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One of the things I love about the Bible is that it documents both the spirituality and religion of the early church.
For example, people are getting caught up in following one leader versus another (religion). Paul reminds them that they all follow one leader (spirituality):
“My brothers… there are quarrels among you…
One of you says, “I follow Paul”;
another, “I follow Apollos”;
another, “I follow Cephas”(Peter);
still another, “I follow Christ.”
Is Christ divided?
Was Paul crucified for you?
Were you baptised in the name of Paul?”
(1 Corinthians 1:11-13, NIV)
We haven't changed much, have we?
It was very much spirituality and religion for me growing up. I had a lovely experience of religion - a place of love and acceptance.
I grew up after Vatican II when God in the Catholic Church had changed from a God of Fear to a God of Love!
I like to say that I grew up in the 70's singing about love and peace. In the 80's the rest of the world stopped. The Christians carried on!
People can say it is spirituality versus religion because the spiritual feel they are choosing their own path. But, for me, both spirituality and religion gave me permission to be my own person and not just get swept up in peer pressure or what I call "The World's Religion".
I was the only Catholic and the only practising Christian in my primary and junior schools, so I got used to being different and thinking for myself.
With any belief system there develops a definition of what someone who is fully following those beliefs will look like and sound like.
It is so tempting for us to adopt the approved appearance and the approved words rather than going through the messy stages involved in growth. It is often when we look and feel the worst that the real transformation is taking place!
Going through the motions of speaking and behaving the right way can be defined as being religious. But, I find religion in this sense in both religious and spiritual groups, and just as much in secular groups.
Personally, I find more pressure to conform within some spiritual groups and younger Christian denominations than in the Catholic church. I would guess the Anglican church would have a similar tolerance for a range of styles of worship and a range of beliefs.
In these established groups (as well as in many of the younger ones), it is often accepted that we don't necessarily believe exactly the same thing. We go there to join our voices and our hearts in the experience of Jesus and God, not to argue about the details.
This may sound like an optimistic view, but it is my experience of attending church across a range of denominations for a large number of years. It is therefore a more informed opinion than that of many who comment on the church from outside it.
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When I got too ill to walk far, I had a turning point of surrender, and I started out on a non-defined path. I said "God, if you exist, you can reach me, even when I am locked in a body in a room".
It is a belief in both spirituality and religion that we are entitled to personal guidance from God:
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbour,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
(Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)
As someone with pretty shaky faith in God at the time, it made sense to me that if there is an energy that lives and moves in us, we must be able to access it wherever we are.
Spirituality and religion teach us to be willing to hear God directly.
It is what both groups speak of as intuition, guidance etc.
It is the immaculate conception: no human is needed for the Christ to be born in us. We need only say Yes to God.
It is the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12, the Bible).
When it comes to combining spirituality and religion, it is worth looking at the person of Jesus. Jesus was clearly a very funky Jew. He was annoying a lot of people with his views. In the words of today he could have said: "I am not Jewish. I am spiritual not religious."
He didn't do this. Even when others were saying that he was not following the religious law, he claimed that his way was the way of scripture. He said: "You know what, I am more bothered about the ways of God than the traditions of man."
When I left my religion of origin aged 17, I was sad. I aspired to be like Jesus and just be myself and follow God within the group I was born into. But my faith and my experience of Oneness was not strong enough at that time to do that.
Sometimes it is necessary to walk our own path for a while, until our steps on that path become so certain that we can walk with confidence no matter who we are with. I am joyful to be moving in that direction.
It is certainly not necessary for everyone, but I feel delighted that my path has taken me to a place where I can join my mind in celebration of God and Jesus within a Church. I am also delighted to celebrate with those whose spirituality is expressed in other religions or in none.
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