If you know me, you know I love a metaphor. Probably I live by metaphor.
The other day, after visiting a church, and thinking about my life as a progressive minister/spiritual/yoga teacher, I finally had the image in mind. Being a progressive minister is just like getting on the Titanic after hitting the iceberg and saying, “This is going to be a great trip!”
In other words, this ship is sinking. And it didn’t start sinking today.
Not so of yoga. In fact, when I began taking yoga classes, only weirdos did it. Now, as we all know, it’s extremely hip and popular. But this was definitely not always the case. It is fair to say, though, that liberal expressions of religion have been gradually declining during my time as a minister. I generally find myself in churches with small membership and often with congregations who are struggling to NOT sink the ship. That’s why the progressive minister is supposed to get on the ship and say: we can do this! We can save this!
The problem is not whether these organizations fail. Many of them have already closed their doors. They fail in part because they cannot make themselves relevant. They won’t change their ways or their language or their image. They literally feel, like those who built the Titanic, that nothing is wrong. As I have served people outside of organizational religion for so long I can understand that there is something wrong. Because people DO need spirituality. They need spiritual support. They need spiritual community. They need spiritual stuff. But they don’t like how it’s being dished out.
In other words, the problem isn’t that many expressions of more “traditional” religion are closing doors, but WHERE do we go for that part of our life? The doors have and will close. Where then is sanctuary?
Many people have gone to yoga. Think about it. If you don’t go to church and I’m guessing you don’t go to church (some of you do, but many do not), WHERE do you go for spiritual nurturing? Maybe you get it by taking a walk or hanging with a friend or painting a picture. What about spiritual community, then? Where do you get that? What about spiritual support?
The yoga classroom is a wonderful place to find some of those things, to get spiritual food, to go deeper in our own beliefs, to have some feeling of community.
But whether we go to yoga or not, this is a REAL part of us that needs something.
I had an annual exam the other day. With the gynecologist. And she asked me all kinds of questions. Did I exercise? How was my stress level? How was my diet? How about my periods? She gave me a check and I was done.
Who do we go to like that for the heart? For the spirit? And if we don’t go anywhere, it’s not because we don’t need it, it’s because we can’t find it, or we don’t know where to go, or perhaps we don’t think it matters all that much.
But it matters. A great deal.
I’m not so popular as a progressive minister. I don’t step up into the pulpit of the mega church with far-reaching messages that mobilize voters and change laws as well as lives. I’m over here on the sinking ship and what I want to say to my fellow, kindred souls is: we need to build a new boat. We deserve and need the amphitheater and the megaphone. We deserve and need a titanic force to bring the message of peace, autonomy of belief, care for the neighbor and love beyond boundaries of any kind–religious, ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, spiritual, of origin or ability.
In the meantime, a much smaller task and a much smaller question: where do YOU go for your spiritual needs?