Monday, August 20, 2018

God Revised - How can you lose your faith when it is someone else's?

This is a reposting of an article from June 1, 2014. It is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago.

Today, Sunday, June 1, 2014, we begin the study of Rev. Dr. Galen Guengerich's book, God Revised. We will be reporting on it for the month of June and I hope that you will add your comments as we go along over the course of the month. It is a wonderful book with many wonderful ideas well worth consideration. Chapter 1 is entitled "Where we began: from Mennonite to Manhattan". In my case it was from Roman Catholic to Unitarian Universalist. I know that you have your story too. Of course, in the end we all end up in the same place, released from our bodies back to the Universe whatever that may bring.

Reverend Gugenrich writes:

"When I went to Princeton (not a Mennonite seminary), many of my relatives feared I would lose my faith. This did not happen. What I lost was someone else's faith; what I began to seek was a faith of my own. I wanted to be myself. I wanted freedom."

Galen Guengerich, God Revised, p.9

Jesus says something very similar in Matthew 10:39 "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

Osho says that the first step on a spiritual path is rebellion. 

As human beings with dichotomous minds we learn from comparison and contrast, the old ying and yang of the Tao.

I like the way Rev. Guengerich puts it though, he didn't lose his faith, he lost someone else's. This freed up the space to develop his own.

Seneca writes in his seventh letter, "When a mind is impressionable and has none too firm a hold on what is right, it must be rescued from the crowd: it is easy for it to go over to the majority."

A little further in the same letter, he writes, "...but the fact is, not one of them is really capable of understanding you. You might come across one here and there, but even they would need to be trained and developed by you to a point where they could grasp your teaching. 'For whose benefit, then, did I learn it all?' If it was for your own benefit that you learnt it you have no call to fear that your trouble may have been wasted."

The Road Less Traveled as Dr. Scott Peck wrote is a lonely and sometimes solitary road. It takes courage, discipline, and faith to move forward listening and trusting in the intuitive wisdom of one's own heart and soul.

A client, looking for reassurance I would guess, asked me if I believed in god. I replied, "What god is it that you are asking me about?" It was not a helpful reply because she looked scared as if she had asked something wrong and so she was being punished by being put on the spot to explain herself. 

For some of us, our belief system is a fragile thing and without it we fear psychological annihilation. It might be argued that believing in something is better than believing it nothing for the psychic structure it provides to bind anxiety. Yet, this belief system eventually becomes old, a prison, and we start to question. What is the good life and how can I best create it for myself and others? Rev. Guengerich apparently got to a point in his life when he wanted to do it himself and not just wear hand me downs. There are few of us like Rev. Guengerich who have, at some point in our lives, decided to do the same, to set off on our own to find out what our own lives are about not just what someone else has told us they should be about.

For me, I was in the Catholic Seminary back in the old days for 4 1/2 years for 10th grade of high school to the second year of college. When I told the rector, I  had to decided to leave the seminary he told me, "David, I truly believe that you have a vocation and God wants you to be a priest. I believe that Satan is tempting you." This was a man who up to that point I respected, and rather than dissuade me, his words made me all the more sure I was doing the right thing. Now, almost 50 years later, I am certain I did the right thing, and smile when I recall what he said to me. I am sure from his perspective he thought he was telling me the right thing, but alas, the Spirit of Life works in strange ways, and as much as I respected this man, I new he was mistaken. There were too many "mysterious" in the Roman Catholic church for me to base a life on, let alone pretend to be an authoritative representative of. As Rev. Guengerich puts it, I didn't lose my faith I just begun to find it. I had lost the religion of my childhood. At 19 it was not working for me any more.

I don't know where I got the courage to go off on my own. I suppose, in the vocabulary I had learned at the time, I would describe it as the Holy Spirit inspiring me, that small inner voice that we can carefully listen to to help us discern God's, Life's, will for us. We grow uneasy with the old answers, the old cliched beliefs, the anxiety that there is more than what is being told and explained, and then like Dorothy, when she reaches the Oz, we realize that the mysterious, omnipotent authority is a wizened old man behind a curtain and most of what we have been taught is simply illusions to quell our anxieties and solicit our obedience to the hidden agendas of those who would benefit from perpetrating the illusion on the gullible and innocent masses.

What about you? What have the pivotal points in your faith journey that have led to where you are today? How have they manifested themselves and what has come about?

The next article will address what Rev. Guengerich calls the "plurality of options" for understanding the purpose of our existence and for assistance in creating meaning in our lives.

My Kind Of Church Music - My Way, Frank Sinatra

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