Posts Tagged ‘Diana Butler Bass’


John XXIII called for Vatican II to open up the windows of the musty old church and let the transforming love of the Holy Spirit blow on through. Part of this process was calling the Religious Orders back to their original Charism, at least on paper, for practice does tend to strip away institutional control.

Why does this thought pop into my mind? It has been two years or so since I have had anything to affiliate with the regular religious church. Although as Butler-Bass writes I would not call myself spiritual, not religious and I am both and. I am Spiritual-Religious. It is what drives my journey, and can frustrate me to no end. In Church History class at seminary I remember bombing an assignment to look at the historical documents of our church history (those tied to your family) and see how they shaped you. A very creedal exercise for an evangelical school if you will. It was a disconnected mess, for I knew the works that shaped my thinking, but the rest was a so what per-function.

And reading Richard Rohr (2014) Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi reminded me…my Franciscan spirituality is what rubs “churchdom” wrong for it is not based around creedal theology, but since Francis first rebuild San Damiano, walked out naked from city centre…it is about praxis. Just like the early church Paul wrote about before the gospel writers tried to shape something more, before Constantine institutionalized. It is about living a life of love.

It is the reminder I needed as I started back into my cultural church roots. Not saying I will be taking a pulpit anytime soon (although to the Baptist church that offered me a ministry, thank you, one day I may be there again)…but through reflecting on Living the Questions, reading some Richard Rohr, Sister Simone Campbell, Diana Butler Bass, Matthew Fox, Marcus Borg, John Crossan, John Shelby Spong and Tutu/Dalai Lama’s Book of Joy, and listening to Jay Bakker’s podcast of Dec. 11 on Galatians Again and Again part One..will the Spirit is being renewed. The Cosmic Christ is the meta-narrative that resonates, and the source is love.

This is where spiritual homes are for me. Shaped on practice. Do they live out love?

Do they include?

There is much pain in the world, but I remember in my seminary days a quote from Spong that essentially stated I will no longer enter into arguments about equality, love and proper ecology…this is where my faith begins and where the conversation must start at for change to happen (probably a brutalized paraphrase, but I hope the heart is there).

What the labourer born to a single mum, executed for preaching justice, equality and love that shook and empire…this itinerant preacher/teacher, lover of creation, showing the way to living within and out of the source Love…the true resurrection is when this resonates out of our daily actions… this is the story of the Brother Jesus.

Yes, once we realize that titles mean nothing, that wealth should be used to bless not oppress (Thank you Brueggemann for your amazing insights into the Exodus story as the release of the gospel of scarcity that Pharaoh used to control and enslave, into the Gospel of abundance and Neighbour that Yahweh had Moses lead the way in…)… then we can truly understand what it is to love our neighbour.

Then the Spirit has blown through and ignited love. For from heart to heart what we see in the world is simply beloved family.
And the “big” social justice questions that are debated become quite simple, for it is no longer talk of money it becomes even simpler: How do we care for grandma/grandpa,brother/sister, mum and dad? For we all have one of these roles in someone’s life, and that is what the conversation is about.

That is the original blessing of leaving the Garden in Genesis 3 when God gave Adam and Eve the world to care for and be blessed by and with. It was the original blessing of love, place and belonging. It was shining the light on human development into the roles of family and what that means for each one of us.

So…will we let the Spirit blow on through? Will we let Love renew and transform our world?

It begins, as it did 2000 years ago…with one person simply saying one word in answer:

Yes.


Seven Reasons Why Young Adults Quit Church

by Christian Piatt 03-11-2012 | 3:59pm
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Image via Raywoo/Shutterstock.com

From time to time I revisit the question: Why are young adults walking away from religion?

Although the answer(s) vary from person to person, there are some general trends that I think apply in most cases. (In the list below, when I refer to “we,” “I” or “me,” I’m referring to younger adults in general, and not necessarily myself.)

We’ve Been Hurt: I can actually include myself in this one personally. Sometimes the hurtful act is specific, like when my youth leader threw a Bible at me for asking the wrong questions. Sometimes it’s rhetorical, either from the pulpit, in a small group study or over a meal. Sometimes it’s physical, taking the form of sexual abuse or the like. But millions claim a wound they can trace back to church that has never healed. Why? In part, because the church rarely seeks forgiveness.

Adult Life/College and Church Don’t Seem to Mix: There are the obvious things, like scheduling activities on Sunday mornings (hint: young people tend to go out on Saturday nights), but there’s more to it. In college, and before that by our parents, we’re taught to explore the world, broaden our horizons, think critically, question everything and figure out who we are as individuals. Though there’s value in this, it’s hyper-individualistic. But Church is more about community. In many ways, it represents, fairly or not, sameness, conformity and a “check your brain at the door” ethos. This stands in opposition to what the world is telling us is important at this time in life.

Perhaps an emphasis on a year of community service after high school would be a natural bridge to ameliorate some of this narcissism we’re building in to ourselves.

There’s No Natural Bridge to Church: Most teenagers leave home, either for college, to travel, work or whatever after high school. With the bad economy, this number is fewer, but it’s a general trend. But the existing model of church still depends on the assumption that communities are relatively static, and that the church is at the center of that community. Not so anymore. When I went to college, I was contacted by fraternities, campus activity groups and credit card companies, but not one church. The only connection I had with religion was the ridiculous guy who (literally) stood on a box with a bullhorn in the union garden and yelled at us about our sinful ways. I could have used support in how to deal with my own finances for the first time. I could have used a built-in network of friends. I would have loved a care package, an invitation for free pizza at the local restaurant or help with my laundry. What I got was the goof with the bullhorn.

We’re Distracted: I shared a video by Diana Butler Bass in a recent post about a priest who took his Ash Wednesday service out onto the street. When people saw him, they reacted as if they had been shaken out of a deep sleep. “It’s Ash Wednesday!” they said with surprise as they asked for the ashes. “Lent is starting!” It simply wasn’t on their radar. It’s not that we don’t care; we have so many things competing for our limited time and attention that the passive things that don’t offer an immediate “interrupt” get relegated to the “later” pile. And we rarely ever get to the “later” pile, which leads me to the next point…

We’re Skeptical: We’re exposed to more ad impressions in a month today than any other previous generation experienced in a lifetime. I’m sitting in a hotel room writing this, and in this room (which I paid for in part to have privacy), I see more than a dozen marketing messages. If I turn on the TV, they’re there. Pick up my phone, they’re there. Online…you get the point. So whereas generations before us expended energy seeking information out, now it comes at us in such overwhelming volumes that we spend at least the same amount of energy filtering things out. This leads to somewhat of a calcifying of the senses, always assuming that whoever is trying to get your attention wants something, just like everyone else.

We’re Exhausted: I was lumped in as pat of the Generation X group, also known as the Slacker Generation. This implied, of course, that we were lazy and unmotivated. But consider how many of us go to college, compared to generations before us. And consider that the baseline standard for family economics requires a two-income revenue stream to live in any level of the middle class. Debt and credit are givens, and working full-time while also trying to maintain a marriage, raise kids, have friends and – God forbid – have some time left for ourselves leaves us with less than nothing. We’re always running a deficit. So when you ask me to set aside more time and more money for church, you’re trying to tap already empty reserves.

I Don’t Get It: Young adults today are the most un-churched generation in a long time. In many cases, it’s not that we’re walking away from church; we never went in. From what I can tell from the outside, there’s not much relevance to my life in there, and I’m not about to take the risk of walking through the door to find out otherwise.

I’ve tried to offer insight into what might be done about a few of these issues as I went, but I invite you also to sit with the tension of not having the answers. Better yet, seek some young adults out, ask them if they relate to these. And see if they have ideas about what you (maybe not even “church” but you) can do to help relieve some of the challenges.

I think the conversation that follows might pleasantly surprise you.

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting — PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date — set to hit book stores everywhere on April 1, 2012.

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Christopher Hitchens, Diana Butler Bass and the Third Great Awakening

by Christian Piatt Saturday, March 10th, 2012

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Everyone who calls me to speak somewhere, it seems, wants me to address the issue of declining church membership, and particularly how to connect with younger adults. The problem is that sometimes the invitation is built on a false premise. It’s the hope of many churches that if they can find a way to connect with younger people in a relevant way, those young adults will join the church and save the institution for future generations.

And while this is possible in some situations, it’s really the wrong question to be asking.

The explicit question I get asked, time and again, is “How do we better serve younger people?” And if the question really ended there, We could have a pretty productive conversation. But there’s an implied subtext in most cases that we have to tease out, and often times, the church isn’t even willing to admit that this footnote is married to their question. So although the words above are what are spoken, here’s what they really want to know:

 

“How do we better serve younger people (so that they will come back to our institutions and save them)?”

Christopher Hitchens, well known for his public identity as an atheist, offered a fantastic quote in his book, “God is Not Great.” And given the influence of his voice, even posthumously, it’s incumbent on us (Christians) to pay close attention:

“[A]bove all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman [referencing Alexander Pope]. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone.”

Now, I’m sure many folks within the institutional Christian church will bristle at the phrase, “…on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse.” I understand that. But try to hold this paragraph above in tension for a minute while you check out this six-minute video below from Christian author, Diana Butler Bass, who recently wrote “Christianity After Religion.”

