Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Lack of Spirit in Religion

As Christians, we’re taught at a very young age how to be a “good person”. We’re taught not to be “bad” and the consequences of bad behavior. What “religion” defines as “bad” can have various meanings. First of all, “the spirit of religion” is a total contradiction. To me, religion has no spirit. It’s rigid teachings of what people expect others to do, in the name of God. They don’t go by the spirit of God; they go by what they were taught as a child. It becomes robotic and redundant. There’s no “life” in their teachings. Many people are turned off by what religion has taught them. They’re scared and terrified of being human, which results in eventually drawing away from God out of pure fear. In my beliefs as a Christian, God brought His only Son down to earth to experience what it means to be human and to save all sinners – which means – all people. He suffered just like us, He was tempted just like us, and he knew what it meant to be oppressed and hated…just like us. People, who have been taught a certain way, will not see it any other way. They can’t step out of the box and see beyond their small world of “religion”. Rules and regulations have taken the place of love and worship. Set religious standards have pushed aside love and tolerance. The world has become a place full of religious hatred. Holy wars have consumed many of us. People kill for religion, as well as take their own lives in sacrifice for their God(s). What’ve we done to ourselves, as a nation under “God”? We’ve conformed God into this hateful, wrathful being that only wants to punish and put us to death. Have we done this? Or have the radical fundamentalists who still hold up the Old Testament like a torch and twist the scriptures on us put us through this?

The bulk of my life while growing up still had the raging thoughts of the devil crashing through my floors to come up and get me because I was gay. Fear took the place of my relationship with God, and eventually I became distant and withdrawn, having absolutely no desire to seek God. Why should I seek God if He’s going to punish me for my sexual orientation? “Repent and give up your sin!” Most Christians and other religious people will use this term in order for a homosexual to become an “ex-gay”. Repent for your “sins”. I’ve even been invited to a fundamentalists’ home, where they've asked me to stay with their family in order to teach me the “right way”. They already had a husband set up for me, so that I didn’t have to burn with lust. I’ve been told that it’s unnatural and unclean to be a homosexual. Most people who like to sit and judge others usually have a wild past of their own, or currently live a life full of hypocrisy. They’ll usually focus on one thing (homosexuality) and preach from there. Why not preach to others who murder, rape, steal and lie? Why are they preaching to those who love other people of the same gender? My thought: because religion has taught them to do so. They’ve been brought up to use “righteous judgment”. As long as they’re not committing the “sin” of homosexuality, then it’s okay for them to chastise those who are gay and lesbian.

Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. ~Matthew 7:5

There are Christians that are so focused on homosexuals, that their relationship with God has been completely diminished. They’ll even go so far as hold picket signs outside of gay soldiers’ funerals with antigay semantics. “God hates fags!” How can another Christian even say this kind of stuff? It baffles me. I know those are extreme cases, but that’s where it sometimes ends up when pressed upon the issue. Religion has ruined many relationships, friendships and unions. It destroys every foundation of love, if allowed. For instance, someone once told me that they’d be my friend if I wasn’t a lesbian. They also said in the next sentence that they would be my friend if I didn’t claim Jesus as my Savior, and yet still practice homosexuality. They’d rather me be a “Pagan lesbian”, rather than a Christian lesbian. It’s known that anyone who turns another believer away from God is committing one of the worst sins of all. If you guide someone to God, be confident that God can handle the convictions of a broken heart, or someone who really needs help. We all need help. We’re all in this together.

What does it mean to be religious? To me, it means rules and regulations. It means structure and no excitement for our Lord our Savior with no “spirit”. When I used to attend the Catholic Church, they were so ‘monotone’, without any enthusiasm. Everyone had a grim look on their face and treated mass as if it were the most boring class in school. No one was dancing, praising God, singing or crying out of pure happiness. People were praying along as if they were sleepwalking. I couldn’t bear it any longer. Is this the way we’re supposed to worship our great Lord? I know each and every individual is different, but this was ridiculous. The nun who had been there for 30 something years would look at me if I coughed too much. She’d snear at me and remind me that silence was apart of their prayer time. She didn’t care if I was suffering or offered me a glass of water. When I was a child going to CCD classes, the nun would smack my hand with a ruler because I had raised my hand to go to the bathroom. It was barbaric and abusive. This isn’t what spirituality’s about. This is definitely what “religion’s” about. I didn’t want any part of it anymore. I wanted out. I wanted to worship God the way I felt fit- the way God wanted me to talk to Him.

