Reframing Religion: Holiness –vs- Wholeness
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15540) 6 years ago
It occurred to me this morning there are really only two forms of religion in this world. Regardless of your theological beliefs, or even if you believe there is no god, we all practice one of these two forms of religion. The two forms are holiness and wholeness.

Holiness concerns itself with obeying the “rules” and is deeply rooted in purity rights. It’s all about living in the least profane or sinful way possible. Its mantra is “don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t hang out with girls who do”. The focus of ones life under this form of religion is on attempting to please to God by keeping all of the purity rules commanded.

Wholeness, on the other hand, is focused on compassion. It is about caring for people and meeting their needs. It is about making them whole or complete. It is about doing all we can to ensure equity and justice.

The ugly side of religion is found in promoting holiness. In order to be holy, your life needs to measure up to some standard. This process always divides and creates classes of people, the good and the bad, the moral and the immoral, the saint and the sinner. Rich people are declared to be “holy” because God blesses those who keep the purity rules. If you are poor, it’s because you haven’t done enough to live a holy life.

And so under holiness, men are superior to women, Christians are superior to all other faiths, etc. Nearly all of the conflict in our world is due to someone pushing their form of holiness and their purity rules. The strict fathers enforce the purity rituals to reward those who obey and punish those who fall short. The holiness religion has overtaken our current political system in the USA. Many of the orders from the executive branch and the removal of public protection laws are really about rewarding those who obey and punishing those who don’t measure up. The holiness religion is pervasive in our society.

Most of the redeeming qualities of religion are found in wholeness and compassion. Jesus states he desires mercy and compassion from his followers. In fact, as told in the gospels, Jesus is often found at odds with those who practiced holiness. He is condemned on several occasions for “not keeping the law”. Jesus routinely comments on those locked into their holiness and purity routines as being hypocritical. He encourages his followers to act in compassion for all people. Many others such as the Buddha, Mohammad, all held compassion in high regard. Compassion is all about caring, consoling, and connecting broken people and helping them to become whole.

It should be rather obvious these two forms of religion also delineate our political system. The political right in this country is focused on “holiness and purity” and are thus opposed to the LGBT community, to women’s health, and to other human rights issues to name a few. The progressives are focused on wholeness and compassion.

I think the reframing of our society come when progressives start appealing to the compassion side in conservatives. It wasn’t all that long ago when George W. Bush called himself a compassionate conservative. While there was/is an Orwellian component to Bush’s thought, there were many in the rights fold who think of themselves as being compassionate individuals. Progressives need to tune-in and appeal to this group.

It’s easy to stand and throw rocks at the other side. It’s easy to call those who worship at the altar of “holiness” names and inform them of their “stupidity”. We all fall into these traps from time to time. Condemning the adherents of holiness won’t accomplish much. It’s time for a different approach.

If we really want progress in this country, we need to reframe the discussion, appeal to compassion and begin pushing for wholeness in both others and ourselves. Compassion and wholeness transcend race, creed, gender, and political ideology. So called Holy Books are unnecessary to practice kindness and compassion. Thus, by reframing the issues of our day in terms of compassion and wholeness we can transform society.

Wholeness is the only religion worthy of our attention. If we practice compassion religiously, holiness and all of the amaranthine purity rituals become meaningless and unnecessary. Again, compassion is all about caring, consoling, and connecting broken people and helping them to become whole. I believe compassion and wholeness is the way forward to peace.
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