My previous article skimming across my religious life caused several readers to respond. Some wrote lengthy comments about their journeys and I won’t be able to reply to all their personal insights. However, those replies thrilled me because it means we are in a conversation, which is better than just my one-sided explaining. I’ll share a few comments using only first names.
Carol: “Life here at [my church] is heartwarming, friendly and uplifting, but sometimes I feel as though I am ‘just going through the motions.’” Other readers have previously written and used nearly the same phrase, going through the motions. So often, we enjoy the fellowship of congregations, but their spiritual basis leaves us empty.
Ruth: “I left ‘active ministry’ in the congregational setting, because it is so far from my belief system of what I agreed to do as a pastor.” A good portion of seminarians never live out their careers in pastoral positions because of the dissonance between their learning and what the traditionalists in congregations—and religious leaders—expect them to believe.
Debby: “I continue to be amazed at the similarity of our views-and I can understand how you would get wearied by traditional church. I grew up in love with Jesus, even though it was in a [traditional] church setting. …It was always the LIFE of Jesus that made me swoon. But I did not come at the new theology as a way to solve a theological question, it happened more organically.” Debby said she left a congregation, “not in anger, but in dismay…stayed away from church for about four years”…until she “found a group of committed and semi-fearless Christians willing to work at owning our liturgy.”
Not many people are willing to help form new congregations to get the style of gathering that fits their spiritual needs like Debby did. But if the right mix of people sense a mutual need, it’s predicted that this will be the more frequent model of New Reformation congregations.
She goes on to say, “I feel very liberated and intellectually stimulated to explore this thing called Christianity. And it does need a face lift, if not a complete body swap.”
As the 21st century reformation develops, it, like all reformations, will be messy and have myriad permutations. Depending on where people are in their journey, there will be confusion and happiness, certainty and doubt, exploration and stubbornness, and there will be numerous “Christianities.”
Bill: “I have studied a multitude of religious ideas for most of my life. …spent many hours studying Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Scientology, New Thought Christianity, and [many religious authors]. I have listened to and watched numerous fundamentalist preachers on TV. All of them speak of the same things; some with a view that they alone have a corner on the BIG picture of GOD. GOD is simply too Too TOO … for any one person or group to have cornered into a framework of human thought.”
Yes, I agree God is beyond human thought and our descriptions are very limited by language. However, that needn’t stop our trying to sort out and make sense of our experiences of the unknown.
Bill continues: “My search has led me to one radical notion – there is not heaven or hell because there is no one singular lifetime limiting us. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
For many people who are becoming enlightened about the Oneness of creation and spirituality, that’s not radical at all—even though I may differ on our spiritual longevity. Former Evangelical mega-church pastor, Rob Bell wrote a best-selling book, Love Wins, with the same conclusion about hell. (Unfortunately, it also exiled him from his church.) Radical thinking rather than institutional doctrine is becoming the norm for understanding what Christianity really means.
Both Debby and Bill made some additional comments which stimulated my thinking about the purpose and energy of Oneness and Aliveness. It will be a challenge for me to put this foundational concept into words, but I hope to write my next piece on why humanity can and must journey toward goodness and wholeness…even if there are a few bumps in our path.
___________________________________ May 29, 2018
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Art Fabian is on a spiritual journey to enjoy more aliveness and to share the goal of wholeness with others. He has no special training or degrees in this field. He’s not a religious scholar or theologian. However, he hopes you might also enjoy walking towards a richer life that benefits us, our neighbors, and all creation.