Thursday, May 21, 2009

Angels and Demons- Unveiling Religious Cover Ups

This was a first. A google search took me to a site that I couldn’t access unless I clicked “ok” on the pop up that read;

“You may read this page ONLY if you confess faith in the name of Jesus. IF YOU click OK you are denying YAHWEH as the name of the Father or Creator and confessing the name of Jesus is the ONLY SAVING NAME! Say right now ‘I deny YAHWEH and believe ONLY in the name of Jesus’. If you said this, then Click OK to read the study. If you refuse to recant the false name Yahweh, click cancel to leave now!”

I kid you not. It seems a strange choice, a little like being asked to choose between country and western music or Superman and Clark Kent. God or Jesus? Hmmmmmm! I am left with a dilemma. Do I sell my soul and play their semantic game in order to get the information I need?

After a few moments of soul searching, I hit “ok” with crossed fingers, quickly copy what I need, exit the site and return to to purge my guilty conscience.

Do you have a similar experience of the church? Not everyone has this experience, but some people are scarred by their church involvement. The church has at times created its own form of “pop-ups” to keep the upper hand. You may be asked to choose one name for divine wonder over another. You may be asked to choose between your own mind and the teachings of tradition. You may be asked to choose between faith and reason. In its most extreme form of control, you may even be asked to choose between your faith and your career or your partner.

The biggest danger I see with church as usual is the attempt to control mystery. Your own intuitive experience of the sacred will not be denied. The many direct experiences of wonder that are available in and out of church invite your deepest attention. There is too much to experience in this life to be distracted by speculation about the next life.

I suspect the tremendous popularity of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons is because there is both a huge desire to believe in mystery and also a deep mistrust of the church’s attempt to suppress any personal experience of mystery that is outside of the church’s control.

Even taking into account Brown’s blending of fact and fantasy, there is something very refreshing about unveiling the Christian church’s cover up of scientists like Galileo, mystics like Meister Eckhart, alchemists, Muslims, Jews and basically anyone who dares to question the status quo. Of course you can’t cover up self knowledge. The Illuminati went underground and became cynical. Spiritual people left the church and licked their wounds.

The question for those of us who are spiritual but not religious is, “will we go underground, organize covertly and become cynical?” I hope not.

My deep hope is that we are in the midst of an exciting time of open healing and transformation; healing from the effects of abusive religion, and moving on to exciting new expressions of self discovery and global community.

The days of the cover up are numbered. Everywhere I go, I meet pastors who are fed up with the powers that deny them the right to think and question freely. They want to offer their communities fresh scholarship and new possibilities but fear for their careers. Many of their community members are craving what these frustrated and courageous pastors want to give, and the pressure cooker is bubbling up to boiling point. This is far from just a Catholic Church issue. It affects all denominations.

Everywhere I go I meet people who have found liberation from dogma and seek their own expressions of beauty and mystery through nature, yoga, study, meditation, relationships, arts and so many other experiences.

This liberation can also be experienced within the church, but the church will have to “look” different. Ewan McGregor plays the right hand man to the pope in Angels and Demons. In real life, McGregor is SBNR. He said this about church, “I’m not often in church because I’m not a religious person but I like the ceremony of it. I find it quite relaxing music. But I’ve never hooked into a religion.” Church must be a real experience of life, and not an escape from reality.

As far as beliefs go, we are in the midst of a similar liberation. This is an exchange from Angels and Demons between McGregor and Tom Hanks who plays the conspiracy busting hero.

EWAN MCGREGOR: Do you believe in God, sir?
HANKS: Father, I simply believe that religion……..
MCGREGOR: I did not ask you if you believe what man says about God. I asked you if you believe in God.
HANKS: I’m an academic. My mind tells me I will never understand God.
MCGREGOR: And your heart?
HANKS: Tells me I’m not meant to. Faith is a gift that I have yet to receive.

SBNR is about a personal experience of the wonder of life, by any name or description and even by no particular name. Wonder is everywhere. The experience of wonder may be surprising, but it is no secret. The experience of wonder requires no meditation by religious experts nor any religious training to fully appreciate its beauty.

SBNR is about empowering people to live with integrity and freedom in the here and now. It’s not a bitter movement, although there may need to be some personal healing. SBNR is an impassioned movement for universal love and global transformation.

What is your experience of life’s wonder? Where do you experience mystery in and out of religion? How does mystery empower you to live with greater purpose and compassion?