Monday, May 23, 2005


Religion On My Sleeve?

(I actually wrote this 3 months ago - on the first day I started this blog. I'm thinking not many people had read it back then, so I figured I'd recycle it.)

Religion on My Sleeve... Yeah, you got a problem wit dat?

Look, I know this old cliche can mean a lot of different things to different people. I'm musing now in the context of the whining type of gripe that infers that you should just shut up rather than speak your mind on anything "religious".

But why should we stifle open dialogue when it comes to this topic? Do the people that say this have something much more interesting to discuss, like, say the details surrounding the most recent episode of their favorite reality TV show? This topic strikes a nerve with me because, in fact, I think the typical level of discussion in our culture is increasingly dumbed-down so I consider it very counterproductive to discourage the discussion of ideas - particularly big, spiritual ones that have potentially eternal ramifications.

I'm looking at it this way...If you just saw a really good movie or heard a great new CD, you're going to tell people, right? And why? Because it's human nature to share interesting and enlightening experiences. In fact, you could argue that your enjoyment is not fulfilled until you express it with a friend or relative. You could also correctly mention that you want others to partake in the same uplifting or rewarding experience that you did.

Now, assume you have a life-altering experience with the Holiest of Holies, the Creator, the Alpha and Omega... Do you think you'd want to share it? Do you think it would have an impact on your worldview and your decision making process? I'm sorry but I don't see the wisdom in relegating something of this magnitude to a separate and isolated entity - put into its own box not to be touched except for Sunday mornings.


I agree with you.

The "privatization of religion", and of religious conversation or whatever, is sort of strange. Not just to Christians, I would think, but to anyone (although I can't speak for everyone). It seems really backwards, like using your best tableware to feed your dogs and using paper plates to feed a king, or maybe sitting at the table with your dogs but having the king sit in the closet or under the table. And having the dogs wear crowns. Or wearing your pants on your head. Whatever.

Within a "religious experience": someone encounters the eternal, the transcendental, the infinite, the Ground, the really real, etc, "that above which nothing greater can be named" (go Anselm, go Anselm, go). Call it whatever you want. God.

Who wouldn't want to talk about something like that? Who wouldn't need to? And wouldn't we expect them to? It would probably be bigger than the Red Sox winning the World Series or American Idol or even the last episode of Friends. And why wouldn't the rest of us want to hear about it? Wouldn't we be intrigued? But we're such uneager students of religion. And isn't that strange, because what religion talks about is God and eternal life, things we want to know and to have?

But instead we say (as a society), "Religious experiences are all good as long as you keep them to yourself." And then we talk about them as "values". Which is even more strange, because values are inherently subjective and individual, and everyone creates them for him- or herself. Everyone has their own. But religious experience is by definition a collision with the Objective, the Universal, etc, which sort of annihilates our "selves", or so I would think. Like Abraham seeing the back of God, and his hair going white.

The whole thing is weird, even weirder than the premise for the show "Alf". What was the premise for the show Alf?

Kierkegaard would have said that the reason we don't want to talk about religion is that it requires something of us. And this something is hard, and something we could have to conform ourselves to. As Christianity would say, the death to oneself, losing your life in order to save it, picking up your cross.

I wish I had friendships like they have on Friends.

Anyway, I posted. I need to get back to work. Word.
I like the Kirkegaard reference. I suspect that is at the root of the unwillingness to discuss religion. Or, to take it a step further, it would explain the animosity toward the mere topic of religion even being raised. It takes people out of their comfort zones to discuss and consider big ideas - especially ones that require things like sacrifice and obedience. And, of course, we wouldn't want that.
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