Friday, October 22, 2010

Reflection Theology.

When I was a minister in the Christian church, we used to always teach about how our lives should be a reflection of Jesus. Any true Christian should be a walking display of loving kindness and charity. Well when it's boiled down to that, I can count the number of truly loving churches on one hand. I don't mean bodies of believers who follow the Bible to a certain degree, being loving is about a whole lot more than religious text. I mean bodies of Christ who are absolutely loving and a genuine reflection of what Jesus was said to be like and what we are told we should be like in turn. In fact, in many instances, I know more Christlike people who have never attended a day of church in their entire lives than I do within ministry circles.

The problem I have found is that a great many people in the world want a spiritual life and they want a group of spiritual people to learn and fellowship with. The problem is that these same people aren't stupid. They can see what a person or group of people is selling and compare that to whether or not those people are using their own products so to speak. When the two don't add up, most rational people decide very quick that a vast majority of religious/spiritual groups are hypocrites. So, people end up shying away and never exploring their capacity for spirituality but yet still posses a deep yearning for it.

Now I know a lot of people out there will say that spirituality is over rated and doesn't have a place for everyone. Personally, I don't believe this is true. I believe that a healthy spiritual life is part of the human experience. Through spirituality, we learn about relating to ourselves as well as each other and ideally we begin to foster a more collective and universal understanding of ourselves as a race. Spirituality helps us to explore the questions of just who we are and where we may be going and while it isn't a requirement for a good life, I believe that the idea of being more than just dirt in the ground at the end of the day is of greater benefit to our growth.

What then does a spiritually seeking person do to fulfill this yearning? I have found that for most people, determining one's own unique spiritual views is often the most rewarding answer rather than conforming to a group or doctrine. Just as we are a diverse and rich race of beings, our individual beliefs are just as rich in value *because* of the diversity among our individual minds. I have also found that for my part, the role I play in people's lives has changed from being a teacher of Christianity to helping people decide what they believe. With all of the rhetoric and dogma floating around in the world, it is very easy to lose sight of our spiritual identity and individuality.

I don't care if you claim to be the most happy person in the world when you are alone and meaningless to the rest of the world, somewhere inside of you, you crave to be in a community mattering to someone. It isn't human nature to be alone, we thrive in groups and social structures. This longing for community can also affect what we believe to the point that we end up compromising uniqueness so that we can be a part of social structures. We compromise so we can belong. Sometimes, we compromise before we even have a clear idea of just what it is we believe as individuals in the first place. This is where I find a lot of people who have finally woken up to the realization that their spiritual groups just aren't living up to the standards or expectations they have for them.

At this point, they become tired and confused. In many cases people spend so much of their lives dedicated to a doctrine or theology that when they do realize that they've been going in a bad direction for so long, it shatters their self esteem. What most people fear is that if they allowed themselves to be taken in so deeply by a spiritual group only to be let down in the long run, it means most other areas of their lives are equally as flawed. Their direction becomes a sharp downward spiral and it simply becomes easier just to say screw spirituality all together.

What I love about my inner most circle of friends is that our spiritual beliefs are very diverse and yet often times, our moral codes of conduct line up perfectly in general. This has always fascinated me because it proves that while we can have diverse beliefs, we can also share a great deal of common ground from those beliefs. In our sharing we learn about each other and grow as group of people because we all contribute in some way to the personal growth of those around us. We learn to take our leads from one another and plant our own inner seeds of foundation. This is group spirituality at it's finest and healthiest. We compliment each other and in doing so we gain such a deep understanding of one another that we begin to see bits of ourselves in the eyes of those around us. We become reflections of each others spiritual aspirations, hopes, and dreams.

So, where does that start? How do you get to that point? Well, I stated it in an earlier blog posting and I'm doing so again because it is SO important! This is the "salvation message" of my personal take on spirituality. Reflection theology starts with you! When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see the person you were born to be or do you see the person society has molded you into being? Do you see the person you KNOW you are or do you see the face of the person people TELL you you are? You see, it all begins with personal perception. If you wish to practice a healthy spiritual life full of love and amazing things, how can you put that into practice if you don't see those qualities in yourself already? Spiritual paths begin with loving and accepting yourself, seeing just how incredible you are which in turn will eventually allow you to see that in others.

Listen, I've known some people over the years with questionable morals, terrible ethics, and general personality traits that leave a disgusting after taste in my mouth. You know what though, I'm finally at a place in my life where I can see the amazing in people, yes even people like that. The fact that a person simply IS, is incredible in and of itself. You have to see THAT in the mirror before you can say that yourself though. I cannot stress enough how important it is for you as an individual to be able to look in the mirror and see just how awesome you are. I don't care what the world has told you, I don't care what is physically wrong with you, it doesn't matter. You are an amazing being created with complex emotions and amazing depths of personality.

This is such a difficult thing for some people to do because the voices of friends and family, teachers and leaders, superstars and athletes, are all ringing in their heads. They hear in their minds the harsh things people have said to them, they see in their minds vivid images of bad things people have done to them. All I can say to that, is that it is a process. Nothing meaningful in life happens over night, you must start somewhere and do your best from that point. To that end, I offer a first step for people. Make it a daily practice to spend at least five minutes in front of your mirror and noticing the amazing things about you. I know it sounds corny but just like a christian praying, if you make this a daily practice it will become routine and you'll find that the more you try, the more incredible things you'll start seeing in yourself.

