If I were to quickly describe to someone what I thought good, healthy religion was I would say this: religion is one part art, one part play, and one part contemplation.

So, religion is art in the sense that it taps into that same, beautiful, liminal space that good art taps into; I like the way artist, Kenyon Adams, talks about it: effective art is the embodiment of a “hoped for” state. The purpose of art then, like true, healthy religion, is to induce radical transformation.

And, religion is play in the sense that religion contains rituals. As noted sociologist, Robert Bellah, has shown, rituals emerged in human communities as a form of complexified play. Religion grows out of these rituals (which are ends in and of themselves), and so religion is not just about disembodied belief but is also very much about embodied doing.

Finally, religion does contain an intellectual aspect, or a contemplative dimension. Mystics like Richard of St. Victor describe this aspect as having three components: thought or sight, meditation or reflection, and understanding. So, Anselm’s definition of theology holds true to this; theology is “faith seeking understanding.”

Painting above: Moses by Frida Kahlo

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