Unlocking Spiritual Confusion

 


A recent comment from one of my blog readers raised questions about the sincerity of my declared search for “religious” enlightenment” during our recent vacation to India. They suspected I was altering my religious stance perhaps because of the deadly presence of the Corona crisis. In the following story, I attempt to answer this critic with a revealing account about one young adult who might have similarly dealt with such a period of spiritual confusion.

Sam would often wonder how his life stood when it came to the subject of religion. Growing up as an only child, he deeply regretted that he never had a brother or sister to share with them his spiritual void. Knowing however, that his grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Germany in the early 1940s aroused his suspicion that his family connection to the oppressed Jewish faith there at the time seemed likely from a historical perspective. Yet throughout the course of his childhood and adult life, the subject of Judaism had never been discussed in his immediate family. Such secrets unshared in the face of this seemingly marathon period of religious confusion only intensified his curious demands to know more about his family’s religious past.

So it happened then on a lazy Sunday afternoon when Sam was busily putting up wallpaper in his mother’s living room, that she suddenly revealed to him a religious “bomb” that he was in fact a blood disciple of Jewish teachings. It shocked Sam further to see for the first time in his mother’s newspaper clippings notebook, some graphic images of German Jews living in tattered clothes with a prominent yellow badge labeled “Jude” pinned to their chests. One particular image that moved his emotions contained a struggling peddler carrying around a dusty bag in a war torn ghetto, obviously impacted by a viciously “Anti Semitic”island of Jewish shame. He then pondered how his grandfather most likely endured a similarly inferior fate as a Jew by the Nazi regime yet persevered to provide a worthy life for himself and his family.

So what conclusion might be drawn from Sam’s awareness of his grandfather’s crisis as a Jew and overseas escape from German persecution? One must realize the danger of allowing others to exploit the power of organized religion to define who we are as a person. So now my religious critic should know that my recent travels to India inspired new spiritual understandings on my “own terms” (not theirs) of life and death matters.

Have you ever experienced a similar time when your religious views were called into question? Could travel have helped you ultimately handle this situation? Why or why not?

10 thoughts on “Unlocking Spiritual Confusion

  1. I like this one a lot Jim. Thanks for writing it.

    Dan

    On Sun, Aug 16, 2020 at 2:16 PM Snippets of a Traveling Mind wrote:

    > > > > > > > usfman posted: ” > > A recent comment from one of my blog readers raised questions about the > sincerity of my declared search for “religious” enlightenment” during our > recent vacation to India. They suspected I was altering my religious stance > perhaps because of the deadly p” > > > >

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  2. Wow. Quite an emotional blog that resonated with me a lot, and even brought a few tears. I can’t Say that my religious views have ever been called into question. At least not by me. I’ve always blended my identity and my faith into one. Being Jewish has just always been apart of me. I am not overly religious and yet I’ve always been quite spiritual On many levels, and have a strong sense of tradition and am extremely proud of my ancestry.

    Yes, I have faced prejudice several times during my life, but that never wavered the strength of my Jewish identity. I did ask the Rabbi at my Temple when I was going to classes for my confirmation (when I was a young teenager)if he ever doubted his belief in G-d. He said he hadn’t, but even if he were to, it wouldn’t really matter because the Jewish connection to our Past, our history, and our traditions is what propels us forward and keeps our faith alive. I had never realized that until then. He continued by stating that one of the reasons the Jewish people have survived for more than five thousand years was because of this bond and this connection. It’s much more than believing in G-d. It is our spiritual blending of the past, the present and the future. Faith in G-d is a bonus. But our Link to Our ancestry is more important. When we help our community, do Mitsvahs (good deeds) for others, and educate our children, THAT is being a good and faithful Jew. So, pretty much since then I never doubted my connection with G-d or my religion. The Rabbi’s honest answer solidified how I approach faith.

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    • Lesley: Your comment made me think of my own Jewish connection. I guess it’ no coincidence I married Ruth who you know is Jewish. The good thing would be her family never imposed their religion on me. I struggle daily with my half Jewish side as this blog alluded to.

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      • Jim I think it’s all how we perceive ourselves. Now that DNA can trace members of the “tribe” there’s a good chance many people have Jewish DNA. So it IS more than a religion after all. But spirituality is a whole other thing. My oldest son is 100 percent Jewish yet while he’s proud of his heritage he’s never been particularly attached to it. My younger son’s father was not Jewish and yet he has always identified Himself as Jewish. His DNA proved that on his father’s Portuguese side he possessed Sephardic Jewish DNA as well My 50% Ashkenazi DNA AND he carried Ashkenazi DNA on his father’s side too. (Along with a Irish, English, middle eastern) etc. The point being That his DNA showed more than 60% Jewish DNA yet he said he just always felt Jewish inside.
        But believing in a higher power, is different. Being one with nature, embracing all that is around us… well that’s all part of spirituality. For me they go together but they don’t Necessarily have to.

        You asked if travel would affect one’s faith. I think perhaps it might.There are so many interesting religions and interpretations of faith for it to be hard for it not to. I think we can blend the best of them all and incorporate them together. Why not? I do that. It doesn’t seem to affect how I view And interpret Judaism.

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  3. You seem to grasp my point that spirituality does not necessarily coincide with being branded with one religion. Since I’ve never felt Jewish inside, I possess religion confusion. A blood test would not likely clear up how I feel here.

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    • Yes, I certainly understand why you would have religious confusion. But, ultimately, most religions tell a similar story. So, I think it’s wise For people to pick and choose what they want to accept and what they want to dismiss. Which is pretty much what you’ve done. My niece, Abby Kluchin teaches philosophy and religion at the college level. She did extensive traveling while getting her degree at Swarthmore and her doctorate at Columbia. Her parents are Jewish and Protestant and so she went on a religious quest while in college. She too had religious confusion. I believe some of her seminars or books might still be on line.
      In any case, I think your travels have given you a very interesting worldwide perspective of spirituality. And I think that’s much better than having just one version drilled into your head.

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  4. My problem lately with religion would it’s insincere politicization of it as part of the Trump scheme to stay in power. For example he claims he’s done more Jews than anyone in the history of divination. His lies make me angry and even more anti religious.

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    • Trump’s lies certainly make anyone and everyone who support him look ridiculous. Some supposedly religious people like him but if they are truly people of faith ( any faith) you’d think they’d recognize a consistent liar. Blind faith then becomes synonymous with stupidity and ignorance if they idolize Someone like 45. That would make anyone question faith in general.

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