Jump to content

Pseudo Spirituality & Spiritual Barriers


Javelin
 Share

Recommended Posts

Small church groups have become common in my area of the county and probably most other areas as well. They are designed to encourage fellowship and congregational growth. The congregation I attend is non-denominational. It was once part of an ultra conservative, Parasitically legalistic, fundamentalist religious group but broke off and reformed as a non-denominational community church several years ago. The congregation is less legalistic now, but it’s still conservative.

 

Our small group has been together for several years now and has become quite intimate. They are aware that my beliefs and biblical interpretations do not reflect accepted conservative orthodoxy and they are okay with that.

 

I’ve been the group leader for years now. I’ve tried to step down but they won’t let me. Anyway, we’ve started a new study recently. The author of the resource book is one of the Pastors at Willow Creek Community Church.

 

The focus of this study has been on transformation and spirituality. Last night the topic was pseudo spirituality. The author defined pseudo spirituality as rule keeping and doing religious things. He offered examples such as: I pray daily therefore I am spiritual. I read the bible regularly therefore I am spiritual. I don’t drink alcohol therefore I am spiritual. I attend all my congregations worship services therefore I am spiritual.

 

He made the point that rule following and religious acts are not synonymous with spirituality. He proposed that true spirituality comes from the heart and offered examples of what it means to truly love God and others. He also noted that rule keeping is easy, but true spirituality is difficult so groups tend to equate rule keeping with spirituality.

 

 

He also dealt with spiritual barriers. He noted that religious groups have barriers. Individuals are accepted into the group only if they honor the group’s barriers. The group will tolerate some forms of “sin” but not others. Smoking may be tolerated but drinking will not. Gossiping may be tolerated but viewing pornography will not. Virtually all conservative group’s will not tolerate homosexuality, but may tolerate “discreet” sexual promiscuity especially if it involves prominent members. In other words all religious groups beliefs and practices are hypocritical in one way or another.

 

Each group has barriers and these barriers differ from group to group. The attractiveness of a group is often determined by the acceptability of their barriers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"He made the point that rule following and religious acts are not synonymous with spirituality. He proposed that true spirituality comes from the heart and offered examples of what it means to truly love God and others. He also noted that rule keeping is easy, but true spirituality is difficult so groups tend to equate rule keeping with spirituality. "

 

Thanks for sharing what you are learning! I agree with this, but I also think one reason why we struggle with this kind of thing is that motivations in others are so difficult to determine.

 

If I look at myself, I can easily tell whether daily prayer is a rule-keeping activity, or whether it is motivated by desire to be closer to God. When I look at others, I have no idea. The Bible says that we can judge a person by their spiritual fruit. So, I don't think it is out of line to try to see how we fit into a community by looking at how the group behaves.

 

"In other words all religious groups beliefs and practices are hypocritical in one way or another."

I'll have to think about that. What if a religious group maintains that beliefs are up to the individual, and that each of us is making decisions based upon our own interpretation of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience?

 

I have to laugh - at one point a friend told me that all people are a little crazy in their own way. The trick is to find a spouse that is crazy in the same way. Maybe the same is true about a church :-)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It does seem that many conservative groups value in-group loyalty. By itself, this can lead to problems if the concept is over-valued. I believe that we need to take a step back and look at a wider perspective. There are several important factors here. It is seldom possible, at first glance, to determine whether another person has made a conscious choice to follow a "rule". As John Searle notes, it is not always the case that a person is following a rule, consciously or unconsciously! Rule-like behavior is not the same as rule-guided behavior. In other words, Searle posits that we all have an innate capacity that is sensitive to the rules of society without "knowing" what the rules are. Why is this important? Searle offers several thought experiments and one goes something like the following:

 

Suppose we are anthropologists examining different cultures. We discover a new culture, previously unknown to us. As we begin our obsevation of this new culture, we see a group playing "baseball". Innocently, we inquire as to where and how this culture invented the game of baseball. The leader of the group scratches his (or her) head and responds "Rules? Baseball? I do not understand. What we are doing here is worshiping God. This is how we have always worshiped God."

