This I Believe

Neil - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on July 24, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: Christianity

This I Believe……That it is better to be spiritual.

Some years ago I was with a community development organization that was working in a village in India. One time a government official—fearing we were missionaries—interrogated a village elder and asked him if we were religious. Oh no, the elder replied, they are far too spiritual to be religious.

Over the years, I have used that phrase as an anchor in my own life. I am deeply indebted to my particular religious tradition—Christianity—as I navigate my spiritual life. To use Paul Tillich’s, imagery I attempt to bridge the separation in my life; separation from my self, from others and from the Ground of Being. Put another way, I stand in awe of life, appreciating my self, others and all that it is. For me, a spiritual life is living a life of confession, praise and gratitude.

Yet, when the spiritual becomes a “religion”, when doctrinarism becomes more important than the original message, when a particular religion becomes the only way to love God is when religion stops being spiritual. Indeed, I have wondered of all the bigotries—race, gender, nation—that perhaps our greatest bigotry is our religious bigotry. It amazes me. Christian against Jew, Protestant against Catholic, Hindu against Muslim and now in the Iraq civil war, Muslim against Muslim. All in the name of religion.

I was back in India in March and visited the truly amazing Ellora caves. These caves are actually temples hewn out of a mountainside. Most interesting is that there are 3 sets of temples built during 3 successive religious periods; Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. But, and this is a significant qualification, succeeding monks did not believe that they had to destroy or mar the work of a prior religion. The result is an ecumenical harmony. Three great religious traditions worshiping God in their own way.

So why can’t we be the same? Finding God in our own way without having to demean or destroy another’s path.