o-meditation-facebook

Right now, I’m going through a bit of a spiritual journey. I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (aka chronic fatigue syndrome) recently, and have been suffering from it for over a year now. And while it’s come with a lot of challenges, I do feel a silver lining is that it’s made me have to come face-to-face with my own life and self.

It might sound odd, but it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the external – your job, your housekeeping & errands, spending time with friends and family, wasting hours online looking at stuff (even if it’s interesting stuff) – that you start to lose sight of the internal. I feel a little like I’ve lost some of myself – some of that is from not being able to do some of the things I enjoy, but honestly, now that I’m not able to DO so much, it makes me realize just how neglected the rest of me, and the rest of my life, really is.

On that note, I’ve started thinking more about my spirituality. I’m a Christian, and I always will be one. It’s something that’s an integral part of my life, how I view the world, etc. I really do believe all of it’s true. I could never pretend that it’s just not real or anything like that – it truly would be pretending.

jesus2520crown2520of2520thorns

Jesus is the coolest.

But you know, I’ve always been a little different in that regard. I’ve always thought of myself as not fitting in well with other Christians – it’s been my experience for the larger part of my life. I think the main reason is that while I’m  very much on board with God, Jesus, and all the rest, I’m not very much a Christian in cultural terms. Sure, I don’t get drunk or do drugs, and from a moral perspective I’m much more Christian than many of my friends. But I’m also a huge nerd, I like punk and metal music, I like to wear big black boots and tribal jewelry, I like to dye my hair purple, I like to play Dungeons and Dragons and plan on naming my two hypothetical future-daughters after characters from Avatar: the Last Airbender and Lord of the Rings, respectively.

e8b59bda8ab0e13987a702d113486c8d

My “inner me” looks a little something like this. Yes, I am a huge nerd 😛

These are things that, growing up in the church, have gotten me some sideways glances and on more than one occasion – and I believe the reason is that culturally, these are not Christian things. People just don’t get it. When you play Dungeons and Dragons, you do not actually cast spells, nor does it inspire you to want to practice witchcraft. It’s about as harmful and about as effective as making a gun with your fingers and going “bang” at someone. You’d also be surprised at how much some punk & metal music mesh with Christian values, or at least have good, Christian-compatible messages in them (off the top of my head, I think of The Kids Aren’t Alright by the Offspring, True Believers by  Bouncing Souls, and The Gauntlet by Dropkick Murphys).  As for the rest, it’s all fashion; who cares?

The real problem here isn’t that these things are inherently bad. It’s that many Christians are uncomfortable taking anything away from something that does not “belong” to them. Anything that comes from a tradition or culture not their own is treated as if it’s inherently evil. But many people can see that’s not actually the case, and some can even see that the Church’s fear of not being “Christian” enough can lead them to exclude people who would greatly benefit from being there, and could make a positive contribution to the church.

 

I think this same attitude extends to learning from other faiths. In this regard, I’m a bit of an outcast again – at my most spiritually-connected, I felt energy from living things around me, felt myself connected to the world around me energetically… I believe that people really can be psychic. I see all these things in Christian terms – God made everything alive, energy flows through us all as that life force, and that both God and Satan can give people powers most think are impossible. Having this belief made me feel very spiritually healthy. When I began meditating, I expected only to have a good relaxation effect, and in fact it helped me to be able to hear God’s voice better than ever before.

Now, as I seek to regain spiritual strength and connectedness, I read articles about finding your “soul tribe”, about how life ebbs and flows and how you can find personal regeneration in the low times of life, about mind-body connectedness… and I find truth and meaning. It resonates with how I truly think and feel (the bit about regeneration in particular hit me. I feel as if my life is in winter mode right now – a time of reflection and quiet and darkness that can be used to rest and heal).

However, none of these insights come from Christian viewpoints. Many of these things would be considered pagan by many church-goers. But where they see caving in to pagan ideas, I see that most spiritualities carry some grain of truth in them (personally, I feel if they didn’t have this, they would not have many followers). I think we Christians need to remember that while our God is true and good, our religion has its blind spots. While we may not agree on lots of stuff believed in other faiths, they may have some true insights or useful practices that we could learn from.

635800417746031952667485041_screen-shot-2012-03-06-at-4-37-11-pm

The funny thing is that a lot of these ideas are not really un-Biblical; some are actually very much in line with Biblical teachings – but they are just not part of our culturally-accepted Christian worldview and thought-frames.
Sometimes all it is is a Biblical idea rephrased in a way that may make more sense to someone. Sometimes it’s a 3/4 truth that you can run with to God to get that extra 1/4 truth. Sometimes it’s something Christians shun as being “too (insert philosophy here)”, when really it’s a useful idea.

Instead of being afraid that if we look into other religions, that we will fall away from God, we should be strong in our faith in God, and pray that we will learn good things in His view from people of all faiths (or none). God gave us our faculties of reason, God gave us His word by which we can measure the truth of other ideas, God allows us to come to him with our questions and ideas. By being afraid of learning about other ideas, of seeing where others may have caught something we missed, how are we showing faith? We are not. We are staying in fear, and it may do harm to us personally. It may do harm to the church as we turn away people and truths that are too “out there” for us.

Of course, this might vary by individual. You don’t want to put yourself into the position of a recovering alcoholic at bar, spiritually speaking. But as a church, if we held this attitude, we could not only be stronger, but could help those who are weaker in faith, going through rough patches, etc. without having that element of fear. We could better answer their questions. We could encourage them to move forward and be strong.

Advertisements