I have fallen deeply in love with the term “religion” even though for many it is problematic. Many of the things we religious folk have done in the name of our goddesses and gods are terrifying to confess. “Spirituality” has become a term my friends are now using to reframe the conversation. For them this term sings of something mysterious and transcendent. It’s the word many are using to describe the really Real and yet really hard to explain. I like what they’re doing but must confess, I’m head over heals for religion.
I understand religion to be what binds us together – it is rooted in the communal activity of a people organizing around a shared vision through ritual and narrative. Religion is at it’s best when working for the common good of the entire living organism that we are, the entire Earth. Religion also becomes the institution that helps me think beyond myself. My participation in a community of codependent people brings challenge and adventure to my life. Religion reminds me that I cannot do life alone and that life is done best alongside others. When I’m anxious about a work project or tired of protesting the same old problems, I need lots of shoulders to cry on. After all, it’s often the faith of my best friend Morgan that gets me through the day.
Religion is hard work – following Jesus’ hospitable spirit has been quite the difficult task for me. In the moments I do manage to listen and engage the spirit of religion I so admire I have gained a vibrant passion for life. The Christian religious tradition has taught me that this path of listening entails movement from self-centeredness to Cosmic-wholeness. I have learned to value the worth and dignity of our entire species and have also come to understand our historical location as one of great significance as our species is on the verge of extinction. The ecological crisis is of ultimate religious concern.
My religious community has certainly grown since I have studied here at the Claremont School of Theology. The boundaries of my Christian religious identity have liquefied into an increasingly complex interconnection between “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, and whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8). I have learned to find truth in all sorts of places, especially when I’m not the one doing all the talking but when I’m listening to the world around me. It’s like when Jesus says, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” or as Ram Dass once said, “When you know how to listen everybody is the guru.”
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, humor, pain, suffering, guilt, shame – they are all a part of this religious path, they are all a part of the process, they are all welcome at the Table. May we have ears to hear and feet that follow!