I am currently writing a section of my dissertation on the spiritual disciplines. Someone mentioned to me the other day that everyone and their cousin are writing today about everyday spirituality. Yeah, I’ve made that observation too but I think many miss the point. My general feeling is that when we typically think of spirituality in the church today, we think of the experience of connecting with God, of having that spiritual high, in our own quiet time or personal retreat. We like the spiritual encounter, the epiphany, but prefer to avoid the disciplines, the dark valleys, or the part that requires some exercise of the will, mind, and body. Additionally we don’t seem to connect the inward part with the outward fruit and witness in the world. To change the metaphor, we want the goods in the drive through at church, not out in the work-a-day world, or struggles of life where we have to apply some effort.
This is a prime example of the syncretism I was referring to in the other post before my Mother’s Day greeting to mom. I think I frightened people away with that word. It was a big word and helpful concept but I think I lost some readers. Bear with me a little more on this string. It is crucial to recovering our vitality in our personal lives, the church and witness in the world! Currently, I think we practice a form of genetically altered faith, an Un-Mere Christianity if you will. I’m not using this to express my pro or con opinion about genetic research. I’m merely [there is that word mere again] mentioning that we have tinkered and manipulated a biblical practice that has produced a different kind of faith. It is NOT mere Christianity. Our spirituality is syncretistic. It has been mostly influenced by our culture and less by scripture and Jesus.
The word discipline seems to be currently a bit out of fashion. And with that word, also the notion of discipleship and the binding of our lives to Jesus or his will in our lives. We don’t find these ideas much in our Christian lexicon and actual practice within the church. There are books written about it, yes. But it is not translating into common practice. Maybe this says something about the state of our condition. It appears we approach spirituality today with a general hankering for the experience of something new and deeper, but without any desire or will to pay the dues for that experience. We want, as Bonhoeffer once so eloquently said, a “Christianity without the living Christ” or the demands He makes of us. However, we must realize also, this “is inevitably Christianity without discipleship and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ. It remains an abstract idea, a myth.” It also has little impact on the world around us and marks us “Christian” in name only. I will post more about this in subsequent reflections. Meanwhile enjoy this funky photo that I engineered yesterday to get the effect of genetically altering something. I think we have done something like this with our spirituality.
Feel free to leave a comment or your opinion. Have a great start to the week.