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.