Dave's comments will be in italics, mine in standard font:
Dave: Dena, maybe I am misunderstanding you, but do you really mean to say there is no evil and that God is in everyone?
Certainly we have the perception of evil ... things that appear to be horrendous happen all around us, even to us, in this life. In my experience, however, there are times I've discovered that I merely had an errant perspective of a situation, and once I was shown another perspective, my entire view, my entire experience, was profoundly changed. For instance, I first experienced being excommunicated and shunned by my former church as a horrendously evil event. In time, and with more maturity, and when I could better see through the Mind of Christ, I was able to see that same event as an incredible blessing, in that it liberated us from a destructive and abusive situation (to which we were largely blind while *in* it). It's become a source of joy and freedom for me ... even though what actually happened didn't change at all.
As for God being in everyone, as I've come to see this, there is no Life-Source besides God. He IS life itself. He is the one and only Source of all life - there is no "competing source". Scripture confirms that we are "all His offspring". At the very core of each of us, is His life. In Him we live and move and have our being. We're created in His very image. Sure, we have layers of misperceptions, confusion, deception - about Him, about ourselves, about all there is. We're seemingly enslaved to our deceptions ... and yet, Jesus came to set the captives free. I believe that He can, and will, and has, done this. I believe that each of us comes to our senses, as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and in the life-example of Saul of Tarsus ... who declared himself to be an example of those who do not yet believe, and who reminds us that God is not a respecter of persons.
Dave: Help me with this, then: I have a real hard time believing that Hitler, for instance, had God in him.
Yes, I know ... Hitler is nearly *everyone's* stumbling block..! Can't tell you how many times his name is brought up! Hitler, like the rest of us, was a product of his upbringing, and had numerous lies planted in his mind, just like the rest of us. Unless and until we get our minds renewed, we will be driven by those lies ... they will be like unto truth for us, for if we believe them, they seem true to us. We cannot know the inner battles of another ... we cannot compare our insides with their outsides. We cannot discern hearts ... we cannot know what another suffered, nor what they pick up from the collective thoughts of their environment (science is only beginning to understand the power of thoughts, words and deeds upon each other - read for yourself about the nocebo effect).
The perception and experience of both good and evil come from the same tree ... we cannot know one without the other. We cannot know hot without cold, joy without pain. At what point does cold cease and hot begin ...? They're just the polar extremes of the same spectrum. What if good and evil are the same? What if we were told to stay away from feasting on that tree because we do not have the ability, while in this human form, to truly discern one from the other?
God says that all things work together for our good, as we're transformed into the likeness of Christ (a verse we could unpack for years, and not exhaust!). ALL things work for our good ... all things ultimately then are good (& we're told to be thankful in ALL circumstances). We just lack the bigger-picture perspective to see with spiritual eyes. We can't see the grandeur of the forest, for the one rotten tree (which dies in order to feed the growth of the forest, but I digress).
What does God not allow? And, if He allows, is it not part of what works-to-be-good? And, if God allows a thing, including the choices and actions of Hitler, is that not then His will? I see that it's God's will that all of us, including Hitler, have free choice. I also see that it's not God's will that any of us would be punished unendingly, unceasingly, if we do not make the choice God wants us to make. If that were the case, how "free" has He made our choices? Are we really free to do what we want if we know we'll be made to suffer unspeakably if we do not do what God wants? What sort of choice is that?
If it was God's will that we should never suffer, why would HE create the possibility that we would? And why would He allow us to be tempted, day and night, to break the very laws that He put down?
I see that the only way we can rationalize our theology (the traditions of man), is to render God either powerless or cruel.
I see we have a choice: if we believe that life is a test or trial, a period of putting us through a test to see if we're worthy, then our theologies begin to make sense. However, we can also see life as an opportunity, a process of experiencing who we are not, so that we can discover who we really are. I see that Jesus came to show us who God really is, and who we really are, but we couldn't bear it ... and so we continued in the vein of the old covenant/striving process, of trying to earn God's favor through our behaviors ... seeing God not as the Loving Father, but as the Vengeful and Angry Wronged-One... the one who must be appeased by our behavior, even as the volcano-god had to be appeased with the sacrifices of first-borns and virgins.
Dave: And I have a real hard time saying the holocaust was merely a perception of evil.
As the wife of a Jewish man, and mama to 8 half-Jewish children whom Hitler would've deemed unfit to live, I completely understand how this is hard. Believe me.
