Fr. Richard Rohr, one of my spiritual heroes, e-mails a daily meditation to his subcribers. Today’s included a line that could, if we meditate upon it long enough, serve as a kind of purifying fire to burn away so much of the muck that gets passed along as genuine religion:
“True religion is not denial of doubt but a transformation of it; and often, to be honest, a temporary deepening of our doubt and darkness to get us there.”
Do I see religion as a kind of drug that will keep me from having to face the darkness of doubt? Or as a companion that will abide with me and help me find the strength to journey more deeply into that darkness? Is it possible for the Faith of a compassionate person NOT to be deeply shaken at times by the soul-searing contrast between the enormity of God’s Love and the enormity of evil in the world?
This much I can say, having had the priviledge of journeying with young people in an exploration of their spirituality and religious faith over the past quarter-century – there are a legion of them who who are repulsed by religion because they believe it to be an anchor that weighs them down from a free and deep spiritual life. Isn’t this a terribly sad thing? Can those of us who are “churched” REALLY believe that this split is entirely the fault of “the secular media and society?” Could we really be that deeply in denial?
How would you define religion? What is the relationship between religion and spirituality?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
In the Bible the writer James says this about religion:
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)”
So James is saying here that true religion has two parts: do good deeds and do not sin. The first part is easy. Any one can do some good some of the time. But the second part is not only hard; it’s impossible. James talks about the horrible consequences of sinning a few verses earlier. He says:
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.” (1:14-15)
The problem with most methods of acheiving “spirituality” is that they are incapable of addressing the sin issue. Some of them suggest we need to keep improving ourselves until we sin less and less, but they do not address the fact that every sin in the individual’s past already disqualifies him from practicing “pure” religion, and if they are honest, they must realize that they will never cease from sinning altogether. Other “spiritual” responses include forms of meditation that take advantage of subjectivity to erase the “feeling” of sin, but it still does not erase the fact. This kind of spirituality attempts to change reality using thought and feeling, but this is actually offensive to God. God has already communicated his directions to mankind through the Bible, and mankind has no business telling God that He got it wrong.
True spirituality can only come through repentance of sins and faith in Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. This is because when a person truly repents and accepts God at His word, God will then send the Holy Spirit to live inside that person. No one can be “spiritual” unless they have God’s Holy Spirit living inside them. All other attempts at spirituality are hollow counterfits.
Romans 8:1-2 “There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
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