Do I do this? You better believe it! I always examine myself closely in the mirror to see what I'm becoming and it can be an involved ritual, staring at ones own reflection, reflecting upon people and things that have impacted you recently. I'm not saying to become so vane in our efforts that you start to believe yourself better than others but really focus on the good things people have said about you or done for you and go from there. If you need a starting point, hey let it be me! If the only thing you can look at yourself in the mirror and say with absolute certainty is "Rob thinks I'm awesome." then go for it, because you know something? I do think you're pretty awesome. And when you ask yourself "Why does Rob think I'm awesome?" think back on what I've written here. I think your awesome because you exist, because you add a unique flavor to the world, and not one person can take that uniqueness away from you. No one can copy it, imitate it, and so long as you believe that it's true, no one can take it away from you.

Finally, why should you believe any of those incredible things about you? Because at the end of the day, we all want someone to approve of us and validate our existence. Validation from others helps us to be strong enough to validate ourselves and I approve of you and validate each and every one of you. Heck, I'll do it personally, shoot me an email and I'll tell you all kinds of amazing things about you! Do you see now how spirituality is so intertwined with everything? In order to build healthy spirituality you must love yourself for who you are, and in order to get strength to do that, you must find it through the love and companionship of others. It's amazing how one depends on the other to some degree. If you think that parts cool, wait until you start being the validation and acceptance for someone else. That is the most amazing reflection you will ever see!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Hate Must End!!

For the past week or so, I have been greatly troubled by the reports of four teen suicides within the last month. These amazing young people were brought to the brink by no less than the people around them making their lives miserable through teasing, taunting, and flat out rejection of the kinds of people they were or were not. Perhaps what troubles me most is the fact that I very well could have been one of them fifteen years ago and probably would have been had I not discovered the internet.

The problem we are facing stems from a lack of social progress in this country and quite frankly, it's disgusting. You hear about how harshly GLBT people in socially oppressed countries are treated by their own governments and hear people in the "free" world talk about how terrible it is that people in those places are put to death or have limbs chopped off. In my opinion though, we are no better and in fact may even be worse in that our teenagers, our future, don't have to go any farther than their own homes or classrooms to be shamed into taking themselves out of life's equation. They do not need the government to step in and do it for them, because in our system, hatred and rejection is allowed to do the job on it's own.

The loving churches of the world are of no help either. Sure, they'll love you and treat you like extended family, until you tell them you're not changing who you are to be around them. I cannot make this any plainer, GOD DOES NOT REJECT GAY PEOPLE! God doesn't reject ANYONE! To say that he does negates everything the Bible tells us that God is. Sure, it can be left up to interpretation and the leaders in our churches would have you believe theirs is right. MINE isn't even right probably! The point is, God is not something to be boxed in by a leather bound book. I could burn a bible today, die and go to "heaven" tomorrow, it IS that simple.

The Bible is meant to be a tool of love not a tool of conversion, not a sword to enforce moral values that are more often than not simply the values of the person standing behind a pulpit more than they are God's, and certainly the Bible is not a means of justification to practice hate. We are all equal in the eyes of our creator, understand what I'm saying! We are not all sinners in the eyes of our creator, we are all EQUAL! Things like the Bible are meant to open our minds to possibilities not limit our lives to stigmas and dogma. It is meant to make us self aware of our spirituality, not put limits on how to properly obtain our spirituality.

Fear and lack of understanding, those are the two most pressing issues our society has to conquer. It isn't just one country either, or one issue, but many. For as long as we are content to put borders and boundaries between our cultures and nations, we will be doomed to repeat a cycle that in it's very nature promotes rejection and hostility towards one another based on each side of the wall fighting for dominance. One world government, one world spiritual view, I say bring them both on so that we can start promoting UNITY across the entire planet and get out of this centuries old rut of fighting over issues that divide and never unite people.

We must come together and become ONE PEOPLE with diverse individuality if we are ever to overcome the adversity of the times in which we now live. For my part, I reject hate. I do not believe in unconditional love, I believe in universal love. if someone pains me to a large degree I can forgive but I do not believe we are supposed to ignore that pain to the point of forgetting it as if it never happened.

Intolerance and rejection are the two biggest sins we have to deal with as a society. If you reject the idea that gay people are equally entitled to love and happiness just as they are, then you reject me. Agreeing to disagree is no longer an option in this world when our young people are backed into corners that end in darkness and death. The right wing will teach that in order to prevent this horror from happening, we must practice prevention. Teach people harder that being who they naturally are is wrong and make them see that light and we will prevent the violence. This is wrong.

Teach that the light is already inside of each and everyone us JUST AS WE ARE or don't bother teaching anything, because any other approach makes your words useless jabber. Until we learn this urgent message of universal love and acceptance, we shall never evolve beyond the point where we are now. For thousands of years we have killed and violated one another as a race. Thus, that is what we continue to reap in the 21st century. How many times have you heard people gay or otherwise put down or harassed and done nothing? How many times have you shouted "amen!" to the condemning messages from behind the pulpit?

If you have done those things, then you may as well count yourself responsible in some small way for the deaths of these and those we do not hear about. It is time to end the hate and it is time to fight strong messages of negativity with even stronger messages of brother and sisterhood. Let those who practice intolerance be warned by our collective voice that we shall not stand idly by in the shadows and allow these things to continue.

My most heartfelt condolences go out to the families who have lost loved ones to hate, rejection, and intolerance. May you find some measure of healing in you attempts to bring understanding to your tragic loss.

I encourage EVERYONE to take part in whatever programs you can to put an end to the hate. May you all be blessed.