Does God exist? This is the question that forms the basis of an inter-religious faith sharing group among the college students with whom I work. This evening, as we discussed the group's opinions of spirituality versus religion, a self proclaimed atheist shared that she felt most willing to accept a set of beliefs when she heard the Wiccan Rede that teaches that one may do whatever one wants to as long as it does no harm to self or others.
Many gathered were quick to share their agreement with this "belief." To me, however, there was something that did not quite sit right, something was missing. This statement more or less proclaims what not to do in life: don't harm yourself, and don't harm others. This sounds very Old Testament to me, don't take the Lord's name in vain, don't kill, don't commit adultery, don't, don't, don't. The question that arose in me as everyone so quickly agreed with the value of this belief was where is the "do"?
To me the value of religious belief is not found in the things we are not suppose to do, but in the things that we are suppose to do. All that said, this new journey I find myself on is more about doing than not. Being a religious is not a selfish choice, it is a choice for others. It is a choice to live my life as an instrument of God's peace.
Entering into a religious community in the 21st Century Church is much different than it was in the 50's. With the growth of lay ecclesial ministers engaged in active ministry in the Church I have found that religious life needs to offer me something beyond ministry. I can minister as a lay woman, there is no need for me to enter community to do so. Community living has to offer me more.
I have discovered what this community offers me, and am continuing to grow in my understanding of why it is so important. So, what is it? Community offers me accountability to and for something beyond myself. As a single, lay woman I called all the shots in my life. Now that I have entered into community living there is more to live for than myself. I have found that despite the early hour of morning prayer, there is a deep desire to be present. Even though being present mostly occurs in pajamas, with sleepy eyes, and yawns amidst psalms, I find there is something profound that happens in those moments of communal praise of God and offered prayer petitions.
There is no harm to anyone if I stay cozy in my bed for a half hour later, no harm to others and no harm to myself. But something would be missing from my life if I did not join my community in prayer. No, it's not about doing whatever you want, it's about doing what we are bound to do by our human nature and it's about doing what Jesus asks us to do, "Love one another as I have loved you."