Take a few moments to read this post, written by a Minister within the UCC. Her name is Lillian Daniel.
I came across this article, posted on facebook. I read it, and at first it did not irritate me fully, I more or less dismissed it as being smug and snarky, but not a big deal. Then, as conversation over it grew, and I read it again, I realized that actually, it pissed me off.
One of my favourite quotes from it:
Next thing you know, he’s telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach. Sometimes I think these people never leave the beach or the mountains, what with all the communing with God they do on hilltops, hiking trails and . . . did I mention the beach at sunset yet?
Another quote, even more sweet is:
Thank you for sharing, spiritual but not religious sunset person. You are now comfortably in the norm for self-centered American culture, right smack in the bland majority of people who find ancient religions dull but find themselves uniquely fascinating.
To get the whole feel for the article, one has to read it, but those are two of the highlights. Now, I will say, that I get it. I understand that she seems to feel prosecuted and under appreciated. She probably is under appreciated. Clergy often work tirelessly for little pay. She seems to think that when she sits next to someone on a plane, informs them she is a Minister, and they say that they find God in nature, somehow they are insinuating that they are above her. She internalizes their comment about communing with God on hilltops or trails, to mean that what a congregation does, in church, is somehow invalid. Nowhere does she inform us in her article that anyone SAYS these things, rather this is simply what she assumes they are implying.
Lillian Daniel also says:
How lucky we are to have these geniuses inform us that God is in nature. As if we don’t hear that in the psalms, the creation stories and throughout our deep tradition.
Pardon me? What a lovely attitude. I have not read anything so condescending in quite some time. Not from a Minister anyhow. Yes Lillian, you can hear about God in nature from the psalms and creation stories. Though “throughout our deep tradition” sort of throws me a bit. I don’t recall a strong sense of panentheism in the Christian tradition.I have spent a lot of time in church. Different churches, and although some Priests or Ministers seem to have a natural ability to bring the essence of Divinity into the church, hearing it and reading it in a book is not the same as experiencing it. Kicking off your shoes and dancing into the arms of Deity. Sitting on the deck on a spring morning, listening to a raven fly by over head, the wind rushing under his wings and the trees dancing in the breeze. The Divine that is found in Silence. In just being.
I’m not belittling the work that Clergy, or a dedicated church community engages in.
Can I switch seats now and sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses instead? Can I spend my time talking to someone brave enough to encounter God in a real human community? Because when this flight gets choppy, that’s who I want by my side, holding my hand, saying a prayer and simply putting up with me, just like we try to do in church
Uh… okay?! Yeah, sitting side by side with people who ‘put up’ with each other, like in church. How many churches DO put up with each other? Do you dress differently? Are you LGBT? Divorced? Sure, the UCC that Lillian is Minister of stresses equality and inclusion for all, but many religions are not so tolerant.
Let’s face it, religion was created by humans. Someone has an idea of what they think Deity is. They share their ideas, their insights, and someone else agrees, and then another person agrees, and suddenly you have a Religion. Yes, it is simplified, but that’s what it is. Is it so hard to understand that many people look at all the little boxes out there with a Religion Specific Label affixed on it, and just don’t resonate with any of them? In this day and age , with so many diverse cultures, families, religions and scientific understandings why is it surprising that some people can only identify with being Spritual… but not religious? Looking at all the murders, intolerance, and fundamentalist insanity, how is it fair to belittle someone who simply does not follow a life of religious doctrine or beliefs? The Divine leaks into our life all over the place. Church is not the only place to find that, and for some, it is one place that they can NOT find that.
There is nothing challenging about having deep thoughts all by oneself. What is interesting is doing this work in community, where other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you. Where life with God gets rich and provocative is when you dig deeply into a tradition that you did not invent all for yourself.
Doing public service and helping the community does not have to be confined to a church. Personal Ministry is played out every time you help a neighbour, love and care for your family, recycle, take care to be kind etc.Where life with God gets rich is wherever it is you allow the Divine into your life. People get called on stuff all the time, one does not have to be in a religious community to be held accountable for their actions and in fact, we read time and time again of people using their religious convictions as a way to NOT be held responsible for their actions.
I am a Minister within the UGC, and I am a Divinaturist (a self-invented religion) . I am spiritual and religious. I am not Christian. I am not a mainstream anything. Sorry, I couldn’t fit into the boxes. We are all created in the image of God though, and I guess God is pretty multi-faceted. Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, Wiccan, Jewish etc. Every single person has their own idea of God, even people within a particular religion, as a result, we tend to create God in OUR image. God is not a person. God is not a bearded man in the sky. God does not care about particulars. God is not judging.
God is a direct, personal experience. An Experience.
As someone wisely said in one thread of discussions regarding this post: “So this is someone who isn’t the least bit interested in my spiritual journey…nor am I interested in convincing her I am not self-centered. I have better things to do with my time and energy.”
You said it, my nameless friend on Diaspora! However, I had nothing better to do with my time and energy tonight, 🙂 So I thought I would post this here. I would have posted my long rant directly on the site itself, where this article is located, but I couldn’t seem to find a commenting area.
p.s. I apologize in advance, there is no spell-check on Posterous it seems, but then again, I’m one of those ‘geniuses’ that communes with the Divine on windy hillsides, so… you know… lower your expectations 😉