Tuesday, July 22, 2008

religion, shenpa, vanity, etc.

There is a saying that you should always meditate on what causes you frustration. I've been aware of experiencing frustration when I think about participating more actively in a religion lately, and tonight I had an opportunity just sit with that feeling. I think that what came up is perhaps instructive.

My first image was of sitting down at a local Catholic church, having this new priest that I didn't know preach on how homosexuality is sinful. Reading selected Bible verses as if these were proof that my revulsion to what he was saying was going against God's will.

What's interesting to me about the image is that it assumes a particular kind of relationship to God, to the priest (in this case), and even to scripture. A hierarchical relationship, one filled with judgment, of strictly defined rights and wrongs, even a kind of coercion.

Jeez, no wonder I've been reluctant to get into this church thing.

What interests me, then, is the issue of authority. Participation in a church community simply won't work for me if it is about being told what to think, about simplistic discussions of right and wrong. I much prefer a model that strikes me as characterizing modern Judaism: of valuing scripture but struggling with it, even struggling against it. Give me a church that values doubt, values dialogue, values discussion. Give me a church that challenges the mind and soul, but is willing and eager to be challenged in return -- that sees discussion as a path to greater truth rather than as a threat to established truths.

Give me a church that is open to change. Give me a church that values compassion more than doctrine.

Hmm...that's an awful lot of standards, of "give me's."

I think it important to balance this with a recognition that I am looking to enter a human institution, one that will be imperfect, that will fail, that will disappoint. Such things are inevitable, perhaps even necessary...for in facing these disappointments, we learn about ourselves, we can grow in compassion.

Lord, help me to find a church that is human, an imperfect church that strives to follow You more closely, that challenges me, that humbles me. May I learn to grow closer to You through this church, both through it's wisdom and through it's struggles. May I learn from my struggles with my church to grow in peace, in love, in compassion for others. Amen.


more cows than people said...


And Amen again.

shenpaguru said...

dude, you are sooo shempa.

Trying to kill some insomnia...checking out your deep thoughts tonight. Trying to get this respond thing to work.

God bless you on your road to enlightenment, and may God bless America.

I am still stuck in the cave looking at the pretty shadows on the walls.