Last night at the Center, we watched the movie With One Voice, a documentary that explores the unity of humanity, reveals our essential oneness and spreads the single message that binds all faiths together. Spiritual leaders from 15 different religious traditions were invited to share their experiences of the Divine and how their particular religious tradition taught about peace and love, especially in relation to our world. One overarching theme was spoken over and over again: we are all part of the same oneness. Regardless of your skin color or religious affiliation, we all experience anger, shame, frustration and stress. We all feel love, compassion, gratitude and awe. These experiences and feelings are universal among all human beings and transcend differences that really exist only at the surface level.
This message resonated deep within me – it seems every book I read or speaker I listen to or webinar I watch lately alludes to this same message – we are one. We are one. We are all spirits seeking connection to something bigger than our small selves and the small world we confine ourselves to. We are all seekers mining for meaning in a senseless world of consumerism, rampant tribalism, and runaway abuses where we are battered by both natural and man-made disasters and acts of violence. We are all yearning for the same peace in our lives.
When I reflect on things this way, I can very easily tire of how our religious institutions, including the Catholic Church, spend an enormous amount of time and resources defining our separate identities and separating ourselves from each other. Just as division and tribalism are the addiction of our society, our religious institutions thrive on defining identity and narrowly focusing in on praxis unique to our specific traditions as if that alone defines who we are as Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. If Jesus’ teaching is so countercultural (as we believe and teach), why do we fall prey to the cultural tendencies of division and separateness?
Because of my recent reading, viewing, and watching, I believe that a different dialogue is taking place beyond the borders of our churches. I see a movement toward embracing the one universal truth as a starting point for inter-spiritual relationship. By focusing on what we all have in common and how to nurture and cultivate that awareness rather than that which separates us, we grow relationships and community. The very energy around this more accepting and inclusive spirituality feels softer, gentler, more loving than the energy in our faith communities today.
Make no mistake, I love my Catholic faith and community. My spiritual identity and experience of the Divine is deeply rooted in the Catholic traditional. But as we, like most religious traditions, grapple with our struggling communities, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we shifted our focus away from solidifying our Catholic identity toward recognizing our universal identity as children of the Creator. I wonder what would happen if, instead of the us-versus-them approach to evangelization, we banded together as believers of one Divine being with one voice, worked together to bring more love into the world. Now that truly would be countercultural.