Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Have Failed, Part Three

This rant was to have only two parts, but private emails I received in response to them necessitated a Part Three.

I received very polite and thoughtful email from several people who described themselves as Interfaith Ministers. They wrote to tell me that I didn’t understand what was happening in the Interfaith world, and that if I did, I would be hopeful.

So I asked what was happening, and learned that some people are taking the best of the world’s religions and using these pieces in new ways to create meaningful ceremonies for people who can no longer fit into any one faith. As one email had it, “I take the best teachings of the Torah, the Gospels, and the Koran and offer a beautiful vision of God, humanity, and the world, one that transcends Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and has no need to label people as Jews, Christians, Muslims, or anything else. We are just human.”

Amen to that. But why is that Interfaith? That is a new faith; there is nothing “inter” about it.

Inter-faith implies that each established religion comes to table as it is—shadow and all. There is no need for any religion to disclaim its theology, or to pretend that other religions are as valid as itself. There is no need to create a new worship format, only a need to provide space for all worship formats. You can’t even say that each faith adds its piece to the puzzle, because each faith imagines that its piece is the whole puzzle. The point is, I guess, that there is no judging among or between religions in an authentic Inter-faith gathering.

If we reduce the great religions of the world to warehouses from which we can extract the teachings, texts, and techniques we like, and leave the rest, are we disrespecting these religions? And if we are, let’s be honest about it, and bold about it, and loud about it. Let’s say the old ways are dead, or worse—deadly. Is it time to harvest the wisdom they contain and leave the rest behind? And when we do will we find a universal faith rooted in compassion, justice, and the Golden Rule?

And even if we do, this isn’t Inter-faith but new faith. And if it is the latter how does it deal with the shadow side of humanity? If we only take the light from religion, the dark within ourselves will swallow us just as it did them.

I don’t have any clear answers here. I suspect, and it is only a suspicion, that the future of human religiosity and spiritual maturation does not lie with the established religions we have inherited from the Iron Age.

Where, then, does it lie? Where all religion lies: in us and our quest for meaning, purpose, and transformative love of and for all life.
What we need are practices that open body, heart, mind, soul, and spirit to the reality within and around us in a way that allows us to work with our shadow side and cultivate love; practices that allow us to realize the singular reality of which we are apart; practices that awaken our love for self and other in a way that allows us to harness our shadow side in service to justice and compassion for all beings. These we can extrapolate from the world’s religions.

What we need are revolutions of understanding that revision the teachings of the world’s religions for a post-tribal globalist civilization in such a way as to use the ancient icons to open us to levels of compassion and justice unimagined in the Iron Age.

What we need is a revival of mythic consciousness, poetic consciousness, and mystical consciousness that allows us to read the old in light of the new rather than darken the new with the shadow of the old.

What we need are new ways to gather that doesn’t brand us, or pit one brand against the others. What we need are ways of celebrating life and love in all its forms without artificially limiting that love according to tribal fears and xenophobia.

What we need are prophets: people like Bede Griffiths, Martin Buber, Sri Aurobindo, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, and Ramakrishna (help me identify the great women!).

What we need is a rediscovery of the Divine Feminine, the Divine Mother as the source from which we come and the field in which we grow and play and have our being (to paraphrase St. Paul).

What we need is a revival of pilgrimage, of seekers walking the globe and visiting holy centers of love and learning regardless of the label foisted upon them.

What we need is an explosion of holy rascals like Thomas Jefferson who dare to separate the “diamonds” of wisdom from the “dunghill” of ignorance, arrogance, violence, greed, hatred, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, racism, Anti-Semitism, etc. that surrounds and obscures the truths found in all sacred scriptures.

What we need is rebellion against insanity and absurdity, and a revolution for justice and compassion.

What we need are havens for rebels and revolutionaries; places where they can go to set out of rhetoric into silence, out of doing into being, out of visioning into dreaming, and in this way to make sure their passion is fuelled by compassion, and their daring is given over to dance, and their pleading to play so that the fires that burn within them don’t consume them or the world they hope to love.

If all this is happening in the Interfaith community—more power to you! 


No One Special said...

Amen dear Rabbi Rami..... amen.

Raksha said...

I can so identify with this series of posts it's hard to know where to begin. You have to understand that about four months ago I found a very active Judaism discussion board where I am now wasting hours every day, getting into endless flame wars and generally indulging in masochistic tendencies I never even knew I had. I am not going to name this forum or link to it, so as not to provide ammunition to any lurking anti-Semites.

The Orthodox or self-proclaimed "traditionist" Jews who dominate this forum are not very kind to Reform/Renewal Jewish syncretists...to say the least. They might go a little easier on you because you can put the title of rabbi in front of your name, although some of the nastier ones might put it in quotation marks when addressing you. I wouldn't put it past 'em. But at least they couldn't call you "ignoramus" every hour or so like they do with me, along with "idolater" and "heretic," and even "Jewish antisemite." That last one is because of my political position regarding the occupied territories.

You would think that a people who have so often been on the receiving end of the collective shadow projection of Christianity could be a little more willing to admit the shadow side of their own religion. But I'm apparently a "Jewish antisemite" simply because I dare to mention the fact that Judaism HAS a shadow side--and I often use the Jungian term the way you do. I am not saying it's any blacker and uglier than the shadow of any other religion, but simply that it's THERE, that it exists--and that it's no less destructive either.

And of course there are the inevitable shadow projections, even more toxic than I've known them to be in the past, on other Jewish discussion boards. Just as inevitably, I find myself on the receiving end of them along with a couple of other "designated heretics." It can get pretty discouraging, and I can't imagine what I hope to accomplish there or why I keep coming back.

Tricia Datené said...

You asked for great women. How about Mother Teresa and Hildegarde von Bingen.

What I want and what I usually get from my faith is joy, peace, forgiveness, love and community. Personally it wouldn't matter whether I am attending a Christian service or a 60s love-in. My faith is about allowing God (however one describes him/her) to be alive through me.

Lyn Baker said...

Rabbi, if only the books had spoke only of love, acceptance, peace, lovingkindness, forgiveness, reconciliation and good. What would religion look like if that were so? Perhaps it's time for another Thomas Jefferson to come along and edit out the war, hate, bigotry, jealousy, murder, condemnation, separation and judgement written in these books. I think you'd be the fella to do it.