This is a post that helps you reflect on whether your doctrine is making you sick. But you should know a couple of things before I explore that.
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.
Second, 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 meaingful 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.
And your doctrine constantly pressures and exhausts and terrifies you.
Your doctrine demands that you obey or act without understanding.
And 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.
And your doctrine leads you to judge people regularly.
Your doctrine causes frequent feelings of disgust, hate, shame, anger, or rage with yourself and others.
And 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.