Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Generic Religion

I have begun my Master of Divinity program at Marylhurst University. It has me hyper stimulated and happy to be thinking!

Unfortunately, while it gives me great ideas for blogging, it also brings on a case of that old familiar student's guilt when doing anything, ANYTHING, other than writing my papers. Expect slower posts.

While reading for my class on western mysticism, I read these words by Reb Zalman, a living Kabbalah mystic, "I see myself as a Jewish practitioner of generic religion." Those words knocked my socks off. They startle for a lot of reasons. For one thing generic isn't what most people aspire to. We all want unique expression, or deep expression, or perfect expression. Generic! who wants that? To hear such words from a deeply learned Rabbi is odd.

I picked him to write a paper on though, based on those words. I believe he is saying something important here. For one, he is expressing an appreciation for the oneness of all religions. We are all responding to the same phenomena. We all have the same questions. All religions are aimed at the same heart. He is basically saying, 'I use the Jewish Kabbala to see God. What do you use?' While the Fundamentalist have noticed that there are other religions and see them as misguided at best, and in some very well known sad examples, see others as evil even worth killing, the Mystics have been looking around the world and going 'huh -- you guys are doing the same thing as me. We are all alike.' The Dali Lama and Reb Zalman would have a gay old time together, if they haven't already.

Ok, that is fun, nice, interesting. But it also has meaning for me. As a Unitarian Universalist I belong, essentially to a 'generic religion.' Our lack of creed and our culture of inclusion makes us kind of generic. I have often felt ashamed of that. Is there any 'there' there? That is the question the rest of the religious world asks us. I may start proudly proclaiming it as Reb Zalman does "I am a practitioner of a Generic Religion!" Maybe not -- however there are still questions I want to explore.

Reb Zalman says he is a Jewish practitioner. Can UU's be a religious people without some practice. I imagine Zalman would say no. So should we all be triple hyphenated? Jewish Unitarian Universalist, Buddhist Unitarian Universalist, Wicckan Unitarian Universalist. It still leaves me with questions but I liked the feeling of recognition when I saw Reb Zalman's words.

1 comment:

excavator said...

I like Reb Zalman's words too. Like for you, the words jumped out of the page.

I see generic religion at the heart of (dare I generalize?) all religious practice. I think the striving for Oneness takes many different forms, the way light shining through a prism breaks into many colors (or light shining through a kaleidoscope fractures into many shifting patterns). It's all light.

The problem the mystics pose to organized religion (which definitely does NOT see itself practicing 'generic religion') is the profession that God can be accessed directly, without the Church as intermediary.

What a subversive idea.

I think the Christians who I feel the most in common are the Christians "practicing generic religion".

Great post.