I suppose that many of us have had those cars – I still have one of those cars, to be honest – that cause us to have to ask the same question every time it breaks. That question is, “Is it even worth fixing?” You know the cars – the ones that are ten or more years old and have a fair number of miles on them. I actually prefer to drive those cars as a part of my attempt to live a simpler lifestyle and avoid spending as much on a car as I would on a down payment for a house! So, when the car needs major repair I often find myself weighing the cost of the repair versus the value and life expectancy of the car.
The Institutional Church, or what I will refer to as “Religion”, has for some time now posed just such a question for me. Is it even worth fixing? On the one hand, I love it – for it nourished and nurtured me for many years (although it hasn’t done so for many years of late). I guess I sort of feel about it the way I feel about my first love. Our relationship ended years ago, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t value what that relationship taught me even as I acknowledge that relationship just doesn’t fit me today.
On the other hand, the Institutional Church has many of the qualities of an abusive partner. Like a lion, it eats its young. On the best of days, it serves the Institution at least as much as it serves God, on an average day it can be hard to find God for all the homage paid to the Institution, and on a bad day its members would do well to seek shelter as quickly as possible.
Can it be fixed? Can Religion become viable again? To be quite honest, I am not sure that it can. I am not a mechanic. I do know this – I no longer believe it is worth fixing. What’s next? Well, when I determine that my car isn’t worth fixing, I don’t start walking (except maybe for the short term!), I look for a new car.
I am reminded of a story I heard in high school. I’m not really sure if it’s true or if it’s urban legend. I was told that SAAB had developed a different way of making cars. Instead of having an assembly line, a team of workers made a SAAB. They essentially sat in a circle and built a car from the ground up. It was felt that this process increased pride in workmanship and a sense of accomplishment among production workers who could actually see the finished product and know they were responsible for it. The folks at SAAB took a process they felt was broken (the assembly line) and decided it wasn’t worth fixing. So, they came up with a new way to get the job done, and it worked wonderfully.
One of our slogans at the newly founded Love of God Cathedral (LOG) is “Just say no to religion and yes to a healthy spirituality!” What will that look like? None of us knows yet, but we do have some initial ideas:
1. The only reason for walls in a church is to hold the ceiling up. Other than that, a church shouldn’t have any barriers either to participation in the curch or to the involvement of the church in the community and the world.
2. In a Christian context, the words, life, ministry and example of Jesus must have primary importance. If Jesus wasn’t all that shook up about something, we shouldn’t be either.
3. An authentic, healthy spirituality recognizes that there is nothing about investigating and incorporating information, practices, or rituals from other traditions that makes us disloyal to our tradition – because, in truth, the tradition evolves all the time.
4. There is one Divine Presence, and all traditions point to that Presence regardless of the whether they call on that Presence by the name Nirvana, Allah, Yahweh, God, Shiva, Krishna, Great Spirit, or any of the other countless names which people have used throughout history and cultures to describe That which is beyond description.
5. There is one humanity, completely interconnected and interdependent. Whenever one of us are diminished, we all are diminished. Whenever one of us is lifted up, we all are lifted up.
I realize that is just a beginning. I hope to develop over the next several months a more complete picture of what just such a healthy spirituality might look like. In the meantime, we will walk!