polar bears and backflips

“Religion is for people who are afraid of hell.  Spirituality is for people who have experienced it.”

Vine Deloria, JR.  Native American Activist, theologian and historian

Perhaps we are working too hard at spirituality.  Perhaps spirituality comes to us, and is borne within us, simply from the encounters we have with suffering.  With hell.  With pain.  With a desire to learn from our pain.

Religion will try to hand out spirituality like ride tickets at the amusement park.  You have read the Gospel of Mark?  Here….two tickets.  You have decided to get married?  Here…four tickets.  You have made your confession?  Here, nine tickets.  You sinned?  Give me back two tickets…

“Mercy.” the word, comes from the root word of money – words like mercantile and merchant. It is easy to think that the church is able to give you credits and demerits based on the sacraments or based even on your decisions. This system raise a lot of money not too long ago.  The system keeps clergy in salaries and Bishops in expense accounts.  But what if it is easier than all that?  And worse still?  What if word got out that it is easier than all that?

Today I spent the day at the Zoo.  We saw monkeys swinging from rafters, lions rolling in sunshine, flamingos stick-stepping in ponds.  But by far, my favorite moment was when the polar bear went for a swim.  I took a photo (above) because it seemed to me to be an icon – a window to heaven.

The big bear, seemed so heavy and plodding on the land – pacing back and forth and looking aged and tired like a ninety-year-old-drunk with hemorrhoids.  But then he fell backwards into the pool and began to twirl in the water with the grace and agility of a teenaged ballerina.  He flipped and dove, twisted and whirled around, doing flips and loops with exhaled air loops in the blue waters of the January day.

What if spirituality is natural to all of us, Christian, Native American, Hindu, Muslim? What if God is waiting for us to leave our churches so that God can woo us into that pool of prayer where backflips and playfulness are the dress code and the currency?



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