Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Religious Conversion inside of Second Life

More and more people are leaving traditional churches and seeking more ideal or unique religious experiences. If you've never visited Second Life (a 3D online digital world which is imagined, created and owned by its residents) you owe it to yourself to see where more and more of conscious humanity is gravitating to.

No doubt one day soon, if it hasn't already happened, someone will have a religious experience while in Second Life. Think of the advantages of being able to pray and worship with other religious Second Life inhabitants as opposed to going to a brick and mortar church down the street or in another part of town.

A temple, church or mosque inside of Second Life has no screaming children. People do not cough or sneeze uncontrollably while they are in Second Life. If they do, they are behaving in an affected manner by imitating Real World peculiarities. In a Second Life religious environment there is the familiarity of your own home, because technically you are still in your own home. Of course, if you log-on from your laptop, your environment can be anywhere you wish it to be: in a plane, on the beach at dawn, in a quiet garden, in an ancient library surrounded by even older forests.

If you are not able to kneel in the Real World, your Second Life avatar can kneel for you for as long as you wish to continue kneeling in the house of worship of your choice.

Perhaps when it becomes possible to upload personalities and memories successfully, people will, in fact, live out their lives, or continue a kind of virtual life-after-death inside of Second Life.
"Jesus is nicer in Second Life." -- Anonymous Second Life Christian.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

New 21st-Century Religions

Who experiences new religious groups first hand and lives to tell the tale? I had such an experience the other day.

I couldn't inquire too much as the invitation to attend this service was almost out of the blue. As I experienced the service or meeting and met the people afterwards I was impressed about how similar it was to another service or meeting I had attended months ago. I couldn't put my finger on the name at the time, but it was so similar to what I was experiencing that I wanted to alert the leader of this group, a young man named Alberto, that others were handing out flyers with information that seemed almost identical to this new group's ideas. It astounded me later on to find out, that Alberto, in spite of his youth, was not only the leader of this new religious group, but was also its founder.

What I liked most was the immediate friendliness of the group I was visiting. Whenever I inquired about the name of this group I was attending I was strangely engaged in conversation, but it was such friendly conversation that I didn't care to find out their name. I'm not sure if I'd find them again; the city is so big and disorienting at night and sometimes late in the afternoon. They gave out no cards with information. They met in rooms that were half-exposed to the fresh air and always near city centers.

Much to my surprise when the service was coming to a close they asked me to say the final prayer. I was careful not to pray a typical Christian prayer as I would in my own church, but I had noted that they mentioned God in their service and no one else. The last thing I said as I closed my prayer was about how we all wanted something that made life more fulfilling and worthwhile. It felt odd not ending my prayer as I normally did, by saying "in Jesus' name." I knew that would cause divisions in such a cohesive group. So I simply ended my prayer with the word, Amen.

I will probably never find this enigmatic group of people again in spite of their warm acceptance of me and their friendly and enjoyable meeting, but at least I experienced it one time in my life.

It made me appreciate my own religious beliefs and especially the privilege and joy of ending my prayer by saying "in the name of of Jesus, Amen."

For the closest thing to this elusive group and its unbelievably friendly people, please visit the following site and/or address: Church of Religious Science http://www.rsiftl.com/,
1550 Ne 26th St, Wilton Manors, FL 33305, (954) 566-2868. This group is not as friendly as the one I attended, but it is very 21 st-Century and offers people in the community more, judging by the devotion of those who attend in numbers, than the local Adventist or Christian churches down the street.

Other links worth trying for the intrepid: New Thought Denominations, One Spirit Ministries

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Encounter with a Spirit-Filled Man

Rolando first caught my attention in a Sabbath afternoon hour of prayer. He came with his Adventist girlfriend and her daughter from a previous marriage. We all welcomed him with sincerity knowing that he possibly wasn't of the Advent faith.

After that initial contact I noted that no one ever befriended him and this seemed to cause his Adventist girlfriend concern. When I took it upon myself to approach the man, I could see her gratefulness by her friendly manner every time she saw me every time we met.

I learned bits and pieces of what he believed and it fascinated me while it alarmed others. In a small study group in which the pastor was present Rolando mentioned that he had studied metaphysics before he had become interested in Christianity. I was the only one in the group that responded positively to his statement.

Later that week he told me he was in the process of reading the entire Bible and that he was making great headway. I envied the man for his thoroughness and lamented by obsessive detail to footnotes and meditating on just one verse which causes by complete reading of the Bible to proceed very slowly.

Yesterday, again I noticed that no one was engaging him in conversation after church and that he was walking around looking for someone to talk to. I took it upon myself to approach him and greet him, if nothing else. The conversation we had was mostly him talking and I'd pipe in bits and pieces that I felt were of value. As he spoke I was concerned that perhaps someone more traditional in Adventist beliefs should be talking to him, but I quickly asked God to help me say the right thing. As he spoke of his attendance at other Christian churches I found myself trying to carefully present the value of the Advent message. In part I did it for his Adventist girlfriend whom I knew would appreciate someone saying positive things about her church of choice to a man that was becoming more and more important in her formerly single life.

What Rolando told me would, no doubt, alarm most Adventists in attendance that morning at my conservative/mainstream Adventist church. He told me that in a church which he couldn't quite identify he had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands by the minister of that particular church. He described that he himself had not fallen to the floor as had others when similarly touched on the forehead. But he assured me that the realization and the enhanced spiritual altered state of consciousness that he experienced then and continued experiencing for days after that were the most life-changing and gratifying experiences he had ever encountered.

Years ago I myself would have run away or excused myself as courteously as I could after having heard him talk of this Spirit gift or Spirit baptism.

