I was talking to a Texas expatriate and good friend over dinner tonight in Omaha and we were discussing my blog site. He had read “Howdy” and was opining that sometimes religion limits our spirituality. At first, I disagreed, as uncommon as it is for me to do. As we dialogued further it occurred to me that he was on to something. Then I blurted, “Exclusiveness limits our spirituality.” We were both quiet for a time and then he agreed.
Earlier, he had asked what I meant by my definition of religion as “The codification of our spirituality.” With Howard, like most Texans, and I are one, it’s best to use small words and simple sentences. I offered my well used example that when a group of people express and “do” their spirituality similarly, for whatever reason, they tend to organize and/or create an institution, e.g., Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Christian, Athieists, free thinkers, etc which may become highly regulated and is often exclusive.
It seems to me that anytime a group of people become exclusive, and we almost always do, it limits our spirituality because it limits our experiences and It limits how we relate to others. If we are hating people because of who or what they are, or just saying we’re better that group X, Y or Z, we automatically limit OUR relationship with the universe because we are limiting our relationships with other humans. As much fun as it is to chant “We’re number one” at a sporting event, it automatically limits how we experience the number twos. No, we can’t relate to the entire world on any deep level. We have trouble enough relating to spouses, children, bosses, colleagues, “them,” and “those.”
I once was a member of a downtown United Methodist church for several years that had a wonderful ministry to the homeless of San Antonio. Week after week, as I became more familiar and comfortable with those who were quite different than me in so many ways (yes I know we are all just fellow space travelers) I became more open to others. I began to change.
One Sunday afternoon, I was in a movie theater lobby and as I walked toward the seating area, there in the hallway, I saw a short, Hispanic, young man in full biker regalia (I’m an old, short, fat, balding white guy with a beard). Quite different from my usual experience and at first I unconsciously chose to be intimidated and frightened. When I made eye contact, I saw he was checking me out, too. I spoke a word of greeting and he responded in kind. I smiled and he smiled. I relaxed, a lot and I felt I had made an important step in embracing my universe in a different way, if just for a moment. Weird how that can happen. Or is it?