...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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Feel Good Religion

If the taste of good mood food can be addictive, what about good mood faith? If we fill our spirits with anything and everything that makes us feel good, won't that lead us to do good things? Whatever we fill our minds with all day long is the real measure of our spiritual well being: for as we think, so are we. (Proverbs 23:7)

To push the argument a little further, who really goes to church to feel worse? Is the goal of the Christian spiritual life to be more miserable? What about the watermark of Christ- the "fruit of the Spirit," such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? It doesn't matter whether you consider these as the result of communion with the Holy Trinity, or as the by-products of your spiritual practice.

Feel good religion has been apart of the human condition for a long, long time. And part of the creed of atheism is that such ideas are wish-dreams and positive posts from ourselves to ourselves. We're endlessly creative in feeling better about ourselves. This explains the popularity of big box Christianity. I need only to adjust my thinking, or believe in Jesus, or both. Then we GIT what God has in the store for us. Others call it the prosperity gospel, because the real mark of the better life promised is upward mobility.

We come back to the argument-- who wants to feel worse? Why would anyone choose a faith that would leave them worse off? The difficulty becomes in assessing the value of feel good religion. That is, if this becomes our drug of choice, then what are the dangers- what are the caution signs?
  1. It's a problem when it subverts the work of self- examination, self- acceptance, and self-awareness
  2. It's a problem when it causes me to just "change the channel" on others' pain and need
  3. It's a problem if I use it just to puff up the ego and image-driven (false) self
  4. It's a problem if it prevents deepening my communion with God, and sharing community with others
With anything we digest either physically or spiritually, when my feeling good becomes the most important thing, we end up bending our lives to that purpose. In the journey we become less, not more, free.

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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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