Note: This is merely a metaphor. I take religion and spirituality very seriously.
Though the edges are softening, religious persuasion is still a big factor for how we divide ourselves. It’s long been a human mechanism for sizing each other up and labeling each other at the core identity level.
You’d think I might be one of the worst culprits of this division as someone entering the seminary at a very specific denomination to become a religious professional. But I don’t see it this way (nor, it seems, do many of my peers, which gives me hope)…
I see choice of religion/non-religion or denomination to be akin to dining preference. Some people like Asian fusion. Others, KFC. And some eat whatever’s in front of them.
As a possible future chef — I mean, pastor — my studies are being informed and inspired by several ‘genres’ of spirituality and religion (which, I hope, will evolve and shift as I go). When I start the work at whatever restaurant — I mean, church — I end up serving (that is, if I make it through this process), I really hope there are people loyal to the ‘brand’ of whatever it is we’re cooking up there. Yes, church is a human institution that’s fueled by human resources, like money, time, etc.
If religious/denominational choice was held in the same light as dining choice, we might look at each other differently.
But like the chef at the Italian restaurant, no one should shame their customers (congregants) if they go try another type of food (church). If they go try Buddhism, I say that’s fantastic. If it’s SoulCycle, great! No one should try to convince them that their soul may be in danger or ontologically compromised. If anything, I’m going to want to hear about their experiences so that I can learn more about the religious/spiritual culture we swim in.
But because religion is so tied into our root identities, it’s easy to see any deviation from the one we currently hold as an existential threat. And we do all sorts of fear-based things to convince ourselves and others to stay put, or else.
One day, I hope to have cultured, well-informed customers/congregants to keep whatever community I end up at fresh and vibrant. I want their choice of showing up there to be a voluntary and life-affirming one, not one of obligation.
This doesn’t just go for those of us in the religious trades. Even on a personal level, we could be more open to people of different persuasions (I think the younger generations are making huge strides in this area as a culture as many violently doctrinal/sectarian religions are being ignored into oblivion). I mean, I want to be around people who’ve eaten more than one type of food.
But it’s also fine to have a preference. To be passionate about one over the other while remaining open to all (or, at least, accepting of the choices of others).
Now, all we need is religious/spiritual Grubhub. Buddhism for breakfast, perhaps? Lunchtime Lutheranism?
No? Not so much?
Yeah, you’re probably right…