Let me start this wee post by saying that my wife Zan should really be writing it. This wonderful lady had to put up with my religious zeal for most of the formative years of our 32 year long marriage. It’s not easy living with a Jesus Freak, especially an Irish one with a big black Bible and a devotion to a radical charismatic church.
Anyway, in this post I’d like to explore some of the difficulties encountered in attempting to relate to an extremely zealous believer, whether within marriage, family circle or workplace. Let me say that the task isn’t an easy one, not easy at all. Perhaps this is why so many divorces eventually occur in marriages where either one of the partners suddenly finds religion, or finally admits to agnosticism.
What is it that makes a religious believer so hard to relate to?
Here are a few simple ideas:
1) They tend to have a one-track mind.
The believer sees absolutely everything through their version of Truth. Nothing is seen as having being or value in itself but is always hooked up to their God agenda. A walk in nature ends up with a pietistic sermon rather than a wondrous encounter with snow filled trees or melodious birdsong.
2) They see the world as black and white
No grey areas exist in the believers vision. The Holy Book says this so there is no discussion and no compromise. The Sacred Writings don’t need interpretation for they are written by God Himself.
3) Behind the black they see the Satan.
If we haven’t signed up to the believer’s particular formula for salvation then we are puppets and by inference allies of God’s enemy. Not an easy role to take on!, especially within a family. Alternative takes on the Satan as a psychic disease of the human condition are quickly dismissed.
4) Everyone they meet is a potential convert.
Evangelism or the proclamation of Good News is reduced to a proselytising, recruitment process, to place paying bums on the seats of their tithing faith community of choice. Fellow human beings, even those closest to them are stamped with a sinner label that quickly blocks the mutual exchange of human vulnerability.
5) They perceive themselves to be closer to God than the non believer.
Sinners saved by grace tend to quickly forget that grace, believing that theirbelief somehow makes them a bosom buddy of the Divine; a member of His ‘In Group’. The non believer easily senses this us them dichotomy even in the closest of families.
6) They believe that God is a quality controller.
Believing themselves to be ever under the watchful eye of the Divine Inspector, the zealous believer usually takes on this role with those whom they attempt to relate to. God’s will and standards are the benchmark by which the life of those closest are judged. The upholder of God’s Law can easily slip into a self-righteousness that quickly turns others off.
7) They believe that being right is of supreme importance.
It is amazing the lengths that the religious junkie will go to defend their metaphysical patch. God is frequently hauled onto their side of a discussion through the use of texts skillfully drawn from the Sacred Writings of choice. They know that whatever side God is on has won the argument – end of story. It is unthinkable for the zealous believer to acknowledge that they may be mistaken or to allow others a different mindset space.
The list could go on and on.
When I was on my mission for God all those decades ago, folk were hurt by my fiery psyche and I wasn’t even aware of it. Such is the blindness of the zealot in their attempt to save the world whilst ignoring the relational pain of those around them. Hell indeed for those hauled along for the heady religious ride.
In my next post I hope to look at some coping mechanisms for dealing with the religious junkies in our midst; those among whom we live and move and have our social being. Hold on ~ help is on its way!
I’ve been amazed over the last few days at how many folk have visited my old Post ‘ How To Recognize Dysfunctional Religious Attachments’. One commentator thought the title a bit of a mouthful, better used for the title of a thesis perhaps! Don’t I just love honesty on the blogosphere! Yes, the young lady in question has a valid point. From now on my post titles will be shorter and snappier.
So why more on dysfunctional religious attachments?
Well, simply because many of us still appear to have a psychic itch that no-one has dared put a name to. To do so would risk immediate expulsion from the religious flock of choice. Since I’m long gone from the power plays of Sunday morning faith life I’ll step forward and put my spiritual neck on the religious block. Here goes:
Attachments are the invisible chords that hold us into a psychological dependency on a group, person or thing. Usually though they operate best on a person-to-person basis, often in the disguise of undying love or admirable commitment. They appear to be the chords of love but are far from it, for true love is cordless, releasing the beloved to roam at will. You can see why these attachments attach themselves to the matters of religious belief and practice. It’s a great breeding ground for them as they try to hide in the respectable setting of God and His people.
