Category Archives: Christianity

To Love and Live Free

I went to an opera this past weekend for the first time at age sixty-two. The story was as old as time. The subject presented was one of love and freedom. As we were leaving the house, my wife explained the opera’s synopsis to my son, and he replied that it sounded like a hallmark TV show. When my wife told me of that conversation, it made me smile. My mind immediately thought of the many women on that same rainy Saturday demonstrating at the Lincoln Memorial not far from the Kennedy Center opera house for the right to live free and not be criminalized for terminating their pregnancy. The opera I saw is titled Carmen, who lost her life because she chose to love and live free.

On a spiritual level, I deeply relate to this story. Whether religious or secular, human cultures do a great job transmitting values from one generation to the next. However, I find them very judgmental when a violation of its boundaries happens. The maintenance of these boundaries is the lifeblood and identity of that culture. Every member and generation in that culture must translate those values and borders.

Sometimes we reinterpret the cultural values and visualize new possibilities. Today we possess a global consciousness, and our technology provides an awareness of cultures outside of our birth culture. Today the gatekeepers in our religious and secular societies are working overtime to keep us inside our borders. If you are not old-school, you probably have membership in multiple cultures, and if you are like me, each culture has gatekeepers trying to pull us back into the fold. And one of their favorite strategies is to have you guard the borders to prove your loyalty.

At the opera’s end, Carmen is killed by one of her lovers. Spiritual transcendence is always about dying at one level to get to a new level. Freedom never comes without death. My original religious culture retells the story of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and my new culture teaches us to see reality through a new lens. As one of the teachers in this nondual movement loves to quote: “Matter is not what you see, it is a way of seeing”

My spirituality also reflects the insights found in the culture of science and scientist, who may not see themselves as a culture. However, science has its dogmas, based on science but still dogmas. Quantum entanglement is faster than light communication, also known as prayer, and has always been a function operating in my life. However, I now see that there are no walls between what some call God, other people, and myself. I am beginning to understand and live in a reality where the very substance of life is the same for God, all humans, and everything in the universe.

Spiritual transcendence makes possible freedoms at new levels. As we remove separations walled by our old cultural beliefs, new possibilities bubble forth. As we change the way we interpret life, a new reality emerges, kind of like being born again. The Washing National Opera (WNO) has a close relationship with the Ambassador community in the DC area. Most of these good women and men would be considered gatekeepers of their international community. The WNO was also hosting a gala to coincide with the two-year restart of opera performances after pandemic restrictions. The audience was full of embassy staffers, and I hope their takeaway from the story of Carmen was a little more nuanced than my son’s comparison to a Hallmark TV show.

Transcending one’s culture is an evolutionary process. Human spiritual development will continue, and new human cultures will rise and fall. New interpretations of truths will find their way to the light. New boundaries will replace the old ways of seeing, and those that were once criminals will live in new freedoms. To love and live free is a human story, played out every day in every human life.

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World Beauty

There are two common sayings used today. One is “selective hearing,” and at least one contestant in every beauty pageant always answers “world peace” during the question segment of the contest. What I and many others are discovering about life, from both a spiritual and scientific perspective, is that our conscience has a significant effect on the reality we experience.

Sayings like selective hearing and world peace are statements of what we do and desire. With that, I want to introduce a new saying. World Beauty. Ironically when we gather with our local spiritual communities and churches, we most often misuse our conscience by selectively limiting and acknowledging God’s virtue in operation. For many, the main reason we attend a Sunday morning spiritual gathering is that we see the beauty in the person standing on the stage. What we miss is the beauty inside everyone else. By beauty, I am talking about the virtue and God-like qualities that all humans possess.

We desire a beautiful world of peace, but we fail to see and acknowledge the beauty in every ordinary person. That is because we participate in selective seeing which finds and complements the divinity only in our cultural leaders. With 7.5 billion of us, we need to see and speak forth the good that resides in every person and not just our role models and group leaders. Being aware of the goodness in another person is one of the most empowering things we can do to bring about a beautiful world. In quantum physics, there is a theoretical experiment called Schrodinger’s cat and there is also the dual slit experiment with its many variations. In both cases, the conscious observer is the determining factor for the outcome of these experiments.

World beauty is a real possibility for human experience. What is required is for us to see it. We need judgment that finds beauty, love, and peace in the fabric of our reality. To experience world beauty, we must see it in more than just our leaders, role models, and celebrities. We need to see it in every one of our fellow human beings. We need a practice of selective seeing that will produce the desire of our hearts, which is world beauty.

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The Other Team Sport?

2019-01-01_waterdrops-8-1184377-1599x1066The human concept of religious freedom is our acknowledgment that spiritual beliefs, practices, and understanding can be as individual as the number of humans. The recognition and respect for all individuals to freely express their personal beliefs are fundamental as breathing.

So, why do so many people participate in their spiritual development as a team sport? Also, why have many people allowed their personal spiritual identity to become entangled with a religious organization? Organizational religion has two main goals. One is to aid in the spiritual training of those that join its organization. The second is to transmit to future generations the teachings and practices that are part of the religious culture for which it represents.

