In Search of Better Stories

The Danger of Religious Obsession

Obsession — an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind.
Is this a good thing?

Disney says no

In the movie Soul, Joe Gardner is obsessed with becoming a successful jazz musician so much so that even death doesn’t curb his obsession. As the movie plays out, we discover that he misses out on the beautiful gift that is life because of his unyielding single focus. It takes rebellious soul “#22” to show him the better path. Life isn’t so much about fulfilling one’s passion as much as it is about enjoying each step along the way. If we can enjoy music, food, human connection, exercise, nature and all the other little blessings of life, we will find happiness whether or not we ever find our greater purpose.

I think I agree.

My father became obsessed with the religious notion of “revivalism.” The big vision of his life was to have God use him to bring about a sweeping revival in Canada, in which all 35 million people in our nation would repent of their sins and turn to God. This was the big vision of his life. Nothing else mattered. He resented anyone who didn’t get on board with his plans. The intensity of this passion also made it impossible for him to appreciate life as it came. It could only be “revival, revival, revival.” In the end, he lost everything.

Religious obsessions like my dad had, have been ruining people’s lives for a long time. I’m currently reading the book The Lady Queen by Nancy Goldstone. The author pulls back the curtains and gives us a spectacular view of life in 14th century Italy.

The Poor Claires and the Franciscan Monks were obsessed with their need to please a very stern and austere God. The only option for them was a life reduced to self-abuse: No talking, no possessions, no comforts, no family. Physical torture, begging in the gutters, and a lite exposed to the elements was the better path for them. I guess they get full marks for loyalty and courage, but I’m pretty sure total misery isn’t how life is meant to be lived.

Meanwhile, Pope John, the 22nd, infuriated by the obsession of absolute poverty as the vision of victorious Christian living, started burning these poor wretches at the stake. The pope had an obsession of his own. For him, Christianity was the dominant power religion that needed to assert its authority against all pretenders. Accruing wealth and power in Jesus’ name was all that mattered. This single-focused obsession with winning the religious game at all costs destroyed so many people.

I’m a Christian person, but I’m not interested in being obsessed with it. What if my faith could grow in an environment that profoundly appreciated life’s little gifts as they come? A spirit of holy gratitude for the cat purring on my lap, A worship moment when I see the look of pure joy on my children’s faces Christmas morning. A divine celebration for the Christmas lights that beautify our apartment. An outburst of praise when we all gorge ourselves on mom’s Christmas crack. Why not? Perhaps when we appreciate the little joys of life abundantly, we please the giver of those gifts the most.

That’s what I think.

Subscribe to my blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 207 other subscribers

One Response

  1. Interesting. I have been reading a book of essays entitled Why I Am a Mennonite, edited by Harry Loewen, University of Manitoba. Lots of self analysis here, mostly academic, trying to fit the aurhor’s thinking patterns into the postwar years’ convolutions. Philosophy in general was moving from Oderist to Postmodernist, and realities of the past were beginning to be questioned. We were in Bible school together in the mid 60’s, trying to discern truth from fiction, and I have been on that academic hunt ever since.

Leave a Reply

Other Posts That Might Interest You

The Sin of Certainty

Knowing has its place, but it’s not at the centre of faith. What more important correct thinking about God, or trusting in God?

Jesus Gets A Horsey Ride

We were less than an hour away from meeting the savior of the world and the star was back – the star was better than

Discover more from Dennis A. Wilkinson

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading