Friday, September 19, 2008

Ministry in Dis-Organized Religion

You, who are on the road,
Must have a code that you can live by.
And so, become yourself,
Because the past is just a good bye.

Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they picks,
the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why,
if they told you, you will cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by.
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children's hell will slowly go by.
And feed them on your dreams,
The one they picks, the one you'll know by.

-- Graham Nash

When I was a teenager, I bought Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's live album Four-Way Street. I remember being enormously disappointed, because the songs did not sound the way I knew them. I traded the album to a friend (for Pink Floyd's The Wall, which I'm sure has all kinds of deep meanings) and didn't listen to CSNY for years.

A few years ago, I rediscovered CSNY and other music from those formative years. Some songs were like long lost friends. Others were new acquaintances. Some, I knew, but had never really heard or understood.

For the past year, I have been on a pilgrimage - a journey not of body, but of the heart and mind. It began over Thanksgiving, when I gave a short talk to several hundred Boy Scouts about Unitarian Universalism. I explained that the UU church is a home for all religious seekers, even atheists like myself. Even though I have been an atheist for many years, over the ensuing weeks I found myself thrust into a new public "outness," when people approached and thanked me for my comments.

When my son was home for winter break, we had several long talks. As a result, I began blogging about disillusion in America and directions we can take to build intentional community together. I began to consider the shape of my future ministry as a religious atheist and what my "church" would look like in such an intentional community.

My son recently asked me to read Days of War, Nights of Love by the CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective ( If you have read this post to this point, you should stop whatever you are doing and look into their writings. I don't agree with all of their conclusions - yet - but I find their work inspiring and thought-provoking. The book nudged me further along my path toward ministry in dis-organized religion.

What is the role of religion in a community that rejects "organized" religion? For me, dis-organized religion is a code of freedom:
  • from the construct of god
  • from creeds and dogma
  • from limitations to spiritual exploration

and it is the freedom:

  • to believe
  • to be, to live and to love
  • to think and to feel
  • to experience all within yourself, among others, and as part of existence

What is my role as a minister in dis-organized religion? Well, for the CrimethInc folks, ministry is what I love. I have given up much to become a minister and now know that I would sacrifice almost anything for my ministry. The Latin root of the word "minister" means "servant." I see ministers as servant leaders, who help others explore their spiritual selves by serving them. Service also includes celebrating rites of passage, nurturing through chaplaincy, and offering vision and insight with a prophetic voice to inspire, encourage, and imagine.

I fed my children on my dreams and now they are helping me find my truth in my elder years. I have a long road to go, but with their help, I will travel on.