Religion is limited by our human understanding. Spiritual
truth is as wide and broad as the mind of God. No human
attempt to comprehend the reality and plan of God could
be complete and final. There is always more to learn.
Religion is the grammar school of spirituality, the
place where we learn the basics about God. But those
lessons are couched in very elementary concepts. In
the same way that we are intended to move beyond grammar
school into ever higher levels of learning, so we must
be willing to move beyond childhood concepts and embrace
the larger truths that God continually offers us.
We are physical/spiritual beings. We have a body which
will eventually die, and a soul which will live forever
because it is part of God. As a result, we have two
sets of senses, the five which connect us with the physical
world and others that connect us with the spiritual
world (intuition, dreams, visions, psychic abilities,
etc.) Religion is an expression of the physical side
of our nature, while spirituality is connected to our
divine nature. Our goal as humans is to become more
like God, to turn the world into the Kingdom of Heaven.
We can do this only as we turn away from human/intellectual
images of God and seek a broader understanding of divine
Religion is an attempt to convert a vision of the invisible,
eternal world into symbols and practices which we can
understand. But the problem is that we tend to invest
those symbols and practices with divine authority and
eventually worship the traditions we ourselves have
created. This is called idolatry.
Religion is trapped in its own past. Over the years
it has developed a point of view about God which it
considers complete and final. As a result, it spends
most of its time defending that vision and protecting
itself against any new revelations which might upset
its system of belief. That means that even God is unable
to get through to religious institutions with new insights
into divine truth. Thus, we have a choice between defending
old human systems or being open to God's spirit which
wants to communicate with us daily.
Christianity is one of many efforts to understand and
become one with God. To think that it is the only true
way to God, or that God loves only those within this
particular belief system, is the worst kind of chauvinism.
It is helpful in this regard to think of Christianity
as the Jesus cult. There is nothing wrong with this
cult except its claim that it alone holds the key to
God's love. Because of this claim, rather than embracing
all others as equals in the sight of God, it looks down
upon them as unbelievers who must be converted to think
as Christians do.
Jesus made the statement that he has much more to tell
us (John 16:12). But many who claim to be his followers
are not interested in what he still has to say to us
because they are afraid that any new idea will upset
their neat little closed system.
Religion is by definition an effort to understand and
therefore to please God. Religion began in primitive
times with a recognition that the most important things
in life are out of our control-life, death, weather,
crops, health, the future, etc. All these things seemed
to be in the hands of a power much greater than we,
and therefore it was important to stay on good terms
with this power. There is still a large element of this
primitive thinking in current religious practice-fear
of punishment, sacrificial behavior to try to gain divine
favor, sets of rules which define acceptable behavior,
Ancient Jews felt that their salvation came from belonging
to the people of God. We understand today that each
individual's personal relationship with God is what
is required. However, there is still a large tribal
component in religious practice-belonging to church,
attending worship, observing certain celebrations, accepting
the required disciplines. These are external and largely
man-made rules. We need to move from fear of punishment
to love of God.
Recent revelations about sinful practices in the church
and the leadership's attempts to cover up those crimes
underlines the fact that the church is often motivated,
not by a love for God and his people, but by a desire
for power and the need to protect that power. The church
has become so saturated with politics that it tends
to forget its basic purpose, to speak in self-forgetful
love for God.
The church cannot speak for God when it has quit listening
to the voice of God. It often mistakes its traditional
confessions of faith for the authentic will of God.
The choice is between the voice of tradition and the
voice of the Holy Spirit. If we believe that the Holy
Spirit dictated the original documents on which the
tradition is based, why do we not believe that the Holy
Spirit is still fully capable to speaking to us today?
Religion is a metaphor for life lived in a vital connection
with God. All the rituals of religious behavior count
for nothing without a heart that yearns for God. Religion
too often leads people to believe that agreement with
a creedal statement is all that God requires. We must
move beyond that misconception. Obedience to the Holy
Spirit, not to human tradition, is what ultimately pleases
may have other reasons which explain why we need to
move Beyond Religion. We would be glad to hear them.
We might publish some of the more incisive statements
on this page. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.