Religious ideas and practices that bother us, “turn us off”, can become “Religious Allergies” and hinder our spiritual growth.
Just as there are some foods that give some of us indigestion, hives, headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea, constipation and other unsavory symptoms, there are some religious concepts, ideas and practices that bother us in varying degrees. Study, meditation, and prayer that avoid the very things that bother us may keep us more comfortable, but avoidance eventually stunts our growth and does not help us build up the “resistance” we need to cope with those problems.
Consider these religious allergies. References to God as “He” or “She” when we haven’t had good relationships with the “he’s” or “she’s” in our lives. Having been conditioned to think in terms of God as “he” prevents us from really considering God’s purposes for us and the spiritual resources that are available. The pronoun “she” is equally limiting.
When we realize that God does not have a sexual, physical nature, but a spiritual nature as we discussed earlier, we become desensitized to this allergen in our spiritual food. Unfortunately, in English it is hard to refer to a caring, personal God without using personal pronouns with a gender designation. When you read “he” in this blog whenever it refers to God, please put blinders on your eyes and think of the caring Spirit of God. Of course, when it refers to Jesus, a historical masculine person, “he” is appropriate.
A second idea that bothers some of us deeply, is that God in the Old Testament is said to order total destruction of enemies, their families, their livestock and other possessions. What view of scripture and culture account for this? A despicable or understandable action?
A similar idea that we may be allergic to is “God allows bad things to happen to innocent people.” This is so distasteful that we may use it as a reason to avoid God altogether. Rabbi Harold Kushner’s writings on the topic help us to see suffering in a deeper light. See his 1982 book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Also, see the book titled Where is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey. And you may want to read the article on suffering in this blog again.
Frequently, innocent people, with the help of God, are able to overcome their suffering and injury and go on providing encouragement and strength to others who face the same situations. When we see these phenomena, we have sound evidence of the reality of God’s care and power working in behalf of those who suffer.
Sometimes, sadly, we contribute to our own suffering. (Often unknowingly, this occurs frequently in matters of physical health.) Paradoxically, our striving for perfection may actually cause us much spiritual suffering. We need to know that, although perfection is to be desired and admired, it is not necessary to be perfect to be acceptable to God, or even to most other people. We need to know that perfection, in the way we usually think of it, does not exist. When the scripture is translated from the Greek into English using the word “perfection,” it most often means “maturity,” or, growth to the full measure of our God-given capability, not faultlessness. God loves us the way we are, unbelievable as that is. And, unbelievable as it may seem, even God has repented and been sorry for some actions, according to the Old Testament records.
And what about “transubstantiation”, bread and wine (or juice) turning into flesh and blood during the Lord’s Supper or Communion or Eucharist? Does the fact help that those elements turn into the bodies of the followers of Jesus who are now said to be “the body of Christ on Earth”?
Don’t let religious ideas that are repellant to you, “religious allergies” keep you from delving deeper and growing spiritually.