Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A spiritual sense of identity is individual.

On opinions about us based on both observation and - more importantly - assumptions whose validity may possibly never be challenged, corrected or refuted




As I've stated several times and in an assortment of ways, my own path has come to be in this moment a satisfactory reclaiming of the who-I-am self-identity. This is an important  event for me because it becomes possible to capture (or in my case recapture) a spiritual sense of identity.

A spiritual sense of identity is individual.

It does not serve well as a means of communion with the Divine from inside a corporate reality [read "church" or "religion"] defined by unprovable claims. Nor should it ever be based on validation by the religious institution where belonging and conforming is gently or coercively obtained as the means of connection to higher truth.

What happens then is that the higher truth in reality is defined by the greater (but not ever higher) religious institution as a basis for like-minded thinking (conformity.) The  religious propositions which are proclaimed without much inhibition then easily wander into some sort of boundary-less emotional territory where the individual is subject to the unsolicited opinion of the organized religious body.

The greater corporate structure insists on the same unsolicited but relentlessly unchanging religious philosophy; a philosophy which gets broken down into the less critically-thought-out opinions of less-self-aware in congregations. These are in most cases less-critical thinking attenders and belongers who sincerely and almost unconsciously enforce a norm that never goes beyond the simplistic exhortations that pass for encouragement to serious spiritual growth.

In the presence of such narrow, shallow and unmoving water, serious spiritual contemplative growth is not an easily obtained or developed fruit of the spirit. Per corporate policy this particular spiritual water in which every member swims should not be splashed - even in the shallow end of the pool where the bulk of Salt Lake Mormons congregate. It is only in undisturbed shallow water where participation in seriously limited and scripted gospel  conversations occurs with almost mindless repetition every week .

The Salt Lake Mormon "bubble" which is essentially an unconscious acceptance of a "Truman  Show"-like way of life, is a life where the exaggerated religious melodrama is repeated and consumed week after Seek. The melodrama contains very little variation of theme and message. Rather it has become a kind of manufactured drama fit for soap opera scripts. These scripted performances are rehearsed in both lesson and pulpit contexts and pass for spiritual intercourse.

As time passes my particular and specific Arthur-identity had less and less to do with healthy contributions from me to those truth narratives coming out of the Salt Lake Church. My own spoken and unspoken-but-implied  support and agreement with the religious myths of the Salt Lake Church's identity may have kept familial disappointment somewhat to a minimum, but at the price of a sense of personal hypocrisy in looking like one thing but actually being another.

Even if my hypocrisy was not deliberate nor intentional, I have learned that I cannot correct, let alone manage, the mostly blind assumptions that are made just because I show up in Church and offer comments and commentary that seem "safe" in a public context.

We all should realize that other human beings will form opinions about us based on both observation and - more importantly - assumptions whose validity may possibly never be challenged, corrected or refuted.

I seemed to have arrived at the achievement of what I wanted as I spent time as a re-baptized Mormon who had come to mental and spiritual wholeness. I was in fact guided, influenced and protected by the powerful wisdom of my wife.

eventually, participation and private discussions between us led to a recognition that at least for me, continuation of almost any form of church activity in all its correlated venues caused  feelings  akin to a sense of touching a dead spirit battery where no spark ever gets generated.

I will always be grateful to lay membership of our ward and my birth families for the loving acceptance and forgiveness offered me upon re-baptism. The pattern for me seemed to follow after that of the Father of the Prodigal Son. However, the Prodigal who returns must be allowed to return according to his own definitions and expectations. Otherwise, there is only regret and repentance that returns to a subjection to someone else's magic.

I felt that my recapture of my identity in the form of a cultural Mormon is complete.

In the end, religion once organized seems unable to move in any direction other than a corporate brand and mode of both expression and presentation to the rest of the world.

In the end, religion will not do if limited only to religious practice based on artificial moralities that insist that there is a nit-picking God of petty mind who has an obsession with obedience. Such becomes be a God whose mode and manner lack any notion of eternal progression based on the satisfying of natural human curiosity and longing for communion with the Divine.

As we are spiritual beings, we must grow to whatever form of spiritual maturity we seek on an individual basis. Despite foundational and doctrinal claims to the contrary, the Salt Lake  Church - any church for that matter - has no justification for the notion that the church is a vessel for coming closer to God and as such, a vessel we can never abandon, but must pick up and carry on our backs even after it has outworn its usefulness.

