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World Religions and The Essential Spirit
by Thomas Chavez

Ask just about anybody you meet in a Starbucks or at the corner health food store if they have a spiritual practice or religious affiliation and they’ll say “Sorry, really I am spiritual, just not religious.” If you press a little and ask, “Spiritual in what way?” You are as likely to be answered with a bewildered stare as a relevant response. The sad fact is that most of us don’t really know very much about what words like “spirit” and “religion” actually refer to. This is especially true when talking about specific, historical religious and spiritual traditions.

Starting in mid-July people at Christ the Healer will be exploring the essence of spirit as it shows up among world religions and in their holy books. Christ the Healer is an all-embracing spiritual community that holds Christ at its center, yet reaches out to enfold every one Christian and non-Christian alike.

World scriptures like the Torah, the Vedas, the New Testament, the Tao Te Ching, the Koran and Bhagavad-Gita, are often regarded as complex, abstruse and requiring the study of a lifetime to truly understand. In this extended exploration we will be using the lifetime study of first class experts to help us cut through this complexity and clarify what might otherwise be hard to appreciate. We will start with Houston Smith’s acclaimed classic, World’s Religions, to get an overview of the field and then move on to such books as the series published by Harper Collins, including the Essential Koran, the Essential Tao, the Essential Confucius, the Essential Kabbalah, etc, as well as the International Religious Foundation’s World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts.

So why are we going to so much trouble? For centuries, aggressive believers and practitioners of our various religious and spiritual traditions have called each other names and spilled each other’s blood over issues of precedence and truth. Over the last hundred years, dialog between rival traditions has become fashionable. Perhaps in this century, non-competitive understanding and spiritual partnership will become the essential way. At Christ the Healer we make the dream of this essential way our ongoing endeavor, by including scripture, prayers and spiritual practices of all the religions contributed by our diverse gathering. After all, if Jesus the Christ and Siddhartha, the Buddha were to meet unexpectedly on some far off celestial pathway, would they fight it out for possession of the road? Certainly not! Each would bow to the other saying, “Lord, how may I serve you?”

Thomas Chavez is an evangelist for Christ the Healer UCC, which meets every Monday night at 7 pm at 5150 SW Watson in Beaverton for drumming, prayer, healing, and spiritual exploration. 503-259-3315.