I’m always saddened when I meet religious people who seem bitter, angry, frightened, or otherwise unhappy.
It takes many forms: a piety that doesn’t know how to smile… thinly-veiled hostility toward people seen as different, just because they’re different… anxiety about “getting it right,” whether “it” means believing correctly, behaving correctly, performing rituals correctly, or voting correctly… fear of the devil, which unfolds into a generalized fear of the “other,” particularly other religious beliefs or practices… resentment toward “those people” who are seen as a threat: including the ACLU, terrorists, gays, Bush and his cronies, Hillary and her cronies, feminists, Fox news, “the liberal media,” or whatever. Sure, everyone has their bad days, but for some people of faith it seems like the bad days just keep coming. And this breaks my heart.
It’s a fine line we’re all walking here. Paul Tillich said something to the effect of faith involving matters of ultimate concern. “Ultimate concern” sounds weighty and portentous, suggesting that if we get concerned bout the un-ultimate or stop being concerned about the ultimate, horrible things will happen. It’s religion’s own variety of superstition, and as best I can tell, it’s an epidemic infection. No wonder so many churches on Sunday morning feel more like funeral parlors than celebration centers.
The mystical life, as best I can tell, puts insects in our trousers to make us boogie; it tickles the resentful, hugs the frightened, calms the enraged, gently pokes fun at the seething. God is a God of joy and laughter and endless fun. I’m not saying we’re off the hook for ultimate concern: mysticism is all about being holy and feeding the homeless and choosing love over transitory pleasure and other such ethical concerns. But it’s also about falling dizzily in love with the most amazing lover any of us could ever hope to have, and doing so because we begin to dimly catch on to the fact that this lover is sweetly, passionately, explosively in love with us — each of us, individually, by name — and has been so from the time we were just a gleam in our daddies’ eyes.
Ultimate passion for the Ultimate Concern. Serious as a heart attack, and as joyous as the Buddha getting a massage. The more I taste it, the more I want it.