One of the useful bits about levels of development, which I’ve been talking about in the last few posts, is that spiritual traditions are very different at each level. In my practice many people have rejected the tradition in which they were raised because they cannot agree with the theology. My first question is always, tell me about the God/tradition you don’t believe in?
Because I live in the States, it is generally the Christian tradition that’s been left behind and certainly there are other reasons than theology. We now know how prevalent child sexual abuse by clergy has been. Those of us who have practiced psychotherapy for 30 years knew how prevalent clergy abuse was long before it became public. But most often I hear the simple statements, “I no longer believe the stories are true” or “They don’t practice what they preach” or “How can they possibly think they are right and everyone else is wrong.”
I’ve heard many sad stories that come from those whose understanding of their religious tradition is at a traditional or amber (see illustration in my last post). Amber is the level of development that begins in late grade school and for many people is the level that’s maintained throughout adulthood. Some researchers say 70% of the world’s population is at this level or the one just below it, red. Red is the level of tribal consciousness that we see mainly in some members of developing country and gangs worldwide.
Amber reigns in traditional religious points of view no matter what the tradition lest you think it’s only Christianity. This level is exclusive or ethnocentric. You must belong to the group and accept the beliefs to be part of it. There is an absolutism that generates a fundamentalist attitude. People outside the tradition are ignored, viewed with suspicion or persecuted.
The sad stories include a non-Christian teenager who was told by her mother’s boyfriend that it was too bad that she was going to hell. A middle school boy whose grandparents wouldn’t come to his father’s funeral because he had changed denominations and was doomed to purgatory. Then are there those who were taught that every word of the Old and New Testaments were written by God and were absolutely true. When this view runs up against science, science is just an opinion and a wrong one at that.
For me the saddest part is that many people leave a tradition thinking that the viewpoint of their childhood is the only view there is. The tradition is never given the opportunity to show itself from another view. Today we know that beyond the traditional view is modernist (orange), postmodernist (green) and integral (teal). Each are alive and well on the planet.
So the God you were taught to believe in does exist in many people’s belief systems but not everyone’s. Today in Christianity there is modern scholarship that puts sacred scripture into the context of the time it was written and by whom. They have let go of an exclusive claim to truth. There is the postmodern sensibility that sees the similarities in each of the world’s traditions. They value what each has to offer. And there is the integral perspective that not only values the similarities but addresses the differences. They also see the value in each perspective that came before their view.
We all have a lens through which we view the world, much like a pair of glasses. Each one colors the way we see the world. What color is your lens?