July 3, 2013
The difference between the study of theology and the foundations of Christianity are not the same as walking as a Christian. Some would argue.
The spiritual journey is one without limits. I would argue that humans have an inherent desire to move beyond the hum drum of every day life, and travel to a place within that moves beyond the scope of their existing reality. Couldn’t it be argued this is what lies at the core of every person who struggles with the desire for more drugs or alcohol than is healthy? Isn’t it the experience they crave, the feeling they’re ultimately after? One in which their senses are heightened, the tape that runs on a loop in their mind shuts off and the pressure is alleviated, the load is lightened while they’re able to reach and move beyond themselves?
I’d also argue the advent of television slowed down the progression of spiritual journeying, and in some cases brought it to a complete halt, among many who traditionally had followed some form of religion. This is particularly true of Christianity, the dominant religion of the developed world in the last century. Television brought distraction and a form of escape to families without the need to leave home. Ultimately, however, it led to isolation. Like a perfect storm, this generation also began to see the advent of women working outside the home, until both parents working outside the home in most countries. This generation of children was raised watching television, often acting as babysitters, and later computers and social media became the primary form of escape or distraction. There are countless advantages to this new technology, but connection isn’t one of them. Over the last three decades, human connection has suffered greatly.
Most people would argue computers are to blame for people no longer living in community, but there is a strong argument for pointing the finger at air conditioning too. Before air conditioning, people gathered on their front stoop, front lawn, or around town on hot summer evenings. Kids played stickball and softball in the street. Community happened organically outside the home in an attempt to escape the heat inside. When air conditioning and television almost simultaneously made their appearance, people quickly took the path of least resistance, and sequestered themselves inside, where it was much more comfortable. Soon after, a significant rise in prescription drug use made the front page. Sedatives, and other mood enhancing drugs took center stage as coping mechanisms, and church attendance began to dwindle. This didn’t happen overnight, and most didn’t give it a second thought or see the connections between things.
A church service couldn’t compete for the excitement of a weekly drama, while cultural expectations changed. Suddenly we were entertained around the clock, and sitting through a preacher’s sermon paled in comparison. Not to mention, the limited time families had to spend together when both parents worked. Sunday mornings fast became cherished and coveted time together. Who could blame them?
For many families, Sunday mornings are the most intimate time together, barring a tragedy or special celebration. Saturday mornings are typically reserved for grocery shopping, sports practice or games, music lessons, or the family outing. Saturday nights are often a time for fun or relaxation with friends and family. Life has become increasingly fast paced, demanding a hyper focused and goal-oriented approach simply to make it through each week. Sunday mornings are for making mom breakfast in bed, snuggling with the kids, leisurely reading the paper - a rare time allowing a family or an individual to just be.
This kind of time has turned into the most sacred time of all.
It’s all relative.
What we deem as sacred - or at least what we experience as sacred changed. It stands to reason too. One definition of Sacred, as defined by Webster is “worthy of or regarded with reverence, awe, or respect.” The contrast of the weekly grind and life’s pressures to this simple and intimate time on a Sunday morning with those we love most, earned Sunday morning as a family it’s place as sacred. It is treasured time and it’s interruption is not done lightly. In addition, the stress getting a family dressed and out the door to sit in church for an hour is not particularly tempting.
It also begs the question, did the experience and definition of sacred change?
Of course, we cannot blame lack of interest in religion solely on a changing culture. There is more to it than that. If people continued to maintain a faith in a power greater than themselves, while holding a reverence for the subject of their spiritual focus to the point of considering it holy, nothing would hold them back from joining with others on a Sunday morning to worship. There are many who do. They tend to be those who, either, a) have maintained the habit for many years, b) it’s their primary social structure, c) are fundamentalists.
