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Three different people, after recent visits to our Sunday gatherings, told me how much they appreciated our spirit of welcome and inclusion. I’m always glad to hear things like this. But it tends to surprise me a little because I usually assume that everyplace tries to be welcoming and inclusive. I have a hard time understanding why any community would be otherwise.

Each of these folks described experiences at other churches. Places where they were getting along fine, enjoying the message and the music, when out of the blue, the entire vibe got spoiled because someone was repudiated or rejected or condemned. For example: “Lift up your hearts, love one another, glory be… and don’t forget that the gays are going to hell.”

That’s a paraphrase, obviously, but I don’t think it’s a big exaggeration. And it pisses me off.

It pisses me off because it’s brutish and stupid. It pisses me off because I yearn to believe in our better natures, and I mostly live in a bubble where we’ve progressed beyond this. I’m frustrated and disheartened to imagine the number of bigots who still buy into such nonsense. I’m mostly infuriated because it seems utterly antithetical to the whole point of spirituality — any faith, any religion — and it feeds into the growing popular notion that all organized spiritual community is a load of hypocritical bullshit.

I try really hard not to get bogged down in comparisons. I don’t have any interest in measuring our community against others, or pitting the Science of Mind philosophy against different belief systems.

I do firmly believe, however, that the purpose of spirituality is connection. The purpose of spirituality is awakening to a deeper love that draws us closer to each other, to the Infinite, and to our own hearts, empowering everyone in the process. Failing that, it is indeed just dangerous manipulation.

Run my dear,
from anything
that may not strengthen
your precious budding wings.

Run like hell my dear,
from anyone likely
to put a sharp knife
into the sacred, tender vision
of your beautiful heart.

– Hafiz


So, I’ve been thinking about BELONGING. The importance of it, how we experience it, how we create it.

The long-story-short of it is: We belong. Each of us, individually, and all of us together. The end.

But, dang, that can feel so complicated in practice, in reality. We sure can mess it up.

Too often, a sense of belonging gets forged more from exclusion than from inclusion. I’m afraid that this is a trap into which a lot of organized belief systems fall. Where belonging becomes less about who we are, and more about those on the outside to whom we get to feel superior. It’s a type of “common enemy” intimacy — clannish and cultish and small. And it is a terribly far cry from the idea of a Loving Universe (or God, Spirit, Cosmos, Consciousness, whatever you want to call it). It’s especially blatant and ugly when people are excluded because of race, gender, gender-identity, nationality, or sexuality. But the same goes for an in/out dynamic based in political affiliation, culture warring, ideology, or differences of faith.

Even if belonging is presented as a wide open invitation — all are welcome — if it depends on a commitment to believe the same things, or think the same way, or share the same values, then it devolves into something conditional, something inherently exclusive. It’s no longer free. It restricts everyone, including ourselves. And it makes the Divine into something meager and petty.

I recognize the tightrope I’m trying to walk here… Differentiating the genuine from the inauthentic — the truly welcoming and inclusive from those merely paying lip service — that right there creates an exclusion. This is better than that… We’re in, they’re out… Of course, they’re welcome if they’d just believe as we do… Ugh.

It may not be entirely avoidable. But we can practice, we can try. We can do our darnedest because I think it’s why we’re here. I think it’s why Bosque Center for Spiritual Living exists.

A sense of belonging is a core human need that affects emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing. If our spirituality isn’t supporting that, expanding that, then we would indeed be better off without it. I don’t want to do it half-way. I don’t want to create belonging at anyone else’s expense. I don’t want my own or anyone else’s belonging to be conditional upon anything.

Things get muddy when we try to figure out how much to tolerate intolerance. When we try to figure out where openness turns into aimlessness. Is there a difference between unconditional inclusivity and utter lack of principle? I don’t know. Again, we get to practice; we can try.

And in any case, I think a fair starting point is always the short version: You belong. We belong.

We belong not just in our agreement, but also in disagreement. Not just in our compatibilities, but also in our incompatibilities. Not just when understand how we belong or how someone else belongs, but also when we don’t understand it at all.

I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, October 8, 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew

©2023 Drew Groves

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