"Finding a Way"
The other day I met someone in our local Starbucks who, upon learning that I was an ordained clergy person, told me that he thought he might start going to church because his life was “sort of messed up.” He then asked if I had any suggestions about what church he might attend and I was immediately reminded of a magazine article I once read by the well-known Jewish rabbi, Rami Shapiro. In the article, the rabbi was responding to a question asked by someone who was not “religious” but was thinking about affiliating with a more established religion. Rabbi Shapiro offered some exceptionally wise advice about what one might look for in choosing a religion.
As I see it, the rabbi’s sage advice provides one of the best articulations I have ever read about the “qualities” of all “authentic” religion. In fact, I believe that these qualities can be applied beyond established religious institutions to include any spiritual path.
From my point of view, Rabbi Shapiro’s advice about choosing a religion provides a useful compass for anyone on any sort of path of wisdom:
Choose a religion because its teachings point beyond themselves,
toward the Truth no religion can own.
Choose a religion that rejects the dualism of
chosen and not chosen, saved vs. damned, believer vs. infidel.
Chose a religion that rises above
tribe, caste, clan, race, ethnicity and nationalism.
Chose a religion that demonizes no one
because it honors and respects all life.
Choose a religion because it embraces rational thought
and scientific inquiry
without sacrificing poetry, imagination and contemplative practice.
Choose a religion that works to heal this world
rather than escaping to some other.
Chose a religion because its clergy empower you rather than themselves.
Choose a religion because it offers you practices that
open your heart, unclench your fists and uncloud your mind;
and because its fundamental aim is to
free you from ‘isms’ and ideologies rather than
stuff you into one.
After talking to that fellow in Starbucks the other day, I have been reading and re-reading every single one of these helpful insights. I have chosen to walk on a religious path and these guidelines provide me with a compass to be sure that I am heading in the right direction.