Posted in church, Jesus, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Practices

Emergent Church – What I’ve Seen and What I See Coming

Today’s blog continues the conversation about Emergent Church – inspired by Phyllis Tickle’s book, The Great Emergence. Today, I’m moving beyond Tickle’s observations to add some of my own.  Having had my ministry formation in the Catholic Church, being employed in the Catholic Church for ten years and now having worked in secular ministry for another ten, I have seen some interesting things about what is happening and what seems to be coming in the emergence of a new way of being church that is trying to break forth into the world.

Wisdom (or Sophia, Mother Wisdom)_

Where is the authority?

As Phyllis Tickle frequently reminds in her book, every past major transition in Western Christianity has been defined by the question and settled in the answer, “where is the authority?” This transition is no different.  I have had a deep sense of this for a very long time and my suspicions were confirmed and words were given to what I felt emerging in the writings of Joachim de Fiore.  A twelfth-century theologian, Joachim predicted a time in the history of the Church when people would no longer look toward the Institution as an intermediary between themselves and God, but would instead, seek to know God directly and would bypass the Institution and go directly to God for guidance, direction, comfort, learning and support.  He called this time, “The Age of the Holy Spirit.”  I believe that this is EXACTLY what is happening today and will ultimately become the ground upon which the new way of being Church will take root and grow and the answer to the question of authority.  Authority – in the church that is trying to be born, will be GOD.  What is interesting about this is that this is the EXACT answer that distinguished the first generations of Christians from just another sect within Judaism and by default, created a new way of being church:

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! (Acts 5: 29)

The causes of this trajectory toward authority resting in God instead of Church are as follows:

Searching Stage of Spiritual Development

Collectively, we are in the midst of the searching stage of spiritual development (See Fowler).  We are asking questions.  We are seeking knowledge.  We want to understand the whys and the hows and if things don’t add up, we challenge it.  This is a critical and important stage of spiritual development and needs to be supported and encouraged if the Church ever hopes to have educated and empowered members.  The problem is that the Institutions, by and large, resist this stage of spiritual development, and some even condemn it.  “Sit down.  Shut up.  Don’t ask questions.  Do what you are told.”  But more and more Christians are growing up and want more, which leads me to my next point.

Longing for God

I believe this trajectory of authority is arising first, out of our longing for God.  Church, as we have known it, has done a great job of telling us about God from the perspective of (mostly) white men who have been placed in positions of authority.  While some of what has been said about God is helpful, the generation in which we now live longs for more.  This longing, I believe, has been planted within us by God and through this longing, we want to KNOW God – directly, personally, and intimately.  In the Church that is trying to be born, direct experience will not only be supported, it will be encouraged and will eventually become the norm.

Uppity Lay People

The trajectory of authority toward God over Church is arising, secondly, out of an educated laity.  The time of the clergy being the most educated in town is over.  In Western society, the level of education of the laity (the peeps in the pew) is rising and often far surpassing that of their pastor.  Additionally, lay people are seeking ministry and theological education and formation resulting in some laity that is at least as educated on matters of theology, Church practice and spirituality, as their pastors, if not more so.  Furthermore, we are living in an age of reason and in the information era.  Rational knowledge is king and it is readily available literally at our fingertips.  And educated, knowledge-driven laity will no longer be satisfied with “because that’s the way it has always been done,” or “because that is what is written in Canon Law.”  And first and foremost, for an educated laity, things need to make sense.  If a member of the community has a gluten intolerance, isn’t it better to bend the rules about how communion bread is supposed to be made according to Canon Law, than deny them the Eucharist?  And if abstaining from meat on Fridays is supposed to instill humility and keep us mindful of the people in the world who are hungry, then how is a $20.00 a pound perch better than hamburger at $4.00 a pound?

If authority rests is God, then is what need have we of Church?

This is the question I have been asking myself just about every day. And I have to give reader, John Backman credit for the answer that most resonates with me:

“The Church can serve well as an informer and guide to that conscience to which we are giving primacy.”

John, I think you hit the nail on the head.  If authority rests in God, then the Church has the important and very valuable and necessary task of providing us with the Spiritual Formation (which differs from religious formation) that gives us the tools through which we can hear and listen for God and then discern the voice of God from that of our ego.  Visually, I see the Church has a mother eagle, carrying us to the realization of our greatest potential.  Additionally, I see the Church as shepherd, providing the space and the structure through which we can come together as community to DO the work Jesus sent us to do – feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, set captives free.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

 

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Posted in Inspiration, Jesus, Spiritual Formation

Jesus Out with the Bathwater?

