What is the basis of our internal connection to the divine?
Like the mythical E.T. , when our heart lights up, what is the source and reason for that powerful life vibration that prompts in us the greatest desires of our hearts?
If it’s not God, not Jesus Christ and certainly not performance-based and conformity-driven religion, then what is it?
We hear contemporary couples with young children expressing the idea that they want to find a good church where the children can learn about God. Some of these couples have not set foot in a church since they themselves were children.
Other folks come to churches seeking an alternative to spiritual and psychological attitudes that have not served them well.
Some are drawn to religion and to churches after some sort of personal trauma or loss, seeking answers to questions to which they’d never given conscious prior attention.
There are also those who seek an opportunity to give service, expecting that the social circle within a church congregation will provide that opportunity as well as one for greater social contact and interaction. Opportunities to give service in contexts other than church congregations are abundant but I would not suggest that the primary appeal of religion is an opportunity to perform some good work in a formalized moral setting.
Just what is it that our congregations offer in their communities? Does that offering have a real potential of satisfying the needs or hungers of those looking through the doors and windows?
The enduring power of religion is not as a social club. Rather, it seems to lie in the realm of the need for meaning and purpose in living.
As others have said, perhaps humanity wants union with God and to be AWARE of that unity.
When our non-physiological internal hungers flare up, the void to be filled is not satisfied by lasagna, a hot bath or a good night’s sleep. Spiritual hungers generate not a weakness in body, but a powerful uneasiness or restlessness with life.
Often we think we are just worried about things, wanting things we don’t have, dissatisfied with work, with marriage, with friends, our community, the economy or even our favorite pro team that’s never going to win a championship.
We may even mislabel internal spiritual restlessness as being worse, as some sort of depression.
TV ads tempt us to a kind of self-diagnosis where we are encouraged to take a predisposition toward depression to a medical provider in hopes of a prescription of the advertised “feel-better-medicine.”
Religion ought to hold out the possibility to the internally restless that there is something available that fills the void – something more than just Sunday worship, potluck suppers, and the endlessly overly-sober cliched generalities around believing.
It should be no surprise that a hunger for something more powerful arouses in the soul an awareness that God must be something deeper than merely a benevolent boss-of-the-Universe who has limits of toleration and to His divine patience with sinners.
If being spiritual means more than just going through weekly motions and repeating worn out slogans then what ought to be offered is something responsive to that internal hunger, what Alan Watts called a “non-verbal experience of the divine.”
However, such an objective currently seems out of place. In Watts’ words,
“The Church is still overwhelmingly didactic and verbose.”
In our experience, didactic (” inclined to teach or lecture others too much”) might very well sum up both the detailed multi-leveled (think Amway) theology and correlated programming of this Mormon-ness of our common culture.
The power behind our beliefs is not our ability to become educated in what the scriptures or Church doctrine and procedure SAY, thereby permitting us opportunities to publicly display how well we can read or memorize god-talk. Power lies in what scripture, prayer, tradition and reason prompt within … and I’m not talking about being prompted to obey, conform and donate.
The Book of Mormon prophet Enos, when writing about how his soul hungered, would have been given a poor substitute if the formula to end his personal famine was all about praying harder, blindly following leadership and conformity for the sake of not causing emotional discomfort for every other member of the tribe.
The non-verbal experience of the divine lies within the potential of every spiritual congregation but remains somewhat elusive – even perhaps hidden – when the emphasis is more on conformity and the sin of believing the wrong thing or not believing at all. There is of course the infection of having the institution claim the right to define everything connected to the substances of belief and interpretation.
Working in a mystical venue has always been a part of living.
Farmers plant corn because in their minds eye they see a field of ripe corn. Buildings are constructed because an architect visualized in his mind what he later designed on paper. Meals are prepared from scratch by mothers who know recipes by heart, bring together separate materials and turn them into tasty and satisfying dishes.
What is visualized internally is the source of what is created externally.
Martin Buber, referring to a non-verbal experience of the divine, wrote,
“God is the mysterium tremendum that appears and overthrows, but he is also the mystery of the self-evident, nearer to me than my I.”
Without a mystical sense and approach to daily living, do we busy ourselves with our membership with what is in reality nothing more than a morality-based social club more concerned about public opinion and conformity, perceiving ourselves heroically as an island surrounded by a sea of hostile, stupid or indifferent waters?
So long as our active participation is limited to a purely social venue where participation is mentally easy, almost a lazy alternative to a personal pursuit of the kind of intimacy with God portrayed by Jesus, we will go through life running the risk of doing what we do out of social habit.
That which we have labeled “the mystical” is in reality a part of most everything we ourselves create and accomplish. Can we not truly say that the Mysterium Tremendum is the ultimate end we seek in actively involving ourselves in a spiritual life?