I come from a family (on one side at least) of ministers. Lay ministers, choir directors, vestry leaders, deacons, pastoral counselors, church organists, missionaries, and writers of music and books on faith.
Now, it’s not like I didn’t know this. I mean, I knew this on this intellectual level.
But it hit me Tuesday, hard, after a meeting with my spiritual/midlife unraveling guide, that not only was my father this larger than life person in a counseling, coaching, mentor, teacher, and probably spiritual leader way, but the rest of my father’s family was chock full of spiritual leaders and ministers.
I can’t really express to you how profound that realization was. I spent the day being really boondoggled and slightly hyperventalish. I mean, I’d always thought about how music, writing and art played a role in my father’s side of the family.
But I never really realized that there is a huge spiritual legacy in my family. Or I did, but I denied it, ignored it, suppressed it, let it sit in some dusty back corner of my mind, where it remained, still and waiting for me to just get over it.
Now, I’ve written a little bit about spirituality, and how I’m waking up to it. And in this post I apologized to the therapist who tried to touch on it, but to no avail as I was neck deep in slapping down anything of the sort, denying my mother, denying my father and of course denying myself in the process.
But, there is a difference between disagreeing with organized religion for what it is in today’s world and denying one’s own relationship with a spiritual path. I have a deep concern about the political structures that form in spiritual centers turning them from contemplative paths into bureaucracies filled with human rules, human fears, and yes human hate.
I understand that “Christianity” is a four letter word in progressive circles, mocked widely and feared deeply by many liberals, and not without reason. I’d say the current image of most American Christians is conservative and intolerant, and that the more progressive Christians don’t get much media time. Liberals and folks focused on secular concerns are rightly worried about encroachment of church and state, but that winds up being hard for those who have a desire for faith. In fact, I’d say it’s hard for progressive people of faith to actually come out and admit it without fear they will be rejected on some level. Which is too bad, since progressive allies are important.
There is a difference between knowing all that and then still allowing for the spiritual path to present itself. Which was where I was stuck.
I’m also a political person, in that I love social justice and follow politics accordingly.
This link popped up in my feed on Monday. It’s an article by a Christian woman who is a Democrat and believes being a Democrat best exemplifies her faith, sharing how to her, progressive politics are right in line with Christian ideals. Being a good neighbor. Loving one’s neighbor as yourself. Tending to the least of us. I don’t think those things are only Christian. I’d say all our great spiritual leaders have focused on compassion, empathy, the power of love.
I have a deep deep affection for the wild and radical Christ of my youth, for the writings and actions of Ghandi and MLK and the peacemakers who so well exemplify love and justice. I have deep sadness for how easily good works are turned into bludgeons to support and continue oppression.
There are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics in this world who exemplify that poetry, that wild, willful love that surpasses understanding, that radical action of being present for others. That there are such people means that it’s not the religion that’s important, but the actions.
Actions of love. Compassion. Bearing witness. Community. Justice. Not conversion to a dogma, but an invitation to leave hate behind. To see clearly that greed and power hasn’t always improved things and that it often alienates. To hear clearly the cries of those who need real support, not pills or pablum or pop culture. To speak clearly truth to power and to heed a call of conscience even when the cost is very high, no matter secular or spiritual.
I think we need to intersect and spiral and learn from each other to change, or we are all lost. I can’t see that fighting between the poles will do any good. For me, it’s going to be outside that entire paradigm.
God? Who knows? Belief? I’m not so much worried about faith or belief.
How we act though, that’s the thing. To each other, to the least of us, to our world, environment, and animals. Accepting our full selves, our true selves so that we can do that work outside the poles, even if it is hard and even if it means risking rejection from others who prefer the poles.
This seems to me to be the only way.
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