This week the OWN network premiered the new series “Greenleaf” which gave Oprah's network its biggest audience, breaking network ratings. “Greenleaf” is an original drama that follows the Greenleaf family, the first family of a fictional megachurch in Memphis, TN. The show explores corruption, greed, secrets and the drama that goes on behind close doors of our most sacred institutions. There is one important moment from the debut episode that I’d like to explore and that is the debate about religion versus spirituality.
In the debut episode Grace Greenleaf (Gigi), the protagonist played by Merle Dandridge, is questioned about her beliefs regarding religion and spirituality. The sister-in-law, Karissa Greenleaf, sarcastically asks Grace what church she goes to and if she’s one of those people who are more spiritual than religious. Grace responds saying that she believes there are lots of ways to communicate with God and it doesn’t always happen in a church of worship or in the Bible. This prompts Grace’s mother, Lady Mae Greenleaf played by Lynn Whitfield, to further question Grace about her beliefs. The questioning begins a never-ending inquiry about Grace's beliefs at the dinner table which unfortunately results in the family passing judgement and dismissing Grace's spiritual journey. This is a story that I know all too well.
A few years ago I began exploring my own beliefs and I found myself having in similar conversations with Christians regarding my beliefs.
I identify as Christian. I grew up in a Baptist church, my great grandmother was one of the charter members of her church so I spent my whole life in the church. I later joined a non-denominational church and that church taught me about the love of God. I learned to develop my own connection with God and I began to understand the true meaning of who and what God is in my life.
As I began to grow in my spiritual walk, I started to have conflicting views with some of the things that I would hear in the church. Some of the teachings and preachings that I would hear began to conflict with what the spirit of God would show me in my daily meditations and prayer. I began to step away from the church, but never stepping away from my relationship with God. I experienced what I call the Christian Spiritual Awakening.
I’ve come to my own understanding and acceptance of who God is in MY life and the words that God speaks to me and to my spirit—those are the words that I live by.
If something doesn’t feel right in my spirit I do not engage in it. It doesn’t feel right to condemn or to judge others based on their beliefs or lifestyles so I do not do it. The same question that Grace’s sister-in-law asked of her is the same question I’ve been asked many times before.
So what do I believe?
I believe in God and I believe that God is all around us and dwells within each and everyone of us. I'm more spiritual than religious and I seek truth in my spiritual journey. I've been exploring my roots in Christianity and this quest has awakened my spirituality even more because I now feel like I truly understand who God is and what God really means.
I seek a higher consciousness in my spiritual walk and this has led me to a spiritual evolution in Christ Consciousness. I feel like the stars, the sun, the universe, the galaxy and all that is within it are all manifestations of God. It's all connected and I also believe that science enhances my belief in God. I love the night time because that is when the beauty of God is revealed.
I marvel at the stars in the sky under the beauty of a moonlit night and I can't help but feel the presence of God. The stars, the moon, the planets, the galaxy, the majestic beauty of the constellations— all of these prove to me that God is all around us but most importantly God is within us.
I believe that Jesus existed and that Jesus was simply a messenger of God. Jesus was used to bring us back to the source. My approach to God is metaphysical. It is this approach that leads me to explore how the beliefs of other have impacted my understanding of God. I am on a constant search to understand the true meaning of God and God’s existence as a divine force in the cosmic consciousness of our lives. I believe that the universe and the galaxy are all the metaphysical manifestations of the divine being (God).
So what is my take on religion versus spirituality? Religion divides, condemns and judges….spirituality accepts, loves and embraces. Religion is a breeding ground for ignorance, intolerance….spirituality seeks understanding, wisdom, empathy and compassion. Spirituality provides a connection...religion provides reinforces division. I don’t want to be religious. I don’t want a set of rituals or rules that tells me how to connect to my God. I want a relationship. I want a connection. I want to feel the spirit of God living in me everyday of my life. I want the connection to be so strong that God reflects in my everyday life not because I preach the word or shout to people about how religious I am but because my walk produces light, love and hope. Through my everyday walk I want people to feel the love of God.
In this lifetime we will never truly know who is right or wrong or which religion is the “right” religion but I believe we are all connected by one divine being—a divine being which I identify and call by the name of God. I call it the source of all being. The universal being that encompasses the stars, the galaxy, living beings and all that is and it is this being that lives within us all connecting us all back to the source. This is what I believe and as Grace Greenleaf says “No human being has ever been perfect. This life God has given us is not about perfection—it’s about love.” I seek love, light and truth in my spiritual walk. Perfection is an unattainable goal but everyone can access the gift that is love. Whether religious or spiritual, love is the universal language of the soul.