I don’t want to suggest that Bass and Hitchens would agree on everything, but in many ways, they’re speaking about the same things here. Both envision a coming enlightenment or awakening. Both also see that, in many ways, the institutional church doesn’t have the same role as it once did in the public forum. And I may be reading into Hitchens’ quote here, but given his careful choice of words in most cases, I have to assume that when he calls for the banishment of “religions” from the discourse, he means just that.

It’s not that he claims in his book that anyone who maintains any kind of faith in the Divine should be excluded, but rather that the institutions of religions themselves, and the power structures that he perceives have imposed tremendous pain, suffering, shame and guilt on its followers, should be absent from the table.

But that still leaves room for individual voices. Just not their hulking power structures and their history of oppressive, fear-based rule over people.

In the story Diana Butler Bass shares about the Episcopal priest going out into the streets to offer the ashes to passersby on Ash Wednesday, I see a hopeful glimmer of common ground. Now, if this was only an act – a stunt, if you will – to get people through the door on Sunday, it would still effectively be akin to the institutional church extending its tendrils into the public square, like a giant tree whose roots are stretching out in search of water and nutrients.

But if this act was a genuine effort to get away from the trappings of the institution, and to meet people, person to person, face to face, and to serve them, then I think Bass and Hitchens are talking a little bit of a common language.

I’ve been asked many times if I believe we are on the verge of another Great Awakening. the First Great Awakening preceded the American Revolutionary War, and had a profound impact on the imagination of those struggling for a democratic nation. The Second Great Awakening can be traced back to the beginning of my own denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) which emerged from a days-long revival in Cane Ridge, Kentucky. This caused a wave of mainline Protestant fervor to sweep through the west.

So do I think we’re experiencing the stirring of a Third Great Awakening? Yes.

Will it save the institutional church as we now know it? Don’t count on it.

If we are to sustain and continue to share this story of faith we claim as Christians, it will have to be unencumbered by the caveat that we will only tell it from within the protection of our familiar institutional church. We are not a church or a denomination after all; we are the Greater Body of Christ, or so we claim. And while institutions incline themselves toward permanence, the Body is ever-changing. While the buildings crumble, the Temple evolves into something new.

Jesus himself predicted the fall of the great church institutions of his day. But in so doing, he did NOT drive a stake through the heart of human faith. In fact, he freed one from the other, perhaps to coexist, but not necessarily.

We’re slowly awakening to a faith that is unlike that of our parents or grandparents. But in some ways, I think we have an opportunity to claim a faith much more like the one Jesus imagined for his followers. Time will tell if we can loosen our grip on what was to dive into the exhilarating, terrifying unknown of what might be.

—-
Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. He is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. Christian has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.Visit www.christianpiatt.com, or find him on Twitter or Facebook.

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Opened sharing a bit of my story, the PG or G version of some incidents in the struggle of being a Christian in Recovery for a lifetime (which long time readers will know)…then moved into the fact that as an institution the church is in Crisis.  Reg Bibby and other sociologists have pointed out that a church a week closes in Canada, 400 in the last few years have vanished. The crystal cathedral went bankrupt and was bought out, Rick Warren has bankrupted Saddleback church twice. Bill Hybels formerly apologized to his congregation of Willow Creek for not doing enough to make disciples.

Plug and play programming has failed us.

Diana Butler Bass speaks of a new awakening, one where the Holy Spirit is moving within believers to renew the church even as the institution is dying around us.

Matthew Fox, the renewer of true Christian Mysticism, speaks of prayer as life, LIFE with God not as some formula or set words.

John shelby Spong speaks of his love of scripture, but his inability to read it for the black and white on the page, but rather for the depth of beauty of the story of life with God while acknowledging the texts of horror that lie within.

All this comes together with my life experience of Christian Recovery to come to these two simple lines today:

God is Love, Love is God

Emerge 2012

March 3 @ 2 p.m.

2 simple lines of scripture in how many thousands, yet 2 simple lines that carry such a wealth and depth of what it means to trust and walk with God.  Where does the Shema come from? The obvious answer is the book of Deuteronomy written by Moses, and you would be partly right…You come to ABC you will get to explore who actually wrote the Torah and the single author versus multiple sources, that’s not the point today no matter how much my geek bone wants it to be.

A people who had walked with God in the wilderness, who legend tells us built an empire with God, moved from a theocracy to a monarchy, then division, crumble, conquering, led into exile by the super power of the day. Some say 10 of the tribes would never return. Walking under a persecution that makes the Rwandan Genocide or modern day Afghanistan under the Taliban if you’re  a woman like the safest place on earth to be. These are a people that new what it meant to turn away from God or to walk deeply in God’s heart. They felt the dryness of the desert and the ecstaticness of joy.

