“You Don’t Have to Check your Brain at the Door”

Weekly Reflection, Sunday, June 28, 2020

By: Suzanne Munson Jernigan

Many of us have chuckled over Robin Williams’s list, “Top Ten Reasons to be an Episcopalian”:

  • No snake handling
  • You can believe in dinosaurs
  • Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them
  • You don’t have to check your brains at the door
  • Pew aerobics
  • Church year is color-coded
  • Free wine on Sunday
  • All of the pageantry—none of the guilt
  • You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.
  • No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

I particularly like this one: “You don’t have to check your brains at the door.” To me, this means that Episcopalians are allowed more intellectual freedom, a greater ability to question conventional norms, than members of many other religious groups.

A case in point is my interest in exploring new information about the afterlife, or “heaven,” in traditional terminology. The Bible provides hints about Heaven but leaves the details for us to imagine.

Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many mansions.” But we are left to muse about their size and style.

After my husband Ned died in 2013, I began a spiritual quest to learn where he went (where we all go), what goes on there, and what the point of it all might be. I decided to go outside of religious scriptures to read what medical doctors and PhD researchers have discovered about these questions within the past fifty years.

I was glad to attend a book study at St. Mary’s, where we discussed Proof of Heaven, the New York Times best-seller by Eben Alexander, M.D., about his profound encounter with the afterlife. I found comfort in being with individuals who were not afraid to explore the unconventional. I added Alexander’s work to my growing list of books about the Near-Death Experience and what we can learn from the tens of thousands of individuals who have crossed over and returned to tell the story.

Other books of interest are Life After Life by University of Virginia researcher Raymond A. Moody, M.D.; Many Lives, Many Masters , a groundbreaking study of reincarnation by noted psychiatrist Brian Weiss, M.D.; and Journey of Souls, by Michael Newton, PhD, a remarkable summary of thousands of accounts of life between lives and the spiritual development of souls. In addition, everyone can easily access the growing number of authentic, personal testimonials of spiritual transformation that can be found online now.

By going outside of organized religion to seek answers, I found that the truth is actually contained in the basic teachings of Christ: God is love. Love one another. Forgive. Live kindly and generously. This is what it’s all about, all that matters. I also confirmed that Jesus is the real deal. He is who he said he was.

I feel comfortable sharing my findings with friends at St. Mary’s because you “don’t check your brains at the door.” And for that, I am grateful.