Yesterday I noted my reluctance to read Ram Dass even though I stumble upon his teachings often and always find them very insightful. I attributed this reluctance to my conservative youth when he and his ilk were roundly demonized by my conservative faith. I often find little intrusions into my life by this conservative past, little themes that are resurrected by day-to-day events in my life and the life of my culture. For example, I was raised in a racist Southern culture but have gone far beyond racism ever since I made my escape from that culture in the early 70’s. But from time to time that demon just faintly resurrects itself in my heart with some passing thought. And, I don’t then berate myself or “confess my sin” to God; I merely exercise “mindfulness” for a moment and then go on with my life, recognizing that all of us have these haunts in our past
It is interesting that Ram Dass and “his ilk” were so hated by conservative Christian culture back then and that it continues today. I know it had to do with the “foreignness” of it all—trekking to India, studying in an “ashram”, receiving teachings from guys with names like Meha Baba and Maharaja Ji. And there was all this talk of “foreign gods” and holy literature when I knew there was only one “holy literature” available—the Bible. They talked a different language than I did and it made me uncomfortable. And, of course, there was this issue at the root of it all—they did not believe in Jesus and would one day rot in hell for their unbelief.
Perhaps the core issue there was simply “difference.” I was raised to fear and loathe difference. I was taught that everyone should be just like me and if they didn’t, it was merely an issue of them getting right with God and joining the Christian fold. But, this exploration has been deeply enriching to my faith….my “Christian” faith…to learn of different ways to approach spirituality. Not that I have to adopt any of them! When I explore these other religions I am made more aware of reality and I can bring this increased awareness to my faith. But in conservative religion, there is no need for ‘awareness”. There is merely the need to accept the dogma being presented to you, swallow it uncritically, and then regurgitate it the rest of your life. (This “regurgitation” brings to my mind a cow chewing her cud—-the cow just stands there nonchalantly chewing her cud, apparently just as happy as a bug-in-a-rug.)