As the Buddhists well know, if a boat carries you across the river, you are not expected to pick up and haul the boat on your back beyond the shore once you reach the other side. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

They told me that as a teen I was part of the Chosen Generation ... and that was almost 60 years ago.



I was raised in an environment that seemed to be saying, "It's all about the Church, not you. What have  you done for us lately?"

59 Percent of Millennials Raised in a Church Have Dropped Out—And They’re Trying to Tell Us Why

Excerpt
1. Nobody’s Listening to Us
Millennials value voice and receptivity above all else. When a church forges ahead without ever asking for our input we get the message loud and clear: Nobody cares what we think. Why then, should we blindly serve an institution that we cannot change or shape?
2.We’re Sick of Hearing About Values & Mission Statements
Sweet Moses people, give it a rest.
... Jesus was insanely clear about our purpose on earth:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)
“Love God. Love Others.” Task completed.
3. Helping the Poor Isn’t a Priority
My heart is broken for how radically self-centered and utterly American our institution has become.
Let’s clock the number of hours the average church attender spends in “church-type” activities. Bible studies, meetings, groups, social functions, book clubs, planning meetings, talking about building community, discussing a new mission statement…
Now let’s clock the number of hours spent serving the least of these. Oooooo, awkward.
4. We’re Tired of You Blaming the Culture
Perhaps it’s easier to focus on how terrible the world is out there than actually address the mess within.
Solution: Put the end times rhetoric to rest and focus on real solutions and real impact in our immediate community.
5.  The “You Can’t Sit With Us” Affect
Today, my mom said to me, “Church has always felt exclusive and ‘cliquey,’ like high school.” With sadness in her voice she continued, “and I’ve never been good at that game so I stopped playing.”
The truth is, I share her experience. As do thousands of others.
Until the church finds a way to be radically kinder and more compassionate than the world at large, we tell outsiders they’re better off on their own. And the truth is, many times they are.
6. Distrust & Misallocation of Resources
Over and over we’ve been told to “tithe” and give 10 percent of our incomes to the church, but where does that money actually go? Millennials, more than any other generation, don’t trust institutions, for we have witnessed over and over how corrupt and self-serving they can be.
We want pain-staking transparency. We want to see on the church homepage a document where we can track every dollar.
Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building that isn’t being utilized to serve the community, or to pay for another celebratory bouncy castle when that same cash-money could provide food, clean water and shelter for someone in need?
7. We Want to Be Mentored, Not Preached At
Preaching just doesn’t reach our generation like our parents and grandparents. 
...For that reason, the currency of good preaching is at its lowest value in history.

8. We Want to Feel Valued
Churches tend to rely heavily on their young adults to serve. You’re single, what else do you have to do? In fact, we’re tapped incessantly to help out. And, at its worst extreme, spiritually manipulated with the cringe-worthy words “you’re letting your church down.”
Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.
We desperately need the church to tell us we are enough, exactly the way we are. No conditions or expectations.
9. We Want You to Talk to Us About Controversial Issues (Because No One Is)
People in their 20s and 30s are making the biggest decisions of their entire lives: career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image.
We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas.
10. The Public Perception
It’s time to focus on changing the public perception of the church within the community. The neighbors, the city and the people around our church buildings should be audibly thankful the congregation is part of their neighborhood. We should be serving the crap out of them.
11. Stop Talking About Us (Unless You’re Actually Going to Do Something)
Stop speaking in abstract sound bites and make a tangible plan for how to reach millennials.
If you want the respect of our generation, under-promise and over-deliver.
12. You’re Failing to Adapt
Here’s the bottom line, church—you aren’t reaching millennials.
Enough with the excuses and the blame; we need to accept reality and intentionally move toward this generation that is terrifyingly anti-church.
“The price of doing the same old thing is far higher than the price of change.” —Bill Clinton
“The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” —Kakuzo Okakaura
“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.” – H.G. Wells
Solution:
You see, church leaders, our generation just isn’t interested in playing church anymore, and there are real, possible solutions to filling our congregations with young adults. It’s obvious you’re not understanding the gravity of the problem at hand and aren’t nearly as alarmed as you should be about the crossroads we’re at.
You’re complacent, irrelevant and approaching extinction. A smattering of mostly older people, doing mostly the same things they’ve always done, isn’t going to turn to the tide.


