My friend is arguing with me and blurts out, “you can’t just choose your values, religion is not a cafeteria!”
I laugh and realize his quick synopsis catch-all answer has some merit.
I reply in kind and state just as firmly and just as loudly that “religion is also not a box. A provincial viewpoint will never be a Universal Truth.”
How is the Religious/Spiritual World Organized? That is a recurring theme in our lives. It’s a philosophical question as well a question of placement. Where do we belong? It becomes a question of structural reality and placement.
When we are born in this world we are usually raised in a particular religion. It is usually the religion of our immediate predecessors(i.e. our parents). I currently believe that whatever religion we are born into is the possible continuation of the religion that we have built and established in our prior lives. But it could also be the religion that teaches us the lessons that we need to learn most in this lifetime.
I was raised as a Methodist and believe pretty firmly that it’s a carry over from my last life.
I believe that there are currently both Boxed Religions and Spiritual Cafeterias and that we are headed for a world in which Spiritual Awareness is completely and totally self-evident. We are entering a world in which our spiritual consciousness is so evident in our lives that we can finally understand the greatness, the interconnectedness and beauty of all things.
The merits of boxed religion are that the individual can learn discipline, order, respect, progression, and teamwork. The faults of a boxed religion are possible continued spiritual error, polarization, self-righteousness, domination, constrainment of creativity and individual initiative.
The term Spiritual Cafeteria alludes to the idea that we can cherry pick our values and religious ideas. I don’t belive that we can pick our own Ideals and Values but that we sometimes grow beyond earthly systems. Yes some people do abandon systems and abandon God(at least temporarily). But some of us do seek greater spiritual answers and we “choose” to partake of the right Spiritual Nourishment. We do know that “man cannot live by bread alone” and so we do exercise the right to choose responsibly. We choose the Spiritual salad and vegetables that provides fiber and vital spiritual nutrients. We choose the Spiritual meat/legume protein that grows our Spiritual Body. We utilize the Spiritual carbohydrates that gives us the energy to fulfill our Spiritual Goals. If we do not exercise our own discipline we may revert back to a religious method that instills the proper self-restraint to make wise choices. The clue isn’t will we choose individual answers that are self-serving but whether we will finally adopt Universal Laws and Understandings that have never been owned or constrained by any one group.
I believe that actually each of us is micro-managing our way back to God. A system or box has merits and we learn from those until we outgrow them. We stop believing in a paternalistic Santa Claus/Grandfather God and realize that God has greater dimensions than we could possibly perceive. We realize that God is not an external agent controlling our lives as little puppets. God is greater than we can imagine and is in all things. If we strike out on our own to learn greater truths those steps will inherently lead to some missteps. Those mistakes will be our own and we won’t have them thrust on us from someone else.
The box religions serve their purpose. Imagine a solder that hates the Jewish people. It doesn’t matter what era, Roman times or the modern era. He completely doesn’t understand the Jewish world and holds it in great contempt and disdain. He dies and goes to heaven but God forbids him to enter(at least for now). Finally they have a meeting. The soldier states his case but God decides that he still has lessons to learn.
God tells him that he will return to earth and live in Brooklyn, U.S. A. He will return to earth and become an Orthodox Jew. Not as a punishment but as a spiritual lesson. He will learn to play accordion in a Jewish Klezmer band. He will observe the Sabbath and read the Torah. He will learn the values of family, community, discipline and order. Most importantly he will learn to love others as he loves his own being. He will love those he didn’t understand.
Another person has lived their prior life with blue blood sophistication, modern gadgetry, urbane polish, and social networking for career and a socially upward life. In his next life he “gets to” fulfil new direction as a Pennsylvania Amish midwife. From these the soul learns lessons of simplicity, earnest work, child-rearing, and a return to nature that brings great spiritual meaning.
Another soul still has lived a life as an ardent religious priest who values duty, self-sacrifice, and carries an attitude of serious composure and restraint. His next life finds him as a tuba player in a New Orleans Jazz Band. He finds that joy, happiness, music and laughter are important in life for himself, but also for others. He derives his greatest joy playing in the New Orleans funeral processions. From these he feels value from his work ushering the deceased into the next world while bringing solace to the people of this world. He plays at every party and enjoys the parties like it’s 1999. In this instance it’s a tradeoff of one box for another. One was the monastery, the other being the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
Meanwhile, the religiously graduated Boxed Saint realizes that there are new lessons of Love and Law that were not taught within his prior systems. He/She has matured to a new point that places the onus of the Spiritual Life on Him or Her. In this manner people can learn their co-creativity with God.
Rest assured that real life will find the weaknesses of any boxed religion. Real life also provides the crucible that enables us to amend, correct, and adjust our own lives according to God’s Laws. Part of the difference is if it’s better to be compelled to conform verses us choosing God’s Laws based on knowledge, experience and wisdom. It’s a question of Spiritual Maturity. While in our infancy, WE DO need guidance, direction, focus and discipline. As we Spiritually evolve we can see that the Spiritual kindergarten is over. We must now attend High School, College, or Graduate School.
When you think you have to defend something is when you will realize the deficiencies of your philosophy. I’m unable to describe the meanings of all Religions or Spirituality. I’m unable to describe all boxes and paths. I believe now though that every individual is somehow forging their own Reunion with God and that relationship is between him and God. Whatever God’s plan is, somehow it’s Natural and Real. It’s not given to man’s own proclamations and utterances. The answer is you can be wherever you want to be and we all choose when we will change, amend and apply ourselves to God’s plan. The mature realization is that everyone is on their Religious/Spiritual Path. The mature realization is that individually and collectively we all are choosing our Spiritual Destiny and our Spiritual Reunion.
“Think outside the box”
“No man is an island”