What if you could invent a religion?
Think about it… What if you could start from scratch and create the perfect religion? What would it look like?
Some things are obvious. It would include love and respect for others. It would strive to bring reconciliation in the midst of differences. You would probably start off with some guiding principles. Things like:
- We believe all people are of equal worth and value.
- We believe that diversity is strength, not weakness.
- We believe things can be better, and it is the responsibility of each person to do what they can to bring about that which is best.
There would probably have to be some sort of regular gathering. It’s not a true religion if it’s just you in your basement writing feel-good principles. In those gatherings “believers” would celebrate and share stories. If it were my religion I think I would insist that we share a meal together each time. And I don’t mean the ritual that we have made of what Christians call “The Lord’s Table” I mean meat ‘n potatoes, hot dinner rolls and warm apple pie for dessert. There is a level of connectivity that cannot happen without sitting across from someone and sharing a meal (that’s why it’s such a key part of our mat… I mean, dating rituals).
In your gatherings, meal or not, you might find it interesting to hear how others came to “believe”. There would be laughter and joy. I’d wager that in short order you would see all sorts of artistic expressions emerge at these gatherings. Maybe a photographer might share a recent photo with a few folks sitting nearby. Perhaps someone with a lovely voice would sing a line of a song and be encouraged to “sing the rest of the song”. Soon others would emerge. Painters would paint, sculptors would sculpt, writers would write, poets, musicians, dancers, photographers, architects… you name it, their creativity would soon find expression in the context of their “faith”.
It was G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) who first got me thinking along these lines with his brilliant little book Orthodoxy (1908). I won’t spoil it for you but it was this same Chesterton, who when asked to write an article on what was wrong in the world reportedly responded with the cryptic, “I am”. Which so neatly presents the dilemma that will inevitably, eventually confront your new religion.
How does your religion propose to respond to stuff that’s wrong in the world? How does your fledgling faith respond to the issues of hatred, bigotry, selfishness, greed, anger, pride, arrogance, violence, broken relationships… the junky stuff of life?
Education…? Pretend everyone is ignorant (more ignorant than you) and try to educate them all out of their brokenness?
Medication…? Call it an illness and develop a miracle drug to remedy the ailment?
…simply deny the problem exists?