Embrace the values
To which the symbols point us.
Don’t confuse the two.
Embrace the values
To which the symbols point us.
Don’t confuse the two.
No faiths are “from God;”
Yet in them She may be found
For She dwells in all.
It’s not that I’ve left faith behind
I’ve simply cleared my space to find
That I’ve no room for doctrine’s press
Or creeds that cause my mind to stress
‘Bout whether I belong or not
I can’t abide that kind of thought
To me the Spirit’s ever-near
To anyone with ears to hear
Without regard to mosque or mountain
Church or temple, Spirit’s fountain
Waters any willing ground
In whom desire for truth is found
Even those that don’t believe
Can the blessedness receive
God only needs a gentle heart
Willing to do its own part
To make this world a better place
Regardless of the worship space
Now there are those who’d call me lost
A heathen, desperate doubter tossed
Among the waves of modern times
Dressing heresy in rhymes
And that’s just fine, think what you might
I’m only trying to spread light
And love and life as I know how
The rest just doesn’t matter now
But I must say before I go
God’s more than what we think we know.
Much better this whole world would be
If everyone were just like me!
Why can’t the scattered masses see
That I alone possess the key?
It cannot be that there is space
That there is peace, that there is grace
Enough for all just as they are
For everybody, near and far
I must be right, it must be true
If it’s for me, then it’s for you
For if we all can coexist
I can’t on my own way insist
That’s why I can’t let difference go
Truth be told, it scares me so.
So normally, I’d advocate for voting according to one’s religious values. Recently, though, I have been making a distinction between voting with love and compassion as opposed to “this or that” spiritual inclination. As I’ve reflected on this change, here’s the reason that came to me:
Theocracies are always oppressive.
Whether Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or any other historically theocratic society, governments based on religious principles always fail their people. At best, the majority of citizens fall under the correct religious umbrella and a minority are persecuted. At worst you have the Taliban, who don’t care about religion so much as control with a religious flavor.
The United States was established by mostly Christian/Deist men. This should not be confused with the idea that the U.S. was supposed to be a Christian nation. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have protections of varied religious practices and protection against the establishment of a state religion.
I bring this up because I realized more explicitly that there is something very unspiritual about voting for a government that would force one’s spirituality on other people. Both liberals and conservatives do this, and it is quite unnerving.
Anti-abortion advocates are heavily driven by religious ideology, usually Christian. The same goes for those who are pro and anti-marriage equality or immigration reform.To force such views on each other via the vote is actually one of the most un-American, unconstitutional, and unkind things we could ever do.
Our nation was designed with a secular bent, not because the founders thought religion was stupid or going away, but because they recognized the danger in government enforcement of religious doctrine. The citizens of this country were expected to vote according to secular principles, using education, reason, and logic to make national decisions. While I would and compassion and neighborly love to this list, I otherwise agree wholeheartedly with this approach.
Now we only vote every four years in terms of the presidency, but how often do we judge or criticize others because they don’t adhere to our religious or spiritual values? Far too often, I’d say. This is, in and of itself, an unspiritual, impious tendency that needs to be eliminated. The world is too big and too diverse for one religious clan or the other to go around constantly bitching at each other, as it only results in violence, whether physical or ideological.
Now I am a Quaker. I have principles that I will adhere to in my everyday life, and those principles may get me into conflict. I, however, should not attempt to shape the rest of the world according to my views. I should simply act in accordance with the principles of Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality; the rest will work itself out.
If we were more focused on individually living our own spiritualities rather than trying to force others to do so, this world might be a better place. So I have made a vow to try and do just that. I pray you’ll join me so that maybe this country can fully become the diverse, beneficial, and tolerant nation it was designed to be.
Peace be with you!
When I was a minister in an institutional church, I was shocked at how often God seemed to only “call to ministry” those who were willing to sign off on what the institution proclaimed.
It was remarkably consistent.
