Solitary Religion and a Universal Faith
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the future of religion. We are living in an age of solipsism and spiritual materialism that is at odds with the authoritarian past of our faiths. There has to be a middle ground.
Living in the Bootheel of Missouri, there are not many practitioners of Creation Spirituality around. Adding to that, the Catholics in the area are far more akin to Southern Baptists, so I don't have much support there either.
I find myself longing for the community I used to have in Oakland and Frederick, but I know that if I moved to either, it wouldn't be the same. You can never go home again.
Solitary religion or spirituality is dangerous
I know that isn't a popular view. Yes, our relationship with God is intensely personal, but we are meant to grow in a community. Even the Buddha sent his followers out as a Sangha, even though the practices are so very personal in nature.
St Benedict warned against the Sarabaites and the Gyrovagues.
“The third kind of monks, a detestable kind, are the Sarabaites.
These, not having been tested,
as gold in the furnace (Wis. 3:6),
by any rule or by the lessons of experience,
are as soft as lead.
In their works they still keep faith with the world,
so that their tonsure marks them as liars before God.
They live in twos or threes, or even singly,
without a shepherd,
in their own sheepfolds and not in the Lord’s.
Their law is the desire for self-gratification:
whatever enters their mind or appeals to them,
that they call holy;
what they dislike, they regard as unlawful (Rule of Benedict). ”
“The fourth kind of monks are those called Gyrovagues.
These spend their whole lives tramping from province to province,
staying as guests in different monasteries
for three or four days at a time.
Always on the move, with no stability,
they indulge their own wills
and succumb to the allurements of gluttony,
and are in every way worse than the Sarabaites.
Of the miserable conduct of all such
it is better to be silent than to speak (Rule of Benedict). ”
We don't want to have nothing but our own desires be our rule for life, and we don't want to be unstable, wandering around indulging our own will.
These ideas may seem strange to a secular mind, but even secular society looks down on anarchists, hedonists, and hypocrites.
I don't want to merely be trying to sate my own desires, nor do I want to simply substitute my desire so what is best for me and society as a whole.
The Origin of this Desire
As we practice our faith, we grow in awareness of the interdependence of all things. As we watch the effects of our actions and the actions of others ripple out into the world, we learn that every action we take gives rise to numerous reactions, each a cause in itself rippling out.
We also learn that we are often not the best judge of the effects our actions will have. This is where community comes in.
The Power of Community
“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).”
Why did Peter say this? Because private interpretation can be dangerous. Remember the Branch Davidians, Heaven's Gate, and Jim Jones?
These private interpretations were accepted as the truth in an environment of skepticism and questioning was actively discouraged.
This i s my main issue with how the Roman Church deals with doctrinal issues. We are not meant to submit to the authority of humans, but to the authority of God. Remember what Paul said:
“Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).”
So we are to work out our own salvation, but not through private revelation. How do we do that? I think the Quakers came up with a good system of group discernment, but again, it requires a group, but remember that our Seraphic Father Francis said that we should never submit to anything that violates our conscience.
That is the middle ground: communal discernment and individual conscience. We need to build our communities, but never allow tyranny to get back in.
As we discuss the Rule and how to build a good community, This is a starting point. What do you think?