Religion vs. Spirituality: Love Wins

What do you get when a Jew, a Catholic, and a psychic sit down and cut out safari crafts for the evangelical Christian who’s teaching vacation bible school for a bunch of 5-year-olds the next day?

My Sunday afternoon.

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These are some of my best friends in the whole world, and this is exactly how I spent my Sunday this past weekend.

Julie is the creative, fiery redhead on the far left. Her daughter Piper just turned 4 years old, and we all came together for her unicorn birthday party. Julie is a New York Jew, a badass ski instructor, an artist, and a collector of eclectic friends. She’s one of the most creative people I know, and because of her, she and I are currently writing a TV show based on the crazy mystical mishaps of my own life.

Sarah is next to her. She’s an evangelical Christian and the daughter of a teacher and a youth minister. I aspire to her creative discipline tactics with her two girls (um, hello, scrubbing grout with a toothbrush when they’re being extra whiney and unreasonable). She’s one of the most generous, fun people you’ll ever meet, and half of my wardrobe is her rad hand-me-downs (including the shirt I’m wearing in this photo).

To my right is Elena. She’s a Texan like me and one of the most loving, giving people I’ve known. She’s a proud Catholic and works nights as a labor and delivery nurse just so she can spend days being a mom. Our families vacation together often, and her youngest son Teo calls my husband his “main man” while her oldest son James is pretty sure he’s going to marry my daughter Chloe.

These are my people. (Including a few others who aren’t pictured and who are just as delightfully odd.)

We were all mashed together when our children attended pre-school at the same tiny country school, and years later I can still see the divinity in how we were brought together. We couldn’t be more different in our backgrounds and interests, and yet, we love each other fiercely.

Today we sat at this table hysterically laughing and talking about how different we all are.

Sarah regaled us with stories about the distraught Sunday school student who was devastated that his dog ate the baby Moses rendition he had made at church.

Julie dug out the quilt covered in menorahs and Jewish stars that her Christian in-laws made her when she married their son.

Elena shared about the obstinate priest who wouldn’t baptize her son because her work schedule conflicted with church attendance too much in his eyes.

And I told them about some of the more bizarre synchronicities that had come up in readings lately.

We all listened raptly and attentively, and it was so. much. fun.

We were brought together by motherhood, but what has kept us together is that spirit of joy that we all share. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We respect each other’s differences. And at the end of the day we realize that religion and politics are no match for the love shared between friends.

What I have realized having these women in my life is that what matters most is a person’s connection to their own heart and to the collective goodness. It doesn’t as much matter what shape or form they view God or how they choose to pray. Love is an energy, and it can emanate from any deity or human alike.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about religion versus spirituality. As I’m enrolling students for the fall semester of Semester With Spirit, I’ve been addressing this question often. How does my work intersect with religion? Does being psychic conflict with certain religions?

And this is what I believe.

Love transcends all human boundaries. To fall madly in love with Spirit is about falling in love with life itself. It’s about revering the sacred existence of earth and nature. It’s about respecting the fragile beauty of humanity and the transcending power of love.

The truth is that I adore people who are both devout in their faith and open in their hearts and minds. People who lean into the purest parts of religion usually have a deep respect for the unseen and understand what it means to conjure based on faith alone.

I don’t believe that there is inherent wrongness in religion. The wrongness only seeps in when people use it to discriminate, judge and exclude others.

We are meant to realize Oneness and to love others deeply.

I believe it is the inevitable truth of our being and a state of mind and energy that we can all tap into no matter what aspects of spirituality or religion we personally resonate with.

I think if we all focused less on how we differ and more on how we’re all alike, the world would be a kinder, more compassionate place.

As I sat at that table today with some of my best friends, I said a prayer of gratitude for the beauty of Spirit in action. Because in my experience, when a Jew, a Catholic, a spiritual psychic and an evangelical Christian get together, only fun, joy and love ensue.