COSMOLOGY, SCIENCE, SPIRIT AND SUFFERING

Since the birth of science

Christianity no longer has an effective cosmology

and its followers have difficulty 

relating their faith to the world of science.

Meanwhile, secular culture sees its purpose as 

personal fulfillment and social progress

and religion as having little to do with

solving temporal problems.

Peoples’ loss of faith in the institutional church

and their search for meaning outside church

was instigated by God 

the Hound of Heaven who always pursues and finds us.

This is the mysticism of today

an attempt to find and experience the True God

rather than the Lego god constructed piece by piece

through pre-set definitions of churches.

The downside of abandoning religion

is that secularists suffer tremendously

 – always dissatisfied – never able to fill their soul’s God-hole.

To dissolve suffering due to dissatisfaction

with who we are and where we are

we are forced to give up some basic assumptions:

that we can have it all, get it all together

have lasting security, all pleasure and no pain.

In spite of these assumptions

or perhaps because of them

things fall apart.

Crucifixion is symbolic in its universal sense 

of destruction – that is an inevitable part

of evolution unfolding and necessary

for the birth of new life.

Secular people need to embrace poverty like Francis of Assisi:

“Blessed poverty even in this life

gives to souls who love her

the ability to fly to heaven.

Poverty guards the armor of true humility and charity.” 

Even Karl Marx was an anti-materialist 

when he wrote (well before intelligent phones):

“All our technological progress results in 

endowing material things with intellectual life

and stunts human development by materialism.”

Eastern religions share this anti-materialism

but their solution to the suffering caused 

is to desire less

whereas in western religions the solution is

to desire more – desire God –

until you reach God you have not desired enough.

But Christian theology to be relevant must gain a foothold 

in the new science that is replacing spirituality

for so many in Generations X to Z.

We need to see Spirit behind scientific revolution –

Spirit had to, thru Reason, free the Spirit 

trapped in the mythology of a distant heaven

and so break the chains

of the oppressed here on Earth.

Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican who dominated

Christian thought for centuries

was no Platonic contemplative

in love with incorporeal essences

but a Christian who contemplated the divine light

in every created thing here and now.

Heaven is NOW. In YOU.

Fully realizing that you are Spirit/divine

only happens if your Higher Self

takes compassionate action

letting Spirit into your whole life.

Otherwise, you stunt your development

if your Higher Self exists

only in the ivory tower of your intellect 

and never in your emotions, senses and body.

The laws of our mind, emotions and body

are one with the laws of the 

universe, galaxy and planet

that birthed us as its children.

Spirit driving science and evolution

gives us a new Christian cosmology.

INTERFAITH PANDEMIC LESSONS

INTERFAITH LESSONS FROM A PANDEMIC

    In Falling Upward Richard Rohr talks about the “spirituality of subtraction,” the value of letting go. The first half of life is about gaining: an education, job, home, marriage, and children. The second half is about subtraction: the kids move out, we downsize our housing, retire, start to lose our health, friends or spouses die, etc. 

    In a spirituality of subtraction, we learn four main spiritual values: humility, gratitude, simplicity/poverty and solidarity/community. A number of spiritual leaders from various traditions have noted that a crisis can speed up this process. 

    Humility. The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, stated in a talk in our city a year ago, that we all tend to be “cultural snobs,” that is, we think our culture is superior to all others. There may have been famines, wars and plagues throughout history, but this couldn’t possibly happen to us because we are so scientifically superior. 

    The point was to not get too self-assured. My priest in Winnipeg, Fr. Firmin Michiels, similarly told the congregation “Don’t pray for success, pray for strength when everything falls apart.” This is a frequent theme in every religion. “When people say ‘peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them” (I Thessalonians 5:3). COVID-19 has subtracted the illusion of our cultural-scientific omnipotence.

    Gratitude. Omar Ricci, an imam at the Islamic Center of Southern California, gave a talk titled “Thank God for the coronavirus.” Not that God caused the virus, but we should thank God for this reminder we are not in control and always depend on God. Thank God for this reminder to be grateful for all things, particularly things we take for granted like groceries and good health. Thank God for reminding us life is fragile and “we had best appreciate the miracle of life God has given us.”

    A rabbi at Chabad Lubavitch, a Hasidic community in Bozeman, Montana, noted that “Jews have always said that for every breath we take, we should thank God.” In light of the respiratory problems caused by COVID-19, “it’s become very real.”

    The Buddhist attitude of gratitude towards any crisis has been summed up in four words by the well-known monk Thich Nhat Hanh “No mud, no lotus.”

    Simplicity/Poverty. In Hinduism, the goal at the end of life is to become a “sannyasin,” a holy man or woman who renounces all the trappings of society and chooses to be reduced to nothing but his or her relationship with God. 

    All this stripping away is mirrored in Christianity in people who take religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Jesus himself emptied and “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

    The spirituality of subtraction is about emptying the ego of self-centered pride so that God can fill you. In general, a good day for the ego (a day of gain) is a bad day for the soul, and a bad day for the ego (loss) is a good day for the soul. Subtraction is meant by God to edge the ego out, reversing Wayne Dyer’s definition of “ego:” “edging God out.”

    Solidarity/Community. Churches are experiencing what they have always given intellectual assent to – that the church is not buildings but the “ecclesia” – the community. They are reaching out online far beyond their normal congregations. Adam Ericksen, a United Church of Christ minister in Milwaukie, Oregon has noted that “the role of the church in this moment is to make sure no one falls through the cracks.”

    Beyond churches, mosques and synagogues, God’s work is going on everywhere, in every single person who makes the decision to love their neighbor as themselves: health care and grocery workers and everyone sacrificing themselves in inconvenient self-isolation in order to keep others healthy.

    This time of subtraction will hopefully continue to be a time of great spiritual growth.

Bruce Tallman is a London spiritual director, marriage preparation specialist and religious educator of adults. brucetallman.com