THE BLOG
12/18/2012 05:58 pm ET Updated Feb 13, 2013

Stepping Through the Door... Into Yourself

You cannot imagine -- or, maybe you can -- how many religious people, mostly religious leaders, say to me, "I agree with much of what you say... much of what you write... and, even much of what you believe, but do you know what would happen to me if I were to say in church the things you say or admit publicly to my church leaders the kinds of things you acknowledge?"

I completely understand this fear. Which is why I am so glad I am no longer "bound" by an incarcerated pulpit.

There was a time, for example, in the tradition of my heritage when what we called "the freedom of the pulpit" was actually cherished by people in the pew, even defended. Today, however, most ministers must whitewash what they say, guard what they say, water-down what they say in order to protect their own careers, if nothing else, or to protect the fragile beliefs of pew dwellers who live by their beliefs but do not live by faith. Christians today want their beliefs to be wrapped neatly placed orderly under trees of absolute certainty. What they do not know is that their trees of absoluteness are dying. No matter how much they water, or give witness, to their beliefs, or their certainty at being right, their faith is dying. They live, at least for now, in a world as mythical as the Manger they've grown accustomed to associating with the equally mythical Santa Claus of Christmas.

Which is why most of Christianity today is so far from the actual teachings of Jesus as to be virtually unrecognizable. If a minister, for example, were to admit from today's pulpit that much, if not most, of what Jesus taught, and so expected his followers to emulate, was essentially the same things taught by the Buddha or Lao Tzu or a host of other spiritual teachers throughout history, he would be charged with heresy as I have been...

... or, as defecting from his faith, as I have been...

... or, as abandoning his Christian heritage, again, as I have been.

None of it would be true, of course.

Anyone who has bothered to know what the Buddha taught or any one of a hundred other spiritual teachers -- or, for that matter, has bothered to sift through all their beliefs before crediting them, and often confusing them for Jesus' teachings -- these people would know there is a kinship... a similarity between Jesus and the Buddha. Further, they would appreciate this kinship and very likely would be all the more devoted to their respective spiritual teacher.

They would also know that I am more committed to Christ today than at any other time in my life.

What I am not committed to is "one way" of knowing or believing in this Jesus. If there is anything I believe about Jesus it is that Jesus was, and is, infinitely more interested in you and me walking with God and getting along with each other on planet earth, than getting our doctrines right or our beliefs about God baptized by some nitwit who neither knows God nor knows him-or herself.

You do not have to denigrate other spiritual teachers to be devoted to Jesus. You do not have to reject Buddha to receive Jesus.

As a matter of fact, your faith has no authenticity about it, and certainly no credibility, if you speak about something, or rail against something, you neither know nor have bothered to learn.

If I have learned anything...

... since the day I came out of the closet of my own closed-mindedness...

... since the day I stepped out of the darkness of my soul...

... since that time when I decided to be honest with myself, no matter what it would cost me...

Since that time, I have been saved -- in the truest Biblical sense...

... I have been saved from myself to actually BE myself...

... I have been set free...

... I have experienced a joy I only ever preached about but did not know.

It all happened on that day I decided that being truthful to myself is far more important than what anyone else may think of me...

It was then that I emerged from a tomb of pretension... of inauthenticity. I experienced a real resurrection, instead of just talking about it, as I did for years, without ever knowing, what Saint Paul called, "it's power" (2 Tim 3:5).

In the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt, I decided, "It matters not what you may think of me, but it matters a great deal what I think about me."

If I have learned anything at all, it is that your sanity, your mental and emotional health (and, I would add, your spiritual health) is intimately tied, as M. Scott Peck would say, to the degree with which you face and embrace the truth about yourself.

Oh, sure, you can pretend to believe things you really do not believe...

... You can stand in the pulpit and proclaim that what you say, or the Bible says, is the truth when deep inside you're not sure whether it really is...

... You can coast along trying not to "rock the boat," so to speak, and just get to your retirement age so you can finally be free of the madness of the ministry...

... but, my friend,

... when you decide that truth is more important than your retirement...

... when you decide that being honest is more important than being employed...

... when you decide that being Christian is infinitely more significant, as well as satisfying, than being a church leader or church attender...

... you will know, as I have come to know, what it means to be "born again," in the Jesus-sense of those words.

And, speaking of Jesus, he once warned, I humbly remind you, of something he called "the unforgivable sin."

Do you know what it is?

Have you ever bothered to find out? To really know?

What is "unforgivable" with God? How could there be such a thing? I thought God would forgive all sin.

Whatever you conclude, know this: The "unforgivable sin is not... I repeat... is NOT... I repeat it once more... it is not what I was taught to believe it is. It is not that which was drilled into me for years... that the "unforgivable sin was rejecting the Holy Spirit's call to salvation," as I was scared shitless into believing as a child.

I was told, if I did not come to the front of the church at invitation time and get 'SAVED' so to speak... that is, if I kept rejecting what I was told was the call of the Holy Spirit inside me -- when, in truth, it was the voice of fear I heard inside at the thought of standing in front of all those church people... yet, I confused that fear for the fear of God and actually believed the fear I felt was the God I rejected and, if I did not respond and go forward, and repent of the horrible sins that even I as a 7-year-old child was guilty of committing, I would harden my heart so much so that I would silence the Holy Spirit, and so send my own soul to a certain and eternal hell.

Sound familiar?

It's nonsense! It's heresy! It's abuse! and, it's blasphemy.

Talk about "leading a child astray."

Talk about... "it would be better to have a milestone tied about your neck and thrown into the sea" than to mislead a child.

And yet...

And yet, it was this blasphemy I was taught... it is madness that is still preached in many Evangelical churches today. These churches ought to be charged with heresy! Convicted of child abuse! Their doors closed for good. What they did, and many are doing still, is itself an "unforgivable" sin.

No, my friend, in the way Jesus meant it, the unforgivable sin could only ever be the denial of who you are...

... Who you REALLY are!

It is pretending to be someone you're not... and that for so long a period that you no longer know the difference.

That's the warning.

And, make no mistake, it can happen. It does happen. As Mark Nepo so rightly warns, "The longer we keep the truth of ourselves hidden, the more difficult it will become to give it voice."

If you hear in his words, his voice, even the slightest hint of truth inside yourself about yourself, know that hope like the lights of Christmas still burns in you.

Know that there is in you the birth-pangs of Truth just waiting to give birth.

Know that, in the words of Nepo again, "the power of remaining hidden will keep you from the vitality of living."

Do not let it happen. Who could ever be forgiven of this?

Or, to put it another way, "The value in telling the truth is in how it returns you to the pulse of what is sacred" (Nepo).

That, my friend, the part about "returning to the pulse of what is sacred" -- that is the new birth, your birth, and the very birth I experienced; I continue to experience; And, the birth I hope to experience a thousand times over.

You may, too, if... only...

... if only... You fill in the blank.

Better yet, why don't you just step out of the closet of your own hiddenness and be who you are...who you really are!

If that is not salvation, what is?

If you'd like to read more about spiritual living both within and beyond organized religion, I invite you to subscribe to my weekly blog/newsletter. Visit my website, where you can sign up and receive free chapters to the award-winning book The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God.

I am a professional speaker and an adjunct professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky. I speak to widely diverse audiences on the art of leadership, the laws of success in business and life, the nurture and care of your sacred self, and just how the life you lead today determines the legacy you leave tomorrow.

Additionally, I coach CEOs, professionals, community leaders and, of course, religious leaders within virtually every communion in America. Contact me directly steve@stevemcswain.com or through your preferred speaker's bureau.