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As a little boy, I was fascinated with Jesus.
I imagined walking with him everywhere I went.
I never related to how he was presented in churches, but I always felt him to be a personal friend. I didn’t see Jesus as the judgmental white supremacist that many Christians make him out to be, today. I saw Jesus as a spirit who could embody any physical form.
To me, Jesus was everywhere because he was love.
Given how well Christianity is marketed, I was surprised to learn that Jesus never called himself a Christian. And it’s now my belief that “Christian” is the last thing he’d be if he ever came back, in whatever form.
Jesus was a spiritual master, the embodiment of love. He was beyond any tidy box we might imagine him to occupy.
As a card-carrying member of the forward-thinking, spiritually-inclined, I’ve found it vital to reduce religious labels and dogma down to suggestions, and spend my time focusing on divine attributes, instead. Otherwise, I’m just another judgmental born-againer looking to enroll people in my misery. It’s my alignment with divine attributes that frees me, not a master’s biography.
We’re all guilty of this. I remember when I was a born-again Catholic, then a born-again Christian, then a born-again New-Ager, then a born-again Native American ritualist, then a born-again Buddhist. And when I was a Sikh, I was fervently born-again and kind of a dick. It was all love-focused, but with a stinky layer of ego.
In retrospect, I’m healthily ashamed of how I defended my invisible friends along the way, but this powerful shame is now my master. I’ve become so lovingly hard on myself that I actually enjoy it.
From what I can tell, rather than enrolling others, the key to life seems to be finding alignment with them.
This doesn’t mean we should embrace every douchey aspect of every person’s belief system. It means that if we’re to share something special with another living being, if we’re to truly connect with them and bring light into their lives, we must first honor the pieces of ourselves we see in them. This alignment invites an openness, a lovingness and a doorway for both people to transform. If we can’t find ourselves in another person, we’re missing the point. Truth be told, there is no “other.”
The moment we call ourselves Christians, Sikhs, Jews, Pagans, Hindus, Buddhists or any other “-ist,” we perpetuate subtle, yet violent forms of prejudice. All these religions have been over-marketed and under-researched by mostly uneducated people who have driven their local, regional and national societies into factions. When we shirk these religious labels, we stand a much better chance of embodying love and its kin.
Our need to identify as Christian, Hindu, Pagan, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, heck even Republican or Democrat, and other group-identifiers born from cultures (not spirit), is about ego, nothing more. Our self-identity has nothing to do with any of these words. Our chosen identities have to do with attributes, intentions and actions.
Ask yourself, “Do I really need to identify with a word, organization or movement? Or is it more transformative, more inclusive and less aggressive to identify with an attribute?”
More succinctly, “Can I live without the word Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Jew and still be a loving, proactive human being? Can I still embody and proliferate teachings from Muhammad, Buddha, Moses and Joshua, the spiritual master known as Jesus from Palestine?”
If I fully understand that spiritual beings like Jesus and Buddha had no egos, then why do I care about labels or attributing my experience to them or their movements? Why can’t I just enjoy my culture’s rituals without advertising them and without demanding they receive attention from those around me? Why can’t I just focus on becoming a better person or serving my fellow living beings?
It must be that my ego and mind need cultural identifiers in order to inspire their evolution. Given that the big-religion spiritual masters seemed to be focused on embodying the universes within them, and didn’t necessarily focus on the organizations they spearheaded, as disciples, we are being called to do the same.
In order to feel whole, we can identify with whatever lexicon or religion we choose. It’s our right. But the moment we promote our lexicon and religions to others, and the moment we preach from a religion’s point of view, we disconnect from our spirits. We become judgmental and nothing short of violent.
Let’s stop calling ourselves Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist, Pagan and more. It’s all the same story anyway and the original manuscripts are largely inconsistent in their interpretations and translations. They’re also unrelatable and hurtful to millions of people. Sadly, in some cases they’re solely used as control devices.
Let’s start living from a place where we recognise ourselves as part of the divine, called to be here in this time and place, to effect loving change.
The books and the labels are secondary to our inclusiveness and compassion. And I’m not speaking of the kind of inclusiveness that says “We are all Jews,” or “We are all Christians,” because that’s just another way of saying someone else is not really part of the club.
The more we hide under the egoistic shield of our religious labels, the less we take responsibility for uplifting our lives so that they stand a better chance of reflecting true, real, durable, consistent, pure love.
Live joyfully within the bounds of your religion. Love your religion. But interact with the world with non-violent spiritually-motivated language. Leave the books at home. Stop talking about your invisible friend as if he or she is the only one. Encourage positive, loving attributes in yourself and others. This is how real change occurs.
“I may be a cultural Christian, Sikh, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist or New-Ager, but I am loving, whole, listening, joyful, accepting and appreciative. I love all life and I seek to bring light to the world. I embody a positive change, and I pray that all living beings on this earth are protected from unnecessary violence and pain. I humbly seek to embody the best attributes of all the masters throughout all time. These masters are welcome in my heart forever more. May I be of service to all living beings in this life and all the lives that follow.”
Author: Paul Wagner
Image: Wikimedia commons
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren