Friday, June 20, 2014

Changing Devotions and Perspectives: The Calling?

Changing Devotions and Perspectives II
Tony Dillon-Hansen
May 2014

As life progresses, we encounter ideas and perspectives that shape our current being.  The question of what is God calling me to do today is a mystery in a couple ways. There is a question about the existence of God or the premise of the deity’s personal interest in my path.  If there is such, what does that “calling” request of me? Finding Des Moines’ Plymouth Congregational Church on that path may yield clues to that request.

Through martial arts, study of Asian philosophies, and experience of Catholic teachings, I grew in strength with a sense of compassion for all people. Yet, the experience of being bullied, understanding religious hypocrisy and losing a child has wounded my once naïve compassionate sense of the world into a deeply questioning position of worth and purpose. There was little place for justifying the worth of religion. There is a question of the existence of a being that is directing the efforts and pathways in this world on any sort of macro or micro level. I will not pretend to witness God other than life exists with no explanation given, and I would hope that being has much more important things to attend than my lonely, trivial requests.

Perhaps, the entity has no interest in lording over people’s behavior (that would explain the ugly historical atrocities committed in the name of God or even without invoking such), and nature exists just simply as a manifestation of events. Parents and teachers of all stripes can easily attest to this where the point of lessons is to learn how to be autonomous. That we are here, today, in this environment, and one’s “ego in this bag of skin and bones” is a realization of something, and that people display that idea with virtual autonomy over own actions. Nature has many opportunities to learn about action and consequence, and proponents of chaos theory might suggest that “nature” is always ready to teach new lessons. That much is clear.

For all that has been boasted about God and religion, right, wrong, proper or foolish action ultimately requires one to do something, even if that something is nothing. The existence of God is very real to some people and to consider the absence of such, or of Lording qualities, would negate personal existence. So I would not know if God is calling me to do anything, but the position of where I am and where I have been has set me on a path that will yet change. The question is what was learned in the time and what can be imparted to others if anything.

There is a reason that I had to endure some things because as the Tao and the Buddha might suggest, one cannot possibly know good without knowing bad (and thus begins the 4 Noble Truths.) I can only hope that my path brings me towards better things and better places.  Experiences have helped to identify a proper course, and of course, chaos is always waiting to challenge that idea. With respect to chaos, a good fighter will tell you that strategy, flexibility and skillfulness are more useful than brute force attacks.  

With these ideas and if there is a calling, I became an ordained minister because a part of me still believes in compassion and honesty within human nature.  If there is a calling in the path, that is still a mystery to me. Yet, I found a great convergence of good teachings at Plymouth Congregational Church. 

I met with cynicism the first time that I heard the words, “No matter who you are; No matter where you are on life’s journey; you are welcome here.” As I heard subsequent sermons and discussions within and around the Church, there are people with critical thinking skills and people duly interested in expressing the compassion of humanity rather than hypocritical dogma and corrupt rhetoric. I can have reverence for the works and traditions of Church once again. That brought me home.

With Plymouth Church, I realized, for myself, that the purpose of church is to be a part of something that is larger than oneself, and I found more ways here to serve the community since many other organizations also meet at Plymouth. This place welcomes diversity and the purpose is clearly conveyed in order “to grow in love of God and neighbor.”  Church can be a place where people go to understand more about life and to do good work for your neighbors and community.  Thus, partially due to the tradition established in my youth, I actively serve in this Church because this Church expands its work into areas of the community that are in need of compassion (e.g. prisons, homeless, GLBT, and more), and they do not ask for a test when you walk in the door. This is close to what were my youthful ideas of the Church and the teachings of Jesus.

I still question the integrity of organized religion and God. I cannot un-live my experiences that caused questions and non-acceptance of my own senses, but maybe, I am not supposed to un-live them. My faith in people has been somewhat renewed by those involved with Interfaith Alliance and Plymouth Church. The mind has become quieter, acceptance of oneself is better, and possibilities are more positive. There is still more for me to do, and in what capacity that will be is what I have to find. That is the universal truth for everyone.  If there is a calling, it will take me somewhere better than I was and to go there with good people. If there is a calling, it has brought me here to this moment for a reason, and that is only a start of the next journey. 

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