The Good Parts of Religion

The Good Parts of Religion October 27, 2022

If you listen to me very often, you might assume that I don’t think there’s anything salvageable about religion, especially Western religion and most definitely Evangelicalism. But is there anything from all of this that we can salvage as we evolve and endeavor to move on?

The answer is yes.

The pockets of religion that I would salvage, if it was up to me, are what I would call contemplative practices and those that know their efficacy well. Things like centering prayer and bio spiritual focusing have been healing to me and sustained me through these times of growth and healing.

Sometimes these people and the practices are buried deep within very bad systems. Please understand that I don’t want to preserve hierarchical, corrupt, inefficient and ineffective systems that surround these practices–just the practices themselves.

My personal experience of this is from a group of Benedictine Sisters that taught me focusing and evocative listening, along with centering prayer. They helped me find healing, but I don’t know if they would give up their larger system even if they are frustrated with it at times.

The following are the few things that characterize the parts of religion that I would save.

1. The parts that teach us to go inside.

So much of religion teaches us to ignore our feelings and not to trust ourselves. While religion searches for an answer out there, we find truth and healing and renewal when we go inside, where Jesus said the kingdom of God is. It’s also where the true self resides, along with the source of our authenticity.

2. The parts that acknowledge the body.

In my old religion, the body was considered evil and like a substandard part of us. I have learned recently that most of my trauma is stored in my body and that it tries to communicate with me to resolve conflicts. Paying attention to my body and listening to it is a central part of my practice and also where I found healing.

3. The parts that face pain.

There are really only three options when dealing with pain. We can ignore it in various ways. We can try to numb it. Or, we can lean into it. Most religion is geared towards bypassing our pain and hoping for miraculous resolutions. Generally, this only drives the pain deeper and causes it to break out and misbehave at inopportune times.

I really almost hesitate never to give a model, because I definitely believe that we should not go BACK to anything. It’s important that we move forward and look for solutions that work for the century in which we live. But, truth is a persistent thing and the things that are true tend to survive all of our miscalculations and missteps.

How far do we deconstruct? Until all that’s left is what is true.

We wrestle with things like this in our book, Out into the Desert. The Kindle version is 99 cents for a few more days. We hope you will join the discussion!

Be where you are
Be who you are

Karl Forehand

Photo by Gary Barnes:

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