WORLD NEEDS ADULT FAITH

  Fundamentalism, in terms of people having a simplistic faith, has become a problem for all of us. As a person’s world view progressively narrows, they become more and more judgmental, intolerant, and even dangerous. In some cases, people are willing to kill themselves and others for their religious cause.

    As our world becomes increasingly complex, people seek simple answers in order to cope, and so fundamentalism is spreading everywhere. The solution is for people to develop an adult faith.

    By integrating the thinking of James Hayes, a former Catholic archbishop, Friedrich Von Hugel, a nineteenth century theologian, and Gordon Allport, a Harvard psychologist, we can outline ten characteristics of an adult faith which could apply to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahais, or any other faith-based tradition.

    First of all, a mature faith is open. It honors the basic freedom and autonomy of other adults, knows that our world is complex and ambiguous, and therefore respectfully listens to others and tries to understand their viewpoint. Then it speaks its own truth freely. This “dialogical” rather than argumentative approach represents a middle path between saying nothing and being authoritarian, that is, trying to impose our faith on others.

    Secondly, an adult faith is searching. The adult believer distinguishes between constructive questioning (the search for truth) and destructive questioning (the desire to disprove the truth). Constructive questioning is essential to progress in faith and normally produces greater clarity, broader horizons, and deeper ownership of one’s beliefs. The adult believer is wary of anyone who tries to shut down the quest for understanding.

    A mature faith is also informed and comprehensive in its world view. Ideally, adult believers know the scriptures of their tradition well, and supplement this with ancient and modern spiritual classics. Adult believers should also become familiar with at least one science, and scientific methods of investigation, to keep their faith from becoming superstitious and ungrounded.

    An adult faith is humble. It is a pilgrim faith that never believes it has fully arrived. It is open to ongoing learning and conversion, rather than the faith of someone who has all the answers.

    Fifthly, a mature faith is critically evaluative. While it immerses itself in its culture, it critically evaluates the social order in light of the demands of human rights, responsibilities, and justice.

    An adult faith is also decisive. Despite cultural complexity, the mature faith is not paralyzed. Rather, it can make sophisticated judgments and take appropriate action for the common good.

    Seventh, a mature faith is integrated, that is, it integrates the sacred and the secular, faith, and life. It acts the same whether inside or outside the synagogue, church, mosque, or temple. It is consistently moral and just.

    Adult believers also have a differentiated faith. That is, they don’t believe that all religious traditions are the same, so that it doesn’t matter which one you belong to. They make critical discernments about the different truth claims between major world religions and also the diverse claims by the various branches within each tradition. At the same time, the adult believer focuses on similarities more than differences and builds bridges between and within traditions.

    Adult faith is also personal. Adult believers struggle to come to their own conclusions rather than just simplistically accepting what is handed to them by religious authorities. They wrestle with whether or not assertions by those in authority make any sense to them based on their own personal life experience.

    Finally, knowing their own limits and the limits of others means that the adult believer’s faith is simultaneously compassionate and communal. They know that they and others cannot do it all alone, they need human support. They know that being a part of, and being accountable to, a supportive religious or spiritual community is essential to maintaining an adult faith.

    What the world needs now, if we are going to combat fundamentalism and religious terrorism, is not just love, sweet love, but also adults with an adult faith.

 

Bruce Tallman is a spiritual director and religious educator of adults. http://www.brucetallman.com

LIBERATION THROUGH MINDFULNESS

All ‘holons’ (living systems)

have four fundamental capacities:

self-preservation/self-adaptation/

self-transcendence/and self-dissolution.

The 100 billion people who have come and gone

have always been caught up in ‘I’/‘We’/and ’It’ –

and they have always created ‘Its’ –

institutions/governments/religions

to control them and tell them what to do.

 

Persons with an insecure

or particularly avoidant ‘attachment style’

are much more prone to dramatic religious conversion –

out of a deep need for security

they follow religious authorities without question

and become fundamentalists in every religion.

 

However, when people go to retreat centers

often the monks teach them mindfulness

and that everything can be done mindfully

whether praying/walking/eating/working.

This new level of consciousness

liberates those with a fundamentalist bent.

 

Still, shadow projections can prevail

in every human conflict. The need to be

right/get your way/dominate/control others

can cause the breakup of relationships –

friendships/marriages/families.

 

But children and parents at least

help each other by standing together

through hardships at every stage:

infancy to old age –

through every manner of challenge

until death parts them

but even then, wise spouses

bravely accept and esteem widowhood

as a continuation of their marital vocation –

even death can be overcome with mindfulness.

 

MALE SPIRITUALITY

 

One of the best-kept secrets of our time:

although many men don’t care

a whit/a hoot/or a fig about spirituality

many other men deeply value their spiritual side.

 

By himself a man is not capable of success

when it comes to battling the assaults of evil

and so, many men today feel

they are in chains/powerless.

 

The need for boys to have heroes who slay dragons

symbolizes the male struggle

to gain consciousness and adulthood

rather than lapsing back into the bliss of unconsciousness

and being dominated forever by the mother.

