Saturday, June 5, 2010

Canyon of Faith: Part 2- We're all Connected

During my recent visits back to church I've been pondering the canyon which separates the faith I once had and the faith I have now. What really separates the me from 5 years ago from the me of today? Do our beliefs really make us better than our neighbors, and does our faith help us to love them any more than without belief? Why is it easier to be Right in Belief than Right in Love? As always I'm not out to bash Christianity but to wrestle with the unasked questions themselves, and in wrestling I might find some enlightenment even though the question may defeat me.

I often describe my spirituality, my identity, and my relationship with the universe as a god-sized puzzle (hence the title). I chose this title during a time when I struggled with my beliefs to the point of near insanity (well, I'm probably over exaggerating). As I began studying the different world religions I noticed two things: there is no one right religion because all of them are hiding skeletons in their closet, and even though they use different symbols they all seem to point to the same thing. What that is, I have no idea and might only exist in our heads. I began this journey with a mission statement: to connect with my fellow man. That to me IS the divine, not a bearded OT God or anything supernatural, but unfortunately even using the word God is problematic which is why I gravitate towards the word, 'divine' (although 'Source', introduced to me by Don at Reflections, also has a nice ring to it).

I don't experience that interlocking connection at church. The members at Calvary Baptist (the church I attend) would say that I'm not allowing the spirit of God to enter my heart in which I would respond by stating, "the spirit of God is already within us, we're just drowning it out by singing praise to a man-made God, a God made in our image." This doesn't mean they don't experience something, they do, it's just that it doesn't speak to me. I can't connect with the death and resurrection imagery of Christ on the same level as they do. It might just be that they do feel connected to each other and to God and their desire to bring people into the fold is their way of sharing this experience (which is fine as long as sharing is done in the spirit of love, without pressure and threat of hellfire). The main issue which keeps me on the far ledge of Christianity, or any other faith for that matter, is that their connection with mankind and the divine has borders, their relationship has limits. Christians can connect with other Christians, even with varying denominations, but have trouble connecting with Muslims, and so on and so forth. Loyalty to your tribe and to your beliefs supersede compassion and connection with your neighbor. The only way to keep your religious identity and truly connect with others is by holding your beliefs very gently and very lightly. The Bible doesn't have to be literally true to be spiritually true, and even if it's spiritually true at the time of it's canonization does not mean that it is exclusively true in our 21st century global society.

Why is this so hard when it sounds so easy? Do we really have to be Right in Belief instead of Right in Love? Every time a Christian questions me on the state of my soul they ask me, "what if you're wrong?" I always respond by telling them that a compassionate God would not fry an Atheist or an Agnostic for loving their neighbor. And if this "compassionate" God would indeed fry people for wrong belief than I would still continue loving people regardless of my afterlife destination. Real grace, love, and compassion can't be freely given under threat of annihilation or divine command. The source of our love for each other should come from within, from our shared human spirit. When we begin to realize our connections with our neighbor we honor their humanity and our equality. For stardust we are, and unto stardust we shall return. For as walking, talking stardust, the "fruit of the universe" to use the words of Alan Watts, we are gifted with a narrow window of existence in which to interact with the world around us. Who are we to increase the pain and suffering of others within that short window? Let us enjoy this gift, and celebrate life together before our return to the place of our birth.


Esther said...

Your writing is inspiring.
Thank you for thinking things through and giving me some insight.

I wanted to share a film with you - one not yet released - about the secret practices of monks and nuns. I am hoping its inspirational. and maybe a little illuminating.

Unknown said...

Esther- Thanks for joining the conversation and for stopping by. The film looks incredibly intriguing I'm looking forward to it (I'm a documentary junkie).

Peace and Blessings.

Don said...

Thanks for continually bringing me back to where I want to be. It is so easy to get sidetracked by the world and forget what I truly believe to be my purpose and reason for being here: to make other's lives a little easier. I have not been able in about three full years to return to the church for any reason of my own. I find it exciting that you have to opportunity to communicate your beliefs to those "in" the institution.

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