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I’m one of those annoying people who say that I’m “spiritual but not religious,” and that means that I get to mix and match what I believe, like shopping at some metaphysical flea market.  My own beliefs encompass Judeo-Christian traditions – summed up neatly by the Golden Rule – along with various other ideologies, such as the Zen Buddhist notion that we are really connected to everything.

Since I don’t have a house of worship in which to attend services, I’ve had to adopt religious leaders of various stripes, and for the most part, my need for a fellowship is met virtually.  And at other times, it’s virtually met.  As in, it’s not quite what I want out of my faith experience.

I love the vibe and energy of various Christian pastors.  Joyce Meyer is full of fun and common-sense advice.  I love the fact that her television program isn’t called, “Follow this Dogma” but “Enjoying Everyday Life.”  I’d never heard a religious leader break it down like that, and I was impressed.  Sometimes it isn’t the tenets of faith or rules of a religion we need to hear from our pastor, it’s how to actually create a life worth living while still holding true to our beliefs.

When you want a shot of faith into your soul, TD Jakes is the man for the job.  An incredible orator, and an impassioned “inspirer,” to coin a term, when he tells a story from the Bible, he grabs your attention, and you know down in your bones he’s preaching true.  When it comes to charisma and creativity, Pastor Jakes really delivers.

I enjoy many different religious leaders, but my own “personal” Pastor – if you could call it that, since I’ve never met him or set foot in his church in Texas – has been Joel Osteen.  Everything about this religious leader jibes with what I believe.  His infectious smile, his spirit of encouragement, the fact that he opens every sermon with a joke… all of it conveys positivity.

But Osteen let me down a few weeks ago when he denounced gays as sinners. Now, I know most Christians will say he was just citing Scripture, but one of the things I liked most about this pastor is that he didn’t do sermons as much as pep-talks.  It always seemed that his church was welcoming to all, and that there was no condemnation.  If you came to be encouraged, this was the place to be.

For a week or two, I distanced myself from Joel Osteen (not that he noticed,) but as time went on, I decided to accept the fact that, in my estimation, he had erred in speaking about excluding any of God’s children from His love.  Many espouse the “love the sinner, hate the sin” theology, so I thought it over.  The sinner?  My pastor, perfect hair and shiny teeth in tow.  The sin?  Passing judgment and deciding on God’s behalf who is worthy of His Grace.   As earthly shepherd to a flock of believers, what I would tell my virtual pastor, were I ever to meet him, is this:  God has an open door policy.  Everyone is welcome to walk through.

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Have a Mary Little Christmas

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