Males must break with their mothers

and identify with their (hopefully mature) fathers

or they become mummy-boys not men

they never grow into adulthood

whereas girls can identify with their mother forever –

there is no need for a radical break.

 

Part of boys becoming conscious and adults

is learning mindful speech –

a man’s talk can bring true love

or kill the souls of girlfriends and wives.

 

Boys also need to learn to live in the NOW

for the present moment is our perfect teacher

who is always with us. In meditation men learn

how to tap into their present experience as it is –

insightful or not/scary or not –

they learn to face reality with courage.

 

The famous preacher Jonathan Edwards wrote

“It is the Spirit/Sophia/Wisdom working in men

that makes them see the beauty in the present moment/

the unity of all things/

makes them tender-hearted toward others/

and gives them a well-ordered and disciplined life.”

 

EVERGREENING LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS

The ever-expanding consciousness of the Israelites:

God is transcendent – available to all –

not just their Hebrew tribe –

and God is personal

all came to a head in Jesus

and a new level of consciousness was born

and continued in the Church.

 

A still higher level of consciousness

came in the 20th century with the discovery

that the human person is not a random accident

but the arrow of evolution – the constant movement

towards greater consciousness/love/freedom/creativity.

 

And a still higher level of consciousness is emerging:

being Christian not only involves taking care of earthly life

it discloses the true meaning of life on Earth

going beyond humanization to divinization –

God divinizes us – we share in God’s divinity.

 

The insights that connect us to the Holy One

do not come from discursive thinking

but from radical awe and wonder

and our awareness of mystery and the ineffable –

this is where great things happen in and to the soul.

 

As Christians we come to truth not just thru our minds

but also thru our bodies when we begin to trust

our own experience/our own intuition/our own heart.

 

This is because the real religion of human beings

is spirituality – indeed we all secretly know this –

that the spirituality of mystics

is the origin of all the world’s religions.

 

And so the beat of Jewish consciousness goes on

and this ever-growing consciousness is ‘tikun olam’ –

the constantly evolving/never-ending/evergreening

‘healing of the world.’

 

LOOKING EAST AND BACK WEST

 

In The Mystic Heart Brother Teasdale pictured a tree

in which the branches are all the religions of the world.

The main branches: Judaism/Christianity/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism

and the minor ones: Sufism/Shintoism/Confucianism/Bahaism.

and the come-and-gone ones: Greek and Roman gods and goddesses/

Inca/Mayan/Aztec religion.

 

It is possible to learn and grow from all these traditions:

from Buddhism, Anthony de Mello, a Catholic mystic

learned “the fantasy of attending your own funeral”

and “the fantasy of your own corpse.”

 

Many Christians would have become Buddhists

but the tendency of eastern religions

towards world-denial and over-spiritualization

are pitfalls that prevent Christians from embracing the east

and prevent eastern traditions

from discovering the riches of the Incarnation and the Cross.

 

The intrinsic connection between the mystery of Incarnation

and the mystery of Creation means that in Jesus Christ

we discover the divine clue

not only to the structure and meaning of humanity

but also the entire universe.

 

Karl Barth’s massive Church Dogmatics

thoroughly Trinitarian and Christocentric

reminded us not to lose sight

of the central doctrines of the faith

while attempting to live Christianity out in the world.

Our image of God is central to our understanding

of how God acts in the world

and central to our attempts to transform this world

rather than deny/withdraw from it.

 

The question for Catholics at the contemporary crossroads:

do we deny modern theology/cling to old notions of God/

revert to the static medieval worldview

or do we grasp the dynamic evolutionary universe

that constantly raises consciousness

toward integral wholeness:

the unity of God/self/others/the world?

 

TRUE RELIGION

True religion involves basing our beliefs

on our own direct experience of reality

not on concepts someone else taught us –

after a while those concepts no longer work

and plunge us into darkness.

 

Religions steeped in creeds and doctrines alone

offer people a magic-mythic view of reality:

Abraham asked Allah to show him

how Allah raises from the dead.

Allah said “Slaughter four birds

place their pieces on the hills

in the four directions

then call them

and they will fly to you.”

 

The constant movement towards greater consciousness –

the history of evolution on Planet Earth

from matter to life to thought to spirit – continues

and leads believers beyond magic and myth/

and gives us a rational/spiritual explanation

for the development of the universe.

 

Ramon Panikkar, the Catholic/Hindu scholar

is a worthy guide to the New Axial Era

when he proclaims that our first task

is to discover the Cosmic Christ within us

then also in others

and then in Creation itself.

True religion is to be seized by the Love

at the heart of life/the heart of Creation

and to find ways to let that Love evolve

into a global wholeness – a wholeness

of unity/compassion/justice/peacemaking.

 

CHALLENGING OUR PARADIGMS

The new cosmology revealed by science

like the parables of Jesus

shatters our old paradigms

and challenges us to broader/more inclusive thinking.

 

Irenaeus had a cosmic Christology

largely lost because the Church Fathers

focused on practical/down-to-Earth matters

such as combating Arianism

which claimed Christ is not divine.

The Council of Nicea (325 AD) asserted that

Christ’s incarnation saves us and deifies us –

we become like Christ.

