Religion and Spirituality…….Map and Territory

Spirituality and religion are not the same things, but religion can serve a useful role in helping mold and define our spirituality and facilitate spirituality’s expression. As William Countryman notes: “Map is not territory.” But a map helps one become familiar with the territory. I love one translation of Hebrews that calls Christ the “pathfinder and guide for our faith”….(instead of autho…r and finisher of our faith). Christ’s life and teaching defines the territory’s terrain and shows us how to adventure there safely and confidently! He instituted the church through his disciples. It is a means of grace in our lives that warrants our care and preservation for our own journey and for that of generations to come.“There is an element of surprise that is integral to our every experience of the HIDDEN HOLY. We can treat this surprise as a gift and delight in it. But, often, its very unpredictability strikes us as a problem. Human beings are not content simply to wait on the unpredictable HOLY. If we cannot control it, we at least want some map of it. We want to celebrate the HOLY, to hand on our knowledge of it. And so we commemorate our encounters with God by composing songs and stories about them, but reenacting them in ritual, and by constructing models of them in the form of sanctuaries. This process is the creation of religion, with all its traditions and sanctuaries, and ritual observations – and the priestly orders that serve them.
Religion is not the same thing as the encounter with the HIDDEN TRUTH, that is within and under all of our days, the encounter with the HOLY, with GOD. “Map is not territory.” Religion belongs not to the border country of the HOLY, but to the everyday world, the world of surfaces, where it reproduces the pattern of our most profound spiritual experience in the concrete, everyday terms of rites and doctrines and sacred times and places. ………
Religion prepares us to recognize and interpret the HOLY when we do encounter it. Like everything else in the everyday world, religion may, at any moment, surprise us by opening onto the HOLY. God may – and often does – meet us through it.” (from Living on the Border of the Holy, by L. William Countryman, pg. 33-35)

I believe that participation in organized religion, in “church”, is a worthy endeavor. As Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “….the things which God has revealed to us are for us and our children, that we might keep His word….” Things revealed to individuals or communities about God are known and preserved through the institution of the church. I have delighted in “discoveries” that have been preserved through the church’s literature and traditions. Those things have helped me encounter and interpret my experiences of the HOLY.