(The following is a reply to the article published by Jay Tokasz in last Sunday’s Buffalo News, front page.)
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is not alone questioning the “mass exodus” from its services; Protestants do as well. As a Presbyterian Minister here for over 30 years, I watched our local Presbytery lose thousands as churches closed doors.
Many claim, as reporter Jay Tokasz shared, the cause is secularism. I disagree. The major cause is beliefs no longer giving credibility to reason and modern scholarship. After centuries the RC Church recognized scientists Copernicus and Galileo. How long before the church admits literalizing stories of the Bible has no historical basis?
Current archeological and historical studies depict 95% of the Bible with no historical basis. With no historical proof of a man named Jesus yet with repetitions of similar stories going back 20,000 years, the traditional approach to Christian scripture interpretations must change.
I discovered the Biblical stories were borrowed and taken from ancient pagan (folk) sources which shared these stories as allegories depicting eternal truths. These stories were part of the ancient eastern Mediterranean spiritual teachings using the lunar calendar to teach universal spiritual truths. The church literalized these old pagan stories, making forms, liturgy, and government inviolate. The message of the Jesus story, as from Isus of Ancient Egypt, was simple; the presence of Spirit, the Realm of God, is within us. One experiences this Presence by changing understanding (repentance) and looking within. The church made the teachings external as something we do by attending to certain rituals, gatherings, and confessions.
Today most would laugh in hysteria if someone told them a man could walk on water, change water into wine, raise various people from the dead including himself. No longer having church law as state law, masses can freely turn away from these claims having no historical or scientific basis. Using contemporary music with mindless words and talks amplified at “inviting buildings” won’t last.
I seek to share these stories from a symbolic, allegorical viewpoint. The winter solstice at Christmas teaches the soul coming to darkness of earth. The Easter equinox is seed emerging from darkness into the light of sun, symbolizes our awakening (meaning of resurrection).
The old pagan stories are rich with meaning and relevance if understood from a non-literal viewpoint. Early church teachers who taught this view were called Gnostics, “those who understand.” In the 4th Century the church declared them pagan heretics with most of their writings destroyed. The 1945 Nag Hammadi discovery was part of the hidden Alexandria library.
Until the church faces reality, ceasing the exclusive, ignorant judgment on others, the mass exodus will continue. The good news is people are finding this inclusive, universal, ancient message outside of traditional churches. The future bodes well for a renewed spiritual awakening; it doesn’t for a harsh literalness beyond the realms of reason.