I feel bad for the word, frankly. It’s become such a dirty word, a creepy complex, instant joy kill. Many people (in whose company I much enjoy) prefer to wear the “spiritual not religious” name tag at social gatherings. And I can understand why they want to distance themselves from the trappings of the “r” word. It’s like hoping your abusive x-boy friend will give you everything you’ve ever dreamed of and more.
Many of us have been hurt by organized religion. When religion isn’t meaningful, if the symbols no longer function, it dies. (Thus my entry on Good Friday.) Many of us have already gotten over that heart break and are not about to pick the scab off.
Nietzsche said God was dead. But I want to argue otherwise: Maybe it is the stench of religion that has not yet come out of the tomb. Christianity is dying in America, despite the fact that most people still confess to believe in God or some Higher Power and are still interested in cultivating a meaningful life and putting their gifts of service into practice in the world.
If our daily and weekly practices–whatever they are–have become merely rituals void of transformation–or worse–kept us living in a grave or from making any connection to the numinous (this could include a bad job or a bad relationship), if our lifestyles leave us lifeless and loveless, if guilt and obligation are all we are getting out of it, then maybe God is not dead after all. Maybe She’s just opening a farmer’s market down the road but we much prefer our old couch and our diet of frozen microwavables.
After the pity party, I decided not to buy my religion at Wal-Mart anymore. I didn’t want the easy cheap grace. I wanted something of quality and substance that didn’t make a profit off of abusing people within the organization. So I went local, homegrown, organic.
And the strangest thing happened. I fell in love with religion again. I didn’t recognize her at first. (I had accidentally once mistaken her for a TV evangelist with too much make up.) She was so much more down to earth. She led me to ancient practices and taught me new ones. She became the hand made set of garden tools decorated by my children. The mocha colored mud boots made of recycled materials. She’s my favorite overalls, the old button up blue jean shirt. Religion is the paisley gloves I put on to tend my spiritual garden so my dreams are not left at the cocktail party, but planted in my skin, in my heart and in the world.
Maybe church helps you do this or temple or mosque or yoga studio. Maybe none of these do. I hope you find something that does. For the human journey is one of meaning making. Spirit and flesh co-mingling, co-creating. Religion is simply the practices in our lives that help us connect to the Divine.
Sometimes other people can give us their spiritual tools and they work for us. Sometimes we have to make our own. Because our dreams belong in the world. And when we are dreaming God’s dreams, not even death can stop the beautiful bloom.
So let me try that “r” word again. Religion. Your earthy garden garb. Your greenhouse. Your sacred texts. Your yoga mat. Your confession. Your meditation. Your morning cup of Joe. Your night time bubble bath. Whatever it is that makes you grow.
I’d love to hear how you are currently connecting with the Divine in your life. And what you think about the “r” word.