Tag: religion

Religion, the UnChurched & Politics

Religion, the UnChurched & Politics

Religion
I am sorry to say I cannot determine the artist of this image. I hope one day they come forward.

Religion is a hot button topic, especially with the election antics well under way. Even though it was  decreed long ago that there should exist a separation of church and state, I do not believe that our beliefs can ever be removed from our choices and actions, overt or otherwise.  We don’t have to talk about what we value, or acknowledge it even to ourselves. They show up in everything we do, with or without our permission.

In all arenas, an individual’s spoken beliefs are not what concern me. They can say what they will. It’s how they live, the energy they exude and stir in others, that influences my respect for them or lack thereof. This is true for all of us. I have lived with the destruction of my shadow self, and still do.  I have fallen victim, again and again, to the shadow self of others. This is where the real damage occurs.

[tweetthis]”The un-examined life is not worth living.” Socrates[/tweetthis]

The beliefs and values that lurk in the shadows unannounced and uncontested turn the world upside down. We only need look at what’s happening in the Republican Party to see the damage the shadow self can do to peace and harmony. No. . . religion, organized religion, is not the problem here. It’s not the words spoken, it’s what isn’t said that does the most damage.

RELIGION & THE UNCHURCHED

The church has lost membership steadily over my lifetime. Even back in the late 1970’s when I assisted George Gallup, Jr. in the polling of America regarding their religious beliefs, the decline was obvious.  As a recent seminary graduate, I was personally looking for a path outside of the church to continue my exploration of faith and religion in my own life.  I was eager to ask the questions of others and learn what I could from their experiences.

Gallup’s polling turned up an obvious decline in church attendance across all major denominations and religions in this country. Every poll he conducted indicated that Americans felt as I did. Organized religion was not meeting their needs. And yet, here we are, decades later still clinging to a concept of religion that no longer seems relevant to our modern mindset.

We have a generation of “unchurched” individuals, my children among them, and a vocal minority who shouts at the top of their lungs in a desperate attempt to fan the flames of a dying mindset. The later does not concern me near as much as the former. I do not despair, however, because spirituality is not dead. It’s just in the process of transformation.

People have not lost interest in exploring the mysteries of life, or of the existence of a power greater than themselves. The exploration is simply being undertaken outside of the traditional framework. The growing numbers of individuals delving into these mysteries do not meet on Sunday mornings, or Friday evenings, or face the East in prayer each day, although some do. These people wrestle with, explore, discuss and struggle with the nature of existence and faith throughout their days wherever they are.

Caroline Myss, teacher, author, medical intuitive, refers to those that she knows as “mystics without a monastery”. They read voraciously. They seek mentors, guides, teachers and attend classes, seminars, lectures, workshops on personal and spiritual matters. They meditate, pray, reflect, and practice their faith with every breath they take. They are supported by their “tribe”. . . those individuals who understand their faith journey and are walking a similar path. Unlike mystics of old, the modern-day mystic is not cloistered away from the world. Instead, they struggle to walk between worlds, with one foot in the world and one outside.

These individuals, speak, write, and teach. They love, listen, and care. They tend to  the suffering of their own hearts and souls and the suffering of the world. They attach to no particular dogma. They belong to no particular church or denomination. They follow the Spirit within and pray without ceasing. They pray for deeper understanding and the ability to live a congruent, whole and compassionate life. They worship no one, no thing. They stand open before the universe in communion with all that is.

Yes, religion is dead. The creative energy of something larger than ourselves is very much alive.

Unraveling Ourselves

Unraveling Ourselves

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work.”

Sue Monk Kidd3c15e6af5a296dd861c2bd8ba93aa29e

There is so much to be done in the unraveling department. The good news is that once true unraveling begins, one starts to feel lighter and lighter. The heavy weight of pain and confusion begins to lift and the challenges one faces are laced with hope. Feeling one’s real and honest identity become interconnected with one’s soul is both energizing and life affirming.

If anyone had told me years ago that I would feel younger, happier and freer at sixty-three than I had ever felt at any other time in my life, I would have been convinced they were smoking something. I lived pretty much most of fifty something years under a black cloud, fighting, struggling, despairing…suffering inside in a way I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I was dedicated and earnest in my pursuit of self-understanding from a very early age. I was drawn to the spiritual life, like a magnet. I understand the human need and desire for a connection with the divine, implicitly. What I didn’t understand was my pain in the world. I didn’t understand how the world and the divine spoke to one another. The divine was speaking, but no one was listening.

Repeatedly throughout my life, I moved toward God and then fell away. I moved toward spiritual teachers and an understanding of an inner life, but when I attempted to carry it into the world I felt frustrated and alone. I did not know how to put words to any of what I knew to be true in a way that would convey to others.

The symbolic language I found and used to describe such things no longer worked in my practical, modern surroundings. I desperately wanted to find a connection between the two. I did not want to leave the world behind and go to a mountain top, although at times I wish I had. It could not have been more painful to be alone with God than it was to be alone in the world.

Now all these years later I’m beginning to see more clearly what happened. A product of my times, I found nowhere to go with my spiritual yearnings. Even seminary was an environment that was decidedly pragmatic in its approach to spirituality. One believed in the fundamentals of the Christian faith, even questioned and discussed them with other believers, but when all was said and done it was understood that the ultimate goal was to bring our faith and belief to others in the context of the church setting. What about bringing it into the world at large? Why must we put it into a box only to be brought out on Sunday morning in a pre-programmed environment? I couldn’t buy into any of it.

To my way of thinking what was always wrong with the “church” was what is still wrong with organized religion. It’s religion in a box. It’s not about spiritual listening and learning and becoming. It’s not about looking for God in the everyday world of board meetings and while making peanut butter sandwiches for your kids. We paid lip service to that, but there really was no support structure for such a lifestyle.  Religious traditions are too small, too narrow, too limiting for what I believe God to be and the spiritual life to require.

When “religion” didn’t answer my questions or satisfy my yearnings I didn’t abandon the Divine that lived in my heart. I just stopped paying attention to her voice. She was still there, calling to me, needling me, tormenting me. I chose instead to turn my back on my soul and sought refuge instead in the psychological realm. Therapy. Medication. Pain. More therapy. More pain.More medication.

I learned much about the human psyche, but it did not help me grow in self-esteem or  value the gift of life, because at my core I remained disconnected from my essential myself, my soul self. I was ignoring that place from which all real self-esteem comes. If we are not listening to our deep, inner voice and hearing the messages and guidance of our soul, we will never find peace. We will never understand who we are or what we have to offer the world. We will never trust that we are valuable, or that we matter, no matter what. No therapist, no religion, no worldly structure  or construct can ever teach us that.