Tag Archives: religion

Guilty by Association

I quit the Catholic Church when I was 13. Hadn’t really been into it for a few years at that point.

Just joined a Christian church, which is essentially alternative Methodist, a couple of weeks ago.

How much responsibility can I take for the horrors that have occurred in the name of Jesus?

My mother has been a devout and practicing member of the Catholic Church since she joined as a teenager.

How much responsibility must she assume for the horrors done by the decrees or the turned eye of the Pope?

The guilt of the individual as member of a religious group is something I hadn’t considered until recently.

First let me state the ways in which I feel I myself have been harmed in the name of Christianity (mostly by way of Catholicism):

  1.  soul-crushing guilt
  2.  a very dysfunctional and unhealthy view of sex
  3.  an image of a demented, angry, vengeful God who is an old man bent on tricking, coercing, threatening and bribing people to bow down before him. Or else.
  4.  the fear that truth comes from outside, that one cannot listen to one’s own inner voice, that one cannot trust
  5. the guilt and hopelessness that come from the belief that any negative/bad/unpleasant thing that happens is my punishment for being so wicked
  6. a focus on the negative, hell, the evil one, sin, the essential badness of humanity, etc.

I’m sure there are other effects I haven’t even thought of. But I have lately read enough about Jesus by people who seem to genuinely understand him to realize that throwing Jesus out with the bathwater is wasteful for me. For me. Allow me to emphasize, for me. I do not and will not subscribe to the belief that it’s my way or the highway. It’s my way for me, your way for you. If there is some kind of a judgment day, I’m going to have to answer for what I’ve done, and that’s going to be a big enough task without my having to answer for what others have done.

My goal in aligning myself with a Christian church at this point is to have an outlet for the deep desire I have for togetherness, for observable manifestation of Oneness, for the opportunity to serve the community at large through established channels. As much as I profoundly enjoy my solitary study and communing with the One, I know that I must at some point enter the world and apply what I have learned.

Just this morning I read this in the Hua Hu Ching as translated by Master Ni, Hua-Ching:

“My venerable teacher, should one spend all of his time and energy in quiet sitting meditation in order to remain above all worldly conditions and maintain absolute mindedness?

Kind prince, one who spends all of his time and energy in quiet sitting meditation for this purpose is establishing his mind to do something in a certain, definite way. By doing this, he clearly does not practice absolute mindedness, but instead demonstrates the narrowness and partiality of his mind. He cannot reach anywhere or become any kind of super-being. You see, the practice of absolute mindedness is not the practice of stiffness. That which is stiff belongs in the company of the dead, whereas that which is supple belongs in the company of the living. The mind should be like clear water that is always flowing smoothly. One should not designate a specific time or place in which to practice absolute mindedness, but should practice it in all aspects of life, whether essential or trivial.

My venerable teacher, should one intentionally and completely avoid all worldly troubles and activities for the purpose of practicing simplicity and keeping the mind clear?

Kind prince, if there are no worldly troubles and activities, where can one practice simplicity? Simplicity is the key to handling the troubles and activities of daily life. Simplicity is the law; the manifold, multiple forms are the events. Use the law to govern the events. This is the meaning of simplicity in the larger sense.

I want to expand my spiritual studies out from the realm of me, sitting in the early quiet hours of the morning by myself, reading and contemplating, and put them into action in the realm of Us.

Christ Church is, from my current point of view, my best option to achieve this goal.

But I recognize that by entering into association with a group, I am assuming responsibility for things done in the group’s name. Past things I had nothing to do with? Present things that I wasn’t in on the planning of? Future things that my input is not solicited for?

An interesting issue that I will revisit as more insight and information becomes available.

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Religion as Language

If you’ve read any of my posts up to this point, you will likely remember that I’ve been struggling for quite a while with finding a church home and a religious label.

Well, my husband and I joined Christ Church, which has Methodist foundations.

So I’ve been getting used to calling myself a Christian.

Not that the label in itself felt wrong, just that I didn’t want to be associated with the hateful things done in Jesus’ name. The things I believe about Jesus are not very well reflected in many of the actions and words of people who claim to be Christian, so I thought that distancing myself from the whole thing was the best way.

The church we found seems to be based on just the things I do believe, such as love, enthusiastic faith, supportive community, a thriving children’s ministry, and other positive moves forward into a life of meaning and service. So I feel pretty comfortable aligning myself with this group.

