In the post which immediately precedes this, I discuss essence of spirituality in context of pursuit of purpose. With full understanding of secularism of purpose, as such lack of confinement of purpose within populations of people who are spiritual or religious, I showed how spirituality enhances purpose only if it maintains or enhances joy we derive from pursuit of purpose.
Having established that spirituality possesses capacity for enhancement of joy we derive from purpose, with full cognition of the fact that religion is not the same as spirituality, does religion have any capacity for enhancement of our joy?
If religion merely is opium of the masses, I might as well stop writing, you might as well stop reading. If religion has potential to be more than opium of the masses, a phenomenon which possesses capacity for enhancement of our joy, it is important to decipher exact source of joy in context of religion.
Religion can be characterized to be formal organization of people who subscribe to the same spiritual creed. In light of this characterization, a spiritual person need not subscribe to a religion. If in addition to spirituality, religion possesses capacity for enhancement of joy, joy made possible by religion must differ from yet complement joy made possible by spirituality. It is important then to delineate mechanisms via which spirituality enhances our joy. In this vein, and in the immediately preceding post, I discuss how it is spirituality enhances joy in context of our pursuits of purpose because it provides divine credence for purpose, helps maintain strength for perseverance required for attainment of purpose, is source of wisdom for navigation of our way towards purpose, and provides spiritual qualities of peace of mind and joy-maintaining-confidence whenever we navigate challenges lying in paths of progress towards purpose.
If religion is to enhance our joy, it brings us much more easily than otherwise into contact and relationship with people who celebrate and understand our spirituality. Religion brings us into contact with people who can participate in joys we derive from applications of spirituality in context of our pursuit of purpose. When we resist the urge to cheat others or ourselves (via lying to our very own self) on our way to purpose, religion brings us into contact with people who celebrate our choice not to cheat, who understand the spiritual value of our choice, who share the value we place on avoidance of cheating, who have capacity for participation in the joy we experience from resistance to and overcoming of impulse to cheat.
Religion enhances joy we experience from application of spirituality to pursuit of purpose because ideally it much more easily brings us into contact or relationship with people who celebrate, understand, value, and have capacity for participation in joy we derive from exercise of spirituality.
The problem with religion in today’s world — it is less likely than ideally or ordinarily would be expected to bring us into commonality with people who share our spirituality. There now is so much fragmentation in spirituality that when a person says for instance “I believe in Jesus Christ”, it no longer is unambiguously clear exactly what it is the declaration of faith or spirituality means. Let us for the moment, and as is customary classify all those who claim to have faith in Jesus Christ to be Christians. Well there are heterosexual and homosexual Christians. There are Christians who believe the Bible is partly truth, partly lies. There are Christians who believe all of the Bible is inspired by the Spirit of God, Father of Jesus Christ. There are Christians who reject the Old Testament. There are Christians who believe the Old Testament merely needs to be interpreted in context of the New Testament. There are Christians who believe adultery can be justified within context of faith in Jesus Christ. There are Christians who believe the Bible is unequivocally clear about illegality, immorality of adultery within context of Christian faith.
I could go on and on but the problem I believe is clear. There is so much fragmentation within context of Christian faith that finding of like minds in context of religion has become tantamount to a searching for a very small needle in a bag full of hay.
I was in a church service by invitation of recent, a service during which a preacher invited anyone who wanted to reaffirm commitment to Jesus Christ to signify by coming forward to stand in the open space at front of the church auditorium. Now, if I was the preacher, I would have faith that everyone hearing my voice would be interested in reaffirming their faith, hence would ask they stand where they were seated for signifying of their affirmation. While my faith in Jesus Christ remained strong at that time, and perhaps is stronger at point of penning of this post, I was so disgusted with the display of lack of faith I probably did not bother to rise to my feet. I may have, but in light of everything else I need to store in my mind, I have not bothered to retain that memory as precisely as would be required for an emphatic recollection of my action.
