We are living in a time when the standard versions of religion are losing their appeal. The spirituality offered by these traditions seems small and niggling. Whatever is intended, the message people are getting is mostly about who’s got the truth and who doesn’t, who belongs inside the circle and who doesn’t, who’s having the right kind of sex and who really really isn’t, who’s ruining civilization and who—by God—is saving it.
I think of a wildly beautiful poem by the 14th century Sufi mystic. Listen.
The small man
Builds cages for everyone
While the sage,
Who has to duck his head
When the moon is low,
Keeps dropping keys all night long
If we lived a spirituality of freedom, the kind Jesus sang of, echoing the music of the prophet Isaiah,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me
because he has anointed me to
preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release
to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
(Luke 4: 18, Jesus quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)
–if we lived that kind of key-dropping freedom, people would hear the word “religion” and think wow.