Attachments are clever little creatures. They can adapt chameleon-like to whatever surroundings they find themselves in. There are Catholic attachments, Protestant attachments, Orthodox attachments, Pentecostal attachments, non denominational attachments etc, etc. Even in the heightened environs of those who claim to practice authentic Christianity in their recovered New Testament church models lurk the dreaded attachments with their insidious attempt to lock up sincere folk within the Matrix of metaphysical desire.
Matrix? Where did that come from? Well, if you’ve seen the movie you’ll remember the shocking setting; rows and rows, tier after tier of embryonic bodies having the life sucked out of them by the merciless machines, as they dreamed of normal life. So to in our religious life?
I believe so.
As we sit in our pews or cushioned plastic seats each Sunday morning we’re lining up to suck a metaphysical certainty of sorts out of our pastor, preacher, priest in exchange for our loyalty. In other words, he/she dishes out the faithand we keep coming and perhaps more importantly, paying.
The psychic glue that keeps the whole sacred attachment show on the road is of course desire and its insidious offspring expectation. We want to know God. Wonderful! Yet this is not a desire in isolation – it has a not so hidden context. We want to know God like Pastor Joe or Rev. Jones or Sister Mary or ……….. This is the key to our dependency, the attachment that locks us into a quasi-like devotion to those who appear to dispense the very life of God. Of course any of us who’ve willingly played the role of spiritual dispenser on a professional basis knows that although we work for God we are in fact chained to our people for both authentication, approval and cash flow. Like a quick-sand that pulls one down into the darkness of death, the ministry game, whether paid or hobby-like in nature has many skeletons in its white-washed cupboards.
Well Dylan, that’s all very well but thankfully I only depend on Jesus!
Wonderful, but may I humbly make a couple of perhaps pointed observations:
1) If you genuinely depend on Jesus why not try giving up attendance at religious services or meetings for the next three months. I respectfully suggest that you might experience some cold turkey symptoms linked to people or group dependency on your newly acquired, quiet Sunday mornings.
2) I wonder if Jesus, or Yeshua as his old mum called Him, wants you to be dependent on him. Was the goal of the Nazarene to have a multitude of followers trailing like little puppy dogs or a band of brothers and sisters to join him in the Divine Dance?
Sadly most of us only realize our addictions when we try to give up the substance concerned. I’m sitting here in Cafe Nero, ( I know,not a great name for Christians!), my local coffee shop with my regular Americanno in hand. If I’d skipped it this morning I’d most certainly have a headache by 1 p.m. So to with our religious habits.
What is it in our spiritual life that deep down we suspect we’re dependent on? What has hooked us into a religious dependency that we just can’t admit? Many of us, fueled by a fear of rejection, will fight tooth and nail for our spiritual fixes in the guise of zealous God lovers.
As we let go of our various religious Attachments it can appear that our spiritual life is about to rapidly go down the drain of non belief.
Alone in our vulnerability we shall feel the Divine Hand reach out to lead us in the Dance of Life. The Dancer and the Dance, a celebration of Union and freedom; the freedom to be and to give Love, no strings attached.
Throughout history, the mystics of all religions have experienced a Divine Communication beyond words. Today we in the Western, and indeed world-wide, religious environs are constantly bombarded by a multiplicity of words. The proliferation of mass media has been an answer to the spiritual teacher’s prayer. Literally, millions of books, pod-casts, blogs, sermons, costly seminars, YouTube videos, CDs etc, are regularly hawked to help us get in touch with God. It would appear that God needs a major commercial helping hand in order to communicate the message of Divine Love to His word hungry kids, but that’s a post for another day.