God must REALLY like what the Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Pentacostals, and Presbyterians have to say… even though they all disagree on rather important points.
Those groups use the idea of being “called” to keep the institution propped up.
Now, I have friends who are ministers and feel God led them to that place. I don’t have any problem with that. Everyone’s relationship with God is different.
But that’s the point.
It appears that we all have our own understanding of and relationship with God. Yet most institutions would have us believe there is some standard for what actually constitutes a legitimate relationship, and (SURPRISE) it’s their way.
I understand that a person’s theology and relationship with God should be expressed communally. In community, we can challenge and edify one another, preventing any more “Jonestown” situations. A blend of private and social religion is best for the common good.
A problem arises, however, when a person feels moved by God to act on their faith in a positive way only to be shut down by a group of self-proclaimed “gate keepers.” All of us are created of God, the Light abides in us all, and every single one of us is gifted with the authority to pursue whatever path will lead us to better loving God, ourselves, and our neighbors. This path can be discerned with help from our leaders, but they don’t have any right or “special connection” that allows them to dictate your experience of God. Behind every collar, robe, pulipt, or altar is a human that answered the right set of questions correctly. They may be wise and helpful… or not.
The truth is we are all equal, and we are all stumbling this path together.
You have power. You have agency. Your thoughts, voice, and experiences matter. Remember that, and relentlessly pursue whatever it is God has placed in your heart.
If a path leads you to love God, love yourself, and love others, it is worthwhile. So let’s get busy, as all of us are indeed “called.”
Peace be with you!
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” — Exodus 3:14, RSV
You know “the rules.” Don’t talk politics. Don’t talk religion. Don’t talk sport (for some of us). For someone like me, though, these rules suck. I am bad at small talk. I don’t care what the weather is like or who won the high school football game on Friday. I want to know what you think about important stuff. I would also like to be able to share how I feel about said important stuff, and introverts like me are crippled by such nonsensical regulation.
Anyway, there is a very serious reason I want to discuss these rules, especially the idea of not discussing religion. First of all, I understand. We are passionate about the things we believe, and any perceived criticism can come across as criticism of us if one is not careful. With that said, there is a word for the inability to discuss religion and spirituality.
“You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them…”
We all know of the obvious, surface-level implication of this teaching. Don’t carve and worship rocks or pieces of wood and call it “God.” Looking deeper, though, we find why our inability to lovingly and civilly discuss our faith with those who are different might be a violation of God’s instruction.
When discussing religion, we get angry. Why? Because our beliefs about God are being challenged. Notice what I said. Our beliefs about God are being challenged. God is not being challenged, only how we perceive Him.
God is a big Deity. He can take care of Himself.
God can also be a She. God can be whatever God wants to be, and He says as much in Exodus 3, remember? I use a masculine rendering for God because it is what I am used to, but I know I shouldn’t fly off the handle when someone discusses God in feminine terms, because, ultimately, what do I know?
Likewise, when we find ourselves being challenged on the topic of religion, and when we find ourselves interacting on a basis other than love and mutual respect, we are guilty of letting our images of God get in the way of treating our neighbor in the manner God asks of us. For all we know, God could have a powerful lesson waiting for us in the midst of a difficult conversation, and we could be spitting on it by being too enamored with our own ideas to be silent and listen.
This same teaching holds true for any of our “causes for stumbling.” Many can’t talk politics because their ideas have become idols that cannot be challenged, and that is not okay. We have become a society that cannot communicate because our own perceptions have become our gods. We cannot act righteously because we carry our idols with us everywhere we go, and we will do anything to keep them sacred.
My prayer for all of us is that we can set down our idols and turn to the One Who Is. In doing so, our hearts will become open and we can finally talk about the things that really matter. We should be talking about our beliefs, our thoughts, our feelings, and our concerns. We should be listening respectfully and carefully to perceptions of others, and we should all be looking for a way forward together.