Thursday, March 5, 2009

Spiritual But Not Religious

What’s your feeling about mainstream religion? Do you resonate more with the phrase, spiritual but not religious?

I grew up in the church. When kids said, “You live in a church?” I understood their confusion. I lived so near the church that I could hear church mice eating stale communion wafers. My early memories include over-sized bishops falling through dining chairs, adult home groups singing “trust and obey” with off key gusto and Jesus’ sister (from the local psych. hospital) snoring loudly in the front pew through my dad’s sermons. It was all curious to me, curious enough to draw me into its web when I came of age.

Maybe it was because I was so familiar with church that I never fell for religion’s dogmatic lair. I sat through four years of reformed theological education and didn’t get excited about much of it. It wasn’t that I disagreed. I just couldn’t see the point. My desire to run a church was about nurturing the type of raw human community that had intrigued me as a kid, rather than telling people what to believe.

Two decades, three countries, and a bunch of grey hair later, I bear the scars of my idealism. In every place, there are people prepared to bleed for their dogmatic comforts. There was the Benedictine Monk. He was an accountant by day, caped crusader by night, hell bent on removing me from “his” church. There was the threat of heresy charges for not condemning my gay and lesbian friends. There was the letter from a Bishop stating that I remain in good standing in the Anglican world, and his sneered tone as he handed it to me, “this isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.”

Then there were the constant reminders that my presence in churches, though offensive to some Christians, meant something positive to the church alumni. These were the people I wanted to be in community with, and I always believed that I could still nurture the type of community that met the needs of this scattered group. The homeless people, the broken people, the creative people, the liberated people, the recovering people, the inquiring people, the family people, those who put their humanity before their ideology; these were my people. I met them in pubs and on university campuses, in gyms and at school picnics. I stood alongside them at protests and bar lines. I just didn’t see them in church.

It was only when I arrived in West Michigan (of all the most unlikely places) that I found a sizeable population of church alumni who were prepared to get organized into a life affirming community. What’s more, they wanted to be part of a broader vision to resource and connect this massive network of people around the world. For the past 5 years I have worked with the most impressive group of human beings I could ever have hoped to encounter. C3 is ready to explode.

I am deeply committed to C3’s health and growth. I depend on this amazing community to feed and sharpen my vision and ideas. I am intimately related to the people and the shared vision. The next step in this evolution is for me to grow wings and fly into open space, knowing that the nest is secure.

The Spiritual but not Religious community is large in number, somewhere between 25 and 40 million just in the United States. Currently, the community is only loosely formed. A new and wonderful spirit is emerging that is passionate and inspiring. It is not bound by ideology or geography, but by a desire to live with integrity, grounded in the power of presence and compassion.

Together we serve the Greater Good, or God, or Wonder or whatever words best describe the beauty that sources our lives. We promote a sense of wonder, and the rapture of being alive. Spirituality is wonder, experienced in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of life.

I am most familiar with Christianity, but that is not an exclusive identity. I am Australian, but that doesn’t prevent me from being a global citizen. I am a parent, but that doesn’t fully define me. Above all else, I am a human being, on a journey of growth and discovery. The label I am most comfortable with, because it includes without compromise all the other roles I play, is inclusive spiritual.

Will you join me? You need give nothing up; neither identity nor tradition. If you like the idea of connecting with the massive number of people who no longer want to be defined by narrow beliefs, but want to have a deeper experience of life, then join the conversation. If you want to make a massive difference in the world, then join the conversation. Together we will love the world with abandon, in an ever widening circle of kindness, until the day when love conquers all hatred and no one and no thing is excluded from love’s tender embrace.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spirituality and the Global Financial Crisis

There is so much to be learnt from the global financial crisis. It asks us what is real and lasting and what really matters. It reminds us that circumstances always change. Now is the time, in the middle of the crisis, to find contentment. If you aren’t content now, you won’t be content when the crisis ends. Be present now. That is the path to spiritual enlightenment. Now is when the spiritual gold can be found; treasures of character and strength that don’t depend on circumstance for validation.

My sermon on Sunday was a reminder that spirituality is here and now in the ordinary moments of life, and enlightenment is deep presence.

Here is a loving kindness affirmation that may be calming in the midst of crisis.

May we release all burdens of guilt, shame, fear, and loss from past trauma that no longer serve us and needless fear and anxiety about the future
May we be filled with loving kindness
May we be protected from all internal and external harm
May we be as healthy and whole as possible
May we be centered, peaceful, and at ease
May we be present
May each of us enjoy both spiritual and material well-being