Taking Sides

I have the feeling there are a lot of people who don’t really understand why people like me identify as interspiritual – a term I much prefer to interfaith, because to me interfaith seems to imply that I am equally qualified to teach in a number of different traditions. I don’t really know anyone who fits that description, because interfaith dialogue is one thing – people from different traditions coming together to share what they have experienced and known in a mutually supportive environment – that really can be accomplished, but claiming to be able to look at the journey from the perspective of multiple traditions while representing them fairly isn’t something I feel like any of us can claim. That being said, there are of course fine people who identify as interfaith and who mean something other than what I do when I use the term, and that’s fine. For my part I would rather claim interspirituality, which I understand as incorporating aspects of traditions other than the one in which I was raised (Christianity) into my spiritual practice to enrich my experience of and ability to express even a fragment of the Divine.

And so the angry voice from the back screams, “Isn’t Christianity enough?” The answer, of course, is no – but thanks for asking. Every tradition falls short because every tradition, no matter how hard it seeks to be faithful to the transcendent experience and teacher that (unwittingly) started the tradition, inevitably falls short. What’s more, I would submit, the more time that passes and the more the tradition falls under the control of an institution, the most miserably it falls short because it ceases to be a living thing. Institutions put living things into cages and displays, immersing them in solutions to preserve them – and so kill them with the poison of the preservative! Formaldehyde really isn’t very good for you, you see.

Of course, Christianity falling short is different than Christ falling short – just as Buddhism falling short is different than the Buddha falling short, Islam falling short is different than The Prophet (peace be upon him) falling short, Judaism falling short is different than Moses and Elijah falling short, and Zoroastrianism is different than  Astro from the Jetsons falling short – or whomever. And people get all kinds of upset because they think when we say their religion is lacking we are saying that their God, or teacher, or Prophet, or Divine Being, or dog is lacking – which is most emphatically not what we are saying. What we are saying is that human beings screw things up with great regularity – you might say it’s part of our charm.

If it isn’t the adherents of one religion of another – and make no mistake, they all have done it – deciding it would be a lovely idea to commit genocide in the Name of God then it’s another group of adherents of this or that religion deciding that they would rather hold on to dead tradition than do anything that might breathe fresh air into the musty pile of underwear in the laundry room their religion has become. If not that, then wait a few minutes and somebody who has been preaching hell fire and brimstone about the LGBT community will be found buried completely inside the vagina of a prostitute with only his Bible hanging out, all the while railing about the evils of fornication. It just goes on and on and sooner or later some of us have more than enough of the bullshit while at the same time retaining a deeply spiritual perspective. I submit the reason is that we have had a deeply moving, if only fragmentary, experience of the transcendent and have enough sense to keep our mouths closed about the details while continuing to walk the spiritual path.

It seems we rather get it inside out and twisted about, at least according to the established norm. We start our walk in the confines of religion and it points us in the right general direction – then suddenly we find ourselves in an encounter with God and upon returning to our tradition of origin realize how completely useless it is to us – not because we no longer need community, but rather because this community seems to be more concerned with the rules than Truth! And so we start looking around, and find that this bit from over here helps, and oh yes that piece from over there is quite nice, and look at all of these commonalities that we find when we start comparing things! In fact the commonalities in the teachings of the founders of the great traditions always seem to be spot on, while the interpretations and reinterpretations and translations into rules and practices are, well, crap.

Once the cat is out of the bag and you have a glimpse of God, or Divinity, or The Universe, or Awakening, or Enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it, I believe it is impossible to pretend that any one religious system can possibly hope to come close to expressing what really matters. For that matter, I don’t think all of them lumped into one big, sweaty, celulite laden pile come close to expressing what matters – but in each of them there are gems both hidden and visible that reflect some of that splendor, some of that experience, and so help give voice to that within us which transcends words. That is interspirituality, that is why some of us quite intentionally disregard the boundaries humans have created between the games they play and the truth we have seen if but momentarily. That’s why we walk this path – we can do no other.

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