It was during the return, Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall…yet his teammate, compadre, Ezra was with a group of priests reclaiming holy ground…the temple…and in this reclamation they “discover” a lost scroll. A regiving of “The Law” and in the midst of this retelling is this summation:

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

What God Requires

12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you except to fear the LORD your God by walking in all His ways, to love Him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul? 13 Keep the LORD’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.

 

For legalism had led to exile, so let’s get to the literal heart of the matter…then there is 400 years of silence from God supposedly, or simply God working in more covert ways than before. And BAM! We got a revolution.

A simple revolution, I’m not a fancy theologian, I have studied most of my life the sacred scriptures of many, but what I honestly believe is theology is where the living word meets you. Your life experience + learnings +the Holy Spirit while reading the word= Theology. We just need to be open to the Holy Spirit and where she is going to lead us.

I was a child of 11 when I was told there was no place for me in church, at 19 I was struggling once more to find my place in this world when I stumbled across these words in the Gospel of Matthew, red letters in a Gideon’s new testament while cleaning my room, and I was this close to throwing the testament out as the spine was snapped and pages falling out:

Matthew 22:35-40

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

35 And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”[a]

37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.[b] 38 This is the greatest and most important[c] command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend[e] on these two commands.”

The Shema came to us between 6-4000 years ago. Almost 2,000 years ago when challenged to rank the legal system Jesus reminds us of it, and then builds on it. For a teen who was searching for God in spite of systems these words hit hard.

For you see love is a reciprocal ideal. If I give this unconditional love to God, it is because God has given it to me. If I love my neighbour then I must love myself. It is a 3 part love, a Trinitarian ideal…L-O-V-E.

A revolution to a people oppressed by rules. Those in the synagogue and marketplaces of Jesus’ time were more used to hearing what shall thee not do rather than, what shall we do…

What are you told what is the big “don’t” on the sin list?

(Audience feed in)

No to Sex. No to drugs. No to alcohol. No to this music, that dress, No to dancing, no to make up, no to this type of show or movie. No to this…

And you know what Jesus’ response was? It wasn’t picking out of the 617 laws, or the sayings of the prophets or the commentaries, or what the religious leaders said, or even what the Roman Empire dictated…Jesus simply laid it out for you: Love God, neighbour and Self with your all. Why?

Genesis Day 6. God made us in Her image. He called us very good. She blessed us and He called us Her beloved.

That’s why. Simple. Lovingly crafted to live out of and into a love that transcends all. A revolution that started at creation—the big bang theory kicked it off, 6,000ish years ago the Great Commandment was laid down, almost 2,000 years ago Jesus hits the religious authorities between the eyes with it in a ministry devoted to living life with God’s children.

A ministry where out of living this 3 part love, hope was renewed in the world. Institutions were shook to their core, and those who gave more credence to prominence, to wealth, and to tracking of attendance numbers.  What was Jesus message in all of this? It was simply what I have learned in my 25+ years of working to make my corner of the world a better place, the only number that matters is 1.

The one person before you now and yes, that one person before us we most forget about in our acts of love, ourselves, matters as well.

So I am asked to speak about what it means to serve and walk with God, it means humbling ourselves in confidence. It means walking with those who we like hanging out with, but taking steps out in faith to those we don’t like or get jittery around. It is about ensuring those with no voice, reclaim their voice, those who are hungry get fed, those without shelter or clothes get those, it is realizing that God’s family is a beautifully diverse collection of colours, genders, abilities, orientations…it is realizing that God is not one of exclusion…this love, this grace love gift that we reciprocate doesn’t come with strings, its not God’s put this out there so I need the magic spell, or the right amount of check marks in the did it, didn’t do it columns that was the system Jesus entered into to shatter and revolutionize. No this love gift is two ways, but we already have been given it by God, God’s just waiting for us to open our hearts fully.

So let the revolution continues. Look around this city, this world, we are all God’s children, and we are all given the same love and the same challenge to use this love to transform this planet for Kingdom is not a future promise, it is a command to build here.

I know these are the important words of God, because when I was preparing for ministry and in discernment for a pulpit call, one of those walking with me came with a prophetic word that summed up how he felt the Spirit guiding my life ministry, it is in the Gospel of Mark:

Mark 12:28-34

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

The Primary Commands

28 One of the scribes approached. When he heard them debating and saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked Him, “Which command is the most important of all?”[a]

29 “This is the most important,”[b] Jesus answered:

Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.[c] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.[d][e]

31 “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.[f] There is no other command greater than these.”

32 Then the scribe said to Him, “You are right, Teacher! You have correctly said that He is One, and there is no one else except Him. 33 And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding,[g] and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, is far more important than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 When Jesus saw that he answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to question Him any longer.

How are you going to love God, neighbour and self today?