The point is, if the open space at front of a church auditorium is large enough for everyone expected to reaffirm faith in Jesus Christ in an auditorium within which every seat is taken, what exactly is point of having a church service in the first place? Is the affirmation in reality reserved only for some choice people who already know themselves (most church communities typically have some people who respond to every call to come forward to open space at front of a church auditorium)? Or is it really an invitation to everyone present in the church service?
In the last two years, I have found it difficult to locate a church community within which I felt my joy was enhanced by church fellowship, by attendance at church services. While the ‘location’ problem has become exacerbated over the course of the last two years, it has been present with me in one form or the other for at least 10 years, with those years characterized by short spells between different churches, all in my search for the ideal presented in Christian Scriptures. I was not looking for a church community filled with perfect people. I was searching for a church community which was trying as much as possible to focus religious services on enhancement of my joy, as opposed to enhancement of joy of the preachers or leaders alone. Given I donated money generously at every church community, I could not be accused of seeking enhancement of my joy, yet not interested in enhancement of joy of church leadership.
Church services no longer are much about people — church members and visitors — but about preachers preaching, teachers teaching, all the while, nobody bothering to love anyone else. Church services have become about tithing and collecting of offerings, less about people reaching out to other people for provision of empathy, encouragement, understanding, celebration, participation in their spiritual victories, victories the rest of society may have difficulty understanding, valuing, celebrating. Plainly put, in last two years or thereabouts, except by invitation of family, friends, or leadership of a particular local church, I no longer participate in church services. I have gone totally cold turkey on Christian themed religion.
So what did I do? I turned online, writing posts for encouragement of fellow believers in Jesus Christ with hope of becoming part of a vibrant online community of believers. Guess what? Just about everyone I reached out to was so concerned about sharing of potential followers (the risk of splitting followers with another writer), just about none reciprocated. The only supposed Christian who reciprocated turned out to behave like an online troll, apparently did not believe in inspiration of Christian Scriptures, resulting eventually in truncation of that online relationship. Turns out even online — and I have tried several online forums — forums supposed to consist of Christians who love to read, write, or both — fellowship of like minds is almost as impossible as I have found it to be within context of brick and mortar church services.
If somehow I stumble on a church community which I find enhances joy I derive from my faith in Jesus Christ, I will be part of that community in a jiffy, faster than jumping Jack flash. In meantime, I make do with joy I derive from spirituality. I find contentment in the knowledge that joy I derive from work, from productivity, from productivity induced rest or recreation, or from friendship continue to be enhanced by joy birthed in my spirit via my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You see, the most important quality of joy that is derived from spirituality is access to new reservoirs of strength for character, peace, and joy that are birthed in our spirits because we are connected to the eternal Spirit who is source of all right living, peace and joy.
Whether religion remains messed up or not, we can rest in the fact that no one can deprive us of our spirituality. The fact that our capacity for maintenance of spirituality is independent of anything external to ourselves is perhaps the greatest gift we have from a benevolent Creator. I believe I owe gratitude for this gift, this possibility, this haven of spirituality to God Father of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I find it necessary then to say to my Lord Jesus Christ and His Father, my Father:
“Thank you Father for ensuring capacity for maintenance of relationship with your eternal Spirit — Spirit that is source of all creation — cannot be bought with money, cannot be edicted out of my life, cannot be withheld from me. Thank you Lord Jesus that capacity for entering into relationship with your eternal Spirit is free, open to whomsoever believes in possibility of eternal fellowship with your eternal Spirit. Thank you Lord Jesus for all of your love, sacrifice, and eternal quality which make all of this possible. In Jesus Name. Amen.”
This post is last of a series of seven sequential posts on ‘Joy’ titled, respectively and sequentially:
Work and Joy
Productivity and Joy
Hedonism and Joy
Friendship and Joy
Purpose and Joy
Spirituality and Joy
Religion and Joy