He told me that he came to his senses in the midst of his heightened sense of being with the realization that even though he'd like to only focus on this awareness of the Holy Spirit he realized that he had duties to his fellow man and their problems, as well.

He told he that having been a communist he had immersed himself in Marxism as well as philosophy and metaphysics when he lived in Cuba. But, he said, nothing compared to the joy and excellence of being immersed in the Holy Spirit experience.

I shared with him what I could courteously about my visit a year ago to a charismatic church. The only complaint I cared to tell him was that the Christian rock music used almost non-stop in the service was too loud for my ears. He said that it was probably a good idea to have Christian rock to keep the young people coming to church. The church was full of young people so perhaps his statement was valid.

I wanted to tell him of my experiences with the Holy Spirit. We exchanged cell phone numbers so perhaps one day soon we'll get the chance to have another conversation like the one we had yesterday.

When his Adventist girlfriend showed up and said they had to go home to lunch, he thanked me and told her about the incredible spiritual conversation we had been having. It was more me listening to his experiences, but perhaps that was more important. I did very little witnessing or evangelizing and what little I shared about Adventist authors I had read in the past few years, was of interest to him.

Now my question is this. Is this man and his experience of Holy Spirit baptism as valid as that of the Spirit-filled Adventists in attendance on this past Sabbath morning? Or, more alarmingly, is it more valid that anything I've encountered in my many years in the Adventist movement?

I'll need to study more, pray more and encounter more people who claim they have a valid experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Virtual Heaven

Version I

I wish I lived in heaven. I live on Earth. It is heaven. 1978

We have heaven. -- Jon Anderson, 1973

Guiding your vision to heaven and heaven is in your mind. -- Winwood/Capaldi/Wood, 1969

This life is as close as we're going to get to heaven, my friend. -- Hindu man I encountered as a student missionary, 1974

Florida is heaven. -- Adventist African-American pastor, c. 1996

Version II

My fondest wish and dream is to be like Him and to know Him. Spending time with Him is also very heavenly to me. In this respect I can enter heaven whenever I think of Him, when I read about Him, or when I read His very words or experiences in the Bible. Would I like to live with Him in a perfect place? Oh yes, of course. But in the meantime, He can make this as close to heaven as it can possibly be.

And this is eternal life that they might know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent [and the Holy Spirit whom Christ has sent.]

If you have the Spirit of Christ, you have the very atmosphere of heaven.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Traveling towards Orion's Belt

It's unsettling to see articles, which once were only Science Fiction dreams or nightmares at one time, appear in the science section of a major American newspaper.

To read what would have been considered Science Fiction even five years ago, and may still be considered such by most people. you can click on the A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Primitive Futurism - Futuristic Primitivism

Alternate titles: Savage Futurism - Futuristic Savagery, Primitive Future - Future Primitive

Remember when families sat around the dinner table and talked to each other? How about families visiting each other or visiting friends or church members? Today the average child in developed societies has a television, an Internet portal, and a cell phone to keep them as far away from other family members as possible.

In the pristine perfection of the Garden of Eden, and of non-contemporary family life, people were not as dependent on or obsessed with technology, as they are today, and no doubt, as they'll continue to be tomorrow. Every use of technology has its price. Yes, it improves our lives to a certain extent, but it also ruins something simpler and more natural that used to define being human in a very different way than it is defined now.

With all the gadgets and our dependence on them, we're now closer to being cybernetic organisms than our ancestors were. A cyborg was not made in the image of God. A cyborg was made in the image of 20th century humankind.

Perhaps our goal should be to travel backward/forward to a futuristic primitivism where instead of relying on high octane vehicles or their future equivalents, they would be replaced by recyclable bicycles, or wind driven devices that harness the clean power of the wind or the sun.

In H.G. Wells' novel the Time Machine, 802,701 years after a nuclear war forced humanity to live an almost Edenic life, it only appeared that way until closer scrutiny revealed that the price of a simpler and carefree world had its ugly underside. Perhaps a conscious return to naturalism or intentional primitivism is not really an option unless humanity is forced into it by forces beyond its control.

Only the idyllic Garden of Eden and future paradise, simplicity reborn, are the only viable options towards a return to a genuine intentional primitivism, a futuristic primitivism.

I, for one, hope never to see or use any of the following devices in a perfect future world, whether in this reality or in a transcendent one: I-Phones, I-Pods, Laptop Computers, Cell Phones, DVD players, CD players, televisions, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, automobiles, planes, radios. Yes, they can be wonderful devices that transport you to places and states of mind that you normally wouldn't visit. Then again, perhaps that is not a good thing.

Will there be technology in heaven and the new earth? Would it be heaven or a new earth without those reminders of our artificial life in this world?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Quantum Sabbath

The Sabbath does not really exist until I actually observe it. Neither does it become reality until I observe myself observing the Sabbath. So many possible Sabbaths can potentially exist. The Sabbath can take me down so many different paths or it can take me done none. I can stay at home if that is my decision. Of course, that is itself one very real Sabbath manifestation regardless of it not being with other Sabbath observers or in locations other than my home.

A Sabbath at home can help me focus more on that still small voice that Elijah heard. It can be more of a meditative Sabbath. A Sabbath at home is quieter than in the sometimes noisy church I attend. A Sabbath at home is spent with the Holy Three: Father, Son and Spirit.

A Sabbath in nature can take on transcendent aspects. An afternoon of contemplating the ever-changing skies and the myriad bird songs that dart in and around the lakes of trees and grass, can be more satisfying than spending an entire day in church attending one meeting after another.

A Sabbath of familiar friends and acquaintances at church can be a foretaste of the Eternal Sabbath of the future. There everyone will have no other focus but to worship together and enjoy each other's company.