I invented my own religion two days ago.
I founded it.
Or, created it.
(What phrase does one use for that, anyway?)
- None of the existing religions provide everything that I need for spiritual and emotional growth.
- I desire community and a structure for that community.
- I see the value of establishing some structures to be able to hold content and context and provide experience.
What am I going to do with my new religion?
The deeper I go in my search for truth, the more different it looks than anything which is out there.
Our world is not only fake and plastic. It’s also evil, demonic, satanic, luciferian, and wrong.
So I am going to correct that.
Perhaps all alone.
Religion is able to reform everything. A religionist can and should speak about all of life. I recently read an article where the author made the point that in the Eastern languages, there is often no word for religion. Historically, this is because everything was religion.
We live in the opposite time–Where everything happens ostensibly with ‘no’ spiritual context. Not: “What would God think about this?” No: “What do I think God thinks about this?” No, “Let’s pray about it.” No, “What do the holy books or the spiritual teachers say?”
We pretend that our addiction to the types of thinking and acting that are destroying the world have nothing to do with spirituality.
In reality, we have unconscious spiritual contexts.
And that is incredibly dangerous. To not know what you are devoted to is to float upon the water with no mooring. You could arrive anywhere. And maybe there are times in life when you want to drift. But if you do that your whole life–without consciously focusing your energy and direction anywhere, where will you end up?
I feel like Goldilocks.
I have spent almost three decades in the ‘too cold’ ice bath of repressive fundamentalist religion.
I have spent another decade floating in the ‘too hot’ structureless, reactive world of New Age spirituality, with some Eastern thought and modern additions thrown in.
Both worlds have their advantages. There are ideas and concepts that are valuable to personal growth and development on both sides.
But, as Jesus said, “Strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life. And few there be that find it.”
The life Jesus described consists of constant course correction.
This new religion is an attempt to provide some guide rails and handholds to the straiter way. Not too rigid and not excessively, permissively anything-goes.
I find that even I need these rails and reminders.
I was aware that in leaving the institutionalized religion of my youth, I would be leaving the ‘safe road’ with guardrails and lots of signage. But that road had become too boring and limited.
As I have immersed myself deeply in one aspect of the way, I found myself bouncing back toward the opposite wall over and over.
Without any context or conceptual framework myself for my spiritual journey…I didn’t have anything safe to hold on to.
True to form, eventually, I did fall and hurt myself in the signless wilderness of exploration. And some of those wounds took quite some time to recover from.
In one way, I guess ‘my’ religion is an attempt to provide some signage and to clear paths for those who want to go off the beaten track without needing to climb Everest without a sherpa.
What’s so Great about Christianity?
Jesus is one obvious answer. A simple reading of the Gospels by any neutral person has to result in wonder for the stories about the man who populates them.
It is obvious that his character contains supreme wisdom, insight, goodness, love…indeed all of the virtues focused in a perfect life.
Our humanity sees this. It rejoices in it. And if it were only these stories, it would be a massive support to our own journey to develop our own happiness through virtue.
But there are also miracles and a resurrection, pointing to something beyond simple moral living and good ideas about living together.
Christianity does a great job of preaching Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Where it encourages “Christian living” as well as prayer and study of the holy word, it supports hundreds of millions in finding deeper meaning and joy in their lives.
What is Missing in Christianity?
Christianity as practiced has a couple drawbacks:
First, the context of the community in which Jesus’ messages were given did not have unlimited latitude. That is, not everything could be said to everyone. Thus, the Bible can be a fantastic start on a path to spiritual progress. And, once we unite with God, we can get whatever information we need through the Spirit. The “letter kills and the Spirit gives life” after all.
A second: the mindset, culture, and context of the current [Christian] world.
Specific strands of Christianity took over and held sway through the centuries. Their traditions became even stronger than the written text. Thus there have been periods of renewal and reformation, from peaceful to bloody.
New extensions and corrections to basic Christianity have led to the comical present where Christianity is divided into dozens of major subgroups and thousands of different denominations.
Which one holds the true authority, and correct interpretation of the Bible?
This question has plagued seekers through the ages.
In my searches for truth, I have found that many cultural and historical inaccuracies needed to be released. I needed to ‘unlearn’ a plethora of ideas that have been bolted on or inherited, while clinging to some of the basics: becoming as a child, seeking the Kingdom of God, learning and living in love.