 

Now for a more concrete example that actually happened. A young researcher was trained to do research from a "progressive perspective". She was interviewing an elderly woman who followed traditional roles for women in her own culture. Innocently, she asked the woman if she did not want to escape the confines of these gender roles and become "liberated". The woman's response was telling. She said that, for herself, she had consciously made a choice to follow tradition and, she hoped, the researcher had not assumed otherwise. As for her three daughters, it was a matter of teaching them what choices they had and allowing them to make their own decisions. At the time of the interview, one daughter had already taken a secular and non-trational path, the second had adopted the trational and the third daughter had not yet decided. As reported by the researcher, it was in this exchange she had learned the real meaning of what she had been trained to do.

 

Inclusivity is a demeanding ethic. It requires that we look at aspects of our own nature without bias. Can we say that in-group loyalty is wholly "good" or "bad"? Not really. We can say that, when distorted, many "values" do become harmful. In other words, it is not in-group loyalty as such that we protest but rather the misuse of in-group loyalty to "demonize" (de-value) others.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

....Inclusivity is a demeanding ethic. It requires that we look at aspects of our own nature without bias. Can we say that in-group loyalty is wholly "good" or "bad"? Not really. We can say that, when distorted, many "values" do become harmful. In other words, it is not in-group loyalty as such that we protest but rather the misuse of in-group loyalty to "demonize" (de-value) others.

 

I believe you have uncovered the intended point of the author. My personal experience indicates that rule following is often the mechanism used by groups to determine who they will accept and who they will reject.

 

My life experience also indicates this method is used both inside and outside the faith community to determine individual worthiness and acceptance. Since I was a member of an ultra conservative, cult like, religious group for nearly thirty years my perspectives may have become distorted. Those experiences have made me wary of groups, their motives, and the peculiar way they rank other peoples worthiness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In thinking about groups and what makes a group, I recall something that Tariki posted a couple of months ago, a quote from Freud that really struck me. It said something to the effect that people will always be able to group themselves together in bonds of love so long as they can in turn, and proportionately, redirect and re-channel their hate or disdain to those outside of the group. This struck me because it rings so true for so many cases - often the most closely knit religious groups are exclusionistic cults. It is easier to love a select few if one can then redirect one's negative energy to those outside. The fire then becomes self-sustaining, fueled by 'us vs them' mentality.

 

The real challenge then, in light of this understanding, is to find a group which is rooted in inclusion, in love for the whole world and not a select few. The question to ask is, is your love in any way based on the exclusion of others? French theologian Rene Girard formed a social theory which states that many ancient societies, and by implication perhaps modern ones which are more complex, are rooted in a mythos of the scapegoat, that is, these societies became unified at the expense, or demonization, of the other, the outsider, the one supposed to be responsible for disunity - the scapegoat. Girard then ties this in with the Christian challenge of Jesus which contradicts this mythos, because in this case, the scapegoat was actually innocent. By this logic our religious groups, churches, congregations, then, ought to based on mutual love - but not at the expense of the scapegoat, not to the exclusion and demonization of others. Sadly Christianity has not historically lived up to that ideal, and I observe that even the New Testament shares in the mythos Girard says that Jesus refutes, for the apostles themselves appeared very exclusionary, as at the end of the world the 'unbelievers' and 'the wicked' will be expunged violently from the earth. I can't verify the factuality of Girard's theory but it does seem interesting in light of the topic.

 

Speaking of the topic, hopefully this post was relevant to it somehow.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In thinking about groups and what makes a group, I recall something that Tariki posted a couple of months ago, a quote from Freud that really struck me. It said something to the effect that people will always be able to group themselves together in bonds of love so long as they can in turn, and proportionately, redirect and re-channel their hate or disdain to those outside of the group. This struck me because it rings so true for so many cases - often the most closely knit religious groups are exclusionistic cults. It is easier to love a select few if one can then redirect one's negative energy to those outside. The fire then becomes self-sustaining, fueled by 'us vs them' mentality.

