I have, in my struggle to find balance in my relationship with the Christian Church, been a bit critical at times. In my estimation, the contemporary conglomeration of believers in the Judeo-Christian religion is, in large part, more consumed with the teachings of Paul and the dizzying array of dogmas and doctrines that accompany them than in the actual teachings of Christ. Because of the complexity of the Christian faith, and the bells and whistles of artistic interpretation, denominational breakdowns, and political coercion, it often feels as though the red letters of Jesus are glossed over or ignored in lieu of these other various diversions. However, I have to admit that I often get caught up in the diversions myself and miss out on many of the people who bring those red letters to life.
Last month, at the Focus Group on Homelessness that took place at the Salvation Army, one of the presenters talked about a faith-based program designed to reunite fathers with their families. When she asked for my thoughts, the concern I proposed was that the program would be too evangelical. Yes, I’ve become a bit jaded.
After the idea was bandied about a bit, Brian Pope, director of the Salvation Army, brought up a very good point, one that I have given quite a bit of consideration to since. He said that the challenge faced by people of the Christian faith was that they are constantly derided (by people like myself) for not doing enough to help the less fortunate as Jesus commanded them to do, but when they do engage their given mission, they are relentlessly criticized on how they go about doing it. It is quite an unfortunate state we have found ourselves in when we are afraid of those that claim to provide us with unconditional love.
As today’s step in my Fool’s Journey brings me face to face with the Hierophant, I find myself again surrounded by religious folks who are trying to help the homeless. Not all of them are religious, mind you, but about fifty caregivers from the Manasota area have gathered for the Continuum of Care Meeting hosted by the Suncoast Partnership to End Homelessness. Although recent events, and unfortunately Sarasota’s miserable history with its treatment of the homeless, make this area often seem as if it is populated largely by heartless cretins that take pleasure in kicking people when they are down, it is very heartening to see that there are a number of committed individuals that represent a number of organizations committed to care for the downtrodden. And when I can connect with that part of my higher self that can forgive those that subscribe to a belief system that I may not personally believe in, it is all the more heartening to see people of faith taking an active role in such a vital part of our community’s development.
Life can get pretty complicated, folks, especially in a society as madcap crazy as ours often is. And although anything we attach ourselves to often tends to only make it more complicated, sometimes clinging to something for stability, just having faith that there is something out there greater than all of the problems we face everyday is just what we need to make it through the hard times. And though we can look at the sordid history of religion gone awry, or see the judgment and bigotry that is often spawned from its repeated misuse, it is important that we not forget the positive changes it can make in a person’s life when it seems that they have nothing else to lift them up.
Gaining some semblance of understanding about the nature of the spiritual world beyond the science-based conundrum of civilization we must weave our reality through every day is a pivotal point in our journey toward oneness. Based upon our cultural upbringing and the stories we hear from those that have trod this path before us, we find a myriad of ideas that can either help us along on our way or get us tied up in circles of confusion and serve as more of a hindrance than a help. Yet beyond these ideas, the true strength of a loving heart and the spirit which forgives the misunderstandings and still holds all things together will always be guiding us toward our eternal goal of the happiness that is our birthright as branches of the Divine.
I have studied the apologetics of the Christian faith, having come face to face with the Hierophant a time or two before, and I have listened to the logic of atheists who have made valid points on the errancy of dogmatic beliefs but have yet to come close to convincing me to doubt the Life which fills my lungs with each breath. Ain’t none of us perfect, nor will our systems be. But the true essence of life is not found in our systems. It is found in the participation with Life itself.
So I want to thank each and every person that calls themselves a Christian and works to provide shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, healing for the sick, and comfort for those that have been imprisoned. I realize that sometimes the Spirit will dance through you, and sometimes your ego will thrash you about like a rag doll. In my experience, that seems to be the way that it goes with us human types. Yet I want to encourage you to keep letting love flow as much as you are able and have faith that the God you serve beyond your understanding is using that energy to create a new heaven and a new earth. Thank you for being a part of it.