Monday, August 08, 2005


"I'm into spirituality, not religion!"

Carl Olson writes: "I wish I had $5.00 and an aspirin everytime I hear something along those lines." I would agree. Beliefnet, a website increasingly referred to and used by members of a Catholic chat community I used to belong to, is a site so fraught with errors that I cringed every time one of the community members posted something from it or praised it. Certainly they do have some good articles there, but increasingly they are drifting further and further away from Christianity.

A case in point would be this article by Nancy Colasurdo in which she describes her shopping for a new religion. She unleashes almost every cliche known to be used to justify her search, and in the end writes an article that should serve as a wake up call to those of us complacent in our evangelization efforts.

First off, Nancy stopped being a hypocrite and admitted to herself she was no longer a Catholic. So it made sense for her to begin her search. But where to go next? First off, she had to define her religion...her new god:
Finally, I took the time to learn that I was in fact attending a New Thought church. I have since read up on it and, with the help of a wise friend who also attends the Sacred Center, am just beginning to understand why it speaks to me so. According to the Affiliated New Thought Network, "New a modern spiritual philosophy stressing the power of right thinking in a person's life, the idea that our thoughts and attitudes affect our experience and that God (or whatever other name a person might have for a Higher Power) is within the individual." Each Sunday, about 100 people come together for energizing song, guided meditation and a sermon-like message.

I decided three years ago it was time to divorce Catholicism. The priest scandal was the last straw. I had already departed from church doctrine on premarital sex, birth control, homosexuality, priests marrying, and abortion, among other things. With the scandal and its subsequent cover-ups, I finally got the courage to stand up and say, "No more. It's not for me." I vowed to do some church "shopping." I concentrated on visiting churches, rather than get bogged down reading mind numbing comparisons and explanations of religions. What ensued was a full-blown spiritual journey that has been at once educational, jarring, inspiring and affirming.

I wanted a faith that is culturally diverse, guilt-free and non-judgmental. But did it exist? I gravitated to the idea of a Christian church, mainly because it was what I knew, but kept my mind open. I definitely didn't want to frequent a place run by flakes or spiritual snobs.

Somewhere in this swirl, the journey had shifted from shopping for a church to shopping for spirituality. I can best trace it to what was happening at the used bookstore in my town, which had begun featuring Wednesday evening salons around spiritual themes. The staff brought in facilitators - sometimes local clergy -
to lead discussions on such topics as mysticism, The DaVinci Code, dreams, meditation, and The Passion of the Christ. As a result, I began asking myself questions I never had the forethought or audacity to ask before: Who is divine to me? Is Christianity based on a belief (in Jesus' resurrection) that I just couldn't accept? Where does the Bible fit into my beliefs?

The Da Vinci Code? As a spiritual theme? No wonder this girl was confused. Dan Brown has done more damage than even I had previously imagined. But as long as he fits into HER beliefs, why not him? It's all about Nancy, Nancy, Nancy. (Marsha, Marsha, Jan Brady would say.)

Next, Nancy declares her new beliefs:
Perhaps most significantly, I have begun to form answers to questions that seemed to pelt me like big, fat raindrops when I first left the Catholic church. So here goes:

We are all divine. Christianity may be based on a belief I can't accept, but does any of us really know? I certainly no longer feel that worshipping or thinking like a Christian is positive or sensible for me. As for the Bible, it is filled with wisdom, but it was not written by the hierarchical God espoused in Judaism and Christianity. I will not go to hell for living a positive, purpose-filled life in which I take responsibility for my actions. In fact, the concepts of heaven and hell now seem contrived and man-made to me.

What I know unequivocally is that I feel deep peace when I attend the Sacred Center. New Thought doesn't ask me to discriminate, feel guilty, dwell on suffering, judge, worship a punishing God or be anyone I'm not. When Rev. Gold--or whoever else is delivering the message--stands at the front of the room and speaks, I settle in and enjoy the ride. I have begun to heighten my awareness of "right thinking" by reading books that augment my weekly experience. All of this has made me richer spiritually, more effective as a life coach, more likely to engage in healthy questioning, and essentially more evolved as a person.

So no heaven, and no hell. Sounds like a John Lennon song. She now just "enjoys the ride", going wherever the wind blows and however she feels at the moment. No guilt, no responsibility, no sin, no JOY. Oh, but she is more "evolved" now. So that's a plus. Better to be an enlightened free-thinker than a sin and salvation knuckle-dragging dullard, eh?

Instead of fretting about Harry Potter so much, I think we Catholics ought to be devoting more attention to the Nancy Colasurdo's of the world...obviously hurting and searching...and getting more lost all the time. J.R. Rowling is not the enemy. Neither is Dan Brown. But the enemy is definitely working overtime, and we'd better start praying and waking up. Too many souls are at stake.


At 10:59 AM, Blogger Sparki said...

Great essay!

I'm on Beliefnet quite a bit, on the discussion boards, and it is a tough, tough room.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

Thank you Sparki. And kudos to you and anyone trying to make any progress on the discussion boards at Beliefnet. I checked a few out today for the first time and was shocked. I'll have to explore further and report back to you. But you do have my admiration for being there.

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Housewife said...

Very interesting. I had quite the opposite experience. Being a "recovering" person and found a 12-step program years ago (still attend today) I would say, yes I had found "spirituality" first. However, if it weren't for the 12-step program I don't believe I would have ever, ever gone back to organized religion, let alone convert to catholicism. Great read. Thanks for posting it.


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