 

The real challenge then, in light of this understanding, is to find a group which is rooted in inclusion, in love for the whole world and not a select few. The question to ask is, is your love in any way based on the exclusion of others? French theologian Rene Girard formed a social theory which states that many ancient societies, and by implication perhaps modern ones which are more complex, are rooted in a mythos of the scapegoat, that is, these societies became unified at the expense, or demonization, of the other, the outsider, the one supposed to be responsible for disunity - the scapegoat. Girard then ties this in with the Christian challenge of Jesus which contradicts this mythos, because in this case, the scapegoat was actually innocent. By this logic our religious groups, churches, congregations, then, ought to based on mutual love - but not at the expense of the scapegoat, not to the exclusion and demonization of others. Sadly Christianity has not historically lived up to that ideal, and I observe that even the New Testament shares in the mythos Girard says that Jesus refutes, for the apostles themselves appeared very exclusionary, as at the end of the world the 'unbelievers' and 'the wicked' will be expunged violently from the earth. I can't verify the factuality of Girard's theory but it does seem interesting in light of the topic.

 

Speaking of the topic, hopefully this post was relevant to it somehow.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

 

IMO, it was enormously relevant and informative.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"By this logic our religious groups, churches, congregations, then, ought to based on mutual love - but not at the expense of the scapegoat, not to the exclusion and demonization of others. Sadly Christianity has not historically lived up to that ideal, and I observe that even the New Testament shares in the mythos Girard says that Jesus refutes, for the apostles themselves appeared very exclusionary, as at the end of the world the 'unbelievers' and 'the wicked' will be expunged violently from the earth."

 

Thanks for posting this! It is what we are shooting for "Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors." I agree that the idea that demonizing the wicked or the unbeliever is contrary to the idea of love.

 

Is there a time when exclusion from a community actually is rooted in love? I'm thinking about a hypothetical situation where someone is routinely hurting others in the community. Can they be asked to change (with support) before being part of the community again? For example, if a church member is swindling others or exhibiting inappropriate sexual behavior... I always hated those parts of the Bible exhorting us to approach the person and then if they won't change, to treat them like an unbeliever...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

 

Is there a time when exclusion from a community actually is rooted in love? I'm thinking about a hypothetical situation where someone is routinely hurting others in the community. Can they be asked to change (with support) before being part of the community again? For example, if a church member is swindling others or exhibiting inappropriate sexual behavior... I always hated those parts of the Bible exhorting us to approach the person and then if they won't change, to treat them like an unbeliever...

The phrase I like to keep in mind is that the one thing we shouldn't tolerate is intolerance but I don't see this as exclusion, rather I see it as protection for people's safety. For example, there was that one tragic case in Knoxville TN awhile back where a religious extremist murdered a lot of Unitarian Universalists in their church on Sunday morning. They still kept their doors open and welcoming to people of all faiths but it didn't stop them from trying to stop the murderer not because they wanted to exclude people but because they had to protect their members from being murdered. I think people can sometimes forget that the Golden Rule goes both ways. I try to follow the principle of loving your enemies, but at the same time, I also feel that if somebody is being intolerant of others, they should not be surprised when people don't put up with that. In fact, I think if we're going to be inclusive, I think it's a moral duty to protect people from intolerance, like the recent case where Christian extremists in Uganda are trying to get a law passed that would make being gay punishable by death or life in prison. As a gay man, that is something I cannot tolerate not because I don't believe in inclusion but because I think gay people's lives should be protected and I think it's an impossible paradox to be tolerant of intolerance the same way it's impossible to be respectful to disrespect. Edited by Neon Genesis
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the reply, NG. I think it is eye-opening to see how backward Uganda still is!! Sometimes we get the impression that the whole world is progressing toward greater understanding and respect and compassion. I was horrified at the last United Methodist general conference where we couldn't make any progress on gay marriage or gay pastors because of Africa (and possibly the deep South).

 

I think it's all about LOVE, and sometimes we forget...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service