Monday, February 2, 2009

Sprituality, Religion, Recovery, Community and Outreach

Working in addictions and recovery I often hear what I believe to be a false dichotomy between the concepts of spirituality and religion. A statement that I have heard repeatedly goes something like this "Religion is for those who fear going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been there". I beieve that this statement not only doesn't reflect the universality of pain and suffering but also represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what religion is. Religion is not just a series of rules and restrictions or dogma but is the very means by which spirituality is experienced communnaly. My spiritual life is individual but my religion is a joining in community together with other people to strengthen me in a way I cannot be strengthened on my own or with just my own personal relationship between myself and God or my higher power. This gathering together is the very essence of religion and compltetes, not competes, with my spirituality.

Another positive aspect of religion is that it assists me in moving from beyond my own internal spiritual life to a focus outside just myself. The religious community is able to do far more to make the world a better place than I can do by myself. I was reminded of this again this weekend. About 80 middle schoolers and high schoolers from my church participated in a 30 hour famine to focus their and our awareness of the challenges many people face in just obtaining basic necessities. In addition to learning more about what is going on in the world they participated, cooked and worked with a local organization that feeds not only the homeless but the very poor as well. Through the weekend they also raised money to support other projects. Last year they collected enough money to build a well for a village in Zambia that had never before had clean and safe drinking water. I do not know what they are using the money for this year but it will probably be somthing similar. These youth have also been stirred to want to be more involved in local outreach programs to the poor here in Tucson. Individually these youth would not be able to do much to make a difference but by joining with and participating in their religious community they have a significant impact.

I believe that we should see spirituality and religion as facets that together bring about positive change not only for myself but for the broader community as well.

Thought for the day

"True religion is this, to visit the widows and orphans in their distress"

St. James

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CARF - Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation FacilitiesNATSAP | National Association of Therapeutic Schools and ProgramsNBCCNAADAC