Today’s blog explores the searching stage of spiritual development and how for many Christians, Jesus gets lost along the way…..but more importantly, why Jesus is still relevant and why we don’t need to set him aside in our quest for spiritual fulfillment.

Questioning, Asking, Challenging our childhood beliefs

I believe that the searching stage of spiritual development is absolutely critical to becoming spiritually and emotionally mature adults (and all the experts on spiritual growth like Fowler and Maslow, etc. agree with me).   The searching stage of spiritual development is when we start asking the questions, challenging dogma, doctrine, rules, wanting to find reason in mystery and wanting to believe in something that we can believe in because it resonates with me, not just because I am told to do it.  The searching stage is when we start looking both within and outside the religions of our youth for that which speaks to our heart, that which nourishes and feeds us and that which might have a bit of reason added to it.  Searching is healthy, necessary and exciting and eventually leads us to spiritual fulfillment and ultimately to our life purpose and mission.  If we don’t search, we are doomed to be a pew potato, doing what we are told and believing what we believe because someone told us to.  And for any churchs out there reading this blog, you really want your members to be more than blindly obedient – mature disciples give and serve WITHOUT being asked because it flows naturally out of who they are and who they have become.

Ripe with Opportunity, Ripe with Dangers

As the symbol of the ouroborus suggests, this time of searching is ripe with opportunities and ripe with dangers.  The opportunities are there to learn and to grow, to mature and evolve.  The dangers, however, require a stout and courageous heart.  Sometimes in the searching, we find that the religion of our youth no longer fits who we truly are.  This is only a danger, however, if we are unduly attached to our childhood religion (which many of us are) or to the approval of our tribe (parents, clergy, members of the community, etc.).  The greatest danger, however, in this searching phase of spiritual growth, however, is really the danger to the religious institutions to which we had been affiliated.  It is for this reason that most religious institutions DO NOT provide the tools, the permission, the processes by which members can effectively searched.  They are afraid that if we search, we will no longer be obedient, and that we might leave.  And people are……in droves.  (What would happen if our religious institutions actually gave us permission, tools and proceeses for the searching stage of spiritual development?  Might we be grateful for their support, openness and acceptance and find a way to make the faith of our childhood our own?????  HMMMMMM  I wonder!!!)   For men and women raised in Christian traditions, however, there is an even more catastrophic danger in this searching stage and a frequent casualty that makes me really sad.

How Jesus Got Dumped

The catastrophic danger and resulting casualty that I am referring to is the loss of Jesus.  There are so many people I know who were raised in Christian traditions, start their searching stage of spiritual development (largely without the support of their church), find fulfillment and meaning in practices from the East (yoga, zen meditation, tai chi, etc.) or in the rituals of Wicca or Native American spirituality,  and decide that Jesus is no longer relevant and might even be ridiculous.  This makes me really sad!  Why do we have to throw Jesus out with the bathwater?  Even though the religion of our youth may no longer speak to us or we have found fulfillment in other traditions and practices, that doesn’t mean that Jesus wasn’t a profound teacher, healer and spiritual leader.  Just because our religions have often twisted Jesus’ teachings to further their power agendas doesn’t mean his teachings are not relevant to our spiritual growth and development.

Bringing Jesus Back

People might think me insane, but I think it is time to bring Jesus back!  To restore him to his rightful place as teacher, healer, prophet, spiritual leader, way-shower.  Bringing Jesus back does not mean we have to believe he’s the messiah, was raised from the dead,  or even the Son of God…..it just means that we can look beyond the constructs of doctrine and institutional manipulations and see the man for who he really was – a man of purpose who tried to teach us how to love.  I know it is really cool these days to give honor to the Buddha, the Hindu dieties, Pagan gods and goddesses, (which all deserve their place of honor) but do we dare to make it cool to also give honor to Jesus?  I’m going to try it for awhile and see what happens.  Wanna join me?

How is Jesus relevant in your own journey?

What parts of the Jesus message ring as true for you?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com

Posted in church, guilt, Raised Catholic

Catholic Guilt (and any other religious guilt for that matter!)

