I listen to the pastors preamble in a large cattle ring at a Fairgrounds. I thought there were going to be a crowd. I wasn’t sure to expect, but seemed like fun to check it out. I really enjoy seeing what it is that draws people to God. I like to experience and examine different journeys. This was very unlike my usual journey. The pastor was a nice enough fellow. He was meek and kinda nerdy. His hair had gel in it, but was combed with bangs, maybe 1 inch long. He talked slow and methodical. I kept expecting him to say, “We call it a Slingblade.” It was a tad distracting. Then, he started one long sentence. He talked louder and faster. He joined sentences together with a guttural sound. He made a noise when breathing in. It was never quiet. There was no pause for effect. He spokeandspokeandspoke. I think it was pretty good, but I missed much of it. I worried a bit that he would pass out. I have heard of people saying they have been touched by the spirit and channeling the word of God. I was afraid and embarrassed to ask if this is what that was.
The next day I went to an Episcopalian service. It was very ordered and packed full of familiar rituals. We talked about things I knew: Richard Rohr, CS Lewis. I felt comfortable, but somewhat sterile.
I wonder about a journey of religion without spirituality or spirituality without religion.
The journey to God doesn’t require ritual or structure. We are born in the image of Christ, which means returning to God is natural, it is innate, it is a spiritual yearning that we only need to succumb. However, we are also pretty naural liars. Since Adam in the garden jumped into the bush, trying to hide from an all powerful, all knowing God, we have invented stories assigning blame. We jump out and say, “Eve made me do it.” Eve the first scape-goat. She is the predecessor to the fat kid on every playground in the world. Left to our own devices and our own choice, we seem to make some pretty bad choices. The same is true with spiritual journeys without a guide. We might be making great time, but we are lost.
What about religion without spirituality. I wonder about rituals and platitudes without substance. Rote memorization and reciting of different oaths and creeds. I entered into that world, thinking that I found it anemic and sad. I met with a fellow who put a spin on each ritual that will stick with me forever. He talked about how whatever measures of comfort and tradition aid in the journey to God are a spiritual journey worth keeping.
One without the other seem like a treasure hunt without a map or a map without a journey.
God is pretty dang mysterious. What a ride!