Here are the differences I see between spirituality and religion: spirituality has no set time for prayer. You make the time to pray and it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to develop a closer relationship with God. God gave us “choice”, and we have that right to make certain decisions. We seek a relationship with God, not specific rules, times and set schedules to pray or think about God. Remember, God is everywhere. We can pray at any time and at any place. God hears us all the time. He hears our thoughts. It’s building a foundation of love between you and your creator. If you have no foundation, the relationship with crumble due to poor building structure. God doesn’t want us to kill others over different beliefs in religions. Again, He has given us freedom of choice, which means anyone can do or believe anything they want. We cannot force people or belittle them, just because they believe something totally different. We can share our beliefs in God with others, but we cannot force it upon them. Jesus never forced it---He shared it. He displayed His loving nature to all people, even the ones who were thought to be immoral and not fit for the Kingdom of Heaven. He never discriminated and always showed His love for all. We’re supposed to be “Christ-like”, which means, trying to live the way Jesus did back then. He was tolerant, loving and accepting of those who truly were seeking the word of God. Most “Christians” and other religious people will argue over that concept and tell you that God is not tolerant. They’ll even tell you that God hates a lot of people. God does not hate. God is all love.

I’m not preaching some kumbaya sermon here, because I know in my heart that this is the message that God wants me to tell people. God is powerful enough to save you- even if you life looks like a complete mess to others. If you believe in your heart (as a Christian) and confess with your mouth that you love God and believe that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. Right there, there is nothing that can separate you and God.

The next time you encounter one of these “religious” people condemning you, just remember that each and every single person living on this earth has their own cross to bear. They’ll all have to answer to the big guy. What will they say when God asks, “Have you displayed love and tolerance to your fellow brothers and sisters? Have you shown them compassion and acceptance? Have you shared your faith with them in a loving way? Have you treated them the way you would want to be treated?” What do you think their answers will be? The behaviors that most religious people display are characteristics of hateful and insecure people.

Think about it. If a person who is insecure about their sexuality, focuses purely on homosexuality—don’t you think that there may be some deep seeded issues there? Ex-gays and other ‘reborn religious antigay Christians’ usually act like reformed smokers. They purely focus on the sins of people and not their relationship with God.

Spirituality is the focus between you and God. It’s the continued learning process that never ends. Religious people limit their intake of learning and only hear what they want to hear. When you’re spiritual, you have to exercise it just as you would exercise a muscle in your body. If you slack off, your muscle becomes weak and flabby. The same goes with your spirit, however, there’s always another chance to get back into spiritual and physical fitness.

“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important.” ~1 Timothy 4:8

When you stop learning and stop exercising your growth is spirituality, you become spiritually unaware and more focused on worldly matters. When we delve deeper into worldly matters, we also become spiritually deaf. The messages from God start to fade; not because He’s not talking to you, but you’re literally choosing not to hear Him. I try to become more open and in tune to the messages that are trying to reach me. It’s up to me to relax, meditate and receive them. Sometimes it’s not that easy. The messages come in different ways. There are days where I just sit and talk to God like a child. I talk to Him as if He were sitting right next to me. With religion, the teachings focus on saying the same prayer over and over again.

“And now about prayer. When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I assure you, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly. Then your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you. When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” ~Matthew 6:5-8

This passage reminds me everyday of how God wants us to come to Him with prayers from the heart. Our “religion” has literally brainwashed us into thinking that we have to pray this way or that way, when in fact, we need to do it our way so we can communicate with God more productively.