Curiously, the places where I find that we as a Christian culture carry the most soul and life-destroying baggage is around the ideas of sexuality, intimacy, and relationships.
In line with the “Christian Hedonist” John Piper, I believe that following God results in our happiness, and that our happiness, joy, peace, and rest is a direct result of following God’s will in our lives.
If we are not experiencing happiness and joy, perhaps we are not following God’s will in something?
This was a shocking thought…but I knew after 27 years of conventional religion that I could not just white-knuckle it through another 27+ miserable years to get to heaven. I didn’t think God wanted me to do that, and so I considered that those who claimed to be teaching me His commands did not know as much as they said they did.
The journey to learn about such basic things as my body, my emotions, my sensations, and my relationships took me to places which I would have never been able to reach within almost any Christian context.
Yes, I made many mistakes along that path as well, but isn’t that part of learning?
I wish I had had more guidance and information in exploring the worlds which my Christian upbringing had been curiously silent about. That said, I did find what I was looking for.
“I am come that they might have life, and that more abundantly.”
What is an abundant life if not for joy, happiness, even pleasure and connection and meaning and depth with others?
In what ways have our interpretations of holy writ limited the joy in our lives and in which ways can we learn to listen to God to reclaim them?
Not only do I not believe that we must believe God to find joy, connection, and pleasure–but God wants us to both individually and as a community learn from Him to find these.
What is right with Eastern Religions and the New Age movement?
Although they are by no means synonymous, Eastern Religion and the New Age world (as one experiences it in the West) has one overriding attraction to those of us damaged by the judgement of Christians: no judgements.
The message there is that, whatever you do (and whoever you are), You Are OK. Whatever your desires, identity, labels, or actions–you can be alright just as you are.
That is a fantastic breath of fresh air from those of us who have been choked in the repressive and judgmental closets of fundamentalist Christianity.
No one really asked me who I was or what I wanted there. No one encouraged me to express myself. No one really liked it when I did: I was once censured for playing air guitar at a church dance. Some aren’t allowed to dance at all.
Within such narrow confines: Short hair, white shirt, black suit…and a litany of confusing “rules”,
it was hard to find myself or express myself in ways that would give me joy.
After a decade of it, I had to admit my own unhappiness.
So, welcome the world of tie-dye and pot brownies and gender fluidity and acceptance for alternative lifestyles…
I was free! At last.
No one cared what I wore or how long my hair was or whether I said ‘bad’ words in my search for myself or who I had sex with (I wasn’t even allowed to have sex with myself in the old place).
Where do E. Religions and the New Age hit their limits?
Precisely because there was no code of conduct, no standards whatsoever, this resulted in other problems.
Concepts such as ‘honesty’ and ‘truth’ were often very flexible. How do you build a safe community if you have no clear definition of lying or stealing or even sexual assault?
The result is that some people used the extreme license of these communities for abusive and violent actions. Worse, when they were called upon by members of the community to fess up, make amends, or change, they simply moved to the next similar community to find more victims.
In addition, the values of each person still existed in the NA world, but were radically different. They were unspoken and generally unconscious.
So, in the New Age world, I saw people who were constantly being offended and violated by others with no way to move toward understanding or reconciliation.
There was no yardstick of behavior at all to compare to.
What first appeared as so inclusive and loving ended up being dangerous and exclusive, with small cliques building up walled gardens around their particular (unspoken) value sets and all of the goals of personal development and expression taking a backseat to trying to defend these small fiefdoms against the constant encroachment of those who would violate said boundaries.
As a result, the New Age world was even more lonely for me than the institutionalized religious one. I suspect that is true for many people.
Without some shared values, methods of conflict resolution, or even intended path and goals, it is quite confusing and difficult to build a community of love. Deep wisdom and some structure is required.
Combining the Two
So, what if we combine the acceptance and non-judgement of the Eastern religious world with the clarity and perfect standards of Jesus?
What if we unite prayer and meditation?
Sacrifice with allowance?
Faith with patience?
Love with discipline?
Would we then have the strait and narrow way Jesus spoke about?
Could we have the best of both worlds?
Let’s find out together.