Christian denominations are zombies!
Actually, I felt compelled to realize that denominations were dead over 20 years ago.
On a practical level, denominational labels are essentially meaningless.
On a cultural level, there are more differences within denominations than without...views on homosexuality and gay marriage are a good example. And doctrinal distinctions about modes of baptism and communion are outdated and irrelevant to most people. Indeed, denominations represent non-issues to our contemporary society, which is the prime reason they are the walking dead! (Personally, I had felt the denominations would be dead and buried long before now, but "survivors" have not figured out how to divide up the assets.)
In 1998, when I left the pastorate of First Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virgina, to escape the Southern Baptist "wars" and moved to Bennington Vermont, I joined a Congregational (UCC) church. After learning of my history, a "northern" (American) Baptist minister asked me, "What side were you on?" Without thinking, I responded, "I always thought I was on Jesus' side!"
Returning to Virginia in 2003, I participated in a Presbyterian church, and when we relocated to Raleigh in 2010, I embraced my liberal side and joined a Unitarian Universalist fellowship to celebrate their theological openness. But I soon learned that most members were neither "Unitarian" nor "Universalist."
More and more, I became disaffected with all denominational labels and came to embrace the SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) position by default. And that led me to see myself as a "NONE" -- what the religious sociologists call those who claim no religious affiliation. But living with those labels of SBNR and NONE was just as frustrating to me as the denominational labels.
As I have continued on my spiritual journey, I have become drawn to those who are promoting what is known as "interspirtuality" -- such as Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Interspirituality recognizes that we all see things from our own unique perspective, and can learn from each other, without feeling the need to convert. In discussions with Janice (my life partner) we have come to choose the label "SOME" to describe ourselves, as we feel drawn to parts of many different spiritual traditions, but do not feel the necessity of embracing any in particular. We can identify with "SOME" of this one (e.g. Judaism) and "SOME" of thatone (e.g. Zen.) And I have come to ralize that this is exactly what I was doing when I started this blog, "Patchwork Quilt Spirituality." Yes, I "cherry-pick" SOME of what I want to accept and ignore the rest -- but isn't that what most of us do in reality?
I am not a NONE...I am a SOME!
PS: Janice has suggested that SOME could stand for "Sacred Oneness Manifests Everywhere.
Saturday, January 18, 2014
A brief conversation on a recent TV program caught my attention.
A middle aged lady was describing her tennis prowess as a young teenager.
She won enough chanpionships that by age 15 she considered turning pro.
Her friend then asked: "What happened?" and she simply responded: "Life! Life happened."
Enough said for those of us with much life experience..."life is what happens while you're making other plans!"
Transitions in our life happen constantly. We move from sunrise to sunset every day.
But sometimes a life change event can be so overwhelming that we feel devastated.
In Falling Upward, Richard Rohr says a crisis "can be devastating. The crisis undoes you... it washes out your spiritual life. What you thought you knew about living the spiritual life no longer suffices for the life you are living."
Sooner or later, "life happens!" and we can feel lost.
Father Eugene Kennedy compared our life's journey to an ocen voyage. He said "our passage takes place on a pitching deck and sometimes the only thing we can do is hold on until the seas grow calm again."
The fact is that we all have times where we need help in "holding on" until our life reaches calmer seas.
And this is where the rubber meets the road for spirituality.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
As 2014 begins, it seems natural to take a deeper look at spirituality.
For me, the definition of spirituality continues to be elusive, but I recently came across an explanation of faith that seems to best express my understanding of spirituality. It was quoted by Professor Charles Kimball in his book, When Religion Becomes Evil, and is from Faith and Belief by Wilfred Cantwell Smith:
It is an orientation of the personality, to oneself, to one's neighbor, to the universe...
a capacity to live at a more than mundane level;
to see, to feel, to act in terms of, a transcendent dimension...
It is engendered and sustained by a religious tradition, in some cases and to some degree by its doctrines; but it is a quality of the person, not of the system.
...Faith, then, is a quality of human living. At its best it has taken the form of serenity and courage and loyalty and service: a quiet confidence and joy which enable one to feel at home in the universe and to find meaning in the world and in one's own life, a meaning that is profound and ultimate, and is stable no matter what may happen to oneself at the level of immediate event.
What a world it could be if everyone could find such a spirituality!
I have experienced such faith at times in my life (on my better days) but the dark night of the soul has been my more recent companion. As the Apostle Paul put it, "I have not yet arrived." And unlike him, I do not always feel I can "press on." But, as the saying goes, I'm "workin' on it."