Yesterday marked the first day of class for this term. In my class last night, we began with discussing “what is religion” (which is a good topic). One of the things we decided on was threefold (and in my terms):
- To locate some kind of absolute, be it God, some Ultimate Reality, etc.
- To draw humans closer to that.
- To answer the “big questions”
Here’s the diatribe: Christendom, in its current state, has completely failed at #2. Most religious practices in Christendom fail to do this consistently because it is more about the actual practice and not the internal state that is supposed to arise because of the practice. In other words, Christendom is more interested in worship (i.e. “going through the motions”) than it is about worship (i.e. a change in self with regards to God).
In another vein, the word “sacred” originally meant “set apart.” But it’s not the kind of “set apart” that seclusion brings. It’s the kind of “set apart” that is temporary. In other words, it is marginality. True religious experiences occur in the margins of “normal society” and that is where the religious community finds its identity. But, this identity does not require the continued marginality, in fact, it excludes it. Take, for instance, Buddhist monks and nuns. These people serve a set, temporary time in a monastary (i.e. marginal community) and then return to “normal society” and their regular activity. Christendom fails at drawing people closer to God because its religious activity is not marginal. It is an expected social event every Sunday (or Saturday for the 7th Day Adventists), not a marginal experience. Now, i am not saying that churches should rid their buildings of “normal” things (such as the video and audio equipment, etc). What i am saying is that there must be some kind of intentionality–”mindfulness” (if you will allow the current Buddhist concept). Without this, Christendom is not a religion, but a cultural phenomena no different than an NFL game.