But what if instead of learning how to tune into an occasional message from God we learned to continually relax in Divine Presence by totally changing our perception of Spirit and how or why it communicates. If we underwent this seismic shift in our transcendent thinking our wallets would be a bit more available to the poor and a lot less open to the ‘professional’ religious or New Age gurus who enjoy the money driven high-life.
So what am I suggesting?
Well, as we all know, a good relationship depends on clear and consistent communication. So if our Source hopes to enjoy one with us then such a clarity of dialogue must surely issue from the Divine Heart.
Ah, but God has already spoken in the Sacred Writings you say! ‘I believe every jot, word and tittle of the Holy Bible, Koran, Vedas, or Book of my choice.’ Well OK, I can go along with that but does that mean that in pursuing intimacy with us Sacred Breath only spouts Holy Texts. If we want to hear the Divine must we study and limit ourselves to the sacred texts? If a young man is deeply in love with a young woman is he limited to reading her love letters, rather than calling her on the phone or even better, meeting and embracing his beloved cheek to cheek? Somehow I suspect that such a letter reading relationship wouldn’t last for long.
It’s here that Christians step in to say that God has also spoken to mankind by visiting us in the form of Yeshua, the Nazarene prophet-teacher. Yep I can also go along with that. The Logos, the Greek designed Word or expression of the Divine animating principle of the Cosmos, became flesh and dwelt among us. A fleshed out expression of the Divine Nature. Yet, he is not with us in visible form today. How do we have a relationship with a Master that we can no longer feel and touch? Some have suggested ‘obedience’ to his teachings as the key, but is that authentic relationship or just another religious duty to the unseen and distant God.
Well Yeshua himself seemed to suggest some answers to our predicament in the form of Sacred Breath or Spirit Wind. No-one can see wind but they can certainly feel it. Is there some way that we can feel Divine Presence where words become almost irrelevant. Like two lovers sitting and holding hands, reading each others thoughts through some form of love-struck telepathy may we not also feel the Presence of Sacred Unity, the One who has chased us down through the years. That sense of knowing that we are loved, rather than the forced mind games of believing that we are loved.
So are words important?
Well yes and no!
God is a God of few words but also One of overflowing Presence, a companion who takes us to a place where speech becomes almost unnecessary. A state of confidence birthed by Divine initiative, the fruit of Divine longing, a longing to embrace and saturate the Sons and Daughters of His Desire. Many claim to have come home to God. Perhaps it is God who has come home to us, his chosen resting place in the unbounded open spaces of our multidimensional Cosmos. It’s what Source has always longed for; an extended expression of itself to Love and Nurture, a companion to ride alongside on the Spirit Plains of Being, the great expanse of Divine Communion.
Queen’s Freddie Mercury once sang, ‘I need somebody to love’. Perhaps the greatest Lover of all is in the same boat, which might just explain why we’re here at all, waiting in the Spirit of saturated Silence.
The religious word faith carries so much metaphysical and cultural baggage that it’s now a hindrance to those looking for the big answers in life. The original Greek word pistis as found in the New testament can mean, faith, belief or trust. So let’s start 2013 by stripping away some of the spiritual clutter. I wish to set aside the over-used word faith and chose a more meaningful replacement. However should I go for belief or trust?
I’m often asked what I believe. A good question that I’m not sure I can answer in the affirmative. I guess I can tell you what I no longer believe. For many years following my initial Divine encounter I jumped on and successfully clung to the evangelical band-wagon. It didn’t take long to pick up what I was supposed to believe; there were plenty of zealous teachers out there to ‘feed’ me in the basics of the faith. All my beliefs were to square with the Bible, the Spirit inspired Word of God. This is where I took my first wrong turn. The complexities and paradoxes of the Scriptural accounts of God’s dealings with the Jewish and Christian tribes were ignored by my evangelical educators. Being new to the faith,I was fed the simplified version that God had forgiven me my sins by a blood sacrifice that had been set up by God Himself, that I had the bible as a handbook and that if I joined a good church then I would remain on the straight and narrow. As time progressed more and more little extra beliefs were added to the tenuous tower of dogma that was quickly becoming Truth, the lens through which I was to view the world in all its fallen state.
