First of all, I am not going to tell you in this post what you should believe. You probably wouldn’t listen to me anyhow (and good for you), but even if you would listen to me, it is not my place to tell you what to believe.
What I want to do instead is to invite you to consider if your doctrine is making you sick and, if so, I want to invite you to consider something you can do about this.
A doctrine is some system or set of beliefs that someone holds as a part of a religion, a political group, or some other group. It is also important to note that your particular doctrine is always an interpretation of the doctrines of whatever group you belong to.
For instance, you may belong to a group that has a healthy, life-giving set of beliefs, but you can interpret them in a way that makes you sick. The sickness of which I speak can be emotional or spiritual. It may be physical in some cases, too, but I am more interested in this blog post in doctrines that lead to emotional and spiritual sickness. I am also going to focus primarily on religious doctrine (although I will mention political doctrines briefly at the end, too).
Here is a simple hypothesis I have about doctrine: Any doctrine you hold should help you to cultivate a more loving and peaceful relationship with yourself and with others. Loving relationships are relationships that affirm and nurture what is good in us while working to heal what is diseased and deformed.
We are human beings, and our doctrine should help us become more human, not less human. One of the major aspects of being fully human is learning to love and connect with ourselves. Otherwise, we live in a state of constant self-alienation, and there is no way we can fully develop our human potential.
Doctrine should also help us love and connect with other humans more, not less. Human beings are social creatures, and we can only fully develop in relationships of care and nurture with others.
If our doctrines do not help us to love and come to peace with ourselves and other, if instead they divide us from ourselves and others, they are deforming and dehumanizing in that they prevent us from becoming fully human.
It is important to realize that we can interpret any religion (or any other doctrine) in a way that is dehumanizing. It is impossible for us to accept any religion “just as it is”–we always have to interpret what a religion means (so that we can act on it or practice it in our lives), and in doing this, sometimes we develop really skewed doctrines.
One way of understanding how we develop skewed doctrines is to understand that we always interpret any doctrine through a lens that is constructed from our own psychology, sociological condition, past educational experiences, etc.
So, for example, if we tend to view the world as a dangerous, violent, hostile place or if we tend to view ourselves as shameful, unlovable, unworthy, this lens of ours will skew the way we interpret doctrine. This is why you can have two people who belong to the same religion but one person practices the religion in a loving way, the other in a violent way.
So how do you know if your doctrine is making you sick?
If your doctrine is supposed to help you become more, not less human, I invite you to consider that these are some common indicators that your doctrine is making you sick:
Your doctrine tells you constantly that you are bad, shameful, and unworthy, and you worry that you will never be good enough.
Your doctrine constantly pressures and exhausts and terrifies you.
Your doctrine demands that you obey or act without understanding.
Your doctrine demands that you shut down parts of yourself like your reason, your emotions, your sexuality, your love for beauty.
Your doctrine tells you that God hates you or is ashamed of you.
Your doctrine leads you to judge people regularly.
Your doctrine causes frequent feelings of disgust, hate, shame, anger, or rage with yourself and others.
Your doctrine causes you to divide people into “us” and “them” camps rather than encouraging you to focus on the shared light of God or shared light of humanity in everyone.
Your doctrine leads you to believe that you are the answer to everyone’s problems, rather than realizing that you have good things to learn from other people, even folks who do not share your doctrine.
I invite you to consider that these are signs that your doctrine is making you sick because these are signs that your doctrine is dividing you from yourself and other people.
If you suspect that your doctrine is making you sick and you wonder how you can recover from this sickness, realize that recovering does not require you to give up your religion or your faith in God. Rather, it asks you how to reconsider how you have interpreted your religion or faith in God.
Here is a place to start: I invite you to consider that God is like the most loving, nurturing mother possible. God DOES NOT hate you. God loves you and desires for you to thrive and become fully yourself. God does not want to terrify you; to hurt you; to confuse you; to abuse you to; to dominate you; to shame you.
God longs to hold you in her vast, loving arms; to answer all of your questions; to soothe your pain and fear; to help you solve your problems; to listen to why you are angry at her; to feed you; to give you beautiful gifts; to let you rest comforted and safe; to allow you to return to the world nurtured and empowered to love yourself and others.
This picture is by my beautiful friend, AnneMarie, who is full of light and love.
I invite you to spend some time today or this week thinking about God as your most loving mother and allowing that image to soothe and heal you and transform your deforming doctrine into a life-giving doctrine.
In addition, I have found books like David Benner’s Soulful Spirituality, Richard Rohr’s Eager to Love, and Marianne Williamson’s book Return to Love especially helpful in cultivating life-giving spirituality.
If you belief in prayer, you can also ask God to help you transform your doctrine into a healing doctrine.
You might also find these posts helpful:
In closing, I want to note that just as your religious doctrine can make you sick, so can your political doctrine. Just as our religious doctrine should make us more fully human, so should our political doctrine. I invite you to ask yourself, “Is my political doctrine helping me to have a more loving and peaceful relationship with myself and others? Is it helping me and others become more fully human?” If not, it is always okay to change your political doctrine. Political doctrines are for the sake of people, not the other way around.
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If you would like to figure out if your politics are making you sick, you might like to read this post: