Right up front, let me admit I have a chauvinistic attitude about religion and faith. By chauvinistic, I don’t mean the ugly, in-your-face “I’m better than you” type, more a kinder, gentler “my way is better than yours” kind of thing. Which is a nice way of saying I can be an undercover jerk.
This chauvinism usually manifests itself whenever I encounter someone who is delving into another culture’s religion. For example, my brother has recently become interested in Native American spiritual practices. Whenever he starts up with this stuff, I want to yell at him “You’re a white boy from North Carolina. The closest you’ve ever been to an actual Native American is Tweetsie-fucking-Railroad, for God’s sake!” (That’s not exactly true, but why let honesty get in the way of a snappy remark?) I mean, seriously, we’re not even remotely Native American, so where is this bullshit coming from?
I feel the same way whenever a celebrity suddenly says they’re Buddhist or some socially conscious asshole starts talking about going to a black church because “that’s where real worship happens”. In my experience, a lot of people doing this are white and that’s a problem for me. I can’t help but think we’ve taken everything but religion from minorities and now we’re after that, too. Damn crackers.
The thing is, these people are seekers. Almost every one of them has either had a bad experience with the Church or its current incarnation isn’t doing it for them anymore. In the previous paragraph, I said “a lot of the people doing this are white”, but that doesn’t mean seeking is a white thing. There are people of other ethnicities seeking, but I haven’t run into nearly as many of them.
I started thinking about all this after I read an article Roger Wolsey posted on Facebook this morning titled “A little chat about religion with the man upstairs“. Overall, it’s an excellent article; but, one part hit me right in the chest:
“Here’s the thing,” said God as we lined up at the snack counter. “I designed you to seek me, to feel a need for me. Some people — that 12 percent you’re so fired up about — maybe they don’t find me in what you call ‘religion.’ Maybe that means they’re missing something. Or maybe religion is.”
“What if they don’t find you at all?”
“Finding is important,” said God. “But seeking is important, too. Seeking teaches patience, opens your mind, shows you your own limitations. That’s where wisdom begins.”
I think we’re all seeking, in one way or another. And, every so often, I need to be reminded that everyone has to do it in their own way. As Gandhi once said
“Religions are different roads converging to the same point. What does it matter that we take different roads, so long as we reach the same goal. Wherein is the cause for quarreling?”
In other words, if it connects you to God, the “universal spirit” or helps you attain enlightenment (which is really what we’re all after), that’s great. And, I need to shut up and do my own thing.