Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’


Progressive spirituality/Christianities within their current context I find tedious.  There is no scholarship building upon what has come before, rather it is a re-treading of old battles already fought. Why is this? I blame the regressive state of Western Culture. The loss of the ability to critically think, coupled with the conglomeration of media and the commodification of the human experience has led us down a rabbit hole. There is also the drowning with knowledge overload, and opinion as fact that has removed the ability to discourse, and discover wisdom.

It is a sad state on my journey as I look upon those writers that have shaped them, death, illness and retirement has stripped away those that have crafted cornerstones we should be building upon. The voice of progress, universal love and inclusion, liberation and social gospel is shrinking. Thinkers such as Marcus Borg, Desmond Tutu, Peter Maurin, Dorothy Day, Agnes MacPhail, Pierre Trudeau, Padre Pio, Leonardo Boff, meta-physicians; Dalai Lama, Pope Francis I, transcendentalists, Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII, Multiple saints & mystics, Mother Teresa, Nikos Kazantzakis, Stuart A. Schlegel, John Dominic Crossan, Matthew Fox, Martin Luther King Jr., Tommy Douglas, J.S. Woodsworth and the list goes on and on. The voices of and for the marginalized have been relegated back to the beginning of a cycle still debating that which human rights and suffragettes should have dealt with.

Yet “Progressive Spirituality” much like “Conservative Theology” got subsumed by “Prosperity Gospels” and “Salvation/Sanctification” (look at a Joel Osteen for the epitome of the lost track of universal love for the progressives). This is why during my time of medical sabbatical I was excited to find out post-stroke Bishop Spong had written a new book, but saddened as I read his preamble to it that this was definitively his last. It is his call for reformation, for the work already done and grow upon it.

He touches on the different times the Christ experience has been mislaid. The Fourth century experience we had codified as “Christendom” which would be as unrecognizable for the original community as it is to us in this day. He also touches on the Reformation, which aside from the land and power grab of the princes/royals to break the state hold of the Vatican. It was possible as well do a shattering transformation of cultural understanding as the plagues had shown that even the “Holy” lost a 1/3. The peasant class was open.

We are in a time like this. Even if traditionalists keep fighting against it. Holding to outdated understandings. Science has revealed much on creation, maybe not the why, but the how. We are in a world where we are taking control over our own destinies. Where we can accept equal marriage, we can accept medicine, accept being able to transplant organs, understand different ways of experiencing life. We can see through new eyes, yet we bring the old eyes leaving our understanding of the intrinsic piece that makes us whole left out in the old patriarchal imperial cycle. And yes, progressive thinkers who are emerging today instead of referencing what came before and building, are trudging up the same mountain again.

This is where Unbelievable (2018) rises. It is still American-centric, but Spong roots his 12 Thesis firmly in what has come before, and lays out a path forward. A new starting point for dialogue and discourse, being able to let go of what is no longer working or that which is harming.

So as we seek to understand the love triangle of My Neighbour, I leave you with excerpts for this work to see if it is something you wish to purchase for your journey, or to explore within your community:

John Shelby Spong (2018) Unbelievable: Why Neither Ancient Creeds Nor the Reformation Can Produce a Living Faith Today (HarperOne).

“what we must do is find the meaning to which the word “God” points.” P. 31

“Is the denial of theism the same as atheism? Is there no other alternative?” p. 38-39

“That is the universal human experience that our ancestors once called “Original Sin”. The experience was real; the interpretation was false. We are not “fallen sinners”; rather, we are incomplete human beings. Our old theology is dead. The door begins to open on a new way to tell the old, old story.” P. 89

“Every Jew would know that to refer to a grown man in Jewish society as “the son of a woman” was to suggest that his paternity was unknown. … we might infer a covert reference to her being pregnant outside of marriage, for there was no estate more lowly in in first-century Judaism that that of an expectant mother with no male protector.” P.112

Atonement theology, especially in its most bizarre “substitutionary” form, presents us with a God who is barbaric, a Jesus who is victim and it turns human beings into little more than guilt-filled creatures. P.153

Bulletins during Lent in many churches look as if they might have been purchased in a local sadomasochism shop. They feature whips and nails, and if they elicit any emotion at all, it is guilt. P.162-163.

