Telling or Listening?

What keeps you up at night? What kinds of things bother you so much that you have trouble concentrating? What are your deepest fears? Unless you are a theologian, a member of the clergy, or schizophrenic, I’m willing to bet that having a solid understanding of the doctrine of a religion isn’t on your list. Despite that, it seems that institutional religion – from liberal to conservative and everywhere in between – is convinced that they need to spend a great deal of time defining precisely what you should believe and little to no time learning about your life. Why?

Have you ever had any institutional religious figure ask you the three questions at the beginning of this post, or anything remotely resembling them? I’m willing to bet the answer is “no.” The reason is that if they asked you those questions they would have to listen, and that can get pretty messy. Most of them dont know how to do it. It could lead to a discussion of feelings and an expression of emotion. You might even shed a tear. Holy shit! What would they do then?

The truth is that most of us are most concerned about a family member struggling with illness, an uncertain employment situation, how we are going to pay the bills, and whether our primary relationship will weather a storm. Those things are much more important to us than any doctrine  or dogma could ever be – but the institutional Church is very concerned about your belief in things like the Virgin birth and that you believe Jesus is God despite the fact that he repeatedly said he wasn’t. That’s why I am no longer part of the institution. I’m much more concerned about you than about your beliefs. I am ready to listen, and won’t run away if you cry – neither will my colleagues. We do care about spirituality, but we recognize that what is most important to you must be most important to us.  Imagine that!

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