Okay, so I’m not a religious person by any means, but I truly believe in a spiritual connection between humans, our earth, and this crazy universe in which we live. The tug and the pull to be in a certain section universe or… the push to not be there. I like to write about my faith and my journey to spiritual insight.
I was raised to be a good Christian girl. To be honest, with the torment that was my home growing up, Christianity gave me a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, a set of morals to live by, and a bit of positive direction in my life. I don’t regret my Christian upbringing. I used to look forward to Sunday School, Vacation bible school, and the music; voices lifted up in song is a very powerful form of praise and meditation. There have been many times I have been moved to tears by the power of love that can be felt within a church, most especially a church full of song. It connects us together in a vibrant way that makes you want to belong, makes you want to follow, and worship something.
There is something to be said for the irony and the life analogies that prevail throughout religious history and literature, the bible, the koran, sanskrit, art and music, and how eerie it is that those same or similar guidelines are still being used by humans throughout the world today. The struggles between good and evil, dark and light, are obvious throughout the stories written, and are prevalent on an individual and group basis all around us. The 10 commandments, the story of Job, the crucifixion of Jesus, the betrayal of Judas, the snake in the garden, Jericho, David and Goliath: they are all about teaching us about consequences for our negative actions and overcoming adversity with the help of God.
As a culture, there must have been this moment, thousands of years ago, where people didn’t have specific rules to abide by and government was disrespected due to taxation laws and abuse of power. After all, it’s an ages old controversy about religion and politics going hand in hand. The Gods and idols they were worshiping may have been taking on negative connotations with greed, lust, and constant power struggles. In comes this religion that spreads like wildfire with outrageous stories of strength of will, a little fiction added to keep those stories interesting. This book keeps people from killing each other, teaches others to start showing compassion and love in an imperfect world, and to “live like Jesus” with a forgiving and loving heart. I see nothing wrong with that. Any of that. There are some who have to grip onto something positive in their lives and religion is as good a thing as any when faced with spiritual, emotional, and physical crises. It’s when the church forms a mob-like mentality, looking down on and even hurting those who haven’t embraced their brand of “Jesus” in their hearts instead of spreading a good message, that I have a problem. (I know it seems like I’m picking on Christianity specifically, but really it applies to many religions. I just happen to live in a Christian society.)
As people, we are free to pick and choose how to analyze, study, and live by the principles set forth within that religion, any religion really. This is why we have denominations of Christianity that believe the bible says different things and why these denominations indoctrinate people with a sense of failure if those specific rules aren’t followed. I like to believe each denomination of Christianity is its own book club. That a group of people read the bible, interpreted it a certain way, and said, let’s start a club! Otherwise known as a church. There are so many analogies and applications. Some people apply every word they read of the bible to their waking lives. I don’t believe that a book was supposed to be taken quite so literally. Wars have been fought over the words written in one book. So many lives lost, hatred and intolerance spread, items blessed and idolized hidden away or stolen over and over again… and then hit repeat over the centuries. That book gave our civilization… civility at one point. But that was so many thousands of years ago that it’s like a crazy game of telephone anymore. How are we even in our modern day culture of technological and astrological discovery, education, and awareness of how life works around us, able to look at a book like the bible or any religious manuscript and say, “yeah, the way it’s interpreted for me, right now, is by far 100% right and I’ll never change my mind and I’ll never question or look around for other answers or read another book about religion. Yep. This is the way for me for the next 50 years of life.”? It’s all in the application.
For a long time, I was an avid follower of the church. Which is not the way people within the church should be. I was very concerned for my church family and became close to those who were a part of it. I would drop anything to be there for the people of the church, until my own depression and anxiety made those very same people turn away from me. Many would say my focus was not on Christ, it was on being accepted into a fold. And that would be true because I really didn’t understand what the difference between religion (the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods) and spirituality (which lacks a definitive definition or explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirituality) . It wasn’t until I left the church that I took the time to understand my own individual spirituality, what religion means to me, and what all of THIS means. Struggle has purpose if only to make me think.
We as humans are imperfect and that is the message any religion teaches us. There is a perfection in our imperfection though. That much will never change. To strive for someone else’s idea of perfection is idiocy. You’ll constantly be trying to become something you simply are not. To strive for personal happiness, peace, and a sense of fulfillment and confidence in the individual you are is much more important. If it can be found within a church (or temple or other place of worship) for you, I say go for it. Embrace the love of like minded people around you. Just don’t forget that a whole world of people, each of which feels their opinion is the one right way, exists around you as well.
For me, it’s not that I’ve turned from Christ. I’ve just accepted that there is more than one way to have a good, peaceful, loving life. I still have that powerful message within my heart from the day that I received “salvation”. I understood then and I understand now that it’s more about a promise being kept to yourself to do better, be better, forgive more, and love each other with compassion and joy. That spirit is very alive within me and I try my best to put that out into the world. I’ve just seen too much, I’ve studied and prayed, meditated, and read too much to believe that it’s a change that one God miraculously makes within a person. It has to be a choice, and a person has to be accountable to themselves at the end of the day for their actions. Love is universal. Buddha taught love, Jesus taught love, Lao Tzu taught love, even Muhammad taught it (that’s another religion where the followers can be half cracked with their devotion… but I’m not going there). If following and studying a guidebook such as the bible gets you there, to that place of peace and love, that’s wonderful. Just never stop questioning, never stop learning, never stop growing in your own quest to find your inner peace. It’s not about the opinions of the others around you. Your beliefs are yours and one of the few things nobody can take away from you unless you let them. But being open to other ideologies and theories is a part of the growth of humanity.
Be curious. Namaste.
http://www.biblegateway.com/ (just in case you need a dose of Jesus)
Disclaimer: Just because you find inner peace does not mean it’s always there. Sometimes it gets lost and has to be found again. This is true of humanity, not religious principles. It’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. You’ll find it again.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/takeandread/2012/05/what-do-jesus-buddha-krishna-lao-tzu-have-in-common-a-qa-with-richard-hooper/ (fantastic article… this book is next on my must reads… kind of what I’m trying to say!)
Photo of the day:
And up the creaky steps she walked, not knowing what’s in store.
Up ahead the light, warm,inviting, a few steps more.
Not every light is good and not every tunnel is made of stone
Sometimes that light can make you seem so completely and utterly alone.
But courage prevails and up the steps she continued her climb
Knowing that we’re given a precious gift of a limited amount of time.
Not knowing if it were possible, she took the final step
Revealing a slew of mysteries her heart had somehow kept.