It’s a very interesting time to be a young Christian in America, for there are many others who find the old divisions and stale arguments largely irrelevant. I think there is a movement toward contemplative spirituality within the developing church. In some ways, this movement is apparent within the Emerging Church, the term given the interesting change within the church in recent years…across denominations. But really, it’s bigger than that. There is a fundamental difference between a spirituality based on relationship with God (grace-based) and spirituality based on rightness before God (shame-based). In grace-based spirituality, we become intimately aware of our own smallness, and the largeness of God’s capacity to love. In shame-based spirituality, we are caught in the cyclical struggle to maintain control of where we stand with God, to maintain our position as keepers of knowledge about God. The former can accept unknowns and gray areas. The latter is often defined by black and white thinking…
I guess what I’m saying is that contemplative Christianity… a spirituality of Christ defined by prayer and mystical union… is an answer to fundamentalism and its shame-cycle. I read an article a while ago about conflict in an Islamic country, where the fundamentalist Muslim majority was seeking to silence and control the Sufi minority. Sufis are the contemplatives, the mystics, of the Islamic worldview, and have historically (in this context at least) been peace-seekers, where the majority has continued to wage war and control. Its interesting to see the same dynamic play out in so many contexts. Mysticism challenges black and white thinking, just as Christ challenged the black and white thinking of the religiously certain of his time. The reaction to Christ was violence. We see the same today.
When your world is built upon tightly controlled rules and systems, then you fight to protect your control. The story of the prodigal son illustrates the dynamic beautifully. The oldest son had his world fairly well under control…he had earned his fathers love and respect with hard work and dedication. When the prodigal son returned home and was received with such joy… the love given away for free… the brother’s response was anger. We cannot control God. Yet, when the worldview of conservative Christians is challenged, even if challenged by undeniable logic (such as proof the earth is older than 5000 years) the response is anger and defensiveness…if you’re not with us, God is not with you…
But you really should read the rest. It’s a very interesting time to be a Christian, period, not just a young one in America. Richard Rohr writes:
I want to share with you this week the spiritual genius of St. Francis and how severely, seriously, and wonderfully he wanted to imitate Jesus. That is why so many commentators have called Francis “a Second Christ,” because he tried in so many ways to be exactly like Jesus. Jesus, and what Jesus loved, was his only love and his only concern.
Both Jesus and Francis, by their lifestyles and by their words, expose and undercut the superficial “honour/shame systems” that define most human cultures. They both refuse to live inside of such a falsely constructed world, where the private ego is the primary reference point for what is called morality.
Almost all of the unwritten rules of behaviour in any honour/shame- based society are meant to protect and enforce social class and social order, and to properly humiliate and exclude those who do not conform. It is much more about love of self-image than love of God. Both Jesus and Francis are about inclusion and not exclusion, about protecting the indwelling divine image more than any superior self-image.
(adapted from Francis: Subverting the Honour/Shame System)
We have, as Franciscans, much to share with the wider church; yet we are, the Third Order at least, all too prone to hide Francis’ and Clare’s—and therefore Christ’s—light under a bushel of Anglican reserve, forgetting that Francis himself was anything but reticent about the Gospel! It has often been said that Franciscans are either evangelical Catholics or Catholic evangelicals. Maybe we need to be a little more open about both sides of that equation, so that we can truly contribute to this increasingly powerful current that God has set in motion, far deeper than any faction or fashion, or rumours of schism and betrayal…
Pax et bonum, peace and all good, is the archetypal Franciscan greeting—we need to say it, firmly, to all the Church!