I am reading a fascinating book called Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass. Here is one of the first quotes I read which made me know I'd enjoy this book: "One minister wrote about the "difference between religion and faith," saying that "religion seeks conformity and control -- scriptural infallibility and literalism, imposition of beliefs upon others -- and cannot abide any other way of encountering God that falls outside of it's defined boundaries. Faith seeks freedom and life for all to experience God on their own terms and in their own ways -- and then allows for communal experiences and collaboration to build a better world."
In the book, the author chronicles the progression of how we've practiced religion and faith in this country and how the status quo is no longer identified by the majority of people as the way they see their faith lives. The majority of people now call themselves "spiritual" but not "religious." She attempts to explore what that means and how it is changing how we practice faith in our lives. People are fully turned off by institutional "church." They don't want to hear dogma and be told they must profess certain tenants to be a part of a group. They don't want to be told how to interpret the word of God. They tend to want to live their faith through experiences of the spirit. And that means walking the walk, not showing up in a building each Sunday at 11 am. They want to know that it's OK to question things and have doubts and believe in the mystery of how things came to be and not be judged or made to feel they are not true believers.
I saw this poster of the Ten Native American Commandments when Googling "spirituality" and felt it was a great representation of where it seems many people are in their faith journeys now. It is really quite simple. And it's where I've found myself for many, many years. A questioning believer. One who feels that we all need to come from a place of love in all we do and in all our interactions with others. I've never felt like I had to believe any certain things in my faith, and I've never felt as if my faith is the "right faith" and all others are wrong or misguided. There are many, many paths to God. The church that I attend is a place that allows me to just be me and feel His presence. It could be any church, but I found I was drawn to the beauty of liturgical worship. I love that even though we are all in different places in our faith journeys, we can still come together as a family and have time during the week where all our focus is on our spiritual lives. It matters not to me if someone chooses to do that in a church or chooses to do it by being out in nature, or taking time to look up at the stars and feel connected to the love in the universe. It's all the same really. Do we walk in love and beauty and focus on making this world a better place by our actions and the way we live, or do we choose to be self-centered and judgmental? Calling oneself a "Christian" these days has taken on a rather negative connotation as it tends to be associated with piety, narrow mindedness, and exclusivity. That makes me sad. Being a follower of Christ to me truly means radical love and acceptance and that means it's not my place to know what is right for anyone, but rather that I should let them take their journey and treat them as I'd want to be treated. Yes, it's really that simple in my mind. You know, that "love thy neighbor as thyself" stuff. Radical.