The trouble with belief is that it was never designed to remain constant. It comprises thoughts and concepts that change over time adjusted by the experiences of life. It’s a bit like going for one’s annual eye-test. As the optometrist places various lenses in front of our eyeball she sweetly asks ‘Which one is clearer? This one ….. or that one?’ As we embarrassingly blurt out our answer, totally unsure of the correctness of our answer, we are well on the way to our new pair of specs through which we will perceive our world for the next year. And so with belief. The belief system or dogma of our post conversion indoctrination does a good job for a while. For some it is months, for some years and for the stalwarts of the prevailing orthodoxy a lifetime.
The mind is a great tool for dealing with this material world that bumps into us as soon as we wake each morning. Its powers of analysis are a wonderful asset in deciding whether to buy a PC or a Mac, a hotdog or a cheeseburger, a Ford or a Toyota. It’s a complex computer through which the operating system of our belief makes sense of the slow energy or matter that we encounter. Yet like all good software, regular updates are needed as we encounter new problems, unable to be solved by the old version. Beliefs are a skeletal structure on which we hang our broken humanity, yet they are not the channels of spiritual reality, of Divine Life. They are psychic signposts, pointing backwards to a place we have been, not to a destination as yet unvisited.
Beliefs are the bulwark of religion. Without beliefs the whole edifice of religious structures come tumbling down. ‘We believe this. The guys down the road believe that. Come and attach yourself to us for we have captured the Divine Mystery in our body of teaching. We teach only what the Bible says.’ And so the religious games continue until we can no longer wear the specs that were given us on our initiation into the sect of our choice.
So where does that leave us? On the rocks of atheism or a post religious agnosticism. I don’t believe so. Beliefs were never meant to communicate Divine Reality. They are a by-product of our wonderful brain CPU. Like clouds rolling along in the highest heavens, they are interesting to behold, admire and even discuss but too ethereal to cling onto. No, we need something much more substantial at the core of our being, a connection with Divine Love that won’t let us down.
Trust is the real deal, a gift that is able to carry our sanity to the very gates of Heaven. Altogether different from belief, trust is made of some kind of substance that doesn’t originate in the supercomputer of our brain-mind. It appears to flow from a higher Source, an I-Am-ness that lies beyond the mind tricks of our consciousness. Trust can carry the weight of our existential angst, the gnawing unknowing of the sojourner as he plods wearily through space-time looking for answers. A faithful companion trust is ever-present at our side willing to lend a helping hand as we stagger under the weight of thought and shifting belief. Trust is an emissary of Divine Love, one sent to navigate us through the swirling waters of life’s pressures and loneliness.
OK, so how does this most precious of spiritual commodities arrive on our psychic doorstep?
Simply put, trust is a gift. It is given, neither earned nor achieved, contrary to the prevailing religious mindset that asks us to jump through the hoops of spiritual discipline to find it. No, the shocking truth is that it seems to be a part of the Divine Essence itself a little spark from the Eternal Flame that catches fire in the dry tinder of the broken psyche. Trust appears to come from outside space-time, an eternally benign virus that is thankfully hard to shake off. Once we’ve been infected we can never be the same again. Belief, the previous controller of our destiny is consigned to the back seat, where it can rant and rave for all it’s worth before falling asleep in the quiet security that trust knows the Way.
Trust manifests itself in the darkness of adversity; the silent traveling companion who takes over when the chips are down. When life pitches an unexpected ball of circumstance at us, it is trust who bats for us in the psychic game of confusion. Trust is not stoicism, the religious substitute that promises to deaden the pain of reality. No, trust works quietly in the midst of our pain and sense of desolation, in the all too real screams of our frightened psyche. Trust will not place the lid of denial on our inner terror, but will sit by holding our hand as we vent our anger on ourselves, others and the Divine itself. When the pain subsides, trust takes our hand like a kindly nurse and leads us on into healing, a place of deeper wisdom where we know we are Loved.
