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"Religion" - Monday Moment - November 27, 2023

Happy Monday, my friends! Today we continue drawing inspiration from Bishop Gene Robinson’s address at Sewanee in October. He says, “Number six, don't confuse God with religion. God never gets it wrong, religion often does. But religion, be it Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist or whatever, can be a great place to hang out with others who want to know God and change the world. I highly recommend it.” Religion has been on my mind lately. I recently completed a four-week new members’ class at a church I was interested in joining. It felt like a safe option, a way to jump back into religious Christianity from the cozier existence in spiritual Christianity. I even started to wonder if I could pursue ordination one day in this denomination. But as often happens with me and religion, the more I thought about joining a church the more I was conflicted about joining a congregation in a tradition which mirrored only some of my theological and personal beliefs. Ultimately, I didn’t join that congregation—lovely people, great clergy, it wasn’t their fault—and I found myself in another sour state on the topic of religion.


Religion as a question of study and analysis as well as in its lived forms is as fascinating as it is troubling. Despite its many claims to the contrary, religions were created by people to help them respond to their circumstances, feed their greatest longings, and answer their deepest questions. No matter the statement from the divine figure or figures, religions have never been both founded by a divine creature and completely sustained by that or some other divine figure. At some point along the way a person, usually a group of people, came along and changed the religion in small or significant ways. And because of the place of religion in the lives and destinies of people, religion has always been tied to government, no matter how earnestly enlightened people have attempted to construct walls between the church and the state.


Religion has started wars, enslaved populations, indicted the ideas and bodies of scientists, taken hostages, and found ways to justify these and other horrors through their sacred texts and proclamations supposedly from God. Ask women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ people the world over what religion as done to them. We all know the answers. Religion has judged, excluded, and damned people calling them demonic, possessed, or simply without grace. It has gone as far as to prescribe murder for certain offenders and offenses sometimes for nothing less than loving a certain person or doubting a certain tenet.


However, religions have also inspired and funded art, music, and theater. They have defined architecture and built soaring edifices. They have often been on the front line of movements for justice and change. And when practiced correctly they have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and provided for people in desperate need of physical, mental, and spiritual relief.


My evangelical friends like to talk about “seasons” of their lives and how they are entering, moving through, or exiting a particular season. For the last ten years or more I have found myself in two rotating seasons with their own levels of religious engagement. During the Spring and Summer as days lengthen and I spend more of my time in the sun light I turn outward, wanting the community and the connections religion affords. Yet, as the days shorten and I live more of my life in the dark, I turn inward and feel less connection to the systems, laws, and theologies inherent in religious observance.


What is religion for you? What have been your positive and negative experiences with religion?


Let us pray: God, we know your love and grace is constant, but noise caused by the religious messages of people who disagree about theology, practice, polity, and even about who you are get in the way of us experiencing your love. Open our eyes and hearts to your presence with us and help us to never hide the true you from our siblings. We ask this through Jesus your son, Amen.


Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


Faithfully,


Ben

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