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Raised Lutheran, Looking For Right Congregation


Shekinah
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Hello, I'm here because I'm looking for a Christian group that fits me, I'll describe my predicament and maybe someone could help me.

 

I was raised Lutheran by liberal leaning moderate parents. I went to Church and Sunday school and was confirmed and everything. Although I found the services boring as a child, I always liked the religion. Well, the contents of the Gospels for the most part. Looking back I sort of felt that I liked the teachings, and general acts of Jesus much more than anything else in Christianity. But I considered myself a good Christian. Although Lutheran, my Mother, who was the much more religious one, never emphasized guilt, traditional morals, or apocalyptic junk. There was always a more positive emphasis with the way she brought me up in the Church.

I had a fraternal twin brother who was always questioning and debating the religion openly with my parents. But what's ironic was that I ended up the born critical thinker. I had a scary insight as a teen, into the nature of religious belief. Basically that a person only believes or denies what they are brought up to believe or deny. Or blindly react to. Basically that belief (in anything) is about familiarity and what a person rationalizes. This insight left me confused. It came from left field, out of nowhere. I made up my mind to just believe no matter what. I later just wanted to know that existence wasn't a nihilistic arbitraryness.

Several years ago with my brief stint as a pre-med student, after only going to church sporatically for years, I became interested in religion again and began reading books that tried to reconcile science and religion, for some reason. I had also been working on changing my quiet, neurotic, maladapted self for years.

Then I soon experienced a profound experience that traditional Christian upbringing never prepared me for. It was like an awakening experience that only the eastern religions could explain. This brought forth my interest in the East, that I had since being into martial arts for years.

So I began doing Zen meditation and reading spiritual books obsessively. Eventually I researched Christianity to see if there was anything real in it. (I'm very cerebral as you can tell)

I have been practicing Zen for several years now but once in a while I feel like I'm in the mood for Christian practice. I have been greatly influenced by Marcus Borg, Thomas Keating, and readings of the Catholic Mystics. "Myth and Ritual in Christianity" by Alan Watts made me realize how every part of Christian practice in the Catholic and mainline churches has a deeper significance.

My problem is that I don't know exactly where to turn to find a Christian group for a mystic oriented person. I love the Episcopal Church, sometimes I think I should just go to every Episcopal Church in my area until I find one that fits. I have tried the Quakers, but they are too political for my tastes. I haven't tried the Unitarians, but I feel that they may be too all over the place.

I practice Zen Buddhism, but don't consider myself a Buddhist. I don't really care what religious label I put on myself.

Right now in my life, I'm working towards becoming a psychotherapist. I'm very interested in the radical idea I found, that modern psychology is the leverage that traditional spiritual practices never had to be truly effective. And the traditional spiritual practices are the leverage that modern psychotherapy looks over and limits its effectiveness.

So, I'm looking for a congregation that does not take the traditional dogma so seriously and literally, but still can practice somewhat traditionally. I'm not too interested in churches that are politically liberal. I'm more about the liberal theology.

Thank you.

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Pleased to have you join with us Shekinah. A lot of what you said strikes a chord with me. Upon questioning my Christian faith, my attention was almost immediately directed to the east, and particularly to Zen Buddhism. (In fact, I'm hoping to spend a couple of months at a Zen monastery next summer if Heaven permits. Perhaps you could give me some advice as I my posture leaves much to be desired and I'm finding that trying to meditate is a pain...literally. :D ). Alan Watts, Thomas Merton, D.T. Suzuki, are writers/teachers that straightaway influenced my thinking. Yes, Marcus Borg too. He's definitely done a lot for me as I returned to Christianity.

