...self care is never a selfish act- it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer to others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.

Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Marx, Micah, and Drugs of Choice

Is it religion that is is the opiate of the people or are opiates the religion of people (Micah 2:11)? Either one is not a very high view of religion.

When religion becomes an opiate, we call it by its right name, "feel good faith." If that is the main purpose of my spiritual practice, then it is probably true that my religion, for me, is an opiate, something which helps me to feel good in my pain. Or to ignore, deny, or run away from it. Love of God and neighbor? That would come after the primary goal of feeling good.

In a similar way, Hebrew prophets like Jeremiah (6: 14) and Micah were critical of the kind of religion that only smooths over, doesn't rock the boat, and deals lightly with human wounds of spirit. The problem is that such leadership offers to heal wounds "lightly," while our brokenness is anything but an abbreviated experience. We want to forget about it and not have to think about it anymore. That's what "feel good" faith does for us.

Feeling good, however, is not necessarily the opposite of genuine faith- not at all. It is just not the aim of the Christian spiritual life. Growth toward loving God and others as ourselves might deliver us from confusing faith in Jesus with drugs of choice. There is a religion of glitter, a self deception of claiming the name of Christ only, as in "Christian." Spiritual well- being includes healthy self-awareness- and seeing what kind of impact your faith has on others.

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Having been in ordained ministry in the UMC for 34 years, I've experienced the truth that although, clergy are frequently present for others, no one can offer what they don't have.That's why if you're a clergy person, you need someone who will listen to you. Not the random next closest person available, but rather someone like a spiritual director, a therapist, a peer who can be fully present to you. I hope the links and posts you find here will give you ideas, humor, hope and encouragement. Scott Endress

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