The habit of a spiritual practice over time became mundane and empty in traditional churches, making it an easy target for abandonment. The service was predictable and didn’t touch people in a meaningful way. The content was lofty, the rituals overly repetitive, and the collective reciting of creeds lost their meaning as they were repeated time and time again. Empty words were a self fulfilling prophecy resulting in empty people. Not to mention that people felt like lemmings, or cult members in a George Orwell novel as they read responsively to things they no longer related to or understood very well. Simultaneously, the culture had
Religion and beliefs of a spiritual nature stepped aside to make room for increasing scientific data and rational thought. Traditional religion didn’t step up to engage the culture as it changed. Over time, the experience of awe, reverence, and wonder at the mystery that surrounds us dissolved, for the most part, as excitement grew over scientific discoveries and an ongoing quest for knowledge.
As ______ once said, this could be good and it could be bad.
This slow dissolution of connection to a spiritual belief system resulted in polarization. The general public began to simply forget about religion. They replaced it with a myriad of things that were more tantalizing and provided a more immediate gratification. This absence of moderate believers resulted in something unexpected. At least to most people. It caused the formation of two extremes, atheists and fundamentalists.
Some interpret the increasing bank of scientific knowledge as reason to dismiss the idea of a spiritual reality, but there are also those whose faith and spiritual curiosity deepen (or strengthens) as the complex pool of knowledge unfolds. The more we see the connections between things, the more it stirs up awe, wonder, and reverence for the system we inhabit. I’m of the opinion there is just as strong a case for a power greater than ourselves as those who think explaining something with science proves the non-existence of God.
I’ve had a recent spiritual awakening of sorts. It is not related to the born again movement or a particular strain of religion. It is within, and it is refreshment to my soul.
I’ve lived in Idaho for the last twenty five years, but prior to this lived in Manhattan and on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. My friends and colleagues were, for the most part, a balanced blend of conservatives and liberals. Most of us, as urbanites, attended our charity fundraisers devotedly and always wrote a check to the Sierra Club or any other ‘cause’ to save the planet when they knocked at the door. I didn’t label myself an environmentalist exactly - I would describe myself any ordinary concerned citizen, akin to most who lived and worked in the neighborhoods I lived in.
Tell the HM story...cows, paradigms, and saving the planet.
This experience turned my world upside down. It was one of the most profound experiences in my life to date, mainly because it shattered long held assumptions that shaped how I saw the world. From this point forward, my worldview was unencumbered, for the most part, from being attached to the idea of something being true or right - even if it was my preference or opinion. This included the existence of God. It also gave me the precious gift of believing anything I believed could be false or wrong too. This was freeing!
Making a decision for or against a belief of any kind can be a compelling, exciting, and daring experience, but it can also be a highly destructive one. Why would we become deeply attached to any idea when we live in a powerfully complex and dynamic universe? Nothing stays the same. Not even matter. The Third Law of Thermodynamics kindly reminds us that matter cannot be created or destroyed, but it can most definitely change it’s shape and structure.
(Personally this makes me think of church. Certain aspects of church don’t change, but the structure and shape can certainly be rearranged ;)
The Laws of Churchdynamics.
Luther or some famous theologian said, (quote about each generation must hear the message anew/fresh)
In this day and age of massive influx of information, we can easily build a case for or against God. Quite frankly, it would be easier to build a case for the non existence of God to be honest. This is what compels me to build a case for God. I’ve always rooted for the underdog.
Atheism has grown to new heights, with the last count at __% worldwide, 67% in the United States - a nation typically majority Christian. Atheism seems too easy. It is easy to imagine surrendering to the idea of no God, and moving on. It would be so clean. I would then explain all my experiences of wonder as wonder-ful, and that would be that.
How depressing. Seriously.
The low hanging fruit for the argument of no God is a no brainer. We can’t prove God.
But the opposite position would conclude we cannot prove God does not exist.
We cannot explain what’s in a hydrogen atom.
We do not know what happened at the moment the green cell emerged out of the toxic stew.
We don’t know why we feel so ecstatic when we love someone.
And if we did know, wouldn’t that be a strong case for the intelligence of a higher being? Would it explain how it all occurred? I don’t think so.
The idea that God cannot be grasped appeals to me. That there is so much yet to learn in our universe excites me. Realizing there is a limit to how much we know and understand thrills me. The massive mystery that lies in our collective energy awes me. What I hear when there is no sound quickens me. The idea that I could be right or wrong about anything I imagine - no matter how absurd - is incredible! Imagine that!
