My Blog of Blogs
Current and historical attempts to chronicle my life and thoughts
(more about these blogs)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Welcome to the Realize! Journal

The Human Side of Religion

[Happy Summer Solstice! Read more here!]

Let's start with a story.

Years ago I was on the staff of the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in Sierra Madre, California. Fr. Ron Erlandson, the Rector, had decided to invite parishioners into the Rectory in small groups for a program he called "Coffee, Coke, and Conversation."

This was a sort of "evangelistic" endeavor. The idea was two-fold: to create stronger ties between the people who attended, and to "pick the brains" of the parish members, a few at a time, about how the church could attract more people. To this end, members were encouraged to bring family members who did not regularly attend church.

Well, Nancy was a regular attendee, but her husband Bob was not. In fact, if anything, Bob was a little antagonistic to church in general. So it was surprising--and perhaps a little bit worrisome--to see that Nancy had dragged Bob along to "C, C & C."

As we went around the circle introducing ourselves, one offered: "I was born a Lutheran, but became Episcopalian when I was 30." "I was born Episcopalian," said another. And a third contributed, "I was born a Catholic, but converted after my divorce," and so on, offering our pedigrees ("My great-great-grandfather was a chorister who emigrated from England.") It was all very Episcopal.

And as the baton moved around toward Bob, I got ready, because his answer would help us understand the non-church-goer's mind, and this in turn could help us to bring more people in. So we got to Bob, and nearly 30 years later his answer sticks in my memory, and sounds the theme that will permeate this journal (and this website):

"Well, unlike the rest of you," Bob drawled, "I was born a baby."

A Pinoy (Filipino) baby takes
it easy--an inspiration to us all!

Silence. Embarrassed laughter. Animated discussion.

Bob was exactly right. What is important is not our affiliations, but our humanity. What is it to be human? What makes us the same? What potential is inborn in every one of us? And how do the labels (Lutheran, Episcopalian, Muslim, Buddhist, black, white, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief) both expand and limit our possibilities? Churches (and nations, and cliques, and just about every "in group") forget that we were all born babies, and are bonded by our human-ness far more than we are separated by our tribes.

In talking about this, Joseph Campbell spoke of the creation of a new mythology that embraced all of humanity. Here are three brief quotes from The Power of Myth:

[1] [The ground of a new mythology] is already here: the eye of reason, not of my nationality; the eye of reason, not of my religious community; the eye of reason, not of my linguistic community. Do you see? And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group.

When you see the earth from the moon, you don't see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come. That is the country that we are going to be celebrating. And those are the people that we are one with.



[2] Now, today there is no out-group anymore on the planet. And the problem of a modern religion is to have such compassion work for the whole of humanity.


[3] All this hope for something happening in society has to wait for something in the human psyche, a whole new way of experiencing a society. And the crucial question here, as I see it, is simply: With what society, what social group, do you identify yourself? Is it going to be with all the people of the planet, or is it going to be with your own particular in-group? This is the question, essentially, that was in the minds of the founders of our nation when the people of the thirteen states began thinking of themselves as of one nation, yet without losing consideration for the special interests of each of the several states. Why can't something of that kind take place in the world right now?

As you ponder this, you might want to read an essay I wrote for the local newspaper shortly after I arrived in Shenzhen. It alludes to the same ideas.

* * * * * * * *

Realize! You Are That is ostensibly a "spiritual website." But it reflects the idea that the most deeply spiritual thing is a fulfilled humanity (and, conversely, that no one is fully human who neglects the spirit). This journal will serve three purposes:

  • To offer frequent (often daily) bits and pieces of things that I'm reading, viewing, or thinking about, along with reflections on how to see
  • To guide you through the various pages on the website
  • To alert you to new happenings

I hope you'll visit often.

* * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * *

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave me a message; I can't wait to hear from you!