So how is trust strengthened?
Simply this. When we hear the Divine Voice, the well of trust is replenished and filled. Trust is a reflex action to the hushed tones of Spirit Breath. Thankfully God is a God of few words, unlike many of His kids. When a Divine message arrives it is usually short and sweet. Straight to the point or heart of the matter. Divine Wisdom knows that a multiplicity of words will only open us up to the misinterpretation of our belief obsessed minds. Divine messages are primarily aimed at the heart or spirit, not the analysis of our so-called rational minds. So how do I tune into these Divine transmissions?
In my next post I’ll look at how the Divine talks to us without us realizing.
As I sit here in my local coffee shop staring out at the shoppers passing by with their heavy bags of ‘stuff’ for the celebration of Christmas, I really do wonder what the Nazarene would make of it all. Struggling shopkeepers trying to make a living in the midst of deep recession, try to tempt us into the commercial Yuletide spirit, with copious amounts of fake snow and semi glittering tinsel, all undoubtedly birthed in the great Chinese manufacturing drive for world domination.
Many dread the big day with its pseudo celebratory take on the birth of Yeshua, a working class Jew who, if many of us were totally honest, would have no place around our festive Christmas table. Family smiles often disguise deep hurts and wounds from years gone by. Presents are given to hide the hidden agendas of our rivaling relationships. Food and drink together conspire to drug us into the illusion that all is well with the world whilst the poor continue to be just that….poor. Cable TV transmits its fake take on the Season, as James Stewart, once more decides not to jump! B and C list personalities smile with broader smiles than usual, whipping up our manufactured feel good factor for the big day.
Yes, in the darkest days of Winter we humans love a good party, something to give our psyche a leg up in the sun starved days of cold December. Once upon a time it was Paganism, closely followed by Christianity who authenticated our annual knees up but now its Amazon and Apple who lend their commercial clout to our mythical merriment.
Am I a bit of a Scrooge or a sour faced, joyless Northern Irish Puritan? Well, no. I’m just a recovering religious junkie who yearns for authenticity and peace in the midst of our lemming like rush to the stores. May I be frank? Is there actually anything to celebrate under the orgasmic, multi-layered religio-commercialism that worships at the glitzy altar of trans- global Capitalism?
Thankfully, I believe so.
No matter where and when he was born, it appears that Yeshua, the Nazarene, really did emerge onto the world stage in first century Palestine. Forget the mythical donkey and the myrrh bearing magi. Such sweet icing on the metanarrative religious cake doesn’t actually matter. What matters is whether Yeshua really lived and what his teaching revealed about the mystery of Divine Source, the birth point of the Cosmos, and, more importantly, our purpose within it.
Many have tried to deconstruct the Nazarene from the pages of human history. They’ve almost managed it but good old Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, in the pay of the Romans, just won’t let them get away with it. No friend of the early Yeshua movement, the literary historian fleetingly refers to the ‘Christ’ in two separate references. No it would appear that Yeshua was a real fresh and blood guy, albeit one with a radical take on the nature of Divinity that set him against the status quo religion of his day.
So what is there to celebrate?
Simply put, two things!
1) Yeshua lived.
Think of a world without the Nazarene’s character, compassion and teaching. A much poorer place leaving the spirituality of man in the prophetic hands of the Buddha, Krishna, Lao Tze and other enlightened souls.
2) God is not obsessed with ‘sin’ or human dysfunction.
Yeshua’s view of a welcoming Divinity who doesn’t listen to the ‘sinners prayer’ before authenticating us is surely something worth celebrating. If this sounds too good to be true do have a wee reread of the parable of ‘The Prodigal’ – the returning son couldn’t get his rehearsed ‘repentance’ out before being smothered in Divine generosity and acceptance.