In Jewish worship, however, the lamb was a symbol, not of a sacrifice that an angry God required, but of a human yearning to achieve the fullness of human potential. P. 165

The Easter experience in the new Testament, contrary to what we have traditionally been taught over the year, is not about bodies walking out of graves. It is far more profound than that. It is about God being seen in human life. By “God” I do not mean a supernatural, invasive God, who violates the laws of nature in order to enter time and space. I mean a transcendent dimension of life into which all can enter, an experience in which life is expanded, love is unlimited and being is enhanced. P. 188

The ascension story is both powerful and real, but it is not, and was never intended to be, literally true. P.196

Before prayer can be made real, our understanding of God, coupled with our understanding of how the world works, must be newly defined. P. 249.

I have no use for life after death as a tool or method of behaviour control. P.258

We are called by this new faith into radial connectedness. P. 270

When I contemplate the meaning of Jesus I come back again and again to his image as the ultimate boundary-breaker, in whom what it means to be human is constantly being expanded. P.278

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I have always enjoyed reading the practical current events spiritual magazines/newspapers published in Canada. Most are denominationally specific. Among my top 3 were: United Church Observer, Anglican Sower and Presbyterian Record. The last two I also had the privilege to write for and share thoughts, unfortunately they are also no longer publishing (the fact they carried my works has nothing to do with the ceasing of publication I believe). One can also trace in my spiritual journey, denominations or religious traditions have not been high, I have drank and do drink from the many wells the one river feeds, yet it is the one river that I thirst for.

As I wrote a few days ago after a cascade of flashbacks triggered by a denominational prayer cycle (Read post here) it is unique that the latest issue of the United Church Observer in their Question Box column, Spiritual Solidarity, touched upon clerical unionization.

                “Clergy conflict reflect the ongoing turmoil and anxiety within the wider United Church.”

-Christopher White

Workplace and community conflicts are part of existing together. They are to be expected, what is not to be expected in civilized society is such harassment, haranguing and trauma that individuals leave their employment, or wind up with deep rooted scars. This article triggered flashbacks, part of the work of trying to rise above my flashbacks is acknowledging the pain, but also acknowledging the good I have seen and been apart of.

Obviously, the article is centred on the organic transformation within the United Church on this issue, but I can attest it crosses Christianities tradition and denominational lines. Following is a few thoughts on the good and bad I have been apart of.

“I also believe that more and more…is moving from primarily seeing ministry as a covenanted relationship to seeing it as a contractual one.”

-Christopher White

  1. The small congregation that hired me as a youth leader leaving my first experience, and then a minister. Both with contradicting missions. The congregation responding to the pain their abuse had caused catastrophe with previous ministries, allowing those with the money to run rampant. Online abuse existed before social media it was done via cc and bcc on e-mail as my character and personhood were attacked by those in the church that did not like their children/youth thinking. The harassment also continued through the office of clergy towards me, and some youth with mental health concerns. Meetings were held; then it went up to the Presbytery level to meet with the congregation and even though these meetings concerned me I was not allowed to attend. Eventually they beat you down, and I chose to surrender my ministry—yes the majority wanted to bring me on as minister, but even with mechanisms to sanction the vocal minority bullies—they refused. How did the organization reward this community? With more money, bigger space…message sent to those targeted—you do not matter.
  2. Being a Lay Professional Leader in a congregation doing things such as contemplative worship services, pulpit fill in; leading a bible study. Yet the wealthy in the aging congregation got their tempest in a tea pot over kids at play, noise, and the online attack campaign begun. Unwillingness again to call out a spade as a spade from those higher due to—yup you guessed it—money at play as donors.
  3. Stalked on and harassed via social media by a congregation and their pastor—why? As a family, we attempted to advertise our home bible study and potluck on the church Facebook page. My wife encouraged to distance herself from me and my unChrist-like influence. When she refused, and we chose to leave as a family those that said they were our “friends” shunned us like leaving a cult.
  4. My son’s joyful noise at a Santa Clause service being called out in vehement anger by the minister and called to leave service. Shunned by the supposedly “inclusive” spiritual home. In the moment those who preached standing up for injustice became the bystanders while the bully postured and the bullied was left believing he was on Santa’s naughty list.
  5. In Bible College having a professor point blank tell the class when I answered in favour of inclusion “that is why your church must die”…and being taunted in the halls as the “fag church member” still standing strong and up as best I could, leaving the learning environment to be battered in my “church homes” as I tried to build ministries.
  6. Para-church directors head hunting to fire me for my political and/or theological beliefs not aligning with their personal understanding.
  7. Being the family scape goated by an ill-equipped children’s educational ministry, because we had the “special needs kid” and not looking seriously at the bullying issue by the children of the long term generational members, and having the “r word” used to describe my son.
  8. Hearing during service a priest being called out on the rug because he took a stand for inclusion of God’s children, and love for those who are differently abled.

