What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life.
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Oftentimes when people ask me about my faith, I usually receive one of two responses: People either ask me what Taoism is, having never heard of it, or they proceed to correct me, claiming that it's more of a philosophy than a religion. Chances are if you inquired about Taoism in any Asian country, people would most likely know what you were referring to, and might even describe it as one of the founding religions of the far East. At the time I announced my own religious denomination, however, I quickly realized that I was knee-deep in a severe minority.

Initially, this really didn't irk me all that much. One of the perks of Taoism is that it functions very smoothly in private practice. In America at least, any sites of worship are states apart from one another, and organized communities are scarce. But Taoism is primarily concerned with the individual and sustains the belief that one can better their community and their connection to the world through betterment to oneself. In close relation to Buddhist precepts, Taoism emphasizes mindful awareness of self, spirit, and nature, and interconnections that form between the three. Regarding deities, their acknowledgment has varied greatly given the different Asian demographics, but original, general census holds a very agnostic posture. We neither deny nor affirm any central divine figures, not because of a sense of correctness, but out a respect for organic ambiguity. The mystery and the connotation of the unknown stirs a great reverence in us, and although I myself have a measure of confidence in an iteration of higher power, I acknowledge that I cannot know for sure, and perhaps am not meant to. Because of this viewpoint, people often like to write Taoism off as a secular belief system, and although for me it is a spiritual experience, that doesn't mean it has to be for everyone else.

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life. There is no overarching umbrella trait that I could think of to describe every single American citizen. We are a very eclectic people, and we are comprised of many distinct facets and interests. There are certainly the few, like myself, who take the ancient Taoist scripts and find religious significance therein, but another person might seek them out for purely philosophical or scholarly endeavors. I take great pride in my faith's ability to be open and accepting of individual perspectives, and therefore any religious snobbery would be counterintuitive to the belief system.

Truly, when any religion or philosophy travels from one country to another, permutation and evolution of that doctrine is all but inevitable. There is no crime in tradition, but as the societies of the world continue to reshape and grow, so too do our beliefs. 50 years from now, the paradigm for what we would consider an American Taoist may be entirely different than it is now, and that's alright. We needn't concern ourselves with keeping strict scrutiny on labels, so long as we remain open to possibilities and understanding of each person's unique take on things.

And so, if I correct someone who calls my own American Taoism a philosophy, I do so to assert my connection to it, not to detract from someone else's. Such questions no longer give me insult; rather, they serve to reaffirm my own values.

Cover Image Credit: http://www.taodirectory.com

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12 Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Remind yourself that God is always with you.
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Lately, I have felt lost at what God wants for my life. Ever since I've come back to UWG everything has been horrible. It seems that I can't catch a break. I'm trying my best to focus on school, work, and extracurricular activities. But it's hard when I'm having issues with my apartment/roommates and knowing my family back home is struggling and needs many prayers. All, I keep thinking is maybe Carrollton isn't where I belong anymore. I've asked God if He can guide me in the right direction. Below, I have found Bible verses that have helped get me through these rough, past couple of weeks.

1. Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you."

2. Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act."

3. Romans 8:18

"The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming."

4. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

5. Joshua 1:9

"Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous."

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is a time for everything and a reason for every activity under the heavens."

7. Isaiah 41:10

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand."

8. Isaiah 66:9

"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord."

9. Psalm 91:4

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

10. Psalm 62:1-2

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him, He alone is my rock and my salvation."

11. Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

12. Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Cover Image Credit: pixabay.com

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If You consider yourself a christian and an activist, you should consider yourself a mystic

Linda Woodhead defines Mystical Christianity as focusing solely on the spirit and an individual's relationship with God.

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Throughout history, Mystical Christianity along with its beliefs struggle with true recognition as a separate type of Christianity.

"Mystics are deeply in love with the world." - William McNamara

Mystical Christianity is a branch of Christianity made for and by activists. It focuses mostly on the individual and the world- simultaneously. There are no core traditions or practices that are needed to be involved in mystical Christianity, and because of this, it's been labeled as a threat to Church and Biblical Christianity. Coming from a very religious background, it was clear to me that the early Church really aimed to create a hierarchy of who can do what. Mystical Christianity doesn't have many boundaries and threatens the authority of that said institution. Mind you, Mystical Christianity does not actually threaten anything or anyone, it is simply too different and free for some traditional Christians. The Church is 'threatened' because mystics can pray wherever they are and group worship isn't necessary. Mystical Christianity finds ways to connect and have a relationship with God through the world around us; even though it started and originated in the Bible, it is not bound to it.

"Some of the most mystical people are deeply immersed in the world, thoroughly engaged in political and social life" -William McNamara

It's important that we don't get the Church and the community confused when describing mysticism. Mystics see community as very important; just as important as Catholicism sees the church and sacraments. A community, in its simplest terms, allows conversation and a sharing of experiences, concepts, values etc. What's the point of experiencing everything when you can't share it with anyone? Very valid claim but not valid enough for a mystic. A mystic understands that social change can't happen with just one person. There has to be discussion and planning with a group of people that want the same outcome. If a person truly lives their life to care for the world, they should also care about what's going on within that world too; Mysticism aims for the good in all aspects. This can not be achieved without a strong community!

A perfect example of a mystic who has participated in social change goes by the name of Howard Thurman.

Howard Thurman

The late Howard Thurman was heavily involved in social change around the 20th century. The term "mystic-activism" was coined during his lifetime and is strongly connected to the legacy he left behind. Thurman uses his religion, Christianity, as a foundation for social change as an African American living in America. He is, in essence, an activist with a spiritual angle. This type of activism is seen throughout history across many different centuries, one other well-known individual practicing mystic-activism is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. However, a mystic does not have to be the leader or face of a movement to be considered practicing mystic-activism; they can be a normal person/follower showing great concern for the world.

If you have a desire to attain knowledge about the world around you and what's going on globally, you are one step closer to being a mystic. There will always be a need for social change in America, which means there will always be a need for mystic-activism. This branch of Christianity helps you shape your actions based on the good for all. In America, there seems to always be a superior and inferior; someone will always be oppressed. It is a mystic's duty to never forget those people, and never stop acting in a way that will benefit and help them.


Howard Thurman

Cover Image Credit:

Painting by Michael Year Wooddan

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