Theology and Spirituality

Interesting…..I just heard something interesting on a Jewish site while listening to the Rabbi’s talk about an upcoming holiday.  The Rabbi shared that there is something theological to to be learned about the holiday, but that is not spiritual, that is too philosophical, too abstract.

What they want to know is how the story affects us now.  How does it affect the way we live our lives?

This made me wonder about all religion, especially in America.  Has it become too theological, too abstract, too philosophical to be useful in our daily lives?   Does it make a real, positive difference in how we live our lives in the here and now?  Take Lent for example, will it make a real positive difference in the lives of the people who follow it?  How?

Why I follow Jesus

Why I follow Jesus

Why would any intelligent modern-day person follow Jesus? 

When I was growing up, the world was a different place for me.  Everyone pretty much stayed “in their place”.  The blacks kept to themselves, the poor lived in the “poor side of town”, and we the white, protestant, comfortably well-off folk stayed in the “nice” neighborhoods…pretty much avoiding the others, if we ever saw them at all.  It was a pretty comfortable world for most people, as long as you were white, Protestant, well-off, and accepted the status quo.  But, it was the 60’s, and change was already happening. 

Earlier “hippies” had dared to question this status quo, and cried foul upon the institutions that tried to keep people “in their place”.  I fell into the tail-end of this hippie revolution and as a child patiently watched the Saturday morning news, full of riots, sit-ins and soldiers wading through the Vietnam swamps, guns in their arms, before getting to the really important part of a Saturday, the cartoons. 

It was in this evolving world that I took my first steps and soon began to look for meaning.  I searched in all the areas available to a pre-teen in rural Missouri, but found nothing to satisfy me.  Everything I found seemed shallow or did not stand up to logical scrutiny.  After exhausting all the resources I could find in that small town, the search for meaning side-tracked somewhat as puberty hit.

Boys and parties took on a new importance for a while, in the search for meaning.  But when they failed to satisfy the longings inside of me, I struck out on my own and went to a college far on the other side of the state in search of ……????  I didn’t know what.  Once again, I searched high and low for the elusive “it” that would give my life meaning…and found it not.  Boys and parties came into my life again, as I attempted to fill that darkened void in my heart that cried out to be filled….to no avail. 

In this setting, I was introduced to a new religion, “the Restoration”.  Claiming a new insight into God…it tingled with intrigue to this young rogue, for it was also… “forbidden”.  On the “banned” list in many good, upstanding religious communities, the Restorationists had dared to question the creeds and scriptures and the very religious status quo that bound many groups together.  The community was new and loving and encouraged the kind of healthy change this lonely college youth needed.  But dark clouds were on the horizon. 

Changes to their status quo, in the form of enlarging their leadership base caused massive turmoil in the community.  Meeting houses that had once been a bastion of peace and love now rolled on the waves of anger as warring groups fought for religious and theological dominance in the community.  Families and friends separated over differences.  Soon, the love that had seemed so powerful succumbed to the viruses of pride and prejudice, and the community family divorced, leaving the young soul it had so recently embraced feeling lost and alone.

In this environment, support came in the form of a traveling minister whose earlier wild life closely mirrored my own.  He pointed me to a support group that encouraged me to find a “God of my own understanding”, and it was here, years later, that I gave Jesus a second look….or in reality, his first real look. 

Jesus was a rogue who fought against the religious status quo…a big point in his favor in my mind.  He also sat and ate with those considered outcasts and sinners, and even defended them against the religious leaders of the day.  In my eyes, this man was getting way interesting!!!  He used hated outsiders like “Good” Samaritans and “full of faith” Roman Centurions as role models, and called the people to love their enemies.  In the middle of political and religious chaos of the day, he was a powerful force that fed the poor, healed the sick and called the pompous to look at their own sins before casting stones at others.  Using parables understandable at many levels, even to a child, he promoted a community where love and compassion reigned.  A community with a lifestyle like his could surely change the world!!!  

Couldn’t it?