The Ruby Slippers Worked All Along: Spirituality in Spite of Religion

I am sitting in Chicago at the SNAP national conference.

And I can’t get the notion of spirituality out of my mind.

One of the more common questions I get from reporters is: How are you doing spiritually? For years, I didn’t know how to answer that. Friends like William Lobdell wrote books about it, but for me, spirituality was a foreign notion.

Like many people, I equated spirituality with organized religion. But this weekend just reaffirmed just how wrong that notion is.

Because I am not a member of an organized religion – and in fact am pretty disgusted by the thought – I believed that I was missing out on the essential spirituality of human existence. Catholic church officials reaffirmed my thinking by their wording of half-hearted apologies and some well-meaning but confused Catholics piled on with their statements about victims who are “broken,” “lost,” or “in need of the Eucharist.”

What they did was turn the survivor movement into a negative stereotype that could be “fixed” with a strong dose of Church-administered spirituality.┬áBut is a stereotype a stereotype if the “model” doesn’t actually exist? I am sitting in a room surrounded by amazing people who are a perfect example of the heart and spirit of the survivors movement. None are broken, lost, or in need of any sacrament.

I challenge the notion that spirituality can only be found in an organized church. Spirituality is the quest for growth and wholeness, driven from within. That cannot be taught from the pulpit, from a papal decree, or in the confessional. In fact, neither Jesus, Mohammed, nor the Old Testament prophets taught in churches or obeyed current church structure. Unlike them, I don’t find my spirituality in a concept of God, but at least my thoughts of spirituality come from a strong tradition,

Spirituality for me is individual moral conviction and the individual courage to act upon it. It is expressed by the courage to love, the courage to feel and the courage to embrace the world around me. It is the courage to stand up and speak out for the silenced. It is the goal of going to sleep every night hoping that I have done at least one thing to make the world a better place. When I attend events like this weekend, surrounded by people who share the passions that I do, I strive to engage, embrace and enrich myself and others.

Am I perfect? Hell no, nor do I try to be (outside of my nasty perfectionism). Do I impose my moral value system upon others? Only when it involves the cover-up of child sex crimes and other injustices.

And I feel whole. And I continue to fill my spirit. When I look at my son, I see everything that is beautiful and perfect in the world.

For years, I wondered if I even had a spirit. Now, I realize that I have been wearing an operational pair of ruby slippers all along.

2 thoughts on “The Ruby Slippers Worked All Along: Spirituality in Spite of Religion

  1. Excellent article… and those ruby slippers fit you perfect…

    Spirituality? I finally have faith in myself…

  2. I was touched by what you wrote here Joelle… It resonates deeply within me as I am now a Zen Buddhist priest decidedly free of organizational ties due to my choice to actively expose abuse.

    You, and many others like you are not alone. We have freed ourselves from the perceived need to be told what to do, instead we rely on our innate ability to know right from wrong a stand on our own two feet. Here’s hoping we all remain free from organized bondage….

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