The Once and Future Religion

An excerpt from one of my favorite books.

While some people idealize the ancient past, others authenticate their present beliefs by vilifying their immediate predecessors. This occurs, I think, because many people need to define themselves in contradistinction to the culture that molded their own sensibilities.

Crystal Downing, Changing Signs of Truth.

I went through this very thing having grown up in a nominally religious home. For a long time, I felt I had to define my values in contrast to those my family held as I traveled on my faith journey. Now, I’ve come to realize that what I believe and act upon is based upon a rich tapestry of reason, sacred writings, traditions, and personal experience that any comparisons to the world in which I “cut my teeth” would be found wanting as that has only been a portion of my life and education. I’ve been trying to grow beyond this into what I hope to be a brighter and more pleasant world.

The Enlightenment was partially correct when it tried to teach that educated reason was the source of truth but when it went so far as to state that reason was the only source of truth it took a step too far. In denying other forms of obtaining truth, it went out of its way to deny all religious experience as a source of knowledge and learning and, in doing this, it showed its own limitations by leaving out an important part of the human condition. Religious faith and practice has long been a part of the communal human experience but, sadly, what has been experienced in much of Western religion in the last 100+ years has focused more on individual belief rather than the corporate compassion of this important social group. When one realizes this, one is “enlightened” to the very real truth that the rugged individualism of the Enlightenment has been integrated into much of modern religious faith and practice.

For religious faith to move forward effectively, it must recover its communal roots that understands relationship with God must directly affect relationship with our fellow human beings. If this does not happen, religious faith in general (and Christian faith in particular) will remain a self-serving enterprise which has no real affect upon the world around us and its inhabitants. As a Christian, I rejoice in our move away from bigotry and racism and still wonder why it took us so long. Often I think tribalism is a much more powerful evolutionary and religious tool than we imagine. The life of Jesus and the letters of Paul often find it hard to fight against this spirit of the age. May we hopefully move forward and learn to live into the world of faith which calls us into a life of community and equality.

God’s Best,


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