So if, in Christ, you’ve really died to the elemental principles of the world, why do you let regulations dictate to you, as though you were still living in the world? “Don’t handle this!” “Don’t taste that!” “Don’t touch those!” These prohibitions concern things that perish with use. They are concerned with human values and regulations. These values and rules – through self-abasement, self-imposed religious practices and false humility – give the impression of true wisdom, but they have no value in restraining licentiousness (wasteful decadence). Colossians 2:20-23
The purpose of religion is to link us back to the Ground of Existence. When we are re-linked to the source of our being we experience a sense of liberation and freedom. For we come to understand ourselves as we are understood by God – accepted and infinitely valued.
Unfortunately as the centuries of human history unfolded religious expressions moved from the task of connecting us with the Sacred to the task of protecting the Sacred from “profane” humanity. Far from being a delight religion became a burden of rules and regulations. Various series of shalts and shalt-nots were promulgated to ensure the Sacred remains unstained by creaturely decadence.
I know that these dynamics played out in my own journey of discernment and acceptance of being gay. Raised in a conformist tradition of christianity I was well aware of the shalt-nots associated with sexual expression. They were, and still are, circumscriptions made for the purpose of avoiding the wasteful decadence associated with sexual energies. These proscriptions had their place with their understanding about the appropriate age and circumstances which allow intimate sexual giving and sharing to be life affirming instead of vague points of confusion.
As a good religious youth I internalized all of these messages including the fear and prejudice of what the scriptures call “human values and regulations” in which the proscriptions were wrapped. It took me a much longer journey of moving from the bad religion of rejection to the healthy religion of acceptance in God’s love before the severed sexuality in me was healed and mended.
For the Colossians this is the crux of the tension between religion at its best and religion at its worst. Religion at its worst is rules and regulations – burdens to the soul. Religion at its best is the enjoyment of being infinitely valued.
I am well aware that the circumscription side of religion is strong and at times fanatical in the lives of the faithful. My journey is not unique, and plays itself out in many lives. I take heart in scriptures’ insight that when I am connected to the Sacred I can die to all things born out of human exclusion. I can live in the infinite valuing which is given unreservedly and completely by the Ground of Existence.