How could be NOT believe the idea there is something more beyond our wildest dreams? Cow, paradigms, and the planet taught me that nothing is impossible, and it might be lying right underneath my nose - in plain sight! I believe this is so possible, in fact, that I hold out hope for mankind and the planet.
There are many examples -- get examples....here. Of paradigm breakers. Try on being wrong..Schultz TED talk.
The Key - Opening Your Heart to GoodKindness and Holiness.
Holy Spirit On Pouring.
Missions and Works.
Not many respond to a top down or authoritarian approach.
Tell the story of the vision quest, drumming in caves and feeling/believing I would be released into the air like a helium filled balloon, and the tent in Harlem. Most powerful of all.
Or of touching darkness. And deep breathing of living dark and light almost simultaneously, and getting the duality of it all.
These realities of duality are real, and the power of imagery suggests there is something that speaks to us in regards to it. why, then, is it also not possible that we are living in more than one reality, perhaps? Or we do know these things on one level but because our conscious mind cannot process it, we cannot see it. Just like we literally won’t recognize something if it does not fit within our understanding. We cannot piece it together...just like reading if the letters make no sense. We would not even recognize them as letters or symbols because letters and symbols would have no meaning to us.
Without the willingness to reach deeper experientially and explore the reverent, the holy, the sacred, we are allowing a vital and creative force of humanity to slip away in exchange for meaningless distraction. This profound practice of story, ritual, reaching higher in our consciousness, and creative thought has a place in our human story...and if it’s a component of our humanity that we simply don’t fully understand, why would we let it go to be replaced by the more robotic and rational? Wouldn’t we eventually evolve into robotic creatures, unfeeling and no longer as multi-sensory as we once were? Isn’t that a risk we might be taking without realizing it?
Why are we expected in Christianity to accept Jesus into our heart and this will resolve our faith? Why don’t we have to work harder for it? It seems to me that a door to a faith that allows for a rite of passage is fitting. One in which the rituals, and rites take us there. This Christianity allows us to walk in footsteps and apprentice in a sense...while facing rough seas, crucifixions, betrayals, and transformations.It is a deepening of the life experience, while drawing us closer to the divine. The divine that cannot be known, and ties all of life together into one. The center of complexity, the air in our collective breath.
July 4, 2013
The popularity of many different paths over the last two or three decades begs the question, what is their appeal that differs from Christianity? To some, this may seem like a stupid question with an obvious answer, but let’s explore it more.
I’m one of those who traveled these many paths along the way. I never felt I was abandoning Christianity or Jesus, however. They just came along. It’s true that I didn’t have them in my mind’s eye at every turn, but there was always an awareness of their presence at my core. Whether this is simply an indoctrination since childhood, or a genuine and grounded faith that consciously has taken up residence within, I can’t say for sure. What I knew for sure is it was just there. It was there like my love for people and my curiosity. Just part of the package I’d say.
Throughout all these years, I was deeply disturbed when each choice I’d make towards something new, or - I’d get the ‘look’ from my Christian friends. I’m not sure anything bothered me more than the look. And the questions that followed. Their ‘genuine concern’ followed by a list of reasons I might be opening myself up to Satan, evil, and an even longer list of why it was wrong and not Christian.
Now, how in the world did God become so small? This all seemed a bit silly to me, but mostly it just felt hurtful and alienating. Being born with an adventurous spirit was always something I was grateful for, so blessed to have the desire, courage, guts to go all out in life...to a point anyway. I didn’t do the bungee cord thing off a bridge. Adventurous, not stupid. They’re different.
It always seemed to me that discernment regarding good and evil was something inherent. It lived within, in your intuitive center. All of a sudden, people who I cared about were so small minded that anything outside of the Bible was evil. How could this be possible?