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Let's Pretend

Leonard Ravenhill
Let's Pretend We Don't Know We Are Pretending
  
Enter with us into an imagined world ... one myth among many

Once Upon A Time …

Children born into a Church are in most ways unaware and unwitting conscripts into an environment that is totally and unequivocally one of "let's pretend."

Since comparative critical thinking is not one of those innate gifts with which most children are born, those born into active, believing and participating families experience from the get-go a circumstance that - if explained to adult recruits/investigators in an honest, fair and responsible manner - might go something like this.

"Now, Brother Brown, we are here today because we are totally happy, totally satisfied, totally believing in the truths we are preaching. We have mentally moved into the world portrayed by these pretend truths and invite you to do the same.

These truths along with the duties and obligations that we consider legitimate, real and effectual in this pretend world, are what you should come to believe in. To get there we challenge you to suspend your disbelief and assume that everything we teach you is the truth.

We invite you to pretend along with us, go along with us, go along with all our stories, rationales and theologies. As you suspend disbelief, you will become more and more planted in this pretend reality we who are members all share.

If you are faithful, at some point, the disparities, the faulty rationales and theologies and the absolute truths will all be just that … absolutes. You will be so convinced that they are all true, that our drama - yours and mine - is the only true reality, that it will be hard to return back to that original curious state that led to your encounter with us."

That would be the honest way to proselytize.

But such is too honest for a religious organization, especially one that believes and teaches unreasonable notions about itself. Getting lost in unreasonable religious notions means having lost yourself inside a make-believe world.

Whether born into a Church or converted now with a few years of total participation in  your history, you must pursue and suffer withdrawal pains from your addiction to  a pretended dramatic performance in which you have been recruited and commissioned as a participating actor.

This often becomes more challenging if you have been commissioned a more significant role as an actor of influence on a local, regional or home-office level.

Resisting the demands made by fellow actors also caught within this pretended performance may require nothing less than the resistance required in a Prisoner-of-War circumstance in which one has become entrapped and must endure until release is obtained.

The circumstances of the pretended drama for most religions may be porous and permeable allowing entry and exit easily according to desire and inclination. However, in some organizations, the let's-pretend devolves in the the rigid, inflexible formalism of religious fundamentalism. Some of the circumstances became buttressed by equally pretended but nonetheless real "rules" and "conditions" that must be met in order for the drama to play itself out to a personally successful conclusion.

When such circumstances exist, fellow actors are empowered to work manipulatively (in many cases as unwitting participants) to keep you engaged in the pretended drama through what amounts mostly to mental and emotional coercion.

One becomes subject to threats, warnings and admonitions that are as pretentious as the entire scenario itself ...  unless one has been mentally stampeded to believe that not only is the scenario real, but the threats are real and really legitimate.

Inside the pretended drama, belonging and participation validated by fellow actors' opinions rise almost to paramount importance. It is only in that venue that theologically-based threats appear to be legitimate. The legitimacy lies mostly with our pretending that there IS a God who would let some mortals eternally course or impede the "progress" of other mortals toward some imaginary bliss.

However, without willing suspension of disbelief, such mortals can not be empowered.

Authorities of the earthly church cannot "do" anything to you physically or eternally. They can only request that the actual head of the church - God - do that ... with the expectation that God will do what they request because God is in some way bound to go along with it.

If you believe in that kind of God, then I might say that you have been stampeded too far and for too long. You may now consciously (aware of what you are doing) or unconsciously believe in. 

Given that the genuine and loving Divine Parent ought not let one child abuse another for any personal or authoritative retribution, the Church can only physically restrict its validation of anything formal you accomplish, you say or do inside the walls of the formal and conforming church.

The Church can only enforce its specific earthly organizational "club rules" that are expressed in social ostracism, shunning, disfellowshipment and actual dis-enrolling in the earthly club, i.e. excommunication.

Any God who would actually countenance such congregational behavior and turn that sort of power and influence over to a few mortals at the expense of the rest is not a real God, has ceased to be God and in truth does not exist

… unless one is lost in an imagined reality and willing to pretend that such a god IS real

... in which case one in quiet desperation attempts to live in fear of the imaginary divine tyrant.