Keep learning

I happen to be teaching a few college courses right now on “Understanding Religion.” I’m still not really sure that’s possible, but we’re working on it.  My favorite part is getting the students to think.  I want them to have that almost shocking moment when they realize that the way they’ve always done “it” (religion, worship, you name it) isn’t the only way.  I want them to experience a different type of religion and recognize that there are many ways to God.  I want them to question everything they’ve ever been taught, even if that is exceedingly uncomfortable.  I want them to believe things not because they’ve been told it’s right, but because they have looked at it from all angles and allowed it to sink into their hearts and know that it is the right path for them.  I want their minds and hearts to be broadened to recognize that there are seekers of God in every tradition and every religion and we can learn from each other.

These all seem like realistic expectations for a college class where learning is the objective, but this is also my expectation of this spiritual community.  We will not grow spiritually unless we engage the process.  Question, search, challenge, study, listen, share… but above all be open to change!  Being comfortable for too long means we aren’t stretching ourselves. And if we don’t stretch ourselves, we don’t grow.  And if we don’t grow, we become stagnant and die (metaphorically speaking).  Honestly, it’s not scary, it’s exciting!  There is so much out there to learn.  And if we relax a little, we find that the new information doesn’t threaten what we know about God, it enhances and broadens it.  It’s truly a beautiful and liberating experience.

Come join us – Sundays at 10 a.m. at Roma Lodge, Racine.

Peace ~ Kaye

 

Finding our inner truth

I wonder if we’ve forgotten how to live by our own inner truth? What inner truth, did you say?  Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten you even have one? I believe our inner truth is that deep, interior soul consciousness that connects us to God, love, compassion, peace and who we were created to be (just to be clear, our inner truth does not ever have to do with hatred, prejudice, anger, guilt, shame or evil). When we remember to live by it, our inner truth will constantly guide us to live true to our highest possible selves.  When we lose track of our inner truth, we become consumed by our egos, by the material world, by what society and religion want us to be and do.

It is highly disturbing to me that Christian religion, as we know it today, generally prefers to give us its truth, rather than guide us to finding God within us and teaching us to trust our intuition, our insights, our inner truth.  Religion, the structure that people (OK, mostly men – sorry guys, it’s true) have designed for us to worship and connect to the Great Mystery, is very fond of telling us exactly what that mystery is like, what we should believe about it, and how we should act if we want to be rewarded by it.  Religion, typically, is not amenable to questioning, challenging and searching.  And, it is even less fond of folks who might actually have a spiritual experience contrary to what it proports to be the Truth.  Hence, it makes it much easier to just tell people what they need to know, that way they don’t have to waste time looking for it!  Makes perfect sense, don’t you think? Sigh.  I get so exasperated with this.

In creating Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community, my hope is that we will learn to be more spiritual than religious.  What I preach on Sunday mornings is not intended to be the end all and be all.  It is intended to spark thought so that we live more consciously and more true to our hearts.  It is intended to open you to experience the divine for yourselves in your own lives.  And everything I say to you on Sunday mornings (and in these blogs) is measured against my own inner truth.  I don’t say this to brag… I’m trying to say that I attempt to get my ego out of the way, so that I do not contradict the God I know as pure, unconditional love energy.

Perhaps as this community goes forward, we will give ourselves permission to let go of the structures, the rules, the laws of what we’ve been taught and live in love in the depths of the inner truth of our soul.

Peace,

Kaye

Is healthy religion an oxymoron?

Walter Kania, in his book Healthy Religion, comments that “Healthy Religion may very well be an oxymoron.” Today, the class I teach at Carthage College explored the concept of healthy religion and wrestled with whether it’s possible, or truly an oxymoron.  In order for religion to be healthy, the class determined that, at the very least, it should be non-judgemental, tolerant, accepting of other religions, open-minded, relevant, ask questions, allow change, help those in need, promote spiritual growth and self-discovery, and be a support system for its members. Plus it should not be exclusive, not impose fear and guilt, not be stagnant or resistant to change, not be legalistic, manipulative or oppressive.  They couldn’t come to consensus about whether this was actually possible or not, but I could tell they really wanted it to be possible!

And, honestly, I really want it to be possible, too.  However, it seems that as a religion becomes institutionalized it runs the risk of quickly growing unhealthy.  Institutions tend to be more concerned with self-preservation than almost anything else.  They don’t want to change too much, lest they make some people angry and lose their monetary support… yes, it very often just comes down to money. Power is a close second.  Heaven forbid they change too much (let women and gays be ordained, for example) they might have to share power, or admit they were wrong for not sharing power in the first place.

As Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community, we are very sensitive to the concepts of healthy and unhealthy religion, and we deeply desire to create a safe, healthy environment for people to grow spiritually.  But how do we do this when even the IRS wants to impose rules, regulations and administrative structure upon us? How do we grow as a spiritual community without getting caught up in the trappings of structure and politics? How do we keep the focus on our vision of an inclusive, progressive community, and not fear risk and change? These are a few of the questions I hope to keep before us as we go forward on this adventure. I’m not sure I have the answers, but I’m well aware of the questions and the challenge before us.  There are many creative, intelligent people in this group and I do believe that if we go forward in love (not fear!), focusing always on our vision, the Spirit will help us find a way.

Constructing, deconstructing and re-constructing

From the time we’re little we begin to construct understandings of how the world operates. When we’re young, we are the center of the universe and everything that exists, exists for us.  Maybe you’ve heard the Toddler’s Creed: “If I want it, it’s mine. If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine. If I can take it away from you, it’s mine…. If it looks just like mine, it is mine.” Eventually we learn that the world is bigger than us (and this is a real shock), so our understanding of the world gets deconstructed and we set about reconstructing it to include the new information.  This happens over and over again – when we go to college, when we get a job, when we enter a committed relationship, when we have kids, and so on.

This pattern also happens in a larger fashion in churches and society. When the scope is greater like this it is sometimes referred to, as author Phyllis Tickle states, as the “consensual illusion“.  It is the “common agreement… among the members of the social unit about how the world works, about how it is to be imaged and thereby understood.” Every so often there are major changes, social advancements, and scientific discoveries that shatter the consensual illusion, thus deconstructing our understanding of how the world works, and forcing us to reconstruct our ideas about the world we live in.  We’ve gone through many of these consensual illusion shattering situations in the last 100 years – the automobile, women voting, World War II, Civil Rights and the Equal Rights Amendment, the information age with all of its new technology, and now gay rights.  Society’s illusions are being shattered faster than they can be reconstructed.

In the midst of it all, the church has its own consensual illusion of how God and the church work in the world.  And, I believe it is possible that the church LEAST appreciates the shattering of its illusion and the need to reconstruct.  Realistically, however, the church can not remain untouched in the midst of society’s changes.  They can try, and some will stubbornly refuse to recognize that their illusion of how the world worked was just that, an illusion.  New paradigms must constantly be constructed so that there isn’t a huge disconnect between how the world works and how God works.  I mean, eventually we had to get over the idea that the world was flat and scientists were evil. Right?

At Sacred Journeys we recognize that we are among the ones reconstructing the “consensual illusion” of church.  And, instead of being scared (because change is scary for some), we’re excited.  As a progressive, inclusive church we are metaphorically proclaiming that the world is not flat, that there is much more out there to discover and we’re hoisting the sails and setting forth.  We are yearning to learn and grow spiritually and theologically, while maintaining or revitalizing some of the traditions we hold most dear, like worship and communion.  Come, join us.  We begin weekly worship this Sunday, September 11, at 10 a.m. at Roma Lodge.  Let’s construct this new vision together.