In time, there was little I could relate to when I attended Christian gatherings. There was an ongoing sense of judgment and shame each time I shared what was happening in my life - and most of the time, this did not include something as ‘far out’ as being a shaman’s apprentice. I am aware, of course, that Jesus referred to astrologers and other spiritual teachers as ____, but there was a difference between learning about other practices and following them. I didn’t worship my astrologer, but it was curious in a ‘isn’t that weird’ kind of way. And if the moon could control the tides and which day I got my period, why couldn’t the stars also have a role to play? To me, it was all part of the grand design and even before I knew a thing about systems thinking, I was convinced there was a connection between things on this great earth of ours.
The other aspect of this judgement within the insular Christian world was the way in which people had stopped trusting their own hearts and discernment, as it related to anything outside Christian walls. Even Alcoholics Anonymous was described as a threat to a Christian. Were they suggesting that it was better for someone to continue to drink than to get sober? How could they not see their own smallness, and how limiting it was to Christianity as a whole? I think this is where I drew the line, and no longer participated with my full heart.
Luckily, for me, I’d been given the gift of discernment as it related to good and evil...and if it wasn’t discernment, it was surely intuition or maybe even a word from God. This was to serve me well later in life, and it served me well at this juncture as well. Participating with friends in the 12 step community opened my eyes to what was possible when people came together for their mutual greater good, sharing a common purpose, and were given permission to grow as individuals, both spiritually and emotionally at their own pace while making their own decisions regarding their spiritual path. I’ve often wondered how it might’ve turned out if the church was inviting and receptive to those with new sobriety, and a new lease on life...instead of judging and shaming them. Their reason was the 2nd and 3rd steps of AA state, “Came to believe a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity,” and “Became willing to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him.” This was the reason for judgment - it gave individuals the choice to determine their own understanding of God, which was interpreted as having other Gods. In one sense this was true, but not from the perspective they were seeing it. It’s the exact reason attendance at churches have been dwindling for decades.
They were not willing to meet people where they are.
When told AA was a dangerous place that was bad for a Christian, I had to weigh my own experience. It was a no brainer. I had a great deal of clarity - at least to the best of my ability - that my Christian faith and walk were already a part of me. I was also aware of how much I received from participating in this authentic, transparent, responsible, accountable, self aware and effective group. It quickly became my church. It had all the attributes I thought church should have. Twice, in the coming years, God put me face to face with similar decisions - making a decision about having a child alone, and when local environmentalists were working hard to remove ranchers from the land. This also occurred in social media with friends who sparred during political conversations. These experiences grew me from the inside out, showing me what I was made of. I always thanked God for that. Surely I couldn’t have done it alone.
To assume that someone who is just beginning to get a sense of themselves, and are willing to stop consuming their drug of choice, is ready or even interested in being told what to believe in regards to their higher power is, quite bluntly, arrogant. And it would have backfired. Humans are not wired that way.
AA is an outgrowth of a Christian movement in the 1930’s called The Oxford Group, and it worked. It’s founders, Dr. Bob and Bill Wilson knew that telling a bunch of drunks that they had to get religion PLUS give up their beloved alcohol would never work. The first slogan of AA is One Step At A Time. This applies to God too. But I think there is so much more here than meets the eye.
Faith in a power greater than ourselves is a complex and daunting task. Coming to a decision about something so unknowable is not one does lightly. Plus should it be a cognitive, rational decision? Or should it be an natural and organic awareness that happens over time to someone as the result of their practice? Is it something that can ever be fully committed to and understood, if one acknowledges the doubt that accompanies something so conceptual?
I was a Shaman apprentice for two years. 20-30 twenty to forty-somethings gathered a few times a year to study, learn, and experience the way of the Shaman together. We met in the mountains of North Carolina, on the desert of southern California, high in the backcountry of the Grand Tetons, and deep in the Canyonlands of Utah. These were extraordinary and powerful experiences, ones I wouldn’t trade for the world.
