Friday, August 27, 2010

Post-Christian spirituality

Emerging Christianity, a movement disillusioned with the institutional church, contains diverse strands about which I won’t bother here. I suppose I belong to the movement with my God Is Not 3 Guys in the Sky and my blog, but I didn’t hear about it until after my book was published. And I go way beyond Emerging Christianity as these Excerpts show.

Readers who poke around in my blog (Click on titles in my index) will find themes resembling those of Emerging Christianity—
• freedom from hierarchical control,
• respect, dignity, and equal authority for women,
• valuing people more than institutions.

With Emerging Christians I share respect and affection for our tradition, but I’m not comfortable with their exclusively Christian focus. It’s too narrow, too much a rehashing of the same old same old. I emphasize these break-away ideas:
• focus on Jesus as way-shower rather than idol to be worshiped,
• admit openly that our way of describing the Source we call God is not definitive,
• respect spiritual beliefs utterly different from Christian belief.
My purpose is to expand thinking about religions and spirituality. I endorse post-Christian spirituality, but it wouldn’t have to be "post" if Christians could let go of literal belief in religious doctrine and stop insisting that our God-image, Jesus, is the only legitimate one.

I urge Christians to REALLY think out of the box and bridge with all faiths. All humans, including atheists who deny spiritual reality, have a kind of faith, you know.
I expect the body of Christians will be unable to step out of the box, and so the world—yes, Americans too—will move into post-Christian spirituality. It’s already happening. My posts on consciousness are evidence.

Two very different responses prompt this postscript. One, the comment from Florian, is predictably indignant. The other came in the form of a caller to my home on the day I posted this writing. The person requested a sequel to God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, a companion book about post-Christian spirituality for those who "get it" and want direction to go on. It was a visit from Providence because I'd been wondering which of my themes would be the focus of my next book. Now I see that post-Christian spirituality unites them.

But I have to correct something I suggested, that Christians could avert the shift to post-Christian spirituality if they changed their beliefs. No, the Christian age is simply over; the time of Christian dominance in answering large life questions has passed in Europe and is passing in North America.

Many loyal and still practicing Christians recognize this and are working out their practice of post-Christian spirituality.

September 13, Agnosticism.
Wikipedia defines agnosticism as the view that the truth about religious or metaphysical ideas is unknowable. In my book and blog I repeatedly and adamantly state that what we call God is unknowable, but I don’t label myself an agnostic because I am certain about basic beliefs, which might form the basis of post-Christian spirituality. I don’t doubt and I’m not agnostic about these:

• the existence of spiritual reality or Spirit. I prefer these terms to “God,” which carries negative religious baggage for some people.
• the existence of Spirit within humans.
• the existence of Spirit within all of the physical universe.
• the primacy of spiritual reality over physical reality.

I’m also certain that
• Moral values are spiritual values, not an accidental product arising from the physical universe.
• religions mediate or serve as thresholds to Spirit.
• no religion controls the exclusive or the preferred way to Spirit.

Many doubters of Christian doctrines probably accept these ideas also, so they cannot call themselves agnostics. Like all people, I’m skeptical of ideas I can’t fit into my framework of reality but I’m more open to strange ideas than most, and I’m pretty good at reconciling ideas that others dismiss because they seem opposed to what’s familiar or they’re strange.
For many years I’ve been open to channeling and reincarnation, and now I am convinced they’re real. They do not actually conflict with Christian doctrine, but are shunned because they’re not part of our dominant belief system. I like to stand apart from what “everybody” thinks and question it. So get ready for a post on channeling and reincarnation.

From Kate I received a thoughtful response to this post on agnosticism:
Being agnostic for me means not having enough confidence (or direct experience) to make truth claims about ultimate reality. The grand scheme of things may well be knowable, but intelligent people across the world have diverse, even opposing, points of view on topics such as channeling, which always gives me pause. I do envy people who are confident believers, while I try to live a good life based on "as if." And my "as if" beliefs coincide with your points about Spirit in the agnosticism blog.
These words may set some readers to nod in agreement. I, however, have strong convictions about more than the points I listed.

1 comment:

Florian said...

It's good that you admit that you are even beyond emerging Christianity, and so you are not really a Christian. You have had to resort to employing the term "post-Christian spirituality" instead of just the term "Christian spirituality".

There is a conceptual obsession that runs throughout Jeanette's arguments and those of most liberals. It is an obsession with continuity among things, and with blurring the distinctions between things. Apparently, this is so good because then all things can be brought together in harmony. Probably, Jeanette believes it is the ultimate destiny of the universe to merge all of its components together somehow.

And she is right to say that this has parallels in Christian thought. But the Christian understanding of how God brings all things together in harmony is much more sophisticated than the general idea of "merging" things. The Christian idea is NOT that distinctions will vanish. Those that are saved will remain unique persons distinct from other persons. Even the divine persons in the Trinity will remain distinct within the Godhead for all eternity.

Distinctions are GOOD, or they can be good; and the blurring of distinctions is not necessarily good. Even cultural and religious distinctions are good. We couldn't celebrate variety and diversity without them, for there would not be diversity without distinctions, obviously.

But surely the world is destined to bring together its diversity into unity and harmony! Certainly Christians believe this. They believe that that unity will be found in Christ's church. Jeanette also wants unity, but not unity in Christ; that is apparently not liberal enough for her tastes.