Dogma – Rev. Stephen “Clyde” Davis

In an earlier post I alluded to religious or spiritual dogma, and I’d like to say more about that now.

My understanding of the term “dogma” involves a rigidity that I find unappealing. Most dogma is presented as an incontrovertible truth – something that cannot and should not be questioned. Much religious dogma is of that “love it or leave it” ilk, and even a lot of spiritual dogma also falls into that category. There are, however, many spiritual and religious practices and beliefs that are much more flexible.

I prefer to adhere to beliefs that encourage questioning and are adaptable to each individual. I find it difficult to accept any belief that discourages inquiry. I also like to fool myself into thinking I don’t hold onto any dogma in my spiritual experience. I convince myself that my dogma is merely “encouragement” or “suggestions.”

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So what specific beliefs do I hold that could be considered dogma? Well, some of my “suggestions” include:

  • A daily or regular spiritual practice.
  • Full ownership of and responsibility for my experience, expression and behavior.
  • Being open and receptive to differing points of view.
  • Practicing non-judgment.
  • Expressing my truth in a clear and responsible way.
  • Refraining from “preaching.”
  • Listening more than speaking.
  • Asking questions to avoid projecting.
  • Avoiding generalizations
  • …and many, many more.

As much as I want you to agree with me and prioritize the same beliefs and values, I have to release that want and do the best I can to accept that what works best for me is not automatically what will work for you.

I am constantly tempted to hold you to my standards and judge you “less than” if you dare live your life differently than me. And that very temptation is what helps me see how easily my “suggestions” can morph into dogma.

I constantly struggle to let go of the notion that, “If it works for me, it must work for you.” When I am able to operate without that dogma, wonderful things happen. I begin to really hear you and realize the value of your different experience. And my dogmatic belief changes into a more flexible notion of, “If it works for me, it might work for you too.” And them, ultimately, I have the option of making that notion into, “It works for me and it doesn’t have anything to do with you.”

Then I am truly free.

Separating from my attachment to dogma also impacts how I am received by you. When I talk about how my beliefs and values work for me without suggesting or implying any “you shoulds,” I allow you to hear me more clearly. When I speak of my experience and own it as best I can, I allow you to have your own experience, free from my expectations and wants.

This is a complicated topic for me, and one that I am actively processing day-to-day. I aspire to a better and clearer understanding, but I realize that it must take its own time.

More to come, I’m sure.

Clyde

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth