12 Steps to Spiritual Recovery
YouTube: Step 10: Spirituality or Religion?
I continue to examine my old religious beliefs and seek to recognize them when they interfere with my desire for greater freedom.
Today, it is becoming more common to hear people declare that their focus has shifted from organized religion to a more personal approach to spiritual ideas. In many ways we can see this as a shift away from the group-think statement of theological faith to an exploration of the inner prompting that beckons us all to go deeper. Like Emerson, they have reached the conclusion that,
“Theological problems … never presented a practical difficulty to any man, never darkened across any man’s road who did not go out of his way to seek them. These are the soul’s mumps and measles and whooping coughs.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
The four Gospels represent a religious vehicle that transmits many spiritually-based principles. To glean these principles, it is important that we understand the nature of the religious vehicle. None of the Gospels, for example, claim to represent the work of Jesus. They are Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Their purpose is not to show us what Jesus actually taught. Their purpose is to show us how we are to think of Jesus.
In contrast, the message of Jesus was spiritually rather than religiously focused. This attitude is beautifully summarized in his statement: “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27). In this case the Sabbath represents the sum of institutionalized formulas that are laid out for followers to adopt and profess as true. These are not the natural promptings of the soul but are the intellectually constructed doctrinal points that serve to define a given religion.
Spiritual recovery is about the establishment of a first-hand experience with God. This does not require the belief in a religion any more than it requires the rejection of religion. As we learn for ourselves what is spiritually true and what is not, we can see for ourselves any religious thinking that binds rather than sets us free.