Sunday, April 17, 2016

'Spirituality' and 'Religion' - The Role of Dogmas and Fellowship

Lately I have been spending time with a group that is insistent that they are 'spiritual, not religious'. (It's a 12-step group for people who were raised by addicts; they do not like to be identified by name in public if people speak about them.) I'm still pondering exactly what they think 'religion' is -- it seems to mean something different to them than it does to me. (They keep using that word ... )

With their particular brand of spirituality, they claim that they have no dogmas. Dogmas are seen as rigid and divisive, and as something that prevents fellowship. There is some truth to the idea of "divisive dogmas"; while it would be tempting to point out the benefits of definite beliefs here ... it turns out that this group does seem to have definite beliefs, they just don't call them 'dogmas'. Their definite beliefs include that God is loving, that God hears prayer, that God will arrange our lives so that the right people come when we are ready (likewise the right lesson), and that God is a loving Father towards us. So it's not that they have no dogmas, or even that their dogmas are foreign to what a 'religious' person might believe. But they do give priority to different dogmas than is typical in a church.

The dogmas that they give priority --the ones I mentioned above -- are the ones that serve the group's purpose: to reach out to people raised by addicts (or in other dysfunctional homes), welcome them, build a fellowship of mutual support and understanding, and help them heal.

But I find myself wondering: if a group gives priority to the dogmas that are necessary to its purpose, then which dogmas are we (more religious types) prioritizing? How does it play into the endless divisiveness? What exactly is our goal? What exactly are our priorities? Are they God's?


Martin LaBar said...

I guess we'd need a wise outsider to visit a lot, and then tell us the answers to your questions.

Weekend Fisher said...

I've often wondered if the different denominations could benefit from a "foreign exchange program" of sorts, where various members agreed to "go native" in another denomination for a year, and write home ... and then trade back.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF