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Gathered ‘Round the Elephant…..

Religion and spirituality; are they the same? Easy answer; no. Religion has to do with ritual and tradition whereas spirituality allows for the exploration and expression of our oneness with God apart from rituals and traditions. Christianity, as we know it today, is bound by rituals and traditions and many who practice Christianity are unaware of the roots of their accepted and practiced rituals. Some times we hear about our Judeo-Christian roots, in reality, a compromise with those of Jewish heritage to demonstrate Christians are not anti-semitic; Christianity’s way of offering the proverbial olive branch of solidarity between the Torah and the New Testament.

Those who practice Christianity or adhere to Judeo-Christian values represent the majority of people, right? When asked during a hospital admission or in conversation about our spiritual orientation most will answer with “Christian” whether practicing or not. The tide is changing, albeit slowly. So, the rest of us who steer clear of the “Christian” label or have left the church, fall somewhere outside the accepted norm. Who is right? Is anyone right?

Think about this for a moment: if there were an elephant in the middle of the room and we were all gathered around to describe what we saw, how would we answer? The analogy isn’t original with me, wish it were, but I like it anyway. If we were all to describe the elephant from our vantage points, some would describe the elephant as a trunk, others an ear, others still, as a leg. All of the descriptions would be right, but all would be wrong, too. Why? Because we would not be describing an elephant, we would be describing a part of the elephant as seen from our vantage point and orientation. The same applies to our ideas about God. To some, God is understood through the eyes of the Bible and Christian doctrine, others see God as Buddha, or as the Great Spirit from the Native American culture, and some see God as the embodiment of love.  How we choose to journey with God is the expression of our unique vantage point.

Why do we believe we all need to journey in the same way? Well, most of us want to be right, and we want to be part of the larger picture, the majority. It’s lonely taking a path off the beaten trail. If we all speak the same language, it’s easier; we are not explaining ourselves and our thoughts and beliefs to others who may think our ideas strange and even heretical. On this side of Christianity, the doctrines and beliefs surrounding its practice are commonplace, accepted, and few within organized religion question the theology between the pages of the Bible. In the opening scenes of the New Testament, God, having chosen the clothing of humanity, walked the Jewish countryside teaching what many in the religious community believed to be heretical thoughts and ideas. Jesus taught from His unique vantage point and He certainly was not popular with the established religious leaders of the day, and yet He had his followers; so much so, a new practice of spirituality was born.

Thoughts and ideas contrary to the accepted mainstream doctrines of the day threaten others who believe themselves to be part of the one true religion. Why is that? Do we view God to be so small and shallow the expression of our journey is threatening? What is more important; that we all adhere to the same doctrinal beliefs on our journey with God, or that we journey at all?

As extensions of God, Divine Source, or the Universe, our spirits seek to journey, to connect with God. How we choose to connect is our choice, not the choice of others…..

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