We live in a noisy world.
We surround ourselves with entertainment and news and music and talking and texting and constant accessibility to internet. We immerse ourselves in the many messages we hear from culture, family, church, school, and work. We are loud and wordy and flashy and full of so much swirling around that it often feels impossible to shhhhhhh… into a place of quiet, stillness, and rest.
At the less mature levels, religion is mostly noise, entertainment, and words. Catholics and Orthodox Christians prefer theater and wordy symbols; Protestants prefer music and endless sermons.
Probably more than ever, because of iPads, cell phones, billboards, TVs, and iPods, we are a toxically overstimulated people. Only time will tell the deep effects of this on emotional maturity, relationship, communication, conversation, and religion itself. Silence now seems like a luxury, but it is not so much a luxury as it is a choice and decision at the heart of every spiritual discipline and growth. Without it, most liturgies, Bible studies, devotions, “holy” practices, sermons, and religious conversations might be good and fine, but they will never be truly great or life-changing — for ourselves or for others. They can only represent the surface; God is always found at the depths, even the depths of our sin and brokenness. And in the depths, it is silent.
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I ran across the term double belonging during my training in spiritual direction in Arizona. If you’re not familiar (I wasn’t), it’s a relatively new term used to describe people who ascribe to one particular religious tradition (e.g. Christianity) but also learn from another tradition (e.g. Buddhism).
You may have even heard people describe themselves as Jew-Bus (Jewish Buddhists) or Buddha-palians (Episcopalian Buddhists). What would a Presbyterian Buddhist be called? Buddha-terian?
While I’m not advocating synchronicity, I do believe we have a lot to learn from each other, both within our own tradition and from people of other faiths. Particularly with people whose spiritual paths involve meditation, there are many similarities between different religious practices. Thomas Merton, for example, was well known for being influenced by Buddhist meditation techniques as he practiced and taught Christian contemplative meditation.
So let’s try a very simple and open-ended Forward Friday:
This weekend, take some time to explore other faith traditions in your area.
You could attend a Jewish temple or try a yoga class. If you’re not sure how to get started, try picking up a book from your local library on comparative religion or a specific tradition you’ve always been curious about.
Remember, this exercise is not designed to encourage you to embrace a new set of beliefs in place of your own or to create opportunities for proselytizing. Just be curious, courteous, and conscious of what pieces of truth you might pick up along the way.
Happy weekend, lovely readers! Come back and tell me all about it.