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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Supporting Prejudice?

There is perhaps something in human nature that looks for a religion that supports our biases and prejudice. Fear drives us to be suspicious of people who are not exactly like us, so we become conservative, even fundamentalist members of a religion and interpret its scriptures to support our smallness. Jesus becomes the only way; jihad turns into not a spiritual quest but a military one; we are uncomfortable with our own bodies and sexuality so we pay attention only to sexual issues in our religion; we are afraid of not having enough, so we look for reasons to justify depriving others of even what they need to survive; we have been burned by conservative Christians, and so we lump all Christians into one basket and become militant atheists. None of this is spirituality, though much of it is what religion has deteriorated into.

One of the sure tests of authentic spirituality is that it doesn't reinforce our prejudice but rather challenges us to grow in ways that are less than comfortable. If your religious or spiritual outlook never challenges you to grow, what you are really saying is that right now, at this very moment, you know all there is to know, you are completely awakened and enlightened, you are the messiah, you are God - and such delusions indicate a need for emergent psychiatric treatment. Yet, such a religion is just what a great number of people look for because growth is hard and uncomfortable at times. Surrendering our preconceived notions is an admission of imperfection, and the ego does not like to admit its shortcomings. Clergy of all stripes are just as bad when they are unable to admit they don't have all the answers, when they believe their job is to pour right information into the chirping mouths of the faithful while forgetting that when birds feed their young they are really offering them regurgitated nutrition - fine for birds, but hardly appropriate nourishment for human beings.

I want to encourage all people that if your spirituality or religion isn't challenging you need to ask yourself if you are honestly taking all of it into consideration or whether you are picking and choosing the pieces that are easy to swallow and rejecting the rest. If you find that is your practice, I encourage you to engage more fully. If, in fact, you are engaging all that is offered and are still not being challenged, it's time to move on. The God you are meeting is too small for you!

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