So, in this season of silliness and over indulgence, may I wish you all a blessed moment of Divine revelation. When we’ve had enough to eat, tire of our family and friends and are fed up with the saccharine TV fare let’s go into the solitude of our sacred space and wait for Divine Presence; an authentic Breath that longs to touch our saturated psyche in the bleak Mid-Winter.
Once we have discovered an authentic sense of Self, for perhaps the first time, Spirit Breath re-engages with us on our road to physical, psychic and spiritual wholeness. Knowing that our experience of Divine Love in the darkness of our broken humanity needs no defending nor justification we set about picking ourselves up and walking on towards we know not where. One thing we do know though is that we are different; something has changed within; the energy of our religious ego with all its past certainties and attack possibilities has dissipated. The buzz of religious rivalry and debate is nowhere to be seen, having been exorcised by the visit of the Other and its healing touch.
All is consumed in a knowing that we have nothing to fear before slowly walking forward into the manifest mysteries of Divine Love. Our previous sense of betrayal and disillusionment has been replaced by a confidence that indeed All is well, that we are somehow upheld by a Power and Presence that chooses to accompany us on the remainder of our Journey Home.
An important lesson lies ahead for us on this second pilgrimage. Now that we no longer play the religious games of organized religion with its rituals and not so subtle expectations, our spirit spark looks for an outlet, a means of sharing the Divine Life that stirs within. Without the traditional role plays of faith communities, we are suddenly overtaken by the synchronicity of events designed by our new Teacher. Simply put we begin to meet others along the Way who have had similar experiences to ourselves. This alone proves to be a further confirmation of the authenticity of our new take on spirituality and walking with the Divine. Yet something more shocking lies behind such meetings. We discover that the little drop of Spirit Breath that dwells within flows out as a raging torrent to water the parched ground of our new friends psyche. The realization that Divine Love flows through us to feed and nurture the psyche-soul of another is a total shock to our fledgling Self identity. Yet in this Spirit exchange we emerge more fully into the Mystery that is the Love of God for man. In our frailty and weakness, One chooses to touch the wounded essence of another, igniting their spirit in a Divine Dance of Joy.
In our previous incarnations as zealous believers ‘ministry’ was a medal worn by the religious ego. A badge of honor proving our God promotion by a Commander-in-Chief who runs His people like a disciplined and purposeful army. Many of us scrambled around the religious scene seeking our ministries within the desire matrix of metaphysical purpose. Blocked and frustrated our desire to be used by God ultimately became a curse in the rivalry structures of Model based religion.
Now, only too aware of our own psychic limp, we find Divine Presence flowing through us without the accompaniment of ego and its search for identity. Our identity issue has well and truly been resolved in the darkness of our psychic brokenness. Now nothing matters except the connection and resonance with Love, the One who turned up when all others fell away. The dreams and aspirations of past years are now fulfilled as we touch the wounded soul and become a channel for Divine authentication.
Having been visited by Divine Love we inadvertently become the carriers of that Love; a Love that knows exactly who we’re to touch on the Way. Everything has changed – we can fix no-one. Religious words and sales pitches no longer do it. We have become walking transmitters of the Divine Presence; a Presence that is happy to manifest itself through our recovering humanity. A word, a look, a touch, a smile, all energized and planned by the Divine Lover in its all-consuming passion for reconnection with its reflected image.
As we continue our process of recovery from the addiction of enthusiastic religion we have been taught a most valuable and life changing lesson. No longer do we need to make things happen; Divine Love informs us that He/She can arrange all that it Wills. No longer are we on a ‘Blues Brother’ style, ‘Mission for God’. Instead we are being carried along by the Flow of Spirit Breath. Healing us as we go, the Divine Alchemist transforms us, the recovering patient into a healing channel for others on the Way. Truly a miracle fit for the Source of All, One determined to have wholeness at the End of Days.