"Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers...” --Jesse Ventura
“Religion is a crutch, but that's okay... humanity is a cripple.” --Anon.
Many see religion as a crutch. They think those who do not understand the rational logic of science, or do not have the emotional fortitude to deal with life’s difficulties, seek to wrap themselves in the nebulous comfort of a belief that tells them it will all be OK, that someone “out there” has a plan. They think faith holds up the infirm of spirit. It is a crutch.
Perhaps they are right. There are lots of people who want, who need, that kind of support religion can bring. Perhaps they have not had the physical problems, the emotional struggles. Perhaps they have escaped “The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to (Hamlet)”, and so do not understand the need many of us have to lean on something once in a while.
Many times my faith has kept me upright when I would have fallen. I have been hurt, I have been weak, I have been infirm, and leaned heavily on that Shillelagh, that crutch of religion and it has kept me from stumbling.
But that does not mean there isn’t something more there.
This past week I have been on the road with my family.
I have felt joy in praying under the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve felt that part of me that communes with my Lord and Master stir and lift in beauty sublime.
But there was something lacking there. There is joy and inspiration in nature, but I was missing something while gazing at thunderstorms, rainbows, and flower-filled meadows in high mountain passes.
Religion is linked to but apart from my faith. My faith is always there, always carrying me along. My faith is always with me whether or not I am praying or singing or reading. My faith is the internal compass I have which points unwaveringly at a creator. But this past week my religion was on sabbatical.
I have not been reading regularly in my Bible. I have not been meeting with my moon howlin’ buddies. I haven’t been to my church and lifted my hands in worship with my brothers and sisters in Him. I haven’t been on prayer walks, reflective moments of solitude in places so familiar that I can walk with eyes closed as I share my heart and mind with my concerned master. I haven’t been doing many of the disciplines which hone my faith. I haven’t been religious.
There is a negative connotation in being religious. But I think it serves a very healthy purpose, a purpose which augments faith.
Athletes can speak long of the virtues of practicing their sport, the discipline of repetition and concentration. They cannot get better at what they do unless they practice their sport religiously.
Michael Jordan may have many physical gifts that made him a basketball great, but unless he simply put that large orange ball thousands of times through all those hoops over all those years, he could not have done what he did.
In martial arts they practice their movements over and over and over. They learn how to position their bodies and tools to move gracefully. The purpose is to train the body so that the movements are smooth, eloquent, until they express a serenity of the mind.
In practicing my faith, in being religious, I learn to handle that crutch so it does more than support me when I get tired, or hurt. I learn to use it to feel my way along when things are dark, to tap at the obstacles in my path and learn of things I cannot see. I use it to help me vault swirling waters and scramble over obstacles set in my path. I think sometimes He grasps that “crutch” and pulls me up over spots I could not otherwise climb. If I didn’t have a firm grip on that crutch He could not guide me. Sometimes He has taken it from me and used its crook around my neck as any good shepherd would.
Sometimes that crutch has been long enough, strong enough, to defend me, my home, my family, from an evil force, a predator in the dark. Though I’m a man, a creature without fangs or claws or horns, I can carry the tools that He has given me and rap the snarling snout that reaches into my small pool of light and make it retreat from those I have been set to protect.
So, is religion a crutch?
Or is it a staff?
A few pics from the trip
(Click to enlarge)
(Click to enlarge)