The practice of gatherings is as ancient as time itself, primarily tribal gatherings. These gatherings had all the characteristics of a tribal community other than we lived vast distances apart. Tribal gatherings tended to be localized regionally, (research question: did tribes from across the US ever gather in one place prior to political involvement?) The group was comprised of some urbanites, Californians and North Carolinians, and some from the central Idaho mountains.At the time, I lived in Washington DC. Our shaman teacher was a not native American. He and his wife wrote and led groups in the experiential practices of shaman life. I was a novice with no intention of studying this as a discipline. I was there to experience something new, and learn. It never occurred to me it was a threat to my Christian foundation, or would influence me in any way to threaten that aspect of my development.
We generally had a base camp where everyone set up their individual tents, our camp kitchen was stationed, and outhouses were within walking distance. Over the next week to ten days, we would leave base camp for various activities. These included drumming sessions, 2-3 day hikes into the deep of the canyons, or high into the mountains, depending on the location and terrain. Some spent 2-3 days alone doing a vision quest. This was not an experience for the lighthearted. I worked out/trained for months prior to these gatherings, particularly for the Wyoming location where we carried heavy packs and climbed miles to the top of the Tetons. It was a remarkable sight and climb, especially at 10,000 feet! (Check altitude of mountains above Jenny Lake)
Having spent most of my life in New York City, Washington DC, and many summers in Norway, I had almost no familiarity with open sky country and extreme wilderness such as this. These encounters would change how I experienced life, while changing the course of my life’s path in ways I could never have anticipated. This experience confirmed God is in all things.
My son was two and three years old during this period. I was a new mother which brought another dimension to the entire chapter. The three years prior had been challenging ones, in which I had to find and draw from strength I didn’t know I had. It was a time of exploring aspects of life that lied far outside my comfort zone, and challenged me from deep within. I knew this was a time to participate in life this way because getting through the pregnancy and
This is all leading to the idea that the doors that lead to a higher power and a spiritual center are many, and if Christianity is a door you find appealing because of it’s bigness in nature, it’s transcendent quality, mystical nature, reverence, and depth in matters of the sacred and reverent, but the people and what it has become has turned you off, perhaps you should take a second look. There is something afoot...and it may be right up your alley.
Chapter on - What if the story changed? What if some in the same room believe it’s literal and some don’t? Is that a deal breaker? Can one person believe it’s true, while another be in love with the idea of it and devoted to this ideal even though not convinced it’s real and these two still worship and grow spiritually together?
I believe they can. I don’t see any difference as long as both people are willing to thrown themselves into being spiritually alive. Each, over time, will have their own experiences of God and the nature of their spiritual walk. Each one, if living it with conviction and an honest heart, will they land in similar places?
God was there all along the way and I knew it. It didn’t change my desire to expand my consciousness or learn more.
(How are the scriptures really any different than stumbling across documents from a channeler and forming a religion from it, or Joseph Smith’s documents? How is it different? Just because we believe it’s true? I do..I think. :)
Are you one of those people who thinks they love God, even though you’re not sure God exists?
You think of yourself as a Christian, but don’t like getting it shoved down your throat?
Are you so not bible studies and potlucks? Do you feel Stepford wife’d at churches?
Ever feel like Christians have their own language, and it’s not one you relate to?
Do you appreciate a more raw experience, a more authentic and gritty one?
Are you the type who’d rather get down and dig in the dirt, than arrange the centerpiece?
If this describes you, we are the place. Come find out what we’re doing a couple of Friday nights each month. It’s called Sacred Space, and we’d love for you to join us. We think you’ll find you haven’t been to anything quite like this before....and you’ll be glad you came.
It’s a place we explore our relationship to our faith (spiritual journey) and each other. We’ll go down an experiential path of our life’s spiritual journey that we bet you haven’t traveled on much. We sure hadn’t. Whether you consider yourself spiritual, but not religious; a free spirit; Catholic, Jewish, or Methodist, we think you’ll relate to what we’re doing and feel you fit right in. This is an all-out love-fest for seekers to explore the different sides of their spiritual personality. There are no altar calls, no conversions, no political talk, no dumbing down. Just straight talk and a commitment to living in the questions.
We’re pretty sure people will be wondering what we’re up to,
but we figure what they think of us is none of our business.