Since arguments about theism (the existence of God) have gone on for a long time with no unanimous conclusion and since the idea of monotheism is already undercut by the existence of a second god (Satan) to explain evil and a triune god (the Trinitarian agreement) with three heads like Cerberus, and because competing systems get rough with each other, I choose to just abandon that context and go somewhere else.

I’m also going to rule out the supernatural in general since their paradoxical claim is that something is entirely NOT natural or apparent, yet the spokesperson somehow happens to know all about it and how to interpret what they know, which tends to be in their favor.

But I do not rule out the unknown, which enwraps us and supports us without telling us anything. Once I took a class in a kind of Process Theology that tries to reconcile classic Christianity with quantum mechanics or at least advanced physics. I didn’t do well — partly because it was too complex and partly because “so what”.

The part that was hardest for the translators to handle was not because of the personal humanoid relationship that Jesus represents but because he is the interface between the unknown/unknowable/inscrutable nature of God and us guys down here walking around and making soup from what we’ve got. The two ways to at least seem like a translator was for Jesus to tell stories and perform miracles. Most of these stories can be told back the other way or at least reinterpreted — some more than others: I have my favorites — and miracles, well, maybe the same. Maybe we really need water more than wine anyway.

But a real put-off for me about Christianity is their “my way or the highway” attitude. It’s not original but one of the many intrusions when the story system translated into Roman Empire bureaucracy. For one thing, their obsession with the Euro-hordes to the north, whatever you call them, and the possibility of Roman armed forces finally succeeding, is now translated into a fear-mongering terror-promotion about A-Theists — which should mean simply “not theists like Christians,” but ends up being “Wicked Dissenters who must be crushed.”

This provokes those who differ but fail to find a new framing of world meaning into accepting the terms of the struggle, to become Counter-Theists with equal but opposite permission to attack. We’ve had too many of them already, but for those who love a dogfight, they’re welcome.

I often wish that the Celtic world-view had prevailed. “The Celts believed that the world was alive. Part of Irish Celtic religion was the belief that naturally occurring things such as rocks, rivers and trees had spirits. These were not necessarily good or bad spirits but could react in a certain way, depending on how they were treated.”

The Roman principle that any opposition must be destroyed has taken attention away from their major advantage in being literate, able to write and therefore to speak to us over time. The Celtic religious views were — like American indigenous views — entirely oral, not written. At a time when writing seems like a super-power’s permission to do something, as though a message from the stratosphere, the indigenous are disarmed.

And all the while bureaucracy is weaponizing systems by using writing. The Bible becomes a weapon, like all the religious written books. Holy Books set the terms of engagement and that’s halfway to victory on the Christian grounds. The echo is our “rule of law” which keeps order only for those who stay in the system.

But creation speaks. The planet can be a potent record of consequences that interfaces human life against unknowable existence, forces that make us and take us. All languages should come down to direct experience of the ecosystem: what to eat, how to shelter, whom to fear, and where joy comes from. But language can be perverted.

How these form into a theory we might call “religion” will be different in each place. Consult one of my favorite books, Robert Schreiter’s “Constructing Local Theologies”. Here is advice about how to find the essential human deepest concepts by creating ritual from experience that will translate to other frameworks without distortion. His keen example is the bread and wine of the Mediterranean ecoculture that means the blood and body of Jesus the Christ. In other cultures, the deepest meaning of sacrifice may have nothing to do with eating. What about the material culture of the Inuit, who have neither bread from wheat nor trees for crucifixions?

Tribal people in America who teach the names used by people get tangled up in trying to make them “English” without going to the lives and ecosystems that formed the world in the first place. An English tree is not like an Eastslope of the Rockies tree, even if it’s the same species. The chemicals of its sap, the architecture of its branches, the uses of its wood, the sounds of high wind and the force of out-of-season snow, make growth quite different. Euros who arrived and named everything according to their own category boxes — requiring that the name on the box be in English — got lots of things wrong.

Science is one kind of arbiter, which finally explained that buffalo stones are mud fossils from the insides of baculites, that thunderbirds might have been condors, and that the giant bones were fossils. The aura of some stories are replaced by others. A new kind of information can feel like loss. How it all fits together and moves forward in the process we call time is an entirely different pursuit.

Those who teach Blackfeet ought to teach the land that formed the Blackfeet. When I was in Heart Butte, my 7th graders would talk about how in summer they settled into being small groups who walked together across the land, following streams, napping in soft grass, and watching animals for hours at a time — learning how they moved, what they ate, what made them jerk up tall to look around, and what made them disappear into cover. This empathy of shared sense memory became deeper information than any words. Their people danced it. Sang it. Far more meaningful than words or grammar. Yet that understory of knowledge is often missing in today’s people. They don’t have time.

Christians have the same problem. Their experience of raising sheep, grapes and olives without bombs or assault rifles in existence is obsolete. War destroys the shared experience under worlds and rucks up the land that acts as an intercessory version of Jesus for people trying to live there. Only recently have researchers pushed back against the uniqueness of Jesus’ death, pointing out that thousands were destroyed the same fiendish power-monger way. Is Covid-19 different? Can we recognize resurrection if it comes? This is a real question for a prairie tribe, controlled and sacrificed but still here.

Born in Portland when all was calm just before WWII. Educated formally at NU and U of Chicago Div School. Clergy for ten years. Always happy on high prairie.