That is the darkness. Some can see through that a need for the mediating voice, but a union is not just there for the darkness, they are there to create a support network for successes. A place where the story can be shared for what has transformed, what has been overcome, and can create a relationship where clergy can easily move between denominations.

  1. I have been apart of wonderful churches that have had no actual building. Where ministries and retreats for youth were sponsored by church family members (with or without kids) in their own homes.
  2. I have been there when seniors have continued to answer the call to serve our children as they closed in on 100 years old, as we created “Elders Time” where a big comfy chair was created and the Elder could share the story, and then have the youth be their hands and legs for the activity.
  3. I have seen the passion of inclusion, where walls were broken down and churches laughed off the “tradition” of church youth/community youth time tables to have open youth group for all where spiritual formation was encouraged, and critical thought.
  4. I have seen youth and young families forego the “contemporary” service to be apart of the old liturgical service because it is where the seniors were, and allowed those without grandparents to find that role in their life in church.
  5. I have broken bread, shared meals, lifted many families and friends within my own home around simple things as movie discussion nights, bible studies…where life was done for those shunned by churches they did not fit the mold for due to life circumstance, simple acts of kindness and love allowed the journey to continue… and yes, the noise of children is apart of that.
  6. A Children’s Ministry coordinator coming and speaking directly to my son about coming and being part of the group, not asking us, asking him and listening close for his body language and spastic voice if he wanted to come.
  7. Having a priest during High Mass while blessing the host pause, as my son cheers loudly, and state to the congregation overflowing, “May we all have that excitement to be one with Jesus!”
  8. A minister that contacts my son about if he wants to be in the Christmas pageant, and then the congregation learns about inclusionary communication tools.
  9. Simple things, like a free half day Vacation Bible School that I was blessed to be apart of growing up, and then my teacher asking if my daughter would attend as they are re-launching (and yes, this past summer she learned some French!).
  10. Offering scholarships for VBS’s that have a cost so no child is turned away.
  11. Celebrating the diversity in our unity as spiritual beings from who we are to where we are from…whether it is being Affirming or Dancing our Offering to the Altar to everything in between and not even dreamed of yet.
  12. A Priest taking the flack for replacing offering over two weeks of masses to ensure the food cupboard is overflowing with blessing.
  13. A nun that gathers toys to deliver with food hampers to families in need, and when families without homes sleep in the church ensure that even the volunteers have what they need.
  14. A priest that is troubled by persons with mobility issues not being able to get to the dining hall with dignity for church meals, installs and elevator.
  15. A priest that volunteers with homeless families and realizes they do not have the opportunity to shower in the parish before going out for their day. Installs showers, and announces offering from that weekend needs to be generous to pay for it.

For every horror story there is good stories, even great ones. Yet we cannot say the good outweighs the bad. We cannot say “this is church” to allow for the bullying. People are essentially good. We need to be generous in our ability to do what we can to build a better world, one simple act of kindness at a time.

