The Church of the Churchless discussion group has been languishing since I started it off with a question about a question in December 2004. I said, “If you had the chance to ask one question of ultimate reality and could get a clear answer in English, what would you ask?” I got a few responses and would enjoy reading more.
Laura, bless her, recently woke up the discussion group from its slumber and asked another good question: “Why is there injustice in the world, what purpose does it serve?” If you have an answer—or a comment about the question—head on over to Google Groups and post away. Laura raised some other issues that you might want to share your views on.
I don’t have any grand expectations for the Church of the Churchless discussion group. My original idea was that it could be a way for some of the churchless to connect with others who don’t feel comfortable belonging to a conventional religion or spiritual path. I remember a line from a movie, “Shadowlands,” about C.S. Lewis: “We read to know that we are not alone.”
Books still serve that purpose, but now reading on the Internet does too. Search engines like Google make it possible to find online communities of people, or just a single person, interested in every conceivable subject, idea, passion, problem, or whatever.
It always makes me feel good when someone writes and says, “I thought I was the only one who felt this way. Now I know I’m not.” It’s natural to doubt yourself when you’re feeling like a spiritual lone wolf. Humans are, by nature, herd animals. We need other people to survive, both physically and psychologically.
Kermit the Frog famously said, “It’s not that easy being green.” It’s not that easy being churchless either. You feel different. Because you are different. Most people are happy believing what they’ve been taught to believe, even if it doesn’t make any sense. If breezes of doubt start to blow in under the tent of faith that believers erect around themselves, the walls are tied down more firmly.
It can be comforting and warm inside a shared set of beliefs. But when those beliefs don’t conform to the greater reality that lies outside, the coziness is illusory. To me the churched are huddling around a flickering theological candle that barely illuminates the darkness of the windowless room where they huddle for security. They don’t know that the sun is shining brightly outside the confines of their shuttered minds.
It takes guts to stand tall and walk away from your companions into the dark. That’s where the door to the light is, though—hidden in the shadows that the scriptural candlelight of the churched can’t penetrate. The churchless lone wolves are moving in the right direction. Without encouragement, though, the temptation to turn back and rejoin the herd is strong.
I’m determined to keep heading toward the light of reality. I don’t like the shadows where I am now, but I detest the imagined illumination that used to be my spiritual support. I’d rather honestly stumble around in the dark, looking for the door, than falsely believe that my barely-lit candle of faith really amounted to genuine enlightenment.
Sometimes we spiritual stumblers in the dark need to call, “Is anyone else out there?” Hearing a response from a kindred soul can help us remember that though the Way has to be traveled alone, the traveling doesn’t have to be lonely.
Calling out and responding, those are the twin voices of the Church of the Churchless discussion group. If you feel like it, speak.