A few weeks ago I was at Home Depot shopping for various items for my home improvement project. I had a shopping cart full of items all lengths and sizes.
I said to the cashier "I hope all that stuff fits into my sedan!” She said, "have faith". I almost responded by saying I am Unitarian Universalists, we are free in faith.
Have you ever wondered what does it exactly mean to be free in faith? Does it mean we are a group of religious folks who have no doctrine, liturgy, rituals or spiritual practices?
Many UUs will say we’re not religious, we are spiritual. So what’s the difference between being religious and spiritual? In many respects religion is often about who’s in and who’s out, creating a worldview steeped in “us against them.”
Spirituality rejects the dualism that speaks of them and us.
Religion is often about loyalty to institutions, clergy, and dogma.
Spirituality is about loyalty to justice and compassion.
Religion also talks about God.
Spirituality helps to make us whole.
But the two need to complement each other. Religion at its best is spirituality in community.
Historically, religious institutions that do harm are those that insist you surrender your will to them, and to God. Clergy who do harm are those who insist you worship them, rather than all that is HOLY.
When a religion insists you’re not good enough and asserts that you need to practice your spirituality according to prescribed rituals -- I don’t know about you, but I am part of this free faith because our spiritual practices are uniquely defined and communally (religiously) we believe in love, justice, freedom and the inherent worth and dignity of each person.
We have learned from many, like Sophia Lyon Fahs, who believes:
If religion is to survive in a day of advancing scientific discoveries, it must find a way to be on the one hand intellectually sound, and on the other hand emotionally satisfying.
Fahs calls for a reformation of traditional religious beliefs about human nature, the universe, and the natural world by discarding archaic doctrines, ideas, and dogma.
In other words, condemning people with a notion of sin and threatening them with eternal damnation is not going to be spiritually beneficial to anyone. But unfortunately religion is often about getting people to conform to its beliefs and dogma.
We would be better served if religion could uncover, cultivate, and support our capacity for justice and kindness, rather than dwell on our failures and imperfections.
I urge you to let go of the religious hokey pokey of the past and focus on enhancing your spirituality by discovering who you are -- who you are today or ought to be in the future. Why are you here? Know that you were created for a unique purpose.
You have an authentic spirit that needs to be cultivated by going deep within your soul to find your divine Self. There is no need to surrender or abandon the self of the past. Instead, align your spirit with the essential core of your being.
It’s much like the hokey pokey where you put your whole self in! Some of you may be familiar with Benedictine spirituality. If you aren’t, please don’t feel bad, because neither was I until it was offered it as part of a class at Andover Newton Theological School.
Similar to the hokey pokey this spiritual practice requires you to “put your whole self in” by truly being attentive, and obedient to the needs of your mind, body and spirit. For the most part, Benedictine spirituality has a prescribed set of rules -- 76 rules in total -- as well as a few general principles. The fundamental core belief is that such rules will lead to a life of freedom and wholeness.
In other words, Benedict spirituality is about listening to four realities:
and the world around us.
I am not sure that this spiritual practice will lead to a life of freedom and wholeness because it seems somewhat conservative. Besides, I’m a recovering Catholic who can't stand rules. However do believe that in order to align the mind with the spirit (soul) you must engage in a figurative game of “Hokey Pokey” Like trying to do the Hokey Pokey you must listen intently and carefully to the world around you.
We often forget to take time to smell the roses and greet the strangers among us! There really is a world full of human potential but we get wrapped up in ourselves and think that we alone can do all things, we must realize how essential it is to be interconnected with all things in order to be spiritually whole.
It is encouraging to know that we have each other to rely on as well as the capacity to be spiritually whole. It is astonishing to know that we are never alone. We are all vulnerable at times so we try to stay busy in order to avoid being alone with our spirit. What I am saying is that we are constantly looking for ways to occupy our time. The busy mind and body will never be able to cultivate the spirit.
Becoming whole involves mind, body, and spirit. We each have special gifts but most of the time we are too busy to be still long enough to listen to that inner voice. The first step towards spiritual wholeness requires listening, because by doing so you are allowing your self and spirit to join in harmony. Second, in order to reach spiritual wholeness we must let people into our most inner circle, because those who are different from us will stretch our ability to listen, hear, and learn.
Certainly none of these tasks are comfortable, but change is never easy. Saint Benedict believed that with humility comes change. Humility comes from understanding one's place in the universe.
Finally we need an individual spiritual practice such as yoga, prayer, meditation, and nature journeys. You decide what puts your mind and body at ease to allow you to connect your whole self with your spirit.
Leave here knowing that spirituality is born in a person and develops in the person. It may be kick-started by a religion, or it may be kick-started by a revelation. Your spirituality extends to all facets of your life.
Our forebears taught us that Spirituality is chosen while religion is often times forced upon us. To me being spiritual is more important and better than being religious, because true spirituality is something that is found deep within oneself.
Amen. May it be so. Go in peace.
Religious or Spiritual?, a sermon by John Smith at 1stUUPB on March 1, 2015.