 

I wish I knew of a church that might fit your tastes. I'm currently attending a Presbyterian church, which is not all that mystical but open and progressive enough for me. I too tried the Unitarian Universalists but they did not quite have the right feel for me. Catholic or Orthodox are probably more welcoming of mystical thought, but I'm sure you already know that. If you do manage to find a church that suits you, let me know. :)

 

I'm looking forward to discussing things with you in the near future. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the interface of psychology and religion too.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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Thank you for the reply. I think I like the Episcopals. I'm too much of an iconoclastic thinker to fit in a Catholic or Orthodox congregation. Honestly, my real problem is that I'm insecure about joining a church by myself, and practicing Christianity again. There is an Episcopal group on my campus. Christianity is a real heart based religion. Zen is more blunt and direct and fits me, although openinig the heart center(4th ways school idea)is definetely the main way to heal my personality. I'm also insecure about being grouped as a "God" person. It's hard to explain to everyone that I see religion in a completely different way than the vast majority of the population. I think I need to find some progressive Christians to find support.

Much of the awareness of my personality I mention, I get from the Enneagram. Particularly the Riso/Hudson interpretation of it.

 

It took me years to get the zazen posture. I found that half of the muscles in your whole body want to to bend either forward or backwards. You maintain a completely erect pose, with the muscles that hold you up in a theoretical balance. You end up in a state of complete poise and attention, ready to move in any way the moment presents. It's a yogic pose, not a meditation. In my experience, next to prayer, zazen is the only "meditation" that does not dull my mind. It is an intense concentration on reality. It takes constant experimenting, millimeter by millimeter of slight variations to find what is right for you.

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It took me years to get the zazen posture. I found that half of the muscles in your whole body want to to bend either forward or backwards. You maintain a completely erect pose, with the muscles that hold you up in a theoretical balance. You end up in a state of complete poise and attention, ready to move in any way the moment presents. It's a yogic pose, not a meditation. In my experience, next to prayer, zazen is the only "meditation" that does not dull my mind. It is an intense concentration on reality. It takes constant experimenting, millimeter by millimeter of slight variations to find what is right for you.

 

Thanks for the advice. Trying to maintain the correct posture is pretty cumbersome for a slouch like me. :D I suppose I'll just have to keep working at it, since it's something definitely important to me.

 

I think I like the Episcopals. I'm too much of an iconoclastic thinker to fit in a Catholic or Orthodox congregation. Honestly, my real problem is that I'm insecure about joining a church by myself, and practicing Christianity again. There is an Episcopal group on my campus. Christianity is a real heart based religion. Zen is more blunt and direct and fits me, although openinig the heart center(4th ways school idea)is definetely the main way to heal my personality. I'm also insecure about being grouped as a "God" person. It's hard to explain to everyone that I see religion in a completely different way than the vast majority of the population.

 

Looking back, I think Zen's no-nonsense directness is what made most an impression on my mind. No theology, minimal philosophy. Zen just throws the whole of life at you. I understand where you're coming from. At the time I began attending the Presbyterian church that I'm now presently a member of, I did not really consider myself a Christian (although many people, especially many Christians, would probably not consider me a Christian even now).

 

My decision was not really based on some new revelation I had about Christianity, either. It was basically a recognition that Christianity speaks to me on a level that no other practice does. There were, of course, less profound and more practical reasons for why I joined my church: I am fond of the minister there, it is located near my home, etc. My point is that I don't know of any elaborate philosophical reason(s) for why I decided to be specifically Christian and even less for why I decided to go to the church that I'm part of now. Life, to me, does not represent some platonic ideal, but is more messy than that. If anything the incarnation and the historical nature of Christianity forces us to take seriously this concrete, contingent, asymmetric world.

 

I think I need to find some progressive Christians to find support.

 

If you cannot find such support in your local churches, perhaps there are prayer/study groups in your area? And if not, perhaps you might consider taking matters into your own hands. My own minister and I are trying to throw together a local progressive Christian meet-up. There are plenty of people across this country who are interested in spirituality and religion but perhaps wary of the Church. I think they may merely be awaiting a good opportunity to meet and explore God together. You never know who you might meet and where such friendships may take you. Just something to think about.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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