As anyone who follows my blog must realize, I am not a big fan of organized religion. That has to sound strange coming from an ordained clergyperson of over 40 years, but it’s certainly not the strangest facet of my life.
The fact is that I am almost always disappointed by organized religion. And although I am much more conversant with Christianity, my disappointment with organized religion extends to all the major faith groups with which I have be associated across the years. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all equally fail to deliver what they promise.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a ardent follower of Christ, and firmly believe that an authentic spirituality is the only realistic foundation for a meaningful life. Yet for the most part, what I see in the organized church brings me to tears. Then it makes me angry. We have the power to heal our broken world yet we absolutely refuse to do it.
I was once privileged to hear Dr. Elton Trueblood speak. During his presentation Dr. Trueblood said that the world was equally shocked by two things. The first was to hear Christianity criticized. The second thing, even more shocking to the world, was to see Christianity practiced.
Our world continues to change. No longer is anyone especially shocked to hear the church or organized religion criticized, and rightfully so. No institution deserves respect for what it once stood for and what it once represented. But, what still shocks the world is to see Christianity actually practiced.
When that changes, and I pray that it does, maybe my opinion of organized religion will, as well.
It’s always a mystery to me how our consumeristic society can so quickly and easily turn something so beautiful into something so profitable. Valentine’s Day is a case in point.
In three days we will celebrate Valentine’s Day. And all of us know what that means. For anyone with a spouse, partner, or significant other, the day “mandates:”
A. an expensive (and for full credit) sentimental card
B. a box of fancy chocolates
C. at least a dozen red roses
D. a nice dinner (preferably at a restaurant of note)
E. jewelry or (in extreme cases)
F. all of the above
Cash registers across the country are singing their happy song! How much can we be guilted into spending to insure that special someone really knows how much we care?
What never ceases to amaze me, however, is how completely we have bought into this mindless “spend to prove you love me” orgy. Love is not about roses, or even chocolates, no matter how decadently delicious they might be. While giving thoughtful gifts to those we love is never out of season, poor Saint Valentine is surely rolling over in his grave at the way we profane his day.
I’ll talk more about the saint in my next post, but for now I just want to close with a poem from one of the most influential female saints in Islam. Her name is Rabia of Basra, and she lived around 717-801. She is another of my favorite poets. The poem is entitled THE PERFECT STILLNESS.
the perfect stillness
and the greatest excitement, and most profound act,
and the word almost as complete
as His name.