In a word: YES, but not in the way many religious institutions would have us believe. While some (many) have used the Bible to manipulate the masses and to put forth their own hidden (or sometimes not so hidden) agendas, this is not how scripture proves relevant to us today. I should probably qualify that statement….if our desire is for separation, then using the Bible to put forth dogma, justify separative actions, or to sell the story of a God who wants you to be wealthy, then that is how one will use the Bible. If, however, our desire is for unity and for humanity to come together in harmony with one another, then we are required to approach scripture in a different way.
While the Bible is the inspired word of God (Truth, Love, The Divine, by whatever name you call the Source and Revelation of all that is), so too is every example of the written word. As we become increasingly aware of the wisdom traditions and sacred writings of other cultures, we discover an abundantly flowing wellspring of wisdom. As the Western world grows increasingly disenchanted with institutional Christianity and discovers the compassionate teachings of our friends in the East or from the Native people who were here before the European invasion, the temptation is to exchange the traditions in which we were raised for these “new age ideas.” The problem is that there is nothing “new” about New Age, neither is there something unique in Buddhism, Hinduism, Zen, Paganism, or Native traditions that we cannot find in our own traditions.
This is where the rich tradition of Christian contemplative practices proves helpful. (Note: there is also nothing unique to the tradition of Christian contemplative practices, expressions of all the practices we call “Christian” can be found in the Jewish faith out of which Christianity emerged, and also within the spiritual practices of the cultures in which Judaism was immersed.) With these practices, we can approach scripture through the lens of inquiry and as a tool through which we can discover and discern our own truth. In this way, scripture acts like a mirror, reflecting the guidance, insights, learning, comfort and healing we need in the present moment. Whether we think of God as the Divine Source of all that is, or as a reflection of our highest self, when applying contemplative practices to scripture, “God” is providing us with what we need. It is through these contemplative practices that we come to know the God of our own understanding while at the same time coming to know ourselves. In this way, scripture is can be our teacher, our source of guidance and direction, our healer, our counselor and our comforter.
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While religion has provided a great service to humanity, it has also done great harm. If you are one who has felt harmed, rejected, condemned, judged, ridiculed, stifled, silenced, by religion, you are not alone. In fact, the second largest “religious” denomination in the United States is made up of 42.7 million non-practicing Catholics – those who have left the Church because they no longer felt welcome or at home. Perhaps like me, you are one of those. Whatever it is that brings you to this class, “Healing Our Religious Wounds,” know that here you are welcome! Through this course you will find acceptance, unconditional love and support for healing the wounds that you experienced at the hands of religious institutions or from those associated with that religion (even when those may have been your own parents or loved ones).
The structure of this class will be four-fold:
To name and claim the harm that we have experienced through religion and to find unconditional support for claiming these wounds.
To grieve the losses that we have experienced as a result of these wounds: loss of community, loss of familiar rituals, loss of perceived belonging, loss of God*, loss of self.
To provide a space upon which you can heal religious wounds by confronting some of the core “beliefs” that are often the platform upon which this wounding has taken place.
In doing so, providing space in which you can build a belief system of your own, perhaps discovering that in doing so, you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater (which many, sadly have).
The format of this course will be part storytelling, part recorded lecture, part written content, and part personal reflection and meditation. You are invited to share what you are comfortable sharing throughout the course and you are free to refrain from sharing if this is how you are called.
Telling our story
Images of God
Re-examining “The Trinity”
The question of salvation
Jesus – Redeemer or Revealer?
Outside perceived authority vs inner truth
Prayer – speaking to vs. listening to God
Religion vs. Spirituality
Naming and claiming your own truth
*A note about “God.” Throughout this course you will see the use of the word “God.” I will also interchange this with “The Divine.” Please know that in the use of these terms, I impose no specific belief or understanding of what that means….but that it has nothing to do with the traditional “Old Man in the Sky” god and everything to do with the “God of your understanding.” If you have a hard time with the word “God,” please feel free to replace it with “Love” or “Peace” or any word that describes your current understanding of our Origin and our Source.
Please also note that I will be using Judeo-Christian scripture throughout this course. I do so because it is the primary text which has been used as a weapon for harm. In my own healing journey, I have discovered the beauty of scripture when examined through the light of love. Scripture was never meant to cause harm, but to be a vehicle through which we can find ourselves, and in finding ourselves, finding our own understanding of “God.” My hope in using scripture, along with the proper tools, is that you will find this also to be true.
What you will need:
A computer with internet access
A notebook or journal
A music source (your computer will suffice)
A box of crayons (Crayola 64 count is my favorite)
As an additional source of support, I have created a “Secret” Facebook group (meaning only members can post or have access to the page) for course participants. Here you are welcome to share your own journeys and to connect with others healing through this process. This is purely optional, but please use this resource if you feel so called.
Since the beginning of time, human beings have created belief systems, rituals and communal practices to support and give expression to their search for meaning. For many primitive cultures, religion became a means of trying to survive in an otherwise unfriendly world. Beyond mere survival, as sentient beings we are driven by an inner longing to know who we are, to understand the workings of the universe and to somehow participate in the universe’s ongoing act of creation. Religions were created in an effort to fulfill this longing.
Historically, the development of religious systems has proven helpful in gathering people around a common set of beliefs and cultural practices, providing a system of education and support through the inherent rites of passage in the human journey (birth, coming into adulthood, coupling, aging, death), and supporting humanity in developing necessary codes of conduct and systems for addressing breaches in that conduct. At their best, religious institutions bring humans together, support them in their psycho-spiritual development and equip them for living out the fullness of their human potential while being of service to the betterment of the world.
Many religious institutions are not, however, functioning “at their best.” Instead, many have risen up out of systems of fear, power and control, or as an adversarial response to other systems of power. As a result, many religious institutions are functioning not as a system of support and empowerment, but instead are seeking control. In many cases, fear and intimidation are the vehicles of control as those in power seek to rule over those who are not.
As a result of this disparity of power, many thousands of human beings have been injured – told they are unworthy of the love of their God, made to feel less than because of the person God made them to be, or flat out rejected because of their gender, sexual orientation, or life choices. In some cultures, people are even being killed because they disagree with the ruling religious power. And what about all of those who have been sexually abused by those in religious power and those who are still being abused?