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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Struggle to Leave

The statistics are clear, eighty percent of America isn't in church on a regular basis for reasons other than Weddings, Baptisms, and Funerals. That means that in one sense it's easy to leave church. It's easy to just stop attending, because you can tell a white lie about whether or not you go to church and nobody can really check up on you very easily. In fact, people tell the white lie to researchers all the time. If you believed people's self-reports you would think that forty percent of America is in church on a regular basis. When you compare those figures with actual church provided attendance numbers, however, the truth rears its head.

It's one thing to tell the white lie and respond to anyone who asks why they haven't seen us at church lately by saying that we have been busy, or started going to a church closer to home, or that we are shopping around for a better fit. It's quite another to say that we have been broadening our spiritual experience and including practices and teachings from outside Christianity. The more conservative our Christian background the harder it is to tell people about our new perspective - unless of course you are one of the three people in the world who actually enjoy the concerned looks, the warnings about losing your "salvation," and other similarly uncomfortable but generally ineffective methods used in an attempt to rope people back onto the ranch. Since those who ask have received the same misinformation we did it's a pretty good bet they know how to push our buttons. It becomes especially awkward when churches convince their members they are responsible for each other's "salvation." If you are one of those people, I need to tell you that such teachings are profound distortions of the biblical record that usually use the book of Ezekiel as their very shaky foundation. It's a shaky foundation because Ezekiel (like Daniel, Revelation, and parts of other biblical books) is Apocalyptic literature, and to take such highly symbolic writings and literalize them is to pervert them beyond recognition - and certainly beyond the intent of the author.

The truth is that the only person whose choices you are responsible for is, well, you. A little bit of reason and a short time away from the propaganda machine will help you to realize that it is absolutely impossible to control other people. God knows the church in all its forms has certainly tried to control people through threats of hellfire and damnation, but if those tactics worked then we would be seeing more than twenty percent of America in church, wouldn't we? At one time in history those tactics worked because people simply didn't know any better, but in the twenty-first century they are a thing of the past. Today, at least in the developed world, we do know better. We also have the ability to set boundaries, so when our well meaning friends express their concern we can thank them for their concern and say that we are either looking for or have found a new spiritual home. We don't need to say more if we aren't comfortable, and if our questioners are persistent we can say that we choose not to talk about it with them at this time. They don't have to like it, but they do have to respect it.

Of course, there will be those people we do want to share more with and those with whom we want to avoid the subject altogether. Both choices are perfectly fine, and we can expect our choices to change over time as well. The day really does come when we feel perfectly fine saying that we are Buddhist-Christian (if that's true), or Interspiritual, or whatever words more accurately express what we wish to communicate. I have found the best rule is to trust my own instincts. There are still days I don't want to get into an in depth discussion at the grocery store, so I ask the person if we could schedule a time to have coffee and discuss it. What I do know is that this walk makes sense to me, much more sense that the way institutional religion presents the teachings of Jesus. And, after hearing a discussion decrying the "watering down" of the teachings of the Buddha by the contemporary mindfulness movement recently I have come to the conclusion that Christianity isn't the only control-nut bearing tree in town!


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  1. Thank you Bishop Craig,

    I find it interesting the low number of people who comment on your blog.

    I would suspect that there are so many who find affinity to your words and perspective (myself included).

    Many accept the one dimensional outlook: I consider a more three dimensional or layered outlook. How can Buddhism help us with the particular and the universal? Being grounded in the tradition yet seeking for a greater uniting ethic?

    Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob: Jesus poised between two. I believe a place for Buddhism (bring on the Dalai Lama) is to reunite the Muslim and Jew: brothers/sisters separated in story, compassion for Ishmael and Esau, a celebration of Abraham's 'distress on account of his son'. Particular separate traditions united in a higher universality: for you know, Abraham took Isaac and Ishmael up the mountain to sacrifice, grin..
    Dependent origination, lojong prayer, a higher mediating solution as found in Christ in John 4 with the Samaritans and in the blind man: 'worship (God), do his will, God will listen'.
    Thank you, consider a look into my poorly written and pasted together gospel of John and book of Genesis at:
    all the best, Blair

    1. Hi Blair!

      You won't be surprised to find I agree with you! I believe the comments will come - I haven't been extremely aggressive in increasing the blog's visibility but am starting to do that now. I will certainly check out your work as well!

      Thanks for your comment!


  2. It is one thing to be born into a faith tradition, it is another to be born for one . Took me forty years to articulate this, understand and accept it, and turn to face this world both vast and wide.

  3. It's a matter if a person Know Jesus or not..if they do not and 'Know one can Come to Me unless the Father Enables them"...there is no need of any other, The 'so-called ' Enlightned one didn't know for The Truth had not yet been Given and the True Light had just come into the world. Either God was a liar or He wasn't. Christians going to buddhism is like the Israelite turning to false idols made of gold while Moses was up on the Mount. Totally ludicrous...