There is only one righteous way for you to be saved if you’ve spent too much time in the Church. You must lay your religion down. Lay it down hard. Drop it. Leave it on the trail and walk away from it. And you have to mean it. You can’t fake this. You have to renounce religion and leave it for good. As far as you know, you’ll never pick it up again.
After that you can walk freely in the wild places where faith can still be found. As you walk, stretch out your arms and touch the foliage on either side of the trail, because these trees are the borders of your faith and this earth your true home. And every leaf jutting into your path is itself a fossil, laid down before the ages, suddenly exposed and within hand’s reach along the cut-edges of the trail.
Who laid bare these leafy walls? Who cut this covenant trail and left these leaves exposed to my eyes and my hands and my mind?
If fear has seized your heart, and you want to look back at what you left behind, hear this: There are no religions of The Word. Because if there is a Word our frail ears can’t hear it. What we have are religions that clamor after The Word and talk about The Word and market The Word and brand themselves as keepers of The Word. It’s all best guesses and hearsay, and if you can’t own up to that and still keep faith with your brothers and sisters, you’re just fooling yourself and maybe that’s okay with you. That’s all some people want – to be nicely and gently and comfortably fooled.
I know the Bible, for I have spent half a lifetime looking there, but it cannot give you The Word. And if you treat those words as if they were The Word, then the Bible will be dead to you. The stories will turn their faces away from you, fold their robes over their shoulders, and go to sleep.
So you won’t have the Bible to cling to. I’m sorry.
But there is earth for your feet and air for your lungs and stars for your eyes and flesh for your desire. All religion begins with these, and if you ever lose them you have lost your roots and your guts. You’ll have your precious scriptures, but they will be like desiccated skin stretched over bleached bones. No flesh or desire there.
Start with what you can see and feel and touch. Start with what makes you cry. And if you do not cry, ask yourself why not. Start with what brings you joy. And if you feel no joy, ask yourself why not. Start with what draws your eye and your attention and your obsessions. And if you do not see or notice or obsess, ask yourself why not.
Start with these things and pay attention to your dreams and to myths, which are the common dreams of all humanity. Come as a child, naked and innocent, and the myths will jump to life. The stories will awake, uncover their faces, and hold you gently, with such a lovely and old embrace that you will cry, and you will feel joy, and you will see and by seized by the truth.
Now STOP! Stop right there. Repent. Turn around and go back down the trail to retrieve the religion you left behind. You were fearful to leave it, but returning to it now is terrifying; I know. Take up your religion for now it has no power to curse you but only the power to bless. Take it up like a man takes up his grandfather’s worn tools. Take it up like a child cupping a palm of water from a spring. Take it up like a woman lifting her man’s hand to her lips.
Behold, the very Word of God. It was there all along. I lied to you when I said you would not find The Word in your religion. But all you could hear then were lies. And now, only after this long journey are you able to know the truth.