 

Theology has always been otherworldly –

about metaphysics – “What is the nature of God

and God’s Kingdom?” – things ultimately ineffable

instead of teaching us how to live the teachings of Jesus.

 

Teilhard de Chardin’s hyper-physics (union before being)

overthrew metaphysics focused on

stasis/unchangeability/sameness.

Union always searches for ‘moreness’ –

more being/consciousness/love –

it is never satisfied with the status quo.

 

But in the West, religion has done our work

for us: scholars and bishops have told us

what to know not how to know

and what to see not how to see.

The result? People who never had to think

and are unable to comprehend

great and holy things.

 

Still, a spirit of prayer pervaded the Second Vatican Council

and reading the documents of Vatican II

can be a form of ‘lectio divina.’

The Council encouraged all believers to put prayer first

urged people to pray while reading scripture

pray for the conversion of hearts

and begged all of us to follow the ways of

universal love/peace/justice –

it was a fresh take

on an old paradigm.

LIVING IN BABYLON

Major structural injustices in which we

live/move/have our being

create haves/have-nots

and are hugely immoral – but most religions

while preaching personal and interpersonal ethics

ignore systemic evil and most believers accept

massive injustice as “the way things are” never asking

“How can individuals be moral in an immoral culture?”

 

The typical response of Christians living in

our Babylonian culture, in exile, is:

try to be faithful husbands and wives

raise virtuous children who are

compassionate/contemplative/seek justice

and who kick at the darkness till it bleeds daylight.

 

Catholics adopt Protestant practices:

daily Bible reading/speaking in tongues

and Protestants adopt Catholic practices:

praying the Divine Office and trying out

Benedictine/Franciscan/Ignatian prayer styles

and perhaps this is the Holy Spirit

weaving the entire Church together

so we all may be one

or maybe this is just rearranging

the deck chairs on the Titanic

as long as the structural injustices persist.

 

Hopefully, the Contemplative Way

will save and transform us:

because sometimes contemplatives

as they are liberated from all addictions/attachments

gain psychic powers/siddhis such as

telepathy and clairvoyance – genuine contemplatives

always hide these super-powers

but maybe they could use them to fight injustice?

 

In any case, the ultimate secret of the spiritual life:

“ever-present divine awareness” is not hard to attain

for anyone and is impossible to avoid

according to Lao Tzu/Shankara/Paul/Augustine/

Plotinus/and Teresa of Avila because it is always there

and awareness of the divine is the only thing

that makes living in Babylon bearable.

RETURNING TO RADICAL AMAZEMENT

The sexual/social/self-preservation drives

are the raw material of who we are as humans

and so cannot be killed off

although ascetics try their hardest.

 

According to Rohr/Rolheiser/Fox

these drives are all good and just need to be

harnessed/channeled/integrated not killed off

so they give energy to our spiritual endeavours

and serve us not destroy us – they are good

not evil monsters/dragons/demons.

 

According to Immanuel Kant as you move morally

from being biocentric (sex and survival) to egocentric

to ethnocentric to worldcentric (universal compassion)

you also discover your higher/truer/deeper self.

 

If you expand your heart and mind infinitely

you come to God’s Infinite Love, the “Ultimate Thou”

and to your self as the “Ultimate I”

culminating in the “Ultimate I-Thou Relationship.”

 

But as we take on jobs/get married/join religions

everyone pressures us to do

in order for us to live up to their ideals

and as we shove more and more stuff

into our shadow-bag

by midlife we are a mere slice

of the 360-degree-self we started with.

 

We become fraught with “sins of omission”

including: not living lives of justice/

not being transformed/being ‘born again’

only once instead of many times/

leaving creativity/divinization/original blessing/

the cosmos out of our theology.

 

Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato

invites us back into contemplative awe/awareness

of black holes/supernovas/the wonders of the universe

 which are the key to self-transformation

and transformation of the world.

 

THE PURPOSE OF ALL THINGS

The only purpose of God in creating the universe

was that it be a communion of souls in love.

Christ is the center/goal/perfection/paradigm of communion

so the meaning of Christ extends to

all people/all civilizations/all planets/all universes.

 

The only purpose of all spiritual practice

is to help you become an awakened human being –

a loving/contemplative sage full of God here and now –

which is the true nature of who you already are anyway –

so the end of the journey is its beginning.

 

Discovering your True Self can be a great relief –

you no longer have to protect/project/promote

an ideal self-image – your False Self.

Your True Self was always there and always will be

so you can relax and be yourself – flaws and all.

 

Awareness that life is flawed is the beginning of wisdom

and the beginning of anxiety is when a flawed being

becomes aware of its future non-being.

 

Today, the “Way of the Cross” involves

becoming aware of our flaws/limitations/sins

abandoning perfectionism/pursuing wholeness/

dying to our ego and finding our True Self

which may be exquisitely painful

but it focuses on growth not transient happiness.

 

Today we are blessed with tools like the Enneagram

which helps us understand

the depths of our darkness

and paradoxically allows us to grasp

the heights of our True Self

the divine image and likeness of God within

which longs to go without

and join others in forming

a communion of souls in love.