A union for church employees on the surface may be something to be scoffed at, but it creates a mediating body, removes the ability of congregations or higher church authorities to cover up for PR reasons. It creates an environment with standardized codes of care and conduct that cannot be shouted down due to the “wealthy donor” paradigm. It levels the playing field, much like the gospels pointed to.

This is my story, my experience, my opinion. My act of reconciliation as the story stands, the truth told…now it is time to move forward…into a new day, and a hopeful healthier relationship in the congregation we have settled in.


WTF? Okay, as I watched the US election results roll in this colloquialism went through my mind, and we all know what it stands for. For me though it would’ve happened with Hillary winning as well, for I was rooting for a change-shift in the USA mindset around body politic and looking at the mainstream ticket disaster a choice of 3rd party or right in.

That did not happen, and the waves of fear and hate have become revealed in the North American continent.

But as I have learned short had at the Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living (Thanks Dr. Pat), it gave new terms for probing questions used in spiritual direction, and that is What’s the Fear? (WTF)…the fear is seeing the old world reasserting itself, the fear is seeing how someone can use the fear that exists within the starving masses used to go back in time, the fear is realizing that a party that brought their country the emancipation proclamation; Abraham Lincoln, in just over 100 years had moved to this.

But then the question needs to be asked, why do the voters that do not show up, allow for this? Their is responsibility around. Yet with this vote, there is shift happening as the Republicans that control the Senate and Congress are speaking up for their constituents and not stating they will blindly follow their technical party leader, so is their something deeper in the law of cause and effect at play?

Which brings us to “Where’s the Faith?”. Now as a Canadian I have to admit a reality, even our most conservative movements fall just left of the USA’s Democratic Party, so yes the political spectrum down south does not even touch our spectrum, but within that over the last 25 years we have experienced provincially and federally overly fanatical leadership in Klein-Harris “Common Sense Revolutions” (Alberta and Ontario in the `90’s) and most recently Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government.

Yet, the out come short and long is citizens choosing hope, whoever thought Conservative Alberta would send Liberals to Ottawa Federally, but also…elect an NDP government.

I stand here as a pragmatist, but in the Canadian context being on the spectrum between Red Tory/Red Grit to Communist, and yes I have ridden through these waves of attempted regression, and can say to our neighbours to the south, it is survivable, but as a democracy you must choose to move forward in Hope, and hold those who have been elected out of the shadow accountable. It is time to be active participants in your life.

So where is the faith? (WTF) for me it is in the promise out of the story of Genesis 3 from the ancient Jewish tradition. Yahweh lets Adam and Eve leave home, promising that the earth is theirs to now care for, they have entered adolescents and young adult hood. The story that progresses from that moment of Blessing is one filled with pain, mistakes and hurt, but what emerges from that is the Christ-Love that transforms the story.

So we are a world in the midst of change, in the midst of our young adult hood…are we going to hold it together and live out of the love. Hold to the simple truth of life, that no matter what, when a core group of good people comes together, Love Wins.

WTF.

I Love Luci

Posted: November 12, 2016 by Ty in Musings, Spirituality
Tags: , , , , , ,

Comics have always shaped my understanding of the world. Same can be said for sci-fi (ala Star Trek) and mysteries (Holmes and Mrs. Fletcher to name but a few), but comics have been the standard since I got a copy of the Star Trek III adaptation and the Last Star Fighter. Heroes/villains, and other types of stories.

During my time in Bible College and the early days of forming youth ministries a few series spoke into my meta-narrative aside from the usual reads of the time (Green Arrow, Avengers, Superman, etc). These included Starman, Sandman, Preacher, Hellblazer and a new creation of Mike Carey’s… Lucifer.

In the beginning… The angel Lucifer was cast out of Heaven and condemned to rule Hell for all eternity. Until he decided to take a vacation…

That simple phrase opened the first issue, and is still used to open the new Fox television series, that examines what it means that “the Devil made me do it” for as Luci is first to point out, we have scape goated this fallen angel in our culture to remove responsibility for the choices that free will gives us. Think about it, it is not the ancient stories that have shaped our understanding of this character, but rather writings of Dante and John Milton, and other 20th century blasphemies around tribulations and raptures.

