Spending hours meditating in a lavender meadow is not my thing. There are times I would like to be one of those people, but it’s just not in my DNA. I have to analyze, dissect, study, ponder, cognate on, (that’s a real thing!) and all the other verbs related to understanding, or more accurately, overthinking any subject. This particular ‘gift’ can be valuable, at times, and at others, just makes me a pain in the butt!
Lately, I have spent a fair amount of time thinking about the differences between Christians and spiritual seekers. There is a fair amount of animosity and fear-based criticism directed toward anyone not choosing organinzed religion as their journey of choice. Why? The answer is not simple, by any means. Having been in the Christian camp for too many years I know all the arguments against any pursuit other than by way of the church. Heck, there’s animosity between the various flavors of church, too, for that matter. For some, immersion baptism is the only valid baptism, dancing, drinking alcohol or smoking are sinful, guitars in a church are forbidden, and the differences go on and on. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Does it really even matter?
This past weekend I was visiting my son for a “Bring Your Parents to Work” day at the agency he works for. Interesting, enlightening, and the day started with mimosas and Bloody Mary’s and ended with wine and beer; can’t beat that, am I right? Anyway, the idea being to show parents what these young people do all day to help those of us in the senior set understand how each contributes to the whole. Truly, these young people were very impressive; bright, intelligent, articulate, creative, the list goes on. It restored my faith in the next generation.
Anyway, we went to dinner that evening and on one of the street corners of the trendy area we chose for our evening repast, a church group was gathered complete with signs, tracts, and their preacher leading the lost to the Lord declaring the wages of sin through a loud speaker. As I looked around at the people strolling the sidewalks – families, groups of young people, couples – I couldn’t help but notice the variety of humanity represented. All sizes, shapes, colors, and ethnic groups were enjoying the evening weather along with the sites, sounds, and delightful aromas of the popular restaurant scene; God wrapped in the clothing of collective man. And then, it really hit me, the contrast blinding. Here we had a preacher diligently working to stuff everyone who would chance a half-hearted listen into the same box. It was obvious by his passionate, albeit misguided, in my humble opinion, diatribe he had the answers for all mankind, and we were the poor, unfortunate souls he was tasked to “save”.
God formed man in His image, using the Biblical analogy, and as such, Adam contained the whole of humanity within himself. As the earth populated, varying sparks from the flame of the Divine were born; each a unique expression of the Divine. Does it make sense that each unique expression of God should all be funneled and forced into the same box in order to have relationship with God? To what end?
Biblical adherents know the story of the Tower of Babel. After the flood as the story goes, the people of the earth all spoke the same language and decided they wanted to be like God, and so began building a tower to the heavens. It is a story of pride; they knew better than God. God had told them to go forth and repopulate, but they wanted to stay together. So, God confused the languages and voila, many different peoples were the result.
Which brings me back to the original point. There are so many different people in the world who speak different languages, who look different, behave differently, and believe differently, and yet Christianity is opposed to anything different from the accepted standard; the Bible. Truth is found in many ways. It depends upon what resonates with an individual. Boiled down to its most basic element, in my opinion, we are all generally talking about the same thing, we just speak different languages. The Tower of Babel, perhaps? Prayer vs. meditation for example, are they eons apart? Not really. At the core of meditation and prayer we are centering our minds, in other words, quieting the mind in order to concentrate. Prayer reaches outward to God, meditation, inward to God. The differences are found within the approach. In prayer, many bring their cares and concerns to God to lay at His feet: “Here God, I am powerless to change this, but I trust You can”. In meditation, the creative power to change self or situations resides within. It is not necessary to look outside of ourselves for answers. Answers to all of our questions and concerns are within our spirits, the essence of our beings connected to the Divine Source, or God. We open our minds and listen to the voice within, the voice of God. And, we share other similarities that currently separate us.
This week I have wondered how many people the preacher and his band of salvation warriors “saved” that evening. I’m certain there were some who found the message of sin and salvation filled an empty space inside and now serves as proof the church group was doing God’s work. Truth be told, I am happy for both the church group and the newly converted. There once was a time in my life I was among the newly converted. I have since grown beyond the belief everone must fit into the same box. We all need to acknowledge God, just not in the same way. As a whole, we are far too concerned with being right, having the answers, and convincing those around us of our ‘rightness’. How much more effective we would be collectively if we listened to one another, accepted one anothers differences and celebrated the differences…..