I had a great insight into the label issue the other night when I’d decided to kill two birds with one stone by practicing my Spanish and praying at the same time. For a split second I thought to myself – does Jesus even speak Spanish?

I had a good laugh over that one.

But then it occurred to me — a religion is like a language. If I feel inspired to do something, I can phrase it as, “I feel called to do this.” As though God herself had spoken to me and pointed the way. I might also say, “My gut tells me…” which is acceptable secular speech. I could say, “The energy feels right,” which is the same thing translated into a New Age kind of understanding. Similarly, I could insert any sort of divine name and express my belief that this Spirit was indicating the correct path.

Each statement represents the same feeling in my heart/mind/center that a certain way forward is best. Is one a lie and the other the truth? Is English more true than Spanish?

After this realization, I came to the logical conclusion that, just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I can’t study Buddhism or Taoism or Sufism anymore. Just like I don’t have to stop learning languages just because I’m fluent in English, but I can go on to become bilingual and trilingual, as many as I have the time and inspiration to learn.

The Great Spirit is not limited to one language, nor to one religion. God is bigger than all of our constructs.

Unitarian Universalism

I have made lots of excuses as to why I haven’t actively pursued this group.

But I have been reading the book A Chosen Faith by John A Buerens and Forrest Church, and this morning I read something that pretty much clinched it for me, in terms of this being the perfect “institution” to align myself with in hopes of satisfying my desire for spiritual community and regular gatherings.

I did not know the idea that “universalism” stood for until I read this:

Standard Christian theology divides the saved from the damned. But universalism is the teaching that ultimately God will save all souls: universal salvation. It finds the notion of permanent damnation to an everlasting hell incompatible with faith in a loving God.

Exactly. Just like the Buddhist vow to leave no man behind/not to enter Nirvana until everyone enters Nirvana.

It also just occurred to me that, even if I decide I don’t want to join the nearest UU church, that doesn’t mean I can’t be UU. The closest church is not the only opportunity in the world for fellowship and guidance on the UU path.

News flash. Sometimes my head gets stuck in a rut and that’s the end of me. That’s why it would be helpful to have people in a similar frame of mind to give me feedback and support.

Further Realizations

My Mom helped me with an analogy last night when we were talking about my deep urge to find a spiritual path. When I talked about what Jack Kornfield said about needing to “take the one seat” and dig one’s well deeply, as opposed to flitting around sampling nectar from every source but never making any real progress, she said that a river has many tributaries.

I could tell from the moment she said it that this analogy would make for some delicious brain food.

In some truly insightful ways, a spiritual path is like a river; flowing to the Oneness of the Sea; following the terrain by taking the lowest position; feeding, washing, healing and inspiring beings along the way; becoming deeper, wider and calmer as it moves along; finally to lose and find itself completely in the Ocean of the All as One.

And is any river fed by only one source? Does any river purposely dam up the inflow from any particular spring, creek or brook? Does it refuse to accept rain that has blown in from a certain area, or reject melted snow for its chill?

I can see how Kornfield’s recommendation to follow one path deeply rather than many paths shallowly is another way of saying to be a river, to have a course and a way rather than to simply spread oneself thin until one is just a scattered collection of puddles that evaporate quickly in the midday sun.

But each of us must travel our own path, and so to give it a label is deceptively simplistic. “I am a Christian.” “I am a Buddhist.” Does that really mean anything at all, other than what the listener assumes it implies based on their own personal understanding?

In the book A Chosen Faith by John A. Buehrens and Forrest Church, D. H. Lawrence is quoted on the subject of religion: “A person has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.” This resonates with me deeply, having begun my gathering in earnest at age 13 and never having settled or called my basket full. I bristle at the idea of being choked into unconsciousness by a label, church or path that does not allow for my full participation with eyes and heart open.

The authors then summarize Lawrence’s opinion as it relates to traditional concepts of religion vs. this more fluid approach: “For him, religion has little to do with a body of beliefs or practices; it represents a gradual process of awakening to the depth and possibilities of life itself.” And indeed this is also my view; religion has to move with the terrain also, has to respond with compassion, be informed by humility, and participate in harmony. Anything that attempts to be a rock in the way of the flow will be worn down, turned to sand, and washed out to Oneness with everything else.

I am water.

