Saturday, August 18, 2018

Hopeful Thinking- Saturday, August 18, 2018 - The Difference Between a Museum and an Auto Dealership

We should be radically curious about the spiritual beliefs of others. However, our goal shouldn’t be to change someone else’s mind. It should be to merely know them where they are. Plus, it’s a lot easier.
I truly enjoy hearing about other people‘s religious beliefs. I am fascinated by how various people interpret the Ultimate Reality. I don’t instinctively feel any reason to disagree with them. It isn’t whether or not I agree with them that matters. I’m curious about them as people. I listen for all the places where our beliefs overlap and through those I shake their hand. PS. This works for politics as well.
However, it definitely matters how one presents themselves in a religious discussion. Either they share their beliefs with me as a show-and-tell, or they declare them in such a way that they are trying to convince me to believe the same. I find it much easier to be curious about the former when I’m not defensive about the latter. It’s the difference between visiting a museum and an auto dealership. Show me what you find interesting and inspiring. Don’t come for me prepared to do business, to sell me something. Nothing turns me off more than a sales tactic. The implication is that what I already have is somehow wrong.
The truth is, trying to convince or persuade someone that you are correct about something which cannot be objectively proven is not the preferred way of sharing one’s faith. It’s certainly not the most effective. Exactly whom are you trying to convert and to what? Do you feel that you need a win? That’s an internal issue which has nothing at all to do with religion.
I don’t like being baited into arguments about why each thinks the other one is wrong. It doesn’t get us anywhere and isn’t the point of spiritual discourse. None of us have any proof of the spiritual functions of this Universe no matter what we believe. All we have is our own very subjective experience. We would all get along much better if we could just be openly curious instead of desperately persuasive.
I prefer the evangelism of doing. I prefer to illustrate my faith through my actions. If people become curious about what motivates me, they may ask. Or they may find their own personal pathways of being motivated to serve others. Just like all advice, it is better received when asked for.
All religions teach a life practice. Spiritual life practices are pieces of art often framed with a mythology to give them cultural recognition, substance and authority. Like all art, their value is subjective.
Unlike framed art, however, the lines between a religion’s life practice and its mythology can become blurred, sometimes even merging into an only somewhat cohesive whole. In Christianity for example, very few of us separate the mythology from the life practice taught by Jesus. They have become entangled to such a degree with the argument of whether or not Jesus was God that people are either all in or all out. But in the end, what matters is the gift of the life practice. The parts which cannot be proven can add to the story only if we let go of our arrogance. It is clouding our ability to take value from them as they are.
The arguments we have over the frame are constraining us from the art of being in relationship with each other. That is what “sin” truly is: Actions which prevent or destroy relationship. They are counter to the very purpose of the spiritual life practices which the mythologies are framing in the first place. We are meant to be engaged by the mystical so that we may partake of the practical. It is the hallmark of all moral stories. That is not to say I believe God is a myth, but since I can’t prove God to you as I see It, it’s not going to be the basis of our relationship. Let’s find something else.
All religious life practices at their core encourage us to seek validation in other ideas. It’s the religions themselves which tend to become organized against cross-pollination with other thinking, all for the sake of self-preservation. But any geneticist will tell you that’s a fool's errand. Diversity is the best and only survival mechanism in nature. And who made that?
We must approach our encounters with religious others with a beginner's mind and let go of our attachments to things we may have always believed but might no longer serve us. If God exists, It is surely a multifaceted and multidimensional truth as all true things are. But to get to the heart, we must first open the mind a bit more and open the mouth a bit less.

1 comment:

  1. Sharing! I am in concert with your mind-set but never could have presented it so eloquently.