Religiously Correct

I sometimes have been tempted to be “religiously correct”.  By this I mean that, in spite of my continuous spiritual growth and evolving journey in life, I sometimes tend to regress and think in a traditional, exclusive, and religious way like I used to.  Of course, there are a lot teachings and customs in the Christian faith I grew up with that are still a huge part in my spiritual life, not because others have taught me to believe them, but because I genuinely believe them to be true.  But I wanted to share a list of old beliefs I learned from childhood which I accepted without question until recently, which now I consider “religiously correct”:

“I shouldn’t be angry  at life… or at God.”   I have always been taught that we should not  be angry at life or God because He knows everything and loves us, and that life is a gift.  This is true, but it does not dismiss the fact that this life can sometimes be painful. Besides, acknowledging the pain is also healthy.  God also at times seem unfair and distant.  I tend to feel fearful in expressing my true feelings to God.  But if I don’t, I would not have a close relationship with Him.  Thankfully I have learned in my spiritual journey that we have the right to be angry at God.  The Bible has stories such as  Israel, Job, and David whom disputed and questioned God on the injustice they experienced.  Even Jesus once said “Why have you forsaken me?”, citing Psalmist, while slowly dying on the cross.  So, yes, being angry at life and God is natural, even healthy, because expressing this honest feeling to the Omnipresent Being is better than having no relationship with  Him at all.

“People who are not Christians are living in sin, and therefore, not ‘saved’.”    This is one of the most disturbing beliefs of the Christian faith.  Jesus said “Do not judge…for in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2)  Who are we to determine who is “saved” or not? Jesus taught that many will claim to know Him but He will say to them “I never knew you…! (Matthew 7:23).  How am I to conclude that people like Gandhi, Dalai Lama, and other inspired people who lived serving others,  are burning eternally in hell unless they agreed with my faith? No, I cannot embrace this exclusiveness anymore.

“Behaviors such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and tattooing are sinful.”  I have witnessed the damaging results of drunkenness and smoking cigarettes in my family. Many close families have been affected by the disease of alcoholism and I recently lost someone to lung cancer caused by heavy smoking.  So it is easy for me to agree with those who automatically link these behaviors to spiritual shortcomings and sin.  However, I have learned that true spiritual growth relies on what my genuine attitude about life is and how I treat others.  I can be completely sober, never touch a cigarette, and have a clear skin, and still practice adultery, gossip, lie, manipulate, be greedy, and discriminate others, which is broadly done by many Christians. Jesus himself said that  what truly defiles man comes from within (Mark 7:15).  So no matter how much junk I put in my body, or how much ink I use to decorate my body, what comes from  my heart is what defines how I truly am.

“If it somehow involves Jesus and his teachings, then it must be good.”  Whenever someone preaches or talks about how God inspired them, I tend to show admiration and trust because it is commonly an expected response. I used to listen to people “of faith” without a filter, simply because they admired and worshiped Jesus.  I thought “Surely Jesus is backing them up for their arduous commitment to Him…!”  Not necessarily.  There are thousands of churches and denominations that claim to be the true church, but are actually based on self-service and worldly ambitions.  Ever wondered why the Christian church is so divided?  John wrote in the book of Revelation about Jesus preaching to various ancient churches that were short from being righteous (Revelations 2-3).  So if people claim to have a message from God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, or any of the so-called “saints”, my suggestion is not to believe them.  Do your own research and follow your guts.

“All we need is prayer.”  Saying that I will pray for those in need and even myself is  usually the first thing that comes to mind.  I tend to tell people in need, “I will keep you in my prayers”  Again, this is a nice thing to say because it is religiously correct.  Well, this is easy for those who are doing the prayer, but not for the ones having the need.  I am not implying that we should have no faith and simply rely on our own strength. But prayer should not be the only thing we do.  I agree that actions speak louder than words.  To me, prayer is not what I have been taught.  Prayer to me is like reflecting, meditating, thanking, and doing all the things that helps us to be more connected with our true self and our creator, not simply requesting for things.  So reflecting on life is not sufficient for good things to happen, we should also put into practice what we pray  or reflect on.  The book of James in the Bible beautifully describes how faith and work should go hand in hand (James 2:17).

The following beliefs continue to be a strong part of my spiritual journey, which I do not think are religiously correct, but rather  teachings we should all follow as fellow human beings to maintain peace and genuine love and care regardless of religious background.

Deny yourself and be humble.  This is one of the traditional teachings I still long to accomplish  on a daily basis.   It is the initial step we should take to begin our journey towards spiritual maturity. We should be like children, “born again”, and begin a new life of simplicity, selflessness, and God-centeredness. (Luke 9:23, John 3:3, Matthew 5:3-5)

Love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is a simple teaching to understand, but not to practice, which is probably  why it is seldom done.  Jesus identified himself with those in need, and wanted us to do the same.  Loving ourselves more than others is easy, but loving others the same way as the self is true Salvation. And not only loving those who are easy to love.  Jesus said that if we love only those who love us, what is so special about that?  We should be perfect as God is perfect, not because it sounds good, but because I honestly believe it is the way to spiritual purity.  (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 5:43, 47, Galatians 5:14)

Forgive and don’t hold grudges. Letting go of hurts and resentments will surely free us from any bondage that keeps us from growing spiritually.  I still believe strongly in this. My personal life has taught me how liberating it is to truly forget past hurts and simply live.   (Matthew 18:22)

Fight for righteousness, justice, and peace.    These are strong teachings most people believe in, including myself.  Fighting  for what is right in today’s world should be one of our priorities. There is too much injustice, wars, famine, and suffering for us to cross our arms and simply pray for what we wish for.  No, we should act and fight for what is right.  Jesus taught this and it is our obligation to follow this commandment.  (Deuteronomy 16:20, Matthew 5:6, 9)

Following certain teachings simply because they are popular or because they sound religious does not necessarily make them right.  I had to learn this in my life.  It was not easy breaking away from traditions and customs that people taught me all of my life.  It is not easy being unpopular, discriminated, and singled out because of my decision to be genuine and truthful to myself.  But I rather be honest and continue to grow spiritually, than to continue to be “religiously correct.”

