Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Function of religion is to awaken the heart

Jason: It seems Dave that you haven't been keeping up with the weekly postings on UU A Way Of Life. Why is that?

David: As P.J. said to me "You seem to be on again, off again when it comes to church" and I agree I am. Joseph Campbell writes "The problem for and the function of religion in this age is to awaken the heart. When the clergy do not or cannot awaken the heart, that tells us that they are unable to interpret the symbols through which they are supposed to enlighten and spiritually nourish their people. When, instead, the clergy talks about ethical and political problems, that constitutes a betrayal of the human race. This substitution of social work, or heavy involvement in regulating the intimate decisions of family life, has nothing to do with the real calling of the clergy to open to their people the dimensions of the meaning of the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus. These latter constitute a system of symbols that works perfectly."

My church has become a social club. It reminds me of Rotary and Kiwanis and the Lions and the other social clubs. In some ways I enjoy Rotary meetings better than I do church. I don't go to church to socialize and to be "preached at" about social justice issues. It's all nonsense. I go to church to have my heart opened and my mind enlightened and I don't find it there. I keep looking and I come up short and feel like it has been a waste of time and effort.

Unitarian Universalism seems to lack a spiritual core. It's theology is so individualized it is a cacophony of voices like the Tower of Babel. And so I stop going to church and just reflect and study on my own.

Jason: So you don't find the spiritual nourishment you are looking for in Unitarian Universalism?

David: I have found spiritual nourishment sometimes in listening to podcasts of some of the UU preachers like Marlin Lavanhar, Michael Schuler, and Galen Guengerich. They sometimes present spiritual values and insights that are helpful, but there is no consistent focus on a theology of the Spirit. When the focus is on social change and problems  I can better ideas and strategies from community social service organizations.

Jason: Maybe Unitarian Universalism isn't for you?

David: That could well be, but I keep coming back. What brings me back is the 7 principles which UUs covenant to affirm and promote. I think the 7 principles are very important and align very well with what is in my heart. Unfortunately, I think they usually are interpreted and applied in the ego world and the spiritual meanings of them are missed, overlooked, or not appreciated and understood.

Jason: Can you give an example?

David: There could be thousands of examples. Let's take the first principle of the inherent worth and dignity of every person. This can mean many things to many people. It gets used to advocate for human rights, gay rights, anti-racism, inclusionary practices, etc. This is helpful as far as it goes, but it can also imply a false belief in the ego and the body when we are really spirit and one Self and as it teaches in A Course In Miracles we are part of the Atonement and so if this principle is used for social justice work and social advocacy it sends people spiritually on a wild goose chase because what the principle points at is the idea that we are all the children of God or Life or Spirit and what I do to my brother I really do to myself since we are all extensions of God's Love. The Course teaches that the salvation of the world comes from forgiveness and this type of forgiveness simply requires that I change my mind about who I am and who you are and recognize that we are one and in this change in perception, which is a miracle, we have changed the world.

The course says in Lesson 5, "I am never upset for the reason I think." I haven't found this level of awareness in UU fellowship. UUs tend to be very earnest, judgmental, righteous in their social justice work, and have no awareness that what they are upset about and find outrageous and unacceptable, on the spiritual level, isn't real. And so why are we spending so much time and energy on illusions?

The Course says in the Introducation, "Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God." Campbell says the function of religion is to open the heart. The course says, "The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance." The social justice focus of so much of UU activity seems to put blocks in the way of my awareness of Love's presence rather than remove them and so I pull away because I feel stymied, sad, and depressed. This is the opposite of what an open heart should feel.

Jason: I am not sure I am following you, Dave.

David: I understand your confusion and feeling perplexed. I am not sure I understand myself either.

Jason: Thanks for the interview.

David: You're welcome. I will try to write more regularly.

Jason: I look forward to your future articles.

David: Okay.

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