of cultural heredity, good at creating inclusiveness for likeminded individuals. It’s power to persuade is more about “strength in numbers” than the validity of Christianity as true or not. The many tribes formed by its followers does offer something valuable, like security and community, but beyond these secular attributes, does it promote the Spirit? Certainly, for some, but these individuals are probably inclined to have it anyway and just don’t realize it was there all along. They feel the Spirit dwelling inside them, and when someone offers them an acceptable reason for it, they just go with it.
The American actor Tom Cruise is a perfect example to demonstrate this idea. I’m a big fan of his movies, but his personal life is one for scrutiny, not from a gossip’s perspective, but from one who is an influencer to many. So, I thought to myself, is he a genuine spiritual person? Just because he is a Scientologist does that negate his spiritual self? Is he simply misplaced in that religious order? Or worse, is he the enemy? (Of course, he is not the enemy. The question is rhetorical.) And the ultimate question is, can someone be spiritual and connected to God if they are not a Christian?
From the beginning Christianity sought to replace the multitude of religions of its day for one that was unifying. A one-size-fits-all explanation of who God is and what the Spirit that dwells in us all means. It was a tall order and one that rapidly changed the course of history forever.
Jesus brought clarity to the concept of God, the likes of which had not been seen before. It was built on the foundations of Judaism, but He pulled apart and discarded from the bones the parts of Judaism that were unnecessary. He didn’t negate Judaism, nor am I. But as a chemist distills to find the essence of a substance, so did Jesus distill the essence of Judaism into what was most important when all the extraneous parts were removed. This essence is why it is so powerful. Regardless if you were a Jew or a Gentile (non-Jew), no matter if you were rich or poor, young or old, black, white or green, He proved that it belonged to everyone, and perhaps most importantly, that belief in God was the most important part, irrespective if it was displayed publicly or not.
Most practitioners of Christianity have never read the New Testament or sought real insight into what it’s all about beyond what was spoon fed to them, or in too many cases, forced down their throats. Truth is, they don’t really know anything at all. For them, being a practitioner is just being a generic follower (which ironically is the image painted as a sign of one’s Christian virtues). But to follow without being genuine is folly at best.
Jesus didn’t say, believe because it is written. He said, believe because it is true. Each and every time someone gave a strong argument against what He taught; His refutations were brilliantly and beautifully formed into words that just made sense without effort and they were universal.
There was no discussion of houses of worship, or books that are the only ones to read, stand up, now sit down, say this, but not before you do that, and other such non-sense. His spiritual guidance fostered and strengthened a genuine connection with God. One that is direct. That is all. It dispelled with the cultural baggage that only elicited a “faith in the rituals”.
And therein lies the problem that still persists today, misplaced focus from misunderstanding of what it is to have Faith.
Back to Tom Cruise. I posit that Mr. Cruise is probably on a higher level of spiritual development than most of us. Given his personal traits as a man of no compromise action, he knows his spirit within and has placed a strong value on that part of himself, whilst maintaining a level of physical well-being that in the end creates an even more powerful machine of body and spirit. It’s no wonder that he feels convinced that he is correct about Scientology. His evaluation of himself is proof positive that he is correct. He is the living proof.
But I believe that Mr. Cruise is a natural spiritual person by birth with a heightened sense of himself that exists in spite of Scientology. I further posit that if Scientology had not seized his imagination and offered him a home for his spiritual development, he would have found it elsewhere. And if nothing had existed, he would have fostered it himself somehow. He is not spiritually evolved because of Scientology. He is that way because it was already in him. And just as a Christian cannot find spiritual development by simply following the rules, nor can a Scientologist become any more than a cultist. Tom Cruise, or any member of his cult, is not a suitable example for its validity.
We are all born with that same Spirit, but how many of us take it to that level? Think of it this way, we are taught in school things that we could not know on our own. Faith can be similarly taught, if instructed properly. But just as in school, we can take that knowledge and do something with it or we can whine about it, as most children do, and say it’s a waste of time?
Naysayers would argue that if we are born with an innate spirit and can choose how we manifest it by whatever school of thought is available, then Christianity is merely one of many ways to do so. They would be correct. Hence, Tom Cruise in theory is simply fine just where he is.
Imagine that you can hop on a multitude of buses going to a plethora of different “promised lands”. In this spiritual depot you can make whatever choice you wish. Do you buy a ticket to Buddhism or to Scientology? Do you convert to Judaism or become a Muslim? Do you follow your local church out of convenience? Do you attempt to do it all on your own? Do you vacation at each in turn, until you find one that is suitable? Do you do nothing and watch TV? Do you negate the spirit for good?
You may be expecting me at this juncture to expound on the virtues of following Christ and put nails in the coffins of the others. My fellow Pastors and the like are certainly expecting me to. Well I cannot because it is true that it is a personal choice.
Your potential has little to do with the colors of the religious school jersey that you wear. It has to do with your Spirit. God is God, no matter what name you give Him. With that said, your choices will have an impact on how much or how little you will be connected to Him. Again, not by the name of your religious order, but because how well your path can lead you there. Even within Christianity there are too many choices. If we use the bus analogy again, you can choose Christianity, but within the church depot are a multitude of buses going in all directions.
This is where I make the case for Christ as The Way to get there based on its core virtues. Jesus wasn’t forming a “movement”. In fact, He was getting rid of the concept of movements and all of its non-sense and confusion. He simplified it; can’t you see? Believe in God. Be good. Love one another. Foster your Spirit. And so on. It was only in the ensuing aftermath that men came in and screwed it all up again by convoluting it with the things He was trying to get rid of, i.e. man’s selfishly motivated rules and culture.
Take the dare and read the New Testament for yourself without any biases, as much as you can muster. Just read it for what it is. I say this with absolute certainty and authority, you don’t need anyone but yourself to achieve a connection with God. Jesus is simply your guide to get there. Not by “following” blindly and practicing silly rituals as prescribed. Nay throw it all away! Get to the core of the concepts, infuse them into your being, point your will and your soul toward God and declare FOR REAL that you are seeking Him. Then you will have found Faith, one that you can trust.
It is your eventual belief in the existence of God, along with your ever-growing genuine connection to Him, that will make what you thought was fantasy become so clearly reality. You will choose Christ, not because you are told to, but because you will decide for yourself, He was correct.
Tom Cruise may feel powerful, but he has no idea how much of his potential he wastes. What a beautiful thing it would be if he found Christ, not to be a poster boy for Christianity, not even to be public about it, but to far exceed what he thought was possible without it.