And yet I desperately crave fellowship, guidance and validation (or thoughtful challenge). I see others who take on labels finding such things. But what does a person have to give up to belong?

Have to Choose

I found a wonderful book called A Path With Heart by Jack Kornfield, a psychotherapist who trained as a Buddhist monk.

I just finished chapter 3 which deals with the importance of going far along one path rather than simply dabbling. His analogy: “It is as if we were to dig many shallow wells instead of one deep one.”

He is very careful not to judge any path as better than any other; “…it is crucial to understand that there are many ways up the mountain — that there is never just one true way.”

His criteria for choosing seems to be contained in this sentence: “We need to choose a way of practice that is deep and ancient and connected with our hearts, and then make a commitment to follow it as long as it takes to transform ourselves.”

I completely resonate with his advice and his approach to spiritual growth, but I always end up in the same place – what to choose? According to his suggestion one’s discipline needs to be “ancient,” which precludes making something up. Unless what was made up was composed of ancient elements.

But none of the established spiritual paths sings to me. I do not feel called, drawn, welcomed, inspired, beckoned, or otherwise pulled or pushed, either by an outer or an inner force, in any particular direction far enough to call it my path.

I can recognize that in my life, I’ve dug many, many shallow wells. None has struck any more water than can allow a brief taste of sweetness. I want to dig a deep well, beyond roots and rocks to the fiery core.

Can’t Stand the Heat; Getting Out of the Kitchen

This photo was recently posted on my friend’s Facebook page:

Kind of a welcome message of sanity after the whole Christian vs. Bible-thumper vs. rational thinker circus that happened here in North Carolina during the Amendment One fiasco.

Here’s a comment that one of her friends posted:

I think you all miss the point and satan is winning by splitting the church. Why is it that agreeing WITH the Bible that clearly states marriage is between a man and a woman AND standing with God now all of a sudden Hate? I think you all need to look in the mirror, seek God to convict your heart and ask the Holy Spirit to help you see and understand exactly what you are being manipulated into. Abortion is losing popularity and we can only pray that legalized murder cloaked as a womans right is stopped soon. Abortion is not birth control, if someone cannot control themself then put God’s child uo for adoption where a loving family can provide the love and care he or she deserves. I do not understand how compromising God’s Holy Word is denying rights there is NOTHING equal about a man and a man being married as there is to a man and a woman being married. Are we really trying to become a nation of Soddom and Gamora, really? We know where it got them… Please pray about this, Please.

To which one can only respond, “Heavens to Betsy!”

But after the opposing view had its say, this wise soul added a smidgen more (which I edited to eliminate personal details that might identify the original poster or the commenter) (also, I don’t actually expect you to read this whole slew of nonsense, just put it here to make my point):

