The real purpose of healthy religion is spirituality, namely to inspire and train people to get in touch with their deepest selves in order to serve others through good work and good relationships that are reflections of one’s deepest values.
Another name for this deepest self is Christ or Buddha or image of God inside us.
The essence of spirituality is about developing the mystic (the lover who says Yes to life) and the prophet (the warrior who says No to lies and injustice in its many enactments).
When people are looking for spirituality and do not readily find it in organized religion they will of course look elsewhere. In upcoming DMs, let us listen to some of these mystic-prophets who have lived among us in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Consider this poem from Dorothee Soelle, a teacher of mysticism, feminism and liberation theology at Union Seminary in NYC for 10 years. She grew up in Germany during WWII and ended up with a very different understanding of life and religion than did her countryman, Cardinal Ratzinger.
every day I am afraid
that he died in vain
because he is buried in our churches
because we have betrayed his revolution
in our obedience to authority
and our fear of it
I believe in jesus christ
who rises again and again in our lives
so that we will be free
from prejudice and arrogance
from fear and hate
and carry on his revolution
and make way for his kingdom
Soelle laments what has happened to Jesus’ “revolution.” She is afraid on a daily basis that he might have died “in vain,” for he is “buried” and his life “betrayed.” How? By our obedience to and fear of authority.
And where is this revolution buried? “In our churches” where too much obedience can kill the soul and the promised kingdom. Perhaps her understanding helps to explain the dive in church attendance among Protestants and Catholics today, especially among younger adults.
But there is also going on a deeper interest in spirituality and mysticism. Or as Carl Jung put is, “only the mystics bring what is creative to religion itself.”
Soelle’s belief is that Jesus’ resurrection is ongoing “in our lives,” or it is not going on at all. It not a past event, and this will one day empty us of fear, hate, arrogance. Thus would the divine kingdom/queendom be born.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, Christian Mystics: 365 Readings and Meditations, p. 271.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Polish protestors chain themselves to logging machinery to protect the Puszczy Białowieskiej forest during breeding season. Photo by Greenpeace Poland on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you fear for Jesus’ revolution that moves us from prejudice and arrogance and fear and hate? How would you describe it at work today?
Christian Mystics: 365 Readings & Meditations
As Matthew Fox notes, when an aging Albert Einstein was asked if he had any regrets, he replied, “I wish I had read more of the mystics earlier in my life.” The 365 writings in Christian Mystics represent a wide-ranging sampling of these readings for modern-day seekers of all faiths — or no faith. The visionaries quoted range from Julian of Norwich to Martin Luther King, Jr., from Thomas Merton to Dorothee Soelle and Thomas Berry.
“Our world is in crisis, and we need road maps that can ground us I wisdom, inspire us to action, and help us gather our talents in service of compassion and justice. This revolutionary book does just that. Matthew Fox takes some of the most profound spiritual teachings of the West and translates them into practical daily mediations. Study and practice these teachings. Take what’s in this book and teach it to the youth because the new generation cannot afford to suffer the spirit and ethical illiteracy of the past.” — Adam Bucko, spiritual activist and co-founder of the Reciprocity Foundation for Homeless Youth