Minister’s Forum: The definition of the word ‘religion’
I came into Unity ministry via a long and wide array of faiths, belief systems, philosophies and practices. Through that process, as well as my ongoing investigations, I am more certain than ever that there is only one truth. Our words about it, our perspectives on it, our ways to celebrate it, and our abilities to discern and live it may differ (and may all change at times within ourselves), but that does not alter the truth. For me, truth is like light. You can reflect it, filter it, polarize it and refract it in infinite ways, and it can then appear completely different based on perspective, but it is still light.
Truth, in my vernacular, is God. If you want to exclude yourself based on that name, I invite you to substitute “life” or “love” or “spirit” or “intelligence.” The point is we all find ways to look at the world, life and ourselves that work for us, and my hope is that we remember not to use our own perspective to separate ourselves or to create division. The word “religion” means “to bind together,” but we haven’t used it that way historically.
On nearly every conceivable level, you and I are exactly the same. Physically, for instance, we are essentially empty space. Mentally and socially, we all have our “stuff,” and we also all have an incredible capacity to love. Indeed, we are all looking for love, as well as happiness, meaning and fulfillment. An ironic part of the truth is that we already are those things in essence and we only become aware of them, develop them and share them through our interactions with each other. So, it is rather sad that we tend to focus on our apparent differences instead of our sameness. It is rather sad when we draw a line in the sand and declare everything on our side as “right” and on the other as “wrong.” It is rather sad if I shut down to your perspective based on the color of your skin or on which church, if any, you attend. And a further irony is that after a catastrophe, such as the Angora fire, we promptly forget those differences.
When I first began to serve a multitude of snowboarders (please excuse the label) in my chiropractic practice, I noticed that I was in judgment about their appearance, their language, their habits, their piercings, even their hats. I made a conscious intention to soften my heart so that I could look beyond the generational differences and benefit from who they were. I found, in a very short time, that I was gifted immensely.
I was buoyed by their enthusiasm and energy. I was uplifted by their vitality and optimism. I was deeply inspired in watching them grow into their dreams. I am forever imbued with their talents and gifts. And a fringe benefit was that by the time my daughter “became one,” I was ready.
Each of us are like thimblefuls of water in the ocean of truth. I invite us all to become more curious about what’s in all those other thimbles. Let’s clink our thimbles together in a toast to truth. Let’s not wait for a catastrophe, let’s focus on our sameness now. Let’s embrace our commonality and celebrate our diversity within that commonality. Let’s remember to “bind together” and help to bring more truth into the world. I believe this is the truth that will surely set us free.
– Dr. Stew Bittman is a spiritual leader at Unity at the Lake.