There are several verses in the bible, and before I begin I am not trying to take a stand of hate, I pray for anyone that struggles with homosexual feelings just as I do for someone that struggles with alcohol, drugs, not knowing Christ as their personal savior, the first 3 are sins and the bible states if you are living in sin knowingly it is detestable to God, whether homosexuality, alcohol or drug addiction. Continuing to practice without a desire to turn from it or change is not accepting Christ so it is not just the homosexual that risks not going to heaven it is anyone that does not turn from their sin. Most of the verses in the bible do not refer to “homosexual” most of them refer to words such as Leviticus 18:22 “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 20:13 “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable…” Romans 1:26-27 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” 1 Corinthians 6 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The point is that the bible states that many types of sins will be exclusion from Heaven, so many think that just asking Jesus into their heart is all that they have to do and that is not it, you must take up His cross and expect to be condemned as He was as written in Matthew 16:24-27 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Fathers glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.” The verse in Matthew that goes with Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Meaning if you judge with hatred or without knowing all of the facts (jumping to conclusions) that is how others will judge you, if you judge harshly you will be judged harshly, I am not sure how this comes into play in this discussion, other than you feel that I am judging which I have stated to you in previous posts I am not doing that I pray for them as others, I know many who are and they respect my conviction on this and our relationship is fine and they know that I pray for them daily, without hate. The part that I do not understand is this has been on most state and most other nations laws for centuries, in fact before 1994 or somewhere there about the old Greek dynasty was the only culture to allow homosexuality and they fell as a nation. Currently there are only, I believe 19 of 268 nations worldwide that allow homosexuality (you can verify on Wikipedia, many nations still enact punishment by death as cited in the Old Testament – Thank God we are under a new covenant). The above post referring to Matthew 12:31 is not just taking the name in vain it is referring to giving glory to Satan for work that the Holy Spirit performed such as stating that when someone is healed saying that it is the works of the devil is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, ALL other sins are forgivable but not if you continually commit them, God will forgive you if you get drunk but will not forgive if you are a drunkard, God will forgive if you commit a homosexual act but will not forgive if you refuse to turn away from what God states is detestable, God does not changes and for the many that think that simply asking for forgiveness gives the license to continue will be sadly mistaken at judgment and the sadder part is that many individuals that practice homosexuality to not feel that they are committing a sin and will never ask for forgiveness, that is the saddest part, many believe that most or all will go to heaven and I believe that is a mistake, there is a church called the Emergent Church, one of its leaders Rob Bell (wrote a book called Velvet Elvis (and others) very popular on the Christian circuit) that states all will go to heaven and pretty much contradicts the Bible in complete errant disregard that God’s word does not change just because society does, Bible based teaching churches are trying to get the message out that it is incorrect teaching, I do want to go back to your comment regarding freedom of religion and can’t help think what it would be like if we allowed Sharia law and the way that they treat women and have a right to kill family members if they do not follow the law, please do not take this as an attack on Muslim as it is not, I pray for them as well and pray that our world can get along at some point but also believe that much of this is exactly according to God’s greater plan. I am sorry, I am not trying to make you angry nor challenge you I am simply stating my belief’s and not trying to challenge what you are stating, the post was on my page as well, (I am not asking you to defriend me as I am not wanting to defriend you) I pray that we can both have differing opinions and even be convicted with where we stand and not have it turn into a hate fest between friends. God Bless You and I hope that you know in your heart that I am not trying to attack you I am simply stating my views as well and do welcome your feedback and comments. Please disregard all of my grammatical errors, not that I even notice them but I know that they are there.

To which I can only say, I give up. I cannot imagine wholeheartedly adopting the Christian faith and have to listen to this on a regular basis. I cannot and will not ever take the Bible literally. I really do NOT see how limiting Spirit to words on a page is a constructive exercise. I see it as the act of a childish person too afraid to think for themselves.

I do believe in Jesus. I believe he is the Son of God. I believe he died on the cross to save humanity. I believe he worked miracles, and that he was resurrected.

But I cannot be associated with these people. I cannot say “I am a Christian” and risk people thinking I agree with even half of what these people say. I’d rather say “I’m a Buddhist” and have them simply be worried that I’m going to hell. (Because after all, isn’t that what a label is for? Presenting a certain face to the world, who is going to judge you based on the string of syllables coming out of your mouth? When no one can ever really give a name to their personal relationship with Spirit?)

There’s nothing in Buddhism that precludes me believing in Jesus or studying the Bible, or anything else for that matter. But there is plenty in “Christianity” that says, “OH NO! Don’t step/look/think/be over there! That’s oogey-boogey land! The cooties will surely send you to hell!”

Done. I need to be done with this struggle, and come to peace with the fact that I can’t, as Thich Nhat Hanh recommends, return to my spiritual roots, which is Christianity in general, the Catholic faith specifically. Can’t do it. I can still learn from and interact with the people and the texts and ideas. I can still accept Jesus as The Way, but I can’t adopt “Christianity” as my foundation and my path. I’m done.

Inclusiveness

I truly believe that the goal of homogenizing the world to follow one particular path (I am thinking specifically of religions that require everyone to conform to their beliefs and values) is, to over-simplify, a bad idea. Not only wasteful of the amazing and wonderful diversity that exists in the world (and I think one of our goals could be to be aware and appreciative of it all!) but also downright harmful in most cases.

from “Prayers for a Thousand Years”

You, the one
From whom on different paths
All of us have come,

To whom on different paths
All of us are going.
Make strong in our hearts what unites us;

Build bridges across all that divides us;
United make us rejoice in our diversity.

At one in our witness to your peace,
A rainbow of your glory.
Amen.

–Br. David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B.
Mount Saviour Monastery, New York

Can we each walk our path through this world and still hold hands?

Can I listen to Spirit with my own ears and not feel ridiculed that the symphony I hear is to a different beat than the one you experience?

Can I bring something new to the table, something that you don’t necessarily have to taste if you don’t want to, but we can share a meal and some conversation nevertheless?