Under most circumstances, I don’t like to have all kinds of labels attached to me. For many years, I understood labels as being nasty constrictions on the True Soul which underlies all things, and that to label ourselves was to become “attached” to something in the world, to some aspect of our transient selves.

Laying aside the Buddhist dogma and focusing on things from a practical angle is also an option.

The reality is, practically speaking, that we must necessarily identify ourselves to others in some way if we are to live in the world. This same rule does not apply equally to a monk living in a monastery among other monks.

But I am not a monk. Have I considered it? Sure. But I am not a monk, and I cannot live my life as one.

Perhaps the middle road of labels should be taken as well- accept labels when they are useful, as in social situations, but do not sit around and twiddle your thumbs thinking about the label when you are not socially engaged. Labels are simply reference points of convenience; use them as such.

The preface being said, I’ll get to my point- under normal circumstances, someone might label me as being “progressive” or “liberal.” This holds especially true in south Alabama.

I found myself on the other side of the spectrum concerning a recent situation (early 2009) that happened in, of all places, the Episcopal Church. A woman Priest by the name of Ann Holmes Redding claimed to be both a Christian and a Muslim.

They defrocked her.

(Wait for it.)

AS THEY VERY WELL SHOULD HAVE!!!

There you are, the “conservative” statement that I was planning to make the whole time.

Whereas I feel that a person can identify with the Beauty, Truth, and Holiness of a given religious tradition that is not one’s own, and in many cases, one can adopt certain practices from that tradition and its culture that are congruent with one’s own, I think that it is also intellectually dishonest for someone who is a representative of a particular tradition and not merely a lay practitioner to try to represent multiple traditions.

The situation of the layman varies from this. Depending on the religious tradition, a layman may be able to practice more than one religious tradition. Layman represent the tradition, but not in the same way that the Priesthood does.

True, I think that the core of religious traditions are the same- the internal essence remains the same across most of them, the Holiness, Love, and Bliss that are God.

But think of it this way: Alabama elects Jane Doe to be our Senator, so she goes to the US Congress to represent Alabama.

Not Georgia.

Not Florida.

Not California

ALABAMA.

Now, some might argue that the political situation differs from the religious one, but the point I’m making is that this Priest came from a specific religious “territory” but was attempting to hypothetically represent two different religious “territories,” which in this case are separated by a wide gulf of theological opinions and commentary.

Another situation that is similar but offers a solution is the Kevin Thew Forrester, an Episcopal Bishop who has a decade-long history of practicing Zen Buddhist meditation. Having reading his statement on the matter, the difference is that Forrester was led full-circle to the mystics and contemplatives of the Christian Tradition; in essence, he took a method, found it in his own tradition, and went on his merry way. The so-called “lay ordination” he received merely means that the Buddhists recognize that he’s trying to alleviate suffering in the world, and what could be more Christ-like?

The difference is remarkable, as well- the Zen meditation isn’t exclusively owned by Buddhists, and that particular practice is not incompatible with Christianity, as meditation is a huge part of the Christian Tradition (unbeknownst to many Christians themselves who would argue otherwise.)

This is not about “my God is bigger than your God” or “my religion is better than your religion,” in case you’re wondering. Rather, it is a matter of integrity and consistency; it is a matter of the preservation of certain traditions that we already represent and finding fulfillment in our being representatives of that tradition without having to take on the traditions of others as well.

There. I’ve said my piece.


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