What a way to begin a blog: a title of "To Church or Not to Church?" coupled with a "picture" of American Farm Worker Activist, Cesar Chavez... But, actually, the proposition of this blog is quite simple: "church" is not really a place, rather, it is the sum total of one's life lived in relationship with a multitude of "others" and with the Earth Itself. It is, of course, much, much easier to think of "church", mosque, temple, shrine, etc. as a "place", for that, on the surface at least, seems to remove the requirement of actually carrying one's faith out into the streets, marketplaces, and homes of the "believers"...
How does one "carry faith" out into the streets? Are we supposed to get a bull-horn in imitation of some fundamentalists here in my town who like to raise cain when a local bookstore has a "Harry Potter Day" and proclaim that all who don a robe and carry a wand -- little kids for the most part -- will be "going to hell"... It never dawns upon those "suits" that hell is having to listen to them and, at the same time, explain to the passing kids that the men shouting probably work for Lord Voldemort... For Cesar Chavez, faith required of him a commitment to social justice -- not as a vague principle, but as a force to improve the lives, the living, and the working conditions of some of the poorest and most oppressed people in our midst. In other words, faith is not about "my feeling good" or "my salvation", but it is instead, "How are you?" and "What do you need to be able to thrive in your life?"
Faith is choosing to believe that the Holy One, the Quantum Consciousness, asks those very same questions of us! I mean, seriously, why strain to "believe" if the Divine Beloved (G-d) -- in the depths of your heart and in the reality of your life -- if "It" has no vital interest in you? Now changing gears, if one has a basic knowledge of space science, we "assume" that light actually does travel at a certain speed (super fast) ... and we might also be aware of the Hubble telescope that is peering into the distant depths of this Vast Universe... and we might further know that Hubble has photographed stars whose light began their silent journey across space, through time, some 13 (or so) billion years ago! Quantum physicists, like Amit Goswami, Ph.D., teach their understanding of the "quantum world" as -- essentially -- consciousness, "quantum consciousness"... and that all of matter is "constructed" of the "energy" of consciousness... whew!
Of course, we are confronted with many varying definitions of "faith", religion, spirituality, creed, interpretations, theologies, and sacred scriptures: many proclaim that their faith and particular definition or practice is the "correct" one -- and they will kill to prove it! Or they will say and do all sorts of things that are harmful. And, invariably, their faith is chalk-full of justifications for all sorts of things, like greed, exploitation, oppression, sexism, racism, this-ism, and that-ism... But have you ever heard one of those big-shot justifiers stop to ask you "How are you?" and "What do you need to be able to thrive in your life?" People like Rush Limbaugh will say that social justice is the "cotton candy" of religion: that "real" religion is "right thinking" or the correct creed -- which usually means "pray, pay, and obey". Still others advocate an "escapism" of one sort or another...
For the sacred activist though, like Cesar Chavez, faith is not cotton candy: it is, instead, the back-breaking work of organizing for the chance to make life a little bit more bearable for folks whose living is intolerably hard. This is exactly how faith gets out into the streets, the marketplace, and the home: "How are you?" and "What do you need to be able to thrive?" Faith requires that we passionately care about our neighbor and her well-being! Faith requires that we strive to build peace, equality, and justice in our daily lives, communities, and the world. Faith requires that we dedicate our lives to reducing the suffering of every being and of the Planet Itself! If you look intently at the picture of Cesar Chavez above, you will see that the picture is actually a picture of many, many people: mostly farm workers, the folks to whom Chavez dedicated his life: faith is living in such a way that our picture -- after we have passed on -- is similarly made up of the countless lives that we have served: could there be anything worse than a picture with only one face in it? That would be the opposite of faith. Finally, as to the original question posed: "To Church or Not to Church"? Church is just one word for the experience of Sacred Love Unleashed... so of course, if you are breathing and striving, you are in Church...
Robert Daniel Smith was privileged to serve the homeless and marginalized for 30 years in Salinas, California. Together with his wife, Michelle, they founded an intentional community called the 'Companions of the Way', also in Salinas. Robert and Michelle are community organizers, Catholic Worker renegades, sacred activists, writers, poets, artists, Divine Mother devotees, and practitioners of Kriya Yoga as taught by Rev. Ellen Grace O'Brian of the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Michelle is also a Montessori public school teacher. Robert is also an ordained Interfaith Minister.