This is the undercurrent of the series. It addresses what the character of Lucifer, Morningstar, Satan, the Devil was all about in ancient stories (most easily seen in the story of Job, but still shining they’re in the Gospels of some long-haired guy from Nazareth). That is as a simple tempter, tester, laying out all choices before you, and then seeing where your desire leads you, and what the consequence of that choice will become.

It sometimes is for good, sometimes for ill. What makes the choices different is where we let our light fully shine, or not. What do we allow ego to control because we will not look outside our own selfishness? Is that a moment when we seek the scape goat? Instead of simply seeking the higher self? The Christ within? The Love that drives us?

So truly, I was looked oddly upon reading a series called Lucifer, and even was asked while watching the show and laughing is it blasphemous to enjoy it so much?

No, it is entertainment, with undercurrents that cause pause and reflection. It is a truly excellent use of satire and mythology for enjoyment on one level, and if you want to go deeper to another level can see the character layers that exist. The layers that can be looked at and go, what truly is evil? But more importantly what truly is free will?


Ian Rankin (2016) Rather be the Devil was the latest delight of the Calgary Public Library hold shelf at their Village Square Location (and yes I have been around this community long enough that I remember the original library van when I was a kid). But why does this percolate a post even before I have cracked the cover on the newest Inspector John Rebus mystery. The roustabout musicphile of Scotland who is no longer an inspector in the last few outings.

You read that right, he was retired a few novels ago but brought back in a consulting role. Whether or not this was Rankin’s intent with a character he created back during his doctoral days or not is truly not the point of this reflection. For it is something that tickled my mind, coupled with a lasting image from a few nights ago when we popped over by the Community of Temple Fire Hall (okay it was the 7-11 for slurpees as a family, but still).

Next to the Fire Hall used to stand an Anglican Church, St. George’s, a parish that has roots going back almost 50 years in this area as well, but it did not start out as a building. It started out as a parish without walls in local Catholic School gymnasiums. How do I know that? I was the fist babe Christened on the baptismal roles in said gynnasium (even down to the pic with the priest and shamrock backboard behind the head).

Now it is simply an empty field (though the Altar Guild at my farewell gave me a banner of the Saint and Dragon as a reminder that still is displayed in my home), the building had become condemned, the amphitheater I used to host outside concerts and road hockey tourneys for the community just over a decade ago back filled in. The sign with pithy sayings to attract new comers–gone. Just the wild grass taking hold and rumours of one day it being the site of seniors housing, but so far no sign of ground breaking.

It was my last paid post in ministry, there was two other church postings to follow that were tent making for myself as I was paid to be apart of another. But it was that baptism in a school gym that shaped my spiritual DNA of the irrelevancy of labels, walls and barriers we tend to create in the world. Anglicans and Catholics working together. Then in pre-school, at an Alliance Church with the diversity that makes up NE Calgary (loved singing those kids hymns with my Sikh and Hindu neighbours), and a Presbyterian Vacation Bible School (that my own daughter still attends).

I am not going to get into my spiritual journey in Junior and Senior high school, or shaping in Indigenous, Pagan, Mystery or Eastern Traditions or digress into evangelical theological formation in Bible College and Seminary; while serving and practicing in mainline churches, or monastic formation with Anglican, Catholic and Ecumenical Franciscans. Some would say, that I have removed myself from the Progressive Christendom voice by act of, well, leaving the physical church buildings and to be honest becoming tired with the mundanity that Christianity has created for itself in its fear of becoming irrelevant.

Yet.

As I look upon this character who in retirement from his life passion is still pursuing truth and justice, and I look at the reclaiming by nature of the former site of the parish that sparked my journey.

I no longer wonder, I know.

A voice is only not relevant when it is not used.

An act of kindness is only not relevant when it is left undone.

A kingdom act is only not a kingdom act when the source is not the love that opens one soul to the Cosmic Christ, and out of that soul lives in unity with all that is.