I'd like to share something that I read, which has shaped how I view this:
Hitler could do nothing without the cooperation and support of millions of people (as well as those who ignored and denied what was going on). It was the collective consciousness which provided fertile soil for the growth of the Nazi movement. Hitler seized the moment, but he did not create it. It's important to understand the lesson here. A group consciousness which speaks constantly of separation and superiority produces loss of compassion on a massive scale, and loss of compassion is inevitably followed by loss of conscience. The horror of the Hitler Experience was not that he perpetuated it on the human race, but that the human race allowed him to do so. The astonishment is not only that a Hitler came along, but that so many others went along. The shame is not only that Hitler killed millions of Jews (and others), but also that millions had to be killed before Hitler was stopped. The purpose of the Hitler Experience was to show humanity to itself. Learning this lesson is GOOD. And yet, Hitler was not sent to you. Hitler was created by you. He arose out of your collective consciousness and could not have existed without it. THAT is the lesson. The consciousness of separation, segregation, superiority -- of "we" versus "they", of "us" versus "them" -- is what creates the Hitler Experience.
It is GOOD when we allow ourselves to learn how we are complicit in such things. It is EVIL when we ignore the lesson, and do not learn from it, and thus perpetuate it. How we respond to it determines whether such a thing is good or evil -- therefore, it's all about perspective.
The bigger question for me, Dave, is not "how could Hitler have done such a thing", but "why is Christianity still perpetuating the notions of separation, segregation and superiority, that have indeed resulted in a loss of compassion, and a loss of conscience...?"
I'm also curious.. If there really isn't evil, what was it Jesus was driving out of people when it says he drove out an evil spirit? Was He simply driving out a perception of evil? In your opinion, do demons/evil spirits have God in them, too?
I no longer hold to a traditional view of demons (surprise, surprise!). It's my *opinion* (and not something I will either debate, nor attempt to prove), that evil spirits are manifestations of our negative thinking ... from our own carnal minds (egos) ... that which is "adversarial" (i.e., "satan") to God, and which resists Him. These negative thoughts can come in the form of lies which we believe, illnesses, inordinate physical strength, depression, rage, hatred, addictions, mental problems, etc. I personally believe that since the people in that age believed them to be demons (preferring to project them "out there" rather than taking ownership and responsibility for them), that Jesus met them where they were, in that understanding, and dealt with them in a way that would be effective for them.
I don't see demons as "beings" to either "have God" or "not have God" in them ... they are no-things, parts of our own imaginings, parts of our own carnal mind, which can be utterly absorbed by the Light of truth, just as darkness is a no-thing that cannot resist light, but becomes absorbed by it.
Dave: Also, if there is no real evil then I suppose there is no real sin... and if there is no real sin, then Christ died for nothing. Thoughts?
I believe that the time which Daniel prophesied, a time that was to be the fulfillment of Christ, was in his future, but is now in our past. I believe that Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and John (in the Revelation) were foretelling of the time to come (for them) which was the transition from one covenant into the next. I believe that this timeframe was a one-generation period of time (40 years) that began in 30AD, and ended in 70AD, with the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem ... thus utterly ending the old covenant, and fully unleashing the emerging new covenant. I see that Daniel said that this new covenant would be a time that brought an end to iniquity, a cessation of sin, and would be bringing righteousness. Sin is about separation from God ... I see that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Now, this was done in time, with the events from 30-70AD ... but this was *always done* in God's perspective (outside of time) ... "the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world" (also, we were chosen from the foundation of the world). As I see it, from the whole story of Scripture, we were never separated from God -- but our shame made us *think* we were separated from God ... our beliefs made it our perceived reality. For, as a man thinks in his own heart, so is he. If we believe we're separated from God (and from one another), we will experience that, and act like that.
I see that mankind saw themselves as separated from God, and sought throughout ancient history to work his way back into God's favor ... sacrificing to the volcano-gods ... then God shows up as One God and seems to say that He wants animal sacrifices instead ... so they do so, meticulously, for centuries ... then God says He never wanted sacrifices at all, but wanted mercy. What gives? Did God (who never changes) change? OR did our perception of what God wanted change? This is the same God who says HE never wanted to be our "master", but our "husband". (The same God who wants intimate relationship, and we insist upon religion instead.)
As I see it, we were groping in the dark, trying to comprehend God for all those years, projecting our own stuff onto God ... and so Jesus comes, as God, to show us the Father -- before then, we were clueless. Jesus shows us the God who doesn't *want* our sacrifices ... in fact, He shows us the God who *BECOMES* the sacrifice for us. The Sacrifice to end all sacrifices. This is the God who becomes the Cure for what was killing us ... our own deceptions.
I no longer buy the theory of substitutionary atonement (the notion that God was angry, and demanded blood, and someone had to pay, and so Jesus stepped in to "take the heat" for us). I now see the view of Christus Victor ... the concept that Jesus was utterly victorious in the Atonement (the at-one-ment), re-conciling us to God (which implies to me that we were once "conciled" to God in the first place), and that He not only saved every single one He intended to save, but that it was always done, from God's perspective.
We were never separated from God in the first place (for how can anyone be separated from Omnipresence?), and more and more are awakening to this REALLY good news for ALL mankind, that God really is too good to not be true...! It's not that we need to "be saved" ... it's that we need to "wake up" to what's always been.
(again, this is my perspective, at this juncture of the glorious journey, with the One who is both Guide and Goal ... your mileage may vary!)