Throughout my decades of involvement in Buddhist and Yogic communities, I’ve never been one to identify with this or that lineage, tradition, school, or organization. Sectarianism turns me off. My core and primary concern was to seek truth and liberation—to be true to the Buddha’s most authentic teachings, to get at the innermost essence of spirituality, as best as I could ascertain.
As a believer and disciple of Christ, I too give little credence to institutionalized religion be it in the form of denomination, church organization, para-church ministry or the like, much to the chagrin of some of my fellows. My core passion is to know and be known by Christ, lovingly uniting into Him with the highest satisfaction so He may be most glorified in me.
Why am I such? For at least three reasons. First, institutional hubris. Second, madness of obsessive line drawing. Third, addiction to including and excluding.
Institutionalism breeds hubris, a pride of identity that rots the spirit from inside-out. It first appears innocuous but over time grows into a cancer that eats away at the selflessness that spirituality seeks to inculcate. Ego and false identification with an institution takes over.
Members of institutions, perhaps by necessity, create boundary lines that define institutional identity, segregating it from other institutions. Often, lines drawn become hard and fast, rigid and deadening. Self-definition and becoming part of the in-group emerge insidiously as obsessive compulsion.
Institutional building can become addictive. Once adorned with real estate, financial equity, social clout and cultural influence, even political leverage, institutionalized religion becomes addicted to dictating who is in and who is out; who is “saved” and who is “damned.” This, however well-intentioned, can end up coming across as harsh, hurtful, if not callous.
My hope and prayer is that we may inquire freely into matters of the spirit without fear or pressure, always true to our deepest values and vision, seeking truth from falsity and extracting the essence from fluff, in a spirit of freedom not born of egoic autonomy but flowing from egoless surrender to true grace.
And out of that deep contemplation may there come authentic community beyond group-think and echo-chambers.