The question is not whether or not I am Christian, Progressive, New Thought, Science of Mind, New Age (and yes the litany of the pieces that feed my spiritual piece of the medicine wheel, and by proxy my whole self can go on and on)…the question is whether or not is founded and lived out of Love?

And the name for this love for me is the Cosmic Christ, whose example is the Master Teacher, Brother Jesus, and that flowed from the Loving Creator.

So…all that remains to ask as a life is lived is simply:

What Would Love Do?

 

 


This Sunday was a contemplative time, it started out as any ride to the Calgary Centre for Spiritual Living. My daughter off to Funday School, sipping my coffee with wifey and son in the service. Great music and meditation as usual. It has been a reflective time entering into a Foundations course and looking back on our spiritual journey, one ponders what ifs periodically, what if…

Well for someone who has journeyed through many ways of discovering the Holy Mystery that is in everything and everything dwells within, sampled many of the wells from the one river, the talk on agriculture struck a chord.

graft Weaker trees grafted onto a strong root. Think of our own lives, your own life…what is the roots that you grew from, that you grafted on your new beliefs that continued to grow.

This was the metaphor that spurred Dr. Pat Campbell’s talk on Sunday. Yet the talk resonated deeper in myself as I thought about my spiritual journey and what truly was my root. Family heritage would scream Christendom in the vein of Anglican or United Church of Canada…personal Christendom journey would run the gambit of evangelical to mainline…monastic to cleric…to stints in learning within Judaism, Bahai, Islam, Earth and Indigenous spiritualities….Druidery…Wicca…some occult…Eastern Philosophies…Ancient Philosophies…Conspiracy Theories…Paleo-SETI…and the list goes on to universalist…energy healing…Unitarian…New Thought…New Age…Paranormal…Ancient Mythologies…

And then it struck me, as I went deeper down the rabbit hole…foundation beliefs found in ancient stories that still resonate in Fables and Fairy Tales, but there was more. For current legends and stories resonate with truth for me.

Like walking out of a fog to claim what I have always stated is true to me. The story. It is what I hold onto, it is how lessons and truth are communicated, it is how I learn, grow, change and work towards transformation.

All other things had been grafted onto this great driving belief in me. The vocation of story teller…or as the Munay-Ki called it for me, Wisdom Keeper.

My root is the story of the cosmic oneness, my rising is how all is grafted onto the one, and that is how all my beliefs–stories sync into the one root.

CSL4


Okay, as noted in yesterday’s post Dollarama has been a gold mine for comic collections cheap. One of these was Dan Jurgens’ Thor: The Spiral (2011) published by Marvel Comics. In the beginning of the “event driven” universe, there is still hidden gems. This story picks up after Thor has become monarch of Asgard due to Odin’s death, has the Odinpower; and has been split asunder from Jake Olson (his human side). So Jake is living as a human paramedic, while Thor is ruling as an omnipresence, omniscience, and almost omnipotent being.

Using the magic, technology of Asgard and Asgardians as his heroes he begins his reshaping for the better of humanity. Crime rates go down, despots are removed, hungry are fed. It creates waves as a new Thorist religion grows up, and faithful of other belief systems begin flocking to the “Santa Claus” with the hammer.

Many questions are raised, first by the Gods of legend who challenge Thor to guide humanity to interdependence, not dependence on the God’s power. It raises conflict-verbal, theological and physical- with the Christian (Catholic) Church that see the vacuum being created as free will is removed and their concept of Saviour is challenged.  What does a multi-faith world actually mean?

It is a familair narrative within comics, what if the hero used their power to solve everything? What would happen? What if an interventionist God wish fulfill-er truly existed?

But it comes down to more within the mind and heart of anyone, for it tracks back to a theological debate that still has resonance today: Is Jesus fully human-Fully divine. You see as the way shower, and the example, this exists within all, and this story lays out what happens when someone is not tempered by human conscious and is left to be all powerful. And as noted by the Bard, absolute power does corrupt absolutely.