The statistics cannot be denied.  My Blog traffic has QUADRUPLED since I revisited Catholic stuff.  HMMMM  Are Catholics searching?  Hurting?  Wondering?  Longing?   Maybe.  So, today’s blog addresses the topic of Catholic Guilt – or any other guilt for that matter that is imposed upon us from outside perceived authorities (ie: religious institutions). 

(to buy this t-shirt:   http://www.zazzle.com/recovering_catholic_tshirt-235262124334621639)

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I have said it before, and I will say it again.  I LOVE my Catholic faith.  I love the spiritual traditions, the rituals, the sacraments, the art and architecture, the lives of the saints, Catholic devotionals, the rosary, Mary, I can even throw a novena or two into the pot of things that I love about my Catholic upbringing….oh yea….and the Catholic school uniforms.  LOVED my uniform!  I love the amazing nuns and religious brothers that taught us (ok, with the exception of a few), and I have great respect for many of the priests who have led the various Catholic parishes in which I claimed membership.  These are the things that allow me to continue to claim my Catholic heritage and to even admit that as a grown up, I still consider myself to be Catholic even though there are certain teachings, rules, etc. that I no longer choose to observe.  If that makes me a “Cafeteria Catholic,” then so be it.

 

What the Institution Got Wrong (in my maybe not so humble opinion)

But here’s the problem.  Somewhere along the way, the Institution of the Catholic Church missed the WHOLE point of Jesus’ message – GOD IS LOVE.  Instead, here is the image of God that Catholics are taught (and other religions with them) and here is the image that keeps us chained in the cycle of guilt imposed upon us by the Institution:

God is a judging, condemning God whose approval we have to earn and who will deny us HIS love if we do not toe the line.

Yes, we have all heard the moral platitudes:  God is loving and forgiving.  If you seek God’s forgiveness, you will be forgiven.  If you confess your sins to the priest and receive absolution, you will be freed of your sins and made ready to join God in HIS glory. 

But here’s the problem….no one really believes this, and I’m not sure the Institution wants us to.  Instead, what is presented to us is a system of rules and regulations that we are supposed to follow and only if we follow these rules (as set forth by the Institution), AND confess our sins, AND receive the sacraments, AND perform certain acts of prayer and service in order to receive indulgences (YES….indulgences are still in full force…even today), AND NEVER miss Sunday mass, AND refrain from using birth control, AND vote pro-life, AND give 10% to the Church, AND never get divorced, etc. etc. etc.   only then can we have any hope of going to heaven after we die.  But even all of this might not be enough as the threat of purgatory is forever waved in our face.  No wonder Catholics feel guilty all the time.  Once you start to seek, ask the questions, explore, make other choices, there is someone waving the flag of “hell and damnation” in your face.  “Don’t question the Church…or you will go to hell.  Father knows best.  The ONLY truth is in the Catholic Church.  You’re not welcome here if you can’t obey our rules.”

 

Guilt is the Devil

So, what does this cycle of fear and guilt do to us?  It keeps us quiet, small, blindly obedient, afraid.  It keeps us firmly locked in the beginning stages of spiritual development where we do what we are told and believe it because it is what we were told to believe.  It keeps us from using the mind that God gave us to reason, discern and exercise truth.  It keeps us from ever becoming spiritually mature adults and from becoming the empowered, self-motivated apostles that the Institution claims they want us to be.  (For more on the stages of spiritual development, see the work of James Fowler:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fowler’s_stages_of_faith_development)  Fear, intimidation and guilt are the tools used by an Institution that does not want us to seek, to ask the tough questions, to challenge, to balance theology with reason, to hold the Institution accountable.  It is for this reason (among others) that I say GUILT IS THE DEVIL.  Used in this way, guilt does nothing but keep us from the truth that God would reveal to us on a deeply intimate and personal level.  So, my answer to Catholic guilt when it shows up, trying to keep me from asking the questions, challenging perceived and assumed authority, “GET BEHIND ME SATAN,” because I know that God is love…..we are loved without condition…..abundantly, freely, generously, and that there is nothing we could ever do that could separate us from the love of God….regardless of what the Institution might want us to believe.

 

Where do you struggle with Catholic (or other) guilt?

Where do you feel called to question, search, challenge the beliefs you were brought up with?

How might God be calling you to explore the truth within your own heart?

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries

http://yourspiritualtruth.com