Spirituality versus religion. Is there really only one way to know God? Why would there be? Humans are not clones, automatons, or puppets. We are all unique individuals so it doesn’t make sense God would mandate a one-size-fits-all journey.
Generally speaking, those who are devout followers of Jesus as part of organized religion believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and preach the ‘salvation’ message to one degree or another whether in the form of a prayer of salvation, baptism, or confirmation based on the little chat Nicodemus and Yeshua (Jesus) had under cover of night. The spiritually inclined, apart from religion, seek to journey with God in a way that makes the most sense to them. The truly spiritual, religious or otherwise, love God, themselves, and others and seek only good for all of creation.
Spirituality and religion have been in existence as long as man has been on the earth. We inherently know there is something greater than ourselves out there, man has always sought understanding of the universe’s origin. Those who believe similarily congregate to share ideas, thoughts, and ask questions, so it only makes sense organized religion developed into what is known as ‘The Church’ today. The spiritual congregate too, in less traditional ways, to share ideas, thoughts, and ask questions without the need to be right or critical of the journeys of others.
I believe we are part of something greater, we are extensions of the Divine Love Energy that created the heavens and the earth, and the creatures of the land, sea, and air. I do not claim to know the answers to unequivocally state one way or the other who is right and who is wrong. Does anyone need to be wrong? Perhaps not, as long as their journey is a genuine journey of love. The only ‘wrong’ way is to trod the path of hatred and intolerance. The most any of us can say is, “I believe…”. What I can say is I am happier, more centered, and less stressed since I left organized religion to embark on my own journey to know God.
Organized religion had me tied in knots of fear. Fear any careless words spoken would land me in hell, fear spiritual forces were hot on my trail, fear if I didn’t get it right, broke some obscure rules and failed to repent I wouldn’t be allowed entrance through the pearly gates. Is that any way to live? The church teaches about God’s love but I wasn’t feeling it; God’s love seemed to be tied to strict, unwavering obedience leaving no room for questions. As far as I was concerned I had valid questions and yet the church viewed questions as a lack of faith. Further, why did I need to sit under the direction and condemnation of another fallible human? It didn’t make sense. I suppose one could call me a rebel. As far as I’m concerned, I, and others like me, are in good company. Yeshua (Jesus) was known as a rebel.
I became an ordained minister so that I could marry people who didn’t have a church and didn’t subscribe to the tenets and doctrines of organized religion, to counsel those who needed guidance and encouragement to listen to the voice of wisdom within and be an advocate for those who fell outside the narrow boundaries of acceptable behaviors and lifestyles as defined by the church and yet wanted a meaningful journey with a loving God.
I have married several couples and spoken at one funeral for a young woman who saw death as the only way out of crushing depression. I was asked to speak at her funeral as a friend and co-worker. The celebration of life was held in a church whose pastor preached hellfire and brimstone. No mention was made of the woman’s sexual orientation and partner, the service conveniently ignoring a big part of her life. Interestingly, the pastor of the church was the young woman’s uncle. I chose to speak the truth and used the term ‘badass’ to describe her because she lived her truth and because she rode to work on a moped wearing a pink helmet. The pastor chastised me from the pulpit while I spoke. Her mother thanked me for my tribute to her beloved daughter. After the service, an attendee stopped me in the parking lot to tell me how much she appreciated my honesty and that the overall behavior of the pastor was why she no longer attended church. The sad truth and story of many who love God and want to journey but cannot fit into the mold required of them.
The church teaches suicide is a sin and I have been asked by those who are left behind if their loved ones were now in hell. Is that even reasonable? I find it cruel to heap upon the grieving their loved one missed the heaven-bound express simply because profound pain left them no other option. I remember when the faith-healer Oral Roberts’ oldest son committed suicide and Oral was quoted as saying he believed his son was in hell. His son was a gay man rejected by Oral and therefore rejected by God, in Orals’ eyes, because of his sexual orientation.
Is there only one way to God? Did not Yeshua (Jesus) say the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul and love your neighbor as yourself? This is the God I want to know…..