Many Sunday morning worship services in America have morphed to resemble sports and political gatherings with people supporting their home teams. The Sunday morning gatherings in America used to be a time of spiritual devotion where any visitor could join the community practice. It was an opportunity for people to temporarily escape from of their personal lives to reflect on the actions they committed or omitted during the busy week. It was a time for quiet reflection while being washed in spiritual words of encouragement. It was an opportunity for personal transformation.

Do you gather in huge a stadium or do you gather in a smaller group, and is it with people and friends that have the same perspective or worldview? Is there time for quiet devotion and reflection or does the gathering put on a production and presentation to keep you excited so you will come back again? Is the overall point of view being shared one that says, there is only one way to God and all others perspectives in the marketplace need to be driven out, so the world can become transformed? If someone holding a different worldview happens to visit or is invited to attend your service are they accepted as they are if they never change, or are they made to feel especially uncomfortable if they fail to cheer on the home team and its perception of the world?

This may be fine for sport and political gatherings, but it violates the concept for spiritual freedom. Yet, religious institutions have adopted this format as a method to support and bolster its organizational goals. Religious institutions train their membership in groups to maximize efficiency, but they fail to reinforce the idea that a person’s spiritual identity is as personal as their fingerprint and that it belongs to them. More important and because of tradition, many members freely abdicate their responsibility for spiritual development and trade in their personal identity for a group identity. Many people do this in hopes that God’s heart is moved by numbers when standing in faith on an issue. Have you given over your identity in hopes that it will be used as a political force that can influence the material world issues in a spiritual way?

For many years religious organizations, worldwide, have been more than happy to let people give them their identities so they can be the ones representing their spiritual lives. Just prior to the Protestant Reformation in the Christian culture, the most popular religious institutions were accused of having to much power and abusing that power. Back then the power was in the form of a financial tax on individuals, and families. From birth to death these organizations formulated a strategy of dispensing and withholding blessings to influence and control various parts of a persons moral and spiritual life.

Today people volunteer to be members of their religious institutions and have the freedom to terminate the relationship whenever they want. However, for those that choose to evolve spiritually, most never do it outside of a religious organization. Therefore, today these organizations continue to yield tremendous power from birth to death. They do not directly tax individuals, but the relationship has financial obligations and when it comes to political power, they strongly influence the beliefs and thoughts of most of its members. There is a valid chicken and egg argument to be made, however, within the membership only a few members hold differing beliefs from the membership at large.

But be encouraged, many people are waking up to these trends as it concerns personal spiritual development. The Spiritual But Not Religious (SBNR) movement and specifically within Christianity the Emergent Church movement and the Red Letter Christian movement are examples of pushbacks towards this trend. However, just switching teams is not a solution to the trend of spiritual development being a team sport.

Only the act of taking personal responsibility for one’s spiritual training can truly reverse this trend. It does not require everyone to exit organize religion, but it does require everyone to set personal goals and partake of training materials that they have sought out. With the advent of human technological advancements, especially in the area of social networks, individuals in the western world are without excuse when it comes to seeking spiritual enlightenment. Do you avail yourself of the spiritual resources available on the social network at least once a week?

To remained pigeonholed into a way of thinking spiritually from birth to death reflects truly on one’s beliefs about all things spiritually. Fear is the primary tactic that keeps many people from exploring spiritually. In every other area of life, people exercise freedom except when it comes to their spirituality. It is kind of like when a stockbroker or a doctor discourage you from getting a second opinion, you should automatically know that something is wrong. However, many falsely believe they will be better off not knowing the truth.

Again, be encouraged that you will not be the first pioneer to strike out on your own and do something spiritually on one of the other six days of the week and still show up on Sunday for the religious pep rally. Odds are that there are more than a few members already doing it. Social media sites like Meetup.com provide links with information about meetings and groups that have planned alternative events for exploring and finding people with awakened spiritual points of view.

For every charlatan standing in the pulpits in America, there is probably one on social media with the fraudulent intents, and yet my experience over the last 5 years has been all good and left my desire to explore peaked and all the while feeling safe. As human understanding grows some religious tradition will not stand the test of truth. What is true is that our spiritual identity as a created child of God is secure as God’s very Presence. That is our spiritual heritage and it has nothing to do with human tradition or the team we choose for our spiritual training.

One reason that unconditional love is in short supply among the human population, is because love has been made conditional to the spiritual identity of the spiritual team a person trains with. Yet, the true source of unconditional love is God. This is the reason that Jesus made love the only condition for a true relationship. While the religion of Jesus day had 613 ways to break the relationship, Jesus made love the only condition for a relationship.

So, let each of us stay mindful that we have the right and the freedom to develop our personal spiritual training. If nothing else, explore the limits of your current training organization. Ask questions of God, your organization’s leadership and other members. Open your heart and spiritual ears to God and determine where you want to end up when this earthly life is finished.

Do you want a personal faith relationship in your spiritual team or personal faith relationship in God? There are 52 Sundays this year, will your personal spiritual development remain as the other team sport?

 

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