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About Noel

I am a person who has realized that the teachings of Jesus are centralized in the genuine care and service of others. I have evolved from fundamentalism to a moderate spiritual approach. I am a reflecting person who has grown to not fear doubt but to embrace it as a means to growth and increasing closeness to God. View all posts by Noel

8 responses to “Religiously Correct

  • lulu

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I totally agree with you when it comes to viewing religion as a spiritual journey, not a set of beliefs which can be very limiting.

  • Richard L Rice

    I agree with much of what you’ve written above – except for one point.

    “Who are we to determine who is “saved” or not? Jesus taught that many will claim to know Him but He will say to them “I never knew you…! (Matthew 7:23). How am I to conclude that people like Gandhi, Dalai Lama, and other inspired people who lived serving others, are burning eternally in hell unless they agreed with my faith? No, I cannot embrace this exclusiveness anymore.”

    It’s not my place to decide who is “saved” or not, it’s God’s right. And if you believe the Bible for what it says, and Jesus for what He claimed, the road of salvation is extremely narrow – as narrow as Jesus. Claiming Himself to be the “door” and “The way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me” makes salvation really narrow.

    If serving others is the qualification for avoiding Hell, then there was no need for Jesus to die for the sins of the world. If serving others is the crux of the argument, then we need to re-think Adolph Hitler, for he and his associates saw themselves as serving others.

    If Jesus is not the exclusive way to Heaven, as He claimed to be, then He was no different than any other religious lunatic.

  • Noel

    Richard, thanks for commenting, I respect your opinion. But let me ask this: is the road to Jesus or Salvation narrow because He is the only road, or because it is difficult to follow because of our selfish (sinful) nature? Also, I agree that it is God’s right and place to determine who is “saved”, yet we tend to continue to put God in a box that accommodates our convenient ideas about how God “should be”, so when we say that God is determining whatever, we are truly saying that the “God that serves our selfish agendas is determining it.

  • JudahFirst

    If “God is salvation” (the meaning of Jesus’ name), then we cannot save ourselves by what we believe. We can PARTICIPATE in God’s Kingdom by exercising faith in Him now, but I believe that Jesus’ death is what has “saved” the world and one day all will be reconciled to Him.

    That said, yes, He is the only doorway. Revelation 22: Then he showed me a river of the water of life, [a]clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of [b]the Lamb, 2 in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve [c]kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; 4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will no longer be any night; and they [d]will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.

    6 And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

    7 “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who [e]heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

    8 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who showed me these things. 9 But he *said to me, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who [f]heed the words of this book. Worship God.”
    The Final Message

    10 And he *said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. 11 Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.”

    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man [g]according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

    14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

    While the “sinners” are outside the city, the gates remain open and the invitation to wash their robes and come in is still being issued. Just because one does not “accept Jesus” (this term is nowhere in the Bible, by the way) does not mean they will not be welcome through Jesus to come in at some point. That modern-day evangelicals refuse to even consider this possibility boggles the mind.

    Thanks for your wonderful post, Noel!

  • jasonswartz

    Your insight and power of contemplation is inspiring Noel. I wish I could actually meet people like you and the authors I read. Seems like the people that have the same state of consciousness are in books, or online somewhere. Its hard to find them in everyday life. Sometimes when i am fall asleep spiritually and my EGO takes center stage I get frustrated with the blindness in certain views. Not that I don’t have my own spiritual blindness in many ways. I KNOW THAT I DON’T KNOW……..which makes me easy to talk to. I just get frustrated with religion when I claims to be the ONE and ONLY TRUTH

    Like the TAO TE CHING says

    The Tao that can be spoken is not the True Tao. So once you know that then atleast you can ttalk about it with some sharing attitude and humility.

    • Noel

      Jason, it’s been a while! Glad you visited my post. You are absolutely right,”I know that I don’t know” is the wisest thing any man can admit.

  • Tuned in: Testing God once again | Living the Kingdom

    […] Having said this, I am currently in a position in my life where I felt the need to get on my knees and plead for an answer.  I have been evolving in my spiritual journey, from being a catholic, to a pentecostal fundamentalist, to a more liberal reflective Christian.    For the past two to three years, I have gradually distant myself from the traditional Christian faith.  I chose to liberate myself from living a fundamental religious lifestyle, and adopt a more liberal and inclusive approach.   I have learned a lot from other faiths and traditions in this journey of mine.  You can read more about this spiritual journey in the following posts:  Spiritual Roller coaster,  Is this all there is to Life?, Am I Losing Faith?, Embarrassed by the Church, How NOT to be a Good Christian,  Religiously Correct.  […]

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