OK, so you’ve probably guessed it by now – I’m a recovering religious junkie. There’s many of us kicking around the edges of the main faiths, though Christianity appears to have produced more of us than most. The majority of us RJs won’t or can’t go anywhere near a ‘Sunday morning church service’ – a funeral of a close friend being the only religious setting where you might find us on one of our good days!
So how on earth did we morph from regular guys and gals into those who overdosed on religious belief and practice, blowing our minds on a myriad of pastoral sermons with proof texts thrown in for good measure? Well, I suspect that it all started in childhood, and of course, our all too human parents, bless their cotton socks, had a significant role to play in our junkie development. I’d better explain.
Well, it began in one of two ways.
First case scenario – our mum & dad were religious junkies themselves, programming us into their image, you know the sort of thing, church twice on a Sunday, Bible Study on Wednesday evening and Prayer meeting on alternate Friday nights. If we add up the hundreds of hours that we’ve sat under the metanarrative of our parent’s favourite religious brand, that’s a lot of metaphysical material floating around the formative caverns of our subconscious. Of course, the co-stars of the story, were always Jesus and the Devil, with God, the Father coming a close third. Blood, lots of it, and the fiery darts of an extremely scary Prince of Darkness were enough to scramble our little fragile psyches via guilt and a somewhat forced appreciation of a dying Saviour. In more extreme cases, ‘Turn or burn’ was the brutal message of choice, when alter calls came calling, and fear-birthed tears started flowing. Yes, many of us have inherited the faith of our well-meaning, but often misguided parents, those who believed themselves to be doing Love’s work in herding us, sheepdog-like, into their cherished pen of pseudo-salvation. Of course, many of us eventually jumped the fence and individuated, running with the crowd, as far away from certainty and imposed dogma as we could manage – right into the clutches of other more sensual devils and deceivers.
Second case scenario -the rest of us had fairly regular parents; those who loved us but couldn’t always connect emotionally with us. Carrying psycho-spiritual wounds of their own, their frailties and flaws often cut off the expected parental flow of unconditional love, resulting in our inner big holes of Self doubt and shame. I suppose hiding in the Garden would be a good metaphor to consider, covering up the vulnerability of a misperceived inadequacy, from the searching eyes of a temperamental, disapproving parent, at least until Jesus popped up from behind a Tree of Life. In our somewhat troubled teenage years, many of us, tossed to and fro on an ocean of dancing hormones, responded in desperation to the standard Christian formula of accepting Jesus into our hearts, Jesus being the acceptable and loving face of a Transcendent God, who still appeared to be a wee bit like our dad – unpredictable. There was no doubt about Jesus and his benign acceptance of us, but a God who required shed blood in order to forgive, albeit his own, was a totally different kettle of fish. However, in the battle of the good cop – bad cop gods, Jesus won hands down and we gratefully accepted his offer of forgiveness and protection, whilst stil keeping a watchful eye on His Dad of Justice and quality control.
The psycho-spiritual hole within us appeared to be miraculously filled, as we joyously jumped into the awaiting Christian sub-culture, God’s franchise on Earth, the bastion of Truth and Righteousness that would keep us from being tainted by our broken fellow-man. Suddenly, it was a case of them and us, with everyone, and I mean everyone, being labelled as ‘saved’ or ‘unsaved’. When Bobby Dylan turned onto Jesus, we danced in the aisles, at least until the Jewish Wordmaster woke up to the religious game giving up on his Vineyard church attendance.
And so, under the orthodoxy of sound teaching we were well on our way to the establishment of heaven on earth. However, as time went by, some of us began to worship the whole religious extravaganza, rather than Jesus, the one claimed to be its divine sponsor. Eventually, within our church of choice most of us were trusted with some crumbs of ministry responsibility, basically for being good little faithful boys and girls, those who served and perpetuated the system. And so, the religious drip feed was stepped up a notch or two, with our co-dependency growing by the day. If we reached the higher echelons of being, viz. being an annointed Christian, we might even be promoted to the position of an elder, sorry men only ladies, and sit on the platform with the pastor, nodding our heads in approval at his latest revelation. A fair exchange perhaps, for the pastor’s approval was most definitely worth it, being the ultimate currency of belonging in the pseudo-community of faith.
And there you have it. That’s how we come to be religious junkies; parental infusion or love-bombing in the guise of genuine compassion, all in the name of the suffering Christ. No wonder it takes something pretty special to expose our hidden drug problem – a really big transpersonal crisis, one to blast us out of the certainty orbit of planet church. And yet, this is where Jesus and his Transcendent Source show their true hand – unconditional love and embrace in the despairing depths of cold-turkey.
Haven’t we all so many stories to tell? The Divine and the Drug have peppered many of our space-time pilgrimages. But thankfully one thing is certain – once free, there’s no going back.