Friday, June 4, 2010

You, Me, & Plurality

"Religion cannot stand Spirituality. It cannot abide it. For Spirituality may bring you to a different conclusion than a particular religion - and this no known religion can tolerate.

Religion encourages you to explore the thoughts of others and accept them as your own. Spirituality invites you to toss away the thoughts of others and come up with your own."


Neale Donald Walsch

My last few blog entries have begun with quotes from Walsch that I agree with, but this time I thought I'd post one that I don't necessarily agree with totally.

Firstly, there is his statement that "Spirituality may bring you to a different conclusion than a particular religion - and this no known religion can tolerate."
Frankly, and thankfully, this is no longer true. I have been fortunate in the past 3 years or so to have been introduced to both Unitarian Universalism, and Unity.

For those unfamiliar with Unitarian Universalism, it is a liberal, non-creedal religion. However, it does have a list of 7 Principles and 6 Sources from which they draw upon, one of which is direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life; In other words, they recognize and affirm that an individual's personal and direct experience is valid; it matters!

As far as Unity is concerned, while it still utilizes more Christian language and Scripture than you'd find in a Unitarian Universalist church, it acknowledges the individual's journey. While I am now a member of the Unitarian Universalist church in my region, I attended a Unity center for several months. Every Sunday the minister would make a point of welcoming those in attendance with something like this: "We welcome you to Unity. We realize that each person is on their own individual journey and that we are not the only way, but welcome."

How refreshing both of these approaches are! A very public acknowledgement that we are all on our own individual journeys and they may look very different from the person sitting next to us, but still we can come together and be in a loving, accepting community!

Secondly I'd like to refer to Walsch's statement that "Spirituality invites you to toss away the thoughts of others and come up with your own." I think we can all agree that we can listen to the thoughts of others and then judge whether we agree with them and want to incorporate them into our own belief system, or whether we indeed want to "toss them away." But I mostly want to refer to the part of the sentence where he suggests that we can "come up with our own (thoughts and beliefs)." This is very different from what I grew up with. I grew up as a fundamentalist Christian where I thought I had to measure my beliefs and thoughts against the words of the inerrant Bible and against the words of a minister. What's more, I believed in the doctrine of original sin, that because Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in the Garden of Eden, so the rest of humanity also had a sinful nature at its core. How wonderful it is now to believe that we are not originally sinful but that we are original blessings, and that our thoughts, rather than probably being contrary to what God wants, can often be the expression of God into the world and blessings to the people in our lives and to those around the world.

In conclusion, I disagree with Walsch's assumption that all religion cannot accept diversity, but I heartily agree that we can come up with our own thoughts and beliefs.

Blessings to you today,

Mark Andrew