Mary W. Matthews

Mary W. Matthews is a freelance writer, editor, and theologian living in St. Petersburg, Florida. She was conferred her Master's in Theological Study, summa cum laude, from the Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. in 1998. Having no desire to instruct in a scholastic setting (and fully aware that there are far more Ph.D.s than job openings), her continuing studies will remain informal.

Ms. Matthews was born and reared a Presbyterian (and for those who care, is a direct descendant of John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who was the second president of the institution that today is Princeton University, and the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence).

Ms. Matthews became an Episcopalian when she married Jerry A. Merchant in 1989, and entered seminary with the idea that Godde might be calling her to the priesthood. She is profoundly relieved that Godde was not calling her to the most spiritually challenging of all occupations.

Moreover, many years of theological study have convinced her that most Christian denominations are mistaken in some of their most fundamental assumptions about reality, especially the doctrines of Original Sin and the Atonement. She knew that she could not become a priest or a minister in any of the mainline denominations, because (a) the church hierarchy would expect her to teach ideas she believes are not true, and (b) because all hierarchies run counter to what both Christ and St. Paul taught us is true. ("There is neither inside clique nor outside geek, there is neither wealthy big shot or poor wage-earner, there is neither male nor female, for everyone is just folks in Godde's eyes." Gal. 3:28)

Godde created human beings of both genders in Godde's image (Genesis 1:27), and they were "very good." Most Christian denominations teach that the first thing that the first human being did upon being split into the man and the woman was disobey Godde's order not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and that since the woman in this creation myth was the one who spoke to the serpent, all women must be especially disobedient and evil. This teaching is nonsense on so many levels that it deserves its own article.

Most Christian denominations teach that humans, created good, transformed themselves into inherently evil beings through this first "Original Sin." They teach that Godde became a human being in order to "fix" this "Original Sin" and to bring humanity back into a relationship at one with Godde (hence the word "atonement"). Since "Original Sin" is nonsense, this theory must also be nonsense.

The standard teaching is that Godde is rightly and righteously angry with humanity for its sinful self-transformation into disobedience, and that humanity deserves nothing better than the flames of Hell a medieval fairy tale built on a misinterpretation of Jesus' remarks about Jerusalem's city dump. The standard teaching is that all moral and ethical behavior derives from our desire to change Godde's mind and spare us from eternal torture. (Why a Godde who "is love" [1 John 4:8] would want to torture Godde's creation for all eternity has always been a mystery to me.)

What if the standard teachings are wrong? What if the point is not to change Godde's mind about humanity (which is impossible, when you stop to think about it), but to change humanity's mind about Godde?

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