Seeds of Love

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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Breathe, You are Alive: “There are seeds buried deep in our consciousness that we do not touch often enough, seeds of love, understanding, compassion, joy, knowing right from wrong, the ability to listen to others, nonviolence, and the willingness to overcome ignorance, aversion, and attachment. Through the practice of mindfulness, we learn to identify these traits in us and nurture them, with the help of teachers and spiritual friends, until they grow into beautiful flowers. When we survey our territory, tory, we also find destructive traits, such as anger, despair, suspicion, cion, pride, and other mental formations that cause us suffering. Because we do not like to look at these negative traits, we do not want to come back to ourselves. But with the aid of the practice of mindful breathing, we learn to take full responsibility for restoring ing our territory and taking good care of it.”

Roger

Theological Imaginations

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From Linda Mercadante’s Belief without Borders: Inside the Minds of the Spiritual but not Religious: “There is much that is theologically pertinent about SBNR [Spiritual But Not Religious] longings. That is where we must start the conversation when we engage this ethos. What can we affirm? How can SBNRs help us see our blind spots? For instance, does their humanizing of God challenge us to rethink the idea of God as unmoveable, wholly other, or utterly transcendent? Should it make us rethink both the Trinity and the incarnation of Jesus Christ not as some explanatory formula but as God’s humble presence among us and invitation to collaborate in healing the world? Does their focus on human growth and inherent “divinity” urge us to remember we are all made in God’s image and created for “theosis” or union with God? Should it make us realize we often take sin too seriously and grace not seriously enough? Should their focus on human self-determination remind us that it is the humility and self-restriction of God which gives us freedom, dignity, and creativity? Does their rejection of original sin require us to restate that God created everything good? But should it also refocus our thoughts about humanity, taking seriously that we have both inherited and contributed to a dysfunctional system? Does their focus on the sacred quality of the natural world encourage us to treat the earth with more reverence and care, especially as God’s creation? Does their hope in endless self-improvement through multiple lifetimes make us reassert that eternal life is not some static place given over to buttressing God’s ego? Could it help us realize, instead, that afterlife is an opportunity for the sanctification and deification of humans that is only possible in full communion with God? Does their rejection of religion as institutional and restrictive make us realize that God is as free to oppose the status quo as to affirm it? Does their longing for a spiritual community—where each can think freely, yet be accepted by others—qualify as a call to make the church a place where doubt, questions, and hopeful visions are welcomed? These and other theological challenges emerge from the SBNR ethos.”

Roger

Many Paths, Many Goals

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From Linda Mercadante’s Belief without Borders: “…we do not need to say that all religions propose the same ends or means. They are not different paths up the same mountain. We must acknowledge that they each make different truth claims. Religious claims, by nature, require a person’s loyalty and commitment. Yet all of them give us ways to recognize and bond with Ultimacy, even if the Ultimate is conceived differently in each tradition. Each provides a shared language and connection with others so that spiritual experience does not remain totally private. Each serves as a guide for others on a similar quest, providing ways to communicate with each other about our deepest needs and experiences. Religions understand that humans are meaning-seeking beings. They show us that we need an organizing center. They help us deal with suffering and evil by setting them within a theological framework. Each religion, in its own way, offers a coherent meaning narrative.”

Roger

Church and Society

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From Linda Mercadante’s Belief without Borders: “…religious people need to remind themselves why religions are good for society. As Garret Keizer summarizes: “The virtues of organized religion include but are no means limited to the following: they give their adherents something solid against which to rebel; they allow one to see farther by standing on the shoulders of giants; they insist on the primacy of lived experience; they work against illusion and historical insularity; they point to the power of the collective and the merits of deep diversity; and they are capable of the kind of mobilization that can transform the world.”

Roger

Engaged Spirituality

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From Linda Mercadante’s Belief without Borders: “What about mainline Protestant Christianity? For all its losses and low self-esteem, this type may be better positioned to adapt Christianity to the postmodern context. With its tolerance for ambiguity, as well as its ecumenical interests, open-mindedness, social concern, and receptivity to other religions, this type of Christianity may be most able to speak with SBNRs [Spiritual But Not Religious folk] compassionately and attentively. But the answer for such churches may be counterintuitive. What would happen if liberal or progressive Christians actually became more “religious”—in the sense of recognizing God’s majesty and mystery—rather than less? What would be the result if they renewed the core message of the faith and really lived it out corporately, while still retaining their liberal social and political values? What would happen if they focused more on, for example, immigrants, the disenfranchised, or the lonely? What would happen if they became more intentional about commitment and community, and less interested in appearing relevant and non-demanding? What would happen if they better understood and had more confidence in their beliefs? Could they do that and also allow room for doubt and individual interpretation? Could they promote a compelling Christian message which counteracts the conservative positions which have turned off SBNRs? Could they develop a leadership style which works well for a postmodern mentality? To do this, mainline churches will have to recover their prophetic edge, communal spirit, and devotion to the faith. Only a church that is intelligently faithful, ecumenical, and inter-religious stands a chance of convincing SBNRs that the church is truly forward-thinking, serious about spirituality, and an agent of change.”

Roger

Captivity

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From Soong-Chang Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity: “I once heard the perspective that Almighty God has had to endure three indignities in human history. The first indignity was Adam and Eve’s disobedience and rejection of YHWH in the Garden of Eden. The second indignity was Jesus’ suffering and public humiliation on the cross. And the third indignity was that he trusted his name to a group of humans (the church) that have brought humiliation and indignity to the holy name of Jesus.”

Roger

Stop and Breathe

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From Thich Nhat Hanh’s Breathe, You are Alive: “When you’re able to stop and breathe and enjoy each moment, you’re doing it for all your ancestors. Make a peaceful step. Smiling and touching the earth happily is very important. Your practice is not for yourself alone, it benefits the whole world. We practice stopping and observing to arrive at liberation. We live as if we’re in a dream. We’re dragged into the past and pulled into the future. We’re bound by our sorrows, agitation, and fear, and we hold on to our anger, which blocks communication. “Liberation” means transforming and transcending these conditions in order to be fully awake, at ease and in peace, joyfully and freshly. When we live in this way, our life is worth living, and we become a source of joy to our family and to everyone around us.”

Roger